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Open Thread 63.5

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

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817 Responses to Open Thread 63.5

  1. StellaAthena says:

    Weird linguistic phenomenon I noticed today:

    Let’s say I’m teaching a class, and say “if you have questions, I’ll be holding office hours from 4-5 pm today.” Although this looks like a conditional, it’s actually not. The first clause seems to serve as an identifier of who should pay attention to the information, but the consequent is true even if the antecedent is false. Another example would be “if anyone’s curious, [some mathematical pattern] holds for the n < 10 but breaks at n=10." This might be a better example because it's easily mutable ("if anyone's curious, Napoleon was actually above average in height") and more clearly shows the lack of (logical) connection between the antecedent and the consequent. There are a number of variations on this, and i suspects it’s actually pretty common. It’s certainly not an exotic use of language.

    • Incurian says:

      A relevant cartoon.

    • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

      It’s not really a ‘problem’ in a logical sense. If A is true then B => A is true for any B. So while your statement is weaker, it’s still true. Even better, in terms of how it’s typically used this weakening is completely harmless. People will only be interested in where you are if they do indeed have questions, in which case they can conclude your location. And similarly for your other examples.

      • StellaAthena says:

        I don’t mean that the logic of the evaluation is meaningfully different from a conditional (you’re right to point out it’s not), I mean the use is. We could go around phrasing every true sentence, S, as “If A, then S” but we don’t, and if you start talking like that all the time you’ll get weird looks. What I meant was more along the lines of “although structured like a conditional, it’s function in language isn’t to denote a conditional truth relation but rather to demarcate who should pay attention to the information”

    • Randy M says:

      Yes, I tease people verbally about that frequently, always to much appreciation, rest assured.

      What’s really going on is simply contracting the phrase from something like “If you have questions, then you should know my office hours are 3:00-4:00″

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Pedantic:
        “If you have questions, then it will be useful for you to know know my office hours are 3:00-4:00″

        Pedantic because “you should know” is its own form of ambiguous linguistic shorthand.

        • StellaAthena says:

          I was going to needle Randy M similarly. In philosophy, “should” is pretty much always used for obligation (in English, we use it this way when talking about morality: “You should not do X”) which seems a bit too strong here.

          • skef says:

            It’s use in philosophy for picking out functional norms, e.g. “A cow should have four legs” or “That cow should have had four legs”, is also very common. Pretty much norm I’m aware of can be paired with a “should” of some kind.

          • StellaAthena says:

            You’re right right. I mentally jumped from “normative claim” to “obligation” incorrectly. There are other kinds of normative claims.

        • Randy M says:

          I do think my usage lines up perfectly well with the definitions here, as either a conditional (definition 2) or as a synonym for ought, which is more expansive than you give it credit for (“used to express expediency” see expediency, “a regard for what is advantageous… a sense of self-interest”).

          If you are hungry, you should (it is advantageous; it is in your interest that) you eat.
          If you have questions, you should (it is in your interest to) know that my office hours are at 3:00.

          It may be ambiguous as to whether it means a moral obligation or an optimal recommendation to follow, but that is because both are correct vernacular uses.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Again, my point was a quibble that was (fairly needlessly) pedantic. I’m only engaging in the joy of splitting semantic hairs.

            That said, you are missing another possibility for should, which is roughly “presumed to be” (“A cow should have four legs” as mentioned above).

            A presumptive meaning parses perfectly well. If a student comes to you after class and starts asking a question, and you say “If you have questions, you should know my office hours are from 3:00 to 4:00″ this can easily be parsed to me that questions are not allowed now and the student is assumed to be aware of that fact.

          • Randy M says:

            I see. I had read that as a refutation, especially in light of the elaboration StellaAthena provided. You meant it as merely clarification from potential confusion. Thank you then.

            That said, you are missing another possibility for should, which is roughly “presumed to be”

            I posted a link which includes this under the second definition (although perhaps you read it to be a weaker form than a strict conditional) so I didn’t feel the need to be exhaustive.

            A presumptive meaning parses perfectly well. If a student comes to you after class and starts asking a question, and you say “If you have questions, you should know my office hours are from 3:00 to 4:00″ this can easily be parsed to me that questions are not allowed now

            Yes, but “If you have questions, my office hours are at 3:00” I would also parse as “ask me questions later, not now”, unless it is followed by an explicit asking for questions now.

            I’m only engaging in the joy of splitting semantic hairs.

            I can keep this up as long as you can. =P

      • AnonEEmous says:

        it’s also a switching of the clauses, arguably

        ““if you have questions | I’ll be holding office hours from 4-5 pm today.”
        I’ll be holding office hours from 4-5 pm today.” | if you have questions

        still technically conditional but implies it much less

        • StellaAthena says:

          How does changing the order change the implication to you? I don’t really see it.

          (very pleased with that pun)

  2. inihgrobmal says:

    Oh hey, Jamelle Bouie at Slate called Scott a “thinker”! 🙂

    As it stands, the debate among Democrats is torn between a moderate approach that disdains all “identity politics” (except those for white Americans) and one that hasn’t absorbed the deep ties among race, gender, place, and class. Both may win over some Trump voters, but one would do so at the cost of accommodating Trump’s white nationalism and the other at the risk of being blinded by its patina of populism. At the same time, there are thinkers[*] who want to deny the reality and force of Trump’s white nationalism, full stop.

    * With an HTML link from the word “thinkers” to You are still crying wolf.

    • Murphy says:

      personally I find it quite ammusing how many hardcore trump supporters were tweeting links to “You are still crying wolf” with comments like “this, so much this”,or “this is so true” something about the fact that Scott got a big chunk of Trumps supporters to express support for an article calling trump an “incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with no idea how to run a country”

      • suntzuanime says:

        I find it sad, from that perspective. They’ve clearly been starving for even the tiniest bit of charity, so they’ll fall all over themselves for someone who is merely less abusive.

    • gbdub says:

      a moderate approach that disdains all “identity politics” (except those for white Americans)

      Who exactly is proposing the parenthetical? The position I’ve seen (and personally support) is essentially, “If you’re going to push identity politics, then white people are eventually going to rally around their own identity – and that gets ugly”. You can’t consistently outgroup an identifiable racial/social population and not expect them to create their own political tribe that outgroups you in return. Nix the identity politics and white folks will go back to splitting up ideologically along other lines as they have been mostly content to do up until now (and frankly still are – whites split their vote far more evenly than other racial groups even with the supposed dominance of neo-Nazi Trumpers).

      I’m pretty sure the only people saying “no identity politics for anyone except white people” are the actual hardcore white nationalists, of which there are 3-4 orders of magnitude less than Slate would like to have you believe, and even they are in large part fine with other races having their own identity politics (they just want whites to win in America).

  3. S_J says:

    Suppose I present a policy argument for United States, involving State/Local government and their relations with Federal Law, that looks like the following.

    There are a few States and Localities that think their own laws are preferable to the Federal laws with regards to the environment. They have officials who, on learning about locals who break Federal Law relating to the environment, will collude to hide the evidence and the perpetrator from Federal attention.

    This policy by State/Local officials has led to much friction with Federal officials, and has produced lots of disagreement about how to best handle the problem. Major political parties have wildly-differing opinions on the authority of State/Local governments to help Federal officials find and prosecute such crimes.

    It appears that the Federal officials should be able to do everything in their power to punish State/Local officials as accessories to the crime in question.

    At least, it appears that the States and the voters/legislators/governors/judges/President involved have decided that laws about the environment are a good place for a single, overarching Federal rule.

    However, if a good, compelling argument for reverting this area of law to State/Local control can be made, it should be brought forward.

    If I repeat the discussion above, but alter it by scribbling out the environment, and replacing it with immigration, does the prescribed Federal response change?

    If so, why?

    If not, why not?

    • skef says:

      Block-quoted paragraphs 1, 2, and 4 seem to be purely descriptive.

      Paragraph 3 stipulates an “appearance” that the Feds should “be able to” punish local officials, which makes it a bit ambiguous whether they actually should do that.

      Paragraph 5 is a hypothetical about a “good, compelling” argument for the relevant Federal laws to change.

      I don’t understand what aspects of the question you’re intending to have left open that relate to the topic (whether it be the environment or immigration). Is it supposed to be in “appears” in paragraph 3? What is the person answering the question supposed to be judging that isn’t stipulated?

      • S_J says:

        I was mostly noodling around with the problem of how the Feds deal with places known as “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants.

        But I wanted to make sure that the problem was stated in a form that wasn’t waving flags around discussion of immigration and illegal immigration.

        Of course, it’s kind of hard to find a good comparison.

        “Sanctuary cities”, in which the local Police will ignore or actively hide evidence of illegal immigration, may or may not have support in their policies from State level officials.

        The legal remedies for such a problem are different from the legal remedies for problems with sources of environmental pollution.

        Similarly, there is a large difference in ability to detect the after-effects of the crime in question.

        [EDITED TO ADD: I haven’t seen a well-stated defense of “Sanctuary Cities”, except along the lines of the anti-commandeering decisions stated below by @Brad.

        The most obvious legal remedy alluded to in Paragraph 5 would be to deny all sorts of Federal funding to State/Local governments if there is evidence that the local officials aren’t notifying Immigrations officials of illegal immigrants that they discover while investigating other crimes.]

        • Rob K says:

          a simple defense of sanctuary cities is that cities have a pressing interest in having their population engage with and trust their law enforcement officers. This breaks down if a sizeable portion of the population believes that engaging with law enforcement personally would put them at risk of deportation, or that, for instance, reporting an acquaintance for petty crime, or calling for help with a mentally unstable relative would put the person who they had called the police on at risk of deportation.

          Dividing the responsibility for policing day-to-day breaches of the peace from the responsibility for policing immigration law has some logic for this reason.

          • sflicht says:

            I’m happy to acknowledge that. But I’ll insist that you acknowledge that the policy also undermines the rule of law. And also that it’s fine if my town wants to declare itself a sanctuary city from federal tax law enforcement (i.e. it won’t *stop* the feds from arresting me for tax violations, but it won’t assist them in any way).

          • Rob K says:

            @sflicht
            Compared to an alternative world in which our immigration laws are universally respected, enforced, and followed, this does undermine the rule of law.

            It’s worth noting that your town presumably already is functionally a sanctuary town from federal tax enforcement, insofar as I doubt the police are out there running background checks on whether your taxes are up to date if they book you for speeding.

            Now, if the IRS takes me to federal court for tax violations, wins, impounds a piece of property I own, and then calls the police on me for trespassing on said property, the police will assist them in enforcing that law on me. So there are limits to this sort of thing; I can’t think of a directly comparable example for immigration law.

          • It’s worth noting that, in the Marijuana context, the equivalent of what is being described for sanctuary cities is now federal law, although I don’t know to what degree it’s enforced. It is illegal to spend federal money enforcing federal marijuana law against activities legal under state law.

    • Brad says:

      The anti-commandeering decisions (c.f. New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 188 (1992) and Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997)) look correct to me. If the federal government wants to enforce its laws, let it hire its own law enforcement officers instead of trying to dragooning those of the states.

    • Jordan D. says:

      I second Brad- the difference here is that state officials are free to say ‘we’re not interested in enforcing that Federal law’. If Congress banned all window-mounted air conditioners tomorrow as an environmental measure and Philadelphia said ‘great, but our police aren’t going to bother writing up people who have those’, that doesn’t set off any alarm bells for me. If Congress banned dumping nuclear waste in rivers and Philadelphia said ‘great, but our police won’t be enforcing that’ I’d be pretty upset with Philadelphia, but I don’t think that would be actually criminal on the part of the city, even if I wouldn’t vote for those people again.

      Your later point, re, that cutting federal funds seems like a reasonable reaction, is fair I suppose. Presently, the courts don’t allow conditioning federal funds quite like that, but it’s not hard to imagine a world in which that was permitted. I would disagree and be outraged about it for an immigration dispute, just like I would if Philadelphia were ignoring criminals dumping nuclear waste, but I wouldn’t say it’s an illegitimate tactic.

      • Brad says:

        In general I don’t think the Federal government ought to be giving much money to state or local governments. If the federal government has the authority and desire to accomplish some goal then it ought to go about doing so itself. In areas that states are responsible for, however large or small that area ends up being, the federal government ought not to have rules or subsidies. Block grants are especially pernicious. The states have near plenary taxing power, if they want to raise money they have the tools to do so. If they don’t wish to use them, they can do without.

    • Drew says:

      “Collude” and “hide” seem like they’re doing a lot of work here. Which specific actions are you looking to criminalize?

      As I understand the situation, sanctuary cities aren’t proactively “hiding evidence” or “colluding” or anything of that nature. Instead, they’re (1) choosing not to pass municipal laws that re-criminalize things that are federally illegal and (2) choosing not to proactively help the feds.

      I can see an argument that #1 is unwise. But that’s very topic-specific.

      Municipalities should ban backyard tire-fires, even though tire-fires already break EPA restrictions. At the same time, Topeka Kansas doesn’t need to re-invent Federal Campaign finance rules.

      And #2 could fall somewhere between ‘reasonable’ and ‘legally required’.

      State police don’t have legal authority to detain people for breaking federal laws. So, holding someone so that ICE can pick them up is actively illegal.

      Other than releasing suspected illegal immigrants, all the states are doing is not allocating funds to proactively help the feds. That seems like it’s obviously their right.

      I’m not sure how you could pass a law that would criminalize spending too little time or money on a project that the feds feel is valuable (but not so valuable as to enforce on their own).

      ——

      Rhetoric aside, I find myself rolling my eyes at the feds here.

      The ICE manages just a few thousand immigration-document audits. If the feds actually cared, they could do massive automated checks of employer records.

      And there are only a few hundred employers arrested/year.

      So long as those numbers are so massively low, I can’t believe that the feds are making a best-effort and getting stymied by mean states.

  4. Dr Dealgood says:

    So apparently Sunrise has been teasing the possibility for a third season of Code Geass. Not a crappy spin-off like Akito, but an actual R3.

    This is concerning for several reasons. Spoilers beyond:

    Svefgyl, Yrybhpu unf gb or qrnq. Vg’f abg whfg gung jr fnj uvz qvr, be gung gur Mreb Erdhvrz jnf gur ragver pyvznk bs frnfba gjb. Vg’f gung gur frrq bs gung qrngu jnf cynagrq sebz gur svefg rcvfbqr naq pbafgvghgrf bar bs gur frevrf znwbe gurzrf: “Gur bayl barf jub fubhyq xvyy ner gubfr jub ner cercnerq gb or xvyyrq!”

    Frpbaqyl, V’z abg pbaivaprq gung nalbar jbexvat ba Pbqr Trnff pna jevgr be rira qenj nalzber. E2 jnf tbqnjshy ohg vg unq fbzr uvtu cbvagf naq gur PT jnf zbfgyl xrcg va purpx. Nxvgb jnf hajngpunoyl onq naq dhvgr htyl gb ybbx ng jvgu vg’f wneevat pbzchgre-trarengrq Xavtugznerf. Vs gung geraq pbagvahrf gura E3 jbhyq or na ngebpvgl.

    Svanyyl, jub vf gurer yrsg gb svtug naljnl? Gur Oynpx Xavtugf haqre Fhmnxh naq mbzovr Fpuarvmry ner gur bayl erznvavat zvyvgnel va n jne-jrnel jbeyq, jvgu nyy gur tbbsl avagu trarengvba Xavtugzner senzrf naq jungrire bgure penml penc Rzcrebe Yrybhpu frg nfvqr sbe gurz. Gurer vf bayl bar erznvavat Trnff Jvgpu, jub qbrfa’g jnag gb tvir crbcyr Trnff nalzber, naq ab Trnff hfref. Ner gur crbcyr sebz Whcvgre tbvat gb nggnpx? Orpnhfr gurer nera’g nal greerfgevny rarzvrf yrsg.

    Of course it’s also possible they’ll just never make a third season. But it’s still a serious headscratcher.

    • blacktrance says:

      Part of me is skeptical. Another part says that Code Geass is the best anime of all time, and they couldn’t possibly mess it up.

      Svefgyl, Yrybhpu unf gb or qrnq. Vg’f abg whfg gung jr fnj uvz qvr, be gung gur Mreb Erdhvrz jnf gur ragver pyvznk bs frnfba gjb. Vg’f gung gur frrq bs gung qrngu jnf cynagrq sebz gur svefg rcvfbqr naq pbafgvghgrf bar bs gur frevrf znwbe gurzrf: “Gur bayl barf jub fubhyq xvyy ner gubfr jub ner cercnerq gb or xvyyrq!”

      Pneg qevire.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I felt that way too until I saw Akito. They are entirely capable of messing it up.

        V jbhyq ynhtu vs gurl qvq tb jvgu gur pneg qevire sna-gurbel. Zber yvxryl gurl’yy hfr gur erpnc zbivrf gb fbsgyl ergpba ubj Pbqrf jbex naq znxr gur qrngu fprar zber nzovthbhf.

      • BBA says:

        Code Geass is the best anime of all time

        And here I thought I was among thinking people. Tsk tsk.

        • onyomi says:

          Yeah, this seems like quite a stretch.

          Thinking people know it’s Revolutionary Girl Utena.

          • Eltargrim says:

            Utena suffers from serious pacing issues, especially about halfway through the show. Cowboy Bebop, on the other hand…

          • suntzuanime says:

            Thank God we got the “report comment” button back.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            So many heretics, so little time…

          • Rowan says:

            I got so bored watching Utena that I just stalled completely like a year ago. I started watching it again last night and, uh, Nanami wakes up with an easter egg under her blanket and spends the whole episode panicking that people will think she’s weird for having laid an egg? It’s a trip, but it’s not exactly good television.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Code Geass is basically “Serious Headscratcher: the Series”, though, right? Time to get hyped for vengeful cyborg Lulu.

    • Aevylmar says:

      Maybe they’re going for an alternate history / what if story? You know, going back to the first time they realized they’d written themselves into a corner, and retconning the diabolus ex machina they used to solve it to replace it with a more logical tragedy?

      Because, really, Code Geass is a bizarre mix of 1/10 and 10/10, with nothing in between. If they can replace some of the 1s with 10s, that would be pretty great.

  5. Has anyone here looked into the controversy over Keith Ellison? There are two different issues, only one of which seems to be getting any attention.

    1. What was his connection with the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan?

    Judging by what I have read, he claims it was only a brief association, largely due to cooperating with the NOI on a march on Washington. According to his critics, on the other hand, he acted as a committed member of the NOI, sometimes using the last name “Mohammed” or the middle name “X,” from at least 1990 to 1997. If that is true then, whether or not he is still a member of the NOI, his self-description of his involvement is a lie. And whether it is true ought to be checkable, since the claims involve published pieces or published talks reported in the press at the time.

    2. In what sense is he a Muslim?

    None of what I’ve seen distinguishes between Muslims and Black Muslims. The original Nation of Islam, despite it’s name, was not Muslim in a conventional sense, since it held views that were clearly heretical. Fard Mohammed was at various points claimed to be either a prophet or Allah, Elijah Mohammed to be a prophet. According to Islamic doctrine, Sunni and Shia, Mohammed was the final prophet.

    In the 1970’s, as I understand the history, there was a split, with Elijah Mohammed’s son Warith Deen Mohammed leading one faction in the direction of orthodox Islam, Louis Farrakhan a different faction that stayed with the existing NOI doctrine. All the references I have seen to Ellison being Muslim have to do with connection with Farrakhan’s group. If so, he isn’t Muslim as the term is usually used–doesn’t believe in all of the central tenets of the religion.

    Some obvious questions are whether he prays five times a day at the required times, fasts during Ramadan.

    • skef says:

      Well, he apparently self-identifies as Sunni.

      And it’s been reported that he is “observant, although private” in his faith. (Can we set aside the now-ironic framing of the article?)

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Of all people to focus on for potentially lying at this moment, you pick Keith Ellison.

      Face it, you are a dyed in the wool supporter of the Republican Party, no matter who the heck they they put in positions of power.

      • quanta413 says:

        Or there is no need to only discuss other liars since those conversations are tedious and boring by now, and we’re already drowning in a sea of information and bullshit about those people. “Rational” discussion on those topics has failed to make anyone move one inch away from their priors. Even if only for a change of pace, we could discuss other new potential lies.

        EDIT: For what it’s worth, if he calls himself a Sunni, I’m fine with accepting his word that he’s currently orthodox. Not because I necessarily find him particularly honest or dishonest, but because bar extreme evidence to the contrary I think he should have the same freedom everyone else has to wave the flag of whatever team he wants.

        I guess the issue of Louis Farrakhan could be read into more, but frankly I don’t see how it would make much difference.

        • “I think he should have the same freedom everyone else has to wave the flag of whatever team he wants.”

          And the rest of us have the freedom to decide for ourselves whether that flag really represents his position. The freedom to say something does not imply the freedom to have other people believe it.

          It’s possible that he is an orthodox Sunni Muslim. But I have seen nothing in the media suggesting that writers distinguish between “Muslim” and “Black Muslim/NOI.” It looks as though he was a Black Muslim, it looks–unless someone goes looking for the documentary evidence and it turns out not to be there–as though he has been misrepresenting the fact for quite a while now. And one way to do it would be to describe himself as a Muslim and, if asked, claim to be Sunni.

          He’s a congressman, so somewhat in the public eye. It shouldn’t be hard for an energetic investigative reporter to find out whether he has been seen to eat or drink in daylight in Ramadan. Whether he has been in the public eye through the time of one of the obligatory prayers and not making it.

          • skef says:

            It shouldn’t be hard for an energetic investigative reporter to find out whether he has been seen to eat or drink in daylight in Ramadan. Whether he has been in the public eye through the time of one of the obligatory prayers and not making it.

            Yes, that would certainly answer your question.

          • My list of tests was not random. Drinking wine is a sin under Muslim law–the application to other alcoholic drinks is more complicated and depends on the particular school of law and interpretation within it. But it’s a sin that Muslims, include caliphs, quite often committed. Fasting and the prayers are much stricter requirements.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think you’re assuming a much higher level of theological sophistication than is generally present at a layman’s level. Would your average American Muslim really see a dig difference between being NOI/Sunni/etc? Do most Muslims really follow the rules that closely?

            If I lived in a country with only 1% Christians, I would probably attend whatever church branded itself “Christian” regardless of whether it was Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or whatever, and I actually care about those distinctions.

          • Randy M says:

            I would think for a Muslim NOI:Sunni:Shia is something like a Christian’s view of Mormon:Catholic:Protestant.

            Maybe most Sunni muslims can’t tell you where NOI differs, but they likely have an opinion on whether they qualify as Muslim.

          • rlms says:

            @Jaskologist
            I think it greatly depends on which average American Muslim you are talking about. I agree that a member of NoI (or recent Sunni convert from NoI) would probably not know too much about the distinction between Sunni and Shia. But I think that an Iraqi or Iranian immigrant (for instance) would definitely consider NoI to be different from Sunnis and Shias (how likely they would be to recognise them as Muslim I don’t know), and would probably know the important differences between Sunnis and Shias. Remember, whereas the Catholic-Protestant split is relatively recent, the Sunni-Shia split started very shortly after Muhammad’s death. In some ways (although not in degree of theological difference) it is more like the Christian-Valentinianism split might have been, if Valentinianism had been vaguely successful.

      • @HBC

        Face it, you are willing to interpret any evidence that comes in as support for your convictions.

        If I am a dyed in the wool supporter of the Republican party, why did my blog post before the election say that the least bad outcome would be Hillary as president with a Republican House and Senate? Surely Republicans in control of all three branches would be better. Why, going back a bit, did I post that Obama was probably the least bad candidate back the first time he ran?

        My discussion of your behavior, written about eight years ago.

        Ellison is interesting because it’s a case where there are two quite different stories, where it looks as though it should be easy to check which is true, and at least one side is presumably unwilling to do so, which is why there are still two quite different stories.

        • skef says:

          I poked around a little. “Easy” is relative. A lot of the coverage goes back to statements like this in the Weekly Standard:

          Then, in February 1997, Ellison appeared as a local spokesman for the Nation of Islam with the last name “Muhammad.” He spoke at a public hearing in connection with a controversy involving Joanne Jackson of the Minnesota Initiative Against Racism (MIAR). Jackson was alleged to have said, “Jews are among the most racist white people I know.” Jackson denied making the statement or insisted that it had been taken out of context. Ellison appeared before the MIAR on behalf of the Nation of Islam in defense of Jackson’s alleged statement. According to the Star Tribune and the full text of the statement published in the Minneapolis Spokesman-Recorder, Ellison said:

          We stand by the truth contained in the remarks attributed to [Ms. Jackson], and by her right to express her views without sanction. Here is why we support Ms. Jackson: She is correct about Minister Farrakhan. He is not a racist. He is also not an anti-Semite. Minister Farrakhan is a tireless public servant of Black people, who constantly teaches self-reliance and self-examination to the Black community. . . . Also, it is absolutely true that merchants in Black areas generally treat Black customers badly.

          Online archives for the Minneapolis Spokesman-Recorder don’t go back that far. And actually the history of this newspaper is weird before 2000, with the Spokesman and the Recorder being separate (or separable?) entities then. Some of this seems like stuff you might have to send a person to a room for.

          • skef says:

            Then there’s this:

            Ellison first emerged as a candidate for public office in 1998, when he ran for the DFL nomination for state representative as “Keith Ellison-Muhammad.” In a contemporaneous article on his candidacy in the Insight News, Ellison is reported still defending Louis Farrakhan:

            Anticipating possible criticism for his NOI affiliation, Ellison-Muhammad says he is aware that not everyone appreciates what the Nation does and feels there is a propaganda war being launched against its leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan.

            The record for that election is here, but I can’t find him in it.

            Note: I consider this poking around of mine is one way of assessing your question of verification. I don’t mean it to imply a view on the underlying facts. However, the idea that someone’s occasionally skipping what are considered to be required religious practices, Muslim or not, provides more than trivial evidence of their religious affiliation strikes me as very silly, and I’m surprised you would argue for that.

          • Occasional skipping would be only weak evidence. Showing little or no evidence of following practices that are incumbent on every Muslim, such that not attempting to follow them would generally be considered to mark one as apostate, would be strong evidence.

          • skef says:

            @DavidFriedman

            He’s a congressman, so somewhat in the public eye. It shouldn’t be hard for an energetic investigative reporter to find out whether he has been seen to eat or drink in daylight in Ramadan. Whether he has been in the public eye through the time of one of the obligatory prayers and not making it.

            Sure sounds to be like the best an “energetic reporter” could do is find “occasional skipping”. Your standards just keep flipping around all over the place.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You don’t post about these kinds of controversies if they involve Republicans. They don’t interest you if they involve Republicans.

          You’ve already admitted that you emotionally identify as being part of the right wing coalition.

          You pointed me at a blog post from many years ago where you chastised yourself for bringing up the Mann Nobel controversy as not particularly relevant. You said in that post you wouldn’t try to use that anymore. Yet you have continued to do so.

          This strikes as another in a pattern, with Elizabeth Warren and Mann, where you have a visceral emotional reaction to potential hypocrisy on the part of someone on the left and like to wave it, as a red cape, at people on the left.

          I’m presuming you don’t find Donald Trump’s hypocrisy interesting.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            On a further note, vis-a-vis the linked post on neutrality, it’s the repeated claim of neutrality that gives rise to my challenges to you.

            I am biased favoring the left. I know this and admit it.

            You are biased favoring the right. You won’t admit this, whether to yourself or merely for purposes of argumentation.

            I can and have criticized positions on the left. It doesn’t mean I don’t identify myself as left-of-center.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            I can’t speak for David Friedman, and he may genuinely be more neutral with respect to the parties than I (I wanted Trump, not Hillary to win, for example), but I can suggest something which might cause David to feel he is merely commenting on controversies, on either side, which seem interesting, while you feel he preferentially picks on Democrats:

            Related to David’s question last thread about Red and Blue, and your point that they largely correspond to non-urbane and urbane, I think David and I both tend to be meta-contrarians/grey tribe.

            To the extent this view, and “I can Tolerate anything…” are correct, there is a sense in which we are Blue tribe rebels–frequently agreeing with Red tribe, but for more sophisticated reasons than they usually offer, and feeling, perhaps, a need to distinguish ourselves from naive blues (we consider ourselves too urbane to be mistaken for rubes).

            Speaking for myself, I do occasionally read comments in true Red enclaves, like Realclearpolitics. The comments there often feel SO wrong as to be not worth engaging. They’re wrong in a boring way which I consciously or unconsciously tend to mentally triage as hopeless and unremarkable. They are basically the people Moon is arguing against, which I think also explains a lot of peoples’ reactions to her: it’s not that she’s anti-Red, it’s that she tends to argue against a level 1 position, while most Red sympathizers here are “grey” (i. e. have level 3 justifications).

            From this perspective, actual Blue tribe people, frequently arguing level 2 positions, however, often seem to be wrong in interesting, possibly upsetting ways. The Warren thing, for example, seems unusually interesting because it’s like “ah ah! Someone who’d likely argue for affirmative action cynically taking advantage of it! I knew those SJWs were full of it!” That is, it justifies our level 3 beliefs and so seems “interesting.”

            Contrast a hypothetical scandal where a Republican politicians who supported something like “Defense of Marriage” gets caught blowing someone in an airport bathroom. One might say that if you comment on the Warren case and not this case, you must be biased, since these are both cases of hypocrisy. But from a grey tribe perspective, a Blue person being hypocritical about affirmative action just feels more “interesting” than a Red person being hypocritical about sexuality–because on some level we already expect that. That’s why we aren’t level 1 Reds. So our reaction to typical level 1 Red outrages is “yawn,” but our reaction to level 2 Blue outrages is… “ah hah! I knew those level 2s were wrong!”

            Or, at least, that’s how I sort of perceive it.

          • “You pointed me at a blog post from many years ago where you chastised yourself for bringing up the Mann Nobel controversy as not particularly relevant. You said in that post you wouldn’t try to use that anymore.”

            I’m guessing you are referring to this.

            I don’t think I said anywhere in that that I wouldn’t try to use that argument any more. Can you quote me doing so, or point at a different blog post where I did?

            “I’m presuming you don’t find Donald Trump’s hypocrisy interesting.”

            Not very. He pretty clearly decides what to say on the basis of what will have the effect he wants, not whether it’s true. Unfortunately, that seems to be a successful tactic. It’s probably true of a lot of other politicians, but not as obviously.

            You described me as “a dyed in the wool supporter of the Republican Party.” I offered quite a lot of evidence against that claim, such as my publicly expressing a preference for the Democratic presidential candidate over the Republican in two elections, which you seem to be ignoring.

            Once in a while someone on the right says something that is wrong in an interesting way and I comment on it. That was a conservative attacking a libertarian, which suggests that you have my party identification wrong.

          • “You are biased favoring the right. You won’t admit this, whether to yourself or merely for purposes of argumentation.”

            Posted just after you linked to an old blog post in which I discussed my biases.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Sorry, you are correct, you didn’t actually come out and say that wouldn’t use the argument anymore. You did say that the argument wasn’t actually material to the debate on global warming:

            The fact that a prominent supporter of global warming had been inflating his credentials implies very little about whether global warming is real, anthropogenic, and dangerous.

            And you also were disturbed? embarrassed? enough by your own emotional reaction to drop out of posting on that facebook group.

            The fact that you continue to still employ the argument despite those facts …

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Posted just after you linked to an old blog post in which I discussed my biases.

            Yes, you claim to be making neutral arguments that are not biased by your right wing loyalties, then when you are called on it, retreat to saying “of course I recognize my own bias”.

            The reason you find Keith Ellison “interesting” has only a little to do with any hypocrisy he may have engaged in, and much more to do with the team you think he is on. Keith Ellison being in line for a leadership position says very little that is unique about the DNC as compared to any other political organization, despite your claims that it shows great fault in whatever “movement” you think he is a part of.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Once in a while someone on the right says something that is wrong in an interesting way and I comment on it. That was a conservative attacking a libertarian, which suggests that you have my party identification wrong.

            Forgot to note this point:

            You supported the position of a Republican (in opposition to a critique from another Republican, but that isn’t really material). You seem to have bolstered rather than refuted my point.

            And my broader point has always been that you act as though you are fully comfortable in the coalition on the right, which this wouldn’t be a refutation of even if Ron Paul wasn’t elected as a Republican. I certainly would never try and claim Bernie Sanders wasn’t part of the coalition on the left.

          • “You did say that the argument wasn’t actually material to the debate on global warming:”

            It wasn’t material to whether AGW was happening or was dangerous. It was material to the debate as a phenomenon–evidence that lots of people in it were more interested in tribal loyalty than in truth.

            Similarly, the main point of my posts on Warren isn’t that she is a horrible person–I think she acted badly, but not horribly. It’s that there is something seriously wrong with a movement that chooses as one of its leaders/heroines a woman who has strikingly violated that movement’s purported principles. Either the people making that choice don’t care about their purported principles or they don’t care about truth, are willing to engage in self-delusion when convenient. That ought to bother you more than it bothers me. Does it?

            The nearest equivalent on my side was the story long ago, so far as I know true, that Nozick made use of a rent control law to get out of paying the rent he had agreed to on an apartment.

            It’s not an exact equivalent because Nozick was an intellectual, not a politician. What mattered was whether the arguments he made were correct, not whether he lived up to the principles they implied. Warren is a politician.

            I left that particular Usenet group in part because being in it tended to push me towards arguing as a partisan, which I prefer not to do. If I were the dyed in the wool Republican you imagine or, more strictly, a dyed in the wool “denier,” that wouldn’t have bothered me.

          • skef says:

            Similarly, the main point of my posts on Warren isn’t that she is a horrible person–I think she acted badly, but not horribly. It’s that there is something seriously wrong with a movement that chooses as one of its leaders/heroines a woman who has strikingly violated that movement’s purported principles. Either the people making that choice don’t care about their purported principles or they don’t care about truth, are willing to engage in self-delusion when convenient. That ought to bother you more than it bothers me. Does it?

            Who it ought to bother how much depends on the nature of the violation. What would be a comparable violation for a typical Republican or Libertarian politician (taken separately, that is)?

          • skef says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Let me generalize one of your points for you:

            It’s not an exact equivalent because X was an intellectual, not a politician. What mattered was whether the arguments he made were correct, not whether he lived up to the principles they implied. Y is a politician.

            The implication being that what matters about a politician is that he lives up to the principles espoused by his party. And given the context, personally lives up to them.

            Do we live in the same world? Across the ideological spectrum, wouldn’t a common reaction to being confronted with this proposition be stifled laughter?

          • Brad says:

            Similarly, the main point of my posts on Warren isn’t that she is a horrible person–I think she acted badly, but not horribly. It’s that there is something seriously wrong with a movement that chooses as one of its leaders/heroines a woman who has strikingly violated that movement’s purported principles. Either the people making that choice don’t care about their purported principles or they don’t care about truth, are willing to engage in self-delusion when convenient. That ought to bother you more than it bothers me. Does it?

            You mean like a group that purports to care deeply about “family values” and then chooses as its standard bearer a serial philanderer? Does that fascinate you? Can we look forward to lots of posts from you about Trump’s adultery over the years?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @skef: @brad:
            To amplify your points, what matters most about a politician is whether they exercise the power of their office in a manner that is consistent with their campaign. We are electing humans, not personified ideals.

            Personal history does matter to the extent that it helps inform us on what they are likely to do in office.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            It wasn’t material to whether AGW was happening or was dangerous. It was material to the debate as a phenomenon–evidence that lots of people in it were more interested in tribal loyalty than in truth

            I have seen you, multiple times, use it as an example of why we should be skeptical about the science around global warming.

          • “What would be a comparable violation for a typical Republican or Libertarian politician (taken separately, that is)?”

            Good question. I mentioned at some point the Nozick case, but he wasn’t a politician. Gary Johnson got a good deal of flack from libertarians for giving a very soft version of the libertarian position during this campaign, but that isn’t really the same issue.

            If Ron Paul turned out to have rented an apartment at a rent above the rent controlled limit and then used that fact to get out of paying for the apartment, which I think is about what Nozick was claimed to have done (it was some time back and I may not have the details correct), that would be comparable, especially if the evidence was clear but he denied it and his supporters believed him or pretended to.

            For a conservative Republican with a religious position, the obvious cases are the ones who turned out to be gay or having an extramarital affair. As best I can remember, none of those resulted in the supporters denying that it was true. Some resulted in large political costs, some not. One difference, in the Christian case, is that the politician typically admitted error, claimed he had seen the error of his ways, and asked to be forgiven, which within the Christian context is, I think, a legitimate request.

          • skef says:

            @DavidFriedman

            If Ron Paul turned out to have rented an apartment at a rent above the rent controlled limit and then used that fact to get out of paying for the apartment, which I think is about what Nozick was claimed to have done (it was some time back and I may not have the details correct), that would be comparable, especially if the evidence was clear but he denied it and his supporters believed him or pretended to.

            This example mixes two issues. One is taking advantage of rent control. The idea that Libertarians would find that disqualifying goes against a great deal of evidence. Whenever the question of whether it’s OK for a Libertarian to e.g. collect social security or medicare the standard explanation is “we don’t live in a Libertarian system and we can’t expect people to hamstring their lives pretending that we do”. Why would the explanation be different for rent control? That’s the system: the argument is that it shouldn’t be that way, not that someone can’t take advantage of it given that it’s that way.

            The other issue is breaking an agreement — call it a “contract” — in a way that’s infeasible to remedy through legal means. Such contracts are arguably fundamental to the viability of capitalism, whether or not one is a Libertarian. I realize you’re not a Trump supporter, but surely you can see that the significant evidence of Trump routinely underpaying on contracts had almost no effect on the attitudes of his supporters. Are you really surprised by this? Should that particular issue have some special relevance to people’s attitudes, as opposed to the other ways in which he is terrible?

          • @Skef:

            I don’t think libertarians would be seriously upset about a libertarian renting a rent controlled apartment at the controlled rent. But agreeing to pay more than that and then calling in the enforcers of an unjust law to get out of the deal would be a different and much more serious matter.

            Trump isn’t a libertarian and didn’t run as one, so his doing things libertarians would find objectionable isn’t surprising.

          • “The implication being that what matters about a politician is that he lives up to the principles espoused by his party. And given the context, personally lives up to them. ”

            More precisely, something that matters about a politician who takes the role of leader of an ideological movement is that he not act in ways strikingly inconsistent with the principles of that movement. It isn’t the fact that Elizabeth Warren is a senator I’m commenting on. It’s her role as a leader of the left of the Democratic party.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think a comparable violation for a Republican would not necessarily be sexual but would more likely be military-related (e.g. draft-dodging or claiming an unearned honor). There have been scandals of that sort, and notably there was the one that was attempted against W. that cost Dan Rather his job.

            Not sure about Libertarians, we have the pirate in Atlas Shrugged to make many excuses for us. Maybe having worked as an industrious tax collector?

            As for Trump, he won against the wishes of his party’s establishment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            How about the strong likelihood Ron Paul was lying about knowing what was in his newsletters?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            He won the primary against the wishes of the establishment. Not the general election.

      • “Face it, you are a dyed in the wool supporter of the Republican Party, no matter who the heck they they put in positions of power.”

        Try searching my blog for “Bush.” You will find me pointing out that he is a felon, speculating about whether he took actions that he knew to be unconstitutional, defending Hillary against an inaccurate headline, suggesting that the Democrats should try to pull libertarians out of the Republican party and it shouldn’t be very hard given how little support for libertarian views that party now has, pointing out that Bush “spent eight years demonstrating that Republicans were at least as willing to increase the size of government, and to do it with borrowed money, as Democrats—indeed, more willing than the most recent Democratic administration.”

        I no doubt have a variety of biases, a subject I have discussed on my blog, but support for the Republican party is not one of them. I admit to voting for one Republican in the most recent election, but he was a libertarian Republican in a race he had no significant chance of winning.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Is David Brooks a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Republican party? If not, is anyone?

          And yet he has written pieces that criticize individual Republicans and defending various Democrats against various charges. For example.

          I no doubt have a variety of biases, a subject I have discussed on my blog, but support for the Republican party is not one of them.

          Whatever you want to call it, you aren’t neutral when it comes to Democrats v. Republicans.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Has Farrakhan shot anybody? Have his followers?

      Why should I care if this Ellison person is associated with Nation of Islam?

      • Sandy says:

        Farrakhan’s followers assassinated Malcolm X, and Mr. X’s wife would say in later years that the killing was on Farrakhan’s direct orders and that “Nobody kept it a secret. It was a badge of honor”.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          Indict him then. This guilt by association nonsense is incredibly tiresome.

          • My point isn’t guilt by association. It’s that Ellison makes a claim which may be (I think probably is, but I haven’t done the work to check it) provably false, and his supporters, as best I can tell, pretend to believe it.

            Lying isn’t a strong disqualification from politics. One might almost claim that it’s a requirement. Believing transparent lies, on the other hand, is evidence of serious faults in the movement doing it.

            Particularly striking if people who label Trump and Bannon as anti-semitic on no evidence beyond Bannon’s web site sometimes publishing things by people who may be antisemitic choose to ignore considerably stronger evidence in the case of someone on their side of the political fence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Believing transparent lies, on the other hand, is evidence of serious faults in the movement doing it.

            So, there is an obvious question here. I can’t figure out a way to phrase that isn’t going to be perceived as snark.

            Do you find fault in the Republican Party and its voters?

          • “Do you find fault in the Republican Party and its voters?”

            The party yes, many of its voters yes. Most obviously the party’s hostility to immigration and free trade.

            My point, here and elsewhere, isn’t about the random voter, Republican or Democratic. I expect voters to be rationally ignorant. So it isn’t surprising that a committed Democratic voter dismisses claims about Ellison or Warren without investigating them, or a committed Republican dismisses claims about Trump once he gets the nomination.

            But I am bothered by dishonesty or irrationality in the elite of political movements, in intellectuals, in news media and the like.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Is Donald Trump a Christian? Is his claim to Christianity interesting?

          • My guess is that Trump is not a Christian. The fact that politicians in a majority Christian country often pretend to Christian beliefs that they probably don’t hold is not very interesting.

            The fact that Trump says things that are not true is also not very interesting at this point, since he’s been doing it for quite a while. On the other hand, journalists pretending to believe him, ignoring clear evidence that something he said isn’t true, might be interesting. Do you have examples of that?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            The fact that politicians in a majority Christian country often pretend to Christian beliefs that they probably don’t hold is not very interesting.

            Then why is it interesting whether or not Ellison adheres strictly to every tenet of some sect of Islam? “Cafeteria” religion is, well, a constitutional right in America. Why does it matter (to you) what religious beliefs he espouses if you think he is espousing those beliefs in order to make his election more likely, as the supposedly Christian politicians are?

          • It’s interesting because he pretty clearly was at one point part of the NOI. Hence what being a Muslim means in his case is unclear.

            It’s also interesting because his being a Muslim is apparently seen by both sides of the controversy as politically relevant, in opposite directions. There are then multiple possible explanations of the situation:

            1. He was and is a supporter of the NOI, who found it prudent to deny the fact when he became politically active.

            2. He was but is no longer a supporter of the NOI, is not a Muslim, but claims to be in order to blur the NOI connection in his public image.

            3. He actually converted to Islam and is a practicing Muslim.

            4. He finds it for some reason useful to have the image of a Muslim but doesn’t really believe in the religion.

            The final one corresponds, I suspect, to many American politicians, but it’s more interesting in a context where the image adopted is that of a small minority not the electoral majority.

            The other interesting point is about not Ellison but the media. Nothing I saw seemed to distinguish between NOI and Sunni (or Shia) Muslim. That suggests either considerable ignorance or a willingness to deliberately blur the distinction, with the former more likely.

            No particular reason why the things I find interesting should be the same as the things you find interesting.

          • Iain says:

            Here’s a hit piece from National Review on the imam at Ellison’s mosque not approving of homosexuality. Notably, it accuses Ellison of being “pretty close” with his imam. Here is the webpage of Ellison’s mosque, in case you would like to audit their theology.

            I do not understand your preposterous obsession with determining whether Ellison is a “real” Muslim, without ever doing any actual legwork to find out. It is taking me longer to type out this post than it did to find the above information. Being Muslim is not an advantage in electoral politics. Unlike Trump’s “Christianity”, nobody pretends to be Muslim for votes. The overwhelmingly most likely explanation for the fact that Ellison says that he is Muslim, and worships at a mosque, is that he is actually a Muslim. You would not (and do not) question the religious conviction of any Christian politicians this way; the fact that you can’t let it go in Ellison’s case is at the very least unseemly.

            Edit to add: would you exhibit the same fevered curiosity about whether a purportedly Jewish politician keeps kosher?

    • BBA says:

      We’ve all held opinions in the past that we now regret. The ’90s were twenty years ago and Ellison was young and impressionable. If he recognized the NOI for the evil wretches they are and left them for Sunni Islam, good on him. And it makes sense that he’d try to minimize his past affiliation with them.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Agreed,

        As I said in a previous thread where Nybbler brought him up, I’m not as familiar with the Democrats “back bench” as I ought to be, but as far as I can tell Ellison is a relatively young, but competent, minority candidate with few if any ties to the Clinton political machine. If the Dems are serious about representing minorities he is precisely the sort of representative they should be promoting.

      • “And it makes sense that he’d try to minimize his past affiliation with them.”

        True. Does it also make sense that other people, including the media, would believe his attempt to minimize it even if it is provably inconsistent with the evidence? That’s not the same as your position that it was an understandable error, which on the whole I agree with. The NOI are nuts, but they are in some respects admirable nuts.

  6. I told my daughter I’d be at work until further notice.

    Then, I started to wonder about that expression. It has a military tone to it — at least, as I heard it from my WW2-veteran father.

    The Google Ngrams graph shows an origin in the distant past, sudden popularization in World War I, a trough in the 1920s, renewed use from World War II into the 1950s, and a return to baseline since then.

  7. Brad says:

    The css for .comments-floater max-width seems to have changed recently and now I am getting unreasonably wide new comments boxes. Anyone else notice this?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I have noticed this. Although, I kind of like them overwide, rather than too narrow, which they seemed to be before.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Yes, this changed yesterday when reading from my iPad.
      My guesses:
      -New comments box got wider (such that it now overlaps the comments)
      -The right menu didn’t originally collapse down, so there was space for the comments.

      Isn’t supporting multiple web devices grand?

    • Brad says:

      I think this has been fixed. Thanks!

  8. onyomi says:

    The two most positive developments I’ve anecdotally observed on the Left in reaction to Trump:

    1. Still early, but people thinking a little about secession: The West Coast and New England really want Hillary; much of the rest of the country really wants Trump. Why do we all have to pick just one?

    2. People claiming to and urging others to donate to and volunteer at liberal causes and institutions. Planned Parenthood, for example, received thousands of new donations (many in Mike Pence’s name…) due to the perception that Republicans might defund it. Given that, when an institution or cause people care about seems to be in danger of losing funding or support, people who care about it seem to be willing to donate money and manpower directly, why, again, do we need to force everyone to support everything or risk falling prey to collective action problems?

    • Incurian says:

      It would be neat if the formerly united states each became independent but formed multiple, overlapping, frequently shifting federations and unions for various causes.

  9. onyomi says:

    Why is Jill Stein the one pushing so hard for all the recounts? It’s not like any particular outcome will benefit her? It feels kind of tinfoil hat-ish (and one can imagine conspiracy-ish explanations, like Stein being pressured to act as a proxy for the Clinton camp), but then, I guess she is kind of the left’s Alex Jones or something.

    • Rob K says:

      1) like you said, tinfoil hat. Have you looked at Jill Stein’s career?

      2) She’s getting a lot of attention and money out of this (most of which she isn’t spending on the recount, AFAICT), which she would otherwise not be.

      Given those two seems almost overdetermined that this would happen.

  10. rlms says:

    Interesting person I stumbled across on Wikipedia: Hedley Jones. I think I’ve seen commenters here complain about the lack of modern Renaissance men, but he seems to be a pretty good example of one. He built Jamaica’s first traffic lights, invented the sound system (high fidelity PA system) and possibly the modern electric guitar, and was also a musician, union leader and journalist. But what makes him reminiscent of Ptolemy, Newton, Spinoza etc. is his work as an astronomer, in which he ground his own lenses to build telescopes. I hadn’t imagined anyone doing that past the 18th century.

  11. South Bay Meetup?

    (I thought I already posted this but I’m not seeing it)
    We were thinking of hosting another meetup and were wondering if people would be interested. Possible dates are Friday December 9th and Saturday December 17th.

  12. shakeddown says:

    Speaking of LBJ, since there are a lot of history people here: If you could go back in time and be president at the start of the Vietnam war, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?

    • sflicht says:

      Dismantle the CIA (or at least the Directorate of Operations, or whatever its equivalent was at the time). Buy an armored limo and don’t roll down the windows.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Don’t have nuclear missiles installed in Turkey.

    • cassander says:

      Mine the shit out of haiphong harbor day on one. put more emphasis on training Vietnamese forces sooner, CORDS style. Don’t spend billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives training and equipping those forces then let congress make it illegal to give them spare parts and ammunition.

  13. keranih says:

    ok, one more, and I’m going to bed.

    Article on Robert Caro, currently writing about LBJ.

    Money graf:

    I was taking a course taught by two professors who had written a textbook on urban land-use planning, and they were explaining why highways get built, where they get built, and they were explaining it as if it were a mathematical equation, and with every class, they added a couple of factors—population density, grade elevations, things like that. Totally rational. I would sit there diligently taking notes, and then one day I suddenly said to myself, This is all wrong. They don’t know why highways get built where they’re built, and I do. They get built where they’re built because Robert Moses wants them built there.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      extremely good interview, thanks for posting.

    • psmith says:

      Robert Caro Fan Club crew checking in. Everyone should read The Power Broker. (Robert Moses Somewhat Ambivalent Fan Club crew also checking in.).

      Means of Ascent, the second volume of his LBJ biography, is also pretty incredible. Bogged down somewhere in the third, but the second was a wild ride from start to finish.

  14. keranih says:

    Anyone else seen Arrival? For those who don’t know, it’s based on the Ted Chiang short “The Story of You”. If you haven’t read that yet, see the movie first, then read the story. The movie leaves more untold than the story.

    V yvxrq guvf. Nf V jnf jngpuvat vg, V jnf funecyl njner bs gjb guvatf – svefgyl, gung gur fgbel unq orra fuvsgrq sebz na rknzvangvba bs gur vagrecynl bs zngu/culfvpf naq ynathntr gb bar *whfg* nobhg ynathntr, naq gung guvf (nybat jvgu bgure pubvprf) unq znqr guvf vagb n ‘puvpx syvpx’ FS fgbel.

    Frpbaqyl, V jnf njner gung vs gur srznyr znva punenpgre’f ebyr naq ntrapl unq orra phg nf zhpu nf gur znyr znva punenpgre’f – va grezf bs gur fubeg fgbel, V zrna – vs gur jbzna’f pbagevohgvba gb gur fbyhgvba naq gb gur rzbgvbany nep bs gur fgbel unq orra pbzcebzvfrq nf zhpu nf gur zna’f, gurer jbhyq unir orra n ybg bs unefu jbeqf. Orlbaq gung, V npurq sbe Vna, jubfr ybff jnf abg, V guvax, npxabjyrqtrq jryy va gur fgbel.

    *fvtu* V yvxr vg. Ohg V yvxrq ‘Fabjcvrepre’ orggre, rira gubhtu gung zbivr znqr n senpgvba nf zhpu ybtvpny frafr.

    • shakeddown says:

      I’ve read the story, but not seen the movie. Can I safely read the spoilered comments?

      • keranih says:

        Ehhh.

        There are no plot points given away. (Not that the plot differs, much.)

        It’s mostly about my reaction.

    • lvlln says:

      I saw the movie this past Saturday. Never heard of the book, but I’d heard good things about it. I was very disappointed. Not an abysmal movie, but certainly a bad one and probably the worst scifi movie I’ve seen in recent times.

      Gurer jnf gur boivbhf snpg gung Vna pbagevohgrq pybfr gb abguvat gb gur zbivr, abg rira orvat hfrq sbe frk nccrny, juvpu vf n greevoyr jnfgr bs Wrerzl Eraare’f gnyragf. Ohg nyfb, jgs jnf Vna, n gurbergvpny culfvpvfg, qbvat urycvat bhg n yvathvfg va svthevat bhg na nyvra ynathntr? Gur zbivr fubjrq hf fbzr snapl tenivgl culfvpf rssrpgf, gura cebprrqrq gb vtaber gurz nf n cybg cbvag pbzcyrgryl.

      Ohg zber vzcbegnagyl, gur zbivr whfg pbzcyrgryl tybffrq bire jung fubhyq’ir orra gur zbfg vagrerfgvat cneg, juvpu vf npghnyyl svthevat bhg n jnl gb pbzzhavpngr. Jr’er fubja fbzr ovgf bs Ybhvfr naq Vna jevgvat guvatf ba juvgr obneqf naq gnyxvat gb gur nyvraf – vapyhqvat na rlr-ebyy-vaqhpvat QENZNGVPNYYL GNXVAT BSS GUR UNMZNG FHVG fprar – ohg orsber gurl pna or qrirybcrq ba shegure, jr’er gerngrq gb n ernyyl wneevat zbagntr jvgu aneengvba gung vzcyvrf gung gurl znantrq gb qrpbqr gur nyvraf’ aba-gvzr-pbafgenvarq jevggra ynathntr va n znggre bs jrrxf.

      Vafgrnq, gur zbivr sbphfrq ba na rkgerzryl pyvpur lbhe-puvyq-qvrq fgbel sbe Ybhvfr juvpu unq pybfr gb mreb rzbgvbany vzcnpg. Gur bar gjvfg nobhg vg orvat n synfu sbejneq jnf cerggl arng va gung Ybfg xvaq bs jnl, ohg nsgre gung, nyy gur cybg cbvagf jrer ragveryl cerqvpgnoyr naq ynpxrq nal grafvba. Cnegvphyneyl gur pnyyvat-gur-Puvarfr-trareny fprar. Vg nyfb jbhyq’ir orra avpr vs gur zbivr arire rkcyvpvgyl pbasvezrq gung Vna jnf gur sngure, ohg nynf vg unq gb ehva rira gung ol fcryyvat bhg rirelguvat ng gur raq.

      Vg’f n funzr, orpnhfr gur haqreylvat fgbel unq fbzr terng vqrnf. V unccrarq gb or ernqvat Fynhtugreubhfr Svir, naq vg jnf arng frrvat fvzvyne fpvsv pbaprcgf va n oybpxohfgre zbivr.

    • Skivverus says:

      Saw it Friday; enjoyed it well enough, but I don’t watch enough movies to have anything resembling connoisseur-level tastes and so am easily amused.

      N srj fcrpvsvpf qvqa’g ernyyl nqq hc sbe zr – sbe vafgnapr, gur whzcvat-gb-pbapyhfvbaf ba “gurl unir anzrf!” nf bccbfrq gb, fnl, “gurl unir traqref!” – ohg birenyy haqrefgnaqnoyr ryvfvbaf sbe pbaqrafvat vagb zbivr sbezng.

      Qbrf fbeg bs ort gur dhrfgvba, gubhtu – jul jbhyqa’g fur gel gur oynpx-cvyy ebhgr jura vg pnzr gb ure qnhtugre (be ure uhfonaq)? Univat gubfr or varivgnoyr cybg cbvagf jnf engure qrcerffvat.

    • Well... says:

      This is one of those movies I liked–I’d give it a 7 out of 10 and say go watch it–but now less than a week later I can only remember the things about it I didn’t like.

      I don’t go to sci-fi movies to see touching stories about parents losing their kids, or kids searching for their parents or whatever else they seem to ALWAYS feel the need to include. I’d read the plot of Arrival before I saw it, so I was prepared to not let any fluffy stuff distract from the cool bits with the aliens and the linguistics.

      Hasbeghangryl, vg ghearq bhg gung gur cnegf jvgu gur qnhtugre jrer n ybg zber tevccvat naq zrzbenoyl cebqhprq guna gur cnegf jvgu gur nyvraf naq gur yvathvfgvpf.

      Gur nyvra ynathntr jnf ernyyl vagrerfgvat, ohg V jbhyq arire unir xabja sebz gur zbivr; V unq ernq na negvpyr nobhg vg n srj qnlf rneyvre.

      V nyfb ernq gurl chg n ybg bs jbex vagb znxvat gur zbivr fpvragvsvpnyyl npphengr. Znlor whfg gur culfvpf be fbzrguvat? Jul qb gurl obgure qbvat guvf vs gurl nera’g tbvat gb obgure nyfb znxvat gur punenpgref naq vagrenpgvbaf oryvrinoyr? V zrna…

      – Gbc-bs-ure-svryq fpvragvfg vf n phgr puvpx jub ybbxf 30-35.

      – Fur trgf gur abq gb tb gnyx gb nyvraf orpnhfr fur genafyngrq fbzr Snefv n srj lrnef onpx naq fgvyy unf ure frphevgl pyrnenapr. (Gur zvyvgnel nccneragyl qba’g unir nal bs gurve bja ubgfubg yvathvfgf.)

      – Yvathvfgvpf cebsrffbe jub grnpurf haqretenq pbhefrf va Terrx be jungrire vf nyfb n Snefv genafyngbe sbe gur zvyvgnel, naq nyfb unf gur yvathvfgvpf fxvyyf gb qrpbqr na nyvra ynathntr. Orpnhfr nyy yvathvfgf ner Rkcregf ba Nyy Guvatf Eryngrq gb Ynathntrf, Pbqrf, naq Pbzzhavpngvba–fpvragvfgf arire fcrpvnyvmr va nalguvat zber fcrpvsvp guna gur anzr bs gur qrcnegzrag gurve bssvpr vf va.

      • John Schilling says:

        De-spoilerized, but turn your last criticism around. The military doesn’t have much need for linguistics research, but does demand lots of translation from known languages – and which languages are important changes faster than military career tracks.

        If you compile a list of Top Linguistics Researchers and then go down the list until you have someone with an active TS/SCI, what else do you expect to find but an academic who isn’t so senior as to pawn off requests to do contract translation work for the Pentagon (or teach undergrad classes)?

        • Jonathan says:

          De-spoilerized, but turn your last criticism around. The military doesn’t have much need for linguistics research, but does demand lots of translation from known languages – and which languages are important changes faster than military career tracks.

          *Cough* The largest linguistic research center in the country (claim uncited on Wikipedia) is just outside DC and basically dedicated to researching language for DoD/IC needs. I’m sure if something like Arrival happened in reality, that would be their first (and possibly, only) stop.

          • Jonathan says:

            @skef

            I was really just challenging the claim that the DoD didn’t require language research. The truth of the matter is that the DoD+IC pretty much own language research in the country.

          • skef says:

            @Jonathan

            Indeed — I was just amplifying with fake indignation.

          • John Schilling says:

            No love for the Defense Language Institute?

            Great deal of love for the DLI; I work with the loosely-affiliated MIIS quite frequently. But DLI is about training translators for, and improving the translation of, known languages. For translating a wholly unknown language from scratch, that might be where you start looking but it probably won’t be where you stop.

            And if you do, you’ll find yourself talking to a professor who spends most of her time on a college campus teaching known languages to undergrads with a side order of translating terrorist chatter for the DoD. So the criticism reduces to there not being enough uniforms in Dr. Banks’ classroom scenes, which I’m not going to worry about too much.

          • skef says:

            @John Schilling

            My father was actually part of this particular military-academic complex (admittedly on the academic side), so I would put this a little bit differently.

            I mentioned in an earlier thread David Graeber’s point that a distinctive propery of violence is that it’s application lets you avoid having to worry about what someone else is thinking. The military doesn’t only use violence, of course, but it’s a specialty of theirs, and this colors what they are most concerned with.

            Along those lines, from what I’m aware of it’s not that the military restricts itself to questions of “known languages” — it actually does quite a bit of general research. But that research is primarily focused on issues relating to expression in other languages, rather than comprehension of other languages. The “pure research” arm of the DLI (for example) would therefore be the people you might go to to ramp up on how to tell an alien to “back away” or “not enter this area”, rather than how to understand what an alien is expressing.

          • John Schilling says:

            @skef: Well stated, thank you. And there’s a clear military need for ways to convey “please don’t make me shoot you” when you don’t know what specific language the recipient speaks.

  15. keranih says:

    Another link: General Mattis on reading. Essentially: ‘People learn best from mistakes, but they don’t have to be *your* mistakes. Outsource when you can.’

  16. keranih says:

    A thing and a few links (to be updated as I figure out which link killed my comment.)

    Thing: Scott Alexander, you are a man of honor and a decent human being. Good job on trying to return the thing which is not yours. I hope to do as well, when I am faced with a similar situation.

    Links:

    The talk of Pennsylvania recounts may be moot. Deadline appears to have passed.

    Heterodox Academy has come out against an “anti-left” professor watchlist. Good for them.

    Chris Arnade on twitter. Also see this essay. Which reminded me of the death of Julia De Burgos, one of the poets whose work marked my youth. (Do read the comments.)

    Also see this twit thread, which attempts to counter the “race to the bottom” of tribal debates that so many of us (*raises hand*) fall into.

    Arnade is Freddie de Boer, with fifteen-twenty more years in the world, and about a quarter planetary mass more charity.

    (Jimmine Christmas. One link per comment?) Maybe just that one link. So: if you google ‘strife blog dot com’ and ‘General Mattis bibliography’ you get an article on Mad Dog Mattis and the importance of reading.

  17. keranih says:

    A thing and a few links (to be updated as I figure out which link killed my comment.)

    Thing: Scott Alexander, you are a man of honor and a decent human being. Good job on trying to return the thing which is not yours. I hope to do as well, when I am faced with a similar situation.

    Links:

    The talk of Pennsylvania recounts may be moot. Deadline appears to have passed.

    General Mattis on reading. Essentially: ‘People learn best from mistakes, but they don’t have to be *your* mistakes. Outsource when you can.’

  18. keranih says:

    A thing and a few links (to be updated as I figure out which link killed my comment.)

    Thing: Scott Alexander, you are a man of honor and a decent human being. Good job on trying to return the thing which is not yours. I hope to do as well, when I am faced with a similar situation.

    Links:

    Mad Dog Mattis on the importance of reading. Essentially: “People learn best from mistakes, but they don’t have to be your mistakes. Outsource errors when possible.”

  19. keranih says:

    One thing and a handful of links.

    One thing: Scott Alexander, you are a man of honor and a decent human. Good on you working to return the thing which wasn’t yours. If I am ever in a like situation, I hope to do as well.

    Links:

    Mad Dog Mattis on the importance of Reading

    The talk of recounts in Pennsylvania may be moot. (Via McArdle’s twit feed)

    Chris Arnade on twitter. This essay here is particularly…well.

    I am reminded of the death of Julia de Burgos, one of the poets whose work marked my youth.

    Also see this, which talks of trying to combat the “race to the bottom” in tribal debates that so many of us (*raises hand*) fall victim to.

    Arnade is…well, he’s Freddie De Boer, twenty years older and with a quarter planetary mass more charity.

    Heterodox Academy comes out against a right-leaning professor ‘watchlist’.

  20. sflicht says:

    So after a major Syrian government advance in the last couple of days, the Siege of Aleppo looks like it might finally be drawing to a close. This is certainly the most dramatic example of siege warfare in my memory. (I suspect there were some important examples during the Yugoslav wars, but I was too young to notice.) It’s very tough to sort through the information, given propaganda efforts, but the folks at /r/syriancivilwar have probably done as good a job as anyone, and I suspect future historians will make extensive use of that subreddit. (This is itself an interesting phenomenon.) Nonetheless, I wonder if any military-history-minded denizens have thoughts about the SAA’s tactics. What lessons has the US Army, for example, learned from this battle? How does Aleppo, and the Syrian Civil War more generally, square with modern American doctrines like COIN, 4GW, etc.? How important do you think the Russian air support was to the local siege tactics? (Of course where and when Russia vs Syria was conducting strikes is a matter of debate.)

    • Sfoil says:

      I understand that this isn’t the end of the war, but it is a major victory for the SAA. Bear that in mind if I slip into the past tense below.

      I think the major lesson is something already known: wars between roughly comparable sides inevitably degenerate into attrition. The combatants in Syria aren’t exactly symmetric but they’re close enough for his to come into play. My guess, drawing on that, is that Russian air support probably was decisive. SAA had it, rebels didn’t, stalemate broken.

      Regarding tactics, as an American I think this vindicates other countries’ investments in legacy equipment: MiG-21s, BMPs, minor-league T-72 variants, and the like. A lot of American soldiers regard this stuff as little more than fodder for our tricked-out weaponry (an attitude that we try to quash, made more difficult by the fact that there are still some veterans of 2003 knocking around with legitimate double-digit kill counts on Iraqi AFVs). But this stuff really makes the difference for the SAA, even if it is far from invulnerable, and they would have long been toast without it.

      I’ve seen something with the SAA that has come up again and again tactically: movement to contact followed by overwhelming application of fire support. The Syrians use IFVs for this, even in urban centers (and IFVs get a lot of hate in some quarters), the Russians ended up going with this when they finally ground down the Chechnyans, we used it of course in Vietnam and I’d argue even in WW2. Theoreticians don’t like this–they want sweeping maneuver, with fire support “shaping” the enemy which is destroyed by the maneuver forces. But that seems to be the exception. The corollary is the importance of fire support–I think the Russians have learned this and we have not–the Russian artillery arm is stronger than ours right now, IMO.

      COIN isn’t as big a deal as it used to be, although admittedly I’ve spent the past few years in an armored brigade where we are basically instructed to leave that thinking to others. The war is enough of a mess that you could draw plenty of lessons about COIN or 4GW from it. I will note that at times the SAA deals ruthlessly with “hostile” populations, and at other times (arguably usually) lets things be. IMO some of American COIN thinking is an ex post facto rationalization for the unwillingness to deal harshly with recalcitrant populations. Not that “kill em all” or even just “who cares?” is always the answer, but armies that have those options on the table have more flexibility, and that flexibility is more important to armies who enjoy less of an edge than Americans–who let’s be real, have been fighting some extremely marginal enemies lately.

      For 4GW (although I prefer the term hybrid warfare), I note that the use of paramilitaries–widespread in all current conflicts–is also a factor in Syria. Now, irregular marauders are older than organized warfare itself, the real innovation is the use of paramilitaries as shock troops. This indicates a state unable to train good infantry en masse. Now, I’m going to get up on my soapbox here a bit: these militiamen are seriously bad people. Literally any category of “war crime” is going to be committed at a substantially higher rate by these guys than the regular army–rape, theft, murder, you name it. But the state has no choice because this is effectively just a cost associated with using these guys, and they need them.

      Now, the United States doesn’t need guys like this (…the longer story is a bit more complicated). Our infantry is very good–even your bog standard no frills leg light rifle company will reliably advance under fire, enter difficult terrain, continue fighting despite casualties, etc. However, if this were to change–say, as a result of concerted efforts to stamp out “toxic masculinity” in the armed forces–well, that creates an opening in the market, and the guys who will fill that opening off the shelf will make Private Joe Snuffy look like Freddie DeBoer when it comes to gender relations, respect for human dignity, or anything else. Regular officers will look the other way like I’ve seen them look away from rapists, pedos, and murderers in Afghanistan and regular soldiers will think they’re badasses to be supported and emulated.

      On the technical side: ATGMs. I’m a tanker, so this is of special concern to me. The Iranians preferred to supply our opponents with EFPs in Iraq, and I wonder how much of this was concealability and the totality of American control of the theater (don’t laugh) vs just not knowing how good these things are. We’ve been ridiculously complacent for decades about this threat in my world. Whatever kept ATGMs out of the hands of our enemies recently isn’t going to hold forever, and we’d better be ready. I’d also guess that dedicated, probably smaller anti-personnel missiles are right around the corner.

      Anyway, a bit disorganized but one guy’s extemporaneous thoughts. Hopefully this doesn’t look as much like a wall of text as I think it will.

      • sflicht says:

        Thanks for the detailed reply.

        Since you’re in the military, I wonder if you can comment on what sort of intelligence picture the DoD has in a conflict like Syria, where our involvement is peripheral, but which takes place in a region where we have a lot of allies, frenemies, and military assets.

        Since September, State Department press briefings have degenerated into a bit of a joke, at least as regards Aleppo. Kirby will say “Russia struck 5 hospitals”, RT will say “Russia says they didn’t”, Kirby will day “MSF [or whoever] says they did”, and thus one is left with the impression that the United States Government conducts international diplomacy on the basis of hearsay. But given the level of detailed information about SAA and rebel positions that amateurs have been able to glean from OSINT, I can only imagine that American military planners must have a pretty damn good view into what’s happening throughout the theater in real time. In other words, they know whose planes bombed which buildings which might be hospitals, they know when a Kalibr is launched from the Russian flotilla before it strikes, etc. Or am I imputing to our military a level of godlike omniscience that they do not actually possess in areas where we lack air supremacy and ground operations?

        • Sfoil says:

          I don’t know anything about strategic intelligence. I would say that you shouldn’t assume that the apparent cluelessness of a State Department public affairs guy (Stalin had something to say about honest diplomats) implies systemic ignorance. Wikileaks has published plenty of American diplomatic communications if you want to get an idea of how the State Department actually thinks behind closed doors (in general, not about current events).

      • beleester says:

        ATGMs are on the rise, but hasn’t APS also become a thing? I know the Israeli Trophy system has a pretty good track record, and the US is working on a similar thing called Quick Kill, but I don’t think it’s been used in the field yet. Do you know anything about it?

        Anti-personnel missiles are definitely on the way – Raytheon recently unveiled a laser-guided missile that can be fired like a 40mm grenade. That’ll be interesting to see.

        • cassander says:

          In general, APS is a huge liability if you want to have infantrymen anywhere near your tank.

        • John Schilling says:

          Does the infantry really see that much difference between a TOW-2 warhead exploding against a tank turret, and a TOW-2 warhead plus a few ERA blocks exploding against a tank turret? Even Trophy seems less unpleasant than the alternative, and the Shtora system actually being used in Syria is I think pure soft-kill.

          In any event, it is almost certainly going to be necessary. If the infantry need tanks for support, they need tanks that can survive – otherwise just put a recoilless rifle on a jeep, for a fraction of the cost. And against modern missiles, tanks are going to need more than just armor to survive.

          Syrian experience seems to have been that the Syrian government started with a huge advantage due to its mechanized, armored forces. The one bit of really useful help the United States was able to provide were the TOW missiles, which greatly hampered Syrian operations (and were the sort of “lethal assistance” least likely to wind up in the hands of “terrorists”). But now Russia has deployed, and provided to Syria, T-90 tanks with active and passive defenses that can reportedly withstand at least a TOW-2A. The only video evidence is ambiguous as to whether the tank remained combat-effective, but the crew did survive and even that much is a huge improvement over the old TOW-2A vs T-72 contest. Tanks can be much more aggressive, and more effective, if the tankers know they will likely survive a hit.

        • Sfoil says:

          Yeah, the US is “working on” Quick Kill, and has been for years, maybe over a decade. Not a one has been installed in an operational unit. We haven’t even got reactive armor — there’s some evidence the Russian stuff is quite effective against ATGM impacts, but it’s not standard for American vehicles. Applique kits exist for both the Abrams and the Bradley but the Abrams kit has minimal coverage and neither of them are as comprehensive as the Russian kits. A half-assed soft kill system was on some earlier models of the Bradley IFV but has since been removed.

          I don’t buy the “but the infantry!” argument against APS. ATGMs have large warheads, tens of pounds, and it’s doubtful how much of an additional danger the smaller APS charge is to infantry. I think reactive armor tiles being much of a hazard is a straight-up myth.

          Anyway the point is moot since right now American AFVs are riding around with diddly squat in terms of effective countermeasures whether active of passive, and we’re arguably on about the 4th generation of ATGMs (MCLOS->SACLOS->SALH->Autonomous) and we haven’t made any real improvements beyond “execute a Sagger drill” and colonels making hard-nosed speeches about situational awareness. Imagine if we never installed countermeasure systems on aircraft and just told the pilots to git gud, maybe practice maneuvers to evade an AIM-9 base model. That’s where we’re at right now on the ground.

          It’s not like this is news to anyone. Even if generals are too old to watch videos of tanks getting blown up on YouTube, practically every unit rotating through NTC loses dozens of tanks to AT-14 carriers.

        • bean says:

          I don’t buy the “but the infantry!” argument against APS. ATGMs have large warheads, tens of pounds, and it’s doubtful how much of an additional danger the smaller APS charge is to infantry. I think reactive armor tiles being much of a hazard is a straight-up myth.

          The warheads are very different. The ATGM’s warhead is designed to send as much of its force as possible forward, with minimal fragmentation. The APS is basically like a claymore, with lots of shrapnel flying around. A claymore has a total explosive filling of 680 grams. A TOW has at least 5 times that, and maybe up to 9, depending on model. Yet I think I’d still rather stand 100 m from a TOW hitting a tank than I would from a claymore.

          • John Schilling says:

            The warheads are very different. The ATGM’s warhead is designed to send as much of its force as possible forward, with minimal fragmentation.

            Except that the fraction sent forward is always less than 50%. And there’s no “minimal fragmentation” requirement, just a lack of requirement for maximal fragmentation. And even that is probably changing as ATGMs are increasingly used as general-purpose PGMs.

            In any event, the use of stock ATGMs in antipersonnel applications has proven sufficiently effective that I am dubious about the infantry saying, “Oh, never mind that ten pounds of PBX; it doesn’t have a fragmentation jacket!”

          • Sfoil says:

            Not all APS designs work like that. FWIW even the ones that do probably have a smaller explosive charge than a claymore. The threat isn’t zero, I just don’t think it’s as serious a factor as often claimed, and it definitely is not a justification to abandon the concept altogether.

            And you’re right about the claymore vs the missile, but having seen both go off I think you’re probably underestimating the danger of the TOW at 100m.

    • John Schilling says:

      Not that “kill em all” or even just “who cares?” is always the answer, but armies that have those options on the table have more flexibility

      I am increasingly leaning towards a binary choice between those options for COIN. The intermediate options mostly just involve committing COIN forces in small enough groups and with restrictive enough rules of engagement that even lightly-armed and poorly-trained insurgents can at least occasionally defeat them. And a poorly-trained force lacking in traditional military discipline, absolutely needs victories if it is to avoid disintegrating in one of several ways. So don’t give them the opportunity, give them instead the choice between acting in a way that gets them left alone and acting in a way that gets them all killed.

      For flexible response, drone strikes offer precise targeting but again deny the insurgents the opportunity for meaningful victories.

      Regarding the paramilitaries, yes, that is something new, albeit not specific to Syria. Traditionally, paramilitaries are used for deniability – this isn’t a war going on here, no sir, there’s just some security issues that need handling. Paramilitary shock troops in a high-intensity conflict, that’s bad news for all the reasons you mention. And I’m seeing the same thing in Iraq – wherever I look in detail at the occasional victories against ISIS on that front, I see Iraqi army soldiers bravely manning the perimeter and Shiite or Kurdish militias actually advancing against the enemy.

      At least in Mosul it is beginning to look like Iraqi special forces are capable of directly engaging the enemy, but not yet the regular army. I think you are onto something with the observation that sometimes cultural forces handicap a nation’s attempts to shape its regular army into an effective fighting force, and paramilitaries have more latitude to just do what works. Please let that not happen here.

      • sflicht says:

        I believe I saw it mentioned somewhere (perhaps it was you in a previous thread here) that “Iraqi special forces” is a bit of a euphemism, in that it simply refers to the small subset of the Iraqi army that has received proper training and equipment (and may have US boots on the ground helping here and there – not necessarily by fighting). If that’s the case one doesn’t need to resort to a “cultural forces” explanation; it sounds like part of the problem good old fashioned under-resourcing. Which of course is a perfectly understandable problem for the Iraqi state to have given its recent history.

        • John Schilling says:

          There are cultural reasons why Arab armies can’t generally receive proper training. It isn’t a shortage of resources, but a shortage of trust. Money quote:

          This explains the commonplace hoarding of manuals, books, training pamphlets, and other training or logistics literature. On one occasion, an American mobile training team working with armor in Egypt at long last received the operators’ manuals that had laboriously been translated into Arabic. The American trainers took the newly-minted manuals straight to the tank park and distributed them to the tank crews. Right behind them, the company commander, a graduate of the armor school at Fort Knox and specialized courses at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds ordnance school, collected the manuals from the crews. Questioned why he did this, the commander said that there was no point in giving them to the drivers because enlisted men could not read. In point of fact, he did not want enlisted men to have an independent source of knowledge.

          This isn’t a problem that can be solved by increasing the training budget.

          • Hircum Saeculorum says:

            That’s an interesting link, thanks for posting it. Do you believe that the Kurds have similar problems? They are culturally distinct from the Arabs, and they seem to have enjoyed considerably more success against Daesh than…well, anyone else. What do you think explains that?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s an interesting link, thanks for posting it. Do you believe that the Kurds have similar problems? They are culturally distinct from the Arabs, and they seem to have enjoyed considerably more success against Daesh than…well, anyone else. What do you think explains that?

            Probably that they have a goal that they can rally round (freedom for Kurdistan), and hence are more likely to work together and put their lives on the line to achieve their ends. Similarly, ISIS also has a shared goal (re-establish the caliphate, spread Islam throughout the world), and have been quite effective against the regular Iraqi army, most of whose soldiers feel little loyalty to the government of Iraq and are only fighting because they’ve been forced to.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you believe that the Kurds have similar problems? They are culturally distinct from the Arabs, and they seem to have enjoyed considerable success against Daesh…

            Kurds have been kicking ass on behalf of militarily-inept Arabs for almost a thousand years now, so there may be something deep in their culture that is working in their favor. Likewise the Turks.

            More recently, I think not being allowed to have a proper nation may also have worked in their favor, in that it has also denied them the sort of entrenched-but-brittle power structures that would be threatened by e.g. a competent NCO corps. What power structures do exist in Kurdistan, are going to be more heavily based on demonstrated getting-things-doneness. And, as Mr. X notes, there is a strong unifying goal to fight for.

          • Aapje says:

            Cultures that fight a lot tend to get good at fighting.

          • John Schilling says:

            Arabs have been doing a lot of fighting for a long time but still, for reasons already referenced, aren’t terribly good at winning wars. Often because that isn’t really the objective, which is a problem when your lands are invaded by some damned crusading Frank (or upstart Mohammedan) who insists on waging total war and claiming the fruits of victory.

    • John Schilling says:

      How important do you think the Russian air support was to the local siege tactics? (Of course where and when Russia vs Syria was conducting strikes is a matter of debate.)

      I do not believe that Russian air support, specifically, was terribly important at Aleppo. If it was, it was mostly for the morale boost to Syrian forces, not for the effect on the defenders. As for the material effect, all that mattered was the ability to deliver large quantities of explosives against targets the size of a city block. In Aleppo, that could be done by Russian jets, by Syrian jets, by Syrian helicopters or transport aircraft, or by howitzer or heavy mortar or multiple rocket launcher. Whatever was easiest.

      Russian air power was I think more effective in deep strike operations against positions inside rebel and/or ISIS territory. Which may have indirectly supported the Aleppo siege by breaking up operations to relieve that siege before they reached the front.

  21. Tekhno says:

    What’s the best way to attack the power of capitalists while obeying the anarcho-capitalist NAP?

    • Dahlen says:

      Stop buying shit you don’t absolutely need.

    • Incurian says:

      Decrease the power of government.

    • keranih says:

      Provide an alternate, non-capitalist source for products people want. If you can outperform capitalism, people will use that method for getting what they want instead.

      • neciampater says:

        Right. This is huge.

        The typical market failures can be solved with technology.

        Here in NC, the bathroom controversy is only a controversy because of the lose-lose situations the government imposes. I have looked into a ridesharing-esque bathroom sharing app. There are millions of unused restrooms. Why not use those and bypass his/her/its required-by-law bathrooms in every establishment?

        The problem is that these new startups that solve problems inevitably get in bed with cronyism. Lyft and Uber are already getting in bed with governments. I predict they will be as bad as the problem they solved, i.e. taxis.

        • quanta413 says:

          I would guess that a lot of it is that Lyft and Uber have to interact with government in order to protect their own interests since Uber and Lyft are competing with highly regulated taxis who themselves want to use government against Uber and Lyft. With the government as far reaching and powerful as it is, I don’t think there are many significant business ventures that can route around the government; it’s more an issue of how businesses interact with the government. Then again, I admit the slope tends to pretty rapidly slide from using lobbying to defend yourself to using it to screw your competitors, and the line can be blurry.

          I haven’t done a lot of research about Uber and Lyft. Are there some examples of their interaction with government you view as particularly egregious?

    • Stop buying random crap you don’t need.

      Anarchism is a self-defeating ideology when considering natural human tendencies to form groups.

      Sometimes pre-emptive strikes may be necessary, and pacifism does not work in multiple situations.

      • onyomi says:

        “Anarchism is a self-defeating ideology when considering natural human tendencies to form groups.”

        Anarchocapitalism at least does not require that people not form groups. In fact, it assumes they will, depending more heavily on people desiring to voluntarily form groups than other philosophies.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      In case you haven’t come across it yet, this blog is often recommended as a good one about refining the art of not buying random crap that you don’t need … while I’m not sure where he stands on the anarcho part of anarcho-capitalism, he is certainly against the sort of consumerism that the current system feeds on.

    • Garrett says:

      Would you be able to say a bit more about “the power of capitalists” you are looking to destroy? Because in my mind capitalism is the private ownership of property with control over the property you own (separate from, but adjacent to a free market). So eliminating that power would either mean depriving people of property, or regulating out of existence what can be done with it.

      I assume you mean something more, and would like to understand.

      • rlms says:

        Capital is money, capitalists are people with enough money to employ people in businesses. Sometimes they engage in ethically dubious behaviour (such as polluting things, or paying people very low wages). Their “power” is their ability to do those things. Removing it would be good.

      • Tekhno says:

        The framework that is being assumed here is one in which the NAP is widely accepted as the base morality of the society (so for this thought experiment we simply assume anarcho-capitalism works). I believe that even if this is so, politics would not be banished, and the left-right division would reform in the new higher framework.

        The goal of the far-left in such a framework (in reality, they’d never agree to this in the first place, but that’s not what I’m trying to get at here) would be to reduce the role of bosses in the free market, and to advance the role of workers, hoping to form collective worker property within the framework of private property. If we assume that violent expropriation is off the table and all actors must obey the NAP, what actions are available for the sabotage of capitalist authority over workers? Under such a heavy handicap what remains?

        How can socialists harm bosses and change the economy into one dominated by worker democracy in firms, if they cannot directly expropriate property, or wage strikes in which they are allowed to attack scabs?

        My suggestion is that the roads are key. If socialists can’t outcompete capitalists in terms of money, then they can concentrate the lower resources of worker controlled firms onto the private road network, and buying favor with the owners/shareholders, until they are able to block targeted businesses off in the event of a strike, meaning that they can form an NAP compliant barricade to prevent replacement labor from being allowed onto the section of road directly leading to businesses. This would probably lead to businesses making sure they are directly besides a main road, and/or making sure they buy up any roads leading to their property, but this is just an example of the kind of asymmetric strategies I’m interested in people coming up with.

        I’m very interested in the idea of accepting the tenets off a philosophy, and then finding ways to turn it to the ends of those who would be traditionally opposed to the philosophy.

        I’m not interested in debating the object level question of anarcho-capitalism here though (I personally think it’s impossible but I have some book suggestions I’m going to read). I conducted a similar thought experiment with nationalistic attitudes in a post-anarchocommunist society. I got the anarchists I was talking to to agree that the principle of free association of communes, necessarily means that exclusion will still exist, and that this means that racist politics are not technically incompatible with anarcho-communist principles, since all that is required is that you have a commune in which the direct democratic will slants in that direction due to the makeup of its workers.

        • IrishDude says:

          I think you’d need a change in human nature. Personally, I’m not interested in risking my capital in the business I work at, so I prefer not being an owner where I work. Second, I like not having to make business decisions or manage employees so I prefer not being an owner/boss. I mentor other employees but I’m not responsible for their conduct or firing them, and I don’t have to make decisions that might lead to business failure. This works well for me and I imagine most other workers.

          Unless worker preferences change, you won’t have enough popular support to “reduce the role of bosses in the free market, and to advance the role of workers, hoping to form collective worker property within the framework of private property.”

  22. Rasputin says:

    Hey I’m new and pretty pumped about finding this board. Scott is pretty fucking smart and fleshes out a lot of thoughts in ways I’ve never been able to myself. I expect many of the posters here to be pretty interesting as well.

    First question for anyone who knows, when Scott asks not to share some of his posts on Reddit or similar places, what does he mean? Should I only be sharing with friends one on one? How about Facebook? I’m a regular on a politics forum I’d like to share many of his posts with, but don’t want to step out of line.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Usually the best idea is to lurk for quite a while in any new community before posting, and I would say you can apply the same idea to sharing posts.

      For best result, get a feel for the community before you attempt to bring others into it.

    • quanta413 says:

      I would read not share on reddit etc. to include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. They’re all public areas with broad networks that are heavily trafficked where things can rapidly turn into a shitstorm. But I’d interpret a politics forum as being an acceptable place to share one of his posts if it was a place that tolerated dissent. I don’t see any particular reason to see why Scott’s posts are unusually politically inflammatory unless we’re talking about a forum where everyone not only would disagree but would also view it as a personal affront or wicked somehow.

      • Rasputin says:

        Alright, I’ll probably just read all Scotts posts and lurk awhile. Thx.

        • keranih says:

          Feel free to post asking questions. Check your assumptions at the door. Don’t assume you know all things; feel free to add what you do know. APPLY CHARITY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN, THEN APPLY SOME MORE.

          And don’t worry, you’ll do fine. We’ve dealt with worse. Some of us have even gotten better.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          my opinion is he doesn’t want to be called out as giving succour to all the wrong elements

          i don’t want him to get dragged into that position either, so I’m not mad at that

    • Randy M says:

      Check the number of facebook shares on his last big post. Go back and read the italicized introduction. Meditate on game theory and the tragedy of the commons.

  23. Moon says:

    Frederik Deo Boer’s blog post today is relevant to the social justice issue that’s been discussed here It’s entitled: There’s no conflict here (between economic populism and identity politics.)

    http://fredrikdeboer.com/blog/

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I thought he quite blogging? Did he unquit?

      Edit:
      I do like this sentence:

      Racism and sexism and homophobia are uniquely pernicious and require our special attention; that special attention presents no conflict at all with our absolute need to help those white or straight or male people who suffer too.

      • Acedia says:

        He became active on the blog and Twitter again after Trump was elected.

      • Rob K says:

        Wish he would have stayed out of it, tbh. I’m largely with him on substance (I think?), but he seems to be mostly motivated by scorn for a set of liberal writers he really dislikes, and it animates his work in a way that turns every conversation he’s in into a shitfest.

      • keranih says:

        HBC –

        Can you flesh out how you think execution of that principle would work in practice?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @HBC. Why is racism and sexism and homophobia uniquely pernicious? Why more special attention to that than when people are nasty to others because they are short or fat or talk funny or talk well or are too smart or Republican or just because the nasty people are just nasty? Why is it more important to deal with groups that are treated badly instead of people that are treated badly? It seems pretty ineffective to me to help groups of people when some in the group might be doing fine, and some outside the group doing badly.

        I don’t want to start a culture fight here. I am trying to understand.

        • skef says:

          Personally, I doubt that racism, sexism, and homophobia are essentally or intrinsically uniquely pernicious in comparison to (for example) “heightism” or “weightism” . The relevant distinction is whether the attitudes involved include giving no or almost no weight to some large set of feelings on the part of the group in question. I think I’ve talked to people who do that with weight (and who really shouldn’t), but it doesn’t seem to be all that common. There’s a difference between not wanting to associate with Xs and wanting Xs not to associate with Ys. Some issues seem to fluidly move past “I don’t want to interact with you” to “get out of my town” or “you’re not allowed to do that” in a way that others don’t.

          That standard can go both ways, of course. Arguments that homosexuality must be legally tolerated, even at the level of individual businesses, give little or no weight to the feelings of those who think homosexuality is very wrong. That provides one reason for dispensations: InterVarsity can fire all of those folks, not even for being gay, just for thinking gay people should be able to marry. But I think meaningful distinctions can be drawn about how much of a person’s life is affected, and whether group X gets to be a utility monster by really, really hating that group Y is Zing somewhere.

          How to determine what issues have this property isn’t entirely clear. It’s evident that gun ownership is playing this sort of role in many American lives these days. It’s also evident that that’s a cultural attitude that has changed and probably could change again. How relevant is the latter? Probably less than I would like.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Uniquely pernicious due historical weight, especially as the government has committed injustice in the name of the people, under color of law, and therefore has special responsibility to attempt to rectify these harms.

          Of course, the government only broadly reflected the will of the enfranchized in these actions, so we can also clearly see that these injustices arose from the fabric of society itself, and further we may observe that have not yet been fully removed from the weave.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            What I often see in SJ, is mixing up reparations for past harms with new harms being committed. Then discrimination of the supposed historical oppressors (where entire groups are stereotyped) is defended as being necessary to fix historical wrongs for the supposed historical oppressed (where again entire groups are stereotyped).

            One of the major problems I have with this model is that most historical and contemporary oppressors had or have a similar justification, where it is only right to discriminate against Jews, intellectuals, black people, the bourgeoisie, etc because of a vague mix of historical and contemporary oppressive behavior that these groups supposedly engaged in collectively. Of course, those justifications tend to be based on false historical and contemporary narratives, but IMO, most of SJ has a false historical and contemporary narrative as well.

            These false narratives are very hard to debate against because it is always possible to just cherry pick historical facts and spin a narrative. They generally tap into feelings of ressentiment, which makes the biased interpretations seem logical.

            So I think that it is crucial to separate historical and contemporary injustices and for the latter, not to distinguish between groups. Otherwise you go down a dark road.

            That also means being just as willing to look for signs of oppression of groups that are not traditionally considered oppressed.

            Let’s say that we have evidence that progressives are severely discriminating against conservatives in colleges. Isn’t that an unfairness that ought to be addressed? Or do you see it as making up for past injustices and injustices elsewhere in society? If it creates ideologically cleansed college environments, is that beneficial to society?

            further we may observe that have not yet been fully removed from the weave.

            My worry is that instead of focusing on actions that actually remove those things from the weave, we are weaving in new injustices. Then the people who are hurt by that develop more ressentiment, which doesn’t help.

          • Incurian says:

            My worry is that instead of focusing on actions that actually remove those things from the weave, we are weaving in new injustices. Then the people who are hurt by that develop more ressentiment, which doesn’t help.

            I’m using this as an excuse to quote Bastiat some more:

            It is in the nature of men to react against the iniquity of which they are the victims. When, therefore, plunder is organized by the law for the profit of the classes who make it, all the plundered classes seek, by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter into the making of the laws. These classes, according to the degree of enlightenment they have achieved, can propose two different ends to themselves when they thus seek to attain their political rights: either they may wish to bring legal plunder to an end, or they may aim at getting their share of it.
            Woe to the nations in which the masses are dominated by this last thought when they, in their turn, seize the power to make the law!
            Until that time, legal plunder is exercised by the few against, the many, as it is among nations in which the right to legislate is concentrated in a few hands. But now it becomes universal, and an effort is made to redress the balance by means of universal plunder. Instead of being abolished, social injustice is made general. As soon as the disinherited classes have obtained their political rights, the first idea they seize upon is not to abolish plunder (this would suppose in them more wisdom than they can have), but to organize a system of reprisals against the other classes that is also injurious to themselves; as if, before justice reigns, a harsh retribution must strike all, some because of their iniquity, others because of their ignorance.
            No greater change nor any greater evil could be introduced into society than this: to convert the law into an instrument of plunder.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Why is racism and sexism and homophobia uniquely pernicious? Why more special attention to that than when people are nasty to others because they are short or fat or talk funny or talk well or are too smart or Republican or just because the nasty people are just nasty?

          I’m not HBC, but there’s a number of reasons you could think they are so.

          – Generally speaking, racism and homophobia at least have a history of being much worse than things like treating the short/fat people poorly. They were enshrined in law for a very long time, whereas this was much less the case with the other evils you mention.

          – Tying in with that, ‘codified in law’ is doing a lot of work here. I know of no laws ever having been raised against short people. I do know US states write laws against homosexuals even in 2016. Laws being written against your chosen groups makes it a lot easier to set goals than where those don’t exist.

          – Things like racism, sexism, and homophobia make it much easier to draw lines, so to speak. Humans gonna human, and when you go to do battle against the Great Enemy, you need to know who is on what side pretty clearly. Male/female is a clear dichotomy; gay/straight is one, too. Racism is a little murkier, and sure enough, people argue over whether or not X or Y are white or not. Tall/short and fat/thin are much, much, much less clear on this, not to mention something like ‘nasty’. Given that movements like this can’t be subtle by their very nature of being movements, some things just aren’t going to work.

          – Low hanging fruit also comes into play. Making gays’ lives better by granting them equality under the law is a question of making sure they are equal under the law. Short people already are so. Fat people aready are so. People who talk funny already are so. People who talk well already are so. Republicans already are so. Certainly, people of any race as well as women are also equal under the law, so the movement focusing on these issues tend to look at things beyond legal equality for that, be they about police brutality or abortion.

          All of this assumes, of course, these things happen for completely rational reasons, which I know they don’t. Yes, the left behaves terribly. Turns out the left, too, is comprised of humans. I do know, trust me.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Thank you skef, HBC, Stefan. I think I do understand a bit better than before. A main issue seems to be that because Blacks and women and gays have had laws against them before, it only right to pay special attention to slights against them now.

            I certainly disagree, and in fact I think that laws in favor of previously disadvantaged groups will extend the bad discrimination by the populace as a whole, rather than helping them. I also think using such arguments encourages people to find historic slights against themselves, as discussed in the Bastiat quote, and that will also make everyone’s life worse. I think that the whole identity politics thing, where someone being part of a group is more important than the person as an individual, is especially pernicious. But none of these comments are arguments, they are just statements, they won’t convince anyone. So I’ll just leave this alone until I come up with actual arguments.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark V. Anderson:
            You are misstating and perhaps misunderstanding the argument.

            The fact that these groups were discriminated against in the law did not arise as a natural consequence of the law. It arose because of a desire for discrimination in the society that was well nigh universal. Not only were laws made, but customs, policies and attitudes were all codified on the basis of this desire to discriminate.

            The fact that the laws have changed has not universally eliminated the source of these biases in society.

            The end results are not “slights”, but continued discrimination, sometimes even being carried out by the state or its agents.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Men were and are also discriminated against in law and in general, your entire argument applies to men as well.

            Yet the mainstream SJ position is clearly that men are not worthy of the same consideration that ought to be extended to women, black people, etc.

            Frankly, I don’t trust the SJ movement with ‘discrimination to do good’, due to the strong bias that is evident in the double standards that are commonly being applied. A logical consequence of the strong willingness to apply double standards is that unfairness against the ‘oppressors’ will be advocated.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Yes, the SJ movement is terrible. In other news, every movement that gains traction is terrible. Mark asked for the arguments why something might be a good thing, and the arguments are certainly there. That said arguments are being carried out in a bad fashion seems to be part of the human condition.

          • Aapje says:

            My main point was actually that certain measures, such as discrimination, should generally be opposed, no matter if they can theoretically fix injustices, because in practice, they probably won’t.

            I never argued that SJ is terrible. In fact, I think that they have generally very good aims. That they still manage to discriminate in a generally very negative way, provides a very strong argument to oppose all discrimination. If SJ can’t get it right, who can?

    • gbdub says:

      DeBoer makes a reasonable claim that there is no issue between economic populism and broader social justice (here meaning actively fighting racism, sexism, etc.). However, identity politics goes a lot farther (or not nearly as far), by saying “vote for me, because you are X, if you do not, then you are a traitor to X”. Vote Hillary, because you are a woman, and she’s for “women’s issues”. Vote for Obama, because you are black, and Obama cares about people of color. Vote against Republicans, because you are gay and Republicans did not support gay marriage. White women “betrayed the sisterhood”. Clarence Thomas is an “Uncle Tom”.

      DeBoer reasonably notes that e.g. he can’t choose between solving poverty and solving racism, because they are both bad and he’d like to solve both. Presumably if forced to choose he’d consider either reasonable. But identity politics precludes the choice completely – if you are a member of a minority race, you MUST vote against racism, because your race is your identity, and voting against your identity makes you a traitor. No, you can’t choose a party based on your economic outlook, you must limit your politics to “race issues”.

      Social justice can at least in theory be uniting, e.g. let’s find the people hurt by the current social model and help them together. Identity politics is inherently divisive, since it’s all about dividing people into groups and pitting them against an outgroup. That’s where the incompatibility lies.

      • suntzuanime says:

        You can only maximize one variable. Sooner or later you will have to choose between violating economic “justice” to serve racial “justice” or violating racial “justice” to serve economic “justice”. The problem is that racial issues are considered sacred, while economic issues aren’t, and unless you desacralize race you’ll never be allowed to trade it off. This means that on the left economic issues will always be an afterthought at best until racial issues are reduced in status, which is not something that the left seems willing to even contemplate.

        I suppose economic issues could be made sacred as well, but full-on Ideological Marxist Communism is out of style these days, and I don’t see that changing, thank goodness.

      • Tekhno says:

        You can only maximize one variable.

        You don’t need to maximize variables at all, at least ideally. Better to cross variables against each other so they reach a point of moderation where neither value is maximized but both are sufficient. Maximizing variables is how you create monomaniacal ideologies like Nazism, communism, Islamism etc. We should probably work on avoiding ideologies based on singular core principles before anything else.

        Of course, this would require giving up the radical left and moving to the liberal left, and that’s a hard pill to swallow if you want to topple capitalism.

        • keranih says:

          Better to cross variables against each other so they reach a point of moderation where neither value is maximized but both are sufficient.

          Spoken like a true traitor to the cause centralist.

          (No, srsyly. I like this. The perfect remains the enemy, but I don’t know how to fix that, except with due applications of suck it up, buttercup at appropriate intervals.)

        • suntzuanime says:

          Sometimes the variable you maximize is a weighted sum of underlying variables. Sometimes you satisfice, but that’s quitter talk.

          • quanta413 says:

            Allow me to throw my lot in with the quitter faction. Stumbling from problem to problem in a drunken walk as each satisfactory solution changes things around it and reshapes (or makes!) other problems.

            Time is probably the most precious variable of all after all.

        • Tekhno says:

          @keranih

          but I don’t know how to fix that

          Let me shill for something.

          I’d say pushing the Nordic model (particularly the example in Sweden) minus the airheaded humanitarianism and messianic feminism is a good bet. There are three important principles to be crossed against each other.

          You need to have wealth and dynamism, so you need a market economy with strong property rights, easy to start businesses, and a fluid labor market. Deny this principle of wealth and you have a shit economy. Let this principle run away with itself and you have anarcho-capitalism.

          You need to quell class unrest, so you need a good welfare state and good bargaining rights for wages. Deny this principle of restitution and you create a revolutionary pressure cooker. Let this principle run away with itself and you have communism.

          The social market economy essentially crosses these two concepts against each other, so that there exists at the same time one of the freest markets in the world combined with a strong welfare state and centralized labor negotiation (replaces the fixed minimum wage). The two mesh since the welfare state needs the market for funds, and the market needs the welfare state to avoid the pressure cooker resulting in socialists being elected (think dialectical, always think dialectical).

          Now, Sweden is of course doomed (this is hyperbole, but signs don’t look good), because they forgot the third principle.

          You need to quell cultural unrest, so you need a conception of citizenship that isn’t completely open ended, and you need control of the borders and a highly selective visa regime. Deny this principle of cultural harmony and you create political unrest. Let this principle run away with itself and you have Nazism.

          The three principles can be expressed in liberal ideological variants as classical liberalism (free markets), social liberalism (support programs), and national liberalism (control of citizenship). Unfortunately, the Nazis defeated nationalism and destroyed the nation-state. The concept of nationalism underwent compression until there was no distinction between between the liberal, civic, and ethnic variants. Nation-states still exist but the principle behind them has been hollowed out, because the confirmation of the principle is the trigger for our WII induced post-traumatic stress disorder. We kicked the third leg from the liberal stool.

          Of course, there’s no way that someone like DeBoer would accept this; a fully integrated triple factor liberalism leaves no enemy class within society to tear down. The problem is that democracy cannot cross these principles because two of them are held by one side and one by the other, and one side can’t hold all of them as it would leave the other with nothing.
          Only a dictatorship could bring about such a thing, and that brings its own problems. Instead, drifting atop the warring political coalitions, we’ll yoyo from one flavor of disaster to another, and all the while learning nothing.

          Eh. It’s probably more exciting that way!

          • My understanding of the Swedish case was that it went from being a relatively poor European country to a relatively rich one during a period when it was closer to laissez-faire than most of Europe and has been gradually sinking in relative standing since becoming a relatively generous welfare state (although still free market in other ways). Is that mistaken?

            The combination of a market and a generous welfare state is clearly workable in the short run. But that is in part because of norms that make people reluctant to go on welfare if they have the alternative of working, being unemployed being seen as failure.

            The worry is that over time those norms fade. If you have the option of a comfortable although not luxurious life plus lots of leisure, it’s tempting to view the people who continue to work as suckers, yourself as the sensible one.

          • John Nerst says:

            My understanding of the Swedish case was that it went from being a relatively poor European country to a relatively rich one during a period when it was closer to laissez-faire than most of Europe and has been gradually sinking in relative standing since becoming a relatively generous welfare state (although still free market in other ways). Is that mistaken?

            Kind of but not exactly. There wasn’t really a gradual process. Sweden’s relative wealth peaked in the 1970s, when left-wing fervor was at an all time high. That’s subsided quite a lot since then, and relative wealth is somewhat down after a catastrophic fall in the early ’90s (that crisis had a similar effect as the Great Recession had on the US – I vaguely remember this, my school had to close) with some up-and-down bobbing since then. There is a graph here.

            I don’t know what this says about policy, the implications are not obvious.

          • Here is an article that makes the argument in more detail.

          • Tekhno says:

            @David

            That article basically says that Sweden was an even more awesome country before its welfare state, and has now slipped in rankings slightly. Yet Sweden was considered an economic success story as late as 2013 at least, so they are still doing something right.

            Sweden was a prosperous country before its welfare state, and yet political factors intervened to give it a comparatively massive welfare state (even after the 90s cuts) and high tax rate with only tepid reductions in GDP growth. What’s being glossed over here is that Sweden avoided the usual left wing curse, which is that government programs and high taxes are combined with attacks on the market mechanism itself, nationalization, fixed national minimum wages, high health and safety regulations, a lack of fluidity in the job market and so on. You know, the kind of stuff Jeremy Corbyn would like to do to the UK. Instead, Sweden combined strong government programs and national level union bargaining (around 70% of the workforce is unionized today) with a supercharged private sector, where 90% of resources are privately owned (compare to Norway which has comparatively high state ownership). A quick check shows Sweden was ranked 4th in the world competitiveness index rank given by the World Economic Forum. That same country still has one of the highest individual tax rates in the world, behind Denmark, according to the wiki.

            The problem is that the regulatory state isn’t being teased apart from the welfare state. It has been claimed that the welfare state of the 60s and 70s was responsible for dips in growth, but it might have been the lack of liberalism in the market, plus the 70s oil crisis reducing revenues in the export heavy economy. The Swedish Social Democrats used to work from a basis of Marxist theory back in the 70s, and Olof Palme was Prime Minister from 69 to 76, so I’d suspect (but can’t yet prove – still hunting for data on public ownership in the 60s and 70s) that the lack of liberalism was responsible. The SocDems suffered after and switched to soft neoliberalism in the 80s giving them a resurgence. Now today, Sweden has a very liberal economy, while retaining a smaller but still large welfare system compared to other countries. This doesn’t seem to have hurt it, and points to the combination of free markets plus hypercharged unions and social services as being if not a winning ticket, one that doesn’t lead to disaster.

            Krugman is wrong only to the extent that he believes that the Nordic model means a heavily regulated private sector. Bernie Sanders is even more wrong when he points to the Nordic Model as being “socialist” because the entire point is that it is anything but. You have a look through articles on Sweden in any search engine and you’ll see both sides wanting to claim it, with American progressives saying it is a triumph of social democracy, and conservatives such as the Heritage Foundation saying it is is a triumph of free market capitalism. Really, they are both right, because the model splits the difference and excludes the rest.

            Even the article you posted keeps treating free markets and the welfare state as a totally opposed dichotomy, except this only exists politically. There are three main claims, that living standards were good in the 30s, that growth slowed in the 60-70s, and that there are cultural factors in Sweden that have always promoted low income inequality.

            To whatever extent these things are true, Sweden maintains a combination of ultra-liberal markets with high tax rates and social programs. The liberalism is really important. Many countries with smaller welfare states than Sweden have lower living standards and weaker economies because they are overregulated, have weaker property rights, and rigid labor markets.

            So if it’s true that the welfare state is reducing Sweden’s GDP somewhat, it’s clearly not catastrophic, given that it still tops many world rankings.

            It’s a trade off that would be worth making in any case, since the alternative to the welfare state in a modern scenario with modern democracy is that lots of people start waving red flags around and put your neck in a guillotine. There’s a reason that all developed nations have strong welfare states. It should be treat as an inevitable feature of democracy. There is no alternative as Thatcher might say. There’s especially no alternative when automation looms.

            The real problem with Sweden is that they are close to pissing away their success with their open border ideology. Welfare without strong border control then can be said to be a disaster, or at least it will become one under sustained third world population waves. The other inevitable feature of democracy is that the end result of severe cultural clashes is that lots of people start waving around flags with crosses and nordic symbols on them, and then you find your neck in a noose.

          • “There are three main claims, that living standards were good in the 30s”

            The claim is that living standards were poor in 1870, grew rapidly from then until 1936 under free market institutions, grew more slowly from 1936 until the 1960’s with Social Democrats in power but without an extensive welfare state, and that “When the size of government really started to grow in the 1960s and 1970s, there was economic stagnation.”

            I don’t know enough about the history to know how accurate that claim is. But it’s worth distinguishing between levels and rates of change. If Sweden became a very rich country under institutions of relative laissez-faire and low levels of welfare and stopped growing when it became an extensive welfare state, that’s evidence that even a welfare state with relatively free market institutions doesn’t function very well.

            I’m reminded of one of my problems with news stories about how this is the hottest year, or X out of the past Y years were among the hottest, supposedly showing the nonexistence of the pause. That’s evidence that there was warming in the past but not that temperatures are currently going up. Starting at a high level, you would expect random variation to produce lots of hot years and an occasional hottest year.

          • Iain says:

            And Russia had its strongest growth during the early years of communism.

            There are factors other than the dominant ideology that affect growth rates: among others, I would point to the current level of industrialization, and the global economic climate. So far all you’ve done is gesture at a rough correlation, shrug your shoulders, and say: “Maybe causation?”

          • “And Russia had its strongest growth during the early years of communism.”

            Is that clear? I thought the period just before WWI was a period of fairly rapid growth. After you had recovery from WWI and the Civil War, problems that led to the NEP, growth during the NEP, famine in the 1930’s. Are there reliable data on the pattern of growth over that period?

          • Iain says:

            Impressive growth rates during the first three Five-Year Plans (1928–40) are particularly notable given that this period is nearly congruent with the Great Depression. During this period the Soviet Union encountered a rapid industrial growth while other regions were suffering from crisis.

            (Wikipedia)

          • Tekhno says:

            There’s nothing about command economies that makes it hard to perform tasks that have well defined and relatively fixed parameters.

            Command economies should in fact be effective in producing growth in backwards economies that already have the example of industrialization from other economies around them. All of the inventions and experimentation that may have largely depended on the free market initially, can simply be repeated mechanically and applied at a greater speed. If all the processes are available in mining and casting and so on, if there is x amount of iron ore to dig up, and y amount of carbon, you can turn it into z amount of steel. All of the processes are well known in advance.

            What command economies would have trouble with are:
            A: The consumer economy where people don’t know in advance how much they will eat, creating difficulty in calculating how much the country as a whole will need to eat, leading to shitty fixed rations that please no one.
            B: Politics, where total power leads to callousness due to a lack of consequences, leading to purges and self-sabotage, which leads back into A when considering new production quotas being built on the back of data that has been falsified. A comparatively large amount of funding must go to the police and army to keep power. Funding will also disproportionately go to economically developed areas, which further compounds the problem of A
            C: Diseconomies of scale, where the average cost of production rises with firm size due to coordination difficulties.

            The Marxism driven states also had the added problem of devaluing skilled labor (outside of positions in science) due to the theory of average socially necessary labor time. This compounded the problems with the consumer economy.

            However, none of this meant that the Soviet Union couldn’t compete perfectly well in the military and science, where all they had to do was throw resources at smart people. None of this meant that the Soviet Union couldn’t grow quickly by copying the industrial revolution program that was found through market discovery, and running it in fast forwards to build X amount of bridges, and X amount of dams and so on.

            It’s completely unsurprising that the Soviet Union had high GDP growth early on, and equally unsurprising that GDP growth ground to a halt later when “copy the industrial revolution” had run out.

            The downsides of command economies more than suggest it isn’t worth it, but it does suggest that primitive economies could benefit from heavy government infrastructure spending, without engaging in total political and economic control as the communists did, leading to the disadvantages outweighing the advantages.

          • “Command economies should in fact be effective in producing growth in backwards economies that already have the example of industrialization from other economies around them.”

            I think you badly underestimate how hard that is. India didn’t manage it, despite copying the Soviet five year plans approach. China didn’t. I’m dubious that the USSR did, but I don’t know a lot about the very early period.

            Look at the enormous growth in the Chinese economy when they switched from a communist command economy to a largely capitalist market economy. That was starting from a point that I think was poorer than Russia before the Revolution.

          • Tekhno says:

            I think there are differences in all of the three cases.

            Mao also started with a mostly agrarian peasant economy, but his governance was also fundamentally more insane than that of Stalin. Both equally ruthless, but the reason Stalin got better results than Mao is that he made less drastic mistakes, and in a command economy mistakes tend to compound leading to a chaotic result. Stalin was much more of a technocrat, and Mao was much more of an idealist. Mao didn’t know the first thing about industrialization, and did not copy the ways in which capitalist countries industrialized.

            Compare the Great Leap Forward to Stalin’s collectivization program in the 30s. Mao did insane things like try to get everyone to produce steel in backyard foundries, resulting in useless slag and wasting industrial resources. He didn’t seem to understand economies of scale. He didn’t understand agriculture either:

            “The policies included close cropping, whereby seeds were sown far more densely than normal on the incorrect assumption that seeds of the same class would not compete with each other. Deep plowing (up to 2 m deep) was encouraged on the mistaken belief that this would yield plants with extra large root systems. Moderately productive land was left unplanted with the belief that concentrating manure and effort on the most fertile land would lead to large per-acre productivity gains. Altogether, these untested innovations generally led to decreases in grain production rather than increases.”

            So, the difference between Stalin and Mao is the difference between an evil but barely competent person running a command economy and an evil and deeply incompetent and insane person running a command economy.

            Stalin screwed up his consumer economy and agriculture, but he succeeded very well in mining, metal production, and industry, because although he nationalized these things, he wasn’t trying out completely new principles of production on the basis that they were more authentically socialist in some esoteric non-materialist way (that incidentally, leads me to conclude that Mao had a lousy understanding of Marxism). Mao destroyed all of his economy.

            Now, onto India, I assume you’re referring to the License Raj. What is referred to in the opening quote of the Wikipedia article kind of says it all: “The Licence Raj was a result of India’s decision to have a planned economy where all aspects of the economy are controlled by the state and licences are given to a select few. Up to 80 government agencies had to be satisfied before private companies could produce something and, if granted, the government would regulate production.”

            Now, surely it’s entirely possible to have a planned economy where this is not the case. It sounds possible to have a planned economy where things are nationalized, but production isn’t throttled by 80 different internal bureaucratic checks before it is approved.

            I think that command economies are a bad idea, but I’m not convinced that they lead to lower GDP growth at all times simply due to their inherent nature, and I think the proof of the USSR is that they can play catch up and grab all the low hanging fruit to build themselves up, and it showed in the USSR’s status as as a superpower. Later, when the USSR had already industrialized there was no way it could compete with liberalized free market countries, and the growth shrank away. With it went the morale of the Soviets.

            I’d compare the early Soviet economy to the License Raj in this way: the USSR was more like pulling a peasant economy up to the industrial stage really brutally fast resulting in high death, but high industrial production through slave labor and otherwise, whereas the License Raj was more like pressing the existing industrial elements down and squeezing them out of existence with labyrinth bureaucracy.

            Look at the enormous growth in the Chinese economy when they switched from a communist command economy to a largely capitalist market economy.

            A lot of that is just not having a Looney Tunes character in charge. The Deng Xiaoping liberalization was always going to help just by replacing the insane plans of Mao with something more natural, and allowing China’s great potential to breath.

            If China suddenly deliberalized its economy now, then it would certainly choke, but I also think that if it had a Stalin rather than a Mao it might have seen strong GDP growth earlier along with the millions of deaths.

            If you put aside the economic aspect, this is a good reason not to have a command economy in itself, because even if you get someone who manages to pull the country up, there’s no way someone who has worked their way into that amount of power is going to be a nice guy, and all chances are you’ll get someone not just evil but deeply insane like Mao or Pol Pot instead.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            A centralized model is obviously heavily dependent on the qualities of the leadership and the chain of command. I would argue that Mao lacked the technical education that is necessary to lead an industrialization program and that he gave orders through a corrupt chain of command that lied to him. The ‘backyard furnace program’ is a good example of industrialization that was doomed to fail, based on the idea that people with no technical education and unsupervised by people with such an education, can produce high quality steel. It also was the opposite of adopting successful engineering practices from other countries.

            There actually was a period of liberalization under Mao in the 60’s, run by Liu and Deng. When these economic reforms worked, Mao felt threatened and initiated the cultural revolution. This definitively shows that Mao didn’t have the proper mindset to run a command economies successfully, as he valued his personal adulation by the people over working policies (the same happened with the ‘backyard furnace program’ which he continued for some time even after it was clear to him that it didn’t work, because he didn’t want to lose face to the people).

            Deng Xiaoping did have a (semi-)engineering education, including being part of a foreign education program. When he came to power, he sent smart Chinese people abroad to learn from other countries. He adopted a pragmatic approach (“it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat”). When he did adopt oppressive, centralized policies, like the one-child-program, they were based on Western science (and that program probably did succeed in preventing a temporary baby boom that you normally see when the economy starts growing strongly).

            I would strongly argue that the economic reforms under Deng happened because he was a much better leader than Mao, which also means that he was a far better ‘central planner.’ So I suggest that it was not merely the liberalizations that caused the economic growth, but rather, that it was the quality of Deng as a leader that caused him to choose policies that were mostly appropriate for China as it was at that time.

            TL;DR: China under Mao clearly adopted a form of central planning that didn’t use the method that Tekhno argues could work (copy others). So it is a bad counterexample.

            [Edit] I didn’t refresh for a bit, so Tekhno made many of the same points. Great minds think alike 😛

          • Aapje says:

            BTW, isn’t Dubai an example of a (tourism) industry that was rapidly build up through central planning?

          • @Aapje and Tekhno:

            I don’t know enough about the early Soviet history to judge how well they did, although my impression was less well than market systems starting at a similar level, including the last few decades of the Tsarist system before the war and Japan after the Meiji restoration. One problem in the argument is knowing what statistics for the Soviet Union are or are not to be trusted.

            For China under and since Mao, I recommend Ronald Coase’s final book, coauthored with Ning Wang.

  24. Moon says:

    Realized I was on the wong (earlier) thread, so am transferring this post over to the current open thread for comment:

    Trump voters, and many other Republicans, are an interesting study lately. Incredibly sore winners. Incapable of positive emotion. Their idea of happiness is feeling vengefulness and exhibiting cruelty. They are addicted to their own adrenaline, and addicted to conflict with, and abuse of, the other political tribe.

    Have you ever seen a sports team, that after winning the game, can not be happy for their success, but is instead is completely obsessed with bashing the other team that just lost to them, and with gloating over that team’s sadness? Of course not. This is highly dysfunctional behavior.

    After an election, if one’s candidate wins, a healthy individual might be expecting and hoping for their candidate to do good things for the whole nation, including the seventy something percent of eligible voters who did not vote for their candidate– because the other voters either stayed home, or else they voted for another candidate.

    Divisiveness does win elections. And the GOP is most expert at divisiveness. But once the election is over, divisiveness can destroy the country, if people find themselves incapable of constructive behavior, cooperation toward common goals etc.

    But humans are incredibly tribal. Since Big Money and mega-corporate donations rule politics, the political parties do not actually have much to offer ordinary voters– although I would argue that the Dems throw ordinary voters a bone much more often the the GOP does.

    Since the GOP offers absolutely nothing to ordinary voters, voters can’t be pulled together through a focus on the positive constructive aspects of their own political tribe, because there aren’t any. So the way the GOP activates its voters’ tribal instincts, to get them to the polls, is to get them to hate the other tribe through fear and hate mongering fake news.

    Thus you have the spectacle of HRC having lost the election. And then are Right Wingers talking about the wonderful things their GOP candidate is going to do? Not so much. They’re mostly focused on bashing the one remaining acceptable scapegoat in the country– liberals and liberal politicians.

    How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part– but she’s a liberal politician, so you have to give in to your urge to chant “Lock her up” nevertheless. It makes your day and gives meaning to your life, doesn’t it?

    Having a bad day? Bash a liberal. That will make you feel better.

    Under Trump, certainly those social justice believers who use extreme tactics aren’t going to have any power– perhaps not even in the expensive universities where they have had power in the past, and where they had secluded from the outside world. They were so secluded that 99% of liberals living outside of San Fran and very expensive universities had never hear of them. I had never heard of them either, until I came to this site.

    But who cares that HRC, and extreme social justice tactics practitioners, and Dems in general have no power? That makes it even easier to bash a scapegoat, if that scapegoat has no power, doesn’t it?

    As I said, carry on. When one party gets almost all the power and the other is the scapegoat and gets all the blame, history shows that this works out just fine, doesn’t it?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Trump voters, and many other Republicans, are an interesting study lately. Incredibly sore winners. Incapable of positive emotion. Their idea of happiness is feeling vengefulness and exhibiting cruelty. They are addicted to their own adrenaline, and addicted to conflict with, and abuse of, the other political tribe.

      You need to adjust your model of reality. This is not true, not even on /r/the_donald. You get both the positive (“we’re going to make America great again”, “We did it! We elected a president with meme magic!”) and the negative (jail Hillary, throw out those illegals).

      How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part

      You can keep saying there’s no evidence, but it won’t make it so. In any case, the main person discussing those here was not a Donald Trump supporter and said he’d prefer Clinton to win over Trump.

      Under Trump, certainly those social justice believers who use extreme tactics aren’t going to have any power– perhaps not even in the expensive universities where they have had power in the past, and where they had secluded from the outside world.

      One can hope, but I rather doubt it will be that clean a reversal.

      They were so secluded that 99% of liberals living outside of San Fran and very expensive universities had never hear of them. I had never heard of them either, until I came to this site.

      I’m not willing to accept either your estimates or your implicit claim to be typical. Certainly many of these liberals outside SF had heard of Justine Sacco and Tim Hunt. Any of them who read the Guardian would be very familiar with their beliefs and actions. Perhaps they hadn’t heard the term SJW (a term mostly used by their opponents, though they have made some attempts to either muddy or reclaim it), but many were familiar with the phenomenon.

    • cassander says:

      >Trump voters, and many other Republicans, are an interesting study lately. Incredibly sore winners.

      What on earth are you talking about? Last I checked, it was democrats complaining, not trump supporters.

      >Incapable of positive emotion. Their idea of happiness is feeling vengefulness and exhibiting cruelty. They are addicted to their own adrenaline, and addicted to conflict with, and abuse of, the other political tribe.

      what does this even mean?

      >Divisiveness does win elections. And the GOP is most expert at divisiveness. But once the election is over, divisiveness can destroy the country, if people find themselves incapable of constructive behavior, cooperation toward common goals etc.

      Divisiveness, like, say, accusing Trump of stealing the election? Of saying he’s a Manchurian president elect? Or divisiveness like Barack Obama saying “elections have consequences, I won”?

      >But humans are incredibly tribal.

      But not you moon, no, you are capable of seeing only the pure light of reason…

      >Since the GOP offers absolutely nothing to ordinary voters,

      Lower taxes? fewer regulations? not importing millions of foreigners they don’t like? not bragging about making their jobs illegal? These things are nothing?

      >And then are Right Wingers talking about the wonderful things their GOP candidate is going to do?

      Really now?

      >How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part– but she’s a liberal politician, so you have to give in to your urge to chant “Lock her up” nevertheless. It makes your day and gives meaning to your life, doesn’t it?

      How dare we try to arrest criminals! Who do we think we are?

      >Having a bad day? Bash a liberal. That will make you feel better.

      And you’d never bash a conservative…..

      >But who cares that HRC, and extreme social justice tactics practitioners, and Dems in general have no power? That makes it even easier to bash a scapegoat, if that scapegoat has no power, doesn’t it?

      Right, no power, just passing laws.

      >As I said, carry on.

      You most certainly do.

    • Wander says:

      After six months of one side being insufferably smug, and then the other side wins, what do you expect to happen? This is just smugness changing foot.

    • Aapje says:

      @Moon

      They were so secluded that 99% of liberals living outside of San Fran and very expensive universities had never hear of them. I had never heard of them either, until I came to this site.

      That might be because you don’t read any news sources that tell you about them. They pop up in quite a few places, if you pay attention.

      For example, BLM was started by three extremist SJ people (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi), who cite Assata Shakur as their inspiration. Shakur was a member of the Black Liberation Army, which murdered several police officers.

      Note that these 3 women say that Shakur inspired them and use a quote from a letter she wrote defending her membership of the Black Liberation Army during their events, interviews, etc. Some BLM protesters have been wearing ‘Assata Taught Me’ hoodies.

      Now, there is no proof that this directly inspired the Dallas shootings, but these people have been telling people to get their inspiration from a cop-killing terrorist, which is completely irresponsible.

      When one party gets almost all the power and the other is the scapegoat and gets all the blame, history shows that this works out just fine, doesn’t it?

      As a white man, that is why I am afraid of the extremist left.

    • shakeddown says:

      SJWs probably have more power than you say, and I suspect a Trump presidency will give them even more power, in the form of a convenient strawman to attack. And I don’t really buy your corporation conspiracy theories.

      But aside from that, you’re frustratingly right about republicans. I’d hope some of that christian charity you always hear about would come out somehow, but it seems like that’s been completely thrown out in favour of gratuitous pointless gloating and outgroup-bashing.

      • keranih says:

        I’d hope some of that christian charity you always hear about would come out somehow, but it seems like that’s been completely thrown out in favour of gratuitous pointless gloating and outgroup-bashing.

        Well, the fabled democrat “reality-based” rationality and sympathy for the underdog seems curiously absent, as well.

        My guess? Ds and Rs are both made up of humans. Both have been dealt a shock. Give them space to settle down, and come ’round to heeding the better angels of their natures. It will work itself out.

        • shakeddown says:

          Well, the fabled democrat “reality-based” rationality and sympathy for the underdog seems curiously absent, as well.

          I suddenly understand much better what the people above meant, about the republican aggressiveness seeming much worse if you live in a liberal bubble. I’d say this goes both ways – some democrats I know match this behaviour, but I think the majority don’t. (Unfortunately, the main behaviour of people who don’t is to mostly stay quiet, so you don’t hear them much).

          My guess? Ds and Rs are both made up of humans. Both have been dealt a shock. Give them space to settle down, and come ’round to heeding the better angels of their natures. It will work itself out.

          I think you’re probably right. I’ve been trying to push the people I know in this direction lately, and to my surprise, have actually been at least partly successful.

          If the Trump administration does end up being as corrupt as I think, I hope the reaction will be mutual embarrassment and reduced partisanship. I don’t know too much about watergate history, but considering the seventies were calmer than the sixties, I’m hopeful.

          • keranih says:

            I suddenly understand much better what the people above meant, about the republican aggressiveness seeming much worse if you live in a liberal bubble.

            I grew up in a heavy Red Tribe household/community. The Bluest people I knew were a married pair of deeply treasured teachers. I thought all Blue people were like them – inquisitive of all unknowns, tolerant of all ideas, dedicated to protection of the weak.

            It was a very unpleasant experience, coming into contact with a more average sort of Blue.

            I think you’re probably right.

            Yes. No matter where you go, there you are.

            Trump is more likely to cleave to the pattern of history than not, because averages. Based on that, he will neither be as awesome as his supporters hope, nor as horrible as his detractors fear.

    • Deiseach says:

      How long after HRC has lost the election will people go on discussing the cattle futures trading she did 40 years ago, where there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on her part

      What I am finding interesting is the drop in donations to the Clinton Foundation now Hillary is never gonna be president now – why, an uncharitable liberal-basher like myself might almost think such donations were never about the good charitable work that foundation does, but a quid pro quo for influence-peddling! 🙂

      • rlms says:

        Well I’m just glad you’re referencing Hamilton.

      • If donations drop sharply over the next year or two, that will indeed be evidence that the Foundation was selling influence. But your two links only point to two countries whose contributions have dropped. We don’t know if the pattern holds more generally.

        Question: Suppose that contributions over the next five years are less than half contributions over the past five years. Will people here who have defended the Foundation concede that that is strong evidence they were wrong?

        • Iain says:

          Weak evidence, maybe. It’s been enough of a political football lately to scare off even purely philanthropic donors. Nobody wants their name dragged across the nightly news.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It would also be evidence that elements within the Trump administration are willing to punish entities which donate to the Clinton Foundation. Or that they are perceived to be willing to do so. Or that donors are worried about this possibility.

            Or that the Clintons aren’t putting energy into getting donations (perhaps because other Democrats would like that story to go away).

            Or any number of other possibilities.

            So no, a drop in donations is not strong evidence of anything.

            But the evidence we do have of communications around donations indicates that seeking favors for donations wasn’t common, and where it happened favors were not forthcoming.

          • cassander says:

            >It would also be evidence that elements within the Trump administration are willing to punish entities which donate to the Clinton Foundation. Or that they are perceived to be willing to do so. Or that donors are worried about this possibilit

            Donations dropping on their own is not evidence of this. Donations dropping because of things trump said or did, or at least, perceived to be because of things he said or did is.

            >Or that the Clintons aren’t putting energy into getting donations (perhaps because other Democrats would like that story to go away).

            they’re a charitable foundation. getting donations IS their business.

          • DrBeat says:

            Donations dropping on their own is not evidence of this. Donations dropping because of things trump said or did, or at least, perceived to be because of things he said or did is.

            I believe the point HBC is making, and it’s a fair one, is that it isn’t really possible to separate one from the other. With no metric to tease out why people stop donating — and there isn’t, all we have is the end result of fewer donations — you can’t definitively say it was due to any cause you can name.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >But the evidence we do have of communications around donations indicates that seeking favors for donations wasn’t common, and where it happened favors were not forthcoming.

            Sorry, what evidence is this?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @MugaSofer:
            For example, emails released by Judicial Watch that purport to show favoritism.

            Let’s look at that story. It mentions three specific requests sent to Clinton aide Huma Abedin by Doug Band, an executive at the Clinton Foundation, on behalf of people who had contributed to the Foundation:

            – A sports executive who had donated to the foundation wanted to arrange for a visa for a British soccer player to visit the United States; he was having trouble getting one because of a criminal conviction. Abedin said she’d look into it, but there’s no evidence she did anything and the player didn’t get his visa.

            -Bono, who had donated to the foundation, wanted to have some kind of arrangement whereby upcoming U2 concerts would be broadcast to the International Space Station. Abedin was puzzled by this request, and nothing was ever done about it.

            – The Crown Prince of Bahrain, whose country had donated to the foundation, wanted to meet with Clinton on a visit to Washington. Abedin responded to Band that the Bahrainis had already made that request through normal diplomatic channels. The two did end up meeting.

          • @HBC:

            So your interpretation is that the Clinton Foundation sold favors but then routinely reneged on the deal and didn’t deliver them?

            Or, alternatively, that various wealthy donors thought they were buying favors but were mistaken? All three of your examples sound as though that’s what the donors believed.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @David Friedman

            Or, alternatively, that various wealthy donors thought they were buying favors but were mistaken?

            There are two accusations that have been made against the Clinton foundation. The first, and by far the most common, is that the Clintons traded influence for donations. Now, this may or may not be true, but so far there is no good direct evidence for it. Furthermore it seems to me to be an oddly public way of soliciting bribes. Bill and Hillary received very little direct financial benefit from the foundation, and there are well established discreet ways for retired politicians to monetize their access to power; some of which the Clintons are known to have used (in particular giving highly paid speeches).

            The second argument made about the Clinton global initiative is that the operation of the foundation created an appearance of impropriety, and that donors may have believed that contributions would guarantee special treatment. Appearance is a subjective thing, so in one sense this is hard to deny.

            Bill Clinton has a long history of behaving in a secretive and opaque manner. He collected huge donations for his charity, some of them form people who don’t seem like very charitable types. It’s likely that it appeared to at least some of them, at some point, that they were buying something other than a good name for themselves. But that doesn’t prove that the former first couple is guilty of anything beyond poor judgment.

          • “Bill and Hillary received very little direct financial benefit from the foundation, and there are well established discreet ways for retired politicians to monetize their access to power; some of which the Clintons are known to have used (in particular giving highly paid speeches).”

            I don’t think the theory is direct financial benefit. It’s control over a flow of money that can be used to help maintain political power.

            The Clinton Foundation’s revenue in 2014 was a bit over two hundred million dollars. Hillary got significant flack for being paid in the hundreds of thousands for speeches. It might be possible for the two of them to manage to get paid in the hundreds of millions a year in ways that were neither illegal nor politically expensive, but I don’t think it would have been easy.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @ David Friedman

            I’t’s control over a flow of money that can be used to help maintain political power.

            Maintain power how? because there are two ways of interpreting that claim.

            If you mean that funds were being diverted to hire sinister community organizers to rig the election(….or something) then the answer is no, we know what the Clinton foundation spent the money on, and a a lot of it was very important humanitarian and development work.

            If on the other hand you mean that the Clintons plained to curry favor with the public by creating a philanthropic image for themselves, well of course they did. Mind you, I don’t think that’s all there was to it, it was likely a mixture of genuine concern, narcissism, and (inept) political calculation.

            After Bill Clinton left office he saw the work done by the Bill and Malinda Gates foundation and the effect that it had, both in fighting poverty, and in boosting Gates’ then sagging reputation. At some point he decided he wanted part of the action. Since he isn’t a Billionaire like Buffet or Gates, he cashed in on his most valuable assets, his charisma and personal connections, to raise millions; and to spend those millions making a name for the Clintons as humanitarians.

            Of course he forgot that the public applauded Gates because he was spending his own money, and not flying around the world soliciting donations from the rich and powerful, who might expect favors in return.

            But to him that was a mere detail.

            Frankly if a right wing politician had raised millions from the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer, and Paul Singer, and spent it giving school vouchers to kids in west Baltimore, you’d be singing his praises right now, and telling us all how it proves that we don’t need a welfare state. And the minute anybody raised concerns about a conflict of interest, you’d say they were at best a conspiracy theorist, and at worst a heartless statist monster who hates private charity.

            Don’t get me wrong I think the Clinton foundation was a disaster waiting to happen. At some point one of those donors was going to want something, maybe even something entirely legitimate, but even the appearance of corruption can be toxic to the norms of a well functioning democracy.

            But given that you hold, from what I understand, orthodox libertarian views on campaign finance I think you’re being a little bit hypocritical in denouncing the Clintons for raising private funds to support their political ambitions.

          • @hyperboloid writes:

            (quoting me on the Clinton Foundation)

            “It’s control over a flow of money that can be used to help maintain political power.”

            And asks:

            “Maintain power how?”

            By providing jobs for supporters. By paying the cost of transportation and meetings and such. By keeping in existence a political organization.

            The Clinton Foundation tax documents are webbed. You can look over them for yourself and see how much of the money could fit that sort of pattern vs how much is handed out to organizations overseas doing good things.

            Of course, the travel and meetings and such could be in pursuit of doing good things–the documents don’t let you tell. I’m not claiming that we know that’s what is happening, only that it is one possible interpretation.

  25. garrettmpetersen says:

    Key & Peele did a sketch where a school bully frankly states the reasons for his bullying. Internalized self-hatred and all that. I’m wondering what you all think of the pop psychology behind the sketch.

  26. Randy M says:

    Recently I ordered a package from an online secondhand store. The package I got was addressed to someone with a similar name in another state, and worth 20 times as much. These are game components for which there is a market, so it would be fairly easy to liquidate them. I sent them back to the store, of course.

    But a it came up in conversation with a couple of friends, and I was disturbed that both of them shamelessly said they would certainly have kept the valuable items. We’re all adults with kids, but no one’s starving. Actions speak louder than words, however, words are cheap and I would expect it to be easier to lay claim to the virtue than follow through, so I’m more worried that no one recognized the virtuous action as being something to associate with. My response was pretty much “Oh, sure you would have returned it,” passing off the talk of keeping it as simply fantasizing, but that’s not really what it came off as, and it wasn’t dressed up in any utilitarianism of selling it an giving the money to the poor, or even justification of the company not noticing the loss, or even an admittance of weakness. Simply a failure or refusal to recognize a higher principle at work.

    I’m curious how you all react. Kind of surprised (at their responses) like me, or more savvy (as to what people now profess)? Or surprised at me for being the sucker?

    • skef says:

      I think social attitudes about this sort of thing are a mess right now. (What I see as) a related phenomenon is people who favor broad deregulation arguing that some action is fine on the basis that it’s “not illegal”. Is legality the relevant barrier for action or not?

      But a “mess” like this is an objective phenomenon, so I don’t really blame people for small stuff like keeping packages or staying silent about restaurant bills with missing items. I have my view about the right thing to do, which aligns with yours, and I do it.

      • I think part of it may be that a lot of people distinguish between their moral obligations to identifiable human beings and their moral obligations when dealing with firms. There is an implicit assumption that the firm is a morally irrelevant being with resources, so stealing from it harms nobody who matters.

        In a way, the same attitude explains the corporate income tax. People talk about corporations paying taxes as if the wealth wasn’t ultimately coming from human beings.

        • Brad says:

          Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Consider strategic default, people are subject to some opprobrium despite the counterparty generally being a firm. On the other hand firms seem to be less likely to be condemned for the same thing.

        • skef says:

          To add to what @Brad says …

          I would say that this is one of the issues that is part of the “mess” I cited earlier. But you make it sound as if business were a passive victim of changing attitudes, and that this change has nothing to do with the more-than-rhetorical shift from:

          In a free-enterprise, private-property sys­tem, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct re­sponsibility to his employers. That responsi­bility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while con­forming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.

          of your father’s (day) to

          The social obligation of business is to sustainably maximize long-term profits for shareholders. Nothing more. Nothing less.

          of present times.

          When the executive of the mortgage company makes a public statement about the ethical responsibility of paying off one’s debts, and it’s pointed out that the same company just strategically defaulted on its lease for a huge amount of office space, what should the individuals holding that mortgage think?

          From what I can see, the lines of implication point the other way. “Firms” are leading this change. Individuals have had to decide how to adjust. The emerging pattern is as @The Nybbler expresses: draw the line at family and immediate community.

        • skef says:

          To amplify what Brad says, part of the “mess” I alluded to earlier is that business culture is leading this change. The shift from

          In a free-enterprise, private-property sys­tem, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.

          to

          The social obligation of business is to sustainably maximize long-term profits for shareholders. Nothing more. Nothing less.

          Is more than rhetorical.

          When the executive from your mortgage company emphasizes the social responsibility of paying one’s debts, and it turns out that company just strategically defaulted on a huge lease, what should you think and do?

          A popular answer is @The Nybbler’s: reserve the older customs for family and close-knit community.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A popular answer is @The Nybbler’s: reserve the older customs for family and close-knit community.

            I think that’s Dr. Dealgood, below, though I’ve expressed similar sentiments in the past. Strategic default on a loan from JPMorgan? You betcha; after all J.P. himself would have done it in a heartbeat. But not to someone I knew personally (though I follow the advice of never borrowing money from or lending money to friends anyway)

            I don’t think this is necessarily as big as “corporations exist to make money for stockholders”; it could just be that ethical custom when dealing with commercial banks includes strategic default; you are not backing up the loan with your word or your honor, just your collateral.

          • CatCube says:

            The thing to be cautious about when talking about how only suckers wouldn’t “strategically default” on a mortgage because companies strategically default on their own leases: the terms of their lease are much more onerous because strategic default is culturally acceptable, and that gets priced in.

            If you encourage people to mail in the keys to their house as if they were renting commercial office space, then the terms of your next mortgage might be a little closer to the terms of a commercial lease than you might like.

          • skef says:

            Indeed: My mistaken attribution.

          • skef says:

            @CatCube

            But the relevant point of comparison in that case is the onerousness of the contract in contract-world compared to the onerousness of the social convention in social-convention world.

            The broad argument for the law/contract world, in which you just write down and enforce what needs to happen, is that the rules are explicit and there are costs for violating them. So you remove the “chump factor”. Of course, then you have piles of regulation and little flexibility.

            As far as I can tell, holding these two attitudes simultaneously is very common in the business world:

            1) A company should try to maximize profit as long as doing so is within the law.

            2) Regulations are an unnecessary and counter-productive fetter on business practices.

            Call me a socialist, but I really think that at most one of these should be on the table.

            The similar dichotomy on the personal level is “lawyers shouldn’t be involved in every aspect of life” vs “I don’t ever want to be a chump”. I solve this conundrum for myself by not worrying that much about chump-dom on the personal level.

          • Brad says:

            Skef, the way you put that reminds me a little of how many, though by no means all, Americans feel about haggling. They don’t want to haggle but they don’t want to feel like they got ripped off either. So the most preferred situation is one where no one can haggle.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            As far as I can tell, holding these two attitudes simultaneously is very common in the business world:

            1) A company should try to maximize profit as long as doing so is within the law.

            2) Regulations are an unnecessary and counter-productive fetter on business practices.

            Call me a socialist, but I really think that at most one of these should be on the table.

            Well I personally believe in some give on #1, that is when I do business with others, even as a fiduciary for someone else, I do think I should be fair even if it doesn’t maximize profit.

            However, even without my personal hedging, I think the two propositions as stated above are perfectly compatible. Most regulations are indeed unnecessary and counter-productive to general prosperity, because most regulations are written to maximize benefits for the politically powerful or knowledgeable, not for the benefit of most people. When it comes to business regulations, it is the businesses being regulated that are most knowledgeable, so they receive most of the benefit.

            And proposition #1 is mostly beneficial too. I agree that we will end up better if not everyone is trying to cheat everyone, but even complete and total profit maximizing would have a better result than with any other type of incentive.

            Of course the crux of the matter is what you mean by #2. IF you mean that ALL laws are bad, then yes it is a bad idea. So really the discussion is about where to draw the line. I am confident in my opinion that we’d all have better lives if we could eliminate 90% of the regulations out there. (But of course which 90% is crucial).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      You aren’t a sucker. You have to live with yourself. Every single day.

      Generally speaking, I think the mindset that says “keep them” is one that views that package as good luck for the receiver, and that the sender is one of:
      a) a nameless/faceless “other”, a corporation run by elites and fat cats,
      b) the “universe”, “god”, etc., or
      c) someone who has suffered the consequence of their own “unfitness” (they are incompetent, lazy, stupid, etc.)

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        I’d look at the actual consequences (in lost time, distraction) to the various individuals involved.

        I’d put the package away and see if anyone contacts me. Or, go ahead and use the stuff but keep the box in case someone does want it back.

        If the vendor contacts me, I’d ask them to send a pre-paid Return Invoice and packaging. On their site, complain about the whole thing and get them to commit to sending me the product I originally ordered, or refunding my payment. This is a little extra work from me, but it’s going through their conventional, default channel, so should settle the matter with no further thought needed from me.

        There’s always the chance that they will just tell me to keep the bigger order, rather than having to pay for their extra shipping and time for an exchange.

        Dunno if any individual employee will get in trouble for the mistake. Seems unlikely, as long as it’s all being handled by the robots. So, I’d prefer to use my time and thought on my own garden or family, where I know the result will have some effect, and the effect will be positive.

        • Randy M says:

          FYI, the company was TCGplayer, and I can’t fault how they handled it. When I went to contac them, I found a message asking me if I’d gotten the wrong package. When I said I had and also hadn’t gotten what I’d ordered, they told me to hold onto it until they could send an envelope and postage, and offered me my choice of an immediate refund or fulfilling the order as soon as they could, which ended up being the next week.

          Plus a little bit of store credit, which wasn’t really comparable to the price of the item I got, but I don’t expect outfits like this have great margins. (Compare to Scott’s Amazon story on his tumblr today.)

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        You aren’t a sucker. You have to live with yourself. Every single day.

        This. Money is nice, but the ability to live with yourself is one thing it can’t buy.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      It all depends on how much faith you have on the package getting to the original reciever once you send it back.

    • Dahlen says:

      Hmm, there seems to be a decline in the condemnation of moral and personal shortcomings (as long as you’re not the aggravated one); moreover, there’s a degree to which people relish in admitting to them, because it represents a basis for relatability.

      I notice this sort of thing in the stupid image macros people share/like on FB. Nobody likes to come off as a sanctimonious fuddy-duddy with a stick up his ass. And so, people humble-brag about flaws. About how much they suck at losing weight, how bitchy they privately are, how hard it is for them to switch into work mode after a weekend or just before it… It’s not just the internet, real-life conversations seem to flow along similar lines. So somehow it’s no surprise that profiting off someone else’s loss is acceptable now as well, it seems to play into the larger trend.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I blame post modernism and identity politics, but I’m pretty sure you all know me well enough to have guessed that by now.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      You did the right thing. That shows admirable self-discipline, following a code even at cost to yourself. But is it your code that you chose or the one-sided ‘social contract’ imposed on you?

      Modern society will not reciprocate your loyalty. It is in fact incapable of loyalty. And thus it deserves no loyalty from you. Giving it the minimum required to participate peacefully and nothing more beyond that is eminently reasonable.

      Corporate and government bureaucracies aren’t people even if they employ people. Sacrificing your own interests for theirs is insanity because the favor won’t ever be returned. Take what you can when you can, because that’s what they will do to you.

      Obviously none of this holds for family, friends or actual communities.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I see Dr. Dealgood chooses my option (a)

      • skef says:

        So by that reasoning … why did he do the right thing?

      • hlynkacg says:

        Modern society will not reciprocate your loyalty. It is in fact incapable of loyalty. And thus it deserves no loyalty from you.

        To me this sounds like the thinking of someone who’s spent their entire life in a “high trust society” and thus has zero appreciation for the value of said trust.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      The package I got was addressed to someone with a similar name in another state, and worth 20 times as much.

      A few decades ago there were televised public service ads deliberately educating people that “if you receive something in the mail that you didn’t order, it’s yours to keep, free!”. One I recall had an eskimo, in a blizzard, receiving an electric cooling fan – when he hears the tagline he smiles at the camera and says (sincerely): “gee, thanks!”

      If most people have been trained not to send it back, that would seem to properly incentivize senders (and mail services) to be extra-careful not to screw up orders. From a Coasean bargaining perspective, that makes sense – allow small short-term inefficiencies to maximize bigger longer-term efficiency.

      I gather these ads came about in response to earlier scams involving billing people for stuff they didn’t want (relevant FTC page) but it would seem to apply to your situation too: They are obligated to send you the thing you actually ordered. If they happen to send something else, your returning it is supererogatory.

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t recall any such ads. I think one can make a distinction between clear cases of screw-ups and plausible cases of fraud.

        If most people are trained not to send it back, that would seem to properly incentivize senders (and mail services) to be extra-careful not to screw up orders. From a Coasean bargaining perspective, that makes sense – allow small short-term inefficiencies to maximize bigger longer-term efficiency. No?

        Could not the same reasoning, regarding efficiency gains, be pointed at to counter one of the archetypal examples for teaching honesty, returning excess change to the cashier? Keep the $10 when you should have gotten the $1, and hopefully the store will begin to employ more efficient cashiers.

        In any case this helps clarify why I am not a consequentialist/utilitarian (though it does provide useful insights). I feel a stronger duty to provide grace than a possible imperceptible economic signal.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          Returning excess change is easy because you are right there. Returning excess packages (unless you are in the habit of regularly mailing stuff) is a pain in the neck. If the social norm is that you HAVE to send it back, people who screw up orders are inflicting a cost on others – a negative externality.

          The optimum result is probably that some people – those for whom returning things is especially easy – should return it whereas those for whom returning stuff is especially difficult should not. Kant’s Categorical Imperative notwithstanding.

          • Randy M says:

            I do agree that one’s mistakes shouldn’t impose a burden on others to rectify; as mentioned upthread just now, they paid postage and sent an envelope.
            If you find, say, a watch in the mall you can take it to the lost and found; no need to hire a detective to track down the original owner. If the owner did track it down, though, fess up and return it, even if the owner is a shop that was using it for a display or something.

      • Deiseach says:

        If most people have been trained not to send it back, that would seem to properly incentivize senders (and mail services) to be extra-careful not to screw up orders. From a Coasean bargaining perspective, that makes sense – allow small short-term inefficiencies to maximize bigger longer-term efficiency.

        As long as you are happy to take the risk that, should your order go astray through error, or you get something different than you ordered, the company/seller gets to keep your payment because “Ha ha, sucker, we have your money, what are you gonna do about it?”

        I mean, that would train you to be extra-careful in choosing honest and effective sellers, would it not?

        • Garrett says:

          In the US, I’d call my credit card company and file a dispute because they didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain.
          And if I’m shipping something, I can take out insurance on delivery to cover any loss or damage in-route.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        i prefer that society function based on Coadse of honor

    • hlynkacg says:

      @ Randy M

      You are a sucker, but then so am I. I wouldn’t be surprised, but that’s only because I’m the sort who expects people to be selfish and petty.

      That said, I’m with Skef on this one; I have my view about the right thing to do, which aligns with yours. Add this data-point to your internal dossier on the friends in question and move on.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It’s not unsurprising that a lot of people would have kept it. I would have returned it, due to a combination of “I would feel bad” and “it might come back to bite me somehow”.

      • Randy M says:

        The surprising thing is not that people are weak, of course. But I would expect people to expect to gain status from signalling virtue–as loaded as the phrase “virtue signalling” has become, it’s better than a society in which one is proud of their vices. I think I’ve discussed hypocrisy here before as being not the worst of situations.

        Gaining intimacy by admitting to a fault is a possibility but requires granting the shortcoming, not wishing for the opportunity to exercise it.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I might expect some people to say they would return it, but be matched by people who would present keeping it as “getting one over” on someone else, as proving their savvy.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Finders keepers, losers weepers” is an old attitude. I’m not shocked, but then again I’m very cynical about human nature. There certainly are people who think honesty is for suckers, all that stuff about keeping your word and trustworthiness and the rest of it is old-fashioned baloney that went out with the ark, and if something falls off the back of a lorry or gets dropped into your lap, it’s to your advantage and too bad for the company or the other customer who have to stand the loss.

      They really don’t think it’s stealing, though they’d be very indignant if they were on the opposite side of the transaction and something valuable they ordered went astray like that. “What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is my own”. Saying you wouldn’t keep it/re-sell it and would send it back is saying you’re not smart, cool, clued-in and you are a sucker to be taken advantage of.

      Unfortunately, I can only say that if you think your friends really do think like this, count the spoons next time they’ve been over. They’re willing to at least have the name of “pickers-up of unconsidered trifles” so treat them accordingly.

    • Acedia says:

      As a little kid (about 8 or 9) I was once given too much change by the school bus driver, so the next day when I got on I returned the extra to him and explained why. He laughed at me, called me an idiot and said I should have just kept quiet and spent the money.

      Describing it now it sounds like a vaguely comical moment even to me, but it did a lot of damage to my faith in the trustworthiness of adults.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I wouldn’t even open a package that wasn’t addressed to me. That’s Tampering With The Mail, which one mustn’t do.

      • Randy M says:

        I suspect this is tongue in cheek, but for clarity, the envelope was addressed to me but the invoice and items inside for another customer.

    • keranih says:

      Dude, even if I don’t know whose that thing is, I know it ain’t mine.

      It didn’t fall out of the tree, didn’t just magically appear from the sky – someone made that thing, someone else bought it, someone shipped it to someone else.

      I have a pay-it-forward, I-am-a-self-responsible-adult-in-a-community basic responsibility to a) not take shit that doesn’t belong to me and b) return shit to the rightful owner.

      This is not that freaking hard, and it really irritates me to see so many people who figure that they deserve to keep everything they can get their grubby mitts on. It’s a cross-income thing – I see it in rich ratbastards and I see it in poor ratbastards, and I see it in immature self-centered entitled little teenaged shits (but I repeat myself) most of all.

      Gah.

    • moridinamael says:

      It seems obvious* to me that I would be engaging in a potentially huge and entirely unnecessary hassle by failing to act the way you acted. As such, I would do what you did, but I would do it mainly out of an expectation of negative consequences if I kept the package.

      *I notice that people’s assumptions about potential likely consequences tend to vary a lot, partly due to innate paranoia and partly due to varieties of life experience.

  27. Mark says:

    Just spent the morning reading r/futurology.

    People are very worried about the automation of jobs/UBI.

    Isn’t the main point this – where automated processes allow us to make everything more cheaply, we are also able to make new pieces of machinery more cheaply too.

    Each of them will sit under his own vine, with his own replicator.

    Problem is that capital is a social relation, and that some people might be motivated to prevent more widespread ownership of capital.

    • John Schilling says:

      Each of them will sit under his own vine, with his own replicator.

      In the interim state where the replicator still requires expert human assistance and/or cannot provide some vital services (e.g. medical care), there will be the issue of persuading replicator technicians and doctors to devote their time to people who do nothing but sit under a vine with a (likely broken) replicator.

    • psmith says:

      In addition to John’s point, automation will not necessarily occur in a form amenable to decentralization, and if it doesn’t you’re ultimately relying on nothing but the continued good will of the robot owners.

      Also a mighty optimistic take on the continued availability of natural resources.

      • Mark says:

        Yes, that’s true, but centralisation of production doesn’t suggest centralisation of ownership. If production can only occur in some specific social context, or in some particular location (so that owners require broad agreement to produce) that improves the ethical case for shared ownership.

        “Also a mighty optimistic take on the continued availability of natural resources.”

        Maybe, but that’ll be a problem whatever happens.

        • John Schilling says:

          Yes, that’s true, but centralisation of production doesn’t suggest centralisation of ownership. If production can only occur in some specific social context, or in some particular location (so that owners require broad agreement to produce) that improves the ethical case for shared ownership

          But it improves the practical case for centralized ownership. You have the profound ethical argument and the good will of the unemployed masses. I have the replicators, the replicator technicians, the ideal spot to set up the replicators, and so at the push of a button I will have a very large force of autonomous combat drones. Have fun contesting my ownership of, well, everything.

          I’d like to think the plucky heroes of La Resistance will defeat the Evil Drone Overlords if it comes to that, but I’m not optimistic.

  28. rlms says:

    Thoughts on whether it is ethically required to put “the author was not paid a fee for this piece” at the end of anonymous thinkpieces?

    • Sandy says:

      See, I don’t think associating Sam Harris with the alt-right is a strategically sound move. What next, Bill Maher is basically Richard Spencer on HBO?

      • skef says:

        This is a weaselly use of “associating”. If the author is unfair to Harris it’s through uncharitable use of scare-quotes.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Sam “If you have a green frog in your Twitter bio, or use the word “cuck” without irony, please unfollow and block me” Harris is fairly obvious not on board with the Alt-Right … but I’m not convinced that that piece is mistaken that there’s a lot of nasty stuff that’s only a few clicks away from him, which is all that that piece seems to be trying to claim.

        Of course, to the degree that Harris is right, this is a problem that arises largely because so many voices on the left instinctively conflate criticism of Islam with bigotry against Muslims … but to the degree that that article is right, because of the way human brains work, it’s probably impossible to maintain an absolute intellectual quarantine between criticism of an ideology and prejudice against people who hold it, such that the spread of Sam Harris-type criticism of Islam will inevitably embolden genuinely bigoted opponents of Muslims to some degree, no matter how careful you are.

        Still, I don’t think Harris himself could be accused of failing to stress the importance of that distinction. It is a confusing issue.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Bill Maher — HBD on HBO.

    • Mark says:

      It’s not ethically required, but it’s pretty sensible. You certainly don’t want customers to think you’re employing murderers, rapists, or near racists.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If you’re publishing a completely phony cautionary tale like that one, whether or not the author was paid for it is the least of your issues.

    • Deiseach says:

      For that particular piece, it’s less “the author was not paid” and more “they had to pay us to publish this”.

      Good God Almighty, was that written by a man or a sponge (I mean the sea creature, not what you use to scrub out the bath, because at least a bath sponge has some point and usefulness). Maybe I have warped standards, but this kind of bleating makes me go “What is wrong with kids today?” (Not that I know the person’s age, but I’ve encountered three year olds with stronger sense of standing up for themselves):

      On one occasion I even, I am ashamed to admit, very diplomatically expressed negative sentiments on Islam to my wife. Nothing “overtly racist”, just some of the “innocuous” type of things the YouTubers had presented: “Islam isn’t compatible with western civilisation.”

      She was taken aback: “Isn’t that a bit … rightwing?”

      I justified it: “Well, I’m more a left-leaning centrist. PC culture has gone too far, we should be able to discuss these things without shutting down the conversation by calling people racist, or bigots.”

      The indoctrination was complete.

      Yes, it’s indoctrination into the foulest propaganda of the most wicked racist bigot scum to think “hey, calling people who disagree with you ‘racist bigot scum’ maybe doesn’t convince them to vote for your candidate, you know”?

      I haven’t yet told my wife that this happened, and I honestly don’t know how to. I need to apologise for what I said and tell her that I certainly don’t believe it. It is going to be a tough conversation and I’m not looking forward to it. I didn’t think this could happen to me. But it did and it will haunt me for a long time to come.

      Oh no, what will his wife do in that conversation? Will she…drink her tea in meaningful silence? Tsk-tsk at him? Could it possibly go along the lines of:

      “Darling, I need to confess something. I’m an idiot.”

      “Darling, I already knew that”.

      Hitherto I have defended the sanctity of marriage but my advice here is missus, divorce this guy quick-sharp, if you end up with a parrot or a teddy bear as your only company, you will still be doing better.

      Honestly, I fear for this chap’s safety should he walk outside his front door and a mild breeze blows, as he could be snapped in two by the force of the mighty zephyr! ‘I was very nearly almost radicalised by a few Youtube videos and now I feel that in some minor way I have contributed to the coming apocalypse in America when the death camps get into full swing, even though nobody in the United States either knows or cares about my existence’. How full of your own assurance that you are the absolute centre of the universe do you have to be to write this bilge?

      Forget getting paid to write chin-stroking self-flagellating articles, I should be bloody well compensated for the emotional trauma caused by reading that article as it caused me to endure the suffering of being feebly smacked around the face a couple of times by a damp face flannel!

      • Spookykou says:

        I don’t think sea sponges are particularly useless or pointless, as far as animals go.

        If you wanted to insult a man by comparing him to a sea sponge, then their profoundly simple nature seems like the way to go.

        • Among other things, they were the source of the sponges used by humans prior to the modern rubber variety.

        • Deiseach says:

          I agree, I should apologise to sea sponges for the dreadful aspersion I cast on their intelligence, character and purpose in the universe by comparing them to this specimen allegedly of the human race.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Interesting. ‘Alt-right nearly turned me into a racist’ factoid actualy just trolljob, according to Godfrey Elfwick.

      • lvlln says:

        I really really hope this is true, because it would be hilarious, but Godfrey claiming something doesn’t really move the needle much in whether it’s true, and as far as I can tell, there’s been no evidence presented.

      • Deiseach says:

        Probably one of the very few times everyone was saying “I hope this is a troll, not real” 🙂

  29. IrishDude says:

    Does anyone have a good summary of the Dakota pipeline protests that can give each side’s argument? Do the protesters have a leg to stand on?

    • skef says:

      The pipeline issue was recently discussed on the reddit sub here. I have no view on the accuracy of the commentary either way.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I was following it out of professional interest before the story blew up, and my general impression was that the parties on both sides acted foolishly, and then doubled-down admit that they might bear some responsibility for the misunderstanding.

      The issue has since been seized upon by third, fourth, and fifth parties and it’s now pretty much impossible to sort truth from toxoplasma.

    • Brad says:

      I found the district court judgement helpful in sorting out what was going on, though obviously focused on legal questions instead of larger historical context.

      http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/order-denying-PI.pdf

      • IrishDude says:

        Thanks Brad! That opinion was cited in the reddit sub that skef pointed me to, and I read most of it.

        It seems that the Standing Rock tribe was disorganized and unhelpful in many instances, by not agreeing to meetings, cancelling them once agreed to, or not sending a representative out to help identify important tribal sites at a point in the process, and that the Army Corps of Engineers reached out to them many times to get their input. In one instance, they even changed the path of the pipeline in response to a concern voiced by the tribe archaeologist, an action they took at least 100 other times in response to concerns by other tribes.

        I was actually pretty impressed with the level of engagement between the company, the Corps, and the tribes, and it seems like tribes were often able to influence the path of the pipeline to address their concerns. It doesn’t appear to me like Big Corporate or Big Government running amok over native tribes.

  30. Sandy says:

    Something quite remarkable seems to be unfolding in France. The presidential election has come down to center-right (Francois Fillon) vs far-right (Marine Le Pen); no one seems to think the left-wing candidates and parties have much of a chance to take the presidency. There were quite a few people who claimed Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump was a case of the center-right vs the far-right — I think these people were wrong, but it should be noted that when it was believed the Republicans were going to suffer a landslide and possibly lose both houses of Congress, many commentators on the left believed Hillary should embrace a sweeping progressive agenda and offer no concessions to Republicans at all, sort of as a punishment for picking a candidate like Trump. Right now there is very little talk of anything like that in France. Fillon is a nationalist and soft Eurosceptic with a particularist and Catholic approach to French identity; on issues such as trade he is closer to Thatcher than Trump, but when he talks about the decline of France and his plans for a restoration to greatness, it is hard not to see the similarities to America’s orange roi. Or for that matter when he talks about renewing France’s relationship with Moscow, which might further isolate Germany in the EU; his critics are so alarmed by his intention to seek a detente with Putin that they are now claiming Europe is in danger of becoming a Russian vassal state.

    What is particularly interesting is that Fillon is not really courting left-wing voters; if anything he is moving further to the right on issues such as multiculturalism, Islam and immigration, in an attempt to attract some of Le Pen’s voters. It is a shame he has not yet moved to abolish laïcité, but nobody’s perfect. I cannot remember the last time in a major Western democracy that the left seemed a barren force on the national stage while the center-right and the nationalists were in a position to divide up the power among themselves. And unless I’m very much mistaken, it seems that come election time, the socialists will swallow their pride and urge their voters to back Fillon; they are so anxious to stop Le Pen from moving into the Élysée Palace that they might empower a man who seems positively Trumpian in many regards.

    Of course, the possibility exists Fillon is just jumping on hot topics to get elected; the same could be said for Trump, so who knows?

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Seems like the French left really lacks effective leadership. With the right wing vote split between two parties they could easily get a candidate to the runoff if they had one party, but they’re fragmented into like five parties.

      • quarint says:

        You are right that the French left lacks effective leadership, but there is also a real ideological divide at work between the socialists and the progressists.
        The right wing vote is not really divided between two parties. The Front National is actually only right wing because they’re anti immigrants, but economically they are close to the far left wing. That’s why the working class, which was previously voting left, is now supporting the Front National. The Front National is still appealing to some of the right-wing voters who are mainly focused on immigration, but really their electorate comes from both sides of the political spectrum.

    • cassander says:

      Part of it, I think, is an artifact of the french voting system, which all but ensures there will be a runoff between the center right and far right candidates.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      It seems to me that you are incorrectly conflating US left and right with whatever it is that France has. My first thought when you talked about the weakness of the left was — “yay, maybe they will decrease the size of the porcine French government.” But then I realized that neither of the “right” parties in France are in favor of smaller government, I don’t think (well, I realize that in practice the Republicans don’t decrease the US government when in power either, but at least that is their position, so I am forever hopeful). Doesn’t “right” and “far right” just mean against more immigrants and really really against more immigrants? They are like Trump in that way, but in any other way? What do these parties stand for other than immigrants?

      • Judging by news stories, Fillon is an admirer of Thatcher who wants to scale down current employment rules claimed to be responsible for the very high unemployment rates. Also described as a soft Euroskeptic. Probably in favor of a mild shift in a free market direction on issues other than immigration.

        • Tibor says:

          Of course, one thing are campaign promises and another is Realpolitik. Especially in France it seems to be notoriously hard to reform anything without large scale protests and strikes. Also, Angela Merkel is supposedly a center-right politician, although her recent policies included bailing out Greece (instead of letting it go bankrupt), instituting a minimum wage in Germany, increasing the state pensions and I think taxes were also increased during her chancellorship (I’m not sure if it was in this or one of the two previous periods).

      • Sandy says:

        But then I realized that neither of the “right” parties in France are in favor of smaller government, I don’t think

        Fillon is — he’s planning to eliminate half a million government jobs and remove several labor regulations.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Oh so that is good. I am glad to hear it. After all I’ve heard about France more or less forcing employees NOT to work hard, it is time for a reaction to that. I hope Fillon is successful.

          But isn’t France a parliamentary system, so the head of government can’t do a whole lot on his own? You say Fillon wants to do this, but is this just rhetoric on the campaign trail, or does his party agree? Also, does the winning party in France usually have a majority, or does it have to build a coalition with other parties that might have different views? I’d just like to know how optimistic I should be. There are many Europeans in the commentariat here, but I can’t recall anyone saying there were French.

          • quarint says:

            France has many laws protecting the workers from their employers, this is true. And Fillon is indeed planning to weaken, or suppress some of those.
            The parliamentary elections are scheduled right after the presdential election, so the winning party usually has a majority. If Fillon wins the presidential, his party will without a doubt get a majority in the parliament.
            However, the more liberal propositions of Fillon will without a doubt cause a huge uproar if he does try to pass them (some in his own party are already asking for cuts in his program). There will be monster demonstrations and strikes. Even the current, center left govt had to deal with big protests when they passed some moderately liberal laws on work conditions. With Fillon extremely liberal propositions, it will be a million times worse. It could really be chaos.

          • @quarint:

            I note that you are using “liberal” in the European sense, not the current American sense. I conjecture that you are not an American.

            I, of course, approve. From my point of view, “we” gave “liberal” a strongly positive connotation during the 19th century, and our enemies than stole the name to take advantage of that connotation.

            Which is why we now have to call ourselves “libertarian,” a name we stole from … .

          • Tibor says:

            France has a semi-presidential system. The president has less power than in the US but more than in other countries in Europe (several European countries have monarch instead of a president and in most others the president’s office is mostly ceremonial. In Switzerland they have a federal council of 7 members instead and the ceremonial function corresponding to presidency rotates between them every year). I think the only other European country with a strong presidency is Romania (I don’t count Russia or Turkey as a European countries since most of both are in Asia)

            @quarint: if he wins I hope he has balls like Margaret Thatcher. If France doesn’t overcome this socialist gridlock and liberalise, it will end up just like Greece (or Spain or Italy at best). But since it’s the second most populated European country that wouldn’t be very pretty.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            if he wins I hope he has balls like Margaret Thatcher.

            I love the visual on this.

    • I got to witness in the past decade france turn into islamic terrorism playground funzone. I’d be right-wing* too there, even though i’m very sympathetic to the green party.

      Is greenery separated in France and the European countries the same way its happened here?

      *or at least, heavily anti-immigration.

      • Tibor says:

        I think that partly it is, but not entirely. My father is quite conservative and fairly against non-European immigration, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, he seems to be quite fond of the Vietnamese for example, (when I inquired further, it turned out he cares mostly about people living off welfare, especially those who come from areas with a very different culture and are unlikely to assimilate, he is ok with qualified immigrants even from non-European countries, so let’s call it “soft anti-immigration”).

        At the same time however, he is quite concerned about ecology, global warming and environmentalism -he supports nuclear power, but he is against fracking oil, and generally supports abandoning fossil fuel. Partly these two are aligned – he notices that there is a lot of oil in countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia and would like them to have less economic (and hence political, since the oil is mostly owned by the state in those countries) power because of the ideologies of those countries. Also, one reason for why he is concerned about global warming because it could mean another wave of immigration to Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

        I’m not sure how representative he is in this respect, but I would say that conservatives in Europe do not necessarily share the US conservative views on ecology (I believe they are much more likely than the left to support nuclear power though).

      • quarint says:

        Not sure how it is in here (which i take to be the US), but I’ll tell you how it is in France.
        Greenery is mostly a left thing in France. During the debates for the primary elections of the main right wing party, there was no mention of the environment at all.
        Ex-president Sarkozy, which was a candidate at this election, even adopted a climate change denier position during the campain for a few days, before retracting. It was clearly a demagoguery outburst. Overall, climate change denial is rare on the political scene, been this way for a dozen years probably. The right wing doesn’t deny climate change, but usually argues that there are more important issues.
        The right is usually pro nuclear, but pro fossil energies as well. They are heavily favored by hunters, and the hunter lobby (which is very powerful) is very influent on them. The hunters and the ecologists loathe each other.
        The main left party, currently in power, is pro nuclear as well, but anti fossil energies and overall more concerned about the environment than the right wing.
        The green party, which is very often allied with the former (there were several green minister during Hollande’s mandate), is anti fossil energies and anti nuclear. They don’t have much of an electoral base, usually totalling less than 5% of the votes in the first round of the presidential election. Their other policies besides the environment, are definitely left wing.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          @quarint. thanks a lot for these comments. I take it you live in France? So maybe that’s why you originally replied to my earlier comments asking for French input.

          I kind of wish everyone would say where they live, as that would clarify a lot of comments, although I realize that would weigh down conversations.

          By the way I do live in the US, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But Tibor, who I think you were replying to, is a Czech living in Germany I believe. It certainly gives a different flavor talking about Vietnamese living in the Czech Republic (who probably moved there when both countries were communist), versus Vietnamese living in the US.

  31. cassander says:

    There was some extensive discussion of the inherent evilness of white nationalism in the last thread that I thought was misplaced. I’m not a white nationalist,but I want to steelman it, because I think many of the arguments against it were hyperbolic.

    Say I believed that, on the whole, homogenous polities function better than non-homogenous ones. That because of this, the ideal state is the nation state, that is a polity consisting, as much as possible, of people who identify as members of a single ethno-cultural group, and that state policy should encourage homogeneity rather that multi-anything.

    With those beliefs, what policies would I call for, in order of severity? Substantial limits to immigration from those outside the volk, however it’s defined. Public endorsement of the cultural morays of the volk and lack of recognition of other cultures. Financial incentives and subsidies for non members to emigrate, either from one part of the country to another or out of the country entirely.

    Now, personally, I support none of those policies, but none of them can I say rises even close to the level of evil. Frankly, none of them even rises to the level of racist, at best, they’re separatist. And yet we still had people claiming they can’t imagine a white nationalist movement that wasn’t literally drenched in blood. A little perspective, perhaps?

    • Fossegrimen says:

      In my country, there is a program for refugees that basically pays out enough money for a person to fund a small business in the home country. This is funded over the foreign-aid budget and actually seems like a sane idea. (for values of ‘sane’ that includes ‘better than depositing aid money in Swiss bank accounts belonging to dictators’ which is more or less the traditional approach.)

    • sflicht says:

      There’s of course a Caplanian reply that “substantial limits to immigration” applied to anyone (regardless of volkdom) is evil. However we can bracket that viewpoint because so few opponents of white nationalism would subscribe to it. Always worth mentioning when discussing the inherent evilness of an ideology, though.

      More substantively, maybe an interesting point of comparison is Brezhnev-era Russia’s attitude towards Jews. Obviously even post-Stalin the USSR was illiberal in a number of bad ways. But my understanding (possibly false) is that while Khruschev overturned a number of explicitly antisemitic Stalin-era policies (with the noteworthy exception of restricted emigration — until Jackson-Vanik), the Soviet regime’s ideology still led to a lot of “soft” repression, e.g. universities manipulating entrance exam results to exclude Jews.

      So the generalized form of that example, as an objection to white nationalism, is that even if the white nationalist government doesn’t explicitly permit or endorse Jim Crow laws, extralegal but pervasive repression of nonmembers of the volk is a likely consequence of the ideology being espoused by TPTB. So to the extent this is a predictable outcome of the ideology, the ideology itself is evil.

      Obviously this argument can be taken too far. Maybe the place to look for concrete evidence is at liberal, ethno-culturally homogeneous societies with smallish minorities. I’m thinking of Japanese discrimination against Koreans and Ainu, and Taiwanese discrimination against aborigines. Does anyone know enough about those societies to comment meaningfully on the analogy between (past or present) policies in those countries and “soft” white nationalism of the sort cassander is discussing?

      I have a feeling that this argument’s weak point is in characterizing the nature of what I referred to above as “extralegal but pervasive repression” that’s supposedly the inevitable consequence of the white nationalist ideology being in power. It’s a potential weak point because it’s hard to draw a clear line between the sort of stuff I’ve heard about from Soviet Jews in the ’70s and ’80s (which strikes me as pretty unpleasant), and the sort of stuff people talk about in the context of America’s “structural racism” problem (which is often quite vague and tends to end up encompassing some stuff I don’t believe is racist at all).

    • Aapje says:

      @cassander

      Say I believed that, on the whole, homogenous polities function better than non-homogenous ones. That because of this, the ideal state is the nation state, that is a polity consisting, as much as possible, of people who identify as members of a single ethno-cultural group, and that state policy should encourage homogeneity rather that multi-anything.

      The obvious counterpoint is that the real issue here is culture, not skin color/ethnic group.

      You can have a (semi) mono-culture with different ethnicities.

      Of course, in practice, there is some link because the people from other cultures who want to migrate to the West generally are ethnically different as well.

      • keranih says:

        You can have a (semi) mono-culture with different ethnicities

        I really want this to be so – America! – but am dreadfully short of examples, and the obvious counter is Bosnia.

        • Aapje says:

          @keranih

          Well, in practice it doesn’t last very long, because when people share that mono-culture, there is no barrier to procreating with each other, intermingle, etc. So within a few generations you get so many mutts, different people living and working together, etc, that there is no longer an identifiable ethnic group.

          I would argue that Irish-Americans are like that for example. I get the impression that most Irish-Americans are pretty much indistinguishable from other white people, aside from on Saint Patrick’s Day (and many people without Irish blood are happy to join in on the drinking).

        • The Nybbler says:

          America is the main example. We’ve incorporated people of all the European ethnicities and many Asian ones. I suspect the main reason Hispanics haven’t been as well-incorporated is we keep getting more; secondary reasons include a misguided multiculturalism which discourages incorporation, and the fact that many are not legally in the US. We haven’t done so well with the African-American population; I think that’s for obvious historic reasons.

          I would institute only the second of cassander’s ideas, “Public endorsement of the cultural morays of the volk and lack of recognition of other cultures.” Number one on the list would be “learn English; we won’t accommodate other languages to any great degree”.

          I’m not sure the US can assimilate devout Muslims, however. There’s not enough give in their culture to reach a point compatible with the US mainstream (Note there are problems with some groups of ultra-Orthodox Jews as well, main example being Kiryas Joel. And of course the Amish remain unassimilated).

      • cassander says:

        Culture is distinct from ethnicity in theory, but in practice it’s so persistent that it might as well be hereditary in the vast majority of cases. And even if you’ve achieved a mono-culture with different ethnicities, the multiple identities will still present a persistent opportunity for identity politics to rear its ugly head.

    • Anon. says:

      It’s also worth nothing this already exists. Japan is >98% Japanese and severely restricts immigration.

      That being said, if you start off with a diverse society and want to end up with a homogeneous one, there’s probably going to be trouble.

      • Aapje says:

        That being said, if you start off with a diverse society and want to end up with a homogeneous one, there’s probably going to be trouble.

        and vice versa.

        • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

          Really? The UK hasn’t really seen much trouble.

          • Sandy says:

            The UK is 87% white, last I checked.

          • NIP says:

            One word:

            Rotherham.

          • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

            The UK is 87% white, last I checked.

            Sure, that’s a lot less than 100 years ago. Or you could just take London as a more dramatic example, and London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole.

            One word:

            Rotherham.

            I’m not sure that’s ‘trouble’ in the sense that Aapje intended.

          • Sandy says:

            I’m not sure that’s ‘trouble’ in the sense that Aapje intended.

            Not sure why it wouldn’t be; Rotherham seems like a golden example of collapse in civic trust and corruption of institutions in the wake of multiculturalism.

            Or you could just take London as a more dramatic example, and London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole.

            Does it? As I recall there were some pretty major riots back in 2011 following a police shooting; for sheer scale, they seemed to outdo anything that happened in Ferguson or Baltimore.

          • NIP says:

            >Sure, that’s a lot less than 100 years ago

            And the U.K. crime rate has skyrocketed in that time despite medical, criminal justice, and other advances as the social fabric has started to come undone.

            >London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole

            That’s an awfully confident assertion without evidence. How would you even measure that?

            >I’m not sure that’s ‘trouble’ in the sense that Aapje intended.

            In what sense did you think he intended it?

          • Aapje says:

            Really? The UK hasn’t really seen much trouble.

            The 2005 London bombings killed 56 and wounded 700. Since then, there have been a decent number of attacks and attempts (also by anti-Muslim people), although fortunately they were often amateurish.

            Aside from actual violence by a small minority, migration issues clearly played a big role in the Brexit. Half of the population being so angry that they reject the establishment like that, counts as ‘trouble’ for me.

            And of course, there is more than just the UK. France has its banlieues. The Netherlands has a migrant underclass with high crime and is spiraling into a culture war. The anti-Muslim party is polling at 1/5th of the votes. In many European countries, anti-migration political parties are gaining a lot of ground.

            A bit further in the past, we have the history of Irish and Italian immigrants to the US, where there was severe racial animosity. It also brought the mafia to the US.

            In general, the best case scenario after the migration of large number of migrants seems to be several generations of social unrest and mutual animosity.

          • Aapje says:

            @asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations

            Sure, that’s a lot less than 100 years ago. Or you could just take London as a more dramatic example, and London has far better race relations than the UK as a whole.

            London is a very globalist city. Race relations tend to be relatively good between white people who benefit financially from open borders and migrants, weirdly enough.

            Also, it is a very expensive city, so the migrants that live there will surely be upper/middle class more often than elsewhere. If you live in an area with the best specimens of any group, you will be a lot happier than when you live in an area with average or below average people of a group (just like it’s more pleasant to debate here than at StormFront).

            I’ve been to Bradford recently, which was clearly quite diverse and had severe riots in 2001.

            PS. Also note that white flight happens and can cause unexpected results, like most anger against migrants being in non-diverse places where people have fled to.

          • John Schilling says:

            One word:

            Rotherham.

            Aren’t there a lot of cities in the UK that aren’t Rotherham? That have large multiethnic populations but not rape gangs, such that we might reasonably suspect the latter to be a rare anomaly rather than an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism?

            Or is that too many words?

          • Mark says:

            Rochdale, Oxford, Leeds, Derby, Bristol, Peterborough, Telford…

            It does seem to be something of a trend.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            I don’t think the migrants who live in the Tower Hamlets and Newham are particularly upper/middle class.

            Sporadic riots in UK inner cities have occurred since 1189, and probably earlier. Luckily, todays rioters are rarely armed with polaxes (and don’t number in the tens of thousands). I do not think immigration is particularly relevant here. Regarding Bradford, I am confident it would still be generally unpleasant even with a 100% white population (if that is what is being gotten at here). But Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool etc. also have relatively high immigrant populations, and are relatively nice.

          • John Schilling says:

            Rochdale, Oxford, Leeds, Derby, Bristol, Peterborough, Telford…

            …are all of them combined maybe a few hundred milliRothherhams, and lost in the noise of England’s hundred thousand or so or so annual rapes. Your “trend” looks like one data point, plus noise.

          • Mark says:

            http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/publications/“i-thought-i-was-only-one-only-one-world”-interim-report

            OK, I’m no expert, so excuse me if I’m getting this wrong, but as far as I can see, the children’s commission found that around 2500 children a year were sexually exploited by gangs and groups, and around 2/3 of the perpetrators are various types of immigrant. Being generous and saying that all perps commit the same number of crimes, if each child is raped 5 times a year, you’re already getting up to a figure of about 10% of all rapes in the UK committed by immigrants involved in group exploitation of minors.

            Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but that seems like a bit of a problem to me – especially when there was no particular need to have these scum-bags anywhere near us.

            There will always be evil bastards out there, doesn’t mean we need to bring in more.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark

            I’m not quite sure how you calculated those figures, and in any case I’m dubious about the utility of that source, since it states that the vast majority of perpetrators could not be identified. But in any case, even if a very disproportionate amount of child abusers were from an immigrant background, it would still be the case that they would form a very small proportion of the South-Asian population as a whole (specifically 0.01%). If you don’t support deporting Catholic priests, who about 30x more likely to be child abusers than South-Asians (by a conservative estimate based on the Murphy Report), it is highly inconsistent to support immigration restrictions on other groups.

          • Sandy says:

            Oh, please don’t do what the BBC does and use euphemisms like “South Asian” — virtually all of these cases involve Pakistani Muslims, there’s no point lumping Hindus and Sikhs in with them.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Aren’t there a lot of cities in the UK that aren’t Rotherham? That have large multiethnic populations but not rape gangs, such that we might reasonably suspect the latter to be a rare anomaly rather than an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism?

            Given that the police in Rotherham were actively trying to prevent people from finding out about/acknowledging the city’s rape gang problem, how do we know that organisations in the rest of the country aren’t simply engaged in similar cover-ups?

          • rlms says:

            @Sandy
            The report linked breaks down Asian perpetrators as follows:
            Bangladeshi 5
            Chinese/Japanese/South East Asia 1
            Indian 6
            Pakistani 35
            Sri Lankan 1
            Vietnamese 1
            Undisclosed 366

            Do you have any extra information about the distribution of the 366 undisclosed perpetrators? If you don’t, the obvious thing to presume is that they have roughly the same proportions as the specified ones (3/5 Pakistani, 2/5 other). If we’re rounding that off to “Pakistani”, we might as well for instance round off child sex abuse gangs in general to “non-Asian”.

          • Mark says:

            they would form a very small proportion of the South-Asian population as a whole (specifically 0.01%). If you don’t support deporting Catholic priests, who about 30x more likely to be child abusers than South-Asians (by a conservative estimate based on the Murphy Report), it is highly inconsistent to support immigration restrictions on other groups.

            I don’t know – it’s a fair point.

            I feel like immigrants should be significantly better than the local population, otherwise, what’s the point?

            As for Catholic Priests – I’m not particularly worried. Maybe it’s because I’m not a Catholic and I figure they’ve got it covered?

            Though I guess, if a significant portion of jesuit priests were stealing into Glasgow to abuse local protestant children, and the Catholic church wasn’t doing too much about it, I probably would be in favour of the wholesale deportation of the Catholic clergy (assuming there was somewhere to deport them to).

          • Aapje says:

            I want to point out that for me, ‘trouble’ starts at a way lower threshold than Rotherham or big riots. Those kind of things are outbreaks of strong simmering issues, which in themselves are ‘trouble.’

            Again, you only have to look at how upset many people are getting over immigrants, they are seriously pissed off. Now, you can either assume that these are all hateful people who get upset for no reason or that they feel that these experience major negative effects. My argument is that the latter makes most sense and that this is ‘trouble.’

          • asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

            That’s a pretty weak standard for ‘trouble’ that would seem to warn against any change ever. You can find a large chunk of people ‘seriously pissed off’ about pretty much anything.

          • Aapje says:

            @asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations

            There is obviously a spectrum of anger, going from mildly annoyed to genocidal anger.

            My belief is that anger can create a feedback loop, where people start behaving badly against people of the group they feel wronged them, which causes the people in that other group to behave worse as well, etc. So then people radicalize more and more.

            The result of these things is that the overall level of anger in society increases and you get narratives about who is to blame. This tends to result in people discriminating, expressing their anger in riots & the voting booth, individuals using violence, etc.

            Note that this is not just targeted against immigrants, Rotherham, Islamic terrorism and such are targeted against the native population.

            Now, I would argue that we have created too much friction in Western society (not just due to migration), which causes many of these feedback loops, which is bad.

            Reducing friction doesn’t mean that no change is possible, just that there should be less and even more importantly, the elite should recognize that certain groups that they don’t empathize with much, experience a lot more friction than themselves.

      • Brad says:

        It’s also worth nothing this already exists. Japan is >98% Japanese and severely restricts immigration.

        I found it really odd that the OP in the last thread claimed that everyone is okay with Japanese nationalism. All of Asia is not okay with it. Just witness the perennial Yasukuni Shrine issue.

        • NIP says:

          It’s less that everyone is “okay” with Japanese nationalism, and more that there’s nothing that multiculturalists can do about it. I imagine that in the rare instance when a western academic might have the chance to try to lecture a Japanese about their uninclusive and racist society, they would be told (in the most polite and circumspect way possible) to eat a bag of dicks.

          • Brad says:

            Assuming there’s an actual point in there at all, it is your point, but it wasn’t Atlas’ point from the last thread. So I’m not sure why you put this reply here.

          • NIP says:

            Come again? Is there some esoteric structure behind the simple nested comments that I’m looking at and just can’t see? I thought I was replying directly to you.

          • Brad says:

            The reply is a non sequitur as far as I can tell. Just a free association rant against “western academics” who must have run over your cat or something.

          • NIP says:

            Let’s do a quick replay.

            You: “Someone in another thread claimed everyone is okay with Japanese nationalism. This puzzles me. (Tangent into Yasukuni Shrine issue, which has nothing to do with immigration or Anon’s point.)

            Me: “When whoever it is you’re talking about (it doesn’t much matter) was saying ‘everyone is okay with Japanese nationalism’, I take it that he was probably actually implying that multiculturalists don’t make too many serious murmurs about it, because there’s jack shit they can actually do about it.”

            No one is making non-sequiturs. You, however, are being rude and obtuse, no doubt because a shitlord like me ran over your cat or something.

        • John Schilling says:

          Just witness the perennial Yasukuni Shrine issue.

          The Yasukuni Shrine issue is, at least overtly, about Japanese militarism rather than Japanese nationalism per se. And having visited the shrine and associated museum myself, I can see the point.

          Possibly there’s a second level where “Japanese militarism” is a dog-whistle for “Japanese nationalism”; I’m not well-versed enough in Japanese culture to say. But even if so, it would imply that Japanese nationalism is sufficiently entrenched and respectable that it can’t be simply attacked head-on.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I agree — Chinese aren’t upset about the shrine because of Japanese nationalism. Those Chinese don’t want to live in Japan — they want Japan to feel guilty about WWII.

    • hyperboloid says:

      White nationalism would define the only fully legitimate subjects of the state as people of biologically of European descent. Because they can’t except the assimilation of racial undesirable elements that might pollute the racial purity of the population, the only way for white nationalists to create a homogeneous polity is genocide, or massive ethnic cleansing.

      The long history in the United States of white supremacists using terrorist violence to oppose the integration and assimilation of African Americans is indicative here.

    • skef says:

      Where do people of mixed racial heritage go in the this society? What about existing couples of different races?

      • BBA says:

        Are Jews white? What about Catholics? In the mainstream the answer is obviously yes to both, but a lot of white nationalism harks back to 19th century nativism, which was explicitly arguing for a white Protestant America.

    • dndnrsn says:

      @cassander

      My position was that white nationalism, beyond being morally and intellectually indefensible, would be bloody and disastrous were it to gain power because white nationalism only exists in places that are, at least on a national level, already multiracial.

      There are places there there is a single numerically overwhelming majority group – but those places tend not to have white (or black, or East Asian, or whatever) nationalism – they have a nationalism based around the identity of the majority group. A Japanese nationalist who wants to keep Japan Japanese, keep non-Japanese out, put pressure on non-Japanese already there to leave, promote Japanese culture, is not an East Asian nationalist, and would not be happy if Japan in the future was equal parts Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

      White nationalism in the US as it exists today would involve the subjugation or deportation of almost a third of the population if done on a national level. It is implausible that this could be done without suffering and bloodshed. I have seen WNs pitching the idea of abandoning parts of the country, but I think that’s a red herring – it would involve abandoning several of the cities that play an outsize role in the national economy, for one thing.

      You are presenting a hypothetical generic nationalism – I am saying that in the context of the United States as it exists today, white nationalism would be ruinous.

      • cassander says:

        >My position was that white nationalism, beyond being morally and intellectually indefensible, would be bloody and disastrous were it to gain power because white nationalism only exists in places that are, at least on a national level, already multiracial.

        This comes dangerously close to “this animal is dangerous, when attacked, it defends itself.”

        > It is implausible that this could be done without suffering and bloodshed.

        It’s implausible that it would be so done, but it definitely could be. I outlined how above.

        >it would involve abandoning several of the cities that play an outsize role in the national economy, for one thing.

        It’s the people in those cities that make them valuable, not the dirt the city’s built on.

        • suntzuanime says:

          … isn’t that a big part of how we decide what animals are dangerous? Like, rattlesnakes don’t just slither up and bite people for fun, but we still don’t want them in our children’s playgrounds.

        • dndnrsn says:

          This comes dangerously close to “this animal is dangerous, when attacked, it defends itself.”

          How so? If white nationalism were to take power in the US, it would not be self-defence, it would be deportation or relegation to de jure second class citizens 2/3 of the population. Not self defence, except in a really twisted understanding of defence.

          It’s implausible that it would be so done, but it definitely could be. I outlined how above.

          You gave a generic example of how nationalist goals could be pursued, an example that explicitly stopped short of defining what the “people” represented by that nationalism would be. Given that white nationalism only exists in places that are already multiracial, I don’t see how it could be implemented bloodlessly.

          It’s the people in those cities that make them valuable, not the dirt the city’s built on.

          For one thing, infrastructure, for another thing, location. Cities are where they are for a reason.

          • cassander says:

            >How so?

            In a polity where everyone is one ethnic group, there’s no need for an ethnic nationalist party. Such parties only emerge when there’s a threat of that homogeneity breaking down.

            >it would be deportation or relegation to de jure second class citizens 2/3 of the population.

            how would white nationalists come to power in a country that was 2/3s not white?

            >For one thing, infrastructure, for another thing, location. Cities are where they are for a reason.

            Infrastructure is far cheaper than the costs of living in a non-homogeneous society. And while some cities are where they are for reasons, most are not, or are where they are for a reason that was really good 50 or 100 years ago but is now irrelevant.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s no such ethnic group as “white”, and the US has not been homogenous for a looooooooooong time, if it ever was.

            As for the 2/3, that was a typo, it was meant to be 1/3.

          • skef says:

            Infrastructure is far cheaper than the costs of living in a non-homogeneous society.

            It never takes long for the “I’m just asking about this academically” facade to crumble.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There’s no such ethnic group as “white”

            At the moment, not really, but the advocates of Identity Politics are trying very hard to change this. Give them time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Can an ethnic group be created out of thin air? Race is one thing – it’s a socially determined thing; someone could be considered black in one place and white in another – but there’s no ethnic group as “white” or “black” – those are racial categories. If Serbs and Croats, or Irish and English, are different ethnic groups, there can hardly be one “white” ethnicity.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            Sure, for instance the US government has created the ethnic group “Hispanic” out of thin air (it includes everyone from fullblooded Taino to the Portuguese). It doesn’t have to make sense.

          • Aapje says:

            If Serbs and Croats, or Irish and English, are different ethnic groups, there can hardly be one “white” ethnicity.

            If the Norsemen and Anglo-Saxons were different ethnic groups, there can hardly be one ‘English’ ethnicity.

            Ethnicities are not static, they develop. Go back far enough and none of these ethnic groups existed.

          • BBA says:

            how would white nationalists come to power in a country that was 2/3s not white?

            Through a flawed electoral system that allowed a party that won fewer overall votes to gain power.

            Okay, fine, those were Afrikaner nationalists, but close enough.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler:

            My impression was that the US government counts Hispanics as a cultural group, which is different from how “Hispanic”, “Latino”, etc is usually considered in the popular imagination – as a racial group.

            @Aapje:

            Yes, they develop, but slowly, and organically. You can’t just say “white is an ethnicity now”.

          • onyomi says:

            @dndnrsn

            But there already arguably is such a thing as “white American culture” as distinct from any particular European culture (though often called “Anglo-American” culture due to greater similarity and shared language), as there is definitely such a thing as a distinctive Afro-American culture as distinct from any particular African culture.

            Despite progress on racial issues, I think this process has, to some extent, even accelerated, with black Americans developing their own culture distinct from white culture, but which displays a lot of consistency from region to region in terms of speech patterns, dress, choice in music and movies, etc.

            For example, talking to old black people in the south and old white people in the south, I actually find them to be more similar to one another than young black people in the south and young white people in the south. Related, I find young black people in the north to seemingly have more in common with the black people in the south than with the white people in the north.

            I feel like there is a weird way in which these things become self-fulfilling prophecies: northern, rural white people may hear music produced in Nashville and be like “I guess this is our culture,” and southern rural black people may hear rap created in the Bronx and think “I guess this is our culture.” Which makes it sound artificial, but I think culture has sort of always been like this; maybe the weird thing is that now people who are very geographically dispersed can pick and choose the culture they want to identify with.

            That is, in the past, when differences among states and regions were greater and communication and mobility less, and regardless of institutionalized discrimination and attitudes, there was a sense in which black and white Southerners were, in reality, Southerners/natives of e. g. Louisiana first, and black or white second (maybe American third). Now, it seems to be shifting to where people are American first, black or white American second, and Southern/Northern/New Englander, Louisiana native, third.

            For this reason, though I don’t think white American nationalism or black American nationalism are good ideas, I also don’t think it’s incoherent to say that there is such a thing as a white American identity or a black American identity. A group identifying with such an identity could try moving “back” to Europe or Africa, but the difficulties would probably be somewhat analogous to European Jews moving “back” to Israel.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I would argue that the construction of ethnic groups is often greatly shaped by how other groups interact with people. IMO, identity politics is accelerating this process greatly. After a certain amount of ‘white privilege,’ ‘angry white men,’ ‘affirmative action,’ etc; many white people have gained a shared experience.

            Also, as onyomi has argued, these kind of entities are often relative (within a certain context) and badly named.

            I’ve often heard (children of) immigrants say that they feel like a member of their origin country when in their new country and feel like a member of their new country when going back. This illustrates how these identities are relative to the surroundings, rather than absolutes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi

            Is there a distinct “white American” culture? It seems to me like there are considerable regional differences, a major rural/urban divide, etc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            A shared identity group is different from an ethnic group.

            I agree that this election is likely an indicator that you have a growing number of whites who are now considering themselves as part of an identity group – vs considering themselves the “unmarked default”, “just Americans”, etc.

            But if this were to mean that there is a distinct “white American” ethnicity, that would be an ethnic group that would have popped up awfully quickly.

          • onyomi says:

            “Is there a distinct “white American” culture?”

            Yes, it’s called “NASCAR.”

            Joking aside, I’m referring to a kind of distinctive “rural, white American” culture which I think has developed. Related, I think differences among Southern accents have weakened, though “a southern accent” is still very much a thing. Conversely, it seems like, to the extent a distinctive “pan-Afro-American” culture has developed, it is more urban.*

            Which is not to say that all white Americans or black Americans share these culture, nor that there is nothing distinctive about the cultures of urban whites or rural blacks, nor that all regional differences have been effaced, just that these seem to be the more noticeable ones, and that regional differences seem to be weakening, as, unfortunately, racial identity may be strengthening (another reason I want more “melting pot” and less “salad bowl”).

            *Edit to add: after doing everything they could to cultivate a pan-Afro-American identity and a general pan-everything-but-rural white American identity block, Blue tribe is now freaking out that rural white people in Michigan and Pennsylvania may be starting to identify more with rural, Red America than with Blue, Northern, pro-labor, party of FDR America.

          • onyomi says:

            “A shared identity group is different from an ethnic group.”

            How? How do you define “ethnicity”?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Wikipedia defines it so:

            “An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities, such as common ancestral, language, social, cultural or national experiences.”

            I don’t see why white Americans can’t be seen as an ethnic group under this definition.

            Ultimately, ethnicity is something that exists when people think it does anyway. Furthermore, people can belong to different ethnicities, depending on the context.

            If a white or black American comes to my country, they will probably feel ‘American.’ If you put that white American in a black gospel church, he will probably feel ‘white.’

          • dndnrsn says:

            There are well over 200 million white Americans, descended from many different identifiable European cultures, ethnic groups, whatever you want to call them. It’s a vast agglomeration of different people who live under the same national authority and speak the same language, in a way that’s pretty unusual (considering all of human history). I think that, although there are commonalities, it’s stretching the definition of “ethnic group” a bit much – if however many million Irish are an ethnic group, and both the descendants of Irish immigrants and first-generation Irish immigrants are present among “white Americans”, as an identifiable ethnic group (after all, there are plenty of Americans who will answer “Irish” if you ask them what their ethnicity is), then surely “white American” is not an identifiable ethnic group.

            In any case, this is a red herring. Even if all 2/3 or so of Americans who are white are members of one ethnic group, it doesn’t change the considerable intellectual and moral failings of white nationalism in the US, or that any attempt to deport or subjugate the other 1/3 (and, realistically, those among the 2/3 who didn’t want any part of that) would lead to blood and chaos.

          • onyomi says:

            “There are well over 200 million white Americans, descended from many different identifiable European cultures, ethnic groups, whatever you want to call them”

            There are close to 50 million black Americans, descended from something like 46 ethnic groups who originally probably spoke >30 languages. Yet would you deny there is such a thing as a distinctive Afro-American culture?

            Again, I’m not arguing that white American nationalism or black American nationalism are good ideas; just that there is such a thing as white American culture and black American culture as distinct from any of the European and African cultures from which they descended (noting, of course, that white American culture has some African influences and black American culture some European influences as well).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            Hispanics are an “ethnicity”. But the concept is not very coherent. It cuts across races, cultures, and nations.

            https://www.census.gov/population/hispanic/about/

            The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires federal agencies to use a minimum of two ethnicities in collecting and reporting data: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. OMB defines “Hispanic or Latino” as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. Hispanic origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be any race.

            The 2010 Census question on Hispanic origin included five separate response categories and one area where respondents could write in a specific Hispanic origin group. The first response category is intended for respondents who do not identify as Hispanic. The remaining response categories (“Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano”; “Puerto Rican”; “Cuban”; and “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin”) and write-in answers can be combined to create the OMB category of Hispanic.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Onyomi:

            I’m not saying there’s no distinctive American cultures. That would be a bizarre claim for me to make. I would argue that “ethnicity as culture” works well in Europe, or Africa, or Asia, but breaks down once you get to the New World, especially the US and Canada.

          • onyomi says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m still finding the whole concept of “ethnicity” to be murky. Insofar as we use the Wikipedia definition Aapje provided, I don’t see why it would apply any better or worse to New World groups with shared cultural, linguistic, historic, and/or genetic roots than to Asian, African, or European groups with the same?

            If anything it seems to me like the concept of ethnicity, which I tend to view as being somewhat broader than “culture,” but narrower than “human,” applies more to New World groups, due to the history of migration, than to Europe, Asia, and Africa. For example, it makes little sense for me to describe “Vietnamese” the culture as an “ethnic group.” It might make sense to describe “Indo-Aryan” as a broad ethnic group as distinct from e. g. Dravidian Indians, but that’s precisely because of a history of broad migration patterns which brought two large, but not at all internally homogeneous groups into contact.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It is murky, and I’m not the one who brought it up in the first place.

            I do however think that the extent to which “all white people in the US” can be said to have shared roots is far, far weaker than the extent to which “all Irish” can be said to have such shared roots.

            Regardless, this is a bit of a tangent.

          • skef says:

            “A shared identity group is different from an ethnic group.”

            How? How do you define “ethnicity”?

            Project this question back on to what you’re most familiar with (and probably somewhat annoyed by): Is stuffy, knee-jerk academia, and the larger social milieu it’s a part of, an ethnicity?

          • John Schilling says:

            There are well over 200 million white Americans, descended from many different identifiable European cultures, ethnic groups, whatever you want to call them. It’s a vast agglomeration of different people who live under the same national authority and speak the same language, in a way that’s pretty unusual (considering all of human history).

            My ancestors came from four different European countries. I can tell you what countries those are, but I cannot find any way in which this significantly affects my beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts in any way, nor my interactions with other Americans. I cannot see how there would be any substantive difference if my ancestors had come from four different European countries.

            If my ethnicity is not “American”, what is it? If there is an “African-American” ethnicity which I am not, then is my ethnicity not necessarily “White American”?

            Or are you going to deny me ethnicity altogether? That would make it convenient for people who insist that ethnic groups have rights that need to be protected but that white people only have privileges that need to be rescinded.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Related to what John Schilling just said… one of the ways to encourage people to form groups is to give them a common enemy.

            If there’s a group which represents the interests of “people of color and LGBTQ*”, this encourages the formation of a group of “straight white people”.

            In practice this group claims to represent “women, people of color, and LGBTQ*”, which muddies things a lot as men and women are difficult to separate this way. Still, it has some effect.

          • StellaAthena says:

            My ancestors came from four different European countries. I can tell you what countries those are, but I cannot find any way in which this significantly affects my beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts in any way, nor my interactions with other Americans. I cannot see how there would be any substantive difference if my ancestors had come from four different European countries.

            Out of curiosity, when did your family come to this country? My family came here in the 1960s and 1970s from Nicaragua and it’s really hard for me to imagine feeling like this.

            If my ethnicity is not “American”, what is it? If there is an “African-American” ethnicity which I am not, then is my ethnicity not necessarily “White American”?

            I think there are political reasons that people don’t like to consider “American” an ethnicity, as the implication is that other ethnicities are “less American” than the “true american” one. Speaking as someone who isn’t part of this “true american” ethnicity, I don’t find it particularly uncomfortable, but I see why some people do.

            What do you think of as being important to your ethnic heritage. Maybe if you made a list, we could work on describing your ethnicity.

            Or are you going to deny me ethnicity altogether? That would make it convenient for people who insist that ethnic groups have rights that need to be protected but that white people only have privileges that need to be rescinded.

            Calm down and at least try to keep your strawmans directed at people who are in this thread rather than some SJ boogeyman.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling:

            What European countries someone’s ancestors come from could easily determine their religious affiliation. Some European countries – Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, among others – seem to have far stronger identification among subsequent generations.

            I’m a random NW European mishmash. If I’m “white Canadian” as an ethnicity, am I the same ethnicity as a Portuguese-Canadian person who is very, very clearly “Portuguese”, and who is white, and a Canadian? Am I “White Canadian (NOS)”? If I had to describe my ethnicity, I would probably say just that – “NW European mishmash”.

          • Randy M says:

            Out of curiosity, when did your family come to this country? My family came here in the 1960s and 1970s and it’s really hard for me to imagine feeling like this.

            My most recent immigrant ancestor was my father’s maternal grandmother from Denmark (at a young age, so maybe 1930s?); I believe there is German and English ties going back much further.

            At this point I wish we’d had a slightly stronger connection to the old world, but there was very little. I never heard growing up “We’re English” or “We’re German” etc. Other than the genetic influence, all contributions of our nationalities are filtered through American culture. So I resonate pretty well with what John said there.
            Growing up, culture didn’t mean much to me, because the US was more of a WASPy monoculture then, and because my family emphasized our religion more (which was fairly typically American). Also, I think connecting with one’s ancestors matters more once one has children.

          • skef says:

            @John Shilling

            If my ethnicity is not “American”, what is it? If there is an “African-American” ethnicity which I am not, then is my ethnicity not necessarily “White American”?

            Or are you going to deny me ethnicity altogether? That would make it convenient for people who insist that ethnic groups have rights that need to be protected but that white people only have privileges that need to be rescinded.

            I wouldn’t deny someone an ethnicity, but I wouldn’t necessarily grant someone’s sense of what their ethnicity is. “Ethnic” seems to me to be a success term. It’s not enough for a group of people to think “we are united by what our ancestors having done these sorts of things, which were distinct from what other people were doing”. It also actually has to be the case that the ancestors did distinct things. Confusingly, they don’t necessarily have to be the same things the present group has in mind. It’s probably possible to “whip up” a new ethnicity, but it would take at least few generations, and I suspect more than a few.

            A lot of what’s going on now in the U.S. is not really ethnic because there isn’t the right kind of connection between the present and the past. The claims are that the current developments are continuations of already existing ethnicities, and that the people with mis-matching heritage are “posers”. But the current practices didn’t really come about in that way.

          • skef says:

            @The Nybbler

            If there’s a group which represents the interests of “people of color and LGBTQ*”, this encourages the formation of a group of “straight white people”.

            In practice this group claims to represent “women, people of color, and LGBTQ*”, which muddies things a lot as men and women are difficult to separate this way. Still, it has some effect.

            Or you could give people a book full of statements about what is good and bad, partly constituted by such group memberships, and say “this is the law”. That might also have an effect.

          • Brad says:

            @John Schilling

            My ancestors came from four different European countries. I can tell you what countries those are, but I cannot find any way in which this significantly affects my beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts in any way, nor my interactions with other Americans. I cannot see how there would be any substantive difference if my ancestors had come from four different European countries.

            It probably depends on which four others and when. I imagine if your grandparents were from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro that might well affect your “beliefs, attitudes, values, or thoughts” and “interactions with other Americans”.

            If you want to say that the “White American” ethnicity is made up of those whose ancestors were all or mostly in the United States prior to 1890 and aren’t black, Native American, or Hispanic that’s a coherent notion. But you shouldn’t be surprised that people that don’t fit that definition — which includes quite a lot of people otherwise considered “white” — aren’t too happy with the implications of a “White Nationalism” based on such a definition.

            I wonder if an ethnicity so defined is a majority of the population even today. The Census Bureau claims that as of 2012, the White Non-Hispanic population of the United States was 62.8%. Start carving off significant chunks like Italian-Americans and that is going to drop quickly.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you want to say that the “White American” ethnicity is made up of those whose ancestors were all or mostly in the United States prior to 1890 and aren’t black, Native American, or Hispanic that’s a coherent notion.

            1890 is too far back; America is good at assimilation, and by this point I think almost everyone whose vaguely-European ancestors arrived prior to WWII is a Generic White American who maybe celebrates St. Patrick’s day a bit more vigorously than their neighbors or the like.

            For post-WWII immigrants, yes, it probably does matter where in Europe they came from.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s probably possible to “whip up” a new ethnicity, but it would take at least few generations, and I suspect more than a few.

            European-Americans have been at this for quite some time, you know.

          • skef says:

            @John Shilling

            Which is one reason “I wouldn’t deny someone [in this case of European extraction in the U.S.] an ethnicity”. That in and of itself doesn’t get you a distinction between, say, a Brooklynite disdainful of chain stores and NASCAR/country music enthusiast.

          • John Schilling says:

            Out of curiosity, when did your family come to this country? My family came here in the 1960s and 1970s from Nicaragua and it’s really hard for me to imagine feeling like this.

            Nicaragua not being a part of Europe, I am not surprised. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I think pretty much every European who arrived prior to 1945 has assimilated as a generic American, and most of the Northern Europeans who arrived later.

            My own ancestors arrived in 1870 on my mother’s side and 1930 on my father’s….

            What do you think of as being important to your ethnic heritage. Maybe if you made a list, we could work on describing your ethnicity.

            …and we don’t need your help or permission to define our ethnicity. We’re Unhyphenated Americans, and if it seems exclusionary to just call us “Americans”, well, the vast majority of Unhyphenated Americans are White.

          • John Schilling says:

            Some European countries – Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, among others – seem to have far stronger identification among subsequent generations.

            I have Scottish-Americans and Irish-Americans in my extended family; at this point that “identification” is basically a hobby for most. Hmm, maybe we could call David Friedman a Medieval-American?

            Recent Italian-American immigrants probably do constitute a distinct ethnicity in some places. Not sure about the Portugese, but I’d generally caution against presuming too much in the way of the descendants of immigrants not being actually just Americans.

          • Brad says:

            1890 is too far back; America is good at assimilation, and by this point I think almost everyone whose vaguely-European ancestors arrived prior to WWII is a Generic White American who maybe celebrates St. Patrick’s day a bit more vigorously than their neighbors or the like.

            For post-WWII immigrants, yes, it probably does matter where in Europe they came from.

            That doesn’t ring quite true to me. Descendants of Italian, Jewish and non-Jewish Eastern Europeans immigrants from 1890 to and during WWII seem to be on one side of a real line from descendants of Germans and Irish immigrants that dominated the prior wave. Maybe in another generation or two the former groups will be where the latter groups are now, but that remains to be seen.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling:

            I live in a neighbourhood that is heavily Portuguese, and the younger generations – born in Canada – are distinctively Portuguese. They speak the language, for instance. Nobody would say they aren’t Canadians, though.

            Meanwhile, my family is entirely post-WWII immigrants, and I get the feeling that we are more assimilated – not speaking the Old Country languages, not eating the traditional cuisine much – than some Europeans who came over before WWII. The dividing line seems to be that the latter are mostly South or Eastern Europeans.

            Of course, the cuisine thing could be thrown off by Italian food, which is on average markedly better than the food of NW Europe.

          • “maybe we could call David Friedman a Medieval-American?”

            Hobbies do, to some extent, play the role of ethnicity. Fellow SCA folk are likely to feel closer to me than random strangers. Also fellow libertarians. Also fellow SF readers. Also fellow economists. When we were looking at colleges for my kids, one of the things I would do was wander around the econ department getting in conversations, in part because economists will view other economists as members of the same ethnicity and so talk to them.

            I think the only conventionally defined ethnicity other than American with any salience for me is Ashkenazi. Israel felt to me more like family than other foreign countries I have visited.

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t like how some people in this thread seem to equate white ethnicity with white nationality, as if the people that recognize that there is a shared element, will then en mass break out the swastika’s.

            Anyway, I would argue that integration happens in phases, where the first wave generally defines their identity primarily by their home country. Then you get one or more generations that are between cultures and don’t feel they belong in either. Then at one point, a new generation sees themselves primarily as members of the culture of the country they migrated to and their heritage becomes more like something fun that they can dip into or out of.

            The actual speed of this process depends on many factors, including the gap between the cultures, their acceptance in the new culture, whether the old culture supports or fights against integration, whether they stand out (by skin color for example), etc, etc.

            I would guess that StellaAthena is very much in this middle generation or barely edging out of it, while Randy M is fully on the other side.

            Finally, I would want to agree with the earlier comment(s) that stated that white ethnicity is developing more and more due to exclusion and ‘othering’ by other groups. You don’t need a strong shared history, if you get lumped together by others.

            African-Americans that descend from slaves clearly have developed an ethnic awareness in the same way, despite having very different source cultures (their ancestors having come from various parts of Africa).

          • bean says:

            African-Americans that descend from slaves clearly have developed an ethnic awareness in the same way, despite having very different source cultures (their ancestors having come from various parts of Africa).

            I’d argue that their source culture is that of slavery, not the African places the ancestors of the slaves came from. I bet virtually every unhyphenated American here has at least one ancestor who came over after 1865, and that doesn’t seem to have stopped the melting pot getting rid of hyphens. The same melting pot would have been working on them both during and after the abolition of slavery.

    • Dahlen says:

      Say I believed that, on the whole, homogenous polities function better than non-homogenous ones.

      This very premise is probably the shakiest part of the white identitarian ideology. It’s just so easy to nitpick. Not only does homogeneity not necessarily entail homogeneity on the basis of whiteness or ethnicity, i.e. people might have different ideas of their primary identity group than you’d expect them to, but people vary on so many traits, that it’s possible to employ additional similarity filters to group people up until you hit the limit of the individual, and if you do so, it’s debatable that the resulting groups are doubleplusgood than they would be if more intermixing were allowed.

      But wait, it gets better. Sometimes, for some traits among some groups, people evaluate homogeneity as desirable, sometimes as undesirable — but this varies in a complex way with social distance from the group. Say, within a peer group, people simultaneously try to conform to the group norm in some ways and to differentiate themselves as individuals in other ways, all the while trying to distance themselves entirely and unambiguously from a disliked outgroup.

      But we’re not done yet this time either! Once a group reaches a critical size, cliques form within groups, and what would otherwise be a very homogeneous bunch starts to blow out of proportion tiny splits and differences that exist between them even though an outsider wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the cliques (e.g. black metal and death metal), and then they start disliking each other even more than they dislike people way more different from either of them (-> Balkanisation, Post-Partisanship is Hyper-Partisanship etc.). If we insist upon talking about race, look at the virtually all-black countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, surely the racial homogeneity must be working out wonderfully for them, that’s why they don’t splinter into thousands upon thousands of tiny tribes. Or, pick some random Eastern Bloc country (super-majority white, I bet nobody would list “white” as a primary identity group) and count the minutes until somebody starts telling jokes involving regional stereotypes.

      Sociology 101, that’s all I’m sayin’.

      Diversity always exists. Where there’s no diversity, people will work hard to create it ex nihilo. For most of us, the mention of the words “state policy should encourage homogeneity” gives us the heebie jeebies. Given that, of course some people will suspect that picking a category such as race as the foundation of social trust is more likely to come from a place of irrational bias.

    • Brad says:

      With those beliefs, what policies would I call for, in order of severity? Substantial limits to immigration from those outside the volk, however it’s defined. Public endorsement of the cultural morays of the volk and lack of recognition of other cultures. Financial incentives and subsidies for non members to emigrate, either from one part of the country to another or out of the country entirely.

      Now, personally, I support none of those policies, but none of them can I say rises even close to the level of evil. Frankly, none of them even rises to the level of racist, at best, they’re separatist. And yet we still had people claiming they can’t imagine a white nationalist movement that wasn’t literally drenched in blood. A little perspective, perhaps?

      It’s a real puzzle.

    • ChetC3 says:

      White nationalism is no more or less evil than communism.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Do you mean this in a “No such thing as evil”, or in a “They’re both pretty damn terrible” sort of way?

        • ChetC3 says:

          “They’re both pretty damn terrible,” with an emphasis on “in practice” instead of “in theory.”

      • cassander says:

        White nationalism doesn’t want to invade the none white parts of the world, murder most of the people who live there, and convert them to whiteness.

        • ChetC3 says:

          Ideologies don’t want things, people do. The people who’ve espoused the ideology of white nationalism have a lousy track record.

          • cassander says:

            Not anywhere near as lousy as that of communists. Like, an order of magnitude less lousy.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            After a few million bodies, the difference is barely perceptible.

          • ChetC3 says:

            White nationalists have been “better” than communists not because they’re less malevolent, but because they’ve managed to be even less competent. I mean, communists have at least managed to win a war or two. What have white nationalists ever accomplished?

    • oneoff2 says:

      You say that you want an all-white nation, but you’re talking about these policies like “limit immigration”, and I can’t help but notice that these policies won’t accomplish your goals. This makes me worry that you have a separate, hidden set of planned policies which will accomplish your goals, but you’re not telling us about them because they’re basically genocide. If you don’t have those policies yet, I’m worried that, after a few years of trying to limit immigration, you’re going to say: “oh, limiting immigration isn’t working, let’s come up with something that will work, it’s time to try genocide”.

      Sometimes I see articles like http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/alt-right-salutes-donald-trump.html, claiming that the alt-right are coming unnervingly close to endorsing Hitler. This make me worry that, although you personally are describing very mild policies like limits on immigration, the bulk of the people calling themselves “white nationalists” are in fact thinking about genocide.

      Honestly this feels like a motte-and-bailey to me: you’re here in the comments section telling us that white nationalism means we should limit immigration, but the white-nationalist “National Policy Institute” is in Washington shouting Nazi slogans. Which is the real white nationalism?

      • suntzuanime says:

        “Stopping digging won’t get you out of the hole, so if you don’t keep digging you must be planning to build a ladder out of the bones of innocent children.”

    • oneoff2 says:

      Also: “cultural morays” are not a thing. A “moray” is a kind of eel. I’m pretty sure you meant “cultural mores”.

  32. shakeddown says:

    So, what odds do people here give for the US splitting up within the next fifty years? (I give it about 25%).

    • hlynkacg says:

      Depends, are we counting failed rebellions?

      I think the odds of a state trying to secede and getting brutally crushed are higher than an actual break-up.

      • shakeddown says:

        Would you expect a failed rebellion to be fully annexed? It happened in the American Civil War, but most civil wars seem to be followed by some form of separation.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I honestly don’t know.

        • sflicht says:

          Would be interesting to see some political science data on that. Scanning the book of knowledge, it looks like civil wars that result in a new state (not subsuming the previous state) are the exception rather than the rule. Starting from 1550, major examples seem to be

          * The American Revolution
          * Spanish American wars of independence
          * Chinese Civil War
          * 1948 Palestine war
          * Bangladesh war of independence

          I don’t know enough history to evaluate the various civil wars in Latin America and Africa.

          Many of the most famous civil wars had more or less total victory for one side. (Arguably China’s, above, is a case of this.) E.g. English Civil War, French Revolution, Russian Revolution, …

          • shakeddown says:

            I don’t know if I’d count 1948 – It wasn’t really a rebellion, since the British pulled out before the war. (You could count it as an arab rebellion, but the arab pieces were annexed by Jordan and Egypt, so that doesn’t quite work either. 1967 is more complicated).

            Would you count the Yugoslav wars? they seem like a better example.

          • sflicht says:

            I’d say the Yugoslav wars count.

            There are also some interesting edge cases (pun intended), I believe, relating to the Caucasus border territories of the Russian Empire after the October Revolution.

          • keranih says:

            Sudan?

          • Sandy says:

            Some civil wars lead to a territory with policy powers devolved from the larger state as a concession — Northern Ireland seems like a good example, if the Troubles can be considered a civil war.

          • sflicht says:

            Sudan, I’d say, is still TBD (sadly).

      • James Miller says:

        I think if California voted to leave the Union it would probably happen since Republicans would be thrilled to get rid of so many left-wing voters.

        • CatCube says:

          Well, if it really got to that point, the parts that went for Trump form several contiguous blocks that border the rest of the country. Would they pull a West Virginia and hive off from the rest of the state? It’d mean that their votes would stop getting buried by the city-dwellers they’re sharing a border with.

          Heck, if you count the ones that went for Hillary with <50% of the vote as maybe not wanting to follow the rest of the state out of the Union, East California would be contiguous, and still pretty large physically.

          • The Nybbler says:

            East California would be contiguous, and still pretty large physically.

            And has the food and the water.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Would they pull a West Virginia and hive off from the rest of the state?

            As a resident of one of those blocks, I think that a serious attempt by SF and/or LA to leave the union would exacerbate the existing tensions between the “Urban Archipelago” and the interior and likely result in the Central Valley and Inland Empire breaking off to form their own state.

            Relations between LA and the interior have been strained for years by cultural differences, and legal battles over water rights, to the point where there has already been some half-hearted muttering about breaking California into several smaller states. Any serious talk of “Calexit” would bring these roaring back with a vengeance.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Not a Republican, but to my mind that is -another- good reason to support Calexit. Mostly I just want to normalize/regularize secession.

      • Autolykos says:

        Is there any principled argument for crushing secessionist movements supported by a majority? It seems to me that when people in a region decide that they are no longer part of a country, that country’s government loses its legitimacy for them kind of by definition (although it may be a bit more fuzzy in practice since you rarely have 100% of people wanting to leave).

        I don’t doubt that governments make up excuses (any bureaucracy will fight tooth and nail to become and stay as large as possible), but I have yet to hear one that holds water – it seems most of them could just as well justify wars of conquest (i.e. they prove way too much).

        • onyomi says:

          A majority of people who live in my house think we should be able to secede from the United States and be our own nation.

          Seriously, though, the question would be where you draw a non-arbitrary line? I don’t think there’s a principled reason to force anyone to be a part of a political organization they don’t want to be a part of, which is why I’m an anarchocapitalist.

          But assuming one has some principled objection to individual secession, presumably that objection could apply to a group of any size, unless you see some non-arbitrary line where a group or region above a certain size deserves the power of self-determination, while one below that size does not.

        • skef says:

          One problem with thinking in these broad terms is that there is no one natural form of “secession”. If the idea of the people in the relevant region is “we’re leaving now and keeping the Army divisions and aircraft carriers on this list. No debt please k thx” then there is plenty of space for argument, principled and otherwise.

          • onyomi says:

            This seems like a good reason to develop norms and conventions relating to secession, rather than a justification for the status quo, which is mostly to never allow secession under any circumstances or terms. Sort of like how we have norms and conventions about declaring bankruptcy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There are norms, but you don’t like them, onyomi.

            The norm is that secession has to be negotiated and cannot be done unilaterally. You hate that norm, but that is how skef’s complaint is dealt with as a practical matter.

          • onyomi says:

            What are the norms surrounding negotiated secession? How much does one have to be willing to “negotiate” in order for it not to count as “unilateral”? I can’t think of any obvious, peaceful, successful historical examples.

            The usual historical reaction of a territorial sovereign to suggestion of secession seems not to be “wait, you have to negotiate!” but rather, “send in the tanks; crush the rebellion.” It seems like the negotiation only happens if you repel the tanks long enough to make it not worth the trouble.

          • Iain says:

            One secession in recent history is South Sudan. Whether it counts as peaceful or successful is in the eye of the beholder.

          • onyomi says:

            I will say that it seems like most Americans, due to the Civil War (and ironically, considering the Revolutionary War), have more anti-secession priors than most others in modern, liberal democracies. Though secession of Quebec and Scotland have failed at the ballot box, for example, there didn’t seem to be any sense that Canada or the UK would be justified in using military force to stop those things happening had initiatives succeeded.

            But many or most Americans still seem to expect the tanks should, or at least, would roll, were say, Texas to secede (I disagree with this intuition, though).

          • skef says:

            @onyomi

            Sure, but historically there’s typically a real rebellion to crush. If the stance starts out with the use of force or the threat of it, things are already somewhat past the kind of “negotiation” that (I take it) you have in mind.

            I’m not sure I agree with your pessimism, though. Especially in the present climate, if Texas, say, were to deliberate and make an offer, and it were an attractive offer, I’m not completely convinced it would be rejected out of hand. But I also expect that the exercise of coming up with that offer would be pretty sobering.

            And that scenario would just be giving an individual economic powerhouse what they want! How much more sobering would it be to contemplate a bunch of red states leaving together? Does Texas want to continue to transfer the revenue streams to which some of the other states have become accustomed?

          • onyomi says:

            Though I think there would be a lot of dire warnings and hand wringing, I actually don’t think the US federal government would use military force to stop the secession of a state today, so long as it were attempted peacefully and obviously represented the will of a majority of residents (could not be construed as just fringe weirdos). Many on here have disagreed with this intuition of mine, however.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Well, look at Scotland and Brexit.

            In the one case, Scotland, we had a clear indication that the ruling government was open to a negotiated secession if it was approved via plebiscite. Had the plebiscite succeeded, you were unlikely to have seen tanks rolling in to crush the Scots.

            In the other, negotiated secession was baked into the original charter, and now those responsible for negotiations are thinking about starting to commence. The right of secession was pre-negotiated, but still not expected to be immediate or absent further discussion. I would argue that the degree of unilateral freedom in that arrangement is only made possible by the individual European states not being joined as a nation, but only a fairly loose coalition.

            South Sudan, as Iain pointed out, is an example of a negotiated secession that has not had a very positive in outcome.

            Kurdish Iraq seems like it is arguably in a far better situation by being nominally part of Iraq than it would if it had attempted to actually secede, but its autonomy is the result of both “facts on the ground” as well as negotiation.

            Think of it this way, if you can’t negotiate secession, how will you negotiate as new autonomous political entity on a new, poorly defended, political border? If I am happy to have you as a new neighbor state, why would I not negotiate your exit. If I am not, what prevents the shooting from starting?

          • skef says:

            Oh … but my optimism does ignore the tricky problem of nukes. Presumably Texas would want to be a nuclear power, but a stipulation that any country gaining independence from an existing nuclear power gets nukes as a freebie would at least complicate some aspects of present international relations.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            What I have repeatedly said is that the Texas secession would be illegal, and ruled as such. The US govt wouldn’t recognize it and Texas would be forced to shoot first.

            In fact, any binding secession plebiscite would probably not happen unilaterally, as it would likely fail at SCOTUS.

          • Iain says:

            If we’re going to talk about Quebec, I should probably mention the Clarity Act. After the 1995 Quebec referendum almost succeeded, despite (or because of) notoriously fuzzy wording on the question, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Quebec was not allowed to separate unilaterally, but that if a clear majority of Quebecois voted “yes” on a clear question, the Canadian government would be required to enter good-faith secession negotiations. The Supreme Court left some of the details of “clear” up to the legislative branch; in 2000, the Liberals passed the Clarity Act to fill in the gaps. (Somewhat ironically, the Clarity Act itself is somewhat unclear about what constitutes a “clear majority”.)

            In the end, devolution of more power to the provinces and a symbolic resolution recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada have quelled separatist sentiment for now, so the Clarity Act has never been directly relevant.

          • John Schilling says:

            But many or most Americans still seem to expect the tanks should, or at least, would roll, were say, Texas to secede (I disagree with this intuition, though)

            Note that the tanks (well, caissons) conspicuously did not roll when South Carolina seceded. Nor was there, in most contemporary accounts, any expectation that they inevitably would.

            Rather, any secession that is not accomplished by negotiated consent and/or some prior established mechanism, from a long-established political sovereignty, will inevitably result in numerous and contentious disagreements over who owns what piece of “community property”, who is responsible for what debts or obligations, etc. Some of which will be intrinsically military from the start – who owns Fort Sumter, or Pantex?

            And any group of secessionists who lack the Negotiation Fu to establish mutual consent up front, are almost certainly not going to successfully negotiate every such dispute after the fact. Sooner or later, some hothead is going to start shooting.

          • John Schilling says:

            A key difference between the US and various other secessionist movements cited as examples, is that in the other cases the secessionists represent a clear minority of the parent nation, and live in a clearly-defined geographic region. If the UK loses Scotland, we know what the result is going to look like and it’s still going to be “the UK” even if the name isn’t literally true. Canada without Quebec, ditto.

            And the United States could lose Texas, but what then for the rest of the red states? Their position in the present arrangement is tolerable with Texas’s senators and electors maintaining the political balance of power. Absent that, every force that argued for Texas seceding argues even more strongly for Oklahoma, South Carolina, Idaho, etc, etc.

            One possible outcome is that the Feds find some legalism that says Texas can go but anyone else tries it and the tanks do roll – then stamps a Blue foot down on every Red face left in the Union. Or vice versa if it is California that secedes. The other possibility is that a couple dozen states secede, representing roughly half the former US population but not in a contiguous block, and neither the United States nor the Seceded States form a viable nation. Balkanized America, with enough sources for conflict to guarantee a state of affairs comparable to the Balkanized Balkans.

          • The secession of South Sudan followed a long and very bloody civil war, so not peaceful in any reasonable sense of the term.

            The division of Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, was peaceful.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, in Czechoslovakia it was quite simple:”The Czech republic has this many people, the Slovak Republic has this many people, let’s divide everything among them based on that, except for things that cannot be moved which just stay where they are”.

            Perhaps it was not exactly 100% fair, Slovakia was poorer, so one could have argued it contributed less and hence deserved less. But it was a simple Schelling point and everyone got to agree on that easily. It was also much easier (hence also cheaper) to do in practice than more complicated schemes.

            You could have a Californian secession based on that as well – they just get to keep the proportion of federal property based on their population. California is probably one of the richer parts of the US, so it should be easy to get others to agree to that just as it was easy for the Slovaks to agree to the rules above (except that it was mostly Slovaks who wanted to split).

            Also, unlike (I think) in Sudan, the borders were very clear in the Czechoslovak case and would be clear in the Californian or any other state secession case in the US.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Tibor:
            Which made the negotiations easy, Czech wanted partition from Slovak and vice-versa (random factoid, I’m 1/4 Czech through my father’s mother, daughter of Czech immigrants. Weird family origin story was told at her funeral involving the royal guard.)

            Onyomi is asserting a universal right of secession at any and all times. No negotiation needed.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I am 1/4 Slovak! Fight me!

            … or I guess we could just put a big duct tape line down the middle of the room.

          • onyomi says:

            “Onyomi is asserting a universal right of secession at any and all times. No negotiation needed.”

            I think that is the ethical, logically consistent stance, but I’d settle for a shift of norms away from “no secession until you win a civil war” to “secession is okay so long as you negotiate in good faith on certain important matters with the group you’re leaving.”

            Though, as I said, I think we’ve already made some progress toward that in liberal democracies insofar as the UK and Canada would not likely have stopped Scotland or Quebec from seceding.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Onyomi is asserting a universal right of secession at any and all times.

            I don’t think this is quite the eccentric, extremist view you’re making out; rather, it’s implicit in the political views of most modern people, certainly in the West. If you believe in self-determination and democracy, and one part of the country votes to form a new country, then the only principled response is “Yes, you do have the right to do that.”

          • Tibor says:

            @HeelBearCub: My understanding of the split is that the Czechs would have preferred the Slovaks to stay but their attitude was more like “well if you really want to go so much, then we guess we can’t do anything about it”. Why do you think the US would want to fiercely keep California (or any other state) inside? Maybe they would though, I never understood this sentiment well. I’d be happy if the Czech Rep split into Bohemia and Moravia or even further. Smaller autonomous countries means more options for its citizens to choose the one whose laws they like. Slovaks voted introduced the Euro and they have (out at least had) a public support to back that decision. the Czechs are about 70% against the Euro currency. the way things are both can be satisfied at the same time. that wouldn’t be possible without the split.

            Similarly, I support the Scottish and Catalonian separatists. Catalonian secession might hurt Spain in the short term but I think it would be good for everyone in the long term.

        • Brad says:

          The Wilsonian self determination of peoples project has never been fleshed out in a way that it can be implemented. It sounds good, but in practice you get the Balkans.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t doubt that governments make up excuses (any bureaucracy will fight tooth and nail to become and stay as large as possible), but I have yet to hear one that holds water

          This is pretty good argument against California secession.

          • skef says:

            Mostly for the Central Valley, though. Urban areas aren’t the major users of water, and a lot of what stands in the way of desalination is uncertainty: you spend a lot of money on the plant during the drought and then it ends and you look dumb.

    • onyomi says:

      Ironically, I think a Trump presidency delays it, assuming he turns out to be less than Hitler. Because, previously, I would have guessed a Red State would sooner secede, or try to secede than a Blue state. But now Red States feel like they are in the ascendant, so it’s California’s turn to ponder secession (yes, this will be true even if many of Trump’s policies are very Democrat-y; people care more that their team is “winning” than about what their team is really doing, at least when it comes to secession-level discontent).

      But I feel like secession is less a part of Blue DNA than Red. The greatest possible accelerator would be something like the EC giving presidency to Hillary scenario mentioned above. I think the chance of that is <1%, but were it to happen, I'd say it pushes up the first serious attempt at "Texit" or something similar by 20-40 years (with Trump, I'd guess some attempt is 51% probable in the next fifty years; without, next 10-15).

      • shakeddown says:

        I agree that Trump lowers it, but I think for a different reason – I suspect he’s going to screw up pretty epically, but through corruption or personal incompetence rather than ideology. As a result, I think it’ll unify people, because they’ll be able to oppose him for nonpartisan reasons together.

    • Well... says:

      I give it 0.00001% [edited from 0%] with pretty high confidence.

      I would be more surprised if the US split up in the next 50 years than if the US grew to 51 or more states in that same time period–either by states splitting apart or by non-states becoming incorporated as states (e.g. DC, PR, etc.).

    • BBA says:

      If it does happen (which I consider extremely unlikely), it’ll be like the early Roman Empire, when they still held elections every year and claimed to still be the same Republic with its Twelve Tables and all. A state may become functionally independent but they’ll still vote for the President, fly the Stars and Stripes, and so on.

    • onyomi says:

      A related question: if you are now younger than 35, what do you rate the probability of your receiving social security and medicare in some meaningful sense (not counting disability; and by “meaningful,” I mean that if, in 2060, you start receiving SS checks for $2000/mo., but in 2060, $2000 buys a cup of coffee, I count that as not meaningful)?

      I rate it <25%.

      Which is why I rate likelihood of secession as highly as I do: we currently have unfunded liabilities equal to the value of the whole Earth. And I think it highly unlikely we'll do something about that until we're forced to. When we're forced to, it's not going to be pretty. It may not result in a secession, but I think it makes it a lot more likely than people are guessing.

        • onyomi says:

          So you see it as highly unlikely that you’ll receive social security and medicare yet also extremely unlikely that a state or group of states will secede? How do you see the liabilities getting resolved in a non-disruptive manner?

          • Well... says:

            A lot of other social programs will provide essentially the same thing.

            There might also be some generational wisening about saving for retirement.

            Kinda the same way people already get less social security than they’d hoped yet there hasn’t been a big uprising over it.

          • Brad says:

            They aren’t legally liabilities. And in the more abstract sense, the more people that don’t believe they will ever receive them the less liability-like they actually are. Cynicism, at least in this case, is a conservative (anti-revolutionary) force.

            For myself, I expect some sort of government health care in old age (if I live that long) whether it’s medicare or some more universal program. I expect social security to eventually be means tested, gradually phased in. I don’t foresee any significant disruptions related to that.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m honestly surprised the widespread cynicism isn’t already more corrosive. I, personally, think it highly unlikely I will ever benefit from SS or medicare in a meaningful sense, yet big chunks are taken out of my paycheck each year supposedly to cover them. But what I’m actually doing is just funding welfare for old people, many of whom are in much better financial shape than myself. That annoys me. And annoys me more than if it were just labeled “the being young and healthy tax.”

            Why are people not more annoyed at paying large chunks of money into a system in which many have so little faith in (and I don’t think it’s just libertarians, I think young people are broadly skeptical they can count on these programs).

          • hlynkacg says:

            I am 35 and I would put my odds of collecting SS at < 25%. I fully expect to be dead, or to have the system collapse before I am old enough to collect.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If you pay income tax, why is social security tax any different? In theory it’s supposed to be better because you get back out what you paid in, but once people stop believing in that theory, it’s still just another tax you gotta pay because otherwise they’ll yell at you, it’s not any worse than the other taxes. Now some people will consider any taxation worthy of secession, but that’s a fringe opinion.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @onyomi

            I am not annoyed about this thing, but here is some reasons why I’m less annoyed about some things than I might expect me to be:

            1. what am I going to do, start a revolution? If I’m going to be angry about my tax money being wasted then, well, I’m going to be very angry. I’m not very concerned with either my tax money being wasted or people being slaughtered by ISIS, because those events lie outside of my sphere of influence. Also, I can do a decent job of self righteous/entertaining/inspirational anger, or similarly entertaining annoyance of e.g. a disdainful kind, -so I can have a certain amount of anger/annoyance at things without it disrupting my ability to fit in socially, but I think that I am thereby limited in how annoyed I can get. That is by how much I can avoid letting such frustration show in a negative way.

            2. Cultural factors: I’ve been raised almost since birth with the idea that government is stupid and inneficient most of the time but that taxes, like death, are an inevitable, eternal, immutable institution. -Which I suppose is true in a way. But also, that their being wasted and inefficiently disposed of is, too.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Onyomi

            I don’t have sufficient lawyers, money, or guns to do anything about the issue, and as noted elsewhere when people were discussing fleeing the US, there really isn’t anyplace else to flee TO that wouldn’t be worse from the perspective of an American libertarian-ish type.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ hlynkacg
            I am 35 and I would put my odds of collecting SS at < 25%. I fully expect to be dead, or to have the system collapse before I am old enough to collect.

            In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.

          • Aapje says:

            Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.

            It’s doing fine in the sense that the retirement age is going up, which is a cut to social security. So while you are correct that there is no sudden collapse, there is a gradual reduction in benefits.

            What most people here seem to argue is not that it will go away completely, but rather, that there will be huge cuts. If these cuts are selective (like with means testing), it’s possible that some people will see far bigger cuts than others.

            For them, that can mean that they get no meaningful SS payments.

          • onyomi says:

            “If you pay income tax, why is social security tax any different? In theory it’s supposed to be better because you get back out what you paid in, but once people stop believing in that theory, it’s still just another tax you gotta pay”

            In practice I do just think of it as another income tax, but I am in favor of rectification of names. The payroll tax for social security is especially egregious and deceptive in at least a couple ways: first, I think the average person has a vague sense they are paying into some fund, and that the money they paid in comes back to them: hence eyeroll-worthy comments like “keep government out of my Medicare!”

            I don’t think most realize that the young people of today are just paying for the promises made to old people before they were born, and that to the extent the young people currently paying in can hope to benefit, it will not be because of their own payments, but because of the productivity of their as-yet unborn children and grandchildren.

            Second, there’s the charade where you “contribute half” and your employer “contributes half” for the payroll tax, which makes it sound like you and your employer are working together to plan for your retirement. In reality, of course, your employer pays all of it, which is another way of saying you pay all of it, because the cost of the payroll tax is a cost of employing someone no matter how you slice it. The “half and half” thing is entirely meaningless and deceptive.

            It’s one of the many ways, along with withholding, progressive taxation, and deficit spending, that the federal government hides its true cost from voters. I have ethical problems with taxation in general, but I can’t even think of a good steelman for why, assuming one thinks taxation is justified, that it might further be justified to hide from taxpayers just how much they’re really paying, and what for (other than “the voters are stupid and don’t know what’s good for them,” which would raise the question as to why they are allowed to vote at all, and undermines e. g. social contract-type justifications).

          • onyomi says:

            “In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.”

            I am a little surprised to hear that. I think my parents, who were in their 20s in the 70s, always expected to receive SS? What made you think in the 70s you wouldn’t?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I mean I’m in favor of the rectification of names too of course, but I don’t think it’s likely that a state or group of states will secede over it.

          • onyomi says:

            Oh no, I don’t think anyone would secede over sneaky taxation methods and nomenclature, nor even about gradual reduction in expected benefits.

            But if there comes a time when SS and Medicare fail in an obvious way it will not likely be happening in a vacuum. It might be the result of a sovereign debt crisis coming on the heels of a big recession or something. One of the main things keeping people in the Federal system other than inertia, patriotism, etc. is that, if Texas threatens to secede, the first thing the Federal government will say is “well I guess you won’t be needing your SS, Medicare, Medicaid grants, and highway funds, then?” If those promises are perceived as worthless, one of the biggest things keeping people in the system will be gone.

            I’m not saying faith in the Federal government depends (entirely) on the solvency of SS and Medicare, but rather that, if you don’t expect those things to be working in 50 years, I don’t think you should have a really high degree of certainty that the States will all stick together for 50+ years, because obvious failure in those systems would likely be symptomatic of some other, big problems.

            To the extent you think the Federal government can/will manage its debts and obligations in, if not a responsible manner (and I don’t think completely reneging on SS and Medicare-type promises will be perceived as “responsible,” though perhaps a partial renege could be), than at least not in a calamitous manner, then that would be a better reason to have more faith in no Balkanization in <50 years.

            The reason I brought up the whole naming issue, though, was just because I think that, if SS were perceived as just another welfare program paid for by the same taxes which pay for everything else, then I think the government could more easily cut it without people feeling a promise had been broken. But that’s not how most perceive it, I don’t think.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            “In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.”

            I am a little surprised to hear that. I think my parents, who were in their 20s in the 70s, always expected to receive SS? What made you think in the 70s you wouldn’t?

            I am 60 years old. I find the comments here very humorous, because they are pretty much identical to what I heard (and said myself) when I was in my 20’s (in the ’70’s). Have you specifically asked your parents what they thought back then? Although that was a lo–ong time ago, and it is hard to get back into one’s head from back then. I think one reason we thought that was because it was “obvious” that the government wouldn’t have enough money to pay SS to the baby boomers when our huge bulk became old. Now it seems like SS will happen to me in a few years, so it is a bit hard to remember my skepticism 40 years ago.

          • Tekhno says:

            In the 1970s that’s what we said. Now SS is still doing fine, and we’re glad to have it.

            Welfare programs are doing fine, because deficits and the attending debt largely don’t matter. Countries almost always outgrow their debt (it’s actually the maturity and interest payments on the debt that matter, but the media and politicians never seem to focus on that for some reason).

            However, given that a declining population is a greying population, the issue this time around is not so much about money but about manpower. A lot of the welfare state becomes dysfunctional if you don’t have enough young people to spoon soup into grandma’s mouth.

            Money isn’t that much of an issue because you can always just extend credit so long as the underlying productive factors are available. If your population greys, the dependency ratio rises, which asides from the solvency issue, creates big problems with administration. For example, you physically can’t have everyone retire, because then who is going to work for those that have retired? As the population declines, you’ll see a smaller and smaller percentage of retirement that is even physically possible.

            Age demographics for the West don’t look good, and looking over to Japan – with their abysmal age demographics – we get a decade’s glimpse ahead of where we are now. We need to watch closer and learn from the mistakes they will make, but we already have a few of our own in mind.

            You can bring in millions of immigrants as a “solution”, but whichever leader is left holding that hot potato is then kicked out in favor of a right wing populist.

            You can commence a massive die-off, but then whichever leader is left holding that hot potato is kicked out by Immortan Joe.

            In the long run, I’m optimistic about it, because I think we’ll fix the solvency problem which is really a dependency ratio problem with automation. But yeah, if we don’t go full automation before we go full grey, we’re screwed, absolutely screwed.

          • onyomi says:

            “Countries almost always outgrow their debt”

            Wait, what? I think Weimar Germany, Greece, Cyprus, and much of Latin America and Africa might have a word to say about that?

            Also, if the US gets into trouble, who’s going to bail us out? The IMF? Isn’t that mostly funded by us?

          • rlms says:

            Weimar Germany had an arbitrary amount of non-self-inflicted external debt, and should not be counted.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            You can count it all you want; even before the NSDAP came to power and decided not paying was a good idea, the republic had already paid more than half the debts imposed on them.

          • John Schilling says:

            The war reparations imposed on the Weimar republic, as of 1921, came to 41 billion gold marks plus some fake bonds that nobody actually expected them to repay. Germany’s GDP in 1921 was 79 billion gold marks, for a debt-to-GDP ratio of 52%. The US currently stands at 33% for external debt alone.

            And I’m not sure why you are counting external vs. internal debt as different things, unless you are suggesting that the United States is going to keep Social Security solvent by repudiating its internal debts. On the whole, the United States is more heavily indebted than the Weimar Republic ever was. We do have more competent and less corrupt bankers and bureaucrats, which gives us a bit of margin.

            Anyone saying, “Countries almost always outgrow their debt”, I expect to blow through that margin as fast as they can find sympathetic recipients for Other People’s Money.

          • Aapje says:

            The Weimar republic got into trouble because they had to repay in foreign currency, but they didn’t have enough trade to get that foreign currency in a normal way.

            The result was hyperinflation, which started directly after the first payment was made.

            Their debt-to-GDP ratio was mostly irrelevant to this.

          • Iain says:

            The difference is not between external and internal debts, but between debts denominated in your own currency and debts denominated in a currency you don’t control.

          • John Schilling says:

            The German war reparations were specified in German marks, not dollars or pounds or francs. Of course, these were gold marks, so ultimately the Germans had to pay their war debts in a physical commodity and the currency was merely a convenience.

            The United States ultimately has to meet its social-security obligations in commodities like Florida condominiums, buffet meals, and face time with senior citizens’ favorite doctors. Nobody cares whether the dollar value of a social security check is $X or $Y, only whether it buys the standard of living the retirees believe they were promised. And indeed, cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security are automatic and mandatory.

            So, unless you are suggesting that the United States should or will forcibly downscale the retirement lifestyle of its senior citizens, this also is a difference without a difference.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        equal to the value of the whole Earth

        No. You are confusing stocks and flows. The liabilities are $100 trillion and the world product is $100 trillion. But the Earth is worth a lot more than its one year income.

        • onyomi says:

          Thanks for the correction. The Earth is actually more productive than I thought… that’s encouraging, I guess?

      • sflicht says:

        I think the odds that I (age 29) personally receive meaningful benefits from Social Security are ~5%, maybe lower. (This is partly because I suspect they will be means tested eventually and I won’t qualify. Of course it’s plausible that means testing will erode support for SS and it will be abolished completely, but that process could take a long time to unfold.)

        Medicare seems more likely to be around in some form, but even if I qualify for benefits I expect to be paying out-of-pocket for specialized maintenance services when one of the physical avatars of my uploaded consciousness requires a tune-up.

      • Iain says:

        we currently have unfunded liabilities equal to the value of the whole Earth

        [citation needed]

        From Wikipedia:

        The annual cost of Social Security benefits represented 4.0% of GDP in 2000 and 5.0% GDP in 2015. This is projected to increase gradually to 6.4% of GDP in 2035 and then decline to about 6.1% of GDP by 2055 and remain at about that level through 2086.

        Bear in mind that Social Security is already indexed to inflation.

        Edit to add: this part also seems relevant:

        The present value of unfunded obligations under Social Security was approximately $11.4 trillion over a 75-year forecast period (2016-2090). In other words, that amount would have to be set aside in 2016 so that the principal and interest would cover the shortfall for 75 years. The estimated annual shortfall averages 2.49% of the payroll tax base or 0.9% of gross domestic product (a measure of the size of the economy). Measured over the infinite horizon, these figures are 4.0% and 1.4%, respectively.

      • skef says:

        Last I heard, the uncorrected gap in the SS rates would result in payouts around 70% of the committed rates. Has that changed, or are thinking that that money would be diverted elsewhere? (Inflation doesn’t seem like it would necessarily change that equation: payouts go up but so do contributions.)

        Edit from the same Wikipedia article:

        The balances in the Trust Fund are projected to be depleted either by 2036[20] (OASDI Trustees’ 2011 projection), or by 2038[21] (Congressional Budget Office’s extended-baseline scenario) assuming proper and continuous repayment of the outstanding treasury notes. At that point, under current law, the system’s benefits would have to be paid from the FICA tax alone. Revenues from FICA are projected at that point to be continue to cover about 77% of projected Social Security benefits if no change is made to the current tax and benefit schedules.

        So 77% eventually with the trust fund, but no figures if you assume the trust fund is fake (with the effective result of a huge regressive adjustment in overall tax rates stretching back decades into the past.)

      • BBA says:

        There is zero chance that I personally would get anything, simply because means-testing will sharply increase in the next thirty years, and I’m a man of means.

        For a typical American my age, earning median income over the course of a career and with modest financial assets, 90%.

        • onyomi says:

          Are these increases in means testing already baked in or are you just guessing they will be passed?

          • BBA says:

            I’m assuming the projected 30% shortfall will be addressed by eliminating benefits for the richest 30% rather than by cutting everyone’s benefits 30%. (Well, more likely a gradual phase-out about a certain income level than a hard cut-off, but you get my drift.) The easiest way to do this is through the tax code. I’d still get a monthly wire from the SSA, but at the end of the year I’d have to pay it all back on some obscure schedule to my 1040.

      • shakeddown says:

        Pretty high by value – as technology goes up, the cost of providing absolute (as opposed to positional) goods decreases, so SS/medicare will probably be able to cover at least what it can now, in absolute (if not neccessarily relative) terms.

      • skef says:

        I realize onyomi is asking about perspectives in this sub-thread, but since there’s a lot of pessimism, I really am interested in the rationales.

        The question is about social security (and medicare) “in some meaningful sense”. Based on current projections, it seems that incoming payroll taxes can cover about 70-80% of projected benefit levels during the retirement periods for people under 35. That seems like a still “meaningful” level. So what specifically do the people putting the chances below 25% think will happen?

        Will benefits be eliminated but the payroll tax continue, and go into the general fund? Will the payroll tax be eliminated and income taxes be increased roughly the same amount? Will taxes just go down? If not the first, why will this happen? What would be the rationale, besides making the prophecies here self-fulfilling?

        • Aapje says:

          @skef

          Medical costs will also go up greatly when the boomers collectively get old, with few working people to pay for them. So realistically, either you divert a lot of those payroll taxes to medicare; or you cut medicare; or you tax the remaining working people so heavily that they’ll get really upset.

          Polling in my country shows that people care about healthcare the most, so I strongly suspect that the first option is chosen. In fact, we are already increasing the retirement age, which does exactly that: reduce social security. It also has the added benefit of increasing the number of years that people pay tax. So it provides double the benefits of most other solutions, which makes it the obvious outcome. It’s also easy to argue for, as you can just claim to link the retirement age to the life expectancy (ignoring that the ‘healthy life expectancy’ doesn’t go up as fast).

          I fully expect that I’ll have to work until I’m so decrepit that I can’t enjoy my retirement very much, which to me, isn’t meaningful social security.

          • skef says:

            OK, I can see that. But then strictly speaking your answer to onyomi’s question should be a pretty high probability, because it was about “social security and medicare”.

            Even so, I’m not sure I see how that would work. If it’s the boomers in particular that’s of concern, it would be your pre-retirement contributions that were diverted. To have the Boomers substantially affect your retirement benefits (they’ll almost all be dead when you retire) would require some sort of debt arrangement: The “trust funds” go negative, and when you retire you’re told that you don’t get any benefits because payroll taxes then just go to paying off that debt. That’s possible, but it strikes me as less politically tractable.

            Or you might be thinking that it wouldn’t really have anything to do with the boomers, but medical costs will be so high then relative to everything else that all payroll taxes will need to be diverted to medicare for retirees at that time. I don’t find that as likely, because it would also likely mean a similar proportion of funds going to medical costs for non-retirees, which doesn’t seem tenable.

          • onyomi says:

            I would say that if it gets so heavily means tested that only the poor receive it, or if the retirement age gets pushed up to 90 by the time someone in their 30s is 90, that would be another way of saying most of us currently in our thirties or younger will not meaningfully benefit from SS or Medicare.

          • Brad says:

            I would say that if it gets so heavily means tested that only the poor receive it

            I don’t think that will be the case, but I don’t have nearly as expansive a view of what “poor” means as some do.

            I’m not trying to imply that you are such a person, I have no idea, but there are a non-trivial number of people out there that are so desperate that their own top quintile incomes be classified as middle class that they push poor all the way up to the median and beyond.

          • keranih says:

            @ onyomi

            I would say that if it gets so heavily means tested that only the poor receive it

            Eh. I’m starting to come round to the idea that obstructive red tape overly hampers the poor with weak time management skills and lower education. I am not convinced that means testing means that the poor will get aid.

          • Garrett says:

            I expect that we’ll end up having basic Medicare not covering some of the more expensive parts of getting old. High-cost chemotherapy, elderly hip replacements, that sort of thing. It’ll be based on QALYs or something else bureaucratic, but will boil down to cutting benefits.
            Looking at the data I was surprised that nursing comes only accounted for about 5% of expenditures. I’d love to see where all the money’s going.

      • Cadie says:

        I’m slightly above that (37) and I’d rate my chances of getting actual payouts that one could potentially live on at 5-10%, and of getting more-than-a-coffee Social Security at ~80%. My prediction is that Millennials and the youngest Gen-Xers will get a very watered-down form of Social Security, because we did pay into it and it’ll stay afloat long enough to pay some back to us in pathetic amounts. I could see getting a monthly check for about $100 (in 2016 dollars). That’s enough to cover your groceries or, if you live in an apartment, electric bill. But there’s absolutely no way you can use that as your main source of income.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I’m certainly not counting on it.

        If I’m wrong about it still existing and I live long enough to collect it, I’ll be very pleased. But until then I’ll operate under the assumption that I’ll never see a dime from social security. I’m aiming to follow family tradition and set aside enough to support myself without needing any external help. If it can be done on a blue collar mechanic’s salary it can be done on a PhD’s.

    • Rowan says:

      A fifty-year timescale means we have to consider Weird Shit like a near singularity; the odds of the US splitting up into into its constituent atoms so they can be made into paperclips has to be considered along with the odds of, say, Texit. I think with various types of Weird Shit that could happen over the next 50 years, esp. a gengineered pandemic, I have low enough confidence either way to say it’s around 50/50.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t think it’s at all likely that SS and Medicare go away in anyone here’s lifetime, at least not due to simple budgetary problems. I could see Ryan (or some future “starve the beast” adherent) managing to intentionally kill Medicare with a thousand cuts. I could say a true UBI making SS irrelevant and phasing it out. But “the money isn’t available” makes no sense as a reason for the program to fail.

      Just lift the cap on payroll deduction (as one example) and the budgetary problem goes away, and in a hurry, certainly for SS and probably for Medicare (although, more money for Medicare means more health inflation unless we continue to take steps to lower health inflation, something the ACA has done quite successfully). Raise the cap substantially and lower the rate (less substantially) if you want to make it really popular.

      In any case, I’m not saying that will happen, just saying that the budgetary problems are relatively minor, no matter how they are played up by people who actually want to exploit fears of the loss. There are too many ways to fix the issues.

      And it’s not like killing the programs for future beneficiaries really helps you. The people paying the taxes that support current benefits would be PISSED.

      • sflicht says:

        Lifting the payroll tax cap would raise marginal taxes on income over $106K by 15%. The top bracket marginal tax rate (income + payroll) would be well over 50%, which is in the region where even progressive economists might start believing in a Laffer curve effect.

        More generally, I don’t think this sort of fix would be at all easy to effect, politically.

        I also find Larry Kotlikoff somewhat persuasive in characterizing the US fiscal gap as a large rather than a small problem. For example table 2 of his 2015 congressional testimony compares its magnitude to the analogous gaps in other developed countries.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          More generally, I don’t think this sort of fix would be at all easy to effect, politically.

          But it’s a damn sight easier than lowering SS benefits for existing or near future retirees, which is what you will have to do otherwise. Or taking away their Medicare.

  33. keranih says:

    A question raised up thread:

    How much pre-violence headroom do people think we have in the U.S. at present?

    Two thoughts – First, I find Skef’s trail from “Trump giving the R base what they want” to”open violence in the street” to not being well laid out. I don’t think that fulfilling conservative principles means doing violence as a matter of course.

    Secondly – yeah, I do think the head room is reduced. I think it’s worrying. Two of the metrics I’m using are the Bundy action in Oregon, and the shootings of cops – both in Dallas and the more recent spate before Thanksgiving. One is “regular” anti-establishment action against the government – but on the part of right-leaning groups, rather than the left-leaning college students/BLM/etc. This is a new move by that side of the house. The other is also a new move – direct lethal attacks are very different from sit-ins, preaching at people with bullhorns, and blocking traffic.

    I think there is still quite a bit of room for people to be yelling at each other and filing frivolous lawsuits and voting for last hopes in the ballot box. But no, I don’t think that there’s as much room as there used to be.

    • skef says:

      In my defense, I’ll point out that FacelessCraven said “Trump packing the SC, or Hillary convincing the EC to elect her rather than Trump, say, are the ruin of those fundamental rules. If these sorts of things happen, it probably really is time to start fleeing for Canada.” So I’m not the only person who has the sense that passing laws by a standard constitutional process could result in violence.

      • keranih says:

        In which case, I think that FC is overstating it as well.

        Not because “passing laws by a standard constitutional process” is, in and of itself, evidence of lack of strong reason to oppose those laws. But because volunteering to participate in evaporative cooling of one’s nation is self-serving, and expecting the country to do for you, rather than vice versa.

        (Besides, as a conservative with an interest in freedom of speech, religion, and the right to bear arms, the options for immigration are pretty short. Like, non-existent.)

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Kerinah – Canada’s not that bad, really.

          If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @FacelessCraven

            If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

            Near-certainty: Riots in the red states. Possibly termed “armed uprising”, but still the same thing.

            10% probability: actual armed uprising somewhere, with some of the military involved. Quickly crushed by the rest of the military.

            1% probability: Attempted secession of Texas, failing due to mostly-internal-to-Texas reasons.

            0.01%: Effective secession of Texas, and civil war.

          • Well... says:

            If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

            Depends where you look. If you looked in your browser window, you’d see Mad Max (or, depending on your perspective, the final scene in a Disney movie). If you looked out your actual window, you’d see life continuing as normal.

            Just like when Trump won.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If the EC handed Hillary the Presidency, what do you think would happen?

            I think that A LOT would depend the Democrat’s response. The red states would be pissed but I don’t think that it would be enough to trigger widespread riots/uprising on it’s own. However, I do think that it would be something akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis or Able Archer ’83 where any single misstep has a very high probability of turning the “cold” war “hot”.

          • onyomi says:

            As someone who thinks Americans’ faith in the US federal government is a bad thing, the EC handing the election to Hillary would actually probably be the best case scenario.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nybbler – “Near-certainty: Riots in the red states. Possibly termed “armed uprising”, but still the same thing.”

            I don’t think red tribe has much of a culture of rioting.

            …In general, though, all of the above answers seem reasonable to me. We’re in uncharted waters here, after all. My suspicion is that norms have a lot to do with what people find acceptable or unacceptable, that we are generally running short on patience with each other, and that violations of norms deplete patience, whether or not they’re technically legal.

          • skef says:

            Obviously it’s hard to predict specifics accurately, but I would put the highest probability on something like this:

            1) Riots, certainly much larger than what happened in Portland. Not necessarily dramatically more (physically*) violent. More property damage to the extent there are local symbolic targets. (Federal buildings?)

            2) A subsequent combination of a) areas of individual states that fall out of state government control and b) state governments that refuse federal authority to a much greater extent than we’ve seen in recent history.

            #2 would pose the problem of Federal response. Ignore it and the nature of government substantially changes, I would guess in a much more unstable way. Intervene with Federal troops of some sort (National Guard from selected states? Looks terrible. Carefully selected individuals from the Army? Ugh.) and you have something like The Nybbler’s 10% scenario (but not necessarily at that probability). But given the time delay I’m imagining, I’m not sure it could just be “crushed” without causing a chain reaction in other areas.

            * I’m very depressed that this qualifier is necessary. There should really be a short word that unambiguously refers to a person physically harming another person.

          • Well... says:

            Why do so many of y’all think there’d be riots? I’m surprised to see thoughtful people make that prediction. Even the protests over Trump’s winning were pretty tame compared to what many people were expecting.

            If the EC vote gets overturned I could see there being a few isolated acts of violence–imagine that yahoo who got taken off the Delta flight wandering over to the local college bar with a gun in his pants–but as FacelessCraven said, the red tribe doesn’t have much of a culture of rioting.

            I think one or both of these things is going on:

            1) We just aren’t very much a culture of “get out there and break stuff” type action, and the things we think would spur lots of people to that kind of action (maybe because of the dramatic depictions of it in movies and TV) simply don’t end up doing that. I’ll go out on a limb and say even inner-city blacks probably riot less than you’d predict given their circumstances.

            2) The kinds of things needed to spur people like us into that kind of action are much more serious than a contested presidential election. (If the USA was made up of Brazilian soccer fans, on the other hand…)

          • skef says:

            Lexington, Kentucky excepted, for some reason.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Skef – Oh yeah, sports riots. I feel dumb; that completely slipped my mind. In my defense, I don’t really follow sports, but I think that’s more than enough to shoot down my “red tribe doesn’t riot” hypothesis.

          • Well... says:

            Except sports riots happen because of sports, not because of that boring stuff that happens on the news channels.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I expect it would go to the courts and the end result would be a judicial interpretation that the legislatures of the various states did not actually intend to allow electors to be faithless. This decision might be made at a lower court level, and if so the SCOTUS would not intervene. Absent a clear ruling against faithless electors which they can simply confirm, SCOTUS steps in and resolves the question. Faithless electors become not even theoretically possible.

          • skef says:

            @FacelessCraven

            Maybe, but not according to that link. I meant “Lexington, Ky excepted” literally. They’ve had four major riots (college basketball related, apparently) in the last decade, but other than that it all seems to be more north-ish towns (and some places in Canada).

            Regardless, that was a comment in partial confirmation of @Well …’s observation about the past. I think he’s seriously underestimating the perceived significance of the EC throwing to Hillary, and therefore the probability of results that have been improbable until now.

            Still, any good balancing sports riot info? Is that list just reporting-biased?

          • skef says:

            RE @HeelBearCub

            My prediction is based on the premise that the EC result stood; I’m not sure what might happen during the period when there was still a question. I would guess that’s also true of the other predictions.

          • Well... says:

            I think more people than you imagine will have a reaction approximately like this: “Oh, so Trump didn’t win after all? Oh well, that’s too bad. Now, where’s that TV show I was watching…”

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HBC

            That is a possibility that I had not initially considered but now that you mention it, it strikes me as eminently plausible.

            That said, if the EC gives the Presidency to Clinton and the USSC overturns it, what do the “Blue States” do? That will be second election in 20 years that the court has “stolen” from the people and I’d expect the resulting civil unrest to make anything we’ve seen thus far look positively tranquil.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Honestly, I don’t know.

            The scenario where somehow the EC, with electors chosen by Republicans, is convinced to vote against Trump is so bizarre, that now that I think about it, it could only really happen if Trump did something absolutely unspeakable. Standing in the middle of fifth avenue and murdering someone in cold blood. Ripping of the rubber mask to reveal he is really Putin.

            So, in that kind of a scenario, the courts don’t stop the electors.

            But if somehow George Soros planted Ds managed to infiltrate the EC? Then I think mainstream Ds basically say, no, that’s really not how our system works, and millennial get really pissed off and a bunch of them get cynical and the populace at large becomes even more susceptible to Trump’s demagoguery.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think red tribe has much of a culture of rioting.

            Right; the riots would be in the blue states that went Trump. Labor has a long cultural history of something close enough to rioting as makes no difference for our purposes, and the unemployed coal minors and factory workers who voted for The Donald have nothing less to lose and nothing better to do with their time.

            There would probably be a few red-tribe militia types who used this as cause or cover for their own version of armed resistance, which as Nybbler has noted won’t go anywhere.

            But more importantly, what are the odds that 40+ of the most loyal party members the GOP could find, are going to cast their ballots for Hillary Rodham Clinton? Not-Trump, maybe, as an extreme long shot, but to a GOP loyalist, the Not-Trump ticket is either Pence/Ryan or Pence/McMullin.

          • DavidS says:

            @JohnSchilling: regarding electors not voting for Hilary: presumably if enough voted for a third candidate she’d still get in as she’d have most votes?

            In general on this, I think overturning the EC would be massively damaging to long-term stability, trust etc. rather than likely to provoke immediate war. In this case the popular vote is a figleaf that would be used, but I think you’d definitely need to see something new and really bad to make it at all likely. E.g. Wikileaks show emails of him and Putin plotting election fraud.

          • keranih says:

            Canada’s commitment to free speech is less than impressive. Also, excessive amounts of snow. Things would have to get really bad down here for me to make that trek.

            I think lawsuits would be the first step, and threats of succession and a sharp increase in interest in forcing state/fed separation. (Think governors & state houses passing laws like the sanctuary cities have, only more so.)

            The bigly downsides is that the obvious way to distract the public from internal mudslinging is foreign adventurism, and the globe’s not short of places itching to give the next president an excuse to intervene.

            So long as the conservative wing owns most of the states (as they do) it’s not going to go to riots.

            (God, I hope I’m right.)

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            Rats, ninjad by HBC. Mine was simpler and more cynical:

            It would go to the Supreme Court, which would drag things out till those of the 1% who are always keeping an eye on the main chance, had each decided how best to serve his own interest — then they would consolidate enough to keep the peace and stabilize the country.

          • John Schilling says:

            @JohnSchilling: regarding electors not voting for Hilary: presumably if enough voted for a third candidate she’d still get in as she’d have most votes?

            For that, you’d need 270 faithless electors to all defect to the same third-party candidate. Any lesser number of faithless electors, at least 37 of whom are Republicans, just throws the election to the House of Representatives(*), which is going to chose either Trump or Pence because they want a Republican president without a constitutional crisis.

            * Unless 37 faithless Republicans decide to vote for Hillary for the instant win, which is about as likely as 270 faithless electors deciding to vote for anyone. These things are not going to happen.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well

            Why do so many of y’all think there’d be riots?

            Because this would be a major violation of the rules-as-understood. We have elections; elections decide the Presidency and other offices. There are quirks like the electoral college. Often some amount of chicanery goes on; if it decides the election there is grumbling and lawsuits and the losing side decides to try to cheat a little harder next time.

            But for 30+ Republican electors to switch from the winning candidate to the losing would be a much greater violation. Many people would draw the conclusion that the electors were coerced or that they’d been Democratic “sleeper agents” to begin with. This would mean the whole election was a sham, and undermines the legitimacy of the whole system. That’s where you’re going to get riots. Whether from labor organizations or the various already-paranoid “militia” groups or ad-hoc groups.

            @John Schilling

            Right; the riots would be in the blue states that went Trump.

            I think the riots would start in whichever states went Trump which had electors switching to Hillary, but would probably spread more generally.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the riots would start in whichever states went Trump which had electors switching to Hillary, but would probably spread more generally.

            Quite the opposite, I should think. The electors are for the most part active players in local party politics, and they aren’t going to lock themselves in a room and hide from the outside world while pondering their votes. If e.g. Florida and Arizona electors defect en masse to Clinton, this would probably be a reflection of “buyers’ remorse” not just on those forty electors, but on the population that elected them.

            If that is the case, the Republican voters of Florida and Arizona probably aren’t going to riot. And the disenfranchised Trump voters of Michigan and Wisconsin, aren’t going to wait on Florida or Arizona to give them permission to riot – it’s Florida and Arizona they are going to be rioting against.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If e.g. Florida and Arizona electors defect en masse to Clinton, this would probably be a reflection of “buyers’ remorse” not just on those forty electors, but on the population that elected them.

            I expect such defection to be more likely (and we’re still talking tiny probabilities) as a result of some sort of corruption or compromise of the electors themselves.

          • “presumably if enough voted for a third candidate she’d still get in as she’d have most votes?”

            No. If no candidate has a majority of the electoral votes the election goes to the House, which gets to choose among the three candidates with the most votes.

          • Garrett says:

            Datum:
            I grew up in Canada.
            I moved to the US due to a set of factors including those listed.
            The US may be more chaotic, but I largely prefer it.

          • “The US may be more chaotic, but I largely prefer it.”

            I can resist anything but temptation. A passage from my first novel:

            “Vales less orderly than kingdom. Kingdom than Empire. Like it that way.”

  34. Wander says:

    Here’s a question about consciousness and personal experience: do your thoughts have a “location”?
    For me, it definitely feels like my thoughts are physically contained inside my brain, that “me” as a discrete entity is “sitting behind my eyes” as I tend to describe it. I only realised how strange this is when I read a fantasy novel in which the first step of learning magic was learning to move your thoughts to other parts of your body, which really got me thinking. If thoughts are just abstractions of concepts, then why do they feel anchored on the physical world?

    • Wrong Species says:

      How much of that intuitive thinking comes from being raised knowing that thought originates in the brain?

      • A fact established in the 10th century by experiment.

        At least according to the jomviking saga.

      • Wander says:

        So would this have been a different experience back before we knew about what the brain actually does?

        • Iain says:

          You see through your eyes, hear through your ears, and smell through your nose, all of which are in close proximity to the brain. It is unsurprising that it feels like “you” are in your head, even if you have no idea what the squishy grey stuff in the middle does.

          And if you buy that, then it is interesting to speculate about how Helen Keller might have experienced the world…

          • AnonEEmous says:

            also, if your head gets hit then you have trouble thinking, in addition to usually seeing, moving, and so forth

            if it gets hit really hard, “you” stop thinking at all

            also a lot of people I think, though I’m not sure, will instinctively protect their heads, even the back part and so forth, probably more than other body parts. Why? Except we know instinctually it’s important

            then again didn’t most people in egypt think the brain was a cooling mechanism and then a lot of people thought the heart was the brain, or maybe even the soul was the brain, and so on and so forth

            that doesn’t invalidate an auto-bias towards thinking you think with your head but it does warrant some skepticism

          • But only the Norse, specifically one Jomviking, were willing to apply the experimental approach to the question.

    • skef says:

      Vision is generally considered to be the dominant perceptual capacity (in those who have it, of course). To the extent that holds, it could explain a subjective sense of one’s location as being behind one’s eyes.

      Along the lines of Wrong Species’s point, though, the heart was traditionally taken as the location of feelings, probably because strong emotions tend to be associated with somatic feelings in that area (I’ve heard arguments that emotions are those feelings). So these conventions do change.

    • Well... says:

      First off, I’m curious if you feel like your thoughts are literally behind your eyes, or just somewhere in the center of your skull. Where EXACTLY in your brain do they feel like they’re coming from?

      Second, do you also think “I’m hungry…what do I want for lunch today…” behind your eyes, or more down in your stomach?

      • hlynkacg says:

        For me discrete thoughts definitely originate “in my skull” somewhere behind my eyes/between my ears. This includes thoughts like “I’m hungry…what do I want for lunch today…”.

        On the other hand I perceive emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, rage as full body phenomena.

      • Wander says:

        My eyes feel like the front edge of “me”. The thoughts feel like they take up pretty much the entire space of my brain, not reaching my spinal cord or being anywhere else in my head e.g. jaw. They kind of have a… shape? Sometimes it’s like a line between my eyes, but it’s hard to really describe any of this stuff.
        When I feel hungry, it’s like a message relayed from stomach, then decoded and realised in my head.

    • Tekhno says:

      For me, it definitely feels like my thoughts are physically contained inside my brain, that “me” as a discrete entity is “sitting behind my eyes” as I tend to describe it.

      Yep. I think the reason for this is that when you think of yourself as a conscious entity, you think of your brain, and if your attention is drawn to a particular area, your proprioceptive attention increases in that area, causing an association to be built up between the neutral feeling of your face, eyes, head, and the concept of you being self-aware, in your memory.

      If I think about thinking, my eyes tend to subtly roll up to the perceived source in the center of my head. In a sense, you also think with your body.

      EDIT:

      To get into a little more abstract and hard to communicate realm; I have quite a few “modes” of “feeling” associated with different thought patterns I have, but they actually feel a little arbitrary to me. I feel like I could switch them if I wanted by rearranging the association between different facial expressions, proprioceptive feelings, and my thoughts. I’m scared of doing this though, because the few times I’ve actually done this it’s felt like I’ve been hacking my brain, and the change of feeling afterwards is like I’ve entered a whole new epoch of me, as if I’ve become a fundamentally different person. I’m worried that doing this will have downstream effects on the way I think of things and might decrystallize some associations I want to keep.

      If this all sounds like insane gibberish, that’s because it’s impossible to communicate things to others that they cannot themselves already experience (all explanation is ultimately intuition). So we are at the limits of language with this stuff.

      Rest assured, however, that this is how it subjectively feels inside. I have the sense that I can modify subtle aspects of consciousness that don’t even have names. The only point of connection with others is that you may also have this hard to describe feeling.

      The other explanation is that I’m completely insane and need to see a shrink pronto.

      • carvenvisage says:

        You’re definitely not insane. (based on this post). Some topics and concepts are fuzzier than others. 1 + 1 = 2 has basically no fuzzy edges. Speaking about particularities of your mind for which there is no formal/shared name would almost necessarilly involve gesturing and illustration rather than precise delineation. Anyone who takes umbridge at this is probably a superstitious moron.

        And in any case I don’t think your post even crosses very far into this illustrative realm, if at all. -It’s just abstract and hard to communicate like you say, without reading like you’re writing to yourself without regard for a more universal audience

        -I don’t know exactly what a proprioceptive feelings are, but I do know that they’re proprioceptive. and that they’re feelings, which actually narrows things down to a fairly definite area. -It’s not a poetic illustration but a delineation. But a poetic illustration would be fine too if you ask me. As would vague gesturing or even just ‘stream-of-consciousness’. I mean, who does it hurt?

    • Acedia says:

      Same here. That’s why I’ve always found it odd that supposedly some peoples in history believed the seat of consciousness was the heart or some other area – surely they could feel, as we do, that they were inside their heads?

      I’ve seen the suggestion that maybe we only feel this way due to what our culture tells us about our biology, but that doesn’t seem intuitively plausible to me.

    • dndnrsn says:

      My thoughts “feel” like they are inside my head. I imagine this is a culturally-based thing – haven’t some cultures taken the view that it’s your heart, or your guts, that are the important bits?

      Possibly related: I tend to have images come up “in my mind’s eye”, almost exclusively of places I’ve been, generally indoors. Sometimes in a way that is obviously how memory works – I associate a given subject I studied with the classroom I studied it in. Sometimes in a way that has no rhyme or reason – there is no reason that a lot of the time the “background image” is of a games shop I frequent (used to go a lot more, and the image I have of the place is actually from before it was rearranged a few years back.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      To some extent, yes; to the extent my thoughts are in physical reality, they are in my head. If I try to think of my thoughts as being in my foot, it feels innately ridiculous and nothing happens except me being amused by how ridiculous the idea is, whereas in my head in some ways makes sense. They mostly don’t feel as if they’re in physical reality, though – thoughts aren’t in the same physical realm I’m observing, they’re in the layer that is doing the observing (think of it briefly with the reality-level as the Matrix – my thoughts are part of the me that exists as a distinct entity within the Matrix, not the Matrix around me. Even though I don’t actually think I am in a VR system without my knowledge, I still think that distinction makes sense) – and “me” at least frequently feels like all my body – if anything anchored more in my torso? For whatever help that may be.

      (Sorry if that is not ideally clear, it’s a bit late here.)

  35. Anon. says:

    The cyberpunk future is now: SF’s transit system hacked with ransomware, rides are free until it can be restored. Hacker’s demands currently unknown.

    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/11/26/you-hacked-cyber-attackers-crash-muni-computer-system-across-sf/

  36. Anonymousse says:

    With the thin margin of victory and media discussion of mandates, I am curious about how much consideration should be given to the losing side’s views post-election.

    What is the historical precedence for Presidents making overtures to the other side and incorporating opposition views, particularly in close contests? For that matter, what do people here view as the President’s primary role?

    • keranih says:

      President’s primary role is to faithfully execute the duties of his office, most of which involve the enforcement of the laws passed by Congress.

      I think it’s a mistake to assume that narrow margin – such as Trump just had – is an indication of broad public support for the policies of the winner. I think that even broader margins (Clinton, Obama) don’t grant outright license to fail to look for compromise.

      • Anonymousse says:

        I asked this question because I have been wondering why the President’s personal politics should be so important. Your first point suggests that the President should function as an executor, rather than a legislator, which mirror’s my opinion.

        Recent memory has Obama functioning like a legislator to try and achieve campaign promises. Why should the president be making campaign promises he doesn’t have the ability to enforce? I can’t figure out why congressional elections shouldn’t be more important than presidential ones, or why people should put so much stock in presidential campaign promises.

        I believe this ground is likely well-tread; have you any literature to share?

        I agree with your second point.

        • Garrett says:

          It’s a big deal because the President is the Head of State. This means he represents the nation as a whole. And because he has the bully pulpit of the office to work with.

          Otherwise your point stands. Most Presidential authority could be yanked my Congress in short order, were they of one mind to do so.

    • S_J says:

      Obviously, President-Elect Trump should follow the example of the great Uniter, President Obama.

      You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.

      This speech doesn’t sound very conciliatory. Come to think of it, neither Obama nor the GOP Congress of 2013 were very good at reaching compromise with the Opposition.

      Perhaps we should reach further back, to G.W. Bush in 2006, or Bill Clinton in 1994, for examples of cooperation with the Other Party.

      However, President-Elect Trump looks to have a large partisan majority in his favor in Congress…so his position doesn’t look like that seen by many Presidents in living memory.

      • DavidS says:

        Isn’t that in the context of a very unusual show-down and resistance though? And it talks about ‘argue for it’ as well as ‘go and win elections’. It’s just saying ‘don’t hold the economy and people’s pay cheques to ransom’

        (view from a UK observer here…)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Isn’t that in the context of a very unusual show-down and resistance though?

          There was nothing especially unusual about that particular situation. The government has shut down lots of times in recent memory; most famously for an extended period when Clinton and Gingrich were feuding, but also something like seven or eight times when the Democrats in Congress were disagreeing with President Reagan. ISTR that Carter ended up in a fight with his own party that led to a shutdown as well. Somehow, the world continued to turn after all of these events.

          Journalists’ portrayals of these events as somehow unusual was one of the more vile examples of media bias in recent memory.

          • What bothered me about the public treatment of the most recent such episode was that everyone seemed to be claiming that if the debt limit was not raised, the U.S. would have to default. I don’t think I saw anyone explain why it would be necessary to stop paying interest on the debt instead of cutting some other expenditure instead.

            I think there was also a claim by Obama that Social Security was at risk, which is false for a somewhat complicated reason.

  37. Atlas says:

    Does anyone have reading recommendations about culture as it impacts group outcomes, in the style of Albion’s Seed or Thomas Sowell’s books?

    • Well... says:

      I enjoyed a book by Bruce Schneier called “Liars and Outliars”. It’s about trust and security and how those work in society. That’s not exactly what you asked for, but certainly in the same direction.

  38. Tekhno says:

    As a follow up to the left wing reply train… Let’s have a right wing reply train. Quick head count!

    Please reply below if you are part of the right wing faction of the SSC parliament.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Hard-hearted right-leaning libertarian you’ve been warned about, right here.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Yarp.

    • If libertarians count as right wing, I am on the extreme right.

      Perhaps more relevant, my gut reaction to news stories starts with the assumption that right=good, left=bad, an assumption which sometimes turns out to be mistaken on further examination of who is being labeled how and why.

    • Sandy says:

      Bismarckian traditionalist-aristocratist reporting in.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Do we really have to do this?

      It seems really unhelpful. At least Moon had the excuse that she didn’t think there were any open liberals around. We know that we exist, that’s not a point of contention. But it’s easier to get along with other posters when we’re not making gang signs at each other.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Agreed.

        That said, old fashioned god-and-guns Republican checking in.

      • NIP says:

        Ay yo famalam, don’t be like that. No enemies to the right, ‘nawmsayin’?

        http://i.imgur.com/Iyg3nqA.gifv

        *beatboxes*

      • keranih says:

        Thing for me is that making it into a binary (or tri-) based division locks people’s positions into either/or across a whole spectrum of topics. Which is, at a minimum, bad because it means discarding at least half of the available options.

        I hold that the conservative position is more generally likely to be right, but it’s not always right, and it’s frequently not as right as we like to think. Sharply dividing people is probably not as useful as looking for common ground.

        • Iain says:

          The progressive position, of course, is more generally likely to be left.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          I argue on the left occasionally, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that my contributions here, on net, mark me as right wing.

        • Tekhno says:

          I’m more interested in how many people here identify as right wing. I have some right wing and some left wing beliefs, so I purposefully identify as a centrist regardless of whether that’s true on some objective political scale (which doesn’t exist anyway).

      • Deiseach says:

        But it’s easier to get along with other posters when we’re not making gang signs at each other.

        Dr Dealgood, you can’t leave it there. You are now contractually obligated to describe the relevant gang signs for each side! I was never in a gang, I don’t know the etiquette! I need to practice!

      • albertborrow says:

        I think we do. I mean, from my perspective liberal ideas on this blog are pervasive. That being said, even if I didn’t believe that SSC was liberal, I think we need a reminder every once in a while that people actually hold different opinions.

    • sflicht says:

      I self-identify as libertarian, not as right wing, although like David my “gut feel” response to news has been right wing — especially for the last year or two.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I’m with the good Doctor. Not sure what this really accomplishes given that we know there are plenty of quote-unquote right wing posters here, given a sufficiently all-encompassing definition.

      The people critiquing the commentariat have a very wide net, the people arguing back, not so much, so what good is this sort of listing going to do? Especially since it’s “I identify as” statements, which aren’t really all that helpful in categorizing ideological groups.

      I’d suggest just waiting until the next time Scott decides he wants to try a SSC Survey, and suggest that it include something that allows the results to be filtered by post frequency (actual post frequency, not self-report) and compare that to the general “readership” numbers.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Well, on the one hand, I have a lot of contempt for people with less money, edcuation and taste than I do. But on the other hand, this contempt extends to people who are not white, so I guess that makes me right-wing.

    • Deiseach says:

      Consider myself centre-right, would describe myself as “socially conservative, fiscally liberal” but it’s been argued on here that such distinctions are currently meaningless; did a few of those online “what’s your politics?” tests and got results that make me consistently a good liberal in American terms, and apparently have managed to get myself tagged as a rabid anti-Hillary pro-Trump supporter. Sorry people, it’s even worse than that; when I vote, I vote Fianna Fáil 🙂

    • albertborrow says:

      I’m conservative, but most conservative politicians are hardly conservative about policy, so in practice I am a libertarian. Definitely right-leaning.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I would have described myself as a center-rightist when I started coming here, but I think Prof. Friedman has gotten me 90% of the way to full-blown anarcho-capitalism.

  39. Perfume And Cortisol says:

    Any thoughts on this curious guest essay at R. Scott Bakker’s blog, Three Pound Brain? Does it make sense? Specifically, does the author get away with ascribing some sort of high-level causality to semantic meaning? (This might just be an unusual formulation of compatibilism, but I am not well-versed.)

    • skef says:

      What’s the essence of postmodern, scientific mysticism, as we might think of it? In other words, what will the posthuman be doing once her vision is unclouded with illusions of personhood and so is filled with mechanisms as such? The answer must be put in terms, once again, of causality. Scientific enlightenment is a matter (literally) of being able to exercise greater control over certain systems than is afforded by those who lack scientific tools. In short, assuming we define ourselves as a species in terms of the illusions of a supernatural self, the posthuman who embraces radical naturalism and manages to clear her head of the cognitive vices that generate those illusions will be something of a pragmatist.

      But the point is that for the eliminativist, an illusion-free individual would think purely in terms of causality and of materialistic advantage based on a thorough knowledge of the instrumental value of systems.

      I agree that there are interesting, tricky issues in this general area. But I don’t think any of this both follows and is relevant. For one thing, according to the view being criticized “individuals” might not “think” in any meaningful sense, so the author’s subsequent attempts to build on internal contradictions may depend on smuggled-in question-begging intuitions. For another, even if an “illusion-free individual” might “think” in this way, it’s not a consequence of the theory that there could be an illusion-free individual. The position being criticized is meant to be descriptive, not normative. There may simply be no “shoulds” beyond those of function, and I don’t see the author as quite managing to grapple with that.

      This is a very common problem — it tends to be difficult to follow through the implications of eliminativist views. Take free will: I’ve read a number of papers that pose the problem as a partly moral one. If there is no free will, how can we punish people for doing bad things? Grant for the sake of argument that there bad things if there is no free will. The “model” for that question is something like this one: Is it right to punish someone for some loss of personal control, such as that caused by a brain tumor? That’s not obviously a bad question, and most people would say “no”. The first question is a bad one, but apparently not obviously. If there is no free will, we’re just going to punish them or not. The question is based on premises of our own self-regulation and responsibility that are negated by the other premise of the question. Here’s something you might say that isn’t obviously wrong: “Isn’t it elegant that this system has evolved to function in a way that takes into account a certain truth [such as our lacking free will]?”

      • Perfume And Cortisol says:

        Thanks for this.

        It would seem that the author meant by “thinking” what we would casually just call thinking, without the need for scare quotes, and that that distinguished it from whatever superstitious, contra-causal process is being criticized. But your free-will/punishment example was illustrative as to why that distinction is probably question-begging.

        The thing I mostly found interesting was its attempt to define everything in terms of instrumental rationality, after having given up on theory. But that might just be because I’m a sucker for minimalist ontologies.

        This is a very common problem — it tends to be difficult to follow through the implications of eliminativist views.

        Agreed.

    • The_Other_Brad says:

      Specifically, does the author get away with ascribing some sort of high-level causality to semantic meaning?

      It honestly looks like he’s just saying that the logical implication of the proposition “the self is an illusion” is the return of that old chestnut from Mr. Crowley: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

      I mean, I guess for me the real issue I have with that statement is that I sorta assumed this is how materialistic naturalists already thought.

  40. Sandy says:

    Trump is now saying he won the popular vote if the “millions who voted illegally” are subtracted. I don’t doubt that there are illegal votes, but “millions” seems unlikely to me. I really want Kellyanne Conway to take away his Twitter account forever.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      It’s going to be quite something watching all the people who were shouting unsubstantiated accusations that the election was rigged five minutes ago, flip instantly to white-hot outrage over Trump doing exactly the same thing.

      • beleester says:

        Before you try to snipe at Clinton supporters, think back to October, when Trump was behind in the polls. He was talking a lot about how the election was going to be rigged, to the point that he wouldn’t even say he would accept the results if he lost. I’m not surprised that he’s still tweeting about illegal voters, even though he’s won.

        (In fact, I should turn your accusation around on you: When Trump was behind, the election was rigged, but now that he’s the winner, it was totally fair?)

        Also, I haven’t seen Clinton supporters arguing that the election is rigged, anyway. Or rather, we’ve been complaining about legal ways of rigging the election, like reducing the number of polling stations, cutting early voting hours, or making it hard to obtain IDs. But claiming that the election was shifted by a bunch of dead guys voting twice is something I’ve seen mainly from Republicans.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Dead guys voting is a traditional Democratic way of rigging elections, at least in Chicago; making it harder to vote is a traditional Republican way.

          There have been suggestions of mass rigging via electronic voting machines from both sides. Mostly Trump supporters before the election, mostly Clinton supporters now.

          • Autolykos says:

            Maybe we could learn from that, and stop using voting machines?
            Just kidding, that would be way too sane. Eroding away the foundations of democracy by questioning the legitimacy of elections is way more fun, after all…

        • Fossegrimen says:

          (In fact, I should turn your accusation around on you: When Trump was behind, the election was rigged, but now that he’s the winner, it was totally fair?)

          Nope, it was still rigged against Trump, but he won anyway ’cause they couldn’t rig it enough.

          (Or at least that’s what’s being said on those areas of the ‘net, personally I couldn’t care either way.)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’m not surprised that he’s still tweeting about illegal voters, even though he’s won.

          Hey, I’m happy to agree that Trump is being a hypocritical jackass if you’re willing to agree that the Democrats are also being just as much hypocritical jackasses. Shall we shake hands on it?

          • beleester says:

            I’m still a bit miffed, actually. You weren’t actually calling out someone being a hypocritical jackass, you were saying “I think the Democrats are going to start being hypocritical jackasses, so I’d better get my shots in before they do.” You attacked the strawman that exists in your head, not anyone on this board.

            (Yes, that strawman probably is a real person somewhere, because every party has at least one hypocritical jackass. The fact that a potshot sometimes hits a target doesn’t make it any less of a potshot.)

            So I’m sorry, but I really don’t feel like shaking hands on this one. Your post was the equivalent of “DAE think liberals are all hypocritical jackasses?”, and I don’t think being allowed to say “DAE think Trump is a hypocritical jackass?” in response helps any. This board should be better than cheap shots like that.

          • gbdub says:

            To be fair, the Recount Dems are already being hypocritical jackasses by doing exactly what they called “horrifying” and “talking down our democracy” when Trump hypothetically kept his options open to challenge the election results back at the third debate.

            Thirteenth Letter is just hypothesizing that they will go second (or is it third now?) order hypocritical when they criticize Republicans for saying the election is rigged after Democrats said it was rigged after criticizing Republicans for saying it was rigged.

            Then again there is a fine line between “hypocrisy” and “holding your opponent to their own standards” and it’s been repeatedly muddied this post-election.

          • Iain says:

            To be even more fair: the “Recount Dems” are currently being led by the Green Party, because the Democratic party itself doesn’t want to get involved in any of this. I am not aware of any high-level Democrats who have been pushing this line. Can you point me to one?

            Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the person calling the election rigged was Trump, as high-level a Republican as it is possible to get. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that it is Trump, given that he has been tweeting about voter fraud in an election he won.

          • Randy M says:

            I heard that Hillary Clinton was in some way supporting Stein’s recount. Is that accurate?

          • Iain says:

            Here is the campaign’s official statement. Summary: we have been looking at this. We don’t think there is any evidence of wrongdoing. We don’t expect Stein’s recount to accomplish anything, but now that she has started it, we will participate in the process (loud subtext: “… to make sure that there is an adult in the room.”)

            Obama’s camp hasn’t even gone that far.

          • Sandy says:

            Jill Stein is now saying she needs $2.4 million more for the Wisconsin recount.

            I respect her hustle, at least she’s trying to get something out of this election cycle while Hillary’s literally taking a hike.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Sandy – From the sound of it, taking a hike is the much more constructive thing to do. But generally, Republicans have been pushing a voter fraud narrative for the last several election cycles, on pretty much no evidence, and have been engaging in more or less naked voter suppression. I don’t think this is the time to be throwing stones.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Actually, I’ve mostly seen crowing about how Trump’s statement “proves” there needs to be a recount. Even the winning candidate agrees, after all…

        • John Schilling says:

          Trump’s statement that millions of illegal aliens illegally voted for him? How does that even suggest a recount? The supposed ballots that were illegally cast and counted for him the first time around, will still be there and still add up the same in a recount.

          I am always annoyed by the instinctive “recount!” response to any suggestion of electoral fraud. Do people not understand that most competently-executed electoral frauds (paper or electronic) will not be detected by a recount? It’s a tool that has some specific and narrow applications, and when used outside its niche seems likely if not calculated to reduce confidence in the results.

    • Well... says:

      Can someone summarize this issue for me? I don’t read the news (but I see headlines once in a while) and internet searches don’t provide summaries of these kinds of things better than what a knowledgeable human can type in 30 seconds.

      Specifically, I’m curious why this is news at all:

      We elected Trump via the Electoral College. As I understand, individual votes are still being counted and Hillary won the popular vote. But so what? Are we learning there were EC votes that went to Trump that should have gone to Hillary instead? Is a serious attempt being made to retroactively do away with the EC? What is newsworthy here??

      Or is it just that most journalists don’t like Trump and so anything that might possibly deflate Trump’s victory is being shoved behind the megaphone?

      • shakeddown says:

        Doesn’t it bother you that the election winner has less popular support than the election loser? This doesn’t mean overturn the election – we committed to these rules in advance – but it does bother me.

        To give an opposite example: A few years ago, in the israeli election, the centre-left party gained one more seat than Netanyahu’s right-wing party, but right-wing parties gained the majority overall. If Israel had the same laws as Canada, that would automatically give them the prime ministership. Israeli law is more flexible (basically, the mainly-ceremonial president gets to decide), so Netanyahu became PM despite that. I think Netanyahu’s almost as bad as Trump, but I still think the president in that case made the right call, and it would have bothered me somewhat if the election had gone for the party with less popular support because of a technicality.

        • Well... says:

          Doesn’t it bother you that the election winner has less popular support than the election loser?

          No. First, because “less popular support” is actually a different thing from “fewer overall votes”, and second because we have an electoral college system which means the popular vote winner isn’t always the one who wins the election. It’s happened numerous times.

          (Third because I predict President Trump will be a lot like President Hillary would have been.)

          I’m basically agnostic about the electoral college, having not heard many persuasive arguments for or against. (I have yet to read David Friedman’s defense of it on his blog.) If you have an argument against the electoral college system then you should make it.

          • shakeddown says:

            There seems very little justification for it, aside from “It helped my preferred candidate win”. Why should voters in some states have more power than voters in others? Can you imagine that in a world where we went by the popular vote, people would go “but wait, we should change to an elaborate EC system”?

          • Well... says:

            It seems extreme to claim that, although deep and meticulous thought was given to many other aspects of our country’s founding documents, the EC was thrown in thoughtlessly as a needless complication.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            It seems extreme to claim that, although deep and meticulous thought was given to many other aspects of our country’s founding documents, the EC was thrown in thoughtlessly as a needless complication.

            Presumably it has something to do with the idea that most other countries, to the degree that they are made of smaller regions each giving their population a say in choosing the leader, can redistrict their voting regions when the population becomes disbalanced between them, but the USA has the idea of the existence of the states as quasi-autonomous sovereign territories baked into its politics such that, although you can redistrict within states as much as you like, redistricting at the federal level so that the borders don’t align with the existing states would be really unpopular.

            Still, I don’t think it’s a terrible idea if people are sufficiently annoyed at eg. Wyomingers having a far bigger say in who gets to be President relative to Californians.

          • Brad says:

            It seems extreme to claim that, although deep and meticulous thought was given to many other aspects of our country’s founding documents, the EC was thrown in thoughtlessly as a needless complication.

            The EC as originally envisioned didn’t last three elections. If we were still going off that model we wouldn’t know who was going to be President yet.

            It’s odd how many people — mostly Christians, but also atheists — seem to think that the “Founding Fathers” were either demigods or at least divinely inspired. You’d think it’d be heresy for both.

          • JulieK says:

            Why should voters in some states have more power than voters in others?

            The Senate is an even stronger instance of that, by the way.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ JulieK

            In the Senate this makes more sense than in the POTUS election, which has a binary outcome that lasts for at least four years. The Senate as a whole is non-binary, and you can never step in the same Senate twice.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Brad
            The EC as originally envisioned didn’t last three elections. If we were still going off that model we wouldn’t know who was going to be President yet.

            So? Finest kind. Plenty of time to sort things out,* perhaps do some parliamentary-style compromising (hopefully creative) between factions. With benefit of hindsig