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Open Thread 66.5

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

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566 Responses to Open Thread 66.5

  1. Aapje says:

    This paper shows huge academic improvements for under-performing groups after doing a goal-setting intervention. The gender credit gap closed by 98% after 1 year, putting male students almost on par with female students. The ethnic credit gap closed by 38% after 1 year and 93% after 2 years. The gender retention gap closed completely and the ethnic retention gap reduced quite a bit.

    Even though the relative improvement is less for ethnic minority students, in absolute numbers they actually benefited more, because their initial gap with the ethnic majority was much bigger than between male and female students.

    The goal-setting program merely requires the students to do 2 sessions of 2 hours each. In the first session, they write down what life they want 3-5 years in the future and what life they don’t want. In the second session, they have to write down specific goals that help them achieve the future life they want and avoid the future life that they want to avoid. Then they are asked to specify specific strategies to achieve their goals. Finally, they are asked to commit to these goals and this commitment is put on campus posters and social media, so they feel obligated to follow through on them.

    These are incredibly impressive results, given the limited effort required, especially given the large group sizes (700+ for the intervention and control groups).

    PS. I would argue that this intervention is teaching rationality to people
    PS2. This is my attempt at a positive Social Justicy thread

    • metanoid says:

      I happened to find that same paper, just yesterday.
      For anyone who is interested, you can simulate taking part in that programme online here:
      http://www.selfauthoring.com/
      They are having a new year’s special at the moment.

      I signed up, but haven’t started the course work yet.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      There are lots of papers that claim similarly large effects after similarly small interventions. There is no reason to single out this paper are particularly interesting.

    • Matt M says:

      “Finally, they are asked to commit to these goals and this commitment is put on campus posters and social media, so they feel obligated to follow through on them.”

      This would be my biggest hangup. You’re basically using social shaming to try and coerce people to achieve their goals, but what if the goals themselves were wrong? How is a teenager supposed to know what will really make them happy 5-10 years from now? How do we distinguish between “I thought about it some more and it turns out the goal I wrote down by thinking about it for 2 hours when someone forced me to do so isn’t actually the thing that will grant me long term happiness” and “I’m a lazy bum who is failing to meet their commitments because it’s too hard and I just don’t care”?

      • Aapje says:

        @Matt M

        I would argue that young people tend to live in an environment with a lot of negative social shaming. Especially among young men and some ethnic groups you have shaming of people who do well academically. Countering this with more positive shaming seems the lesser evil.

        Even if their goals are mediocre, it takes very little for them to be better than ‘don’t study hard, because that is not cool.’

        How is a teenager supposed to know what will really make them happy 5-10 years from now?

        The students who participated in this program had already chosen a field of study (in the US, colleges seem to give far more leeway to what specific field you major in, but in The Netherlands, students tend to have less choice once at the college). So they are already locking into a path somewhat at that point, with financial repercussions if they bail (and if they made a bad choice once, there is a good chance that they make a bad choice after bailing, so making this harder can be good for the average student).

        I presume that minimum acceptable goals would be ‘get a degree and get a job.’ In itself this seems decent. If a student can’t come up with better goals than ‘get a degree,’ then this seems like a good thing to do anyway. A college degree tends to have value, even if you later seek a job different from what you studied. It’s a lot better than dropping out and playing computer games all day.

        • Matt M says:

          “Even if their goals are mediocre, it takes very little for them to be better than ‘don’t study hard, because that is not cool.’”

          I mean, okay, but people who are in and/or influenced by that kind of thing aren’t likely to suddenly change their mind just because you ask them to think about their goals. If you live in an environment where studying is uncool, that’s likely to filter to your career aspirations, such that your long-term goal is not going to be “become a successful investment banker.” If you already think studying is uncool, you’re unlikely to set as a goal something that requires a lot of studying.

          • Aapje says:

            If you already think studying is uncool, you’re unlikely to set as a goal something that requires a lot of studying.

            I think that they are adolescents with incompletely developed brains, not morons.

            If you let them reason about their goals without peer pressure, I would expect them to understand that studying is more important than looking cool. When you put them in a peer pressure environment, I would expect them often to favor short term gains (approval by their peers) over the long term benefits of working hard on their education (which doesn’t pay off right away).

            The social shaming element of this intervention seems intended to make students lose face more if they don’t study hard than if they do.

          • Matt M says:

            But peer pressure doesn’t just evaporate the second you take someone away from physical proximity of their peers.

            Especially if you tell them “We’re going to hang posters around the school about how you promise to do whatever it is you say you need to achieve your goal.” Someone who knows that their peers will make fun of the nerds who have study-related goals will then not set said goals.

            I’m probably being overly critical here. I do expect that this would work better than nothing, I just think there are some pretty obvious flaws…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @MattM:
            Note that this study took place all within one class at one school. 703 students with I assume an intervention group of 350 students.

            That rules out the kind of social shaming that results from singling just a few people out. This is more like everyone realizing that all of the kids have similar goals. But I’m not exactly clear on exactly what the social interventions were.

            Now that I think about it, that means the control cohort isn’t exactly controlled.

    • James Miller says:

      Seems like the em drive: highly unlikely to be true based on priors, but would be so fantastically great if it worked out that it’s worth doing further tests.

    • Deiseach says:

      It seems to be a huge result for a basic intervention and although they claim retention rates were improved as well (so it wasn’t simply a matter of “less motivated/able first year college students dropping out in first year” as normally happens, leaving the more motivated/more able ones to continue through), I find it hard to imagine that a series of “I want a good job – to get that I need a good degree – to get that I need to study and get good exam results – to do that, cramming just before the test and not working previously won’t do” points in a plan could make that much difference.

      Surely if you’re a first year college student doing a business degree, you know this already? And if you’re only doing this because you have no idea what you really wanted to do/your family pushed you into a business degree but you would prefer to do an arts degree, deciding “I will study hard for this degree” isn’t going to work? I could see “I don’t really want to do this degree, and this exercise has clarified that for me” so people who are not really committed drop out and you’re left with the male students/minority students who really do want to get that business degree, but those claimed retention rates (on the face of it) contradict that.

      Can anyone better able trawl through that study and see what the actual drop-out rate for this intervention group versus previous years’ students were? I have a niggling feeling the result might have something to do with weeding out the really uncommitted, but I can’t get hard figures on a cursory reading, and the authors of the paper are plainly of the mind that goal-setting exercises make all the difference, not anything else.

      Let’s say the drop-out rate for this year is less than last year, but this year the people who dropped out really were the ones who didn’t want to be doing this degree, while the ones who stayed were really committed to getting it, so they made plans in advance (e.g. “tell the college about my health problems so I won’t have hassle about turning in assignments late”) to cover any problems that might crop up throughout the year.

      Last year the drop-outs included people who weren’t fit for the course but also people who didn’t anticipate that something might happen to interfere with them pursuing this degree because duh, they’re eighteen, they don’t think in those terms.

      The goal-setting exercise thus works for bringing up retention rates and closing attainment gaps not because it motivates people “I really want this degree so I’m going to work hard!” but because it gets them to think about “What could trip me up and how can I avoid that?”

      • Aapje says:

        @Deiseach

        Surely if you’re a first year college student doing a business degree, you know this already?

        My stereotype* about Dutch business schools is that they are filled with many students who have no idea what they want and thus choose a subject that is the closest to ‘I want money.’ So if anything, I’d expect fairly little self-reflection or interest in the subject matter, because otherwise they’d probably pick a different field.

        *Based on some anecdotal evidence

        Can anyone better able trawl through that study and see what the actual drop-out rate for this intervention group versus previous years’ students were?

        They seem to specify the rates for various subgroups, but without actual stating how big these groups were exactly. This makes it impossible to calculate, I think :/

        Anyway, my main issue is that the 3 control cohorts show substantial differences, suggesting big variance.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Deiseach:

        In line with our expectations, analysis of variance (ANOVA) between cohorts revealed (1) a significant increase for the intervention cohort in number of credits earned for male majority students [M control cohorts=33.32 (SD=20.45), M intervention cohort=40.90 (SD=18.04), Cohen’s d=0.39, F(1, 1506)=37.96, P=0.000] and (2) a significant increase in number of credits earned for male minority students [M control cohorts=26.42 (SD=20.01), M intervention cohort=37.95 (SD=20.49), Cohen’s d=0.57, F(1, 336)=19.85, P=0.000].

        No significant increase was apparent, however, for either female majority students [M=40.77 (SD=19.09), M intervention cohort=42.87 (SD=20.80), F(1, 544)=1.10, P=0.294] or female minority students [M control cohorts=28.24 (SD=19.78), M intervention cohort=34.06 (SD=22.26), F(1, 216)=3.22, P=0.074].

        Because 40 was the minimum number of credits to achieve without being forced out, the mean male student in the control group dropped out, and the mean male student in the intervention group was not forced out. The mean minority cohort within male comes very close to being able to stay, but not quite.

        The changes in means for the groups that were, on average, failing to continue on is fairly large: from 33 to 41 credits for males, 26 to 38 for minority males, 28 to 36 for minority females (although the study says this was last one was not significant).

        As you would expect, a program simply designed to get you to do enough to graduate doesn’t improve the performance of a cohort that is on track to graduate. Females go from 41 to 43 credits.

        • Deiseach says:

          As you would expect, a program simply designed to get you to do enough to graduate doesn’t improve the performance of a cohort that is on track to graduate.

          Which is why I am finding it so hard to accept that merely “set goals and detail how you would achieve those goals” made such a big difference.

          Are they really telling us male first year college students don’t realise, until someone makes them sit down and think about it, that they are now in third level education, the end of that is to get a degree, there will be exams and they need to pass these exams, and they’d better pull their socks up and hit the books to do so? In which case, instead of whining about the attainment gap in schools being due to lack of male teachers as role models and modern education being modeled on things girls do better (apparently that means ‘reading your textbooks, studying the material, and sitting exams’) and to engage boys what we really need is to go back to good old cut-throat competition where winners are fêted and losers are bullied, those afraid that boys are being punished by the system need to tell boys “education means learning things, learning means you have to work”.

          Is it really the case that young men go “College! Yeah! Drinking, drugs, sex! Eh, what do you mean ‘study’ and ‘exams’, nobody told me that was involved?” until some kind soul takes them by the hand and makes them write out “what do I want?”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you read the study, they posit that the main affect was simply achieved by changing the number of students who voluntarily chose to delay taking examinations (which is available to all students at will).

            This is classic procrastination behavior, rationalizing a delay of less desirable current activity. They aren’t consciously saying “I’m not going to hit the books” but saying to themselves “I will hit the books … later!” leaving themselves without enough time to accomplish all of the work they need to do “later”.

          • Deiseach says:

            I agree that making them take the exams first time round (and only re-sitting if needed), rather than slacking off and waiting until the re-sits to take them as a first exam probably did have the massive effect. For a start, you fail the exam first time round, you can put in the work on the areas you are weak in and do better on the re-sit. You fail the re-sit which is the only exam you’re taking, you’re in deep doo-doo.

            Which means it wasn’t so much the goal-setting exercise that made the difference, the college possibly could have achieved the same thing by making it the rule “first years have to sit exams at the appointed times and cannot postpone taking them until the re-sits”, without any goal-setting exercise or other intervention. In other words, a kick up the backside to get them to pay attention in class and put in the work because leaving it until the last minute will set you up to fail.

            (I really find it very difficult to believe that any college lets first years do this, unless they want to weed out a lot of the first year intake – surely they realise that a bunch of eighteen and nineteen year olds not under the same discipline as secondary school are going to loosen off the reins? If you give them the chance to dodge taking exams, they will take it!)

            If they try testing this out (surely there is a comparable business school that doesn’t let first years put off exams), and they find no differences, then they can start talking about it wuz the goal-setting exercise wot dun it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            I really find it very difficult to believe that any college lets first years do this, unless they want to weed out a lot of the first year intake – surely they realise that a bunch of eighteen and nineteen year olds not under the same discipline as secondary school are going to loosen off the reins?

            Traditionally, universities gave students a lot of leeway, as the ideology was that students are responsible for their own education. This is probably derived from their elitist origins where (male) students enjoyed a period of low expectations and lots of freedom, so they could experiment to find out what they want in life (and exit this period once they were ready to take on the responsibilities of their social class). You could call it the rumspringa of the elite.

            For a long time, it was very acceptable to take 8-10 years for a 4-5 year study program.

            In The Netherlands, this really started changing once the welfare state was reduced in scope. In the past few decades, Dutch universities have become much more school like, with credit requirements, mandatory attendance, etc.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      These datapoints are probably worth internalizing before people start opining without reading the paper:

      among first year college students (N=703) at a large European business school

      It’s a fairly large study at a single school in Europe (a Dutch school, I believe) with a specific focus. That seems important to me. Both in the sense that it mitigates at least one objection that small numbers of students at a single school (or college within a larger school) would be putting inordinate social pressure on the uncommon public naming. But also that it’s applicability to the U.S. may not be replicable.

      To the extent this pertains to Social Justice, I’d simply say that this offers incremental evidence that assuming that poor outcomes are predestined by cohort is a bad idea. Rather, it suggests that different cohorts may be more likely to have individual needs which are not being met. Long term we should be trying to assess individuals and provide the help which is optimal for them.

      • Aapje says:

        Rather, it suggests that different cohorts may be more likely to have individual needs which are not being met. Long term we should be trying to assess individuals and provide the help which is optimal for them.

        Indeed. Some groups may be engaging in self-destructive behavior that can be disrupted (which is a specific kind of individual need).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Indeed. Some groups may be engaging in self-destructive behavior that can be disrupted (which is a specific kind of individual need).

          This is a particularly negative way to put it. Also, it completely misses my point.

          Some individuals (may) need a different kind of support than is in the standard suite of supports offered at the university. When those individuals receive this support, their outcomes are affected positively.

          Those individuals may be more likely to be found in a specific cohort. But it is each individual that benefits from the previously offered support, not the cohort as a whole. Offering this particular support to, say, a B student in the cohort who has never turned in assignment late in HS will not (likely) generate increased outcomes for that individual.

          Poorly performing (on average) cohorts are likely to contain individuals in need of different support than is currently offered, and so we might look at how to identify those individuals and the relevant support strategies which will improve outcomes.

          Note also, that class in question was ~80% male. We might then wonder a) if the class was split 50/50, would it contain more females who needed this support? b) what, if any, improvements in various services might increase female representation in the business school?

        • Aapje says:

          @HeelBearCub

          This is a particularly negative way to put it.

          1. That is quite subjective. It may be that it is merely your perception is that it is negative, because of your model of reality (which may be partially incorrect).
          2. Do you actually disagree with me? I think that my statement is accurate.
          3. Why is it a problem if my statement is indeed negative (which I don’t think it is, but I am interested in your reasoning)? People are imperfect, so negative statements about people/cultures are not automatically unfair/wrong/etc, IMO.

          Some individuals (may) need a different kind of support than is in the standard suite of supports offered at the university. When those individuals receive this support, their outcomes are affected positively.

          I agree with you, but there are many different kinds of support. This intervention is not:
          – increasing the number of teaching hours
          – better/more counseling options
          – lowering standards
          – improving the financial position of students
          – policing student behavior strictly
          – etc, etc

          IMO, the reason why this intervention is so low cost is because it seeks to manipulate people into a (permanent) different pattern of behavior. This is different from changing the context (which many forms of support seek to do) or to permanently pressure people in behavior that they cannot do autonomously.

          I think that latter type of intervention, where you constantly police people, is a lot more negative than ‘interrupting self-destructive behavior,’ which is based on a considerably more positive world view (that people can autonomously act in a positive manner, once you set them on the right path).

          Isn’t this the entire idea behind the rationality movement?

          Poorly performing (on average) cohorts are likely to contain individuals in need of different support than is currently offered, and so we might look at how to identify those individuals and the relevant support strategies which will improve outcomes.

          Agreed, although I strongly suspect that this intervention is at worst superfluous for some individuals. So if these results hold up in repeat experiments, it may be worth doing for everyone (attempts at identifying the people whom will benefit, will most likely suffer from false negatives).

          But of course, this doesn’t mean that we need to end with that. Other targeted support strategies can be effective for some groups as well.

          We might then wonder a) if the class was split 50/50, would it contain more females who needed this support?

          That is trivially true, as a (relatively small) percentage of female students have these same issues. If you increase the absolute number of female students, the absolute number of female students with these issues will increase. But you probably meant something else, since this seems a trivial observation…

          Are you suggesting that if women became a larger fraction, they would become less diligent in their studying? If so, is there a reason why you would expect this?

          what, if any, improvements in various services might increase female representation in the business school?

          It seems unlikely that women are not choosing the school because of missing services, given that the main services that attract women in the workplace are ‘mother-related.’ Very few of these students have children. I also don’t see female dominated schools providing any services that the male dominated schools don’t. Of course, you can argue that we can counteract the actual reason for the difference in choices by providing services, but it seems likely to be very ineffective, compared to addressed the actual cause. Then there is the issue that I don’t believe in ‘equality of outcome,’ so I disagree with your implicit assumption that increasing female representation is automatically good.

          Perhaps there are inherent differences in interest, which means that men and women are more happy with different choices. Perhaps the problem is not that women are under-represented, but that men are over-represented. Imagine that men are choosing this school more often because of pressure to be a provider, so they choose a field that they find less interesting, for the expected higher salary. Is this something that more women should mimic or is it something that fewer men should do? Or both? The answer is extremely subjective and presumably based on how one feels about the pursuit of happiness vs the pursuit of money (and self-sufficiency & many other things).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            1. That is quite subjective. It may be that it is merely your perception is that it is negative, because of your model of reality (which may be partially incorrect).

            We have no data in this study on why the students were failing to make the required credits. You are assuming it is due to “self-destructive” behavior. There is a great deal more that could be said on this subject, but assuming “poor morality” based on poor outcomes ignores a great deal. That covers all three of your numbered questions.

            IMO, the reason why this intervention is so low cost is because it seeks to manipulate people into a (permanent) different pattern of behavior….

            Agreed, although I strongly suspect that this intervention is at worst superfluous for some individuals.

            Well, permanent is pretty damn strong, and it’s not clear to me what the “social media” component of the intervention is. Are they scheduling a monthly post to the persons facebook page of their picture with their goals super-imposed?

            More to the point, what if the reason for the need for this intervention is undiagnosed ADD or dyslexia or something else that we haven’t even named yet? If we were talking about cancer, we wouldn’t say “Well, apparently you are just self-destructive” if they had the form of cancer that did not respond to the treatment that worked for other people.

            In fact, given that we already have many people who do perform well in college, with your approach, why do we even need this intervention? Those other people don’t need it. Helping some people who need it is great, but that doesn’t mean that the people who are not helped are being well served.

            That is trivially true, as a (relatively small) percentage of female students have these same issues.

            If only 20% of the people in this known high-dropout course of study are females, we should suspect that they may be the most competent females. The high-rate of passage by females may not have anything to do with females in general.

            Or this might not be true. Perhaps females in general are just better at business college. But we can’t presume to know which is true unless we study it.

            It seems unlikely that women are not choosing the school because of missing services, given that the main services that attract women in the workplace are ‘mother-related.’

            Why are females under represented in business college? How do students form the idea that the might wish to attend business college? This business college in particular?

            The services in question are those that occur before and during the selection of college.

            We have clear evidence that the women are at least, if not more, competent than the men in the business college. Why aren’t more women going into business college? Why is’t the business college being successful in recruiting more women?

            I don’t know the answers to these questions, but we can’t just presume the answer “This is an immutable fact”. Things can change, or we would just presume that “men are bad at business college” and have never attempted this intervention in the first place.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You are assuming it is due to “self-destructive” behavior.

            If think that is a fair description when people fail to take actions to achieve their goals, even though they are capable of them.

            but assuming “poor morality”

            Hold on, that’s not what I said. I completely disagree that you can equate “self-destructive” with “poor morality.” My argument to Matt, elsewhere, was that these people often have the right morality, but fail to act on it sufficiently.

            If we were talking about cancer, we wouldn’t say “Well, apparently you are just self-destructive”

            You are misrepresenting my argument. I am not saying that all failing students are self-destructive. I am claiming that this intervention may help many of those who are under-performing due to self-destructive behavior.

            I am not claiming that this is the only problem that a student can have, nor am I claiming that this is the only intervention that should be done.

            In fact, given that we already have many people who do perform well in college, with your approach, why do we even need this intervention? Those other people don’t need it.

            It is rare that you can determine who exactly benefits. If the benefits of treatment are big and the downsides are small, it can be wise to just treat everyone.

            In medicine, it is currently accepted that large percentages of treated patients have no benefit from the treatment and instead only suffer the drawbacks. Do you propose we abandon Western medicine for this reason?

            If only 20% of the people in this known high-dropout course of study are females, we should suspect that they may be the most competent females.

            Possibly. But the average female student has a lower drop out rate than the average male student (for all colleges). So it is unlikely that this is the entire explanation.

            Perhaps females in general are just better at business college.

            Or business college is better at teaching female students. Or…

            The services in question are those that occur before and during the selection of college.

            You are expanding the definition in ways that seems unreasonable to me. We were talking about things the college can do.

            Why aren’t more women going into business college? Why is’t the business college being successful in recruiting more women?

            You keep asking the same question, but not the reverse question that I posited. This is (gender) bias on your part.

            You are framing your questions in a way that already presumes that the problem is with a lack of women, rather than a surplus of men, despite either being viable options.

            we can’t just presume the answer “This is an immutable fact”.

            I have been asking a ton of questions in response to your post and thus have done the opposite to claiming “immutable fact.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            1. I say “you are assuming it is due to “self-destructive” behavior.”

            2 You answer “[I] think that is a fair description when people fail to take actions to achieve their goals, even though they are capable of them.”

            3. Later you argue “You are misrepresenting my argument. I am not saying that all failing students are self-destructive.”

            Either 2 or 3 is incorrect. You need to pick one. You can’t equivocate between “clearly we know these students are engaging in self-destructive” and “I’m not saying that we know any of these students is engaging in self-destructive behavior”.

            You are going to object that you are only saying we know that some, who comprise a majority, of the student is engaging in self-destructive behavior. But then that just falls back to my cancer argument to which you protested so vigorously.

            If all it takes to help a teenager overcome their executive function gap is 2 hour long sessions of planning and then periodic reminders during the semester framed appropriately it seems fairly poor to frame them as being “self destructive”. You might object that you aren’t saying they are self-destructive, just that are acting as if they were self-destructive.

            Remember, some of these students would only need to be handed the books, some lecture notes, and a list of assignments and the dates of examination and the would pass. Others would only need that plus an available TA to answer questions. Some might only need that plus a set of instructional videos. It’s really not clear to me why the person who needs the executive function help that comes with regular lectures (I would be one of those people), is substantially different from one who needs slightly more executive function help.

            As to the question of women, I am simply saying that, if we are not to accept on the face of it that women are just better than men at business school, we also should not simply accept on the face of it that men are more desirous of attending business college. I find it disingenuous to fall back on the argument that you find there is no need to work towards an equal number of males and females when you are clearly happy to do more work towards graduating the males.

            We might continue to do the work and find only moderate changes. This does not mean it will be wrong to do the work, nor will it mean the work is “done”. It’s far more of a process than a task to be completed, as every new class of students is completely new.

            I’m not arguing that there “should” be more females. I’m saying that we have fewer females for reasons, and to the extent that those reasons don’t reflect some “true” desire, we should work towards making reality comport with that “true” desire.

            This is obviously an exceedingly difficult task. 50 or 100 years ago most men might not have considered it desirable to have an active hand in the care of their young children. Whereas I relished those tasks. I am quite happy to have been born when I was.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Either 2 or 3 is incorrect. You need to pick one.

            In your argument, you complained that students with cancer, ADD, dyslexia, etc would need other interventions (true, but beside the point) and implied that I consider this intervention to be a solution for their problems (“Well, apparently you are just self-destructive”), which is not what I claimed.

            My argument is that a substantial number of the students who fail, seem to engage in self-destructive behavior, but not all. You are the one who misread me as claiming that all failing students are self-destructive, when I never said such a thing. As such, your accusation that my argument lacks coherence is not correct.

            You are going to object that you are only saying we know that some, who comprise a majority, of the student is engaging in self-destructive behavior.

            I never claimed anything about a majority, especially as the majority of the students weren’t failing. I also didn’t claim that the majority of failing students were self-destructive.

            I suggested that the failing students for whom this intervention worked, most likely were self-destructive. You can easily see in the paper that this intervention worked for a minority of the failing students (if you look at retention), even for the group where it worked best. However, it still worked for a substantial minority.

            BTW. As an aside: it seems that you concluded early on that I meant all failing students with “Some groups”, which is why you reacted so strongly initially and then kept misunderstanding me. At this point I fear that this confusion has degenerated our debate into an unsalvageable mess. However, perhaps we can rebound.

            If all it takes to help a teenager overcome their executive function gap is 2 hour long sessions of planning and then periodic reminders during the semester framed appropriately it seems fairly poor to frame them as being “self destructive”.

            I don’t see how the severity of the problem can be determined from the simplicity of the solution. This is like arguing that syphilis can’t be/have been a serious infection because if you get to it early, you can treat it with a single antibiotics injection. It actually is/was an extremely dangerous disease, if untreated.

            It’s really not clear to me why the person who needs the executive function help that comes with regular lectures (I would be one of those people), is substantially different from one who needs slightly more executive function help.

            I agree, but again, this is beside the point. Because the people who fail because the education style has a mismatch with their learning needs, won’t be helped by this intervention, which doesn’t result in additional education styles being offered. The fact that the study found a big improvement, despite the intervention not offering additional education styles to students, strongly suggests that the students were not prevented from improving to this extent by a lack of additional education styles.

            I am simply saying that, if we are not to accept on the face of it that women are just better than men at business school, we also should not simply accept on the face of it that men are more desirous of attending business college.

            Fortunately, I never claimed that men are more desirous, as I preceded my statement on this matter with ‘perhaps,’ which indicates that I was offering an alternative possibility. My objection to your statements was that you seemed (in two subsequent posts) to jump to the conclusion that the problem was with the choices that women make. Due to my SJ-critical beliefs, of which you are aware, I am somewhat allergic to statements which suggest that women are prevented from/forced into certain things, when this is unproven to be the (entire) cause of the disparity and when there is no mention of the possibility that men are prevented from or forced into certain things (of course, these things can both be true simultaneously and I would argue that this is often the case).

            I find it disingenuous to fall back on the argument that you find there is no need to work towards an equal number of males and females when you are clearly happy to do more work towards graduating the males.

            The reason is that women who fail to apply to this business school aren’t necessarily worse off, as they presumably will be studying elsewhere (overall, more women are graduating than men, which suggests that if there is a group that is underserved by colleges, it is men). The mere fact that there is a gender disparity at this specific school, doesn’t tell me who is worse off. It is possible that the men at the business school are not well-placed for example, compared to their interests (which would explain the drop-out gap and why this intervention works well for them, although it is mere speculative of course). There are many colleges/courses where women are the majority of students and I am equally non-inclined to claim without further evidence that this makes men worse off for being underrepresented at those colleges/courses.

            This is different from the drop-out gap, as I can’t come up with any argument why men can be better off than women, for having a higher drop-out rate.

            Of course, I cannot deny the accusation that I am biased towards men, as such bias would make it hard for me to see my own bias. However, if I am biased, I would claim that it is well-argued bias that deserves consideration.

            I’m not arguing that there “should” be more females. I’m saying that we have fewer females for reasons, and to the extent that those reasons don’t reflect some “true” desire, we should work towards making reality comport with that “true” desire.

            Where I disagree with some people, is that they argue that all gender differences in choices/desire are necessarily caused by gender oppression. As such, they see inequality of outcome as proof of discrimination and see any intervention that reduces inequality as just. This is a very dangerous line of thinking if they are wrong (which scientific research suggests they are).

            Secondly, even if people have been conditioned into different desires, this doesn’t necessarily mean that these desires are non-true. We know that the mind is malleable. So if we condition men and women into different desires, it is quite possible that they will be happier if they get to achieve those desires. In that case, it seems abusive to force these people into equality that makes them less happy. If you do want to change this, the proper approach would most sensibly be to prevent the initial conditioning from happening.

            This is obviously an exceedingly difficult task. 50 or 100 years ago most men might not have considered it desirable to have an active hand in the care of their young children.

            I very much support the elimination of many forms of social pressure, conditioning, etc; to free people from constraints. However, I am anti-radical in that I feel that this should be gradual and not seek a predetermined final outcome, based on unproven assumptions which can be very harmful if they are wrong.

            I would argue that the last century has shown that non-radical solutions are very effective in gradually improving gender equality. Where we are going wrong, is by a lack of proper understanding of gender by the mainstream. As a result, many people who favor egalitarianism are actually defending/proposing/doing things that prevent further gradual progress and some solutions are ignored.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s a little bit ironic that you are essentially saying that you are over sensitive to any mention of women needing equal representation. First, because I never said that, merely noted that there might be interventions (somewhere) which would raise their matriculation. I think that it’s fairly obvious that whether they are undrepresented should be explored, given the wide discrepancy in outcomes, but I make no claim as to what the “correct” ratio is.

            You keep saying that you “haven’t said things”. I’m drawing inferences about your meaning. Much as I gather you inferred (correctly) that I think that women seem under-represented (although I didn’t say so explicitly).

            But the second reason is that “morality policing” by talking about how certain groups of people are “lazy” and “self-destructive” with “poor impulse control” is well-known to raise the hackles of many in social justice. That’s not a particularly obscure piece of knowledge.

            I would think, as an MRA, you would be sensitive to painting men with a broad-brush as “inappropriate” for their school behaviors. Many a parent with boys complains about how they are treated by schools.

            Of course some people are “self destructive”, but that is a fairly pejorative term, with moral implications if not explicit meaning, that has no clear definition. This study doesn’t identify any behaviors of students other than choosing to take exams later rather than sooner. We just don’t have any data to claim that self-destructive behaviors were the issue, nor do I even know what you mean by “self-destructive”. Are they alcoholics? Hard core drug users? Do they get taken by fits of anger and assault people who they feel insulted them? (Those all commonly go under the heading of self-destructive, but this is presumably not what you mean).

            Or do they choose to spend too much time on the internet the night before the exam, knowing that they “can” sit it later, but failing to do the math to realize this will leave them with an untenable amount of work at the end of the semester?

            Are those behaviors in the same category?

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            It’s a little bit ironic that you are essentially saying that you are over sensitive to any mention of women needing equal representation.

            It has been my experience that the statement ‘you are essentially saying that’ is generally followed by a complete misrepresentation of my words. Your sentence adds further supporting evidence.

            I have absolutely no problem with people arguing for equal representation. What I have an issue with is:
            1. People assuming that equal representation is automatically more just than unequal representation
            2. People assuming that unequal representation automatically reflects a biological reality
            3. People assuming that when men and women make different choices in life, this is merely because of pressure on women (and not (also) on men)
            4. People only reacting with disapproval to underrepresentation of one gender and/or only when the underrepresentation is negative for that gender
            5-1000. Etc, etc.

            I noticed 1 and 3 in your comments. Note that this is not an accusation of ill intent, as my experience is that these assumptions tend to derive from an incorrect & unconsciously biased world view (which we all have to some extent, but on this topic I would argue that my world view is less wrong).

            In hindsight, I probably bit off more than we could chew and moved too fast and with insufficient detail for you to somewhat accurately be able to reconstruct my world view based on my statements. It always hard to get this right.

            But the second reason is that “morality policing” by talking about how certain groups of people are “lazy” and “self-destructive” with “poor impulse control” is well-known to raise the hackles of many in social justice.

            I am aware that this is a common reaction in the social justice movement, however, I am not very sympathetic, as negative group based stereotypes are frequently leveled against SJ outgroups (men, white people, heterosexuals, cis, etc). SJ theory is mostly constructed around the idea that different groups have different (socially conditioned) traits. IMO, one of the main SJ failure modes is that there is severe bias against recognizing the negative traits of the ingroups and positive traits of the outgroups.

            You just now demonstrated this lack of nuance by pattern matching “self-destructive” to “lazy” and “poor impulse control.” Thereby you take my nuanced view and make it a black/white straw man. The next step is typically that it is dismissed as hate speech. The interesting part is that I claim a higher level of self-destructive behavior for both men and (some) ethnic minorities, where the former is generally accepted in SJ (toxic masculinity), while the latter is not. This is why I think the study is interesting from an SJ perspective, as I would expect it to result in cognitive dissonance in the SJ people who believe a binary oppressor/oppressed model. After all, the study suggests that men and (some) ethnic minorities have similar problems, as they benefit from the same intervention. So if one assumes that the problems of the ethnic minorities is due to oppression (to use SJ terminology), the study suggests that men suffer from the same.

            I would think, as an MRA, you would be sensitive to painting men with a broad-brush as “inappropriate” for their school behaviors.

            Well, technically, I self-identify as an egalitarian and choose to mainly focus on men’s issues as I feel that they are underrepresented in the debate (and that this prohibits a lot of further progress for men and women). ‘MRA’ has the connotation that one favors bias to men. I do get upset when men or women are inaccurately stereotyped based on scientifically disproven or unproven claims.

            Ultimately, the claim that people are “self-destructive” in a certain context applies to many groups, as it tends to be caused by a mismatch between the way that people behave and what gets rewarded in an environment. The average woman is less likely to take a gamble on accepting a job that has demands beyond the capabilities that she knows she has. This is self-destructive in the context of career advancement. In contexts where risk taking is punished, rather than rewarded, this same behavior is not self-destructive. In those contexts, the male tendency to take risks is self-destructive, instead.

            Of course, one can also argue that the environment/context is the problem and is mismatched with the behavior, rather than vice versa, but I chose to ignore this possibility to keep the discussion manageable (well, less unmanageable).

            Of course some people are “self destructive”, but that is a fairly pejorative term

            That is not how I intended it and I would suggest that it’s more rationalist to focus on the actual meaning of words, in most cases. Ultimately, most words have emotional connotations and if you try to avoid all those, you get extremely convoluted and unreadable prose.

            We just don’t have any data to claim that self-destructive behaviors were the issue

            My claim is that the outcome of the study suggests that self-destructive behavior is an issue. As such, the study is the data for my claim. I admit that this claim is weakly supported by the evidence and would merit further research.

            Are those behaviors in the same category?

            I would argue that “self destructive” is a spectrum, so yes, they are the same category, just not the same severity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            One of the reasons we are having difficulty having conversation is that you say something, I read it and respond it, and then you insist that what I read isn’t really what you wrote.

            You could try saying, “That’s not how I meant that”.

            For instance:

            Due to my SJ-critical beliefs, of which you are aware, I am somewhat allergic to statements which suggest that women are prevented from/forced into certain things

            My bolding.

            If you want to nit-pick my reaction to that statement, (enhanced by all of the statements around it), we can’t really converse.

        • Deiseach says:

          Some groups may be engaging in self-destructive behavior that can be disrupted

          But the study doesn’t say that; the authors are maintaining “we got them to write out a list of goals and how they would go about reaching those goals and then bam! immediate improvement with no further intervention!”

          They say nothing about “in conjunction with the school, those who needed extra help or allowances were given extra attention, tuition, etc.” It’s all down to the simple exercise they detail, and that’s what is puzzling me. There must be more to it than what they’re reporting in the paper – say, for instance, that while setting out goals and pitfalls a student realises that financial insecurity will disrupt their studies and so they are advised on how to apply to the college assistance fund. Interventions like that would make a difference; merely “they realised they needed to sit exams when the exams first were set rather than waiting for the re-sits” only works if the (male and minority) students are such slackers they would deliberately waste the year and only cram for the re-sits.

          I mean, that may be true, but if it is, then the underlying attitude problem is one that needs urgent addressing and “setting goals” is not the quick, cheap, universal, easy fix it appears to be on the surface.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            immediate improvement with no further intervention!

            That isn’t what the study says. Stop straw-manning it inside your own brain.

          • Deiseach says:

            That isn’t what the study says. Stop straw-manning it inside your own brain.

            Please point out to this ignorant person where in the discussion or conclusion sections of the study it states that any interventions or actions other than, or in addition to, the goal-setting exercise were used? And I don’t mean the “take photos and put them up with pledges” because that was part of the goal-setting exercise. The paper attributes all the positive results lasting over two years to this one single exercise which took place in the first few weeks of the new intake’s time at college and which was not repeated or reinforced during the period of study:

            The goal-setting intervention was delivered as part of the curriculum for a full cohort of students in the first trimester of their first year.

            The intervention required two sessions (Stages 1 and 2, described previously, below, and in the Supplementary Material) of about 2 h each. This was followed by a subsequent 10 min visit to a professional photographer (Stage 3) for a photo to be combined with a single goal statement chosen by the student and then made public (part of an “I WILL” motivational initiative already in place at the university).

            Students were required to finish Stage 1 within 2 weeks, and Stage 2 within 4 weeks, so in effect Stage 1 was due 5 weeks and Stage 2 7 weeks after college entry. Stage 3, the “I WILL” initiative was completed 1–2 weeks after that.

            So a total of around 4 hours and 10 minutes of a programme spread over the first 9 weeks of the first term at college had this drastic improvement effect.

            Or else I’m reading it wrong because I can’t see with all this straw in my eyes, right?

            From the “Discussion”:

            We hypothesized that the performance enhancement produced by this programme would be especially pronounced for previously poor-performing students, and that it might help redress both the gender and ethnicity gap. The results indicated that these hypotheses were well-founded: substantive performance gaps can be closed, apparently regardless of their origin, with a generic, scalable online intervention. Furthermore, the effects of the intervention manifest themselves within a single academic year.

            It thus appears that the goal-setting intervention assessed in this study has a strong salutary effect, improving academic performance and decreasing drop-out, particularly among male students, generally, and among ethnic minority male and female students, more specifically. Given that students had to obtain a minimum of 40 ECTS credits in Year 1 to continue to Year 2, the performance improvement was of particular consequence. Interestingly, the positive effect of the intervention continued to increase in Year 2 among ethnic minority students.

            From the “Conclusion”:

            Overall, the results demonstrate that an inexpensive, scalable, written online goal-setting programme can be used effectively and efficiently to increase educational quality and equality, by promoting improvement in academic performance and retention among students struggling in comparison to their peers, particularly if those students are male and/or from a visible ethnic minority.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            Just because the intervention happened only at the beginning and was not formally repeated, doesn’t mean that there was an immediate improvement. They checked the results after 1 year, so all we know that in that first year, the intervention group did better. The paper explicitly argues that for the ethnic minority subgroup, the second year saw a much bigger improvement than the first year. That strongly suggests that it took many of them about a year to ‘get with it,’ which is far from immediate.

            PS. Just because there were no further sessions, we cannot conclude that the students were not confronted with their goals/plans by others than the researchers, such as teachers, other students, family, etc. It is possible that the intervention became self-sustaining.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            Their were (at least) 3 stages to the intervention which took place at 3 different times in the semester.

            In addition, those interventions were done as work for their tutor.

            Their tutor.

            They set goals with their tutor. You think they might have come up later?

            In addition, we have this “Stage 3 comprised the photo and “I WILL” statement with their ambition and goals, as a form of public commitment (Hollenbeck et al., 1989) transmitted through campus posters and via social media such as Facebook.

            So they didn’t sit down for a few minutes and dash off a list and stuff it in their knapsack. They had a multi-stage goal setting process, assigned as work by their tutor, after which they made a public commitment to adhere to them.

          • Deiseach says:

            Their were (at least) 3 stages to the intervention which took place at 3 different times in the semester.

            HeelBearCub: online work, in two sessions, with a gap of a couple of weeks between them, in the first term of a three year course, and one of those three stages was a ten-minute session to have their photo taken. And it was not “at least”, according to the paper, it was “three stages only”.

            They set goals with their tutor. You think they might have come up later?

            That’s the point I’m trying to make. The paper suggests the exercise itself was the one single solution. There was nothing about “And the students were monitored by their tutors throughout the year to make sure they were achieving their goals in accordance with the plan, and the plan was re-drafted as necessary if circumstances changed”.

            I’m sure there was more to it than “We got students to do this exercise and it made these drastic changes”. If, as you suggest, underperforming students were being monitored and supported and nudged by their tutors all year in addition to whatever discipline the college expects first years to have, that makes the difference.

            Which changes the conclusion of the paper: it is not one cheap, easy, one-off “get them to do this goal-setting exercise” that made the difference, it is the constant monitoring by tutors and reminding the students of their agreed behaviours in accordance with the plan.

            That’s what I want to know. That’s what I want to find out: did something like this happen? That’s not what I’m reading in the paper – going by the paper, it’s “Here’s one weird trick that will graduate all your students!”

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            I disagree that you should consider any behavioral change on the part of the teachers as an additional effort that had to be made as part of the intervention, as these people were not trained or instructed. So if they changed their habits, it was presumably in response to the rather minimal intervention.

            Essentially, your objection would also apply to cancer immunotherapy, where you could claim that the intervention didn’t do much, it was the immune system that did the work. However, there is still a causal chain: immunotherapy -> changed immune system -> healing.

            Similarly, this intervention may have a chain like this: intervention for students -> students communicate their goals -> teachers hold students to their goals -> better education outcomes (although the actual chain may be a lot more complex, with multiple paths by which it improves outcomes).

            Which changes the conclusion of the paper: it is not one cheap, easy, one-off “get them to do this goal-setting exercise” that made the difference, it is the constant monitoring by tutors and reminding the students of their agreed behaviours in accordance with the plan.

            If the same number of teachers become more effective at teaching and this change comes merely from introducing this intervention, then this intervention is a ‘cheap, easy, one-off’ way to make teachers teach better*.

            * Which they presumably can only do because the students become more susceptible to this.

            That’s what I want to know. That’s what I want to find out: did something like this happen? That’s not what I’m reading in the paper

            Isn’t this a common order of things?:
            1. Hypothesize why a problems exists
            2. Come up with a good solution that ought to work if the hypothesis is true
            3. Implement the solution to see if it actually works
            4. Figure out whether it works because the hypothesis is true or for another reason.

            You seem to blame this paper for being step 3 and not step 4, but doing step 4 generally requires different methodology and more effort. So it seems very reasonable to do 3 first (and replicate it a few times).

    • Shion Arita says:

      This doesn’t surprise me at all intuitively, for a couple of reasons:

      One: it’s been known for a long time that to a large extent people become what they say they are, even if they are made to say it in an artificial setting.

      two: it’s very uncommon that people ask of themselves, “how do I want things to go?”, and doing so is the key to succes at least in my experience. I don’t know if it’s sufficient, but it is definitely necessary to get what you want.

    • sohois says:

      This took place at my school apparently. That being said, it seems a bit disingenuous to refer to the students as being from RSM if they are undergraduates, instead of just saying they were enrolled at Erasmus University. Saying the students came from a business school gives a different idea of the type of person, but typically you would not consider an undergraduate to be part of a business school, even if the administration was run by people from RSM.

    • Salem says:

      There are literally hundreds of papers on these tiny positive interventions, and when scaled up they never work. As someone much wiser than me said, “Name me a pilot project that wasn’t successful.”

      We can think of all the reasons why, but more fascinating to me is why people continue to search for the One Weird Trick.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m considering using Evernote. Any thoughts about it or other organizers?

    Recommends Evernote supplemented with Alternote

  3. Protagoras says:

    Just thought I would draw people’s attention to the latest post by my favorite Marxist blogger. Obviously relevant to the social justice discussions that are always so popular around here.

    • cassander says:

      I see somehow here who has a slight glimmering of self awareness, but fails to really apply his critique to his own thinking, But perhaps I’m being un-fair.

      • Protagoras says:

        What a wonderfully vague criticism! Perhaps I should use it on some of the conservatives around here; it seems like it would often apply (vagueness is useful for that!)

      • Jiro says:

        He’s complaining that the wrong type of leftists are using standardized phrases such as “racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia”, while ignoring that he, the correct type of leftist, blithely speaks of “the appropriation, by a ruling class, of a surplus of goods they have not produced, both for their own enjoyment and in order to reinforce their ability to continue the appropriation”. That’s not an analysis; it’s just a standard Marxist credo which is no better than the ones repeated by the wrong kind of leftist. He then follows by referring to “fundamental facts of exploitation, appropriation, and inequality” and similar phrases.

        He points out that the students were speechless when someone said “yeah there’s racism, sexism, and homophobia, but I’m fine with the classism”. I’m pretty sure he would have a similar reaction if someone said “sure there is exploitation and inequality, but I don’t really see the appropriation.”

        • Protagoras says:

          If there’s no appropriation, there’s no exploitation; the two are logically connected. At least if we presume, as seems appropriate in the case of Wolff, that we’re using the words in the technical Marxist sense. Racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia do not have technical Marxist meanings (or other technical meanings that I am aware of). I will concede that employing terms with common meanings as technical terms has the potential to produce confusion, and I would consider it one of the defects in Marx that he used such terms (and I won’t claim that he never became confused himself, or that he never exploited the confusion).

          • Aftagley says:

            Yep, I’m hung up on that problem. As someone who does not know Marxism well enough to know the technical definitions of these terms, would you be able to either explain what they mean in this sense, or link to some other source that does?

          • Protagoras says:

            This is probably not completely sufficient, but may help. But probably the most important point in context is that Wolff himself would have plenty to say to Jiro’s hypothetical student, and if it were his class on Marxism, probably many of his students would as well. Although, for that matter, Wolff himself could come up with plenty to say to the student who made the strange claim about classism. His point was that none of the other students in the class could figure out what to say, that they all opposed classism because it was on the list of things to oppose, without really knowing much about what they were opposing or why, and that’s why the term wasn’t really being useful.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I think that “appropriation” would be a good name for arguing by declaring other positions “inappropriate.”

      • Tekhno says:

        You could argue that the attending ideology of the “racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia” mantra undermines the material interests of the proletariat, because one of those things ain’t like the others. The idea that we – as a society – should discipline ourselves not to judge people based on class, is essentially substituting class collaboration in place of class warfare, whereas it’s entirely in the interests of the proletariat (according to Marxists) that they maintain the ability to attack the bourgeois class. He doesn’t seem to go that far though. He more or less just says it’s useless boilerplate.

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) That website layout is excruciating.

      (2) Language zealotry content warning: using the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe in the title of his post/paper/wotsit makes Deiseach cry snort and roll her eyes and dismiss the learnéd Professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy out of the gate because she’s an opinionated bigot about That Sort of Thing.

      (3) Ha ha, very funny joke about the Holy Ghost. I wonder if he is intentionally trying to refer to the Filioque and its contribution to the Great Schism or was that a happy accident?

      (4) Again with the Catholic stuff: “It is like a classroom at a Catholic university in which teachers are free to explore every conceivable subject – except the legitimacy of abortion”. Hey, am I getting the sense this guy is a lapsed Catholic? Nevermind, I see Wikipedia classifies him under “Jewish philosophers”. Hmmm – generally it’s the ex-Catholics now atheists who can’t resist taking digs at the Church whether the topic is “ritual and unreflective …discourse” or cabbages.

      (5) I shall try in a very few words to recapitulate the sequence of steps by which, like the powerful wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, Marx has been reduced from a world-shattering necromancer to a sideshow conjuror doing cheap dialectical tricks to scare intellectual children. This sentence leaves me unsure whether Professor Wolff thinks Saruman is a good guy or Marx is indeed a bad guy. Given that he claims to be a Marxist, this inclines me to think the former, but I may be traducing the man.

      Nah, sorry, my favourite Marxist blogger is still going to be this guy 🙂 (It would be a toss-up between him and this guy, if I knew Tim O’Neill’s political position).

      • rlms says:

        Regarding point (2): presuming you are talking about “PC’s”, that probably isn’t a mistake. It is an (old-fashioned) American style to use the apostrophe when forming plurals of abbreviations and numbers (e.g. “1980’s”), see here for more. In this case (as in NYT headlines) it is sensible to use the apostrophe, because otherwise the all-caps headline would be “MACROS AND PCS”, which looks bad.

        Point (5): my guess is that he’s firstly confused Gandalf’s cheap tricks with Saruman’s (I can’t remember Saruman having any). I was going to say that he’d just confused Gandalf with Saruman, but then he refers to him as a necromancer.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Point 5 seems likely a reference to Sauruman after his fall from power. He shows up in the Shire and is known a “Sharkey”.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Jewish, but I still can’t resist: cabbages?

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, I set myself the challenge could I get from cabbages to a rant about Catholicism, and here is the result:

          Cabbages: One variety of cabbage is Savoy cabbage

          Savoy: The Duchy of Savoy, created in the 14th century out of the region of Savoy in the south-east of France/north-west of Italy, had as one of its rulers Amadeus VIII

          Amadeus VIII: Elected as antipope Felix V by the Council of Basel in 1439 [I didn’t know about Amadeus before I started, so this is pure fluke]

          This brings us handily from cabbages to the papacy, which we can then rant about to our heart’s content as source of the most evilest evil that ever eviled, should we so wish 🙂

    • Some here may be interested in my interaction with Wolff, discussed in an old blog post. I webbed the recording of my talk at the event, which I think includes some of the interaction with Wolff during the question period.

      • Aftagley says:

        very thought-provoking, thanks for the link.

        Forgive me if this question reveals that I missed the point of your post, but how far does your position extend? Is there any set of ideas or policy you’d be willing to accept might come from a position of evil?

        • I could imagine policies that were intended to produce results that I and most people considered evil. I just don’t think that’s a common situation.

    • Adam says:

      I’m left wondering what provoked him to write this thirty years ago and whether he thinks the problem today is of the same magnitude, better, or worse, or if he even still thinks of it as a problem.

  4. So, how does one test for the quality of a public school, and how effective it is for preparing Future Citizens *TM

    I know that there is a vast difference in amount of material learned depending on the curriculum. But society keeps focusing on how competent one is with algebra(and only a very minor subset of algebra) and reading comprehension scores, which are so G loaded after some familiarity and practice with the material that most comparisons between schools *really* end up as “So, what’s the average IQ of the parents”

    So, how should people judge the curriculum of schools? I feel the common measure is a fools game. I *do* believe there ends up significant differences between students after several years if between two clones, one went to a school that has a large variety of courses, intelligent teachers that can give insights into current events…vs the same person that went to a below-average public school.

    The problem is, the differences in ability to think intelligently and accurately about the world won’t really be captured in the nations focus on “Math and Reading scores”..and they might be exactly the same for that student.

    • Deiseach says:

      What do you want from that school, and what kind of Future Citizen do you want?

      A cog in the wheels of industry to slot in as required? What business wants is to equip individuals with the skills necessary to maximise their prospects of having fulfilling and rewarding careers. Concentrating on pushing up the PISA scores (because business wants maths and science skills) does mean “a focus on Math and Reading scores” and ‘teaching to the test’.

      Kiplingesque future leaders and rulers of the Empire? There’s a conventional path for that one.

      Someone who has been exposed to all kinds of “unnecessary” subjects like art and history and geography and music, so they may be able to discover that they have a taste and a liking for something otherwise considered to be “above their class”?

      A combination cheap childcare service/dumping ground to keep them off the streets while their parents are at work and out of the courts until they’re old enough to be tried as adults?

      Depending what you want, you’re not going to get all those contending desires covered by one system.

    • cassander says:

      There is no separating education from indoctrination. Even if you confined yourself purely to elucidation of uncontroversial facts, your selection of which facts, and the context you put them in, cannot be neutral. Beyond reading and math, the goals of education are always going to be subjected, not objective.

      • Well... says:

        Even reading and math will contain subjective goals. Reading, for instance, has the obvious question of what to read.

        For instance, why, in The Sneetches, do the sneetches suddenly get along at the end just because there’s confusion about who was born with a star and who wasn’t? Won’t it soon be obvious which ones had starts at the start, since some of the sneetches will not be accustomed to frankfurter roasts or marshmallow toasts? The sneetches without stars, after all, were so stupid they never even thought of trying to purchase their own franks and marshmallows, even though all of them clearly had money. Their stupidity should still mark them. To the extent this story teaches kids about racial prejudice, its message is that racial prejudice is necessarily arbitrary and irrational, and should be opposed on those grounds.

        I’m sure you can find an analogous example for math.

        • cassander says:

          I’m being generous, but I’m pretty sure if you worked at it pretty hard you could render reading samples so bland as to be more or less free from ideological content. Ditto basic math.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I’m sure you can find an analogous example for math.

          Back when I was at high school, it became something of a running joke in my class that all the people in the questions had weird, foreign-sounding names. I’m not sure if that was pro-multiculturalist propaganda, or if the person writing the papers just liked exotic names, or what.

          • Tibor says:

            A bit of an off topic, but it reminds me of an exercise our physics teacher gave us in gymnasium (grammar school). It’s been something like 14 years ago now, but it was something like this (the math problem was maybe a bit more difficult but that is not important anyway)

            Train A moves to city B at x km/h, train B moves in the opposite direction at y km/h and the distance between A and B is z. Where and when should the TV Nova (Nova is one of the two biggest Czech private TV broadcasters) staff be ready to film the upcoming tragedy?

          • rlms says:

            Sometimes the weird names come from trying to find people with names beginning X, Y and Z. Other times I think the paper writers were just taking amusement from the juxtaposition of John and Uditi. They did usually have a contrast. The foreign names were never the kind that people with foreign backgrounds in the UK actually have, so they can’t have been going for representation.

  5. Jaskologist says:

    I have a nifty video, and a crackpot theory riffing off that video.

    First, the nifty video. It is a concise explanation of how to use glitches in Super Mario 3 to warp to the end.

    Here’s the crackpot interpretation: this is magic, and evidence that we live in a simulation.

    SMB3 is a completely deterministic world, with easily discovered rules. And yet, it still contains these little pieces that act completely outside of the normally observable rules. What that guy is doing in that video is magic. There’s no substantial difference between “jump on the turtles when they have these facial expressions in this order” and “gather the tears of a virgin during a full moon.”

    So, if we are in a simulation, we would expect there to be bugs in our universe, which might be exploited with just the right series of normally-unremarkable actions. In-universe, we call that magic.

    “But Jaksologist,” you object, “we’ve investigated magic rather thoroughly and found that it does not work! Doesn’t this cut against your theory?”

    On the contrary, you are missing a very important difference between our world and SMB3. SMB3 was released and done with; our world is still being maintained. So what we would expect to see in our world are bugs/magics that work for a while, but then stop once the god/grad student who maintains our code patches the bug.

    Looking back in history, we might even be so lucky as to see the people who were around taking note of the dying of magic. And indeed, that is exactly what we do see.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      The rules of our universe appear to be amenable to a large dose of reductionism – God didn’t program on the level of tears of virgins, He programmed on the level of the least-action principle and the Lagrangian of the standard model.

      So unless He installed clever tricks to make it *look* like subatomic particles exist whenever a human does an atomic physics experiment, but *actually* the day-to-day world works on different principles, then I would not expect tears of virgins to have any magical properties at all.

      If there are bugs in God’s code, they will things like black holes (real), the emdrive (probably doesn’t work), or the casimir effect (certainly does work), or cold fusion (probably doesn’t work), or the quantum Zeno effect (absolutely bizarrely, does work), or quantum computers factoring large number in polynomial time (don’t know yet whether this will work).

      But we already have a long history of fundamental physics surprising us – nobody expects anymore for subatomic particles to be in line with our day to day experience. It will be almost as surprising either way whether quantum computers end up working or not. Both will violate different intuitions – if it doesn’t work it will violate the hypothesis that quantum mechanics as we know it holds for arbitrarily large superpositions, and if it does work it will violate an old conjecture about all computers being able to simulate each other with at most polynomial overhead.

      So I don’t think it’s the same thing. If there are bugs in God’s code, they’re indistinguishable from features, because they’re far removed from our daily experience in any case.

      • Gazeboist says:

        or cold fusion (probably doesn’t work “works”, technically, but not actually useful)

        FTFY. Fusors are great neutron sources! The reaction isn’t self-sustaining, though, so you can’t power anything with one.

      • jhertzlinger says:

        The object code is in the form of Lagrangians. The source code need not be.

      • MugaSofer says:

        >So unless He installed clever tricks to make it *look* like subatomic particles exist whenever a human does an atomic physics experiment, but *actually* the day-to-day world works on different principles, then I would not expect tears of virgins to have any magical properties at all.

        This is exactly how games work, though – higher-level abstractions designed to appear as if lower-level abstractions exist.

        Graphics give the impression creatures in games are comprised of biological components, when in reality they are simply animated to give the appearance of life, and are flat images or wireframe models. Machines the player operates display minigames that make it appear as if they have complex internal structures, when in reality the controls are hard-coded. Crafting systems give the impression that items are made out of separate components when in reality they are not. And so on.

    • Brad says:

      If you enjoyed the video and want to play with smashing a stack and the like in a easier setting, the microcorruption CTF is a good place to start:
      https://microcorruption.com

    • nyccine says:

      You quote Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, but then insist that is says the precise opposite of what it does; it is clearly describing things such as oracles as fraud, deceptions by man or by demon. The idea that there was real magic is not supported by the referenced material.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I suspect he would generally credit magic to demons, but I don’t think he’d call them frauds in the sense of being illusions (and most here would probably group demons in with magic stuff anyway). He thought they actually did signs and wonders; the fraud was using those to get men to worship them. Consider this quote:

        Anyone, too, may put what we have said to the proof of experience in another way. In the very presence of the fraud of demons and the imposture of the oracles and the wonders of magic, let him use the sign of the cross which they all mock at, and but speak the Name of Christ, and he shall see how through Him demons are routed, oracles cease, and all magic and witchcraft is confounded.

        I’m pretty sure this would have no effect on David Copperfield today, not should it affect a charlatan in the past who used similar illusions. I haven’t tried it on demons because I haven’t encountered any. But I find it interesting that Athanasius apparently considered it a common enough occurrence that he put this forward as a thing unbelievers could try out to test his claim.

        (Plutarch’s Failure of the Oracles is more directly apropos anyway.)

        • Mary says:

          Of course, in his day, there were a lot more opportunities to cross yourself in the presence of people trying to divine the future. The Diocletianic Persecution was kicked off because the haruspices, unable to read omens in the entrails of the sacrificed animals, attributed it to Christians who made the sign of the Cross and so disrupted things.

    • Well... says:

      Hm. Would make a cool sci-fi movie premise.

      Expanding on that a bit:

      It is actually a very interesting premise and hasn’t been done much either. The only major movie I can think of that shares anything remotely similar is The Matrix, and there the discovery of the simulation was kinda glossed over. It might not have been a discovery at all, since Neo was just sort of chosen.

      I’m envisioning something much more exciting, where a team of people work hard and get called crazy the climax is a big breakthrough where the unthinkable happens and they manage to prove that we are in a simulation. Maybe there’s a cliffhanger ending and we never get to see what’s on the other side of the simulation. Or we do but it’s unclear whether that is just part of the same simulation, kinda like the ending in Contact where we’re not sure if Jodie Foster really went to Alpha Centauri.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        The Matrix, The 13th floor, The Truman Show, Dark City.

        I read a book called “The End of Mr. Y” which had a premise more closely related to the idea of there being ‘bugs’ in the universe’s ‘code’, that get ‘patched’ (sort of, I’m being vague so as not to be too spoilery, and I also don’t remember it that well), even though the book was not about the universe being a simulation.

        I’m also quite fond of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s blog post/short story That Alien Message.

      • beleester says:

        Fine Structure, by Sam Hughes, has this as a premise, sort of – scientists discover various super-science things like teleportation and matter replication, but every time they test it, there’s some sort of mysterious disaster that kills most of the scientists involved, and then the laws of physics change to prevent that technology from being used again.

        (Spoiler Warning) The reason for it turns out not to be that our world is a simulation, but something even weirder: Our world is being used as a prison for a higher-dimensional monster, and the “prison guard” is removing any technology that could help it escape.

      • CthulhuChild says:

        Simulacra and Simulation, the movie.

        (reminds me of http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/04/im_not_the_one_you_should_be_w.html)

    • Aftagley says:

      Looking back in history, we might even be so lucky as to see the people who were around taking note of the dying of magic. And indeed, that is exactly what we do see.

      Very cool premise, and I really loved your post. Slight nitpick, however: If you’re theory is correct, we should see some kind of firsthand account of “this magic used to work, now it doesn’t, this is super weird.” You’re sources, however, don’t really have this, they are instead people after-the-fact trying to grapple with this same question we’re asking now, namely why do all of our legends have magic but we don’t see any in our world right now?

      I mean, Athanasius was going around over 300 years after Christ supposedly overwrote the code and removed magic from the world. That’s like me saying we used to have witches in New England, but the Salem Witch Trials got rid of them all.

      It seems reasonable that the sudden failure of magic would be a really notable event, not just something people noticed and tried to explain a few hundred years later. Are there any contemporaneous sources that talk about how their rain-creating ritual or whatever suddenly stopped working?

      • Jaskologist says:

        Plutarch is the closest I can think of. It’s not clear how sudden the change he talks about (prophecy drying up) is.

        “Won’t you rather tell us all about the oracle, Cleombrotus? For great was the ancient repute of the divine influence there, but at the present time it seems to be somewhat evanescent.”

        As Cleombrotus made no reply and did not look up, Demetrius said, “There is no need to make any inquiries nor to raise any questions about the state of affairs there, when we see the evanescence of the oracles here, or rather the total disappearance of all but one or two; but we should deliberate the reason why they have become so utterly weak. What need to speak of others, when in Boeotia, which in former times spoke with many tongues because of its oracles, the oracles have now failed completely, even as if they were streams of flowing water, and a great drought in prophecy has overspread the land? For nowhere now except in the neighbourhood of Lebadeia has Boeotia aught to offer to those who would draw from the well-spring of prophecy. As for the rest, silence has come upon some and utter desolation upon others.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Bonus passage from the above that really needs to make its way into the rationalist lexicon:

          The company was surprised at this, and Demetrius went so far as to say that it was ridiculous to try in this way to draw great conclusions from small data, not, as Alcaeus puts it, “painting the lion from a single claw,” but with a wick and lamp postulating a mutation in the heavens and the universe, and doing away completely with mathematical science.

    • Wander says:

      I believe that there are a number of poems of the English and Irish faerie poetry tradition that mention all the fae going away at some time. Of course, considering that they’re beings repulsed by iron that may have just been the Industrial Revolution that caused it.

      • LHN says:

        Poul Anderson’s “Operation Chaos” series of stories used that, IIRC– the discovery of how to degauss the effect of cold iron allowed magic to reemerge around the WWII era.

        (And then to apply technology to it– e.g., it turns out that it’s the polarization of moonlight that triggers a werewolf’s change, so polaroid filters plus a flashlight allowed doing so at will.)

      • Mary says:

        Oh, yes, a lot of account of how the Fair Folk went away. Side by side with a flourishing fairy folklore to the current day.

    • Tracy W says:

      Magic works in this world. It’s called electromagnetic fields. It just happens that magic items in this world are so common as to make a Monty Haul GM look like Scrooge.

    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      It reminds me of a great sci-fi short story: “Not Long Before the End”, by Larry Niven. I recommend it.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      You might enjoy (next level magic — rewriting rules of reality): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPcV9uIY5i4

  6. doubleunplussed says:

    Scott mentioned taking ZMA in his predictions post.

    Does anyone else take it? Do you recommend it?

    For the unfamiliar, as far as I can tell ZMA is merely a zinc, magnesium and B6 supplement that one takes before bed, and it allegedly improves sleep quality and muscle recovery. With respect to the ongoing debates about whether supplements do anything, it would seem one ought be sceptical that it does anything unless you have a deficiency. However, the thing that annoys me about that dismissal of supplements is that as far as I can tell loads of people are deficient in loads of things so your priors shouldn’t exactly be low that supplements might fix some deficiency you have.

    I’m a very active late 20s male, regularly getting lots of cardio and resistance exercise. I’m told this is the sort of thing that can increase zinc requirements, and that basically nobody gets enough magnesium, and looking at my diet it looks plausible that there’s not enough zinc and magnesium there despite it being a pretty good diet in the scheme of things.

    Also if one takes ZMA every day, a) is that safe and b) how much copper should you supplement/how much extra dark chocolate should you eat to counter zinc inhibiting copper absorption?

    If something that simple can improve sleep quality as much as people say it does, then that really would be something, so I’m interested in checking it out.

    • Deiseach says:

      Definitely have found magnesium helps with muscle cramps (and I notice it when I stop taking my magnesium supplements), B complex vitamins are good on general principles, haven’t done anything re: zinc and certainly haven’t tried ZMA.

      Seemingly calcium blocks zinc (as zinc blocks copper) so it might be that people are indeed zinc-deficient if they’re consuming a lot of dairy or taking combined calcium-magnesium supplements. I’d be inclined to say “take a good multivitamin for your zinc etc and take magnesium on its own if you get a lot of cramping” but I don’t think it would hurt to try ZMA (upon looking it up) and it might help. Try it and see how it goes?

      Besides, anything that gives you a legitimate excuse to eat good quality dark chocolate can’t be all bad, right?

      • doubleunplussed says:

        Thanks for sharing your experiences. I do get a lot of cramping and have attributed it to potassium deficiency, which I’ve had (shown in blood tests) in the past. So I put in effort to get more potassium (I eat a lot of bananas!), but perhaps it’s worth getting more magnesium to help with this too.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I take a B-complex in the morning, and magnesium along with melatonin at night. I don’t take extra zinc.

      I can speak for the magnesium and melatonin helping with sleep. I used to have really, really bad sleep problems – took some pretty heavy-duty stuff to put me out, and even then I didn’t sleep very well. This continued after I got into exercising heavily – so it wasn’t just “you need to exercise to get better sleep”.

      I too would be interested if anyone has good evidence on ZMA – Wikipedia, at least, doesn’t make it look like there’s great science showing it works.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Define ‘very active’?

      If you’re in ultra-endurance or professional athlete territory (one hour+ per day close to FTP) you are almost certainly deficient in zinc and magnesium and need supplements. AFAIK, copper is not affected in the same way so if exercise is the cause of your deficiency and not some ailment, I don’t see why you’d need extra copper.

      Extra dark chocolate is obviously always a good thing regardless 🙂

      If you’re deficient then yes, ZMA will definitely improve sleep quality, as will ingesting protein in the 40-minute window after exercise if you don’t already.

  7. kwc says:

    I posted in OT62 asking about applying to graduate schools in statistics and operations research: “I am hoping to clarify my goals and to discover any programs I should add to my list– or, especially, discover previously unknown professors whom I might be interested in working with.”

    I am writing to follow-up, now that I have done more research and finished with the application process.

    Autolykos: thank you for your suggestion to check out neuroscience– I think it was an apt recommendation. I did not end up applying to any neuro programs, but there are some stats profs at CMU doing cool work in neuroscience, and I would expect there are opportunities to be involved in the field at other programs I applied to as well. From what I can tell, most graduate programs in neuro require some lab experience, which I don’t have.

    Reasoner: thank you for the suggestion to check out 80,000 Hours. A lot of their advice is more general than I need, as I have already spent a lot of time considering my career path generally (and arrived at the conclusion: I want to go to grad school). It was still edifying to browse their site, though.

    I do want to share a guy I found at CMU who is doing cool Bayesian things, Teddy Seidenfeld. Perhaps other people are interested in his work. I am also aware of Andrew Gelman, but did not end up applying to Columbia’s statistics department.

    With greater confidence than before, I predict that having a deep knowledge of statistics in theory and in application, as well as the credential of a PhD, will allow me to do a lot of interesting work, be financially secure, and have a larger positive impact on the world than I would under many plausible alternative scenarios. I will see where things stand when I hear back from schools.

    On an unrelated note: I remember seeing a post on LessWrong (?) that discussed or challenged the notion that using a “rationalist approach” caused people to be more successful (I forget the context), perhaps by citing a lack of empirical examples of people using rationality to win more in terms of academic or technological advancements. Does anyone recall the post? Is there compelling evidence that might convince a skeptic of “rationality” that developing related skills is a worthwhile endeavor?

  8. asmallpostaboutgrouprepresentations says:

    People in the UK seem to like the NHS. Why can’t the US have something similar?

    • doubleunplussed says:

      Voters do not support it in large enough numbers for something like that to be brought in with a mandate from the people, and politicians that support it lack the political capital to push it through despite the lack of a mandate. I suspect both of these stem from the US’s relatively high level of government corruption compared to other western countries – voters might support it if they trusted the government actually had their interests in mind, but the government does not enjoy that level of trust. People would be worried that if the government increased taxes to universalise healthcare that that the taxes would be wasted and the healthcare be inferior to what they as an individual could have purchased with the money. Even a politician who genuinely wants to universalise healthcare cannot act without more trust being established first.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        It’s also especially problematic that the people advocating government-run health care went all-in on attacking and demonizing their opponents, guaranteeing that no compromise would ever be possible. The American system of government has a large number of checks and balances that prevent one of two roughly balanced sides from just steamrolling the other, so if the minority is determined to obstruct they can bring everything to a crashing halt.

        This does explain why many government programs from back in the days of normal order (man, in retrospect that was pretty nice, wasn’t it? I blame the GOP congress for banning earmarks) are bloated and weird and have strange bits of semi-corrupt baroque decoration around the edges, since they had to be designed to peel off enough people from The Other Side to get through the legislature. But that’s the way it has to be here.

      • Aftagley says:

        I suspect both of these stem from the US’s relatively high level of government corruption compared to other western countries – voters might support it if they trusted the government actually had their interests in mind, but the government does not enjoy that level of trust.

        I don’t think this is correct, for a couple of different reasons. I’m basing my conclusions here mostly off the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which studies the perceived level of corruption within a populace.

        1. While the US does rank 17th on the CPI, with a score of 76, it’s only 5 points away from the UK, with it’s rating of 81 (a score also shared by Germany and Luxemburg). It’s hard to put this 5 point gap into objective terms since their numbering system is a bit abstract, so think about it in relative terms. A five point difference is really small; it’s the same as the difference between Denmark and Switzerland, or the difference between North Korea and Sudan (that one’s only 4 points, but I think my point stands). At five points, you’re not seeing a true difference in public opinion. I think it’s a bit much to say this very slightly increased level of perceived corruption is enough to mobilize a population against a specific policy.

        2. Multiple countries that are perceived to be more corrupt than the US have universal healthcare. France, Italy, most of eastern Europe, parts of South America and a few countries in Asia all score lower (dramatically so in the case of places like Kazakhstan and Tunisia) but they all have universal healthcare in which over 90% of the populace has coverage. If you’re saying that at a certain level of perceived corruption a government reaches a point at which it is deemed by the populace to be too corrupt to manage socialized healthcare, you’re also implying either that all those people are acting irrationally by letting their known-to-be corrupt government run a system that they know will get mismanaged, or that the governments of those countries have so ably masked their corruption that the citizenry is unaware that the healthcare system will be a source of waste. I don’t think either of these are likely.

        3. Just from personal experience, having lived through a few debates about socialized healthcare in the US, the sober discussions about government waste and quality of service have been consistently overshadowed by a reflexive fear of possible government overreach into personal healthcare decisions (anyone else remember death panels?) Whether or not this is a topic that actually deserves concern, it looks like it’s always been the focus of the opposition to expanded healthcare, not fears about corruption.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          Thanks for your thoughts. Responding to your points:

          1. You make a good point, and if the US public truly sees their government as having the same amount of corruption as Germany sees theirs having, then I would need to explain the difference some other way – maybe it’s not corruption per se, maybe it’s incompetence or partisanship or something else. I’ve lived in both the US and Germany, and I feel the US has far less trust in its government to have their interests in mind compared to Germany. For all the jokes about German bureaucracy, interacting with the government there was an absolute pleasure compared to the same in the US. So there is something there I think, even if it is not corruption. When Germany says they’re going to build a new train line, Germans are more likely to think it’s for a good reason, and assume that the project will function as intended, than US citizens are for a similar project in the US.

          2. The corruption/incompetence argument I think biases people toward the status quo.

          you’re also implying either that all those people are acting irrationally by letting their known-to-be corrupt government run a system that they know will get mismanaged

          Yes, I am. Actually, I’d say it’s not even that irrational. It’s remarkable how much a system can keep trundling along when everyone is incompetent, just by following the status quo. It might not be great, but people fear change would be worse.

          As for how they came to have it in the first place, if these countries implemented universal healthcare at some point in the past, they might be corrupt or incompetent now, but that just means people don’t trust them to abolish the current system. And miracles do happen – if Trump supported universal healthcare (which I actually think he has implied at in the past, before he ran for president), who knows what could happen. Many on the left already support universal healthcare, and Trump holds a lot of political capital with those on the right (albeit among voters, not congress). He could talk them into all sorts of things – he got them to cheer while he waved a pride flag, in total contradiction of the GOP’s general sentiment. He got them to cheer loudly for the protection of LGBT people (granted, only by painting Islam as a greater enemy), which is very strange thing to see. So a charismatic leader with high political capital can shake things up and redraw partisan lines sometimes, even if it’s only once in a blue moon. Then the change can persist via status-quo bias (which as I mentioned is not even an irrational bias a lot of the time IMHO).

          3. I don’t think you can trust people’s explicit stated opinions on government to much match their instinctive flinches, so the reflexive responses you’re talking about are also what I’m talking about when I say they distrust government. “sober discussions about government waste and quality of service” are either rationalisations of emotions, or when they are genuine, occur so infrequently as to be a rounding error not worth considering when gauging public sentiment. And so I’m reading into possible reasons behind the emotions and saying ‘it’s because of corruption’, i.e. people have had personal experiences and inherited cultural attitudes that have their origins in witnessing corruption, even if they’ve forgotten, but I could be wrong.

          So The fact remains that that anti-government reflex is there, to a greater extent than in Germany or Australia (where I’m from). Wherever it comes from, it’s likely responsible for healthcare not being universalised. And I’m very sympathetic – the US government does actually seem less deserving of my trust than the Australian or German government. So although that could be my own bias talking, I’m inclined to think the government itself is responsible for its untrustworthyness, and corruption seemed like the obvious culprit. But, the stats you linked don’t bear that out, which I’ll file away as an anomaly in my beliefs for the time being.

      • Whitedeath says:

        According to this Gallup poll, a majority of Americans do support a government-funded system.
        http://www.gallup.com/poll/191504/majority-support-idea-fed-funded-healthcare-system.aspx

        • Matt M says:

          Great, so I assume we’ll be repealing medicare any day now…

        • doubleunplussed says:

          Very interesting! Maybe things are changing. Here’s politifact in 2014 talking about how Americans have felt about it in the past as well as comparing the different results you get when you ask about different types of ‘universal’ healthcare:

          http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2014/may/14/ralph-nader/70-years-most-americans-have-supported-single-paye/

          Their conclusion was that it was false that Americans had supported single-payer for 70 years – but they might have supported it patchily more recently.

          Well I will be very happy for the US if they can get universal health care. I suppose once the public support it enough, then the limiting factor will be actually getting the right people into the white house and congress who can act on a mandate.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      The US does have something similar, albeit only for military veterans. Its reputation is… not good.

      • Matt M says:

        That said, try and privatize it and see how vets (and the general public, for that matter) react.

        I thought polling on the NHS revealed that people like it in theory, but if you press them on the details, they’re likely to be rather unsatisfied with everything other than the fact that it’s “free.” I would imagine the VA is much the same.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          To be sure. When the government provides something, people tend to assume that the alternative is not to have that something at all.

          • IrishDude says:

            Relevant Bastiat quote:

            “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

            ― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Vet who gets most of my medical care via the VA here. Sign me the HELL up for the first privatization trials.

          When the VA works, it works great. This is very much a crapshoot on what your local system looks like and what level of load it’s staggering along under. This directly translates into how burnt out and terminally into “I don’t give a fuck just sign my paycheck and go die somewhere else you bastards” mode the staff have been beaten.

          I have a limited number of data points to work from, but my -perception- is that with the VA you’re often better in the more rural and low population areas. If you’re decently close to the CBOC/VAMC, you end up seeing health care providers who are only regularly treating and dealing with a manageable number of patients.

          The flip side is of course that specialists or in many cases even relatively common specialty providers (like psychiatrists) are only available via video-conference or the like, but having the treatment options/consults theoretically available doesn’t do you much good if your primary care physician’s primary goal is to conclude all interactions with you as fast as possible and with as little effort on their part as possible because they’re all out of fucks to give, ground down by the first 300 people they had to deal with before you came along.

          • bean says:

            The downside of trying to privatize is that a lot of the VA infrastructure isn’t really amenable to privatization. The people who decide if you’re eligible to get care through them, regardless of if that care is provided in the VAMC or via voucher in the local general hospital, will still need to be part of the system. (I volunteered in the local VA eligibility office for about 8 months several years ago). And that’s where the backlog is as much as anywhere, AIUI. Basically, privatization will just turn the VA into a slightly more bureaucratic medicare. This may or may not be an improvement.

        • cassander says:

          If you offered most vets a choice between a voucher for their expenses or te VA, they’d overwhelmingly choose the VA, at least according to my entirely unsystematic survey of the vets I’ve known, none of whom has ever had a good word to say about the VA. That said, any politician who proposed such a measure would be instantly crucified.

          • Adam says:

            The VA Choice program already does this if you live outside a 40 mile radius of a VA hospital or it will take more than 30 days for you to get an appointment. Also not systematic, but my impression from veterans groups I’m in is that this program is extremely popular.

          • cassander says:

            My understanding is that the VA is pretty dickish about finding ways to deny approving those vouchers, and we know for a fact that they flat out lie about appointment times. pushback against the program is muted by keeping it small, because relatively few benefit from it and the money for comes from a separate pile and thus doesn’t require the VA to make any hard choices. It was originally authorized for 10 billion a year, and came with 5 billion more for the VA proper.

        • Incurian says:

          Privatization please. My wife works for the VA… it’s fucked up worse than the army from what I tell.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            I have used Medicare and my partner has used VA for the last decade or so. If ‘privatizing’ VA health care means Medicare expanding to take over VA’s load, then ASAP please.

            With Medicare there is no insurance company in the middle, thus no ‘in-network’ or regional limits. Any doctor can choose whether to bill to Medicare or not. Quality control is up to you; shop around.

            The other big disadvantage to VA is that you have to use one of their facilities, which are scattered and under-staffed. You have no choice of which doctor to see, and it’s seldom the same one twice.

          • Brad says:

            Cost is the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about because vets and heroes and bald eagles.

            The VA is a giant success from a cost point of view, in a country with very very few other successes when it comes to cost and medicine.

            Medicare is a giant failure when it comes to cost. It is obscenely expensive and cost growth above the rate of general inflation looks to be the future for as far as the eye can see.

          • Incurian says:

            What are the numbers on dollars spent versus health outcomes and perceived effectiveness?

          • Brad says:

            @Incurian
            Those are two very different questions. Why does the second matter?

          • Iain says:

            Depending on the metrics you choose to highlight, Medicare is better at controlling costs and cost growth than private insurance. You can plausibly argue that the correct metrics show Medicare as being moderately worse than private insurance, and we can agree to disagree, but if you want to call Medicare a “giant failure”, then you should acknowledge that basically everybody else is just as bad. Cost growth is an issue with health care in America, not with Medicare in particular.

          • Brad says:

            @Iain

            [I]f you want to call Medicare a “giant failure”, then you should acknowledge that basically everybody else is just as bad.

            I think I did just that:

            The VA is a giant success from a cost point of view, in a country with very very few other successes when it comes to cost and medicine.

          • Iain says:

            Okay, cool. Just wanted to make it explicit.

          • Incurian says:

            @Incurian
            Those are two very different questions. Why does the second matter?

            Curiosity.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Ask an American about UK health care and they’re likely to think about bad teeth and long waiting lists. (although queuing seems to be a thing in general there, not just for health care)

      • rlms says:

        Would those thoughts be correct? That’s the relevant thing. N.B. UK dentistry is more privatised than other aspects of healthcare. It isn’t free at point of service for most adults, so many people have private dental care (at least, far more than have general private healthcare).

      • Tekhno says:

        Don’t Americans get their teeth whitened? I think Americans confuse yellow teeth for bad teeth. I’m not sure why this is. It’s not like we’re down to the dentine, so it’s clearly just staining. Could be because the British drink a LOT of tea. Tannin really sticks to cups when you want to wash them, so it probably gets into the porous structure of teeth.

        Side note: I wonder why the Japanese don’t have an even worse stereotype for teeth than the British, because they not only have yellow teeth, but it seems like they don’t remove teeth due to overcrowding, leading to a lot of buck teeth.

        • IrishDude says:

          My wife is a dental hygienist and she’s noted that Asians often have highly stained teeth, which she says is due to heavy tea drinking.

          She brings home interesting insights on cultures from time to time based on what she finds inside people’s mouths or how they socially interact with her.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Side note: I wonder why the Japanese don’t have an even worse stereotype for teeth than the British, because they not only have yellow teeth, but it seems like they don’t remove teeth due to overcrowding, leading to a lot of buck teeth.

          They used to. Look at the caricatures of Japanese people from WW2.

        • Matt M says:

          The reality may just be yellowing, but the stereotype includes things like missing and overcrowding as well.

        • lvlln says:

          Overcrowded teeth in Japan is actually seen as a point of cuteness for girls, and so often no orthodontic efforts are made to straighten them. In anime, the visual design of a girl with a fang sticking out from one side of her mouth was derived from this.

          I wonder if the reason there’s more of a stereotype today about bad teeth for British people than for Japanese is just because Japanese aren’t white, so it’s not cool to overtly have negative stereotypes of them anymore. Like AlphaGamma pointed out, it certainly used to be the stereotype in the past. And I believe it wasn’t just for the Japanese – I have a vague idea that the “buck-toothed Chinaman” was a thing in the past, too.

        • Tekhno says:

          @lvlln

          Overcrowded teeth in Japan is actually seen as a point of cuteness for girls

          I’m not sure about this, because models and idols or whatever seem to have more “Western” teeth.

          • lvlln says:

            It’s just one point of cuteness, not the one dominant one that everyone desires. Kinda like moles on faces.

    • John Schilling says:

      From what I’ve seen in the BBC and other UK media outlets, one of Britain’s national pastimes is complaining about how horrid the NHS is, but always ending with “At least it isn’t as horrid as that mess the US has; God Save the NHS for saving us from that Hell, we must never let the NHS fail!”.

      So, I would say that the United States does have something fairly similar.

    • cassander says:

      The NHS employs almost 2 million people. Ah american version would have several times that number, making it the largest organization in the world by most of an order of magnitude. Bureaucratic dysfunction is related geometrically to organizational size. Even if you think the British NHS is a good idea, any realistic assessment of american version has to assume dramatically worse efficiency, larger scandals, more waste, etc.

      And that’s before we even consider performance of the American version of the NHS, the VA, which operates on the same model and has been mired in scandal since its creation.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      It’s worth pointing out here that public opinion in Britain seems to think that the only two options available are “The NHS” and “Some sort of dystopian society where good healthcare is only available to the 1%, the rest of the population having to sell off their own organs to pay for life-saving surgery”. Bear that in mind when you read surveys about attitudes towards the NHS.

      • Matt M says:

        I mean, this is quickly becoming the narrative in the US too, just replace “NHS” with “Obamacare”

        • rlms says:

          How can that be the narrative without popular belief that healthcare was nightmarishly dystopian pre-Obamacare? (I am given to understand that that is not a popular American belief).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s a fairly popular belief that the insurance market in America was/is nightmarishly dystopian. Which, frankly, is not all that removed from reality.

            You really would have insurers combing through the records of sick individuals to find the unreported preexisting teenage acne condition and then kicking them off insurance when they get an expensive to treat illness.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, but is it widely believed that Obamacare has improved that?

          • Brad says:

            The number of people who have spent their entire life shielded from how broken the American healthcare system is are dwindling. Even giant companies, unless they have really favorable demographics, are feeling the pinch and passing some of that pain along to their employees.

            I think we’ve already passed a tipping point with respect to retirement savings, pensions are now the exception rather than the rule, and we are getting there for healthcare.

            I do find it somewhat ironic that public sector employees are the biggest boosters of the status quo healthcare system since they get the best plans.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, but is it widely believed that Obamacare has improved that?

            It becomes more widely believed the more the media definitively states it as fact.

            Stuff like this gets widely circulated with virtually zero pushback.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Even giant companies, unless they have really favorable demographics, are feeling the pinch and passing some of that pain along to their employees.

            Some of them, however, are putting the finger on Obamacare (specifically the “Cadillac Tax”) for that, rightly or wrongly. “Oh, we’d like to provide the same good healthcare we used to, but if we do the tax consequences will be terrible so we’re just going to have to reduce benefits and increase your premiums”.

          • Brad says:

            The dynamic isn’t great for employers. Employees demand good benefits but then don’t take them into account once they have them. Premiums increase every year, even as benefits are cut, but employees don’t treat those increased premiums as a raise.

            If you can make benefit cuts and get employees to blame someone, anyone, other than the company you are coming out ahead.

          • LHN says:

            pensions are now the exception rather than the rule

            They always were. Defined benefit plans peaked in the US in the 1980s when they covered 38% of workers. Because they tended to be heavily backloaded, only the subset of workers who stayed in one place for a while really got much out of them. And of course many of that 38% of 80s workers lived to see their pensions go under to get a relative pittance from the PBGC. There were certainly people who did the whole career->retire on pension thing, but it was always a relatively small minority of the workforce.

    • JayT says:

      I think that one of the major reasons that the US doesn’t have something like the NHS is that the people that are most likely to participate in the government (eg, more wealthy people and older people) are also the people that wouldn’t really see any benefits to something like the NHS. The wealthy people have good insurance and really good service and the older people already have something essentially like the NHS in medicare.

    • Tracy W says:

      I read a political economy article once that argued that the reason the USA doesn’t have a comprehensive system dates back to WWII. During the war, wages were controlled and taxed but there was a very tight labour market so businesses started offering health cover to attract workers. So people got used to having health cover through their work. That meant as other countries were implementing universal healthcare schemes, the median American voter didn’t see much benefit from it.

    • BBA says:

      Because a large fraction of the population would only support it if only hardworking Americans were eligible, not those lazy shiftless types. Speaking abstractly, of course.

      I’m glossing over the distinctions between NHS and, say, Canada’s single-payer Medicare and Germany’s multi-payer Krankenkassen and so on. This is the overarching reason why we’ve never come close to any of those.

  9. Perhaps the Alan Sokal affair, but of a different kind.

    Nassim Taleb has this quote on some of the over-mathematization of economics, when the usage of it actually decreases firm thinking of aspects of economics in the world.

    “What has gone with the development of economics as a science? Answer: There was a bunch of intelligent people who felt compelled to use mathematics just to tell themselves that they were rigorous in their thinking, that theirs was a science. Someone in a great rush decided to introduce mathematical modeling techniques (culprits: Leon Walras, Gerard Debreu, Paul Samuelson) without considering the fact that either the class of mathematics they were using was too restrictive for the class of problems they were dealing with, or that perhaps they should be aware that the precision of the language of mathematics could lead people to believe that they had solutions when in fact they had none. . . . Indeed the mathematics they dealt with did not work in the real world, possibly because we needed richer classes of processes — and they refused to accept the fact that no mathematics at all was probably better. (p. 177)

    I had an intuition that led to that after reading this piece by Paul Krugman several years ago., who linked this paper. I’m keen to the arguments in the paper on the dangers of uncertainty with our climate activities..but *most* of the math only distracted from that. And adding in the lemmas were worse than useless.

    Taleb has commented before on his annoyance of needing to add some giant mathematical diversion in a publication to make it taken seriously. And I believe he has said he has done the economic equivalent of the Sokal affair. Namely, adding excessive useless mathematical rigor to a very basic paper that probably should not have been published, yet ended up being so.

    I comment this, because in Undergrad a good deal of my professors recommended the students to double major in both Math and Economics, instead of any other major. And it seems that trend is taking off. I felt that simply was not actually the best way to increase ones useful general knowledge, or even actual real-world application of economics principals.

    While it *is* very important to know the mathematical underpinnings of the most common tools used in economics, and related mathematics, I believe much of it is simply adding to the complexity of various academic papers and adding a fake rigor that doesn’t actually exist…or is a rewording of basic thoughts best expressed with a few words and somewhat simple mathematical concepts into gigantic mathematical jargon.

    What I think is actually happening, if people who are extremely good at mathematics end up being better overall researchers on average, would be this little principal. Namely, at top colleges, the existence of difficulty blocks make it so those who can do very very well at the math of great places simply are more capable then those who perform well in majors that are not quite so rigorous.

    Its not that adding more math(after some level that may be hard to pin down) and doing well at the topic actually makes someone a better research in economics, or the complexity of the world. But being *able* to be good at mathematics at a top level is a good indicator of high intelligence in general. , and the lack of objective grading and difficulty of creating difficulty and rigor in other subjects(philosphy, history) inherently limits their ability to do that type of selection. (Coming from the top post on the SSC reddit, this a humerous example of the pitfalls of tests without clear logical objective ways of making correct answers)

    I believe that adding intelligently picked courses from psychology, environmental studies, and history would aid the actual knowledge of economists more then simply adding more mathematical rigor, but the above notice is probably fudging up peoples thinking of the issue.

    • Acedia says:

      Thought-provoking post, thanks.

      Seems like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physics_envy is close to what you’re describing. Inappropriate mathematization in order to increase the prestige of a field seems be a real thing, though I’ve not often seen economics criticized for it.

    • Taleb has commented before on his annoyance of needing to add some giant mathematical diversion in a publication to make it taken seriously.

      Gordon Tullock used to refer to this as ornamental mathematics.

    • Tracy W says:

      Answer: There was a bunch of intelligent people who felt compelled to use mathematics just to tell themselves that they were rigorous in their thinking,

      I used to think this. Then I read a few maths-free papers that made some impressive logical leaps (eg a paper that attributed duelling to a signalling device of upper classness without ever contemplating why lower class men wouldn’t be as willing to stupidly risk their lives), and I became much more sympathetic to the maths-heavy viewpoint.

      • Alfred Marshall, I think in a letter, described his approach. Work out the idea mathematically. Translate into English. If unable to translate, burn the mathematics.

        I have a good deal of sympathy for that approach. Math is a more precise language, so you can catch logical mistakes by checking your ideas in a formal model. But it’s farther from intuition, so it’s easier to say nonsense in math than in English. I’ve refereed work that, if translated into English, would lead you to doubt the sanity of the author.

        There is a similar argument for the JPE’s old policy–I don’t know if they still hold to it–that a paper has to include an empirical test of the theory. Whether or not the test provides good evidence that the theory is true, constructing a test forces the author to think more clearly about exactly what he is saying, what features of the real world would be evidence for or against.

        • Aapje says:

          that a paper has to include an empirical test of the theory. Whether or not the test provides good evidence that the theory is true, constructing a test forces the author to think more clearly about exactly what he is saying, what features of the real world would be evidence for or against.

          This is also best practice in programming, for many of the same reasons.

  10. Tibor says:

    What do people here think about contemporary art?

    Personally, I find Dalí or Picasso interesting (Dalí perhaps a bit more so), but most of what comes after that (but a huge disclaimer – I have not studied art at all and don’t know much about it beyond of what an average Joe does) seems fairly dull and unimaginative to me. I think Andy Warhol had some fun ideas, but all of those worked more as a one-time thing, while he’s been copied so many times since (not his fault of course).

    My issue with a lot of contemporary art is that it often lacks the artisan part of being an artist – there’s very little craftsmanship involved and the things can become extremely abstract, to a point where it is (I believe) impossible to say whether there’s any meaning and idea behind it or whether there are just some post-hoc explanations. Now, I used to believe that art should be self-explanatory and that if it does not work in its own, then it is not good. A friend of mine convinced me that that is way too simplified – after all, for example your appreciation of some music increases greatly if you understand it a bit (conversely other music becomes formulaic and boring for the same reasons), and I even find some more experimental stuff interesting, which some people might regard as just noise (although I find it interesting the same way I find Warhol interesting). So I get that understanding the background can make one appreciate things more – and also that realistic 17th century paintings, while beautiful, can get boring if you’re really into art – you want something different (hence impressionism, etc.), same as you want more variety in music than the formulaic tonic, subdominant, dominant three chord songs with verse chorus verse chorus structure (which is not to say that that always has to be boring, but it would be boring to have nothing but this). And so the “experts” in many areas tend to like different things than the “general public”. I probably cannot tell the difference between a 50 Euro wine (possibly even 20) and a 500 Euro wine. I might in fact like the 50 Euro more, because it will be “easy” good whereas the 500 will be special stuff that only connoisseurs can appreciate, since they will recognize some particular features of the wine which make it both expensive and interesting, whereas for me it will just taste funny (maybe, I’ve never tasted 500 Euro wine and probably never will).

    But as I said, I can see it up to Picasso, I can even find Pollock or Warhol interesting as kind of experimental one-time things (it tends to be a bit monotone after a while though, Pollock in particular), but the level of abstraction of the contemporary art seems to be such that you get these ridiculous stories where people sometimes mistake a literal trashcan, forgotten by the cleaner, for an art exhibit. So what I am missing is on one hand the craftsmanship (although an original and witty idea can be a good substitute for that – unless the same idea is recycled 100 times) as well as something that clearly states that there was a definite intention and thought put into the piece.

    Since these things are often exhibited in prestigious art galleries, it can mean two things. Either it is all a form of signaling status of a “cultured person” and it is otherwise bogus, or one has to learn more than I have about art and the background where the contemporary art comes form to be able to appreciate it at all. Also, it might be selection bias – unless you’re really interested in contemporary art, most of what you’ll see will be rubbish. Then again, I would think that if it is exhibited in a renowned art gallery (I visited one contemporary art gallery in London about 6 years ago, but I forgot the name unfortunately), it should at least not be outright bad. I guess it is probably a mixture of all of those things – the descriptions of the modern artworks as well as the presentation of the artists often tend to be outright pretentious and ridiculous (to a point of making me annoyed a bit). At the same time, some things probably would make a lot more sense in context and there’s also a lot of stuff that’s good, or that will not even get classified as “contemporary art” in my mind, simply because it does not seem like entirely arbitrary abstract nonsense.

    A whole different category is “performance art”, which, at least from what I’ve seen, seems to fall (almost?) exclusively into the “pretentious person trying to look very ‘artistically’ ” category.

    • Well... says:

      I feel like art should either make me go “Wow, never in a million years could I do that” or else “Dang, wish I’d thought to do that.” Most contemporary art just makes me go “That sucks. My 3 year-old can do better than that.”

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      the craftsmanship Pollock

      Seriously, if we’re talking about Dali and the other Pollock as contemporary, hasn’t there been anything notable happening more recently?

    • How do you define contemporary art?

      Art that I am pretty sure qualifies as contemporary is pretty good.

      Its a shame that somehow the words “contemporary art” means “Those dudes who draw squares on MS paint and sell it for a million bucks” instead of “art being produced in the same time period”

      Art galleries are not so bad. The insane cases make a million times more media attention then the normal “oh this is really good”. And art galleries have a hard time showing the best art the rate the internet can.

      • Well... says:

        Oh yeah, good point. I was using contemporary art as shorthand for either the paintings of squares or meaningless scribbles/splashes. Also including Jacob Lawrence’s incompetent paintings that look like cute crayon doodlings from a 1st grade art class. Also including Andy Warhol’s … whatever it is he did exactly. Soup cans? Marilyn Monroe in different colors? Polaroids of celebrities he went to parties with?

        Contemporary art, as I’m thinking of it, does not include Norman Rockwell.

        • Tibor says:

          I find Warhol himself interesting – the thing is he really was the first person to take everyday objects, maybe just add some colours or do something a bit weird with them and arranging them as an exhibit. I think that was original and witty back then. The problem is that other people have been doing the same exact things for decades. You can have good art with not too much craftsmanship involved if you have a good original idea. But once you’ve done it, it ceases to be original and you should come up with something new instead of recycling it endlessly in minor variations.

      • Tibor says:

        How do you define contemporary art?

        I was also thinking about that. I understand the “normal” meaning of the word contemporary, but (correct me if I am wrong), it seems it is used a bit differently in art – i.e. not all art made in the present qualifies as contemporary, even not all art that does not copy some older styles. But maybe that is a misconception on my part, but whenever I go to a contemporary art gallery, I see mostly the “squares from MS paint” (now, I’ve only been to a contemporary art gallery perhaps three times, and I’ve been avoiding those since, so maybe I just had bad luck). Hence my conclusion that the word “contemporary” has a different meaning in art.

        The insane cases make a million times more media attention then the normal “oh this is really good”.

        I suspect you are correct here.

    • Protagoras says:

      I’m kind of confused. Up until the end, it seemed as if you were talking about painting specifically, and I would agree that this has not been particularly a golden age of painting, but different forms of art are big at different times, so I would point to other art forms that seem to produce some good work these days (say, music, film, or fiction). But then you tack on performace art at the end, so it’s not just a painting thing. Is the question perhaps why is fine art, or highbrow art, or whatever expression we want to use for the really arty art as most people seem to think of it, any good these days? If so, then I’m inclined to think the problem is that that is an artificial category that doesn’t really encourage good work, and that works of the past that we tend to slot in the fine art or highbrow art category shouldn’t necessarily be put there as their status in their own time was often quite different from the modern fine/highbrow/whatever category.

      • Protagoras says:

        Not disagreeing that cool stuff is being done in the media you mention, but they don’t use paint. So I was mentally classifying that as an example of “there’s other good stuff these days” rather than an example of “painting is still good.” Clearly just a matter of terminology.

      • Tibor says:

        I think I should clarify what I mean by “performance art”. An extreme and probably very unfair example (but which pops to mind easily) was one “artist” who would set up a kind of a platform in front of an art gallery, take off her clothes, put these kind of balls filled with colour she had prepared before in her vagina and them squeeze them out on a blank canvas which was lying on the ground. And of course she wrapped it up in a “story” and a “cause”. So maybe visual performance art? Basically some kind of a hybrid between painting and theater.

        I definitely don’t mean for example music or theater (theater sometimes feels a bit like this also, I am always reminded of the Dude’s neighbour’s theater performance in Big Lebowski when I see something like that, but it does not seem to be all that common and also usually not really praised very much by the critics either).

        • Matt M says:

          There used to be a really popular camgirl who would rarely take off her clothes. She would mostly kinda just dance around in some sort of costume making really exaggerated gestures. People would throw money at her, she could make thousands of dollars a night doing this. It was strangely hypnotic. I used to watch frequently (but never paid up).

          When describing the whole thing to friends, I classified it as “modern performance art”

        • Protagoras says:

          I knew what you meant by performance art, it’s just that performance art is more similar to theater than it is to painting. In fact, performance art is almost a term of abuse these days; I’d say there’s a non-trivial tendency to describe unusual performances as forms of theater or dance or something if they don’t suck and as performance art if they suck. Which obviously makes the question of why performance art sucks trivial.

    • Joeleee says:

      I tend to agree with much of what you’re getting at, and I also don’t have a huge appreciation for “modern art” as you seem to define it. I do think I go a bit far the other way though, due to looking down on the “value” or “consumer surplus” the art is giving. I’ll extend your wine analogy somewhat, as I am a moderate wine enthusiast:

      I feel confident that I would, in a blind test, prefer a 50 Euro wine over a 20 Euro wine the vast majority of the time (keeping grape, region etc. roughly constant). I am much less comfortable that I could do the same for a 500 Euro bottle vs the 50 Euro one. If it’s not a blind test though, I’m probably going to ooh and ahh about the 500 Euro bottle a lot more than I would the 50 Euro. My wife on the other hand, in a non-blind taste test is very likely to say something like “I didn’t really like it that much”, or “I prefer the 50 Euro bottle”. That’s because she’s (rationally) taking the price into account when she judges the wine.

      Similarly, I think with modern art, when I see a piece in a gallery, I might scoff and say it’s not that good. If I saw the same piece in my local cafe, or my friends house, I might go on about how cool the piece is. I think there’s an element of expectation that is created by the act of being in a gallery, which is akin to paying 500 Euros for a bottle of wine, which creates more negativity to it than there otherwise would be. On the other hand, art enthusiasts, like me with the wine, will be more likely to oohh and ahhh about the piece in the gallery. It’s not that the art isn’t better, it’s just that it’s not that much better, I think, which invokes the negative reaction from me.

      • Matt M says:

        I agree with this sentiment 100%

      • Well... says:

        But art has been hung in galleries (and other prestigious places) for a long time. If you’re right then the effect you’re talking about, if we presume many people would experience it, should have been prevalent before modern art as well.

        Was it? I find it hard to believe that someone would go to a gallery in the 19th century and see Ilya Repin’s “Barge Haulers on the Volga” and think “Ehh, it’s not that good” or “My 3 year-old could paint that” or “What’s that even supposed to be?” Same for earlier works by other iconic artists going back at least to Leonardo.

        • Joeleee says:

          I agree, but I think that the difference is that the gap between what was shown in a gallery and what was done by a “layman” back then was legitimately larger. To stretch the friendship with our wine analogy, back 100+ years ago, nobles drank Champagne and Bordeaux reds, and the “layman” drank whatever could be mixed up in the back by their local pub. The point being, that production techniques have become so much more widespread, in both wine and art, that the gap between average and great has shrunk, mainly by improving average so much. That and there may not be any Leonardo level artists producing art at the moment.

          Also, mine is not meant to be a theory of all that is wrong (or right) with modern art. I am very much an amateur in art and only provide armchair theorising and dodgy analogies 🙂

          • Well... says:

            the gap between what was shown in a gallery and what was done by a “layman” back then was legitimately larger

            Yes, that’s my point. Only, the gap hasn’t shrunk because laymen have gotten better at art, it’s shrunk because the pros have gotten worse.

          • Joeleee says:

            Totally fair position, and one I am very tempted to agree with (I go straight to the classical art when I visit a gallery). I’m just trying to calibrate for my biases (in this case, a bias towards “value” even when the cost to myself is zero in both instances).

            So basically, no argument from me.

          • Aapje says:

            @Well

            Yes, that’s my point. Only, the gap hasn’t shrunk because laymen have gotten better at art, it’s shrunk because the pros have gotten worse.

            Both?

          • TenMinute says:

            I’d argue it’s definitely both. Have you seen how many amazing middle school artists there are these days just posting stuff for fun?

          • Tibor says:

            Another thing might be that the classical art is already filtered whereas the contemporary art isn’t. I don’t know what 19th century galleries were like, maybe a lot of them showed a lot of boring landscapes. Now, there definitely was a much higher emphasis on craftsmanship, so the landscapes would probably be well done. But while learning to paint perspective, shades and use the right colours is definitely not easy, it doesn’t mean the result cannot be kitschy. It takes more craftsmanship to paint like in the 17th century than like Picasso eventually did, but that doesn’t mean it is automatically better. So, 19th century galleries might have been filled with a few gems (that are still there today) as well as a lot of boring stuff. Still, I think the curator’s job is to filter it well without having to wait a few generations. True, it might be more difficult if it is a “hot new thing everyone is into right now”, but again – the curator should be able to be above that.

            Also, in a sense the craftsmanship and perfect realism are less impressive today, not because it is easier to paint that way, but because we have not just photographs, but also photoshop and CGI which can be rendered indistinguishable from a photograph (if it is still at least). So I think that if a modern artist cannot paint a replica of a Dutch master, it does not mean he is necessarily worse. But another extreme is when there is no recognizable craft there at all (unless the idea is really clever and original, but even then it should be a one-time thing,not something the artists builds his career on).

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            Also, in a sense the craftsmanship and perfect realism are less impressive today, not because it is easier to paint that way, but because we have not just photographs, but also photoshop and CGI which can be rendered indistinguishable from a photograph (if it is still at least)

            When I was in the National Gallery some years back, there was a special exhibit of ‘hyperrealist‘ paintings. This is a genre of paintings with such detail that they look like photographs.

            Some were very impressive, but mainly because you know that it is not a photo and realize the effort needed to replicate all that detail. So it’s arguably a gimmick and anachronism.

            The issue I have with most conceptual art is that it is also gimmicky, but with very little craft. Imagine not reading a literary masterpiece itself, but instead, just reading the plot summary. That’s I feel when looking at a lot of conceptual art: the actual art part is missing.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Aapje

            It’s interesting to to me that what makes some of those paintings look so photorealistic is that they include defects that only exist in photographs; in particular shallow depth of field, and low dynamic range.

            When an artist works to exactly reproduce a photographic reference he paints things in the background as if they were out of focus, and he simulates under and overexposure in differently lit parts of the frame.

            The human eye on the other hand has about 20 stops of dynamic range, and is the ultimate auto focus lens. When working with an actual object as reference an artist can include details that no camera would capture; but this looks fake to us because we are used to perceiving photos as the gold standard of realism.

          • Aapje says:

            @hyperboloid

            I would suggest that you watch ‘Tim’s Vermeer,’ if you haven’t already. It makes a good case that Vermeer used photographic techniques (350 years ago!) and that as a result, his paintings have photographic defects.

          • IrishDude says:

            +1 on the ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ recommendation. It was a fascinating documentary.

        • But art has been hung in galleries

          Because they couldn’t find the artist?

      • Tibor says:

        That’s a very interesting point. But I think it is fair to agree something much better in a renowned art gallery than in a café, isn’t it? Otherwise there is no point for the gallery to have a curator. Some curators might be bad (but on average they should be better than café owners) or just trying something new and seeing if it works, so it can be hit or miss sometimes, but generally, the difference between a prestigious art gallery and a local café should be about the same as that between a rock band which plays in a local pub and Jeff Beck or between a concert at a local music school and say the London philharmonic orchestra.

    • Deiseach says:

      Modern art has expanded into many other fields beyond painting and sculpture; on the national classical radio station here there are arts programme that I try and fail to listen to, because of the amount of pretentious wankery that seems to be the necessary accompaniment, but I do gather that things like sound art, video installations, all kinds of non-traditional media are now used.

      I’d even say “paint on canvas” is very, very much the minority element in contemporary art.

      Disclaimer: all the above from an extremely amateur and cursory viewpoint, take into account I tend to go “Tsk! It’s all gone downhill!” from about the High Renaissance onwards, and I incline in preference towards the Early Renaissance anyway 🙂

    • bean says:

      I’m willing to defend at least some of modern art as being not entirely meaningless. But I’m not sure that modern art actually bears much relationship to the art of previous centuries. That art was created for purposes which we still fulfill, but we distinguish the things which fulfill those purposes from modern art. Paintings were the only way to decorate things before modern printing technology. (Well, sort of. I’m not an art historian, so I’m sure I’m wrong in some technical sense.) Portraits have almost all been replaced by photography. So modern art doesn’t have any obvious precedents in museums, and the fact that pieces often get confused with trash tells you what happened to any previous pieces.
      Now, for the promised defense. There is at least some of the modern art world interested in sending actual, interesting messages, although I suspect it’s a minority compared to the people who just seem to be playing weird signalling games. My theory is that this is because the actual money is attached to the signalling games. The one case I recall was an installation in a park somewhere where the artist put up a bunch of panels of color, drawn from a photo of the area. That’s a lot more interesting than random colors, but if you’re inclined to discard all modern art, they look the same. It doesn’t help that the art world by and large appears to be uninterested in reaching out to the general public.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I had the good fortune to see Laurie Anderson’s Forty Nine Days in the Bardo, an installation which was a tribute to her dog which had died. Unfortunately, I didn’t see her, but the installation was very worthwhile.

      Some of the pictures

      She talks about projecting moving pictures on three dimensional surfaces, but it isn’t clear in the video– this is a clever thing– to project a person’s movements on a statuette of them. I wish more people worked with this.

      A short talk about death from above

      And she put some of her dog’s ashes into a terracotta (?) statue, and wrote about how the wet clay brought back the smell of the dog being wet.

      If you want a great eulogy, the best strategy is to be loved by a great artist.

      The thing about Laurie Anderson is that she isn’t trying to shock people, she’s got a lively mind and applies it to using a wide range of methods to get an impression across.

      • Tibor says:

        Unfortunately, the Youtube video does not work. But the other one does and some of the paintings do seem very interesting (you can’t really see them properly in the video). I’m not sure I like the dog theme, but I like the style.

        An interesting thing is that it also demonstrates that an explanation can make it a bit more interesting. Particularly the way she projects the movements. You see more in the paintings when that is pointed out. But there is not a hint of pretension and trying to seem “artsy”.

        So I’d actually like to see more examples of modern art such as this. I’d also like to know whether these are rather the rule and the ridiculous pretentious nonsense is the exception or whether it is the other way around.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    That’s where I was heading– Moana may be the most beautiful movie I’ve ever seen, and more generally there’s a lot of art in animated and CGI-heavy movies.

  12. Gazeboist says:

    Scott or another psychiatry-knowledgable person:

    Does BDD typically include a “target” body, or does it focus primarily on flaws in the patient’s current body? I recall reading (here, I think, but possibly on Ozy’s blog) that the difference between BDD patients and trans people suffering physical* dysphoria is that transitioning works for trans people, but not for BDD patients, but I don’t remember anyone asking (or suggesting theories as to) why this is the case. Is it possible that the presence of a specific target body (which the trans person can acquire, or at least approach) is the thing that makes the difference?

    * I have no idea how or if this would relate to social dysphoria.

    • Adam says:

      I’m pretty sure it can include a target, but the problem is body dysmorphic people are troubled by perceived imperfections rather than real imperfections, so achieving exactly the body they want doesn’t help because they won’t see that body anyway. They still see ugliness.

  13. TenMinute says:

    Berkeley has just had its first murder of 2017, and the perpetrator was a well-known “activist” at the college.
    We have a number of people in and around UC Berkeley; does anyone know if this was a righteous dispensation of justice, or just the revolution devouring its children a little ahead of schedule?

    • shakeddown says:

      I’m guessing just some random crazy person.

    • Deiseach says:

      I was wondering if you anticipated the Berkeley campus to be the site of further murders, which gives an alarming picture of what it is like at the university, but I see by the story that it was a student of the college. I have no idea if mental illness or a romantic liaison gone bad was the reason for the killing.

      I’ve seen enough “why do they only say it was mental illness when a white guy did the shooting, when we all know it was really racism/homophobia” from the left that I don’t appreciate the right version of that. I don’t think we can blame activism for this, as it doesn’t appear to be a political assassination or anything of the kind – the suspect didn’t kill or attack members of the administration, for instance.

      I think bad romance is the explanation, as is usually the case when a male person stabs a female person (sorry if that’s disrespecting your preferred pronouns, Pablo Gomez Jr, but killing one person and trying to kill another is a lot more disrespectful).

      • TenMinute says:

        the suspect didn’t kill or attack members of the administration, for instance.

        That’s exactly what I was asking, because the story was never updated to include the identity of the victims. It matters if they were jilted lovers, their own underlings in Justice For Palestine, or a jewish “Chicanx Studies” admin who made the mistake of telling them “no”, for example.

        The media is always so quick to harp on victim identity that any silence or vagueness is generally meaningful. As we saw this week with reporting like “the attackers repeatedly called the victim the N-word and referenced Donald Trump”.

        Perhaps it’s awful, but it’s part and parcel of living under a hostile, perpetually lying press.

        • Deiseach says:

          the story was never updated to include the identity of the victims

          What little I saw was that the murdered woman hadn’t been identified yet and it’s still early in the case. Maybe the cops are waiting to tell her family first before the newshounds?

          Are we at the point where we need all the details immediately right now of the latest unhappy event and to hell with respect for the victims and their families? I don’t like people making political hay out of something; I hate it when I see the “White Christian Fascist killed all these LGBT/POC because they are a white Christian fascist and the establishment are trying to get us to buy that it was a case of mental illness” and I don’t like it from the other angle either.

          I saw too much of LGBT activists taking the fact that the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando was at a gay club and spinning hysterical stories that this was a deliberate attack to murder LGBT people and The Establishment was trying to downplay the latest attempt to destroy them by presenting it as a story of ‘mentally ill shooter’ (either unaware of, or ignoring, the political reasons for his actions in favour of ‘latest incident of LGBT persecution’) to take any refuge in “ha ha, the left likes playing identity politics when they can make use of it, now the shoe’s on the other foot”.

          Time enough to find out what the person believed, did or was involved in as and when it’s pertinent. Even nonbinary Chicanx activists are humans, too, and can go crazy for human motives of spurned love, mental trouble, persecution mania or a bad quarrel turned violent.

          • Matt M says:

            nonbinary Chicanx activists are humans, too

            Citation needed. (I kid, I kid)

            But yeah, any time a murder includes both a male and a female, I generally assume it was sex-related rather than politics-related. (sorry if I’m being heteronormative there. I know ‘they’ wouldn’t have wanted it that way)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’m generally with Deiseach on this one.

            Given sufficient time, there will most likely be enough information to fill in the blanks on motive and context without playing the same sort of bullshit games in reverse.

          • TenMinute says:

            I’d agree with you Lysenko. But waiting for the facts to emerge becomes difficult when they are scrubbed from google search and cache in a matter of hours.

            Someone, or something, is trying to erase all ties between their organizations and the perpetrator so thoroughly that the truth will never come out. This is enough to make one suspicious regardless of motive.

            Edit: Sorry, what TenMinute meant to say was “Bravo, Comrade Lysenko. Bravo! If I were to disagree with you, it would surely be serious symptom of Sluggish Schizophrenia, for which therapeutic forced labor treatment is only cure!”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Someone, or something, is trying to erase all ties between their organizations and the perpetrator so thoroughly that the truth will never come out. This is enough to make one suspicious regardless of motive.

            Ooh, barely a day and the deranged conspiracy theories have already set in. Have you considered that they don’t want a picture of a suspected murderer on their website, both because it’s bad publicity and out of a sense of decency for the victim and her family?

          • Deiseach says:

            TenMinute, in today’s social media atmosphere, taking down as fast as you can any mention of an alleged wrong-doer is damage control. Otherwise there will probably be a twitterstorm about your insensitivity and the emotional damage and distress you caused and how you probably support the Vile Monster and their Vicious Deeds.

            Nobody of any political persuasion or whatever they are involved in (be it activism or ‘this person was part of a cake baking online forum’) is going to risk the bad publicity of not immediately moving to wipe any connections. I don’t think we need speculate about any motivation more sinister than cover your ass.

        • John Schilling says:

          That’s exactly what I was asking, because the story was never updated to include the identity of the victims.

          The story, at least in the cited version, quasi-identified the murder victim from the start. Because the police were careful not to say “Emilie Inman was the murder victim”, the paper didn’t either. That’s an invitation to a lawsuit if they get anything wron. But they went out of the way to call Inman out as a missing person whose friends were terribly concerned about her and who was somehow connected to the killer, right after they said that gosh, the police haven’t said who the victim of this terrible murder is so what can we do?

          Complete with a handy link to a parallel story with lots more detail about the pretty white woman who went missing just about when Gomez was going all stabby. If I didn’t know any better, this would look like a journalistic hatchet job about how Those Nonbinary Transgender Latinx/Chicanx Freaks are going about Murdering Our Woman, but this seems to have been mostly an own goal for Team Social Justice.

          And hopefully not the start of a trend for Berkeley.

      • BBA says:

        The victim has been identified and according to this report, she “did not know her [alleged] killer.”

        • TenMinute says:

          Curious, but sounds like it might just be a “weird sex thing” after all.
          She’s certainly not the first victim you’d expect a campaign to “annihilate the wicked whites” to start with.
          Thank you for the update.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Tell me, do you think it was a “righteous dispensation of justice” when Trump sexually assaulted all those women, or when Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert molested all of those underage boys? Which is the party of family values and law and order, again?

      • TenMinute says:

        Please don’t be insulted, but after looking through your comments in this thread, it doesn’t appear productive to bother replying.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          I understand you’re desperate to hide from the fact that the right just made a known sexual predator president, but I haven’t actually left any other comments in this thread, champ.

          • bean says:

            If we replace “this thread” with “EK’s posts on the sexual assault allegations against Trump in general”, then I’m very much with him. I just didn’t bother to reply at all, because I know it’s not worth it.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Are you really going to keep doing this for the next eight years? It’s already old and it’s only been a month now.

        Anyway, yeah Republican politicians are no less monstrous in their behavior than any other politicians and the ones who talk about traditional values are hypocrites. Trump is his own beast in that he doesn’t even pretend to be moral. I don’t think you’ll find a lot of posters here disagreeing with either point.

        But it’s ultimately irrelevant. Our enemies told us over and over, and the numbers seem to back them up, that in the coming generations our people will begin to die off and we will be at the mercy of peoples raised to hate us. 2016 might not have been the last chance to turn that around but it doesn’t seem far off either. Trump was a bad choice but he was also the only choice.

        • CatCube says:

          Jane’s Law: “The adherents of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The adherents of the party out of power are insane.”

          • yodelyak says:

            This made me laugh out loud. Who is Jane, can I ask?

          • TenMinute says:

            Megan McArdle writing under the adorable pen name of “Jane Galt”, according to google.

          • yodelyak says:

            Ah. I just assumed “jane” wasn’t going to be discoverable via google. Hail Google, and thanks TenMinute.

          • TenMinute says:

            Thank god for Web 2.0. In the old days you’d need to track her down to a secessionist militia compound in Colorado to answer that question.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Are you really going to keep doing this for the next eight years? It’s already old and it’s only been a month now.

          Did you not get the memo? Everyone who supported Trump, one of the most odious human beings ever to enter American politics, has permanently forfeited their right to criticize the character or morals of anyone on the left. When you forget this, it is just and fitting that someone be there to remind you that every word you speak is rank, partisan hypocrisy. If you are really tired of it, I suggest that you either refrain from criticizing leftists for any reason or preface any such criticism with an apology for Trump.

          • TenMinute says:

            I’m sorry, but… what a tiresome and pointless life goal.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            …says the guy who follows Ann Coulter on twitter and comes here to parrot her partisan attacks.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You’re fitting the wag’s definition of a fanatic here. (“One who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”, usually but inaccurately credited to Churchill). Please stop.

          • bean says:

            Wow. This is impressive. If I ran across this in the wild, my first instinct would be to assume it was either sarcastic or parody.
            Also, I didn’t vote for Trump, so I expect that you’ll leave me off your list of people to remind about this.

          • TenMinute says:

            I can’t figure out twitter, and don’t know anything about Ann Coulter other than that a lot of people hate her.
            You seem to follow her closely. Is she worth reading?

          • CatCube says:

            one of the most odious human beings ever to enter American politics

            This is fascinating. Where do you rank the Southern Congressmen who followed the Confederacy out, or Representative Preston Brooks who beat a Senator Charles Sumner into a coma in the Senate chamber?

            Edit: I had forgotten that I gave the quote from Megan McArdle one thread up. I didn’t expect someone to roll in and prove it apt so quickly.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Goodness, I seem to have hit a nerve. If you don’t like being reminded that you voted for a sexual predator, maybe next time don’t vote for a sexual predator? I don’t think I have any responsibility to keep quiet about your glaring moral failures.

            I can’t figure out twitter, and don’t know anything about Ann Coulter other than that a lot of people hate her. You seem to follow her closely. Is she worth reading?

            Cute, but the article mentions that “the investigation has already caught the attention of conservative political commentator and writer Ann Coulter, who posted about it on Facebook and Twitter.” Would you like to share how you first came across it, or are we to believe that you’re a regular reader of berkeleyside.com?

          • CatCube says:

            I didn’t vote for the guy. Feel free to go back through my comments prior to the election.

            You’re doing the same thing as people who hated Obama–any statement to the effect that he’s not literally Satan’s minion among Man is interpreted as full-throated support.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I wasn’t responding to you in particular. It is amusing that your go-to defense of Trump is “he’s not as bad as people who literally owned human slaves!”, though.

          • quanta413 says:

            If you don’t like being reminded that you voted for a sexual predator, maybe next time don’t vote for a sexual predator?

            You’re adorable.

          • bean says:

            If you don’t like being reminded that you voted for a sexual predator, maybe next time don’t vote for a sexual predator? I don’t think I have any responsibility to keep quiet about your glaring moral failures.

            Just out of curiosity, what was the first election you voted in? If it was 1996 or earlier, then I’m going to respond, every single time, by calling you a hypocrite.

          • CatCube says:

            It’s not so much a defense, as pointing out how out of your mind you must be to use the phrase “one of the most odious human beings ever to enter American politics” when that group did include a substantial number of Confederate politicians.

            Not liking the guy is fine–if I thought he was a good guy, I’d have voted for him, after all–but you need to get a little fuckin’ perspective, man.

            Edit to add: I don’t think that Hillary was any better, BTW, which is why I didn’t vote for her, either.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            I am not so old as that. But let’s look at the comparison in greater detail. The Daily Caller lists seven accusations of sexual assault or harassment against Bill Clinton. It appears, however, that only one of the accusers, Paula Jones, went public before Clinton’s re-election, and some details of her accusation were shown to be false in court. So there was not particularly compelling evidence available to the public, as of 1996, that Bill had ever committed sexual misconduct. The overwhelming evidence that Trump is a sexual predator, in contrast, was readily available to all prior to his election. Republicans knowingly elected a sexual predator, while the democrats of yesteryear did not. The comparison is specious.

            @ CatCube

            Eh, Trump and the slaveholding politicians are odious in different ways. Trump sees all women as his personal property, and goes around grabbing them by the genitals without their consent. He misappropriates money earmarked for charity for personal use, including, famously, in order to purchase enormous portraits of himself. He refused to rent apartments to black people. He ran on a platform of torture and murder. He is already unapologetically using public office as a vehicle for his own enrichment. I could go on. I am not sure what circle of hell this puts him in in comparison to the slaveowners, but Trump’s sheer narcissism, venality, and contempt for basic decency are fairly unique in American history. The closest precedent I can think of would be someone like Boss Tweed.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            EK, stalking someone to Twitter (or acting as if you are doing so) is really not a good look for you. Maybe you should tone it down a few dozen notches, hey?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You’re deeply confused about something. I suggest rereading the conversation, TenMinute claims not to use Twitter, and I don’t either.

          • quanta413 says:

            Trump’s sheer narcissism, venality, and contempt for basic decency are fairly unique in American history. The closest precedent I can think of would be someone like Boss Tweed.

            Oh how quickly we forget Andrew Jackson. Or how the whole civil service system basically operated on corruption for decades. Jackson might not have been terribly corrupt, but he went past narcissism and contempt for basic decency and straight into raving psychopath killer territory.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Give Trump a chance– he promised in the course of his campaign that he would murder the relatives of terrorists, and we can’t be sure if that was just another lie or not yet. Jackson was, by all accounts, a bloodthirsty autocrat, but I don’t know that he got elected by running on a platform of committing war crimes.

          • Deiseach says:

            Everyone who supported Trump, one of the most odious human beings ever to enter American politics, has permanently forfeited their right to criticize the character or morals of anyone on the left.

            Earthly Knight, what is wrong with you? I am asking this in all seriousness. I used to think “Bush Derangement Syndrome” was a joke in poor taste, but now we seem to be seeing in reality “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.

            So you claim that you could commit murder, arson, rape or not putting your sweet wrappers in the bin, and nobody (unless they can provide written evidence that they have been calling for the assassination of Donald Trump since six months before the election) has any right to say “That’s maybe not so good”?

            This is going to be the go-to response for everything: yeah, well, I’m not as bad as Trump?

            It’s going to be a long four years 🙁

          • Tekhno says:

            @Earthly Knight

            permanently forfeited their right to criticize the character or morals of anyone on the left.

            That sounds rather extreme. Sounds like:

            rank, partisan hypocrisy.

            …Since you can only say so by converting “there are multiple accusations of Trump sexually harassing women” into “accusations = hard proof, therefore if you support Trump you support a molester”.

            Get this: not everyone puts much stock in political scandals and accusations of criminality, outside of the legal system. I didn’t put any stock in the “email scandal” or accusations that Hillary should go to jail for this reason or that, and so neither did I put much stock in accusations that Trump was a molester. Until it’s proven in a court of law, I flat out don’t give a shit. This is a consistent line for me, and my opinion that Trump was less horrible than Hillary was based on their policies and general stances on issues, not on who deserved to go to jail the most.

            Obviously there are tons of people out there who know for sure that Hillary should go to jail but think that Trump is entirely innocent, but you are precluding the possibility that someone can be consistent on this issue entirely when you say that supporting a candidate that you think is a criminal forfeits the right to criticize the other side.

            You’re not taking the stand against partisan hypocrisy you think you’re taking here. You’re just adding more noise.

          • bean says:

            I am not so old as that.

            Good. I got carried away when I said that, and it would have been tiring to follow through.

            But let’s look at the comparison in greater detail. The Daily Caller lists seven accusations of sexual assault or harassment against Bill Clinton. It appears, however, that only one of the accusers, Paula Jones, went public before Clinton’s re-election, and some details of her accusation were shown to be false in court.

            You do not get to use that defense. At last count, one of Trump’s cases had been to court, and it was completely retracted there (the marital rape accusation, which I think you agreed to throw out). I’ve been the one who believes we should be skeptical of anything which hasn’t been through the wringer which is the court system. By the rules where we don’t wait for the courts, you have to take her seriously in 1996. Or you have to claim that you don’t think that some of Trump’s accuser’s statements might also be proven false in court, which will just make all of us laugh at you.

            So there was not particularly compelling evidence available to the public, as of 1996, that Bill had ever committed sexual misconduct.

            Well, there was an actual lawsuit, which is pretty good evidence that Paula Jones thought she could actually win against Clinton. The bar for initiating Trial by Media is a lot lower than initiating Trial by Court, and I’d be a lot less reluctant to believe the accusations against Trump if someone was actually willing to test their claims in the court system.

          • Matt M says:

            Obama murdered the relatives of terrorists.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s going to be a long four years ?

            Correction: Eight years.

          • Incurian says:

            Does anyone else agree with this? This seems completely without merit to me but something about one-sided arguments…

            Earthly Knight: to what degree are you serious? I’m pretty sure you’re not trying to be ironic, but I also don’t think you’re being 100% literal (I could be wrong).

            I think it would be bad to take EK’s hyperbolic and inflammatory comments literally, since that’s a mistake I think a lot of Trump’s critics make (though to be fair it’s really hard to tell with him, and the standards caveats that I didn’t vote for him and I think he’s a bad person with bad policies etc.).

          • Iain says:

            My impression is that Earthly Knight is always deliberately provocative. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t; in this case, I think it doesn’t.

            Specifically: Earthly Knight, I frequently appreciate your attempts to pin people to their hypocrisy, but would argue that they are best deployed in cases where people are actually being hypocritical.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Tekhno

            …Since you can only say so by converting “there are multiple accusations of Trump sexually harassing women” into “accusations = hard proof, therefore if you support Trump you support a molester”.

            I am not sure what you think “hard proof” is, but there is not any real distinction to be made between testimony and other types of evidence. The probability that someone is guilty of sexual assault given that he has been credibly accused of non-consensual kissing and groping by a dozen women is extremely high.

            As for your insistence that charges like this must be proven in court before you will take them seriously, let me ask: do you still think Bill Cosby is innocent?

            @ bean

            Well, there was an actual lawsuit, which is pretty good evidence that Paula Jones thought she could actually win against Clinton. The bar for initiating Trial by Media is a lot lower than initiating Trial by Court, and I’d be a lot less reluctant to believe the accusations against Trump if someone was actually willing to test their claims in the court system..

            Jill Harth sued Trump for sexual assault and harassment in 1997. The suit was subsequently withdrawn as part of a settlement on a related matter where, presumably, Trump gave Harth and her then-husband a pile of money to make the allegations go away.

            I’ve been the one who believes we should be skeptical of anything which hasn’t been through the wringer which is the court system. By the rules where we don’t wait for the courts, you have to take her seriously in 1996.

            The testimony of one accuser (who made claims in court which were demonstrably false) is not nearly the same quality of evidence as the testimony of a dozen accusers.

            @ Iain

            I think you are altogether too tolerant of trashy partisan attacks like the one by TenMnute which began this thread. The best way of responding to these is with reminders of just how catastrophically the right failed to live up to its values last November, until there are no longer any trashy partisan attacks.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Wait, I’m lost here.

            I thought Trump had been accused of rape by multiple women and girls, not kissing. Otherwise it’s really weird to bring up when there are tons of actual rapists and child molesters like Jeffery Epstein’s various party-goers running around on Capitol Hill.

            Can I get a link to the original accusations or something?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            This People article restricts itself mainly to the twelve credible allegations against Trump, if that’s what you prefer. Some only involve non-consensual kissing, while others feature Trump forcing his hands up women’s skirts while they try to fight him off.

          • bean says:

            Jill Harth sued Trump for sexual assault and harassment in 1997. The suit was subsequently withdrawn as part of a settlement on a related matter where, presumably, Trump gave Harth and her then-husband a pile of money to make the allegations go away.

            I forgot about that one, and I agree that it’s the biggest red flag on Trump’s record. However, Harth was on good terms with Trump until a year or so ago, which is not what I’d suspect of someone who had been the subject of sexual predation. I genuinely don’t know what happened between her and Trump, but nothing I can say on this is going to change your mind either way.

            The testimony of one accuser (who made claims in court which were demonstrably false) is not nearly the same quality of evidence as the testimony of a dozen accusers.

            She made some claims which were demonstrably false. She made others which were demonstrably true. She did a good enough job proving her case that Clinton paid her entire demand, a good sign he suspected he would lose and was trying to cut down how much he had to pay his lawyers.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Ok thanks, reading now.

            Edit: Huh, alright. He’s sleazy as all hell but I had been expecting much worse given the tone of the coverage. I guess that’s good news.

          • Iain says:

            @Earthly Knight: I agree that TenMinute’s original “righteous dispensation of justice” line was trashy. I don’t see how it is relevant to Trump and family values, nor how relitigating Trump’s sexual predation is supposed to prevent such comments in the future. Note that this thread has largely become a referendum on your comments, and TenMinute’s original comment has fallen completely by the wayside.

          • quanta413 says:

            Jackson was, by all accounts, a bloodthirsty autocrat, but I don’t know that he got elected by running on a platform of committing war crimes.

            Jackson killed someone in a duel for a minor insult before he was ever elected. No need for him to promise things like killing people for minor insults; it was his actual practice. And I don’t think war crimes was even a serious concept when Jackson was President.

            But there was that time where after his first state of the union address, Jackson promised to forcibly remove all Native Americans from their legal property, then actually did it leading to the death of thousands of Native Americans via death marches at gunpoint and war.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Earthly Knight

            The probability that someone is guilty of sexual assault given that he has been credibly accused of non-consensual kissing and groping by a dozen women is extremely high.

            Not when it’s a celebrity and especially not when it’s a political figure.

            As for your insistence that charges like this must be proven in court before you will take them seriously, let me ask: do you still think Bill Cosby is innocent?

            I must wait to find out.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            I genuinely don’t know what happened between her and Trump, but nothing I can say on this is going to change your mind either way.

            I think you’re still failing to get that the number of accusations makes a big difference. To see why, suppose that there’s only a 20% chance that any given allegation is true, and for the sake of simplicity let’s focus on the four accusations which were made independently of all others. Even if we set aside the testimony of the other eight women, ignore Trump’s boasts about grabbing women by the pussy, and ignore Trump’s lecherous habit of spying on women in changing rooms, the probability calculus instructs us that these four allegations alone would make it 59% probable that Trump is guilty of at least one of the charges against him.

            She did a good enough job proving her case that Clinton paid her entire demand, a good sign he suspected he would lose and was trying to cut down how much he had to pay his lawyers.

            This isn’t quite what happened. The suit was thrown out of court by the judge because, even if everything went down as Jones claimed, Bill’s behavior did not rise to the level of sexual assault or harassment. Bill settled the case on appeal, apparently wary about the prospect of being forced to testify under oath about other extramarital liaisons just before his impeachment hearings.

            Don’t get me wrong, I think that in light of what we’ve subsequently learned about Bill it’s pretty likely that Jones’s accusations were true, even if she did misdescribe his genitals. But this was not so obvious in 1996.

            @ Tekhno

            I must wait to find out.

            And men like Jimmy Saville and Joe Paterno, who escaped prosecution through death, you believe that we will never have sufficient grounds to judge them guilty of wrongdoing?

          • Nornagest says:

            Jackson was, by all accounts, a bloodthirsty autocrat, but I don’t know that he got elected by running on a platform of committing war crimes.

            War crime in 1828 was hardly comparable to what it is today, but he did campaign on a policy of Indian removal, which was legally complicated then and which I suspect you’d have a low opinion of now. To the extent, that is, that he campaigned on any policy; much like the 2016 elections, the 1824 and 1828 ones were more referenda on the candidates’ character and on tribal alignments than on their actual platforms.

            Sure enough, though, Jackson ended up overruling the Supreme Court in favor of Indian removal he was in office. You may have heard of the Trail of Tears.

          • Tekhno says:

            And men like Jimmy Saville and Joe Paterno, who escaped prosecution through death, you believe that we will never have sufficient grounds to judge them guilty of wrongdoing?

            Maybe, maybe not.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Nornagest

            Do you have evidence that Jackson actively campaigned on a policy of Indian removal? Did Adams support a different policy?

            @ Tekhno

            If memory serves, it is also the case that no document exists proving that Hitler personally ordered the extermination of the jews, and we know of his guilt only by way of the testimony of his associates. Hitler, of course, did not live to be prosecuted for his crimes. Has your skepticism about testimony and about charges never proven before a court also led you to perpetually suspend judgment about Hitler’s responsibility for the holocaust? Is this also a maybe, maybe not for you?

          • Nornagest says:

            Do you have evidence that Jackson actively campaigned on a policy of Indian removal? Did Adams support a different policy?

            I don’t know if Adams had a well-defined stance on Indian affairs during the election, but he later supported the Supreme Court decision in Worchester v. Georgia that Jackson overruled (or, if you’re being polite, declined to enforce). Jackson’s alleged actions during the Seminole Wars, which included a lot of stuff that we’d now call war crimes even if there was no formal basis for the charge at the time, did come up during the election — among many other nasty allegations.

            I’m not going to bother digging up the primary sources, but this is all in Wikipedia.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Earthly Knight

            If memory serves, it is also the case that no document exists proving that Hitler personally ordered the extermination of the jews, and we know of his guilt only by way of the testimony of his associates. Hitler, of course, was never prosecuted for his crimes. Has your skepticism about testimony and about allegations never proven before a court also led you to perpetually suspend judgment about Hitler’s responsibility for the holocaust? Is this also a maybe, maybe not for you?

            “Hitler did the Holocaust” is something I take for granted, not something I’ve proven.

            The Holocaust itself has way more evidence behind it than any amount of murders or molestation committed by any individual. I can also infer the Holocaust must be true, because the amount of people that would have to be in on the secret would be unsustainable. I can’t prove the Holocaust happened. I believe the Holocaust happened, because the alternative implies a world where human behavior is drastically different than I thought it was, to the extent where this would be evident in my everyday life.

            There are standards I would apply for large scale world changing events that I would not apply for accusations that a single person did x, especially when there are parties interested in bringing that person down with accusations for political reasons.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Nornagest

            You didn’t really answer my question. I spent some time last night searching for evidence that Jackson openly supported the Indian removal policy before his election, and came up empty. Is there evidence that he did, or not?

            @ Tekhno

            Certainly there is indisputable physical evidence that the holocaust took place. That’s not what I’m inquiring with you about, though, I’m inquiring about whether you accept that Hitler personally ordered the extermination of the jews. My understanding is that we know this to be true only on the basis of testimony. This means that, if you truly believe as a general rule that we should withhold judgment concerning all allegations (a) made against controversial political figures (b) on the basis of testimony alone and (c) never proven at trial, it follows that you must suspend judgment on whether Hitler was personally to blame for the holocaust. Most people, I think, would take this as a reductio of your views on the evidentiary value of testimony.

          • bean says:

            I think you’re still failing to get that the number of accusations makes a big difference. To see why, suppose that there’s only a 20% chance that any given allegations is true, and for the sake of simplicity let’s focus on the four accusations which were completely independent of all the others. Even if we set aside the testimony of the other eight women, ignore Trump’s boasts about grabbing women by the pussy, and ignore Trump’s lecherous habit of spying on women in changing rooms, the probability calculus instructs us that these four allegations alone would make it 59% probable that Trump is guilty of at least one of the charges against him.

            You’re using statistics improperly, by confusing ‘independent’ in the sense of ‘probably not a copycat accusation’ with ‘statistically independent’. Statistical independence is a very bad assumption here. If he is guilty of one, the probability that he’s guilty of more than one is very high. He’s supposed to be a serial sexual predator, after all, not someone who once did something to one woman. If he’s not guilty of one, it shifts our probability that he’s guilty of the others down somewhat. Obviously not as much, because it’s possible that we drew the one out of four specious accusations, but we do Bayesian updating, instead of leaving our probabilities the same for each trial.
            To look at this another way, let’s take the obvious compliment, the Clinton Death List. Let’s say we give a 2% probability to each of the 40 items on the list. The odds now are 55.5% that he killed at least one person on that list. This is obvious nonsense. Nobody is claiming that the Clintons may have killed one person on this list, they’re claiming that they killed all of them, and 2% is approximately our probability that he has actually killed people, not the probability that any given entry on the list is true. Debunking two or three items would be enough to allow you to quite rightly dismiss the list as a whole as specious.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            You’re using statistics improperly, by confusing ‘independent’ in the sense of ‘probably not a copycat accusation’ with ‘statistically independent’. Statistical independence is a very bad assumption here. If he is guilty of one, the probability that he’s guilty of more than one is very high.

            I don’t think this matters so long as P(accuser x is telling the truth|the other accusers are lying) ≈ P(accuser x is telling the truth) for all x. This means we can safely use the unconditional probabilities throughout in estimating the chance that Trump is innocent. You are saying that P(accuser x is telling the truth|the other accusers are telling the truth) > P(accuser x is telling the truth), which is true, but can only hurt Trump, not help him.

            To visualize this, the region of the probability space where Trump is guilty of at least one accusation occupies 60% of the whole, but this region is dominated by the sub-region where Trump is guilty of all four charges.

            Nobody is claiming that the Clintons may have killed one person on this list, they’re claiming that they killed all of them, and 2% is approximately our probability that he has actually killed people, not the probability that any given entry on the list is true.

            That’s not what’s happening here. I am suggesting as a low-ball estimate, based on our extensive background knowledge of attested sexual assault accusations against celebrities and politicians, that we take the unconditional probability that any given accusation against Trump is true as 20%, in which case the above argument goes through. The credence we antecedently assign to each murder accusation against the Clintons should be much lower than 2%, both because murders are rare to begin with and because the evidence for each of the “murders” is that someone who the Clintons knew or disliked died, which is no evidence at all.

          • bean says:

            I don’t think this matters so long as P(accuser x is telling the truth|the other accusers are lying) ≈ P(accuser x is telling the truth) for all x.

            But why should that be the case? If Trump isn’t guilty, they’re all lying. If he is, then the chances of all but one lying is basically zero. Your entire argument to date has been that the pattern we see proves he’s guilty. The probability that he’s guilty of at least one should be only a bit higher than the probability that a random accuser is correct under that metric, and you’re totally failing to get that. Under your interpretation, P(accuser x is telling the truth|Trump is guilty in at least one case) is actually pretty low. I think I’m done here.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Certainly there is indisputable physical evidence that the holocaust took place. That’s not what I’m inquiring with you about, though, I’m inquiring about whether you accept that Hitler personally ordered the extermination of the jews. My understanding is that we know this to be true only on the basis of testimony. This means that, if you truly believe as a general rule that we should withhold judgment concerning all allegations (a) made against controversial political figures (b) on the basis of testimony alone and (c) never proven at trial, it follows that you must suspend judgment on whether Hitler was personally to blame for the holocaust. Most people, I think, would take this as a reductio of your views on the evidentiary value of testimony.

            A priori, I think the probability of someone trying to hurt a candidate’s election chances by falsely accusing him of committing a crime is higher than the probability of high-ups in a totalitarian government setting up a programme to murder six million people without their leader noticing.

          • Deiseach says:

            Even if we set aside the testimony of the other eight women, ignore Trump’s boasts about grabbing women by the pussy, and ignore Trump’s lecherous habit of spying on women in changing rooms

            Your query about “why did people vote for a sexual predator” can be answered in part that some of this is down to it being the case that many of the same people who were so horrified by the disgusting talk of grabbing women by the pussy are the same ones who were lecturing that song lyrics calling women bitches and whores and expressing equally crude sexual imagery were legitimate works of art reflecting a culture that should be respected and celebrated, and any criticism was not alone prudishness, attempts to impose one’s personal morality on others, anti-sexual liberation but racism as well.

            I think Trump’s remarks about women are disgusting. I think all talk of that nature is disgusting, whether it’s about women or men. But that is because I’m a religious bigot who hates sexual liberation and is anti-reproductive rights, since I do base it (in part) on moral judgement.

            You can’t have it all ways, Earthly Knight; such language can’t be disgusting evidence of sexual predation in one context and poetry equal to the best work of Dead White European Males in another.

            Though to be fair, some of those cooing approval go for sentimental gooeyness over straight-up yeah it’s misogyny but it’s got a great beat to dance to!

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            But why should that be the case?

            Suppose that you accuse Charlie of stealing today, and three other people do so tomorrow but are subsequently shown to be lying. Should that reduce our confidence that you were telling the truth below where it stands today? No, because there’s absolutely no causal connection between what you said and what those other people said, and finding out that three people lied should not perceptibly affect our estimate of how honest humans are in general.

            Something did go wrong in my earlier description of the case, although I’m not quite sure what. I suspect that the conclusion needs to be corrected to read that the chance Trump is guilty (given only the four accusations) must be greater than or equal to .6.

            @ Mr. X

            A priori, I think the probability of someone trying to hurt a candidate’s election chances by falsely accusing him of committing a crime is higher than the probability of high-ups in a totalitarian government setting up a programme to murder six million people without their leader noticing.

            Seems right to me, but to say this Tekhno would have to drop his hard line rejecting all extrajudicial testimony in favor of a more nuanced position, and the hard line is only thing allowing him to maintain the pretext that Trump’s guilt has not been adequately demonstrated.

            @ Deiseach

            I have no objection to Trump talking about grabbing women consensually by the pussy. If he wanted to deliver a lengthy speech about how much he enjoys fondling his wife’s genitals, that would be a little gross but basically fine by me. But his remarks made the pussy-grabbing sound awfully uninvited, and the subsequent allegations seem to have borne out that Trump does, indeed, go around grabbing women by the pussy without even waiting for their consent. The problem is the boasting about sexual assault, not the crude language.

          • Moon says:

            This is the guy you voted for, Trump voters, in his own words:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSE-XoVKaXg&app=desktop

            How can anyone take seriously, any person who voted for someone who acts like this, is beyond me.

          • Deiseach says:

            Matt M, I genuinely don’t see Trump getting re-elected in 2020 or even running again, but who knows? Personally I would think he should be satisified with gratifying his vanity by winning the 2016 election and shrewd enough to let some other sucker run in 2020 so the Republican or Democrat who gets elected after him has to deal with the fall-out. But obviously I’m not Trump.

            Earthly Knight, there’s one allegation that is very serious, that at least one online source genuinely if hysterically expected would sink Trump before the election, and that appears to have been shopped around for a couple of years without going anywhere, even when journalists have been interested enough to take it up but dropped it again. It even had a go at court in California but got nowhere (the original lawsuit was filed and then dismissed in Los Angeles before the person making the allegations turned up again in New York).

            And I deliberately say “person”, not “woman”, because it is extremely unclear who is making the actual allegations:

            On August 5 of last year, a Gawker Media employee received an unsolicited voicemail tip from someone identifying themselves as Al Taylor, “the PR person for the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas.” Taylor requested that someone from Gawker return his call because, he said, “I’ve got some good info on Donald Trump for you, it might be very interesting for your site.” In addition to managing public relations for a museum “designed to preserve wonders of the erotic imagination,” Taylor is a former producer for the syndicated tabloid news show Inside Edition.

            Details of what the alleged victim says is her history are credible because they sound like precisely the kind of thing that has been going on since the 18th century (at least); very young woman goes to big city alone and with no contacts in the hopes of making it big on her talent and good looks and/or fleeing a bad home situation; at the coaching stop/bus station she falls into conversation with a friendly, respectable-looking older woman who offers to get her a good job as a maid in a respectable family household/help her to make contacts in the field she wants to break into; this is actually a procuress finding fresh meat for a brothel. You can all guess what happens next.

            The rest of the story, though, is very fuzzy and does read like someone (or someone behind the victim who is to be the face of the case) realising “hey, I could make some money out of this!” when they see public figure embroiled in scandal.

            Is Trump a lecher? Probably. Did he behave badly? Probably. But beauty contests have always been a snake pit, and the owners of the licences have always been more about making money and exploiting the contestants than anything; the Morleys over here were an example of such (Eric Morley founded the Miss World pageant first as a promotional tool for his employers, an entertainment and leisure group, and then as a money-maker for himself by keeping the rights and a 51% stake in it, which went to his widow, Julia Morley, who now keeps a firm grip on the rights).

            The outrage is “Trump is uniquely horrible” and the response is “(1) I don’t believe your side because you are motivated to throw mud (2) even if true, this is not uniquely horrible behaviour, this has happened and is happening all over the place”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Deiseach, the case you’re citing is not one where I think the accusation is credible and not one we have been discussing. Here’s a good round-up of the credible accusations, which ranged from unwanted kissing to attempted rape:

            http://people.com/politics/every-sexual-assault-accusation-against-donald-trump/

          • Suppose that you accuse Charlie of stealing today, and three other people do so tomorrow but are subsequently shown to be lying. Should that reduce our confidence that you were telling the truth below where it stands today?

            Yes.

            The fact that three people falsely accused Charlie of stealing strongly suggests that there is some reason to falsely accuse Charlie of stealing, some reason why people want to get him. That raises the probability that your accusation was false.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            We have already built Trump’s celebrity and controversy into the unconditional probabilities. What other reasons for why he might be falsely accused did you have in mind?

          • bean says:

            Suppose that you accuse Charlie of stealing today, and three other people do so tomorrow but are subsequently shown to be lying. Should that reduce our confidence that you were telling the truth below where it stands today? No, because there’s absolutely no causal connection between what you said and what those other people said, and finding out that three people lied should not perceptibly affect our estimate of how honest humans are in general.

            This violates conservation of expected evidence. If I’m innocent, then all of my accusers are lying by definition. If I’m guilty, I’d expect most of my accusers to not be lying. Your statistics imply that P(accuser 101 is telling the truth|accusers 1-100 were lying) is the same as P(accuser 1 is telling the truth), which makes no sense at all. What’s a reasonable estimate for P(accuser x is telling the truth|I’m guilty)? I’d say something like 0.75 if we look at the most credible allegations. If we assign my guilt P=0.5 initially, then drawing a lying accuser lowers that to 0.2, assuming I’m doing my math right. This process will continue with each and every lying accuser we find. To avoid this happening quickly, we need to set P(accuser is telling the truth|I’m guilty) very low. In other words, you think the average accuser is more likely to be dishonest than I do.

          • Jiro says:

            We have already built Trump’s celebrity and controversy into the unconditional probabilities. What other reasons for why he might be falsely accused did you have in mind?

            If you build this into the unconditional probabilities, then adding accusations doesn’t raise the probability to as high a value as if you didn’t build it in.

            It may turn out that even though each accusation raises the probability, it doesn’t raise it enough for Trump with many accusations to get to the probability of a normal person with 1 accusation.

          • John Schilling says:

            Suppose that you accuse Charlie of stealing today, and three other people do so tomorrow but are subsequently shown to be lying. Should that reduce our confidence that you were telling the truth below where it stands today? No, because there’s absolutely no causal connection between what you said and what those other people said,

            OK, so if a large near-earth object hits Russia today, and tomorrow large NEOs hit Canada, Australia, and Brazil, are you really going to say that there is no “causal connection”, or are you going to look for the e.g. recently-fragmented comet that is going to pepper the earth with a cosmic shotgun blast of impacts for the next few days?

            If after many years of not being openly accused of theft or sexual assault or any other such thing, a person is subject to multiple accusations in short succession, they almost certainly are causally connected. All of the subsequent accusations are copycats. They may still be true; it may be that the only thing they are copying is the trailblazing observation that now is the time to come forward and be taken seriously after having long suffered in silence due to the criminal’s perceived immunity.

            But they are not uncorrelated, and if the initial accusation is false then the subsequent ones are also likely false. All of them, no matter how many they are and what probability you would have ascribed to them if they had occurred in isolation.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ bean

            Your statistics imply that P(accuser 101 is telling the truth|accusers 1-100 were lying) is the same as P(accuser 1 is telling the truth), which makes no sense at all.

            What I’ve said doesn’t imply this, actually. We do need, upon finding out that any given accuser is lying, to reduce our confidence that accusations of that sort are true by a small amount. If we discover that three accusers are lying the reduction will be trivial, swamped by our background knowledge of the chances, but not if it’s one hundred. This for roughly the same reason that getting three heads in three flips should not significantly affect your confidence that a quarter taken from your pocket is fair, while getting one hundred heads in one hundred flips should.

            @ John Schilling ,

            All of the subsequent accusations are copycats.

            We’re restricting our attention here to the four accusations we know not to be copycats. Jill Harth sued Trump for sexual assault back in the 90’s; Cassandra Searles accused him on Facebook this past June, but her accusation was not widely reported at the time; and Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks were the first two women whose stories were picked up by the Times. The only way these could be causally connected if they are false, once we’ve already taken into account Trump’s celebrity, is if there’s some elaborate conspiracy at work, one stretching back two decades.

          • We have already built Trump’s celebrity and controversy into the unconditional probabilities.

            How did you decide what weight to give them? The fact that N women falsely accused him, if you didn’t know it when constructing those probabilities, would be a reason to change them.

    • S_J says:

      What is the typical homicide rate for the city of Berkeley, CA?

      From a glance at NeighborhoodScout, Berkeley has slightly higher rates than the U.S. average for Rape, and much higher rates for most forms of property crime (Burglary, Theft, MotorVehicle Theft…). However, Berkeley’s rates of Assault are lower than the U.S. average, and the homicide numbers look to be in the vicinity of 1 per year. (Giving an incredibly-low per-capita rate for homicide.)

      The comparison stats for California aren’t stated clearly, but Berkeley comes off with apparently-high rates of some crimes. However, it again appears that Berkeley is not known to have a high homicide rate.

      (Berkeley, CA is not to be confused with Berkley, MI…which sits along Woodward Avenue, between Detroit and Pontiac. I suspect Berkley, MI has a lower rate for most crimes than Berkeley, CA.)

      EDIT: I found another source, which gives better year-by-year data. That source had homicides in Berkeley numbering less-than-10-annually since 2002. With a population in the vicinity of 120k, this gives a per-capita rate that varies between 7.9/100k and 0,9/100k. This is a wide variance, but the years since 2010 have seen rates below 4.9/100k.

      I conclude that we can’t tell whether this event portends a higher homicide rate this year, or an average rate.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I heard some 30 years ago that Berkeley, CA had a high crime rate because of its vicinity to the bad part of Oakland, one of our more crime ridden cities. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I don’t think it is correct to attribute the crime rate to the university itself, much less the ideological aspect of the university. The example that’s been discussed seems to be about a student, but an anecdote does not make a trend.

        Not that I disagree that the school has a lot of crazies, but I don’t think they are committing crimes.

        • TenMinute says:

          Oakland’s homicides/year has dropped by half since the national peak in the early 90s, but it’s still high. I’ll try to find some population normalized figures.

          • John Schilling says:

            Oakland homicide rate, 16.39 per 100,000 in 2016. Berkeley population, 116,000 in 2016. So if Berkeley gets subsumed into the general Oakland-area level of criminality, we’d expect 1.58 murders per month. They’re running ahead of schedule in 2017, but not to a statistically significant degree yet.

        • Adam says:

          High rape rate in any university town seems attributable to the university at least.

          • John Schilling says:

            If by “rape” we mean the thing that is reported as a criminal offense to and by police departments and thus shows up in official crime statistics, I’m not so sure. The cynical view of campus police departments is that they exist to make sure the sort of thing that might be reported as a drug or sex crime if done by the average resident of e.g. Oakland, is carefully shunted into the “youthful indiscretion” category when college students are involved.

            And even absent cynical campus police, there is certainly an awful lot of youthful indiscretion going on at college campuses under a social umbrella of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

          • Randy M says:

            Universities do bring a large number of complicating factors. More young and so more impulsive, but also skewed more towards the college eligible cluster of the population (whatever that entails, from class to income to IQ, etc.) so perhaps less impulsive/criminal.

            Also, if students expect campus authorities to cover up, it could lead them to being more reckless (like seat belts can lead to speeding). I’d say it would need to be studied rather than reasoned.

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure about that. If we use a uniform definition of rape, then to the best of my knowledge, college women are about 80% as likely as non-college women of the same age to get sexually assaulted. (Links in the “Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth” post.) The problem is that most crime statistics are really vulnerable to bias in what gets reported as a specific crime. For instance, Sweden has a crazy high sexual assault rate because they define sexual assault a lot more broadly than do most other countries. I suspect colleges have the same thing going on.

          • Adam says:

            That may be the case, but college towns should have a much higher proportion of college-aged women than surrounding jurisdictions.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Bean’s figure of 80% is practically the same as 100%. The difference is negligible compared to the effect of age.

            (Bean’s figure is for NCVS self-report. The corresponding figure for police report is 2:3.)

  14. Winter Shaker says:

    This is an invitation to Tibor, if you’re following this far downthread: you mentioned you were learning Portuguese in the last open thread, and I couldn’t respond because I was away on holiday and couldn’t figure out how to log in on my mobile, but if you’re interested and have Skype, I’d be up for setting up some conversation practice sessions, since I’m trying to learn (Brazilian) Portuguese too.

    • Tibor says:

      Thanks for the invitation – I will be in touch. The point is, I am now having weekly tandems (I don’t know if that’s what you call it in English too – basically we teach each other while talking) with a girl from Brazil (I help her with German). That is definitely enough for me right now, considering that I mostly only learn Portuguese for fun. But she might not be here for that long or she might want to practice German with a native speaker instead as she gets better, so I might take you up on that offer.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Not sure that we even do have a single word in English for that concept – I’d have gone for something like ‘informal language exchange’. Anyway, do get in touch if you find yourself with time to try to practice – my deadline for near-fluency is vaguely late March, but depending on how things go, I’ll probably want to continue improving past that time as well. And in case I’m not paying attention at the time, my email address is [the first guy from the fiery furnace, the one who isn’t Meshach or Abednego] underscore z at hotmail dot com.

  15. IrishDude says:

    There was discussion about contracts in the previous OTs, somewhat in relation to how libertarians see them, and I want put a couple more of my thoughts on this here.

    The basic elements of a contract that I think make it more just, include: (1) offer; (2) acceptance; (3) consideration; (4) mutuality of obligation; (5) competency and capacity; and, in certain circumstances, (6) a written instrument.

    I don’t think all contracts should be treated the same way. Contracts can be written or verbal, implicit or explicit, formal or informal. Contracts can be simple or complicated, and can involve low or high stakes. All these variables can affect how I think contracts should be treated.

    I’ve agreed to meet friends at places at certain times, creating an informal verbal contract, and had them show up an hour late. This violated the contract, but the consequences for violation were my disapproval and lowering my evaluation of their reliability, with no recourse to arbitrators. I’ve made high stakes written contracts, such as when I bought my house (transferring a substantial sum of money to people in exchange for their house and land) and when I took out a mortgage (exchanging money for me now for more money for the bank later). Violation of this contract from either side would lead to appeals to arbitration.

    Informal verbal contracts can work between people who know each other and already have a level of trust. They’re also more useful in low stakes situations where creating a formal contract is probably not worth it. Formal, written, explicit contracts tend to be better for agreements between strangers and high stakes situations.

    I think contracts are useful as a tool for creating exchange with mutual consent, which tends to lead to positive sum interactions. However, I don’t think all contracts are made the same or that they should all be enforced with extreme penalties. The context around the contracts matter.

    In AnCapLand, I see informal contracts between acquaintances functioning exactly as they do now. I see formal contracts functioning somewhat similar to how they do under states, with the exception that all the arbitrators would be private businesses rather than public courts. In fact, due to the inefficiency of public courts, already many businesses choose to use private arbitration for the contracts they make between each other as they’re considered less costly (in time and money) and more fair (in terms of expertise on the subject matters). I expect this trend to increase over time.

    • qwints says:

      I haven’t read the previous discussion, so I’m a little confused about whether you’re talking about contractualism as an ethical theory or contract law in practice. From a practical standpoint, I think it’s very confusing to put agreements to meet friends in the class of contract. The fundamental characteristic of a contract is that it is an enforceable promise, and such agreements lack enforceability. I don’t think that your opinion of your friends changing is “enforcement.”

      • IrishDude says:

        I’m mostly talking about the ethical theory as I see it, but my comment is primarily in response to the claim that libertarians hold contracts sacrosanct, and so as a libertarian I wanted to add some nuance to how my view of contracts differs according to circumstances.

        From a practical standpoint, I think it’s very confusing to put agreements to meet friends in the class of contract.

        If it has the elements of a contract including offer, acceptance, consideration, etc., then I feel comfortable considering it a contract, though I’d call it an informal one.

        The fundamental characteristic of a contract is that it is an enforceable promise, and such agreements lack enforceability. I don’t think that your opinion of your friends changing is “enforcement.”

        We’re social animals and expressing disappointment and shame towards people who break agreements is surprisingly effective as an enforcement mechanism, unless the person you’re dealing with lacks guilt and/or doesn’t care about your opinion. If you’re in that situation, and you’re making an important agreement, something formal and written is probably prudent.

        Social ostracization can be very effective at enforcing compliance with social norms. Sometimes something more is required though.

    • Brad says:

      Your list seems far too tightly tied to the historically continent requirements of Anglo-American contract law to be a good candidate for a culturally agnostic minimum standard of justice for any contract system.

      Take consideration, for example. Does the fundamental analysis of the justness of a contract really turn on whether or not it contains a line that says “for the sum of $1 and other good and valuable consideration”?

      • IrishDude says:

        If there’s no consideration, isn’t it just charity? If I give you X without expecting anything in return it isn’t a contract as far as I can see. If I tell you I will give you X without getting anything in return, and don’t follow through, it’s breaking a promise not a contract. Exchange of value is part of what makes a contract a contract, in my mind, with each party promising something to the other.

        • Brad says:

          What exactly is the moral importance of the distinction between a “contract” and “just a promise”? And can this important moral difference really turn on purely nominal consideration? Don’t you think it’s an awfully odd moral system that just so happens to comes down exactly the same way as Corbin?

          I think libertarian theory would benefit much from some input from non-anglosphere voices.

          • IrishDude says:

            I think contracts and one-way promises are different concepts, but don’t think the moral importance is necessarily greater with one than the other. There can be trivial contracts, like agreeing to exchange 1 dollar at a yard sale for a trinket, and important promises, like telling your son you’ll pick him up at the airport, and I’d consider violation of this promise to be more morally important than violating the yard sale contract.

            I appreciate any input you have here, and if you have other non-anglosphere critiques please share.

            I don’t know who Corbin is.

        • rlms says:

          I believe that there are or were countries where gifts are or were enforceable. But even if that isn’t the case, I think a legal system can reasonably go either way. Consider a case where you promise me a house, and I act on that by selling my current one. If you renege on your promise and I’m left homeless, I might reasonably consider the situation unjust (certainly your actions seem someone unethical). But (if my vague memory of an online course on American contract law is correct) a court would not force you to compensate me. That seems pretty arbitrary.

          • IrishDude says:

            Consider a case where you promise me a house, and I act on that by selling my current one. If you renege on your promise and I’m left homeless, I might reasonably consider the situation unjust (certainly your actions seem someone unethical). But (if my vague memory of an online course on American contract law is correct) a court would not force you to compensate me. That seems pretty arbitrary.

            Well, I googled contracts without consideration and found this:

            “Contract laws may enforce a contract that lacks mutual consideration in the event that a clear and concrete promise has been made, the person to whom the promise was made as depended on the promise coming true in a substantial, definite, and justifiable manner, and the failure to enforce the promise would be unjust.

            This is the principle of promissory estoppel. If Erin tells Amanda that Erin will pay Amanda $200 a week so that Amanda will not have to work any more, which results in Amanda quitting her job, promissory estoppel would force Erin to provide the payment because Amanda relied on the promise Erin had made. This is true even though Amanda provided Erin with no consideration. Erin’s failure to provide this payment would damage Amanda because of Amanda’s detrimental reliance on Erin’s promise.”

            So, it looks like gifts can be enforceable in the U.S. under certain specified circumstances. I guess the law still considers this a contract, though I’d call it an enforceable gift. Either way, I agree that it seems just to enforce the promise, especially if it was made in writing and Amanda reasonably understood Erin’s offer to be a serious one.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            I also believe the gift giving party must have acted on their promise in some capacity, i.e. starting paying the $200 a week and then stopped or sent paperwork for a transfer of house title. These concrete actions are what the aggrieved party was relying on in their cases (if memory serves), not just the promise.

          • bean says:

            I also believe the gift giving party must have acted on their promise in some capacity, i.e. starting paying the $200 a week and then stopped or sent paperwork for a transfer of house title. These concrete actions are what the aggrieved party was relying on in their cases (if memory serves), not just the promise.

            I don’t think that’s right. Based on the wiki on promissory estoppel, it looks like it only kicks in when someone makes a promise which is reasonably calculated to induce action on the part of the recipient and which results in harm to the recipient based on non-performance. So the example about Erin and Amanda is valid only if a reasonable Erin would have expected Amanda to act on it, regardless of whether Erin ever paid. A somewhat more comprehensible example would be if my uncle promised me $1000 to buy a car, and then refused to pay after I bought one using my own money on the expectation he’d pay me. It’s reasonable that he could make that offer, and I’ve been harmed by spending money I otherwise wouldn’t have.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            You’re right, I was confusing it with an example I had read about estoppel where a father started and the stopped making payments for his estranged daughter’s college classes.

          • I think the term people are looking for may be “detrimental reliance.”

    • Jordan D. says:

      It seems to me as though you’re trying to impose a culture on AnCapLand, and I’m not so sure it’d work.

      I basically agree with your restatement of contracts right there (although I’m not totally sure what you mean by “mutuality of obligation”). Those elements outline a voluntary trade, and the enforceability of voluntary trades is generally a positive thing, so I think they should be enforceable.

      But what feature of the world makes it so that an arbitrator couldn’t “morally” enforce simple promises? Sure, you and I might say that a blood oath, by itself, isn’t a good contract, but there’s no particular reason that the Holy Code of 2070 couldn’t make all promises of sufficient seriousness obligatory.

      • IrishDude says:

        I don’t think any culture is necessarily imposed by what I describe. People from different cultures may subscribe to different types of private arbitrators when making contracts, allowing different processes and standards for contract enforcement.

        What do you mean by simple promise? Depending on what you mean by that, and what type of enforcement you have in mind, I might find enforcement moral.

        I got my elements of a contract from here. It says about Mutuality of Obligation “Closely related to the concept of consideration is the mutuality of obligation doctrine. Under this doctrine, both parties must be bound to perform their obligations or the law will treat the agreement as if neither party is bound to perform. When an offeree and offeror exchange promises to perform, one party may not be given the absolute and unlimited right to cancel the contract. Such arrangements attempt to allow one party to perform at her leisure, while ostensibly not relieving the other party of his obligations to perform. Most courts declare these one-side arrangements null for lack of mutuality of obligation. Some courts simply invalidate such contracts for lack of consideration, reasoning that a party who is given absolute power to cancel a contract suffers no legal detriment.”

        • rlms says:

          “I got my elements of a contract from here.”
          But why is current US law a perfect and eternal definition of what is true and just? (That seems to be what you’re going for). I’m sure there are some aspects of current US law you would not view that way. By using it to get your definition of “contract” you are obviously necessarily imposing a specific culture.

          • IrishDude says:

            But why is current US law a perfect and eternal definition of what is true and just?

            It’s not. The cited elements seemed to contain the types of things that make a just contract to me. I continue to look forward to critiques.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The thing about US contract law (and contract law in other countries based on common law) is it’s been worked over through so many cases that many of the corner cases have been handled. It’s very refined; one would expect it to be near at least a local maximum of justice, if not a global one.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Yes, Nybbler, I agree. I think ID is starting with a pretty good foundation when his base is from English common law.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Contract law is pretty refined, but that’s kind of orthogonal to my objection, which is that the elements and validity of a contract are defined almost exclusively by how enforceable a contract is. If I were going to be writing an arbitration code, I would definitely define contracts similarly to how they’re defined above- because there are good policy reasons for excluding promises with no consideration- but I expect other people would define it differently.

            Part of the puzzle of AnCapLand, to me, is figuring out when you’ve got an enforceable agreement and when you haven’t. If a common local code says that any promises you make are binding and enforceable by anyone who would benefit from them, you could end up making contracts by accident. And imagine that there are two widely-used analogues to the Uniform Commercial Code in your area, and you’ve got a shipping contract with gaps in it. Which one will the arbiter apply?

            I’m inclined to say that the way to address that problem is to hold that you can’t bind yourself without identifying the code you’re binding yourself under. To do otherwise, I think, invites an entirely new breed of conflicts-of-laws problem.

    • CatCube says:

      I get that arbitration is a solution for many problems with contracts, but I still don’t get what solution there is to what I see as the fundamental problem with AnCap: How does it deal with a hardcore defector?

      The notion is that you have to agree to be bound by an arbitrator, but what if you get somebody who gets a judgment against them and refuses to follow through? If you refuse to follow arbitration under a regular legal system, eventually the actual courts will send the cops to take your stuff and sell it to pay your debt. I can’t remember which Supreme Court justice said it, but: “Our decisions aren’t final because we’re right. Our decisions are right because they’re final.”

      • Jordan D. says:

        Justice Robert H. Jackson-

        “Reversal by a higher court is not proof that justice is thereby better done. There is no doubt that if there were a super-Supreme Court, a substantial proportion of our reversals of state courts would also be reversed. We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”
        Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 540 (1953) (concurring)

      • IrishDude says:

        I get that arbitration is a solution for many problems with contracts, but I still don’t get what solution there is to what I see as the fundamental problem with AnCap: How does it deal with a hardcore defector?

        One effective way is social ostracization. You get a scarlet letter and take a hit to your reputation. If you’re a business and defect, no one will make contracts with you in the future since they don’t think you’ll abide by the terms. If defecting comes in social situations, people won’t want to hang out with you any more leaving you lonely.

        Social ostracization has limits, and sometimes you need people with guns to enforce against defectors. But even that has limits (see North Korea, still surviving and thumbing its nose at the world). AnCaps just think there shouldn’t be a monopoly on the people with guns when it comes time to enforce judgments against defectors.

        • Iain says:

          Donald Trump, to pick a currently salient example, has a long history of not paying his contractors. Social ostracism and word of mouth obviously weren’t effective enough to prevent him from defecting, even without the benefit of being able to shop around for the most favourable arbitrator. Why should I believe that an an-cap world wouldn’t be even worse in this respect?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Because AnCap land cannot fail and can only be failed?

            This left wing snark inserted for purpose of example. If it raised your hackles, consider the corollary.

          • IrishDude says:

            As I said, “Social ostracization has limits, and sometimes you need people with guns to enforce against defectors.”

            My belief is that coercive monopolies are less efficient than businesses competing in voluntary markets since they don’t have as strong an incentive to offer good value to consumers. Coercive monopolies also cut-off the market discovery process for innovation in the production of better goods and services by being less open to creative destruction. It’s why I prefer markets over coercive monopolies for TVs, plumbers, restaurants, cars, and landscaping. I don’t find law, arbitration, and security to be exceptions to my belief that markets > coercive monopolies.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Because AnCap land cannot fail and can only be failed?

            That’s not my belief.

            I do believe perfection > markets > coercive monopolies. Markets have upsides and downsides, I just think they come out on net better than state-provided services.

          • Iain says:

            @HeelBearCub: I don’t like empty right-wing snark, and it turns out I don’t like it much better when it comes from people I agree with. Please stop.

            (This left-wing self-policing inserted for purpose of example. If it lowered your hackles, right-wing/libertarian posters, consider the corollary.)

          • Iain says:

            Meta-shitposting aside:

            @IrishDude: You’re making a significant retreat to abstract principles. I am interested in hearing you engage with the concrete example of how you think a Donald Trump would be handled better by an an-cap society, without simply handwaving about the efficiency of the free market and calling it a day.

            Responding to your principles, though: it seems very obvious to me that there is a categorical difference between food/cars/plumbers and law/arbitration/security. Specifically, a market can survive without any of the former, but relies structurally on the existence of the latter to preserve the properties that make it worthwhile.

            Rough analogy: compared to filling an entire building with cement, having lots of open space maximizes the value of the building, but that isn’t necessarily a good argument for knocking down all the walls and pillars and replacing them with more open space.

            (But I remain more interested in your description of the an-cap mechanisms that would restrain a Donald Trump.)

          • IrishDude says:

            @Iain

            I’m talking general principles because I don’t know the details of Trump’s case. Have the contractors that claim they’ve been wronged sued? If so, did their arguments hold merit? If so, did arbitration rule in their favor? If so, did Trump comply with enforcement of the ruling? What percent of contracts does Trump uphold? How many contracts does Trump make*? If Trump is generally not upholding contracts (as seems to be asserted), has he taken a hit to his reputation such that contractors are less likely to work with him?

            Answers to these questions would be helpful for knowing what aspect you think is not working in the current coercive monopoly system that could be improved in a market system. If you think arbitration is not ruling against him when you think it should, then I think market forces would produce better arbitration agencies that can better deliver just rulings. If you think arbitration is working fine, but enforcement of its rulings isn’t, then I think market forces would produce better enforcement services. If his reputation isn’t taking a hit when you think it should, then it seems like a market opportunity to evaluate and disseminate business trustworthiness to contractors (like the Better Business Bureau).

            I think markets work better than coercive monopolies because when a product or service doesn’t deliver good value consumers choose competitors that better serve them. If an arbitrator becomes known for unjust rulings, then businesses will become less likely to agree to use them in the future when they make contracts with others. Likewise for poorly performing enforcement services. When people aren’t locked into a crappy product or service (like occurs with coercive monopolies), and have a broader array of options they can choose from, you find products and services improving to capture the consumer’s dollars.

            *If he makes tens of thousands of contracts and upholds his end on 99% of them, he could have over 100 disputes with people and still be generally considered trustworthy.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Iain

            BTW, if you’re asking me something like what specific actions arbitration agencies in a private market should take to be better than public courts, I don’t know. That’s what entrepreneurs are for, to come up with better ideas on how to do things. If arbitration experts notice that some competitor is messing up in specific way A and has solution B that could better attract consumers, then they’ll implement B and make consumers better off.

            Similarly, I can’t tell you what the best type of cars will be 10 years from now, as I don’t know what consumers might want in the future. What I want is space for lots of people to try to figure it out, and then to test their new car ideas in the market where consumers get to make the decision. Let the bad ideas fail* and the good ideas thrive by gaining market share.

            *I looked up failed auto companies, and had no idea how many had gone under. It looks like over 1,000 as seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defunct_automobile_manufacturers_of_the_United_States

          • bean says:

            Some of those are simple sob stories, like the first one from the first link. I’m sorry for the people, but that’s how bankruptcy works, and pretending otherwise is basically saying that Trump shouldn’t have used all available legal remedies to improve his position. If he’d been managing other people’s money in that case (I don’t know if he was or not) he had a legal duty to do so. And frankly, when it comes to running the country, I’d rather have someone in the Oval Office who wants to win, instead of someone who is most concerned with fairness, provided he’s worried about the country winning instead of himself.
            WRT most of the other cases, we’re only hearing one side of the story. Trump’s organization is big, and there’s going to be some base rate of dissatisfied employees, contract disputes, and the like. Until someone looks at his rates vs the base rates, I’m not sure that we’re picking up any signal at all here. And he has to avoid being seen as an easy mark for shakedown lawsuits. I don’t like his reported business practices, but I’m not sure that they’re quite as damning as all that, either.
            And some of these cases smell really rotten, too. Trump takes exception to his lawyers using his name in adds, sues them to stop it, and then gets countersued for half a million? I’m having trouble seeing a law firm just let that much money sit on the table. Unless there was some sort of tacit agreement for them not to recover, which they broke after the dispute came out.

          • Matt M says:

            Iain,

            I would suggest to you that the fact that people continued to do business with Trump is evidence in favor of the idea that his actions might not have been so clearly evil and horrible as everyone claims.

            Perhaps the vendors really DID do shoddy work, or weren’t entitled to payment for other reasons. I don’t know. But I do know that future vendors, having every opportunity, and far more motivation than you or I, to investigate Trump’s likelihood to pay them back, ruled the potential rewards of doing business with him as enough to compensate for the risk.

          • CatCube says:

            @IrishDude

            It might be the case right now where you live that there’s not a market in enforcement, but the places where there is one doesn’t bode well.

            The classic case is drug dealers and organized crime, who do not have recourse to the courts to enforce their agreements re: payment for drug shipments, who’s territory is what, etc. The way they’ve found to ensure that people meet their obligations is to shoot people who don’t in the face. There *are* respected members who can arbitrate, and the famous meetings of mobsters back in the 50’s were to do this, but when the system breaks down (and it did on a frequent basis) the results were extremely bloody.

            Frankly, I’m not comfortable where the only way to enforce my contracts is with a contract. You posit somebody who fails to get paid in full going to an arbitrator, and then (I dunno because you still haven’t made it clear–telling everybody else that they screwed you?) kicking rocks if the guy refuses to follow the arbitrator, or only will submit to arbitration if you agree to an arbitrator that you know to be biased. I submit to you that the next step I could take would be to get a sniper rifle and a rooftop near their office. So long as I refuse to submit to whatever authority proposes to prohibit this, (the security company they “subscribe” to?) what exactly stops me from enforcing my agreement with them this way? What recourse does their family have, other than declaring a blood feud?

          • CatCube says:

            Re: Trump paying his contractors, what I’ve heard but don’t have any way to verify, is that smart contractors overbid their jobs for him in the expectation he’ll not pay them in full or that they’ll have to litigate. Montgomery Scott’s method, but in money rather than time.

            Based on the number of contracts that he does, it’s entirely plausible that we’re just seeing the baseline from terrible contractors that he’s refusing to pay–that is, just because he’s got complaints out against him doesn’t mean he wasn’t justified in withholding payment. After spending two years in doing engineering for the US Government, the number of contractors that will do nakedly shitty work and then still expect to be paid in full is rather astonishing.

          • Matt M says:

            “Based on the number of contracts that he does, it’s entirely plausible that we’re just seeing the baseline from terrible contractors that he’s refusing to pay–that is, just because he’s got complaints out against him doesn’t mean he wasn’t justified in withholding payment.”

            I remain shocked that we have yet to see (as far as I know) anyone who has researched this question. I assume they simply can’t get the data. But knowing what the baseline is would, in fact, be very useful to analyzing this.

      • The notion is that you have to agree to be bound by an arbitrator, but what if you get somebody who gets a judgment against them and refuses to follow through?

        There are a variety of real world solutions. One is that if you want to sign a contract and don’t have enough of a reputation to make the other party trust you to keep it, you deposit a sum sufficient to cover any likely damage judgement with a trusted third party. Another, if one party has a reputation and the other doesn’t, is to structure the contract in such a way that only the one with a reputation has an opportunity for profitable breach–for instance by having the one without a reputation pay in advance.

        In Irish law from a very long time ago, one solution was to have the parties agree on a naidm surety, someone with the obligation to force the party he is a surety for to fulfill the contract and the right to use force to do so.

        Some of this is discussed in an old piece of mine.

        • Iain says:

          What prevents this sort of contract from being signed under the status quo? If this is a cheaper, more efficient solution, why aren’t people already using it?

          • Jordan D. says:

            Well, it does happen in some cases. This is sort of the principle behind making parents sign for their children’s’ college leases, after all. It’s also famously used in the definitive low-trust situation; bail bonds. A bail bondsman will loan the court your bail payment in exchange for a much smaller percentage from you, with the understanding that if you try to skip out on court they will destroy you.

            It’s also a thing which sometimes happens in really high-value transfers, that two people will contract with a trusted third party to hold the goods and the money, and ensure that a legitimate transfer is taking place. Finally, of course, a lot of contracts require that goods be insured by the provider- that way, if the provider can’t deliver, the buyer doesn’t have to worry about how to fund a replacement shipment, and the insurance company will keep the provider honest by suing them if there’s any false dealings.

            ~

            Most contracts don’t include guaranty that detailed, though, for a pretty simple reason- most contracts aren’t broken. Even contracts where it’d be worth it to nail everything down often don’t, because actual transactions tend to be a little higher-trust than one might expect. One of the reasons for the UCC and the CISG is that most contracts don’t spell everything out, so it’s useful to have a set of default assumptions to fall back on.

          • Iain says:

            The answer I was fishing for was about transaction costs, but your bit about real-world contracts not actually nailing everything down is important too. It costs time and money to hammer out the deals of a contract, so the existence of a single universally accepted arbiter is a significant boost to efficiency in the common case.

          • The naidm surety isn’t an option under our law. Structuring a contract to put the opportunity to breach on the party with a reputational incentive not to is legal and, I think, common.

            When I teach this stuff in a law school, it’s in the context of “this is how it was done in a society which didn’t have enforceable contracts, but it’s useful in our society as well, since you want to structure your contracts in a way that doesn’t require you to go to court to enforce them.”

      • IrishDude says:

        Interesting. That seems important too if you want the state to become involved in your contract enforcement.

  16. Anon. says:

    Any tips on getting started with lifting?

    • razorsedge says:

      Get started with a good full body program like ice cream fitness. Or starting strength. Dont do what i did and just go into a weight room and throw weights around. Also keep track of as much things as possible.Try to eat clean , and eat more if you wanna gain weight, and less if you want to lose weight. And also start eating a high protein diet.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      A friend of mine who lifts highly recommends Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength.

      • johnjohn says:

        Starting Strength, the program, is great for beginners. Starting Strength, the book, is a terrible, badly written, dry, long read.

    • TenMinute says:

      If the list of exercises in “Ice Cream Fitness” or Starting Strength look intimidating, just cut it down to squats, bench, barbell row, squats, overhead press, deadlift, and squats. Stronglifts 5×5 is a perfectly good starting program.

      Don’t feel dumb for starting at zero. Doing five sets of five just with the bar gets you into the routine and helps you focus on your form rather than “OH CHRIST THIS IS HEAVY!!”
      Don’t feel bad for having poor form, or for getting help. It’s not always intuitive.

      Starting with just a few of the fundamental compound lifts won’t give you a gym rat body, but it will make you stronger, build a routine, and make it easier to start more complicated programs.

      And don’t spend more time making spreadsheets about lifting than lifting, or more time reading cookbooks than making yourself healthy meals. That’s an easy trap to fall into.
      Oh, and don’t join a lifting cult. You can find out how to avoid that by buying my book: “Rational Basilisk Mindset“, only $59.95 on Amazon.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I would recommend Fit over Starting Strength, just because its focus is a little wider (it gives you more options, includes stuff on improving your conditioning and flexibility), it’s cheaper. The production values aren’t as nice as the most recent edition of Starting Strength, though.

      Seconding TenMinute’s advice about spreadsheets, books, etc. I’m terribly acquisitive when it comes to books, and own way more books about weightlifting and so forth than my physique or strength justify. I’ve managed to break my book addiction, thankfully.

      For stuff about diet, Bodyrecomposition is as good as any other source I’ve seen. He sells books, but there’s a lot of free stuff on his site.

    • Rock Lobster says:

      The way that I learned how to lift properly was actually by doing Crossfit. As far as I’m aware every Crossfit gym will require you to complete a “fundamentals” course of about 6 or so classes with other newcomers in which you work on form and also learn the other exercises. They caught a lot of flak in the media when they were becoming big, but frankly I’ve found a lot of that criticism to be overblown or just haters-gonna-hate.

      Proper form is important because you can hurt yourself (and in particular your back) if you’re not doing exercises properly, and in the beginning it was really helpful to have somebody watching me and reminding me to stick my butt out when I squat, for example.

      I don’t want to make it sound like we have the final word on this, and certainly I don’t, but generally I agree with the people who say that the machines in the gym are worthless. You accomplish much less working out a muscle in isolation on a fixed track vs. using many muscles to move free weights. You really ought to be using a barbell regularly (e.g. squats, deadlifts, bench pressing (so-called “powerlifting”), snatches, clean and jerks (“Olympic lifting”)) or a kettle bell (e.g. kettle bell swings), or your own body weight (push-ups and variations thereof, pull-ups, planks, leg lifts, sit-ups, etc.). I don’t really use dumbbells.

      So to sum up: 1. Free weights, the barbell is your friend, ignore the machines; 2. Get a personal trainer or take a class to get your form up to speed, it’s no joke, it’s not something where you can just wing it, and it’s not worth hurting yourself.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Many, many people would say crossfit and proper lifting form are in opposition to each other.

        Crossfit has the “cross” in the name for a reason. It’s a hybrid program.

        • Aftagley says:

          I don’t think your conclusion follows. Just because it’s a hybrid program doesn’t mean that they don’t value good form.

          That being said, I’m not jumping to the defense of crossfit, just like anything else, if you get a bad coach who doesn’t know/care about form and you can seriously mess yourself up, but there’s nothing endemic to the program that causes bad form.

        • Rock Lobster says:

          For what it’s worth I’m not really trying to sell OP on Crossfit per se. I just think it’s very important for OP to get some training on form for the basic barbell exercises and not just go to the gym and try to squat. My experience with Crossfit was good so I wanted to pass that along. If there’s one near you, Anon., they should have a free introductory classa couple times a week that you can try as well, but probably they won’t have you doing anything with a barbell yet, just body-weight exercises.

          Having said that, in my experience at two different Crossfit gyms, coaches are very mindful of your form and will intervene if you’re doing it wrong, especially for anything where injury could result.

          Even setting that aside, the fundamentals course is explicitly for teaching form, so you could just do that and then try out the regular classes, and if they don’t work for you just quit and lift at a regular gym now that you know what you’re doing.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Some Crossfit gyms are great, and some are terrible. They tend to be quite expensive: the prices I’ve seen are generally in the same range as BJJ, and this seems kind of fishy to me – it takes much more time and practice for someone to be at “can teach BJJ competently” level than “can run a Crossfit class competently” level. If you’re not going to do Crossfit, there’s no reason to pay that much. Find a powerlifting gym might be a better choice – it’s gonna be cheaper and you can hire a trainer to show you proper form in the beginning.

        Relevant is that very few Crossfit gyms still use the original approach, which was basically random selection of exercises. Random selection of exercises is dumb because it makes sane progression impossible. Elite Crossfit athletes are impressive, but they don’t train using anything remotely close to what Crossfit started off as and what its philosophical approach allegedly still is.

    • knownastron says:

      One of the top MMA coaches Firas Zahabi (GSP’s coach) has an interesting approach to starting out with fitness.

      He says the key is building a routine. In that spirit, he recommends starting as low as one pushup a day (might be a bit of an exaggeration). Then start adding more from there. The key is to do it every day.

      The problem with a lot of people getting into fitness is they lift heavy to start, get sore, and then don’t come back for the next couple days. It’s difficult to build a routine if you go to the gym once or twice a week and you’re sore the all the other days. I would also recommend Stronglifts 5×5 because the beginning days are really low weight and doesn’t discourage you from going back. Can’t comment on Starting Strength or the other programs people have mentioned.

  17. Thegnskald says:

    Addressing the ancaps in the commentary, how do you simultaneously solve the problem of just property rights while also permitting the existence of wildlife refuges and parks?

    Given the use of conversion as a justification for property ownership, how do you permit the ownership of property whose purpose is to remain unconverted?

    And if you don’t use conversion, how do you justify property at all, given that it is, as a right, purely an exclusive right – which is to say, property is nothing but the denial of the right of others to use something?

    • Matt M says:

      Wildlife refuges and parks are not wholly “unconverted.” They will typically be fenced in (or some sort of boundary will be claimed and enforced), and maintained in some form – even if the desired outcome is “wholly untouched nature” then the maintenance in question would be to ensure that others do not come in and break the “rules” of the property.

      I mean, parks are easy – we can see that, for example, the Grand Canyon is being “used.” There are gates and ticket takers and souvenir shops and posted rules, etc. Nobody could just start squatting there and build a cattle ranch and reasonably claim “I’m just homesteading unoccupied land here!”

      The million+ acre refuges in the middle of Alaska are probably a more difficult question – but at the same time, does anyone really want to go squat there? And if they did, would anyone really notice? How close of an eye does the park service keep on that stuff?

      • Thegnskald says:

        Using conversion as a principle, you’ve only actually converted the land the fence sits on; absent a legal framework which says fences matter, you haven’t actually changed the character of the interior land.

        • Matt M says:

          If I fail to maintain my backyard, do I stop owning it because I haven’t changed the character of the land?

          Seems rather arbitrary. At the end of the day, the question is whether the land is being used or not. In most cases, this is obvious. In some (ridiculously giant nature preserves in the middle of nowhere), not as much.

    • uncle joe says:

      I guess I don’t see why it’s important to “justify” property.

      Obviously, not everyone can use everything. So for anything that exists, some people must be excluded from using it. That’s just a fact. Hence, some idea of “property” is inevitable.

      The mechanism of private property is one form this idea could take. Private property is good because it minimizes conflicts. Hans-Hermann Hoppe noted that if, for every physical object, exactly one person had perfectly secure rights to that object, there would be no conflicts over property at all.

      However, even if you aren’t a big fan of private property, there must be some system by which people are excluded from using stuff. You cannot simply get rid of property altogether.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I like property; pragmatically, I see no way around it. I also happen to like property taxes, because you should be obligated to compensate society for the rights you have deprived others of in owning it.

      • Tekhno says:

        If you divided Earth equally into private property, then no one would be deprived of the right of private property. (I mean, most would die due to global production crashing to subsistence farming levels, but that’s besides the point).

        If we use the land deprivation argument and take it seriously, real seriously like its part of an actual ethical argument we’re trying to make to justify redistribution as part of a consistent moral framework, then this would imply that the owners of private property should owe property taxes equal to the amount of production an average individual could get out of each extra equal portion that exceeds the first equal portion, recalculated for growth in the population…

        This is why I much prefer the “GIMME MONEY OR ME AND MY MATES ‘LL COME AND NAB ALL YOUR SHIT AND PROBABLY KILL YOU TOO!” “argument”. It helps being a moral nihilist as well.

    • Tekhno says:

      “Public property” is essentially owned by the state, which the public have influence over politically, but only within very formal and time limited bounds in any representative system. Wildlife refugees and parks are not commons. The state reserves the right to exclude in this case. If parks were to be privatized, it would be the state delegating exclusion rights down.

      I understand that Ancaps believe that formal and consistent property agreements can exist absent the state, however, and would argue that there is no common purpose to parks, rejecting your hypothetical. Communists, particularly the anarchists, go to the other extreme and propose that parks should be commons.

      EDIT:

      @uncle joe

      I guess I don’t see why it’s important to “justify” property.

      Aren’t you outside of anarcho-capitalism at that point though? We have property now, but its heavily distorted by the state deciding what counts as “just” acquisition. Ancaps disagree that this should be how property rights are organized, and that a non-state system would be superior. Since they are proposing an alternative organization system, they do need to justify it to everyone else.

      Obviously, not everyone can use everything. So for anything that exists, some people must be excluded from using it. That’s just a fact. Hence, some idea of “property” is inevitable.

      You need something to decide what form that exclusion takes. Ancaps try to justify an alternative to what has already emerged to organize exclusion.

      Private property is good because it minimizes conflicts.

      This seems to put the cart before the horse.

      Conflicts have to be settled initially in order to settle on a particular system of private property. After that point, then future conflicts are minimized, but this occurs in a context where a specific system of private property was imposed.

      If we don’t agree who owns something, “private property” isn’t an answer. We must appeal to a third party who can tell us what the rules for this specific system of private property are. If we don’t have a third party, then we are stuck fighting until the winners decide which specific third party enforcing which specific property law is going to hold sway. Historically this third party is generally the state, and the struggle to delegate a state is only minimized by rules of succession, whether monarchical or democratic.

      The state is an integral part of the equation. You could just cross out “state” and type in “private enforcement agency”, but it’s pretty much the same issue and cannot be avoided. Private property itself is only a lower order of thing existing to settle minor conflicts in a context in which larger ones have already been settled.

    • John Schilling says:

      Given the use of conversion as a justification for property ownership,

      I’m not sure that this should be a given, though I’m probably not the best one to ask here on ancap theory.

      Ancap practice, who cares? All property that presently exists and has economic value, already has well-established owners even if some of those owners are nasty governments that we don’t need and are going to get rid of come the Utopia. For almost all of it, the initial “conversion” was done too far in the past and with too little documentation to be of much value for present accounting. I don’t know of any ancap theory that requires property owners provide a constant, ongoing justification of their continued ownership, so what actually matters is not the justification for property ownership, but the justification for property transfer.

      Which is mostly going to come to, “it was rightfully transferred to me when the prior rightful owner accepted my cash payment”, back to the grandfathered ownership on the founding date of Ancapistan. They may need something different when it comes to disposing of former government property. But any group of Ancaps who think they are going to revoke title and/or retroactively transfer property (even government property) to whomever is supposed to have first “converted” it, these are Ancaps of no practical relevance and why should I pay attention to their theories.

      Any property of economic value that doesn’t presently exist but comes to exist in the future, there shouldn’t be much question of who gets to own that. The Dutch government gets to own the next tranche of Holland that they lift from the sea; the corporation that builds the first seastead or O’Neill habitat gets to own that, until they decide to sell off bits.

      Possibly if global warming turns Antarctica into someplace economically valuable without anyone’s deliberate effort, this will come up in a non-hypothetical way.

      • Tekhno says:

        @John Schilling

        Ancap practice, who cares? All property that presently exists and has economic value, already has well-established owners even if some of those owners are nasty governments that we don’t need and are going to get rid of come the Utopia. For almost all of it, the initial “conversion” was done too far in the past and with too little documentation to be of much value for present accounting.

        This is a big problem. There’s going to be enormous disagreement about what constitutes “too far in the past” and what constitutes “too little documentations”, and left-ancaps (who will necessarily exist unless ancapistan is preceded by genocide) will be constructing arguments that existing property title is founded on aggression ultimately, even if we cannot find out who aggressed against who, so all existing title must be reset so appropriation can begin again on just grounds.

        This point of view would be logically consistent with the NAP, and if a single principle is supposed to stand in for the consistent law of the state, but in practice produces two or more completely opposing interpretations, then you’re in trouble.

        • John Schilling says:

          This point of view would be logically consistent with the NAP

          Because when you send the New Model Army to go disposess the people who don’t agree with your left-ancap theory as to why they don’t own the land their father paid his hard-earned wages for back before the founding of Ancapistan and who won’t voluntarily quit it in favor of said theory, you’ll be able to rationalize it as a response to their ancient aggression, continuing across the (mostly peaceful) generations.

          Have I mentioned recently how silly I think the NAP is? It’s a very silly excuse for arguments that will inevitably devolve into “You started it!” “No, YOU started it!” “Did not!” “Did so!”, ad infinitum. Anything you want to do, any head you want to bust, is consistent with the NAP. So please don’t use that as the basis for your philosophy of (non)government.

        • Tekhno says:

          That’s kind of why I’m not an Ancap. You need to replace the consistent authority of law backed by force with a really really really consistent stand in principle that everyone can follow instead, but unfortunately questions of what counts as property and what counts as aggression are way too fluid for you to just end up with a society where everyone goes “Right that’s settled. Let’s get on with this free market stuff.”

          It was trivial for me to come up with “left ancapism”, but there are already intractable divisions within anarcho-capitalism, such as whether intellectual property counts or not.

  18. Thegnskald says:

    For the libertarians of the commentariat, how do you resolve the tension between belief in limited government and belief in absolute property rights? Property in our society is a government intervention, and markets are a government creation, with the mechanisms of markets being defined by government; when Canada established property rights over natural fisheries, they solved the tragedy of the Commons there by removing the fisheries from the Commons, but it took specific government intervention to establish that property. As with the ancaps, conversion might be sufficient principle to justify property ownership, but leaves massive holes in our conception of property; a wild tree is unconverted, and using conversion leaves your neighbor just as free to cut such a tree on your property for lumber as you. The concept of property as we utilize it in society is government-derived, not based on principle, and insofar as we utilize a definition of property derived from government fiat, is it really reasonable to then complain if that fiat doesn’t favor principles libertarians only adhere to when it suits them?

    • Incurian says:

      I think we (I used this term loosely since libertarians and ancaps are notoriously finicky) would disagree with your premise that property and markets are a government creation. I think government can play a role (I’m not arguing that they ought to or that they’re the optimal solution) to protect property rights, and to enforce contracts etc. in markets, but I don’t think they had any role in creating them other than perhaps setting conditions for them to flourish through the above mechanisms.

      I think your fishery example is not a great one. In the first place, I think it’s an edge case – that is not how most private property came about. In the second place, (correct me if I am wrong) the government was probably the entity that prevented people from establishing property in natural fisheries in the first place; so they did not intervene to establish private property, but ceased intervening to allow it.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Property is a product of laws defining what property is. Anarcho capitalism might have its own mechanisms (I admit to not really understanding what they are, and suspect it is a largely unsolved problem), but libertarianism holds that government is supposed to protect and arbitrate property rights, which necessarily entails the government defining how property rights are established. Within libertarianism, government defines and creates markets; without laws establishing property rights, property rights don’t exist. Hence natural fisheries, which the market didn’t solve on its oen; it required government creating a market for those property rights in order for them to exist.

        This isn’t strictly a problem, mind. But there is a fundamental tension between government-as-arbiter-of-property-rights, and the idea that government shouldn’t interfere in property rights.

        • Salem says:

          without laws establishing property rights, property rights don’t exist.

          In the West, it would be more accurate to say that property rights created government (i.e. feudalism) than the other way around. Property is older than mankind, the idea that it’s a state creation is absurd.

          Modern governments recognise property rights, they don’t create them. And those rare occasions where government does attempt create property rights (patents, fisheries, etc) are the most bitterly contentious, precisely because the government is trying to create something ex nihilo.

          there is a fundamental tension between government-as-arbiter-of-property-rights, and the idea that government shouldn’t interfere in property rights.

          No more than there is a tension between referee as the arbiter of a game of football, and the idea that the ref shouldn’t interfere in it. They are the same idea, differently expressed.

          The problem is that you see the government as arbiter in far too all-encompassing terms (query – do you do the same for all rights? Is the government the creator of my right to free speech?), similar to a view of the referee as picking the winners of the game. And sadly, governments do act this way far too often, changing the rules to favour particular teams, or even kicking the ball themselves. But enforcing prospective, neutral rules is not picking winners – quite the reverse.

          • beleester says:

            This argument only makes sense if you accept the existence of “natural rights”. And a lot of people don’t – it’s sort of arbitrary what rights are considered “natural,” or in what ways something becomes property that you have a natural right to. (Most property is simple, but land rights can be complicated, see the thread just above us where they’re arguing over what is required to “convert” land. And god help you if you want to make intellectual property fit a natural-rights framework…)

            If you don’t have a concept of natural rights, then the statement “I have a right to my property” is meaningless without a way to enforce it (usually a government). In which case, it becomes hard to explain why the government should respect property rights in the particular way that libertarians favor.

            Without resorting to natural rights, my defense would be something like “Society runs better when the government’s definition of property rights matches up with people’s intuitive ideas of property rights, because people won’t trust a system where their property can be given to someone else by random acts of government.”

            To put it another way, if government is the referee, the referee should avoid picking winners not because there’s some Platonic Ideal of Football they need to uphold, but because people don’t enjoy watching a football game when it’s rigged against one side.

          • Spookykou says:

            Property is older than mankind, the idea that it’s a state creation is absurd.

            I assume the point you are responding to here was not that a government committee actually came up with the idea for property rights, but that any and all rights are only meaningful to the extent that you can protect them. For modern people what rights they do or do not have are then a product of the rules of their particular governments, who tend to have a monopoly(of sorts) on the use of force as a coercive tool.

          • Salem says:

            No, this has nothing to do with natural rights. I entirely agree rights are only meaningful to the extent you can protect them. Meaningful, enforceable property rights created government, not the other way around.

            This remains true today. Do you really think my property rights come down to the government? If someone wants to burgle me, the government will almost certainly not catch them, and they won’t even try to recover my stuff. What really protects my property is the tacit agreement of my neighbours, which is why houses cost more in “nicer” areas – i.e. where the neighbours won’t burgle you.

            Government recognition of property is a recognition of the existing facts and agreements. The reason the government shouldn’t mess around with it isn’t just because people wouldn’t like to have their stuff taken away (although that point is also valid). It’s also because the government’s ability to change these facts is limited. What normally results is a governmental definition that doesn’t match the real world. For example, governmental refusal to recognise that John Druglord owns his cocaine, or that Rosie Slumdweller owns her dwelling, doesn’t stop these people having enforceable rights in their property, instead it creates no-go areas for governmental enforcement and wider problems.

            The problem is not so much that people don’t like watching a rigged game. After all, we are the players, not the spectators. The problem is that the referee is just some guy blowing his whistle. Yeah, maybe there are no Platonic Rules of Football, but the ref isn’t God-Emperor either.

          • beleester says:

            I’m curious, if the government can track down the thief, (it does happen, especially when the stuff is expensive or trackable enough), should it try to recover your stuff? After all, the thief currently possesses your stuff, and the thief’s neighbors all tacitly agree that he has a right to your stuff, so surely, taking the thief’s stuff away would be a failure to recognize the existing facts. In the same way that they should recognize that John Druglord owns his cocaine, they should recognize that Jimmy Autothief now owns your car.

            If I’m reading you correctly, your definition of “property rights” seems to be “Can actually control the property in the real world.” And while that’s true in a tautological way – you own property because you own it – it’s a definition with zero predictive power. It can’t answer the question “Do I have a right to this piece of property?” I own my car, but if Jimmy steals it, apparently I didn’t own my car after all. It can look backwards, but not forwards.

            But that’s useless from a policy point of view, because that’s all about looking forwards! Saying that the government should just “recognize existing agreements” isn’t useful when those existing agreements break down or are disputed. I think I own my car. Jimmy Autothief thinks that he owns my car. The tacit agreement I thought I had with him is no longer operative. The police want to know, who should get the car? Your definition doesn’t really give any guidance there.

            You also seem to imply that property laws are only worth enforcing when they can be enforced 100% of the time (and if the government can’t enforce them, they should just recognize the existing state of affairs), and I don’t see the logic behind that.

          • Salem says:

            If I’m reading you correctly, your definition of “property rights” seems to be “Can actually control the property in the real world.”

            Try reading again.

        • Property is a product of laws defining what property is.

          Not true in general. Property predates not only law but our species–consider territorial behavior by many species of birds and fishes.

          For an attempt to make sense of human property as a generalization of the same approach, see this old piece of mine.

          • Spookykou says:

            I don’t think their point is that the concept of having stuff was first defined by law, but that for most modern humans their ability to have stuff/what stuff they can have is defined by law.

          • @Spookykou:

            Under present circumstances, one of the factors determining my ability to keep control over what I regard as my property is government enforcement of law, but it’s not the only factor.

            Consider the simple case of mugging. One limitation on the mugger’s activity is the risk of being arrested. Another is the risk of being beaten up or shot by his intended victim.

            There are lots of contexts in which someone could steal something with a negligible risk of legal punishment, but with a serious risk of reputational costs imposed through the existing system of social norms.

          • Spookykou says:

            Yes but in the case of theft, the law which defines what are and are not valid transactions determines whose property the stolen thing ultimately is.

            I don’t know the details of a real world case, but I have seen the idea of someone using legal trickery to ‘rob’ somebody of something that is supposed to be seen as unfair in terms of the narrative. This could be a total fabrication of the author, but it seems like it is at least plausible given our/a legally defined system of property rights.

    • Incurian says:

      Your second question is thought provoking. I’m not sure all ancaps use the same moral justification for property, and I’m not sure if that justification must be… fractal? If I believe that I own property because I have mixed my labor with it, and I improve all my land except for one tree in the middle – do I own that tree? I feel like the Coase Theorem has some application here but I’m not smart enough to flesh it out, or to know if it even is relevant to moral arguments.

      Quick, someone get David Friedman!

      EDIT: Thegnskald: Continue asking good questions.

      • I’m not sure all ancaps use the same moral justification for property

        It would be surprising if they did. An anarcho-capitalist, at least as I would use the term, is someone whose preferred set of institutions is based on private property and exchange without government. There are different reasons for that preference, including utilitarianism, natural rights libertarianism, and I’m sure others.

    • Adam says:

      Some means of credibly recording, reporting, and enforcing property claims, as well as a means of resolving disputes, is necessary for property to exist. There is no reason I can see in principle that a regional monopoly on the ability to do this is required, though. It’s an open question whether competing private entities could protect property rights as well as a government, but libertarianism isn’t one win in a vacuum with zero tradeoffs. In a counterfactual history, a 20th century without fascism or communism, Jim Crow or apartheid, CIA-sponsored civil wars or post-Nixon drug policy, is probably a big win even with harder to enforce property rights. Of course, you could argue libertarianism would not have prevented these things, or at least unilateral libertarianism on the part of one country, but as long as we’re purely in theory land and not real land.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I see it as an optimization problem. I want to maximize freedom from coercion (*), but the naive solution of reducing coercion-by-the-state to zero isn’t the best way to do that. A certain amount of state coercion goes into suppressing non-state coercion: either directly, by restraining, destroying, or deterring bullies, bandits, and would-be rival governments; or indirectly, by substituting on the margins for private defensive coercion. A well-structured, orderly program of state coercion can create an environment with more freedom from coercion than a free-for-all of bandits, foreign invaders, and vigilante justice.

      (*) Not exactly. I’m kinda squishy as libertarians go, and as such I’ve got other values I’m willing to trade off against freedom from coercion, at least a little bit on the margins.

      • but the naive solution of reducing coercion-by-the-state to zero isn’t the best way to do that.

        That depends on what other options are out there. How do you create a government that restricts itself to only doing things that eliminate more coercion than they create?

        • Protagoras says:

          I’m a Democrat with left libertarian leanings rather than a squishy libertarian, but I would agree with everything Rall says above. And my answer to your question is that I don’t know how to do that, but it seems to me looking at the record that there has been greater success trying to develop institutions to reign in government abuse (primarily via efforts to produce more democracy) than there has been finding ways to convince people to behave like good libertarians. So I still favor the former strategy, with continued efforts to find tweaks to ameliorate the (tremendous) remaining problems, over the latter strategy, which seems to me in practice to usually do far more to empower the “bullies, bandits, and would be rival governments” Rall speaks of than to move things toward libertopia.

          • Iain says:

            I endorse this position. I would suggest that one mechanism for pushing the government in the direction of less coercion is the existence of a constitution enforced by the judiciary:. Certainly there will be many decisions that reinforce existing injustices (cf. Dred Scott). On balance, though, committing the country to certain principles of fairness and empowering a set of smart people to enforce those principles seems reasonably effective in practice.

          • but it seems to me looking at the record that there has been greater success trying to develop institutions to reign in government abuse (primarily via efforts to produce more democracy) than there has been finding ways to convince people to behave like good libertarians.

            That sounds as though you assume that anarcho-capitalism depends on people respecting rights because they feel morally obliged to do so. The alternative is that anarcho-capitalist institutions would do a better job of making it in people’s interest to respect rights than government law enforcement does.

            The argument is not that there is no need for force to protect rights but that it can be better provided in a competitive market than by a monopoly provider.

    • cassander says:

      >For the libertarians of the commentariat, how do you resolve the tension between belief in limited government and belief in absolute property rights?

      For myself at least, sidestepping the debate entirely by invoking the utilitarian principle. I believe in a minimal state not because of the inherent rights and dignity of free men, but because, outside a narrow range of activity, the state is incompetent and can be relied upon to do more harm than good more often than not. That said, I’m not really a libertarian.

    • JayT says:

      I think that most libertarians are not anarchists, and as such they don’t have any issue with wanting a government that is both small and able to protect/define property rights.

    • S_J says:

      I’m not a libertarian, but I still wonder if the statement Property in our society is a government intervention can be considered valid by all parties to the proposed discussion.

      My own thoughts on that subject are that property, in the sense of social agreement about which members of society control access to particular objects or tracts of land, has long co-existed with government.

      But I can’t deduce that property is created by fiat of the government without bringing in un-examined assumptions.

      Conversely, I can’t deduce that government was created to help recognize and legitimize property without bringing in a different set of un-examined assumptions.

      I think the same applies to the phrase markets are a government creation.

      To wit: if a society/town/farming-community/clan has a usual set of practices-and-rules for figuring out who has authority/control over a tract of land or an object…then is that set of practices-and-rules evidence that a government exists, and provided the practices-and-rules?

      Or is it evidence that people have a Natural Right to property, and that people sometimes create social practices-and-rules for managing this Natural Right?

      My own position is neither.

      But position has something in common with the conclusions that derive from the Natural Rights view.

      I assume that groups of people find that each individual claims ownership of some object/tract-of-land…and then the group of people create systems of law-and-social-custom to decide how to handle competing claims.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/think-you-understand-the-link-between-money-supply-and-inflation-think-again/

    Changing the money supply doesn’t have a reliable connection to inflation– there’s increasing the money supply not especially causing inflation, and inflation happening without the money supply being increased.

    I’m assuming that there aren’t changes in the availability of what can be bought strong enough to explain the amount of inflation, either, but maybe I missed something.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      It has always seemed to me that the money supply growth should equal growth plus inflation. The cost of each good is the amount spent divided the goods bought, and growth indicates more goods being bought. So it seems to me that the difference in money supply growth and goods growth (GDP) should be inflation. But recently I don’t think inflation has caught up with money supply growth. See the increasing rate of M2, which appears to my eye to be more than our growth of maybe 2% per year, plus inflation of about 1%.

      Of course one thing I have not taken into account is velocity (turnover of cash). If money is just sitting in someone’s checking account, then it isn’t being spent, even though it is counted as part of M2. And I have heard that many large corporations have been essentially sitting on large cash reserves, so maybe it makes sense that velocity has decreased. On the other hand these corporate cash reserves are presumably being invested in something, so they are probably being spent, so I don’t know if that counts as a slower velocity.

      I don’t know if anyone else has more insight into this.

  20. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    It’s in the testing stage, but high dose intravenous vitamin C may be effective against cancer.

    Naturally, the big question is whether Pauling was on to something. Anyone know what his line of thought was?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I don’t know about Pauling’s claims: I’m a typical Millennial researcher in that I don’t often read scientific journals older than I am.

      But I know Lew Cantley has been looking at this recently. Normally I’d dismiss Vitamin C cancer treatments as crank stuff but he’s a big enough name that it cancels out.

      It’s been about a year since I actually read the article but I did remember the irony: while most proponents of vitamin C talk about its role as an antioxidant, the mechanism he proposes is that transporting in so much vitamin C causes lethal accumulation of reactive oxygen species.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The article I linked to said that cancer cells are worse at handling peroxide than healthy cells are.

  21. Thegnskald says:

    Fellow leftists: We are all about intersectionality and competing access needs. So why the hell is the federal level always the appropriate level to solve problems? (European leftists, substitute in the EU). This is a fully general issue with modern leftism; globalism at the expense of nationalism, nationalism at the expense of states, cities at the expense of rural. In a contest between a socialist and a trigger-happy Republican, we nominated the Republican, because we’d rather have a large government than one which cares about people. When did the means replace the ends of leftism, and how do we fix the problems in modern leftism? We’re not losing state and local elections because we aren’t, as a community, trying to win them, and it increasingly looks like the left can only be bothered to vote, can only be bothered at all, when the matter in question is Federal. Voting local matters more than eating local.

    • lvlln says:

      My pet theory is that leftists tend to view our goals as a matter of social progress towards a more just world, and that combined with the idea that injustice anywhere means injustice everywhere creates a desire to implement what we view as obviously just and right everywhere all at once, instead of doing it piecemeal. This can only be accomplished using power that ranges wider, e.g. federal over state, global over national.

      I think it’s not an entirely unreasonable view – for instance, if just 1/50 states in the USA still had legal slavery today, that would still be completely unacceptable from our perspective, even if in practice the situation is overall better than what it was in 1860. Or if women in just 1/50 of states didn’t have the right to vote. Or if impoverished people in just 1/50 states had to face dying in the streets with no reasonable expectation for aid. And so on and so forth.

      The problem to me appears to be that some people take this all-or-none approach as the only approach, rejecting any and all attempts at achieving piecemeal victories as distractions from the real big wins that actually matter. Unfortunately, putting all your chips on all-or-none means sometimes you get the none, which may have seemed inconceivable to people in bubbles who were fully convinced that they were leading the charge of inevitable progress of history.

      I think trying to get the general movement to reassess its tactics and genuinely attempt to figure out what works is a Very Hard Problem. Trump’s surprise win in November (which genuinely shocked me) briefly gave me hope that this might lead to self-reflection, but in the past 2 months, I’ve seen just too much doubling down on the same all-or-none philosophy to think any meaningful change is on the horizon. Look at this NYTimes article on the division in the women marching against Trump, for example. I really don’t know where to go from here, other than hoping that the right try to overreach again and leads to the pendulum swinging back, which I’ve already seen once in my adulthood.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’m not a leftist, but FWIW I think your diagnosis of the problem is correct.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I respectfully disagree: I think the problem isn’t that we are all-or-nothing, but that we are one-size-fits-all. The appropriate minimum wage for New York City or Seattle isn’t the appropriate minimum wage for Coonbottom, Florida, but we pretend the right is evil for protesting policies that would overtly harm them.

        • Matt M says:

          the appropriate minimum wage for New York City or Seattle isn’t the appropriate minimum wage for Coonbottom, Florida

          I feel like this is a dangerous point for anyone on the left to concede. Because if you continue to follow this line of thought, you end up at the basic unit of decisionmaking, which is the individual. And if you get that far down – presto! You’re a libertarian now!

          Every effort made by government is an effort to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on different individuals with different circumstances, goals, abilities, desires, etc.

          If it’s okay for Coonbottom, Florida to set its own minimum wage, why isn’t it okay for Joe Business Owner of Coonbottom to do so, or for Bob Employee of Joe’s Business to do so? Anything else is the imposition of a one-size-fits-all solution on someone for whom it might not be the appropriate one.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Dangerous?

            The argument for minimum wage is cost of living. Why is it dangerous to consider actual cost of living when setting minimum wages?

            I don’t want all the industry in Coonbottom, if it has any, to dry up because the one thing it has to offer evaporates in a puff of “That is a slippery slope to libertarianism”. Aren’t we supposed to be better than that? Aren’t we supposed to care about policies that work, instead of policies which uphold our tribal affiliations? We are supposed to be concerned with the worst off in society. Where is the compassion?

            This, to me, is dangerously close to “I’ve got mine”, in terms of the relative economic advantages of those who live in cities compared to those who dont, if it isn’t outright class warfare against the relatively worse-off.

          • JayT says:

            One reason it’s dangerous is because it validates the belief that the minimum wage lowers employment. A lot of people on the left don’t want to concede that because it can call the entire concept of a minimum wage into question.

          • Tekhno says:

            I thought the sensible center-left belief supported by actual economists was that the minimum wage didn’t lower employment, so long as the minimum wage was below a certain level?

            I don’t think the belief is that the minimum wage can just be raised arbitrarily high with no effect on employment. I seem to remember a study – but am having difficulty finding it – that argued that the minimum wage would cause job loss if it exceeded the median wage for the area.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It is a bit of a strawman to say it can’t lower employment, rather the argument is that it isn’t at the market rate, roughly.

            But the one-size-fits-all solution neglects that the market rate is going to vary between regions, and thus penalizes the regions with the least infrastructure/lowest market rates.

          • rlms says:

            Theoretically speaking, the answer to the questions in your last paragraph is “because they aren’t members of government”. Practically speaking, it is “because the average cost of living is the same for all employees in Coonbottom, regardless of whether they work for Joe Business Owner or Jane Business Owner”.

          • Matt M says:

            “because the average cost of living is the same for all employees in Coonbottom, regardless of whether they work for Joe Business Owner or Jane Business Owner”.

            So? Why is the average the relevant factor? That’s one size fits all.

            The average cost of living in America is the same for all Americans, too. The point is that people are unique individuals and very few of them are perfectly average such that legislation targeted at “average” circumstances will help them that much.

          • Adam says:

            The steelmanned liberal argument should be the minimum wage definitely lowers employment, but destroying two dollar an hour jobs isn’t sufficiently bad to offset whatever gains they expect to get from paying people who are employed full-time enough to get them off public assistance, or whatever positive effects they think will happen. More unemployed people, but if they’re the only ones experiencing poverty, that’s still a net improvement.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            “The average cost of living in America is the same for all Americans, too.”
            Yes, but it differs between citizens of New York and citizens of Seattle.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, and the “average” cost in Coontown would differ between the north side and the south side of the railroad tracks.

            And on the north side, it would differ among neighborhoods. And within the neighborhood, it will differ among households, etc.

            The “city” is no more obviously the perfect level of aggregation than the nation is. It’s likely to be better, but it still has the same inherent flaws.

          • Brad says:

            @rlms

            @Matt M
            “The average cost of living in America is the same for all Americans, too.”
            Yes, but it differs between citizens of New York and citizens of Seattle.

            Not as dramatically as many like to claim for various reasons often having to do with self image.

            Claiming that the cost of living in Manhattan is near infinite because you can’t buy a 5 bedroom house on 2 acres of land misses something important about how people make trade-offs.

          • rlms says:

            @MattM
            Sure, if there are significant differences between the North and South sides, such that having different parts of government to handle each of them is a sensible idea, then it is also sensible to have a different minimum wage. Practically speaking, because the people living in the North and South can easily access the same shops, I do not think there will be significant differences.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Better is still better, however, even if not perfect.

          • beleester says:

            Every effort made by government is an effort to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on different individuals with different circumstances, goals, abilities, desires, etc.

            This strikes me as a case where the perfect is the enemy of the good. In a perfect world, you could imagine laws that were perfectly tailored so that no individual had a problem – “Minimum wage, except in this one city where rent is really cheap.” “No stealing, except for this one guy who is really good at allocating money to the right places.” Et cetera.

            In reality, such laws would be impossible to write, enforce, or understand, so we write general rules. And yes, that means that occasionally people get screwed over, but on the whole, a society with laws works better than one where the only law is “Do whatever works best for you.”

            It’s much the same argument as rule utilitarianism – yes, in theory, a utilitarian should calculate the expected utility for every person involved in every action, but no human can do the calculations required, so it would be better to come up with some general rules that work for most situations.

            Coming back to the question of state-level or federal or local laws, it seems like this is simply a question of how important it is to cover the general case everywhere, versus how important it is to not screw people who fall into exceptions, and how much those exceptions correlate to geography.

            For slavery, this is pretty easy – it’s very important to cover everyone, and there are vanishingly few exceptions where we’d want to allow slavery, so making it a federal law is a good idea. For minimum wage, there is good reason to believe that geography is relevant, and covering every person isn’t as urgent, so maybe it should be a state law.

        • Brad says:

          We are all about intersectionality and competing access needs. So why the hell is the federal level always the appropriate level to solve problems?

          I respectfully disagree: I think the problem isn’t that we are all-or-nothing, but that we are one-size-fits-all.

          but we pretend the right is evil for protesting policies that would overtly harm them.

          There are far too many big, sweeping claims floating around in the wake of this last election.* Everyone wants a simple magic bullet theory of everything to make sense of the world. That’s not how the world works.

          TUESDAY SHOULDN’T CHANGE THE NARRATIVE

          *Is that a big, sweeping claim?

          • Thegnskald says:

            We should update on new information, however.

            Personally the narrative is the same – Michigan’s defection didn’t surprise me at all, given Trump’s blatant targeting of the rust belt during the debates and in his speeches, but I think people are more receptive to hearing it right now, because they were surprised.

            (I personally slightly prefer Trump to Clinton, but would have preferred Sanders to either. Trump is a leftist who sold himself on right wing identity politics, and will shift the right wing leftward; Clinton is a rightist who sold herself on left wing identity politics, and would have shifted the left wing rightward.)

          • Moon says:

            ” Trump is a leftist who sold himself on right wing identity politics, and will shift the right wing leftward.”

            Time will tell, but I don’t thinks so. Trump is a feature, not a bug. He is the Trojan horse that Far Right establishment Republican Pence is riding into the White House on. The chances that Trump will be deactivated during his first year in office are quite high– whether by impeachment or some other means. He’s highly impulsive, has numerous conflicts of interest, and seems to have a tiny attention span. And he constantly and pointlessly keeps antagonizing powerful people both here and abroad. He’s already got 5 intelligence agencies and the leaders of China and Mexico, pissed off at him. And he hasn’t even taken office yet.

            It will be a piece of cake for establishment Republicans to get rid of him, if they think he will be an embarrassment, or if he refuses to do their bidding.

          • BBA says:

            Trump is a leftist…Clinton is a rightist

            Okay, you’re going to need to explain that more. How exactly is Trump, who wants to cut taxes and the welfare state, to the left of Clinton, who wants to expand both? The only thing I can think of is protectionism/free trade, which has never been a strictly left/right division (cf. Perot on NAFTA).

          • Moon says:

            Clinton has occasionally said or done some things that are Rightist and Trump has occasionally said or done some things that are Leftist. It’s a favorite media narrative that Clinton is more to the Right than Trump. Iit requires tons of cherry picking and lemon picking to “provide evidence” for that, but most people don’t mind picking fruits to support their beliefs.

            But this was one of the media narratives that kept Bernie voters from voting for Hillary and that converted some Right Wingers into Never Trumpers– the argument that “your candidate is not representative of the view of your own party, so how can you vote for them?” That narrative was fairly successful, at least in getting potential Hillary voters to stay home. Without that popular narrative going, Hillary might have won.

          • Thegnskald says:

            And I’m sure all the accusations of misogyny, because how dare anybody support anybody who isn’t on the identity wars checklist, had nothing to do with Sanders’ supporters lack of interest in supporting the party that did nothing but insult them.

            The tendency of the Left this election season to insult anybody who didn’t fall in line, amazingly enough, didn’t result in everybody falling in line. But hey, why stop now? Why bother constructing an ideal worth aspiring to, when we can aggressively insult anybody who has different beliefs than us? We only have two years to alienate any person with half a brain into realizing we’re just a bunch of bullies without any substantive policy improvements to offer.

            I mean, the endless fear-mongering about what horrible people Sanders and then Trump and all their supporters are worked so well this election, right? We’ve only lost several of our historical core states.

          • Moon says:

            If fear mongering and insulting people lost elections, Trump could never have been elected. In fact, one could take his election as evidence that fear mongering, insulting people, and having your supporters chant “Lock her up” about your opponent, are exactly the best ways to win an election.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Moon, when did Trump insult his own supporters? When did he insult Clinton supporters?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The chances that Trump will be deactivated during his first year in office are quite high

            Based on what?

        • Skivverus says:

          Minimum wages seem to me to have something in common with speed limits: they’re relatively-easy-to-enforce proxies for what we actually care about, and they have tradeoffs that get bad if they’re set too strictly.
          In the case of speed limits, they’re proxies for preventing reckless driving, and the tradeoff is “it takes forever to get where you need to go”; in the case of minimum wages, the proxy is preventing poverty and/or wage slavery, and the tradeoff is unemployment.

          The point of the analogy is simple enough – there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all for speed limits, why should there be one for minimum wages? (Edit: struck out ‘obviously’; see below)

          But it also doesn’t slide all the way down to individual-level minimum wages, for the same reason we don’t have address-level speed limits.

          • Matt M says:

            “The point of the analogy is simple enough – there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all for speed limits, why should there be one for minimum wages?”

            Was a national speed limit not a fairly popular policy supported by a pretty significant amount of people?

          • Nornagest says:

            The national speed limit was 55 mph for a while, but that was instituted during the ’70s oil crunch on the basis of saving fuel, not as a safe-driving measure. I also think of it as an unpopular policy, though I don’t actually have any polls or anything to back that up with — it was definitely a short-lived one, though.

          • Randy M says:

            Was a national speed limit not a fairly popular policy supported by a pretty significant amount of people?

            Was it? This would surprise me. I certainly don’t hear much clamoring for its return, and I’d be surprised if it was more popular beforehand.

          • bean says:

            Was a national speed limit not a fairly popular policy supported by a pretty significant amount of people?

            No, it wasn’t. In Montana, at least, the tickets issued for breaking the 55 mph speed limit were very small ‘energy conservation’ tickets. Actual speeding tickets were issued at speeds akin to today’s speed limits. I haven’t heard any calls for it to be restored, either. And it didn’t apply to the roads which are actually dangerous.

          • Skivverus says:

            Was a national speed limit not a fairly popular policy supported by a pretty significant amount of people?

            Good point, but according to Wikipedia the national speed limit that was actually implemented was ignored by rather substantial chunks of the populace (83% in New York, for instance), and two-thirds of the states debated opposing it. Will still rescind the “obviously”, though.

            That said, I do think the analogy still holds – a federal minimum wage and a federal maximum speed limit both have something they’re trying to address (wages that only lead to going more into debt vs. going too fast for one’s reflexes and the road conditions), both have tradeoffs if they’re set too strictly (as I think we have evidence of in the speed limit case), and both can effectively be overridden to be stricter by local authorities.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            More unemployed people, but if they’re the only ones experiencing poverty, that’s still a net improvement.

            For someone working long hours on a mimimum wage job and still not making enough to get by, a period of unemployment can be a gain. It gives the person leisure to look for and/or train for a better job, or adjust to being a one-paycheck household.

            For the town, say the money the emplolyer saves by firing some people, goes straight to better wages for the other people — to spend locally, which will enable some small stores to continue in business. Of course, the big employer loses, now paying the same amount for salaries but getting less work for it.

            @ John Schilling

            Here is a counter-example to some impressive rhetoric, from which I took-away this (doubtless straw) summary: Giving leisure to the elderly and disabled is okay, but an able-boded man will use it for rioting.

        • lvlln says:

          Honestly, the whole recent push by the left for $15 minimum wage just confounds me. There’s so many things wrong with it, including the fact that it’s a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that is not amenable to such a solution. My biggest beef with it is that it still ignores inflation – I’d much rather keep the current values but tie them to inflation for all future years – and then talk about raising them – than die on the hill for one specific number which may be meaningless a couple years from now. If inflation suddenly skyrockets for some unknown reason, everyone who was campaigning for $15 will suddenly have to shift to $30 or $50 or $150 or whatever, and that kind of optics looks like goalpost shifting even though it very much isn’t.

          I suppose campaigners have gotten this implemented in certain cities but not entire states and the entire nation, so that would indeed seem to present a problem for my all-or-none theory. That said, I don’t think my theory explains everything or is without exception – I just see it as the tendency that is driving the desire among those on our side to be more fervent about gaining global rather than local power.

          • Iain says:

            Because “Fight for 15” is a catchier slogan than “Fight for a reasonable minimum wage, indexed to inflation, making sensible allowances for the cost of living”.

            Fight for 15 is a grassroots protest movement. Its goal is to get people excited and involved, and shift the political landscape. It’s not a policy institute. Four states passed ballot measures in November to increase the minimum wage. None of them increased it all the way to $15; all four of them included cost of living adjustments starting in 2020.

            This is how political change happens.

      • Adam says:

        What party holds power has always gone back and forth. If all you care about is leading the charge of the inevitable progress of history, assuming that means generally greater freedom and inclusiveness in American society, that’s a hundreds of years long trend that doesn’t seem likely to reverse over any timescale longer than two presidential terms.

        A better question might be why Trump won the GOP nomination in the first place, as anyone with an ‘R’ next to their name always had a big fundamentals advantage that Trump was almost shitty enough to overcome, but not quite.

      • John Schilling says:

        for instance, if just 1/50 states in the USA still had legal slavery today, that would still be completely unacceptable from our perspective, even if in practice the situation is overall better than what it was in 1860.

        What does “completely unacceptable” mean in this context?

        The government of Mauretania didn’t abolish slavery until 1981. Even adopting the expansive definition of “liberal” to include everybody who isn’t cool with slavery, American liberals seemed to at least tacitly accept this as not worth making a big fuss about.

        No, Mauretania isn’t part of the United States, but that’s sort of the question at hand, isn’t it? Why do liberals in e.g. California believe they can or should “completely not accept” what they see as being injustices that occur in states they do not live in or control, when they clearly can tacitly accept injustices that occur in nations they do not live in or control?

        And what do you do when some “completely unacceptable” thing is going to happen no matter what you do?

        • lvlln says:

          I think of “completely unacceptable” as something along the lines of considering it immoral to the extent that there should be very few limits to the things one would do to prevent it. For example, if, say, Oregon decided to legalize slavery tomorrow, I think most Americans would accept most actions by the federal gov or other state governments short of deploying WMDs if that’s what it took to coerce the Oregonian government to reverse that.

          Whether justified or not, I think Californians believe that they have a shared identity with and responsibility for citizens of the other 49 states in a way that is significantly different from the shared identity with and responsibility for citizens of nations other than the USA. I’m pretty ambivalent on this on a moral perspective, but legally, it makes sense, since Californian citizens have some federal political power, which of course applies to all 50 states but does not extend beyond them.

          If some nonzero amount of something completely unacceptable is always gonna happen anyway, my belief is that the just thing to do would be to take action that would minimize the occurrence of that while constantly trying to ensure that that minimizing action doesn’t end up causing more harm than it prevents.

        • John Schilling says:

          I think of “completely unacceptable” as something along the lines of considering it immoral to the extent that there should be very few limits to the things one would do to prevent it. For example, if, say, Oregon decided to legalize slavery tomorrow, I think most Americans would accept most actions by the federal gov or other state governments

          But not do anything themselves?

          If some nonzero amount of something completely unacceptable is always gonna happen anyway, my belief is that the just thing to do would be to take action that would minimize the occurrence of that while constantly trying to ensure that that minimizing action doesn’t end up causing more harm than it prevents.

          And now you’re weaseling on the “completely”. There’s a thing that’s “completely unacceptable”, and there’s a thing you could do that might stop or at least ameliorate it, but that would mean getting your hands dirty so you’re going to accept it after all.

          When I hear someone say “completely unacceptable”, or anything very like it, I usually just translate to “…and we’ll whine extra loud for someone else to make this go away”. Anyone who is actually going to make it go away, is going to start with the sort of cost-benefit analysis that would prevent them from asserting absolutes like “completely unacceptable” in good faith to begin with. They might in theory incorporate that phrasing into their propaganda, but in practice that seems to be rare.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Completely” seems to be doing most of the work there.

            If we merely said “unacceptable” or “contingently unacceptable” would your objection be anywhere near as strong?

            I think it’s fair to say that actual legalized slavery, within the borders of the nation that we are citizens of, is unacceptable. There may be slavery (surely there is some) but it is not legal. To the extent that it exists illegally, it does so in secret.

            The existence of illegal slavery depends on the cost of identifying and ensuring the elimination of all slavery, and the trade-offs aren’t acceptable given what the voting populace knows of slavery in the US. Many of the trade-offs are due to the necessity of other injustices and violation of rights that would be necessary to accomplish this. Cost factors in, as does, I believe, the absence of complainants (who may not be citizens and therefore are may be constrained in accessing the justice system).

            The US has far less control and responsibility for the laws of other nations, so comparison of inter-state slavery and international slavery seem moot to me.

          • Randy M says:

            Never mind “completely”, what does it mean for a citizen to accept or not accept an action? Continually feel bad about it? Consider it when voting? Become a one-issue voter? Protest for it’s elimination? Take up vigilante action against it?

          • John Schilling says:

            I think it’s fair to say that actual legalized slavery, within the borders of the nation that we are citizens of, is unacceptable.

            Taking out the “completely” makes this less objectionable, yes, but it still leaves the key question: Who asked you, and what are you going to do about it? By what authority is your “acceptance” required?

            Sometimes, as with an employer defining “acceptable workplace behavior”, there is actual authority backing it up. If we’re postulating a United States where it is possible for e.g. North Carolina to legalize slavery, one with no 13th amendment and federalism deferring to the states on the slavery question, then a random citizen of Not North Carolina has no relevant authority and their acceptance is not required. North Carolina is going to go on keeping slaves if that’s what their citizens mostly want, and you are going to piously “not accept” it.

            Or you are going to take some unspecified action to stop it. In which case, say so. Ideally with some heretofore-lacking specificity, by which we can evaluate your odds of success. Because in my experience, saying “unacceptable” in most political contexts now does effectively signal, “I have no idea what to do about this and I’m not even committing to doing anything about this except complain”. If there ever was a time when “unacceptable” was a code word for “will be stopped by any means necessary”, that’s been over and done with for at least a century.

          • Spookykou says:

            How much I want something to change is in contest with the ease of action that I can take to bring about that change. If I am unacceptably warm in my own house I will take actions to change my temperature, in someone else’s house the same level of discomfort will result in no action. As it would be very difficult for me personally to bring about any change to a state law legalizing slavery, I would probably do nothing beyond complain about it, but I imagine there is some population of people who are less lazy/more upset/more powerful who would take a wide range of actions up to and probably exceeding the actions taken by abolitionist.

          • John Schilling says:

            I imagine there is some population of people who are less lazy/more upset/more powerful who would take a wide range of actions up to and probably exceeding the actions taken by abolitionist.

            I absolutely agree. These are the people who are entitled to use the word “unacceptable”, except for the part where until they’ve demonstrated such by real action they will be misclassified with the complainers.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Or you are going to take some unspecified action to stop it.

            Well, we actually know how that played out.

            Actions were taken in Non North Carolina, including nullifying fugitive slaw laws, and people voting not to have slavery in the expanded states. The south saw the writing on the wall and seceded precisely because the polity of the nation was going to, perhaps inexorably, move towards a slave-free nation.

            Eventually a war was fought over the question of secession, as instigated by the question on slavery.

            We, as a nation, also came to not accept Jim Crow laws. That included mass popular agitation, voting for representatives who would do away with Jim Crow, threatening of other legislators (via the vote), etc. until we got a national law passed which outlawed the practice and we had enforcement of that law by national troops.

            Today, re-imposing slavery or Jim Crow is clearly not acceptable to the polity, and so is unacceptable to the nation.

            Whereas inequality of marriage rights between gay couples and straight couples was clearly acceptable to the nation. It took the votes of 5 justices to impose this, not acts of the polity.

            IOW, saying something is unacceptable to the nation, and saying it about an individual are two different things. The nation has the power to enforce and the individual does not.

            Consider the phrase “that is unacceptable in my house” as a corollary.

          • John Schilling says:

            IOW, saying something is unacceptable to the nation, and saying it about an individual are two different things. The nation has the power to enforce and the individual does not.

            Agreed, but saying as an individual that something is “unacceptable to the nation”, might come off as a bit pretentious. Particularly when you are talking about some alternate-history nation where it is plausible for North Carolina to enact slavery in 2016, rather than any real nation where you and your audience can be expected to have e.g. read the same polling data and have the same general understanding of the national consensus.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m going to vent about the nytimes link in this relatively safe space.

        I saw it being discussed on facebook– a provisionally white (Jewish) man thought it would be a good idea to tell white women that they should comply. I’ve got claw marks all over my keyboard from resisting the temptation to play gender identity politics about this.

        Contemplating the fact that the NYTimes boosted this piece (does the blogger represent a significant number of black women? how could you even find out?), I’m just going to write everything of the sort off to agents provocateurs unless there’s very good reason to think otherwise.

        It’s probably trolling– yes, even at the nytimes– rather than a coordinated campaign.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Whose agents provocateur? Trump, the ants, 4chan, fullchan? I don’t think it’s a co-ordinated campaign, it’s just that this stuff has so infected the DNA of much of the left (from prior co-ordinated campaigns, including BLM, among other things) that it just naturally gets expressed everywhere. We not on the left don’t have to provoke anything.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I was venting. I don’t know whether you saw my edit that it’s probably trolling, but what I was trying to get at was the level of resistance which I feel is appropriate.

        • TenMinute says:

          provisionally white (Jewish) man

          Scott warned us not to update too much based on the election results, but he must be wrong. Has noticing “feel guilty, fellow white people” gone this mainstream already?
          Dropping the extra parentheses makes it much more polite though.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I’m entirely sure Nancy Lebovitz isn’t a triple-parentheses user. Implying otherwise is rather rude.

            Even if you are unfamiliar with her posting history, her name should make that pretty obvious.

            Anyway, this is something she’s posted about a lot in the past. That from her perspective people saying that Jews aren’t white used to be scary because it’s a well-known Neo Nazi meme but now seems less so because it offers a way out of white privilege / white guilt.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Dr. Dealgood, thanks. I didn’t pick up the implications from TenMinute.

            I don’t know about mainstream, though I suppose the NYT counts as mainstream. The fellow I’m referring to is fannish, and Social Justice (then called anti-racism) hit online fandom pretty hard back in 2009.

            More exactly, I now need to parse what sort of person is saying that Jews aren’t white. It might still be scary in the old anti-Semitic style, or it might be SJW.

          • TenMinute says:

            Sorry, it was meant as a compliment rather than rudeness.

            Surely that comfort must vanish at the thought of millions of angry, unemployed factory workers realizing that the wealthy ivy league graduates browbeating them for their “white privilege” do not consider themselves “one of them”, and feel none of the guilt they inflict on their victims?
            Because that’s how you turn an economic downturn that inflicts disproportionate harm on those communities into a stabbed-in-the-back myth.

            Embracing any amount of guilt seems preferable to the consequences of that.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            TenMinute, I’m actually not quite sure what point you’re answering.

            I’m willing to bet that most of the people who are spreading guilt about privilege feel that guilt themselves, they just feel that they’re correct for spreading the guilt.

          • TenMinute says:

            Do they? The man you mentioned didn’t feel as if his white, male privilege meant he should shut up and let others control the discussion.

            That’s true of all the loudest and most offensive of the “white” SJ leaders. They get a special exemption for some reason, and those being told “that they should comply” will wonder why. If you’ve started to notice, they will too.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            I would argue that many of these people suffer from ‘near bias.’ While their ideology tells them that they should feel guilt for all people who suffer oppression, they actually feel it far stronger for the people near (to) them.

            For me, this difference is often very evident by how they write about issues, where some issues are discussed in very emotional and concrete ways, where other issues are discussed dispassionately and in a very abstract way. And a lot of times, certain issues are discussed far less often or not at all.

      • I think it’s not an entirely unreasonable view – for instance, if just 1/50 states in the USA still had legal slavery today, that would still be completely unacceptable from our perspective, even if in practice the situation is overall better than what it was in 1860.

        I don’t know what “completely unacceptable” means. Is the world at present completely unacceptable? There are still places with slavery.

        Saying if there is evil anywhere there is evil everywhere is good rhetoric but very fuzzy thinking. It’s worth remembering that if questions are decided at the national instead of local level, that might mean everyone doing it wrong–in your example everyone having slavery.

        The rhetoric implies that all states having slavery is no worse than 26 states having slavery, which isn’t true. But if the question is whether things should be set up so decisions are made at the national level or the state level, all states having it instead of 26 having it is one possible result of the decision being made at the national level. You need to balance that undesirable effect of national decision making against the desirable effect of zero states instead of one (or 24).

        • Whitedeath says:

          Just to note: there are more people in slavery now then there ever were in human history.
          http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/there-are-more-slaves-today-any-time-human-history

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            According to that article, in 2015 there were a little less than 4 slaves per 1000 people worldwide.

            If you dig into the sources for that data, such as the ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labor, they estimate about 1.5 slaves per 1000 people in the “Developed Economies and European Union” which includes the US.

            The same source lists an estimated 4.2 slaves per 1000 people in “Central & South Eastern Europe (non-EU) & Commonwealth of Independent States,” which includes Russia, making it the worst region in the world today in terms of the prevalence of slavery.

            In the US in the year 1860*, the census records that there were roughly 125 black slaves for every 1000 people in the US. This is a much less strict definition of slavery than the ILO uses, given that it includes only chattel slaves and not any other kind of forced labor.

            In Russia in the year 1857*, Wikipedia says that there were about 377 serfs for every 1000 people in the Russian Empire. Again, this number only counts serfs and not any other category of forced labor recognized by the ILO.

            Obviously there’s a lot of room for improvement, 27 million slaves is still a large number in absolute terms. But in terms of how likely a randomly selected person is to be a slave it seems plausible that we’re at a historical low.

            *I couldn’t get any numbers for Russian serfs except for 1857, and I’m sleepy. So I picked the US census date closest to that. Originally I had wanted to pick the one closest to 1815 so that we could compare two centuries.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          At least in the US, slavery isn’t legal, except for prisoners. As far as I can tell, informal slavery has a lot to do with immigration controls. When I hear about slavery in the US, it tends to be of people whose legal presense is in doubt– sometimes of illegal immigrants, but also of people whose documentation is taken by their defacto owners.

          • I think it’s fair to say that actual legalized slavery, within the borders of the nation that we are citizens of, is unacceptable.

            How do you define “slavery?” I would have said that, in the ordinary language sense of the term, legal slavery is quite common in modern societies including this one. The draft was legal slavery. Prisoners are legal slaves.

            Private chattel slavery, where the slave belongs to a private individual and can be sold to another private individual, is pretty much nonexistent in modern developed societies, but state slavery of various sorts and degrees isn’t.

        • lvlln says:

          Yes, I think the world today is completely unacceptable. I think this is a central belief among other leftists as well, which is why we care so much about enacting change.

          You and I might recognize that legal slavery in 26 states is better than legal slavery in 50 states, but I think the typical leftist would interpret that as, “You’re claiming having legal slavery in 26 states is OK [(never mind that we did nothing of the sort)]? HOW DARE YOU!?” I think this reflects a critical failure in reasoning on my side which, together with delusions of the inevitability of what we consider progress, push us to grab and use more global than local power when possible.

          Basically, I believe many leftists behave nearly equivalently to utilitarians who assign negative infinite utils to the harms caused by their pet problem, and that this is the obviously true value to assign to them.

          • Aapje says:

            @lvlln

            One of the issue with having slavery in 26 states is that it doesn’t actually mean that you’d have half the slavery, because pro-slavery people could then move to the slavery states. So you might have just as much slavery, but in different locations.

            I think that this thread completely ignores the ‘waterbed effect.’

          • lvlln says:

            @Aapje

            Sure, the slavery might just shift, but that still adds extra cost to the slavers, and I think it would be reasonable to infer that this would discourage some people on the margin from being slavers and would also decrease the amount of slavery some slavers engage in, due to the extra costs. It’s certainly possible that the 26 state case has >= the 50 state case in terms of slavery, but I think the most likely result is that the 26 state case has < the 50 state case. Even if the difference is just 1 person, that's better.

          • Aapje says:

            @lvlln

            Sure, but that ignores my point that there is a clear benefit to having a universal law. This thread was ignoring the possibility that a universal law has benefits, merely attributing such a preference to irrational, emotional beliefs.

          • lvlln says:

            @Aapje

            I don’t see how this thread was ignoring that. Of course universal law has clear benefits. But those benefits are positive for you only if your side wins. If your side loses, those benefits go to your opponents, which is negative for you. Ignoring or at least minimizing this possibility of disastrous loss is the irrational, emotional belief that I’ve been discussing.

          • Iain says:

            @lvlln: On what grounds are you accusing the “typical leftist” of being unable to recognize incremental progress? You can go to the Fight for $15 website and find a celebration of sub-$15 increases to the minimum wage.

            Legal slavery in 26 states would indeed be better than legal slavery in 50 states — but if you were using that fact to justify no longer fighting to eliminate slavery in the remaining 26 states, then it seems to me that our hypothetical leftist would be correct to call you out.

            As far as I can tell, you just seem to be put off by people who support the same causes as you, but more pugnaciously than you like. That’s fair, I guess, but I challenge you to find a meaningful change that has been enacted in society without some arguably-unreasonable group pushing the Overton window open.

            (It also seems that you think the minimum wage increase is a bad idea in general. That’s also fair, but it’s a question about goals, not strategy.)

          • lvlln says:

            @Iain

            @lvlln: On what grounds are you accusing the “typical leftist” of being unable to recognize incremental progress? You can go to the Fight for $15 website and find a celebration of sub-$15 increases to the minimum wage.

            I’m not accusing that, and I have not. I’ve just noticed a tendency of those on my side to minimize the value of incremental progress, particularly on social justice issues. The Fight for $15 website really offers nothing to this discussion, since I wasn’t making an absolute statements about all beliefs of all leftists everywhere.

            Legal slavery in 26 states would indeed be better than legal slavery in 50 states — but if you were using that fact to justify no longer fighting to eliminate slavery in the remaining 26 states, then it seems to me that our hypothetical leftist would be correct to call you out.

            Yes, they would be 100% correct in that situation. But you just tacked on a whole bunch of extra stuff that is neither here nor there. We were just talking purely about which was better or worse, not about what the next steps should be. As I wrote before, I would consider even 1/50 state having legal slavery to be completely unacceptable, to the point that almost any action, up to and including war, by the other 49 states, would be justified in order to coerce that 1 state to illegalize it. I just think it’s very very important to recognize that 1/50 is better than 26/50 is better than 50/50. At best, I see other people on my side minimize the importance of this hierarchy, at worst, I see them outright denying such a hierarchy exists.

            As far as I can tell, you just seem to be put off by people who support the same causes as you, but more pugnaciously than you like. That’s fair, I guess, but I challenge you to find a meaningful change that has been enacted in society without some arguably-unreasonable group pushing the Overton window open.

            That’s a fully general argument that justifies any and all unreasonable positions.

            (It also seems that you think the minimum wage increase is a bad idea in general. That’s also fair, but it’s a question about goals, not strategy.)

            I don’t see how you could’ve gotten this impression. I think the minimum wages in the US right now are shamefully low, and I think it’s that way because the laws set them at specific numbers without pegging them to inflation or other similar variables. I think the best course of action is to 1st destroy the idea that nominal values mean anything, so that minimum wage is from now and forever more considered in terms of real (inflation-adjusted) values. For that, I find the rallying for $15 minimum wage highly counterproductive.

            The stuff about minimum wage is a huge aside from the top-level discussion about why leftists tend towards wanting global power over local power, anyway.

          • Iain says:

            @lvlln: We may be talking past each other a bit. This might be clearer if you could give a concrete example of the sort of thing you are talking about. Your claim that the “typical leftist” would be unable to recognize that legal slavery is better in 26 states than 50 seems quite implausible to me.

            Also, as I mentioned in another post earlier: the push for a $15 minimum wage didn’t prevent four states from passing ballot measures in November that increased the minimum wage to sub-$15 levels and pegged it to the cost of living, which sounds pretty close to what you want. I don’t know how much of the credit for those changes can be ascribed to Fight for $15 and co, but it seems vanishingly unlikely that it is zero. If you want to get political change, you have to motivate people to act; if you want to motivate people, it is effective to emphasize how awful things are now, how great things could be, and how we can’t stop until we achieve our goals. It’s the same reason that “Make America Great Again” was an effective slogan.

          • Aapje says:

            @lvlln

            The idea that there is a side that wins and one that loses is conditional on the belief that there are two opposing sides and a political system that allows a side to push through their desires. I prefer a more nuanced view on political diversity and a more nuanced political system.

            BTW. I agree that the American left undervalues incremental progress, which actually seems a lot different from my country. For example, we were the first country with gay marriage and got there by first having registered partnerships. As it turned out, quite a few heterosexuals prefer that over marriage, so it turned out that the intermediate step was actually a useful social innovation in itself, beyond just clearing the way for gay marriage. In the US, I often see an all or nothing approach to social issues, like gay marriage, abortion, etc. IMHO, that just results in unnecessary societal friction.

          • IrishDude says:

            Personal anecdote supporting lvlln’s position that leftists don’t feel positive about incremental progress:

            Many of my friends/family on the left talk about how bad off the world is. I’ll acknowledge that there is still struggle in the world, but point to many stats showing that people around the world live longer and healthier, that there’s been a large decline in extreme poverty, and that there’s less crime domestically. They tend to respond with something like “It doesn’t matter. People are still homeless, people still struggle to get access to healthcare, two incomes are required to just barely scrape by, and it’s cold comfort to those struggling that somewhere else people are doing better.”

            My impression is that liberals tend to be more pessimistic, focusing more on the things that aren’t going good than the things that are. I find this tendency in conservatives too, but to a lesser extent, and in libertarians least of all.

            I tend towards optimism myself, by predisposition as well as an active choice to focus on the positive (e.g., after breaking my ankle severely, I focused on appreciation for good health care to mend me and good family that took care of me, rather than that I couldn’t walk for 2 months.) However, it is helpful to not rest on your laurels and think that just because there’s been progress that the work is done, so I think some dissatisfaction can be helpful to propel the world forward.

          • lvlln says:

            @Iain

            @lvlln: We may be talking past each other a bit. This might be clearer if you could give a concrete example of the sort of thing you are talking about. Your claim that the “typical leftist” would be unable to recognize that legal slavery is better in 26 states than 50 seems quite implausible to me.

            My belief comes from stuff along the lines of what IrishDude said. Being a leftist who mostly hangs out with leftists, I’ve observed that the dominant narrative within our bubble is that the USA is a white supremacy and cis/straight/white/male/etc. hegemony, discussed in language that is indistinguishable from someone complaining about living under Jim Crow laws or Nazi Germany. The clear underlying belief seems to be that all the social progress made in the past few thousand years of civilization is nothing, or at best barely worth noting, because we still haven’t accomplished that elusive Equal Society yet.

            On a more personal note, I did behave exactly like this when I was in college, with respect to gay marriage, which was still illegal in all 50 states when I began. I recall thinking and arguing that gay civil unions (w/o gay marriage) were 100% unacceptable, that the mere suggestion of putting it on the table as a compromise was a sign of irredeemable bigotry on the part of the arguer. And when Massachusetts did legalize it, I recall having mixed feelings, of both pride for being a member of the state that did so and of shame that this was how it was moving forward, rather than a federal thing all at once.

            I have sympathy for my past self, but I no longer agree with him on those things (I still think civil unions was a non-starter from legal perspective due to it being separate but equal, but I see that it wasn’t an obscene idea as a compromise, and I think the piecemeal approach isn’t something to be ashamed of), and I guess I see a lot of my past self in what I perceive to be typical leftists.

            Also, as I mentioned in another post earlier: the push for a $15 minimum wage didn’t prevent four states from passing ballot measures in November that increased the minimum wage to sub-$15 levels and pegged it to the cost of living, which sounds pretty close to what you want. I don’t know how much of the credit for those changes can be ascribed to Fight for $15 and co, but it seems vanishingly unlikely that it is zero. If you want to get political change, you have to motivate people to act; if you want to motivate people, it is effective to emphasize how awful things are now, how great things could be, and how we can’t stop until we achieve our goals. It’s the same reason that “Make America Great Again” was an effective slogan.

            Yeah, it probably had some effect. And the initiative is far better than nothing. That’s why I support the $15 initiative. But I still see it as horribly shortsighted, and I greatly fear it is more likely to backfire as inflation makes the slogan meaningless, and I think with more care, just as much could have been achieved by putting real versus nominal as the issue at the forefront.

          • Legal slavery in 26 states would indeed be better than legal slavery in 50 states — but if you were using that fact to justify no longer fighting to eliminate slavery in the remaining 26 states, then it seems to me that our hypothetical leftist would be correct to call you out.

            What if you were discussing the political structure of a hypothetical society and didn’t know how many people in it would approve of slavery? The fact that slavery in 26 states is less bad than slavery in 50 states is an argument for having the slavery/no slavery decision made at the state level. The fact that slavery in 24 states is worse than slavery in no states is an argument against.

            The point I was trying to make was that people who argue for having decisions made at the highest level of the system generally ignore the former argument and only think about the latter.

            So far as the argument that if slavery is legal in some states all the slave owners will move there with their slaves, one point in the other direction is that if it is illegal in some states, all the slaves will try to move there–i.e. that the cost of maintaining slavery is higher if there is a free border for slaves to escape across.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            As far as I can tell, you just seem to be put off by people who support the same causes as you, but more pugnaciously than you like. That’s fair, I guess, but I challenge you to find a meaningful change that has been enacted in society without some arguably-unreasonable group pushing the Overton window open.

            OTOH, one needs to think about all the meaningless changes pushed unreasonably…

          • Iain says:

            @lvlln: It sounds like you are either hanging out with a particularly morose group of friends, or overcompensating for your own past mistakes. In either case, your claim does not match my own experience. I think you are over-generalizing from a small sample; you presumably think I am looking at leftists through rose-tinted glasses. I am willing to agree to disagree on this issue.

            @Paul Brinkley: Yeah, absolutely. I obviously don’t believe that being unreasonable is sufficient justification for the goodness of a cause. I was discussing cases where I perceived lvlln to agree with the goals of the group, but disagree with the methods, at which point I think it is fair to set the goals aside.

            @David Friedman: Your argument only holds if you think there is perfect symmetry in terms of good and bad federal policies. I think there are several factors — I mentioned the Supreme Court in another comment — that break that symmetry. As what I hope will be an uncontroversial example: Loving v. Virginia was decided at the highest level and made interracial marriage legal across America significantly sooner than it otherwise would have been. (Here’s a 2011 poll that asked Mississippi Republicans whether interracial marriage should be legal or illegal. Illegal won, 46% to 40%.) I score that as a clear win for top-down decision making. Can you provide me with a similarly uncontroversial example of a case where the federal government imposed a clearly unjust policy against the wishes of many of the states? (I will grant half marks for marijuana legalization if you can find a poll showing majority support for legal pot in a state more than ten years in advance of its legalization.)

            @lvlln: It sounds like you are either hanging out with a particularly morose group of friends, or overcompensating for your own past mistakes. In either case, your claim does not match my own experience. I think you are over-generalizing from a small sample; you presumably think I am looking at leftists through rose-tinted glasses. I am willing to agree to disagree on this issue.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Can you provide me with a similarly uncontroversial example of a case where the federal government imposed a clearly unjust policy against the wishes of many of the states?

            Dredd Scott, and the various fugitive slave laws.

          • Iain says:

            Given the manner in which it was eventually resolved, slavery is a rather poor example of leaving things up to the states.

          • Your argument only holds if you think there is perfect symmetry in terms of good and bad federal policies.

            I don’t think so. It only requires that federal policies might be worse than state policies.

            I don’t understand your restriction on the marijuana case. At present marijuana is illegal everywhere, under federal law. It’s legal under state law, which would make it entirely legal if the federal government did not claim the right to control it.

            Isn’t slavery itself an example of my point? As best I understand the situation, it was legal in states with a majority of the U.S. population at the time the Constitution was written. So if the rule had been decision at the federal level, it would have been legal everywhere, and remained legal everywhere until a majority of the population opposed it–which might have taken longer if there were no free states.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’m not sure it’s important to your point, but you assert that this is a new problem. Hasn’t this always been a problem with leftism, going back at least to 1789?

    • Adam says:

      I’m not sure I agree with this. The American left seems uniquely hostile to states, favoring both cities and the federal government over them.

      • Thegnskald says:

        We are bad at winning states, because we promote policies which help cities and hurt rural areas, like minimum wages tagged to the cost of living in metro areas. But we’d rather have a state minimum wage than a city minimum wage, and a federal minimum wage than a state.

      • Matt M says:

        Easily explained by looking at voting records. Cities lean blue. The nation leans blue. The world leans blue (at least on economic issues – on social ones too if you only count the “developed” world). Therefore city, national, and global governments are all positive institutions of justice.

        State governments are pretty much the only levels of government that tend to lean red, therefore they are regressive institutions that exist primarily to continue the systematic oppression of vulnerable groups.

      • BBA says:

        In theory, I’m all for federalism and all that. In practice, state governments are tremendously unaccountable, far worse than other levels – they’re too small for the national media attention that the federal government gets and they’re too big to be effectively pressured by grassroots groups like local governments – and thus tend towards corruption and dysfunction. And it’s not like people don’t notice this: complaining about the DMV competes with baseball to be our national pastime, and that’s not a federal agency.

        Could states be better? Sure, but I’m not holding my breath.

        • Randy M says:

          I think this says more about people than stages of government. I could easily find news about new laws passed in Sacramento. Maybe not prime time TV news, though.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Are you using “leftist” to mean “everyone on the left”?

      • Thegnskald says:

        Very roughly, yes. There is a lot of variety among all the political groups, and the left is no exception, but I think this is our greatest flaw right now; we tend to emphasize centralization at the expense of all other values.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I have always seen “leftist” used to mean “anarchists, communists, etc” but Google says it’s a synonym for “on the left”. How about that.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Ah! I understand your question now.

            Roughly, I regard the left as that political sector which regards individual well-being as a critical political value. The right, by contrast, regards societal well-being as a critical political value.

            Thus, the left tends to be in favor of systems which maximize the well-being of the worst-off, whereas the right tends to be in favor of systems which maximize average well-being. Welfare versus capitalism.

            In practice things are messier than that, granted.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not so much saying “identify the left” as identifying something where the language is confusing. I thought you were using the language wrong, but apparently it’s just a general matter of confusion.

            The gap between liberals and socialists, let’s say, is arguably greater than the gap between liberals and conservatives, to the point that some would define conservatives as “right-wing liberals”. Of course, the peculiar nature of American political language is part of it – plenty of Republicans would be voting for a party defined as “liberal” in Europe.

            It gets more confusing when one realizes that there are people who call themselves radicals, and sneer at those they consider liberals, but are themselves just a different flavour of liberal.

          • Whitedeath says:

            @thegnskald Really? The concern for individual rights is a feature of classical liberalism (which both conservatives and liberals in the US are.) The well-being of society is a big feature in communism, given how they analyze problems through a class framework as opposed to an individualistic approach.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Roughly, I regard the left as that political sector which regards individual well-being as a critical political value. The right, by contrast, regards societal well-being as a critical political value.

            I agree with WhiteDeath that this is a very poor definition of the left. And especially on this board with many libertarians that mostly do not identify as left and very much identify as in favor of individual well-being.

            My definition of the left is more along the lines of “have a higher interest in equality than other broad interests such as freedom and prosperity, at least in comparison to others not on the left.”

            Feel free to trash this definition also.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            People are missing the boat here in talking about individual well being.

            The left, writ large, views any individual not doing well as a mark against the broad society. This is different than the libertarian view, which cares far more about individual liberty than it does individual welfare, or conservative view, which favors the welfare of society over the individual, regarding actions that may immediately improve the welfare of an individual as potentially deleterious to society.

            In other words, when faced with destitute poor man, the liberal wishes that he should be guaranteed to clothed, fed and sheltered. The libertarian only wishes that any individual be free to help him, but abhors that it be a requirement. The conservative worries that doing so will encourage the behavior.

            You can argue with these viewpoints (certainly conservative Christian charities might be a decent counter point) but at least engage with them.

          • Roughly, I regard the left as that political sector which regards individual well-being as a critical political value. The right, by contrast, regards societal well-being as a critical political value.

            I would have reversed that, although of course my “right” is libertarians, not traditionalists.

            Do you consider the USSR, Cambodia, North Korea, et. al. not to be left? They were/are societies that pretty explicitly put society above the individual.

            “Thus, the left tends to be in favor of systems which maximize the well-being of the worst-off, whereas the right tends to be in favor of systems which maximize average well-being.”

            That might be true, provided you mean “systems which they believe maximize the well-being of the worst-off.” But I don’t see how it follows from your previous point. If you make the worst off person a little better off and everyone else a lot worse off (but still a little better than the worst off person), how is that regarding individual well being as the critical political value? Doesn’t the well being of all the people who aren’t the worst off count?

          • Tekhno says:

            We all have our own interpretations of the political spectrum and I think this is why we all talk past each other a lot.

            The left to me is: equality, oppressed/oppressor dichotomy, progress, and universalism.

            The right is: hierarchy, dominant group preference, tradition, and particularism.

            You can have a preference for some of these and not others, and you can also be more or less liberal within either framework. It’s also relative and not absolute.

          • John Schilling says:

            The left, writ large, views any individual not doing well as a mark against the broad society.

            Thus explaining Donald Trump’s resounding defeat in the recent election, when all the individuals who have been “not doing well” in e.g. Appalachia and the Rust Belt were driven by the left’s long-standing concern for their well-being to go out and vote Hillary.

            You might want to dial back on the “any”, there. The left seems to view individual suffering as a mark against the broad society, only when both the individual and the suffering fit into a particular sort of narrative.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Thus explaining Donald Trump’s resounding defeat in the recent election, when all the individuals who have been “not doing well” in e.g. Appalachia and the Rust Belt were driven by the left’s long-standing concern for their well-being to go out and vote Hillary.

            This reminds me of the time that Mark Atwood bet me I couldn’t find 3 articles from “left-leaning” sources which emphasized the plight of white males (or perhaps rural and suburban whites). It was easy to do so, but I don’t know if he ever paid up on his bet.

            The largest benefits of Obamacare go to poor whites. Democrats didn’t enact semi-universalized healthcare because they did not care about poor whites in Appalachia. The enacted Obamacare specifically because they do care about poor whites in Appalachia (and poor whites in Alabama and anywhere else, as well as poor minorities and middle-class independently employed people who get sick, etc.)

            If the SCOTUS had seen fit to leave Obamacare as enacted, even more of the benefits would have gone to poor whites (in Republican states who refused to expand Medicaid).

            The chief beneficiaries of extended unemployment were poor whites.

            Social Security and Medicare benefit poor whites more than anyone else.

            And on and on.

            The tribal political rhetoric is heated, as it always is. That is quite a different animal.

          • John Schilling says:

            The largest benefits of Obamacare go to poor whites. Democrats didn’t enact semi-universalized healthcare because they did not care about poor whites in Appalachia. The enacted Obamacare specifically because they do care about poor whites in Appalachia (and poor whites in Alabama and anywhere else, as well as poor minorities and middle-class independently employed people who get sick, etc.)

            They care so much about the poor whites in Appalachia that they somehow failed to notice that those poor whites were killing themselves with drugs, alcohol, and outright suicide at unprecedented rates, and somehow convinced themselves that what these people needed was cheap health care with which to prolong their lives?

            The poor whites in Appalachia don’t particularly want Obamacare. And they don’t much want your extended unemployment benefits either.

            The majority who aren’t explicitly suicidal will place some small value on those things. What they want, are good blue-collar jobs. With decent wages and benefits, but also with respect and a sense of self-worth. More generally, they want a reason to value the life that you would prolong for them, in a world that tells them every day that they are nothing but deplorable.

            This is a perfect example of what I mean by the left’s tendency to care about individual suffering only if it fits into a particular sort of narrative.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            Do you really think that the problem of meaningful work as manufacturing employment declines is something the left doesn’t care about?

            But people don’t want the government creating factories either. And free-trade policies, which may have only marginal amounts to do with lowered manufacturing employment, are not something that is uniquely favored by the left. That policy cuts both ways, with elements of the left and right both opposing and supporting free-trade agreements.

            Sure people want good paying blue collar jobs that provide for their needs, and many would like one blue collar job as head of household. Those were mostly union jobs in the rust belt, hard fought and hard won, and vanishing.

            I mean their are some pro-union policies that various Dems say will bring those jobs back, but I don’t think there is magic pixie dust in card-check. And many people hate unions just as fiercely, because the unions kept jobs in the Mid-West and out of the South.

            There is a big difference between “I won’t enact your favored policies” (whatever they happen to be) and “I don’t care about you”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you really think that the problem of meaningful work as manufacturing employment declines is something the left doesn’t care about?

            I have seen neither solutions nor empathy out of the left, at least where the rust-belt whites are concerned. You are correct that this is a very hard problem, and there may be no good solutions within the present constraints. That makes the “empathy” part all the more important, if you want people to believe you care.

            There is a big difference between “I won’t enact your favored policies” (whatever they happen to be) and “I don’t care about you”.

            “I won’t enact your favored policies”, plus no other policies that address my concerns, plus policies that do address the concerns you feel I ought to have, plus “deplorables clinging to their God and their guns” plus dismissive jokes about flyover country, minus visible expressions of empathy, from the outside that sounds an awful lot like “I don’t care about you”.

          • Whitedeath says:

            Just out of curiosity, what leftist sources do you read?

          • John Schilling says:

            Depends on your definition of “leftist”, but the Los Angeles Times daily, ditto BBC and fair chunk of my Facebook feed. NPR every week or so. Vox and Slate commonly when something interesting is pointed out. Whatever eclectic mix is linked to by the not-Jill leftist commenters here.

          • Whitedeath says:

            Oh I see because in the leftist news sources I read, there’s a lot of criticism of Democrats for abandoning the white working class.

          • TenMinute says:

            Do you really think that the problem of meaningful work as manufacturing employment declines is something the left doesn’t care about?

            They can’t even grasp it as a concept, let alone care about it. They cannot understand giving people “meaningful work” as anything but a more condescending form of handout.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think this is a case where dividing “liberal” and “leftist” is useful.

            Take Jacobin, Freddie deBoer, etc. These are leftists, not liberals. They do not particularly like liberals. Compare them to Slate, HuffPo, or Salon (listed from most to least reasonable), all liberal sources.

            You are far more likely to find someone taking shots at Trump voters in one of the latter sources. Leftists (call ’em commies if you want, although that’s not technically accurate either) are waaaay more likely to attack the liberals for playing pretend (eg pointing out that Obama has presided over some nasty stuff), for behaving in a way that is not how winners behave (lower-middle-class whites in a few key states have an outsized influence in American politics – so surely shitting on them is a bad idea), etc. They tend to reject (mostly class-free) identity politics, because they want to focus on class. Not that they ignore problems (actually or purportedly) that are greater for or exist only for minorities – but I think it is fair to say that identity politics liberals ignore or avoid class (the cynical reasoning on this is that if class privilege is a thing, one can divest one’s self of it by simply giving money away, and that taking class into account would force someone who just dropped a couple hundred thousand on a degree with Studies in the title to consider that maybe they don’t have it that bad).

            Of course, the rejoinder of the liberals is basically summed up with the epithet “brocialist” – their claim is that today’s communists are just privileged white men whose rejection of identity politics is an attempt to bamboozle the truly oppressed.

            And, as I always point out (repetitively), there are people who call themselves leftists, radicals, etc who are really just a different flavour of liberal, which confuses things.

          • Iain says:

            @John Schilling: Pop quiz!

            [There] are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

            Who said this?

    • rlms says:

      Regarding the EU, a large number of European leftists dislike it. The UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn eventually came out very half-heartedly against Brexit, but it seems pretty likely he hadn’t actually changed position from opposing the EU (like he’d done for the last 20 years). I don’t think what you describe is an international problem, merely the fact that if your ideology has control over a certain level of government, you will be inclined to favour that level’s control.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        There are leftists who dislike the EU, but I think it would be fair to say that they aren’t as influential as their Europhile brethren. Which in turn I think is due to tribalism: most people’s thought on the matter doesn’t go much beyond “Racists dislike the EU; I’m anti-racist; therefore I like the EU.”

      • cassander says:

        I’ve always found left wing attitudes towards the EU oddly schizophrenic. half the time it’s an evil neo-liberal plot to destroy the European social model, the other half it’s noble scholar-bureaucrats bravely battling the forces of racism, savage capitalism, and parochial interests on behalf of the european dream.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Your making the mistake of believing that “the left” refers to a single group of people who share a unified political agenda. There are pro EU social democrats and liberals, and anti EU populists and Marxists, all of whom could be described as left wing in one sense or another.

          I could just as easily claim that the right was schizophrenic on Putin; believing him to be either be the savior of white Christian civilization, or a KGB throwback who is a menace to democracy. Obviously any thinking person recognizes that the right who believes the former is very different from the right who believes the latter.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not sure how much cohesion “left” and “right” mean once we start getting outside the bounds of a single nation. Left and right are artifacts of coalition politics inside one system of government. The left and right will bear some resemblance to each other from nation to nation, but certainly won’t look anything like a coherent whole.

      • Aapje says:

        @rlms

        It’s complex because the EU simultaneously favors:
        – Free markets
        – Open borders within the EU
        – Wealth transfers to less prosperous regions (in ways that enable corruption)
        – More centralized decision making (in ways that often can be undermined by state governments)

        Globalist lefties tend to find a lot to like here, while anti-globalists are often not so happy.

    • cassander says:

      > When did the means replace the ends of leftism

      Not a leftist, but that’s always what happens to people/ideologies/movements/etc. that have been in power for long periods of time. Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

      • Deiseach says:

        Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

        Reminds me of a Miami Vice quote (yes, really) from Izzy Moreno re: Cuba “Revolution is easy, staying a revolutionary is hard” 🙂

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’ve heard that failed revolutionary movements go into organized crime.

          Does this seem like a reliable pattern?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve heard that failed revolutionary movements go into organized crime.

            Only because when they are successful, none dare call their revolution-era financing mechanisms “crime”.

            With slightly less cynicism: Anyone running a revolution against a remotely competent government, has to set up the same sort of organization to perform the same sort of functions as an organized crime gang. It is rare for a successful revolution to be financed entirely by voluntary donations, and if the revolution is even faltering then it obviously isn’t adequately financed and will need to supplement its funds with a bit of e.g. robbery (we had both the Patty Hearst and “Die Hard” discussions here a few OTs ago).

            If it eventually becomes clear that you aren’t powerful enough to take down the government, maybe you are still powerful enough to make a good living running a crime syndicate and maybe the government won’t be quite so dedicated to exterminating apolitical criminals. And in the transitional phase, you’ve still got a bit of leftover revolutionary fervor to help solve the e.g. literal prisoners’ dilemmas that so often bring down criminal gangs before they can really entrench themselves.

            As Trofim points out, the problem of narco-terrorism usually comes out of this dynamic.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Another way of looking at it is that it’s hard to organize people to do anything.

            It’s easier to get people to join a revolutionary movement than to begin organized crime from scratch. (Cite needed, but I think the revolutionary movement can invoke idealism, resentment, and the hope of a big victory.)

            This means that while there might be a niche available for organized crime, it’s might not be taken until a revolutionary movement moves into it.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          It’s been pretty consistent in S. America and SE Asia. Though more Drugs, Kidnapping for Profit, and so on than organized crime in the sense of setting up shop within urban centers for insurance scams, extortion/protection, prostitution, etc.

    • Mark says:

      The reason why means have come to dominate over ends is that leftism has become the place where conventional people come to cluck-cluck about this week’s shibboleth and how scandalous Mr. Bloggs’s blah blah blah is.
      A close examination of means is anathema to the conventional. Means are an end in themselves.

      “How do we fix the problems in modern leftism?”

      Basically, we need to start ignoring the words of those people. We can’t all be blind followers (which is what those driven by convention and social proof tend to be.)
      (Also ignore the mad-eyed true believers in whatever utopian scheme is flavour of the month.)

  22. Thegnskald says:

    Rightists: I admire your focus on local communities and the fact that you elect people you want, rather than the people you’re told to want. Leftists could learn important lessons here. But at a certain point, you have to admit that you are just as much a part of the establishment as the left, and that blaming the left for problems you helped author doesn’t actually solve the problems, it just gets more people into office who shouldn’t be there.

    You’re on track to be corporate whores to the same batch of assholes who have used identity politics and clever marketing to turn feminism into a gimmick to drive sales, and you’re letting the worst elements of the left decide who you are and who you vote for, simply to spite them.

    • Incurian says:

      I think the rightists on this site would generally agree with your point here (could be wrong), so I think this comment would be more aptly directly to the general public than at them.

      The realization that Republicans were just as bad as Democrats during the 2012 primary (or whenever) was the final straw that caused me to identify as a libertarian, and later ancap.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I think there’s a distinction between being a conservative policy-maker and being a conservative. Conservatives seem pretty well aware of the distinction: talking heads, consultants in think-tanks and career politicians are perfectly willing to mouth the words but have no principles of their own. They won’t fight a system which ultimately benefits them.

      It’s sort of like Ford Prefect’s lizard democracy. Establishment conservatives are scum, and the new crop of populist rightists are also scum. And either one of them would be running against even worse scum in the general. So which flavor of scum do you vote for?

      That’s not to absolve anyone of collaboration. People could stop voting for the lizards altogether. I think that would look like the Mormon / Mennonite option: retreat en masse to conservative enclaves and try to weather the decline.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      But at a certain point, you have to admit that you are just as much a part of the establishment as the left, and that blaming the left for problems you helped author doesn’t actually solve the problems, it just gets more people into office who shouldn’t be there.

      Wasn’t that a large part of the reason for the rise of the Tea Party and, more recently, Donald Trump?

      • Thegnskald says:

        I vaguely approve of the Tea Party, insofar as it is essentially the mirror movement of Occupy. Which is why I praise Republicans for their tendency to vote for the people they want.

        Donald Trump isn’t Tea Party, however. He’s the inverse problem of the Democrats, who tend to vote for who they’re supposed to vote for, instead of who they want; his voters voted for him because, in part at least, they WEREN’T supposed to vote for him. The people telling the public how to vote chose Donald Trump more than the public did, by telling them not to vote for him.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          Thegnskald – “The people telling the public how to vote chose Donald Trump more than the public did, by telling them not to vote for him.”

          Do you argue that the people telling everyone who to vote for were aware of this in advance, and that Trump was their preferred candidate? Because if not, I’m unsure of what your point is.

          “You’re on track to be corporate whores to the same batch of assholes who have used identity politics and clever marketing to turn feminism into a gimmick to drive sales, and you’re letting the worst elements of the left decide who you are and who you vote for, simply to spite them.”

          Spiting them has led to a realization that their power is not unlimited nor their victory certain. The right is now aware that it’s still possible to win fights. That opens up a great many more options than were thought possible a year ago. The new challenge is to figure out what the Right should actually stand for now; hopefully it’ll be something other than a rubber stamp for the Moral Majority and the ultra-rich.

          • Thegnskald says:

            My worry is that the Republicans will become the new Left; Left+Religion. If the Democrats continue being the party of the upper middle classes, and the Republicans actually listen to their new blue collar constituency, we could see minorities shifting to the Republican banner; and whereas the religious tendencies of minorities were largely ignored in the Democratic party, the Republican party listens to its constituents to a fault.

            The Democrats would then be composed entirely of their core upper middle class base, and become increasingly right-wing globalists (Clinton being a good example of this); I expect they’ll take Texas soon through immigration from current left-wing strongholds like California, and then they’ll be able to win elections, but leaving secular leftists without a good option.

          • Moon says:

            ” the Republican party listens to its constituents to a fault.”

            They tell their constituents what they want to hear, to a fault. But once in office, they do not follow through on such promises. Once in office, they pay attention to their donors only, at least as far as policy, rather than words, is concerned.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Moon –

            They consistently oppose abortion, push abstinence, try to cut spending of critical federal projects, oppose gay marriage, continue to push unconstitutional anti-terrorism acts, continue to support the death penalty and higher and longer incarceration rates, continue to push drug testing for welfare even though it’s useless, continue to push school prayer —

            Hell, if they actually ignored their constituents instead of pushing all their constituents’ beliefs on everybody else, I’d consider it a massive boon for the left. There are a lot of issues with the Republican party, but not doing what their constituents want isn’t one of those issues.

          • Moon says:

            “They consistently oppose abortion, push abstinence, try to cut spending of critical federal projects, oppose gay marriage, continue to push unconstitutional anti-terrorism acts, continue to support the death penalty and higher and longer incarceration rates, continue to push drug testing for welfare even though it’s useless, continue to push school prayer —

            You are right, they sometimes do what their constituents want, about issues that are of no importance to their donors, or are helpful to their donors’ goals. Keeping poor people barefoot and pregnant and working for super low wages with no health care, is fine with Republican donors.

            Also, some of these things, are things their constituents have been persuaded to be in favor of– not things they are naturally in favor of. There’s a lot of religious propaganda, as well as political propaganda, that many Christians respond to.

            They do hurt their constituents economically in numerous ways though. And the GOP has not helped the Rust Belt folks ever before, nor will they now probably, even though they have promised that.

          • cassander says:

            @Thegnskald

            >They consistently oppose abortion, push abstinence,

            to zero effect.

            >try to cut spending of critical federal projects,

            and almost never succeed

            >oppose gay marriage,

            to zero effect.

            >continue to push unconstitutional anti-terrorism acts,

            a thoroughly bipartisan vice.

            >Hell, if they actually ignored their constituents instead of pushing all their constituents’ beliefs on everybody else, I’d consider it a massive boon for the left. There are a lot of issues with the Republican party, but not doing what their constituents want isn’t one of those issues.

            They SAY they’re going to do those things. They don’t actually do them. Your complaint amounts to “this animal is dangerous, when attacked, it defends itself”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Zero effect is not the same thing as not getting every single thing you want.

            If > 0 effect requires Roe V. Wade to be overturned, by your definition, I think your definition needs working on. Republicans at the state level have been remarkably successful in passing various abortion restrictions and limitations at the state house level over the last 6 years.

            Republicans succeeded in passing into law explicit bans on gay marriage in many states over the 12 years.

            When nothing other than complete and total victory will satisfy you, prepare to be unsatisfied.

          • TenMinute says:

            Republicans at the state level have been remarkably successful in passing various abortion restrictions and limitations at the state house level over the last 6 years.

            Do compare those laws to those of, say, France and Germany.

          • cassander says:

            @HBC

            >Republicans at the state level have been remarkably successful in passing various abortion restrictions and limitations at the state house level over the last 6 years.

            I defy you to show that there’s a single person in the country who is unable to get an abortion because of those laws.

            >Republicans succeeded in passing into law explicit bans on gay marriage in many states over the 12 years.

            All of which were rendered meaningless by the 9, which fits exactly the model I laid out, the left wing agenda is occasionally slowed down, but never stop and certainly never reversed.

            >When nothing other than complete and total victory will satisfy you, prepare to be unsatisfied.

            Total victory? In the last 20 years, there is precisely one area of policy that has seen meaningful rightward movement, gun control. That’s it. Everything else has moved not at all, or to the left. If you call that total victory, I’d hate to see what defeat looks like.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @thegnskald – “My worry is that the Republicans will become the new Left; Left+Religion.”

            To me, one of the better arguments for Trump was that of the Republican candidates, he was the least compatible with the general Conservative Christian agenda.

            “If the Democrats continue being the party of the upper middle classes, and the Republicans actually listen to their new blue collar constituency, we could see minorities shifting to the Republican banner; and whereas the religious tendencies of minorities were largely ignored in the Democratic party, the Republican party listens to its constituents to a fault.”

            The religious tendencies of American minority groups are fundamentally incompatible with Christian Conservatism. Conservative Christianity’s political focus is centered on the gospel of sin management, and minority churches lean heavily toward the gospel of social justice in their political leanings. These two worldviews are mutually antagonistic; if they end up in an alliance together, it won’t be through an appeal to religion.

            I am pretty sure religion is a spent force in national politics for the foreseeable future, for what it’s worth.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I wouldn’t call myself a rightist (nor a conservative in the political sense), but I sympathize greatly with the following view, with which I think many “rightists”/”conservatives” here would agree (correct me if I’m wrong):

      “So let’s say we buy the argument that by voting for Trump (or whoever), we’re going to be corporate whores, etc., same batch of assholes, etc. Ok. Well, for whom should we vote for instead, Mr. or Mrs. Helpful Leftist? Hmm…? People who are more leftist than the ones we did vote for? Huh. Wouldn’t have thought that would be your answer. A bit convenient for you, no?

      And, you see, here’s the thing about the notion that we lose either way. If we lose either way, then whether we lose or not can no longer affect our choice of what to do. What’s left? Well, what’s left is whether they—the other side, the leftists, the people who hate us—win. If we can’t win, at least we can make sure they lose.”

      I don’t hold with the premise, myself, nor, as I said, would I place myself on either side of “right” vs. “left”. But I think there’s a lot to be said for spite.

      • Adam says:

        Ok. Well, for whom should we vote for instead, Mr. or Mrs. Helpful Leftist?

        Any of the other 16 Republicans who ran against Trump in the primary?

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Alright. Two questions:

          1. How many of those Republicans would you characterize as having views / policies / likely behavior when in office / etc. that are closer to those supported by our hypothetical average leftist than Donald Trump’s are?

          2. How many of those Republicans did (when running) or would (if elected) provoke, from leftists, similar commentary (to the effect that voting for them is actually against the best interests of conservative voters?

          (Questions not rhetorical.)

          Edit: minor wording fix

        • Deiseach says:

          Any of the other 16 Republicans who ran against Trump in the primary?

          Oh, you mean like Ted Zodiac Killer Cruz? The guy who was going to introduce a theocracy and turn The Handmaid’s Tale from fiction to reality?

          Rick Santorum? Kasich, Rubio, Jeb? Ben Carson was a religious whack job who went on an anti-women’s rights rampage; Bobby Jindal was nearly as bad.

          Remember when Trump was the joke candidate and the real threat was from the Bible-bashers and money-grubbers who absolutely had to be defeated at all costs because if one of them got the candidacy, it would be an absolute disaster?

          Not really seeing anything there to refute “we would prefer if you selected a candidate we would like to see in office, not one you would like to see”.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t recall much alarmism about Jeb (who was widely expected to win the primary at one point) or Kasich.

          • Jordan D. says:

            @Deiseach

            Well, you’ve got me on Cruz- I long said I’d rather have President Trump than President Cruz, and damned if I’m going to change my tune now. As a resident of Pennsylvania, I think I should get a pass on disliking Santorum, who still gets referred to as ‘former PA Senator’ even though we kicked him out.

            But as far as I recall, Jeb and Kasich got mostly the same-old “this guy supports bad policies” condemnation, outside of fringe Brietbart-of-the-Left style articles. Rubio maybe got a little more, and Christie got a lot more condemnation, but in fairness Christie is not exactly a model politician after Bridgeghazi. Carson, it seems to me, was regarded as even more of a joke candidate than Trump, although at least he wasn’t a jerk all the time constantly, and he got less media attention.

            In fact, the fringe left’s biggest target during the Republican primary, as I recall, was… Hillary Clinton. Possibly they would have spent more time attacking Trump, but at the time nobody thought Trump was a serious candidate.

            Look, I wouldn’t have voted for Jeb Bush or Kasich (although if Sanders had won the Dem nomination, I would have had to consider it), but this weird counterfactual world where Democrats would militarize against President Bush III or President Kasich feels bizarre to me.

          • Adam says:

            Yes, I mean those. Outside of Cruz and possibly Carson, I’d have been happy with any of those people over Trump. But keep replying to the least charitable example of any person on the Internet ever instead of the actual person making the comment you’re replying to, just as you’ve done for years.

        • Adam says:

          1. How many of those Republicans would you characterize as having views / policies / likely behavior when in office / etc. that are closer to those supported by our hypothetical average leftist than Donald Trump’s are?

          2. How many of those Republicans did (when running) or would (if elected) provoke, from leftists, similar commentary (to the effect that voting for them is actually against the best interests of conservative voters?

          Why does it matter? Hypothetical average leftists are presumably not voting in the GOP primaries. The job of the party selection process isn’t to please members of the other party. I get that you’re responding to a hypothetical average leftist when asking your original question, but the reality remains any Republican in the U.S. had a plethora of better humans than Donald Trump to choose from who all would have represented their own views with sufficient faithfulness.

      • Moon says:

        No kidding that there is a lot to be said for spite. A lot of Trump voters didn’t even like Trump. They just love to hate Democrats, liberals, immigrants etc., as they have been trained to do by Right Wing ‘news” media for decades now. They loved to chant “Lock her up” and rage at scapegoats. Why would Republicans vote for any of the other Republican primary candidates, when Trump was the very very best, by miles, at inciting and manipulating their hatred and spite?

        • LHN says:

          Possibly you should direct that question to the 55.1% of Republican primary voters who did vote for one of the other candidates?

        • Thegnskald says:

          Our hands aren’t exactly clean on the “hatred and spite” slate, either. The hatred and insults we hurled at the right wing hit our blue collar constituents as collateral damage, chasing them into the enemy’s camp.

          And instead of learning from that mistake, we’re cementing it in place by continuing to hurl insults at them. Racist, stupid, easily manipulated. I don’t think we can pretend we weren’t manipulated into supporting his campaign, either; we could have risen above his pettiness, but instead we made his case for him.

          More, it’s not exactly like opposition to illegal immigration is a historically Republican position; hell, ten years ago, a common left-wing sentiment was that illegal immigrants were being tolerated by the Republican establishment because they helped drive down wages for American workers; the Republicans, meanwhile, argued that they took jobs American workers wouldn’t do. And we’d argue that, no, we’d do them, just not for the shitty wages those jobs paid, which is how they were undercutting our workers. Same thing with globalism.

          • Moon says:

            False equivalence there. A few redneck jokes, usually not told around any actual rednecks, does not equate to “Lock her up” chants toward our major party candidate.

            The Left is great at feeling guilty, so we will probably fall down further now in popularity, due to trying to empathize with Right Wing Rust Belt folks who would never vote for Dems in a zillion years anyway, because they always believe what Fox News and Breitbart tells them to– and those “news sources” tell them that liberals are the Anti-Christ. And they will still tell them that, no matter how much Dems try to empathize.

            There were many reasons HRC lost the election. Failure to empathize with Rust Belt types is not anywhere near the top of the real list. But failure to empathize is at the top of most liberal wimps’ go to list, when they try to figure out why they failed. Not being aggressive enough, not being practical enough, not building up effective media presence, not pushing to get rid of easily rigged electronic voting machines– those are the real reasons, besides Putin, Assange, and Comey.

          • Thegnskald says:

            They voted Democrat consistently for quite a while.

            There’s a scent of sour grapes to the idea that their loss was a foregone loss. It was, in a sense – they overwhelmingly voted for Sanders, because Clinton means “NAFTA” to them, which they blame – rightfully or wrongfully – for a severe deterioration of labor conditions in the rust belt.

            It wouldn’t be enough for her to empathize; she would have had to actually apologize, and say she’d do better.

            As for aggression – there is no shortage of that right now, nor was there during the election. The attack ads didn’t convince anybody, they just repulsed the moderates.

          • Nornagest says:

            Prior to this election, the Rust Belt states have all recently been swing states or Democratic strongholds. Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Pennsylvania all went to the Democrats from 1992 to 2012; Iowa missed 1992 but went to Dukakis in 1988 (a near-landslide year for Bush). Ohio was blue in four of those six elections; West Virginia two. Indiana’s about the reddest of the bunch, and even it went to Obama in 2008.

            That doesn’t sound like “not in a million years” to me. But the only one of those states that Clinton carried last year was Illinois.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Moon,

            A lot of white union and ex-union guys in upstate NY, including in my own family, are or were yellow-dog democrats. We’re not talking about NPR listeners but hardly Fox News viewers either.

            Very few of them were happy with the way things had been going the last few years and party loyalty took a big hit. Some of them held their noses and pulled the lever for Hillary anyway. Others stayed home. A few of them voted for Trump.

            Obviously that didn’t matter for the outcome: the city determines which way our electors go regardless. But it should be a wakeup call if a formerly reliable constituency gives up on your party. Or, in this case, was given up on.

          • cassander says:

            @moon

            >False equivalence there. A few redneck jokes, usually not told around any actual rednecks,

            No, you just shout them out over the internet, good thing those stupid hicks don’t have smart phones!

            >does not equate to “Lock her up” chants toward our major party candidate.

            Maybe you shouldn’t nominate people who commit felonies?

            >The Left is great at feeling guilty, so we will probably fall down further now in popularity, due to trying to empathize with Right Wing Rust Belt folks who would never vote for Dems in a zillion years anyway, because they always believe what Fox News and Breitbart tells them to– and those “news sources” tell them that liberals are the Anti-Christ. And they will still tell them that, no matter how much Dems try to empathize.

            Maybe you could stop trying to make their jobs illegal. Or is that just too radical to consider?

            >There were many reasons HRC lost the election. Failure to empathize with Rust Belt types is not anywhere near the top of the real list.

            She didn’t just refuse to empathize, she refused to even campaign for them. talk about contempt.

            >Not being aggressive enough, not being practical enough,

            Passing massive, unpopular expansions of the welfare state over the objections of many members of your own party through parliamentary shenanigans isn’t aggressive?

            >not building up effective media presence,

            Just…..lol

            >not pushing to get rid of easily rigged electronic voting machines–

            I’m old enough to remember when you were saying that questioning the validity of elections was treason. That was 2 months ago.

            >those are the real reasons, besides Putin, Assange, and Comey.

            I’m also old enough to remember when Assange was a left wing hero, back when he was making republican politicians look bad.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Maybe you shouldn’t nominate people who commit felonies?

            Trump was the one who committed felonies. He’s a republican, remember? The republican sexual-predator-in-chief?

          • Moon says:

            LOL, HRC committing felonies. More Right Wing news falsehoods about Hillary’s supposed illegal activities. Alex Jones and Bannon make up dozens of new falsehoods per week about HRC, probably while they’re sitting on the toilet. And then liberals on the Net are asked by Right Wingers to disprove all of those conspiracy theories. No they are not asked actually, it is demanded of liberals that we do this.

          • cassander says:

            @Earthly Knight

            >Trump was the one who committed felonies. He’s a republican, remember? The republican sexual-predator-in-chief?

            Odd that none of those women saw fit to press charges, then. I suppose, then, that you were firmly in favor of impeaching clinton when he was actually found guilty of similar actions?

            @ Moon

            >LOL, HRC committing felonies. More Right Wing news falsehoods about Hillary’s supposed illegal activities. Alex Jones and Bannon make up dozens of new falsehoods per week about HRC,

            So when comey said “The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014.” Alex jones was making that up? because last I checked, failing to turn over evidence to an investigation was obstruction of justice. or when he said “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.” that was bannon’s fevered imagination?

            >probably while they’re sitting on the toilet.

            Do you really think saying this sort of thing makes you look good?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Odd that none of those women saw fit to press charges, then. I suppose, then, that you were firmly in favor of impeaching clinton when he was actually found guilty of similar actions?

            When do you think Bill Clinton was “found guilty” of anything?

            because last I checked, failing to turn over evidence to an investigation was obstruction of justice. or when he said “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.” that was bannon’s fevered imagination?

            You claimed that Hillary committed felonies, and your evidence for it is that the FBI director said that, were she still a government employee, she would be subject to administrative sanctions. How, exactly, do you propose to get from “subject to administrative sanctions” to “committed felonies”?

          • cassander says:

            @Earthly Knight

            >When do you think Bill Clinton was “found guilty” of anything?

            When he was disbarred, and when he was found in contempt of court and fined 90k for giving false testimony, actions he took in both cases effectively as plea bargains.

            >You claimed that Hillary committed felonies, and your evidence for it is that the FBI director said that, were she still a government employee, she would be subject to administrative sanctions. How, exactly, do you propose to get from “subject to administrative sanctions” to “committed felonies”?

            Administrative sanctions in no way preclude felony charges.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            Context for your claim that Clinton was “found guilty”:
            “Odd that none of those women saw fit to press charges, then. I suppose, then, that you were firmly in favor of impeaching clinton when he was actually found guilty of similar actions?”. The “similar” actions Trump has been accused of are sexual assaults. You do not seem to have presented any evidence that Clinton has been found guilty of them. In any case, even if we for some reason group together sexual assault and contempt of court as fundamentally the same crime, note the date of the LA Times article you link. It is from several months after the end of the impeachment process and hence it is unlikely that the guilty verdict there would have persuaded anyone to favour impeachment (unless they were a time traveller).

            On your second point: one thing can fail to preclude another without implying it. If you want to say that Clinton is guilty of felonies, you should provide some actual evidence, rather than just saying that it isn’t impossible. Or would you find the statement that Donald Trump’s election doesn’t preclude him from being a Satanic baby-eater meaningful and logical?

          • cassander says:

            @rlms

            >Context for your claim that Clinton was “found guilty”:
            “Odd that none of those women saw fit to press charges, then. I suppose, then, that you were firmly in favor of impeaching clinton when he was actually found guilty of similar actions?”. The “similar” actions Trump has been accused of are sexual assaults. You do not seem to have presented any evidence that Clinton has been found guilty of them.

            The women in question were alleging Clinton harassed and assaulted them. Clinton’s response was “We never had sex”, something he later admitted was a lie to preclude further investigation. You’re twisting words if you think that doesn’t count as proof of his guilt.

            >If you want to say that Clinton is guilty of felonies, you should provide some actual evidence, rather than just saying that it isn’t impossible.

            I did. I quoted Comey admitting that she did things that were contrary to the law.

          • rlms says:

            > The women in question were alleging Clinton harassed and assaulted them. Clinton’s response was “We never had sex”, something he later admitted was a lie to preclude further investigation. You’re twisting words if you think that doesn’t count as proof of his guilt.

            As far as I am aware, only Jones was alleging Clinton harassed and assaulted her. If you buy into ideas about power dynamics affecting a person’s capacity to consent, you could argue that Lewinsky was assaulted. But she has never alleged that, and relevantly was not alleging that during the Clinton v. Jones. Clinton was found to have lied about having consensual sex with Lewinsky. I don’t know why you think that has a bearing on whether he assaulted Jones.

            > I did. I quoted Comey admitting that she did things that were contrary to the law.

            You quoted Comey admitting it was possible she could be “subject to security or administrative sanctions”. Security or administrative sanctions do not imply guilt of any crime, let alone a felony specifically.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Cassander, what you said was:

            I suppose, then, that you were firmly in favor of impeaching [Bill] clinton when he was actually found guilty of similar actions [i.e. sexual assault]?

            But it remains false that Clinton was ever found guilty of sexual assault. You are now saying that Clinton was found in contempt of court for lying under oath. This is true, but has no relation to your original claim.

            You also said:

            Maybe you shouldn’t nominate people [i.e. Hillary Clinton] who commit felonies?

            But you have failed to produce any real evidence that Hillary committed a felony. You did cite evidence that Hillary’s conduct would be subject to administrative sanctions were she still an employee of the government, but this has no relation to your original claim.

            You should stop spouting obvious falsehoods and accusing people of felonies without being able to back it up.

          • Administrative sanctions in no way preclude felony charges.

            But they don’t imply felony charges, which I think is what your argument requires.

          • cassander says:

            @rlms

            >As far as I am aware, only Jones was alleging Clinton harassed and assaulted her. If you buy into ideas about power dynamics affecting a person’s capacity to consent, you could argue that Lewinsky was assaulted.

            Which is precisely the rebuttal that you get from the left when you point out that trump specifically said “when you’re a star they let you do it”

            @earthly knight

            >But it remains false that Clinton was ever found guilty of sexual assault. You are now saying that Clinton was found in contempt of court for lying under oath. This is true, but has no relation to your original claim.

            As I said to rlms, what he did was definitely assault under the standard that’s being applied to trump.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            What he did to whom? Try to use some specifics instead of hiding in a thicket of vagueness. Clinton was found in contempt of court– not “found guilty”– for lying about having sex with Lewinsky, but Lewinsky has never alleged their escapades were anything but consensual. What you said was false.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            The difference is blindingly obvious. Lewinsky has not alleged Clinton assaulted her. Various women *have* alleged Trump assaulted them. If you believe that Lewinsky was assaulted even though there is nothing to suggest she would agree, then we can have an argument about that conception of sexual assault. But I don’t think anyone in this conversation uses that definition. Certainly the law doesn’t, which is the relevant fact here since we are arguing about which presidents have committed felonies, not which have dubious sexual ethics (I think we can all agree that both do).

          • Nornagest says:

            This whole line of argument is dumb, but way, way more women than Lewinsky came out of the woodwork with allegations about Clinton during his second term; Lewinsky is just the one that stuck best. Most of them were talking consensual (if more or less sleazy) affairs, but not all.

            Also, since consensually banging your intern is not a crime, the charge Clinton was impeached for was perjury — which is a felony under federal law. He was acquitted narrowly in the Senate, and I think that was probably the right call under the circumstances, but that is best viewed as an exercise of discretion; it’s fairly clear that he did in fact lie under oath, even if that took place in the context of a ridiculous witch hunt and he should never have been questioned in the first place.

        • Hetzer says:

          A lot of Trump voters didn’t even like Trump. They just love to hate Democrats, liberals, immigrants etc., as they have been trained to do by Right Wing ‘news” media for decades now.

          I was going to argue against this, basically with NATVALT, but yeah, there kind of are people like this out there. Like Christopher Cantwell.

          Posting one of his videos here to illustrate the… interesting reasons that a paleocon-ish AnCap found himself supporting Trump.

          https://youtu.be/NcYDgqYHNRo

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Independently of my other comment:

      Thegnskald, an excellent series of comments / questions. Thank you.

    • cassander says:

      > But at a certain point, you have to admit that you are just as much a part of the establishment as the left, and that blaming the left for problems you helped author doesn’t actually solve the problems, it just gets more people into office who shouldn’t be there.

      How is that? In the long run, power in a democracy goes to the shapers of opinion, and the left completely dominates the schools, the universities, the civil service, and the media. You have massive control over the terms of the debate, get years to mold the best and brightest in your image. Things have been like this for decades, and for decades your agenda has occasionally been frustrated, but never for long, and certainly never reversed. You’ve used this power to build the world we live in, for better or worse. It’s time you guys take ownership of that and stop playing the underdog bravely battling against the dark forces of reaction, because you destroyed those forces decades ago. It’s your world, we just live in it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      So Kennedy’s crazy view is that thimerosal causes autism. Thimerosal is not used in US childhood vaccinations. (The lack of reduction in autism rate when it was removed is probably the best evidence it doesn’t cause autism.) So if he were on this panel, what would his super-dangerous recommendation be? “We shouldn’t put thimerosal back into childhood vaccines”?

      • Aapje says:

        “We should stop giving people childhood vaccines”

        His irrational beliefs are predicated on him believing that vaccines contain thimerosal. I don’t understand why you would assume that he changes his mind on that or would carefully craft his advice to leave rational people with an ‘out:’ “We should stop giving people vaccines with thimerosal.”

        • The Nybbler says:

          As far as I can tell, Kennedy is not an anti-vaccine nut at all. He’s specifically an anti-thimerosal nut.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nybbler

            My impression is that anti-thimerosalism is merely a rationalization by anti-vaccine people.

            Can you explain why you believe that this is not the case for Kennedy?

          • Spookykou says:

            I would, without having good reason to assume otherwise, think that an anti-thimerosal nut is highly likely to hold other more general anti-vaccine beliefs. These seem like related concepts to me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            Basically I’ve been searching around for what his views on vaccines are, and I haven’t found anything outside anti-thimerosalism. That’s how he started out, that’s how he is now. He ignores or dismisses with conspiracy theories all contrary evidence about thimerosal (which definitely argues for “nut”), but he doesn’t switch to blaming any other aspect of vaccinations.

          • What Robert Kennedy actually believes I don’t know, but his claimed position is pro-vaccine, anti-thimerosal. He starts the statement on his web page with “I am pro vaccine. I had all of my six children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines save millions of lives.”

          • Aapje says:

            The problem here is that I have a lot of trouble believing that people whose arguments are based on easily disproved premises are not reasoning from their desired outcome backwards. The statement by Nybbler that Kennedy grasps at straws to protect his stack of reasoning, supports this theory.

            As reverse reasoning means that the stack of reasoning is hung from the ceiling and thus the premises are not load bearing, they only have to be minimally plausible to allow for the illusion of rationality to be preserved.

            PS. A better way to convince such people might be to cater to their flaws by figuring out why they really dislike vaccines and resolve that. For example, I think that many anti-vaccers are really motivated by a strong dislike of seeing their child cry and/or being responsible for causing this. You might be able to resolve this by administering vaccines in a way that is less painful for children, having someone else than the parents take the children to be vaccinated (so the parents don’t feel that they caused the pain) and/or teaching the parents that they are actually preventing a greater harm (perhaps make them view a video with examples of people who did get the disease and greatly suffer from it).

      • shakeddown says:

        If someone can come to the belief that chemical X in vaccines causes autism on no evidence, and then when chemical X is removed the autism rate doesn’t change, it’d be more consistent of them to switch to blaming chemical Y. Unless some chemical in vaccines actually does cause autism, removing things from vaccines seems unlikely to sway them.

      • For the love of god, we need to just ban the word autism. It means far too many things right now. Is it

        a) An unusual cognitive profile where one has typical intelligence, yet perhaps has an unusually low score on tests such as this?

        b) No lack of any of the traits above, however the person simply has a personality profile that makes them care less for social rules, and somewhat resembles anti-social personality disorder(without violent tendencies)

        c) A general nervous system disorder that greatly prevents typical social-development.

        d) Stimming behaviors that may have lots of different causes?

        e) Full blown constantly screaming and twitching?

        Somehow, the term autism has taken lots of different meanings. Anything that causes brain/nervous system damage of any sort will cause autism, as that is so vaguely defined.

  23. Deiseach says:

    Seeing some of the news headlines (and other sources) about the latest allegations re: the Russians and Trump.

    I know truth is supposed to be stranger than fiction, but can we please switch to a different novel? This one is a little too absurdist black comedy for me to keep up with.

  24. simoj says:

    Are people aware of this? A (literal) Nazi torture cult operating in plain sight in the 21st century: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Baviera

    Kind of thing that seems like it should be made up…