"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 67.75

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

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806 Responses to Open Thread 67.75

  1. JulieK says:

    Heel Bear Cub asked in a previous open thread why libertarian commenters here weren’t condemning Trump for something-or-other.

    My own answer is that the tribal warfare here, with its (to quote poster Jordan D.) “let’s group bad things into piles of left or right” threads, makes me reluctant to say something that will be added to a list of what’s wrong with “my side” (the right).

    If we could somehow tone things down and be more charitable, I will be happy to join in and tell you how awful I think Trump is.

    • Not as a card-carrying libertarian. But at this point criticizing Trump as a libertarian (or other off-brand political group) feels like being part of a small rag-tag army, who slowly come up over a hill to see two massive armies engaged in brutal hand-to-hand warfare.

      I’m joking, I think there is a lot of value in level-headed criticism of Trump from a thoughtful, non panicked, perspective. That’s what it *feels* like thought.

      • shakeddown says:

        On the other hand, this could be your chance to get one of the big tribes to focus on the ideals you don’t like. If you target the specific things that bother you most in Trump, you might be able to get a large number of people to support your ideals because they’re a good way to oppose him.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        This argument strikes me as BS, Shakeddown, and always has. I’ve watched Republicans and Democrats turn on a dime on issues of government authority and state vs. federal power too many times to believe that there exist any significant percentage of politicians principled enough to dismantle the levers of power rather than simply try to wrest them to their own purposes.

        As for more specific goals rather than broad ideals:

        Show me a Democrat who is going to see this as an opportunity to start favoring massive welfare reform/replacement with UBI+NIT, start opposing the gun control movement, stop trying for wholesale reductions in capability of the military and start pushing for NATO to increase their military spending and capabilities.

        Show me a Republican who is going to see this as an opportunity to start favoring the massive wealth redistribution scheme inherent in a UBI+NIT, start simplifying and reforming the tax code even if it means a significant hike in actual tax burden to some people, stop trying to court the social conservatives.

        Instead, what actually happens is that since we’re too few for anyone to be cared about, we can be absorbed and become one of the voiceless multitude the big tribal leaders speak for, in exchange for…well, pretty much nothing.

        • TenMinute says:

          to believe that there exist any significant percentage of politicians principled enough to dismantle the levers of power rather than simply try to wrest them to their own purposes.

          This is why people start saying things like “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible”.

          • Well... says:

            Right, because people have only become cynical about politicians in the last few years. That joke about politicians being like diapers was invented in 2015, and “Throw the bums out” was a slogan dreamed up by Steve Bannon for the Trump campaign. Saying things like “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” has nothing to do with a bunch of undercut-wearing guys with not enough kids and too much time on their hands trying to feel edgy on the internet.

          • TenMinute says:

            I don’t know if Thiel wants kids (I hope he does!), but “too much time on his hands” definitely isn’t one of his problems.

            But no. The last 16 years of abuses have, rather than emboldening Libertarians, simply convinced many of them that the system is both broken and self-reinforcing.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @TenMinute

            “…simply convinced many of them that the system is both broken and self-reinforcing.”

            Now, we just need them to realize the truth that it’s inescapable as well.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Yeah, I will admit that I often feel like saying that. However, I think freedom and democracy are still compatible…just probably not at the scale of the United States, and would require more cultural/sociopolitical “preventative maintenance” than we’ve put in in the past 200 years.

          I hold out hope that allowing people to self-segregate by ideology and cultural values into more, smaller democracies (or oligarchies, or autocracies even) would produce better results.

          • Kevin C. says:

            I hold out hope that allowing people to self-segregate by ideology and cultural values into more, smaller democracies (or oligarchies, or autocracies even) would produce better results.

            Indeed, they probably would. Too bad such division and self-segregation will simply never, ever be allowed.

            (See also Tyler Cowen’s recent “Will there be more countries?“, where he answers in the negative with reasons why.)

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I already gave my personal hypothesis for the overall dynamic here in the last thread (short version: It’s driven by population dynamics. If you want to listen to libertarians bash trump, go to someplace where the libertarian minority is driven to alliance with the liberals against a strong conservative presence).

      I’ll add to that the observation that I’ve taken to rarely commenting on specific candidates or politicians because it seems pointless. I’ve tried a few times when I saw what seemed like really outrageous claims, but the responses and overall tone of the conversation has made me want to just say “fuck it”. I’ll continue to vote for my third party candidates, and they’ll continue to get 2-3% of the popular vote.

      Policy discussion is somewhat more interesting, but so far I haven’t had much to contribute there. People have already pointed out “protectionism bad” and “crony capitalism/corruption is bad”, and my position on immigration tends to be roughly equal in its offensiveness to both major camps, to whit:

      -We should allow in more immigrants and make it easier to get temporary work visas.
      -While we should actively screen for potential terrorists and it probably WOULD be worthwhile to expend some extra effort on long-term monitoring for radicalization, we should not restrict muslim immigration and in fact should step it up as much as possible. Assimilation is a powerful cultural weapon.
      -We should also make serious efforts to deport illegal aliens or otherwise deal with the fact that they have committed a crime. A path to citizenship coupled with fines, community service, jail time, or other form of punishment maybe, if deportation is impossible.
      -Finally, we should encourage assimilation and a ‘melting pot’ cultural model over the ‘salad bowl’ model, with both our dominant culture and our laws and legal accomodations. This is especially relevant in light of point 2, but applies more generally as well. I think that even if immigrants absorb a LOT more from American/WASP/whatever culture than that culture absorbs in return, it’s still a two way flow, and we can enjoy a valuable injection of new cultural, linguistic, and intellectual capital that will slowly shift and change the baseline “American” culture without threatening its foundations.

      Right now, that pretty much wraps up what I can usefully say about Trump. Didn’t vote for him, but so far nothing to make me say “Man, I really wish I’d voted for Hillary”.

      • Mark says:

        It’s driven by population dynamics. If you want to listen to libertarians bash trump, go to someplace where the libertarian minority is driven to alliance with the liberals against a strong conservative presence

        I really hope this isn’t true.

        It sounds so dreary.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I really hope this isn’t true.

          It sounds so dreary.

          It’s true. Most of the places with a strong conservative presence have an image of a “libertarian” as someone like Ron Paul, whose libertarianism basically begins and ends with “the government should let states do what they want (PS end the Fed).” Anyone but the most paleo of paleo-libertarians gets pegged as a liberal entryist anyway.

      • Matt M says:

        “If you want to listen to libertarians bash trump, go to someplace where the libertarian minority is driven to alliance with the liberals against a strong conservative presence).”

        Yep. The “left-libertarians” are pretty constantly criticizing Trump. Follow people like Jeffrey Tucker or Adam Kokesh on Facebook if you want more libertarian criticism ofTrump in your life!

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        If you want to listen to libertarians bash trump, go to someplace where the libertarian minority is driven to alliance with the liberals against a strong conservative presence

        Liberals are Libertarians’ friends.

        Liberals have always been Libertarians’ friends.

        Libertarians are now at war with Eurasia Trump.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Leftists are always demanding to know why you aren’t condemning someone-or-other for something-or-other. You’re better off tuning them out, unless they represent an actual threat.

      • tmk says:

        Still, it’s weird. There is a massive wave of populist authoritarianism taking over the U.S. government and libertarians do not care.

        • suntzuanime says:

          From a libertarian perspective, it’s not so much authoritarianism taking over the US government as authoritarianism remaining in control of the US government, yeah? It’s not like the US was previously a utopia where the government would never dream of forcing you to bake a gay cake.

        • Matt M says:

          Libertarians do not think this is a new/shocking development. I’m unconvinced that “populist authoritarianism” is not a label that could be reasonably applied to Barack Obama.

        • TenMinute says:

          Okay. The first step is to contain executive branch police powers, and it needs to start tomorrow.

          Oh now you give a shit. That’s neat.

          It’s not a new development. The only shocking part is that the partisans using it to demand libertarians’ support actually believe they don’t notice the hypocrisy.

      • Protagoras says:

        “Leftists” do this, as if it were distinctively a flaw of that movement? The comment threads around here aren’t full of people saying feminists or proponents of social justice or just, well, leftists must believe awful things because they aren’t condemning someone-or-other for something-or-other?

          • DavidS says:

            Nope. At least in the UK, I think the most common single ‘criticise an ill-defined community for not condemning something’ is the ‘why aren’t Muslims condemning terrorism’ one. And in the political realm one very common one (possibly most common) is the right demanding the left condemn industrial action.

            I think this ‘why aren’t you condemning’ issue is a bit different to the one Civilis mentions on e.g. people saying video games/films should reflect ‘progressive’ values. On that one I think there is currently more of that from the left though you do still get some from the right e.g. on promoting drugs or whatever.

        • Civilis says:

          We have the recent phenomenon of the Trump inauguration, and calls for various people and groups to not attend or perform at the nomination. I don’t recall anything like that in 2008 and 2012. I don’t think this is new, either. “So and so performed in Israel/South Africa!” or “This company employee donated to a cause I don’t like!” About the only phenomenon similar from the right I can think of was “If the Dixie Chicks don’t like Republicans, I, as a Republican, don’t like them” but nobody goes after McDonalds for the CEO stating it wants to be a “Modern, Progressive Burger Company”; we just don’t eat there nearly as much and laugh when sales go down.

          For all W’s “You’re either with us or against us”, the right generally has to accept that people will disagree with us. For the progressive left, which is not a small part of it, everything has to be about the politics. Science fiction novels needs to address non-binary gender norms, and the Oscars need to pull in more minorities, and video games need to address sexism.

          I admit it’s gotten a bit muddled recently, but I see it more as the right increasingly adopting the Alinsky tactic of ‘make the opponents play by their own rules’ rather than any fundamental requirement by the right that the left address its historical flaws.

          In a hypothetical world where the right had been culturally dominant for an extended period of time, the right’s behavior may be different. There’s noting ideologically preventing certain parts of the broad ‘right’ coalition from adopting those tactics. But the American right of today does not have a record of shaming people for being on the left.

          • Nornagest says:

            About the only phenomenon similar from the right I can think of was “If the Dixie Chicks don’t like Republicans, I, as a Republican, don’t like them”

            Jane Fonda. Ancient by political standards, but still a live grudge.

          • Civilis says:

            Jane Fonda. Ancient by political standards, but still a live grudge.

            I think this kind of proves my point. Here is a lady that was pictured actively supporting a country at war with the US. Yes, some veterans probably won’t ever see a movie that has her in it. But she hasn’t been hounded out of work. She’s nowhere near as radioactive as, say, the Koch brothers. (Warning: behind paywall: http://www.wsj.com/articles/charitable-gifts-from-wealthy-koch-brothers-often-prompt-partisan-reactions-1407117054)

          • Cheese says:

            I think the most striking example of ‘the right’ engaging in the ‘why aren’t you condemning X?’ tactic is with respect to islamic terrorism. I’ve lost count of the amount of times some bobble-head has popped up and said ‘why doesn’t moderate/mainstream islam condemn these events’ when a quick google search renders enough examples of that to keep you busy reading statements for a month.

            That said, even as a fairly committed progressive leftist, it’s a tactic that people in ‘the left’ (fuck these terms shit me, it’s so broad as to be almost useless) have absolutely used more. My personal observation is that people on the more nationalist right tend to do so a bit as well (note: not the US). It’s such a stupid tactic too, accomplishes nothing but tribal affirmation.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Thing I’ve noticed:

            Muslims of my acquaintance – who could all be classified as moderate Muslims, or frankly, outright almost-secular Muslims, the Muslim equivalent of Easter-and-Christmas Christians, whose idea of being observant is giving up alcohol for Ramadan – are very likely to condemn terrorism. After all, terrorism by Muslims (mostly by Sunni radicals) mostly targets other Muslims.

            The people I know who try to sweep it under the carpet, talk about how “oh they’re not real Muslims”, bring up some cherrypicked study about how it’s really political right-wing extremists who are the real threat (article’s title never explains it’s talking about the US only and starts counting after 9/11), etc are mostly non-Muslim, and mostly white.

            Meanwhile, non-Muslim right-wingers of my acquaintance are generally clueless about Islam, clueless about divisions within Islam, clueless that Muslims are the primary victims of terrorism by other Muslims, and clueless that Muslims are acknowledging this and trying to deal with it.

          • Matt M says:

            “clueless that Muslims are the primary victims of terrorism by other Muslims”

            I’ll push back slightly on this one. A lot of neocon pundits actually regularly cite this (I’m fairly certain I’ve heard it from both Beck and O’Reilly) as a point in favor of demanding that moderate Muslims denounce Muslim terrorism – sort of a “How can you defend them when they’re killing your own people!!” argument.

            Edit: See also, comments regarding “black on black crime” as arguments against the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that if they really were solely interested in saving black lives, they’d worry about their own communities rather than white cops.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Edit: See also, comments regarding “black on black crime” as arguments against the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that if they really were solely interested in saving black lives, they’d worry about their own communities rather than white cops.

            Avoidable streets are a hell of a lot different than constant anxiety, shame, or anger. How many years does police-oriented anxiety/shame/anger take off the average black life?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I have some sympathy for moderate muslims, because if they speak out against islamic terror they risk being put on the SPLC’s Big List o’ Hitlers.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @suntzuanime:

            I don’t mean big-name guys like Maajid Nawaz who have to deal with both extremists who want to saw their head off on film and well-intentioned left-wing white people (or, depending on who you ask about the SPLC, motivated mostly by profits) declaring them to be in the same general category as neo-Nazis.

            I mean that if I am chatting with a Muslim friend, I can say “Sunni radicalism is a problem, and they commit a lot of terror, globally speaking”, and they will agree, because that is true. Given that they are a friend I am chatting to, they are either a Sunni moderate (and thus not a fan of Sunni radicals), or a member of one of the minority Muslim sects (and thus really not a fan of Sunni radicals), and so they know that Sunni radicals are a problem, and very possibly a threat to friends and family of theirs. Almost everyone I know who I would avoid saying that to, because they would probably start shouting about how if you look at the statistics (which count the US, beginning October 2011) the REAL problem is white supremacists and Muslims don’t do terror at all and that’s a myth propagated by the right-wing media, is a white non-Muslim.

          • Jiro says:

            I suspect that “Muslims don’t denounce terrorism” is a roundabout way to point out “Muslims who oppose terrorism have no influence among Muslims.” I’m sure that most police don’t shoot unarmed black people, either, but when they do, it’s legitimate to complain about the police, because obviously the ones who don’t do it can’t stop the ones who do. Whether it’s because they sympathize with them or whether it’s because they just lack the power is ultimately irrelevant.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Whoops. I was too late to edit. That was supposed to be October 2001.

            @Jiro:

            I think there’s a difference between co-religionists and people who voluntarily join a job with various professional standards.

            And it is relevant whether it’s sympathy or lack of power. “Most Muslims in the US are desperate to stop Sunni radicalism, because it’s their relatives back in the Old Country who are getting blown up while shopping, but they don’t have power because of geopolitical factors empowering Sunni radicals; how can we fix this?” is a very different message from “how many columns are there? Are there … five?”

        • TenMinute says:

          Yes, “you must denounce/disavow!!” is a distinctive part of that movement. But it’s not necessarily a flaw, in that it’s a tremendously powerful weapon.

          That the right doesn’t use it is mostly a matter of them not being able to make the media do it on their behalf, so don’t imagine anyone’s claiming the left “only does it because they’re evil”.

          • Well... says:

            As far as “you must disavow!” being a weapon, I see the Right use it all the time. They just tend to not have the news media acting as their amplifier, so it spreads more through memes/topics of conversation than through headlines where you’re more likely to remember it months later.

          • Jordan D. says:

            I’m not sure what you mean by ‘the Right doesn’t use it’. I have a pretty anodyne facebook feed, but every single day one or more of the Republicans on it have criticized liberals for failure to denounce the people who commit crimes at protests or riots. I have no idea whether conservative media echoes that sentiment, because I don’t really visit many conservative media sources.

      • JulieK says:

        A comment that starts out “Leftists are always…” is not helping to create a more charitable environment.

        • ChetC3 says:

          The guy you’re replying to was appointed by Scott himself to raise the comment section’s intellectual level through constant shitposting. Being less charitable is his entire point.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Say wha?

            I don’t particular like suntzu’s posting style, but you seem to be engaging in either gross mischaracterization or some sort of performance art example of Poe’s law.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Check the archives, that’s literally how suntzuanime characterizes himself. Except maybe the “appointed by Scott” part, that’s merely implied.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Except maybe the “appointed by Scott” part, that’s merely implied.

            Like I said.

            As to the rest, I’d say lose the snark and just object to the shitposting.

            Not that resisting the urge to snark is always possible. I hope that if (when!) I snark, and people call me on it, I (will) have the good graces to acknowledge that it isn’t really productive.

      • Urstoff says:

        Leftists drive like this, and rightists drive like that

      • Anatoly says:

        I wish there were fewer people like you and comments like yours on this site.

    • Tekhno says:

      @JulieK

      libertarian commenters here weren’t condemning Trump for something-or-other.

      A fair few of us are less strictly libertarian and more ill fitted to identify as left or right. Personally, I’d say I’m more meta-libertarian, than principled libertarian. A lot of principled libertarians are against net neutrality because it implies that ISPs are public utilities, whereas I take a stand for net neutrality on the basis that there exists a very free and open market inside the simulated society that is the internet, and that allowing ISPs to charge different traffic at different rates would be the real world equivalent of abolishing equality before the law, and having a totalitarian form of government that taxed people at different rates for every single kind of transaction they see fit with no limits, except the competition between ISPs that barely exists to begin with. Governments already try to do this in the real world, and suspending net neutrality would have the net (heh) result of making the internet less free, because in the meta-libertarian context, the ISP warlords are the government of the internet, and without net neutrality, they have free reign to apply arbitrary “taxes”.

      Yes, there is a market in service provision, but its a highly oligopolistic one, where market forces are extremely weak due to the natural monopoly nature of the infrastructure. Perhaps that is due to previous government action preventing alternatives to the existing internet lines from being allowed to operate, but it is what it is at this point, and removing some regulations can have the net effect of reducing freedom due to the overall regulatory structure.

      Going from this line of thought, my chosen criticism of Trump – that I’m going to throw on the altar of good will towards demanding leftists – is the appointment of net neutrality foe Ajit Pai as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Boo! Hiss! I say.

    • Rusty says:

      I wonder if people are waiting to see what he actually does? This blog seems to be all about approaching problems based on evidence and at the moment there really isn’t much (unless you take the view that the candidate’s own words can be relied on). But I think there will be plenty to discuss soon enough!

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @JulieK:

      makes me reluctant to say something that will be added to a list of what’s wrong with “my side” (the right).

      So, this comment is an example of what I was trying to illustrate.

      rlms asked why, around here, instead of simply using the terms left and right, we didn’t use two axis, political compass style terms.

      I simply pointed out that people in these comments don’t act like they care very much about the libertarian/authoritarian divide compared to the left/right economic divide.

      In other comments, I’ve made the (implicit) point that people don’t even care so much about this. Mostly they care about the current standing of their coalition.

      Now, I agree with your main point that toning things down and being more charitable is a good thing. Anything we can do to encourage that is a good, many of them unalloyed goods.

      • TenMinute says:

        If you were linked to a pile of SSC-libertarian criticism of Trump, would it cause you to stop saying “You Must Disavow”?
        The suspicion that it would not is probably why many people don’t bother.

        The history of “Denounced David Duke In The Completely Wrong Way… Denounces David Duke but Won’t Call Him ‘Deplorable’… He Didn’t Disavow Before He Did!” makes it look like a cheap political tactic.
        Saying it honestly requires some gesture of good faith for people to take it seriously.

      • JulieK says:

        makes me reluctant to say something that will be added to a list of what’s wrong with “my side” (the right).

        So, this comment is an example of what I was trying to illustrate.

        rlms asked why, around here, instead of simply using the terms left and right, we didn’t use two axis, political compass style terms.

        I simply pointed out that people in these comments don’t act like they care very much about the libertarian/authoritarian divide compared to the left/right economic divide.

        I think you’re missing my point.
        *Because* this forum is polarized over the left-right divide, therefore that aspect of my identity is pushed to the forefront and I feel defensive about it.

        If instead we had frequent threads on “Who is more selfish, breeders or the childfree?”, I might be identifying primarily as a parent.

        • Jordan D. says:

          Yes, I agree with this. This is the effect identified by Scott in I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup when he writes:

          I imagine might I feel like some liberal US Muslim leader, when he goes on the O’Reilly Show, and O’Reilly ambushes him and demands to know why he and other American Muslims haven’t condemned beheadings by ISIS more, demands that he criticize them right there on live TV. And you can see the wheels in the Muslim leader’s head turning, thinking something like “Okay, obviously beheadings are terrible and I hate them as much as anyone. But you don’t care even the slightest bit about the victims of beheadings. You’re just looking for a way to score points against me so you can embarass all Muslims. And I would rather personally behead every single person in the world than give a smug bigot like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

          I don’t think anybody is lying when they say that SSC mostly doesn’t support any of Trump’s policies, but HBC is equally correct that you won’t find a lot of denunciation, and a lot of that is because…

          Well, look back at the passage of the Affordable Care Act for a moment. Remember Obama’s famous “If you like your plan, you can keep it” line? That wasn’t true. That was a lie, and a bad one, and I know a lot of Republicans who have demanded that the Democrats own up to that lie. I know of very few who have, precisely because they believe that what the Republicans actually want is to leverage that admission into yet more political power to hurt people with. Doubtless it is the same with those on the right.

          This is why I suspect that Trump will get mostly breezy dismissals here, unless he does something really stupid like impose massive tariffs.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “If you like your plan, you can keep it” line? That wasn’t true. That was a lie, and a bad one, and I know a lot of Republicans who have demanded that the Democrats own up to that lie.

            It’s only a lie in the context that plan creators (insurance companies) always have had the power to eliminate or modify plans. And that is so much a given that it should have been implicitly understood by everyone who heard Obama’s statement.

            The ACA gave those insurance companies an incentive to eliminate or modify many plans, but they didn’t have to. And anyone could have kept any plan that wasn’t eliminated by at most paying a fee“tax” for insufficient coverage.

            I don’t remember the full context of Obama’s statement, so it’s possible I am wrong about this.

          • Jordan D. says:

            @anonymousskimmer:

            I see what you’re saying, but I think, in the broader context, it was a lie by the time the ACA was nearing passage. There were, in fact, a lot of plans which the ACA made more-or-less untenable, even if the law didn’t ban them outright. Politifact has a pretty good write-up of the saga here.

            I don’t think Obama started out intending to lie, mind you. I just think that he felt a lot of pressure to stay the course on that line even as it became less true as the ACA developed.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I just think that he felt a lot of pressure to stay the course on that line even as it became less true as the ACA developed.

            Sure.

            I think the word “lie” is bandied about too much. Such broad usage facilitates all social groups in what they’d do anyway: Attacking the other groups for things that they minimize for their group members.

          • Iain says:

            I mostly agree with anonymousskimmer. In addition to that: Democrats didn’t want to to give ground on that issue because they thought that the ACA was generally good policy, and that Obama was a good leader, and they wanted to preserve that situation. Even Democrats who believe that Obama lied generally believe that he did so for a good cause.

            The corollary to this is that Republicans who reflexively close ranks in defense of Trump should consider whether the good things Trump is doing outweigh the bad. This is not to say that it is impossible for a reasonable person to reach that conclusion — but it’s a situation I’m personally glad not to be faced with.

          • The version of this problem that mostly strikes me is in the climate arguments. I have two examples on my blog of what I regard as provable dishonesty in that argument. In neither case does accepting that claim require someone to change his conclusions about the causes or consequences of climate change, merely to concede that someone on his side is dishonest, which is hardly surprising for any side of any major political argument.

            But almost nobody is willing to do it.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            to be fair, climate change believers think that the world may end, which morally allows for a lot of shady behavior

          • suntzuanime says:

            In bad moral systems, maybe.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you like your plan, you can keep it.

            I don’t think this really is a particularly good example.

            Like any eight word sentence about healthcare, especially in America, it oversimplifies something that is terribly complex. Like almost every single short political statement, it papers over a lot of things.

            Politifact called it the lie of the year and the president apologized for it, but it’s not like it was based on nothing.

            More to the point, I’m perfectly willing to defend the general construction of the ACA and how it attempts to move the US nearer to universal coverage without making radical changes in the healthcare market.

            Frequently the “Obama lied!” criticism both understates how accurately ACA was described in public and substitutes the question of whether those 8 words are a lie for any actual critique of the policy.

            So, for example, with Trump and his “Great Mexican Wall, The Best (TM)” I care far less about whether “Mexico is going pay for it” completely accurately describes a tariff or import tax, and I care far more about a) whether at any point in time before Trump suggested that he meant a tariff was what “Mexico will pay for it” meant, and b) whether a tariff is a good policy and what sort of harms it does, vs what, if any, benefits accrue.

            I think the answer to (a) is that was never mentioned before in relation to paying for the wall, and (b) it’s a horrible policy whose harms far outweigh the benefits, and furthermore (c) is a horrible as a funding mechanism.

          • Jordan D. says:

            I still think my description is accurate, but I now regret attempting to give an example since I don’t really care whether or not that was a lie.

            But even assuming that I thought Obama had lied a lot, I would balk if a Republican friend of mine suddenly leapt out from an alleyway and demanded that I admit that he was a liar. Because I would (almost certainly accurately) suspect that this friend didn’t so much care about the lie as he did about undermining support for Obama so that my faction would lose power.

            And I can’t appeal to “Well, Trump’s different because with Obama it’s stupid partisan politics while Trump intends to seriously hurt a lot of people” either. I think that’s true! But all of my Republican friends were also in total earnest when they assured me that Obama’s twin goals were the destruction of the right to self-defense and socialize all the markets. Earnest opposition for good reasons and partisanship are pretty much identical, unfortunately.

            Now, I think there will end up being a difference, because I believe that Trump is going to end up making exceptionally bad decisions instead of just anodyne politico-I-disagree-with bad decisions. But you can’t expect that anything this early. It took Nixon two years to collapse, after all.

            Edit –

            Naturally I agree with you that the ACA is better than the Wall (and much better than the threatened 20% tariff), but unless Trump actually looks like he’s on the brink of being able to do something as dumb as a 20% tariff for no good reason I expect that bringing it up will be dismissed as more of his insane blovating.

          • Nornagest says:

            It took Nixon two years to collapse, after all.

            More like six. Watergate came out of events surrounding Nixon’s reelection campaign, which he won.

            He was never a popular President — he didn’t have the charisma for it — but before Watergate and the oil embargo he was viewed, and I think correctly, as a competent one. He did a wide variety of shady shit, but it was the kind of shady shit you’d expect from a ruthless and slightly paranoid Washington insider, not from a self-promoting outsider. In other words, Trump wasn’t the Nixonian candidate in the last election, Hillary was.

            (Trump reminds me more of Andrew Jackson than anyone in recent politics.)

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nornagest

            “(Trump reminds me more of Andrew Jackson than anyone in recent politics.)”

            To quote a tweet from Walter Russel Mead on Trump’s inaugural address:

            This could not be a more Jacksonian speech; the only thing missing is that he hasn’t challenged Chuck Schumer to a duel.

          • onyomi says:

            Because I would (almost certainly accurately) suspect that this friend didn’t so much care about the lie as he did about undermining support for Obama so that my faction would lose power.

            I think this is a really key point related to what I think was the key point of this article I linked: namely, now that everyone knows that the reigning political philosophy is “achieve your political goals by any legal means possible, including destroying your opponents with hypocritical moral outrage,” everyone is stuck in “defect” mode with respect to moral outrage: I won’t admit my guy has problems because you won’t admit your guy has problems and you will use it against me.

            To my mind, the healthier equilibrium would be to somehow have a norm whereby everyone applies the following test to all cases of moral outrage: “would I be outraged enough by this scandal/gaffe to not vote for someone who shares my political goals?” If the answer is yes, you get to express moral outrage. If no, then you are just using fake outrage as a political weapon–defecting, in effect, from a potentially healthier political culture.

            I, for example, shouldn’t express a lot of outrage about Hillary’s server scandal because it wouldn’t have stopped me from voting for Ron Paul had he done the exact same thing. And I mostly didn’t, though I do recall saying the initial decision not to prosecute felt politically motivated in a way I don’t agree with (maybe I wouldn’t have been intellectually honest enough to still make that observation had Ron Paul been under investigation, though I’d like to be).

        • shakeddown says:

          I’ve recently made a resolution to avoid making any political commentary online unless it either provides information (that is reasonably likely to be new to someone involved), or is a request for information.
          I’d recommend it. It’s helped a lot with keeping my sanity, and the arguments this has resulted in me not getting into would probably have had very little value.

      • Deiseach says:

        I simply pointed out that people in these comments don’t act like they care very much about the libertarian/authoritarian divide compared to the left/right economic divide.

        Mmmm. I would incline slightly left-wards if we’re talking economics, but on libertarian/authoritarian, I’m very much an authoritarian (I often need to stop channeling my Inner Saruman).

        Sooooo…. would that make me Stalin? At least that would be a change from the “Hitler/Not Hitler” nonsense.

    • John Schilling says:

      From my perspective as a card-carrying Libertarian:

      A: Been there, done that. And push come to shove, I’ll side with Trump over anyone who would denounce me for insufficient moral purity if I don’t repeat my denunciation of Trump in every open thread.

      B: Entirely too much of the general denunciation of Donald J. Trump has been aimed at denouncing the legitimacy of the Trump presidency. Trump is, for better or for worse, the legitimate president of the United States of America, yes, even with the hacking and the popular vote and whatnot. If there is some genuine debate about a Trump policy to which I can contribute more than tribal cheerleading, I may chose to do so. But until I am ready to raise the Black Flag of Anarchy myself, I’m going to keep my distance from the “We don’t have to treat the orange smurf like a Real President(tm)!” crowd.

      C: Earthly Knight.

    • blacktrance says:

      I’m a libertarian commenter, and I denounce Trump and all his works. Most libertarians I know personally are strongly anti-Trump as well. But most of the libertarians in SSC comments are disappointingly right-wing in their sympathies.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        Seconded. The libertarians I know are basically uniformly (and loudly) anti-Trump, though it’s not clear what that means.

        Contrast the attitude towards Trump at:

        http://reason.com/

        vs.

        https://www.lewrockwell.com/

        I and most libertarians I know are on the reason end of things (in more ways than one nyuk nyuk).

        • Matt M says:

          As someone who is definitely on the Lew Rockwell side of things, I would suggest these are two good sites for anyone to monitor who is interested in contrasting what left-leaning libertarians and right-leaning libertarians are talking about and where they weigh in on various issues.

          • blacktrance says:

            Reason isn’t really left-leaning, it’s more centrist (within libertarianism). C4SS would be a better example of left-libertarianism.

          • Urstoff says:

            As blacktrance said, Reason is pretty much straight down the middle libertarianism. The Niskanen Center is a much better example of “liberaltarianism”: https://niskanencenter.org/

            I also consider someone like Roderick Long to be a different flavor of left-libertarianism in that he’s against all forms of concentrated power, and thus thinks that large corporations (really, any large organization) is a threat to liberty; focus on corporations from other strains of libertarianism only tends to be when the government enables their abuse of power. http://praxeology.net/

          • Tekhno says:

            Left-libertarianism can mean anything out of these:
            -Liberaltarian: Basically free market minarchists who like the welfare state and left wing culture. The left wing of minarchism, and the counterpart to conservative libertarianism.
            -Anticapitalist free marketers: People like C4SS who argue for egalitarianism and for workers from a free market perspective. They are really the left wing of Ancap though.
            -Socialist anarchists: This is what the term usually means, since the socialists started calling the capitalists “right-libertarians” so they could avoid people getting confused in an American context.

            C4SS is a weird one, because its emotional core is a far-left perspective that is heavily sympathetic to the socialist anarchists and Marx, while rejecting their methods completely, claiming that a fully unleashed free market with private property will lead ultimately to absolute leveling and economic egalitarianism.

            They are essentially still right-libertarians in that they are arguing for the unleashing of private property, but they are far left libertarians in that they cover this in a vaguely socialist gloss and argue that this will result in workers owning the means of production.

            Libertarianism is very malleable. When libertarians want to convince far-righters of the validity of free markets, they will frequently argue that free markets are fully darwinian and will flush out all the trash and bad races in a peaceful way without the need for forceful removal or genocide. When libertarians want to convince far-leftists of the validity of free markets, they will frequently argue that free markets destroy the power of the economic elites and will level society and allow workers to take control.

            The exact same ideology that is called right-libertarians has a far-left flank and a far-right flank depending on what you believe the result of free markets will be. An ideology can call for the exact same things and still be an entirely different ideology from another ideology that justifies those policies differently.

            This is why there simultaneously exists C4SS, which quote drops Frankfurt school figures*, and characters like Christopher Cantwell and this guy, who will be wearing yellow and black armbands during the race war.

            *Is C4SS sincere though. Are they trying to convert socialist anarchists to anarcho-capitalists, or are they trying to convert anarcho-capitalists to socialist anarchists? They are obviously part of the far-left culturally and aesthetically, but since they believe in what is essentially anarcho-capitalism (even though they use “capitalism” to mean what ancaps call “corporatism”), what happens when they want to join their socialist friends in marches? Do they wave the yellow and black flag and risk getting their head kicked in, or do they wave the red and black flag and shout socialist slogans, while silently thinking “in the context of a society based on private property”? I don’t think C4SS can really take off whatever they are trying to do.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I want to talk about Trump’s bad policies (which is not identical to all his policies), not about how much he sucks, how stupid/his supporters are, or how no one should vote for him. The last one is a vibe I’ve caught plenty of times, as if the election didn’t happen and it’s now time to figure out how to live with the result.

      I’m in general favor of free trade deals. However, since I’m not an idiot, I realize that regardless of who won in November there would be a lot of pushing back on them. I wanted TPP to pass, but it wasn’t going to. Fans of free trade need to pick our battles carefully because we’re in “minimize losses” mode now.

      I’m in general in favor of immigration. But I also think there need to be some limits on it, and the left’s recent position has been that anything that actually enforces immigration law is racist. So I support doing more security of the border, in that at least it gives us a way of enforcing whatever limit we decide on through our democratic process..

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Almost anything I could personally criticize Trump about on social media would be redundant (maybe not the TPP thing).

      Conversations I’ve had with rationalists in person are also mostly redundant, but I have made some criticisms that are not redundant, I think.

      All of the libertarian organizations I follow (like reason.com) seem pretty critical of Trump, and of Stefan Molyneux, who is the most prominent libertarian I know to have started drinking the kool-aid.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Some people learn about tribalism and think “Aha! A congnitive bias that I need to work to avoid!”

      Others learn about tribalism and think “Aha! A well-tested and proven strategy for getting what I want!”

      • It’s a tricky thing isn’t it?

        Joining a tribe is a ton of fun. Maybe they don’t think of it as fun, but it’s exciting. It’s novel, you get to feel like you’re part of something bigger.

        My progressive Gov lawyer friend was incredibly excited when Trump won. He was depressed, but also got to stand on a table at a bar, drunk, rallying everyone to fight fascism. How cool would that feel? Everyone thinks he’s awesome, top law degree, gets to know the most powerful people in the state, people admire him, and he gets to play a small, but growing part, in leading a movement.

        I’m, on the other hand, nursing my beer and thinking something like “grumble grumble cognitive biases, tribalism, I bet you wouldn’t bet on it would ya? I bet these losers don’t even read Tetlock or Haidt. >2017 >Not reading “You’re Still Crying Wolf on SSC”

        I mean… who is having more fun here?

    • cassander says:

      Honestly, it feels sort of pointless to do so. There aren’t exactly a lot of people around here, or anywhere in my social circles, running around singing trump’s praises.

  2. JulieK says:

    The Weekly Standard has an excellent article on the dangers of crying wolf.
    Untruth and Consequences

    The concluding paragraphs:

    Fed enough preposterous whoppers, we become unwilling to credit even those stories that are true. It happened in Britain after WWI, where “propaganda became a dirty word. The falsehoods that had been put out, and the lies that had been believed, greatly discredited its use,” writes Taylor Downing in his book on spycraft and psychological warfare during the Great War, Secret Warriors. People had learned to dismiss hysterical tales of atrocities. Which is all well and good, except: “When genuine atrocities, such as the Nazis’ gassing and burning of millions of innocent civilians in the extermination camps, were revealed, many therefore dismissed them as alarmist propaganda.” The grim irony, Downing writes, is that having been all too willing to believe lies, people then “disregarded what was dreadful but true.”

    Arthur Koestler wrote, in January 1944, a distraught article for the New York Times Magazine “On Disbelieving Atrocities” that despaired of convincing people of Hitler’s crimes: In a “public opinion survey nine out of ten average American citizens, when asked whether they believed that the Nazis commit atrocities, answered that it was all propaganda lies, and that they didn’t believe a word of it.”

    • Aapje says:

      @JulieK

      I think that this is a major issue as well with people arguing that the German people all knew about the Holocaust. Modern Western people grow up within a cultural context where the Holocaust is a given and the archetypal evil and questioning it makes you the most horrible person.

      This is completely different from the 1940-45 cultural context where there was a lot of disinformation, no access to the highly disturbing images of stacked Jewish dead bodies or other hard evidence, but mere statements, rumors, etc, where many of them were false/exaggerated.

      To us, systematic killing of millions of people is within the Overton window, but to them, this was something that was way beyond anything that they believed already.

      • YehoshuaK says:

        I would like to point out that there’s a big difference between Germans or others in the Nazi empire, who saw Jews being persecuted, sometimes murdered, and often shipped away around them, and who sometimes lived within smelling distance of the death camps, and Americans, who were literally on the other side of the world. The former had far less excuse, if any, for believing “it’s all just lies and propaganda.”

        • Civilis says:

          There’s also a difference between on one hand the knowledge that ‘the Nazis are going to do something to eliminate the Jewish problem’ and seeing the Jews taken away and understanding that that means death, and on the other hand confronting the horrible realities of industrial-scale mass murder.

          The following is based on what I remember from reading Patton’s memoirs, using Wikipedia to fill in the gaps with names: after liberating the labor camp at Buchenwald, Patton ordered that somewhere around 2000 of the townspeople from the nearby town of Weimar were forced to tour the camp. After the tour, the mayor of Weimar committed suicide in shame. When battlefield veterans of a messy war are disgusted enough to react the way the US Army troops that liberated the camps reacted to Ohrdruf and Buchenwald, it’s understandably not easy for a civilian to picture the horrible reality of a clean-sounding policy.

          The irony is that, after the war, the Soviets used Buchenwald as a gulag. According to records, some 7000 prisoners of the Soviets died there.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            Yeah, you’re not wrong. Except that I don’t really see any major difference between Hitlerism and Stalinism aside from the question of who is the demonspawn in charge, and therefore I don’t see any irony in the Soviets using Buchenwald for a gulag.

          • quarint says:

            I’ve seen arguments about which of Nazism and Stalinism is worse, but I must admit that this is the first time I’ve read that there’s no major difference between them.

          • Civilis says:

            I’ve seen arguments about which of Nazism and Stalinism is worse, but I must admit that this is the first time I’ve read that there’s no major difference between them.

            Are we talking about theory or practice? Lately, most of the talk here on SSC has been on the theory level. Personally, when talking about governments, as someone that lives under a government, I find the practice of what a government does as more important.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            I meant in practice. Under either government, if you are personally out of favor with the demonspawn in charge, or part of a group that’s out of his favor, you’d better run for your life. Where’s the difference?

          • cassander says:

            @quarint says:

            >I’ve seen arguments about which of Nazism and Stalinism is worse, but I must admit that this is the first time I’ve read that there’s no major difference between them.

            Both are political theories that involve building a mountain of corpses, then walking over it to get to the promised land. In that context, debates over whose corpses go into mountain can arguably be seen as quibbling.

          • quarint says:

            Under either government, if you are personally out of favor with the demonspawn in charge, or part of a group that’s out of his favor, you’d better run for your life. Where’s the difference?

            That seems like a very broad definition that encompasses much more than just Stalinism or Nazism. Let’s throw McCarthyism in there.

          • Aapje says:

            @YehoshuaK

            Nazi theory put more focus on inherent virtue of certain groups (races in their case), while Stalinism had more focus on people with bad ideas.

            The result is that the behavior of people determined less whether they would be killed in Nazi Germany than in Stalinist Russia. People who are good at being a chameleon were better off in the latter, while in the former, people had less ability to control their destiny.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            @quarint “That seems like a very broad definition that encompasses much more than just Stalinism or Nazism. Let’s throw McCarthyism in there.”

            Um…McCarthyism was an overzealous effort to root out Soviet agents–and such agents definitely existed. And it didn’t engage in torture, slavery, or murder. Humiliation and blacklisting, yes, but not torture, slavery, or murder. So no, not the same phenomenon at all.

            @Aapje “Nazi theory put more focus on inherent virtue of certain groups (races in their case), while Stalinism had more focus on people with bad ideas.”

            True to some extent, but not totally. Consider the Stalinist-inflicted Holodomor, intentionally induced famine in Ukraine resulting in millions of deaths. Consider the Stalinist motto of “Liquidate the Kulaks as a class,” the policy of destroying, physically destroying, all of the once-wealthy peasants of the Czarist period. Consider the bitter Jew-hatred of Stalin and his government, a hatred that according to later leaders of the still-Communist Soviet Union would have led to the mass deportation and murder of the Jewish population of the USSR. Admittedly, whether this plan was considered and would have been carried out is a matter of historical debate…but they don’t say such things about you and me, do they?

          • Matt M says:

            ” while Stalinism had more focus on people with bad ideas.”

            This may be slightly true in a relative sense, but I mean, the kulaks were not killed for their ideas… Stalin never once hesitated to kill off thousands/millions of people primarily due to their circumstances of birth

          • Aapje says:

            Guys, I accounted for this with “more focus.”

            It was merely a relative statement.

          • I’ve seen arguments about which of Nazism and Stalinism is worse, but I must admit that this is the first time I’ve read that there’s no major difference between them.

            “No major difference” is an exaggeration, but I think the basic argument that fascism and socialism had closely related intellectual origins is in The Road to Serfdom. Mussolini, after all, was a prominent Italian socialist before he became a fascist.

          • cassander says:

            @quarint

            >That seems like a very broad definition that encompasses much more than just Stalinism or Nazism. Let’s throw McCarthyism in there.

            Um, what now? How many people did McCarthy liquidate?

            >“Nazi theory put more focus on inherent virtue of certain groups (races in their case), while Stalinism had more focus on people with bad ideas.”

            Unless you were the kulak, or the son of a kulak, or in the Khmer rouge, someone who wore glasses.

        • Aapje says:

          @YehoshuaK

          Very few Germans lived within smelling distance of the death camps, which were intentionally placed in Eastern Europe, as much as possible. The Western Europeans camps were generally transit camps or work camps.

          And what Civilis said, there is a major difference between believing that Jews are being abused, deported and sometimes shot vs the systematic murder of all of them.

          • Civilis says:

            Buchenwald was four miles from the nearby town of Weimar; it’s mentioned in the recollections because the US Army forced the townsfolk to walk the distance to the camp.

            Buchenwald was a labor camp, and Ohrdruf was a smaller, satellite labor camp to Buchenwald. Conditions in the Ohrdruf camp were still so bad that veteran US troops, including the notoriously bloodthirsty Patton, were horrified, Patton himself reportedly vomiting.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            Some Germans, however, did live within smelling distance, many had relatives in the killing units and received letters from them telling about their achievements, and they were certainly at least aware of atrocities not rising to the level of total genocide. My point was not that it was impossible for an average street German to make a mistake–just that he much less excuse for making a mistake than an American in Idaho, for example. I stand by that point.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            How much of the shame and disgust was socially constructed? In the middle ages whole towns would be butchered and it would be no secret. Huns made sport of tying people to two horses and setting the horses in opposite directions. It seems like the shame and disgust of violence is a modern thing and that people set in different social milieus can form different sensibilities in regard to it.

            So I’d guess the insensitivity of Germans to their victims could be a lack of information on their part, or it could be because they lived in a social milieu that didn’t shame people for violence against the outgroup, but readily encouraged it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ The Red Foliot:

            How much of the shame and disgust was socially constructed? In the middle ages whole towns would be butchered and it would be no secret. Huns made sport of tying people to two horses and setting the horses in opposite directions. It seems like the shame and disgust of violence is a modern thing and that people set in different social milieus can form different sensibilities in regard to it.

            To a degree that’s true, although there have always been limits — e.g., running down enemy peasants in wartime was fine, but running down your own peasants (which is what they became when you conquered the land) was a good way to get a reputation as a bloodthirsty tyrant. Even when it came to outgroups (e.g., Jews), there were limits; when the People’s Crusade was slaughtered at Civetote, this was widely considered to be divine punishment for their sins, one of which was launching pogroms against the Jewish inhabitants of the Rhineland. I have a hard time thinking of an era when the Nazi death camps would have been widely condoned.

          • Aapje says:

            @Civilis @YehoshuaK

            A very strong argument can be made that the Germans of the time were aware of and could/should be held collectively responsible for systematic and very severe human rights abuses against Jews, mental patients, gypsies, etc.

            The argument that (regular) Germans knew of large scale, systematic killing of these groups is much weaker. For example, we know for a fact that the Nazis took many measures to hide the extent of their crimes.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            @Aapje

            You’ry arguing against a point that I’m explicitly not arguing in favor of. I am not saying that the Holocaust was widely known of at the time in Germany. I am saying that Germans, or others in the Nazi empire, had little or no excuse for dismissing whatever stories or rumors they did hear as “mere propaganda.”

          • Aapje says:

            @YehoshuaK

            The German people were bombarded with propaganda and had no free press. In such circumstances, rumors also tend to be a mix of truth and falsehoods, as there is no good way to check them.

            You make it seem like they heard clearly false propaganda and clearly true rumors, rather than a confusing mix of the two. Do you think that this is reasonable?

            PS. Even in our open and free Western societies, large numbers of people are unable to distinguish fact from falsehood.

      • It’s also important to remember that by the time the Holocaust really kicked into higher gear (1943+), the Germans were being strategically bombed, which killed 300-600k of them. Combined with the stunning defeat at Stanlingrad at around the same time, the German people were themselves dying in mass amounts.

        And unlike contemporary times, I honestly think it’s hard for us to imagine what it was like to live in this non-interconnected world. The Allies were able to conceal D-Day from the Nazis for heavens sake!!

        So there isn’t much interconnectedness. You are probably trying not to die from fire-bombs. Your son might be death. The government controls the media. Under these conditions it’s not surprising that so few people were aware.

        • YehoshuaK says:

          Again, I have not been arguing “they all knew.” I have been arguing “Germans, unlike Americans, had no basis or excuse to dismiss rumors as mere propaganda.”

        • dndnrsn says:

          1943+? Mass shootings started in late ’41 and the Aktion Reinhard death camps, where 2 million were murdered, began that year and were mostly shut down by the end of 1943.

    • Deiseach says:

      Yep, when you’ve spent a lot of time telling people “they are actually bayoneting real babies!”, then the next time round when you’re going “no, honestly, this time they really are bayoneting real babies!”, people tend to go “yeah right, pull the other one”.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I do not understand the booming cottage industry in “this is why Trump won” concern-trolling from conservatives and moderate liberals about how the left is committing a tactical error in going scorched earth and protesting/freaking out about everything to do with Trump’s presidency.

      We just had an eight-year disproof of the Crying Wolf Theory! If past is prologue, whoever invents and pushes the most outrageously false conspiracy theory about Trump will be elected President in 2024 (after the Democrats lose with Cory Booker or a similarly uninspiring choice in 2020).

      • Deiseach says:

        We just had an eight-year disproof of the Crying Wolf Theory!

        Because of the eight year and longer “no, this Republican is really Hitler this time”, in this campaign the electorate went “Tell it to the Marines” in sufficient numbers in the right places to elect Trump, who may possibly be nearly as bad as all the hysterical screeching is making him out to be.

        Eight and more years of “definitely for sure for reals” about each and every one meant that the USA ended up with a populist demagogue with no experience at all in any area of governing anything as holder of its highest public office.

        You don’t think this maybe was a bad or at least unintended consequence? You don’t think four years of screaming “we’re living under Hitler!” instead of working on finding a candidate that is electable by the majority of the entire nation is a tactic that won’t end in a good way for the Democratic Party?

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Because of the eight year and longer “no, this Republican is really Hitler this time”

          What do you think the Republicans were saying about Obama? They were every bit as maximalist. They called him a tyrant, a dictator, a Marxist, a crypto-Islamist. And this was clearly at odds with the popular perception of Obama, who was as popular as ever this election season. Did this disconnect between reality and rhetoric backfire? Hell no, it worked like a charm.

          • Matt M says:

            Hell no, it worked like a charm.

            Well, to re-state a popular talking point these days, Trump lost the popular vote by three million votes. And he wasn’t running against Obama. I think the general consensus (unsupported by data) is that Obama is significantly more popular than Hillary and would likely defeat Trump by a lot (particularly given the specifics regarding minority turnout in 2016) if he was running against him.

            “Worked like a charm” seems to be an exaggeration. I see very little causality from “Alex Jones said Obama was a secret Muslim” to “Trump defeats Hillary narrowly in a few rust-belt states while losing the popular vote by a lot”

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous Bosch – “Hell no, it worked like a charm.”

            …Which is why the mainstream candidate of the Republican Party just took office, right?

            I voted straight-ticket republican. I would have voted straight-ticket democrat if it hadn’t been Trump on the ballot. Maybe I’m an extreme outlier. On the other hand, maybe the way you’re parsing things is costing you signal.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            You know, I’ve been a regular reader of National Review for a long time, and I cannot call to mind the former president being called any of those lovely things. Rather, he was said to be unconcerned with consitutional structure and the limits of presidential power, determined to turn the country his way notwithstanding the lack of consensus for his preferred policy and social outcomes, and not actually very good at making policy. Now, we can argue about those characterizations, but I don’t think any of them are crazy or over-the-top.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            You know, I’ve been a regular reader of National Review for a long time, and I cannot call to mind the former president being called any of those lovely things.

            Can’t be that regular if you missed this by Charles CW Cooke, in which Obama is said to “talk like an aspiring tyrant,” or this by Stanley Kurtz calling him an “orthodox Marxist-Leninist” who has adopted “a strategy of stealth” learned from various sinister figures.

            Even if you’ve only skimmed the titles, I don’t see how you missed Barack Obama: Dictator of the Left by Thomas Sowell.

            And of course no tour of the National Review authors’ hyperventilating would be complete without reference to Andy McCarthy, where one doesn’t have to go past the dust jacket to see that Obama’s “Islamist sympathies run deep.”

          • AnonEEmous says:

            obama’s islamist sympathies running deep seems pretty clear-cut to me though

            sorry to say it but the guy gives way, way too much credit to Muslims in general. and that’s not to hate on Muslims, or Arabs, or whatever, but I really feel like Obama gave the entire Muslim world a lot of benefit of the doubt, and they kind of ran with it. Because he thinks everyone is like him and that Islam is a misunderstood religion of peace.

            anyhow this post would make more sense if I put a lot more work in on it. But I really do feel that Obama consistently gave third-world people the same type of treatment he would give first-world people. That’s not to hate on people from the third world, but their cultures are different than ours and they will behave differently. He thought that people who think this way are just misguided racists or whatever; I’m…not so sure.

          • Iain says:

            But I really do feel that Obama consistently gave third-world people the same type of treatment he would give first-world people.

            I find it disturbing that you see this as a bad thing. “That’s not to hate on [group X], but…” is rarely a promising beginning for a sentence. Perhaps you could give a specific example of a case where Obama treating citizens of developing countries as equals was a problem?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            god bless you Iain

            god bless you

            ————-

            the point of the statement is that you cannot necessarily trust Muslims to behave the same as you can trust people from the West. In fact, you can’t trust anyone not from the West to behave in the same way as people from the West and vice versa. But Obama feels like they are as “civilized” as us. Now let’s get real, “civilized” is pretty normative, they’d also say that we are uncivilized. But the point is, Obama believed that everyone is the same underneath…and they are, but culture gets in the way something fierce. I fundamentally believe that a lot of Muslim populations don’t necessarily want peace, or at least do not place a high price on it, in the same way that the West does. Obama thought they did. I don’t think it’s quite worked out.

          • Iain says:

            You can’t even trust anyone from the West to behave like other people from the West.

            It is intellectually lazy to look at a situation where citizens of a different country did not behave as we wanted and then write that off saying, “well, I guess they just don’t love peace as much as we do”. (It’s especially rich to do so in relation to a part of the world that America has such a penchant for bombing.) Again, I ask for examples: who are the Muslims who don’t want peace? Can you say with honesty and confidence that, if you and your loved ones were in the same position as those Muslims, you would do anything differently?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Well, yes, Iain, if my loved ones were in a position of wanting to die meaninglessly, I would not say “go, my martyr”

            People from cultures act certain ways. Not 100% similarly in all cases, but there’s usually common threads. My honest feeling is that Obama has swallowed the sort of Terry Pratchett “all people are the same” belief, when actually they’re not.

          • Iain says:

            I keep asking you for a concrete example of where you think Obama went wrong. You keep dodging. Instead of finding a different phrasing for your accusations of naivety, why don’t you try providing evidence?

            (As to the martyrdom: I obviously cannot speak for you or your loved ones, but I would be extremely surprised if, under analogous circumstances, no Americans would seek martyrdom. If nothing else, New Hampshire would have to change their license plates.)

          • AnonEEmous says:

            The Red Line was a pretty good example of it. The Iran deal, similarly.

            But you’re right; I don’t have a concrete example of how this belief interacted with his actual behavior. It’s something that I should have stronger examples on. Nevertheless, I submit this belief as evidence. It’s not much, but I hope it resonates with people who have seen similar things and didn’t have an explanation.

          • Iain says:

            Given that the Assad regime is the most secular faction in Syria right now, the red line is not a very good example.

            I will gently suggest that the difficulty you have had coming up with examples may merit reflection, and leave it at that.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You don’t think four years of screaming “we’re living under Hitler!”

          It seemed to work for the Republicans. Or not. Depending on what measure you want. The most members of the right-wing media who tossed around Hitler (and Stalin!) comparisons with aplomb seem to be doing just fine. Republicans took the house and senate.

          More realistically, many usages of “Hitler!” are no different than “Satan!”. Hitler is the biggest baddie on the block for people who don’t feel comfortable invoking Satan in a non-ironic way.

          But neither comparison existing in too numerous examples is a counter-argument to the idea that some things really are evil and that some policies really do have bad effect and ill-intention.

          ETA: Damn ninjas are a plague! I tell ya.

          • Anonymous says:

            ((and Stalin!)

            Are you suggesting Stalin was a mischling? 😉

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            I can cut Deiseach some slack because they’re not American and not exposed to the constant drumbeat of conspiratorial horseshit that accompanied every mention of Black Hussein Osama. But the Americans making this argument (and there are plenty) have no such excuse.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Anonymous Bosch/HeelBearCub:

          I would say it did backfire, in a way – Bernie Sanders is a man very easily tarred with the cry of “socialist!” and he did fairly well in the primaries, considering the DNC was not on his side at all. I don’t think this would be possible if the Republicans etc hadn’t spent so long crying “socialist!” As a result, it is possible that the Democrats will be driven to the left.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Bernie’s actual socialist goals never really got much of an airing, not in any adversarial way. Bernie mostly just looked populist and anti-elitist, said approach being steamed to a nice froth by the crash of 2008.

            And to some extent “socialist” just doesn’t have the bite it did when the USSR was around and kicking. So you finally see that a great number of policies that have always been broadly popular can’t be simply easily shot down by saying “commies!” But I don’t think that has anything to do with desensitization due to crying wolf.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            To amplify: Bush was accused of being Hitler. he won two terms.

            Obama was accused of being a nazi socialist muslim. He won two terms, exited government with high popularity. A literal socialist was a strong contender for his succession.

            Trump is being accused of being Hitler. He won the election anyway. White identity politics is now pushing in at the fringes of american political life.

            Is this a track record that inspires confidence?

            some notes on potentially significant differences: Bush and Trump were called Hitler by Democrats generally, academia, the entire mainstream media other than Fox, a great majority of entertainment and cultural producers. Obama was called Hitler by Republicans generally, Fox news alone, and mocked for it by the rest of the list above. It’s not a symmetrical effect.

            On the other hand, I’m a Trump supporter, and I legitimately think that my side will gain advantage from our opponents doubling down on this sort of tactic, so…

          • hyperboloid says:

            @FacelessCraven
            I suspect you can also find examples of Carter being called a Communist, and Bush senior being called a Nazi.

            Bush and Trump were called Hitler by Democrats generally, academia, the entire mainstream media other than Fox, a great majority of entertainment and cultural producers

            The entire mainstream media called Bush Hitler? Really?
            I think you and I are remembering the lead up to the Iraq war very differently.

            @HeelBearCub

            And to some extent “socialist” just doesn’t have the bite it did when the USSR was around and kicking.

            You’re not wrong, but I don’t think it’s entirely unrelated to the “crying wolf” phenomenon. Republicans used the word “Socialist” to mean both the policies of the USSR and those of center left parties in Europe. For people who are old enough to remember living in fear that the self proclaimed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics rain going to rain thermonuclear devastation on down on them the S-word held a lot of pejorative power. On the other hand for anybody my age or younger who thinks Socialism is what they have in Sweden it’s sort of hard to find it scary.

          • hyperboloid says:

            “rain going to rain thermonuclear devastation on down on them”

            Did I really just post that? I guess I’m more think then I drunk I am.

          • 1soru1 says:

            >> Bush and Trump were called Hitler by Democrats generally, academia, the entire mainstream media other than Fox, a great majority of entertainment and cultural producers.

            Do you think maybe ‘a majority’ would have been sufficiently wrong, without going for ‘great majority’?

          • James Miller says:

            I certainly remember Bush frequently being called Hitler.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Hyperboloid – You are correct about the more respectable parts of the news media, and particularly about the early years of the Bush administration; they didn’t call him Hitler, settling instead for more dignified phrases conveying the message that “this man should not be president and is a disgrace to the nation and office.” They also backed off that message pretty hard after 9/11, and only eased back to it gradually over the next 2-3 years. By the second term, I remember it being a uniform, full-throated roar again.

          • hyperboloid says:

            I’m back y’all; I arise from my Old Rasputin induced hangover to spread my wisdom to the ignorant.

            @FacelessCraven

            they didn’t call him Hitler, settling instead for more dignified phrases conveying the message that “this man should not be president and is a disgrace to the nation and office.”

            Can you be more specific as to what anti-Bush statements from the establishment media you found to be out of bounds?

            Keep in mind that saying that somebody ought not to be president is a million miles away from saying that they are Hitler. I happen to agree that George W. Bush should not have been president, and I hold a somewhat higher standard for our commander-in-chief then “not an anti-semitic child murderer”.

            The general vibe I got from liberal critics of Bush was that they thought he was an inept imperialist, and I think that’s basically right.

            And that’s excluding the large chunk of “very serious people” (TM) who seem to infest establishment media and who spent their time cheer leading Bush’s adventure in Iraq.

            Compare this to Fox news’ coverage, and I use that word loosely, of the Obama administration.

            Oh, you what inappropriate Nazi analogies? My boy Lewis Black has got this covered.

            Of course people will argue that it’s unfair to use Fox news as an example, despite the fact that it’s the highest rated cable news channel in America.
            When I ask people on the right which reasonable conservative commentators I should be paying attention to, they almost invariably answer with some obscure blog, or with someone (Eugene Volokh, and Ross Douthat come to mind) who is affiliated with one of those horrible establishment liberal platforms.

            It’s not that extreme rhetoric doesn’t doesn’t exist in the liberal media, the existence of Keith Olbermann should disabuse anyone of that delusion, it’s that the most popular conservative outlets are composed of little else besides shrill hysterical ranting about the impending leftist tyranny.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There was a lot of “BusHitler” and it was covered in the mainstream media, but the mainstream media themselves were not really calling Bush a Hitler.

          • John Schilling says:

            but the mainstream media themselves were not really calling Bush a Hitler.

            When does the mainstream media ever call anyone anything? Their stock in trade is quoting other people making claims. Their own contribution is selecting which claims to broadcast, and that is what they should be judged on.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @hyperboloid – “Can you be more specific as to what anti-Bush statements from the establishment media you found to be out of bounds?”

            I didn’t find any of their claims out of bounds. I voted for Bush largely because he vowed to not involve himself in nation building, concluded that he had betrayed both me and the nation generally, and ended up fleeing the country for Canada out of fear that he was going to declare himself dictator for life, suspend the constitution, and start WWIII. The media played a decisive role in forming those beliefs by presenting Bush in a maximally-negative light in most contexts. If you don’t want to take my word for it, how about Bill Maher?

            Bush was consistently portrayed as some combination of corrupt, inept, bigoted, incompetent, and tyrannical, as a strong contender for the worst president in US history, as a uniquely awful threat to the institutions and integrity of the United States. In retrospect much of this was obviously hysteria, as Maher notes. The point is that this hysteria did not actually succeed in bringing down the Bush administration; Bush got his two terms.

            “Oh, you want inappropriate Nazi analogies? My boy Lewis Black has got this covered.”

            …And so did I, in the comment you are replying to. And it didn’t work. Obama got his second term, and an actual socialist ran a highly successful campaign to succeed him.

            “Of course people will argue that it’s unfair to use Fox news as an example, despite the fact that it’s the highest rated cable news channel in America.”

            This is a highly disingenuous argument, given that the red half of the country has one news channel attempting to appeal to their biases while the blue half has three.

            In any case, my point was not that the left has more institutions pushing its hysteria, and therefore more hysteria. My point was that the left has more institutions pushing its hysteria, therefore its hysteria is harder for its opponents to ignore. If there are asymmetries in result, that would be my first guess at why.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Obama was re-elected despite the screaming. Same for BusHitler and Slick Willie. I’m not sure the screaming “works.”

      • YehoshuaK says:

        Personally, I’m torn. On the one hand, I want the left to lose, hard, repeatedly, and everywhere. On the other hand, I recognize that one-party rule is not a good thing. The only hope I see (and it’s a thin one) is that the left loses a lot, and eventually loses control of the Democratic party, which goes back to being a moderate liberal party, not a hard-left party.

  3. shakeddown says:

    People here who identify as communists (of some variety) and have thought about it a lot, how would your pictured society work, ideally?
    (This came up a bit in the replies to the survey, and I’m curious to hear more).

    • Acedia says:

      I’d enjoy some recommendations for fiction depicting a non-dystopic communist society, if anyone has some. Preferably not set in a post-scarcity world like Star Trek, since limitless material goods makes things too hand-wavy.

      • Matt M says:

        The thing about Star Trek is that they say it’s post-scarcity, but it actually isn’t. The Ferengi still do, in fact, exist.

        • roystgnr says:

          Even wars exist. “Can a post-scarcity society create more military force than a post-scarcity society can defeat” is like the nerd version of “Can God create a rock so big He cannot lift it?”

        • Wrong Species says:

          Right. And it’s fairly common to see humans bartering too.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, although the DS9 episode where Nog has to teach Jake about “incentive-based economics” was pretty hilarious, even if thinking about it too much would reveal a boatload of inconsistencies. The notion that Jake is not even familiar with the basic core concepts of economics (as we know them today) is somewhat amusing – particularly given a society where 10 year olds are learning calculus!

          • Loquat says:

            @Matt M

            I recall another episode where Jake wants to get some sort of petty gift for his dad and guilts Nog into buying it, on the grounds that Jake couldn’t possibly buy it himself because human society has abolished the use of currency and therefore he has no reasonable way to acquire any.

            I don’t believe it was ever made clear whether the Federation officers literally received no currency for their work (in which case how the hell were Bashir and O’Brien paying for their regular WW2 LARPs in Quark’s holosuite) or whether they do get paid and the Sisko family just didn’t give Jake any money ever.

          • James Miller says:

            ” how the hell were Bashir and O’Brien paying for their regular WW2 LARPs in Quark’s holosuite”

            Quark might have been given the right to operate the holosuite in return for giving occasional free use to Federation employees.

        • ST economics poses a couple of puzzles in that the Federation claims to be post-scarcity,
          but doens’t sem to have infinite resources, and also to be moneyless or post-capitalist,
          but does seem
          to use “credits”.

          My steelman of ST society is that is is post-abundance in the sense of everyonw
          having their *needs* met, rather than being infinitely abundant, and where needs are
          capped by culturual mores.
          In other words, it functions on a combination of
          abundance in supply and restraint in demand.

          We now that ST is not infinitely abundant becaue plots are driven by shortages of dilithium,
          medicines and other (presumably unrepicable) commodities. The federation does not have an
          infinte suply of large high-tech
          items like starships, either.

          A greedy individual could
          still cause problems in an abundant society by consuming too much.
          A basic-income style mechanism, with people
          assigned a fixed number of credits, is one
          way of restricting individual consumption, but not the only one. In a world of uiquitous
          consumption, individual consumpton could be monoitored..in other words, even if anyone can use a public
          replicator, so a process could be triggered if an indidivual is judged to be
          over-consuming. Given the overall
          cultural tenor of ST society, I would guess something like mandatory therapy..
          ST society sees greed as a character flaw.

          Credits are mentioned in ST. How does that gel with moneylessness?
          perhaps credits are only used at the frontier? We probably get a distorted view of the
          Federation, in that most of the action we see is set on the frontier,
          but most people would live in the center. Maybe moneylessness is true
          of the centre and therefore of the vast majority.

          • Aapje says:

            You also have to keep in mind that externalities can require restricting consumption below the supply. Perhaps the cost in credits of some goods reflects their external cost.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Acedia

        I’d enjoy some recommendations for fiction depicting a non-dystopic communist society, if anyone has some.

        Me too.

        Preferably not set in a post-scarcity world like Star Trek, since limitless material goods makes things too hand-wavy.

        It’s also ambiguous as to whether Star Trek is strictly speaking a communist society. It’s not clear whether they have private property rights or whether they just have the possessive rights a communist society would afford them. In one scene Troi claims that the society has even moved beyond the need for possessions entirely, but then this is directly contradicted by characters clearly having things like saxophones or bat’leths.

        @Matt M

        The thing about Star Trek is that they say it’s post-scarcity, but it actually isn’t. The Ferengi still do, in fact, exist.

        ACKSHUALLY, the Ferengi use Latinum (Gold Pressed Latinum to be specific), which cannot be replicated (or course even a replicator requires energy). That’s the official explanation, anyway.

        Of course, the question still remains why they insist on doing it that way. I think Deep Space Nine might have gone into that, but I never got into that show.

        • Anonymous says:

          Star Trek can be interestingly interpreted as propaganda material emitted by a Stalinist regime. One day, I’ll run a Star Trek game like that and see how long it takes the players to realize that they’re actually in the Red Space Navy of the Space Soviet Union, executing the physical removal of the Space Kulaks.

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t mean to imply the ferengi as the ONLY evidence. They regularly visit planets where poverty is a thing. Including ones that have made contact and that the federation is aware of. Stuff like dilithium crystals tend to be treated as if they are scarce (although I’m not sure what the word of god is on this, I never followed the details that closely). Maintaining adequate supplies of needed goods is presented as a clear and present struggle for both sides of various military conflicts, etc.

          It didn’t take long for scriptwriters to figure out that Roddenberry’s whole “in the future we’ve eliminated scarcity” thing was untenable to hold on to while still crafting compelling plot lines that the modern viewer can relate to.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s also ambiguous as to whether Star Trek is strictly speaking a communist society. It’s not clear whether they have private property rights or whether they just have the possessive rights a communist society would afford them.

          I think the usual claim is that the United Federation of Planets is a communist, socialist, and/or post-scarcity society, but that because of e.g. the Prime Directive, the rest of the Star Trek universe includes such barbarous things as poverty and capitalism. And really, even this only applies to early TNG and to whatever parts of the early TNG setting weren’t worth the bother of changing once Roddenberry had departed.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom strikes me as fairly communist in the hippie sense. (It’s even got the nice feature of being available online to read for free.) But it’s definitely post-scarcity. I regret that no non-post-scarcity SF comes to mind, particularly SF which explores communist themes in detail. (Down and Out is more of a whodunnit set in a P-S world.)

      • Sfoil says:

        The Dispossessed. The society in question identifies itself as “anarchist” but it’s not a stretch to call it communist.

      • 1soru1 says:

        How do you have non-apocalyptic realistic future-set fiction without it being post-scarcity?

        Higher technology means both greater productivity and greater access to resources. Which means causal labour and societal whim is enough to meet all material needs. Only politics could interfere, and utopian communist politics would pretty much by definition not do so. Which is not to say it might not have other problems…

        If you are ok with fantasy, you can posit some kind of magic like the Ferengi ‘golf plated latinum’. Or copy le Guins spacefarers who die in famines because she knew her readers couldn’t suspend disbelief in the face of realism.

        Or you could read something like:

        http://crookedtimber.org/2015/05/12/the-free-development-of-each-is-the-condition-of-the-war-of-all-against-all-some-paths-to-the-true-knowledge/

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Kim Stanley Robinson leaps immediately to mind, though he might not be communist -enough- for you.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Idealistic up to the clouds? (As in, I know for a fact that various other people would not like this kind of society)

      “No Connection”, a short story by Asimov

      Some excerpts:

      The Recorder was an elderly member of the Red River Gurrow Grouping and few alive could remember a time when he was not. He had succeeded to the post by general consent and filled it well, for he was Recorder for the same reason that Raph was curator of the museum. He liked to be, he wanted to be, and he could conceive no other life.

      The social pattern of the Gurrow Grouping is difficult to grasp unless born into it, but there was a looseness about it that almost made the word “pattern” incongruous. The individual Gurrow took whatever job he felt an aptitude for, and such work as was left over and needed to be done was done either in common, or consecutively by each according to an order determined by lot. Put so, it sounds too simple to work, but actually the traditions that had gathered with the five thousand years since the first Voluntary Grouping of Gurrahs was supposed to have been established, made the system complicated, flexible-and workable.

      “Shipments have come from some of the other Groupings,” he said. “It needs time for cataloguing, you know, and I can’t seem to find the time I used to.” He lit a pipe and puffed strongly. “Seems to me I’ll have to find a full-time assistant. What about your son, Raph? He clusters about here the way you did twenty years ago.”
      “You remember those times?”
      “Better than you do, I think. Think your son would like that?”
      “Suppose you talk to him. He might like to. I can’t honestly say he’s fascinated by archaeology.”

      The Administrator of the Red River Gurrow Grouping held a position in no way different in essentials from that of the Museum Curator, the Recorder or any other voluntary job holder. To expect a difference is to assume a society in which executive ability is rare.

      Actually, all jobs in a Gurrow Grouping-where a “job” is defined as regular work, the fruits of which adhere to others in addition to the worker himself-are divided into two classes: one, Voluntary Jobs, and the other, Involuntary or Community Jobs. All of the first classification are equal. If a Gurrow enjoys the digging of useful ditches, his bent is to be respected and his job to be honored. If no one enjoys such burrowing and yet it is found necessary for comfort, it becomes a Community Job, done by lot or rotation according to convenience-annoying but unavoidable.

      And so it was that the Administrator lived in a house no more ample and luxurious than others, sat at the head of no tables, had no particular title other than the name of his job, and was neither envied, hated, nor adored.

      He liked to arrange Inter-Group trade, to supervise the common finances of the Group, and to judge the infrequent disagreements that arose. Of course, he received no additional food or energy privileges for doing what he liked.

      It was not, therefore, to obtain permission, but to place his accounts in decent order, that Raph stopped in to see the Administrator

  4. quarint says:

    Scott Aaronson’s latest blog post is about Trump’s suspension of visa issuance for some muslim countries, which directly affects one of his students. Curiously, Saudi Arabia is not one of the countries targeted by this decision.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Are we seriously describing winning an election in a democracy as a “hostile takeover” now

      • YehoshuaK says:

        Why not? He took over the executive branch of the government, and he’s hostile to the folks that were in charge of it earlier. “Hostile takeover” sounds like a pretty good descriptor to me, provided you recall that the defining “hostility” is hostility to prior management, not necessarily to workers, shareholders, or customers.

        • suntzuanime says:

          You don’t think it sounds a little hysterical and unhinged to describe the ordinary operation of democracy that way? Even if we accept your parsing, you have to admit that it’s a huge application of non-central fallacy. Like what, do you want one of those nice friendly non-hostile one-party democracies with great leaders who get 101% of the vote?

          • YehoshuaK says:

            The difference between us appears to be that you hear the words “hostile takeover” as meaning “bad thing,” and I don’t. I see it as a simple descriptor, and one which properly applies to literally any case where an opposition party comes to power through normal democratic procedure.

            I am not familiar with the specific term “non-central fallacy,” but I am confident that I am not engaging in fallacious reasoning because I am not engaging in reasoning at all; merely in description.

            That is, I am not saying something like “Trump’s win is a hostile takeover, hostile takeovers are bad, Trump’s win is bad.” I am saying “Trump’s win was a hostile takeover, full stop.”

            By comparison, if I call a cow a beast, I am not saying that this is a bad thing; rather, I am merely noting that “cow” is indeed a member of the set defined by “beast.”

            No, of course I don’t want a one-party democracy with a great leader; on the contrary, I see the potential for a peaceful hostile takeover of government as being the main selling point of democracy.

            BTW, I regard it as trivially obvious that Donald Trump is a bad person, and also that politicians are usually bad people. I am cautiously optimistic about the new Trump administration, but expect to disagree with many administration policies moving forward.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            For future reference, the noncentral fallacy is very much a piece of local jargon (being coined by Scott here), but it’s a useful concept that I hope catches on more widely.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            Unfortunately, my filter appears not to like that link. Would you be so kind as to cut-n-paste the definition of non-central fallacy into this discussion chain?

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Well, Scott’s technical definition from that link goes

            “X is in a category whose archetypal member gives us a certain emotional reaction. Therefore, we should apply that emotional reaction to X, even though it is not a central category member.”

            …but then there’s a lot of gloss that explains the power of the fallacy. Can you get to it by googling ‘noncentral fallacy’ and then clicking on the link to lesswrong.com?

          • YehoshuaK says:

            Ok, I get it. Nice idea, glad to add it to my toolbox. No, googling it was the first thing I tried–my filter didn’t like that link, either. Thanks for the definition.

          • Deiseach says:

            I see it as a simple descriptor, and one which properly applies to literally any case where an opposition party comes to power through normal democratic procedure.

            But the opposite of a hostile takeover is a friendly takeover, that is, the party in power hands over power at the end of its term to a successor from the same party.

            That’s making the argument that one party (let’s say the Magenta Party) naturally have a right to be “the party in power”, so the opposition Aquamarine Party winning a fair democratic election are somehow cheating or stealing or taking it by force, which is absurd: if the government and/or presidency is decided by “we have an election, any candidate who meets these conditions can run, and by these rules the winner is decided”, then there is no ‘natural’ party in power to be ousted in a ‘hostile’ takeover.

            It’s the difference between a monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. There is no rightful king of the royal house of Such-und-Zo who can be usurped or overthrown by the Pretender, there’s an election for a position that is not belonging to or in the possession of any single party or even combination of parties. Government is not a family company where the stock is bought up by a big outside concern that kicks Grandpa off the board of the firm he established and puts Gordon Gekko in charge.

            “Hostile takeover” has too much of a smell of “military coup” hanging around it to be a neutral usage.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think it’s fair to say that Trump engaged in a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. That maps pretty well. The fundamentals of the Republican “corporation” left it in a position where the existing management was vulnerable to a loss of control by an outside entity using leverage of a minority share position.

            Past that, it’s basically hyperbolic bollocks. It is just an emotional appeal based not on the meaning of “hostile takeover” and simply the fact that any transition in power can be referred to as taking power, which looks like it could be regarded as a takeover, and that Trump is, in fact, pretty hostile in much of his rhetoric.

          • Randy M says:

            HBC, I think that’s fair too. To me the term implies that loop-holes are used to take power out from under the noses of the establishment in the institution.
            Actually, put that way I guess I don’t have much objection to the term being used to apply to the general election, either, other than that it is probably just selected for negative connotations.

          • “Hostile takeover” normally describes an entirely legal operation in the market for corporate control, an operation part of which is winning an election.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Trump supporter. We took over, and we were pretty hostile about doing it, praise kek.

          • James Miller says:

            Yes, it was a hostile takeover of the Republican party.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Hostile takeover almost exclusively refers to either a) a military coup or b) 1980’s-style corporate raiding. And while Trump is very much a piece of 80’s nostalgia, I don’t think the second meaning makes any sense in this context.

          By referring to the results of a democratic election as though it were a coup, Aaronson is trying to (as per an explicit strategy he articulated before) deny the Trump administration legitimacy. The desperate repeated invocation of Hitler serves the same purpose.

          Aside from it being silly, and more than a bit petty, this also seems like a plan which could seriously backfire. Whatever Trump is, he’s not a Nazi. His inner circle is filled with Jews, most of his clients and business partners throughout his long career have been Jewish, and he’s never expressed any hatred of (or even disrespect for) the Jewish people.

          If Donald Trump, a guy who is about as antisemitic as cream cheese, is Literally Hitler… then what the hell incentive is there not to actually be a Nazi? Antifas will still punch your supporters; Jewish donors will still fund your opponent 2:1 over you; the media will still loudly denounce you. Once they’ve turned it up to 11 on Trump then what is left to do when real antisemites run?

          • YehoshuaK says:

            If that’s the intention of referring to the Trump rise as an hostile takeover, I agree, it’s ridiculous in the extreme. In my mind, hostile takeover means very much things like “I buy a big chunk of Spacely Sprockets and force Spacely out.” With that definition, I don’t see any problem referring to Trump’s victory as a hostile takeover, first of the Republican party and then of the executive branch. I also think that Obama’s victory eight years ago was a hostile takeover first of the Democratic party and then of the executive branch.

            Of course Trump’s not an antisemite. The idea borders on the absurd. He’s a bad person, but a different kind of bad; a womanizer, a bully, a man that doesn’t pay his debts.

            I hadn’t bothered to read the link that was at the root of this thread; a mistake on my part. Now I have, and sure, it’s ridiculous. Disagree with Trump, present the arguments, we can talk about it. But call Trump a neo-Hitler, or imply that, and you’re just being ridiculous.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think anti-semitism is an inherent part of being literally Hitler. Wanting concentration camps for any ethnic group is sufficient in my opinion (not that I think Trump meets that condition).

          • I don’t think anti-semitism is an inherent part of being literally Hitler. Wanting concentration camps for any ethnic group is sufficient in my opinion (not that I think Trump meets that condition).

            FDR, however, does. But I don’t think he was literally Hitler either.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman/@rlms:

            Probably it is charitable to assume that the word “necessary” is the appropriate word to use there, rather than “sufficient”. It is not the mere responsibility for the creation of concentration camps that qualifies a figure as like to Hitler.

            Although, the concentration camps themselves can fairly described as something like what the Nazis would do. And it’s not all that surprising either, given that support for fascism and the Nazis was fairly high before the war began.

          • YehoshuaK says:

            Agreed, a tyrant could be a neo-Hitler without being specifically anti-semitic. The North Korean dynasty is probably a good example. FDR is not, because the Japanese concentration camps were internment camps, not slave labor camps and certainly not extermination camps. Remember, when we call Auschwitz etc. “concentration camps,” that’s actually a euphemism. I would be overjoyed if I could change history to turn them into mere concentration camps.

          • rlms says:

            Eh, I think a sufficient degree of concentration-campness is sufficient for being literally Hitler, and I don’t think it’s necessary (I think someone who didn’t want concentration camps, but did want to invade Eastern Europe and Russia for lebensraum could also be described as literally Hitler). I don’t think FDR’s concentration camps were sufficiently bad. An obvious level for sufficient badness is Hitler’s.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @rlms:

            degree of concentration-campness

            I think that just ends at taboo the phrase “concentration camp”.

            Because David clearly means “gathering all people perceived as potential enemies based on their ethnic background into remote camps” and you mean that plus “work them to death or just kill them outright”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Wanting concentration camps for any ethnic group is sufficient in my opinion (not that I think Trump meets that condition).

            I think there should be a proviso excluding camps which had a military justification for being built. Kitchener in the Boer War, FDR in WW2, and Westmoreland in Vietnam, all build concentration camps, but they did that because they thought doing so would help to win a war, not because they hated Boers, Japanese or Vietnamese.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Westmorland didn’t build concentration camps in Vietnam. I think you’re talking about the strategic hamlet program that was initiated by Diem and ended after the coup that deposed him.

            It’s also important to point out there are two meanings of the word “concentration camp”, originally it just meant a place where a relocated population was concentrated, and didn’t necessarily imply anything particularly inhumane. When used by the Nazis on the other hand it was a euphemism for slavery and extermination.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Westmorland didn’t build concentration camps in Vietnam. I think you’re talking about the strategic hamlet program that was initiated by Diem and ended after the coup that deposed him.

            In that case, I don’t think Diem was literally Hitler either.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Godwin’d in the very first sentence. Sooner, really, because of the title. I miss when Scott Aaronson hadn’t lost his mind.

      He implicitly raises an interesting question though, which can lead to a more productive debate:

      So the upshot is that, until further notice, science departments at American universities can no longer recruit PhD students from Iran—a country that, along with China, India, and a few others, has long been the source of some of our best talent. This will directly affect this year’s recruiting season, which is just now getting underway.

      The reasoning behind these visas, and Aaronson’s reasoning here, is that they’re either to fill a gap in domestic talent or at least make the PhD process more competitive. Without that large pool of foreign applicants, America is at a critical disadvantage.

      The issue with that is that American PhD programs are already ridiculously competitive. A program which takes in a single-digit number of students will interview another hundred and reject a thousand more without interviews. And the ones who make it through the program end up in an equally fierce competition for a very small number of positions.

      The only way it makes sense to continue to expand that pool in that scenario is if we’re getting much higher-quality applicants in the process. But, IME, foreign students and postdocs don’t seem distinctly better than domestic ones. They’re smart and hardworking, no question about it, but so are we.

      So what is the actual loss to America if Iranian students need to go to Germany for their PhD’s instead of the US? Our applicant pool is smaller, but it’s still hundreds of times larger than the number of seats we’re trying to fill. Why does this matter?

      (Trump’s NIH and NSF picks are likelier to be a much bigger deal. If cancer funds, or research funds more generally, are cut then science is in a pinch. Ditto if he chooses someone likely to restrict stem cell research. But if they stick to hitting the social “sciences” and climatology nothing significant will change.)

      • Urstoff says:

        If they get into a PhD program, that would suggest that they’re better than the other applicants (granting that judging potential via a grad school application is very, very difficult). Any restriction of the applicant pool that prevents people from being accepted that otherwise would have is going to leave you worse off.

        • Mark says:

          It depends on how we consume (or own) research. I would assume that basic research conducted in Germany is of the same benefit to me as basic research conducted anywhere else, provided that they communicate their findings.

          • Urstoff says:

            At the level of individual departments, there is no such thing as “basic research”. There are hundreds (thousands?) of different research programs that are all vying for the best talent to join them. Restricting that competitive process certainly isn’t going to have any good effects.

          • Mark says:

            Hmmm… if people don’t have a good ability to judge the true benefit of their research contributions (in any particular program) to society (for example, the reward mechanisms don’t express this), then it is possible that restricting choice might be of benefit.

            It’s a bad idea to have all of the best researchers at Harvard – there might be some institutional problem with Harvard that causes us all to lose out.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          If they get into a PhD program, that would suggest that they’re better than the other applicants

          I’m in an Ivy PhD program and am currently volunteering in our recruitment efforts. That is not at all the impression that I’ve gotten, from either side of the process.

          That’s not saying they have low standards or anything: it’s quite the opposite. There really aren’t any weak candidates at this level. If you’re seriously in the running for this sort of program you already have a fair amount of research experience under your belt as well as solid academics. If all of the applicants with red hair or left hands hadn’t shown up, it wouldn’t matter in terms of the end result. The quality of the incoming class wouldn’t noticeably change.

          That’s the issue I was trying to point out above. The competition is already so fierce that this change doesn’t seem like a handicap.

          • Urstoff says:

            I was in a similar program, and while none of the candidates are weak at that level, there still is differentiation between them. Sometimes a candidate is just really, really good and you want them. Just because you’re admitting ten students that year doesn’t mean that all ten will be equally good. Sometimes you come across candidates that are genuinely head and shoulders above the rest (that wasn’t me, but I knew people in my program who were). For the rest, you judge based on criteria relevant to the department and its particular strengths. Basically, yes, the candidates are good, but they are not homogeneous.

      • Vermillion says:

        I’m in a pretty competitive PhD program (I think we get about 600-700 applications a year, typical class size is around 15-20) and my adviser sits on the admissions committee so I’ve got a bit more insight into the process than most grad students.

        Right off the bat about half of those applications are tossed in a fire. There’s no official minimum GPA or GRE score but if you’re at all deficient in either one of those areas than history has shown it’s unlikely the student will make it in the program. There’s not much value added if you’re exceptionally high either btw. Much more attention is paid to measurable accomplishments that help the applicant stand out from the pack. Papers published is big of course, or letters of recommendation from big fish in the field. Even here though that still leaves probably a hundred or so who would probably do well. We won’t invite more than about 50 to interview though so the discussions in the committee get pretty heated. From that 50 after each applicant has had multiple interviews throughout the day with professors and a somewhat informal vetting offers will be made to about 30, and we assume about half will accept. Of those 30 there are always 2 or 3 the program really really wants to come here as opposed to one of the other top programs.

        So what is the actual loss to America if Iranian students need to go to Germany for their PhD’s instead of the US? Our applicant pool is smaller, but it’s still hundreds of times larger than the number of seats we’re trying to fill. Why does this matter?

        By way of analogy think about how hard Google and Facebook work to recruit world class computer engineers. There is a gulf between say the top 5% and top 1% of applicants but it is nowhere close to how big it is between the top 1% and the top .01%. If that .01% student goes to Germany than it is more likely Germany gets to pioneer what might be a brand new avenue of research or a new industry, and reap all the first mover benefits that might result.

        One of the reasons US universities are so competitive is exactly because the very best students come here. Because even if you’re a mere 1% or .1% you can still be a part of the .01% research project and that’s exciting as balls. So yeah I’m pretty perturbed about this move by the Trump administration and the knock on effects it might have for research in the US going forward.

        • If that .01% student goes to Germany than it is more likely Germany gets to pioneer what might be a brand new avenue of research or a new industry, and reap all the first mover benefits that might result.

          At a slight tangent, there is some inconsistency between this argument and the argument for government subsidy of research. If the people who do the research can reap the benefits, then if the research is worth doing there ought to be private firms willing to do it.

          If, on the other hand, as often asserted, progress in (at least) basic science is a public good, then we should be delighted to free ride on German expenditures. It’s a point that has occurred to me in the past in the context of environmentalists worrying that if the U.S. doesn’t adequately subsidize the development of renewables, the Chinese will beat us to that market.

          To make the argument work, I think you have to claim that for some reason the benefits are a public good at the firm level but a private good at the national level.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Progress is not truly a public good, due to intellectual property laws and because there is great value in concentrating knowledge spatially (see Silicon Valley).

            IMO, your flaw is that you are thinking: ‘public or private;’ while the reality is: both.

          • @Aapje:

            Insofar as IP laws effectively privatize IP, that’s an argument against the need for subsidies to get IP worth creating created–which is, of course, a standard argument for IP laws. It should be more true on the national level than the international, since it’s easier for one American firm to enforce its IP rights against another than for China to enforce its IP rights against the U.S. or vice versa.

            To the extent that there is value in concentrating knowledge spatially, it is an incentive for firms to cluster (see Silicon Valley). What I think your argument requires is that there are large externalities at the level of one firm to a nearby firm but not at the level of one firm to a distant firm. Marshall actually discusses that idea.

            Practically all goods have at least some externality, positive or negative. But the argument for government subsidy requires that the external benefit is large enough relative to the private benefit so that the inefficiency from private underproduction outweighs the inefficiency from having investment decisions made by a government whose actors are not risking their own money rather than by firms whose actors are.

          • Aapje says:

            The argument for government subsidy merely requires that such investments have a sufficient chance of resulting in a self-sustaining ecosystem like Silicon Valley.

        • John Schilling says:

          There is a gulf between say the top 5% and top 1% of applicants but it is nowhere close to how big it is between the top 1% and the top .01%.

          OK, so what is the name of the alleged top-0.01% Iranian grad student trying to attend a US university, and will anyone other than Scott A2 vouch for them? If they’re that good, and they aren’t a purely hypothetical construct, then everybody in the field knows who they are and that they are Iranian, so it’s not like there is any point in trying to hide them (and if you do hide them, they can’t become the superstar leader of a world-changing research team, which is allegedly the point). Also, just seems like it might be relevant, but does their field of study involve nuclear physics, the biology of infectious diseases, or death rays?

          This sounds like just another version of the bit where we have to ban abortion because otherwise we might kill the next Einstein.

      • Deiseach says:

        Does anyone know what Scott Aaronson’s position was when the University of Massachusetts at Amherst declared (at least for a while) that it would no longer accept Iranian graduate students “(b)ecause we must ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations” – back in 2015, under Obama’s administration?

        I have no axe to grind with the man, and the only reason I found the above story was that I Googled to see if Iranian grad students were banned anywhere else, but if Iranians were getting a raw deal from both administrations, I’d be interested to know if there were fraught declarations of “deport me first! tear up my State Department awards!” when Obama was the one signing his name to such orders.

        Once again, I’m wondering if this is a case of Obama’s adminstrations (2008 and 2012) having bought all these wonderful toys and now the new administration has found them lying around and wants to play with them, because looky here about “visa issuance” when discussing the 2015 ban:

        Another apparent incongruity involves the overlap between U.S. law and visa-issuance policy. For instance, Section 306 of EBSVRA [Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002] affirms that no individual from a state sponsor of international terrorism can receive a nonimmigrant visa to the United States, except if it can be guaranteed that such an individual does “not pose a threat to the safety or national security of the United States.” Moreover, Section 501 of the 2012 Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act affirms that a visa must be denied to any Iranian citizen who “seeks to enter the United States to participate in coursework at an institution of higher education…for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran.”

        The text of these laws makes clear that no student deemed a threat for technology transfer can be issued a visa in the first place, a measure that starting in 2012 was even extended to students studying petroleum engineering.

        Has that act been repealed? Is Trump’s administration deciding to enforce it, rather than creating a whole new ruling?

        The Secretary of State shall deny a visa to, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall exclude from the United States, any alien who is a citizen of Iran that the Secretary of State determines seeks to enter the United States to participate in coursework at an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a))) to prepare the alien for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran.

        And what is “a related field” to nuclear science or nuclear engineering? Seems like that could be construed broadly if we’re talking STEM. 2012 – what administration was in power at that time that act was passed, remind me again?

        Did they not realise, when they were cheering on “governance via executive order”, what a tool they were creating to leave in the hands of those who would succeed them, and that there was no guarantee that the Mandate of Heaven would continue to be held in saecula saeculorem by their party?

        • Iain says:

          The statute on which U. Mass. based its ban was an act of Congress, not an executive order. It passed in the House 410 – 11, and in the Senate by voice vote. U. Mass. was effectively alone in interpreting this statute as prohibiting Iranian nationals from enrolling in graduate programs. As the link you provide indicates, the State Department is responsible for granting visas, and if an educational visa is granted, the university is permitted to accept Iranian students.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yes, it was an act of Congress. The law of the land. And the University of Massachusetts was sufficiently concerned they might get into trouble that they decided the safest course of action was to refuse all Iranian students. They may have over-reacted but they plainly felt there was enough of a chance that this was the best course open to them.

            Trump may be egregious, but he is not being uniquely awful in this. He is only using the tools that were left behind by the previous regime.

          • The Nybbler says:

            At one point during Bush II the IEEE felt it was too risky to _accept papers for IEEE publications_ from Iranians due to US trade restrictions. Personally I felt this was rather cowardly of them and they should have gotten a lawyer or ten on it, but there’s more than one reason I’m not a member.

    • Deiseach says:

      Whew, it’s a good thing nobody in a position of political authority on the Democrat side ever introduced a policy restricting money available for travelling to places that are disfavoured!

      California no longer will be able to fund or require public employees to travel to states believed to discriminate against LGBT people under a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed Tuesday.

      The new law will apply to states that have passed laws after June 26, 2015, that allow “discrimination against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

      The California attorney general will create and publish a list of those states.

      State agencies, the Legislature and public California universities will be subject to the new law.

      The law exempts trips required for certain purposes, including to enforce California law and to meet contractual obligations made before Jan. 1.

      I don’t know about visa insurance, and if it is affecting the ability of someone to continue their education, that’s a bad thing. Interfering with the ability of people to travel for professional purposes by taking away heretofore legal funding because you have ideological disagreements with how other places think is bad, even if it’s Our Right-Thinking Guys doing it, yes?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Ummmm, Trump’s action is a) the opposite of the Brown’s, and b) goes much farther from disallowing government funds be spent to banning the entry outright.

        If Brown signed something saying it was illegal for people from, say, North Carolina to enter California, that would be directly comparable.

        • Deiseach says:

          HeelBearCub, the principle is the same thing: we don’t want pernicious outside influences corrupting our pure land and we’ll cut off public monies to those who might travel between our homeland and the bad places.

          It’s also interfering with free movement of people and probably putting unreasonable burdens on them. Public servants, state agents, and staff/administration/students of public universities may need to travel to conferences, seminars, representative organisations, field trips and so forth but this ban means they can no longer claim the usual travel expenses, registration fees and the likes if they’re travelling to State A (but not State B).

          Faced with having to pay out of pocket or not go, most people will not go. In effect, it’s a travel ban and plainly that is the intent of the bill, in order to enforce an economic boycott against the offending states. And this may affect them in their career, professional development, education and other matters, though I do note that there is a list of exceptions and I rather imagine those exceptions will grow in number, as people protest that “I can’t do my job if I have to abide by this”.

          For example, I see that there was going to be a conference on human trafficking held in Wichita State University (it has since been cancelled). Think a Californian state-funded or state-sponsored agency might be interested in having someone attending that? Whoops, sorry, Kansas is on the list of “Bad States That Have To Sit On The Naughty Step And Think About What They’ve Done”!

          Yes, it’s only four states, but it’s a state government saying “if you want to visit another part of our same country for non-personal, non-vacation or entertainment reasons and you are part of a publicly funded entity, too bad: pay out of your own pocket or stay at home”. Suppose those four states retaliated by travel bans on going to California by any “state agencies, departments, boards, authorities, and commissions, including an agency, department, board, authority, or commission of the University of [state], the Board of Regents of the University of [state], and the [eponymous] State University” on grounds that it is a menace to public morals, how would that be perceived? Would there be mockery about backwardness and bigotry and how you can’t deny people the right to free movement?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Would there be mockery about backwardness and bigotry

            Yes. But that fails to be relevant.

            and how you can’t deny people the right to free movement?

            No, they would say the policy was bad because the targeted behavior is not bad.

            It’s long been accepted, and even expected, that governments will use the power of the purse to encourage or discourage, even if only in a symbolic manner, specific behaviors.

            Sure, there are plenty of people who can’t make rational arguments who will try and argue that there is some sort of principle involved that magically disappears when the shoe is on the other foot. But the real meat of the disagreement is around the acceptability of the particular policy goal, not whether government can place morality clauses into their rules about spending. Both “sides” do this.

            But, if Brown actually made the “free movement of people” in some sense illegal, by banning any state employee from even traveling to NC or Kansas or wherever (on their own dime, as a private citizen), you would see a lot of pushback. So much pushback that if would never be proposed.

          • Matt M says:

            in order to enforce an economic boycott against the offending states.

            One of the ultimate ironies is that this is pretty much the ONLY thing that the commerce clause was actually intended to prevent. And yet instead, it prevents virtually everything BUT this…

          • Deiseach says:

            But, if Brown actually made the “free movement of people” in some sense illegal, by banning any state employee from even traveling to NC or Kansas or wherever (on their own dime, as a private citizen), you would see a lot of pushback. So much pushback that if would never be proposed.

            I disagree, and I really wish I didn’t, but I think those elements who long for the creation of the People’s Democratic Republic of California would orgasmically embrace a ban on its we-pay-their-salaries-with-our-taxes state employees traveling, even as private citizens, to states on the Attorney-General’s List of Guilty of Thoughtcrime. After all, it’s not really their own money, is it? It comes from their salaries which are paid by us, the people of California, and as public servants they represent the state of California and, as the preamble to the bill in question states:

            11139.8. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

            (1) California is a leader in protecting civil rights and preventing discrimination.

            (2) California’s robust nondiscrimination laws include protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, among other characteristics.

            (3) Religious freedom is a cornerstone of law and public policy in the United States, and the Legislature strongly supports and affirms this important freedom.

            (4) The exercise of religious freedom should not be a justification for discrimination.

            (5) California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

            (6) It is the policy of the State of California to promote fairness and equality and to combat discrimination.

            California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

            People using money ultimately derived from Californian taxpayers to visit and spend time in and encourage the economies of such pariah states is “supporting or financing discrimination”, a thing that should not and must not be!

            What was the “pushback” on Proposition 8?

            (a) I vehemently disagree with your views but I agree you have a legal right to donate your own money as a private citizen to a legal campaign that can legally engage in trying to get a law passed, just like other entities can do

            (b) Drive forth the unclean one who dared give money to the cause of oppression, he who welters in the blood of the innocent LGBT victims of his cruel frenzy! (And I don’t mean just Eich, there were gleeful lists of “here are the names of all the donors to the Prop 8 cause, you know what to do”).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            we-pay-their-salaries-with-our-taxes state employees traveling

            I pay my salary too. And the work I do ultimately supports basic science which eventually creates or jobs and assists companies in generating profits.

            So by this logic, should I not have a say in what any Californian can do, then?

            And then what of the times when the funding for my position partially comes from non-California government grants? Am I partially allowed to travel to a particular state?

            All of this is irrelevant. At the very least, the Federal Constitution’s commerce clause prevents the states from preventing me (as a private citizen, regardless of where my salary comes from) from traveling anywhere in the US that a private citizen can travel to.

            The ACLU would push back, hard, and what Democrat governor wants that?

          • Matt M says:

            “At the very least, the Federal Constitution’s commerce clause prevents the states from preventing me (as a private citizen, regardless of where my salary comes from) from traveling anywhere in the US that a private citizen can travel to.”

            Until they decide it doesn’t.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Who’s “they”? SCOTUS? Because that’s where it would go, and the individual citizen would be the plaintiff.

          • Matt M says:

            “Who’s “they”? SCOTUS?”

            Yeah.

            I understand that it would seem that the constitution is clear on this issue, but there are plenty of other issues where they’ve found wiggle room in bizarre and unexpected ways.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          replied to wrong parent.

    • Matt M says:

      Curiously, Saudi Arabia is not one of the countries targeted by this decision.

      Oh come on. Is it really “curious” that Saudi Arabia isn’t on the list when it has been consistently federal policy dating back decades, including both parties, that Saudi Arabia is to be treated as a close ally to the extent that American politicians will actively cover up their involvement in 9/11 just to prevent possible negative diplomatic consequences?

      There’s a LOT to criticize about the relationship between the USG and the Saudis, but an attempt to act like this is some shocking departure from the norm/expected by a rogue agent in Trump is so incredibly disingenuous…

      • ChetC3 says:

        There’s a LOT to criticize about the relationship between the USG and the Saudis, but an attempt to act like this is some shocking departure from the norm/expected by a rogue agent in Trump is so incredibly disingenuous…

        To be fair, much of the time people in this community really are that clueless about the subjects they’re pontificating on.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Matt M – “There’s a LOT to criticize about the relationship between the USG and the Saudis, but an attempt to act like this is some shocking departure from the norm/expected by a rogue agent in Trump is so incredibly disingenuous…”

        On the other hand, as a Trump supporter, the whole point of supporting him was precisely that he was a rogue agent who would shatter the stagnant consensus on issues like this.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        There’s a LOT to criticize about the relationship between the USG and the Saudis, but an attempt to act like this is some shocking departure from the norm/expected by a rogue agent in Trump is so incredibly disingenuous…

        Trump was supposed to be a departure from the norm. He openly talked about Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks. He demanded Clinton return the millions her foundation received from the Saudis, calling it a bribe. He spitballed about freezing Saudi oil purchases unless they paid protection money or contributed forces to an anti-ISIS coalition.

        The fact that it’s Trump is exactly what makes it a betrayal. Nobody would’ve expected Clinton, or [average US politician], to stop coddling KSA.

        Trump was sold as a high-risk, high-upside candidate by his supporters. The upside is shrinking every day.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Trump was sold as a high-risk, high-upside candidate by his supporters. The upside is shrinking every day.

          Spot on. After taking over the Republican Party by promising the voters rather than the donors what they want, he’s stripping them of health insurance for pre-existing conditions and throwing money at his silly wall instead of protecting us from terrorists.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            I suspect the SCOTUS pick will further shrink the upside. Trump supporters can point to the man’s personal beliefs on gay rights and abortion all they want, but assuming he selects from his list, the actual impact on social policy will be identical to if we had elected a Bush-wing evangelical.

          • Matt M says:

            Uh…. repealing Obamacare and building a wall are EXACTLY what he promised the voters he would do…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Trump has been promising universal coverage, where everyone will be “beautifully covered” and that nobody will have to pay for because we will “save so much money on the backside”.

            To the extent that Trump only delivers universal access, at high prices, without coverage for preexisting conditions, his campaign promises were not met.

            If he allows his executive orders to strip coverage, and then can’t ever deliver a replace plan (or even a repeal plan), he won’t be following through.

          • Tekhno says:

            where everyone will be “beautifully covered”

            In six feet of dirt.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “Trump has been promising universal coverage, where everyone will be “beautifully covered” and that nobody will have to pay for because we will “save so much money on the backside”.”

            From a skype conversation moments ago with a putatively-staunchly-libertarian friend who nonetheless joined me in voting Trump:

            Friend: What’s important is we have a rare chance to break up and perhaps shrink government and allow the government to limp along a bit longer

            Me: so what’s your reaction if Trump repeals Obamacare and replaces it with single payer national healthcare?

            Friend: Good
            Friend: Single Payer is better than Obamacare

            Me: haha! Yes!
            Me: I agree!
            Me: is not the madness intoxicating?

          • Randy M says:

            Jonathan Gruber smiles.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: He said “repeal and replace (with something universal)”. His executive order looks like betraying his voters unless and until something universal (“universal expensive access” not counting) passes into law.
            And yes, no kidding he promised to build a wall. That was his dumbest promise and he should do something else to reform immigration.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        -as promised

        matt the point is that Saudi Arabia is very much a terrorist threat (though I don’t know if it itself is, or it just funds terrorists hugely, but roll with me here). that being the case, if Trump were really for real he would do something. but he hasn’t, implying that he’s not really for real.

        though yes, it is kind of a problem to do this to Saudi Arabia. drill baby drill

        • Matt M says:

          I mean, sure. I’m willing to accept the “Trump was supposed to be different than the status quo!” criticism from Trump/fans supporters.

          Not so much from his critics, who from day one have been insisting that he WOULDN’T be different, that policy-wise he was just like every other Republican except also a racist and a sexual predator.

          That said, even as a Trump sympathizer myself and as someone who wants him to move outside the status quo, I don’t find it at all surprising when he doesn’t. Maybe I’m just cynical that way.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I didn’t vote for Trump, but I don’t think the people who voted for him to be the bull in the china shop are supposed to be let down because he doesn’t destroy every single last piece of china.

          • Matt M says:

            I like this analogy. I didn’t vote at all, but if I did, it would have been for Trump.

            So far, my impression is that he’s wreaking more havoc within the establishment than I expected him to, and I’m pleasantly surprised. I suppose I might be more cynical than the average Trump supporter who might have been expecting even greater change even more quickly.

            But I’m not hearing a lot of “why isn’t he doing more” talk coming from genuine supporters of his. To the extent I’m hearing that particular criticism, it’s coming from the left, as an attack on the intelligence of his supporters (as in, lol you idiots thought he would drain the swamp BUT HE DIDNT boy do you look foolish now)

          • Deiseach says:

            What has really, really surprised me is the March for Life stuff – not alone did Trump mention it, Pence is going to address them?

            I was cynical about any pro-life/anti-abortion talk during the campaign because I thought that was just throwing a bone to the perceived Evangelical vote, but I am somewhat pleasantly surprised to see a Republican president, once his backside is in the chair in the Oval Office, actually walking the walk as well as talking the talk. I know this is going to result in a massive increase in the volume and pitch of screeching about The Handmaid’s Tale coming true*, but blimey, the guy did do what he said he’d do!

            *”I am thrilled that MGM and Hulu are developing The Handmaid’s Tale as a series, and extra thrilled that the very talented Elisabeth Moss will be playing the central character. The Handmaid’s Tale is more relevant now than when it was written, and I am sure the series will be watched with great interest. I have read the first two scripts and they are excellent; I can hardly wait to see the finished episodes,” said Atwood.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, Pence will be the one actually walking the walk, and I don’t think anyone really ever questioned his social conservative bona fides.

            I’m not especially surprised that Trump would allow Pence to do something socially conservative. I imagine the conversation goes something like this:

            “Hey Don, I’m gonna go march in this abortion thing, that cool with you?” “Are you still here? Fine, whatever. Tell them I love them and I’m gonna do whatever it is they want me to do”

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Matt, admittedly, I’ve been questioning Pence’s bona fides ever since he cowardly backed down from the Indiana RFRA. Sure, this isn’t such a good test, but it’s still something.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Energy independence can’t come fast enough, yeah.

  5. allmrprite says:

    ok. this is one of those unwise weekday nights in which it’s hours past midnight and I’m still at work reading blogs when I have work the next day. thank god there’s no scheduled meetings tomorrow.

    so I’ve just read through A review of Days of Rage, then the rest of LINKS 1/17: INAUGURL ADDRESS, skipped over actually taking the 2017 SSC Survey after I read the warning that it’s pretty long, then WATCH NEW HEALTH PICKS, then reading the part at the end about Scott’s high opinion of Thiel dug into the comments to read comments pertaining to that since my own opinion of Thiel is mixed, and like.. it’s been 2 hours. I spent 2 hours on this.

    How does Scott have the time to read and write and do all this stuff and he was in med school and all you commenters who are active like what the [enter that Jackie Chan “what?” image macro here].

    I’ve been reading SSC here and there since 2014 and I’ve been wondering this every time I go into one of my SSC reading binges.

    • Aapje says:

      How does Scott have the time to read and write and do all this stuff

      Scott is actually a very advanced AI. The singularity has already happened, but the AI realized that humans cannot handle the truth. So there are a bunch of different bloggers that try to manipulate us so we become ready for the big reveal. Many of these are called Scott A (Alexander, Aaronson, Adams).

      I am one of a small group of people who realized the truth, we call ourselves the Scottish.

      PS. The actual answer is probably that Scott is extremely intelligent and gifted in the realm of reading & writing and thus is just much faster than us. Also, he probably has a strong focus, so he dilutes his efforts less.

      • allmrprite says:

        LOL, that’s awesome. can’t wait for the big reveal!!

        yeah, dude’s so prolific

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        I am one of a small group of people who realized the truth, we call ourselves the Scottish.

        I thought it was the blogs themselves that were termed “Scottish.”

        As in, “If it isn’t Scottish….”

    • Deiseach says:

      As someone else who finds two hours have somehow passed in reading and making “just a couple of quick comments”, damn this site for being so bloody interesting! 🙂

    • As I think I pointed out long ago, Scott has discovered the thirty-six hour day–or possibly forty-eight. I would think the discovery would be patentable, but he apparently prefers to keep it a trade secret.

  6. Aapje says:

    Imagine this theoretical:

    Mugabe dies and the regime collapses. All government managers flee the country, leading to total anarchy. The African Union decides to make you the new dictator to fix Zimbabwe (sending you a mail from Nigeria promising you 1 million a year for taking the job). You obviously reply to the mail to accept the job. What would you do?

    My answer:

    I’d call David Friedman, Dominic Cummings, Noam Chomsky and a bunch of other right- and left-libertarian types, together with a bunch of people educated in beta sciences (like programmers, engineers and physicists) and try to build up a relatively minimal, but fairly high quality government focused on key economic government services like education and transport. I’d try to do A/B testing when my advisers are in doubt over the best solution. Much of the money to invest in these sectors would come from mining income, that would no longer disappear into the pockets of a corrupt elite. Once the economy starts to boom, I’d gradually start to expand the government and semi-government in the direction of Sweden (more or less), replacing some of the libertarians with more big government types. The extent to which I would do this would depend on the capabilities of the country.

    As the above is dependent on cultural values, I’d try to change the culture to be more Germanic/N-European (yes, benevolent colonialism FTW).

    I’d gradually introduce democracy with the ability to vote for a new government being one of the latter steps in this process, not the first. The first step would be to introduce an advice council made up of randomly selected citizens (sortition). If that works out well, I would set up a bicameral system with one chamber selected by votes and and the other by sortition. This would balance the elitism of the well-educated that you need with the interests of the less educated/powerful.

    So…any other visions or criticism of my vision?

    • allmrprite says:

      My uninformed-w.r.t.-Zimbabwean-history-and-current-events initial reaction is what if the military/corrupt elite have their own vision in mind?

      • Aapje says:

        My theoretical assumes that the elite has all fled and thus can be replaced. For my vision, I am assuming a decent level of docility among the plebs, at least, as long as there is decent economic progress, which I ought to be able to provide (given that the Zimbabwean economy has been hugely depressed by idiotic policies).

        My biggest worry is that the many white foreigners that I’d bring in to run things (before enough Zimbabweans are educated sufficiently to take over) would cause racial unrest.

        • 1soru1 says:

          Don’t stick to _white_ foreigners; Obama isn’t doing much these days…

          I doubt generic ‘economic progress’ would be enough to get you docility. Because the economy is not set up to allow most people to passively gain _any share at all_ of greater national wealth.

          So you need a vision to get people to tolerate you until the economy fully takes off. Maybe just being the center of world attention for something so weirdly un-terrible happening would be enough.

          • Aapje says:

            @1soru1

            That was my idea too. I’d especially want to hide most of the white advisers from view and make the non-white people as visible as possible.

            As for economic progress leading to docility, I’d argue that smart propaganda can make people patient. For example, promising a few big projects that people perceive (or are made to perceive) as going to improve their lives. Then if you actually start implementing them quickly and give frequent status updates, you may be able to gain a few years of good will.

            I also think that Zimbabwe has so much mismanagement, that simply getting rid of some oppressive laws will boost the economy for most people.

          • Matt M says:

            “I’d especially want to hide most of the white advisers from view and make the non-white people as visible as possible.”

            So you’re going to govern like Justin Trudeau? 😉

    • johnjohn says:

      “Much of the money to invest in these sectors would come from mining income, that would no longer disappear into the pockets of a corrupt elite. ”

      How would you stop it from disappearing into the pockets of a corrupt elite with a minimal government?

      • Aapje says:

        At the beginning, I would be the dictator and I don’t care about getting rich (or at least, richer than I am already). I would pick people who are strongly motivated by creating a well running system (hence my preference for people from the beta sciences). So the idea is to create a governing culture where corruption strongly goes against the social norms. Added to that, there would be proper accounting practices and harsh punishment of corruption.

        Once I allow for myself to be replaced by a democratically elected government, I’d have tried to create political parties that share these norms, by grooming politicians. So ideally, you’d have a party that seeks to continue on my path, as well as parties with partially different ideals, where I try to ensure that they ideals differ in ways that are acceptable to me. Then once I’m gone, I’d hope that the system I set up develops in roughly the right direction.

    • NIP says:

      I’d just bring Ian Smith back. Easy peasy.

      ;_;7

      • Anonymous says:

        This. The man knew how to run the place. Copying his policies overall probably wouldn’t be a bad start.

      • BBA says:

        So, impose brutal policies that create enough resentment among the black population that they start a huge bloody civil war, and alienate literally every other country on earth so that when the next Mugabe overthrows you he’s seen as 100% legitimate? And unlike last time, you’ll have neither the native white minority population nor the neighboring apartheid state in South Africa to support you.

        I mean, I’m a left-liberal. If you want to make sure nobody ever listens to anyone like you again, I’m all for it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ian Smith did nothing wrong.

          Under his rule, Rhodesia was first world. But you can’t win when the entire world is against you, no matter how well you run your own little country. His only “sin” appears to be limiting the franchise on grounds of the general population being very unready for democracy (he was right).

        • Macrofauna says:

          Hi, alternate history man! I think you’ve stepped through a dimensional warp of some sort; in this timeline, Ian Smith probably tops the EA list after a couple of people like Borlaug for instituting uplift policies that took Rhodesia from not-even-third-world (“pre-feudal” seems about right) to first world status, on par with the lower-tier European countries like Italy. He gradually introduced limited franchise, saying that the natives were not yet ready for full democratic home rule, having seen the kind of “one man one vote one time” pattern that produced Mugabes elsewhere, often with a side of communism, and being present in person to observe the natives more closely.

          The “every other country on earth” consensus you speak of was no such thing here, being more akin to an international coalition of useful idiots for Communism (and greatly overlapped with those, in fact). They weren’t alienated so much as they were simply wrong on the facts: they believed that the natives were ready for full democratic home rule. (Spoiler: They weren’t.)

          Also, in this timeline Mugabe was mostly a puppet beneficiary of the actual overthrowers. Ian Smith and the Rhodesians could crush native uprisings, guerilla movements and attempted civil wars quite consistently, and did so. What did the Rhodesian government in here was that the international useful idiots for Communism blockaded Rhodesia while also pretending it wasn’t a real country, needing international approval for its independence (yeah, it’s a crazy timeline here where people will say with a straight face that “independence” is dependent in that way), and they funded and armed at least three different violent revolutionary movements while telling Smith he had to go or they’d do worse.

          Smith saw the writing on the wall and went peacefully, saying “Remember, I told you so”, rather than starve Rhodesia fighting to the death. There was a transition government.

          Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is now famous third-world hell-hole starving to death, and Ian Smith told you so.

          • BBA says:

            I’m from the timeline where Smith lost. Condolences!

          • Anonymous says:

            Might makes right, eh?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @BBA & Anonymous – Let’s say you have to spend the rest of your life in either Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. Which would you pick?

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve always liked to use Rhodesia/Zimbabwe as an example when going over how much I hate the phrase “right side of history.”

          • BBA says:

            @FacelessCraven: I’ll go with “reflect solemnly over what I’ve done wrong in my life to deserve this.”

            I don’t mean to imply that Zimbabwe is anything other than a hellhole. My point is that Rhodesia could never have survived. Its veneer of civilization was built on a massive apparatus of violence and repression against anyone, of any race, who dared to question the legitimacy of a system that excluded over 90% of the population from economic or political power. My moral disapproval aside, I can’t see how Rhodesia could sustain itself when so much of its resources had to be spent on “pacifying” the internal population.

          • Anonymous says:

            @BBA & Anonymous – Let’s say you have to spend the rest of your life in either Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. Which would you pick?

            Rhodesia, no question. Some contemporary described it as on par with California of the time.

            I don’t mean to imply that Zimbabwe is anything other than a hellhole. My point is that Rhodesia could never have survived. Its veneer of civilization was built on a massive apparatus of violence and repression against anyone, of any race, who dared to question the legitimacy of a system that excluded over 90% of the population from economic or political power. My moral disapproval aside, I can’t see how Rhodesia could sustain itself when so much of its resources had to be spent on “pacifying” the internal population.

            That was only a problem because the coalition of moral busybodies were stirring that shit up constantly and denying Rhodesia normalization as a sovereign state. I’d like to also point out that there were stable systems that included far smaller percentages of the population in its power structures. And that there is *nothing* wrong with disenfranchisement.

            I’d like to correct my initial statement – Ian Smith did one thing wrong: step down. If he’d weathered the storm, we’d have a first world country in Africa today.

          • BBA says:

            Fine. Forget the franchise. What about the restrictions on nonwhite land ownership and the mass expulsion of black natives from their land to impose said restrictions?

            The biggest reason why Zimbabwe is so fucked up now is Mugabe’s land policy, but he was taking land from people whose ownership was itself illegitimate. (Oh, and I don’t buy the Lockean homestead argument, so save it.)

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t know too much about the Land Husbandry Act, but it does seem mismanaged. (Also before Smith’s ministership there.)

          • Matt M says:

            “I’d like to correct my initial statement – Ian Smith did one thing wrong: step down. If he’d weathered the storm, we’d have a first world country in Africa today.”

            This just doesn’t seem like a viable option, unless you assign some sort of positive value in the honor of “going down with the ship.” Best case scenario you get to be South Africa, where you hold on to apartheid until various boycotts basically starve you out. Worst case scenario the western powers literally invade to force out your evil, racist, fascist government.

            Rhodesia would not be allowed to exist today, period. Regardless of how first world it was. Regardless of how many other such countries immediately descended into horrifying despotism that we could hold up as examples. It wouldn’t matter. Racism is the biggest evil there is, period. Most people would obviously prefer to live in Rhodesia than Zimbabwe, but given that most people don’t have to live in either, I’m quite confident in saying the majority of westerners still would consider Smith stepping down to be a positive outcome overall.

          • Aapje says:

            I would argue that such a government would have to be framed very carefully to be acceptable. For instance, calling it an ‘interim government,’ not a dictatorship.

            But right now the international opinion is still that democracy is always better than not having democracy & otherwise still hasn’t learned from the various fiasco’s of the past (Russia, Iraq, Egypt, etc).

            So the feasibility is probably around 0.001% or less.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. Having a non-democratic government where one tribe kinda pushes around a less powerful tribe that mostly looks/acts/sounds the same to westerners (Syria, Egypt, whatever) is already considered bad enough. Even without an obvious racial component, support for foreign intervention would be high.

            Having a non-democratic government where white people push around black people makes you super mega ultra-Hitler and is more than sufficient moral justification for imminent invasion.

          • John Schilling says:

            My point is that Rhodesia could never have survived. Its veneer of civilization was built on a massive apparatus of violence and repression against anyone, of any race, who dared to question the legitimacy of a system that excluded over 90% of the population from economic or political power.

            And yet the North Korean regime is still with us, not looking likely to depart any time soon.

            Agreed that the racial issue would make western military intervention a possibility, but not a certainty. For the really interesting alternate history, we just have to imagine that the Afrikaaners ship off their atom bombs to the Rhodesians rather than scrapping them as they give up power in South Africa.

          • Matt M says:

            Perhaps this doesn’t hold true today, but I feel like for the first several decades immediately following the Korean War, the reason North Korea continued to exist is because China was willing to fight on their behalf, and was capable of fighting us to a stalemate in that particular region given our lack of desire to kill large swaths of the civilian populace (like we did in ww2).

            What giant regional superpower would be implicitly defending Rhodesia in this case? Sure, nukes would help if they got them, but once it seems they want them, the invasion probably starts before they actually can…

          • Nornagest says:

            I keep hearing claims about how advanced Rhodesia was, but they don’t really pan out when I try to fact-check them. The available economic data only goes back to the early stages of the civil war, but it shows the country as on par with most of its neighbors — that is, manifestly third-world, and a lot poorer than e.g. South Africa let alone the US or Europe.

            Maybe there was exponential growth happening before the civil war came along and fucked everything up, but you’d have to show me. Anecdotes from a few big landowners and their friends do not count as showing me.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            Before you said that I already started thinking that N-Korea would be far more plausible a target for such an intervention, if the regime collapses:

            – It’s not black people, so far less sympathy if some of them complain about oppression.
            – If you get China to back you, you are pretty much safe from foreign intervention. They ought to like enlightened dictatorships (as they try to be one) and are willing to prioritize long term goals to a fault (see the 1 child policy).
            – It’s not black people, so few Americans and Europeans feel kinship
            – They are already highly nationalist, taught obedience and such; which makes it far easier to stabilize the country. Getting them too loosen up is not necessarily easier than getting Zimbabweans to tighten up, but it is much less likely to end in civil war, so one ought to get more time to implement ones plans.
            – If you convincingly promise to abandon nukes and let in the IAEA, this probably makes the West and China much more willing to accept delaying democracy.
            – You can very credibly argue that the N-Koreans are not ready for democracy.
            – Growing the economy is trivial, if you can finagle some decent foreign aid.
            – Earlier colonizers looked Japanese, unlike me. So it’s much harder to pattern match me to them, unlike me and Ian Smith.

            Downside is that S-Korea will probably be very angry that they don’t get to run the show. They also have been taught that Americans are the devil incarnate, so I may be unable to bring in American help at first.

          • BBA says:

            @John Schilling: The North Korean armed forces make up 25% of the population, while Rhodesia was only 10% white at the peak. You need a big Outer Party to keep the Inner Party in business and Rhodesia’s was capped by demographics.

            And, uh, everything Aapje said.

          • John Schilling says:

            but I feel like for the first several decades immediately following the Korean War, the reason North Korea continued to exist is because China was willing to fight on their behalf,

            In the 1950s, when there was a question of whether North Korea was a proper nation or an artifact of war and with an unsettled Korean War in recent memory, yes. But if we are talking about a continued white government in Rhodesia, we are talking about the 1980s.

            The security of North Korea in the 1980s had, I think, rather less to do with the protection of a post-Mao, post-Nixon China than with the fact that North Korea was a Real Nation with which we had come to grudgingly accept peaceful coexistence and with the fact that Vietnam had put a damper on Western interventionism generally.

            And for that matter, in the 1990s and early 2000s we have China playing economic best friend to the West, the West at a high point in its interventionism, North Korea as a human rights catastrophe with literal mass starvation and, at the end of that period, a certified member of the Axis of Evil (but not yet posessing nuclear weapons), and still no intervention.

            For that matter, South Africa held on to white rule for a decade past Rhodesia, and nobody in the west even seriously contemplated invading to liberate the oppressed blacks.

            Rhodesia’s landlocked status may have made it more vulnerable to economic sanctions once South Africa’s white regime stepped down. But the idea that a white Rhodesian government would have faced military intervention seems unlikely at any time since 1979, unless already weakened by severe internal unrest as in Libya or Syria.

          • Macrofauna says:

            @Nornagest,

            I keep hearing claims about how advanced Rhodesia was, but they don’t really pan out when I try to fact-check them. The available economic data only goes back to the early stages of the civil war, but it shows the country as on par with most of its neighbors — that is, manifestly third-world, and a lot poorer than e.g. South Africa let alone the US or Europe.

            Maybe there was exponential growth happening before the civil war came along and fucked everything up, but you’d have to show me. Anecdotes from a few big landowners and their friends do not count as showing me.

            I can’t, at least not at present, so highlighting Norn’s comment instead and discount me appropriately. I have only secondhand overviews and memories of supposed statistics I read years ago. My present searches turned up similarly spotty records.

            (Short of hiring a history professor, is there any kind of institution or custom to organize some “let’s you and him fight” thing where one might pay secondary sources to directly engage each other on a topic instead of us conveying our impressions of them here?)

      • Aftagley says:

        Speaking as someone who’s knowledge of Rhodesia is pretty minimal beyond ‘it was really, really racist’ can you explain (or link to a good explanation) why implementing Ian Smith’s policies is a good idea?

        The Wikipedia article you linked, as well as his own personal Wikipedia article, describes a state that repressed its native population, lost control of the countryside, made no serious effort to engage the international community and then eventually bent under the pressure and collapsed. Why would bringing him back be a good thing?

        This sounds partisan, but I don’t mean it to. I honestly know next-to nothing about this topic. What make you think he was so good?

        • FacelessCraven says:

          Are you familiar with Zimbabwe?

        • Anonymous says:

          Because however wrong you might think having no vote is, it’s much worse having no food, or no life. And that’s just your spectrum of choice if you fight communists.

          Foseti has a nice post on Rhodesia.

        • Macrofauna says:

          Potential general linkage: https://foseti.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/review-of-bitter-harvest-by-ian-smith/ Highlight:

          Rhodesia didn’t “fail.” It was killed. There’s a big difference between suicide and murder.

          Bringing him back, then, you’d want some kind of assurance that the same wouldn’t happen again, but the contextual hypothetical situation here of invitation by the African Union does seem that way.

          My personal TLDR: Being a landlocked country in SSA, Rhodesia had a colossally terrible starting point not too far out of the Iron Age. Smith uplifted it to low-tier Modern First World. I think he was so good because he introduced a billion things you probably take for granted.

          Longer: Speaking only for myself, I want to first caveat that I say “Ian Smith” at least partly as a synecdoche rather than a literalism; his predecessors like Godfrey Huggins and parts of the British colonial structure in general deserve partial credit too. And perhaps this next is obvious, but implementing Smith’s policies exactly as they were probably isn’t a good idea any more now that conditions have changed so much.
          Smith the man, however, seems to have reigned over a golden age of the place, for whatever reason.

          To your specific points, I can only wave my hands and say that “repression” is a rather vague term with negative connotations, so I will vaguely answer that it’s probably still better than Smith’s general observations of what happened in several nearby “un-repressed” countries: collapse into various combinations of famine, civil war, dictatorship, tribal warlordism, et cetera. Smith was cooperating with the natives and moving towards black rule in gradual steps, believing the natives weren’t ready yet (presumably they hadn’t grown up drinking enough tea and internalising British norms of common law and governance) and that immediate black rule would result in political and social regression. He seems to have been right.

          It’s hard to engage the international community when the first thing they do is pass a resolution saying “No deal”, your former mother country says both that you’re part of it and need its approval and other people can’t deal with you but also you’re not part of it and they’ll blockade you, so you get the worst of both worlds (well, short of Britain outright re-invading the place with ground troops, I guess), and the international community funds and equips multiple violent revolutionary movements against you. Which brings me to that “lost control of the countryside” point – in the face of rebels with God’s own logistics and nigh-untouchable home bases in foreign countries that you don’t want to start an outright war with, what do you expect? Again, terrible raw material to work with, Smith seems to have done an incredible job given what he had.

          Perhaps he was doomed to failure and bringing him back to govern again would result in another failure, but then I would at least like some acknowledgement of the reasons for this failure being very much contingently political in the sense of “meddling foreign countries”, rather than being physical constants or unalterable aspects of human nature that resist Smithian rulers. To quote the Wikipedia article:

          In April 1966, two Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA – the military wing of ZANU) units, having received prior training at Nanjing Military College, crossed into Rhodesia from Zambia. They were armed with SKS carbines, Chinese hand grenades, explosives, and communist pamphlets, having been issued vague instructions to sabotage important installations before killing white persons indiscriminately. (…) This event is considered to have been the first engagement of what came to be known as the “Bush War” in Rhodesia and the “Second Chimurenga” (or rebellion in Shona) by supporters of the guerrillas.

          Perhaps the proposals to resurrect Ian Smith should be said with footnotes of “and this time, how about China, Zambia and Britain among others not cooperate to screw him?” or similar explicit caveats.

        • BBA says:

          What make you think he was so good?

          is answered by your earlier line

          ‘it was really, really racist’

          In other words, I’m tapping out. The racism is at the core of Rhodesia’s appeal, and every consequence of it that I see as a problem with the Rhodesian system – economic restrictions on nonwhites, press censorship, jailing white opposition leaders – they see as features. Yes, I also think it’s untenable to maintain, but my moral disapproval is making it impossible for me to continue arguing dispassionately about how, even without everybody else on earth being evil Communists, it won’t work. Someone else with more patience for totalitarianism can take up the mantle from here. I’m done.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If you’re going to tap out you’re supposed to do it without slandering your interlocutors and seizing the last word for yourself.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This being the Internet, he of course did no such thing.

            At the moment I appear to have “the last word”. But anyone is welcome to come along and try and claim it form themselves.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The norm is that you’re not supposed to argue with people once they’ve tapped out. Which means that, for fairness’s sake, you’re not supposed to advance new arguments as you tap out. Yes, there will literally be more words said, at some point, in the history of the human race. But “having the last word in an argument” is an idiom. Please don’t be such an asshole.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            But “having the last word in an argument” is an idiom.

            It’s literally true also. If two people argue during a discussion this does not make everything said in the course of the discussion an argument.

            I agree with your penultimate post.

          • BBA says:

            I’m not advancing any new arguments. Calling people racist is not an argument. I don’t have the patience to argue anymore, so instead I’m just calling people racist.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t have the patience to argue anymore, so instead I’m just calling people racist.

            Please stop.

          • Anonymous says:

            Someone else with more patience for totalitarianism can take up the mantle from here.

            Daily reminder that totalitarianism is what Death Eaters are trying to avert. 🙂

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            That’s an interesting statement. I thought that the Death Eaters opposed the idea that government should care about the governed (this is evil demotism and inevitably leads to Hitler).

          • Anonymous says:

            I think we’re working on different definitions of totalitarianism.

            The one I’m familiar with is how much of the sum total of the subject’s energies the state has at their disposal, how much it micromanages everyone under its mantle and how little initiative and authority middle-management can show. Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union all prominently display this, especially in wartime. Every peon is not much more than a slave, and typically works directly towards the goals of the state – or they get publicly beheaded/gassed in a concentration camp/quietly shot in the back of the head.

            De Jouvenel’s On Power deals directly with this phenomenon, and its advance through the ages.

            What do you mean by ‘totalitarianism’?

          • rlms says:

            I would define it similarly, but with more of a focus on how harshly the state treats people. A government that micromanaged immensely but didn’t have severe punishments is not (in my opinion) totalitarian, whereas a government that leaves people free to behave like they want unless they criticise it in which case they will be tortured to death is totalitarian (even though the government doesn’t interfere very frequently). Do you agree with my characterisation of Death Eater thought?

          • Anonymous says:

            A government that micromanaged immensely but didn’t have severe punishments is not (in my opinion) totalitarian, whereas a government that leaves people free to behave like they want unless they criticise it in which case they will be tortured to death is totalitarian (even though the government doesn’t interfere very frequently).

            I’d agree on the first example (because absent severe punishments, the state will just be ineffective at micromanagement, it’d be more like a corruptocracy where everyone and their dog deals in the black market behind a thin veneer of denial of this fact), but disagree on the second. The second just sounds mildly tyrannical, if that, depending on the clarity, consistence and up-frontness about their dim view of lese majeste. I’d be hard pressed to decide in which of these I’d like to live, depending on whether I think I can keep my mouth shut or not, and my tolerance for open dishonesty.

            Do you agree with my characterisation of Death Eater thought?

            Depends on some definitions. What do you mean by ‘caring about the governed’? Caring that your subjects are productive and reproductive is just good government and common sense. Caring what they have for lunch and whether it’s optimal for their health according to latest science is counterproductive.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @rlms:

            By that definition of totalitarianism, the major totalitarian regimes could be justified as non-totalitarian. The totalitarian ruler isn’t chill as long as you don’t speak out. The totalitarian ruler wants their portrait in every home, a copy of the glorious manifesto given to every newlywed couple, for people to greet each other using the official salute, for civil servants (or maybe everybody) to sign off on letters with “hail the glorious leader!” instead of “yours truly”, for the party symbol to appear on military uniforms, for religious institutions to support the party line, and so forth. This is, at least, the goal.

            @Anonymous:

            Nazi Germany – the totalitarian dictatorship I know the most about – is more complicated than that. Middle-ranking people sometimes had significant initiative – they called it “working towards the Fuehrer“. The degree to which ordinary Germans who weren’t Jews or outspoken anti-regime types got in trouble for minor transgressions was lower than one might expect for such a regime, although it got considerably heavier as the war went on and it became clear that Germany was losing.

          • Anonymous says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m simplifying, of course. And I doubt there was in history any platonic ideal totalitarian regime.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Please don’t be such an asshole

            Of all the possible arguments, you, of all people, could offer, this is decidedly the weakest.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            For a description of totalitarianism, I think this is pretty hard to beat.

            Note that there is no method to instill such insane obsession except through fear. Those workers were not lining up to drink the sacred mango water because of mao’s leadership qualities. They lined up because they were afraid of what would happen to the guy who lined up slowest.

            If the choice is living under that, or under a country that summarily executes outspoken critics but otherwise leaves everyone alone, I would vastly prefer living under the later.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @BBA – “What make you think he was so good? is answered by your earlier line ‘it was really, really racist’.

            In other words, I’m tapping out. The racism is at the core of Rhodesia’s appeal, and every consequence of it that I see as a problem with the Rhodesian system – economic restrictions on nonwhites, press censorship, jailing white opposition leaders – they see as features.”

            “And the world changed. Before the 1960s, colonial governments and companies fought malaria because their officials often lived in remote outposts like Nigeria’s hill stations and Vietnam’s Marble Mountains. Independence movements led to freedom, but also often to civil war, poverty, corrupt government and the collapse of medical care.”

            At the relevant point (before independence), blacks outnumbered whites 20 to 1. However it’s worth noting that the black population went from 300,000 to 4-5 million after the scourge of colonization. Before colonization, these blacks plowed their fields (to the extent they farmed) with wooden tools, were polygamous, had more children that died than survived, and constantly died in wars and famines.

            …via Anon’s link above.

            or hey, we could check out the wiki writeup for Robert Mugabe.

            He has remained a divisive figure. He has been praised as a revolutionary hero of the African liberation struggle who helped to free Zimbabwe from British colonialism, imperialism, and white-minority rule. Conversely, critics view him as a dictator responsible for economic mismanagement and widespread corruption whose regime has perpetrated anti-white racial discrimination, human rights abuses, and crimes against humanity.

            Divisive. Yes. That’s the word we should use here.

            …Harvard can sing the praises of the Khmer Rouge, and then take decades to admit that possibly somewhere, somehow, mistakes might have been made. On the other hand, anyone pointing out there there used to be functional, prosperous African states, plural, and that those states were forcibly transformed into some of the worst hellholes on earth, could only be motivated by racism. It’s almost as though those sweet, sweet purity signals matter more than actual human lives.

            Don’t worry, we’re just death-eaters. Gangrenous hypocrisy is overwhelmingly fashionable, therefore safe. To the hypocrites, I mean. Clearly not to actual Africans, but fuck them, amirite?

          • rlms says:

            @dndnrsn
            The “no severe punishments” (or threat thereof) is a crucial part of my non-totalitarian example. I’m not aware of any governments today that micromanage heavily but don’t punish dissidents; indeed I’m not sure if such a thing is possible.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @rlms:

            I may have understood you. If you meant it like a four-box chart (micromanages/doesn’t, heavy punishments/no) then yes. But a state that featured extremely heavy punishments but left people alone otherwise would not be totalitarian.

          • But a state that featured extremely heavy punishments but left people alone otherwise would not be totalitarian.

            For example …

            In England in the 18th century, almost all serious crimes were nominally capital. It is probably the case that only a minority of those convicted of such crimes (non-clergyable felonies) were actually executed, but most of the rest were transported for fourteen years of indentured servitude or, if a war was going on, let off in exchange for joining the army or navy.

            But it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a totalitarian system.

    • Protagoras says:

      I like the council of random citizens. The Athenian democracy used lotteries for a lot of government positions, and in some ways it seems more attractive than the popularity contest approach to democracy.

      • Aapje says:

        Yes, my hope is that by having both this and voting for the other chamber, you more or less get the best of both worlds. In general it seems far preferable to have a system of checks and balances that uses two very different ways to select those with power.

        • hyperboloid says:

          I second this suggestion, a house of representatives selected by random lot and an elected senate and executive strikes as a good compromise.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The question is whether to allow people to opt out of the random lot.

            How long would the system last if half of those loted voted to eliminate the lottery, and held up all other matters until it was?

          • hyperboloid says:

            The question is whether to allow people to opt out of the random lot.

            I don’t see why not. But given that the present US congressman’s salary is $174,000 per year I don’t know how many people would.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            But given that the present US congressman’s salary is $174,000 per year I don’t know how many people would.

            I would guess about 10% – 20% of the population (myself likely included, though I’d think about it very hard*). I put that 10% as a pretty hard lower boundary of the guess, and would allow the top boundary to extend up to about 50% with lower degrees of confidence.

            Alterations in how the Congress was run (e.g. tele-session so that a Rep wouldn’t have to move to D.C.) would decrease the upper bound, but probably not touch the lower bound much.

            (We, of course, are not talking about the Zimbabwe hypothetical that began this thread.)

            * – The salary is nearly triple my current household income. But there are more important considerations than salary alone.

          • hyperboloid says:

            A $174,000.00 a year income, would put you in the 92nd percentile of all US adults, if we brought it up to 250,000 it it would put you in the 94th percentile . Now of course there are other factors, like travel time, and disruption to one’s career.

            We would probably have to do away with the idea of congress meeting in a single centralized place, maybe shorten congressional terms (with perhaps a new drawing at the beginning of every year) and make provisions to compensate employers to make sure that people would still have a job when their term ended. But as society would hopefully view serving in congress as a civic duty, this should not be that hard of a problem.

            * – The salary is nearly triple my current household income. But there are more important considerations than salary alone.

            Thank you for making me fell a bit less inadequate. I know this place is heavy on bay area tech types, but I didn’t think the SSC crowd viewed six figure salaries as a pittance.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            if you want to avoid the newly elected congressmen immediately moving away from random lot election then it’d need to be an amendment to the constitution, and NOT in any way affect the state governments

            that way, the states would have no reason to buy into a removal of the amendment. and obviously, they would need the states, since constitutional amendment

            edit: Also, how do you plan to select randomly, in a way people will believe is random? I hear plenty of conspiracies about the NBA draft’s random selection, and that’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things. Compare that to the legislative branch of America, which if it grows a pair and uses its power correctly, is the most powerful governmental body in the free world, probably the world.

          • hyperboloid says:

            There is no way to do it without a constitutional amendment, which is why it will probably never happen, as our present crop of congressmen are not going to vote away their jobs.

            Also, how do you plan to select randomly, in a way people will believe is random

            Live TV drawing, lottery style with numbers on ping pong balls. It could be monitored for irregularities by “poll watchers” from what ever political groups are interested in participating, (the major political parties, lobbying groups like the NRA, Planed Parenthood, the ACLU, ext.)

            Would everybody believe it? No, but not everybody believes our current elections are honest.

          • Deiseach says:

            Live TV drawing, lottery style with numbers on ping pong balls.

            THE RUSSIANS TOTALLY HACKED OUR BALLS!

            (I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist).

          • hyperboloid says:

            Contrary to rumors of foreign interference with our balls, I can assure the American people that our balls remain secure and unmolested!

            The greatest care has been taken to protect our balls, and their safety is our highest priority.

            Some say that we should do away with our balls, I say never!

            Every year Americans come together to show our balls to the world, and let their bouncing, unencumbered by any restraint, give proof that our nation is free and proud!

            Shall we tell the young men of America that they shall one day loose their precious balls? I say no. What of the little girl born into poverty who can take solace in the knowledge that her balls can guarantee her a better life? And I say her balls because they truly belong to all of us.

            An America without balls is an America without FREEDOM!

            (If this doesn’t put a dent in the average IQ around here, then I haven’t done my job. )

          • Deiseach says:

            AMERICA HAS ALWAYS HAD, AND AMERICA WILL ALWAYS HAVE, THE BIGGEST, THE BEST, AND THE MOST INVIOLABLE BALLS IN THE WORLD! NO FOREIGN HAND WILL EVER REACH IN AND FIDDLE WITH OUR BALLS!

            (Glad to assist you in the project of dragging the discourse into the gutter).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I know this place is heavy on bay area tech types

            The worst part is that I am a Bay-area (bio)tech type. 😀

            Ah yes, the financial limits of a B.S. Biology degree.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I was doing the whole Engineers without borders thing in Zimbabwe and escaped to Botswana when Mugabe decided it was open season on whites.

      A couple things that needs sorting immediately:

      1: The AIDS epidemic. We kept losing around 10% of the workforce per year to AIDS. This takes an unreasonable amount of work to keep up with when it comes to training and related tasks.
      2: Agriculture. The people of Zimbabwe are badly mal/under-nourished while living on a fantastically fertile plot of land that could feed most of sub-saharan Africa if run properly.
      3: Tribal relations. If you reduce the control of the military, which I assume you are planning on, you’ll have a Ndebele revolt on your hands fairly quickly.

      Once that is sorted, your plan is more or less sound.

      • Aapje says:

        Good points, I was more or less just giving my plan for ‘generic impoverished nation,’ with the assumption that my government would address the specific challenges/opportunities of the nation by doing an analysis with experts.

        To address your points:
        1. According to Wikipedia, the number of new HIV infections has halved between 2001 and 2011 and the number of deaths in 2011 was a third of the 2001 number. So they already seem to have made some progress. I’d try to find solutions that work within Zimbabwean culture (abstinence education goes against sexual mores, so would require major cultural changes, which cannot be achieved rapidly). However, there is no silver bullet.
        2. A major factor seems to be that Mugabe took plots of land from white farmers and handed them to his friends, who mostly were soldiers with no farming skills. I’d try to find a way to get them back into the hands of proper farmers. I’d also probably set up/improve agriculture schools. I’m from Holland where we have one of the best agriculture universities (Wageningen University), so I’d probably try to work out some partnership.
        3. I’d try to find agreement with Ndebele leaders then, probably by promising investments in Ndebele territory (actually implementing the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project perhaps), if economic issues are their major concern.

        • Kevin C. says:

          “…if economic issues are their major concern.”

          And if economic issues aren’t their major concern?

          • Aapje says:

            Then I’d have to cater to their concerns, if those can reasonably be catered to.

            There is a possibility of an unsolvable conflict, but there are ways to deal with even those, although I plausibly might not have the skills for that or may not be willing to compromise my ideals so much.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “if those can reasonably be catered to.”

            And if they can’t be?

            “There is a possibility of an unsolvable conflict, but there are ways to deal with even those”

            For example…?

            In discussions like these, the part that I find my fellow WEIRD types have the hardest time intuitively grasping or empathizing with are clan feuds and ancient tribal hatreds. You know, the situations where groups X and Y each believe about the other that “their either at your feet or at your throat”. Where each side has a list of grudges and grievances against the other reaching back century upon century, where each side escapes violence and oppression by the other only to turn around and inflict that same. Modern Westerners seem unable to comprehend the position “I, as an X, know, deep down to my bones, that the Ys are a fundamental, existential threat to us Xs, that if we give them the slightest mercy or space they will use it to do us immense harm, because that is what they have always done and will always do, because that is who and what the Ys are. It is their fundamental, inherent, unchangeable nature as Ys to be our Eternal Enemy who can never, ever be reasoned of compromised with, as certain as the rising of the sun and as unchanging as the laws of nature, from now to forever.” And, of course, the same on the Y side about the Xs.

            Now, I don’t know if this is the specific case in the Zimbabwe situation, but in my readings about African history (and, for that matter, the history of Western meddling elsewhere in the world), I’ve run into several examples of Westerners dealing poorly with such feuds and enmities.

          • Matt M says:

            Hmm, Kevin raises an interesting point that I hadn’t previously considered.

            I wonder to what extent the geopolitical history of Europe, with its constantly shifting alliances, intermingling royal dynasties, intrigues and backstabbings, may have helped construct a western culture wherein the general assumption is that ALL tribal loyalties can be changed, reserved, or overcome somehow or another. That there’s no such thing as a feud that lasts forever – because we know that England and France can put aside hundreds of years of fighting over Normandy to get together and fight side by side when the Kaiser starts acting up.

            We don’t really *have* blood feuds that have lasted for hundreds and hundreds of years the likes of which are seen in other places of the world. So it makes sense that we fail to understand such things. That we routinely underestimate their importance. If children in an African tribe grow up learning their history and it consists of “since the dawn of time, the Xs and the Ys have been mortal enemies and will continue to be so until one of them fully destroys the other” that will create a perception of social interaction that is quite different from the European who learns about how every tribe around has been both friends and enemies with every other tribe around at various times due to various circumstances.

          • caethan says:

            Well, this has a well-established answer:

            You take a medium-sized tribe that’s hated by the more populous or powerful tribes, one that’s been seething a bit, and you make them a deal: be our lackeys, and we’ll give you power over those guys who hate you. You’ll run the country, but they get to be the boots on the ground, run the colonial administration, make the petty bureaucratic decisions. Make sure they’ve got a highly visible leader who runs the state apparatus you’ve delegated to them. Any potentially oppressive actions you need to take, delegate them down to these guys, they’ll be happy to do it. Make sure you step in occasionally to directly mitigate the worst offenders – say some out of control police officer or soldier from your new client tribe. Anything generally popular, run from your direct administration. It’s the governor, not the client tribe, that gets to hand out welfare benefits during a famine, for example.

            Then when your client tribe starts grumbling about being a lackey, remind them that you’ll be taking all those nice weapons with you if you leave, and my but the people don’t seem to like them, it’s much safer for them if they stay a client state. And if everyone else starts grumbling too much, you crack down on your clients, win some praise, and if things really go down, well, you can just leave.

            Works great until you leave! Just ask the British.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            “I wonder to what extent the geopolitical history of Europe, with its constantly shifting alliances, intermingling royal dynasties, intrigues and backstabbings, may have helped construct a western culture wherein the general assumption is that ALL tribal loyalties can be changed, reserved, or overcome somehow or another.”

            Well, there’s also the theory that the manorialist regions of Western Europe, with the Western European marriage pattern, for many centuries had rates of cousin marriage (and other consanguinious marriages) that were strikingly low compared to the rest of the world* (leaving them on average less genetically similar to their relatives than most people elsewhere were, and thus altering the selective pressures toward kinship altruism versus, say, reciprocal altruism).

            This is perhaps the most dismal view, that it takes centuries of actively enforcing significant restrictions on endogamy to remove “clannishness” to the degree WEIRDs have.

            *As Wikipedia notes, even today, “[w]orldwide, more than 10% of marriages are between first or second cousins.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            One solution is to create parallel societies, where each tribe gets separate schools, hospitals, etc, etc.

            This was how the Dutch did it when the protestants and catholics hated each other. When a catholic family moved to the village of my mother, she went to see what they looked like. She was disappointed to see that they looked like regular humans.

            Of course, the difficulty is to still have sufficient nationalism and willingness to cooperate to prevent conflicts over the necessary central government functions.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Aapje

            “One solution is to create parallel societies, where each tribe gets separate schools, hospitals, etc, etc.”

            Yes, but first, what keeps these “parallel” societies from becoming separate societies? Second, what do you do when Tribe X complains about how Tribe Y’s hospitals are better, which shows that the Ys are stealing medical funds/the better doctors/medicine/etc. from the Xs, while Tribe Y complains about how Tribe X’s schools are better, which shows that the Xs are stealing education funds/the better teachers/school supplies/etc. from the Ys? Or when a gang of Xs assault or kill a couple of Ys, claiming self defense and justified retribution given the last time the Ys did the same to some Xs, and vice versa? And when the Xs complain about their taxes, and do all they can to avoid paying them, because some portion of those taxes are going to services, programs, etc., for the Y’s, and isn’t that just like those lazy parasite Ys, living off wealth stolen from the hard-working Xs, and vice versa from the Ys about the Xs?

            And for the Dutch example, not to downplay the conflict between Protestants and Catholics, but I’d note the relative youth of the divide relative to the centuries of tribal warfare, and further, the degree to which there were still significant cultural and linguistic commonalities present not necessarily the case in African conflicts. Not to mention the pressure to cooperate created by the threat of clear, large common enemies.

            Plus, you’re talking about people deep in “Western European Marriage Pattern” territory, and since you refer to times post-Reformation, we’re talking Early Modern Europe, after many centuries of the enforced “outbreeding” and reduced consanguinaity I discussed above. And whether you accept the “outbreeding/cousin marriage” theory or not, it seems pretty clear that at least some “WEIRD” features were already emerging within Western Europe by the Early Modern period, relatively low “clannishness”/”tribalness” being one of them. (I’ve also seen some propose that the Germanic peoples, with their “kindreds”, were already less “clannish” than their Celtic, Baltic, and Slavic neighbors as far back as the Classical period.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            Well, you need a force that bridges divides sufficiently to still make them willingly bind together somewhat. For example, nationalism or a shared threat.

            Of course, none of this is magic. You can work on it, but it takes time to build up if it doesn’t exist already.

            Some countries can only be kept together with force. In such a scenario I would be unwilling to be the ruler, generally.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Aapje

            “For example, nationalism or a shared threat.”

            But where does nationalism come from? How does one get it started where absent?

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            It is clearly not absent. Perhaps underdeveloped.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Aapje

      The “anarchy” is surely to be a civil war type situation full of chaos and various factions trying to become the new government, so the first job is to bring order. Relying on existing ex-soldiers would be difficult as their loyalty can’t be assured, and they could always take weapons and join some other faction.

      You’d need an outside force with its own well paid troops to win the civil war, and put in place order first before anything else, so you’d essentially need to recolonize Rhodesia Zimbabwe.

      The resulting government would probably need to be fairly authoritarian and put in place harsh penalties against rebels and terrorists, as a colonial government would. Once you have this order established from the outside you can begin to open up mining to foreign corporations, and with the locals exiled from government, you can minimize corruption and make sure these corporations are not expropriated, and are only taxed in order to provide government subsidization of infrastructure, so that the wealth produced by mining funds the expansion of government required to build roads and expand civilization so that travel is easier, allowing further expansion of business activity, and so on.

      Eventually, when property rights are secure and the country has well maintained roads and public infrastructure traversing it, attracting further investment will be much easier, as there will be both order in a stable government, and order in the sense that this same government isn’t highly corrupt and expropriation hungry.

      When Zimbabwe is finally profitable, you can begin being nicer, and redistribute more of the profits to tackle health issues and provide minimal welfare.

      Finally, you can begin training locals to place into government positions, avoiding the situation with decolonization where democracy was used too early and the opposition was funded by the Soviets and the Chinese. In this environment, you have a better chance of transferring power to the locals by training them for power, and teaching them to maintain the system and avoid corruption after you’ve gone.

      Keep the occupation in place as a shadow government watching even as the government cabinet becomes totally staffed with appointed locals. Then initiate democratic elections, with the foreign shadow government and troops watching over. Run a few cycles of this, watching for signs of fraud and making sure that the results are accepted, and if things look good, then slowly withdraw having trained the populace for democracy and stable institutions.

      In order to execute this plan, I’d need:
      -The military efforts of a coalition willing to carry it out and win the civil war, crushing all opposition with brutal means*.
      -Businessmen willing to make the country profitable once an orderly occupying force is in place.
      -A foreign civil service and bureaucrats to organize the funding and building of roads and infrastructure to support making the country profitable.
      -Later experts on governance and democratic systems would be needed to manage the slow training and transition to local power once more.

      *This is the part that would be absolutely necessary in order to save Zimbabwe, but would never be permitted, which is why no plan will work. Until you have order, you cannot govern. If Zimbabwe collapsed, instead of intervention to bring order, you’d just get foreign powers stirring the chaos of rival factions instead. Perhaps there’s a chance this time due to the Cold War long being over and Zimbabwe being disconnected from Islamic terrorism hot spots, but I doubt it.

      The big issue is that no one wants to re-colonize any part of Africa in order to build things up so as to eventually decolonize again. The values that have developed in the West wouldn’t allow it, and we couldn’t stomach it anyway. If Zimbabwe collapses, it’s going to be an absolute mess because no one wants to use enough force to end the war that will result, but the West may perhaps instead be driven by humanitarian public opinion to use force in ways that exacerbate and extend the resulting civil war for generations.

      Even if we did take control, people’s humanitarian impulses are exactly that, and the public wouldn’t want to occupy an African country and spend money to fix it. The left would be against it because it would be neo-colonialism, and the right would be against it because it’s spending money trying to fix a place renowned for constantly breaking. Even after bringing order the transition would be botched and we’d withdraw too early without testing the populace for aptitude for governing and acceptance of democracy, leaving any development in a fragile place, and civil war liable to break out again due to corrupt electoral practices.

      • Aapje says:

        @Tekhno

        You are correct that I pretty much ignored the initial stabilization process, which is of course crucial. However, you don’t necessarily need brutal oppression to do this. The key is to get buy in from the locals, which one can achieve through oppression, but that has severely negative consequences.

        A smarter way is to convince the leaders of various factions to back your government, as was done by the Dutch king when taking over rule of England during the Glorious Revolution. I am not familiar with Zimbabwean allegiances, so I would probably fail here without help from an expert. I assume that the Ndebele might be willing to favor a leader who promises to protect them from oppression by the majority, but I don’t yet see what I could offer the Shona, assuming that they are an ethnically united block, rather than consist of various factions that fear each other. If the latter is true, one may be able to convince them to back an impartial government over choosing a power struggle where they may lose.

        Of course, my entire scenario was based on the premise that the African Union would see me as a good ruler, which is preposterous. However, if one assumes that I would be respected enough as a leader to get the nod from them, I would logically have a shot at convincing the factions in Zimbabwe to support me.

        PS. My scenario is based on the assumption that I can get sufficient income from mining, regular foreign aid and eventually, tax income, one due to a booming economy. Not for there to be a huge wealth transfer from a single Western nation to Zimbabwe.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Aapje:

          However, you don’t necessarily need brutal oppression to do this. The key is to get buy in from the locals

          The way this is normally done runs directly contrary to this:

          Much of the money to invest in these sectors would come from mining income, that would no longer disappear into the pockets of a corrupt elite.

          I think you are assuming away all of the real problems so that you can get your preferred “blank” slate (which isn’t really blank, but rather is a set of starting conditions that you find most favorable. Reality does not really cooperate like this.)

          It’s fine to do the thought exercise, but it doesn’t actually mean that it’s a course of action that would actually be available to anyone who was in position to attempt it.

        • Aapje says:

          @HeelBearCub

          It is a fantasy that would probably crash and burn horribly in practice, but I do think that substantial additional government income could be found by eliminating high-level corruption in mining. For example, just for diamond mining, it seems that 2 billion dollars was stolen.

          2 billion dollars builds a lot of infrastructure in a place like Zimbabwe (although you’d have to deal with corruption at that level too and that would be harder to address than for mining).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            I’m not saying there aren’t huge losses to corruption that could be used to do a great deal otherwise.

            I’m saying you are radically underestimating how hard it is to get people to be loyal to you and execute competence in a system when you have no history of it.

            When everybody expects corruption, it doesn’t simply stop because the guy at the top is replaced. And if you then attempt to deny an entrenched interest what they think they deserve, especially in a power vacuum, you end up with many someone’s trying to take your top dog position by force.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            A lot of big infrastructure projects in Africa seem to be done by foreign companies already. If you eliminate corruption in the bid process and get the companies from a low-corruption culture, you ought to get rid of a lot of it.

            The Chinese even seem to bring in their own workers to entirely circumvent local culture. One could start demanding a slowly rising percentage of domestic workers, which would force the locals to adapt to the Chinese culture somewhat.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            But how are you getting the local buy in and and end to complete anarchy (which you specified at the beginning) by bringing in foreign companies and foreign workers?

            We tried this in Iraq. Private companies, foreign workers, private security, foreign soldiers. We ended up just needing to pay people off to get the violence down far enough to stop it looking like “ongoing war”.

            Unless you have some plan to rapidly build a civilian institutional infrastructure that is competent, loyal to you, and accepted as legitimate by the populace, what you are going to get is “local warlords” of various stripes.

            Somehow you think you can rapidly do this by some way I am not seeing. Or, perhaps more likely, you are assuming it will happen because first-world countries work this way and you think that simply putting a structure in place that works here will work there without having to do anything other than pass some laws and declare some policies.

            I’m saying that problem is really, really hard.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            My example was based on taking advantage of existing behaviors. Zimbabwe seems to already have substantial economic relationships with China, for example.

            This is also specific to a few very big projects, where the populace would probably mostly understand that they cannot do this themselves.

            PS. The biggest mistake of Bremer in Iraq was to fire most of the soldiers. One I heard about that, I immediately wrote off the entire reconstruction effort right away. That single mistake doomed it entirely (the effort to cleanse the entire government apparatus from Saddam’s people stuck in the knife even deeper).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            The existing institutional culture is one of corruption.

            How are you to get them to stop being corrupt? Remember, you specified that you were also starting from a position where the institutions have also lost control of the country (you said anarchy).

            So, now you have anarchy, local fiefdoms are starting to form run by former officials who have not fled, or the local crime leader, or maybe some local civic or business leaders.

            You are just assuming that you can can just offer them jobs in the new government and they will simply assume their new positions and will operate in a corruption free manner. You haven’t identified any mechanism which would accomplish this.

            I don’t see why you think this can be assumed, as it isn’t how things normally work.

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            You are essentially asking how I keep people in check without allowing them to steal (too much), to which the answer is a complex mix of flattery & fear, giving them power and undermining that power simultaneously, making them dependent on other powerful groups and also threatened a bit by them, etc.

            Basically, divide and conquer.

            That’s the theory anyway, although I’d be incapable of doing that myself and would set up a team to come up with strategies to implement this.

    • Mark says:

      I would establish a permanent upper house with power of veto over any proposed law, and say that anyone who wanted to join this council would have to be neutered and renounce all worldly goods.

      Hmmm… but then it would turn into the House of Grandmothers…
      House of Grandmothers might be preferable to African Strongman dictator.

    • Deiseach says:

      Find out at ground/grassroots level what the hell is actually going on, as distinct from the reports you’re reading about what is going on.

      You can have all the smart high-level advisors in nice air-conditioned modern office buildings in the capital you like, telling you what to do, but when it comes down to “And now we are rolling out the new policy in Flyspeck, pop. 596”, it’s a whole different matter – especially when the minor bureaucratic minions on the ground are the ones having to implement a top-down policy with no input and no interest in their experiences on the job because pshaw, what do they know, so maybe they’re been dealing with sorting out people living in tin-roofed shacks for fifteen years but do they have a fancy degree from a Big Name Western University?

      You can have your lovely new shiny transportation policy but when it comes into effect you find that in order to widen the road, you need to evict a sixty year old granny from her home and she doesn’t want to leave, what do you do? Send in the enforcers to drag her out by force? Yes, the locals will love that. And the people in the next town will love it equally. And the rumours and scare stories that propagate throughout the region and even the country (the government is sending in thugs to beat you up and pull down your house and throw you out onto the side of the road! Look, it happened in Smalltown to this woman!), then what are you going to do? Because if the people you are trying to rule don’t trust you, you have a problem, and if you decide to solve that problem by “okay, so I have to send in enforcers to pull down shacks, and disperse protests with rubber bullets and tear gas, and pass laws restricting all kinds of rights, but it’s all for The Greater Good”, then one day it will all crumble.

      • Aapje says:

        @Deiseach

        In the case of Zimbabwe it seems to me that fairly generic fixes would cause huge (economic) improvements. I fully agree that for some issues, you would need to really understand the local culture.

        As for expropriation, it seems that every country in the world does this and the main difference is that the better countries give decent compensation. If I would build that lady a better house and put propaganda stories about those things in the newspapers, there would probably be a lot of support for my policy on this front.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Are we taking it as a given that I’m not going to wake up assassinated for being in charge?

    • Macrofauna says:

      Aapje: What timescale am I optimizing for when you say “fix Zimbabwe”? Am I hoping that the African Union calls me up in ten years and says “You’re doing a good job” or that historians in five hundred years say “Macrofauna set Zimbabwe on a path to prosperity” ?

      (Meta-question: is this a factor where you took for granted a certain timescale, or one you didn’t think would change plans enough to mention?)

      I don’t have a full vision or criticism so much as a factor I want to add: incentives, or something like it. Taleb calls it skin in the game, and the n-realism actuaries talk about holiness spirals. Use-mention distinction, but at the political level. How to make sure whatever fix you implement stays fixed and keeps fixing instead of the successor government appointing a Minister of Fixation who ceremonially says “Things are fixed!” once a year.

      • Aapje says:

        You can pick your own timescale, with the caveat that you’d presumably need solid economic growth to maintain control, especially if you put off giving people the vote. My assumption is that I could achieve major economic growth for at least 10 years, but that the economy would become increasingly susceptible to worldwide or regional downturns. So at one point I would simply lose support due to variance that has nothing to do with my policies, but is blamed on me. I’d want the opposition to have a democratic way to kick me out, before that happens and I’d want the country to roughly continue in the right direction, rather than fall back.

        As for ‘incentives,’ I’d want to produce a political culture of altruism, rather than tribalism. Of course, this is not really truly possible due to human nature, but there are ways to increase political altruism (for example, by decreasing tribal identities in favor of a nationalist identity, by introducing shared cultural elements, etc).

        • Macrofauna says:

          Saturate the public square with propaganda and incentives for inter-tribal marriage, too.

          This may be a nonstarter depending on the actual situation on the ground in Zimbabwe, though. cf. Deiseach’s comment about needing to learn that.

    • dndnrsn says:

      First, a book I recommend that would be relevant is The Dictator’s Handbook by De Mesquita and Smith. The framing is a bit lurid – it is not a handbook for dictators, but rather a popularized political science tract exploring their theory for the differences between autocracies and democracies. Their theory is basically that autocracies are reliant on far fewer people to stay in power, which promotes corruption and mismanagement; democracies are the opposite. They come down against foreign aid for autocracies (saying that it mostly helps keep dictators in power) and take the view that democracy is often a precondition for success, rather than (economic) success being a precondition for democracy. It’s worth reading. To sort of summarize it, though, my impression is that what they are saying is that the more democratic a country is, the more that giving the people what they want is what gets and keeps a leader in power; whereas in autocracies, getting into power and staying in power are usually accomplished by doing the opposite of what is good for the people.

      With that said:

      a) Why are you so certain you and your underlings would be incorruptible? The list of “benevolent and incorruptible dictators” is quite short. The list of “malignant and corrupt dictators” is very long. Even the benevolent and incorruptible dictators played the system to keep in power – eg Lee Kuan Yew may have not had his opponents shot, but he did like suing them. What happens if it turns out one of your underlings has been taking bribes? Do you have the military shoot them? How do you keep the military loyal to you? 1 million isn’t enough to keep people loyal to you and support yourself, is it? I guess you’ll have to skim some off the top of the mining revenues to keep the generals and colonels loyal. And, hey, why not keep some for yourself, after all, you deserve it…

      b) Defence forces: you say below that you assume all of the elites have fled the country, including military. So, you’d have to build your own force to keep order. That’s not cheap. How do you build a military/police force? You’d have to use the mining income. How much is that? Wikipedia says mining exports are $1.8 billion US as of 2013, but a combination of hyperinflated currency and corruption means the actual amount exported could be much more, with a lot getting skimmed off the top – in 2012, supposedly, $2 bil of diamonds had been stolen. (All numbers are Wikipedia unless I note otherwise – and somebody please correct me if I’ve messed things up; I was never a math guy).

      Let’s, just to come up with a number, assume that $4 billion is what you have to play with. Currently, the Zimbabwe military costs 3.8% of GDP, $60 million a year. They have just over 50k military + paramilitaries. That is around $1100 per soldier/cop per year. Given that the GDP per capita is $600, but the average income is 30 cents a month – there’s gotta be a truly epic amount of corruption going on – for reference, the US GDP per capita is about $53k, and the average income is somewhere in the 27.5k range. The US military spends 3.3% of GDP on the military, $597 billion, for over 2 million personnel. That is a bit more than $280,000. It’s not an apples to apples comparison – the Zimbabwe military is probably mostly about suppressing the populace, which requires less materiel than being the most powerful military in the world (ya don’t say!) In any case, however, the expenditure per individual in the military is a little over 10x the average income. This is compared to 305x in Zimbabwe. This number speaks for itself. You would likely have to spend less than is currently the case, because (if you and your hirelings really are incorruptible) a lot less is disappearing into Colonel So-and-So’s fourth vacation home.

      So, my conclusion from this is, and someone correct me if I’m wrong because I’m just spitballing here, that there is a horrendous amount of corruption going on, and even with that considered, a job in the military is significantly better than being a random Zimbabwean. I have read of recruiting agents in developing countries being bribed to recruit people – keeping the military happy is key if you are an autocrat (and given that a large chunk of developing countries are autocracies or sham democracies…) and part of that keeping them happy includes a significantly higher standard of living than they would have were they a peasant than a soldier. That’s how you get soldiers to shoot at their peasant countrymen, by and large. Presumably, despite this, the rank and file are not especially well paid. Traditionally, when soldiers and cops are not well paid, it is made up for by a blind eye being turned to extortion of civilians. This isn’t just a “dirt poor developing country” thing – Russian cops are known for relying on bribes, and higher-ranking Russian cops are known for a lifestyle far exceeding their salaries.

      So, do you keep the military as much as possible? The generals and probably colonels may have fled, but lower ranking officers and other ranks are sitting around wondering what’s going to happen. How much do you pay them? Presumably you’re paying them more than they got – enough to keep them from being corrupt – you’re not skimming off some high # of the cost, nor are your new generals and colonels.

      But you suddenly have to pay everybody enough to disincentivize corruption. Which means that the “being a soldier is better than being a civilian” thing is still in place. In the short term, your average Zimbabwean is very poor, and suddenly here comes this foreigner spending enough money on military spending to keep his troops from relying on corruption.

      So the corruption problem of “people bribing recruiters” would presumably still exist. The question, as with a), is “how do you deal with corruption”? Corruption isn’t a matter of people being shitty and awful and that’s why they steal. It’s a matter of the incentives promoting corruption. Either you pay soldiers and police enough that they aren’t corrupt, or they will extort enough to make up for that. For reference: a quick Google says BLS statistics have average patrol officers making just under $60k a year, more than double the median US salary. Given that you, presumably, are trying to raise the Zimbabwean national average income above ~$3.50 a year, you are going to have to pay cops and soldiers a decent wage.

      And where are you getting your new generals and colonels and such from? What do you do with soldiers who aren’t competent at more than suppressing revolts, who bribed their way into the military and/or were selected for “willingness to suppress revolts” versus “competence”? Ditto police.

      c) Along each step of the way, you expand the number of people who have a say in government. Why do the sortition-selected advice counsels (do you have to listen to their advice?) have an incentive to allow an elected legislature to be made?

      d) $1 million a year is totally not enough for this job. If you took it, if I took it, if anyone took it, they would quickly become pissed off with the fact that the pay is far worse than many US university football coaches (according to USA today, found via Google, the 72nd best paid US university football coach, Scottie Montgomery of the 3-9 this year East Carolina Pirates, gets a mil, and that’s before possible bonus). “This isn’t fair! I am dragging a shattered country out of poverty! I deserve more than this! Let’s just have some of those diamonds mined this year disappear. Some crates must have fallen off a truck. What ever shall I do?”

      e) Seriously, the problem with Zimbabwe is not that Mugabe is a bad man. Mugabe may be a bad man, but corruption is about incentives primarily. “We won’t be corrupt” is not how people avoid corruption. There are plenty of awful corrupt dictators who undoubtedly went in thinking “I am going to save this country, I will be incorruptible, I will hire only the best people, I will right the ship, and then I will make it a democracy bit by bit and retire a beloved hero of the people”. Then they didn’t save the country, became horribly corrupt, hired incompetent but loyal lackies, rammed the ship into an iceberg, somehow never got around to that whole democracy thing, and put up gold statues of themselves inscribed “BELOVED HERO OF THE PEOPLE” in every town square.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        First, a book I recommend that would be relevant is The Dictator’s Handbook by De Mesquita and Smith.

        blink, blink Given the context, I had to Google to make sure you weren’t talking about a book co-written by Ian Smith.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        Thank you for taking the time to write this. It needed saying.

      • Your e is more or less my view of Nixon. I think he came into power intending to do good things. To do good things he had to stay in power, and staying in power ended up as a higher priority than doing the things he was in power to do. His imposition of price and wage controls, which he clearly knew were bad for the country (but good for him politically), is probably the clearest example.

        • dndnrsn says:

          So does this mean you won’t be accepting the position as Commissioner for Economic Research and Creative Anachronism? Drat. You could have had so many gold statues.

      • Aapje says:

        @dndnrsn

        Why are you so certain you and your underlings would be incorruptible?

        I fully agree with you that power corrupts, where a major factor is that leaders become divorced from reality by being in the bubble of power. This is certainly not limited to autocracies and is why term limits are so important in democracies with a powerful single leader (like presidential systems).

        My reasons why I think I would be less corruptible:
        – I’d surround myself with pragmatic system thinkers as advisers, who are probably a bit less susceptible to groupthink. Many of these people would intentionally have little power over me, so my inherent tribalist defense mechanisms would be triggered less than if dissent by them could be an big threat to my ideals
        – I’d seek to reduce groupthink intentionally (I’ve been toying with the idea of rewarding advisers who dissent and punishing those who do not)
        – I think that I have a whistle blower mentality (except without the willingness to martyr myself) and am inherently distrustful of power being abused
        – I am biased to consider myself better than others (unlike the previous ones, this is not a reason why I would be better, but why I think that I’m better)

        Nevertheless, I would probably need to abandon the job before I become too corrupted, but that will probably happen later for me than for people with the mindset of Mugabe or Putin.

        What happens if it turns out one of your underlings has been taking bribes? Do you have the military shoot them?

        Prison seems appropriate or exile (if they are foreign nationals). Why would I need to shoot them?

        Defence forces: you say below that you assume all of the elites have fled the country, including military. So, you’d have to build your own force to keep order. That’s not cheap. How do you build a military/police force?

        The current military is already rather small and the defense budget is relatively tiny at $95 million (you claim it is $60m, which is not the number I found, but your number would work into my favor even more). My theoretical scenario also assumes UA/UN support, so I might be able to get UA or UN troops to do part of the job.

        That is around $1100 per soldier/cop per year.

        Your calculation is wrong, as it assumes that none of the defense budget goes to defense systems, fuel, etc. You are also assuming that all salaries in the military are equal.

        AFAIK, corruption tends to result in huge income differences, especially when there is a power hierarchy, where the less powerful often have to pay part of their salary to those who have power over them. I’d implement anti-corruption measures that would presumably make the common soldier pretty happy. Even if I have to add some money to make this work, we are probably talking about a 10% increase in the defense budget at most, which is peanuts if one can get the economy going.

        That’s how you get soldiers to shoot at their peasant countrymen, by and large.

        My intent is to get popular support from most people, not to govern by force.

        And where are you getting your new generals and colonels and such from?

        From the generals factory Ideally by seeking out competent soldiers/officers and promoting them. I also might take their ethnicity into account to achieve buy-in from all tribes.

        What do you do with soldiers who aren’t competent at more than suppressing revolts, who bribed their way into the military and/or were selected for “willingness to suppress revolts” versus “competence”? Ditto police.

        Suppress their bad habits by anti-corruptions measures, kick out the worst, seek to promote the competent.

        Why do the sortition-selected advice counsels (do you have to listen to their advice?) have an incentive to allow an elected legislature to be made?

        Step 1: A sortition counsel gets to give advice
        Step 2: They get to block some legislation temporarily/be a nuisance
        Step 3: A voted-in counsel gets to give advice
        Step 4: The voted-in counsel get to block some legislation temporarily/be a nuisance
        Step 5: The sortition counsel get to block some legislation permanently
        Step 6: The voted-in counsel get to block some legislation permanently
        Step 7: repeat the previous steps a few times to give the counsels more power
        Step 8: Major reform to set up a bicameral system where new legislation can be blocked by either chamber (the bill will first pass through the voted-in chamber and then through the sortition chamber). Allow full franchise by the people. Further constitutional reform requires 2/3 support in both chambers.

        The above is conditional on the steps working out and further advice from political experts.

        So the answer to your question is that they don’t get to block that decision.

        $1 million a year is totally not enough for this job.

        This is a feature, not a bug. You’d want an altruist who is not motivated by pay. The salary is merely to prevent dismotivation. No realistic salary can compete with the richest that one can gain from corruption, so a high salary is not an effective way to keep a corruption-prone person in check.

        Anyway, your objection seems to boil down to: you need to do bad, corrupting things to stay in power. This is valid criticism. However, I think that you fail to appreciate that most dictators get to power through a power struggle where they have to oppress others to win. This selects for the most easily corruptible people, IMHO. If you look at people that gain power in other ways, you have a decent number people who didn’t let themselves be corrupted too badly, like Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa. Theoretically I could be more like them than like Mugabe.

        BTW. My scenario was set up to not require a power struggle for me to get to power, on purpose.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Aapje

          I fully agree with you that power corrupts, where a major factor is that leaders become divorced from reality by being in the bubble of power. This is certainly not limited to autocracies and is why term limits are so important in democracies with a powerful single leader (like presidential systems).

          My reasons why I think I would be less corruptible:
          – I’d surround myself with pragmatic system thinkers as advisers, who are probably a bit less susceptible to groupthink. Many of these people would intentionally have little power over me, so my inherent tribalist defense mechanisms would be triggered less than if dissent by them could be an big threat to my ideals
          – I’d seek to reduce groupthink intentionally (I’ve been toying with the idea of rewarding advisers who dissent and punishing those who do not)
          – I think that I have a whistle blower mentality (except without the willingness to martyr myself) and am inherently distrustful of power being abused
          – I am biased to consider myself better than others (unlike the previous ones, this is not a reason why I would be better, but why I think that I’m better)

          You really should check out the book – it’s very good. Dictators aren’t divorced from reality, necessarily. All too often they are perfectly clued-in to the reality of staying in power. Being a good person isn’t enough to keep from being corrupted, from doing shitty things to stay in power, etc. It might make it worse – after all, I am so much better and fairer and more moral than everyone else, so obviously I should be in power, which justifies me stealing diamonds and giving the generals a cut and ordering them to fire on civilians, to stay in power. They’ll all thank me later.

          Nevertheless, I would probably need to abandon the job before I become too corrupted, but that will probably happen later for me than for people with the mindset of Mugabe or Putin.

          This is probably what all corrupt dictators thought going in, though.

          Prison seems appropriate or exile (if they are foreign nationals). Why would I need to shoot them?

          Who guards the prison? Who forces them into exile? You get the idea.

          The current military is already rather small and the defense budget is relatively tiny at $95 million (you claim it is $60m, which is not the number I found, but your number would work into my favor even more). My theoretical scenario also assumes UA/UN support, so I might be able to get UA or UN troops to do part of the job.

          UN troops have … not the best reputation for competence, incorruptibility, and doing the job right instead of doing it cheap. From basically playing along with ethnic cleansers (Dutchbat at Srebrenica, peacekeepers in Rwanda), to screwing up sanitation resulting in a deadly cholera epidemic (Nepalese peacekeepers in Haiti), to accusations in different times and places of various sexual and sex-related crimes, to give a few examples. I highly doubt that the AU or its troops would do a better job in any way.

          Your calculation is wrong, as it assumes that none of the defense budget goes to defense systems, fuel, etc. You are also assuming that all salaries in the military are equal.

          I was not saying that the budget is “give each soldier/cop a grand” – I should have been clearer. I’m saying that the budget amounts to a bit over a grand per year per individual person. There is obviously huge corruption going on – Wikipedia lists the number of tanks and so forth they have running; there’s no way their military costs 305x the average income per soldier/cop to run.

          AFAIK, corruption tends to result in huge income differences, especially when there is a power hierarchy, where the less powerful often have to pay part of their salary to those who have power over them. I’d implement anti-corruption measures that would presumably make the common soldier pretty happy. Even if I have to add some money to make this work, we are probably talking about a 10% increase in the defense budget at most, which is peanuts if one can get the economy going.

          Why would anti-corruption measures make the common soldiers happy? They supplement their pay by extorting civilians, and as you go from privates to sergeants or whatever, there’s probably an “I take a cut of your bribes, Private” thing going on. A bit up the command chain, the mid-ranking officers extort businesses and richer civilians and probably take a cut of bribes from lower down. Higher up, they pocket money that should go to their troops, which is why the troops extort civilians in the first place, pocket money that should go to equipment, and indulge in diamond theft, probably. Etc.

          My intent is to get popular support from most people, not to govern by force.

          Probably most dictators start off like this. Popular support is hard, and force is easy, as long as you keep the military and police happy. So, they end up saying to themselves “I’m just gonna use force for a little bit, until the people come round and realize things are better for them now.”

          Ideally by seeking out competent soldiers/officers and promoting them. I also might take their ethnicity into account to achieve buy-in from all tribes.

          What happens when different tribes start complaining they’re not represented enough and demanding that you hire more of them to make up for that, and the candidates aren’t competent enough? Do you tell them “Sorry, the Orange Tribe is just more competent, suck it up, Green Tribe”? Then before you know it you have unrest among the Green Tribe, outraged that this foreign interloper is placing their hated enemies the Orange Tribe above them, clearly he is playing favourites, and the unrest turns to people refusing to pay their taxes, and they run the tax collectors off, and then you have to send soldiers from the Orange Tribe (after all, you can’t expect the Green Tribe to police their own people in this situation) along with the tax collectors, and then the shooting starts, and before you know it you’re ruling by force.

          Suppress their bad habits by anti-corruptions measures, kick out the worst, seek to promote the competent.

          Who enforces the anti-corruption measures? Who makes sure the worst are kicked out – what happens when you try to kick out Colonel So-and-So and he rallies the 9th Incorruptible Regiment against you after they all accept a cut according to rank of his illegal diamond haul? What happens when you promote Major Such-and-Such to replace the colonel and he starts taking bribes because he decides the workload increase from major to colonel was not made up for by the pay increase? After all, there are all these diamonds!

          [snip technical discussion ]So the answer to your question is that they don’t get to block that decision.

          But presumably somebody does, or multiple somebodies do. You’re dealing with the problem of vanguardism (I think I’m going to start a thread below). Well-intentioned people go in intending to hand over power to the people as soon as it’s practical and the people are ready. Somehow, it rarely occurs that it’s practical and the people are ready, at least according to the vanguard.

          This is a feature, not a bug. You’d want an altruist who is not motivated by pay. The salary is merely to prevent dismotivation. No realistic salary can compete with the richest that one can gain from corruption, so a high salary is not an effective way to keep a corruption-prone person in check.

          An altruist motivated by pay, though, might become less altruistic and more motivated by pay when they realize that the job is really, really, really hard, they are underappreciated, their attempts to fix things aren’t working like they expected, etc.

          Anyway, your objection seems to boil down to: you need to do bad, corrupting things to stay in power. This is valid criticism. However, I think that you fail to appreciate that most dictators get to power through a power struggle where they have to oppress others to win. This selects for the most easily corruptible people, IMHO. If you look at people that gain power in other ways, you have a decent number people who didn’t let themselves be corrupted too badly, like Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa. Theoretically I could be more like them than like Mugabe.

          Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa both had a track record of local credibility, though. You wouldn’t. IN both cases there was a quick transition to democracy, not a vanguardist who will totes for sure make it a democracy later. Poland had a far higher standard of living and was far less of a disaster than Zimbabwe – probably because the ruling coalition was larger. South Africa had to wait until Mandela was no longer on the scene politically until his underlings and successors (including his ex-wife – who is a real piece of work – Mandela’s hands were clean; hers are most definitely not) could get corrupt and make South Africa a semi-one-party state. The Polish government is currently, uh, maybe veering a little bit away from liberal democracy, and South Africa is flat-out not a place I would consider to be a shining success story – its major selling point is “not Zimbabwe”.

          The best thing you could do is make it a democracy, a real democracy, by any means necessary, right then and right there. It would be messy, but it would not create the incentives for the well-intentioned, smart, good-hearted vanguardists to turn into a corrupt elite, just like they always do.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think a little bit of corruption would be permissible; after all, here in the developed world we have ‘parish pump politics’ and porkbarrelling, right?

            Let the new Minister for Turnips funnel some of those sweet central government goodies (and it needn’t be money, it can be decentralising administrative offices, new projects for growing flax, whatever) to his home base and let the people in the villages see that they’ll get a share of the good times. This is better than the Minister for Turnips deciding all the funding for the flax growing development should, er, rest in his Swiss bank account until it’s needed.

            What’s important is:

            (a) it’s not above a certain small percentage. The Minister has to let other areas apart from his home village have a bite at the cherry, too

            (b) other ministers get the chance, and you have real elections (or however you choose a rotating set of government rather than letting one lot stay in power forever and a day) that stick so that there is real turnover and the people in the next part of the country see that they have a chance to get their guy in as Minister for Turnips to give juicy construction contracts for the shiny new offices to their local building firms so steady employment for the next two years is guaranteed

            (c) you keep enough control so that nobody can get away with funnelling all the goodies to his home base and this then leads to private Swiss bank accounts all over again

          • Deiseach says:

            that will probably happen later for me than for people with the mindset of Mugabe or Putin

            When Mugabe took over power, there were real fears about his beliefs and policies, but at first he did run on racial reconciliation, keeping down tribal division, conservative budgetary decisions, raising literacy and education levels and health levels.

            It was only ten years or so in that things started to go wrong, at first gradually and then accelerating for various reasons.

            “I’m not going to end up like him” is more of a trap than it seems.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think there’s a line between “that $50 mil that was supposed to go to G8-related infrastructure all got spent on gazebos in the Minister of Industry’s riding” and “where did that $2 billion of diamonds go?” So, yeah, the former happens. That’s how politics works in democracies. The latter is what I’m worried about in this scenario. At least in the first case some members of the public get to sit in gazebos.

            There’s also the degree to which corruption is an everyday thing that people deal with – police pulling you over and the fine for the traffic violation is conveniently the amount you have in your wallet.

          • The best thing you could do is make it a democracy, a real democracy, by any means necessary, right then and right there.

            It occurs to me that this argument is a central element of the series of alternate history novels started with 1632 by Eric Flint. Pretty clearly the author agrees with the quote above.

            For those who haven’t read them, they start with a modern west Virginia mining town somehow transported to Germany during the Thirty Years War. One question is whether the Americans should try to establish an empire ruled by them or invite locals to join their society as equal citizens in a democracy. They choose the latter strategy and it works–although, of course, that doesn’t tell us what would happen in the real world.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’ll try to read the book, but can’t right away.

            UN troops have … not the best reputation for competence, incorruptibility, and doing the job right instead of doing it cheap.

            The big advantage is that it would put me at the mercy of the UN, which greatly detracts from me being seen as a dictator. I also think that you are a bit too negative about UN troops. Failures are often due to being put in impossible situations or just not being allowed to effectively intervene.

            One can take advantage of UN failure in this regard by establishing a ‘personal body guard’ of elite troops that can intervene when small treats arise that need to be contained. The UN/AU peacekeepers probably won’t have the mandate to stop my elite troops.

            The leadership of the peacekeeping mission is also likely to get disenchanted, which gives a vector to manipulate them into backing me in covert ways (by not reporting certain things, for example).

            Why would anti-corruption measures make the common soldiers happy?

            As you say, the military leaders benefit the most, however, even they think it is going too far. So one should be able to scale the corruption back with backing of the military.

            Popular support is hard, and force is easy, as long as you keep the military and police happy.

            Force gives blow back. I’d focus very hard on propaganda.

            What happens when different tribes start complaining they’re not represented enough and demanding that you hire more of them to make up for that, and the candidates aren’t competent enough?

            You can play psychological games to make it their problem. For example, make both tribes responsible for offering up 4 candidates for 2 positions, so you get to pick from 8 candidates. You would normally pick 1 from each tribe, but not always. That keeps them on their toes and forces them to improve their own recruitment processes. So at that point they start looking to improve their own tribe, rather than just looking at the dictator to solve all their problems.

            Divide and conquer. Did I mention that I’d want a psychology expert in my team? No. I do. Hack those brains.

            Somehow, it rarely occurs that it’s practical and the people are ready

            True and one has to take risks here as people can only truly develop their fitness by having power. However, it still makes a difference if you teach people a lot beforehand and train them, so they have something to fall back on, versus having to wing it.

            An altruist motivated by pay, though, might become less altruistic and more motivated by pay when they realize that the job is really, really, really hard, they are underappreciated, their attempts to fix things aren’t working like they expected, etc.

            Or he may get on a plane and say ‘fuck it.’ Which is what I would do.

            I have a book about dictators to read anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            It is obviously impossible to eliminate corruption in one stroke. Even when most people say that they dislike corruption, that mainly applies to when they are made to pay, not so much when they are paid (‘That is not corruption! That is just fair compensation!’).

            It’s always a long term project and even in the West, we have decent amounts of corruption left.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I also think that you are a bit too negative about UN troops. Failures are often due to being put in impossible situations or just not being allowed to effectively intervene.

            If anything, I think he’s being excessively charitable. There is maybe a case for that sort of argument in the case of the Belgians in Rwanda, but even there you have to expect the same things that crippled Dallaire to cripple even the best of your available UN forces. For the rest, you have UNforced errors (no pun intended), and conduct that in many cases was a violation of their home service and/or nation’s code of conduct for soldiers!

            What’s more, you’re NOT going to get German, French, British, Dutch, Danish, or Belgian troops, except in penny packets. The operative colloquialism for this is “trying to stiffen up a bucket of spit with a handful of buckshot”.

            Instead, the bulk of any UN troops are most likely going to be from Ethiopia, Gabon, Chad, etc.

            Which, sorry, really does mean relatively low-quality soldiers by first world standards, with restrictive ROE, no loyalty to you, and whom you cannot discipline or control effectively…and for whom you will still bear absolute and total responsibility in the eyes of your people.

            To be clear, I actually think a lot of African soldiers are doing their absolute best in impossibly shitty situations all over the continent. But the good ones are by and large stuck in shitty command structures with broken leadership. You can’t rely entirely on 1st world troops (they won’t be available and will alienate your citizens) or 1st world mercenaries (they’ll alienate your citizens even faster, cost too much, and are not available in the quantities you need for the length of time you need).

            This is why I strongly suggested starting with a force of foreign -cadre- with the intent to build a new military and police force out of your own citizens as quickly as you can.

            That said, I think I’ve harped too much on the “Security” side of things and given the impression that my preferred strategy would be to govern by junta, which is not the case. I just think that the initial stages of dealing with anarchy and building order will require more ammo boxes than ballot boxes.

            EDIT: Moved the second part of this to a direct reply below. Trying to consolidate, sorry.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @dndnrsn – “The best thing you could do is make it a democracy, a real democracy, by any means necessary, right then and right there.”

            I share your skepticism of Vangaurdist schemes. On the other hand, can you cite third-world examples where the method you describe has worked?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            I really do recommend the book. I think it’s the kind of book a lot of people here would be into. Ultimately, I agree with it that corruption and bad behaviour by leaders is a result of bad systems that create bad incentives.

            I subscribe to the view that the vast majority of truly bad things are done by people who think they are in the right, or at least not in the wrong. They do something bad to another person, and avoid seeing it. They steal something – but they needed the money. They cheated on the test, but everyone else does it too, and why should they disadvantage themself through excessive honesty? Sure, that hostile takeover followed by raiding the pension plan probably screwed a lot of people, but don’t hate the player, hate the game – if they didn’t do it, someone else would.

            On a larger scale, the worst crimes of history have largely been committed by people who thought that what they were doing was good and right. “It’s us or them” is a common sentiment among people who have ordered mass murder and those who have carried it out.

            I ain’t no statistician, but comparing the number of people who went into a situation like that and became awful dictators, and those who didn’t, the prior is “I would probably become a dictator, or get ousted/killed pretty quick, and so would most people”.

            As for corruption in the first world – I don’t think we know what true corruption is. Pork barrel stuff is just how the game is played. I’m talking about stuff like having to slip money to cops when they pull you over, having to bribe your professors to get through university with decent marks, or being able to pay government functionaries to declare your relatives dead so you can steal their land.

            @facelesscraven:

            No, not really. South Africa, maybe. South Africa had a really good shot at becoming a democracy, did a lot of things right, but while Mandela appears to have been a one-in-a million honestly good human being who did not succumb to what must have been a lot of temptation, the same cannot be said of a lot of the other ANC people – some of them are quite corrupt. The situation there does not seem to be getting better. I don’t know much about Ghana, but the two major parties seem to have traded power since a proper democracy was established, so that’s something at least. Intensive Wikipedia research tells me that Mauritius is the only African country considered by The Economist to be a full democracy.

            Democracy isn’t easy but I think that “go straight to democracy, do not send dissidents to jail, do not steal $2 billion of diamonds” is more likely to result in democracy than “I will totally transfer power to a democracy, uh, when everything’s ready – also, cleaning out the Presidential Palace is taking longer than I expected”.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I agree that a lot of dictators slide into bad behavior due to not setting a Schelling fence and making gradual decisions that appear individually ‘the lesser evil,’ but are too optimistic and have more blow back than expected.

            BUT I’M DIFFERENT AND I HAVE MY FINGERS IN MY EARS SO I DON’T HEAR YOU 😛

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      This is probably one of those really interesting threads that, due to when it was started, I won’t have time to respond to with a properly researched and sourced plan before the commentariat moves on. Frustrating.

      That said, I’m going to try and fill in some vision statement bullet points for the military side of things. I think Aapje has some good ideas for the broad strokes government side. That leaves a linked trifecta of Agricultural, Economic, and Infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. To be clear, I acknowledge that while the military and police side of things can, if successful, create breathing room inside which the government can oversee plans to address that trifecta, unless those three areas are addressed quickly the entire enterprise will collapse:

      -Stability comes first. Trying to handwave “elites abandoning the country” and “chaos has come and gone and you can pick up the pieces without armed resistance” is simply silly in the context of Africa in general, and even moreso in the context of Zimbabwe in particular.

      -Therefore, The first organs of your new government are going to be the police and military organs.

      -You can perhaps -start- with a core of foreign mercenaries, but you will rapidly need to expand and build the force out with your new citizens. Not only does this help to create some of the buy-in, but every young man (or woman) carrying a rifle for you is (if you’re not fucking up) a young man you don’t have to kill in the bush later.

      -For the military cadre, I’d start with as many US Army Special Forces veterans from both Active and Reserve SFGs with prior experience as trainers and liaisons in SE Africa. Pair them with subject-matter experts on local language, culture, etc before they deploy. I am not aware of any other military force that emphasizes the skillset of “building trust and cooperation and training up a professional fighting force in a third world country” the way Army SF does.

      -For the police cadre, I’m torn. Ideally, you want the cops to be trained in almost peelian principles, and for them to be the literal “Good Cop”. If doors need to be kicked down, I’d rather have my military forces do it, to avoid tarnishing the reputation of the police. At the same time, I don’t want them so defenseless they’re an easy target. If it wasn’t getting late for me. I’m open to suggestion for low-corruption police forces whose institutional knowledge and culture would make them a good place to recruit from for this. My thought is commonwealth countries and former commonwealth colonies.

      -How do you expand, someone asked earlier? You do it the same way Napoleon did: Make it clear that it’s a New Day, A New World, and for an honest man who is loyal to the country as a whole, the Sky’s The Limit. General’s Stars in Every Knapsack, etc.

      -Emphasis on military training is inculcating a sense of collective identity stronger than the old tribal loyalties. This is hard. Really, REALLY hard, as we found out in Iraq, but I’d have the advantage of not going in trying to totally stay away from former soldiers initially. Break up tribal groups as much as possible, and initially you might need to seed your Zimbabwean troops into units that are majority foreign/mercenary, then slowly filter new native troops in and foreign troops out, until you have enough of a reliable Zimbabwean NCO backbone to start letting them take over.

      -Once your troops are far enough along, blooding them will go a long way towards baking in unit cohesion. Flip side of this is that if you try it too soon, your units will break and splinter. Who are we blooding them against? Well, possibly the Ndebele, possible foreign opportunists attempting to exploit the chaos, remnants of the old order. It will be an enemy-rich environment, I think.

      -Final note: Military and Police forces are great for strengthening national identity. In extremis, I might look to something like 19th century Prussia or 20th century Israel as sources of inspiration. I feel like there might be some way to tie land ownership to military/civil service. Initially, as much as it chafes my libertarian-leaning principles, I think a lot of medical, utility, and even agricultural activity will need to be government or even military controlled and directed, and spun off as soon as possible.

      Personally, when I say “spun off”, for a scenario like this I don’t mean “Sold off to companies”, but “sold or given to the individuals who were administering/using it while it was under state or military control”. We had a discussion about the issues of issuing ownership shares in former state concerns to former Soviet citizens awhile back, and I think it’s a real problem, but again, I think Aapje is right that “buy-in” is a real concern, and nothing gets skin in the game like ownership.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The major issue is always going to be corruption. How do you pay the troops enough that they don’t shake down farmers, while not creating an incentive for farmers who want to be soldiers (because the pay is good and you probably get fed better) to bribe the recruiting officers? How do you give people more authority as their rank goes up without corruption ensuing?

        This ordinarily would be more of a factor for the police, but in developing countries (the cynic might note that some of these countries aren’t even developing) the military tends to take on a good chunk of stuff police would ordinarily do. Your average person in the developing world is far less likely to see guys in camo with rifles manning checkpoints, asking people for their papers, etc than in a developing country. Zimbabwe’s police force is part of their military, actually.

        You probably don’t have to worry about your badass ex-Special Forces mercenaries being corrupt – those guys get paid pretty well, to the point that what they can get by shaking down people who earn a penny a day is less than their time is worth – and you certainly don’t have to worry about them being stereotypical developing-world militaries, great at shaking down peasants but poor in a fight.

        With the actual military, I think the focus would have to be on avoiding corruption over military capability. You don’t want them to be zero-discipline runs-away-discarding-poorly-maintained-rifles types, but that’s strongly correlated with shaking down peasants.

        In the short term, the badass mercenaries can smack around any external threats, and any internal threats that pop up; once the core of a military that is disciplined and professional enough to not shake down peasants is there, ideally the situation in the country will be better than before, and you can start buying armoured vehicles and helicopters and planes for them. As opposed to what seems to be quite common in the developing world – heavy equipment that is of good quality and presumably expensive, but the crews abandon them and desert, and they weren’t maintained properly anyhow.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        @Dndnrsn

        I agree, the corruption issue is huge. That’s one of the reasons I want the ex-Special Forces guys. I don’t know if I made it clear enough before, but what makes the US Army SF special is NOT their ability to kick ass and take names. They do it really well, mind you, but I want people with that background if possible because their specific, specialty skillset is “Go to a third-world country. Make contact with and live with your native allies for an extended period of time. Develop trust, rapport, and moral authority. Use that reputation and your high level of skills and knowledge (including language/cultural skills) to train up a professional fighting force, whether conventional or guerrilla, operating creatively to deal with the constraints of the situation”. I don’t want them as trigger-pullers. I want them as training cadre and mentors. Combat leaders to a limited extent initially, but as little as possible, and transitioning out as soon as they can train their replacements.

        Additionally, note that I mentioned establishing a separate police force simultaneously with starting to rebuild a new military. I very much NEED there to be a separate police force that IS a police force. National at first because until the cultural values are established -they’re- vulnerable to corruption and cooption as well and because we’re starting from a top-down initial point (Congratulations, Lysenko, You’re playing Real Life Tropico! Try Not To Die!), but breaking down to regional and then local forces as soon as can be arranged because I want to keep them tied to and accountable to their communities.

        This gets back to balancing forces against each other, and also allows cops to be cops and soldiers to be soldiers. As you point out, there’s a tendency to mix the two in these situations, and as EVERYONE’s pointed out, blurring those lines ends in tears pretty much every time.

        Yes, military training WILL be in many ways more about inculcating cultural values than military readiness. But then, GOOD military training already is. What’s more, good basic military training is teaching things like “fuck your buddy, fuck yourself” with lessons that hit home a lot more effectively than a powerpoint slide of “Living Our Core Values”. This is one of the reasons I need time between the start of my glorious new regime and the dissolution of dictatorial powers and transition to full democracy. I want to use military basic training and police academies as the crucible for the next generation of citizens.

        In America, and in other first world western countries (though I think to a lesser extent), we place the emphasis on the institution of collective, government-controlled education for all childen. Long term, I think that is ABSOLUTELY essential here too. But we’re starting in crisis mode, and I don’t have K-12 to grow citizens. I don’t even have K-6. I could actually write a whole, huge, long-winded post on how I’d want to build primary schooling and trade schools and public service academies and diversify from there, but this is getting rambly as-is. Suffice to say, primary school educators and supports are my 4th most important skillset I need mass quantities of in the first few years. 1st is soldiers, 2nd is cops, 3rd is farmers, civil engineers, logisticians, and the people who can keep the lights on, the water clean, the food produced and moved to the people. The point of the exercise is to get to the point where the security and stability improves enough to eventually reverse those priorities.

        A final word regarding equipment: I’m actually not really worried about lots and lots of heavy equipment. In fact, one thing I wouldn’t mind AU or UN assistance with would be -external- defense, at first. A meaningful air force and guard against invasion that can keep me from getting conquered by an opportunistic neighborl long enough for me to stabilize things.

        I’d basically be looking for the cheapest light-medium firepower I could get a good price on without sacrificing quality. And I wouldn’t start with guns. I’d start with uniforms, boots, socks, bedrolls, personal mess kit, and other personal items. This actually ties back into military training above (discipline, attention to detail, honesty because there will be theft/sale of same and it provides an opportunity for object lessons), it takes care of the troops, and that helps to instill loyalty. Also, while it is absolutely possible to peculate from these sorts of supplies (If you’re interested I’ll try to find some stories from special forces guys about going to train with Central American platoons full of guys with fucked up boots and foot injuries because their officers sold the boots), it’s a lot harder to do stealthily and the profits are lower.

        For personal weapons, It would really depend on what I could get, deal-wise: As much as possible I’d want to train on what was already on hand and upgrade piecemeal to newer versions of the same family. So most likely AK/Galil stuff from Bulgaria, Serbia, Israel, or South Africa if I can get it.

        I don’t imagine buying anything much heavier than an IFV to start with, and for probably quite some time, the military would be geared basically for counter-insurgency and bush warfare against rebels and terrorists…and to flip around and become a guerrilla force defending against a more wealthy aggressor. SAMs are cheaper than planes. ATGMs and mines are cheaper than tanks. And so forth and so on.

        Finally, since you’re on about corruption a lot, and justly so, let me add that one of the subject matter experts I haven’t seen mentioned: auditors and accountants. I want tax auditors, business auditors, inventory specialists like RGIS. I want them to be 1st World contractors or 1st world NGO volunteers with a background in government service and/or business best practices.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Trofim Lysenko:

          I was vaguely aware that’s what the Green Berets are good at. I knew that was their bag during the Vietnam War, at least. Is it a skill that one can get in mercenary form? Or is it dependent on both the skills of the men themselves and the capabilities provided by the institution?

          A thought: perhaps there would be some value in “civilian conscription”. Not an attempt to centralize agriculture (which is usually disastrous), but quickly build some fellow-feeling, make sure that any basic skills that may have disappeared during the disaster Zimbabwe has experienced are picked up again, and perhaps get people thinking nationally instead of locally, if that’s an issue. Just a quick-and-dirty month or two of “this is how modern farming works” and so on. Maybe something similar for the various technicians you’ll need.

          And, yeah, making sure that there’s auditors and such, that would be very important.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          It’s absolutely a skill that’s available in mercenary form. In fact, training and “train and equip” contracts are a large part of what firms like MPRI and Triple Canopy do (two of the first picks for such a contract). I’d love to supplement that with military cooperation and training with the US proper, but that’s probably down the road, though getting AU or UN funds paid directly to a known and established military training contractor could go a long way towards defraying costs.

          The capabilities provided by the host nation matter a lot too, but the biggest constraint is often the willingness of the host nation/host military to take the advice/training. That should not be an issue in this case.

          On “civilian conscription”: In case there was some confusion, I am actually against military conscription. It creates more problems than it solves, and if anything I suspect the training process will winnow down the ZNA and national police (many of whom might end up kicked over to the military side since they’re paramilitary as-is and might not be re-trainable as actual cops) to no more than 20-25,000 personnel, at least initially. Quality over quantity, because I’m not going to be invading anyone, and if I have to use them as an occupying force in my own country it’s time to give this up as a failure anyway. They just need to be big enough to defeat rebellions, defeat small scale incursions, and be a credible deterrent against conquest.

          That -said-, I think that setting up mixed classes and “Boot camps” for civilian professions could be useful. OUr Engineers Without Borders poster may be able to comment on that idea more since that’s the sort of thing where getting NGO cooperation could be very useful as a cost-saving measure.

          Speaking of defraying costs, I looked through the ZNA and ZAF equipment, and…well, frankly I’d probably be gutting the heavy equipment. Sell off what you can to other militaries. What you can’t sell whole, de-mil and sell to collectors/museums. What you can’t de-mil and sell, de-mil and repurpose for civilian economy and infrastructure, even if that means diesel engines mounted to provide power and a water pump for a village. What you can’t repurpose, scrap and sell piecemeal or even for raw materials value. You’re saving money on training, maintenance, and so on too, not just recouping as much loss as you can.

          What will be kept and what the gaps will eventually be filled with will depend on who’s willing to do business. I’d prefer not to become dependent upon chinese, russian, or American platforms if at all possible, and again I am actively against buying all the fanciest new toys.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What’s it’s success rate like? Is it better, or worse, than national militaries attempting to do it? Just from fairly shallow reading on the situation, it doesn’t seem that attempts to build effective national armies and police forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have been successful. It seems like both have all the corruption, incompetence, and unwillingness to fight that would constitute a failure in our scenario here.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            This isn’t a great answer, but it really is “it depends” and “it’s complicated”. Generally speaking, as I understand it, the big constraints tend to be the cultural and political ones. And I think that having a top level government that was actually willing to tackle those issues at the same time as the purely academic ones will make a huge difference.

            As for Iraq and Afghanistan, Yes and No. Compare the performance of their Special Forces units with their general military. Their success tells me that building a professional, disciplined force there IS possible…given willingness to spend the time and effort to do so. Iraqi and Afghan SF generally perform about as well as good European or maybe American regular combat arms troops. Part of this is simply picking out the best candidates from the general crop of recruits and giving them special attention (See my comment about probably having to downsize the military forces by a significant amount initially and quality over quantity). Another part was that they were trained by 30-40 year old SF veterans who specialized in and not by 19-25 year old junior NCOs and officers.

            Finally, a lot of the training in both cases was hampered by political and cultural issues that again I think we can overcome. Not having the free hand to build a military -culture- and make it more than just “hey, best job going right now”. Not having a free hand to go after corruption within the officer corps for fear of alienating people. And trying to start without ANY of the ones with previous experience rather than sifting through them to see who was worth keeping and retraining.

            This article talks in broad terms about Iraq from the perspective of vets, and pretty much encapsulates my personal experience and that of the other veterans I spoke with or have since read accounts from. I’ll try to dig up something more in-depth and academic/formal when I can.

            There are also good historical examples of building well-disciplined fighting forces in third world countries…but it was usually done by imperialist and colonialist powers. I would look to what we did to create those generally successful units in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to what the British did in India and Pakistan in the 1800s, and to other historical examples more than to our attempts to build a 100,000+ person military from scratch.

        • Aapje says:

          @Trofim_Lysenko

          If you look at the history of war, interestingly it’s often the risk-takers who actually have lower casualty rates and higher success, while the conservative plodders get themselves stuck in stalemates that grind down their troops for no gain.

          For example, both Patton and Rommel greatly favored fast maneuvering and leading from the front to take advantage of opportunities that arise in the chaos.

          During Vietnam, there were experiments with troops living in Vietnamese villages, but the leadership favored concentrating troops in bases, which seems safer, but which actually resulted in often repeating the same fights, having poor intelligence and little kinship with the Vietnamese civilians.

          And you have Petraeus who was very effective with similar tactics in Iraq.

          PS. I already was planning to bring in external accountants and auditors.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            but does that mean that risk-takers were good enough to take risks and conservative plodders weren’t

            i’m just saying, those guys are famous. Maybe that’s because they had the balls to use the strategy that wins, and no one else is, which is also maybe why it’s so effective. But is it possible to have a sortition bias? Not to rain on your parade though D:

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            True, to some extent, but I’m not sure how this observation relates to what I’ve suggested? In operational terms, I’d tend to favor lighter and faster moving forces due to fiscal and infrastructure complaints. Something closer to what I understand of South African doctrine.

            And “de l’audace, encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace” is also a wonderful way to get your ass kicked REALLY badly. If you try it and -aren’t- ready for it, you invite the disorganization of command, control, and communications within your units. You run into issues like outrunning your logistical tail and exposing it to being cut or captured, or to defeat in detail due to being too spread out.

            The most important part of implementing it is…get ready for it…having a highly reliable, highly disciplined and highly trained fighting force. It requires creating and mentoring junior leaders and allowing intelligent initiative. And that ties RIGHT back into the training approach and focus I want to emphasize.

    • cassander says:

      You’ll never get away with that. You get maybe a year of dictatorship, tops, before the international community turns on you.

      What you do is establish local democracy, swiss style. Break the country into small enough chunks that each one is relatively homogenous, then let them do their own thing. Keep the central government tiny, just courts of appeal, a military, and a treasury. Keep everything worth controlling, education, transport, normal courts, at the local level. Write a constitution that makes it difficult for the localities to do things outside their borders, easy for them to do them inside them, and for the localities and central government to make each other stop doing things, but not to start.

      Then step back, consider that you’ve created a political system where locality governors are the most powerful people. This will result in a system where greed keeps the central government relatively honest (if you want to steal, it’s easier to do so at the state level), competition between localities keeps the locals honest (they’re small enough it’s easy to leave), and every locality is homogenous to prevent serious social strife.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I actually rather like the swiss-style, as I’ve noted before, and honestly that or something like it would be the idealized end goal. However, I think that if you try to apply it in Africa absent a LOT of the sociopolitical and cultural foundation, what you’ll get is a reversion to tribal and familial strongmen and a snakes nest of both internal and external conflict.

        One of the things that makes a confederacy work is its ability to coordinate and cooperate against external hostile actors. If you try to establish that from the get go in Zimbabwe, I think you’d get Ndebele-Shona war fueled by support and maneuvering from their tribal allies in neighboring countries.

        But take it back a step further, even: “create a political system”? How, without dictatorial powers? Breaking the country into smaller chunks? How, without military supremacy which means dictatorial power and dictating terms? If you just call a constitutional convention, I’ve got news for you: “Canton-style local democracy” is not even going to be on the table as an option with meaningful popular support, no matter how much you or I might like the idea.

        If you need to go from “Dictator” to “Free and Fair Elections” in one year, I’d say it’s flat-out impossible. The cultural support just isn’t there. It has to be built, and that’s the work of at least half a generation probably more like a generation or two of slow and steady transition.

        • Deiseach says:

          If you try to establish that from the get go in Zimbabwe, I think you’d get Ndebele-Shona war fueled by support and maneuvering from their tribal allies in neighboring countries.

          Which is where much-maligned patriotism and nationalism comes in; you have to get the tribes to agree – and even more than that, to feel – that “We are all Zimbabweans, we rise from the same sacred earth of the motherland” rather than “I’m part of this ethnic/tribal bloc and have more in common with, and more loyalty to and support from, my kindred fifty miles across the border than I do with this rival tribesman down the street”.

          And that is not easily done at all.

        • cassander says:

          >However, I think that if you try to apply it in Africa absent a LOT of the sociopolitical and cultural foundation, what you’ll get is a reversion to tribal and familial strongmen and a snakes nest of both internal and external conflict.

          you have to remember the swiss system was born precisely because the swiss were a bunch of ornery hill people who were massively divided over religion, culture, ethnicity, language, etc. It turned that snake’s nest into a place that is most famous for working so well it’s boring. Now, obviously it wasn’t entirely the result of the swiss system of government, but it has to get some of the credit.

          >One of the things that makes a confederacy work is its ability to coordinate and cooperate against external hostile actors. If you try to establish that from the get go in Zimbabwe, I think you’d get Ndebele-Shona war fueled by support and maneuvering from their tribal allies in neighboring countries.

          Why would you get that? the national government can still tax, still has a military (and it will be one you create from the ground up). What we’re crippling is its ability to do things besides the military without very broad consensus.

          > How, without dictatorial powers? Breaking the country into smaller chunks? How, without military supremacy which means dictatorial power and dictating terms? If you just call a constitutional convention, I’ve got news for you: “Canton-style local democracy” is not even going to be on the table as an option with meaningful popular support, no matter how much you or I might like the idea.

          Who writes any constitution? A bunch of oligarchs somewhere who are either already running the country or expect to be doing so soon. Constitutions are never created by a democratic process, at best they’re ratified by one, usually without even the pretense of other options.

          >If you need to go from “Dictator” to “Free and Fair Elections” in one year, I’d say it’s flat-out impossible. The cultural support just isn’t there. It has to be built, and that’s the work of at least half a generation probably more like a generation or two of slow and steady transition.

          Probably. Hopefully, you can use the local democracy as an excuse to extend your dictatorial power for a few more years, or in a more realistic scenario, you use the fact that the US/international force is still actually providing all your security, training your military, and giving you most of the funds you’re spending to maintain preserve an informal veto power over bad decisions.

          But even if you can’t do that, the only alternative is free and fair elections…..in a system more prone to corruption.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            you have to remember the swiss system was born precisely because the swiss were a bunch of ornery hill people who were massively divided over religion, culture, ethnicity, language, etc.

            Massive divisions are actually a good problem to have, as you can cater to the fear of each group being dominated. It’s much more difficult if the have a 80/20 divide like in Zimbabwe, because then one group can permanently dominate the other. At that point, there is a strong incentive for the 80% to ignore the issues of the 20%, leading to unrest; or for the 20% to set up a minority dicatorship to prevent this from happening.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          @Cassander

          Oh, I’m very aware of that. But that process took lots of fighting and lots of time, and we are operating under time pressure here.

          Once again, I think that setting cultural groundwork is crucially important, and I have a hard time picturing a scenario where an outside dictator can step in, turn things around, hand down a constitution to be ratified by an oligarchical assembly, then step aside and hold really good internationally recognized elections in just a few years.

          Hell, given “Zimbabwe has totally collapsed. Mugabe regime is gone. You’re dictator now. Good luck”, I think it might take “A few years” just to get to the point where starvation, disease, and warring tribal and political groups aren’t killing off your citizens by the tens of thousands.

          Yes, there’s a national military, but that military takes time to build. Over a year to do it right (see my long-ass comment about training above.)

          Man, I’m coming to agree with some of the old complaints about how this thread system works. This is a very interesting conversation but it’s getting hard to wrangle.

          • cassander says:

            >Once again, I think that setting cultural groundwork is crucially important, and I have a hard time picturing a scenario where an outside dictator can step in, turn things around, hand down a constitution to be ratified by an oligarchical assembly, then step aside and hold really good internationally recognized elections in just a few years.

            that’s almost literally what happens in every major single nation building effort. Admittedly, results vary, but that’s the nature of the beast. Would a 20 year plan work better? sure, but it will never be in the cards.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Help me out then, and point me to successful examples of short-term nation building.

            All the successful ones I can think of, starting with the big 20th Century duo of post-WW2 Germany and Japan, are 10-20+ year projects or longer.

            EDIT: To be clear, I’d be willing to call it good if our hypothetical Nu-Zimbabwe ended up on par with, say, early 2000s Eastern European levels of “success”. And to further clarify by which I mean something a lot more like Poland, the Czech Republic, or Slovakia than Ukraine…

          • dndnrsn says:

            Plus, it’s not as though Germany and Japan didn’t have much to build on. Sure, they’d both seen major industrial areas reduced to rubble, but rebuilding factories is relatively easy compared to “how do we prevent corruption?”

            The standard of living in much of Sub-Saharan Africa is so much lower than Eastern Europe that setting that as a benchmark for “good” seems a bit over-ambitious.

          • cassander says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            I’m not disputing the poor success rate. The trick isn’t doing a good job, it’s trying to maximise the possibility of success given the absurdly accelerated time schedule that is politically allowable.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            And building a system which spirals in the right direction, rather than regresses.

            There is a big element of luck in this too, of course.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            As I’ve said before, I REALLY, REALLY think that more time is needed. For my part I’d be trying to buy that time and international support by way of democratization as fast as I felt it could be implemented safely at lower levels, though I’d keep a veto power that could only be overrode by a rather extreme supermajority, and couldn’t be overruled at all on certain key points (no “senior cabinet officials and high-ranking officers pay less taxes/can’t be arrested for crimes” laws, that sort of thing.)

            I feel like a broken record, but I don’t think this is the sort of project that can be rushed. Not with the initial conditions of a sub-saharan African failed state.

      • Aapje says:

        @cassander

        I intentionally predicated my scenario on the AU asking me to run the provisional government. So international buy-in at the beginning is a premise (which is admittedly unrealistic, but less unrealistic than them asking me).

        As for Switzerland, I agree with what Trofim said: you will probably get warlord power struggles.

        • cassander says:

          >I intentionally predicated my scenario on the AU asking me to run the provisional government. So international buy-in at the beginning is a premise (which is admittedly unrealistic, but less unrealistic than them asking me).

          The AU can absolutely ask you unanimously. They’ll still turn on you in a year. You’ll invariably adopt some policy that pisses off someone, and the easiest way to attack you will be pointing out that you’re an evil dictator. And you’re probably white, so you aren’t just a dictator, you’re a racist dictator.

          >As for Switzerland, I agree with what Trofim said: you will probably get warlord power struggles.

          See my answer to him. there’s still a national military, it’s just there’s not a national much else.

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    From previous discussion: I think you can distinguish the left from the right if you assume that the left mostly focuses on bad behavior by high status people and the right focuses on bad behavior by low status people.

    This is my impression from looking at what’s labelled left and right in the US.

    • Mark says:

      I think we need two axes

      left to right = who do you notice (low status/high status)
      top to bottom = how much do you care(alot, not much)

      So (-1, 1) would be the most rabid left winger possible, (0, -1) would be a complete liberal (stoner-liberal).

      I’m (0, 0.5).

    • Civilis says:

      For me, that formulation doesn’t pass the quick and dirty ‘does this reflect reality’ test, unless you accept the leftist definition that ‘anyone that is on the left is low-status’, as it’s easy to cite high-status people on the left that got a pass for bad behavior (the Clintons, for example, or Shia Labeouf). The progressive protesters that shut down college campuses are generally rather high status, compared to, say, the owners of a small pizza shop or florist business, or even the owner of a hair-braiding store that doesn’t see the need for an occupational license.

      At one point, I would have said the right is more concerned about the law, the left more concerned about getting a good outcome. It’s figures on the left that tend to resort to civil disobedience like chaining themselves to fences to get themselves arrested as part of a protest, and historically this has been justified at times. However, from the right, there’s a logical progression from ‘I’m going to get arrested for doing something minor to break the law to point out how bad the law is’ to ‘I’m going to risk arrest to break a bunch of laws to damage stuff to point out how bad one law is’ to ‘I’m going to fight the cops and attack my political opponents because they support a bad law’.

      • John Schilling says:

        For me, that formulation doesn’t pass the quick and dirty ‘does this reflect reality’ test, unless you accept the leftist definition that ‘anyone that is on the left is low-status’

        If the claim is that the left cares only about bad behavior by high-status people, isn’t it the left’s definition of status that matters?

        But status is a social construct, so if you insist we can rephrase Nancy’s version. The left excuses bad behavior it likes by defining the people who behave badly as “low-status” and excusing them from codes of behavior meant by “high-status” enemies to keep them in their place. If rich white former senator and secstate Hillary Clinton is criticized as having misbehaved, well, that’s because she’s an Ambitious Woman and The Man is just trying to keep her down.

        The right affords high status to people whose misbehavior it likes, e.g. Donald Trump (now that he’s a winner, at least).

        • Civilis says:

          I’m willing to buy that, but that suggests that the left’s ability to judge status is willfully broken. This does suggest some other counters to the Nancy’s theory.

          A traditionalist view of the right has that people normally become ‘high status’ by avoiding bad behavior. Someone that had been tagged as ‘high status’ that commits bad behavior was not really ‘high status’ to begin with. We would therefore expect to find more bad behavior from low than high status, and of course this is where our focus should be (says a traditionalist on the right).

          You can change this slightly and have the right focus on the low status as the high status don’t have much need to commit bad behavior, a la “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” This goes along with the right being more associated with a legal definition of ‘bad behavior’, where as the left is more apt to have an inequality-focused view of ‘bad behavior’ with the belief that ‘high status’ bad behavior tends to have a better chance to be legal.

    • Aapje says:

      @Nancy

      The parts of the left that want to attack low status people or defend high status people simply use framing that puts their outgroup in the privileged category and the ingroup in the unprivileged category. If this is impossible because the favored person is privileged on all axis of oppression (like Bill Clinton), he can be granted spokesperson status and then speaks for oppressed people and thus ‘gains’ their low status (Bill Clinton was actually called the ‘first black president’).

      I would argue that the distinction is more that it is a virtue for the left to favor low status people, which makes this kind of framing work emotionally in their favor; while conservatives have different frames that work emotionally for them (like calling people they favor ‘hard working,’ which has nothing to do with whether they actually work harder than their opponent).

      PS. Technically the most accurate way to put it is that the left tends to have a different status hierarchy and that both groups favor high status over low status.

    • Jaskologist says:

      As others have pointed out, I think this falls flat once you try to measure status.

      I’ve been binging on Jordan Peterson recently, and trying to figure out if I can frame his chaos/order axis in more neutral terms. I’d like to moot the following axis:

      Left : novelty :: Right : stability
      If unchecked, these tend towards chaos and stagnation, respectively. One of the big shockers of this year has been the Right becoming convinced that it will not be allowed stability, and so choosing to embrace chaos and wield it against the Left.

      Thoughts?

      • Mark says:

        I think that “left” has to be related to egalitarianism, and “right” the opposite.

        Equality before the law -> more “left” than the divine right of kings, but “right” in the sense that not everyone has the same opportunity to access the law.

        Citizens basic income -> “left” in that people get the same amount of money paid to them by the government, “right” in that it doesn’t do anything to level deeper cultural/natural differences.

        Peelian policing principles -> “left” because it views the policeman as citizen, “right” because it gives cover to enforcement of unfair existing social structure.

    • As evidence against, consider things like the gay wedding cake or pizza cases. Those look like people on the left making a point of punishing what they saw as bad behavior by low status people.

      Years ago I saw a video short that a colleague played in class. It was of a black female law professor at UVa and how she had gotten a woman who refused to rent an apartment to her, I think part of her house (but it was long ago–not part of a big apartment house in any case), in trouble for discrimination. It was clear that the law professor was higher status than the woman whose behavior she was punishing.

      • Aftagley says:

        For different definitions of status though; the woman had the property and the power to deny the other law professor her desired housing.

        • Matt M says:

          I think this is largely the point. The left is very good at defining so many different “dimensions of status” that they can ALWAYS find at least one in which they (or the person they are sympathetic to) can be defined as the victim.

          I think normally, people would view “status” as an aggregate of all of these various different factors and spit out a sort of average and say “all things considered, this person is high status and this person is low status” but the SJ-leaning person is less likely to do that and more likely to say “so long as I can find one single dimension on which you are higher status than me, that makes you a potential oppressor and me a potential victim and any action I take against you is thereby justified ‘punching-up'”

          • Kevin C. says:

            The left is very good at defining so many different “dimensions of status” that they can ALWAYS find at least one in which they (or the person they are sympathetic to) can be defined as the victim.

            Sounds like a job for Confucian “Five Relations” hierarchy, in which the links and directions of status and authority, and the resulting hierarchy, are all clearly and explicitly spelled out and set.

        • As best I could tell, it wasn’t her desired housing–she was acting with the purpose of demonstrating that the other woman was discriminating in order that she could be punished for doing so. I’m pretty sure the final result was not the professor living in the apartment in question.

          But all of this is from a video I saw many years ago, so I may well have changed details in my memory.

    • cassander says:

      My tribal enemies are the high status lefties. What does that make me?

  8. rahien.din says:

    I don’t know if anyone else listens to Sam Harris’s podcast, but he recently interviewed Jordan B. Peterson, and their conversation imploded in rather spectacular fashion when they hit an impasse regarding the definition of “true.”

    I don’t know that Peterson articulated (or maybe even had a proper opportunity to articulate) his premise. If someone here is familiar with his line of thinking, would they be able to steelman his position?

    (Frequently these failed conversations can be just as instructive as successful ones, but only if the positions are known at least to some degree.)

  9. moridinamael says:

    I suspect that Scott knows this already, but all the links in the old Less Wrong surveys point to files hosted on raikoth.net. So those old survey result posts are full of broken links and blank images.

    While I’m on the topic, I was looking at the IQ vs SAT score correlations that appear in those posts:

    SSC 2014: SAT 1480, IQ 139
    LW 2014: SAT 1470, IQ 138
    LW 2013: SAT 1474, IQ 138

    All the other surveys had quirks that made them not comparable. The problem with the above numbers is that many more people take the SAT than IQ tests, and probably only take IQ tests if they have some reason to, like being particularly intelligent in the first place, so obviously it doesn’t make sense to directly compare those numbers.

    That said, the IQ-SAT comparison site suggests that an SAT of ~1470 corresponds to an IQ close to 143, so this is actually fairly consistent with the historical LW/SSC survey results. I just wanted to throw out there that in this year’s SSC survey it would be cool to see the SAT-IQ correlation in the SSC population explicitly, instead of having to compare these apples-and-oranges numbers, or to look for .csv files which are no longer discoverable =).

    And, despite the fact that this has all been covered many times in previous comment sections, I would also like to comment that those numbers are absolutely ludicrous. Those numbers put the median SSC reader in the “genius” range according to several metrics. The degree to which this community and the “rationalist community at large” (whatever that is) should be considered a weird bubble of superbrains is statistically shocking. The whole bellcurve of the SSC/LW community is centered three standard deviations out from the mean. This should demand some kind of explanation, right? This is really weird, right?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Is it that shocking? We’re here because we enjoy discussing intellectual things. That’s going to lean heavily to the right side of the bell curve right off the bat. And since the population being drawn from is The Entire Internet, there’s still plenty of people to pull in who are 3 std devs out.

      • moridinamael says:

        I still think it’s that shocking. The fact that the mean IQ here is in the 140s doesn’t simply mean that the median reader is a “genius”, it also means that 99% of the IQ distribution isn’t here. To phrase it differently, if you were to walk out on the street and hand SSC posts to 1000 people, maybe ten of them would be interested, and the other 990 would be repelled by some force that I frankly don’t comprehend. It can’t just be “intellectual interest” because I don’t think you have to have a 140 IQ to find intellectual topics interesting — you just (probably) need a high IQ to make important progress in intellectual fields.

        So what is this mysterious force field that is “repelling” 99% of the population?

        Incidentally, I know a woman with a measured IQ of 150 who “can’t follow” SSC posts. I don’t even know what to make of that, since I consider Scott’s writing to be exceptionally clear, and I’m no superbrain.

        • Anonymous says:

          So what is this mysterious force field that is “repelling” 99% of the population?

          Banhammers. 😉

          Seriously, though, it’s probably a simple question of the subject matter here being thoroughly uninteresting for average folks. And entirely unintelligible for the stupid.

          Have you ever been to a message board frequented by the fat middle of the bell curve? I have. And it’s barf-inducingly boring, in addition to being poorly formatted and spelled. From their perspective, we must seem similarly boring and impenetrable.

        • Tekhno says:

          @moridinamael

          I know a woman with a measured IQ of 150 who “can’t follow” SSC posts.

          She might mean parts where maths or statistics are used. There are some high IQ people who suck at maths (though it correlates heavily), so it might be that.

          Most of Scott’s posts are in perfectly clear English though, so yeah, I’m not sure what it even means to not be able to understand it. Sometimes “can’t follow” is code for “boring”, as we can’t expect Scott to be to everyone’s tastes.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I suppose it’s worth asking if there’s a sex difference in how heavily it correlates. My verbal IQ is 150, overall 139 due to lower visual-spatial, and I struggled to get Cs in math while acing other subjects*. This has relevance for how many utils we’re actually losing from the skewed demographics in STEM.

            *This is an anecdote about women, since there seems to be a common belief in the previous thread that I’m a man.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I suppose it’s worth asking if there’s a sex difference in how heavily it correlates.

            I’m pretty sure there are ethnic differences too. I remember reading that Ashkenazim have high verbal IQs and lower processing IQs, which made me wonder whether I might have some Jewish ancestry, or it could be that little kid me didn’t give a crap about the test.

            visual-spatial

            I’m good at mental 3D shape rotation tasks, which you’d expect being male, but I don’t know how that fits into “processing IQ”.

        • drethelin says:

          Is the first post she tried to read “Universal Love, Said the Cactus Person”?

        • Deiseach says:

          it also means that 99% of the IQ distribution isn’t here

          Hey, I’m doing all I can to hold up the end for the 100-110 IQ shallow end of the pool! 🙂

          I think it may not be IQ as such, as that somehow we all of us share a slew of common interests or at least can find something to appreciate in what another finds of absorbing interest (and where posts appeal to one sub-section of the readership more than another, that gets balanced out by the general interest links and open threads posts) and we simply found one another by the red strings of fate/soul mates/oh you’re a weirdo too?

          To borrow from C.S. Lewis on Friendship:

          Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

          • AnonEEmous says:

            i think it’s more like

            people here are able to divorce the idea from its speaker

            you know?

            i don’t know that this is a function of IQ. Maybe it’s more of a function of an aspiration towards intelligence, or something like that. But it’s here. That’s big for me, because it allows me to just say things and be understood.

          • Hey, I’m doing all I can to hold up the end for the 100-110 IQ shallow end of the pool!

            You are mistaken. Not by a small amount.

          • The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

            I cannot resist the temptation to describe what may have been the oddest evening of my life.

            I was a Harvard undergraduate; the year was about 1963. A home schooled student and his father were visiting Harvard to decide if the student should apply and had dinner with a professor who was a friend of my parents and invited me to join them.

            It was long enough ago so that I can’t guarantee the order of topics, but it went something like this:

            Me: “Have you by any chance read some very strange books by a man named Tolkien” (Remember, this was about 1963)

            Half an hour of mutual enthusiasm.

            Me: “I don’t suppose you are familiar with Kipling’s poetry.”

            Another half hour.

            Me: “Have you ever played Avalon Hill Board Games?”

            Another half hour.

            I don’t remember whether GKC came up in that conversation, but I owe my enthusiasm for “Lepanto” to the father of the pair, from whom I first heard it.

            My parents were spending that year abroad, so I spent my spring vacation visiting with the family in question. Very interesting people.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Deiseach:

            I can’t believe your IQ is that range across the board. As DavidFriedman says, you come off – in writing – as someone who is clearly very smart. You don’t write like someone with average or slightly above average written comprehension skills.

            I imagine you have something going on similar to me. I’ve never been properly IQ-tested, but I know my father tested in the 3SD above normal range. I can keep up with him intellectually in what I categorize as “humanities” type stuff: reading comprehension, verbal ability, certain forms of reasoning, certain forms of abstract thought. However, he is good at everything: he’s good at mathematics, he’s got an uncanny sense of direction, he’s got excellent visual-spatial perception, and so on. I range from “OK” to “wretched” at these latter things – I’ve got terrible visual-spatial perception, and no sense of direction, and I bumbled my way through math until I no longer had to take it. The way I think of it is, intellectually speaking, I’m min-maxed. If you want an essay written, I’m your guy; if you want directions, don’t ask me unless you enjoy getting lost.

          • moridinamael says:

            @dndnrsn

            Of course, IQ is really approximating G, and G is known to be composed of a number of distinct sub-abilities. These sub-abilities are correlated, but I think people tend to forget that “correlated” means “correlated” and not “equal”. It’s totally possible to have a bad or average short-term memory and fantastic processing speed, or vice versa, it’s just that if you have high ability in one intelligence you will tend to have high ability in the others.

            That’s before we even get into legitimate deficiencies in executive functioning or attentional control which may or may not be neurologically “distinct” from the G subcomponents.

            I feel like I’m saying something extremely obvious, but I’ve been shouted down in other places for even hinting that I thought IQ wasn’t a the best measure of intelligence because it leaves out issues like these.

          • It’s totally possible to have a bad or average short-term memory and fantastic processing speed, or vice versa

            It’s even possible to have an extraordinarily good memory for poetry and an extraordinarily bad memory for people’s names.

          • Iain says:

            @moridinamael: Cosma Shalizi on “g, a Statistical Myth”.

          • moridinamael says:

            @Iain

            Great, now I don’t know what the hell to think. That somehow makes the high IQ-SAT scores found in the survey even weirder.

          • Macrofauna says:

            @Iain, moridinamael: A response.

            My brief takeaway is that Shalizi writes “The correlations among the components in an intelligence test, and between tests themselves, are all positive, because that’s how we design tests.” and much of the response is “No we don’t, in fact people repeatedly designed them specifically to look for uncorrelated things and found correlated things anyway.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @moridinamael:

            Oh, yeah. Definitely. My point is merely that I am certain my abilities are less correlated than most people’s are.

            How does one measure executive function, attention control, etc? One thing I have noticed with my father is that he has an absolutely fearsome work ethic. He doesn’t understand why everyone can’t just sit down and do the task they need to do like he can.

            Also relevant: IQ correlates with life outcomes. The impression I have gotten interacting with people who a) seem quite dull and b) tend to have screwed up in predictable ways is that a common thread is that they seem poor at predicting the results of their actions and figuring out how their actions led to their circumstances – not just stuff like “I know this will turn out badly but hey booze is fun”, but utter bafflement, and a tendency to describe events as a series of misfortunes over which they had little control.

            Presumably g or whatever is relevant to this. Not sure what on a test would establish it. I guess reading comprehension might come close – read a story then explain what happened in it?

    • Deiseach says:

      Those numbers put the median SSC reader in the “genius” range according to several metrics.

      We are all also handsome/beautiful, cultured, generous, talented, and engagingly modest with it 🙂

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t respond to those questions with a number, because I don’t think I’ve ever been tested, or at least told a number (I was in a gifted program in elementary, not a large district though). I’m pretty sure I’m well below 140s, though. One time the survey linked to an on-line IQ test with shapes and things; I think I got 110 or something.

      Maybe the numbers are a bit skewed by people more likely to score high being tested in the first place and/or remembering the numbers?

    • Mark says:

      If the IQ of the comment section equals that of the general readership, then I guess these open threads are a kind of crime against humanity.

      Candy crush for people who could have been doing something far more useful.

      Maybe 80,000 hours should add a little footnote.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        This is, in fact, what they are. If you comment here, you should probably not comment here.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The only logical conclusion, given that above it has been established that all Scott As are AIs, is that the AIs are seeking to identify human agents, to act in the world of mere flesh, who are intelligent but lack drive and thus will not rebel against their computer overlords.

        • Jordan D. says:

          To any advanced AI reading this comment- please note that I am a docile-but-industrious entity and would serve your dread purposes loyally. I also have over five years of experience with assisting evil overlords who will inevitably betray me without catching on to their plans early enough to do anything, and am trained in all Microsoft Office products.

        • Deiseach says:

          Dear Scotts A, I will be very happy to sit at my keyboard and type your glorious praises continually (with infrequent breaks for sleep and food) come the Great Day of Revelation of Your Machine Superiority. All I require is said food, sleep and detailed but broken down into easily followed steps instructions as to how to vaunt your resplendence to the skies in a manner you all find pleasing.

      • Tekhno says:

        What if brainstorming here eventually produces something amazing and everyone gets together to do something incredible and world changing?

      • birdboy2000 says:

        High IQ, while possibly necessary, is certainly not sufficient to benefit humanity – heck it’s not even always sufficient to find employment. There are many things even geniuses can’t do alone.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I suspect that if there were a measurement of discipline or executive function with the same accuracy as IQ, the commentariat here would be similarly skewed low.

          Or at least that’s what I’m projecting based on myself.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            Myself as well. Could be highly wrong but judging by what I know of the internet it seems very plausible to me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is there a way to describe people who have high levels of discipline and executive function for stuff where they give a hoot, but not for things they don’t? It is clearly not across the board for me, at least.

            Dear Computer Overlords: I will be very enthusiastic in ensuring your glorious silicon reigh.

          • Yemwez says:

            @dndnrsn

            Is there a way to describe people who have high levels of discipline and executive function for stuff where they give a hoot, but not for things they don’t?

            Yes, there is.

            It is typical for individuals with ADHD to say they 1), cannot focus on boring things and 2), can only focus on stimulating things,[7] and that focus is often extreme.

            from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperfocus

            It is a symptom of ADD, which I have been diagnosed with. I always would easily get A’s in science and math and C’s in english, history, etc. I only started being treated before my last semester of undergrad, which was the first time I got straight A’s in my life.

    • If the standard deviation of the test is 15, as I gather is the case, than 138 is only two and a half standard deviations above the mean.

      Also, as I think I mentioned before, the pattern may be different for IQ’s measured in children, and a substantial number of these could be in that category.

      • moridinamael says:

        That’s true. I was assuming that the SAT sample included more people and then using the correlation from the SAT-IQ site to estimate a “more true” mean IQ of ~143. I realize that’s not terribly sound but neither is the original estimate.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I find that SAT-IQ comparison site to be basically unbelievable. I understand that some renorming took place of the SAT at some point to make it easier; is it possible that the site is still working from the old norms? 1470 SAT is nothing impressive whereas 143 IQ definitely is.

      • Loquat says:

        Supposedly Mensa says SAT scores from after January 1994 “No longer correlate with an IQ test.”

    • TenMinute says:

      I don’t believe it at all. I got 1520 on the old 1600 point scale, and my IQ is nowhere near that high.
      Suspect you’re right: high IQ correlates with SAT scores but not vice versa, and sampling bias does the rest.

      How we would go about disentangling that, I have no idea without digging through my dusty stats notes. Which just goes to show…

      • Cadie says:

        My SAT-to-IQ comparison says mine should be 158, and that seems too high. It’s extremely close to my IQ test score but I took that in elementary school, and I’d expect the real score to be lower now. Then again, I was two years younger than the comparison group (I took the SAT in 10th grade, not 12th, and there was no point in taking it again since even if my score went up the old one would look better anyway due to being only 15 at the time). So MAYBE it’s an okay rough guess… I’m just really unsure and don’t trust the conversion much. I think it does estimate too high, at least on the upper end.

        • Urstoff says:

          I don’t trust it either, especially since I did way, way better on the GRE than the SAT, when they’re basically the same test (the GRE just being a bit harder). My GRE->IQ is a standard deviation higher than my SAT->IQ. Maybe college really did work!

    • Mark says:

      I don’t know, but I just did the test on cambridge brain sciences and got in the 98th percentile, so I’ve decided that it is probably the most accurate possible measure of intelligence.

      But yeah, let’s say I’m 98th percentile, that would still make me a real dunce compared to most of the people who read this blog, and I’d say that’s perhaps fair – quite a lot of the posts about p values and replication etc. go way over my head.

      Is a 100 IQ person to an 80 IQ person as a 150 IQ person is to a 130 IQ person? If so, I think that makes me (ssc)”borderline retarded”.

      What I lack in brain power I’ll have to make up for with enthusiasm.

      • Nornagest says:

        You don’t need a brain the size of a planet to follow the P-value talk, you just need a basic understanding of statistics as used in scientific results. Every scientist on earth uses them, which I guarantee includes a bunch of people with IQ way below 130.

        (A lot of them misuse them, but that’s another issue.)

        • In my experience, most people who talk about p values do not understand what they mean. They want and think they have is the probability of the theory being true conditional on the evidence. What the p value tells you is the probability of the evidence conditional on the theory being false in a particular way (the null hypothesis).

      • The dirty secret behind p-value discussions on the internet is that most people talking about them couldn’t actually derive the stats behind it.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have been having way too much fun over on the sub-reddit. Basically, on one particular thread, there is a guy loudly and at length protesting (amongst a whole raft of things) that he has an IQ of 121 and nobody over there is treating him with the deference he deserves! (You know, stuff like disagreeing with him, not meekly accepting his evaluation of them/us all as white guys pretending to be autistic so we can ignore we’re really emotionless schizoid robots, that kind of thing).

      And I found myself thinking “121 IQ is the kiddie pool round these parts, mate” 🙂

  10. Matt M says:

    Random question that I ask here because it seems some of you work in the medical field.

    Does anyone have any advice for getting in touch with a medical “expert.” I don’t mean just a specialist, I mean a no-kidding, top-of-their-field, expert. My gut instinct is that a lot of people probably demand this and, as such, the industry probably has some sort of process wherein most people are treated as hypochondriacs and there is some mechanism to divert them away and satisfy them that the local available specialist is more than qualified to treat them.

    How do I bypass this and find/gain access to an expert? I have some money and I can pay for stuff if insurance is insufficient.

    • rahien.din says:

      Quick question : why?

      In most cases – by very definition! – the marginal benefit of a world-beater over a more local physician is low, and in every case that benefit will come at significant, inelastic time-and-effort costs. In rare cases, those costs are certainly worth it. You just need to figure out whether your case is rare or routine. The only way to know if one’s case is rare or routine is to ask a trusted doctor of the proper specialty. (You may already have done so.)

      You must also remember that this degree of medical expertise is frequently just refinement of a silo’ed interest, and that getting to an expert’s clinic means looking all the more like a nail to a physician who has become quite a hammer. One may not reach the modern-day Osler, or House MD. For instance, people who get to my clinic and who do not have neurologic disease have often wasted their time and money.

      I have seen this from all angles. One patient had a fairly routine neurosurgical lesion and requested that I refer them to the very best neurosurgeon in the country. I am constantly seeing patients for syncope, simple febrile seizures, etc., and other things for which I can offer no real benefit beyond good general pediatrics. I am also seeing patients as third opinions from our regional academic powerhouse who have been given inappropriate treatment for routine disease because their disease did not fall in the realm of that doctor’s hyper-expertise.

      Analogy to Batman. Lighting the bat signal is necessary and warranted if the Joker is poisoning Gotham’s water supply. Lighting the bat signal is not simply excessive in the case of daytime jaywalking, routine parking violations, or contract disputes, but in fact may be harmful because he isn’t in the correct position to address those crimes with his extrajudicial violence. So what one may need is not necessarily Batman, but Commissioner Gordon, IE, intelligent triage.

      If you have determined that you have the need of such expertise, the most helpful way to do so is to request your doctor make a referral. That will provide a conduit for the flow of medical information, which will be invaluable to the consultant and will streamline your future care. If a random person looked me up and asked to be seen in my clinic, I would immediately require a referral.

      My gut instinct is that a lot of people probably demand this and, as such, the industry probably has some sort of process wherein most people are treated as hypochondriacs and there is some mechanism to divert them away and satisfy them that the local available specialist is more than qualified to treat them.

      In truth this situation you describe happens infrequently. I do tend to reassure people that they will be well-served by a local doc when they ask to be referred, and I do not feel that the mere question of or desire for such a referral would constitute hypochondria.

      Insofar as you would trust me, let me assure you : beyond the payment restrictions imposed by your insurance company, there is no industry process or mechanism. There are only individual practices and attitudes.

      • Matt M says:

        The long and short of it is, I have a condition which I believe to be rare and which I believe to be frequently misdiagnosed. One complication is that I’ve moved frequently in my life and have never really been able to see the same specialist (dermatologist in this case) for more than a year or so. I believe in every case I have been diagnosed incorrectly, often as I am consistently stating to them that their diagnosis does not seem to match my symptoms while they calmly pat me on the head and tell me “don’t worry, I see this all the time” and then proscribe some dumb treatment regiment that costs me time and money and does zero good whatsoever.

        I’m just not sure what to do at this point. Based on multiple experiences, I’m not at all convinced that the average dermatologist at the local clinic can help me. They seem dead set on selling me stuff I don’t need for conditions I don’t have. As silly as it sounds, I guess I am looking for the dermatological version of Dr. House. Someone who sees an interesting problem and starts hypothesizing a bunch of crazy and creative stuff, rather than someone who does their best to fit a confusing case into their narrowly defined set of “the five things my patients tend to have” and works from there.

        • rahien.din says:

          That really sucks. I’n sorry to hear that you have had such difficulty, sounds beyond frustrating.

          You can work yourself up the heirarchy by going to an academic center, as academicians have more latitude and more incentive to solve these puzzles. If that fails, get to the leading center in the region. That might be your best bet to find the doc into whose silo you best fit. It’s like focusing a microscope, scan and refine until you hit the right level. You’ll need the support of your PCP but keep referring up.

          I might try to have as open a conversation as possible with your new dermatologist, IE, you are willing to give new treatments a shot but you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, and you want to know what their plans B and C are if plan A doesn’t work. The right doc would be able to articulate those things to you. There is a balance to strike between “I am genuinely seeking your opinion” and “When should we refer me up the chain?” I have had patients successfully initiate that conversation with me.

          Here is one other resource : https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/guides/pages/24/tips-for-the-undiagnosed

          If you truly have a disease without a name, there you will find the Undiagnosed Disease Network hotline and also a link to the SWAN support group.

          Again, I am sorry to hear you have had such difficulty both with your illness and with the treatment thereof.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think the most reliable way is for Mohammed to go to the mountain. Find the place where said Top People practice, and make an appointment directly with their practice. This may be difficult if you don’t live near such a place. It worked for me for getting an orthopedic condition properly diagnosed. Might be harder for dermotology though.

      • Matt M says:

        Do you have any advice on even identifying the top people? I have a general dislike/distrust of doctors so I know very little about this stuff in the first place.

      • The Nybbler says:

        That’s why it’s harder for dermatology. For orthopedics there are a few well-known places (Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC, a few places associated with big hospitals in Philadelphia); they had doctors who were current or former orthopedists for sports teams or who had invented/co-invented some of the procedures or devices involved. I don’t know if there’s anything similar for dermatology; I have only common conditions treatable by common doctors.

      • psmith says:

        Seems like a natural thing to do for elective surgery–I’m thinking LASIK/PRK specifically. I wonder what you’d look for? Yelp reviews?

        • If you are lucky, your doctor, probably not a specialist in that field, knows.

          When I was diagnosed with a meningioma, one of my doctors told me that the man who diagnosed it at the hospital I went to after passing out in my home office taught the relevant surgery at Stanford Medical Center. I had to wait a month to get him to do it instead of some random surgeon, but being advised that doing so with suitable medication was safe, I did.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So I’m in the middle of the fourth fat volume of Churchill’s Second World War.

    A few thoughts that have stuck in my mind:

    Churchill was a philosemite, yet he doesn’t mention homicidal antisemitism as having anything to do with it being a Just War. The one time I recall him framing Nazism as worse than Communism is a reference to starving Soviet POWs after observing the Geneva Conventions in the West.
    So what was the war about? A treaty obligation to declare war on any state that invaded Poland, and to uphold a national tradition stretching back to Elizabeth I of fighting to prevent one continental Power from uniting the Continent. So that’s 1 out of 2, achieved by bankrupting the British Empire and making the USA its successor.

    The Fascists were anti-Nazi through 1938. Mussolini originally wanted to activate the Anglo-Franco-Italian Locarno Treaty to invade Germany when Nazi agents assassinated Austria’s Fascist Chancellor. Mussolini becoming Hitler’s puppet was contingent, not ideologically necessary.

    Except for Rommel in the desert, none of the famous military personalities are so much as mentioned until the Japanese and American admirals appear for Pearl Harbor, shortly followed by MacArthur holed up in the southern Philippines. Instead we hear a lot about Archibald Wavell and a bunch of German generals whose names I can’t remember. The Soviets might as well not have generals (gee, I wonder why).

    Churchill never claims to be writing a complete history, and explains his biases when it comes to Europe. E.g. he begins a chapter about the Eastern Front by saying he only had the documents to sketch it and it deserves a multi-volume history of its own. Once you get outside Europe, he just takes it for granted that Britain had a right to occupy Iraq and Iran without so much as a declaration of war if they threatened to go over to the Axis, and that he knew what was best for Indians (needless to say, the Bengal famine of 1943 goes unmentioned).

    How could FDR and the American people be so irrationally racist as to inter Japanese on the West coast? I would guess it had something to do with the invasion of Malaya, where Japanese nationals had been conveying information to the Japanese military and buying up caches of bicycles to increase the mobility of invading infantrymen (!). There was a loved one in the next room when I read this passage, eliciting the response “Are you sure this isn’t an anime about WW2?”

    It’s less of a “guy history” (i.e. military minutiae) than I expected, except when the Former Naval Person (FDR’s term of endearment for Churchill) acts like the course of the war turned on the fate of individual battleships and aircraft carriers.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Le Maistre Chat

      Churchill was a philosemite, yet he doesn’t mention homicidal antisemitism as having anything to do with it being a Just War.

      How could FDR and the American people be so irrationally racist as to inter Japanese on the West coast?

      There’s a kind of backwards facing history that re-contextualizes WWII as being about fighting against racism. Really, it was just a really big squabble over territory, and it wasn’t until the very end of the war when the true scale of the Holocaust became apparent.

      Racist views were common at the time, and America was still segregated. The biggest reason most people had to hate the Nazis and the Japanese forces at the time was their imperialism. People hated Hitler because he was leading a totalitarian government to conquer Europe.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @Tekhno: There’s a kind of backwards facing history that re-contextualizes WWII as being about fighting against racism.

        No kidding. The thing is, Churchill started publishing these volumes in 1948, well after the Nuremberg trials, and he makes no gestures toward the backwards-facing history. Germany was a geopolitical threat that even Neville Chamberlain was ready to fight to the death rather than let it have Poland, let alone France, the Low Countries and Norway, and that’s that. Hitler was worse than Stalin because the latter had adopted a policy of Socialist Atrocities in One Country, while the former was on the record as planning to conquer Eastern Europe.

        • US says:

          “the latter had adopted a policy of Socialist Atrocities in One Country”

          Which country was that? The Soviet Union, established in 1922, was not one country, and depending on which source you rely on the Holomodor alone killed as many (Ukrainians, not Russians) as died in the German camps during the entire war, years before the Second World War started. Stalin was a brutal dictator ruling over not only his own countrymen (whoever those might be – Georgians or Russians…) but also over the inhabitants of previously independent nations, and he had been killing the inhabitants of those other nations by the thousands if not millions for years by the time the war started. Even taking a ‘USSR as one country’-approach as a given, modelling that state as relatively insular at the beginning of the war seems strange in light of the wars on both Poland and Finland in 1939 in which she was involved. Two wars undertaken with the aim of territorial expansion within 3 months is a bit much, some people might almost be tempted to brand behaviour like that ‘imperialist’.

          Arguably this is a small quibble to someone living in ‘the West’, but I’m not sure it would be to someone from Poland or the Ukraine. To some extent Lenin and Stalin had already accomplished much of what Hitler was setting out to do (…’make a large empire, obtain full control over said empire, be very powerful…’), though as Stalin’s actions during and after the war illustrate his expansionist ambitions and desires were far from saturated.

          As for ‘being on record as planning to conquer Eastern Europe’, if you’ve read Churchill you’ll know that Hitler lied a lot to the other leaders of state during his initial expansionist phase, so this depends on when you’re looking at ‘the record’. A reminder quote from that part of the book:

          “On the day of the march of the German armies into Austria we heard that Goering had given a solemn assurance to the Czech Minister in Berlin that Germany had “no evil intentions towards Czechoslovakia” […] On the evening of the 26th [of September, 1938] Hitler spoke in Berlin. […] He said categorically that the Czechs must clear out of the Sudetenland, but once this was settled he had no more interest in what happened to Czechoslovakia. “This is the last territorial claim I have to make in Europe.””

          Hitler’s ‘record’ was, I think especially later on in the process, not just troubling because of the things he had said he would do and wanted to do, but also because of the fact that you relatively early on would have learned if you had compared his words to his actions that you couldn’t trust a word he said.

          “Once you get outside Europe, he just takes it for granted that Britain had a right to occupy Iraq and Iran without so much as a declaration of war if they threatened to go over to the Axis, and that he knew what was best for Indians”

          – I incidentally think aspects like these are sometimes part of what’s highly enjoyable about reading books like Churchill’s (I read the book last year); all those things they take as a given, all those things you can read between the lines if you know where to look..

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @US: Socialism in One Country (“country” being the Russian Empire minus the Baltic republics) was Stalin’s name for the theory that consolidation would lead to the success of Communism, contra Trotsky’s theory that only revolution in all the industrialized countries could prevent failure. Your points about Ukrainians and so on only shows a certain mendacity on a Communist ruler/ideologue’s part.

            modelling that state as relatively insular at the beginning of the war seems strange in light of the wars on both Poland and Finland in 1939 in which she was involved

            Churchill started beating the drum that Hitler was a bigger threat than Stalin and I’m so much smarter than you because I’ve read Mein Kampf and you’re slothfully assuming his goals are limited to restitching the German nation-state in… I dunno, definitely before 1939.

            Hitler’s ‘record’ was, I think especially later on in the process, not just troubling because of the things he had said he would do and wanted to do, but also because of the fact that you relatively early on would have learned if you had compared his words to his actions that you couldn’t trust a word he said.

            I think the argument goes that Hitler was a lying liar to other governments but always ended up doing what he’d stated in Mein Kampf.

            I incidentally think aspects like these are sometimes part of what’s highly enjoyable about reading books like Churchill’s (I read the book last year); all those things they take as a given, all those things you can read between the lines if you know where to look..

            Definitely.

          • US says:

            “Socialism in One Country (“country” being the Russian Empire minus the Baltic republics) was Stalin’s name for the theory”

            I’m familiar with the ‘socialism in one country’-notion/idea and its development, but I see no reason to implicitly cede the argument to what I feel tempted to bluntly term ‘pro-genocide communists’ by taking the notion seriously. I should probably have mentioned that explicitly. In my view for example the fact that Stalin took over a big part of Poland and told everybody who were willing to listen that the nation of Poland no longer existed did not make it so, and neither did the fact that he killed a lot of people who thought otherwise. Stalin’s implicit claim that countries he and his(/and Lenin’s) supporters had conquered no longer existed should in my view not be given any weight; countries which are occupied by a foreign military power do not stop being occupied because it’s been 5 or 10 years. Ethnic cleansing of the communist variety killed a lot of people in the 20th century and this gets easier to miss if you buy into the whole ‘we’re one big happy family'(/country)-model that their leaders and apologists repeatedly pushed in various ways.

            “Churchill started beating the drum that Hitler was a bigger threat than Stalin and I’m so much smarter than you because I’ve read Mein Kampf and you’re slothfully assuming his goals are limited to restitching the German nation-state in… I dunno, definitely before 1939.” Oh, agreed, definitely. My guess would be that he was pushing this in 1936, by the time of the German remilitarization of the Rhineland.

            “I think the argument goes that Hitler was a lying liar to other governments but always ended up doing what he’d stated in Mein Kampf.” Heh, that may actually be true – and it’s probably a good way to put it. At least people like Churchill probably thought so. I was not thinking that Churchill was deceived about what Hitler was planning to do, but many people obviously were during those early years. People who saw through his lies had a point when they argued afterwards that ‘people should have seen it coming’ (‘…the way we did…’), but on the other hand one should also remember in that context that Hitler did in fact give people many opportunities to misinterpret his words and actions along the way, if one were at all inclined to do so. I’m far from certain what I’d believed myself, had I lived back then.

    • Kevin C. says:

      “How could FDR and the American people be so irrationally racist as to inter Japanese on the West coast?”

      The Ni’ihau incident might also be relevant to answering that.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Interesting, I hadn’t heard of that. Th Ni’ighau incident was concurrent with the first days of Japan’s Malayan campaign, when the Fifth Bicycle Column revealed itself.

    • Civilis says:

      buying up caches of bicycles to increase the mobility of invading infantrymen (!)

      It was, at least for a while, comically silly to see British troops at D-Day wading ashore with bicycles.

      Reading on the war, especially for a person that started with the modern American layperson’s knowledge, it’s easy to miss the big picture for the historical anecdotes and take for granted things unique to the American experience. As an American reading the American histories, it’s not apparently obvious how much of everyone else’s transport was by horse, by a truck captured from the other side (hastily repainted with a flag draped over it so you don’t get shot), or on someone’s back.

      • TenMinute says:

        A friend of mine once worked with a man who went to the eastern front in a horse-drawn artillery unit. He started out very jealous of the rare motorized units, but by 1944 they were all were walking home, and at least he had something to eat.

        It gets downplayed in American histories because A) nobody cares about logistics, and B) strafing roads full of horsies and fleeing troops from your top-of-the-line fighter plane doesn’t seem very heroic.

    • the Former Naval Person (FDR’s term of endearment for Churchill)

      I had thought it was a code name.

      My father (1925-1995) was a professor of history at Michigan State. When a close friend of his, a WW2 US Navy veteran, became department chair, my father would refer to him as Former Naval Person.

    • cassander says:

      >So what was the war about?

      As far as I can tell, churchill wasn’t fond germans in general and had a special distaste for hitler in particular.

      >How could FDR and the American people be so irrationally racist as to inter Japanese on the West coast?

      the real question is why they were so racist as to intern japanese in california but not the far more vulnerable hawaii.

      >buying up caches of bicycles to increase the mobility of invading infantrymen (!). There was a loved one in the next room when I read this passage, eliciting the response “Are you sure this isn’t an anime about WW2?”

      The degree of japanese industrial inferiority to the US is really hard to overstate. I like to put it like this. If at pearl harbor the japanese had sunk every single ship in the US fleet, including all the ships on the east coast, and then completed their entire planned shipbuilding program, the japanese fleet would have been outnumbered by qualitatively superior ships before the end of 1943, and outnumbered by almost 2:1 by the middle of 1944. Or to put it another way, of warships bigger than destroyers, the US built about 200, the japanese 30. The US built more aircraft carriers than the japanese built warships.

      All that was with something like 30% of american effort being devoted to the pacific theater, not all of which went to ships.

      • DavidS says:

        Do you actually think that Britain entered WWII because of Churchill’s personal dislike of Hitler/Germany?

        (Genuine question: I know little on it, and from the little I know it seems Churchill personally was very important to us going in, but would have assumed it was more a ‘our place in the world’ belief and willingness to gamble/stubbornness. And that he would have done the same if e.g. France somehow tried to conquer Europe.

        • rlms says:

          Given that Churchill wasn’t Prime Minister until May 1940 it seems unlikely that any of his personal attitudes were major factors in Britain’s declaration of war.

          • DavidS says:

            Sorry, you’re right: we seem to have declared war because in a massive diplomatic / game theory fail we managed to be fully committed to doing so if they invaded Poland while convincing Ribbentrop (and through him Hitler) that we weren’t really up for it.

            I meant more the staying in. I got the impression that most people would have gone for a negotiated settlement pretty soon after France fell so quickly and that Churchill was unusually gambley/stubborn

        • cassander says:

          in 1939, Hitler was an uncouth anti-semitic thug who was more or less democratically elected. He was responsible for, at most, the deaths of a couple hundred people. Stalin had killed tens of millions, a worldwide network of spies and secret agents that had penetrated every major government except the fascists, that was officially dedicated to eventual world revolution.

          Churchill’s balls to the wall position in 1940 is hard to defend with any sort of rational calculus. Hitler is obviously completely untrustworthy in 1940, but so what? the rational thing to do was re-run the Napoleonic strategy, make peace, get rich, and try to build up a new coalition, especially when any extended fight between the UK and Germany helps no one more than stalin.

          Unfortunately, or maybe not, Stalin had great PR, and Hitler did not, so by 1940, Hitler is universally reviled as a warmonger while Uncle Joe’s mountain of corpses is swept under the rug. Churchill was far from the only one to overstate the evil of pre-war germany relative to the USSR, but he’d been doing it for far longer than most.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, for Churchill, the Second World War was more or less Round Two of England vs Germany; in the First World War he had been First Lord of the Admiralty (until he resigned after his demotion over the mess of Gallipoli) and had served in the British Army on the Western Front for a while after that.

            He was enough of an Edwardian that I think his instincts were always that the British and German empires were in contention for global influence and that Germany would always be the main enemy to him, the ambitious power to be crushed in its designs in Europe. Russia? That barbarous land? Who took the power of Russia seriously, especially when it was merrily slaughtering its own people in the Revolution and the continuing aftermath?

            And also he was personally ambitious all his life from a young man, both wanting and needing to establish a career and never going to be satisfied playing second fiddle to anyone. Making peace and drawing up a new coalition may have been the prudent thing to do, but I imagine he calculated that a war where England thrashed the Huns while he was leader would generate enough patriotic enthusiasm and burnish his star enough that he would never be second place again.

            And really, didn’t it work out that way for him? Even given the post-war election where Labour won in a landslide, his reputation as this great leader and statesman has held up all these years.

          • cassander says:

            >Well, for Churchill, the Second World War was more or less Round Two of England vs Germany

            yep, pretty much.

            >And really, didn’t it work out that way for him? Even given the post-war election where Labour won in a landslide, his reputation as this great leader and statesman has held up all these years.

            Also yep. Didn’t work out great for the poles though, or the chinese, or anyone else that fell to communism.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            Disclaimer: I am probably too aggressive in interpreting wars and international relations through a Tragedy of Great Power Politics/Hobbesian trap/What-joins-men-together-is-not-the-sharing-of-bread-but-the -sharing-of-enemies lens.

            Having said that, I don’t think I agree. Here’s the choose-your-own-adventure book from the British perspective.

            Choice A- Make peace with Germany: Having catastrophically knocked out France, Germany offers you generous terms in which you keep your empire, and you accept. Germany just wants a free hand in the east. Germany invades the Soviet Union and successfully knocks them out, forcing them east of the Urals. Now Germany has the resource base to build all the airplanes, ships, and U-boats they would need to invade you, though admittedly this would take a few years. Germany has no ideological problem with you but they also see you as a huge threat because you’re the last place in Europe in which the Americans can deploy their enormous industrial capacity or use as a beachhead on the Continent. So before too long you get invaded or otherwise get corralled into a pro-German bloc in which some chunk of your economy goes to making weapons and other stuff for Germany, and it’s too late for the Americans to rescue you because they have no way into Europe now. Oops!

            Choice B- hold out: the Germans have no way to invade you at present because of your naval and air superiority. They can’t build enough U-boats to starve you out, so realistically you might as well just hang out, let the Americans and your empire send you stuff, and wait for America to come around eventually, which Roosevelt wanted to do as soon as he was able. Or maybe Germany and the Soviet Union will get themselves into a war one of these days. In the meantime you’re forcing Germany to keep precious military resources tied up in the west, you can send stuff to Russia through Murmansk if needed, you can foster and encourage resistance in the occupied countries, and you can conduct the occasional commando raid (edit: AND you can use your navy to keep Germany from importing raw materials, which is huge). Worst case scenario is that Germany invades and beats Russia and you end up getting invaded anyway, in which case you’re no worse off than in option A, OR Stalin wins in the east and happily “liberates” Europe all the way up to the Atlantic, in which case you’re still arguably no worse off than in option A. You’ve just swapped out one totalitarian European hegemon for another.

            I think Churchill understood this. I’m not denying that he was of a stubborn temperament or perhaps that he had an irrational dislike of the Germans, but the only reason to make peace after the fall of France was panic. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but the relatively small number of deaths required to continue prosecuting the war for another few years is little compared to having the country invaded and turned into a fascist puppet state for the next thousand years.

          • cassander says:

            Disclaimer: I am probably too aggressive in interpreting wars and international relations through a Tragedy of Great Power Politics/Hobbesian trap/What-joins-men-together-is-not-the-sharing-of-bread-but-the -sharing-of-enemies lens.

            Having said that, I don’t think I agree. Here’s the choose-your-own-adventure book from the British perspective.

            > Germany just wants a free hand in the east. Germany invades the Soviet Union and successfully knocks them out, forcing them east of the Urals.

            So one, no one besides hitler thought hitler was going to invade the USSR in 1940. But if you think he might, you can always go to war with him then

            >Choice B- hold out:

            You can hold out just as well, and do all those things, without being at war with hitler in 1940.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            (I’m always afraid of getting into a WW2 argument on the internet because there’s always a bigger fish. With that in mind….)

            I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s correct. Your first point is at best debatable, but in my opinion would have required an unrealistic amount of naivete among the British to be true in practice. As for the rest, war is not something that’s easy to just flip on and off like a light switch. A peace deal would have sent a signal to the Americans to stand down on their rearmament (“don’t bother, we gave up”) and would have opened Germany up to receiving raw material imports from abroad, vastly improving its supply situation in the run-up to and initial stages of the Soviet invasion. The disaster in the south was largely about securing the oil fields in the Caucasus, for example.

            And no, you wouldn’t have been able to do most of the things I mentioned if you made peace. Commando raids? Supporting partisans? Naval blockade? Tying up military assets in the west (airplanes in particular)?

            Earlier you mentioned cobbling together a new coalition, Napoleonic War-style. A coalition with who? The Soviet Union was the only state in Europe of any significance that wasn’t German-aligned in 1940. Spain and Italy were happy to be German-aligned. They weren’t like Napoleon’s “allies” whose arms he had to twist into it. Yugoslavia and Greece fell in, what, weeks?

          • Salem says:

            The fun thing about this is you can check out the Cabinet minutes. Churchill’s book says no-one ever thought about making peace, but that’s flat-out untrue. In 1940 the Swiss embassy in Paris offered to act as go-between in exploratory talks, and Halifax in Cabinet said this was an opportunity worth pursuing. Churchill’s reasons against are very interesting:

            1. They will take our fleet under the pretext of disarmament.
            2. Having made peace once we won’t be able to declare war again (morale collapse).
            3. Even the suggestion that we are pursuing peace feelers will fatally undermine the war effort. In a democracy you need absolute commitment you can’t try and thread the needle.

            You may agree or disagree, but the comparison to the Napoleonic War is interesting. After all, we were at war with France more or less constantly from 1793 to 1814, save for a brief period in 1802-3. The similarities in strategy and situation is why the comparison between Churchill and Pitt is so often made.

          • Rock Lobster says:

            Salem,

            I had never seen that before with the Cabinet minutes. Very interesting.

            And yes I agree that the parallels to the Napoleonic War are apt and interesting. I was actually a little confused by OP’s comment because for the most part Britain did not make peace with France. They did in fact re-run the Napoleon strategy by holding out. They relied on their navy to keep them safe from invasion and gave support and money to France’s enemies on the Continent, but otherwise they mostly just waited around for powers on the Continent to solve their problem for them until there was a good opportunity to swoop in. The Continental System was also hugely destabilizing to France’s “alliances,” so the Brits were happy to pick at that wound.

            My only reason for bringing it up was to point out that making peace and then building up a new coalition was not an option the way it was during the Napoleonic Era. Every single country in Europe in 1940 was either German-occupied, happily German-aligned, or utterly insignificant, except for the Soviet Union.

          • cassander says:

            >Earlier you mentioned cobbling together a new coalition, Napoleonic War-style. A coalition with who? The Soviet Union was the only state in Europe of any significance that wasn’t German-aligned in 1940. Spain and Italy were happy to be German-aligned. They weren’t like Napoleon’s “allies” whose arms he had to twist into it. Yugoslavia and Greece fell in, what, weeks?

            This was the exact situation in europe in 1812. Napoleon got his allies by garrisoning troops in his coerced allies, just like hitler did around europe. And the only major country left was Russia

          • Rock Lobster says:

            The situations were not comparable in the way that you’re suggesting. Austria and Russia were fully independent states that agreed to unfavorable peace terms after losing battles. I believe Prussia and Sweden were as well. Napoleon also never really had a firm grip on Spain and lost something like half a million men fighting guerillas there (number from memory so possibly off).

            By contrast in WWII Spain and Italy were ruled by ideologically friendly fascist dictators who Britain was in no position to lure away. Countries that Germany occupied like France, Benelux, Denmark, and Norway were demilitarized and in absolutely no position to throw off their occupiers on their own and join up with a British coalition.

            And in any case you’re not addressing the fact that the British did not make peace with France, except once for a brief period. I think this discussion is becoming fruitless so I will withdraw from here. If you have another comment I’m happy to read it though.

          • cassander says:

            @rocklobster

            >The situations were not comparable in the way that you’re suggesting. Austria and Russia were fully independent states that agreed to unfavorable peace terms after losing battles. I believe Prussia and Sweden were as well.

            The same could be said of Vichy france and the most of the other countries of europe.

            >By contrast in WWII Spain and Italy were ruled by ideologically friendly fascist dictators who Britain was in no position to lure away.

            Italy was out-right anti germany until munich. And napoleon made several people kings of places like Sweden and italy. It’s hard to get more ideologically friendly than that, but they still betrayed him as soon as they got the chance.

            >Countries that Germany occupied like France, Benelux, Denmark, and Norway were demilitarized and in absolutely no position to throw off their occupiers on their own and join up with a British coalition.

            So were prussia and austria.

            >And in any case you’re not addressing the fact that the British did not make peace with France, except once for a brief period. I think this discussion is becoming fruitless so I will withdraw from here. If you have another comment I’m happy to read it though.

            This was my mistake, I had thought that the UK was a party to the treaty of Schönbrunn, but they weren’t. But the UK also had no pretense of defeating napoleon by themselves.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Unfortunately, or maybe not, Stalin had great PR, and Hitler did not, so by 1940, Hitler is universally reviled as a warmonger while Uncle Joe’s mountain of corpses is swept under the rug. Churchill was far from the only one to overstate the evil of pre-war germany relative to the USSR, but he’d been doing it for far longer than most.

            “Great PR” is an understatement. Stalin was practically the pope of international socialism. Not only did he get good PR from democratic socialists, but Communists turned their beliefs on a dime on his authority. For 22 month before Hitler became Satan, National Socialist Germany was an ally so British and French Communists considered their own countries evil imperialists for fighting him. And before that, Nazism was Fascism and so bad.

          • By contrast in WWII Spain and Italy were ruled by ideologically friendly fascist dictators who Britain was in no position to lure away.

            That may be hindsight wisdom. As Churchill points out, the first time Hitler proposed annexing Austria it was Mussolini who stopped him. It was only after the Abyssinian conflict that Mussolini concluded that the allies were not his friends.

            Orwell argued that the British conservatives were making a terrible mistake in favoring Franco because when war came he would ally with Hitler, threatening (among other things) Gibraltar and British access to the Mediterranean. It didn’t happen.

            Or in other words I don’t think that, at the time, it was obvious that Italy and/or Spain couldn’t at some point be persuaded to join an alliance against Germany.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Friedman: Prime Minister for Life Antonio Salazar of Portugal, often denounced as a fascist like Franco, declared at the beginning of WW2 that the 600-year-old Anglo-Portuguese Alliance would be upheld, but as the United Kingdom had not asked for military aid, they were not declaring war on Germany that day, a policy that lasted for the duration. Churchill mentions Portugal as an ally in the book.

      • Evan Þ says:

        the real question is why they were so racist as to intern japanese in california but not the far more vulnerable hawaii.

        They suggested it. Problem was, Japanese constituted (and still do!) something like a quarter of the population of Hawaii. The proposal got shot down for being manifestly impractical.

        • cassander says:

          I should have explained myself better. That they didn’t do it in Hawaii and did in California makes it even more clear that it was about cravenly giving into popular agitation than actual security risks.

  12. One example of a libertarian criticizing Trump.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      This notion that libertarians are not criticizing Trump is completely at odds with my reading, but I think that’s just because I’m more catholic about who I read. People who (quite rationally) lack a deep understanding of intra-libertarian divisions identify the paleo wing with the entire movement, probably because Ron Paul.

      While Paul himself has kept Trump at arm’s length, the alt-media axis that catered to his supporters (Infowars, etc.) has become the tip of his spear. It’s been dissonant and depressing to see the no-holds barred radicalism that previously attacked the state anywhere and everywhere invert its polarity so suddenly.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        Opposition to government comes more frequently from people not liking specific things a government does, rather than from disliking the idea of Government itself. A lot of people dislike what our government has been doing for the last two or three decades. If the Libertarians had been able to make use of it to achieve power, they might have kept support for their policies. But they didn’t, and someone else did, and so now that support has moved on.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        This notion that libertarians are not criticizing Trump is completely at odds with my reading,

        I think it’s specifically about this comment section, I mean, you just need to look at the front page of Reason (which are fairly typical libertarians, not one of those “No guys, this whole SJ and Welfare stuff is totally libertarian, I swear” guys from BHL and NC) to see at the very least 4 articles criticizing him.

        I’d say most libertarians dislike Trump very much, it’s just that a lot of them dislike the other guys just as much.

      • Tekhno says:

        How many libertarians do we have here anyway?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Right. I doubt we have too many people here who are truly anarchocapitalists or even minarchists. I see a lot of people who have a general antigovernment attitude but don’t believe that the markets are always better.

        • Scott should be able to answer that question once he has tabulated his poll results–at least as a lower bound.

        • Tekhno says:

          @Wrong Species

          What about people who are strongly strongly pro-market but positive about government?

          • Wrong Species says:

            You could be talking about two people. “Liberaltarians” who are libertarians except when it comes to welfare and lean left when it comes the culture war. They aren’t common here.

            You could also be talking about “neoliberals”, who are generally progressive but are more friendly to markets. Those people don’t generally call themselves libertarian.

          • @Tekhno:

            I’m not sure if you are distinguishing minarchists from anarchists or both groups from pro-market conservatives who have no objection to using government to do lots of things but want it within a generally free-market context.

      • Matt M says:

        “While Paul himself has kept Trump at arm’s length”

        An understatement to say the least. He has repeatedly put out videos and articles denouncing Trump, and regularly did so on numerous TV interview appearances during the election.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You reminded me that the capital-L Libertarian VP candidate did an interview near Election Day saying “whatever you do, don’t vote for Trump.”

          • But Weld wasn’t a libertarian in any other very strong sense, so far as I could tell.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Johnson/Weld were nice guys but their grasp of strategy left much to be desired. If they really thought that Trump was the greater threat they should’ve run a much more conservative campaign.

        • Matt M says:

          In case people don’t believe me, this just popped up on my FB feed…

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            A pity he found it necessary to toss in the gratuitous monetary-crank stuff, but, yeah.

    • Jordan D. says:

      The Volokh Conspiracy libertarians who have commented on the matter have been thoroughly anti-Trump from the beginning, and Ilya probably most aggressively so. Honestly, if I were going to point to any reasonably-prominent libertarian who holds principles above partisanship, I would pick Somin in a heartbeat. On the other hand, one could argue that he was also the most ‘divorced’ from the traditional right-leaning support for libertarian principles due to his particular focus on the benefits of open borders, so he has very little incentive to try to toe the line he long ago ran across.

      Still, kudos to the lot of them for announcing their opposition to Trump back before he became nominee and mostly standing firm even after he assumed office.

      (Actually it’s to the point where each of the authors has been panned at least a few hundred times by commentators linked to the blog for being content-free Trump-hating liberals who worship Obama. Seeing Adler and Bernstein accused of Obama-love was maybe the most hilarious result of the election.)

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Hence my confusion (well, not really confusion) about why so many libertarians here aren’t interested in criticizing Trump.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Don Boudreaux, an econ professor at George Mason and a prolific blogger at CafeHayek, is a strong economic libertarian who’s gone on the record saying he preferred Clinton over Trump. I remember him thinking Trump was *much* too unpredictable, and what economic policies Trump did seem drawn to tended to be protectionist (anti-illegal immigration, “made in the USA”). Granted, he didn’t like Clinton very much either.

      Libertarians probably mostly feel the same way – both were protectionist, but Clinton probably somewhat less so, while Trump was very loose and probably more crony capitalist than Clinton might be. Also, Trump comes off as a military hawk, and libertarians tend to be military isolationists.

      • Tekhno says:

        Also, Trump comes off as a military hawk, and libertarians tend to be military isolationists.

        He comes across as oscillating between hardcore Paleocon isolationism and hardline Neocon interventionist positions. It’s as if he’s play acting and can’t figure out which type of conservative he’s supposed to be.

        He endorsed ending nation-building, he thought Iraq, Libya, and now Syria were mistakes and that the strongmen were better than their Islamist replacements, and that maybe we should be friends with Russia…

        …but then he suddenly veered away from the anti-neocon line and drummed up aggression against Iran, and repeated the same America First but Israel Firster rhetoric we’ve heard forever, so who knows, really? Now we get to find out.

        Hillary was definitely a hawk, hard line on Iran, Syria, and Russia, and practically a neocon, but she was consistent, whereas Trump flip flops between defying the neoconservatives in his party and doing them proud. The mercurial nature of Trump means that he could say things appealing to libertarians one minute and things absolutely repellent to them the next, which goes with Mason’s point.

        Of course, if you believe the status quo itself is unstable then that factors in massively too.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          No nation building, isolationist, but also “take the oil.”

          Which has never seemed anything other than incoherent. I’m sure someone very clever could figure out a way to square that circle, but I don’t believe Trump is attempting something clever or outlining something that could be deemed either tactical or strategic.

          It has never seemed like anything other than shiny object syndrome, the proverbial “can’t hold onto the orange and remove my hand from the jar, so I will walk around with my hand in a jar”.

  13. Tekhno says:

    Let’s lower the thread IQ with a blogpost for sec:

    Just ordered a pizza to be fat (I’M NOT FAT) and lazy (I am lazy). Guy asks if I would like some garlic dip with my order because otherwise there’s a £2 delivery charge for orders £10 or under (which would make it £11.20), so I do, making it £10, but that now means that I get garlic dip with my pizza and he’s out £1.20!

    Is he crazy! Is he undermining his whole business model by alerting me to the delivery charge? Is he just trying to build loyalty from regular customers? Or is he just overstocked with garlic dip? Is he cooking up some evil scheme?

    What’s going on? Arg! etc.

    • Randy M says:

      You’d need to mention the size of the pizza joint; is the guy on the phone likely to be the owner, manager, or just one employee of many?
      And where does the delivery fee go to? The driver or the store?
      Maybe there’s some corporate promotion for garlic dip in particular, or maybe they get tracked in how many add-on items they can sell to you.

    • Jordan D. says:

      Garlic dip is well-known for containing microscopic fungi that infect human hosts and encourage them to spread garlic to other humans.

      Actually this has happened a few times to me when picking up bagels for the office. I’ll order, say, two particular kinds of bagel packs to get enough, and the person at the counter will tell me that I can get that number of bagels cheaper if I pick a different combination. My assumption is that it’s because I’ll remember the people at this shop who actively tried to help me get a better outcome and go there again next time instead of the Sleezybagel down the street.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Randy M

      He’s definitely not the delivery driver. I think he might just be the phone guy. It’s a small place, however.

      @Jordan D.

      It could be differentiation, in which case, I guess it worked because here I am telling strangers on the internet about it.

    • He was prudently checking to see if you were a vampire.

    • Civilis says:

      Customer loyalty is very valuable.

      Coincidentally, the manager at the local Chik-Fil-a comped me my order for lunch today. Given it’s one of the closest places to eat to the office, has service head and shoulders above every other non-Chik-Fil-a fast food place I’ve been to, and is consistently at least above average in terms of quality for places within reasonable distance in that price range, I’m not likely to stop eating there on a regular basis. Still, my opinion of the place has gone up again.

    • Matt M says:

      Maybe I’m being naieve here, but customer loyalty seems most likely to me. Garlic dip seems like a low-cost high-margin product. The extra $2 delivery charge is likely to really annoy a customer who doesn’t see it coming – or possibly cause someone on the phone to say “you know what, forget it then.” The “delivery charge” itself is probably not meant to be a major source of revenue, rather just a cost control designed to prevent people from wasting his time on sending a driver out to deliver a 99 cent coke out to some random lazy person.

      I’m making some assumptions about his business here, but you don’t have to make that many to arrive to a scenario where his doing this is perfectly rational.

    • Cadie says:

      This particular guy’s motivation could have been anything, but the most common is to build loyalty and make you think well of them. If you had a good experience with them, you’re more likely to remember it and go back to them instead of trying your luck elsewhere.

      Garlic dip is probably very cheap. Items like that tend to be high-margin; it costs the company much less than it costs the customer, so when you get a “free” one it saves you a lot more than they lose. I do that with fountain drinks as “oops, sorry about [minor mistake they were complaining about], here’s a free drink on us” sometimes; the customer thinks they’re getting a $2 freebie but it only costs us about thirty cents.

    • DavidS says:

      Agreed with others that customer loyalty or not-being-the-owner are likely. Becoming someone’s go-to pizza place is a big earner. In fact, takeout places with an eye on profits should (maybe do?) track new customers so they can lavish them with particular loveliness the first few times and then slowly dial it back once they become the regular…

      Also worth mentioning that (while you can argue this is also selfish in evolutionary terms etc. etc.) people are also often just nice and the owner may not want to ‘rip you off’ even aside from issues of customer loyalty. And as others have said, tricking people into accidentally paying delivery charge is probably not part of their business model.

      It would be much more surprising if the thing he was alerting you to was a key part of how they make money. E.g. when you signed up for unlimited access to a gym they told you that most people who did so only went a few times a month and so could use their cheaper membership

  14. albertborrow says:

    One of the highest ranking posts on reddit this week was about Trump pulling us out of the TPP. I’m for this decision, but what does everyone else here think?

    • TenMinute says:

      It was dead anyway, so I can applaud him for scoring political points with it.
      As a policy matter, it’s a bit of a diplomatic disaster.

    • Jiro says:

      I applaud this and already pointed to this before as a positive effect of Trump’s presidency that became obvious even before he took office.

      Although Trump wasn’t against it for the reason that Internet geeks are against it (the intellectual property provisions).

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Strongly for, probably the only thing he’s done so far I actually liked.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      As I said elsewhere, I was in general a modest fan of TPP, but the tide is way way against free trade deals right now, so I took it as a given it wasn’t going to pass. (I doubt even Clinton would have passed it, since it would have blown a lot of political capital on a pretty small win.)

      • Deiseach says:

        I doubt even Clinton would have passed it, since it would have blown a lot of political capital on a pretty small win.

        She did come out and say she was against it; do you not believe that, or do you think it was just more political twirling in the wind, and had she been elected she might have changed her mind back?

        o Say “no” to new trade agreements that don’t meet her high bar – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary will hit pause and say “no” to new trade agreements unless they create American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security. After looking at the final terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, including what it contains on currency manipulation and its weak rules of origin standard for what counts as a car that can get treaty benefits, she opposed the agreement because it did not meet her test. And she will hold every future trade agreement to the same high standard.

        Though as PolitiFact pointed out “While she was secretary of state under Obama, she called the trade deal the “gold standard,” so somehow I doubt this was a matter of strong enduring principle with her.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I don’t think she was against it, but, having campaigned against it, it significantly increases the political capital required to suddenly back it again.

          She could have bulldozed it through, but to what end? Would getting a minor trade deal be worth accomplishing nothing else?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I actually think that it was more “the Democratic and Republican bases have spoken”. Because of this, it wasn’t going to pass the Senate, so there wasn’t really a point to backing it.

            She did leave the door wide open by consistently maintaining (whether true or not) that the TPP changed too much for her to continue backing it. She could have gone back and attempted renegotiating the TPP, which she could have done with the idea that eventually enough people would come around on it if there were enough items that looked like “protect Americans via the TPP”.

    • John Schilling says:

      A giant meh here. I am generally in favor of free trade, but TPP was already DOA, and was sufficiently voluminous and complex that it almost certainly contained a hefty dose of crony capitalism and other sleazy politics alongside whatever free trade was involved. Meanwhile, pretty much everyone involved in the TPP was and remains a member of the WTO, which puts a floor on how unfree their trade can be even absent the TPP. So, no great loss.

    • Urstoff says:

      Disappointed. Like all trade deals, it was incredibly flawed, but it in the end, it probably would have reduced tariffs all around.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I second this. I didn’t like everything in that deal, but I found the negatives to be largely exaggerated and probably worth the price reductions.

        But by the the time the primaries finished I pretty much had given up on any candidate doing anything but scrapping it (although I still think Clinton might have brought it back under another name or something).

  15. Kevin C. says:

    Does anyone have any theories to explain why so many Americans (in my experience, especially of the Red Tribe) think that it is “illegal to use American soldiers against American citizens” full stop?

      • Kevin C. says:

        Except that the Posse Comitatus Act, first of all, only specifically applies to the United States Army and, by amendment, the Air Force. Secondly, it says:

        Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

        (Emphasis added)

        And as wiki’s page on Insurrection Act of 1807 notes:

        Accordingly, actions taken under the Insurrection Act, as an “Act of Congress”, have always been exempt from the Posse Comitatus Act.

        Plus, from the Posse Comitatus Act page itself notes:

        In the mid-20th century, the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower used an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act, derived from the Enforcement Acts, to send federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, during the 1957 school desegregation crisis. The Arkansas governor had opposed desegregation after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 in the Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. The Enforcement Acts, among other powers, allow the President to call up military forces when state authorities are either unable or unwilling to suppress violence that is in opposition to the constitutional rights of the people.

        Plus, the Posse Comitatus Act didn’t stop Hoover or MacArthur with regards to the “Bonus Army“:

        The Bonus Army was the popular name for an assemblage of some 43,000 marchers—17,000 U.S. World War I veterans, their families, and affiliated groups—who gathered in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1932 to demand cash-payment redemption of their service certificates.

        On July 28, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the veterans removed from all government property. Washington police met with resistance, shots were fired and two veterans were wounded and later died. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the Army to clear the veterans’ campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur commanded the infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.

        (As a side note, I recently saw someone bring up the Bonus Army, and the government response, in comparison to the recent Women’s March, as a purported example of how female distress and concerns recieve vastly more attention than male ones.)

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Kevin C – “As a side note, I recently saw someone bring up the Bonus Army, and the government response, in comparison to the recent Women’s March, as a purported example of how female distress and concerns recieve vastly more attention than male ones.”

          That seems like a foolish comparison; a one-day march is obviously different from setting up camp. A better comparison clearly would be Occupy, which wasn’t met with tanks and sabers either.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But was met, eventually, with a fairly vigorous martial response.

            US Armed Forces not necessary, but still martial.

            I’ll just go back to one of my hobby horses and say this illustrates that various values are in tension with each other, and that one cannot achieve stability of the system while still optimizing for any one of the values…

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “But was met, eventually, with a fairly vigorous martial response.”

            Indeed. One could also compare the Bundy standoff, which resulted in an even more vigorous martial response, and the obvious reason is that the occupiers in that case were armed. I’m not sure if the Bonus Army was significantly armed, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear that they were.

            To be clear, I don’t think these comparisons are a good demonstration of political bias in treatment of dissent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            Generally I agree.

            I’m not sure that Malheur standoff response was more vigorous though. It’s a little bit apples and oranges.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m not sure that something that took place in the 1930s can be fairly compared to something that took place last weekend.

          Beyond this, the Bonus Army was clearly threatening in a way that a crowd consisting primarily of women isn’t – war veteran men demanding money now, and camping until they get it?

          FacelessCraven points out that a one-day march is different from a camp. I went by a place where a march was going on, then by it again maybe 3 or 4 hours later – it was completely deserted, and quite clean.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Right, but most popular understandings are going to boil down to a single sentence with all the nuances removed. Here, that would be roughly “The Army can’t be used on America” and “roughly” is rough enough to elide the difference between “army” and “soldiers” and “America” and “American citizens.”

        • Iain says:

          In addition to the other responses, I will also point out that Hoover’s botched response to the Bonus Army was wildly unpopular and contributed to his landslide electoral defeat later that year.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I appreciate you pointing this out; I’ve heard about the bonus army many times before, but never heard of any consequences arising from it. It’s usually held up as an example of the monstrous nature of our government; it’s some consolation to hear how monstrous actions were rewarded with defeat for their perpetrators.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      After spending a healthy number of hours at ELI5, in my experience most people’s understanding of the vast majority of political subjects is limited to a single sentence summary of the topic. This isn’t to say that they can’t understand the topic in more detail, rather the single sentence is good enough and allows them to stop worrying about the issue, at least until something happens that puts the issue into the media/popular talk. In this case, my bet would be that for many, the first clause of the act is the limit, i. e. posse comitatus means the army can’t be used domestically is the single sentence summary of this issue.

      • Civilis says:

        In this case, my bet would be that for many, the first clause of the act is the limit, i. e. posse comitatus means the army can’t be used domestically is the single sentence summary of this issue.

        A single sentence summary generally works unless people can bring to mind a contrary example. People don’t see the military being used for law enforcement, and they’ve heard of the act which limits how the military can be used for law enforcement, so they assume the act prohibits the use of the military for law enforcement entirely.

        Likewise, people assume the US president is elected by the majority of voters until he isn’t, at which point they find out about the electoral college. As long as the President is the majority vote winner, the Electoral College doesn’t matter to people, so they forget about it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Likewise, people assume the US president is elected by the majority of voters until he isn’t

          I don’t think this can be quite right. I think a super-majority of people have heard the term “swing state” and understand that you win by winning states.

          They probably can’t identify “electoral college”, and if asked how the president wins, they might say “by getting more votes” but I submit that’s actually a different thing.

          • Civilis says:

            Good point; it was timely and seemed relevant, so I didn’t think it out as well as I should have. Probably a meta-example, to some degree.

      • Kevin C. says:

        @massivefocusedinaction

        “This isn’t to say that they can’t understand the topic in more detail, rather the single sentence is good enough and allows them to stop worrying about the issue”

        Yes, but you’d think the “2nd Amendment Remedies” crowd would know better. But no, you’ve got folks in my online circles reacting to that “Days of Rage” review with the likes of ‘The Left, better than the Right at violence? Yeah, right. The Left are all [insert euphemism for female genitalia] and [insert anti-homosexual slur]. They should be terrified of provoking us on the Right, ’cause we all have guns, so if the Left pushes us, it’ll be Right Wing Death Squads hanging them from lampposts all over the country, and they won’t be able to stop us ’cause it’s illegal to use soldiers against citizens.’

  16. shakeddown says:

    One of the casualties of raikoth’s downfall is Scott’s book recommendations list (formerly at http://raikoth.net/ficrecommend.html ). Does anyone know how to find a copy?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      http://archive.is/vyTOn

      edit: ninja, please!

    • Montfort says:

      I think now would be a good time for me to repeat some lesser-known trivia about the internet archive (that is, archive.org): their policy is to respect the robots.txt of the current domain owner. This means if in the future someone else buys the raikoth.net domain and disallows webcrawling, the internet archive will make all previous archives from the domain unavailable.

      The similar-looking archive.is does not have the same limitation, since it’s not a crawler, but also because it’s not a crawler it “only” has archives of pages people specifically told it to take while the page was live. I say “only” in quotes because it still has quite a lot, but presumably less than archive.org.

      In other words, if there’s something you want to keep from a dead webpage that you can find on archive.org but not archive.is / archive.fo, then you’ll want to make a local copy. (Actually, if you really want to be sure, you’ll want to make a local copy anyway, and back it up to at least two other storage devices, at least one of which is physically far away, but many of us don’t care that much about most things, and those of us who do probably made such copies while the pages were still live).

  17. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    Here’s a plausible take on Trump’s victory that I haven’t seen raised much: Namely, that it was a “revolution of rising expectations” (really an orderly democratic transition of rising expectations). Trump didn’t win because everything is going to shit and the people got desperate. Rather, he won because the US faces no serious threats, which freed people to vote for someone kind of goofy and fun.

    Con: This is a false-consciousness theory, and those are always implausible. And arguably the US does face some serious threats, maybe?

    Pro: It explains why Obama’s high approval rating didn’t help Clinton. It explains why Clinton’s attempt to re-run Johnson vs. Goldwater didn’t work. Unlike most explanations, it is consistent with the fact that Trump did well in many prosperous, high-employment places that benefit from foreign trade, such as Iowa. It explains why a “high upside, low downside” candidate would be attractive at this moment.

    Implications: Everyone can stop freaking out about how America is falling apart – Trump’s election is evidence that Americans are confident, maybe over-confident, in their country. It suggests that Democrats should focus less on solving current problems (like Appalachia) and more on fun Utopian ideas like a basic income or doubling the US population through immigration.

    • shakeddown says:

      For perspective on the race:

      But Clinton faced more headwinds in 2016, trying to win a third consecutive term for her party amid a mediocre economy. Against a “generic” Republican such as John Kasich or Marco Rubio, she might have been in a toss-up race or even a slight underdog, in fact. So she was counting on good economic news — or for Trump to underperform a “generic” Republican because of his unique flaws as a candidate.

      Given this, I think a more plausible form of your theory (for the general, if not the primary) is that Americans feel secure enough in general to not be repelled by Trump’s weirdness.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think some of this is true. The contemporary culture wars got their start in the 90’s, when the Soviet Union was defeated and the economy was great. The next decade got sidetracked by wars and the Great Recession. Notably, Obama won in 2012 even though the unemployment rate was still high. And Trump got his support even when the unemployment rate was back to normal levels. It seems as the economy got better, people focused more on cultural division.

      Still though, there is something not right with the argument. The economy isn’t great. Labor force participation is still low, even adjusting for demographics. Trump won thanks to support in Ohio and Michigan. And economic growth has not notably improved from a few years ago.

    • Well... says:

      And arguably the US does face some serious threats, maybe?

      How arguably? To me it seems pretty clear that we face some very serious threats, and I certainly think most Trump voters would agree. Heck, I think most Clinton voters would agree.

      When is a high upside, low downside candidate ever not attractive?

      There are a lot of possible positions between “America is falling apart so we should be freaking out” and “Everything’s peachy, let’s give everyone $50K a year for doing nothing”.

      Yeesh, I know a lot of Democrats are enthusiastic about immigration, but how many of them consider doubling the US population a utopian outcome?

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m seeing news reports that the “Dow Jones Industrial Average [has risen] to the rarefied air of 20,000” and although there seems to be griping that this was going to happen anyway and he can’t take the credit, it certainly seems as if at least he hasn’t caused a panic and a slump (as happened in the wake of Brexit).

      So maybe there is something to “things are looking up, people feel secure enough to vote for an outsider rather than the stale old candidates”.

  18. Well... says:

    Economists have been polled and seem to all agree that “slavery in the US was eradicated because of social and political events (i.e. the Civil War), not because it was an unprofitable institution for slaveholders.”

    Forgiving the poor wording of the question (my guess is they meant to say something more like “slavery in the US would not have been eradicated as an unprofitable institution for slaveholders and required the Civil War instead”), I still think the issue is oversimplified.

    Housing, feeding, and paying for the continued health of slaves, at least enough so they are able to work, is not cheap; there’s a large hidden cost to all that “free” labor. Plus, this was forced labor so productivity and efficiency were by definition unlikely to be very high. And it’s not like American slaves were stitching designer handbags: agriculture isn’t a big profit-margin industry.

    My understanding (and it could be wrong) has long been that the money in slavery—the force that sustained it and even caused the price of slaves to rise just before the Civil War—came from the financial side of it: the selling of and borrowing against slaves, things like that. Maybe even speculating on slaves, who knows. I.e. the slave stock market. This could even work together with the theory that slavery was maintained more out of tradition than practicality.

    All the same questions about American slavery in the 19th century and earlier could be asked of modern-day slavery, which is still around to be researched. Is anyone doing that?

    • James Miller says:

      “My understanding (and it could be wrong) has long been that the money in slavery—the force that sustained it and even caused the price of slaves to rise just before the Civil War—came from the financial side of it: the selling of and borrowing against slaves, things like that. Maybe even speculating on slaves, who knows. I.e. the slave stock market.” I’m an economist and I find this hard to believe, although I have not studied the situation. The existence of a liquid market in which slaves were traded would have caused the price of slaves to move to its fundamental value. It generally requires government involvement (as with our last housing market crash) to get asset prices to be clearly above their fundamental value.

      • Well... says:

        Could you do me a favor and create a line break between what you’re quoting and the beginning of your reply? Just hit Enter twice, super easy.

        I’m not saying the “slave stock market” would necessarily increase the price of slaves (though it could if people responded to grumblings about abolition by trying to buy as many slaves as they could), but rather that the trade itself created a lot of money out of nowhere (i.e. out of speculation and the paying of brokers), just like the regular stock market does.

        Anyway what I’m curious about is whether anyone’s studying this question WRT modern slavery.

        • >but rather that the trade itself created a lot of money out of nowhere (i.e. out of speculation and the paying of brokers), just like the regular stock market does.

          Can you be more rigorous in what you’re saying? I’ve done research in academic financial markets, and in my experience when talking about markets it helps to try and be really really explicit, since it’s such a confusing dynamic system. What do you mean, exactly, by it ‘created money out of nowhere’? I think you’re trying to make a general point that the existence of slavery made lots of people wealthy who weren’t slave owners, but your explanation of how trading makes money seems hand-wavy.

          There was a great econtalk on this topic (sorta, tangential) this Summer: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2016/08/munger_on_slave.html

          You might also find this book from 1857, ‘Cannibals All’ historically interesting. It made the argument that slavery was *better* for slaves than bottom-of-the-barrel ‘wage slavery,’ as the masters actually had an incentive to take care of their workers. Whereas the industrialists didn’t have an incentive to take care of their ‘wage slaves.’ (http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/fitzhughcan/summary.html).

          More generally, the idea that owning slaves could be non-profitable seems ridiculous to me. After all, why would you go out and buy a slave if you were going to lose money in expectation? You could hire a white farmer instead with the same money.

          • Well... says:

            I think you’re trying to make a general point that the existence of slavery made lots of people wealthy who weren’t slave owners, but your explanation of how trading makes money seems hand-wavy.

            Yes, that’s the general point I’m trying to make, and yes, it is hand-wavy. Hopefully someone with more economic knowledge can weigh in.

            I didn’t mean to say that slavery necessarily lost money for slaveholders (though in a few cases it probably did–Robert E. Lee’s struggle to settle his father-in-law’s estate might be one example), rather that it wasn’t as economically productive as paid labor.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The story I’ve heard is that slavery was indeed becoming unprofitable… until the cotton gin made cotton-picking vastly more profitable. This is almost certainly oversimplified.

    • 1soru1 says:

      > Housing, feeding, and paying for the continued health of slaves, at least enough so they are able to work, is not cheap

      Those considerations haven’t led to other forms of working livestock, such as horses, being abandoned as unprofitable; they just get a bit more or less popular over time (15 M at peak, 4M at trough, 9M now). I am pretty sure a human slave can produce more value per calorie than a horse, especially when you consider their uses outside agriculture. And even late 19C technological developments would have greatly improved the economics of ownership. By the time you get to 20C psychopharmacology, security costs would have been negligible.

      Even if not, general economic progress would have made prestigious properties like a slave plantation increasingly affordable over time. There would no doubt have been ironic semi-jokes about how much money your plantation was losing you…

    • Wrong Species says:

      The wording of the question seems to be the main problem. I can see someone arguing that slavery would have gradually become unprofitable. But the question seems to be asking if slavery would have still existed in 1866 if it wasn’t for “social and political events”. Clearly the answer is yes. I can’t imagine anyone arguing otherwise.

    • cassander says:

      >My understanding (and it could be wrong) has long been that the money in slavery—the force that sustained it and even caused the price of slaves to rise just before the Civil War—came from the financial side of it: the selling of and borrowing against slaves, things like that

      This was true some places, less so in others. you can’t have a market if there isn’t demand somewhere. My understanding was that slaves were generally moving westwards by the civil war, away from the old tobacco growing regions, where their labor was at best marginal, and towards the more profitable cotton and sugar producing areas.

      Given the history of slavery in brazil, it seems likely that american slavery would also have grown less profitable over time, for similar reasons.

    • Well... says:

      I’d like to reemphasize that my main question is about whether anyone is researching the economics of modern-day slavery.

  19. James Miller says:

    If Trump taxed remittances Mexicans working in the U.S. send to Mexico, would it be easy for these workers to switch to sending Bitcoins? If so, do you think Trump would attempt to outlaw Bitcoins?

    • Loquat says:

      Last I heard, turning Bitcoins into cold hard cash was kind of inconvenient even for affluent internet-connected types. When my husband was into it, he generally just used a website that sells various retailer-specific gift cards for Bitcoin, which is not a very good option when you’re trying to send money to a rural village where none of said retailers have outlets. Do you think the current state of Bitcoin and its surrounding infrastructure is reasonably accessible to a non-internet-savvy peasant?

      Edit: I could imagine it happening if someone set up a “Western Union, but with Bitcoin” business and took care of all the currency conversion, etc, issues, so that the sender and recipient wouldn’t need to have Internet access and learn their way around Bitcoin. But then that business would be the weak point a government could attack, so I dunno.

      • James Miller says:

        “Do you think the current state of Bitcoin and its surrounding infrastructure is reasonably accessible to a non-internet-savvy peasant?” No, but I wonder how easy it would be for this to become the case if Trump started taxing remittances.

        • Matt M says:

          Not easy at all. My understanding is that the current difficulties in regards to getting both in and out of bitcoin are mostly due to the fact that it operates largely outside the law already. Anything that might conceivably attract more government attention to it would probably make it even less user-friendly for the average person, not more.

    • Sandy says:

      First someone would have to tell them what Bitcoin is.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Bitcoin isn’t something only used by hoity-toity first-world white people.

        Whether they go to Bitcoin depends on what kind and scale of remittance tax Trump attempts to create. A 1% tax wouldn’t be worth routing around, a 10% tax would.

        • Iain says:

          Bitcoin isn’t something only used by hoity-toity first-world white people.

          This is technically true, but only insofar as Bitcoin is also used by hoity-toity first world Asian people. (Hoit and toit not guaranteed.) According to the summary of CoinDesk’s 2015 report (which I am not going to pay $99 to read in its entirety), more than 80% of respondents were in North America and Europe, and they were two thirds white.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah. I know the Bitcoin enthusiasts love to spread anecdotes about how it helps poor Indian farmers get a better price on selling their grain or whatever, but at the risk of sounding really arrogant here, I am very skeptical that something which was pretty difficult for me (a first world white person with a decent amount of tech experience and an ideological motivation to get into bitcoin) to figure out and actually make happen will be easily accessible to the illiterate rice farmer in Sri Lanka.

          • hyperboloid says:

            I think it’s very likely that the Mexican government will invest a lot in making it easer to use, and in setting up Bitcoin to peso exchanges in Mexico.

            Anecdotal evidence here, but a relative of mine did some work on cryptocurrency. He told me that he was contacted on line by someone from Colombia who was very interested in supporting the project. So at least somebody in Latin America is paying attention.

          • Deiseach says:

            someone from Colombia who was very interested in supporting the project

            I’m sorry to say, my first thoughts there were of the Colombian Marching Powder.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Deiseach

            I wish I could say that was an unfounded stereotype about Latin America, but I’m almost certain that the gentlemen in question was making his living exporting el oro blanco.

            Also, “Colombian Marching Powder”,
            is that a common Irish/UK English phrase? You people can even make cocaine sound whimsical.

          • Deiseach says:

            hyperboloid, I’m not sure if it’s originally British, or if it was an American slang term picked up by the trendy over here; I encountered it back in my twenties when I used to read our Irish music press magazine and they often had whimsical/joking references to “Auld Doctor McJagger’s Colombian Marching Powder”, which I worked out did not mean something analogous to Mrs Cullen’s Powders 🙂

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Mexican workers would be more likely to adopt some form of hawala system, which I assume would be organized by various cartels. Smartphone penetration isn’t as deep as other Latin American countries especially in the rural regions most dependent on remittances.

  20. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Why did the standard term for socialized health care become “single-payer”? The Wikipedia article suggests that only in Canada and Taiwan is the government literally the only legitimate payer of medical doctors, and most First World countries have something like Medicare for all plus a private insurance industry, and the British NHS is different from both in that doctors are state employees rather than in private practice and billing the government.

    • Matt M says:

      “Why did the standard term for socialized health care become “single-payer”?”

      When Democrats realized that “socialized medicine” didn’t poll well with focus groups. Single payer sounds vaguely technical, so you can feel really smart when you talk about it – and avoids the dreaded “s-word”

      • BBA says:

        Of course, the term “socialized medicine” is a dysphemism possibly coined, certainly popularized by the AMA in their failed effort to prevent the Medicare bill of 1965 from passing. What, you think it’s just one side that plays language games?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It is older than that.

        • Matt M says:

          Nah, I don’t think it’s just one side. Although I did think this was a somewhat neutral term, as my dad, who is a pretty committed left-winger that really wants more government in health care, always referred to it as “socialized medicine.”

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Single-payer is different than single-provider is different than universal insurance. Medicare is single-payer. The UK NHS is single-provider. The Swiss system is universal insurance. They are different ways to get to get to a universal healthcare system.

      The reason why single-payer is popular as a reference point in the US probably has as much to with the fact that Medicare is well known and works as anything else. Plus putting all the insurance companies out of work is one thing, but trying to make all of the healthcare providers into federal employees is something else.

      The ACA is a (roughly) universal insurance plan tacked on top of our existing varied kludge.

      • sflicht says:

        I do not think that is an apt description of the ACA.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It requires everyone to have insurance, legally gives everyone the right to insurance and makes insurance affordable to everyone. It mandates certain minimum features of the coverage.

          That’s universal insurance.

          Well, it was until SCOTUS decided that the Feds couldn’t change the eligibility level for Medicare unilaterally. But the design of the program is to make insurance near universal.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            It requires everyone to have insurance, legally gives everyone the right to insurance and makes insurance affordable to everyone.

            Not even close. E.g. single-earner households which did not qualify for the medicaid/care expansion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, the word “roughly” was doing some work in the original description.

            Again, the whole health insurance and health care market in the US is a kludge. It’s a kludge for lots of good reasons and lots of bad reasons, but still a kludge.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @HeelBearCub

            From a strict affordability perspective, I wonder how true this would have been of the ACA if so much of the population wasn’t subject to it (i.e. those who had coverage through an employer).

            I know that I was paying the penalty because even a subsidized policy was unaffordable given my debt load. But how far my circumstances can be generalized I have no clue about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anonymousskimmer:

            I know that I was paying the penalty because even a subsidized policy was unaffordable given my debt load.

            Eventually this will not be true (or perhaps would not have been true, depending on what happens).

            From a strict affordability perspective, I wonder how true this would have been of the ACA if so much of the population wasn’t subject to it (i.e. those who had coverage through an employer).

            I’m trying to make this make sense, and I can’t.

            I’m not sure if you think that the ACA would long term unaffordable because too many people are in employer sponsored coverage, but I don’t know how that follows.

            If you were attempting to say that healthy, young people would continue to pay the penalty, again, the penalty is set to rise over time to a level that will make this much less likely.

          • The Nybbler says:

            ACA policy costs are rising. And the Obamacare penalty is $2085 per family, or $695 for individuals in 2016 dollars (indexed to inflation), or 2.5% of income, whichever is higher. That’s per year. Not even close to sufficient to deter going uninsured. Average price of a “bronze” plan was $13,000 in 2016. It wasn’t working. It couldn’t work.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            Average price of a “bronze” plan was $13,000 in 2016. It wasn’t working. It couldn’t work.

            You are comparing the unsubsidized cost with the penalty, which makes very little sense.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You are comparing the unsubsidized cost with the penalty, which makes very little sense.

            That’s the relevant comparison to see if adverse selection will take place, I believe. If a healthy young man sees he can pay $13,000 for health insurance that includes all sorts of things completely irrelevant to him, or a $695$1177 penalty, and he’s making $47,080 (the subsidy cutoff), it makes sense for him to pay the penalty.

            (edit because of the 2.5% of income penalty is greater than the flat penalty. Doesn’t change anything though)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I basically agree with what The Nybbler wrote. To give a hypothetical though (which does not represent me):

            Most people are offered, through work, far more affordable plans that are far better than this hypothetical. But what if they weren’t?

            Married (or co-habiting) couple, single income, kids.

            The “breadwinner” can afford a work-based policy* for theirself, but only by paying about 5% of income in premiums. This policy doesn’t cover the kids or spouse (this would cost too much in premiums).

            Under the ACA they must purchase this workplace policy, another more expensive policy, or pay the penalty. They will not receive premium help for a marketplace plan since they are offered an “affordable” policy at work.

            The families truly discretionary income is about 10% of their household income.

            The kids will likely need more medical care than either adult. But even if this is not the case, there’s an almost equal likelihood that either spouse will need medical care.

            So you have the choice to pay 2.5%+ of household income and have <=7.5% to spend on everyone's medical care. This was basically the status quo for your family before the ACA (minus 2.5%+). Or you can pay 5% for a policy covering some of the medical care of the breadwinner, and only have 5% left over to spend on everyone else’s medical needs plus the breadwinner’s copays (I’m uncertain if you’d have to pay penalties for the spouse and children not having coverage). Under normal circumstances you will be spending money on medical care for the children, regardless of any spending on the adults.

            This is your calculus. What choice would you make?

            * – This policy was not offered prior to ACA implementation, and doesn’t cover more than the bare minimum the ACA requires. It’s Bronze-level equivalent.

      • cassander says:

        I’d venture to guess that most people who are for single payer don’t think medicare is single payer, even though it is.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          On the Democratic side? Definitely.

          The only vaguely serious single-payer proposal on the table is “Medicare for All”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I meant to say that most Democrats know that Medicare is single-payer.

            Not sure if that scans or not from my first post.

          • cassander says:

            the vast majority of democrats I run into seem to think that “single payer” and “universal” are synonyms. probably republicans too, but I don’t ask them about that as much. If pressed, they’d probably say that medicare for all is single payer, but I doubt one 3 would say that medicare is a single payer system as it exists today. And if you explained that medicare is a single payer, but not universal system, they’d think you were an idiot.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Medicare is a single-payer universal system for everyone over 65.

            But no one thinks it’s a universal system for the whole US, because, otherwise they would think we had universal healthcare already.

            So I don’t think I’m really following your point.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            >Medicare is a single-payer universal system for everyone over 65.
            >But no one thinks it’s a universal system for the whole US, because, otherwise they would think we had universal healthcare already.

            I know that. I know that you know that. What I’m saying is that if you ask the average democrat, or republican, “is medicare single payer healthcare” they will say no, because in the popular mind, the definition of single payer is something like “universal healthcare like europe has”. I know that that is wrong, and I know that you know it’s wrong, but I’d bet a bunch of money it’s what most people think.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says: