SELF-RECOMMENDING!

OT69: The Open Of Akhnai

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. This might be your last chance to take the SSC Survey before I close it. Thanks to everyone who has already responded.

2. Comment of the week is Douglas Knight’s commentary on the American genetic clustering post. I still haven’t looked through most of the cost disease comment thread.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1,109 Responses to OT69: The Open Of Akhnai

  1. dndnrsn says:

    It’s also a lot smaller than it was in

    I think you’re missing a bit here.

    Hiring dozens of full time employees to go around castigating people for not being sufficiently left wing, funding the next generation of student union types.

    I question whether this is really the case. I went to a university that is quite left-wing. There was plenty of resistance to the left-wing activist struggle session type stuff. You kind of had to seek that out.

    you’re using the wrong metric here. if on the scale of extremity, the young radicals are an 8 relative to the country as whole, pointing out that they normalize at a 4 doesn’t prove that they aren’t shifting culture. 4 still pulls the country along a lot,

    I think you’re missing a bit at the end here. They might be shifting culture, but not in the way that the 70s radicals wanted to. I expand at the bottom.

    It might, but I’m not really familiar with the alt-right, so I’m not one to say. Certainly I’ll grant that there are probably a lot of people who have heard of the concept and assume it’s a conspiracy, but lazy, “folk” versions of political thinking are endemic in all political strains.

    Pretty much.

    por que no los dos?

    I’ll expand at the bottom.

    Because Stalin was paranoid For betraying great Stalin, not for murdering Ukrainians.

    Fair point.

    and Lindbergh is remembered as a nazi sympathizer (which is completely false) despite flying dozens of combat missions in world war two. do you really these radically different treatments have no effect/relationship to broader culture/politics? What’s your explanation then, that it’s just totally random and the left has just had a nice string of luck?

    My view is that Moloch has devoured the left. The 70s radicals were actual revolutionaries. They were deluded – they seriously thought the masses were going to rise up – but they at least had the courage of their convictions to live underground, plant bombs, rob banks, shoot cops, etc. Now, all the energy that might have gone into trying for a revolution, goes into stuff that is neither radical nor revolutionary – the people who describe themselves as such aren’t.

    Sure, they believe wacky things, but they’re safe. They don’t threaten the economic system, and they don’t threaten the wealthy and the powerful. They’re basically court jesters. Sure, Bill Ayers got away with domestic terrorism. He went on to become a prof who did some reform stuff in cooperation with government. The affluent, educated revolutionaries ended up coopted by the system. The other ones ended up dead or in prison.

    This isn’t a victory for the left. It’s a defeat. That the supposed intellectual heirs of authentic (if often clueless) revolutionaries are probably going to be giving seminars about checking one’s privilege at Fortune 500 companies in ten years is absolutely a defeat. That a class-based leftism that was really threatening to the well-off has been replaced by an identity-based leftism demanding entrance or increased prominence, as the case may be, within the ranks of the well-off, is likewise a defeat.

    • webnaut says:

      I’d add to this that in the year 2016 with Brexit and Trump, the Left has unequivocally lost the support of the Working Class in the Anglophone world. Nobody wants to mention this out loud in the media, but it is true.

      Even before this happened, I was saying since Occupy Wall St that the Left needs to be revitalized in some way because they have lost their societal function. Us on the Right are going to get far greater play from identity politics than the Left ever achieved, on a multitude of levels this tactic was an ‘own goal’ for them. Playing what LW thinks of as the Dark Arts often comes back to bite you in the face.

      Despite the media inspired hysteria of recent weeks, I am optimistic some group of young leftists somewhere will realize they need to go back to first principals, examine their priors, and restart the engine. Otherwise as it is presently, (and is evident from the increasing popularity of ideas from the Death Eater end of the spectrum, something I think makes our patron Scott slightly uncomfortable for a variety of reasons which motivated one of the SSC Survey questions) we’ll be winning the culture wars until the middle of the century.

      I think we all have our biases about what is right but ultimately it’s never a good idea for any network of ideas to permanently win. It leads to stagnation. Communism was a bad idea but without it perhaps other failure modes for our society would have emerged.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        This is an unexpectedly optimistic view on the culture wars for a right wing person.

        • webnaut says:

          I’m taking the long view today. I essentially think we’re heading towards the Diamond Age. I’m less optimistic about the early to middle of the century. It is not plausible for the population of Egypt to go from 100 million today to half a billion for example. You could be dropped into a utopia or a dystopia depending on where you landed in the 20th century. Given the kinds of science and technology tools developed it could have been a lot worse, and I expect some extreme outcomes in the 21st century e.g. 1 billion dead in a war/plague. That doesn’t mean the net result won’t be positive. I view the real failure mode for us is Peter Thiel’s Stagnation Hypothesis, something frighteningly few people understand despite him constantly trying to articulate it for a decade.

      • dndnrsn says:

        You’re equivocating between “working class” and “white working class” in the US, “native working class” in Europe. In the US election, the working class overall voted for Clinton, if you consider exit polling broken down by income. Further, you’re using “leftist” to describe everyone on the left.

        • webnaut says:

          Perhaps we have different ideas of what ‘white’ and ‘working class’ are. And no, I don’t trust polls and most especially the histrionic reporting of them since that is what people really read. I thought everybody would have inculcated that lesson after Brexit and Trump. Clearly the readers of the Atlantic and New York Times got the mugging of the century (to date, it’s early yet!).

          Almost all polls/poll reports are motivated to mislead the readers of news. 9/10 dentists agree that their cat Whiskers says *these* tins of chum are adequate provisioning. Sure thing brah. It’s a sales tactic. Cat Food, Information, whatever. Do you just say you don’t believe what you read, or do you literally not believe what you read?

          I’d use White as a racial and cultural description i.e. genes and/or activities. I don’t think there is much daylight between the two in practice when you trace biological bloodlines. That means many South Americans and even some North Africans may fall under the Caucasian classification. Blacks, Arabs and Chinese are not White. Most Russians, Iranians and South Africans are White. Many Hispanics are definitely White (Mitt Romney/Ted Cruz) but many Brazilians aren’t White because they combined with the native/black populations. Less ‘one drop’ more about assimilation level.

          Working class people, actually work. They own their tools. They often own vehicles and properties. They’re the actual physical workhorses of the economy. It’s not a descriptor that covers those who are merely poor or on welfare. There are plenty of intellectuals who are poor but not working class. There even exist relatively impoverished aristocrats. ‘Class’ here is activity+norms, not purely a level of income.

          The best people combine working class and middle class traits, thereby rising to the status of Aristocrats to rule everybody else. That’s understanding the ‘basic reality’ + the capacity to handle large volumes of information, do truly useful work and navigate correctly. Thiel and Gwern are obviously aristocrats. Our patron probably is too.

          > Further, you’re using “leftist” to describe everyone on the left.

          Well, my hands are up!

          I have to say that the people most aggressively attacking Trump supporters evidently know they’re racially biased against whites by the things they say on camera when they’re physically assaulting supposed Trump supporters. The middle classes have been fooled into not grasping what the more extreme people already know instinctually is true. I don’t blame them, it’s a process of propaganda that started early on in schools, I see it on hall posters every time I’m inside them, that’s why the university students are the most exercised about SJWism. Many many of them change their minds about all that later on once they’re out of the system.

          A common working class belief is that the intelligentsia and middle classes are smarter than them on average but because they are exposing themselves to a large amount of information that makes them lose sight of basic truths of the universe i.e. when they make errors, they make monstrous errors e.g. like Caplan on migration, not little ones.

          • dndnrsn says:

            According to CNN’s exit polling – not pre-election polling – the $30-49.9k category went Clinton. That’s not the “poor on welfare” category. If you mean high-school educated, yeah, that’s a group that went narrowly for Trump. But then again there’s a lot of people who have college educations who are working class – a lot of tradespeople.

            And, as for “leftist”, there’s the colloquial use, and the use that divides leftists and liberals. Most of the kids causing a ruckus on campuses – not the blac bloc, but the ones shouting in the chancellor’s office – are (neo)liberals, they just don’t know it.

          • simon says:

            @dndnrsn: webnaut is referring to “working class” in terms of social class, not economic class.

            See Siderea for a good explanation of social class.

            Income is not that great a proxy for social class and education is better but imperfect.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The problem with fairly subjective definitions like that is they are amorphous. If the statement “Donald Trump won the support of the working class” can be made without any hard and fast definition of what the “working class” is – is it people who make less than x dollars? People who work primarily with their hands? People who have education up to trades degrees, but not university degrees? These are all fairly objective definitions – then it can never be falsified.

          • simon says:

            I don’t think social class is that subjective, though it’s hard to measure.

            It might be said that what social classes are considered “working class” is subjective. But the remedy for that is a better definition of working class – which would still be a social class, i.e. a culture.

            Any definition would have to change as culture changes – which doesn’t make it subjective, just fluid.

            I note that, though I don’t have a good definition of “working class”, it seems plausible to me that there is a culture or collection of cultures out there that at least vaguely corresponds to “working class” that shifted towards more support of Trump than previous Republicans (i.e. that webnaut’s claim has some validity to it, though perhaps overstated).

            Also, I think this shift would be more closely associated with social class than with either economic class or education (the correlation with education being more due to it being a proxy for social class than any direct effect, imo).

      • cassander says:

        >I’d add to this that in the year 2016 with Brexit and Trump, the Left has unequivocally lost the support of the Working Class in the Anglophone world. Nobody wants to mention this out loud in the media, but it is true.

        It is. And I bet against both happening basically on the assumption that the cathedral was powerful enough to prevent them. But even if we get an article 50 invocation, 80 percent of EU membership will remain. We’ll see what trump manages to accomplish.

        >Us on the Right are going to get far greater play from identity politics than the Left ever achieved, on a multitude of levels this tactic was an ‘own goal’ for them. Playing what LW thinks of as the Dark Arts often comes back to bite you in the face.

        I don’t think this will happen at all, and even if it does, I’m not sure the results will be good. Making your politics look more like Yugoslavia’s is not a recommended strategy.

        >Despite the media inspired hysteria of recent weeks, I am optimistic some group of young leftists somewhere will realize they need to go back to first principals, examine their priors, and restart the engine.

        I don’t think they can. They’re too institutionalized, too dependent on the monetary flows the current ideology generates to fundamentally challenge it.

        >I think we all have our biases about what is right but ultimately it’s never a good idea for any network of ideas to permanently win. It leads to stagnation. Communism was a bad idea but without it perhaps other failure modes for our society would have emerged.

        Given that communism, measured by body count, is worst idea ever, it’s hard to imagine that things would have been worse. But then again, things can always be worse.

        • webnaut says:

          > It is. And I bet against both happening basically on the assumption that the cathedral was powerful enough to prevent them.

          The Right is closer to the subconscious, so maybe it’s not surprising there are reservoirs of hidden support lurking in its inky depths (-:

          He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named + Land didn’t come up with the Lovecraft references by accident. It’s there. The secretive inner Cthulhu.

          The talking part of people’s brains is more lefty.

          > But even if we get an article 50 invocation, 80 percent of EU membership will remain. We’ll see what trump manages to accomplish.

          Don’t see it that way. The Anglophone world is usually ahead of mainland Europe by a few inches. It shall follow suit I think.

          I suspect the EU only needs to lose France in order to be lost (practically, not metaphysically). UK, Germany and France account for a majority of EU financing. Germany does not have the strength to carry the EU on its back unless it basically annexes the rest of the EU with new economic rules that create the mother of all cat fights. It might even win but the resulting Germania would be a much lesser beast.

          > I don’t think this will happen at all, and even if it does, I’m not sure the results will be good. Making your politics look more like Yugoslavia’s is not a recommended strategy.

          I hope you’re right but Yugoslavia might even be optimistic about the short/midterm.

          > I don’t think they can. They’re too institutionalized, too dependent on the monetary flows the current ideology generates to fundamentally challenge it.

          Maybe, but the Baby Boomers are going to die of old age at some point. Maybe some Bernie Sanders fans can do something useful here in the year 2045.

          > But then again, things can always be worse.

          Exactly. We just don’t know what the counterfactuals are. Niall Ferguson the historian has some nice ideas on this.

          • cassander says:

            >I suspect the EU only needs to lose France in order to be lost (practically, not metaphysically). UK, Germany and France account for a majority of EU financing. Germany does not have the strength to carry the EU on its back unless it basically annexes the rest of the EU with new economic rules that create the mother of all cat fights. It might even win but the resulting Germania would be a much lesser beast.

            France isn’t going anywhere, you can’t leave the euro. The only reason to leave the Euro is to inflate your currency, so the second you even hint that you might, you’ll have the mother and father of all bank runs in your country as people desperately try to get any penny they can into something that will be euro-denominated. Just look at greece, which elected multiple parties on opposite ends of the political spectrum with quasi-mandates to ditch the euro, and they didn’t do it. the only country that can leave, i.e. the only country that can credibly commit to run a stable currency, is Germany.

            >I hope you’re right but Yugoslavia might even be optimistic about the short/midterm.

            And that’s why I’m stuck. I can’t see a way to stop the left without turning whites into just another ethnic group, and that just brings us closer to Yugoslavia, or at least, the late hapsburg empire.

            >Maybe, but the Baby Boomers are going to die of old age at some point. Maybe some Bernie Sanders fans can do something useful here in the year 2045.

            If they want money, and they will, they’ll be just as dependent on, say, teachers unions, as the current lefties are. It’s not a generational thing, it’s an interest thing.

      • Kevin C. says:

        @webnaut

        “I’d add to this that in the year 2016 with Brexit and Trump, the Left has unequivocally lost the support of the Working Class in the Anglophone world.”

        You speak as if “the support of the Working Class” is something that matters, rather than the “Working Class” being a bunch of powerless peasants who may be safely derided and pushed around, and their interests ignored, with no real consequences to the people in charge.

        “Us on the Right are going to get far greater play from identity politics than the Left ever achieved”

        [citation needed]

        “increasing popularity of ideas from the Death Eater end of the spectrum”

        [citation needed]

        “we’ll be winning the culture wars until the middle of the century.”

        Again, [citation needed]. I see no evidence that the Right even can win in “the culture wars”, let alone that we are doing so.

        • cassander says:

          >You speak as if “the support of the Working Class” is something that matters, rather than the “Working Class” being a bunch of powerless peasants who may be safely derided and pushed around, and their interests ignored, with no real consequences to the people in charge.

          Eh, they lost a couple of elections they pulled out all the stops to win. It remains to be seen how significant that is.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “Eh, they lost a couple of elections they pulled out all the stops to win.”

            I’m not so sure. A favorite commenter of mine at Rod Dreher’s, “Ken’ichi”, made an argument that I’ve found increasingly plausible. He initially argued, pre-election, that the “Ruling Elite” of America would prevent Trump from becoming president, whatever the outcome of the vote, via “faithless electors”, a Supreme Court ruling invalidating the election, or even just assassination. After the inauguration, given the countering of this view, he updated his views, giving a theory as to why the elites wanted Trump in office. (That they were at least willing to countenance Trump in office is a given in the kind of worldview Ken’ichi has frequently expressed — that every society is ultimately divided into a ruling elite who do as they wish and powerless “peasant” masses who can do naught but suffer whatever their overlords choose to inflict upon them with death the only escape — is a given; if they truly would not accept a President Trump, then Trump would not be president.) This theory, in my paraphrase, is that, given the chaos, factional infighting in government, and poor implementation that has characterized the Trump administration (and which the ruling elites in the permanent bureaucracy and courts will ensure is the only possible outcome for said administration), these messes, and the Trump administration, will be used to permanently tar and rule out “right-wing populism” and any attempt to listen to or meet the interests of the “Working Class”, particularly after Trump becomes the first president removed via impeachment. For example, any attempt to control the border will be met with “we tried that under Trump and look what happened”. These ideas will be tainted by association with the “corrupt, dysfunctional, criminal Trump regime” for all time, and thus placed permanently off-limits in American politics. The “establishment” Republicans will be able to say “look what happens when we let a political neophyte pushing populism get nominated”, and thereby justifying whatever changes are necessary to ensure only good “establishment Republicans” (the sort that are the Washington Generals to the Dems’ Globetrotters, the Outer Party to their Inner Party, the “jobbers” that the alt-righters speak of with a term related to the Cuculidae) are nominated; and as William M. “Boss” Tweed said, “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”

          • Brad says:

            Given his old theory didn’t pan out, shouldn’t you update in the direction that his model of the world isn’t terribly great?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Kevin C – “if they truly would not accept a President Trump, then Trump would not be president.”

            Fully general counterargument detected.

          • cassander says:

            @Kevin C

            Like brad, i’m skeptical. Any theory that relies on a super machiavellian all powerful elite is probably not very good. That the cathedral is strong, but not all powerful, is a much simpler, more plausible explanation, especially given the nature of american political parties and the near complete absence of people like tweed that can control the nominating.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Brad

            Perhaps, but I can’t help but notice the degree to which the past few weeks seem to have done more to undermine rather than advance the causes of those who elected Trump.

            @FacelessCraven

            Yeah, that too. He does come across as very dogmatic in his assertion that absolutely every society above hunter-gatherer tribe that ever was or will ever be is divided into “lords” with all the power and “peasants” utterly lacking in power, and that the former may always act with impunity toward the latter (he has cited more than once the right of samurai to kill peasants pretty much at will as not only the way things are, but as the way they should be). I’m reminded of the Japanese proverb 弱肉強食, Jaku niku kyō shoku: “The weak are meat; the strong eat.”

            On the other, I can’t really dispute the argument that there’s never really been a true “peasant revolt” that’s succeeded; every real revolt has been led by rival (or foreign) elites or arriviste proto-elites. (Ken’ichi, in turn, argues that the Western Left has succeeded in coopting or destroying every such rival in the West, so that if us “powerless peasants” in the West want to avoid being extinguished as a culture, we need to become loyal subjects and footsoldiers of a foreign (read: Asian) elite that can take on the “lords” of America. That is, when he’s not denouncing America for “mistreating” and “subjugating” Japan, and Americans for being fractious “barbarians” incapable of “true” (i.e. Japanese Confucian) civilization.)

            And again, none of that consititutes an argument that the “Working Class” and its support at all matter. Or that presidential elections matter.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @cassander

            “That the cathedral is strong, but not all powerful, is a much simpler, more plausible explanation”

            Perhaps. I agree that the Cathedral is not “all-powerful”. But there’s a big difference between “all-powerful” and “too strong to be defeated”, yes?

            “the near complete absence of people like tweed that can control the nominating”

            Well, it looks to me like the mainstream media was doing a pretty good job serving in that function, deciding who did and who didn’t have “electability”, up until 2016. Which is why I expect changes in party rules or other adaptations to make sure it never happens again, and that all future primaries are run to ensure that from now on the GOP can only ever nominate proper “establishment” types.

            And, again, your argument that “the support of the Working Class” matters is, what, that we can throw a tantrum and shoot ourselves in the foot by electing someone who has done far more to undermine and discredit our causes than to advance them?

          • cassander says:

            @Kevin C. says:

            >Perhaps. I agree that the Cathedral is not “all-powerful”. But there’s a big difference between “all-powerful” and “too strong to be defeated”, yes?

            Eh, for our purposes, I’d say those two phrases are more or less identical.

            “the near complete absence of people like tweed that can control the nominating”

            >Well, it looks to me like the mainstream media was doing a pretty good job serving in that function, deciding who did and who didn’t have “electability”, up until 2016. Which is why I expect changes in party rules or other adaptations to make sure it never happens again, and that all future primaries are run to ensure that from now on the GOP can only ever nominate proper “establishment” types.

            the media is powerful, but the control the party bosses wielded was far more direct. Had trump lost the election, I would have expected changes to the party rules, but not after he won. I suppose we’ll see though.

            >And, again, your argument that “the support of the Working Class” matters is, what, that we can throw a tantrum and shoot ourselves in the foot by electing someone who has done far more to undermine and discredit our causes than to advance them?

            I’m saying that at the end of the day, the people can vote for anyone, and they might not vote the cathedral’s way sometimes. That doesn’t mean the cathedral rigged things.

            The cathedral didn’t want trump. it tried to stop him, it failed. now it will try to destroy him. It remains to be seen if he can win that fight. I’d bet against him, but I’d also have been against him winning in the first place.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @cassander

            “I’m saying that at the end of the day, the people can vote for anyone, and they might not vote the cathedral’s way sometimes.”

            And I’m saying that simply doesn’t matter at all.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Which is more likely, considering that malice is generally weaker than incompetence:

            a) the Democrats, due to internal sleaziness and reading the situation badly, ran a rather unappealing establishment candidate in an anti-establishment climate, and lost by a thin margin in the Electoral College, due to some missteps by national HQ and taking blue-collar support in a few key states for granted. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership became obsessed with the idea that their loss in 2012 wasn’t the result of turning people off by running a plutocrat caught on tape saying the party could only hope to appeal to people who weren’t net consumers of public services, but that instead it was a lack of outreach to Hispanics, who have never voted more than 45% Republican, but can somehow be induced to vote Republican, by the simple strategy of LOOK A SQUIRREL MUMBLE MUMBLE, and because of this their base essentially rebelled and picked a populist entirely willing to make border security a big part of his message. As a result, a man with zero government experience got elected to high office, and is thrashing around, because a lack of government experience means he doesn’t know how government works. The elites – the Democrat leadership, the pre-Trump Republican leadership – dropped the ball hard and now a man unfit to be president is president.

            b) This is all a clever plan by elites. Nobody can win without their say so, therefore, Trump winning is proof he had their say so. They knew that he would thrash around, or perhaps they control the bureaucracy that is in semi-open rebellion against him. They have let Trump be president so they can discredit everything associated with him. They are confident he will not do anything they cannot prevent or undo, because they secretly control everything, and can see several steps ahead.

            The fact that Trump winning caused this guy’s position to shift from “he can’t win because they’re all-powerful or close” to “he won because they wanted him to win; he couldn’t win without them wanting to because they’re all-powerful or close” … that’s a clear ad-hoc hypothesis. That’s “the reason my psychic powers aren’t showing up in double-blind tests is because double-blind tests create bad vibes that interfere with my psychic powers”.

            What evidence is there that the elites are all-powerful, etc? History is full of examples of elites dropping the ball.

          • cassander says:

            @Kevin C. says:

            >And I’m saying that simply doesn’t matter at all.

            It remains to be seen how much it matters. I suspect it won’t matter much, but I might be wrong. I’ve said for a while now that the Trump presidency will be a good test of how democratic the system really is.

            @dndnrsn

            I couldn’t agree more.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        “the Left has unequivocally lost the support of the Working Class in the Anglophone world.”

        This is just false — look at the election numbers in the US. The most charitable reading is an even split of support. If you look at it by county and city size level, it’s all about rural vs city.

        If the left truly lost the support of the working class, why did Clinton, a deeply flawed and corrupt candidate, carry the popular vote?

        I think you are getting ahead of yourself.

        The right is at a deep disadvantage in the culture wars (just based on historical record, let alone substantive explanations for why that is).

        The vision on the right is just less appealing (which is why the right leaks young people, and will never get minority support, immigrant support, etc.) The only real hope is to win on restricting the universe of discourse to people who like the vision — which is what Bannon et al are trying to do by trying to boot everyone else out. Only a very radical, deeply unpopular move like that will win. That’s how large the disadvantage for the right is.

        • webnaut says:

          I’d reply to yourself and Kevin and a few other people but must literally go and test a powerwasher so I can continue my work tomorrow morning.

          I’ll just say one thing.

          Changes in trajectory occur at the peripheral first. That’s why people at the center are always surprised. If things get from bad to worse in S.A or Venezuela, nobody is shocked, they have always thought of them as kind of bad places to live. Something similar is true politically.

          Good night GMT everybody.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Look I am a simple man, I like “data.” Do you have “data?”

          • webnaut says:

            @Ilya

            What kind of data would persuade you that the working class has given up on the Left?

            Understand I didn’t mean working class people stopped having left of center political sentiments. Each social class will always have its Right/Left. I mean they’ve given up on the official party of the Left in their countries i.e. Democrats or Labour.

            To me this seems, no offense intended, quite obvious. Trump/Brexit are definite strong data points. Traditional strongholds of working class leftism in the North and West of the UK voted to the Right. I believe the same happened in America e.g. Michigan but I’m sure you know in more detail than I.

            I wonder if we’re having the same issue I had with the other chap, with our definition of ‘working class’. The sections of the population semi-permanently on welfare are not working class. Those people don’t vote much and are largely disenfranchised on multiple levels. Working class isn’t always a proxy for being poor in today’s age either.

            It is common for middle class types to conflate the two, but believe me when I say the working class never makes this sort of error, they would be intensely aware of the distinction, welfare being a whole other social and economic class, sometimes thought/felt of as ‘Fallen’ working class. The dead estates that stopped reading books and doing things. You can see the corruption from a distance, the glow of the television sets in each house, each night, the despairing teenage boys with the only apparently viable aspiration to sell drugs, the girls to sell haircuts and fucking. That the only amenities in the surrounding areas are bookies, bars and welfare offices. If you haven’t lived or driven through these places then you don’t understand.

            Doesn’t bode well for UBI, eh? The working class hate zombies because we’re afraid we’ll become them all too easily. It’s less about ‘Pride’ (that is a kind of superficial cover story), more about the steps on Maslow’s Pyramid being greased with cheap bacon lard and good intentions.

            The topic of finding Data to support my thesis aside, I would put emphasis on the refrain: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence.

            Like I already suggested, the Media, like the Government, are mostly a reactionary organ. When they are reporting the “Future” they are usually merely stating facts about the “Present” e.g. self driving cars. Similarly it is easy to find your “Data” about the future when it all around you. It is also kind of useless information at that point. The network is way out ahead of you, it is real time, you’re always just catching up 99% of the time.

            tldr; Real new future trends are going to be barely discernible, have a weak signal, but this doesn’t imply they are not real. That’s why I am saying “Look to the Peripheral”. If you take observations (by physically being in a working class/welfare class zone) maybe you’ll come to my place, which is that 2016 was the end of a long term (half century, maybe less) social cycle where the Left dominated Culture, and now the shoe is shifting to the other foot. This means it could be the 2060s before the Left begins to rebound from their losses that occur 2016-20??

            Example; Feminism has completely lost support with the working classes, it just hasn’t been drummed home yet.

            ### Prediction Incoming ###

            If you combine that thought with The Nibbyler’s thought about what the Left/Right won in the previous 50 years (The Left Won Culture, the Right Economics), then you have a high likelihood for a resurgence of interest in new Leftist Economic ideas in the near future. Perhaps UBI *is* that already.

          • rlms says:

            @webnaut
            RE Brexit: I don’t think the working class has rejected Labour. 37% of Labour supporters voted Brexit, 20% of Brexit voters supported Labour. It seems very likely to me that Corbyn still privately supports Brexit, based on the way he was Eurosceptical for a pretty long time, campaigned very half-heartedly against it, and recently forced his MP’s to vote for Brexit (and I don’t believe he’s suddenly had a change of heart in favour of bipartisanship and pragmatism).

            Furthermore, I think the surge of working class support for the right in the form of Ukip is misleading. A large part of Ukip’s right-leaningness (the semi-libertarian parts) is kind of arbitrary. Since support for it is a pretty one-issue thing, it is easy to imagine a world where Ukip was more like a less racist version of the (in many ways left-wing) BNP, rather than largely made of rebel Tories. So I think it is more accurate to say that working class support for immigration and the establishment has appeared to drop (maybe it’s the same as always, and was only made visible by Brexit), than to say they have uniformly rejected left-wing ideas.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @webnaut

            “Example; Feminism has completely lost support with the working classes”

            Could you be more specific what you mean here? “Feminism” is a rather broad term (and subject to significant strategic equivocation). Particularly, I wonder what strain of feminism you refer to that ever had enough support by the “working classes” to meaningfully speak of losing it. And what does this purported loss of support entail? It’s not like we’re seeing “working class” calls to repeal the 19th Amendment, are we?

            And so what if “working class has given up on the Left”? Why should that matter?

          • webnaut says:

            @rlms

            I agree that no class is about to go Full Right or Full Left. Not how it works. Left and Right are literally part of our DNA.

            However the Left, the Official Left [Labour/Democrats], is so heavily wedded to the ideas of open borders and kitten/gift basket receptions for non-natives it is hard to imagine them giving up that part of their identity quickly. That’s why I feel confident about them losing the working class for a very long time.

          • webnaut says:

            @Kevin C.

            > Could you be more specific what you mean here? “Feminism” is a rather broad term (and subject to significant strategic equivocation).

            It sure is.

            To start with anecdotes, the label “Feminist” is a pejorative for the working class women I know, young or old. As Scott has previous discussed with his Motte and Bailey example, it’s not that people have a problem with the Bailey. They agree that men shouldn’t mistreat women, that they have, or should have, equal standing before the law etc. The word Feminist has become much more strongly linked to the ‘Motte Deployers’.

            My grandmother was actually a famous case of a beaten housewife that caused Ireland to introduce a new law to prevent domestic violence. However she would not declare herself to be a feminist. She has said as much when talking about the young girls (I’m paraphrasing, this is an Irish grandmother) she sees around the place. It is a slur where I’m from. To give the flavour it is probably synonymous to calling somebody a narcissistic bitch.

            Less anecdotally, every poll on feminism I’ve seen says it is in decline as a concept. That’s motte feminism to you.

            > Particularly, I wonder what strain of feminism you refer to that ever had enough support by the “working classes” to meaningfully speak of losing it.

            Now you’re annoying me. This is condescension. The working class (of which I am a member) is not a foreign species. In more intellectual areas it has less articulate notions, that is true, but is inaccurate to think they don’t have or don’t believe in their ideas about the world. If anything the person with less overly elaborate notions is more sincere about their position and less befuddled by it because they would be less likely to arrive at that point via middle class status competitions.

            > And what does this purported loss of support entail?

            Different life choices I guess. Who to marry, whether to go to college etc.

            > It’s not like we’re seeing “working class” calls to repeal the 19th Amendment, are we?

            > And so what if “working class has given up on the Left”? Why should that matter?

            There’s a bunch of different answers to this. Here is practical one. The police and army are mostly a mixture of working class and some middle class, both with a very heavy bias to the right. From the perspective of many university professors they would probably be thought of as the far right, although this is highly inaccurate.

            Point is: The Left doesn’t have a Red Army to match the White Army in a civil conflict if push came to shove.

            A different take is that the Left loses moral legitimacy without the working classes. Why?

            I think it is important to understand what the working class represent spiritually, biologically to our Tribe. They’re sort of the feedstock to it all, like the source stream in the mountains. If the working class isn’t healthy, the rest of your network is in trouble also. This can be perfectly true without any appeals to democracy or inequality, it’s a kind of human social ecology.

            If things got really, really bad, we could get jettison the middle classes without any issues other than massive depopulation, human groups would still remain. Working class people, farmers, mechanics, soldiers are more likely to survive a genuine collapse of society. Society itself would of course be absolutely shot, but the biological databank that is us, that would likely survive.

            To quote Major Motoko Kusanagi: If we all reacted the same way, we’d be predictable, and there’s always more than one way to view a situation. What’s true for the group is also true for the individual. It’s simple: Overspecialize, and you breed in weakness. It’s slow death.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Webnaut

            “Now you’re annoying me. This is condescension.”

            No, it isn’t, and you want to know why? Because my father is a high-school dropout who’s worked (non-union) apartment and building maintenance (mostly in low-income neighborhoods) longer than I’ve been alive, and supported a stay-at-home wife and three kids on that meager pay. A frequent lunch growing up was a peanut-butter-and-margarine sandwich. We spent some time living in a rural community with no electricity, no running water, no sewer, etc. [I]in Alaska[/I]. The only government assistance we received were reduced-price school lunches in elementary school (though we probably qualified for more). My mom married Dad pretty much straight out of high school, and did not have paid employment as an adult until after my youngest brother had left. If my upbringing and background aren’t “working class”, then that’s because they’re below that. I’m thinking of the people I know of similar socioeconomic status, who, now that I think about it, can no longer be considered “working class” because they’ve dropped down into chronic joblessness, disability, et cetera. And none of them have ever much supported “feminism”, unless by feminism you mean “men shouldn’t mistreat women, that they have, or should have, equal standing before the law etc.”, in which case they’re still supporting all that.

            “Different life choices I guess. Who to marry, whether to go to college etc.”

            Any data on that?

            “The police and army are mostly a mixture of working class and some middle class, both with a very heavy bias to the right.”

            The rank and file, perhaps. But you forget that they are trained, first and foremost, to obey orders. A right-leaning cop who disobeys his lefty bosses risks losing his job, his enrtire pension, being investigated by IAB, and being prosecuted on whatever trumped up charges of misconduct, brutality, etc. any of the scumbags they have arrested can file. And the military still can shoot people for mutiny, yes? And the officer ranks seem to be ever more selected for “political reliability” and “diversity”. And those rank and file soldiers received the same public schooling and mass media propaganda as everyone else. And they swear a sacred oath to defend the Constitution — which, as we all know, is whatever nine robed men and women say it is. Add in the dependence of modern warfare on technologies (tanks, planes, etc.) highly dependent on significant logistic chains for repair and resupply, those in turn dependent on the engineers and such of the “defense contractors”, who are themselves unable to afford their own products, and so in turn dependent on the Federal cash firehose.

            From what I can see here (in a town with plenty of military thanks to JBER), “if push came to shove”, a significant fraction (if not most) of your “working class and some middle class” “White Army” will, in fact, follow orders and be the “Red Army” you claim the Left won’t have.

            “I think it is important to understand… [snip] …would likely survive.”

            I don’t get what you’re trying to say here with this whole bit. Why can’t the Left keep on ignoring the “working class” and doing whatever they want over said class’s objections, Waco-ing or droning them (or even Dresden-ing their towns if necessary) if they get uppity, and so on, right up to the day that civilization collapses irreversably?

    • cassander says:

      >I think you’re missing a bit here.

      It’s also a lot smaller than it was in 1955, in terms of numbers, share of GDP, and share of the federal budget. And in the 1940 and 50s, it was the right pushing for a smaller military and isolation against a internationalist left.

      >I question whether this is really the case. I went to a university that is quite left-wing. There was plenty of resistance to the left-wing activist struggle session type stuff. You kind of had to seek that out.

      I spent a couple semesters at Berkeley in the mid-2006s. There was a massively popular protest going on at one point claiming that the people of color on campus were being oppressed (literally using that word) by the lack of space for a dedicated multi-cultural center. It wasn’t that they couldn’t get space, but the lack of a permanent space was a sign of oppression. And sure, students would roll their eyes at the tree sitters, but like I said, that the level 8 extremists don’t get their way doesn’t mean that they don’t succeed in moving culture.

      >>Sure, they believe wacky things, but they’re safe. They don’t threaten the economic system, and they don’t threaten the wealthy and the powerful. They’re basically court jesters. Sure, Bill Ayers got away with domestic terrorism. He went on to become a prof who did some reform stuff in cooperation with government. The affluent, educated revolutionaries ended up coopted by the system. The other ones ended up dead or in prison.

      I don’t think they’re safe and they do threaten the economic system. Maybe not in ways you like, and not in the old ways, but they do. Like I said, we spend fortunes appeasing them, and that number is only going to grow. Even if you assume they’re completely benign, they’re still a tumor sucking down ever growing quantities of resources to no useful purpose.

      And I don’t think they are benign. I think their ideas are harmful and dangerous and will in the long run lead only to ever more corrupt and dysfunctional politics. If they aren’t stopped, they’ll eventually do to the whole country what they did to Detroit. This would be a catastrophe for both the US and the world.

      >This isn’t a victory for the left. It’s a defeat. That the supposed intellectual heirs of authentic (if often clueless) revolutionaries are probably going to be giving seminars about checking one’s privilege at Fortune 500 companies in ten years is absolutely a defeat. That a class-based leftism that was really threatening to the well-off has been replaced by an identity-based leftism demanding entrance or increased prominence, as the case may be, within the ranks of the well-off, is likewise a defeat.

      People sometimes argue “well you can’t blame marx/marxism for the things people did in his name.” My response is always “Given that marxist regimes were universally totalitarian, I see only two possibilities. One, Marxism as an ideology tends towards totalitarianism, two, Marxism as an ideology only attracts followers that exceptionally prone to totalitarianism, for reasons other than ideology.” Either way it’s dangerous and needs to be stopped. ” Even if you’re right and all this is moloch hitching a ride on a left wing zeitgeist, not the left itself, we still need to fight the left to stop it. And we should ask ourselves hard questions about why the left seems so prone to enabling moloch. Because while the last 40 years might not have been a victory for the left, it certainly hasn’t been one for the right.

      And I still think you’re prejudicing revolutionary change over evolutionary. Decades of small shifts can add up to just as much change as a year of revolution.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I spent a couple semesters at Berkeley in the mid-2006s. There was a massively popular protest going on at one point claiming that the people of color on campus were being oppressed (literally using that word) by the lack of space for a dedicated multi-cultural center. It wasn’t that they couldn’t get space, but the lack of a permanent space was a sign of oppression. And sure, students would roll their eyes at the tree sitters, but like I said, that the level 8 extremists don’t get their way doesn’t mean that they don’t succeed in moving culture.

        Do they succeed in moving culture? Or does culture succeed in moving them? I think the last 50-odd years have seen a great deal of success for the left socially and the right economically (the tax rate is lower than it was, and Marxist economics is dead)… or have they?

        The left’s pursuit of social justice has seen once-radical struggles coopted by neoliberalism: gay pride, which began with rocks thrown at police, now has parades sponsored by banks and Bud Light. Black pride, which in the 70s took various radical forms, is now tenured profs pretending they’re outsiders and demands for modelling/TV/movies/music to value conventionally attractive black women as much as conventionally attractive white women. Meanwhile, efforts by those on the right to lower taxes, fight regulation, etc have likewise been coopted by crony capitalism.

        I don’t think they’re safe and they do threaten the economic system. Maybe not in ways you like, and not in the old ways, but they do. Like I said, we spend fortunes appeasing them, and that number is only going to grow. Even if you assume they’re completely benign, they’re still a tumor sucking down ever growing quantities of resources to no useful purpose.

        And I don’t think they are benign. I think their ideas are harmful and dangerous and will in the long run lead only to ever more corrupt and dysfunctional politics. If they aren’t stopped, they’ll eventually do to the whole country what they did to Detroit. This would be a catastrophe for both the US and the world.

        The left and the right have both taken us down the road that we’re on. Take Detroit: you can’t blame that entirely on incompetent Democratic city administration. That’s Moloch’s left hand. The gutting of the auto industry because it can be done cheaper elsewhere, or by robots? That’s his right.

        People sometimes argue “well you can’t blame marx/marxism for the things people did in his name.” My response is always “Given that marxist regimes were universally totalitarian, I see only two possibilities. One, Marxism as an ideology tends towards totalitarianism, two, Marxism as an ideology only attracts followers that exceptionally prone to totalitarianism, for reasons other than ideology.” Either way it’s dangerous and needs to be stopped. ” Even if you’re right and all this is moloch hitching a ride on a left wing zeitgeist, not the left itself, we still need to fight the left to stop it. And we should ask ourselves hard questions about why the left seems so prone to enabling moloch. Because while the last 40 years might not have been a victory for the left, it certainly hasn’t been one for the right.

        Both the left and the right over the past few generations have been coopted and mutated. If you were to tell some free marketeer back in the day “hey, imagine that the big corporations are going to get even bigger, bloated by government money”, how would they respond? If you were to tell some radical leftist “hey, everything you value is going to get neutered and used as a way to sell stuff”, how would they respond?

        And I still think you’re prejudicing revolutionary change over evolutionary. Decades of small shifts can add up to just as much change as a year of revolution.

        There’s a reason that most revolutionaries argue that a revolution is necessary – they see reform as easily getting coopted. And it clearly has been. Even the people who sought radical change through reform, like the Fabians – is what the world looks like now what they wanted? Of course, revolution doesn’t work either – the vanguard party never hands over power to the proletariat, etc. Nothing works, and I don’t know if we can fight back against that.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I dunno, you seem to be suggesting that because the left wasn’t as successful as it wanted to be, therefore it was unsuccessful. I don’t think this follows at all, though. If the left wanted to move the political dial from 0 to 10 and only succeeded in getting it to 5, they’ve still moved the country leftwards.

          The left’s pursuit of social justice has seen once-radical struggles coopted by neoliberalism: gay pride, which began with rocks thrown at police, now has parades sponsored by banks and Bud Light.

          Being so successful that the corporate establishment is now on your side counts as a victory in my book. Maybe not the kind or scale of victory some wanted, but a victory nonetheless.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t think you can model it by saying “they wanted to get to ten, but they got to five.” The corporate establishment changed the left more than the left changed the corporate establishment.

            The reason that a leftism focused on identity, rather than economic class – a leftism that, really, fits very well with neoliberalism – has succeeded and taken over, is that it meshes fine with capitalism.

        • cassander says:

          >Do they succeed in moving culture? Or does culture succeed in moving them? I think the last 50-odd years have seen a great deal of success for the left socially and
          >the right economically (the tax rate is lower than it was, and Marxist economics is dead)… or have they?

          The tax rate definitely isn’t lower. Taxes have been about 18% of GDP since the Korean war, and are headed up, not down. They’ve also gotten more progressive over time, not less. And that money is spent more and more on progressive goals and purposes. Military spending was 10% of GDP in 1955, is 4% today. America in 1955 had no OSHA, no EPA, no medicare, no SNAP, no welfare, a vastly less generous SS system. These are all left wing economic victories.

          >The left’s pursuit of social justice has seen once-radical struggles coopted by neoliberalism: gay pride, which began with rocks thrown at police, now has parades sponsored by banks and Bud Light. Black pride, which in the 70s took various radical forms, is now tenured profs pretending they’re outsiders and demands for modelling/TV/movies/music to value conventionally attractive black women as much as conventionally attractive white women.

          These things are only co-opted in the sense that they’ve become mainstream. 20 years ago, most democrats were opposed to gay marriage, today it’s a constitutional right. You can’t claim that isn’t a victory because hallmark sells happy gay marriage cards.

          >The left and the right have both taken us down the road that we’re on. Take Detroit: you can’t blame that entirely on incompetent Democratic city administration. That’s Moloch’s left hand. The gutting of the auto industry because it can be done cheaper elsewhere, or by robots? That’s his right.

          There are plenty of places that lost factory jobs, none is anywhere near as bad off as Detroit. And there was no reason that the auto companies had to decline. GM used to make more than half of the cars in the US, today it makes less than 1/5. it declined because labor laws pushed by the left created a horrible system that made both the unions and bosses worse off. You can blame Moloch for GM opening factories in South Carolina or mexico instead of Michigan if you want, but I hardly see how that’s a morally dubious decision.

          >Both the left and the right over the past few generations have been coopted and mutated. If you were to tell some free marketeer back in the day “hey, imagine that the big corporations are going to get even bigger, bloated by government money”, how would they respond? If you were to tell some radical leftist “hey, everything you value is going to get neutered and used as a way to sell stuff”, how would they respond?

          Probably something like “if they get government money, probably, that’s why I’m against giving it to them.” but you see how that’s not the same question you asked the leftist. you’re asking the leftist “hey you’re going to get a milder version of what you want, but it’s going to be mainstream.” You didn’t ask the rightist “we’re going to half-deregulate the economy and the big corporations are only going to get bigger.” The rightists didn’t get ANYTHING they wanted and things have gone to shit. the left got a lot of what it wanted.

          >There’s a reason that most revolutionaries argue that a revolution is necessary – they see reform as easily getting coopted. And it clearly has been. Even the people who sought radical change through reform, like the Fabians – is what the world looks like now what they wanted? Of course, revolution doesn’t work either – the vanguard party never hands over power to the proletariat, etc. Nothing works, and I don’t know if we can fight back against that.

          Again, how has gay marriage been coopted? What did the leftist of 1990 not get that they were asking for? Or if you want an example where victory was less absolute, how are the feminists getting 80% of what they wanted in 1970 or so not a left wing victory?

          • dndnrsn says:

            The tax rate definitely isn’t lower. Taxes have been about 18% of GDP since the Korean war, and are headed up, not down. They’ve also gotten more progressive over time, not less. And that money is spent more and more on progressive goals and purposes. Military spending was 10% of GDP in 1955, is 4% today. America in 1955 had no OSHA, no EPA, no medicare, no SNAP, no welfare, a vastly less generous SS system. These are all left wing economic victories.

            Well, they’re liberal economic victories. Actual leftists often see them as bandaids paying off the oppressed masses not to revolt.

            These things are only co-opted in the sense that they’ve become mainstream. 20 years ago, most democrats were opposed to gay marriage, today it’s a constitutional right. You can’t claim that isn’t a victory because hallmark sells happy gay marriage cards.

            But not a radical victory. The radical queer activists who wanted (still want) to smash monogamy and destigmatize having sex in public places are not super happy about the current situation.

            The family was not destroyed by radicals trying to remake society. The family was destroyed by bad incentives, by atomization, by individuals putting themselves first. In short, by Moloch. The system wasn’t torn down to be replaced by a bold new future. The system just kind of started to decay.

            There are plenty of places that lost factory jobs, none is anywhere near as bad off as Detroit. And there was no reason that the auto companies had to decline. GM used to make more than half of the cars in the US, today it makes less than 1/5. it declined because labor laws pushed by the left created a horrible system that made both the unions and bosses worse off. You can blame Moloch for GM opening factories in South Carolina or mexico instead of Michigan if you want, but I hardly see how that’s a morally dubious decision.

            There’s plenty of blame to go around. I think both the left and the right bear some of the guilt for destroying the “blue collar middle class” model. I don’t know how it portions out.

            Probably something like “if they get government money, probably, that’s why I’m against giving it to them.” but you see how that’s not the same question you asked the leftist. you’re asking the leftist “hey you’re going to get a milder version of what you want, but it’s going to be mainstream.” You didn’t ask the rightist “we’re going to half-deregulate the economy and the big corporations are only going to get bigger.” The rightists didn’t get ANYTHING they wanted and things have gone to shit. the left got a lot of what it wanted.

            To radical leftists “milder and mainstream” is a defeat. They wanted to tear down the system, not change it. The liberals got what they wanted. The let’s-just-get-married-like-the-straights crew got what they wanted.

            Again, how has gay marriage been coopted? What did the leftist of 1990 not get that they were asking for? Or if you want an example where victory was less absolute, how are the feminists getting 80% of what they wanted in 1970 or so not a left wing victory?

            Like I said, there are radical queer activists who see same-sex marriage as being assimilated, which they did not want. I have a conservative friend who was pro-same sex marriage before mainstream left wing political parties were. His rationale was that it would encourage domesticity and monogamy. This is why the radical queers were (are) against it.

            Likewise, the liberal feminists, the affluent educated women who wanted to have careers just like affluent educated men, got what they wanted. The radical feminists didn’t. What they wanted was sometimes crazy. But they didn’t get it. Feminism now gets used to sell deodorant.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            >But not a radical victory. The radical queer activists who wanted (still want) to smash monogamy and destigmatize having sex in public places are not super happy about the current situation.

            Gay marriage was definitely a radical position in 1990. hell, in 1970, being gay was still a mental illness. And what if, in say 20 years, polygamy is legalized, then does it become a radical victory?

            >To radical leftists “milder and mainstream” is a defeat. They wanted to tear down the system, not change it. The liberals got what they wanted. The let’s-just-get-married-like-the-straights crew got what they wanted.

            Why do you define the entire left by its most extreme elements? How is that not like saying “well, Hitler lost WW2 so the political right can never win a battle.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            Gay marriage was definitely a radical position in 1990. hell, in 1970, being gay was still a mental illness. And what if, in say 20 years, polygamy is legalized, then does it become a radical victory?

            It might have been an extreme position, but it wasn’t a radical position. It was outside of the Overton window. But it was reformist, not radical.

            Why do you define the entire left by its most extreme elements? How is that not like saying “well, Hitler lost WW2 so the political right can never win a battle.”

            We’re talking about left-wing student activist types, right? The SDS was not a fringe movement, to give an example. Student radicals in the 70s were actually radicals, actually revolutionaries.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Sure, they believe wacky things, but they’re safe. They don’t threaten the economic system, and they don’t threaten the wealthy and the powerful. They’re basically court jesters. Sure, Bill Ayers got away with domestic terrorism. He went on to become a prof who did some reform stuff in cooperation with government. The affluent, educated revolutionaries ended up coopted by the system. The other ones ended up dead or in prison.

      I’m sure that’s a big comfort if you’re wealthy and powerful. For a little peon like me, though, “It’s OK, they might be able to force you out of your job, but the wealthy and powerful are safe” isn’t hugely comforting.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’m not saying they’re harmless. I’m saying they’re frauds, and they’re not harmful on a grand scale.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Turning the country into a sort of ideological Yugoslavia* where everything is politicised and people only have employment, friendships etc. with members of their political tribe doesn’t strike me as “not harmful on a grand scale”.

          (*Or a literal Yugoslavia, if the campus anti-racism activists get their way.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            How would them getting their way lead to literal Yugoslavia? Can we tone down the rhetoric a teeny bit? I mean, if the problem with them is their overheated rhetoric…

          • random832 says:

            I’m not sure what “a literal Yugoslavia” even means.

            I assume you don’t mean “a group of states in Southeastern Europe will reunify and then annex the USA”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            How would them getting their way lead to literal Yugoslavia?

            I don’t think they consciously want to turn the country into a group of mutually-antagonistic ethnic factions. But, by constantly promoting racial identity politics, turning the country into a group of mutually-antagonistic ethnic factions is exactly what they will do/have already done to a degree.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            Imagine having a supermarket near you, that you will never visit, because they are run by the wrong tribe. So you travel much further to the supermarket of your tribe. You will pay higher prices on average due to this and have less choice. You also have fewer employment options, because that supermarket will never hire you, nor could you work there if they would, because you would then be ostracized by your friends & family, as well as all the businesses who have allied themselves with your tribe.

            You cannot not choose a side, because doing to will leave you ostracized by everyone.

            PS. My country used to be like this, so this is not a fantasy.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @random:

            I’m not sure what “a literal Yugoslavia” even means.
            I assume you don’t mean “a group of states in Southeastern Europe will reunify and then annex the USA”.

            No, I was using “literal” metaphorically.

          • random832 says:

            Yes, I got that, I was being a bit facetious, but I didn’t get what the metaphor actually was; not being familiar with whatever aspect of Yugoslavia you were making a comparison to, and especially since ‘literal’ was a footnote after talking about a different sort of ‘Yugoslavia’.

            My guess now is that in the main paragraph you were talking about division along ideological lines, and in the footnote about division along racial lines, in the same manner as division along ethnic lines existed in Yugoslavia. Is that correct?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The original Mr. X:

            I don’t think they consciously want to turn the country into a group of mutually-antagonistic ethnic factions. But, by constantly promoting racial identity politics, turning the country into a group of mutually-antagonistic ethnic factions is exactly what they will do/have already done to a degree.

            The US has had serious issues with mutually-antagonistic ethnic factions in the past… Activists on college campuses or whatever are hardly innovators in that regard, if that’s even what they’re doing.

            You see agitators unconsciously steering the US towards Yugoslavia. I see well-off (certainly, well-educated, definitely higher-status) members of certain ethnic groups leveraging the real and actual suffering of lower-status members of those ethnic groups (or, coopting the movements of the lower-status members) to advance themselves on university campuses, in activist circles, etc. They are probably not doing this consciously – they probably have the best of intentions. But it’s as though a bunch of well-off white university students started a Rural Lives Matter campaign at Yale, demanding that something be done about poor rural white people OD’ing on painkillers and committing suicide … by starting a Poor White Rural Studies department (gee, I wonder where they’re going to get the staff for that? Who will they hire?)

            My view is that these things being institutionalized and turned into sinecures neutralizes them, because once somebody has a job and an office, all of a sudden they have less interest in messing the system up. Funny how that works. I mean, surely people have noticed that there have been zero riots by BLM chapters that consist of university students?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            First, if you reply to this, probably best to do so from the current open thread. I’m going to post it in both places.

            >The US has had serious issues with mutually-antagonistic ethnic factions in the past… Activists on college campuses or whatever are hardly innovators in that regard, if that’s even what they’re doing.

            Yep, and the result was nasty ethnic political blocks battling it out in the cities, sometimes literally, though very technically and without any bloodshed, ethnically cleansing one another. And a few decades before we got into that, we had an actual civil war where we murdered three quarters of a million of each other. We have a long history of this, and it’s bad. Our suppression of this instinct was a huge win, but now they’re bringing it back, and in an era when there’s much more to fight over because government is so much bigger.

            >You see agitators unconsciously steering the US towards Yugoslavia. I see well-off (certainly, well-educated, definitely higher-status) members of certain ethnic groups leveraging the real and actual suffering of lower-status members of those ethnic groups (or, coopting the movements of the lower-status members) to advance themselves on university campuses, in activist circles, etc.

            Those two things in no way conflict. They’re doing both.

            >demanding that something be done about poor rural white people OD’ing on painkillers and committing suicide … by starting a Poor White Rural Studies department (gee, I wonder where they’re going to get the staff for that? Who will they hire?)

            see the history of the italian studies department at CUNY for hilarious proof of this.

            >My view is that these things being institutionalized and turned into sinecures neutralizes them, because once somebody has a job and an office, all of a sudden they have less interest in messing the system up.

            It stops them from being revolutionary, but it doesn’t stop them from being harmful if they continue to push the country towards yugoslovia.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ll reply over there.

  2. webnaut says:

    @dndnrsn

    Reading Land’s essays now, highly underated. I think he was five, perhaps ten years ahead of the curve.

    • dndnrsn says:

      An important clarification: do not take me mentioning him as an endorsement. I am not a Death Eater. I am a boring liberal.

      That said, Land is basically the hipster’s Death Eater author. For whatever reason, he’s less well known than Voldemort himself, even though he is more concise, and his writing style is considerably less obnoxious.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I think it’s because Moldbug wants good things for people, and Land wants them devoured by Moloch.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The reason for his greater popularity, or the reason that he’s more verbose and obnoxious?

          Does Land want Moloch to devour everyone, or is his position more “ahahaha it’s going to happen and you can’t stop it”?

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        I agree that Land is more concise than Moldbug, but

        (a) that doesn’t say much — who is really more longwinded than Moldbug? No one!

        and (b) I also found his style quite longwinded and a bit obnoxious to read. He’s definitely entertaining, though.

      • webnaut says:

        You’re allowed!

        Without you I’d have nobody to rail against. And then where would everybody be? 🙂

        I think the basic instinct that all SSCers share in common is the urge to poke that which is unpoked. It’s not always right but it is more interesting. And then possibly take notes to call it science.

  3. webnaut says:

    Hello!

    I am back. For those who don’t know, I, webnaut, committed to a 7 day Internet absence.

    This was partly motivated by Illya, who argued she/he didn’t want to leave the Internet (political reasons?), to which I argued that Westerners are suffering from mild media inspired hysteria coupled with a flu of mood affiliation on account of Trump as POTUS, but also as a test of will. I have handwritten notes on my ‘journey’, so I’ll type those up and post them soon.

    I’m, let’s say 75% confident in being convinced that:

    = Internet Addiction is real, perhaps more so than many of us are willing to admit.
    = An Internet ‘Detox’ or Fast is a worthwhile activity.
    = It’s not just information or feedback, I suspect the light of displays contributes to content seeming more compelling than perhaps is warranted.

    • cassander says:

      >It’s not just information or feedback, I suspect the light of displays contributes to content seeming more compelling than perhaps is warranted.

      I once ran a musical in a theater with no orchestra pit. We put the musicians up in the rafters, and in order to let the actors see the conductor while the lights were on, we set up a camera and some CCTVs. People would stare at vicky vision (the conductor’s name was vicky) even when they could look up 90 degrees and see real life vicky.

      • Montfort says:

        Looking up 90 degrees to get a worse angle at the thing you’re trying to see doesn’t sound so appealing to me, either.

      • webnaut says:

        Not surprised by that. I note that my eyes are drawn to a screen of light even in a well lit room with other distractions such as people talking. Children’s eyes also appear instinctively drawn to screens, I think it’s not just that they’re seeing their parents glued to tablets/ipads and want in.

        Perhaps an parallel situation is the prioritization of the printed word vs some note with identical information I wrote onto a piece of paper. The printed word instantly looks more formal, more worthy of serious attention. Handwritten notes with pen, especially pencil, seem less formal, less worthy of attention, although interestingly they are an advantage in my experience if they’re invoices because people pay much more promptly than with the printed copy.

        My guess is that this is some basic instinct instead of being a more sophisticated ‘Internet Addicts are drawn to devouring information’. The good news is that a fix is not that hard. Just lower the intensity of your display and maybe return to greyscale. See if your Interneting behavior changes.

    • Montfort says:

      It’s not just information or feedback, I suspect the light of displays contributes to content seeming more compelling than perhaps is warranted.

      An easy test would be to compare reading experiences on two e-readers who differ only in screen type – traditional vs e-paper (or whatever they call it now). You’d have to control for screen response rate, though.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @webnaut – “It’s not just information or feedback, I suspect the light of displays contributes to content seeming more compelling than perhaps is warranted.”

      For me, I’m pretty sure it’s purely a comfort thing. I frequently read 300k words of text in a sitting off my computer monitor, sitting in a comfortable chair. I’ve done the same out of actual books, but it’s much harder to stay comfortable while doing it, due to needing the book and your head to be in a much smaller range of possible positions.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        I think one contributing reason is that when you read on the internet (or heck, even pdfs or alike stored offline), your actions are primarily a) scrolling for more text b) clicking on things (links) that open new things to scroll.

        Both of these make it hard to keep track how much text you are actually reading. When I’ve read one newspaper page worth of internet comments? When I’ve read one whole newspaper worth of internet comments? What about a whole Dickensian-length novel? I assume that my reading speed is more or less constant, but it’s always a surprise when I look at the clock and notice how much time I’ve spent “reading the internet” compared to “reading books”.

        • webnaut says:

          > but it’s always a surprise when I look at the clock and notice how much time I’ve spent “reading the internet” compared to “reading books”.

          I think we’ve all had that experience, many times.

          Another reason to take an Internet Holiday.

      • Aapje says:

        I think that variety is also a factor. Reading single huge online articles is often hard and probably even harder than reading single large blocks of texts in a book. It seems easier to read a ton of small texts.

        • webnaut says:

          This is why I buy books even though I could more easily pirate them for free.

          Having an open physical text helps you stay on topic, which is considerably more valuable than any advantage gained by the digital version.

          My view: the only thing wrong with physical books is the lack of a “Ctrl+F” function and weight.

          Also if a friend comes by, we talk about something intellectual, I can drag out a dozen books on the subject from my looming library. To do something similar with ebooks feels like a farce.

          Being able to publicly display the books you are reading is an important feature overlooked by ereaders proponents. I’m sure an ereader is wonderful for concealing the owner’s diverse pornographic tastes but outside of that usecase you’ll miss many useful conversations unless the library is visible to third parties.

  4. dariuou says:

    Probably should have asked this on the survey thread, but I didn’t, so I’m asking here.

    If I wanted to have a valid IQ from a valid IQ test to report on next year’s test, where would I go? I’ve done some looking around but didn’t see anything that leaped out at me as a good answer. Perhaps finding a valid IQ test is actually the first stage in having your IQ tested, only the smart can find them.

  5. nimim.k.m. says:

    And to continue with the attempt to have discussion about not-US-CW topics:

    Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report

    A new survey by the Japan family planning association found that nearly half of married couples had not had sex for more than a month and did not expect that to change in the near future – the association’s definition of a “sexless” marriage.

    The data on married couples were among the findings of a wider survey of 3,000 people aged between 16 and 49 conducted at the end of last year. The association received responses from more than 1,200 people, including 655 married men and women.

    I think this is a fascinatingly weird social problem. What Japan should do to alleviate this, or is it a problem in the first place?

    • Urstoff says:

      How puritanical is Japanese culture?

    • Loquat says:

      According to the article, a little over 1/3 of married men said work left them too tired to have sex, and it’s been known for some time that Japan’s work culture is unusually demanding. Changing Japanese business culture so people can have lives outside work without sacrificing their careers would probably be a good thing. And not just for men’s sex lives – another factor in Japan’s low birth rate is that getting married and having children tends to be career suicide for women, so women who like their careers and aren’t willing to give them up to reproduce stay childless.

      • Aapje says:

        Basically, Japan is (still) extremely patriarchal and actually provides good evidence against the claim by many feminists that the patriarchy benefits men over women & also good evidence against the notion that many feminists hold that one can achieve good results by simply empowering women to be more like men.

        Both men and women are pretty much in a no win scenario in Japan, which is also why a lot of young people are not interested in relationships anymore, like ‘Herbivore men‘ and the female equivalent of Parasite single.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ nimim.k.m.
      nearly half of married couples had not had sex for more than a month and did not expect that to change in the near future – the association’s definition of a “sexless” marriage

      That might suggest truth serum in the water, theirs and/or ours.

  6. nimim.k.m. says:

    Probably nothing new argument-wise to the SSC readers, but Brian Gallagher writes that It’s Easy to Make Enemies of People We Only Read About. It is a reiteration [1] of some points of Scott’s best posts related to Culture War-ish topics, and even if not as stellar piece of text as Scott’s writing (and probably has nothing to do with Scott), I’m happy to see that attempt to keep those ideas afloat is not limited to SSC.

    [1] edit. Or maybe it just sounds familiar, I don’t know.

  7. Brad says:

    A few paragraphs on Voldemort tucked into this lawfare piece on Bannon. I can’t quote them here, but ctrl-F for “philosophical” and you’ll get to the right place.
    https://www.lawfareblog.com/bannon-washington-report-incompetence-evil

  8. A while back you expressed hope that -ghazi would take off as a scandal suffix like -gate; now there actually seems to be a #Flynnghazi hashtag regarding the matter of a recently-resigned Trump administration official.

  9. S_J says:

    I saw this link elsewhere online, and was dumbfounded.

    In short… someone accuses a professor of Islamic Studies of defending slavery as normal in Islam.

    This person also accuses the professor of insisting that slavery as practiced by Western-European derived societies was barbaric, but that slavery as practiced by Islamic-derived societies was typically benevolent or beneficial.

    Is there better data available about this lecture?

    Did the student who wrote that article fairly characterize the content given in the lecture?

    • DavidS says:

      This seems to be a link to the audio (from wiki) so you can check for yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpFatRwdPm0

      Wiki says this:

      In a 2017 article, Brown has argued that “the term ‘slavery’ is so ambiguous as to be functionally useless for the purposes of discussing extreme domination and exploitation across history”. For example, some slaves, such as certain Ottoman officials, ruled over free people, while some forms of slavery-like exploitation were not classified as slavery. Brown further wrote that while practices qualified as “modern-day slavery” are morally reprehensible, if one applies its common definition to pre-modern societies, one would have to conclude that “almost no one was free”. He proposed that historical study of slavery should focus on power relations and conditions of those subjected to domination rather use of the term itself.[12] A lecture delivered at Georgetown University presenting this article,[13] and in particular comments Brown made during the Q&A session have been interpreted by some commentators as defending slavery and non-consensual sex.[14][15] In response, Brown wrote on Twitter, “Islam as a faith and I as a person condemn slavery, rape and concubinage.”[16]

      It sounds like several issues bundled together (I’d say this means he was possibly just misunderstood, but the article is clear enough about him being explicit that I think either it’s true or misrepresentation). For instance, the claim that slavery in early Islamic states was less bad than slavery of the Atlantic slave trade and the Southern States isn’t that surprising: people often argue the same for slavery in the Bible or even in the Roman Empire (which could be fairly horrific in its own way: obligatory torturing of slaves before they gave evidence, various group punishments for sins of commission/omission).

      You can oppose all slavery qua slavery and still compare which versions are better in terms of legal protections, ability to earn/gain ones freedom, welfare etc. etc.

      • DavidS says:

        Also he’s written this (with the Islam-specific bit apparently to be shortly published)

        https://yaqeeninstitute.org/jonathan-brown/the-problem-of-slavery/

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Seems like a “taboo the word slavery” type of discussion.

      • In response, Brown wrote on Twitter, “Islam as a faith and I as a person condemn slavery, rape and concubinage.”

        That’s an odd claim, given that concubinage is taken for granted in Islamic law. Zina, illicit sex, consists of a man having intercourse with someone who is not his wife or concubine, or a woman with someone who is not her husband. And part of the punishment for killing someone is that you have to free a believing slave (or fast for two months).

        It’s worth noting that Rabbinic law, at least as interpreted by Maimonides, permits the rape of women captured in war, although with a bunch of constraints. Maimonides obviously isn’t happy with that, but he is describing what the law is, not what he wants it to be.

  10. Rhand says:

    So I’m a tard and I was wondering one thing:

    What exactly ARE natural law and contractualism, and does anybody actually adhere to them?

    I’ve only heard of people adhering to consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics.

    For what it’s worth, I lean somewhat towards deontology myself.

    • Anonymous says:

      natural law

      Natural law is stuff that just follows from a reasonable interpretation of the natural world, the prohibitions of the obvious Bad Ideas(TM). Who breaks natural law is likely to wind up dead or worse, by the natural consequences of their own actions. You don’t murder people, because you’re likely to be murdered right back. You don’t steal shit, because you’ll be robbed yourself, or killed in defense of property. You don’t trespass on another man’s land, or worse – his woman – for much the same reasons. Even if you manage to escape the consequences of one action or another, you’re marking yourself as a defector, and giving others ample reason not to cooperate with you.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      Anonymous’s characterization of natural law is inaccurate. Thomas Aquinas is the paradigmatic natural law theorist, for heaven’s sake, and he doesn’t think anything even remotely in the ballpark of what Anon said. You can read more about it here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natural-law-ethics/

      That said, I think it’s hard to characterize natural law theory in any way besides “the bundle of doctrines that Thomas Aquinas held”, and I don’t think it represents a clear or distinctive approach. It’s pretty much dead in contemporary ethics.

      Contractualism, on the other hand, is quite a popular view. I would guess it’s more common than virtue ethics. The issue is complicated by the fact that contractualism is often taken to be a form of deontological ethics, to the point where people call themselves Kantian contractualists and even argue that Kant himself was a contractualist.

      I think the right way to look at things is that “deontology” is not a distinctive ethical approach. The term is a holdover from narrow way of thinking of ethical theories which saw all of ethics in terms of Kant vs. Mill. Whatever was like Mill gets lumped as consequentialist, and whatever was like Kant gets lumped as deontological, without a very careful look at what was distinctive or essential to either approach. (Much like Natural Law turns out to be “anything vaguely Aquinas-like”).

      Anyway, contractualists roughly think that what you ought to do is determined by what rules would be agreed to (or alternatively, what rules could not be reasonably rejected) by agents in a kind of (typically hypothetical) contracting scenario. There are many different views in this camp, some inspired by Kant, and some inspired by Hobbes, and it’s hard to say anything more in general that applies to all of them.

      The kind of thinking characteristic of contractualists goes something like this: I would be willing to give up the option to kill other people, if they would give up the option to kill me. Likewise, they would be willing to give up the option to kill me in exchange for me giving up the option to kill them. This is the basis for a hypothetical contract according to which both of us agree not to kill each other. And this hypothetical contract is the basis of our moral reasons not to kill each other.

      • Anonymous says:

        Anonymous’ characterization of natural law is inaccurate. Thomas Aquinas is the paradigmatic natural law theorist, for heaven’s sake, and he doesn’t think anything even remotely in the ballpark of what Anon said.

        I deny and contest your judgment. According to my reading of the Infogalactic article on natural law, my definition is definitely within the ballpark of the idea, if less abstract.

      • Kevin C. says:

        (Repeated without quotes from the books in question because eaten by filter):

        @Philosophisticat

        “That said, I think it’s hard to characterize natural law theory in any way besides “the bundle of doctrines that Thomas Aquinas held”, and I don’t think it represents a clear or distinctive approach. It’s pretty much dead in contemporary ethics.”

        I must note first that your comment seems restricted entirely to Western thought on ethics; no mention of any Chinese thinkers, for example. And, in reference to the quote of yours above, plenty of thinkers class a large part of traditional Chinese views as a kind of natural law theory. See:

        Wisdom in Early Confucian and Israelite Traditions by Xinzhong Yao

        “Natural Law in Classical Chinese Philosophy” by Xiusheng Liu, printed in Natural Law Modernized by David Braybrooke

        Or “Chinese Contexts for Natural Law” by Dennis Ye.

        And as to the “deadness” of natural law theory in the West (as opposed to the East), Thomas Metzger’s contrast of modern Western philosophy’s “epistemological pessimism” and the Great Modern Western Epistemological Revolution (GMWER) with modern Chinese philosophers’ “epistemological optimism”.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I don’t think there’s anything substantive in common between various thinkers that get lumped as natural law theorists, but you’re right that I’ve been considering only the Western tradition, since it’s the only one with which I’m familiar.

          It doesn’t seem to me that modern western philosophy is “epistemologically pessimistic” in the sense described in that article. Maybe in continental circles, but contemporary analytic philosophers often think there is objective knowledge about all of the domains mentioned, and the live theories are largely either explicitly objectivist or compatible with objectivity.

        • Protagoras says:

          I’m with philosophisticat on this one; the Dennis Ye paper at least seems to be using “natural law” in a way that is so vague as to be virtually devoid of content. In Western philosophy, it is usually used considerably more narrowly, and nothing Ye says seems remotely similar to the key doctrines of Aquinas and the other paradigmatic Western natural law thinkers.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I think it’s hard to characterize natural law theory in any way besides “the bundle of doctrines that Thomas Aquinas held”,

        Also Aristotle, Cicero, the Stoics, the Neo-Platonists…

        • Philosophisticat says:

          Yes, and Hobbes and Philippa Foot and Locke too! Just about everyone gets occasionally lumped in as subscribing to natural law. The doctrines of the theorists in this camp are so different in both structure and content that it’s pretty clear there’s nothing core in common besides at some point having gestured towards ethics being ‘grounded in human nature’ in some ambiguous sense.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Abusus non tollit usum. The moral theories of Aristotle, Cicero, the Stoics, the Neo-Platonists, Aquinas (most medieval thinkers, really) are pretty similar to each other.

          • skef says:

            If Aristotle is in there, how would you distinguish natural law theory from virtue ethics?

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Natural law = do things that in accordance with your natural ends, avoids things that aren’t. See Ed Feser for a primer.

  11. Anon. says:

    I want to read the Bible. I’ve heard good things about Robert Alter’s translations. Confirm/deny? Which translation should I get for the New Testament? Also, what secondary material should I read before/during/after?

    • Randy M says:

      I will be interested to see if anyone has strong opinions (no pun intended) but I think by and large you don’t often get significant differences in meaning with different translation, with some possible exceptions.

      You can go to a site like Biblegateway and see a passage in several different versions if you want to get a feel for it.

      Edit: What does it say about Americans/English that there are 50 English versions listed and 5 German or French or Italian versions? Spanish also has many different versions as well. Maybe it’s a measure of cultural diversity within a language group, or maybe we are more quarrelsome.

    • bean says:

      Most modern translations are considered equivalent. If you’re not planning to do really serious study, then any of the common translations (NIV, NASB, NKJV, ESV) are all quite acceptable. I personally use NKJV, but that’s because it was the translation they gave me when I got my personalized Bible something like 15 years ago. My current church uses ESV, and the previous one used NIV. Occasionally, one will turn out to render a passage very different from another, but that probably happens in 1 in 20-50 Bible studies. The rest of the time, they’re the same.
      There are paraphrase translations (The Message, New Living) which are more in the vernacular. Personally, I don’t like them, but that’s more a personal/aesthetic judgement. If you can’t get through one of the more literal translations, try one. If you’re really confused about a specific passage, I’d suggest trying the Amplified, which is an attempt to capture more of the specific meaning by sacrificing readability.
      I’ve never heard of Robert Alter, and I’d suggest one of the translations above. At least in the US, those are the ones people are actually reading, and which are going to be driving Christian thought. NIV is the current best-seller, followed by KJV and NLT.
      King James is tricky. Some people continue to insist on it, and it’s still adequate from a technical basis, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, as it’s not a particularly good read.
      (Warning: Evangelical Protestant. Catholic and Mainlines appear to prefer New Revised Standard.)

    • rlms says:

      KJV or the highway.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The NRSV is pretty standard for scholarly work. If you don’t like the imposition of gender-neutral language on the text where the original text is gendered (eg “brothers and sisters” instead of “brothers”) the RSV is still fine. It’s worthy getting an annotated edition from a reputable publisher – I used the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV with Apocrypha) back when I was in school. Most modern translations are pretty decent though. I’d avoid any paraphrased translations – enough meaning and nuance gets removed in the translation to English already.

      For stuff to read along with it, a couple of basic introductory works (they provide background, context, and all sorts of stuff beyond what you’ll get even in a good annotated edition) will be extremely useful:

      Hebrew Bible: I can’t remember what was assigned back in school. Collins’ is probably fine. It might have been Collins’ now that I think of it but I’m not near my books right now. Feel free to get an earlier edition if you’re buying books and want to save money.

      New Testament: Ehrman’s intro was what we used back when I was in school. It’s excellent – a fantastic book, good enough to read for pleasure, and the best textbook I touched in university – buy it! Do it now!) and covers more than just the New Testament. There’s an associated reader, but it’s pricey; most of the stuff in the reader can be found online, although finding a good translation (as opposed to a Wikisource translation that’s public domain because it’s from 1897 or something) can be tricky. It’s probably only worth getting the reader if you care about noncanonical stuff (you should; it’s cool).

      A decent interlinear is worth getting if you don’t know the original languages. Even if you do, honestly, you have to be pretty good at ancient Hebrew and Greek to sightread. I can’t recommend any particular one because they tend not to be super cheap. I can’t remember which one I had, but I didn’t like it that much – the print was hard to read. Mounce did one that’s meant for people who don’t know Greek, but only for the New Testament. I can’t recommend it, having not read it, but I used stuff by Mounce all through learning Greek, and it was generally solid.

      A gospel parallel can be useful to compare the gospels. Zeba Crook’s was the cheapest back when I was buying books, and has some interesting features, but I can’t recall them in great detail – again, not near my books. Mostly I recommend it because it’s way cheaper than the alternatives.

      • Jaskologist says:

        What do you think the best way to read the Bible is? I suspect there’s a better answer than “straight through,” especially for a newcomer.

        @Anon, what tradition are you trying to better understand? Christians read the OT in light of the NT, and have traditionally been very heavy on typology (roughly equivalent to “foreshadowing”).

        • Anonymous says:

          What do you think the best way to read the Bible is? I suspect there’s a better answer than “straight through,” especially for a newcomer.

          Bah! Moses’ books have some of the best material, IMO. Starting at the beginning is not wrong.

        • rlms says:

          The best order is IV, V, II, II, VI. Skip The Phantom Menace.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The trouble with reading it in Meshuggeneh Order is that you never get to the “Jesus, I am your Father” part.

        • Anon. says:

          I’m approaching it from a literary/historical perspective, so not really interested in Christian interpretations of the OT.

          • BBA says:

            not really interested in Christian interpretations of the OT.

            In that case I’ll throw NJPS out there, as the most widely used Jewish translation of the Tanakh (the Jewish term for what Christians call the Old Testament).

          • S_J says:

            There are several kinds of literature bundled together in the Bible.

            There are deep-legends and tribal history (mostly Pentateuch), history of region/nation (Joshua, Judges, the books of Samuel and of the Kings). There’s a good-parts version of the history of the nation (the books of Chronicles.)

            Of historical interest: there are monuments for things the Cave of Machphelah, which is mentioned as the burial place of Abraham…and there are also archeological finds in Jerusalem which touch on Hezekiah’s construction of a water tunnel…and there are many archeological layers to the city of Jericho…

            There are sections of poetry and philosophy (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs). Some of the Psalms connect to historical events mentioned in the historical-section.

            There is a long section of poetry and proclamations by prophets, or stories about prophets. These are often best-read alongside some notes about when the prophet spoke, what the historical context mentioned by the prophet is. Interpretations of these sections vary widely…But there are historical connections. (One chapter of Isaiah is about Hezekiah and Sennacharib of Assyria…this chapter is duplicated nearly word-for-word in the historical section, and the core story was retold by another ancient historian.)

            Two of these prophetic books contain mind-blowing visions full of cryptic details. These are often described as apocalyptic visions…but both Daniel and Ezekiel have sections that touch on the history of their times, which makes for an interesting contrast.

            Outside of the Tanakh/O.T., there are also the books which the Catholics call “deutero-canonical”…which, sadly, I’m not very familiar with. They likely contain more-of-the-same, thematically. A little history, a little prophecy, etc.

            The N.T. contains a section of Gospels. Three of the Gospels pull from the same pool of stories about Jesus, but each puts a different slant on the story. The fourth Gospel has a different set of parables, and a different focus on Jesus. Only two Gospels tell of Jesus birth, all four tell of his death and resurrection.

            The Gospel of Luke is often separated from the book of Acts. Of note,they were apparently written together as a two-volume history of Jesus and the Apostles.

            The rest of the N.T. is letters by Apostles to various churches. These are often traditionally ordered by author, then by length…which probably messes up with the chronological order.

            Then there is the last book, a prophetic/apocalyptic vision which looks a lot like the visions of Daniel and Ezekiel. It’s a stunning tale, whether or not you think it predicts the future.

          • beleester says:

            Seconding the NJPS as a good Hebrew translation. The Etz Hayim commentary is pretty good too, it has a lot of good tidbits on historical context or fuzzy translations, too.

        • S_J says:

          I’ve seen churches offer “Bible Reading Plans”.

          One of which attempted to offer a read-Bible-with-respect-to-its-internal-chronology plan.

          That is, Genesis chapters 1-11, followed by a detour into Job, followed by a return to Genesis 12…

          This became very interesting when they interleaved various prophets with the historical sections of the Samuel/Kings/Chronicles series.

          It also connected many Psalms with major events in the life of the known-author.

          Of course, this plan refers to the canon that is common between Protestant and Catholic churches, and ignores the deutero-canonical texts.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Jaskologist

          I would just read it going along with an introductory tex. For example: If you read Ehrman’s book – which is fabulous! Everyone should buy a copy! No, two copies! – he provides a bunch of background to the historical period of Jesus’ life and the period the NT was put together, and then introduces a “scholarly method” along with each gospel.

          A Hebrew Bible intro might jump around a bit more – I recall less of what I learned in HB class, because I spent way more time on the NT. What I do recall is that we started off by reading Genesis, but not just sitting down and reading it – we considered why exactly there are really two different accounts of creation, which leads into the scholarship – Genesis is hypothesized by scholars to be a combination of the P (Priestly) and J (Jahwist – Yahwist in English, but the Germans who originally did the scholarship have left their mark on names) sources.

          Just sitting down and reading the Bible straight through is going to be a slog in places, and you’re going to be very confused. Reading along with an introductory text is far better, and you’ll have some idea of what to home in on and what to skim.

      • DavidS says:

        Is that gender-neutral thing based on argument/belief/evidence that the terms were used in a gender-inclusive way at the time (as we now talk about ‘brotherhood of man’ without excluding women, and many languages use male plurals for mixed gender groups)?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Bit of column A, bit of column B. Gendered languages frequently use the masculine plural for a mixed group. On the other hand, modern political considerations definitely played a role.

    • DavidS says:

      I second people saying get a study Bible with annotations. I don’t know enough to judge between the versions. I read it cover to cover 15 years or so ago and can’t actually remember if I read KJV or a more modern version. On which: I think you can judge for yourself if you find the KJV beautiful/eloquent or annyoing. I like it, and it has the benefit of resonating through phrases used in art and indeed popular culture. But obviously the scholarship will be a little out of date.

      You can also follow my example and learn just enough NT Greek to occasionally wonder what the base they’re translating from is, to obtain the belief that almost any sentence in the NT can be turned into a question because of how Greek punctuation worked (will the meek inherit the earth?) and to have various other slightly idiosyncratic views on the whole thing, without actually understanding it enough to have a remotely valid independent scholarly view.

    • Rock Lobster says:

      I underwent this same project a few years ago.

      My advice is to start with the KJV, not because it’s necessarily the best or most accurate, but because it’s the version that is most culturally significant to the English-speaking world. If you find yourself struggling to understand or just get through a book with the KJV, I think it’s fine to swap out for a more modern version for that book. I liked the NLT for that purpose.

      I read Robert Alter’s The Five Books of Moses, and thought it was very good, but more for the footnotes than the translation per se.

      Nothing wrong with annotations, but be aware that it’s gonna take an already very long reading project and basically double it, and then notes may become distracting from the literary aspects. For a first read-through I’m inclined to suggest just reading it straight to avoid that. Wikipedia is a good resource on individual books and other info.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        I never understood the “KJV is hard to read” thing. It’s like Shakespeare — if the language is archaic, get some footnotes, and get the full context. Don’t trust translators, they will play broken telephone with you.

        Dealing with even modern texts can be like this. It’s not a light hobby, reading.

        • Randy M says:

          The broken telephone analogy only works if later translators were translating from the KJV, rather than from the same original sources. Language changes over centuries, and it is reasonable that people struggle with archaic English.

          That said, if you aren’t familiar with the language of the KJV, you might miss allusions in other sources.

        • Rock Lobster says:

          I would also say KJV isn’t actually hard to read the way Shakespeare is. Shakespeare literally requires footnotes and stuff for a modern person to understand it, at least I thought so and I’m a decently smart guy.

          For the KJV there’s really no problem reading it straight and understanding the meaning, except for a few archaic terms. However footnotes can help with context as needed.

        • webnaut says:

          I have returned Ilya! *dramatic music*

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      For secondary material, I’m a huge fan of the Blue Letter Bible site (multiple translations and easy access to the original languages and database style concordances) and Studylight’s collection of out of copyright commentaries.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      For studying what God said, there’s a wide divergence of opinion between churches. The Revised Standard Version is very popular, with the complication that Catholics have the RSV-Catholic, liberal Protestants prefer the New RSV, while Evangelicals have taken to the English Standard Version.
      For literary merit, you should still be reading the KJV. There’s also a New KJV, which has achieved crossover success between conservative Protestants and Anglophone Orthodox.

      Rather than reading the Bible straight through, I recommend Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, the four books of Kings, Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah & Maccabees, then Psalms and Song of Solomon followed by the other wisdom books. Then you need to finish off the law of Moses (Leviticus, Deuteronomy) and read the Prophets to be ready for the New Testament.

  12. Tekhno says:

    I was under the impression that global poverty rates had drastically declined, but a guy on twitter sent me this article.

  13. Bugmaster says:

    Are “Filter Bubbles” really that bad ?

    Let’s say that someone finally builds an AI that is reasonably good at predicting which content (articles, videos, user comments, etc.) you’d enjoy reading, and which you’d find objectionable. This isn’t that much of a stretch — companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. are actively working on the problem, and they’re making good progress. Just to assuage the usual fears, let’s assume that this AI is limited and cannot become the Singularity/launch nukes/etc.; all it does is filter content for you.

    People now have the option to mediate most of their online/news/entertainment/etc. interactions through this AI. A Republican may never see a tweet that advocates for gun control; meanwhile, a Democrat may never see an antiabortion Facebook message, etc. Naturally, this means that the Republican and the Democrat may never be able to interact with each other. Instead, both of them will live in separate virtual bubbles, populated by people who mostly agree with them, reinforce their most cherished beliefs, and are generally supportive.

    Would that be so bad ?

    There are a few objections to this scenario that people usually bring up:

    * “If no one ever challenges incorrect ideas, people will continue believing in them, and will end up making bad decisions as the result”. Well, as far as I can tell, this is the case now. In addition, some scientific research indicates that people tend to “double down” on their beliefs when confronted with evidence to the contrary, so the filter may in fact have the opposite effect. For example, consider what happened to religion in America (where multiple religions have always been fighting for mind share) vs. Scandinavia (where a single state religion used to dominate within each country). Modern Americans are practically foaming-at-the-mouth zealots compared to their Nordic brethren.

    * “Well but I personally want my own ideas to be challenged”. In this case, presumably you won’t mark challenging comments as “objectionable”, and the AI will let them into your bubble. Your bubble will end up populated with people like yourself, who enjoy robust debate.

    * “Politics will become so polarized that any real political change will become impossible”. Again, how is that different from what we have now ?

    * “Censorship is morally wrong”. That depends on what kind of morality you subscribe to. In addition, since the filtering AI learns from your own preferences, it’s not really censorship — it’s just a person who refuses to listen to certain types of speech. What are you going to do, force him ?

    * “This system will be too ripe for abuse by unscrupulous actors, such as governments, ad companies, hackers, etc.” In fact, a truly effective AI will be much harder to subvert than a newspaper or a social media company (who, in some cases, can be subverted with something as simple as a moderately expensive lunch). Still, I admit that cybersecurity is a valid concern, and we should always be vigilant.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Isn’t now really bad though? “It wouldn’t be worse than now” is hardly a reassuring thought.

      • Deiseach says:

        I tend to operate on the assumption “It can always get worse”. National Guard and/or Army versus rioters in the streets every night, those detention camps really do get started up, bombing campaigns when the black-clad protesters graduate from throwing bricks to learning how to use mercury tilt switches – oh yeah, the fun would only just be beginning.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I agree that all of these things will be even worse than what we have now; but I am not convinced that improved content filtering will lead to such scenarios. In fact, black-clad protestors might have a hard time finding fresh recruits. They feed on rage and hatred, but filter bubbles will dampen such emotions, due to the lack of visible targets. It’s pretty hard to motivate people to punch theoretical abstractions in the face.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Bugmaster – ” They feed on rage and hatred, but filter bubbles will dampen such emotions, due to the lack of visible targets”

            It seems pretty obvious that Colbert, Stewart, Oliver, Hannity, Beck and O’Reilly all are essentially outrage engines based off of feeding visible targets into their viewers’ bubbles. Would you disagree?

            A comic I used to read had the concept of “Narrow Band”, a media service that filtered content according to general themes; right wing news, left wing news, happy news, sad news, news that makes you angry, inconsequential prattle, etc, which seems to be similar to what you’re advocating here. The problem is that “*-wing news” isn’t “happy news”, it’s “news that makes you angry”, due to toxoplasma. People want to hate; the bubble encourages them to treat that desire for hatred as a virtue, rather than the vice it actually is. Sooner or later it inevitably spills over.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Ok, I admit that it’s possible that filter bubbles could intensify hatred — but hatred of what ? In the short term, it seems likely that people will keep hating their political/ideological/fashion-based opponents, as they do now. But, if filter bubbles are made to be nearly impermeable, then the reaction to “Evil person X said Y” would be not, “Enough is enough ! Burn the heretic !”, but rather, “Who is this X guy ? I’ve never heard of him before, and neither has anyone else”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Bugmaster

            If no one has heard of him, it can be very easy to convince people of how dangerous this person is and there will be no one who knows better to talk some sense into the lynching mob.

        • The Nybbler says:

          National Guard and/or Army versus rioters in the streets every night, those detention camps really do get started up

          This would be an improvement over the rioters running riot without opposition and getting away with it. (Where “detention camps” means “temporary jails to hold rioters while they are waiting for trial”, not internment camps or anything more sinister)

        • Tekhno says:

          @The Nybbler

          (Where “detention camps” means “temporary jails to hold rioters while they are waiting for trial”, not internment camps or anything more sinister)

          “Camps” certainly have got a bad rep!

          I wonder if we could ever get to a stage where people are so detached from the violence needed to found states, that they can’t handle it when we need to use violence to protect them. Any extreme measures that must be taken due to extreme circumstances expose the “inner fascism” of your basic ordinary state.

          • JDG1980 says:

            I wonder if we could ever get to a stage where people are so detached from the violence needed to found states, that they can’t handle it when we need to use violence to protect them.

            I think the “Open Borders” crowd has already reached that point.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Well, first of all, any solution that prevents the current situation from becoming even worse is, IMO, worth considering.

        Secondly, I can see the benefits of living in a bubble, and so can you — because both of us are already living in bubbles, albeit permeable ones. We don’t have the time to read every opinion and watch every video; instead, we choose a few sources we trust, and we discuss what we’ve read with our close friends, when we feel like it. The filtering AI would make this process easier, not harder.

        Furthermore, the benefits of sealing the holes in the bubble may be considerable. Peace of mind and vaccination from the toxoplasma of rage would be huge advantages in and of themselves. As I mentioned above, it may even cause opinions to be less polarized over time. For example, consider the fervor that modern Christians apply to the condemnation of the wrong kind of Christians; and compare this to their attitude toward, say, Hindus. If you ask a Christian whether Hindus are heretics, he’d probably say, “yeah, I guess technically they are, but at least they’re not filthy traitors like those damn Presbilutherans”. The filter bubble may put the same kind of memetic distance between warring ideological factions that geography had managed to put between modern Christians and Hindus.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Well, first of all, any solution that prevents the current situation from becoming even worse is, IMO, worth considering.

          So the theory is, if politics stays “so polarized that any real political change [is] impossible” at least we don’t wind up in a totalitarian dictatorship, because that would constitute real political change? Rah bubbles, I guess.

          But I would remind you that everything rots, everything needs to engage in a certain amount of running just to stand still. Total paralysis doesn’t lead to stasis, it leads to collapse.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @bugmaster – “Are “Filter Bubbles” really that bad ?”

      What makes them bad are when different bubbles still have to work together. If people from your bubble and my bubble both vote for president, we can’t just ignore each other, we have to engage, and the bubbles make it harder for us to do so constructively. If you want to double-down on bubbling, you probably need national divorce as well.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Your concerns are valid, but IMO this is exactly the situation that we are facing now. I think it could be argued that bubbles will mitigate the situation, as opposed to aggravating it, which is what our current social structure is busy doing.

        It’s one thing to know, on some intellectual level, that evil deplorable people do exist; but if you never have to interact with them directly, then why worry about it ?

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Bugmaster – “but if you never have to interact with them directly, then why worry about it?”

          I do have to interact with them; every day, in fact. The people who rioted in Portland almost certainly did not have to interact with those outside their bubble, but they weren’t content to sit quietly after Trump was elected. Berkeley was an example of forced interaction, and it broke out into mob violence.

          How do bubbles solve Berkeley? Any solution I can see, again, amounts to accelerating the bubbles into actual, physical segregation.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I believe these people rioted because they were incensed about how horrible and deplorable their political opponents were. If they lived in a bubble, then 99% of them would just go about their lives. Sure, there’d still be one or two guys who were determined to riot all by themselves, but such outliers are few.

          • simon says:

            “If they lived in a bubble, then 99% of them would just go about their lives. ”

            I think the problem was, they were in a bubble (more or less) then Milo deliberately provoked them by entering the bubble. And of course they fell for it totally giving him massive free publicity.

          • Matt M says:

            Milo deliberately provoked them by entering the bubble

            False. Milo was speaking at a ticketed event for like-minded people taking place in a reserved auditorium. He wasn’t standing on a streetcorner yelling at passersby.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Matt M – I don’t think I understand what Bugmaster is saying, but I don’t think it’s that Milo didn’t have a right to be there or did something inappropriate by speaking. I don’t really understand how their conception of a bubble avoids outrage, though.

          • simon says:

            “Milo was speaking at a ticketed event for like-minded people taking place in a reserved auditorium.”

            At Berkeley. Try not to confuse what I’m saying for a statement about morality, I am making a statement of fact. One can provoke someone by doing something which one has a right to do, if the other person doesn’t believe you have a right to do it.

            To clarify, here’s my point about bubbles not helping at Berkeley:

            Berkeley is enough of a bubble that no one there would probably have much to do about Milo if he didn’t go there. But there is enough leakage to the outside world that at least someone has heard of Milo and stirs up the rest of the bubble chamber against him when he comes there. Even if the bubble was much stronger, it would be hard to avoid this. It would take a really serious degree of bubblization for no one in the university to have heard of Milo. So, increasing the degree of bubbleness wouldn’t help.

            I might add, if Berkeley were less of a bubble fewer people there might think that violence was an appropriate response, or that they could get away with it, or that the feelings of self-righteousness gained by it were worth massively boosting Milo’s fame. So not only did bubbleness not help but it might have been harmful in this case.

            Now about Milo. I am not blaming him for making the strategically correct decision of provoking people to violence against him. It’s up to the people on the other side to not make that a strategically correct decision by falling for the provocation, and by incentivizing the falling for the provocation by giving social status to those who fall for it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            At Berkeley

            Are bubbles made of PEOPLE, or TERRITORY? If people, then Milo was planning to speak inside his bubble. If territory, then there shouldn’t have been any Milo fans at Berkeley.

          • Matt M says:

            Right, I think we disagree as to what counts as a “bubble.” I see as basically self-imposed filtering. You can live in a left-wing bubble in rural Texas, if you go avoid certain places and go to certain other places and properly manage your social media. You can live in a right-wing bubble in Berkeley, if you join the young republicans and read Infowars instead of listening to your PoliSci teacher during class.

            Milo’s presence on campus was not made known to the left-wing bubble by Milo, but by other left-wingers. He did not “intrude” in any meaningful sense, unless you define bubbles in a strict geographic manner wherein “no person opposed to our thoughts is allowed to enter this physical area” which is SO strict even I don’t think most antifa even would claim that. After all, there was an audience for Milo in Berkeley. Where did those people come from if Milo-like views are not allowed in Berkeley?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Filter bubbles stop looking quite so benign when they start claiming ownership over universities.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are bubbles made of PEOPLE, or TERRITORY?

            Frequently they are made of institutions. Rarely do those institutions have explicit “No [X] allowed” policies; they just trust that all the X know that they are supposed to keep a low profile about it. Most churches don’t mind the occasional atheist attending for social reasons, so long as they stay quiet during the theological parts of the service.

            Berkeley I think was, and is still widely believed to be, an institutional part of the leftist bubble, which Republicans are welcome to attend that they might be preached at but are expected to keep a low profile. This belief and expectation is increasingly at odds with reality.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @John Schilling: Most churches don’t mind the occasional atheist attending for social reasons, so long as they stay quiet during the theological parts of the service.

            Publicly-funded universities are to the Left as churches are to the Right. Of course there’s an obvious ethical problem with that, unless the state can justly assert the right to have a secular progressive ideology in place of a state religion.

          • John Schilling says:

            Publicly-funded universities are to the Left as churches are to the Right.

            The fact that employers Left, Right, Center, and Apolitical all tend to consider a university education a prerequisite for most white-collar jobs but only in very narrow circumstances make church membership a job requirement, is a rather large difference.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – Wasn’t Church Attendance and good Christian character considered a prerequisite for high-status employment once upon a time?

          • Matt M says:

            Once upon a time 50 years ago. And has fallen off a cliff. While “must have attended a left-wing indoctrination camp” is now firmly in place and is becoming more common and is slowly emphasizing “must do it twice”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Le Maistre Chat
            Publicly-funded universities are to the Left as churches are to the Right.

            Publicly-funded universities are supported by taxes; churches are supported by their tax-free status.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          How do we get people into the nice kind of bubble, where people are indifferent to people outside the bubble, as opposed to the more usual kind where they’re merely full of misconceptions about people outside the bubble?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Indeed, this is the main problem. Without actual information, you’ll end up with people inside the bubble just getting more and more distorted stories about the people outside their bubble. How many people who believed the blood libel actually knew any Jews?

        • Kevin C. says:

          “It’s one thing to know, on some intellectual level, that evil deplorable people do exist; but if you never have to interact with them directly, then why worry about it ?”

          You need to read Chapter 6 of Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, “A Culture War and Its Aftermath”. Some people, and some cultures, feel they have a duty to fight “evil deplorable people” wherever they exist, so long as they exist. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, save every soul you can, fight the infidel wherever you find them, good people must fight evil wherever it arises because evil triumphs when good people do nothing, a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, no tolerance for intolerance, human rights are universal, et cetera. People for whom a necessary condition for being good is working to make everyone else in the world be “good”. Where “converting the heathen” is a moral obligation. Filter bubbles only serve to make the heathen a more alien “other”, and thus easier to “convert” with collective “fire and sword”, or with the power of the state, rather than individual persuasion.

    • Anonymous says:

      It wouldn’t be bad under a Millet system, where each group is ruled by their own rules and the other groups don’t make the laws that directly affect them. This is not the system we live in now. I sometimes think the Ottoman Empire had more tolerance for diversity of religion than purported secular states now do.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “I sometimes think the Ottoman Empire had more tolerance for diversity of religion than purported secular states now do.”

        Indeed, but ISTM that a large part of what made that system work, when it worked, was that it was quite clear which group was In Charge, and that each group “is ruled by their own rules” and generally left alone so long as, and because, they pose little threat of taking over. Similar patterns can be seen with religious tolerance in Imperial China, an in other empires. It appears, at least by my reckoning, that tolerant, diverse empires managed to be tolerant of diversity because they were empires. Because there is a clear ruling class/culture/tribe/ethnicity, which greatly limits competition between the “millets” to try to dominate one another.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yeah, someone was in charge.

        • Aapje says:

          @Kevin C

          There are also places that achieved tolerance by people realizing that they couldn’t realistically dominate the outgroups or be dominated by them and thus choosing semi-isolate from each other. Pre-WW 2 The Netherlands is an example of this.

    • psmith says:

      Have you read Bryan Caplan on bubbles?

      I find the affect a bit grating, but I don’t disagree with the basic point. Though FacelessCraven’s and Anonymous’s points are well taken.

    • skef says:

      The idea that such bubbles would be “stable” grants enormous and I think probably unwarranted power to culture. It seems more likely that mutual knowledge of, and ongoing transfers between, bubbles are what allow robust bubbles to exist at all.

      Why? Because one’s politics are at least partly determined by one’s personality, and one’s personality is at least partly determined by genetics. Even on the assumption that there are reaver-like trends in personality traits, there’s still going to be a good amount of genetic variation. A bubble truly isolated from alternative “external” positions, such that it necessarily doesn’t have robust arguments against those positions, is going to constantly recapitulate those positions internally, as individuals with different psychological traits arrive at them independently.

      With communicating bubbles you have both the maintenance of arguments, and what amount to expulsions and emigrations that reduce intra-bubble diversity.

  14. nimim.k.m. says:

    For a change of pace, something that is (hopefully) at most tangentially related to culture wars:

    The widespread and persistent myth that it is easier to multiply and divide with Hindu-Arabic numerals than with Roman ones.

    • beleester says:

      I don’t agree with their reasoning. After a big of meandering argument about the history of number systems in general, the article gives two arguments:
      1. It isn’t a problem for math, because the Romans did their math with an abacus, and only used Roman numerals to write down the final answer. Or in other words, Roman numerals work fine for math if you don’t actually use Roman numerals for math.

      2. Halving and doubling is easier for division and multiplication than the standard place-value algorithm. Possibly true, but it’s equally true whether you’re using Arabic numerals or Roman ones.

      Actually, even then, take a look at how he does the multiplication for Roman numerals! He says that it’s simply a matter of doubling a column of digits, like so…

      XXXIX=XXXVIIII
      XXXXXXVVIIIIIIII=LXXVIII
      LLXXXXVVIIIIII=CLVI
      etc.

      Those don’t look like regular roman numerals, do they? He’s doubling a number by simply doubling the number of each character, which sounds pretty straightforwards. But to do that, you have to “unpack” the numbers so they’re in descending order (i.e., replace IX with VIIII, CD with CCCC). And then afterwards you have to “repack” it into the traditional format so your number isn’t 20 characters long.

      You also have to do this for addition and subtraction, so that you can calculate VIIII – VII = II instead of IX – VII. So once again, math with Roman numerals becomes a lot easier if you don’t use the actual format of Roman numerals.

      EDIT: Actually, if I really wanted to be mean, I’d just ask him to multiply a number bigger than 5,000. Child’s play for Arabic, which can keep on repeating the same 10 characters for as many place values as you want. Not so easy for Roman numerals, which doesn’t have any symbols bigger than “M”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think the article’s a joke.

        Divide MCMLXVI by XXXIX, or 1966 by 39

        1 39
        2 78
        4 156
        8 312
        16 624
        32 1248

        Now, pick 32 + 16 + 2 and you have your answer. This is the “and then the miracle occurs” stage, as you’re picking these left-hand-numbers so that the numbers on the right get as close to the dividend as possible. This is easier than the same process using Roman numerals.

        Note he gets it wrong in the text:
        “Adding rows 6, 3 and 2 on the right we get MCCXLVIII+CLVI+LXXVIII=MCML ”

        Nope, it’s rows 6, 5 and 2. MCCXLVIII+CLVI+LXXVIII != MCML

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Question for Social Justice types: does rhetoric like this ever make an organization unacceptable if it’s “punching up”? And how do you define “punching up” anyway?

    • Brad says:

      I don’t know that I’m a “Social Justice type” but BLM isn’t an organization as such and doesn’t have a traditional hierarchy. I personally think that structure is a real weakness.

      A potential counterargument could have been that its credibility wouldn’t be dependent on the saintliness of any one person, but as we can see it doesn’t play out that way in practice. Its ideological enemies just gleefully hold the entire movement responsible for everything and everyone even tangentially related to it and demand endless denouncements and excommunications.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I don’t know that I’m a “Social Justice type” but BLM isn’t an organization as such and doesn’t have a traditional hierarchy. I personally think that structure is a real weakness.

        Perhaps it would be if it were real, but it is not; it’s a convenient fiction to allow any given part of BLM to deny being responsible for any of the bad stuff.

        • dndnrsn says:

          What do you have to support this? Is there some kind of secret leadership? It doesn’t look like there’s much keeping anyone from saying they’re “BLM” which is why you get everything from “please stop the thing where cops shoot poor black guys with impunity, we beg of you” to “Ivy League universities should change the name of things, because [academic jargon]”. (Obviously I am more charitable to the former than the latter).

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I see this a lot from posters on the right here.

            I think they really don’t understand the dynamics of the current (post-Trump-inauguration) activism on the left. It’s very easy to gather more info, also: show up at a local BLM meeting, or Indivisible meeting, and just see what these people are doing in practice.

          • Matt M says:

            Doesn’t this also apply to the label “tea party” as well?

            I feel that never stopped the mainstream media from declaring “tea party activist does X” as an indictment of the entire tea party.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A centrally organized conspiracy would probably be more effective. They wouldn’t do stupid shit like have as major leaders someone with a penchant for Facebook pseudoscience and Twitter foolishness, or a student union hack still involved in a lawsuit over low-level white-collar crime.

            Just as, if there really was a white nationalist conspiracy to take over America, it would probably be more competent than what’s currently going on in the White House, if George Soros was really secretly destabilizing society by funding leftist groups, I am assuming he would be doing a much better job. He didn’t get where he was today by hiring incompetent underlings.

            BLM Toronto has made a lot of noise, and has gotten a lot of ink, but it’s hard to see what exactly they’ve accomplished vis-a-vis the behaviour of Toronto police – oh no, Toronto police won’t march in the parade, big whoop. There’s still cops with guns guarding the whole thing, the SIU still exists, etc. I have come to the conclusion that the actual activities of the movement’s leadership are, consciously or unconsciously, aimed at jockeying for position in the Toronto activist scene. They’re a bunch of student union types (all 3 of the high-profile ones have been VP or president of the student union at one or another Toronto university) who have used the serious problem of police violence to raise their profile and make demands (as in the case of Pride) that largely boil down to securing future jobs and so forth for themselves.

            Far from the delusion of many on the right that there’s endless money to support paid protesters, the left-wing activist world is surprisingly cutthroat, internally speaking – everyone’s competing for grants, student union positions, jobs, etc. This isn’t a crusade for justice, nor is it an eeeeevil Soros-led front group seeking to build One World Government. It’s a bunch of smart and ambitious young people pursuing careerism, except that instead of finance or whatever their chosen careers are in professional activism.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            This isn’t a crusade for justice, nor is it an eeeeevil Soros-led front group seeking to build One World Government.

            I don’t understand the sarcasm here, it’s not like Soros doesn’t do exactly that (Fund a whole bunch of activist protesters and efforts, the One World Government thing is yet to be determined).

          • The Nybbler says:

            See Nornagest’s descriptions of protest organization elsethread. BLM couldn’t do the things it does without more organization than it likes to pretend. You didn’t see any ant protests (of any size) because the ants _really are_ decentralized like that.

          • Iain says:

            BLM Toronto has made a lot of noise, and has gotten a lot of ink, but it’s hard to see what exactly they’ve accomplished vis-a-vis the behaviour of Toronto police

            It’s hard to judge causality, but it seems unlikely that the changes to carding in Ontario have nothing to do with increased coverage due to BLM — although possibly only to the extent that BLM make other activists seem much more reasonable in comparison.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If Soros was really doing a full-court push to undermine societies and do whatever evil thing he’s supposed to be doing, the activist groups and charities he’s supporting would presumably be doing a better cause of it.

            I mean, there are 3 policies:

            a) George Soros supports things he personally likes
            b) George Soros supports things that will bring him some immediate tangible benefit – if you are an international businessman, globalism benefits you
            c) George Soros supports thinks that will let him white/pink/green/etc-wash his reputation, as the case may be
            d) some combination of the above
            e) EVIL MASTER PLAN

            e) seems the least likely to me. I don’t understand conspiracy theories where the conspiracy is simultaneously obvious and secret, incompetent and omnicompetent.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            >BLM Toronto has made a lot of noise, and has gotten a lot of ink, but it’s hard to see what exactly they’ve accomplished vis-a-vis the behaviour of Toronto police – oh no,

            I don’t know anything about toronto, but similar movements have affected policy in US cities.

            >Far from the delusion of many on the right that there’s endless money to support paid protesters, the left-wing activist world is surprisingly cutthroat, internally speaking – everyone’s competing for grants, student union positions, jobs, etc.

            that in no way disproves the theory that there’s a big spigot of money. Quite the opposite in fact.

            >This isn’t a crusade for justice, nor is it an eeeeevil Soros-led front group seeking to build One World Government. It’s a bunch of smart and ambitious young people pursuing careerism, except that instead of finance or whatever their chosen careers are in professional activism.

            thus perpetuating the long march through the institutions.

            Frankly, change the tone of what your wrote a little and it could easily have been written by a death-eater.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            Granted. I suspect that the way carding will be changed is going to be done in such a way to have loopholes big enough to drive a bus through, though. The Toronto police union is very powerful and I don’t think the cops are going to give up anything they don’t really want to keep.

            I’m probably being uncharitable – I have an allergic reaction to student union types; I view them as a bunch of sinecured pseudo-radicals – but the behaviour of the BLM-TO leadership makes relatively little sense if their goal is to achieve change in wider society (their optics are terrible, erstwhile supporters are abandoning them, and they might have more support among white lefties than black people), but a fair bit of sense if their goal is to improve their standing within the activist community. Improving that standing brings them status and resources.

            Student unions are a great example of it. They rarely get what they say they want – free tuition, reduced tuition, the whole wacky grab bag of leftist causes that pops up (why is there always a Palestinian flag?), etc. However, they do manage to set up cushy jobs for people who spend the best part of a decade getting undergraduate degrees, who then pick their successors, and rig the hilariously-low-voter-turnout student elections to pass the crown and sceptre on. Then the people who were VP Whatever at Ryerson go on to get jobs with CUPE or one of the PIRGs or whatever.

            It’s not that I necessarily disapprove of this on the object level. I know careerist hacks in many different fields. It’s that they pretend to be something they’re not.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler/cassander:

            See Nornagest’s descriptions of protest organization elsethread. BLM couldn’t do the things it does without more organization than it likes to pretend. You didn’t see any ant protests (of any size) because the ants _really are_ decentralized like that.

            BLM-TO is a different beast from a lot of the American groups. Canada has a far smaller problem with murder in general than the US, and even moreso with cops shooting people. Every single case in Toronto where the cops shoot someone that I can think of involves someone having a mental health crisis and attacking people. Police harassment of groups that get targeted for harassment in the US happens, certainly, but stuff at the actual level of people being killed is far less of an issue.

            They haven’t had any “protest riots” or things like that. They are a part of left-wing protest culture in Toronto and fit into it very well after they popped up. As far as I know there’s been zero violence. They were chosen to lead the parade at Pride last year, and ended up sitting down and blocking the parade until a list of demands was approved – the demands were all intra-Pride funding and staffing demands, plus a demand that the cops not participate in the parade (not, I’d note, any demands as to cops guarding the parade not being armed, demands that cops not guard the parade, or anything like that).

            I don’t know anything about toronto, but similar movements have affected policy in US cities.

            Nobody has posited a “Ferguson Effect” in Toronto or any other Canadian city. 2011-2015, murders in Canada have varied between ~500-~600, in Ontario specifically they’ve hovered above or below 150. In general, Canada is a much safer country than the US.

            that in no way disproves the theory that there’s a big spigot of money. Quite the opposite in fact.

            If there was a truly big spigot of money, ex-student union hustlers wouldn’t be competing so hard for what money there is. I think their problem is that they actually believe their rationales for their self-serving behaviour. If they just admitted to themselves “I want to get rich and powerful” they could go to business school and make a lot more.

            thus perpetuating the long march through the institutions.

            Frankly, change the tone of what your wrote a little and it could easily have been written by a death-eater.

            So, here’s the thing, right: There’s no “ahahahaha in 100 years we will RULE THE WORLD” long march through the institutions. There’s a bunch of people seeking what is best for themselves, personally, and then justifying their self-serving behaviour to themselves and to others, and adopting stances that make that behaviour easier. It’s not a “long march” so much as a “tedious stumble”.

            The Death Eaters look at something like the fact that university professors, especially in some departments, tend to be quite more left-wing than the norm, and especially to hold a certain variety of left-wing politics, and think “aha! A conspiracy! These all-powerful BRAHMINS and their CATHEDRAL!” I see a bunch of individuals doing whatever it takes to get tenure – and if that means parroting gibberish, moving their views leftwards, even getting to the point where they think the gibberish is profound and they really believe their beliefs – because being a non-tenured prof sucks and being contract faculty sucks even more.

            It’s no more proof of a left-wing conspiracy than the fact that bright-eyed kids who join the police because they want to help people end up resenting the public and maybe behaving badly towards members of the public is proof of a right-wing authoritarian conspiracy, or that the way a lot of law students start off wanting to fight for social justice or the falsely accused or whatever end up moving towards more lucrative fields of law after the bill for the first year of law school arrives is proof that corporations rule things, or whatever.

            Some on the left think their enemies are in charge, and some on the right think their enemies are in charge. I think nobody’s in charge, and I don’t think anybody is really capable of being truly in charge, because we (as a species) are nowhere near as smart or wise as we think we are.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            >Nobody has posited a “Ferguson Effect” in Toronto or any other Canadian city. 2011-2015, murders in Canada have varied between ~500-~600, in Ontario specifically they’ve hovered above or below 150. In general, Canada is a much safer country than the US.

            You don’t need there to be an actual effect of policy to prove that there was a change. the Baltimore police flat out announced they’d be pulling back in response to protests, whether the murder rate goes up, down, or stays the same, the protesters achieved a change in policy.

            >If there was a truly big spigot of money, ex-student union hustlers wouldn’t be competing so hard for what money there is.

            I don’t think that follows at all. There are a lot of ex-student union hustlers, and if you increase the supply of money, you just increase the incentive to compete.

            >I think their problem is that they actually believe their rationales for their self-serving behaviour. If they just admitted to themselves “I want to get rich and powerful” they could go to business school and make a lot more.

            Oh sure, no doubt. But people are very good at conflating “what is good for me” with “what I think is good for everyone”. I don’t doubt at all that these people are mostly sincere, that’s what makes them dangerous.

            >So, here’s the thing, right: There’s no “ahahahaha in 100 years we will RULE THE WORLD” long march through the institutions. There’s a bunch of people seeking what is best for themselves, personally, and then justifying their self-serving behaviour to themselves and to others, and adopting stances that make that behaviour easier. It’s not a “long march” so much as a “tedious stumble”.

            Well, to be fair, the coiner of the phrase was kind of a “ahahahaha in 100 years we will RULE THE WORLD” mindset. But, in general, I agree with you that that’s not how most people think about it, either the people giving the money or the people getting it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not how the process ends up working.

            >The Death Eaters look at something like the fact that university professors, especially in some departments, tend to be quite more left-wing than the norm, and especially to hold a certain variety of left-wing politics, and think “aha! A conspiracy! These all-powerful BRAHMINS and their CATHEDRAL!”

            The idea that the cathedral is an active conspiracy is explicitly and repeatedly rejected by the death eaters. They argue precisely your notion that it’s a bunch of uncoordinated individuals responding to incentives, with the caveat that the people who try to climb the cathedral’s greasy poll self select for true believers. The non-believers, for the most part the same way the catholic church drums out seminary students that believe in Vishnu. For a while, voldemorte himself toyed with using the word “prospiracy” to describe these sort of decentralized social interactions that produce conspiratorial looking results without there being an actual conspiracy, but it never caught on.

            >Some on the left think their enemies are in charge, and some on the right think their enemies are in charge. I think nobody’s in charge, and I don’t think anybody is really capable of being truly in charge, because we (as a species) are nowhere near as smart or wise as we think we

            There’s no god emperor, but that doesn’t mean that some people and social movements wield more influence than others. Both Ted Kaczynski and Bill Ayers were terrorists in the 70s. One of them is serving 8 consecutive life sentences, the other helped launch Barack Obama’s political career.

          • Randy M says:

            I see a bunch of individuals doing whatever it takes to get tenure – and if that means parroting gibberish, moving their views leftwards, even getting to the point where they think the gibberish is profound and they really believe their beliefs

            This is a fascinating model of the propagation and evolution of academic group think that should be expanded. It doesn’t explain how left wing views were presented to the first parrots for recitation. Is it all random mutation, or is there some artificial selection involved?

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn: Oh, absolutely. Everything I’ve heard indicates that Toronto student politics is even worse than the already awful norm for student politics, and the last time I was impressed by BLM Toronto’s leadership was when I mistakenly thought they were asking for a ban on cops at Pride as a bargaining chip, in an attempt to use Pride’s social capital to exert pressure on the criminal justice system. Apparently, though, they actually thought getting rid of the police float was an important cause. Turns out that wasn’t too stupid to be their real position.

            That said, they arguably serve a valuable role in propping open the Overton window.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander:

            You don’t need there to be an actual effect of policy to prove that there was a change. the Baltimore police flat out announced they’d be pulling back in response to protests, whether the murder rate goes up, down, or stays the same, the protesters achieved a change in policy.

            The official policy change to carding will probably not amount to much, and there doesn’t appear to have been any unofficial “Blue Flu” type stuff happening. I think the impact has mainly been within left-wing activist circles, and people within their circles have been doing their best to convince themselves there has been real change.

            I don’t think that follows at all. There are a lot of ex-student union hustlers, and if you increase the supply of money, you just increase the incentive to compete.

            On any real scale, though, it’s a small spigot. The jobs one gets through it are, at best, comfortable middle class gigs. Like I said, they would have been better off going to business school.

            Oh sure, no doubt. But people are very good at conflating “what is good for me” with “what I think is good for everyone”. I don’t doubt at all that these people are mostly sincere, that’s what makes them dangerous.

            And I think that – in the case of BLM-TO, at the very least – they’re not dangerous, whether to the status quo or anything else. In five or ten years, the head organizers are going to have decent middle class jobs – they’ll have moved up in the hierarchy – and policing in Toronto will probably be the same. I think this is just a Canadian thing. We’re just more chill than Americans.

            Well, to be fair, the coiner of the phrase was kind of a “ahahahaha in 100 years we will RULE THE WORLD” mindset. But, in general, I agree with you that that’s not how most people think about it, either the people giving the money or the people getting it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not how the process ends up working.

            The idea that the cathedral is an active conspiracy is explicitly and repeatedly rejected by the death eaters. They argue precisely your notion that it’s a bunch of uncoordinated individuals responding to incentives, with the caveat that the people who try to climb the cathedral’s greasy poll self select for true believers. The non-believers, for the most part the same way the catholic church drums out seminary students that believe in Vishnu. For a while, voldemorte himself toyed with using the word “prospiracy” to describe these sort of decentralized social interactions that produce conspiratorial looking results without there being an actual conspiracy, but it never caught on.

            The problem is that “well, this is a distributed semi-conspiracy, it’s not really a conspiracy but let’s think about it like one,” etc is that agency detection means it gets thought of as a conspiracy anyway. Meanwhile, while the Death Eaters tended to take a more nuanced view, the “Green Frog Nazi” alt-right types have gone straight for “IT’S A CONSPIRACY!” (or at least have as far as I can tell) and they have basically eaten the Death Eaters’ lunch as far as getting mainstream attention and exposure goes. The Death Eaters say they never wanted that – but how much of that is sour grapes?

            I also think that the whole process (the “Cathedral” or whatever you want to call it) corrupts those who take part in it. The Maoist professor who writes books about revolution is probably not going to take part in a revolution – got a mortgage to pay! The diversion of left-wing radical energy into academia has poisoned the left in many ways. The fact that we talk about agents of neoliberal globalism being part of the left… Etc.

            There’s no god emperor, but that doesn’t mean that some people and social movements wield more influence than others. Both Ted Kaczynski and Bill Ayers were terrorists in the 70s. One of them is serving 8 consecutive life sentences, the other helped launch Barack Obama’s political career.

            I don’t know if Kaczynski is a good example of a right-wing terrorist – is primitivism a right-wing thing? His bombing campaign was comparatively more lethal, too – the Weathermen seem to have tried to avoid killing people (source: Days of Rage) and I’m pretty sure killed as many of their own in a bomb malfunction as they killed other people, max.

            I’ll agree that the way that the well-positioned (eg, the respectable educated ones, not the poor ones) 70s radicals basically got away with it is a travesty. But plenty of people who have done awful things for right-wing causes have gotten away with it, too – it’s just that they weren’t Americans.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            This is a fascinating model of the propagation and evolution of academic group think that should be expanded. It doesn’t explain how left wing views were presented to the first parrots for recitation. Is it all random mutation, or is there some artificial selection involved?

            Eh, I don’t know. There’s got to be some reason that academia became more left-wing than the norm. I don’t know if it was always that way – I’m going to guess it wasn’t always.

            Guess, and I’m just spitballing here (surmised, not really endorsed): if academia is, or was, a place where you can get away with holding beliefs you wouldn’t in public, and the status quo is one thing, academia will attract people who hold different views. If the status quo in year x is right wing, patriotic, capitalistic, etc, then academia will attract people who aren’t like that. This is just a dumb guess, though. I really have no idea. It could have just been a random thing. After all, you’ve got some pockets of academia where the norm tends to be more right-wing (for a given value of “right-wing”) than average: your average American is probably to the right socially of your average university professor, but more protectionist than your average economics professor.

            I wouldn’t say it’s academic groupthink, either. It’s groupthink in general. I think it’s gotten particularly ugly in academia because of the perverse incentives for universities: they have major incentives to enroll doctoral students, far more doctoral students than there are good jobs for them, maybe even jobs period.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            Oh, absolutely. Everything I’ve heard indicates that Toronto student politics is even worse than the already awful norm for student politics and the last time I was impressed by BLM Toronto’s leadership was when I mistakenly thought they were asking for a ban on cops at Pride as a bargaining chip, in an attempt to use Pride’s social capital to exert pressure on the criminal justice system. Apparently, though, they actually thought getting rid of the police float was an important cause. Turns out that wasn’t too stupid to be their real position.

            That said, they arguably serve a valuable role in propping open the Overton window.@Iain:

            Oh, absolutely. Everything I’ve heard indicates that Toronto student politics is even worse than the already awful norm for student politics,

            and the last time I was impressed by BLM Toronto’s leadership was when I mistakenly thought they were asking for a ban on cops at Pride as a bargaining chip, in an attempt to use Pride’s social capital to exert pressure on the criminal justice system. Apparently, though, they actually thought getting rid of the police float was an important cause. Turns out that wasn’t too stupid to be their real position.

            I might be just finding ways to fit it into my theory, but it seems like they’re marking their territory within Pride and within the activist community. If they really thought cops were dangerous to have at Pride, they’d be demanding no cops guarding the parade, or no guns. Demanding that cops not take part in the parade itself seems more to be a “we’re in charge here” power play. On the other hand – a lot of people with that certain brand of left-wing politics are really obsessed with symbols.

            That said, they arguably serve a valuable role in propping open the Overton window.

            I don’t know about that. I think there’s going to be a backlash – in fact, there already is. Toronto police tend not to misbehave very much in ways that result in dead bodies, and I think a lot of people are going to look at BLM-TO’s shenanigans, say “what are they complaining about?”, and then everybody will get distracted by the next new thing.

            The Toronto police weathered the storm from the G20, and I think they’ll weather this particular storm – it’s already petering out.

          • cassander says:

            >The official policy change to carding will probably not amount to much, and there doesn’t appear to have been any unofficial “Blue Flu” type stuff happening. I think the impact has mainly been within left-wing activist circles, and people within their circles have been doing their best to convince themselves there has been real change.

            I agree, but they still got the change. The ratchet only goes in one direction.

            >On any real scale, though, it’s a small spigot. The jobs one gets through it are, at best, comfortable middle class gigs. Like I said, they would have been better off going to business school.

            That they would have been better off is irrelevant, the fact is that there’s a career path in left wing extremism that simply doesn’t exist on the right, and its mere existence encourages more of it. And you’re understating the size. How many tens of billions are spent on “diversity outreach” and inclusion initiatives and the like? Who do you think eventually gets those jobs? it’s not the guys that were in college republicans.

            >And I think that – in the case of BLM-TO, at the very least – they’re not dangerous, whether to the status quo or anything else. In five or ten years, the head organizers are going to have decent middle class jobs – they’ll have moved up in the hierarchy – and policing in Toronto will probably be the same. I think this is just a Canadian thing. We’re just more chill than Americans.

            They’re not dangerous in the sense that they’re going to start a revolution, but the very fact that they will have those jobs in 10 years makes them ideologically dangerous.

            >The problem is that “well, this is a distributed semi-conspiracy, it’s not really a conspiracy but let’s think about it like one,”

            They don’t say this. They say, explicitly, it’s not a conspiracy and you shouldn’t treat it like one. It sort of looks like one, but it isn’t, and if you think it is, you’re not understanding how it works.

            >e “Green Frog Nazi” alt-right types have gone straight for “IT’S A CONSPIRACY!” (or at least have as far as I can tell) and they have basically eaten the Death Eaters’ lunch as far as getting mainstream attention and exposure goes.

            Sure, no question. But those same people are also saying that the holocaust is a conspiracy. Nutters are going to be nutty, that doesn’t change whether or not death eater theory is correct.

            >I also think that the whole process (the “Cathedral” or whatever you want to call it) corrupts those who take part in it. The Maoist professor who writes books about revolution is probably not going to take part in a revolution – got a mortgage to pay! The diversion of left-wing radical energy into academia has poisoned the left in many ways.

            Again, no doubt, but that the left isn’t “pure” doesn’t mean it doesn’t get anything done. It just means that it won’t get things done that are contrary to the interests of the cathedral. In fact, you can very much read the old left/new left split way, getting rid of that explicit Marxist/labor focused stuff in favor of an identity politics that was more suited to the interests of upwardly mobile, college educated boomer leftists.

            >But plenty of people who have done awful things for right-wing causes have gotten away with it, too – it’s just that they weren’t Americans.

            their numbers are considerably smaller. If we condemned former communists/fellow travelers with 1/10th the opprobrium we have for former fascists/fascist fellow travelers, we’d be in a radically different world. Milton Friedman gives one lecture in Chile, and he’s a fascist sympathizer. Chomsky spends decades openly praising Mao, and it’s forgotten.

          • Jiro says:

            There’s got to be some reason that academia became more left-wing than the norm.

            Vietnam-era draft (and student deferments).

          • dndnrsn says:

            (Whoops, made an entire post quote instead of just the bits I was quoting, above)

            @Cassander:

            I agree, but they still got the change. The ratchet only goes in one direction.

            Really? There’s never been a reaction, never been a backlash? In their specific case, they seem to rapidly be losing sympathy from both the more bourgeois white liberals and from black people who see them, quite accurately, as student union hacks playing radical to advance their own career prospects.

            That they would have been better off is irrelevant, the fact is that there’s a career path in left wing extremism that simply doesn’t exist on the right, and its mere existence encourages more of it. And you’re understating the size. How many tens of billions are spent on “diversity outreach” and inclusion initiatives and the like? Who do you think eventually gets those jobs? it’s not the guys that were in college republicans.

            I don’t think they’re especially extreme. Sinecures to silly left-wing pseudo-radicals defang the left. It’s a way for the people who really pull the strings to keep fake opposition around as pets. And, tens of billions? Really? What are you defining as “diversity outreach”?

            They’re not dangerous in the sense that they’re going to start a revolution, but the very fact that they will have those jobs in 10 years makes them ideologically dangerous.

            Ideologically dangerous how? What are they going to do? They’re going to have their nonprofit sinecures instead of student union sinecures. Corporations making billions of dollars are going to throw them a bit of money to come and ritually absolve the board of directors of racism. As far as things that I worry about goes, just not that high on the list.

            They don’t say this. They say, explicitly, it’s not a conspiracy and you shouldn’t treat it like one. It sort of looks like one, but it isn’t, and if you think it is, you’re not understanding how it works.

            Can we really say “what Death Eaters think”? I’ve read some Voldemort, some Land, some of the lesser guys – the former strikes me as more conspiratorial-minded than the latter, but honestly, my eyes tended to glaze over after a while. Let me rephrase what I’m saying: modelling something as a conspiracy will cause some people to view it as a conspiracy. Even if the author knows it, and the smarter readers know it, some people are going to think “aha! a conspiracy!”

            Additionally, honestly, I think we (as a species) would be screwed regardless who wins, or who won, the war of ideologies. Moloch always wins. You observed that what I was writing sounded like DE but with a shift of tone. They think Cthulhu always wins. I think Moloch always wins, and he’ll use whatever means necessary.

            Sure, no question. But those same people are also saying that the holocaust is a conspiracy. Nutters are going to be nutty, that doesn’t change whether or not death eater theory is correct.

            I think this is understating the influence that the DEs had on the populist, “vulgar” alt-right types. It’s a similar dynamic to a nuanced scholarly idea popping up as some blunt instrument on Tumblr. People who absolutely do think there’s some kind of conspiracy talk about “The Cathedral”, or, as they now put it, “The Synagogue”.

            Again, no doubt, but that the left isn’t “pure” doesn’t mean it doesn’t get anything done. It just means that it won’t get things done that are contrary to the interests of the cathedral. In fact, you can very much read the old left/new left split way, getting rid of that explicit Marxist/labor focused stuff in favor of an identity politics that was more suited to the interests of upwardly mobile, college educated boomer leftists.

            The things that it is going to get done are, on the whole, probably not as civilization-destroying as the right thinks they are. And the stuff that is truly civilization-destroying is generally a matter of technology, not ideology, and would be regardless of who uses it.

            What do you mean by “leftist”? Do you mean it in the colloquial sense, or in the “left of liberal” sense? And, honestly, I would worry more about the upwardly mobile boomers in the boardrooms than the ones who bark real loud. Have you read Days of Rage? That tweetstorm kind of misrepresents it. Bill Ayers and the rest of the Weather leadership were sellouts long before they became tenured profs or whatever. Their “revolutionary” activities amounted by and large to blowing up the occasional washroom.

            their numbers are considerably smaller. If we condemned former communists/fellow travelers with 1/10th the opprobrium we have for former fascists/fascist fellow travelers, we’d be in a radically different world. Milton Friedman gives one lecture in Chile, and he’s a fascist sympathizer. Chomsky spends decades openly praising Mao, and it’s forgotten.

            First, I was alluding to the fact that most of the men directly involved in the Holocaust got away with it. There are SS officers who served in concentration camps – who played a direct part in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, instead of blowing up toilets – who saw as much time inside a jail cell as Bill Ayers did. Second, you’re not going to get any disagreement from me that the useful idiots for totalitarianism shouldn’t get a free pass because it was left-wing totalitarianism.

          • I think nobody’s in charge

            Agreed.

          • Anonymous says:

            The Death Eaters look at something like the fact that university professors, especially in some departments, tend to be quite more left-wing than the norm, and especially to hold a certain variety of left-wing politics, and think “aha! A conspiracy! These all-powerful BRAHMINS and their CATHEDRAL!” I see a bunch of individuals doing whatever it takes to get tenure – and if that means parroting gibberish, moving their views leftwards, even getting to the point where they think the gibberish is profound and they really believe their beliefs – because being a non-tenured prof sucks and being contract faculty sucks even more.

            This is pretty much exactly how the Death Eaters interpret it. I’m not sure where you got the CONSPIRACY interpretation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Jiro:

            Vietnam-era draft (and student deferments).

            That wouldn’t explain, though, why academia in other countries is left-wing too, or why academia was (IIRC) left-wing even before the Vietnam War.

            I suspect the real reason is some combination of the following:

            (1) Socialism and (in practice) communism call for the economy and society to be run by a small group of experts, who can use their superior knowledge to run things better and more efficiently than non-experts would be able to. As part of an intellectual elite, academics naturally imagine that they themselves (or people like them) would run things, and equally naturally think that this is a good idea.

            (2) High academic positions tend to self-select for people who think they know best; you don’t rise high in the English faculty, for example, by writing papers about how the correct interpretation of Paradise Lost is the one that seems most obvious, or how the scholarly consensus about some interpretative issue in Shakespeare is correct. Instead, you do it by rejecting received wisdom, proposing new ideas, etc. Since left-wing thought is more likely to advocate overturning the way things are currently done and reforming or destroying established institutions, it makes sense that the sort of people who are likely to rise high in academia are also likely to be temperamentally inclined towards left-wing politics.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Anonymous:

            This is pretty much exactly how the Death Eaters interpret it. I’m not sure where you got the CONSPIRACY interpretation.

            It’s how Land interprets it, maybe. I do seem to recall Voldy being more conspiratorial-minded, but then again, I’m hardly going to trawl through everything the guy wrote. In any case, people modelling something they don’t view as a conspiracy as being like a conspiracy has been taken over by people who really do seem to view it as a conspiracy.

            EDIT: My response was in regard to cassander’s observation. I would say my view is – Moloch swims forward. Sometimes Cthulhu swims left, sometimes Nyarlathotep swims right, but somehow they always end up going in the direction Moloch wants.

          • Anon. says:

            Gentle Introduction part 1:

            Certainly, the synchronization is not coordinated by any human hierarchical authority. (Yes, there are accreditation agencies, but a Harvard or a Stanford could easily fight them.) The system may be Orwellian, but it has no Goebbels. It produces Gleichschaltung without a Gestapo. It has a Party line without a Party. A neat trick. We of the Sith would certainly like to understand it.

          • Jiro says:

            That wouldn’t explain, though, why academia in other countries is left-wing too,

            More countries than the US were involved in Vietnam.

            or why academia was (IIRC) left-wing even before the Vietnam War.

            Academia was somewhat left-wing before the Vietnam War, but it’s gotten much worse.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            More countries than the US were involved in Vietnam.

            And none of them, as far as I know, conscripted people to serve in it like America did.

          • cassander says:

            >Really? There’s never been a reaction, never been a backlash? In their specific case, they seem to rapidly be losing sympathy from both the more bourgeois white liberals and from black people who see them, quite accurately, as student union hacks playing radical to advance their own career prospects.

            They’re rare, and the backlashes are always at least an order of magnitude smaller than the forward lashes. We get decades of politicians from both parties expanding the welfare state, we get welfare reform once.

            >I don’t think they’re especially extreme. Sinecures to silly left-wing pseudo-radicals defang the left. It’s a way for the people who really pull the strings to keep fake opposition around as pets. And, tens of billions? Really? What are you defining as “diversity outreach”?

            Just at UC berkeley, One school in one system, the Vice Chancellor for equity and inclusion spends 22 million a year.

            >Ideologically dangerous how? What are they going to do?

            They’re views on these subjects get normalized. Tell those CEOs the same claptrap enough and most will start to believe it. and then the next generation comes along with even more extreme ideas.

            >. Let me rephrase what I’m saying: modelling something as a conspiracy will cause some people to view it as a conspiracy. Even if the author knows it, and the smarter readers know it, some people are going to think “aha! a conspiracy!”

            Again, they DON’T model it as a conspiracy, they explicitly reject it.

            >What do you mean by “leftist”? Do you mean it in the colloquial sense, or in the “left of liberal” sense? And, honestly, I would worry more about the upwardly mobile boomers in the boardrooms than the ones who bark real loud. Have you read Days of Rage? That tweetstorm kind of misrepresents it. Bill Ayers and the rest of the Weather leadership were sellouts long before they became tenured profs or whatever. Their “revolutionary” activities amounted by and large to blowing up the occasional washroom.

            And if they were right wingers who did the same thing, they’d be cell mates with Ted. This matters.

            >First, I was alluding to the fact that most of the men directly involved in the Holocaust got away with it. There are SS officers who served in concentration camps – who played a direct part in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, instead of blowing up toilets – who saw as much time inside a jail cell as Bill Ayers did.

            Great. So did everyone involved with the holodomor. Walter Duranty died a pulitzer winning author. What’s the point?

          • dndnrsn says:

            They’re rare, and the backlashes are always at least an order of magnitude smaller than the forward lashes. We get decades of politicians from both parties expanding the welfare state, we get welfare reform once.

            Is this because of any general “Cthulhu swims leftward” thing, or is it just that things are easier to do than undo? The US military is enormous compared to what it was prior to WWII, let alone WWI, let alone the Civil War – hardly a left-wing thing.

            Just at UC berkeley, One school in one system, the Vice Chancellor for equity and inclusion spends 22 million a year.

            What does that go to? From what I remember of university – and I went somewhere probably as left-wing as Berkeley – there were tons of ostensibly-political student clubs where the money mostly went to social events. Example: The LGBT student club at my college was a general social facilitator.

            They’re views on these subjects get normalized. Tell those CEOs the same claptrap enough and most will start to believe it. and then the next generation comes along with even more extreme ideas.

            Left-wing activists probably had more extreme views in the 1970s. Left-wing activists now tend to have views that are far more friendly to capitalism (whether they themselves know it or not). They are far less likely to call for revolution, for example.

            Again, they DON’T model it as a conspiracy, they explicitly reject it.

            I’m gonna acknowledge that I may be wrong on this. Voldy and Land seem to reject it. I coulda sworn I’d seen it modeled as a conspiracy, but there’s so much stuff on the internet… Anyway, DEs don’t think it’s a conspiracy, alt-righters seem to think it is. Does that work?

            And if they were right wingers who did the same thing, they’d be cell mates with Ted. This matters.

            They spent much of the 70s underground hiding from the FBI. The poorer ones hid under worse conditions (the Weather leadership lived quite well, and this was a major point of contention for other leftist radicals) or ended up in prison or dead. “The left protects its own” seems like a less accurate statement than “money helps, a lot.”

            Great. So did everyone involved with the holodomor. Walter Duranty died a pulitzer winning author. What’s the point?

            A bunch of the people responsible for the Holodomor were themselves purged. And Duranty is remembered as a dupe, if he’s remembered at all.

          • cassander says:

            >Is this because of any general “Cthulhu swims leftward” thing, or is it just that things are easier to do than undo? The US military is enormous compared to what it was prior to WWII, let alone WWI, let alone the Civil War – hardly a left-wing thing.

            It’s also a lot smaller than it was in

            Just at UC berkeley, One school in one system, the Vice Chancellor for equity and inclusion spends 22 million a year.

            >What does that go to? From what I remember of university – and I went somewhere probably as left-wing as Berkeley – there were tons of ostensibly-political student clubs where the money mostly went to social events. Example: The LGBT student club at my college was a general social facilitator.

            Hiring dozens of full time employees to go around castigating people for not being sufficiently left wing, funding the next generation of student union types.

            >Left-wing activists probably had more extreme views in the 1970s. Left-wing activists now tend to have views that are far more friendly to capitalism (whether they themselves know it or not). They are far less likely to call for revolution, for example.

            you’re using the wrong metric here. if on the scale of extremity, the young radicals are an 8 relative to the country as whole, pointing out that they normalize at a 4 doesn’t prove that they aren’t shifting culture. 4 still pulls the country along a lot,

            >Anyway, DEs don’t think it’s a conspiracy, alt-righters seem to think it is. Does that work?

            It might, but I’m not really familiar with the alt-right, so I’m not one to say. Certainly I’ll grant that there are probably a lot of people who have heard of the concept and assume it’s a conspiracy, but lazy, “folk” versions of political thinking are endemic in all political strains.

            >“The left protects its own” seems like a less accurate statement than “money helps, a lot.”

            por que no los dos?

            >A bunch of the people responsible for the Holodomor were themselves purged.

            Because Stalin was paranoid For betraying great Stalin, not for murdering Ukrainians.

            >And Duranty is remembered as a dupe, if he’s remembered at all.

            Duranty wasn’t a dupe. He never repented, never apologized, and went on to a long career as a soviet expert. meanwhile, Lindbergh is remembered as a nazi sympathizer (which is completely false) despite flying dozens of combat missions in world war two. do you really these radically different treatments have no effect/relationship to broader culture/politics? What’s your explanation then, that it’s just totally random and the left has just had a nice string of luck?

      • lvlln says:

        A potential counterargument could have been that its credibility wouldn’t be dependent on the saintliness of any one person, but as we can see it doesn’t play out that way in practice. Its ideological enemies just gleefully hold the entire movement responsible for everything and everyone even tangentially related to it and demand endless denouncements and excommunications.

        Yeah, we saw this exact thing happen with the ants 2 years ago that made them marginalized almost immediately, and it’s possible BLM may suffer a similar fate for similar reasons. I’m guessing BLM is much more robust to such attempts, though.

    • Iain says:

      Yusra Khogali is an idiot. She should shut up, and BLM Toronto should sever its ties with her. That doesn’t mean BLM Toronto doesn’t have any legitimate complaints. I broadly endorse this take.

      • cassander says:

        Let’s assume they don’t do that. Does that affect you opinion of BLM?

        • Iain says:

          It affects my opinion of the handful of people in charge of BLM Toronto, sure. I don’t see why I should change my opinion of an entire movement based on one loudmouth idiot.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Perhaps BLM Toronto needs to be more like Focus On The Family.

  16. Matt M says:

    Crazy conspiracy theory of the day:

    Libertarians often refer to the “deep state” in regards to the middle layers of the entrenched bureaucracy. The career bureaucrats who have worked in government their entire life and who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of policy enforcement. They sit multiple layers below Trump and below cabinet officials, and as such, are not typically replaced when the Presidency changes hands. I have previously predicted that Trump will face a significant rebellion from such people – and that they will prove the greatest roadblock to the enforcement of his policies, far more than congress or the courts.

    Over the past 24 hours on social media, I have encountered three separate incidents of people mocking a typo/misspelling/poor grammar in some sort of official communication from an executive agency. Here is one example. I have no idea who is responsible for drafting, editing, proofreading, and sending out tweets for the Department of Education. It’s probably impossible for the general public to find out. The whole setup is probably structured such that 5+ people are involved and no one person bears any overall individual responsibility. But I think we can reasonably conjecture that it wasn’t Trump, and it wasn’t Betsy DeVos, and it almost certainly wasn’t any of DeVos’ direct reports. The person who did this was a mid-level bureaucrat. Someone who could be described as part of the deep state.

    Is it possible they’re doing this on purpose – to damage the credibility of Trump and DeVos? That certainly seems to be how these things are being framed in the social media debate. It’s reasonable to assume the mid-level bureaucrats at the Department of Education hate Trump. Trump won less than five percent of the vote in Washington DC. It seems reasonable to assume that career bureaucrats in an executive agency are self-selected as people who think highly of bureaucracy and believe in the state’s ability to do good, and think the only problems are a lack of funding and/or support. The person who sent out this misspelled tweet probably hates Trump. And their boss probably hates Trump. And their boss’ boss probably hates Trump. And all of those layers of like-minded sympathetic people can almost certainly shield them from any possible consequence of this “typo” that could very well have been an innocent mistake.

    But am I crazy for thinking it might not have been an innocent mistake? If your company had a brand new outsider CEO who vowed to radically change things from the way you and you friends have been happily doing them for decades, and you had the opportunity to make him look foolish in public with an extremely low likelihood of facing any serious consequence for it, would you take it?

    • J. Mensch says:

      Your definition of deep state is different to most people’s, I think. Though maybe it’s time for a new definition, since Trump’s victory has convinced me that nothing fitting the old one exists.

      Regarding typos, I think that “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence” quote works.

      • Matt M says:

        I think there might be a gray area between malice and incompetence. Perhaps, in the past, when the DoE Twitter Account was the representative of a smart and sophisticated President we could all be proud of, the people involved would have taken great care to ensure that they make no such embarrassing mistakes.

        Perhaps now that Trump is in charge, it’s less “Let’s make mistakes on purpose, that’ll learn him!” and more “Why bother spending the extra 10 minutes proofreading stuff? Who cares if it’s wrong?”

        Intentional negligence, perhaps?

    • beleester says:

      1. Typos appear in official published material all the time, and we should have extremely high priors that these incidents were accidents rather than malice.

      2. Mid-level social media guys are unlikely to have the contacts to coordinate this action, so if it was malice, it would be better described as “Three randos hate Trump and had a similar idea” instead of “The Deep State is organizing against Trump.”

      3. Expecting the embarrassment of a misspelled Tweet, or even a series of misspelled tweets, to significantly change the course of the government is a dumber conspiracy plot than the one to make Fidel Castro’s beard fall out.

      So my verdict? Well, it’s possible and not immediately falsifiable, which already makes it above-average for a conspiracy theory, but as a demonstration of the Deep State’s power it’s kinda weaksauce.

      • suntzuanime says:

        The most sinister conspiracies are those which are not organized, but consist of multiple randos having a similar idea. No head to cut off. Ideas are bulletproof and will not stop until we are dead.

    • Aapje says:

      “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”

      It seems rather far-fetched that the deep state sees misspellings as a viable way to protest. A more reasonable explanation is that their heart isn’t in it, so they get it over with as quickly as possible.

      • Matt M says:

        For the record, I’m thinking of this as less “Surely this one Tweet will bring down the administration!” and more “Here’s a quick thing I, a relatively powerless underling, can do in one minute to undermine their credibility thus enhancing my cause.”

        Using words like intentional and conspiracy was probably a poor decision on my part. I’m not suggesting there was some official deep state meeting where they all agreed to do this as one element of a ten-part plan to overthrow Trump. Just that this is a clever way that individual actors might “resist.”

        • IrishDude says:

          I think your OP is probably right that 5+ people vet tweets. This makes an anti-Trump conspiracy less plausible.

          The mock Twitter accounts such as the National Parks one are more likely to be deep state like-minded bureaucrats making fun of Trump.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think you’ll find it’s the press/bloggers going wild over typos they’d never pay attention to under a more favorable administration rather than some sort of conspiracy.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have no idea who is responsible for drafting, editing, proofreading, and sending out tweets for the Department of Education.

      If it’s anything like our Department of Education, nobody is. Or rather, it’s the poor intern on work placement who gets told “Here Joe/Sally, type this up on the website, then you can do that pile of photocopying and tidy up the filing cabinet, okay?”

      I’ve spent a productive day today grinding my teeth over a 146-page draft policy sent out to us from the state (as in “national”, not “county”) child protection, early intervention and family support service which is double-sided, closely-typed, and goes into nested numbering like “208.1.2.3.a.ii” of number-listed points that we have to read through, check that we’re implementing with our current policies, and comment upon. It could be profitably cut down by three-quarters and still have the main areas that need to be covered and would be a whole lot more cogent and applicable to our situation, as well as not wasting our time, never mind that if they concentrated on doing the job they were set up to do instead of producing bumf like this, there would be less of this in the news.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        Pro Tip:
        Ensure compliance with everything on the first two pages, everything on the last two pages, and one or two things from the middle 144 pages.

        Auditors are human, with merely-human tolerance for mind-crushing boredom, too.

  17. HeelBearCub says:

    It is my sense that it is frequently asserted in these comments that the left, in general, has no respect for the majority white, rural, small town culture that comprises the backbone of the right these days.

    I readily admit that there are plenty of examples that can be dug up of individuals on the left expressing disdain for said culture, and the inhabitants therein.

    But I submit the following article as evidence that this is a mischaracterization of the general attitude on the left. I do not believe that anything about this article is particularly surprising, and generally fits in with mainstream views in the left.

    In particular, passages like the following seem unremarkable to me, in expressing a basic respect for simple hometown Christian ethos.

    Bohon told me about her childhood, growing up as one of three children of a single mom in rural Grundy, Virginia, a small Appalachian coal-mining town near the border with Kentucky. “We were the poorest of the poor,” she says. “We had no car, we were on welfare.” When children at school made fun of her because she wore clothes from Walmart and had chipped teeth, she says, “My mom made me feel special because she would tell me it didn’t matter, because Jesus loves me.”

    Bohon’s mother “raised me with the belief that Jesus loves poor people, he loves the oppressed, he loves the most vulnerable and I will tell you that’s a lesson that stuck with me,” Bohon says. While she currently doesn’t attend church, she considers herself a Christian. “I don’t go to a fancy church, I don’t really have a good grasp on the literal interpretation of the bible. I believe in the central message of Jesus, which was pull up the people.”

    • TenMinute says:

      expressing a basic respect for simple hometown Christian ethos when it’s used to support democratic policies

      Seriously? Slate likes a “Christian Defense of Obamacare”, and you think that invalidates literally everything else they’ve ever said about mouthbreathing redneck flyover scum?

      • Matt M says:

        I suspect they might not find it so quaint and endearing if her mother had taught her that God Hates F***

        But seriously, comments like “Jesus says we have to nationalize health care” are not representative of “the majority white, rural, small town culture that comprises the backbone of the right these days.”

        Which is precisely why Slate likes them. Because they aren’t representative of the culture they have disdain for. They are an outlier present in said culture. This is like saying: “People claim the right hates Islam, but look at this article I found from Breitbart that has very nice and supportive things to say about Ayaan Hirsi Ali! Turns out they love Muslims after all!”

        • Cypren says:

          Or, for that matter, Ann Coulter approvingly linking our host. It’s easy to like people who have abandoned their former tribe and joined your tribe (or who are engaging in criticism of their own tribe); it’s the ultimate confirmation bias drug: “see, they’re so awful even one of their own agrees with us!”

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          But seriously, comments like “Jesus says we have to nationalize health care” are not representative of “the majority white, rural, small town culture that comprises the backbone of the right these days.”

          I’m at a loss to explain why not; it’s right there, in plain English, in Julia 4:18-20.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        mouthbreathing redneck flyover scum

        These kinds of overblown, histrionic comments are tiresome.

        They make productive conversation very hard.

        • TenMinute says:

          I could link all the times Slate’s used those exact words, but that would be even more tiresome.

          • Sluggish says:

            I just spent a few minutes trying to find those exact words on Slate, and I couldn’t. Perhaps you’re thinking of slightly different words, or the same words in a different order? It’d be great if you could link me – I don’t read a lot of American media, and I’m trying to evaluate whether you’re talking about something real or not.

          • Cypren says:

            I’m tickled that I’m not the only one who immediately took the phrase to Google to see if anyone had, in fact, ever used it. Google doesn’t seem to think so.

            To be charitable, I suspect he was asserting that Slate has used each of those words individually but separately to describe the Red Tribe, and I could believe that.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Flyover and redneck for sure, but mouth-breather seems a little aggressive for Slate and scum is definitely too uncouth. Those literal words don’t really match the editorial standards at Slate. Fortunately the writers have enough verbal skill to convey the meaning anyhow.

          • Cypren says:

            Mostly true. They have referred to Conservapedia as “a wretched hive of scum and villainy“. But I suppose I can forgive quoting holy scripture.

            Google seems to agree that they have never used “mouth-breather” to insult an identifiable group. (The only reference I could find was this.)

          • Sandy says:

            “Mouthbreather” is more of a Salon-type insult; Slate doesn’t spew as much venom as that.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Cypren

            You have an…interesting… interpretation of “mostly true”, given that it’s a different insult applied, tongue in cheek, to a different group.

            If I called the huffington post a wretched hive of scum and villainy, is it mostly true that I said people who live in California were “child-molesting cuck scum”?

          • suntzuanime says:

            You’re not following the conversation and what specific propositions we’re evaluating. Calm down.

          • Cypren says:

            I had hoped that the “holy scripture” line was enough to indicate that my post was tongue-in-cheek, but apparently not.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Apologies if I mistook what Cypren was evaluating and/or missed a joke. It’s been a long day.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          Yeah, I’m with HBC on this one: we’re here for productive conversation, first and foremost. If you want to show he’s mistaken, histrionics are not helpful.

          (Not that drive-by snark is forbidden; we just hold it to higher standard.)

    • skef says:

      I think the criticism that many quarters of the contemporary left, at least in the U.S., single out large swaths of predominantly white America as bad, is entirely fair. I don’t think it would have been fair 25 years ago, when it seems to me there was a more standard “we don’t really understand why you folks like that” rural/(sub)urban dynamic.

      Sometimes there are academic theories that work OK (at least in the sense of not being very destructive) in academic contexts, but wind up being toxic when they escape into the wild. HBD might be one example, given how it serves as a premise to “this difference is just the natural order of things!” assertions. Standpoint theory seems to have turned out to be another. It’s not a bad third-person analysis — Graeber’s discussion of wait-staff/boss dynamics in his recent book on bureaucracy is a good example. But it’s a terrible first-person analysis. “I’m (epistemically) right because I’ve suffered” is just a disaster for accurate reasoning, let alone charity towards those (you think) haven’t suffered. The relevant “standpoints” don’t survive self-awareness.

      It’s all very depressing.

      • Cypren says:

        It definitely feels like the Internet played a large part in this dynamic, reinforcing tribalism to extreme levels on both sides. Geographic migration, as well, but given that even large cities are still about 1/3 red, I think it’s less important than the ability for us all to pick up our phones and communicate exclusively with people who share our own views and who don’t challenge our assumptions.

        It’s why I’m so grateful for SSC and the constant challenging of assertions here.

    • Sandy says:

      Something tells me that if she’d stood up and said “Federal laws against anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace should be blocked because whosoever lays with another man is an abomination and shall surely be put to death”, Slate writers and their fellow urban progs wouldn’t be so quick to fall in love with that little bit of simple Christian ethos.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      So, it is interesting to me that two people have brought up some version of “God hates f***!” as a counter-example.

      I readily admit that she would not be referenced approvingly if she was simply expressing disapproval for being gay.

      But, a common sentiment expressed here is that gay culture war is over and that no one on the right wants to revisit it, and they want to live and let live. That the ready example of small town, Christian culture that people reached for was actively, malevolently gay seems noteworthy.

      It also doesn’t seem to really address the point of whether the left actually dislikes small town, Christian culture in general, or just specific policies or bigotry.

      • Matt M says:

        small town, Christian culture in general, or just specific policies or bigotry.

        If there is a very high correlation between the two, how would we tell?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Matt M:

          If there is a very high correlation between the two, how would we tell?

          Don’t you object to small town Christian culture being assumed to be highly indicative of bigotry?

          • Matt M says:

            I think the dispute we might have here is over whether their beliefs qualify as “bigotry” or not. I have no particular objection to assuming that small town Christian culture disapproves of gay marriage, for example. I suspect you might define that as bigotry whereas I would not.

            But if the vast majority of small town Christians believe it, and you hate everyone who believes it…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            I suspect they might not find it so quaint and endearing if her mother had taught her that God Hates F***

            whosoever lays with another man is an abomination and shall surely be put to death

            Those weren’t my characterization of what small town Christians think. They were yours and Sandy’s.

            That’s quite a step from “I think gays shouldn’t be married because it is a religious sacrament”

          • Matt M says:

            I’d be willing to stipulate that “homosexuality is an abomination” is just as common among rural Christians as “Jesus would vote for Obamacare” is. Which was sort of my point. That Slate is enamored by this particular outlier because she is an outlier in their direction. They would not be so kind and forgiving of outliers in the opposite direction…

          • Randy M says:

            But Matt M, that’s not as strong a point as “Slate et al would not be particularly enamored of even the central example of [rural, white, American] Christianity” which is probably necessary to argue that they are biased against the group–and also probably not hard to demonstrate.

            In any case, though, “Partisan advocates like members of the opposing groups willing to publicly agree with their preferred policies” isn’t terribly surprising news.

      • bean says:

        It also doesn’t seem to really address the point of whether the left actually dislikes small town, Christian culture in general, or just specific policies or bigotry.

        She’s nowhere near a core small town Christian. Anyone can call themselves a Christian, but she’s not a regular churchgoer (I think) and admits to having a poor grasp of theology. And she reads the central message of Jesus as “pull up the people”, which is not a position that sits among the mainstream of the small-town Christianity under discussion. She comes off as a mainstream/liberal Protestant who happened to grow up in a small town. I’m not sure how this differentiates her from liberal Protestants who grew up in NYC.

        • Iain says:

          If “a mainstream Protestant who happened to grow up in a small town” doesn’t count as small-town Christianity, then what does?

          • bean says:

            Evangelicals. “Mainstream Protestant” is sort of a term of art to describe the denominations which used to dominate 100 years ago or so. They don’t really anymore, but it stuck as differentiating them from Evangelicals, who are the majority of practicing Christians now, particularly in small towns. I actually went back and edited it to “mainstream/liberal” because I thought it might be confusing the way I had it worded at first.
            If nothing else, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that people who supported Bernie are not what you think of when you say “small-town Christians”. So it’s a very noncentral example of the breed. Find me a Trump supporter who Slate is being sympathetic towards and we’ll talk again.

          • Iain says:

            I think you might mean mainline?

            If you accept that the left is fine with mainline protestants, then it’s pretty clear that it’s not Christianity in general that the left has a problem with. What distinguishes evangelicals from mainline protestants (aside from an overwhelming dedication to the Republican party)? Well, mostly it’s their stance on abortion and gay marriage. Fred Clark, a left-wing evangelical, has been beating this drum for years. Here’s an example.

            All of which tends to reinforce HBC’s suggestion that it’s specific policy disagreements, not antipathy for small-town Christian culture, that explains the wedge between evangelicals and the left.

          • bean says:

            I think you might mean mainline?

            I do. My mistake.

            If you accept that the left is fine with mainline protestants, then it’s pretty clear that it’s not Christianity in general that the left has a problem with. What distinguishes evangelicals from mainline protestants (aside from an overwhelming dedication to the Republican party)? Well, mostly it’s their stance on abortion and gay marriage. (Fred Clark, a left-wing evangelical, has been beating this drum for years. Here’s an example.)

            From a political perspective, that is the big difference. But religion is not just a box on a form, and a way to spend Sunday mornings. It’s tied in at a fairly deep level with culture. And the culture that spawns small-town evangelicals is very, very different from the one that mainline Protestants come from. This is exactly what Scott was getting at with Red Tribe and Blue Tribe. Even if we managed to get Red Tribe to agree on gay marriage, they’d still be Red, and some other reason would be found to yell at them.

            All of which tends to reinforce HBC’s suggestion that it’s specific policy disagreements, not antipathy for small-town Christian culture, that explains the wedge between evangelicals and the left.

            I don’t think it’s that simple. Gun control is not a notably Christian issue (I’m sure someone has linked the two, but people also linked Ferguson to global warming), but it’s very important to small-town Christians for essentially cultural reasons. So is the antipathy felt between them and Slate readers on this matter a policy difference or a cultural one? Could you magically excise the policy differences without getting rid of the underlying culture that causes them? I don’t think that’s possible.

          • Iain says:

            Okay, but if it’s about “small-town”, not “Christian”, then the things you were saying earlier about that woman being unrepresentative are false. You can disagree with her theology, but she’s pretty clearly got Red Tribe roots.

            The problem here is that you are defining the boundaries of small-town culture based on opposition to Democrats, and then asking why Democrats don’t like small-town culture. If you have to be anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, and pro-gun to count as small-town, then it’s pretty obvious why you don’t get along with the Democrats.

          • bean says:

            Okay, but if it’s about “small-town”, not “Christian”, then the things you were saying earlier about that woman being unrepresentative are false.

            What? “Bernie supporters are unrepresentative of small-town America” is not a statement I feel any need to defend or qualify.

            You can disagree with her theology, but she’s pretty clearly got Red Tribe roots.

            She may have Red Tribe roots, but she was a Bernie supporter. That’s pretty indicative that she’s not Red Tribe any more. She’s a teacher, so at a guess, she got to a university and decided that this Blue Tribe stuff was pretty good, only instead of becoming an atheist/agnostic she went for gooey Christianity.

            The problem here is that you are defining the boundaries of small-town culture based on opposition to Democrats, and then asking why Democrats don’t like small-town culture. If you have to be anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, and pro-gun to count as small-town, then it’s pretty obvious why you don’t get along with the Democrats.

            So how should I define the boundaries of small-town culture? The article in the OP is only of interest because the woman lives in a relatively small town (metro is 100,000, which is over twice the size of the town my mom is from) and is nominally a Christian. But when I ask you to describe “small-town Christians”, you’re not going to describe her. You’re going to describe the sort of people who attended my grandfather’s church in southern Oklahoma. Until you start being sympathetic towards them, I give you no credit for toleration.
            Coming at this from the other side, there are Christians who used to be gay, and then came to Christ and decided it was sinful. I don’t think you’d give me credit for being pro-gay if I said that I held them up as praiseworthy, and proof that I was pro-gay. This is almost exactly the same situation in reverse.

          • Iain says:

            In the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders performed better in more rural areas. Vermont is majority rural. When you say that a Bernie supporter is not representative of small-town America, you are once again saying that a person who leans Democrat is by definition not representative of small-town America.

            You are really digging for justifications. Do you really want to be arguing that we should be suspicious of her Red Tribe credentials because she is a school teacher? Are there no schools in Red Tribe America?

            Granted: she is not the most central example of small-town Christian you can possibly imagine. But very few people are, when you get down to picking nits. If she had said the exact same things, up to and including the stuff about Jesus pulling up the people, and then finished with “…but it’s supposed to be the people and the church who help, not the government, which is why I oppose Obamacare”, would you be going to such lengths to discredit her as a bona fide small-town Christian?

          • bean says:

            In the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders performed better in more rural areas. Vermont is majority rural.

            She’s from Tennessee. Vermont is a demographic anomaly, and it doesn’t really prove anything.

            When you say that a Bernie supporter is not representative of small-town America, you are once again saying that a person who leans Democrat is by definition not representative of small-town America.

            Yes. And? Trump overwhelmingly won those areas, and she comes across in the article as quite far left.

            You are really digging for justifications. Do you really want to be arguing that we should be suspicious of her Red Tribe credentials because she is a school teacher? Are there no schools in Red Tribe America?

            I’m suspicious of her Red Tribe credentials because of her voting record and her praising of groups like BLM. The fact that she’s a teacher just means that she’s certainly had a chance to be exposed to the Blue Tribe.

            Granted: she is not the most central example of small-town Christian you can possibly imagine. But very few people are, when you get down to picking nits. If she had said the exact same things, up to and including the stuff about Jesus pulling up the people, and then finished with “…but it’s supposed to be the people and the church who help, not the government, which is why I oppose Obamacare”, would you be going to such lengths to discredit her as a bona fide small-town Christian?

            I’m not sure that’s a sensible question. She supported Sanders and praises BLM and LGBT groups. That’s why I’m trying to ‘discredit’ her as an example, not just bad theology combined with political positions I don’t like. Because that’s an incredibly fringe position among small-town Christians.
            Opinion: The Bible is not a political work. There’s enough text to argue almost any political issue either way. About the only political issue my Christianity seriously informs is gay marriage, and that’s fairly far down the list of what I vote on. (My theological views on abortion are confused, and thus I don’t have political opinions there.) I don’t particularly like people who use the Bible to buttress positions like this, regardless of what side they’re arguing for.
            But I also don’t like people who hold her up as an example of liberal tolerance. She’s a fairly standard Blue Triber who happens to have been raised Red and live in an area/category that has lots of Reds. Blue Tribers like her. This is unsurprising, and doesn’t prove anything about the tolerance of the Blue Tribe.

          • About the only political issue my Christianity seriously informs is gay marriage, and that’s fairly far down the list of what I vote on.

            At a considerable tangent …

            I believe the passages that oppose male homosexuality are in the Old Testament. Christians are not bound by many of the Old Testament rules–no problem eating pork, for example. Is there an unambiguous reason to consider opposition to homosexuality one of the ones they are bound by?

          • Anonymous says:

            I believe the passages that oppose male homosexuality are in the Old Testament. Christians are not bound by many of the Old Testament rules–no problem eating pork, for example. Is there an unambiguous reason to consider opposition to homosexuality one of the ones they are bound by?

            Jesus’ admonition of “sexual immorality” for one. I don’t think it’s a reasonable way to read that and think Jesus was redefining what that meant at the time.

            Moreover, the Bible’s universal strictures on human behaviour (unlike the strictures on the behaviours of Jews, and particular kinds of Jews, which are intended to preserve them and them only) are not arbitrary. You don’t really *need* the Bible to determine what is right and what is wrong wrt interaction with other humans, but it really helps by not requiring everyone to be a moral philosopher who can derive them individually from nature.

          • bean says:

            I believe the passages that oppose male homosexuality are in the Old Testament. Christians are not bound by many of the Old Testament rules–no problem eating pork, for example. Is there an unambiguous reason to consider opposition to homosexuality one of the ones they are bound by?

            Paul also brings the issue up a couple of times, most notably Romans 1:26-27. I’m not sure where the ‘it’s only the OT’ thing comes from. I suspect people who are trying to make it acceptable, which is always a position I’ve found philosophically troubling. If God is perfect and I’m not, there should be spots where his will disagrees with what I want. Trying to explain them away so that I’m right anyway seems the height of arrogance.

          • Iain says:

            There are a lot of different kinds of sexual immorality described in the Old Testament, and it’s hard to find any textual evidence that homosexuality is unusually bad relative to all the rest. If you read the Bible looking for a justification of your preconceived beliefs, there is enough wiggle room to interpret it either way. There are a variety of denominations (the United Church in Canada and the Presbyterian Church in the US are two big ones) who have come out in support of same-sex marriage.

          • dndnrsn says:

            For reference: the United Church of Canada is the church where it is seriously debated whether ministers who don’t believe in God should be defrocked.

          • Randy M says:

            it’s hard to find any textual evidence that homosexuality is unusually bad relative to all the rest.

            Wait, does anyone maintain it is? Well, sure, fringe Westboro types, but most Christian teachings I’ve seen or heard don’t hold it to be worse than adultery or fornication.

            Wait, I vaguely recall some Aquinas arguing it is worse because it is unnatural. Could be it is a mainstream Catholic teaching. But generally I think there is more push back on homosexuality because that’s where the argument is, or less charitably because that’s an area that many have no temptation towards so it is easy to feel holier than thou.

            But what I’m saying is that theologically it isn’t usually seen in protestant churches as uniquely evil. Correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Brad says:

            There are a lot of different kinds of sexual immorality described in the Old Testament, and it’s hard to find any textual evidence that homosexuality is unusually bad relative to all the rest.

            It’s not at all clear to me why the prohibition on sexual relations while a woman is having her period is considered any different from the prohibition on homosexual, bestial, or incestual relations.

            There’s nothing in the structure or language of the text that seems to distinguish it:

            10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

            11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife–he hath uncovered his father’s nakedness–both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

            12 And if a man lie with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have wrought corruption; their blood shall be upon them.

            13 And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

            14 And if a man take with his wife also her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

            15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death; and ye shall slay the beast.

            16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

            17 And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness: it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.

            18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness–he hath made naked her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood–both of them shall be cut off from among their people.

            19 And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister, nor of thy father’s sister; for he hath made naked his near kin; they shall bear their iniquity.

            20 And if a man shall lie with his uncle’s wife–he hath uncovered his uncle’s nakedness–they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.

            21 And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is impurity: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

          • bean says:

            @RandyM

            But what I’m saying is that theologically it isn’t usually seen in protestant churches as uniquely evil. Correct me if I’m wrong.

            In theory, you’re entirely correct. In practice, I’ve never had to remind people that they’re actually hating the sinners as well as the sin, except on homosexuality. No, I’m not happy about this, and I have spoken out on it a couple of times.

            @Brad

            It’s not at all clear to me why the prohibition on sexual relations while a woman is having her period is considered any different from the prohibition on homosexual, bestial, or incestual relations.

            That’s a good question, and one I don’t have an answer for right now. I’ll have to look into it.
            Edit: A first pass turns up a couple of things. Lev 15:24 states that if the same thing happens, the penalty is 7 days of uncleanness, not being cut off. Commentaries indicate that the penalties in Lev 20 are for cases when both sides know she’s menstruating and still decide to go ahead. I suspect the answer I’m going to turn up is that we as Christians are no longer bound by the clean/unclean laws (this is very well-established), so it’s not possible to commit this in spirit any more.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I believe the passages that oppose male homosexuality are in the Old Testament. Christians are not bound by many of the Old Testament rules–no problem eating pork, for example. Is there an unambiguous reason to consider opposition to homosexuality one of the ones they are bound by?

            I think the most clear path is to infer from methods of reasoning when problem-solving. Another topic around the edge of marriage is the topic of divorce. In Matthew 19, Jesus was pressed on this topic.

            The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

            In response, his method of reasoning went back to some root of sex/marriage:

            And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

            This embraces a pretty strong position on sex/marriage, and I don’t think it’s difficult to infer what conclusion this portends for a question on gay marriage. Then, given widespread understanding that there are plenty of other prohibitions on sex outside of marriage, I think we’d need decently strong contradictory evidence to think otherwise. The other bits about sexual immorality, Paul’s writing, etc., are kind of just icing on the core cake of a particular view of sex/marriage.

          • Cliff says:

            They seem to be obviously distinguished by their punishments?

          • @Brad:

            Those different passages seem to be describing different penalties. Do you assume that “he shall be cut off from among their people” means execution, rather than ostracism or something along those lines?

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman
            That would be a relevant distinction if only the prohibitions that carried the death penalty were still in place. But the penalty for incest with a sibling* is the same as for sex during menstruation.

            *I presume Christians hold that this prohibition is still in place.

            @bean
            I can buy the intent vs lack of intent distinction between the two passages, but only the other one has to do with cleanliness. This one has to do with sexual morality. I don’t see why it wouldn’t still be binding.

          • bean says:

            I can buy the intent vs lack of intent distinction between the two passages, but only the other one has to do with cleanliness. This one has to do with sexual morality. I don’t see why it wouldn’t still be binding.

            I’m not particularly happy with my answer, either. Let me ask a friend who I think probably has a better one. I’ll get back to you on that. My commentary at home was unhelpful.

    • Deiseach says:

      I believe in the central message of Jesus, which was pull up the people.

      Nope. Central message was “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” which is not quite the same thing. No wonder that article is approving; this is “Christianity as Social Work” which dilutes down the supernaturalism as much as possible and leaves us with a message of “It’s nice to be nice, so be nice”. You could swap in “I believe in the central message of Wicca/Krishna consciousness/Buddha/the Dalai Lama/Spirit, which is pull up the people” and leave the core of what she is saying unchanged.

      Had she said “I believe in the central message of Jesus, which was ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'”, how much of the “simple hometown Christian ethos” would we get?

      • Iain says:

        Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

        That is not exactly “pull up the people”, but it’s a lot closer to that than it is to “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Repenting and believing in the gospel is all well and good, but at some point in addition to just believing in the gospel you should actually examine its content.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Iain:

          Some of it depends on which of the four gospels you happen to be reading at the time.

          The “earlier” gospels (those written first), are, I believe, much heavier on the message of an apocalyptic prophet, who warns the people to get right with God, because the world is about to end. You can’t truly understand the New Testament if you don’t understand that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher.

          The “later” gospels are more of the “love thy neighbor as thyself” message.

          Deiseach has her version of what she thinks the central message, and she isn’t wrong, but she isn’t right either. Different sects of Christianity, even different faith traditions within Catholicism, emphasize different messages.

          ETA: This is obviously all my understanding/my opinion. I don’t hold myself out to be a theological expert, but my opinions aren’t uninformed either.

          • Iain says:

            I’m not just picking out a random verse; it has its own Wikipedia page, which claims that “most Christian denominations consider these two commandments the core of the Christian religion.” The Great Commandment shows up in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (It doesn’t show up in John, oddly, but that’s not consistent with your theory that it’s a later addition, because John is generally agreed to be the last of the four.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            HeelBearCub is, more or less, broadly correct (I did study this, and although I would not hold myself out as a true expert – never picked up a PhD – but I spent a decent amount of time on it).

            Scholars spend a huge amount of time arguing over this sort of thing, and it’s probably never going to be resolved, because papyrus rots. There is enough out there, in both the canonical New Testament and the noncanonical stuff, for anyone to come up with pretty much any Jesus they want.

            I think that the best bet is the fairly boring thesis “Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher, predicting the coming of a Kingdom of God that was going to come and change everything, but there is probably a strong message about economic justice in there” – which is about what one would expect of a Jewish peasant leading a popular religious movement of the time.

            A quibble: “apocalypse” doesn’t necessarily imply “end of the world” – a better way to put it would be “end of the world as we know it”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The “later” gospels are more of the “love thy neighbor as thyself” message.

            The Gospel of John, generally considered the latest of the four, is also generally considered to be more “theological” in emphasis, with more emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God. IOW, I don’t think the sort of line you seem to be drawing, from “Jesus preaching repentance and focusing on God” to “Jesus preaching that we should all be nice to each other”, is really tenable.

          • John Schilling says:

            Nit: John may have been the last of the gospels to have been fixed on paper, but it is the one most likely to have been written or dictated by someone who had actually travelled with Jesus during his ministry. If we are literally talking about the “central message of Jesus”, rather than using that name as a shorthand for various Christian churches formed after their namesake’s death, John is probably the place to start.

            OTOH, we probably are just using “message of Jesus” as shorthand for Christianity As She Is Practiced.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling:

            From what I recall learning, that view was a controversial one. I think the fashion among academics nowadays is to view a series of hypothetical source documents as the earliest documents – whatever source(s) Mark used, the Q document, maybe a source used only by Matthew and one used only by Luke, and a “signs source” used by John – to be the various sources of the canonical and noncanonical gospels.

            Of course, these hypothetical source documents require the intensive work of academics to uncover, preferably involving conferences in nice places and tenure-track jobs.

          • LHN says:

            I’d be more confident in the elucidation of those sorts of source documents if I could find a blinded study where a modern work was prepared out of multiple sources in the way described, and scholars managed to reconstruct the source documents with reasonable accuracy. (Or at least identify, e.g., their number and relevant distinguishing characteristics.)

            The documentary hypothesis for various Biblical texts doesn’t strike me as particularly unlikely, but a lot of the claims I hear seem to be at least tricky to falsify.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Of course it’s tricky to falsify. That’s the point. You wouldn’t want some sort of academic field where questions can be resolved, would you? Everyone would be out of a job!

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – “That is not exactly “pull up the people”, but it’s a lot closer to that than it is to “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.”

            No, it isn’t. “The Kingdom of God is here” is the central message of the Sermon on the Mount, which is the theological core of Christianity. Since we’re appealing to wikipedia,

            To most believers in Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship.

            A fair amount of its content has to do with Charity, but reducing it to “pull up the poor” is about what one would expect from those whose preferred version of a Christian doesn’t go to church and isn’t interested in theology.

          • Cypren says:

            The main point of contention between evangelical conservatives and liberals is about whether “love your neighbor” includes “lobby Caesar to take money from neighbors you think have too much at swordpoint and give it to neighbors who have too little”.

            Conservatives believe these commands are individual directives and that you “love your neighbor” by giving your own time, money and effort to serve the underprivileged. Voting for the State to do it for you with someone else’s money is seen as a cheap cop-out and not only not in the spirit of the commandment, but diametrically opposed to it.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Cypren – “The main point of contention between evangelical conservatives and liberals is about whether “love your neighbor” includes “lobby Caesar to take money from neighbors you think have too much at swordpoint and give it to neighbors who have too little”.”

            …And many “Evangelical Christians” think the point is to lobby Ceaser to ban porno and gays so that there will be “less sin in the world”. It’s the same mistake from the other side. See here. The point is that both approaches are wrong, but one is wrong in a way that liberals are naturally inclined to approve of, and the other in a way that conservatives are naturally inclined to approve of. Neither is actual Christianity, though actual Christians can lean toward either.

          • Cypren says:

            @FacelessCraven: No argument. I wasn’t sufficiently clear; I meant to respond to the argument that “love your neighbor as yourself” obviously requires you to support government-forced wealth redistribution.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @LHN:

            I’d be more confident in the elucidation of those sorts of source documents if I could find a blinded study where a modern work was prepared out of multiple sources in the way described, and scholars managed to reconstruct the source documents with reasonable accuracy. (Or at least identify, e.g., their number and relevant distinguishing characteristics.)

            Here you are.

            More seriously, the biggest problem I have with modern source criticism, aside from its unfalsifiability, is that most source critics seem to forget how little time there actually was between the life of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels. Even taking the latest mainstream date for the Gospel of John, it would still be (just about) within one person’s lifetime of Jesus’ death, and we also know from the rest of the NT that prominent people in the early Church used to travel around teaching. There just don’t seem to be enough degrees of separations to fit in all the source documents and stages of transmission one finds in some of the more complex theories.

        • Deiseach says:

          And what, Iain, do you think “loving God” means or is, exactly? ‘Do nice things for your neighbours to make God smile’? Seeing as how we’ve divided that part out into a separate commandment – “love your neighbour as yourself” – what then does loving God consist in or or?

          Look, if people want to believe Jesus was Just This Guy who went around preaching a message of radical inclusion (because apparently being a prophet was the hot career choice of the time and everyone was striking out with their own following, from John the Baptist to others) but there was nothing supernatural in any of this (apart from ‘being a 1st century Jew of course he was bound by the mindset of his time and probably did believe in a literally-existing God’) – go right ahead. Thomas Jefferson with his razor constructing a ‘rational’ Gospel by carefully cutting out all the parts that talked of miracles or God or the likes, leaving a nicely-truncated message of social uplift but nothing to disturb the status quo.

          I believe in the supernatural element where He wasn’t Just This Guy. That is going to put me on a course to clash with “the message is pull up the people”. That’s Jesus The Community Organiser who – if he’d just had the tact to work with the Sanhedrin and avoid the whole unfortunate connotations of his Galilean roots which naturally stirred Roman suspicion – would probably have gone a long way. As the Ghost of the Progressive Bishop in “The Great Divorce” puts it:

          But you’ve never asked me what my paper is about! I’m taking the text about growing up to the measure of the stature of Christ and working out an idea which I feel sure you’ll be interested in. I’m going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience. I am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste … so much promise cut short.

          Yes, indeed. Just imagine the charitable foundations or voluntary agencies he could have got off the ground to make a real difference in the lives of sex workers and underemployed working class Jews!

          • psychodelirium says:

            It’s probably more interesting to ask what you think “loving God” is, exactly, since you can probably ask ten Christians and get ten different answers. Anyway, I don’t understand why you’re focused on the supernaturalism specifically, since obviously supernaturalism is tolerated by the left in many forms, so supernaturalism per se cannot be the problem you think it has with Christianity.

          • Iain says:

            @Deiseach:
            Yes. The supernatural stuff is also part of it. Nobody deserves grace; through Christ, we can receive it anyway. I am not going to insult your intelligence by claiming that this is not part of the message that Jesus preached. Please do not insult mine by claiming that Jesus didn’t also spend a lot of time talking about the poor and the needy.

            Now, maybe you don’t think Obamacare is the correct expression of that. Sure. That’s totally reasonable. But don’t get snotty at this woman for getting it “wrong”; your summary was no more complete than hers.

            (I may be an atheist, but I am a deeply Presbyterian atheist.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes. The supernatural stuff is also part of it. Nobody deserves grace; through Christ, we can receive it anyway. I am not going to insult your intelligence by claiming that this is not part of the message that Jesus preached. Please do not insult mine by claiming that Jesus didn’t also spend a lot of time talking about the poor and the needy.

            Nobody, as far as I can see, has denied that.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      My lived experience is that Democrats do have antipathy toward small towns, full stop. They may accept Christianity when it’s coming from the Quakers or Episcopalians, and heck, there are even a lot who are Catholic, but they’re prejudiced against smaller communities and ones where Christianity is hegemonic.

      I don’t think you can discount just how much of a big city tribe Blue Americans are. Just look to how uncomprehending of President Trump’s speeches their mouthpieces in New York City and Hollywood were. “Make America great again” makes no sense if you live in a megalopolis that benefits from globalization, but does in small towns where a factory was the main employer and now stands empty and decaying like a Roman ruin, as can be seen in a swath from upstate New York through Michigan.

      • Brad says:

        How did Trump get this intuitive knowledge of small town life? As far as I know he has no more lived or worked in one than Sulzberger or Weinstein.

        • Anonymous says:

          Advisors? A flash of inspiration?

          • Brad says:

            Possible. But I’d say it’s more likely that small town voters are seeing what they want to see in Trump’s words just as left-wingers did in Obama’s.

            I don’t think he has any special insight into small town America as compared to others of his geographic and economic background. One possibility might be that he has decent insight into urban blue collar workers (like construction workers on his buildings) and that language somehow sounds to small town America like he is talking to them.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Heck if I know how a New York City real estate guy and TV star joined the Red tribe. As recently as the day before election day, I was writing him off.

          • Matt M says:

            I believe his best explanation of this was that he was a “lead from the front” type manager as a real estate developer, which put him in close regular contact with the blue collar construction workers who were actually responsible for erecting his giant monuments to his own ego.

            An NYC construction worker isn’t a representative of small town America to be sure, but there probably are some common cultural values there.

          • Sandy says:

            I keep defaulting back to Siderea’s essay on social class to explain it. Trump is in the WWE Hall of Fame, he works in construction (essentially), he’s a gaudy, flashy tabloid fixture, so he has some amount of cultural currency with the working class, and by extension to the Red Tribe.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @HeelBearCub – “In particular, passages like the following seem unremarkable to me, in expressing a basic respect for simple hometown Christian ethos.”

      It’s a long shot, but are you familiar with Dallas Willard’s “Gospel of Social Progress vs Gospel of Sin Management” idea? Briefly, there’s the actual Gospel, and then there’s two versions of the Gospel one can derive from, roughly, a left wing and a right wing political perspective.

      The left-wing version is the Gospel of Social Progress, which emphasizes Jesus’ love for the poor and downtrodden and minimizes the rest of the message of repentance, salvation, sin and so on. It values charity highly and more or less ignores salvation. Being a good Christian means doing what Jesus did, caring for and loving others, in our own lives and in other peoples lives too if possible.

      The right-wing version is the Gospel of Sin Management, that teaches that the only important thing is getting to Heaven, sin is what keeps you out of heaven, and so our job here and now is to minimize sin, in our own lives and in other people’s lives too if possible. It emphasizes salvation highly and more or less ignores charity. Being a good Christian means doing what Jesus did, practicing and preaching repentance and living righteously.

      Willard’s point is that both of these are corruptions of the actual Gospel, trading off the parts that a group finds convinient or desirable for the parts they find inconvenient and undesirable. The central message of Jesus was “the kingdom of God is here and you can live in it now”, not “pull up the people” or “family values”. Revolution and Pharisaism both mistake a part for the whole, and both are insufficient. Nor is the actual Gospel simply a combination of the two; they are each much less than halves of a whole.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        It’s a long shot, but are you familiar with Dallas Willard’s “Gospel of Social Progress vs Gospel of Sin Management” idea?

        No I am not.

        Here is the first google search result. Would you say that is a good summation?

        Can you find anything on first glance that is better/more detailed?

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @HeelBearCub – “Can you find anything on first glance that is better/more detailed?”

          I wish I could. You’re already fairly familiar with C.S. Lewis, though; Willard’s thesis seemed to be largely a recapitulation of Lewis through the lens of a world that has undergone another fifty years of polarization/secularization.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        It emphasizes salvation highly and more or less ignores charity.

        That seems like a straw man to me. The “Gospel of Sin Management” believers I know are generally quite big on charity, even if they don’t equate “charity” to “supporting government social programmes”.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @The Original Mr. X – And there are doubtless many “Gospel of Social Justice” believers who really do care about holiness as well. Obviously both are gradients rather than hard cutoffs. It does seem clear that some people, left and right, are more interested in expressing their Christianity through voting or condemning than they are by their actions and daily lives.

  18. Cypren says:

    We’ve got a number of sober AnCaps here, so this seems as good a forum as any to ask this question:

    The main thing that’s always bothered me about a Machinery of Freedom-style ancap society is the idea of private security corporations as guarantors of rights. This doesn’t seem to track with any actual examples we have in history; when an organization has force of arms, it historically always uses that force of arms to compel everyone in its vicinity to serve its controllers. When multiple organizations have comparable force of arms, the result is usually detente until one of them has sufficient reason to believe it can overpower the other, followed by violent conflict.

    There are obviously exceptions to this rule: the United States has not (recently) invaded Canada or Mexico despite having the necessary military power to do so trivially. So my question is this: what makes AnCaps believe that private rights-guarantor security companies would necessarily settle into a state of mutual coexistence rather than either consolidated or balkanized oppression of civilians, or perpetual warfare amongst themselves? What makes them believe that the security companies would settle into an arrangement of voluntary payment from civilians rather than extorting it by force, Mafia style?

    I haven’t heard any compelling answers to these questions before and am very much curious to know if anyone can offer some.

    • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

      My interpretation of most modern AnCap movements wasn’t that private security solutions would replace governments, it’s that they would be governments but much smaller and weaker relative to the individual. Good examples (although still on the large side) of this being Ireland, Hong Kong and Singapore where they have to compete for people and businesses to want to live there instead of people and businesses having to compete for control of them. Private security companies just strike me as smaller versions of the market driven city-state we’ve already seen.

      Another way of looking at it is that anarcho-capitalists want to initiate the “race to the bottom” the left is terrified of: that is they want to prevent the politicians of various regions from cooperating to fix the prices of their services (taxes) and instead force them to compete to provide better service for a lower and lower price. This is the doomsday scenario for most high-tax/high-control utopian dreamers since it dooms their wasteful government programs to the almost inevitable death of a product paying costumers don’t want.

      In all honesty it’s quite possible AnCap has already won since TTP and the EU were the only things that really could have coordinated the price fixing the modern welfare state needs to survive. Canada, Britain, the US and several other are already proposing lowering the corporate tax below ten percent (several mainstream Canadian thinkers want to get rid of it all together) and the top income tax margin below 20%.
      Combine that with an increase in separatist movements and increased movement of labour around the world and it could be we’re already locked Into the AnCap future by market forces.

      Therefore the answer to your question is they wouldn’t just start conquering or waring for the same reason modern nation states don’t: it’s immensely expensive, destroys the value of both what you want to capture (Aleppo isn’t worth the bombs dropped on it now) and your own economy (who wants to invest in Syria, Iraq or ISIS (or Russia for that matter)), and is crazy risky even for huge nations: the average individual is terrifyingly powerful as a military force now compared to even 20 years ago, if I gave you (assuming your an intelligent successful person with planning/learning capabilities) a budget of $200k, an Internet connection, the will to kill political leaders and the patience to do it…
      Well you’d understand why big visionary political changes aren’t in vogue today.
      Victimizing and Violating sacred rights is a really bad idea in this day and age. Like the US is the only western country that can get away with the kind of crap it pulls and eve the US looks like it’s heading for massive civil problems/breakup because of it.

      • Wrong Species says:

        That’s not what ancaps want. The goal is to separate security from geographic restrictions, not merely to break up the states in to tiny pieces, although that could help with competition. From an ancap perspective, I should be able to shop around for security in my pajamas at home.

        • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

          I never really understood this as a goal of An cap:

          First, most of the advantages of decoupling geography from security should be just as achievable by shrinking the unit of government as by privatizing it entirely: I mean sure I’ll have to live, work shop elsewhere to get a different system of governance but if my city is divided into 20 neighborhoods each of which is its own unit highly independent unit of governance then that’s not much of a barrier.

          Second, I think geography is a really important shelling point for dividing the responsibility of governance. Like the only comparable systems I can think of are military uniforms, gang membership/tattoos and race based prison gangs. In order to provide governance and protection everyone needs to know whose protecting them, whose protecting the other guy, what the rules are, and how different protection systems will deal with other jurisdictions. Race is a good system for this because someone can’t just change their race to trick the system and the system instantly knows who belongs where (guards almost never puts people of different races in the same cell in jurisdiction with operating prison gangs), uniforms can’t work for the general populace (just change a uniform when you want to commit a crime) and any non-geography based system runs the risk of an unaffilated/unprotected underclass forming which then becomes violent/ dangerously coordinated/ruthless and subsequently destabilizes the protection ecosystem.

          Geography just seems like the obvious solution for deviding up protection responsibility and it provides a means to solve the few genuine coordination problems that traditional governments tackle, and it sets a hard limit on the effective reach of any given protection system:
          I’d much rather be fleeing the government of Singapore than the Russian Mafia, as though the first has more money and man power, it has to respect the integrity of other jurisdictions to not compromise it’s own, if I’m fleeing the Russian mob they can reach me anywhere.

          • baconbacon says:

            First, most of the advantages of decoupling geography from security should be just as achievable by shrinking the unit of government as by privatizing it entirely:

            Most of the advantage of competition comes from being able to switch between providers without additional costs (ie moving), and from the better companies being able to expand. Having one good school district next to one bad one doesn’t lead to the good district pulling the quality of the bad one up because the good district is prevented from expanding its services properly, and those that try to move in are restricted by the number of housing units.

        • IrishDude says:

          My goals are both low-level geography-based security as well as security provided separate from geographic areas. I see security being provided at a private property level, like mall cops, bodyguards for homes, or neighborhood security paid for by HOA fees (and as the same with the current system, self-defense always being an option). At the same time, I see people subscribing to rights protection agencies that would support them when traveling onto other people’s private property. So, if you went to a mall and the private security there detained you for something you didn’t think legitimate, you could call up your agency to defend you, with arbitration likely to ensue between the two security parties.

      • 1soru1 says:

        I wonder why ancaps have such an obsession with Singapore? About it’s only distinctive feature compared to western european social democracies is it’s ultra-strict drug laws, restricted freedom of speech, and strong affirmative action for ethnic minorities. Historically, the ruling party came out of the British Fabian Socialist tradition, and is a key influence on the modern Chinese Communist Party.

        Approximately 70–80% of Singaporeans obtain their medical care within the public health system. Overall government spending on public healthcare amounts to only 1.6% of annual GDP.

        Public housing is similar; almost everyone lives in a government-owned flat, which means the % of gdp spent on housing is tiny compared to the USA.

        The market sector is restricted to only areas where markets work. Consequently, those markets make a lot of money, and taxes are low.

        Apart from actually being ruled by Communists, Hong Kong is similar, so the model is reproducible.

        Big government is a symptom of a bloated capitalism expanded beyond it’s approriate domain

        • onyomi says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_of_Economic_Freedom

          If putting government in charge of a good chunk of health care and housing resulted in low taxes and a low regulatory burden, then it might be a pretty good deal.

          But given that there are plenty of places with government in charge of a good chunk of health care and housing which also have high taxes, high regulation, and low economic freedom, I don’t see the causation.

          But I think you’re missing a more important reason why ancaps (as opposed to other libertarians) like Singapore: it’s not because it’s the most libertarian place in the world (as you say, they have some pretty draconian laws, though I wouldn’t say they are the only distinctive feature as compared to Western Europe).

          Rather, a big part of it is because it’s a city-state: an autonomous political unit much smaller, geographically and population-wise than most sovereign nation states today. Ancaps want radical decentralization: in part, yes, because many of us expect the result will be libertarian in many ways and in most places (no coincidence the top contenders in economic freedom are all small), but also because we think that’s what is most moral and/or what will result in the largest number getting governance that works for them–even if what works for some people is restriction.

          In other words, part of ancap is also the freedom to start a community with no drugs, alcohol, premarital sex, purple hats, non-Mormons, non-communal property, or whatever else. We think decentralization tends to produce freedom, yes, and the case of Singapore largely corroborates that even if it includes some weirdly draconian aspects. Most of all, Singapore is cited as an example of a society which “works” in a logical way (with a high degree of cultural, linguistic, ethnic diversity, I might add).

          The ancaps’ point is that political decentralization does logically result in more sensible institutions because much of the stupidity of trying to compromise between giant, incoherent coalitions is avoided.

        • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

          This is and interesting reading

          But to answer your question AnCap’s love to look at Singapore and Hong Kong not because they’re libertarian utopias (although Hong Kong was the country with the most economic freedom for 30 years running and both consistently rank in the top 5, and therefore a good case for libertarian policy producing wealth) but because they’re random tiny stretches of dirt that became super rich by having a small and independent government that operated more like a business than a state: if the US government fucks up hard they’ll still have a tax base, if Singapore fucks up hard no one will live there. They’re both countries where the traditional power dynamics of governance are almost reversed.

        • rlms says:

          Approving of city-states that interfere heavily with the free market just because they’re small doesn’t seem very anarcho-*capitalist* to me.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            The point is once a unit of government is so small it’s no longer able to meaningfully interfere with the free market and instead becomes a market actor that will live or die based on its ability to provide a service people want.
            You can go off and form your socialist commune and as a libertarian I’m perfectly fine with that: if it works and people want to live there good on you, if it fails and no one wants to live there then hey its your time and money, not mine. The problem comes when a state has taken over so much of the world that there isn’t really an effective way to leave it (you literally have to file a tax return every year even if you haven’t lived in the US for the past 40years)
            Singapore is awesome from an AnCap perspective because it functions far more like the commune for most people who work there than it does the big government your born into, live in, and die in.
            Most of Singapore’s economy is foreigners/foreign business that can and will leave if the governance Singapore is offering goes bad or something better crops up that Singapore fails to match, and that’s awesome!

            That’s the position we want all governments to be in: provide a product people and businesses want or they will leave.
            (Cue race to the bottom and thousands of libertarian city states )

            Note also: despite Singapore having a really different governance philosophy, it’s still really libertarian just cause it has to be to stay competitive. Look at the economic freedom rankings (the only real measure of how economically libertarian a society is) and Singapore always ranks in the top 5, often the top 3.

          • IrishDude says:

            My conception of anarcho-capitalism is inclusive of a group of people buying 100 acres of land and building a commune, with an agreement to adhere to commune style rules (say, from each according to their ability, to each according to their need).

            EDIT: I didn’t refresh before responding, so Luke already addressed my response.

  19. HeelBearCub says:

    So, are the security conscious here concerned about Trump’s seemingly very loose approach to intel security?

    For example, holding politically sensitive conversations with the PM of Japan about the North Korean test missile firing in public at Mar-A-Lago?

    • Spookykou says:

      I guess normally a president who was out an about when something like this happened would retire to a more private setting before really digging into whatever incident has just happened? I can’t imagine this is the first time a president has been out and about when some serious matters of state came up?

    • Cypren says:

      The Post story strikes me as ginning up a lot of speculation — “what if they were reviewing classified documents? What if they were discussing super-secret national security stuff in the open?” without any evidence at all.

      If they were actually engaged in reviewing classified briefing documents at an open dinner table, then yes, this is horribly reckless and stupid. But there seems to be no evidence of that, nor even any sourced assertions that this is what happened — merely “what if?” speculation by the Post and its sources.

      Like Scott said, stop crying wolf. Trump does plenty of dumb things worth getting outraged over that there’s no need to invent false outrage and give him cover.

      ETA: Unrelated to the discussion topic, but the guy in that article saying that Trump mingling with patrons at a club with a $200k membership fee shows he’s a “man of the people” cracked me up. Man, the bubbles people live in.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I think the verbal communication with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, on the subject of response to a North Korean missile test is going to be classified by itself.

        As to the written documents being reviewed:
        a) Some of them were classified.
        b) None of them were classified.

        What are the odds that in the case of (b), no relevant classified material exists?

        • Cypren says:

          I think the verbal communication with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, on the subject of response to a North Korean missile test is going to be classified by itself.

          Not by US government classification standards unless they introduced material from classified sources into the conversation. Please remember that while “classified” is generally used by the public for “anything the government doesn’t want everyone to know”, the word has a very specific meaning.

          It’s unlikely that would be necessary in this case because North Korean missile shots over the Sea of Japan are not an uncommon event; there’s been at least one a year for the last five years. Was the conversation secretive? Probably, yes, but it all depends upon what they were talking about. Discussing for less than an hour what they were going to say at a public press conference is probably not all that sensitive.

          On the other hand, if they were discussing military responses and strategic assets in place, then yes, I would agree that this was not just reckless but possibly illegal (there’s considerable scholarly legal debate as to just how far-reaching and ad-hoc the President’s power to classify and declassify information and disclose it to uncleared parties really is). But as I said, all we have right now is “what if” speculation, and that’s pretty thin gruel to go on. The initial reaction reminds me a lot of the faux outrage over Bush and the “Pet Goatroversy“.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I note you did not answer my second question, which has to do with whether there were likely classified documents that were pertinent and relevant which could have been reviewed.

          • Cypren says:

            Because I don’t know the answer to that, and neither do you. Would classified information have helped the decision-making process? Honestly, my guess is no. Crafting a public statement about a frequently-recurring North Korean act of aggression is more of a public relations/speechwriting job and not really a strategic/policy one. There was nothing about this incident to suggest that it required a different policy response than in the past, so my guess is that there wasn’t anything that necessitated review of classified strategic materials or response options.

            Saying “classified documents exist that are related to this incident” is not evidence that they were needed or utilized. Classified documents exist related to everything. For chrissakes, some of the most common classified documents I handled while working in intelligence were weather reports, classified because of the source that measured them.

            You are attempting to build a case of insinuation and innuendo here in absence of evidence. Come on, HBC, you’re better than this.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            For chrissakes, some of the most common classified documents I handled while working in intelligence were weather reports, classified because of the source of the information that measured them.

            I’m not building a case on insinuation or innuendo. I’m building it on the idea that classified documents are pretty common, and that the odds that some of the documents they were likely to want to review weren’t classified seems pretty slim.

            Especially because Trump has shown he is woefully under prepared in almost every area. He is unlikely to know all of the strategic or policy implications of this test.

            So, if he wasn’t doing the homework, I think that is just as bad (in a different way) as doing the homework out in the open.

            And, as John Schilling says below, regardless of the classified nature of the communications, the idea that you want to potentially display your working process to whoever might be there is unnerving in itself.

          • Controls Freak says:

            possibly illegal (there’s considerable scholarly legal debate as to just how far-reaching and ad-hoc the President’s power to classify and declassify information and disclose it to uncleared parties really is)

            My understanding is that this is not the case. The President is the Classifier in Chief, and the power of classification flows through his role as the Commander in Chief. There are debates as to how far Congress can theoretically go (Constitutionally) to put their mark on this process, but if they don’t step into the game at all (and they haven’t, except for a few very specific domains), then there is nothing that affects his plenary power on classification/declassification.

            This is why, after Obama joked about drone striking the Jonas Brothers, the ACLU tried to claim that he had declassified the drone program. It was a terrible claim, because you can easily compartment off the “portion” that he revealed, but AFAIK there was the grain of truth that the President could singlehandedly declassify the drone program if he wanted.

            (Personal opinion: could have still been reckless depending on what was actually said. If it was just, “Can you believe this guy? What a schmuck. Nobody likes him,” then probably not all that bad.)

    • Itai Bar-Natan says:

      Let’s not exaggerate this. It’s not like Trump is keeping his emails in a private server.

        • Cypren says:

          That article alleges that email “accounts” existed for Trump officials at the RNC, but the RNC says they were just email forwarding aliases, which anyone can create. I can make forwarding aliases for everyone in the Trump administration on my mail server; that doesn’t mean they have “accounts” there. No information is offered to support any contention that the @rnchq.org addresses were active accounts or used to send mail; the rest of the article is about the Bush and Obama Administrations’ use of private email.

          Again, this is pretty thin gruel and exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the unhinged reaction to Trump is undermining the credibility of his critics. There are lots and lots and lots of valid things to pick on him for: conflicts of interest, Twitter diarrhea, his ridiculously unpresidential obsession with the news and pop culture commentary on His Magnificent Orangeness, and so forth. Why do people feel the need to come up with these fake outrages that they can’t actually stick to him? Every story like this that pulls one fact and tries to imply a grand conspiracy without any evidence just makes it easier and easier for him to paint all allegations as a fraudulent witch hunt.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Oh, I was just being snarky in echo and amplification of previous snark. Poor form, but not the kind of poor form you are thinking of.

            I so seldom get the opportunity to echo left wing snark here.

            Consider it retracted.

    • John Schilling says:

      There’s not much point in holding a discussion with Abe on that issue at that time if you’re not going to talk about things that shouldn’t be mentioned in public. And note that North Korea controlled the timing of their test. They read American papers, they know Trump and Abe are meeting in Florida that day, they know he’s really fond of the Mar-A-Lago, the possibility that there was someone on the North Korean payroll in that restaurant yesterday is not to be casually dismissed. So, yeah, reckless.

      Probably about as reckless as routing an SCI drone-strike memo through your private unclassified server, encrypted in pig latin. Doing it once probably won’t bring down the republic, and almost certainly won’t result in prosecution/impeachment, but really poor judgment that deserves to be mentioned in 2020.

      Somewhat more concerning, actually, is the initial statement about how the United States “stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%”. Ally, singular. Granted, Abe was right there, but that statement will have been very carefully parsed in Pyongyang and Seoul both, and the South Korean government isn’t exactly at its most stable right now. That may have been a gaffe on par with taking a phone call from Taiwan, and increases the probability of a nuclear arms race in east Asia.

    • Zakharov says:

      I think the government tends towards way too much secrecy, and anything that actually shouldn’t be revealed in public is probably obviously dangerous enough that it won’t be. The optimal scenario is that Trump reveals something important enough to get himself impeached over, but I think that’s a bit too optimistic.

      EDIT: Won’t be revealed by Trump, that is, not because he’s especially responsible but because he’s only one man and his interests are closely aligned with those of his administration.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Hey so, I heard Trump national security advisor just resigned (likely because the spooks had convincing dirt on him, and are now willing to go to war with the White House and air it out).

      Weird how that happened three weeks in despite Trump’s professional vetting process.

      Side comment: I can’t see into the future, no one can.

      But I am going to venture a prediction that in the longer term, conservatives et al will be paying for picking Trump as their standard bearer for quite a while. It’s just becoming increasingly difficult to paper over the terribleness (I don’t even mean moral, I mean instrumental).

      Sticking with this level of instrumental terribleness says something important about you, something that I think transcends politics. People will remember this.

      • Montfort says:

        With a measure of grudging respect or benign skepticism according to the accuracy of his prediction, I assume.

      • Cypren says:

        Mostly, it says that conservatives consider the alternative that much worse.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I think one narrow question I would have is to try to distinguish two alternatives:

          (a) Trump is instrumentally terrible, but I would take anything over a Clinton WH, or

          (b) Trump is not instrumentally terrible at all, propaganda just works really well.

          (c) Various types of regret would go here, but this is less interesting to me. I am more interested in folks sticking to their guns on Trump.

          (a) and (b) actually point to very very different types of people.

          • Cypren says:

            There’s sort of a subcategory of (a) that seems to fit at least a lot of the right-wing commentators I’ve read (Instapundit, Power Line, etc). It goes somewhere along the lines of, “Trump is a uniquely destructive and terrible President, but putting him in Washington surrounded by people who hate him means that he’ll unleash most of that destruction on Washington itself.”

            In other words, people so fed up with the existing system that their primary concern is dropping a nuke into the center of the political system, and willing to tolerate the collateral damage. It’s not that Clinton was seen as uniquely evil by these people; she was just seen as further entrenching a fundamentally broken system they want to see destroyed.

            If I had been in a swing state, I would probably have been at least somewhat sympathetic to this view and I don’t know who I would have wound up voting for in the end. As it was, living in California, I didn’t have to make a choice of lesser evils and voted for Gary Johnson because he seemed more likely than Stein to hit the 5% mark.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            Yep, Trump wasn’t elected to spin the wheel to put the Republican spoke on top, he was elected to break the wheel.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Given what we have seen about the way Trump et al operate, and their ties to foreign governments, this seems to skirt dangerously close to “we must destroy the Republic to save it.”

            Is that what this type of (a) person wants?

          • cassander says:

            I guess I’d fit under both A and B here. I loathe Hillary Clinton and would support almost anyone other than her. I do not like trump, but the response to him has been apoplectic and massively out of proportion to anything that he’s actually done.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            cassander: (a) and (b) assert contradictory things about Trump et al’s competence. Which way do you lean?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I mean, with (a), is it Clinton or the Democratic Party in general? Like, which candidates would’ve been acceptable in order to “dump Trump”?

          • cassander says:

            @Ilya Shpitser says:

            >cassander: (a) and (b) assert contradictory things about Trump et al’s competence. Which way do you lean?

            To be fair, trump’s critics also tend to be contradictory about his competence, vacillating between “he’s going to seize power and destroy democracy” and “he’s an inept bumbler”. GWB got the same treatment, though in his case at least the conspiracy mongers could cast Dick Cheney as puppet master.

            Terribleness is orthogonal to competence. Someone can ineffectually work towards goals you think are good, and thus be terrible, or someone can very effectively work towards you hate, and be terrible.

            On trump’s competence, for me the jury is still out. He’s certainly shown a genius for media manipulation. He also managed to win an election everyone (including myself) he was going to lose. He’s also shown some signs that, while he does make rookie mistakes, he’s capable of learning from them, e.g. the way he reformed his campaign after the primaries, how his debate performance got better each time, or today how he canned Flynn. I’d prefer a president who didn’t have to learn so much on the job, but given that his opponent had a long history of public service during which she never seems to have learned anything, I preferred to roll the dice than take someone known to be terrible.

            I expect that the deep state will constrain the worst of Trump’s impulses (they’d have amplified Clinton’s). We’ve already seen how he gets more media scrutiny in a month than his predecessor got in a year, and that’s a good thing. We’ll see how he does with congress going forward, but on that score he could hardly do worse than his predecessor.

            I realize that this isn’t a very helpful answer, but I really do think it is too soon to tell.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            cassander, I am specifically talking about instrumental terribleness (specifically I mean incompetence at running the executive branch).

            If you think it’s “too soon to tell” re: instrumental terribleness, then this answers my question, thanks. To me the salient part about the (a) group is whether it’s obvious to you that Trump is instrumentally awful. Since you said it’s not obvious, you are more in the (b) camp to me (modulo the way I phrased it involving “propaganda.”)

          • cassander says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            >If you think it’s “too soon to tell” re: instrumental terribleness, then this answers my question, thanks. To me the salient part about the (a) group is whether it’s obvious to you that Trump is instrumentally awful. Since you said it’s not obvious, you are more in the (b) camp to me (modulo the way I phrased it involving “propaganda.”)

            that gets a bit fuzzy, because, for a president, the minimal standard for competence should be quite high, “Clearly not inept” as opposed to “not clearly inept.” But that was a standard neither candidate reached. But Trump fails on the ground that his aptitude is unknown, not that it is definitely lacking. That doesn’t make him good, or even neutral. Most people lack the skills in question so he should be presumed to not have them until shown otherwise. So that’s arguably terrible, but less terrible than an opponent that had a long record demonstrating that she lacked them.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            No, I think Trump’s aptitude is plain as day, at this point. He’s an idiot (not uniformly, but at things like paying attention, having long term state, strategic deliberation, reading, etc.)

            He’s good at certain types of social things.

            I don’t think we need to argue about this. If you disagree with above, I will take my data point and move on. We can agree to disagree.

            Incompetence and dangerous, competing advisor cliques (who do plan and have long term state) are what makes this administration so dangerous.

          • cassander says:

            @Ilya Shpitser says:

            >No, I think Trump’s aptitude is plain as day, at this point. He’s an idiot (not uniformly, but at things like paying attention, having long term state, strategic deliberation, reading, etc.)

            >He’s good at certain types of social things.

            The exact same could be, and has been, said of FDR. He was still a very effective president.

            >Incompetence and dangerous, competing advisor cliques (who do plan and have long term state) are what makes this administration so dangerous.

            All presidential administrations have competing adviser cliques. FDR actually encouraged them as a way of keeping power in his hands. Do I think Trump is FDR? No, for lots of reasons. But pointing out universal features of presidential administrations does not prove trump is uniquely inept. And I get the strong suspicion that it trump had appointed a bunch of people who were marching in lockstep, we’d instead be getting articles about how trump was staffing his administration with yes men and the “dangerous conformity” in the oval office. And I know that because we DID get exactly those articles over NSC staffing.

            Different people have different styles of management. Trump lacks a track record, so I can’t evaluate him on passed results. All I can do is see how it works in practice (which takes more than a month) before passing judgement. I’m not optimistic, but “obviously inept” is simply betraying bias.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            That’s fine, I am not interested in resolving this disagreement. We have plenty of time. One of us will get points for predictive acumen, later.

          • Cypren says:

            @Ilya Shpitser: I would like to fully applaud this attitude and say that I wish more disagreements could end on “let’s wait and measure”.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Do you think Johnson should have executed Nixon?

      • The Nybbler says:

        The political calculus is clear: A bad standard bearer as President of the United States is better than a good standard bearer and your opponents as President.

        As for Michael Flynn, this strikes me as Trump’s style; he’s quick to fire. The current claim is that he “mislead the VP”, but of course that’s likely be the pravda; it probably just means Trump didn’t get along with him.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          That’s right, and my assertion is this is a miscalculation for a standard bearer this bad. (We don’t need to argue about this, I am just making a falsifiable prediction.)

        • cassander says:

          FWIW, Trump and Flynn were reputed to get along very well during the campaign. Maybe that wasn’t true, or maybe it was but they soured one another once it came to actually wielding power, or maybe Trump just decided he was a liability and had to fire him. There are lots of possibilities.

          • suntzuanime says:

            There was a provable falsehood told about a reasonably serious matter (i.e. not inauguration attendance). It’s not surprising that a head rolled. Whether Flynn was actually responsible or just taking the fall for Pence is hard to tell from the outside, but I don’t think you really need to consider hypotheses that don’t involve the falsehood that people are getting heated up over.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I already said what my theory is. The spooks had very damaging dirt on Flynn (likely to do with Russia) and threatened to air it out. Flynn understood what they had, and resigned to save a larger scandal.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Ilya Shpitser – “But I am going to venture a prediction that in the longer term, conservatives et al will be paying for picking Trump as their standard bearer for quite a while. It’s just becoming increasingly difficult to paper over the terribleness (I don’t even mean moral, I mean instrumental).”

        That was always a distinct possibility. If it turns out to be true, all well and good; Trump will merely clear the way for Blue Tribe to take uncontested control of government, and hopefully they’ll do a better job of ruling. That will still be a better outcome than further extension of the bush-clinton-bush-obama consensus politics.

    • Deiseach says:

      holding politically sensitive conversations with the PM of Japan about the North Korean test missile firing in public at Mar-A-Lago

      Doesn’t seem to be what happened; I transcribed that Facebook post which the Washington Post kindly provided alongside their article:

      HOLY MOLY!!! It was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when the news came that North Korea had launched a missile in the direction of Japan. The Prime Minister Abe of Japan huddles with his staff and the President is on the phone with Washington DC, the two world leaders then conferred and then went into another room for hastily arranged press conference. Wow… the center of the action!!!

      Looks like that, while at dinner, they received news of the missile launch and somebody pulled out a laptop so they checked the news online; Trump got on the phone to find out what was going on; Abe consulted with his guys then he and Trump went inside (note: did NOT stay out on the terrace yapping away together) to arrange the press conference. Doesn’t sound like holding politically sensitive conversations in public; more like “okay, this just went down, what do we agree to say at the immediate press conference before we get the script for the official one?”

      I mean, either we agree Abe is equally as stupid and unaware of the possibility of being overheard as Trump, so he happily natters away where anyone can listen in to what Japan is intending to do, or we think that they were getting their ducks in a row for the “we gotta hold a press conference right now“.

      Equally, given that the press conference was “hastily arranged”, I’m impressed that dumb stupid out-of-touch not on the ball Trump was able to pull something together so fast and get out a response with the PM before his puppet handlers could write a statement for him to read out loud. (That is the current narrative, isn’t it? Too stupid and thin-skinned to be able to do the job right – or at all, relies on behind the scenes string pullers to do all his thinking for him, can’t be statesmanlike and Presidential when it’s needed?)

      • beleester says:

        I think you’re reading that in the wrong order. It sounds like they held their discussion first (the part that we expect to be in private), and then went elsewhere to prepare for the press conference (the part that involves speaking to the public.)

        Also, according to the article, they “reviewed documents by the light of an aide’s cellphone,” and it describes various aides rushing in and out alongside the waiters, so it sounds to me like they took a while discussing it, enough time for their various minions to get their papers together.

        (Also, Trump’s “puppet handlers” did have time to write a statement; the linked CNN article says that he took prepared remarks into the press conference. He just didn’t read them.)

        I suppose it’s possible that they only discussed publically available information and only looked at unclassified documents. And given that the end result was a standard strongly worded statement opposing the missile launch that a talented politician could write in his sleep, probably nothing actually happened.

        But Clinton lost an election over “probably nothing actually happened,” so I’m not inclined to give Trump any charity for this one.

        • John Schilling says:

          (Also, Trump’s “puppet handlers” did have time to write a statement; the linked CNN article says that he took prepared remarks into the press conference. He just didn’t read them.)

          But you can read them yourself, sort of. Which is the sort of thing that makes those of us who work under security discipline want to shout, “this is why you don’t do that sort of thing! There’s a portable SCIF for a reason, dammit!”

          Again, probably nothing happened – this time. But I’d wager that handler didn’t carefully stack his papers so the inoffensive one would be on top when the cameras caught a glimpse.

  20. bean says:

    A thought on ADD/ADHD (ADD used throughout here, and I don’t think there’s a difference). One fact commonly thrown about by the “ADD is made up” brigade is that the US has (some number) times the incidence of ADD as (the UK/Europe/somewhere else). These range from 3 to 20, depending.
    Thinking this over, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is probably true, and possibly even expected. At least among the White population (although probably to some extent among Asian and Hispanic populations, too) the US is mostly descended from the people who decided that instead of staying where they were, they were going to go across the sea to a new country and start a new life. This seems very much like an ADD thing to do, particularly among the people who came relatively early and set up on the frontier. If it’s at all heritable (and everything is heritable), then we’d expect the US to have a significantly higher level of ADD than almost anywhere else.
    I’ve never seen this hypothesis published, although I admit to having not looked too hard. Thoughts?
    (Personal background – I’m severely ADD, medicated for closing on 18 years now. My dad and sister are also ADD, but not as much.)

    • cassander says:

      the US has dramatically higher incidences of most mental illnesses than the rest of the OECD. Sure, some of it is probably overdiagnosis, but that can’t explain the entire effect. The fact is that the US population is descended from people who didn’t get along with their neighbors, it makes sense that we’re statistically weirder.

      • Matt M says:

        The fact is that the US population is descended from people who didn’t get along with their neighbors

        I’d like a bit more of an explanation on this, particularly in the context of repeated large-scale wars in Europe throughout most of the colonial period.

        • Anonymous says:

          He probably means the Border Reavers.

        • bean says:

          Some people leave Europe for America because their country doesn’t get along with the country next door, and a war makes it somewhat less than optimal to stay where they are. Other people leave because they don’t get along with the farmer next to them, who is more popular in the village than they are. If you’re the town weirdo, leaving for America looks more enticing than it does if you’re a normal, stable person. “Town weirdo” is correlated with various mental issues.

        • cassander says:

          bean has it better than I said it. Most people don’t leave for a new country. Those that do are statistically weird. they’re the sorts of people who don’t get along with their neighbors, or put as much value on their given neighborhood.

      • baconbacon says:

        And yet a roughly average suicide rate.

      • bean says:

        That’s a good point. I’m particularly interested in ADD for obvious reasons, but this theory should apply across the board.
        The really interesting bit is that, AIUI and all else equal, the black population should be more mentally healthy than the white one. They were a more representative selection of the starting population (assuming that racial genetics don’t effect baseline rates of mental illness, which may or may not be true), and have been reasonably genetically isolated.

    • rubberduck says:

      Re: The US as a whole being more ADD-prone due to migration: I read a book a couple years back called “The Hypomanic Edge” by John Gartner. Most of the book looks at specific famous people from American history (Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, some others) and discusses whether or not they could have been hypomanic, lending them exceptional drive, etc. The author also spends part of the opening discussing how hypomanic types might be more likely to migrate, leaving the US more hypomanic as a whole (which is reflected in things such as Americans moving way more often than people in other countries). I admittedly don’t remember the book in much detail but it seems like it could possibly be connected to what you’re talking about.

  21. J. Mensch says:

    I’m looking for recommendations for Twitter accounts to follow. Apologies for vagueness, but what’s the most ‘interesting’ account you follow? Mine would be https://twitter.com/AngNagle , she seems to situate herself on the pre-social justice left and writes/shares interesting things about the *lt-right.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Apologies for a possibly stupid and definitely unrelated question: is the wildcard there just a self-censorship asterisk (i.e. “a”), or has another _lt-right movement sprung up while I wasn’t looking?

    • shakeddown says:

      Donaeld the Unready’s been good lately. Eliezer Yudkowsky’s twitter is a lot of fun – I generally find him annoying otherwise, but when he’s not being serious he actually has a good sense of humour, and I see why people like Scott like him so much.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      I like Stuart Ritchie a lot, he is very entertaining if you enjoy quips about bad science (mostly psychology).

    • Mr Mind says:

      Uel Aramchek for very short, very witty, very weird fiction. He is the guy who added new Arcana to the Tarots, including gems like The Singularity (death floats towards us as a skeletal astronaut. Behind him, a sarcophagus is being built around the sun), the Supervillain (on a throne crafted from the bones of oil derricks. A tattered red cape hangs from his neck as a sash) and the Board of Directors (an assembly of nine emperors slowly being devoured by the sharp-toothed lapels of their jackets).

  22. J. Mensch says:

    For anyone wondering how Venezuela is doing, this account tweets some (bleak) news every other day or so — https://twitter.com/hannahdreier

  23. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/education-not-income-predicted-who-would-vote-for-trump/

    I’m asking for two favors: one is for people to take a look at this for whether the analysis looks sound. The other is to *not* use education level as a proxy for intelligence in the hopes of not having the discussion blow up.

    What the hell, a third favor. Any thoughts about whether what you learned in college affected your vote? If so, how?

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I’m responding to your third question only, having not (yet) read the linked piece.

      First, a clarification: are you asking about whether what we were taught in college affected our vote? Or, are you asking whether what we learned as a result of going to college affected our vote? (The latter is, of course, a superset of the former.) I’ll answer both versions of the question, just in case:

      What I was taught in college included such things as math (including statistics), psychology, philosophy, history, etc. All of this contributed to my ability to think clearly about all manner of things, which, no doubt, led me to vote otherwise than I would have without such an education (in particular, it greatly increased the degree of contrarianism of my views). On the other hand, college is certainly not the only way to learn such things, and indeed I would not consider my own education to have been, in retrospect, complete, without a healthy dose of autodidactism.

      What I learned as a result of going to college (among other parts of my life experience to date), other than the above, is how many stupid people there are, and how stupid people can be — especially the smart people. That definitely affected my vote (by making me trust less in institutions, including government institutions).

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Thanks. Yes, the question covers both what you were formally taught in college and what you learned there by other means.

    • J Mann says:

      Silver is smarter than I am, but I’m really skeptical of the value of bucketing the effects you’re measuring into counties. If the researcher want to know whether education level correlates with voting for Hillary, why not just study that? Instead, Silver looks at whether Hillary improved on Obama’s percentage in the 5% of counties with the highest percentage of undergraduate degrees and did worse than Obama in the 5% of counties with the least.

      Although Silver attempts to address that issue with a handwave that the counties “are otherwise reasonably diverse,” it seems like an invitation for confounding factors.

      Conversely, what’s the advantage of bucketing people into counties if you’re measuring for effect of undergraduate education on voting for Hillary relative to voting for Obama?

      • herbert herberson says:

        Agreed 100%. I’m immediately skeptical of anything that uses counties/zip codes as a proxy for individuals, especially in rural areas.

    • shakeddown says:

      AFAICT, the data backs up “Trump did significantly worse among educated people relative to a generic republican”. (Or alternatively, Clinton did better – but assuming deviations from the norm in this election are more likely due to Trump seems fairly reasonable).

      Whether the right measurement should be “change from generic Republican” or absolute correlation is a harder question, but I think the first option is correct – party/tribal loyalty and inertia are really powerful forces, so it makes sense to look at the movement of voters. For example, if a Democrat who got 60% of the black vote, it would almost certainly be a result of something significant happening to massively shift it – either the Democratic candidate was being blatantly racist, or the republican candidate was black.

      For the third question, I learned about cognitive biases in college (because a psych grad student recommended this book), which raised a giant red flag for Trump (as someone who’s incapable of realizing when he’s wrong). But I wasn’t close to voting for him without that, anyway.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      My first impression was to be unimpressed with Silver’s work, but the more I thought about it, the better it looks. First, he has an unstated qualification on his work of “don’t use exit poll data”. Once I recognized that he wants to use actual votes tallied and publicly available education and income levels, the analysis looks better – exit poll data would be the easy way out, but lots of people don’t trust the 2016 exit polls. Precinct-level voting data is available, but probably not precinct-level education or income level. Second, he goes through several potentially confounding variables – education as proxy for diversity, education as proxy for income, etc. The data looks pretty good for those. It’d be interesting to see what the whole dataset looked like without the Top 50 cutoff he uses for the high- and low-income counties, but he probably does that for space.

      The critiques I’d have are: 50k population cutoff for the counties is a problem, because Trump appears to have done super-well in low population counties. Maybe extending this analysis to those counties introduces too much noise, but I’d be surprised if that’s the case – Rural counties tend to not be super educated and tended to vote strongly for Trump. It might have affected his search for confounding variables, though. Second, almost all of his “Clinton collapse” counties come from the same general region of “Texas + Southeast + Ohio”. This might be related to my first critique – “Collapse” counties outside of these regions might be too thinly populated. Otherwise, the strong clustering of that particular data set points to a potential confounding variable.

      It’s hard to separate “Things I learned in College” from the fact that I was an undergrad in 2003. “What I learned” was that certain kinds of politicians start land wars in Asia using tendentious reasoning.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        There are more choices than aggregate votes and exit polls. A third choice is pre-election polls. The main value I see in exit polls is filtering for actual voters. But pre-election polls are probably pretty good for deciding questions like this.

        Why did Silver use actual votes? Because this was just a week after the election, so he wanted to use new data.

        • Garrett says:

          Alternatively, because voters can lie to themselves or others about their actual voting habits, which pre-election and exit polls are most likely to be subject to.
          Looking at reliable data at the greatest level of granularity possible allows for different analysis.

  24. J Mann says:

    Affirmative Consent question. (I also asked this a few months back).

    I’m really curious how “affirmative consent” rules – the idea that if someone makes a sexual advance without first obtaining verbal consent, it’s considered and assault – have worked out in practice. It seems like we should have some information; Antioch had this standard for years, and it’s been in place for some time bow elsewhere. However, I can’t find any real world data, just theoretical models of whether its good or bad.

    Does anyone know of any resources assessing how those rules have worked out? Did they lead to changes in behavior? To more certainty in prosecution? I’d prefer studies, but I’d take a good Atlantic article or even some anonymous testimony off Reddit at this point.

    Additional specific questions:

    1) Did people actually change their behavior, or was it more like everyone was an offender? (Or more likely, how many people changed their behavior and how much).

    2) Did people find that it affected their romantic lives and how?

    3) Are there any estimates of how much it affected the amount of consensual interaction? Assault?

    4) Did it make determining guilt easier, harder, or the same?

    Thanks!

    • dank says:

      “the idea that if someone makes a sexual advance without first obtaining verbal consent, it’s considered and assault”

      I think this is a misconception about affirmative consent. Under definitions I’ve seen, there’s no requirement that consent be verbal – it just needs to be unambiguous.

      • dank says:

        The situation where affirmative consent rules matter is when a victim freezes up instead of resisting. It’s not an uncommon response: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/i-froze-up-when-i-was-sexually-assaulted-and-we-should-stop-dismissing-that-response.

        Under previous statutes, the perpetrator could accurately claim that the other person never refused or pushed them away or whatever. Under affirmative consent rules, that wouldn’t matter – lack of active consent is treated the same as denial of consent.

      • J Mann says:

        That’s a good point – some standards (like Antioch’s) require verbal request and consent, while most others allow for the possibility of “unambiguous” (and often also required to be “enthusiastic”) non-verbal consent.

        Either way, I’d love to see some systematic analysis, or even detailed insider coverage of how it works in practice. Are there disputes over whether consent was unambiguous and how are they resolved? Do students change their behavior to meet the standard, and if so, how?

        • It seems to me that there is a serious practical problem with the affirmative consent rule–how can a trial of fact later know if it assent given? Most people don’t have a video camera running during the preliminaries to sex. If he says “she said yes” and she says “I said nothing because I was paralyzed with fright,” there is no evidence to judge which is lying or mistaken. Similarly for the obvious nonverbal forms of consent.

          So either you believe all accusations, in which case anyone, or at least any woman, who has had sex has the power to badly injure the life of her partner, or you don’t believe them, in which case the rule is pointless. Or you believe or don’t believe according to what the trier of fact thinks, which gives the trier of fact a blank check to implement his prejudices to the great damage of the innocent accused.

          The nice thing about the old rule, which in practice was that absence of consent was signaled by forcible resistance and/or yelling for help except when there was reason to believe there was a threat such as a weapon, was that forcible resistance was likely to produce visible evidence and the presence of a weapon could at least sometimes be proved.

          I believe the rule in Jewish law was that if intercourse occurred in a village it was assumed to be consensual because if it wasn’t the woman could have yelled and been heard. If it occurred in the country, on the other hand, an accusation of rape by the woman was to be believed.

          • Aapje says:

            IMHO, the most likely outcome will be that the statements of the defendant get parsed through this lens. So if he or she merely argues that the accuser didn’t resist, the defendant will go to prison. If he or she states that the accuser gave consent, the situation will just as before.

            Most likely, there will be a significant benefit to defendants who can frame their statements smartly (or are smart enough to only make a statement after talking to their lawyer), so the affirmative consent rule will disproportionately hurt the less intelligent and/or lower class.

          • Matt M says:

            Most people don’t have a video camera running during the preliminaries to sex.

            I’ve heard anecdotal reports of fraternities where everyone secretly videotapes their encounters as a rule, specifically to be used as evidence in the case of accusations.

            Whether or not this is a net gain for womens rights is probably up for debate… keep in mind the same people crusading against “rape culture” are often the same people trying to ban “revenge porn” and other such things.

          • J Mann says:

            Yeah, there’s a couple policy questions:

            – A “resistance required” rule may encourage some people who object to sex to communicate that more clearly, leading to fewer cases of miscommunication. but it will also leave predators able to use silent intimidation, and it will leave people too frozen to respond without recourse.

            – On the other hand, I wonder how a “nonverbal unambiguous consent is enough” rule. My guess is that if the objecting party says that their conduct didn’t constitute consent, then in almost all cases, a college fact finder will agree.

            – I honestly think it’s worth exploring some kind of multi-key consent recording. (Say, a cloud recording that can only be accessed if all participants plus the college turn their keys). If we could guarantee security, then it would solve a lot of problems. I’d imagine that you could set it to be automatically deleted at some point (5 years after graduation?), and which point the school could consider a statute of limitation to have run.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            – I honestly think it’s worth exploring some kind of multi-key consent recording. (Say, a cloud recording that can only be accessed if all participants plus the college turn their keys). If we could guarantee security, then it would solve a lot of problems.

            I agree. Grumpily, I’ll predict that a lot of kneejerk instant opposition to the idea of such recording would be … focused on things other than fact and practicality.

  25. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Filed under “probably a metaphor for something”:

    I recently encountered at work some of the most counterintuitive, opaque code I’ve ever had to deal with, and was tasked with simplifying it. But to do so, I first need to understand what it does.

    As I study it and realize how it works, it doesn’t seem so bad after all, to the point that I wonder if it really needs to be changed.

    Gaining the requisite knowledge to fix it saps the desire to do so.

    (In case you think the code is fine and my initial assessment was wrong, code at our company is supposed to be readily understood by an engineer newly encountering it. I wasn’t the one who initially concluded it needed fixing.)

    • MartMart says:

      Can you get by with just commenting and documenting it really well?

    • J Mann says:

      Yeah, I’d say either (a) it’s a documentation problem or (b) if your company’s standard is that code is supposed to be understandable at first viewing by a new engineer, then it’s like translating a novel – it’s fine for what it does, but it needs to do it in a way that someone can understand.

    • Aapje says:

      @ADifferentAnonymous

      Can you refactor it to be easier to read, without actually changing the logic?

      I once worked on 1000’s of lines of code in a single method, which was a disaster to understand, but I could quickly get huge improvements by these steps:
      1. Identify a snippet of code that looks to be doing one thing
      2. Understand the function of that snippet
      3. Extract the snippet into a method that describes the function of the snippet
      4. Go to step 1

      Of course, this is much easier if the code is written in a language that allows for reliable refactoring tools, like Java.

      • Mr Mind says:

        Exactly: if the language is functional, you can also get a lot more clear by “chunking up”: you don’t change a line of code, but you add fences and compose with clearer names.

  26. sloneil2 says:

    Been reading SSC for just about month now, and love Scotts book reviews and have used them as recommendations. Does anyone have any additional book recs, especially in the non-fiction, rationalist, and/or philosophical vein? Or, really anything you found to have had a profound impact?

    • rlms says:

      Thinking Fast And Slow contains most of the good rationalist stuff about correct thinking (and then some) in my opinion. The SSC commentariat seems to like Blindsight, The Righteous Mind, and GK Chesterton’s essays.

    • This is a great essay from Philosopher David Stove’s book ‘The Plato Cult.’

      >http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/wrongthoughts.html

      FWIW I know Scott has referenced him before on Less Wrong. And from what I know of Scott I *assume* he likes Stove, really not sure on that though.

      (He was a, now passed, Australian philosopher who wrote a sort of ‘rationalist criticism’ of what he saw as insanity in philosophy.)

  27. MartMart says:

    When does the virtue of silence turn into lying, and is it still a virtue then?

    Suppose someone comes out with a very effective cure for cancer. It works better on early and mild cancers than it does on late stage deadly ones. It is so effective that by itself it increases average lifespans 10%. Also, it doesn’t work at all on children under 3.
    You are a world famous celebrity cancer researches (which is a thing in this story), and are petitioned, with a great deal of publicity by the leaders of the world to find out why this miracle cure has no effect on children. Naturally, you agree to help. After a short while you find out that there no cure, and the whole thing is a new, very clever placebo. It’s non the less very effective, except on kids who are too young to understand that it’s supposed to help them in the first place.
    Revealing this information will take away a very successful cure, deprive humanity of many years of healthy living. Because of the international attention given to the case, staying silent is not an option for you. Figuring that saving all those lives is worth, well just about anything, you make up some reasonable sounding explanation that can’t be understood, and try to bury the whole thing.
    Which works for a little while, up until other celebrity scientists (again, a thing here) start digging into it. Some are hoping to show that you are a complete fraud (which you are) mostly to enhance their own reputation, and elevate their status. In doing so, they will cause many early deaths. Since that’s worth just about anything, you start attacking their reputation pre preemptively, and engage in other non ethical behavior, because millions of lives d*mn it.
    Or maybe you wouldn’t, under the circumstances. I sure might. I wouldn’t blame you if you did, if I knew the whole story. Which I wouldn’t because that’s the whole point here.

    How does that apply to the growth mindset controversy? If denying the effects of talent (or intelligence) in education completely ends up boosting everyone’s effective intelligence by about 10% (with largest increases going to the smartest) that seems to be a huge boon to humanity, despite being based on a lie. A huge enough boon to justify a great deal of lying to maintain it.

    • rlms says:

      In the cancer case, continuing the lie means that you can’t research the incredibly powerful placebo effect you’ve discovered. I think the benefits of experimenting with the underlying principle would likely outweigh the benefits of the initial cure.

    • Murphy says:

      Reminds me of a bit from the book Bad Science on placebos.

      “Quesalid was a skeptic: he thought shamanism was bunk, that it only worked through belief, and he went undercover to investigate this idea. He found a shaman who was willing to take him on, and learned all the tricks of the trade, including the classic performance piece where the healer hides a tuft of down in the corner of his mouth and then, sucking and heaving, right at the peak of his healing ritual, brings it up, covered in blood from where he has discreetly bitten his lip, and solemnly presents it to the onlookers as a pathological specimen, extracted from the body of the afflicted patient.

      Quesalid had proof of the fakery, he knew the trick as an insider, and was all set to expose those who carried it out; but as part of his training he had to do a bit of clinical work, and he was summoned by a family ‘who had dreamed of him as their saviour’ to see a patient in distress. He did the trick with the tuft, and was appalled, humbled and amazed to find that his patient got better.

      Although he continued to maintain a healthy skepticism about most of his colleagues, Quesalid, to his own surprise perhaps, went on to have a long and productive career as a healer and shaman.”

      note from the fact we heard about it that he didn’t keep it totally secret.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      My instincts here reverted to plain old virtue. “Clearly, more research is needed.” He is sponsored to research about the children, he wants to research the whole situation. So continue researching the whole situation: why is this placebo having unusual effect? One small not-even-falsehood, as the children are included in the whole situation.

      I would balk at attacking the debunkers who are sincere and correct. But I might have a talk with them about the N-lives and the effect of releasing their work at this stage, when a bit more work might bring a solution — ie, the work I’m doing, especially if the debunkers would put their debunking on hold and work with me. — Still, that’s unlikely to affect the course of events: eventually someone will find out the miracle-placebo has no clothes. So why put your immortal soul conscience and career at risk by outright lies and harming the debunkers? Just take the money and see what helpful research you can do with it.

  28. Chevron says:

    This is a really minor thing but the ad on the right for 80,000 Hours refers to their book as free. It actually costs $12.50 for paperback and $4.00 for the ebook on their amazon link (and I don’t see it available for download anywhere else). I’m pretty sure the *contents* of the book are free in that they are just the same thing as the blog posts you can browse on their website, but it did lead to a minute or two of confusion on my part as I looked for a link to the free copy of the ebook.

    • chernavsky says:

      Also, this sentence had me scratching my head for a few seconds: “80,000 Hours is a group that helps people interested in helping the world decide on a career path.” It sounds like the world is deciding on a career path. When I’m faced with an ambiguity, why do I seem to choose the least-likely interpretation first?

      • baconbacon says:

        If you read the reasonable explanation first your brain doesn’t recoil and say “WTF did I just read, lets reread it and figure out the alternative explanation”, so you rarely notice an ambiguous sentence that you happened to parse correctly the first time.

  29. baconbacon says:

    This thread is pretty great for following the oroville dam saga. Lots of pics and videos linked and a good amount of explanation on what might happen and why.

  30. IrishDude says:

    I’ve had some discussions on here about how people have different ethical judgments on what is just/unjust. My contention is that some ethical judgments are very widely shared, while others are more contentious. In the interests of gathering data to help evaluate my hypothesis, I created a 10 question survey. The first question asks for political persuasion, to help evaluate correlations between political beliefs and ethical judgments. The following nine questions asks how strongly you agree/disagree that certain ethical situations are just/unjust. I do understand that the answers can depend on details not present in the defined situation, so answer with what you feel is right usually.

    All answers are anonymous, and I appreciate anyone that participates. If enough people actually respond to get some non-noisy data, I’ll post some analysis in a future thread. Here you go: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QMVTV67

    • Aapje says:

      @IrishDude

      Your use of ‘physical force’ as an obvious reference in question 2 to taxation is off putting, as a decent system of taxation (& spending of those taxes) actually results in very few people experiencing physical force to be made to pay. Something similar goes for question 3 and 4, theft is not the same as using physical force (or did you still mean taxation here?). So now I’m at question 5, are we now talking about real, actual physical force? The previous questions make me doubt it.

      So at this point, I am mainly wondering how you will reconcile these different types of ‘physical force’ and given that I know you to be rather an extreme libertarian, I suspect that it will be quite uncharitable to anyone who favors anything but near anarchy.

      Basically, your questions only make sense from an extreme libertarian point of view and I don’t see how you can expect reliable results from people who don’t share that persuasion and thus disagree with the premises behind the questions.

      • IrishDude says:

        My survey is trying to get at ethical judgments people have in typical interpersonal situations, the type of situations they’d run across when interacting with their neighbors or random strangers. For the record, I think physical force can justified in any of the cases, for the right extreme hypothetical: If aliens came and credibly threatened to blow up the earth unless you killed a random stranger, I think you’re justified in killing the random stranger. Killing random strangers isn’t usually justifiable though.

        That’s why I said “I do understand that the answers can depend on details not present in the defined situation, so answer with what you feel is right usually.” If you think usually it’s unjust for 5 of 8 roommates to use physical force to take your money for schooling, but it could be justified under rarer circumstances, then I’d think you want to answer that question as strongly disagree, even though you think it could sometimes be justified.

        I mean physical force to be things like hitting, kicking, using a weapon, or in some way kinetically acting upon another person. Using physical force to steal a loaf of bread would then require some sort of physical altercation with another person to take the bread that they had possessed.

        I appreciate the critique of the survey, but since my goal is to get at what ethical intuitions are widely shared and which ones aren’t, do you have suggestions for other ethical cases I can present, or how to word things differently? I can update the survey and repost.

        • baconbacon says:

          If aliens came and credibly threatened to blow up the earth unless you killed a random stranger, I think you’re justified in killing the random stranger. Killing random strangers isn’t usually justifiable though.

          Totally unjustified. If someone threatens to do horrible thing X, unless you less horrible thing Y they are totally untrustworthy. You have no idea if they are going to blow up the earth afterward anyway, if they are only going to blow up the earth if you do kill the stranger or if they are a figment of your imagination.

          You need a moral code because we don’t have certainty in knowledge of outcomes, so we have to rely on processes. “I shot that guy, but he might have been the next Hitler” is a wildly different statement than “if you went back in time and found the guy that was definitely Hitler, it cool to shoot him”.

          • IrishDude says:

            Totally unjustified. If someone threatens to do horrible thing X, unless you less horrible thing Y they are totally untrustworthy.

            Well, the important phrase in the hypothetical is ‘credibly threatened’. Surely you can imagine a situation where someone was able to make a credible threat that you could trust. It doesn’t mean you can predict the future to know they’ll follow through on their threat, just that you have very strong reasons to think it highly likely they’ll do so. Say, if they already had a demonstrated track record of always following through on their threats.

          • baconbacon says:

            Well, the important phrase in the hypothetical is ‘credibly threatened’. Surely you can imagine a situation where someone was able to make a credible threat that you could trust. It doesn’t mean you can predict the future to know they’ll follow through on their threat, just that you have very strong reasons to think it highly likely they’ll do so. Say, if they already had a demonstrated track record of always following through on their threats.

            The credibility of the threat exists only in your mind, and you are often wrong. Should a person who hallucinates this situation very vividly and murders a stranger to prevent a fictitious apocalypse be considered a hero?

            Moral decisions must be made within our universe, and our universe basically prevents us from understanding complicated causal chains where free will is involved.

            You shoot Bill or I will shoot John therefore you not shooting Bill leads to John’s death is false, because the cause of John’s death, or Bill’s, is entirely on my head as the one who sets the rules to the game. If an alien has the power to destroy Earth and sets his conditions then whatever the outcome is only on their shoulders. Quite frankly “don’t submit to the whims of psychotically powerful people” is a far better heuristic than “find justifications to do things I wouldn’t normally do” for quite a few reasons.

          • IrishDude says:

            I don’t know if a different hypothetical would help us come to agreement, but the principle I’m trying to put forward is that physical coercion, and even killing an innocent, can be just in situations where failure to use that coercion would result in a terrible outcome. Let me try a different, closer to the real world, hypothetical:

            A terrorist sends sends a steady stream of missiles into a city that blows up homes and kills thousands of innocents. This pattern of missile launches goes on several days in a row, with no apparent end in sight. You have the ability to drop a bomb at the terrorist’s location which would blow him up and stop the barrage of missiles, and it’s the only feasible plan to take out the terrorist. The hitch is that the terrorist is in a building with five innocent hostages, and the hostages would parish in your bombing. Is bombing the terrorist, and subsequently taking out the five innocents, justified?

          • Jiro says:

            The hostages are inside the building, and are prevented by the terrorist from leaving, and are serving a military function by being human shields, so the hostages are basically conscripts. You are permitted to kill people conscripted by the enemy into his army.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Irishdude

            I think baconbacon is going for a ‘you might be crazy so just don’t kill people even if you think you have a really good reason to’ which I agree is a wonderful heuristic, so more examples of the form ‘you have this information about somebody is it ok to kill them?’ will fail the ‘you might be crazy’ test, every time.

            I don’t think you really need to meet the standard you keep setting(of a single actor, acting on their perceptions) to make your broader point. You might be better served by hypothetical justification for violence that don’t rely on a single actor/are less directly violent/crazy sounding.

            For example, are quarantines justifiable?

            If I am the doctor on duty in a hospital who believes my patient has horribly contagious X am I justified in calling for a quarantine?

          • baconbacon says:

            The hostages are inside the building, and are prevented by the terrorist from leaving, and are serving a military function by being human shields, so the hostages are basically conscripts. You are permitted to kill people conscripted by the enemy into his army.

            Always easy to recognize the immoral justification.

            “the person I want to kill needs to be mentally reclassified to absolve me of responsibility”.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Jiro

            That makes me think of the Moscow Theater hostage situation. Which is sort of a workable way to approach hostage situations, in order to discourage them. As long as potential hostage takers think that you’re going to kill them all and not yield to any of their demands, regardless of how many hostages they take, it serves as a deterrent for all but the most uselessly suicidal.

          • baconbacon says:

            A terrorist sends sends a steady stream of missiles into a city that blows up homes and kills thousands of innocents. This pattern of missile launches goes on several days in a row, with no apparent end in sight. You have the ability to drop a bomb at the terrorist’s location which would blow him up and stop the barrage of missiles, and it’s the only feasible plan to take out the terrorist. The hitch is that the terrorist is in a building with five innocent hostages, and the hostages would parish in your bombing. Is bombing the terrorist, and subsequently taking out the five innocents, justified?

            The short answer is no, morally you have just weighted your life above theirs, and the person taking the gains isn’t the person taking the costs.

          • Fahundo says:

            If you’re crazy enough to imagine aliens, wouldn’t you also be crazy enough to imagine killing someone when you really aren’t? Or conversely, maybe you decide not to kill anyone because you might be just imagining the aliens, but it turns out that you’re killing people anyway while you think you’re at home reading a book or something because there is no connection between what you perceive and what is.

            What I’m getting at, is I think i would kill someone to spare us the aliens’ wrath.

            The short answer is no, morally you have just weighted your life above theirs, and the person taking the gains isn’t the person taking the costs.

            he didn’t specify whether he’s inside the city or not. It could be an outside observer simply deciding thousands of lives are worth more than 5, and who has no personal stake one way or the other.

          • IrishDude says:

            @baconbacon

            The short answer is no, morally you have just weighted your life above theirs, and the person taking the gains isn’t the person taking the costs.

            In the hypothetical, you weighed the lives of thousands of innocents that would continue to die if the terrorist proceeds with his missile campaign, against the five innocents that would die if you bombed the building he’s in. Is there any threshold for innocents continuing to die from the terrorists missiles that you think would justify taking out the terrorist and the five innocents? 10,000? 1 million?

          • beleester says:

            morally you have just weighted your life above theirs, and the person taking the gains isn’t the person taking the costs.

            Your life and the life of the thousands of others getting killed by the terrorist’s attacks. If each individual’s life has equal weight, then a greater number of lives should outweigh a smaller number.

            True, the people paying the cost aren’t the same as the people gaining. But that’s equally true if you refuse to act – the five hostages gain, the terrorist gains, and thousands of other victims pay the cost.

          • baconbacon says:

            In the hypothetical, you weighed the lives of thousands of innocents that would continue to die if the terrorist proceeds with his missile campaign, against the five innocents that would die if you bombed the building he’s in. Is there any threshold for innocents continuing to die from the terrorists missiles that you think would justify taking out the terrorist and the five innocents? 10,000? 1 million?

            This is a non real world situation, where you are attempting to achieve victory through definitional fiat. To postulate these types of situations is to put us in an alternate universe, where our limitations don’t exist.

            Any moral system must be built around how we make decisions, which include our limitations, any examples that preclude them are null.

          • baconbacon says:

            The hostages are inside the building, and are prevented by the terrorist from leaving, and are serving a military function by being human shields, so the hostages are basically conscripts. You are permitted to kill people conscripted by the enemy into his army.

            Note the Catch-22, once you have determined that the hostages are legitimate targets they lose their value as military assets.

          • baconbacon says:

            If you’re crazy enough to imagine aliens, wouldn’t you also be crazy enough to imagine killing someone when you really aren’t? Or conversely, maybe you decide not to kill anyone because you might be just imagining the aliens, but it turns out that you’re killing people anyway while you think you’re at home reading a book or something because there is no connection between what you perceive and what is.

            Your moral code shouldn’t rely on perfect information. It shouldn’t lead to bad decisions if you have been tricked (on purpose or through poor luck).

            he didn’t specify whether he’s inside the city or not. It could be an outside observer simply deciding thousands of lives are worth more than 5, and who has no personal stake one way or the other.

            You have me on one point, but not the other. The decision to weight X vs Y is a decision regardless of the numbers, the moral action is NOT to apply a weighting- which is not to claim the authority to value people’s lives.

          • baconbacon says:

            Your life and the life of the thousands of others getting killed by the terrorist’s attacks. If each individual’s life has equal weight, then a greater number of lives should outweigh a smaller number.

            This starts with the assumption that you are entitled to weight these things at all.

            True, the people paying the cost aren’t the same as the people gaining. But that’s equally true if you refuse to act – the five hostages gain, the terrorist gains, and thousands of other victims pay the cost.

            This is again the pretense of knowledge, you cannot know the outcomes for these actions and so cannot justify a bad action with a good outcome. The action must be justifiable on its own.

          • Fahundo says:

            Your moral code shouldn’t rely on perfect information. It shouldn’t lead to bad decisions if you have been tricked

            I’m saying if I’ve been tricked my decision probably doesn’t matter. If i somehow hallucinated that aliens appeared, made their presence known, demonstrated the capability to wipe out all life on earth, and then communicated their terms, then I’m likely also hallucinating the person I would kill.

          • IrishDude says:

            @baconbacon

            This is a non real world situation, where you are attempting to achieve victory through definitional fiat. To postulate these types of situations is to put us in an alternate universe, where our limitations don’t exist.

            Any moral system must be built around how we make decisions, which include our limitations, any examples that preclude them are null.

            The hypothetical has analogues in the real world. So, I think it’s illuminating to think through more pure hypothetical examples to help clarify the morality of messy real-world examples.

            For example, do you think it was justified to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It killed many innocent Japanese, but prevented American troops from doing a ground invasion that would have put their lives and Japanese innocents in harms way, leading to an unknowable but potentially greater cost in life.

            When Hamas launched rockets at civilian areas in Israel, and launched the missiles from areas surrounded by innocents, was Israel justified in bombing the launch sites and killing innocents?

            War has many morally messy situations, sometimes with the only options leading to innocents dying, and people have to decide which crappy path is most justified. Some framework is needed to help guide these decisions if trying to be moral is important to the decision-makers.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’m saying if I’ve been tricked my decision probably doesn’t matter

            So why not just not shoot him? Again the default position of not shooting the person is moral in both cases (he exists or doesn’t exist) why choose your moral code and just hope the situation it fails in doesn’t occur?

          • bean says:

            Your moral code shouldn’t rely on perfect information. It shouldn’t lead to bad decisions if you have been tricked (on purpose or through poor luck).

            It also shouldn’t attempt to avoid hard problems by invoking ‘imperfect information’. Taking some account of imperfect information is a good thing. But the correct thing to do is to do some sort of analysis, not to simply dodge a dilemma. Yes, the possibility that you as a random citizen are hallucinating the dilemma as opposed to it being real is pretty high, and might be enough to support a rule of ‘always refuse to take the utilitarian option’. The same is not true if you’re the President. You might very well have to decide whether or not to blow up the building where the terrorists are, killing dozens of innocents, to save thousands who those terrorists are planning to attack.

          • Fahundo says:

            If I’m hallucinating I kill someone who wasn’t real anyway in which case my choice didn’t matter and if I’m not hallucinating I save the entire earth at the cost of one life or maybe the aliens are untrustworthy and kill the entire earth anyway in which case my choice still didn’t matter. So, if the aliens are real, and telling the truth, killing the guy saves 7 billion people, and in the other cases nothing I did mattered.

          • baconbacon says:

            For example, do you think it was justified to drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It killed many innocent Japanese, but prevented American troops from doing a ground invasion that would have put their lives and Japanese innocents in harms way, leading to an unknowable but potentially greater cost in life.

            Perfect example.

            The US decided that it would invade Japan barring unconditional surrender, which is a profoundly immoral action. The leaders who decided on that strategy made a choice to value the lives of both US troops and Japanese citizens below that of their own personal reputations and a signature on a piece of paper (and you know they just saw how much a signature would bind a country after a war was over, so you certainly can’t claim that it would certainly prevent a future war).

            This is a great example of how presenting a hypothetical dichotomy leads to poor conclusions. There wasn’t only two choices with Japan, invade or bomb, there was conditional surrender, there was containment (long term blockade), there was simply standing over their shattered military and saying “make one aggressive move and we will be back”, and simply sailing away (and many other options and combinations).

            We must do X or Y is the mantra of the violent who are looking to excuse their actions.

          • baconbacon says:

            It also shouldn’t attempt to avoid hard problems by invoking ‘imperfect information’

            Who is avoiding hard problems? IrishDude, by positing this wya, is looking for a justification or an excuse of his (hypothetical) actions. This is avoiding the hard problem, false utilitarianism (or just utilitarianism) is pretending that you can define precisely the outcome so that they you can turn a gut wrenching decision into an algebra problem.

            Hey, fuck it, don’t kill unless of course you can make it sound good, then by all means kill, is not the brave position.

          • bean says:

            There wasn’t only two choices with Japan, invade or bomb, there was conditional surrender, there was containment (long term blockade), there was simply standing over their shattered military and saying “make one aggressive move and we will be back”, and simply sailing away (and many other options and combinations).

            Your history is weak on several levels. AIUI, the blockade strategy was gaining over the invasion in the last few months of the war. However, while ‘blockade’ sounds nice and clean, it wouldn’t have been. First, Japan is small, and didn’t grow enough food. The Japanese leadership was planning to starve about a third of the population to deal with that. Yes, a third. Second, the US was going to start hitting transportation infrastructure. More starvation. Third, the Japanese occupied a lot of China and other bits of Southeast Asia. If they’d fought to the bitter end, then those areas would have stayed under their rule.
            And how does ‘sailing away’ or ‘standing over their shattered military’ stop the war? It takes two sides to stop, and they had clearly shown (see: kamikazes) that they weren’t going to stop unless we utterly beat them. If we’d gone home, they’d have tried again, having had their theories that we were soft and would give up if they bled us hard enough proved right. The atomic bombs were, unintentionally, one of the great humanitarian acts of the 20th century.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @baconbacon

            You’re making meta-normative claims about what morality _should_ be, and I don’t think they are justified.

            A moral code “shouldn’t lead to bad decisions if you have been tricked (on purpose or through poor luck)”? I don’t think any moral code can live up to that. If there are circumstances A where decisions in set X are bad and not in X are good, and circumstances B where decisions in set X are good and not in X are bad, and someone can trick me into thinking B holds when actually A does (or vice-versa), no system of morality will save me.

            The idea that morality should not allow me to weight people’s lives isn’t good either; that may leave me unable to make a decision or to making an obviously-bad decision because I chose inaction.

          • baconbacon says:

            However, while ‘blockade’ sounds nice and clean, it wouldn’t have been. First, Japan is small, and didn’t grow enough food

            Blockade doesn’t mean “nothing gets in”, it means “blockading country decides what gets in”. If it was nice and clean or not is hardly justification for 100,000+ deaths.

            Second, the US was going to start hitting transportation infrastructure

            Just another choice framed as an inevitable.

            It takes two sides to stop, and they had clearly shown (see: kamikazes) that they weren’t going to stop unless we utterly beat them.

            This is not at all clear as they had made overtures that a conditional surrender might be acceptable, and that Kamikazes were used on an encroaching fleet does not lead to the assumption that only unconditional surrender would have prevented future expansion attempts.

            Third, the Japanese occupied a lot of China and other bits of Southeast Asia. If they’d fought to the bitter end, then those areas would have stayed under their rule.

            The Japanese were losing major ground on the mainland for a year prior to the bombings, and the Soviets swept into Manchuria with not a whole heck of a lot of trouble. Cut off from Japan it not likely that their armies would have made further gains, and probably would have been forced to surrender.

            If we’d gone home, they’d have tried again, having had their theories that we were soft and would give up if they bled us hard enough proved right.

            “Hey guys, remember how we bombed Pearl Harbor and killed 2,000 Americans, and then they kicked our asses across the Pacific as part of a war where our military had well over 2 MILLION casualties? Lets go pick a fight with them again with our quarter of a navy, no fighter pilots with any training, shitty planes, oh and the god damn Soviets and Chinese fully militarized and right over there.”

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Nybbler,

            Of course no code can prevent mistakes, but it is impossible to trick a pacifist into murder if he is following his code, but it is extremely easy to trick someone who has decided that they have the right to make judgments about life and death. The Bush regime was eager to swallow misinformation about Saddam’s weapons programs and the Johnson administration was all to willing to plan out a war that it had already come to the conclusion should be fought.

            We are weak and flawed beings doomed to die, all that matters is either nothing, or how we live.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, being a pacifist means you can avoid all errors of the type “killing someone who should not be killed”. It means you commit all errors of the type “not killing someone who should be killed”. Unless you make the assumption that there are no errors of the latter type, in which case your argument for pacifism is circular.

          • baconbacon says:

            Yes, being a pacifist means you can avoid all errors of the type “killing someone who should not be killed”. It means you commit all errors of the type “not killing someone who should be killed”. Unless you make the assumption that there are no errors of the latter type, in which case your argument for pacifism is circular.

            You have simply jumped from the statement “some people should be killed” to “some people should be killed and I am clearly the guy who should be making those decisions” with literally no justification.

            In this world it is abundantly clear that an individual’s limitations far exceed their abilities, their ignorance outstrips their knowledge, and weakness outnumber their strengths. As such the null action, the baseline of “I don’t know, so I am sure as shit not going to murder 100,000 people on a hunch” is so vastly superior that it boggles my mind that I have to continually bring it back to this point- you are responsible for your actions. You, by the definition of you, are the one that controls the physical actions of your body which translates into you being responsible for your actions when you do things. The rest of the universe exists outside of you, which means you are not responsible for its events and when you choose to intervene you bear responsibility.

            Sins of omission and sins of commission don’t even exist on the same moral plane.

          • bean says:

            Blockade doesn’t mean “nothing gets in”, it means “blockading country decides what gets in”. If it was nice and clean or not is hardly justification for 100,000+ deaths.

            If you seriously think that the Japanese would actually cooperate to the point that they’d let us inspect their ships to make sure they weren’t smuggling in weapons, you’re way beyond alternate history and into the realm of hallucinations.

            Just another choice framed as an inevitable.

            Or we could leave them alone, like we did in the 30s, and…
            Oh, wait.

            This is not at all clear as they had made overtures that a conditional surrender might be acceptable, and that Kamikazes were used on an encroaching fleet does not lead to the assumption that only unconditional surrender would have prevented future expansion attempts.

            The peace feelers were by part of their government. Let’s say that the Democrats right now start sending peace overtures to Iran. It’s largely irrelevant, because they’re not the ones driving. The ones driving were not interested in peace. They had to have the decision to surrender forced down their throat by Hirohito himself, after the bombing. And the only reason Hirohito got away with it was the bombing.

            The Japanese were losing major ground on the mainland for a year prior to the bombings, and the Soviets swept into Manchuria with not a whole heck of a lot of trouble. Cut off from Japan it not likely that their armies would have made further gains, and probably would have been forced to surrender.

            Yes. Just like the defenders of countless Pacific islands chose to surrender, and didn’t have to be dug out of caves one by one. Also, this just gives the Soviets more leverage in Asia. If that’s not a bad thing (and how many people did the communists kill again?), then see above re alt history.

            “Hey guys, remember how we bombed Pearl Harbor and killed 2,000 Americans, and then they kicked our asses across the Pacific as part of a war where our military had well over 2 MILLION casualties? Lets go pick a fight with them again with our quarter of a navy, no fighter pilots with any training, shitty planes, oh and the god damn Soviets and Chinese fully militarized and right over there.”

            Yes. That is actually how the Japanese of the time would think. I know it seems incredible, but it’s true. Hitler thought the same way. I’d recommend books, but I don’t think it would help.
            (Also, you’re ignoring the bit where the Soviets take over Japan after we go home.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            You have simply jumped from the statement “some people should be killed” to “some people should be killed and I am clearly the guy who should be making those decisions” with literally no justification.

            Morality is the same for everyone, or at least the same for large categories of people (e.g. competent adults), is it not? So what I’m saying is that “there are situations where a person killing another person or persons is the right thing to do, and not killing them is the wrong thing to do”. There are people who will be the right ones to make that decision.

            Sins of omission and sins of commission don’t even exist on the same moral plane.

            Another meta-norm I’m not willing to sign on to. Certainly sins of omission are usually the lesser, but not always.

          • Fahundo says:

            You have simply jumped from the statement “some ____ should be ___” to “some ___ should be ___ and I am clearly the guy who should be making those decisions” with literally no justification.

            Couldn’t this reasoning be used to argue that no one should ever be doing anything, and the morally appropriate course of action in all cases is not to interfere with anything? Any time I make any decision about anything, I’m operating with incomplete data, right?

          • baconbacon says:

            If you seriously think that the Japanese would actually cooperate to the point that they’d let us inspect their ships

            The US wiped out the Japanese navy, if people are resisting and trying to smuggle in weapons (not actually the problem, really what you want to do is prevent troop movements, but whatever) then at least the actions you are taking are against active threats, and not against largely civilian targets.

            It’s largely irrelevant, because they’re not the ones driving.

            It shatters the illusion that the Japanese were definitely going to fight to the end, and or attempt to sail out and attack again in the near future. The presumption of saving lives through murder lives in that illusion.

            And it wouldn’t be like the Democrats sending feelers to Iran, it would be like high ranking Iranians sending out feelers to the US. Certainly cause to pause.

            Yes. Just like the defenders of countless Pacific islands chose to surrender

            By 1945 that “no surrender” attitude was clearly in decline. The soviets took a large number of japanese POWs in China, and numbers of surrenders to Allied troops increased in other areas. The extreme losses that the Japanese were taking meant that many troops had not been indoctrinated for years the way the veterans that were initially fighting the US had.

            Yes. That is actually how the Japanese of the time would think

            Wait, I can’t keep track. The Japanese are monolithic (except for the ones that are willing to discuss terms, they don’t count), if the US leaves they will wage war against the US again (except the Soviets are about to take over their island).

            Which is it? Are they a major threat, or can they not even defend the main island against the Ruskies?

          • bean says:

            The US wiped out the Japanese navy, if people are resisting and trying to smuggle in weapons (not actually the problem, really what you want to do is prevent troop movements, but whatever) then at least the actions you are taking are against active threats, and not against largely civilian targets.

            You’re still not getting it. The only way to be sure that the Japanese are not going to be moving in, say, oil and aluminum for kamikazes instead of food is to stop each and every ship and search it. The Japanese will not cooperate with that. Nor will they line up their stevedores for the USN to unload food. Not unless they’ve surrendered.

            It shatters the illusion that the Japanese were definitely going to fight to the end, and or attempt to sail out and attack again in the near future. The presumption of saving lives through murder lives in that illusion.

            Have you read anything other than anti-nuke tracts about the end of the Pacific War?

            And it wouldn’t be like the Democrats sending feelers to Iran, it would be like high ranking Iranians sending out feelers to the US. Certainly cause to pause.

            No, it wouldn’t. The Army and Navy had a legal stranglehold on the Japanese government. If they didn’t like a government, it fell. Guess who’s playing the part of the Republicans in this example?

            By 1945 that “no surrender” attitude was clearly in decline. The soviets took a large number of japanese POWs in China, and numbers of surrenders to Allied troops increased in other areas. The extreme losses that the Japanese were taking meant that many troops had not been indoctrinated for years the way the veterans that were initially fighting the US had.

            And yet the Japanese government was not made of people who were new troops.

            Yes. That is actually how the Japanese of the time would think

            Wait, I can’t keep track. The Japanese are monolithic (except for the ones that are willing to discuss terms, they don’t count), if the US leaves they will wage war against the US again (except the Soviets are about to take over their island).

            Are you really so fundamentalist in your ethics that you’d rather hand them over to a Soviet invasion than drop the bombs on them? (Actually, they probably could have pushed the Soviets off, IIRC. I have a book on this which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.)

            Which is it? Are they a major threat, or can they not even defend the main island against the Ruskies?

            They are literally crazy. The Soviet is not an aquatic mammal, but when the opposition is as disorganized as the Japanese might have been by 1948, it might have been successful.

          • Aapje says:

            IMHO, the most ethical action at the time would have been to offer a conditional surrender that allowed the emperor to remain, as this seems to have been the main demand of the Japanese elite at the time and also what was decided on after the war. So it effectively would have cost the allies nothing, while giving a non-negligible chance of getting a surrender.

            Of course, this opinion greatly benefits from 20/20 hindsight. The allies hadn’t agreed before the surrender whether the emperor should be allowed to remain, so it wasn’t a cost-less choice in their eyes.

          • Jiro says:

            Note the Catch-22, once you have determined that the hostages are legitimate targets they lose their value as military assets.

            You’re still permitted to kill the enemy’s conscripts if they are ineffectual.

            Also, they still have value to the enemy as propaganda assets.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @bean:

            You’re still not getting it. The only way to be sure that the Japanese are not going to be moving in, say, oil and aluminum for kamikazes instead of food is to stop each and every ship and search it. The Japanese will not cooperate with that. Nor will they line up their stevedores for the USN to unload food. Not unless they’ve surrendered.

            I don’t know about the rest of your post, but this part betrays a quite serious ignorance about how blockades work(ed). In particular, what baconbacon was describing was standard operating procedure for blockades from at least the mid-19th century, not some idiosyncratic idea he’s just made up. You need to explain why the usual method of carrying out blockades would suddenly become ineffective when the Americans were doing it to the Japanese. And for the record, no, the Japanese don’t need to co-operate for a blockade to work, any more than any other blockaded nations needed to; the whole reason blockades are carried out with warships is precisely to make sure you can force enemy merchant ships to stop against their will.

          • Cypren says:

            It’s always been rather interesting to me that the most optimal solution for dealing with hostages in any single encounter is usually to capitulate, but over the long term, the most optimal solution is to kill the hostages.

            Hostage-taking viewed through the lens of a hostage or captor is a single game of prisoner’s dilemma. But through a nation-state’s lens it is a classic iterated prisoner’s dilemma situation, and the only way to stop it is to make it clear that you will always defect if forced into the game. A country which consistently responds to hostage-taking by dropping a bomb on the building, killing the hostages and captors alike, will quickly find its citizens are no longer deliberately held hostage; there is no gain to be had from it.

            Autocratic societies have a much easier time with this than democratic ones, because the public at large is not really capable of looking at the longer-term consequences and only focuses on the current round of the game. Weighing the lives of the current hostages against all future hostages who may be taken for all time is actually a very stupid example of hyperbolic discounting from a utilitarian perspective.

            But as long as a substantial public and media outcry exists, the captors may get what they want in the long run anyway; by forcing the government to keep killing its own people, its internal politics can substantially weaken it in a way the hostage-takers would be unable to accomplish on their own. The only way this policy works is if the decisionmakers — including voters, if there are any — show no signs of wavering in their commitment.

          • bean says:

            @Mr. X:

            I don’t know about the rest of your post, but this part betrays a quite serious ignorance about how blockades work(ed). In particular, what baconbacon was describing was standard operating procedure for blockades from at least the mid-19th century, not some idiosyncratic idea he’s just made up.

            It’s related to the rules of that time, but he doesn’t understand them any better than he does the rest of his history. The rules as of 1913 (I just finished reading on the WWI blockade of Germany) stated that in a close blockade, targeted at a specific port, could take any ship that tried to cross, regardless of flag. A distant blockade could take any enemy-flagged ship, no questions asked. A neutral-flagged ship would be boarded and checked for contraband. (This is very similar to traditional trade-warfare rules.) In this case, there’s a distinct lack of neutral-flagged shipping about. Maybe the Greeks (who own a lot of shipping and seem to be neutral) can help. But why would they do that? They can probably make more money in Europe, and the risks of shipping for Japan are going to be very high. So the US would have to announce a variance from the traditional rules to pull this off, allowing Japanese ships to carry non-contraband goods through the blockade.

            You need to explain why the usual method of carrying out blockades would suddenly become ineffective when the Americans were doing it to the Japanese. And for the record, no, the Japanese don’t need to co-operate for a blockade to work, any more than any other blockaded nations needed to; the whole reason blockades are carried out with warships is precisely to make sure you can force enemy merchant ships to stop against their will.

            You’re the commander of a Fletcher-class destroyer in the fall of 1945, on blockade duty. One day, the air patrol cues you onto a freighter in your sector. You pull alongside, fire a shot across the bow, and announce that you’re going to inspect them for contraband (including dipping their tanks to make sure they aren’t carrying excess oil). They ignore you. You spend the next few hours repeating the process. Finally, Admiral Halsey gives you the go-ahead to sink her, which you do. When fishing the survivors out, one of your sailors is killed by a grenade one of them had hidden.
            This process is repeated every couple of days for the next few weeks.
            Then, one day, a ship does heave to. You send a boat over. As it approaches, they riddle it with a machine gun, killing the boarding party. You sink it, and don’t bother to pick up the survivors.
            A few weeks later, you try the same thing again. This time, while very carefully looking over the upperworks, the back of you ship is broken by the Kaiten that they were towing astern the whole time.
            There are multiple levels of non-cooperation in these maters. Nothing I’ve described above would be unusual for the Japanese.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know about the rest of your post, but this part betrays a quite serious ignorance about how blockades work(ed). In particular, what baconbacon was describing was standard operating procedure for blockades from at least the mid-19th century,

            The way the blockade of Japan actually worked, by mid-1945 (not to be confused with the 19th century), is that B-29s dropped magnetic mines outside of Japan’s harbors and at choke points along shipping routes. These would sink any ship that passed over them, no matter what it was carrying. So, in fact “nothing gets through”.

            As a secondary factor (though still #1 in 1944), American submarines would patrol Japanese waters and, when the engagement geometry allowed, torpedo them. There is no way to know, at the time the torpedo is fired, what the ship being torpedoed is carrying. Either everything gets through, or nothing, or some random fraction. The bit where the submarine orders the freighter to stop and hand over its cargo manifest went entirely out of style in 1941, when too many manifests included the entry, “Cannon, 1, concealed, for the purpose of sinking submarines foolish enough to surface and park themselves alongside us”.

            What the blockade of Japan did not involve, was frigates and gunboats cruising along the Japanese coast stopping and inspecting freighters. That sort of thing amounted to only 3% of Japanese merchant shipping losses during the war, mostly far from Japan. It was not possible to implement that sort of 19th-century style blockade against a nation with the air and naval forces available to Japan even in 1945 and with a demonstrably suicidal willingness to use them to kill Americans whenever and wherever they could.

            World War II would have been a much more civilized affair if it had been fought in the 19th century. The problem lies in the fact that it was not. 20th century weapons were too deadly and too different for that.

          • bean says:

            @John Schilling
            You’re right on this. I blame the fact that I’ve been reading too much about WWI for not noticing that Japanese air power made a surface blockade impossible.
            (I do maintain that if the blockading ships weren’t sunk by kamikazes, my scenario is accurate. But that was never a real possibility.)

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ baconbacon
          If someone threatens to do horrible thing X, unless you less horrible thing Y they are totally untrustworthy.

          This sort of thing came up on munchkin d&d forums — playing gotcha with a paladin. “I have your mother and your sweetheart here, which one will you save?” The munchkin paladins would argue about the ethics of who to save; the older paladins would use their high INT to figure out a way to save both and capture the villain as well.

          • beleester says:

            That’s great practical advice, but not really useful in a debate. When the question is “What do you do when faced with this moral dilemma?” saying “I wouldn’t get into a moral dilemma” is just dodging the question.

            Eventually you’ll run into a villain who’s got an INT 20 to your INT 18, and then where will you be, Mr. Smartypaladin?

          • Anonymous says:

            Asking the party Cleric to start stockpiling diamonds.

        • wysinwygymmv says:

          Using physical force to steal a loaf of bread would then require some sort of physical altercation with another person to take the bread that they had possessed.

          This isn’t even remotely clear and changes my answer.

          “You robbed a house!” “I broke a window pane!”

          These questions do sound like a hard-core libertarian trying to lead a naive liberal down a garden path. This approach kind of misses the point, which is that libertarians and liberals have different ideas of what basic terms like “force”, “freedom”, and “property” mean or should mean.

          • IrishDude says:

            Yeah, I didn’t specify physical force against another person on that question, which was a mistake on my part since that was my intention. I could see people feeling that damaging property is just to feed a starving family, while damaging other people wouldn’t be. I’d like to do another survey in the future, but next time get input from other posters on how to word the questions. It’s tough to specify ethical situations in a sentence without going into a paragraph on defining terms or other details.

            I think people of different political persuasions can agree on a definition of physical force, though they obviously may disagree on things like when force is justified.

      • thenoblepie says:

        Seconded. Another problem I see here: I could see a person agreeing to a mandatory wealth redistribution scheme as long as they feel a special connection to the community the redistributor is representing, as long as they know that the same rules apply to all members of said community, and as long as they know that they themselves, or someone they care about can potentially benefit from such a system.

        This means that they could easily agree to some redistribution schemes (say, taxes), and object to others (your charity or roommate example) without being inconsistent.

        • IrishDude says:

          I could see a person agreeing to a mandatory wealth redistribution scheme…This means that they could easily agree to some redistribution schemes (say, taxes)

          If someone agrees to a redistribution scheme, and to have force used against them for failure to comply, is payment to this scheme still considered taxes?

          But yeah, consenting to the force used against you would be one way to make the use of physical force just. I think that falls under rare circumstances, though, and so would still think physical force is usually unjust in the roommate scenario.

          • thenoblepie says:

            Isn’t this pretty much exactly what taxes are? I thought the bone of contention was over to what extent people meaningfully consent to the scheme in question by living in the society that made it mandatory.

          • IrishDude says:

            I thought the bone of contention was over to what extent people meaningfully consent to the scheme in question by living in the society that made it mandatory.

            Right, that’s an important bone of contention. If taxes are voluntarily consented to, I’d probably call them something other than taxes.

            As to whether choosing to remain in a country is a means of providing consent, I’ll defer to Mike Huemer for my response:
            “For instance, it is often said that the government derives its powers from a “social contract,” whereby the people have granted these special powers to the government. The only problem with this theory is that it is factually false—I have not in fact agreed to have a government, to pay taxes, or to obey the government’s laws.

            A number of suggestions have been made as to how, despite my protestations to the contrary, I really have agreed to all those things. Here I will just mention one, because it is the one most often heard in conversation. This is the suggestion that I have “implicitly” agreed to have a government merely by residing in the government’s territory. (“If you don’t want a government, simply move to Antarctica!”) Very briefly, the problem with this suggestion is that it presupposes that the state owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction, or that for some other reason it has the right to exclude people from that area. But there is no way to establish such a right on the part of the state, unless one has already shown that the state has legitimate authority. This therefore cannot be presupposed in an argument designed to establish the state’s authority. In this case, the statist’s claim seems analogous to the leader of a protection racket claiming that his victims have voluntarily agreed to pay him protection money, merely by living in their own houses. There are other ways in which social contract enthusiasts claim that we have accepted the social contract, but as I explain in the book, each of them falls to equally serious objections, which show that the social contract does not come close to satisfying the generally accepted principles of real, valid contracts.”

          • thenoblepie says:

            Yes, all forms of society rely, to some extent or another, on coercion. In return you get a life that is hopefully a little better than nasty, brutish, and short.

            Modern democracies fare a little better in this regard in that they give you a tiny, mostly symbolic, bit of say as to the extent of that coercion and the ends to which it is yielded. Yes, that subjects you to the tyranny of the masses. But most of your fellow citizens seem to agree that taxes are OK, or don’t seem to care too much.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            This is the suggestion that I have “implicitly” agreed to have a government merely by residing in the government’s territory.

            This is the consequence of property rights. The same property rights that you are absolutely OK with as long as the entity owning the property is not formally called a ‘government.’

            So imagine that the US and all other countries are corporations who own all the land. As you can see, we are already living under the logical endpoint of libertarianism (all property ending up in the hands of the view).

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            Do you see a moral difference between moving to a condo building and signing an agreement with the building’s private owner to pay monthly fees, and living in a condo building with a private owner, having the building then taken over by the mafia, and then paying monthly fees demanded by the mafia?

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            I don’t understand how the two situations are different for me. If I understand your examples correctly, I pay rent in both situations, just to different people. Is the idea that I should feel bad for the building owner? Or is the idea that the mafia won’t honor the contract?

            I also don’t understand how the situations are supposed to be elucidating, as both situations are worse than being in a democratic state where all tenants collectively get to decide how the rent money is spent and get to replace the guy running the place.

            My expected end point of unrestricted capitalism is all capital in the hands of very few people who have to much power that there is no social mobility between capital owners and non-capital owners. I see this as very bad.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            The difference is you voluntarily agreed to an explicit contract with the condo owner prior to moving in (which I consider just), and had a set of demands imposed on you by force from a violent occupier in the mafia (which I consider unjust). That seems different to me, but I suppose our moral intuitions might be different enough that you consider a mafia taking control of your condo building and demanding payment to be just, or making a voluntary contract with a condo owner to be unjust.

          • skef says:

            It seems to me that the contrast you’re drawing is too stark. How about this:

            You move into a house. There are no police in the neighborhood, but there are three local gangs/mafias/etc. Your neighbor says “hey, you better make a protection agreement with one of them, of you’ll be in for it.” You contact one and agree to pay protection money. Call it a “contract”.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            You seem to be using the ‘mafia’ in a way that implies all kinds of bad things, but you refuse to spell out exactly what the bad things are. To me that comes across as rhetorical trickery, where you try to get me to adopt a position by insinuating things, yet without making it clear enough so I can actually address those points.

            In low-regulation environments, we see a lot of behavior that to me, comes across as rather mafia-like. For example, the behavior by large property owners against natives in certain places in S-America. I think that you are a Utopian thinker who ignores all these things and only sees the bad things in regulations, like Marx only saw the bad things in capitalism.

            Furthermore, you seem to imply that signing a contract is inherently free from coercion, which is of course nonsense. It’s easy to make your argument look better if you steelman your own position to such an extent that it has no relationship with reality, while also weakmanning the position of the other to such an extent that it has no relationship with reality.

          • Cliff says:

            Appje,

            I think the point is that the government, like the mafia, will use force against you if you do not comply with their demands. A condo owner can never use force against you, they only have civil remedies.

            Anyway this whole side topic is rather irrelevant, and has nothing to do with “property rights”. The government does not claim property rights over all land, it claims sovereign rights within its territory, and your position is that those rights are justified by my implicit consent. However, this is a terrible argument, for example for the reasons already given above that you ignore.

            By the way, I’m not sure that the lives of hunter-gatherer tribes outside the ambit of government are nasty, brutish and short.

          • skef says:

            It’s your belief that civil law isn’t ultimately backed up by force?

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Very briefly, the problem with this suggestion is that it presupposes that the state owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction, or that for some other reason it has the right to exclude people from that area. But there is no way to establish such a right on the part of the state, unless one has already shown that the state has legitimate authority.

            You haven’t shown individuals are in any better shape than the state, here.

            Back here in the real world, what is meant by “property rights” is that if the mafia tries to take your apartment block away from you, you can call those mean men with guns that charge taxes and they will come kick the mafia out. Yeah, in some sense it’s just a bigger mafia. You don’t have to call the cops to take your building back if you don’t want to!

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            I thought referring to the mafia would be a well-understood concept, so didn’t get into details. They operate on the basis of using physical coercion to obtain their ends. They run protection rackets, demanding payment for their protection services, but you can’t refuse their offer or you’ll get your legs broken or store smashed.

            I didn’t ‘refuse’ to spell things out, I used a term I thought would be well understood and have expanded my explanation after being requested to do so.

            you seem to imply that signing a contract is inherently free from coercion, which is of course nonsense.

            I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, as someone could obviously hold a gun to my head to get me to sign a contract which would not be free from coercion. Generally, I think signing an explicit contract with a condo owner prior to moving there signals a higher level of consent than say, the mafia using physical coercion to take control of a building and demanding payment from the current tenants.

          • IrishDude says:

            @skef

            You move into a house. There are no police in the neighborhood, but there are three local gangs/mafias/etc. Your neighbor says “hey, you better make a protection agreement with one of them, of you’ll be in for it.” You contact one and agree to pay protection money. Call it a “contract”.

            I’d call that an improvement over the current situation. At least the three gangs would have to compete for customers, and would have to try to provide good value for their services.

            Still, if refusal to pay either of the three gangs leads to one of them smashing your house or your body, then the level of consent in this situation is much less than one where you can refuse their services and not get hurt by them. I’d say the gangs were acting unjustly. You?

          • skef says:

            @IrishDude

            Why is that relevant? Am I supposed to engage the gangs in Socratic dialog on that question?

            And they don’t need to compete for customers as much as cause enough mayhem so that you need them.

          • IrishDude says:

            @skef

            Why is that relevant? Am I supposed to engage the gangs in Socratic dialog on that question?

            It’s relevant to morality, no?

            Perhaps you’re not interested in moral debate, though this whole thread is talking about ethics.

          • skef says:

            Premise: Any need for security implies a significant propensity for immoral behavior of one sort or another.

            That is, point to a world with a need for security by force and it is already likely to contain bad actors.

            Conclusion: The bare question “Has something unethical happened here?” isn’t likely to be illuminating.

            The question “Did I act unethically in this situation?” might well be illuminating. So might “Did this system do a good job of minimizing the effects of bad actors?”

            It’s not warranted to just stipulate that only the good guys will have the weapons. it is not at all clear how “competition” would make it such that only the good guys have the weapons, or that one can get away with only dealing with weaponed good-guys. So I fail to see how the question of whether the gangs are acting badly has much relevance to the discussion.

          • IrishDude says:

            @skef

            My claim is that consent to an action, such as providing payment to another person, is highly relevant to whether something is moral. This claim isn’t saying that consent is the only relevant element to morality, just that it is highly relevant. Do you disagree that whether or not someone consents to an action is highly relevant to the morality of that action?

            I have a strong presumption against initiating physical coercion against other people. This presumption can be overridden, but not lightly and not without serious consideration, given how important I think it is to not hit, steal from, or threaten other people.

            It may be the case that without a group of people using violence or threats of violence to coerce payment for their security services that terrible things would happen, but before such a scheme could be justified I’d think people would want to very carefully weigh that overriding people’s consent is a high cost that may not be worth it, and want to very carefully think through potential alternative solutions that involved less or no coercion from the security providers.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            That is a highly simplistic model of how organized crime operates. Modern mafia organizations do many things without any violence, for example, in my country they pay people to rent out their house or such to grow pot, which is a very bad deal given the reward/risk ratio, but many people take that deal willingly. The negative consequences that these people tend to suffer comes from the state punishing them, not the mafia directly.

            Furthermore, the large sums that the mafia earns need to be laundered and invested, which they tend to do in ways that are as inconspicuous as possible. So if the mafia takes over a business or a flat, it is extremely unlikely that they will use violence against ordinary citizens for a small payoff when doing so is a substantial risk to their far more financially rewarding operations.

            I hope that this makes it clear why I couldn’t take as a given, that the mafia would be worse. The condo owner with whom you signed a contract can easily start to nasty things as well, like engage in plausibly deniable sabotage if he wants you to leave (in my country, it can be hard to kick people out who rent a house/apartment).

            Ultimately, the signing of a contract doesn’t make you immune to bad behavior by the other party, it doesn’t mean that you had sufficient choice to be able to turn down a coercive contract, it doesn’t mean that you have the skills/knowledge/etc to understand what exactly you are signing up for, etc, etc.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            That is a highly simplistic model of how organized crime operates.

            Wikipedia definition of Mafia:
            “A mafia is a type of organized crime syndicate whose primary activities are protection racketeering, the arbitration of disputes between criminals, and the organizing and oversight of illegal agreements and transactions.[1] Mafias often engage in secondary activities such as gambling, loan sharking, drug-trafficking, and fraud.”

            So protection racketeering is one of the primary activities of the mafia. For a nice definition of a protection racket I’ll again go to Wikipedia:
            “A protection racket is a scheme whereby a group provides protection to businesses or other groups through violence outside the sanction of the law. Through the credible threat of violence, the racketeers deter people from swindling, robbing, injuring, sabotaging or otherwise harming their clients. Protection rackets tend to appear in markets where the police and judiciary cannot be counted on to provide legal protection, either because of incompetence (as in weak or failed states) or illegality (black markets).

            Protection rackets are often indistinguishable in practice from extortion rackets since, for the latter, there will be an implied threat that the racketeers themselves may attack the business if it fails to pay for their protection. In an extortion racket, the racketeers agree simply to not attack a business. In a protection racket the criminals agree to defend a business from any attack. Conversely, extortion racketeers will have to defend their clients if threatened by a rival gang to avoid the client transferring their allegiance.

            Certain scholars, such as Diego Gambetta, classify criminal organizations engaged in protection racketeering as “mafia”, as the racket is popular with both the Sicilian Mafia and Italian-American Mafia.”

            Given the definition of mafia, I don’t think my statement that “They [the mafia] operate on the basis of using physical coercion to obtain their ends. They run protection rackets, demanding payment for their protection services, but you can’t refuse their offer or you’ll get your legs broken or store smashed.” is a highly simplistic model. Mafia might do other things in addition to running protection rackets, but that’s one of their primary activities.

          • skef says:

            @IrishDude

            Consent is certainly relevant, but also relative. My deciding to buy life insurance on the present open market would be a pretty “pure” instance of consent. My paying protection money to one of three gangs, knowing that my home will be trashed otherwise, is a pretty dubious instance. Putting a gun to my head and giving me a choice of two papers to sign would be just slightly more dubious.

            I therefore see it as quite important whether the security aspect of ancap would devolve into gangs or warlordism, or alternatively into true anarchy of (frequently applied) use of force. It does not seem at all obvious to me that it wouldn’t. One way of imagining the result would be as if the police had the qualities of a typical HOA, which is another contract people enter into and then are subsequently infuriated by. (“A libertarian is a communist who’s never had to deal with a homeowner’s association.”)

            From what else you’ve said you don’t sound like a more deontological ancaper who views the only issue as whether one gives consent in some sense, rather than the actual sort of life that would result. But you do sound like someone with a great deal of faith in market power, whereas I suspect that well-functioning markets take some degree of security, and enforcement of property rights when necessary, as a premise and therefore can’t create those conditions in and of themselves.

          • IrishDude says:

            Consent is certainly relevant, but also relative.

            I agree. On a prior OT I said “I see consent as on a continuum, with the ability to exit a situation being a relevant factor. ”

            I therefore see it as quite important whether the security aspect of ancap would devolve into gangs or warlordism, or alternatively into true anarchy of (frequently applied) use of force.

            I agree that’s quite important too. If I thought it likely, I wouldn’t advocate it. Of course, testing in the real world is the only way to find out for sure.

            One way of imagining the result would be as if the police had the qualities of a typical HOA, which is another contract people enter into and then are subsequently infuriated by.

            I bought into a neighborhood with a weak HOA. I found a set of rules that worked for me and don’t have any complaints. Some people do buy into neighborhoods with high fees and requirements though, and they might find they’re not happy with busy bodies nitpicking what they can do with their home. At least it’s relatively easier for them to move to another HOA than to another government!

            But you do sound like someone with a great deal of faith in market power

            I think free markets have sound principles and a good track record, so I wouldn’t call my support for them faith-based. I recognize markets have limitations as well, but so do governments.

            whereas I suspect that well-functioning markets take some degree of security, and enforcement of property rights when necessary

            I agree that security and property rights enforcement services are necessary, we just seem to disagree about the best system for providing those services.

          • skef says:

            Of course, testing in the real world is the only way to find out for sure.

            Usually people who make this claim make it as “competition + culture -> security” and then the argument becomes about culture. If you don’t think culture is necessary, then acceptable competitive security arrangements should tend to arise out of security vacuums, and that doesn’t seem to happen. The idea that there’s been no “real-world” testing is wrong.

            And, of course, your proposition couldn’t really be disproved, because of the libertarians-don’t-agree-on-anything problem. Run 100 such “real world experiments” and the general conclusion would be “well, that wasn’t real libertarianism anyway”. CF: Commumism.

            I would say that the basic obstacle your theory faces is that people who face actual problems with their day-to-day security don’t tend to give a shit about the issues that ancaps do. That experiment has been run many times. Some asshole will step in, and those under his protection will not think “the justice of what he’s doing to party #3 questionable, let’s not support him.” So ancap seems, at a minimum, highly unstable.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            I believe that organized crime has evolved and the meaning of the word has evolved with it. For example, the large list of international organized crime on the wiki page for the mafia includes many organisations whose primary business model is not protection racketeering. AFAIK, the US mafia also no longer has this as their main business model. During prohibition they moved into the selling of illegal goods business, which was so profitable, that after prohibition ended, they kept doing it and sought other profitable ventures.

    • Deiseach says:

      I took the question about “five of your eight housemates” to mean literal physical force, as in “held you down and took the money from your wallet/purse by force against your will”. Not “everyone agreed at the start of the let to contribute to the shared expenses like paying the electricity bill”. I think taxation works more like the second case than the first.

      • Aapje says:

        Arguably I was not reading the questions in good faith. Then again, I am all too familiar with libertarians who equate taxes to physical force & I didn’t see why the question would be asked if that wasn’t the intended meaning. Very few people agree that a gang of criminals should be allowed to take someone else’s things.

        • Garrett says:

          Can you further clarify why you object to equating taxes to physical force? Sure, it isn’t proximate. But taxes are only able to be levied because of the threat of hauling somebody off to jail somewhere along the line.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Is expecting payment for services rendered equated to physical force?

            Because the threat of the force (of law, or otherwise) is behind that too.

          • IrishDude says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I think both can use physical force, but with an important difference. If I sign a contract with a landscaping company to mow my lawn in exchange for my payment, they may be reasonably justified in using force to obtain payment after they render services (with details depending on terms of the contract and potential breach clauses). What wouldn’t be reasonably justified is a landscaping company mowing my lawn without my consent, then sending me a bill, then using force to obtain payment if I don’t cooperate.

            I think it takes something more than just rendering service before a person/entity is justified in expecting payment and using force to obtain such. What are your thoughts?

          • The Nybbler says:

            What wouldn’t be reasonably justified is a landscaping company mowing my lawn without my consent, then sending me a bill, then using force to obtain payment if I don’t cooperate.

            We have private organizations which do that in the US, unfortunately; they’re called “Homeowners Associations” (and they’re as voluntary as any government).

          • IrishDude says:

            @The Nybbler

            I signed a contract with my HOA. I’ve never signed a contract with the federal, state, or local government.

          • Matt M says:

            HOAs are also small and easy to avoid. The prior discussion on Singapore seems relevant here. Reduce the US federal government to an area of one square mile and a population that can be measured in three digits, and THEN you can compare it to an HOA…

          • Aapje says:

            @Garrett

            For starters, there is a difference between a threat of violence with a (reasonable) ‘out’ and simply doing the violence. For example, I greatly prefer a robber who gives me the choice to hand over my wallet or get shot over a robber who shoots me and then takes my wallet.

            Even the physical force that happens to people who refuse to pay taxes barely registers to me as physical force. Basically, the worst thing that can happen is that you get put in a low security prison with mostly non-violent people, unless you value your life less than the tax money and start to shoot at the police. In my opinion, that is not on the system, but on the person who does that.

            So I pretty strongly feel that equating taxes to physical force is employing a superweapon. It is taking the power that the term ‘physical force’ has, because it refers to a broad category which includes many horrible things and takes that power to feed emotional anger at taxes way beyond what is reasonable (and thereby actually pushes people toward the kind of resistance that does get them hurt).

            Finally, there is the factor that HeelBearCub touched on, which is that you get both a vote on how the money is spent, as well as clear benefits. This includes not just individual services rendered, but also the many benefits from having an orderly society. I think that it is pretty clear that the latter greatly reduces the chance that you will suffer from physical violence (or other forms of suffering), while the physical force that an average person can expect due to the tax system is tiny by comparison. So complaining about the latter is short-sighted and IMHO a sign of a person with severe issues when it comes to priorities.

            It’s like the people who refuse to give their children vaccines because they have no understanding of the risk of the disease vs the risk of the vaccine. They see it as caring for their child. I see it as reckless behavior with a substantial negative average outcome for society.

            @IrishDude

            The world is imperfect. You didn’t get the choice to get born or not. You don’t get the choice which body, station, time, parents, etc you were born in. Part of growing up is learning to just deal instead of complaining about things that are not in your power to change.

            You almost certainly won the lottery of life if you get to post here, so excuse me if I don’t feel sorry for you that you never got a choice to be born somewhere different than an incredible rich country with an incredible benevolent government. There are roughly 7 billion people in the world who lived or live, who are/were born to nations or in times where they suffered a great deal compared to us. My grandfather was made to do forced labor. He was actually pretty lucky if you look at what happened to other people during that time. How lucky are we, compared to that!

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            Part of growing up is learning to just deal instead of complaining about things that are not in your power to change.

            Would you have had the same advice for abolitionists, who were not in any individual position to have the power to abolish slavery?

            I don’t consider my arguments to be complaints, but rather having a moral and economic debate on the merits of different systems.

            Though not religious, I take to heart the saying, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I’m doubtful my comments on SSC move the needle much towards people adopting my beliefs, but I engage in debate anyways mostly because I like the intellectual back-and-forth, and a little because potentially moving the needle even a tiny amount brings me some satisfaction.

            You almost certainly won the lottery of life if you get to post here, so excuse me if I don’t feel sorry for you that you never got a choice to be born somewhere different than an incredible rich country with an incredible benevolent government.

            What a weird comment. Has anything I’ve posted given a hint of seeking sympathy? I live a wonderful life with a loving family, supportive and fun friends, a lucrative and secure job, and a variety of fun and interesting hobbies. I live in a safe environment, am fortunate to have good health, and get to travel to cool places often. As far as governments go, I’m fortunate to live under a relatively uncorrupt one with a relatively free market. I’m appreciative of all the blessings I have in my life, those that are within my control and those that aren’t. I’m a happy person and a rational optimist.

            None of that means I think there isn’t room for improvement, or that because I live a good life I shouldn’t point out things I consider unjust.

            My grandfather was made to do forced labor. He was actually pretty lucky if you look at what happened to other people during that time. How lucky are we, compared to that!

            Agreed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Though not religious, I take to heart the saying, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

            Once I realized the second set was finite and small and the first set infinite, I decided it was no real flaw to not have that much serenity.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            Would you have had the same advice for abolitionists, who were not in any individual position to have the power to abolish slavery?

            Slavery was not the lesser evil nor do I believe that opposing slavery caused more suffering overall. My objection here is not that your position is ultimately better, but not feasible in the short term. I see you as I see most communists: people with well-meant ideals that work great in abstract philosophical discourse, but that have ruinous results if implemented in actual reality, where the claimed benefits won’t actually materialize and the ignored or downplayed risks turn out to result in rather extreme suffering.

            I don’t consider my arguments to be complaints, but rather having a moral and economic debate on the merits of different systems.

            I see the tax/social contract debate more as a conflict between deontological ethics vs more consequentialist beliefs. I understand why a deontological thinker sees taxes/a social contract as being on a continuum that includes forced labor and slavery and thus objects to that entire continuum.

            However, nature provides fundamental unfairness that we currently cannot prevent (and probably should not prevent, as inequality makes humans more resilient and adaptable). Given unequal starting points, equal rules will result in unequal outcomes. For me, this is where deontological ethics breaks down, because I don’t see it as fair for the outcomes to fully reflect the inequality of the inputs. So I strongly believe in pragmatic solutions to restrict this inequality. IMO, taxes (and the democratic social contract in general) are the most benevolent way to do this and overall, cause minimal suffering compared to all known alternatives.

            What a weird comment.

            I admit to being a bit frustrated at how much time libertarians tend to spend on debating the morality of taxes and the social contract, which to me comes across very much as ‘first world problems’ squared (my perception is that the only people who are concerned about this are those like you, who are both on top of the world and on top of the nation).

            Bureaucracy tends to be at its worst when it becomes mindlessly deontological. For example, after WW II, Jews who returned to Amsterdam from the camps were made to pay back lease payments for the land their house is on (if they owned a house)*, despite them being evicted from those homes and thus not being able to live there. Amsterdam bureaucrats reasoned that the municipality of Amsterdam didn’t evict the Jews, so it was not their problem and they made the (ridiculous) assumption that the Jews could sue those who occupied their house during the war. It was deontologically a not unreasonable position, consistent with how the law was applied before the war. Yet I see it as a travesty of inhuman behavior**.

            IMO, deontological libertarian argument against taxes and/or the social contract are extremely similar to this, in that it legitimatizes inhuman behavior by portraying small injustices as part of a class that includes much bigger injustices and then dismissing that entire category of injustices. This fails to account for the greater injustices that those small injustices prevent. Being ‘a winner’ in our system means that you are way less susceptible to those greater injustices and as such, I believe that there is a huge selfish component in the dismissal of taxes and/or the social contract, similar to how the Amsterdam bureaucrats held a philosophical position that conveniently made their lives easier and put the burdens on others. Note that I’m not accusing them or you of intentionally seeking to harm others, but merely of being subject to selfish bias that entire humankind suffers from (including me).

            * In Amsterdam, you generally cannot own the land on which your house is built, you have to lease it from the government, even if you do own the house.
            ** Eventually the Dutch government did make payments to Jewish organizations to compensate for things like this

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Taxes themselves seem awfully deontological to me. I’ve scoured the Form 1040 instructions in vain trying to find the Justifiable Evasion Worksheet.

          • Cliff says:

            Aapje,

            So your position is just that the ends justify the means. Fair enough, although then empirical considerations become paramount.

            It’s a bit comical to hear you say that being imprisoned in a “low-security” prison can hardly even be considered the use of force! Wow! So imprisoning you in my basement where there are no other prisoners and giving you plenty of food wouldn’t be force either, I guess.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @Cliff:

            So your position is just that the ends justify the means. Fair enough, although then empirical considerations become paramount.

            Do you always just read what you want to read instead of what people actually say?

          • Aapje says:

            @Cliff

            AFAIK, ‘the end justifies the means’ is typically used to accuse moral systems of optimizing one aspect at the expense of all others. The current semi-capitalist, semi-socialist, semi-democratic, semi-etc system inherently does not do this.

            For example, a libertarian can argue that it doesn’t respect property rights enough, but it clearly does so to some extent. A communist can argue that it doesn’t redistribute enough, but it clearly does so to some extent. Etc, etc.

            I consider this lack of singular focus and relative lack of dogma to be a great feature of the current system, which allows the system to find a balance between optimizing different aspects of the outcome and adapt to an imperfect and changing world.

            PS. As for your comment about the low-security prisons: you are moving the goal posts from physical force to force.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            You seem to think I’m a moral absolutist, but I’m not. As I said in my first reply to you on this thread “For the record, I think physical force can [be] justified in any of the cases, for the right extreme hypothetical”.

            As I said to a different poster “the principle I’m trying to put forward is that physical coercion, and even killing an innocent, can be just in situations where failure to use that coercion would result in a terrible outcome.”

            I don’t believe in the Non-Aggression Principle. I do believe in a strong presumption against aggression, but think it can justified to initiate physical coercion against others if the consequences of not doing so are terrible.

            My moral philosophy is sensitive to consequences.

            I see you as I see most communists: people with well-meant ideals that work great in abstract philosophical discourse, but that have ruinous results if implemented in actual reality, where the claimed benefits won’t actually materialize and the ignored or downplayed risks turn out to result in rather extreme suffering.

            As I said, my moral philosophy is sensitive to consequences. If free markets led to widespread extreme suffering and government led to widespread wealth and happiness, then I’d support more government and less free markets.

            However, I think you underestimate the negative consequences of government:
            *Democide and wars that caused over 100 million deaths in the 20th century.
            *Restrictive immigration/emigration policies that keep billions of destitute people locked under corrupt and authoritarian regimes.
            *Drug wars that lock millions of peaceful people in cages and cause turf/gang wars in urban areas that devastates the inner-city poor.
            *Regulations that benefit large companies (who have compliance departments) against new and small businesses.
            *Licensing that creates large barriers to entry for poor people that want to start their own business.
            *Welfare that disincentivizes marriages and contributes to broken families among the poor.
            *Tariffs that raise the prices consumers pay for goods, leaving them with less money to pay for other necessities.
            *And so on…

            I also think you underestimate the benefits of free markets, which are responsible for bringing hundreds of millions of people out of desperate poverty in just China alone. It wasn’t government wealth redistribution that raised up the desperate poor, it was an increasing respect for private property and free trade that allowed the poor to raise themselves up, the same as all the poor that immigrated to America and made better lives for themselves, before the rise of the welfare state.

            You seem to think political rulers are required for prosperity and I disagree. I’d rather debate this point of contention, than talk about where I rank in the world (“my perception is that the only people who are concerned about this are those like you, who are both on top of the world and on top of the nation”) or whether I’m selfish or not.

          • Aapje says:

            You seem to think political rulers are required for prosperity and I disagree.

            I have a stronger claim, actually: political rulers are inevitable.

            I also believe that worldwide trade to such an extent as we have now cannot be done without solid regulation.

          • IrishDude says:

            I have a stronger claim, actually: political rulers are inevitable.

            I’d like to discuss that claim with you more on another OT some time.

            I also believe that worldwide trade to such an extent as we have now cannot be done without solid regulation.

            Are you familiar with Lex Mercatoria?

            A snippet:
            “Is the State necessary for flourishing international trade? Conventional wisdom thinks so. According to that wisdom, private international commerce would wither without intergovernmental treaties, State courts dealing with international affairs, and State-crafted legal practices for international merchants. Some commentators have gone so far as to suggest that a world legal system is needed to ensure the continual growth of international commerce.

            Superficially, at least, the idea that State involvement might be indispensable for international trade seems sensible. Without it, how could merchants from different legal systems—not to mention cultures, languages, and religions—make binding contracts, providing the security they need to trade with persons beyond their nations’ borders? Without a world court for private international commercial agreements, what law would take precedence in commercial disputes? Which nation’s courts would handle merchants’ disagreements? And how could merchants secure a fair hearing in the courts of their adversaries? Without a supranational legal system, or at least national governments’ cooperation, these and myriad other potential problems stemming from commercial conflicts between parties from different countries would seem insurmountable.

            Yet private parties have surmounted these problems—without government. International trade first took off under a private international legal system called the lex mercatoria, or Law Merchant. It continues to thrive under private legal arrangements today.”

            See the article for more details.

    • MartMart says:

      I think an interesting ethical question that could cut thru the libertarian problem with taxes is
      “Is it just to assume a persons agreement to a collective contract to which most people have agreed to”

      Yes, taxes are extracted, on some level, by threat of force. But this isn’t quiet the same as having your roommates take your money for their education, because there is absolutely no reasonable expectation that your roommates will be allowed to take your money. Taxes work on the supposed agreement of “we’ll pay for your education (or whatever) when you need it (assuming certain qualification) and in exchange we’ll take from you a portion of your wages (with certain qualifications)” Of course, trouble is that no one actually ever signed the social contract, or had a reasonable choice not to. A bigger problem is that the contract doesn’t remain constant but tends to shift in details over time. So it’s not a perfect idea.
      However, taxation is in the foundation of virtually any state imaginable, and certainly has been a key component of every single system of government ever. So the hardcore libertarian philosophy of objecting to all taxation on principle comes awfully close to invalidating that philosophy as a whole.

      • wysinwygymmv says:

        Participation in the labor market is also involuntary, unless there is an alternative means to procure food and shelter. Since dropouts don’t get free land to start farms on, participation in “the free market” is every bit as involuntary as paying taxes.

        “You’re always free to starve to death!” Well in that case, you’re always free to get punched in the face! Any philosophy that ranks punching someone in the face as more immoral than allowing them to starve to death when you have the means to prevent it is not humane and not a reasonable set of prescriptions for human behavior.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I get the impression that you’re not being skeptical enough of your own alternative.

          If you’re going to rank punching someone in the face as morally preferable to letting them starve, then you’re necessarily saying you’re okay with punching farmers in the face unless they grow food for everyone. Just to spell it out: this is effectively slavery. I doubt you advocate slavery.

          The means to prevent people from suffering typically lies through other people going through some effort. Food, clothing, shelter, health care, etc. do not rain from the sky.

          • random832 says:

            It’s not really just “letting” them starve. The argument seems to be that the majority have created (or passively support) a system that makes it impossible (or unreasonably difficult) for people to support themselves “off the grid”. That same majority (which includes, yes, farmers) therefore have taken something from the minority who are unable to prosper within that system, and owe them something in return.

            (In fact, one could argue that farming is the original sin here, since it pushed hunter-gatherers out of viability)

      • Jiro says:

        People do things, directly aimed at you, in order to tax you.

        People don’t do things to require you to participate in the market. You may have a need to participate in the market, but this need results from nobody’s action. In other words, “involuntary” may be the wrong word–the idea is that there’s no people making it involuntary. Perhaps “uncoerced”.

        • Spookykou says:

          Didn’t Scott once write on the idea that society as a whole robbed people of the option to live off the land, or whatever, and so people who feel ‘worthless’ shouldn’t feel ‘worthless’ because society chose to sacrifice your life style options for the greater good, and while most people are probably better off, in return society owes it to you, the worse off, to take care of you.

          This is something I often think about when people bring up libertarian think, but nobody else ever seems to mention. Maybe I am misremembering or making up the essay in question.

          A more direct reply though.

          People do things, directly aimed at you, in order to tax you.

          People don’t do things to require you to participate in the market.

          But in both cases people just set up a system that punishes you for opting out of it, right?

          More importantly, one of those systems, when opted out of, has you starving to death. The other system, when opted out of, has you feed and housed.

          p.s. I wish people would do more things directly aimed at taxing me, like doing my taxes for me.

          • This is something I often think about when people bring up libertarian think, but nobody else ever seems to mention.

            I spent an old article and a chapter of the third edition of my first book responding to an argument of this sort and offering an alternative approach. You might possibly find them of interest.

          • Jiro says:

            Didn’t Scott once write on the idea that society as a whole robbed people of the option to live off the land, or whatever, and so people who feel ‘worthless’ shouldn’t feel ‘worthless’ because society chose to sacrifice your life style options for the greater good, and while most people are probably better off, in return society owes it to you, the worse off, to take care of you.

            That’s like arguing that since society pays people’s medical expenses, society should also restrict people’s behavior because their behavior can result in medical expenses. You’re bootstrapping taking away one right into an excuse to take away another.

            If society robs you of the ability to live off the land, then society cannot get any other rights by doing so. “Society robs you, so now society has the right to rob other people to pay you back” doesn’t follow.

          • random832 says:

            If society robs you of the ability to live off the land, then society cannot get any other rights by doing so. “Society robs you, so now society has the right to rob other people to pay you back” doesn’t follow.

            This is a shell game. Society is made up of the very same people who are being “robbed” to pay you back. Taboo the word and you get: “Other people rob you, so now those same other people should pay you back”, which follows perfectly well.

    • IrishDude says:

      Just a note that a little over 100 people have responded to the survey. SurveyMonkey only allows 100 responses unless I pay them money to get access to more, so I’m closing the survey now. I’ll work on data analysis over the next week or so, and present the results in a future OT.

      Since there was a good turnout for this survey, it would be nice to do another one in the future. Next time, I’d like to take input from other posters before doing the survey as I got some critiques on how I worded things in the survey, and I’d want to incorporate that input up front before releasing a survey. If anyone has thoughts on a topic they’d like to survey, let me know.

      Thanks to everyone who responded, I appreciate it!

  31. Levantine says:

    Controversy about whether a government needs secrecy.
    At least two highly qualified scholars have expressed themselves … these ways:

    Carroll Quigley, 1976: “Secrecy in government exists for only one reason: to prevent the American people know, from knowing what’s going on. The idea that anything that is going in our government is not known to the Russians about the moment it happens is nonsense.”

    (http://www.carrollquigley.net/Lectures/The-State-of-Individuals-AD-1776-1976.htm)

    Douglas Valentine, 2017: “They [CIA] create the myths we believe. ……. The most important fiction of all is the need for secrecy to preserve our national security.”

    (http://www.ancreport.com/report/valiant-verbal-warrior-demythologizes-cia/)

    I hardly know what to think about this.

    • dwietzsche says:

      The main function of secrecy has always been to ensure our spies don’t get gacked. After that, it’s to make sure specific espionage methods are not compromised (if a person knows exactly how he’s being spied on he can take measures). Our spies get gacked all the time, and espionage methods are frequently neutered, so these aren’t theoretical issues invented merely to defend a secrecy state. One can argue about how extensive the secrecy machinery should be, and pretty much everyone, even in the intelligence services, thinks some of the more habitual classification methods go overboard. But classification regimes aren’t even the primary way governments keep secrets from the public.

      • christhenottopher says:

        The trick with secrecy is if you had enough information to really determine the main purpose of secrecy, there’s a good chance that you don’t have enough secrecy to achieve your objectives.

        But we have to know that preserving spy networks cannot be the primary purpose of secrecy, because why then would nations have spy networks to begin with? We spy to get secrets. What secrets are there to get? Who the otherside is using to spy on us. Why does that matter? Because if we don’t have a spy network we can’t keep a spy network secret…

        There are of course good reasons outside spy networks to keep secrets. Military technology and deployments are some of the clearest examples. Hell even if we weren’t worried about other nations attacking the government has a pretty clear interest in not having every random person knowing things like “how to build a fusion nuke.” There are of course other things such as witness protection lists or whether or not some of the employees will be having a surprise birthday party for their boss that are non-military and fine to keep secret as well.

        But then we’ve got to consider that there are lots of reasons why government officials might want secrecy without such a good reason, and indeed they would also have incentive to keep the amount of this secret keeping quiet lest pressure comes upon them to open up. If you make a dumb mistake, keeping that secret is natural for people. Also secrecy makes certain projects possible that might not otherwise be the case (as an example, the Tuskegee Experiments). And of course secrecy makes corruption easier. So government does have incentives to be secret for not only good reasons but also for bad reasons. Thus the standard assumption should be that governments (and corporations and non-profits and individual people) probably keep more secrets than they should because that’s where their incentives lie.

        Meanwhile outsiders have a similar issue in the opposite direction. They of course would like to uncover all the corruptions, mismanagement, and evil doings of government, but they might also simply like knowing information regardless of the risk or want to use information for bad purposes (like building a nuke for, well, almost any reason really). So people outside governments probably push for more secrets to be revealed than should actually be uncovered.

        However, governments have way more power and money than any smaller subsection of society, so working this out they probably have more means of keeping secrets than outsiders have of revealing them. Therefore the most likely working assumption should be that the balance of secrecy is on the government’s side and goes beyond the amount of secrecy that an objective observer would agree with.

      • JDG1980 says:

        Serious question: how useful is spying? In the past century or so, how many major geostrategic gains have been made as a result of international espionage? One obvious instance that comes to mind is that the Soviet Union got atomic weapons probably ~5-20 years earlier than they might otherwise have because of infiltration of the Manhattan Project. (Of course, at the time, the Soviets were at least nominally our allies.) How many other instances?

        I sometimes wonder if we overestimate the real-world importance of spying because of fictional evidence (James Bond, etc.).

        • Nornagest says:

          The Enigma decryption effort comes immediately to mind, but that’s SIGINT, not HUMINT.

        • cassander says:

          The soviets stole tens of billions worth of technology during the cold war, not just the atom bomb. After the mid-50s, techint, as it was called, was without a doubt the most successful sort of soviet espionage. And the sums were substantial even if you assume the the KGB’s evaluation of the worth of its own contribution was somewhat exaggerated.

        • Controls Freak says:

          A lot will depend on what you think fits the category of “major geostrategic gains in the past century or so”. Most of the major events had at least one high-profile corresponding espionage event. US involvement in WWI was kicked off by the SIGINT-gathered Zimmermann Telegram. WWII saw the breaking of Enigma and Purple (SIGINT) and the Oslo Report (HUMINT). During the Cold War, the Soviets obtained nuclear technology and all kinds of other info through tons of different means. The Venona project was significant in stopping much of the bleeding. Michael Hayden has called recent Chinese cyber-espionage against the US “the greatest transfer of wealth in human history”.

          That probably covers most of the “major geostrategic” changes. Lower-level efforts certainly shape all kinds of events, though. It’s difficult to ever take one “major geostrategic gain” and link it directly to any one particular action (or type of action) at all.

          • Matt M says:

            “Michael Hayden has called recent Chinese cyber-espionage against the US “the greatest transfer of wealth in human history”.”

            Curious about the basis for this claim.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Probably the same sort of twisted logic that considers copyright infringement to be a transfer of wealth (i.e. theft).

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      One of the best writers I’ve seen on the subject of government secrecy is Marc Ambinder. His book, Deep State, I consider a must-read.

  32. gbdub says:

    HuffPo supports Trump immigration restrictions! Err, on H1Bs anyway.

    But the case seems relatively compelling that US firms are abusing the H1B program to reduce wages. Both by hiring foreign workers when American workers (who expect higher salary, either due to skill or experience or just being American) and by keeping foreign workers stuck at one company with no negotiating power (H1Bs do not automatically transfer from the original job). This is definitely illegal, but not well enforced.

    My question is, doesn’t this same reasoning apply at the other end of the income scale to companies employing unskilled illegal immigrants? In that case the employers have even more leverage over the employees, and again seem to be able to bid down wages because of it.

    Basically, it looks like HuffPo has stumbled on a good economic argument for increased enforcement of immigration restrictions, but are unwilling to apply it broadly. What am I missing?

    • Matt M says:

      I would suggest a more cynical interpretation, wherein upper/middle class left-leaning people with professional status are greatly worried about being displaced by skilled foreign labor, and not at all worried about being displaced by strawberry pickers who can’t speak English.

      It’s all well and good to oppose protectionism, until someone wants to take it away from your career field…

    • Corey says:

      Leftists square the circle via amnesty, that is, make illegals legal and then employers have only the same leverages they have against anyone else.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Doesn’t the problem just repeat? Once the illegal immigrants have been given amnesty, and thus the employers don’t have special “we’ll call the immigration authorities” leverage, etc … there still exists the same demand for labour that can be paid less than a legal wage under the table, and it does nothing to fix the factors that make people want to leave their countries of origin.

      • gbdub says:

        That only fixes half the problem though – it removes the “abusive leverage” but makes the “everyone gets a Pakistani bricklayer’s idea of prosperity” problem worse, by massively increasing the supply of labor willing to work for cheap. Unless you mean “we’re serious about this being the last amnesty this time”, but our track record on that is not good.

        Anyway even if it does square the circle, it’s not what HuffPo is proposing – they want stricter laws and enforcement, i.e. less H1B immigration! How do you square that with wanting more unskilled immigration?

        • MartMart says:

          Question: Given the rapidly rising standard of living around the world, especially at the lower income portions, how long before the future Pakistani bricklayers idea of prosperity exceeds our own?

          • Nornagest says:

            The naive answer, looking at the graph, is “never”.

            Naive answer is naive, of course. If you zoom in on Pakistan’s GDP curve, you could very roughly fit it to an exponential with a doubling time of around 20 years; since US GDP growth is roughly linear, that would have them overtaking us in around 120 years. But that’s such a long time that the prediction’s basically useless; there’s too much that could happen to either country.

    • JulieK says:

      My question is, doesn’t this same reasoning apply at the other end of the income scale to companies employing unskilled illegal immigrants? In that case the employers have even more leverage over the employees, and again seem to be able to bid down wages because of it.

      Basically, it looks like HuffPo has stumbled on a good economic argument for increased enforcement of immigration restrictions, but are unwilling to apply it broadly. What am I missing?

      The second half of the argument could also support amnesty, so that employers no longer have special leverage over (formerly) illegal immigrants.

      • gbdub says:

        Potentially, but what HuffPo is proposing for H1Bs does not look like “amnesty” – there’s still a discrepancy in how they treat the two classes of immigrants.

    • J Mann says:

      Many leftists believe that low wage labor is a special case where increasing minimum wages doesn’t increase unemployment, due to some economic work by Card and Krueger.

      I think they use that to squint past immigration effects – if we let in 10 million people willing to do minimum wage work, but then also increase minimum wage to $15/hour, there will be work for everyone because Card and Kruger.

      Alternately, they believe that the work that entry level undocumented immigrants do (agriculture, domestic services, construction) is work that current citizens won’t do at any wage.

      • skef says:

        Alternately, they believe that the work that entry level undocumented immigrants do (agriculture, domestic services, construction) is work that current citizens won’t do at any wage.

        Is this a leftist thing? I thought it was more of an employers-in-those-sectors thing.

        • J Mann says:

          I think the employer view of low-skilled immigrant labor is probably about the same as the employer view of high-skilled immigrant labor – that without immigration, wages would be higher and there would be fewer total jobs, but US-born unemployment would probably be lower.

          Here are a couple pieces on both sides that overlap on that conclusion, I think:

          https://openborders.info/immigrants-do-jobs-natives-wont-do/

          http://cis.org/are-there-really-jobs-americans-wont-do

          • skef says:

            I guess the “any wage” makes a difference. But of course taken literally that would be a strawman interpretation.

            I think beliefs along these lines are fairly common: “Without immigrant labor, this farm would not exist here, because at the wages we would have to pay our products would not be competitive with imported products. It’s of benefit to have the farm here in the country because of the taxes we pay, freshness, etc, so we need immigrant labor.”

            Of course, that doesn’t make those beliefs accurate. Some employers tend to remain stubbornly convinced of how much they “should” be paying employees.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “Alternately, they believe that the work that entry level undocumented immigrants do (agriculture, domestic services, construction) is work that current citizens won’t do at any wage.”

        Relevant to that argument: “How this garlic farm went from a labor shortage to over 150 people on its applicant waitlist“:

        Christopher Ranch, which grows garlic on 5,000 acres in Gilroy, Calif., announced recently that it would hike pay for farmworkers from $11 an hour to $13 hour this year, or 18%, and then to $15 in 2018. That’s four years earlier than what’s required by California’s schedule for minimum wage increases.

        Ken Christopher, vice president at Christopher Ranch, said the effect of the move was immediately obvious. At the end of last year, the farm was short 50 workers needed to help peel, package and roast garlic. Within two weeks of upping wages in January, applications flooded in. Now the company has a wait-list 150 people long.

        “I knew it would help a little bit, but I had no idea that it would solve our labor problem,” Christopher said.

    • Deiseach says:

      Basically, it looks like HuffPo has stumbled on a good economic argument for increased enforcement of immigration restrictions, but are unwilling to apply it broadly. What am I missing?

      The optics. It’s easier to get a romanticised “Grapes of Wrath” vibe going about poor Mexican peasant migrants wanting to get a slice of the American Dream (even though according to this, “about 78.84% of the population of the country lives in urban areas, meaning that only 21.16% live in rural area”) and feel that you are really being a social hero, than to face that “big companies want to employ skilled and highly-educated workers at cheaper rates and will preferentially import foreigners, who can be tied down under conditions akin to indenture, than hire Americans” where you’re not chiding redneck Trump voters in the Rust Belt about being xenophobic and paranoid about “illegals took muh jahb!”, but have to face up to the fact that it’s the sophisticated coastal-based organisations that donate to solidly Blue political candidates doing this.

    • Zakharov says:

      There are plenty of people on the left opposed to immigration, mostly for economic rather than cultural reasons. Based on the contents of the article, the author is one of them; his arguments apply just as well to low-skill labor. Economic protectionism was once the central pillar of leftism, and it’s still got support among many.

      That said, there are people who support undocumented immigrants and also have problems with H1Bs. The concern is that H1B visas are unfair to the immigrants themselves because they make it difficult to switch jobs, and should be changed to be more permissive.

  33. quarint says:

    Someone asked in the previous thread if Le Pen was going up.
    It is true that former favorite Fillon is having trouble facing suspicions of corruption and an investigation on the way. He dropped to 3rd place in the polls behind centrist Macron, while Le Pen is comfortably 1st and almost certain to qualify for the 2nd round.
    However, she would still lose pretty heavily against either of them in the 2nd round. Indeed, a large part of the left would vote Fillon with no hesitation in order to block her, as they have done in the past. And the pro-liberalism part of the right would easily vote for Macron against her, along with the left. She could grab the catholic part of Fillon’s electorate, as well as the most socialist, anti-european part of the left, but she would still be short on votes.
    If the election were tomorrow, she would have very, very slim chances of winning it. She will need a huge turnaround before the election.

    • mnov says:

      Le Pen currently has about a 1 in 3 chance to be the next president if you go by the bookies, but that might reflect that the runoff is three months away and (based on the past two years) there’s about a 1 in 3 chance of a ‘big’ attack in Germany or France between now and then.

      • quarint says:

        1 in 3 seems overestimated to me, I’m pretty sure the betting market is influenced by both Trump and the Brexit’s wins, when the elections format and the traditonal anti-FN coalition make it much more difficult for Le Pen.
        Even a big terrorist attack wouldn’t be enough in my opinion, at least one of the same kind or caliber as those we’ve seen these past years.
        There actually was a very highly publicized terrorist attack during the 2012 campaign, as a lone terrorist broke into a jewish school and slaughtered kids and teachers, then was chased and killed a few days later. But Le Pen didn’t even qualify for the 2nd round.
        Right after the Paris attacks in November 2015, were the regional elections and the Front National didn’t win a single one.
        What I’m thinking of when I say a big turnaround would have to be Fillon’s disqualification by the evolution of the investigation, and some comparable incident for Macron. Even then, I believe the socialist candidate, who is the next in line, would be the favorite against her.

        • Aapje says:

          @quarint

          Why would it be harder for Le Pen than Trump due to the election format? Both the US and France essentially have a two-stage process, where extremist outliers can take advantage of other candidates splitting the vote in the first round (the primaries in the US) and then are left as the only representative of their side in the next round. In 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the second round, this way.

          The runoff in France is only marginally different from the actual election in the US, which has become a runoff in practice as candidates that don’t belong to the two main parties don’t have much chance or influence.

          The real question is whether polarization in France has become so strong that a large part of the populace will favor Le Pen over Fillon or Macron.

          • quarint says:

            Yes, the extremists can take advantage of a split vote in the first round like Le Pen did, but they don’t represent a “side” as Trump represented the Republican side. Fillon voters would definitely not default to Le Pen against Macron like Cruz voters defaulted to Trump against Clinton. Cruz and Trump are still from the same party, when Fillon and Le Pen come from parties (UMP and FN) that have always fought each other and with clear ideological divides. The divide has moved from immigration to economy, but it’s still there. Polls say Fillon’s electorate would split about 50/50 between Macron and Le Pen, which only takes her up to 35% with the current numbers.
            And of course, Le Pen would actually need 50% of the popular vote to win the election, unlike Trump.

          • Aapje says:

            There is also a ideological divide between Cruz and Trump. Ultimately, all runoff political systems boil down to many voters having to making huge ideological sacrifices, as there are only two options.

            Again, the only reason why fewer people would round off their political views to Le Pen than to Macron, is because they find Le Pen more off putting than Macron, which again, has to do with the level of polarization if France.

            That has nothing to do with the election format.

            And of course, Le Pen would actually need 50% of the popular vote to win the election, unlike Trump.

            OK, this is the only part of your comment that actually gives an argument why the election format has an effect and I agree with you that this makes it harder for Le Pen.

          • quarint says:

            @Aapje
            Well, shit. I meant to reply to your comment but since we’re too deep in the thread there is no reply button, and I reported your comment accidentally, even with the confirmation popup. Hopefully Scott sees this.

            Anyway, back to the topic.
            So, on one hand, we agree that the format of the election makes it harder for Le Pen than for Trump – the 50% of the popular vote part.
            I also agree that what we’re discussing about Fillon’s electorate has to do with polarization, not with the election format. I am not sure were I implied the opposite, I was bouncing off your comment about each 2nd round candidate being a representative of his own side.
            And while there is, indeed, an ideological divide between Cruz and Trump, as I said, they are still from the same party, and represent the same side, unlike Fillon and Le Pen.

      • TenMinute says:

        Big terrorist attacks with dozens of murders are just “daily life” now. Even the Prime Minister comes right out and says it.
        That was the goal, and they’ve won.

        • John Schilling says:

          Whose goal, and by what evidence?

          If you mean the terrorists, organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS are pretty clear about stating their goals, and that isn’t it. Indeed, the West accepting terrorism as “just daily life” makes it impossible for them to use terrorism as a means to achieving their actual goals, so it would probably be an anti-goal for them.

          • Jaskologist says:

            That depends on what form “acceptance” takes. If we accept that we can’t draw Mohamed in the same way that we accept that there are certain streets we should not walk down at night, that is a victory for terrorists. If we accept terrorist acts in the same way that we accept the risk of dying in a car crash, then not so much.

            Basically, do we alter our behavior more to their liking, or not?

          • TenMinute says:

            Do we declare that the future must not belong to those who slander islam? Yeah.

            Not that I’m against blasphemy laws or their enforcement, but there’s still the principle of the thing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Do we declare that the future must not belong to those who slander islam? Yeah.

            “We” declare that the future must not belong to those who _denigrate_ Islam. Which is worse, because truth is a defense for slander.

        • wysinwygymmv says:

          “Their” stated goal was to provoke a long-term guerrilla war with the west and especially the US. By this metric, “they” won back in 2002. You probably cheered it on if you were old enough to be politically aware.

  34. Levantine says:

    I’d just like to recommend this:

    “Trump’s Unique Style Of Diplomacy!” – Dick Morris
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNITXVSivv4)

    Dick Morris: “It all goes back to what Bob Crandall, the head of American Airlines once told me. He said, “New York is tough but it’s not mean, and Washington is mean, but it’s not tough.” He said, in New York they’ll fight for every dime in your contract, and then when you go home when you finish the contract they will go after dinner with you in theater and you’ll be good friends. In Washington they’ll give you anything you want to your face, but when you walk away they’ll shoot you in the back. Not for personal gain, but just because it is so much fun to watch you die ……”

  35. thenoblepie says:

    In ‘Notes from the Asilomar Conference”, Scott claims that humans don’t have utility functions. What exactly does that mean?

    I spoke to an economist and he went on to explain that before a couple of really smart fellows in the 1930s or so came around, economists had to assume that people had a cardinal ordering of preferences in their head. Newer models, however, need not assume this and can work with ordinal orderings, meaning that we don’t have to assume anything about preference strength anymore. We can still introduce some kind of pseudo-cardinal ordering by playing around with rates of substitution and indifference curves and what have you, though. This very much sounded like the economist’s version of sleight-of-hand at first, but I think I might be able to tentatively accept this.

    There was a big problem attached to risk behaviour which complicated things in a way that forced economists to care about the curvature of utility functions again, essentially obstructing the nice work-around to some degree, but I wasn’t quite sure to what degree this relates to the original points. The thing I really need to know is: what do I have to assume about the world and people’s behaviour in it for this to make sense? I’m aware of demands like preference stability, transitivity, and completeness, but I’m not quite sure how these relate to the real world.

    All things related to higher math-magic aside, it feels like I’m missing some larger philosophical point here. Anyone care to help me find it?

    • thenoblepie says:

      Let me give this a try. If this sounds terribly confused, it’s because I am.

      Here’s Scott’s full quote:

      “A more complicated problem: humans don’t have utility functions, and an AI that assumes we do might come up with some sort of monstrosity that predicts human behavior really well while not fitting our idea of morality at all. “

      Economists talking about human behaviour do so mainly in a descriptive fashion. But our revealed preferences might meaningfully differ from what we set out to do, what we want to do, or even what the kind of person we want to be would want to do (this is the point Harry Frankfurt was making when he talked about “second-order desires”, I believe?).

      Am I on the right track here?

    • baconbacon says:

      We can still introduce some kind of pseudo-cardinal ordering by playing around with rates of substitution and indifference curves and what have you, though. This very much sounded like the economist’s version of sleight-of-hand at first, but I think I might be able to tentatively accept this.

      A post hoc fitting to a curve isn’t automatically predictive, which is a problem (one of many) with building a utility function. There are innumerable different partial equation combinations that will give similar results for the past but predict different futures, all of them can’t be right.

      Also our preferences are influenced by our experiences. You can claim revealed preferences “look he bought a used car instead of a new car, he must have wanted a used car all along”, but the next car purchase will depend in part on how that car preformed for that owner.

      If you assume that there is a curve, then you can always find it, but they will not be predictive (in the sense that lots of people have tried to predict stock returns out into the future but they don’t beat just using yesterday’s prices).

      • thenoblepie says:

        Well, sure, but the more data I collect, the more accurate my assessment of the curve, correct? This doesn’t seem to be a fundamental problem. My understanding of economics is very limited, you see.

        As an aside, something has always bugged me about the way economists seem to retroactively define everything a person ends up doing as them having preferred to do those things.

        If you observe me buying a gym membership and then never using it, you could conclude that I had a preference for sitting on the couch over running on the treadmill all along. This seems to collide with a layman’s understanding of the concept of preferences. What I end up doing and what I prefer to do (or what the person I would like to be would prefer to do) intuitively seem to be two different things.

        Is this just a semantic issue?

        • baconbacon says:

          Well, sure, but the more data I collect, the more accurate my assessment of the curve, correct?

          You have assumed that it is a curve, which is backwards you have to demonstrate that something follows a function not the other way around.

          Saying “Ok, here is a new piece of data, how does it fit in with the old data set” actually makes very large assumptions which aren’t founded. If your preferences have changed then you basically have a “new” curve every time they change, and if your preferences change based on experiences your old curve will always be out of date. “This was your utility function, now make a new decision so I can see what your next in the past utility function is” doesn’t have a ring to it, nor does it lead to good predictions.

    • Charlie__ says:

      To link to his own words: http://lesswrong.com/lw/6ha/the_blueminimizing_robot/

      Humans have a decision-making process, but this process can be only loosely and informally (for now) identified with a utility function. Like, sometimes we say people make “bad decisions.” But if we really identified peoples’ decision-making process with utility maximization, there would be no such thing as a bad decision, only a surprising wrinkle in the utility function.

      That is, somehow we have this idea of good decisions or good outcomes that is separate from the way humans sometimes make decisions or choose outcomes. “Buying lottery tickets is usually a bad idea.” “Most people who survive suicide attempts are glad they didn’t die – don’t do it.” “Don’t go to grad school, I’d know, I’m a grad student.”

      If you want to build an AI that understands human desires well enough to label outcomes good or bad, it can’t just look at what people do and then call whatever they do, “good,” because sometimes people are wrong. Instead, it has to somehow learn about this abstract goodness that is instantiated nowhere, but that humans try to refer to.

      • thenoblepie says:

        Thanks, that is very helpful.

        The article about the blue-minimizing robot looks like it is meant as the introduction to a sequence. Any idea where I can find the other parts?

  36. Anonymous Colin says:

    Any recommended resources on the modelling of population dynamics in the context of human civic populations? I have a stats-heavy postgraduate degree, so I’m already familiar with specific types of model (survival analysis, state transition models, etc.), but I’d like to get my hands on a big book that addresses concrete questions and problems surrounding human populations.

    Thanks!

    • Enkidum says:

      What sort of questions are you interested in asking? This might not be at all what you mean by “population dynamics”, but I found the course I took on Mathematical Models of Social Evolution to be utterly fascinating, and an introduction to a literature I knew nothing at all about.

      • Anonymous Colin says:

        The link you provided looks very interesting, and possibly salient.

        I am tasked with modelling use of public services. People who utilise public services do so at various levels of need. You have low-level users (think a kid who needs a monthly visit from a social worker) and you have high-level users (think someone in a maximum security prison).

        People escalate and de-escalate with regard to these levels, and different levels have different costs (both financial and human costs) associated with them. I wish to answer questions pertaining to the population of service users. For example:

        – How much do we expect a given cohort of users to cost over their lifetimes?

        – If a user enters a certain level of need, how long will they remain in that state? Conversely, if they de-escalate to a lower level of need, how long until they relapse?

        – If we see a change in the number of users entering the system, how long will it be until we expect to see a change in the numbers of users at more “downstream” levels of need?

        – Are there “typologies” associated with certain journeys of users through the system?

        – Can we predict the rate and severity of escalation given other known information about users?

        I have methods for answering all of these questions, but I don’t know if they’re *good* methods. The literature I’ve found on these subjects is fractured and spread out over many fields that don’t talk to one another very much. I find myself very surprised that there aren’t a bunch of textbooks along the lines of “you have a bunch of people with properties that change over time; here is how to answer the inevitable questions you will have about them”.

        ETA: when it comes to the crunch, I’m a software developer, not a researcher. I’m looking for ways to answer these questions that can be wrapped up in a product and given to people making operational decisions. This might matter when making recommendations.

  37. I don’t think the picture can be from the Oven of Akhnai story, since one of the sages (Eliezer?) appears to be wearing glasses.

    Also no stream, no carob tree, and the walls appear to be vertical.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Anachronisms don’t prevent something being a later depiction of a story. For instance, the men in this painting are wearing 15th-century plate armour- that doesn’t stop it being a painting of the siege of Troy. Neither does the fact that the buildings we can see behind the walls of the city include Trajan’s Column and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

      (The painting is The Death of Hector, painted by Biagio d’Antonio in the 1490s. There is a similarly anachronistic companion piece, The Wooden Horse).

      • dndnrsn says:

        As far as I know, “historical accuracy” is a fairly recent thing, at least in the Western world, isn’t it? I’ve seen plenty of Renaissance depictions of Biblical scenes featuring contemporary clothing, arms, armour, etc.

    • JulieK says:

      It seems to be based on this