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Open Thread 69.5

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

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1,059 Responses to Open Thread 69.5

  1. 098799 says:

    Scott, I love your writing. Did you ever think about compiling series of posts into full-sized books?

    • dank says:

      Quit your stupid job and do some long form writing. You’ll make more money and do more good for the world. You have a gift Scott, and it would be a damn shame if your ideas never reached people who don’t read blogs.

      Your way of breaking down complex and contentious issues is especially important right now. It’s one of the only methods of reducing polarization that I’ve seen succeed.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        dank, I have sympathy with that point of view, though I’m not crazy about giving orders to people because you think they should follow your agenda.

        Just from my point of view, we may all benefit from what Scott learns at his job.

      • John Schilling says:

        Telling an aspiring writer to quit their day job is usually bad advice. Telling an aspiring writer to not bother finishing the credentials that will allow them to turn their day job into a lucrative and probably rewarding career, is pretty much always bad advice. If going into writing full time is the right move for Scott; he’ll be in a better position to know that in a year or so, and he’ll be have a much better fallback option if full-time writing turns out to be not so good an idea.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        “You’ll make more money…”

        The job I’m expecting to get next year pays about 20x the amount I currently make from blogging. I think I might be able to double my blogging income if I begged people a lot and told them that I really needed the money and maybe got some articles accepted to magazines and stuff. That’s still a 90% pay cut.

        “…and do more good for the world.”

        I’ve informally checked whether I blog more/better when I have shorter hours at my job, and the effect seems to be zero or negative. I’m not really sure why this is, except maybe some kind of “behavioral activation” thing where if I’ve been working hard all day I’m in the mood to work hard, but if I’ve been sleeping late and lounging around I’m in the mood to keep doing that. At some point I should look into this more formally, but it seems true.

        Still, thanks a lot for the kind words.

        • I don’t think you should quite your job in order to blog more. I do think you should publish one or more collections of posts as books. That would not be much work–you might even get one of your fans to volunteer to do the conversion. It would make you a little more money. More important, it would get your ideas to a wider range of people.

          • Aapje says:

            That would not be much work

            Assuming that Scott is happy with a book consisting of relatively disjointed essays, which is probably not the case, given that I believe that there is a correlation between the length of writing and meticulousness.

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            I second that. Partially, because once there is a SSC book, it can indeed reach a wider audience, be discussed in book clubs, be gifted to friends for their birthdays. And, partially, because a book is more permanent. One of my fears is that Scott one day gets tired of blogging, takes down all of his posts, and I will no longer be able to refer friends and family to his articles.

          • Matt M says:

            And, partially, because a book is more permanent. One of my fears is that Scott one day gets tired of blogging, takes down all of his posts, and I will no longer be able to refer friends and family to his articles.

            Perhaps, to Scott, that is a feature and not a bug. Some of the things he’s said are controversial enough that they could pose a threat to his prospects in professional employment. If not now, then in some future state where the overton window has shifted. Perhaps he does not want a permanent record of all of this floating around out there to potentially be used against him later.

        • Mary says:

          On top of the pay cut — no benefits!

          The rule for quitting the day job is when it costs you money to go to work instead of writing. Including the cost of benefits.

          Also what you observed about time is also true of many other writers: the more time you have to write, the more you spend vacuuming the cat instead of writing.

        • I bet you could make $1,000,000 after tax in 12 months if you quit and wrote full time using best business strategy practices. Using kickstarter, book deals, etc

          • James Miller says:

            If the world consisted of people with tastes similar to ours, yes Scott could easily do this. But I wonder if part of the reason why we love Scott’s writing so much is that we have weird tastes that few other high quality writers seek to satisfy and consequently Scott’s writings would not necessarily have the potential to earn him lots of money.

  2. Scott Alexander says:

    What do anti-immigration people make of the claims that the crime rate in Sweden has decreased since the beginning of large-scale Muslim immigration to that country? See eg this page. Everything is down except sexual assault, which seems to be confounded by changing definitions.

    (article also notable for worst graph labeling scheme ever in the first picture)

    One counterargument might be that Muslims are only about 5-10% of the Swedish population, so their effect should be small compared to any random fluctuation in the crime rate for native Swedes. But this still seems incompatible with the massively elevated Muslim crime rates claimed eg here.

    • That page only goes through 2013. When did large scale Muslim immigration start? The Wiki page on Immigration to Sweden says that in 2013 immigration reached its highest level ever, so it’s possible that the bulk of Muslim immigration as been over the last few years.

      • AeXeaz says:

        I’m neither pro- nor anti-immigration, but do follow the debate in Norway and Sweden. In both countries the muslim population is clustered in a few cities, so while looking at the national stats should reveal *something*, I think having some numbers for individual cities (Oslo in Norway and Malmö and Stockholm in Sweden) would help a lot.

        When it comes to sexual assault, there’s some interesting data in a 2010 report by the Oslo police called Rape in the Global City. As far as I can tell it’s only available in English, but doing a search for “Figur 9” will take you to some pie charts showing which continents the suspects/indicted are from. “Midt-Østen” means middle east and the rest of the labels should be easy to understand for English speakers.

        • MNH says:

          Lacking relevant context about the demographics of the city to interpret that link

          • AeXeaz says:

            In 2016 32.6% of the population in Oslo had another ethnic background than Norwegian (this number includes immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents).

            Of these, 40.1% had a background from Asia or the Middle East, 17.1% an African background and 38.1% a European background.

            You can get more detailed information here. The first link underneath “Landbakgrunn” on the left (Innvandrerbefolkningen etter landbakgrunn, kjønn og alder) means “Immigrant population by country, sex and age”.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        As David Friedman suggests, there was a massive spike in immigration since 2013, given the 2015 European Migrant crisis.

        A Mother Jones article with the very enticing title We Should Practice Truth In Statistics, Even When It Hurts states the following about Swedish crime:

        On the other hand, preliminary figures show that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        Given the 2015 European Migrant crisis, immigration has gone up considerably after 2013.

        Mother Jones published an article with the very enticing title We Should Practice Truth in Statistics Even When It Hurts in which it claims the following about crime in Sweden:

        “On the other hand, preliminary figures show that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.”

        http://m.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/we-should-practice-truth-statistics-even-when-it-hurts

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        Immigration rates have definitely gone up since 2013 given the 2015 Migrant crisis.

        Mother Jones published an article with the very enticing title We Should Practice Truth in Statistics Even When It Hurts (by Kevin Drum) in which the following claim is made about crime in Sweden:

        On the other hand, preliminary figures show that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.

        (For whatever reason, I can’t include the link in my comment, because it makes the comment disappear.)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Wikipedia is a good source when the topic is something that isn’t politically contentious: nobody is going to spend time systematically biasing articles on families of RNA binding proteins. But it’s worse than useless for looking at any claim a large number of people are willing to lie about. I’m not just talking about PC: the Hinduvata stuff that pops up all over the place is a good example.

      Beyond that, we have no reason whatsoever to trust Swedish government statistics unless they are against interest. European governments have consistently and brazenly covered up crimes by Muslims, as well as actively trying to hide the actual numbers of non-Europeans being imported. Why should anyone trust them?

      (I’ll note that the linked article wasn’t very convincing either. A chart based on data from an article published in a language you can’t read isn’t evidence of anything other than chart-making ability. In the absence of trustworthy information, my evidentiary needle doesn’t move in either direction.)

      • dndnrsn says:

        I thought those charts were sketchy too. “Here’s a chart I made, here’s a link to the original, and PS the original is in a language you probably don’t speak” makes me dubious, and when it’s combined with stuff like links to a Daily Mail story about how one guy totally swears a cashier at a Tesco refused to ring up bacon…

      • European governments have consistently and brazenly covered up crimes by Muslims, as well as actively trying to hide the actual numbers of non-Europeans being imported.

        Citation needed.

        • Aapje says:

          I think that ‘consistently’ is too strong a claim, but there have been cases where crimes were clearly covered up.

          One example is Rotherham. Another is that in the German city of Kiel, the police were ordered to specifically reduce investigations of small criminality by refugees [link in German], like theft.

          But what seems more common is simply that there is a strong anti-extreme right bias where people play down facts that support the anti-immigrants agenda, for example [link in English]:

          Some times we do not really say how things are because we believe it may play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats

          Sweden Democrats are the anti-immigration party in Sweden.

          The German press code [link in English] explicitly states that the ethnicity of criminals should not be reported unless relevant to the crime, to avoid feeding prejudice:

          When reporting crimes, it is not permissible to refer to the suspect’s religious, ethnic or other minority membership unless this information can be justified as being relevant to the readers’ understanding of the incident.

          In particular, it must be borne in mind that such references could stir up prejudices against minorities.

          I would argue that this is seen as a cover-up by some people (and not by others).

          • random832 says:

            One example is Rotherham. Another is that in the German city of Kiel, the police were ordered to specifically reduce investigations of small criminality by refugees [link in German], like theft.

            I’m not sure if this actually supports your claim. It’s possible, for example, that they were previously investigating such things out of proportion with how often they were committed by refugees vs citizens.

          • rlms says:

            Thankfully there are some British prosecutors willing to ignore “over-sensitivity to political correctness and fear of appearing racist” and prosecute Muslim sex traffickers.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            That is not the argument by the leader of the police union, who said in the article that it saves a lot of administrative burden. A member of Merkel’s political party argues in the article that the police is no longer investigating crimes like this at all, due to a lack of resources.

            So it very much seems like the directive is intended to prevent registration of crimes to cover up the low rate of solving them.

            The article does say that the order to the police was directed at ‘refugees without a clear identity.’ I do know that in The Netherlands we currently have a problem with criminal gangs of mostly N-Africans [link in Dutch] who enter the refugee procedure, without any actual chance of getting refugee status, but who take advantage of the free room & board and supplement their allowances with crime.

            The most generous explanation that I can come up with is that Kiel has the same issue (the Dutch article does say that most of these gangs come to The Netherlands from Germany) and doesn’t want the police to spend time on these gangs that will stop receiving benefits when their refugee request is turned down and who then most likely travel to another EU country to do the same thing there. However, even this fairly generous explanation involves hiding statistics of crime that is actually happening, with actual victims.

            PS. The main victims of these gangs are (actual) refugees.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Sounds like Afzal is someone who, horror of horrors, *assimilated*

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Ehhh, the wiki page says that he was already made to leave, 4 years after he overturned the decision by the CPS not to prosecute these people. So you can just as easily claim that he is proof that the CPS is not willing to tolerate a prosecutor like that.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            No it doesn’t. It says quotes a CPS spokesman as saying “Nazir Afzal is leaving the service as part of [an] on-going drive for efficiency” and that “there has been no impropriety on the part of Mr Afzal”. Perhaps they are lying, and are really the mouthpiece of a grand conspiracy to punish someone who tried to prosecute some sex traffickers several years previously. But that seems unlikely, and requires some evidence to back it up.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Why did he get to leave and not another prosecutor? There must have been a reason why he was made to leave and it is conspicuously absent, which is usually an indication that it is an embarrassing reason.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Unless it substantially different for Britain, Afzal was still like a decade+ before retirement. How is it efficient to get rid of someone still near the top of their career arc? Why would a general redundancy target an OBE? Do most people in that profession have some degree of knighthood?

            Maybe it’s different for Brits, but “leaving the service as part of [an] on-going drive for efficiency” screams “being pushed out for political reasons” to me.

          • rlms says:

            Even if it is granted that he left for political reasons (in the sense of office politics), it seems vastly more likely that those reasons were to do with his alleged impropriety in texting a defendant in a case just before he left, rather than a prosecution that pretty much no-one seemed to disapprove of several years before.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @rlms
            Very true. Wiki didn’t cover that part 🙂

    • Matt M says:

      Tinfoil hat right-wing explanation would be that the Swedish government has ordered the police to ignore crimes committed by Muslim immigrants, for the purposes of political correctness. Or to just mess with the statistics somehow.

      • Protagoras says:

        Myself, I trust neither official statistics reported by police, nor most of the theories of those who are sure they know in exactly which way those statistics are biased. I would prefer to see some statistics collected by sources independent of the police, ideally from more than one such source so the various sources and methods can be compared.

      • bean says:

        Comments from a Swedish friend of mine suggest that this is true.

        • tmk says:

          Swedish people, like all people, have political allegiances and will say whatever fits their world-view/tribal allegiance.

          • rlms says:

            No, actually the Swedes have transcended political tribalism and only speak objective truth.

          • tmk says:

            I know I was snarky, but there is a mental bias where we often see people from other countries as a homogeneous unit. Perhaps because we don’t have the mental space to know the political conflicts of every country.

            Imagine asking one American whether the police treat black people unfairly and taking their answer as gospel.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, I agree with you. I was being aimlessly snarky.

      • dndnrsn says:

        From noted tinfoil-hate right-wing hate site The Guardian:

        The news that the Swedish authorities covered up widespread sexual assaults by immigrant gangs on teenage girls at a Stockholm music festival, and possibly other incidents too, is immensely damaging for race relations in Sweden because it conforms so precisely to two stereotypes.

        The first, widely believed in nationalist circles, is that immigrants to Sweden are responsible for the huge rise in reported rapes in recent years. The second, more true, and much more widely believed, is that you cannot trust respectable Swedish opinion to be honest about the bad effects of immigration.

        Well-intentioned attempts by authorities across Europe to avoid giving ammunition to xenophobes have backfired terribly and given far more ammunition to the xenophobes than would have been the case otherwise. Europe needs immigrants – because it appears they don’t want to have children at or above replacement rates themselves – but it has not been handled well, by and large. The incompetence by various levels of government in various European countries has given a great boost to the far right, which will prevent the kinds of changes that would be needed to successfully select and bring in immigrants and integrate them.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          > Europe needs immigrants – because it appears they don’t want to have children at or above replacement rates themselves

          Hmm, let’s stop burying the lede. What could be done to encourage them to have more children?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Hmm, let’s stop burying the lede. What could be done to encourage them to have more children?

            Figure out some way to make children more of a joy than a burden. I know all parents claim this is already true, but… revealed preferences.

          • Sandy says:

            State-sponsored religion. I don’t think anyone believes relations between Protestants and Catholics are precarious enough that there’s any serious chance of another Thirty Years’ War, so there’s no real reason to keep things like laicite around.

          • Space Viking says:

            Experiment feverishly with incentives until you find some that work. This is not an impossible problem: Europe has had high birth rates before, and can again.

            In the meantime, slow the problem down with limited immigration selective for ability to contribute to and assimilate into society. I don’t see why the far right would be an impediment to this, as it’s exactly what the far right wants.

            Or, for a creative solution, don’t bother about the birth rate, instead decrease the death rate dramatically by curing aging.

            Or, for a creative, but less uplifting, solution, bite the bullet: let the population decline. Developed countries had lower populations in the past, why not again? It would be disruptive, e.g. no more welfare states, but less disastrous than open borders. The disruption would be spread out over the course of many decades, which allows time for adaptation.

          • Financual incentives have bern tried with some success in France.

          • tmk says:

            Space Viking: You seem to think that the only options are completely open borders, and very little immigration and population decline. And option in between is to have some immigration, enough to have a modest population growth and good economy. This is what most people advocate, although they are not the noisiest.

            The Nybbler: I’m a parent and I can say that children are both a joy and a burden. I think the joy is larger, but because it has diminishing return in the number of children I am not planning to have more than two. That’s not even replacement level. Others will stick to one, or prefer none, while few want 3+.

            As for what society can do to increase birth numbers, I believe in things like subsidized child care, parental leave and making sure mothers can resume their career between/after having children. Japan tried to shame married working women to make them stay home and have more babies, and that backfired massively.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            What could be done to encourage them to have more children?

            Do away with, or at least drastically cut back on, the welfare state for elderly people. Back in the old days (and indeed today in large parts of the world) a large motivation for having children was to have someone who’d look after you when you got old.

          • Matt M says:

            Financual incentives have bern tried with some success in France.

            Financial incentives means government gives you money to have kids, right?

            This would, effectively, be a redistribution scheme from the childless to the child-having. Given the increasing popularity of not having children, it seems like this would be difficult to sell in any quasi-democratic system. You’d have to convince the childless that, even though they’ve clearly decided having children isn’t good for them, that it’s super important that other people do have children – so important that they need to pay them to do so.

            The standard argument seems to be “well we can’t support the welfare state you love so much without a bunch of young workers” which I think runs some difficulties. For one thing, not having children is supposed to result in one being significantly richer, at least in their youth. Convincing a DINK professional couple making a combined income over 200k in their 30s that one day they will need all these lower class children to support their retirement seems like a tough sell. And politics in general has shown an astounding bias towards the short-term – meaning that convincing them we have to have taxes NOW to pay for your retirement LATER is abnormal. Why not just wait until we’re old and then raise taxes on the young people then – in the same proud tradition of our parents and grandparents!

            Of course, ultimately, “we need to tax the childless to pay for the child-having so that they can produce young people who will be taxed to pay for old people” seems like a largely pointless circle that in the end does little good to anybody but probably enriches a lot of bureaucrats in the administration of all of this along the way.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “What DINKs want” is even lower in importance than who can use what bathrooms. If anti-natalists ever become a substantial voting bloc, we are lost.

            Luckily they tend to self-select toward not persisting their selfish destructive attitudes so we can still have things like property taxes of the childless going toward public schools.

          • Matt M says:

            If anti-natalists ever become a substantial voting bloc, we are lost.

            If the problem of low birth rates is as significant as people claim it is, they almost have to be a significant voting bloc, don’t they?

          • Aapje says:

            AFAIK, we are already too late for this anyway, given the demographic bulge that is moving into retirement soon. If we start increasing birth rates now, we’ll just increase the problems, as we’ll both have lots of non-working old people and lots of non-working young people. It simply takes too long for us to get a return on investment for a new baby (they only start earning back all the investments after 25 years or so and then it still takes a long time for those investments to be recouped). By the time we really start to benefit, the bulge will have mostly disappeared.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If the problem of low birth rates is as significant as people claim it is, they almost have to be a significant voting bloc, don’t they?

            Perhaps, unfortunately. A less gloomy hypothesis would be that more people are having only 1 kid (or 2, still below replacement rate) due to various economic and social factors.

            Not sure which is correct, but I hope for the future’s sake it’s the latter.

            Again, you rarely get much outcry over non-parents’ taxes funding public schools (specifically non-parents, general push toward privatization doesn’t count), so there doesn’t seem to be much organized anti-natalist lobbying going on.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If the problem of low birth rates is as significant as people claim it is, they almost have to be a significant voting bloc, don’t they?

            Not if they don’t identify as anti-natalists, or at least don’t identify strongly enough for it to affect their vote.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thirteenth Letter:

            What attempts have succeeded in encouraging people to have children, and what attempts would be politically palatable in modern NW Europe? Government attempts to raise the birth rate by incentives don’t seem to work, while coercion is probably off the table.

            Right now, it appears that when people (especially women) are given the option of controlling how many children they have, they prefer to have one or two, if any. The societies that have the highest birth rates are developing world (limited availability of birth control, subsistence agriculture creates an incentive to have more kids, high infant mortality creates an incentive to have more so more survive, often more limited rights and options for large parts of the population and women especially) and especially developing world Muslim (consider the fertility per woman sorted by the kind of education girls get in Nigeria) nations – and I emphasize “developing world”, as Turkey is a tad below replacement rate, Iran is below replacement rate, etc. Given that the European far-right’s rallying cry is “we don’t want Muslims from developing nations!” is “be more like developing-world Muslim nations” the solution? I don’t see how you could raise the birth rate in the developed world without smashing a lot of the things that make the developed world nice to live in, like women’s rights.

            @Space Viking:

            The problem isn’t a declining population, the problem is the age makeup of society. A decreasing number of working-age adults and an increasing number of seniors is bad news.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t see how you could raise the birth rate in the developed world without smashing a lot of the things that make the developed world nice to live in, like women’s rights.

            One could argue that expansion of parental, particularly mothers’, privileges would also work. Things like access to childcare and maternal leave policies that don’t make having multiple kids an economic blow or a career death sentence.

            Alternatively, a social attitude shift that makes having a stay-at-home dad more common. Or something like a UBI or encouraging remote working for those who want to spend more time with their kids but can’t afford it. I don’t have the time now to dig up supporting evidence for this hypothesis, but I suspect declining fertility has more to do with the Two Income Trap than expansion of women’s rights. I would be honestly interested in counterpoints to this.

            We can have a societal attitude of “wouldn’t it be nice to have a big family?” without rolling back women’s rights. There are potential solutions that actually roll forward with it. (Unless of course you’re the sort of anti-natalist crazyperson who believes that the mere fact that women are the ones who get pregnant means having children at all is oppression by the Patriarchy.)

            Right now we just have a societal attitude of “wouldn’t it be nice to have more time to sacrifice on the altar of the Economy?”

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Children are very expensive. Robots are less expensive. Based on America, assimilating immigrants is possible under certain circumstances and cheaper than either.

            On the global level, I’m very skeptical that we need more people. If most of humanities problems can be solved in parallel then yes, more people are needed. But it seems to me that many challenges (e.g. most tech progress) are not so parallelizable.

            @dndrsn: would the age makeup of society be a smaller problem if people worked later into their lives?

          • Randy M says:

            You mean “were capable of working later into their lives?”
            I am under the tentative impression that lifespan has increased more than healthspan.
            However, even if people are capable of working later, there also need to be political/social changes such that people accept working later without it feeling like a decrease in quality of life not to retire at the age of previous cohorts (a lot of people don’t like working).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Of course, ultimately, “we need to tax the childless to pay for the child-having so that they can produce young people who will be taxed to pay for old people” seems like a largely pointless circle that in the end does little good to anybody but probably enriches a lot of bureaucrats in the administration of all of this along the way.

            The point of the circle is the production of the young people.

            Personally I don’t have a problem with either human extinction through lack of fecundity or idiocracy leading to the collapse of civilization; after all, neither I nor my descendants will be around long enough to worry about it. Theocracy is a bit more worrying; Europe may fall within my lifetime, but probably the US won’t.

            But, if you ARE worried about those things, having your intelligent and non-theocratic population produce more kids seems pretty important.

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble
            In my observations of professional class thirty-somethings in the NYC area, three children seems to be a status peak. Two is fine, four is a bit much, five plus eccentric, and one sort-of pitiable.

            A married couple that doesn’t want children may well find themselves drifting socially.

          • Deiseach says:

            What could be done to encourage them to have more children?

            You want the birth rate among the educated/smarter/middle class to go up? Ban contraception and abortion. See how that flies, in the five minutes between you announcing it and being dragged to the lamp post and strung up by the outraged masses of men and women.

            Instead, we’ve got stories like this – I’m not entirely sure I believe all that is being said, but if it’s true, congratulations USA – if you’ve got the money, we’ll provide the services! a motto your fertility clinics live by! Truly no barrier to what you can buy if you wish, and all those who might raise questions are heartless monsters wanting to deprive a potential mother of the joy of having her very own baby, and probably religious zealots to boot!

            Doctors say a 64-year-old woman has given birth to a healthy set of twins at a hospital in Spain — her second successful pregnancy in the span of 6 years.

            …”She showed up four months pregnant at the gates of our hospital and all we could do was face the situation and react,” Martin said.

            The woman underwent in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in the United States ahead of her second pregnancy.

          • Chalid says:

            AFAIK, we are already too late for this anyway, given the demographic bulge that is moving into retirement soon. If we start increasing birth rates now, we’ll just increase the problems, as we’ll both have lots of non-working old people and lots of non-working young people.

            Increased immigration is of course the best answer here, since immigrants tend to be of productive ages.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Increased immigration is of course the best answer here, since immigrants tend to be of productive ages.

            True, but they probably won’t want to leave again when their productive years are over. Then you have the choice of either kicking them out anyway (which would be politically impossible for pretty much any western government) or of bringing over even more immigrants and essentially turning your social security system into a giant pyramid scheme.

          • Alternatively, a social attitude shift that makes having a stay-at-home dad more common.

            Or a shift that makes being a stay-at-home mother higher status.

            One response is that nowadays families need two incomes, but I’m dubious. Real incomes haven’t risen much in recent decades, but they are higher than they were fifty years ago, when one income families were much more common.

            So far as possible public policies, suppose we had a system of education vouchers, set at the cost of public schooling and available for home schooling as well as private schools. A mother home schooling three children, possibly in cooperation with one or two others, would be getting about thirty thousand dollars a year to help replace the income she wasn’t earning.

          • Space Viking says:

            @tmk

            I also oppose mass immigration short of open borders. See my comments on this SSC post for why, I don’t have time to rehash it here.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Gobbobobble:

            One could argue that expansion of parental, particularly mothers’, privileges would also work. Things like access to childcare and maternal leave policies that don’t make having multiple kids an economic blow or a career death sentence.

            Alternatively, a social attitude shift that makes having a stay-at-home dad more common. Or something like a UBI or encouraging remote working for those who want to spend more time with their kids but can’t afford it. I don’t have the time now to dig up supporting evidence for this hypothesis, but I suspect declining fertility has more to do with the Two Income Trap than expansion of women’s rights. I would be honestly interested in counterpoints to this.

            For one thing, I doubt there is much overlap between “we must have more maternal leave and make stay-at-home fathers more acceptable” and “we must raise the birthrate so we don’t need immigrants”.

            For another, let’s assume that generous parental leave policies become the norm, and social norms change to the point that male-female couples split all the childcare 50/50 as the default. There will still be a career advantage to not having children, it will just be more evenly distributed.

            Also, I don’t see how you can divide (professional-class) women working from women’s rights – wanting to pursue careers was a big part of early second-wave feminism, was it not?

            @hoghoghoghoghog:

            This is more feasible with some jobs than others.

          • tmk says:

            @dndnrsn: I for one am here to talk about how to raise birth rates while quietly ignoring the “so we don’t need immigrants” subtext. Sometimes blinders are necessary to stay sane in this comment section.

            I think currently men gain a career advantage when they have children. Maybe because it signals stability, or because the med who decide who gets promoted often have children themselves and identify with other fathers. That effect may persist even if you lose 6 months of work for parental leave.

            @DavidFriedman: is it possible to raise the status of stay-at-home mothers without lowering that of working mothers? If not, they may choose to be working non-mothers instead.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @DavidFreidman

            Or a shift that makes being a stay-at-home mother higher status.

            Yes, that too, of course. I was just coming at it from the angle of “women want to work”. That gets in the way of having kids when it is expected that a couple either drops $$ on childcare or mom drops out of the workforce for a while (because a stay-at-home dad is much lower status). So I was hoping that a package deal of better childcare options and less stigma on dads taking a turn dropping work would satisfy that angle.

            Or a UBI to dampen the drive for “women want to work” which I tend to see as a proxy for “women want to be self-sufficient”. I completely agree on the two-income front.

            @dndnrsn

            For one thing, I doubt there is much overlap between “we must have more maternal leave and make stay-at-home fathers more acceptable” and “we must raise the birthrate so we don’t need immigrants”.

            Overlap in current support, or overlap in effectiveness? Making it easier to have kids should naturally lead to people who want more kids to have more.

            There will still be a career advantage to not having children, it will just be more evenly distributed.

            True, but I would think the advantage will be smaller if people have better access to childcare. And I’m theorizing that if it became the norm for everyone to be eligible for extended child-rearing sabbaticals, they’d be more expected and less damaging to one’s career.

            Also, I don’t see how you can divide (professional-class) women working from women’s rights

            I’m not trying to? See my response to Friedman.

            What I’m arguing against is the notion that you have to roll back women’s rights to re-raise birth rates by shotgunning some alternative ideas. I don’t claim to have a fully-baked solution, I’m just some jackass on the internet trying to get people to be less defeatist. (Except the anti-natalists, they can feel doomed all they like)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Hasn’t Norway done all the things with parental leave and subsidized child care and encouraging stay-at-home dads? That, at least, doesn’t seem to work.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Nothing works Nybbler. There’s no liberal acceptable method to increase childbirth rates. We probably need some sort of technical solution. Or immigration.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            Worrying about the human race dying out seems a bit premature, since humanity is growing at a rather rapid pace.

            @Chalid

            That is probably inevitable for healthcare. Britain is already doing that, quite a bit.

            However, the current debate in my country is merely about refugees, not about expats. In any case, I’d be a lot happier with Indian or Chinese migrants than people from certain other countries, even if they stay permanently.

            But I do think that my country is overpopulated already and could use a slow shrinking of the population.

            @Gobbobobble

            The women in my country tend to work half jobs, but the fertility rate is still shite. A lot of books get read though and whatever else women in my country do with their spare time.

            Actually, they seem to invest gazillions of hours in the few kids they do have, rather than kick those kids into the street to play, like my parents did.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @tmk

            I think currently men gain a career advantage when they have children. Maybe because it signals stability, or because the med who decide who gets promoted often have children themselves and identify with other fathers. That effect may persist even if you lose 6 months of work for parental leave.

            But it’s not just parental leave. Someone without kids, or someone who has kids but offloads all the work of caring for them onto someone else and is OK with not seeing their kids much, is far more able to work late, get called into the office on the weekend, etc. The career advantage of men with children assumes that other people (usually, their wives, or, domestic servants of whatever sort) are taking care of those kids.

            @Gobbobobble:

            Overlap in current support, or overlap in effectiveness? Making it easier to have kids should naturally lead to people who want more kids to have more.

            Overlap in support. The people who are saying “keep foreigners out” are rarely the strongest proponents of women’s rights.

            True, but I would think the advantage will be smaller if people have better access to childcare. And I’m theorizing that if it became the norm for everyone to be eligible for extended child-rearing sabbaticals, they’d be more expected and less damaging to one’s career.

            There will still be an advantage for people who don’t have children, though.

            I’m not trying to? See my response to Friedman.

            I suppose I misread your comment regarding the two-income trap.

            What I’m arguing against is the notion that you have to roll back women’s rights to re-raise birth rates by shotgunning some alternative ideas. I don’t claim to have a fully-baked solution, I’m just some jackass on the internet trying to get people to be less defeatist. (Except the anti-natalists, they can feel doomed all they like)

            So, I’m not proposing rolling back women’s rights, because I think that would be both morally unacceptable and politically unfeasible. However, attempts to raise birth rates through incentives and making child-rearing easier seem to have failed – the countries with the most generous parental leave, and so on, still have below-replacement birth rates, sometimes dramatically so, and that’s even when you include first and maybe second generation immigrants from elsewhere who are having more kids than the norm (and the later generations will probably have 1.6 or whatever children per woman too). Immigration is the only option that is both acceptable and feasible.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Nybbler
            Could be, I don’t know enough about what exactly Scandinavia has tried. That would suck, if so.

            Might require something more, I guess. If having >2 kids becomes entrenched in society as being irresponsible/a weird anomaly, then policies are needed to increase desire as well as ability?

            Again, I’m not an expert, just some jackass on the internet looking for alternatives to “I guess we’re just doomed to slowly genocide ourselves (once enough developing countries actually develop so that there’s not enough high-birthrate areas to import people from)”.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Gobbobobble

            “A stay-at-home dad is much lower status. So I was hoping that a package deal of better childcare options and less stigma on dads taking a turn dropping work would satisfy that angle.”

            I admit I’m mostly speaking from anecdotal evidence (we’re dealing with an area hard to quantify), but it seems to me that the problem is less “stigma” than female attraction, and the loss thereof. “Stay-at-home dad, working mom” looks like a recipe for a sexless marriage. See, for example, Scientific American article “Men Who Do More Housework Have Less Sex“. Any stigma looks to be a downstream effect of this (rather than a cause). And as discussed in the “Nice Guy” thread, people will be attracted to what they’re attracted to. If working women aren’t as attracted to “househusbands”, then that’s just the way it is. Unless you want to go (back) to separating marital sex from attraction, or else try to massively raise male status versus female status in an attempt to counter this, you’re pretty much just forced to accept it and plan accordingly.

            ““women want to work” which I tend to see as a proxy for “women want to be self-sufficient”.”

            How do you come by this view, because I disagree. It seems more like it’s about status (with the added complication of the apex fallacy and prominence bias) more than self-sufficiency.

            “Making it easier to have kids should naturally lead to people who want more kids to have more.”

            Perhaps, but most the evidence I’ve seen shows that the upward effects on TFR are small at best. It’s far easier to get people to have less kids than to get them to have more, and as seen in places like Singapore and China, once people get used to lower birth rates and smaller families, that “new normal” does not rebound upward when the downward pressures are eased.

            “What I’m arguing against is the notion that you have to roll back women’s rights to re-raise birth rates”

            Except the evidence I’ve seen on this topic pretty much supports exactly that “notion”. Low birth rates and modernity seem to pretty much go together.

            “I’m just some jackass on the internet trying to get people to be less defeatist.”

            Why? What’s wrong with “defeatism”? Doesn’t prudence call one to “know when to fold ’em” and recognize when the battle is lost? At some point, doesn’t “never give up, never surrender, fight to the last man every doomed battle” become wasteful and foolish? And then, doesn’t “trying to get people to be less defeatist” eventually, at some point, become “peddling false hope”?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Worrying about the human race dying out seems a bit premature, since humanity is growing at a rather rapid pace.

            Population growth in the Third World doesn’t help, though; if the First World dies off, they’re going to die off too. Not destruction of the species, just collapse of civilization.

            Actually, they seem to invest gazillions of hours in the few kids they do have, rather than kick those kids into the street to play, like my parents did

            Yeah, that goes back to “making kids less of a burden”. We (as a population) may be in a cycle where as we have fewer kids they become more valuable to us, which causes them to become more of a burden.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            tmk, I remember seeing some stuff from the fifties about employers preferring married men because married men wouldn’t feel as free to leave a job. I don’t know whether any of that is still in play.

          • is it possible to raise the status of stay-at-home mothers without lowering that of working mothers?

            If you assume that status is a zero sum game within genders, it could raise the status of stay-at-home mothers, leave the status of working mothers unaffected, and lower the status of non-mothers.

            Alternatively, it could raise the status of stay-at-home mothers, lower the status of fathers and childless men. Or …

            If one simply raises the status of being a mother, that should increase the number of children.

            But I’m not sure status really is a zero sum game, for reasons I discussed in a very old blog post.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            It will take very, very long for the West to die out at 1.6 replacement rate, especially if you assume that acceptance of migrants will increase if the population starts shrinking.

          • Kevin C. says:

            (Comment had html error and looks to have gotten eaten by attempts to correct; trying again.)

            @Gobbobobble

            “A stay-at-home dad is much lower status. So I was hoping that a package deal of better childcare options and less stigma on dads taking a turn dropping work would satisfy that angle.”

            I admit I’m mostly speaking from anecdotal evidence (we’re dealing with an area hard to quantify), but it seems to me that the problem is less “stigma” than female attraction, and the loss thereof. “Stay-at-home dad, working mom” looks like a recipe for a sexless marriage. See, for example, Scientific American article “Men Who Do More Housework Have Less Sex“. Any stigma looks to be a downstream effect of this (rather than a cause). And as discussed in the “Nice Guy” thread, people will be attracted to what they’re attracted to. If working women aren’t as attracted to “househusbands”, then that’s just the way it is. Unless you want to go (back) to separating marital sex from attraction, or else try to massively raise male status versus female status in an attempt to counter this, you’re pretty much just forced to accept it and plan accordingly.

            ““women want to work” which I tend to see as a proxy for “women want to be self-sufficient”.”

            How do you come by this view, because I disagree. It seems more like it’s about status (with the added complication of the apex fallacy and prominence bias) more than self-sufficiency.

            “Making it easier to have kids should naturally lead to people who want more kids to have more.”

            Perhaps, but most the evidence I’ve seen shows that the upward effects on TFR are small at best. It’s far easier to get people to have less kids than to get them to have more, and as seen in places like Singapore and China, once people get used to lower birth rates and smaller families, that “new normal” does not rebound upward when the downward pressures are eased.

            “What I’m arguing against is the notion that you have to roll back women’s rights to re-raise birth rates”

            Except the evidence I’ve seen on this topic pretty much supports exactly that “notion”. Low birth rates and modernity seem to pretty much go together.

            “I’m just some jackass on the internet trying to get people to be less defeatist.”

            Why? What’s wrong with “defeatism”? Doesn’t prudence call one to “know when to fold ’em” and recognize when the battle is lost? At some point, doesn’t “never give up, never surrender, fight to the last man every doomed battle” become wasteful and foolish? And then, doesn’t “trying to get people to be less defeatist” eventually, at some point, become “peddling false hope”?

            @axiomsofdominion

            “Nothing works Nybbler. There’s no liberal acceptable method to increase childbirth rates.”

            Yes, this. Though, what might “some sort of technical solution” look like? (I also note that you don’t seem to consider ditching the “liberal acceptable” part to be a workable solution.)

          • Brad says:

            Every time I see something here about how the solution to some problem is that we raise or lower this or that group’s status it makes me think that I am witnessing a conversation about how wet streets cause rain. I get a similar sense when I see arguments that people should adopt religion or a particular religion for instrumental reasons. To put it mildly, this is not a good approach to proselytizing for the overwhelming major of people.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Kevin C.

            ““women want to work” which I tend to see as a proxy for “women want to be self-sufficient”.”

            How do you come by this view, because I disagree. It seems more like it’s about status (with the added complication of the apex fallacy and prominence bias) more than self-sufficiency.

            When discussing a huge aggregate of persons it is almost always a logical error to attribute a singular motivation to the majority of them.

            Unless you’re going to posit that self-status (basically self-referential esteem, not comparative esteem) is a thing, and thus basically redefine “status” as a term which has meaning prior to a social context, it is a mistake to say that a particular thing is “more about status” when it is something that the non-socially inclined are inclined to do.

            Resource gathering (the primary compensation of jobs in our culture) has immediate effects on one’s ability to survive. Survival* is a basal** instinct which is non-derivative from the also basal social instinct. Jobs fulfill the need of the survival instinct. It is thus, a priori, absurd to assume that social status (a derivative of the basic social instinct) has more aggregate effect on people’s desire for work.

            * – As is mate-finding, or more generally pair-bonding or intimacy seeking, which is another basal instinct also served by having a job which both makes one more interesting to others, more able to relate with others, and usually exposes oneself to others.

            ** – There are instincts which are more complex interactions of the basal instincts, but they shouldn’t be confused for basal instincts themselves.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            So, if I’m reading you correctly, you came by your view by a mix of abstract theorizing and misguided “projection”, both with significant errors made.

            First, you underestimate the strength of the need/drive in social apes for social contact and attention from others (e.g. the baby chimp experiments with the “fake mothers” that provide “being held” vs. milk; folks like Socrates choosing death over exile, and so on), and overestimating the degree to which “having a job” is connected to the “survival instinct” (a brandished pink slip does not make you fear for your life like a brandished gun does).

            “another basal instinct also served by having a job”

            Here’s the second error. The mate-finding instinct is served by having a job, the more remunerative the better, for men. A woman’s earning ability has no effect on how attractive she is to men, and thus no effect on “mate-finding” ability. You’re projecting the strategies and attraction fact of one sex onto the other.

            Third, you miss how the degree to which “survival” depends on (economic) “self-sufficiency” itself varies with sex. The idea or attitude that “he who does not work shall not eat”, “I must be able to support myself completely without depending on anyone or else I will literally starve to death” is pretty much a male one. Look across human history and you can see that women have been required to be self-sufficient far more rarely than men, and have always been able to more readily find others to support them (due at least in great part to the whole “male disposability”/”people care more about women’s tears than men’s lives”/”sperm is cheap, eggs are expensive” factors that commenters like DrBeat have complained about repeatedly on this blog). If nothing else, they have more readily at their disposal the underlying exchange behind “the world’s oldest profession”. Given support where needed by parents, a husband, a “sugar daddy”, grown children, the welfare state, subsidized make-work, or charity (religious or otherwise), all the way back to prehistory (and plenty of female mammals trade sex for food, after all). See Bateman and Trivers’s works on the evolution of mating strategies. And look at the male vs female survival and reproductive success differentials across human histories. Or even in the present day, the “pay gap” versus the (far less mentioned) “spending gap”, which indicates the existence of a large scale net flow of wealth in the aggregate from men to women.

            So the “joblessness=death” equation simply isn’t nearly the factor for women that it is for men. So why then the (very recent) drive to “career woman” vs. SAHM? First, the increased stigmatization of the latter. To quote French feminist Simone de Beauvoir (writing in 1975):

            No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.

            And in 1949:

            the [housewife’s] labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable…. [W]oman’s work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a ‘career’ for woman.

            One can find similar statements by plenty of other infuential folks. And along with the above, comes the counterpoint of treating job market success as the only success that matters, and concomittent pressure, that one is “settling”, “letting the sisterhood down”, or whatever for failing to “chase the brass ring” and “trying to have it all”.

            Second, note that the phrase is “career woman”, not “employed woman”. It’s less commonly about “bringing home the bacon” (and when it is, the “two-income trap” is usually involved) at any old bit of remunerative drudgery than it is about “a fulfilling career” and such. This is where the apex fallacy comes in. One sees the promenant examples of the “upper” men working at careers they enjoy and that pay well, and desires similar (often aided by the “exclusivity factor”: telling a person they can’t have something usually makes them want it more), ignoring the far more common reality of the greater portion of men for whom it’s just a job needed to stay fed, clothed and housed without the stigma of being a man dependent on others. (See also the gendered nature of “basement dweller”, “living with his parents”, “video-game-playing manchild”, and so on.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Kevin C., I’ve seen women say that their mothers told them to have jobs/a career specificially so as not to be financially dependent on a man.

            I don’t know whether that’s the most common reason for women to work while married– I suspect just having more money coming into the household is more common– but it’s in play.

            I’ve seen a claim that humans are the only species where at least some of the time males control females’ access to food. Offhand, I can’t think of any other species.

            In response to your 12:21 comment:

            I saw a man resent/envy women for “sitting on the bank”– that is, having prostitution as an alternative to starvation.

            For a lot of women, this isn’t a *good* alternative, and many are disqualified by age. In any case, it’s still men choosing the terms on which women get to survive.

            Yes, some men, and some women. And, of course, there are also women who want prostiution to be illegal, so gender vs. gender doesn’t cover the situation.

            And it’s arguably a better deal to have prostitution as an alternative than to not have it, when it is an alternative rather than slavery.

            For that matter, men do quite a bit of treating men as disposable. Do men who don’t like the situation address the male vs. male part of what’s going on?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            “I’ve seen women say that their mothers told them to have jobs/a career specificially so as not to be financially dependent on a man.”

            Yes, but first, how representative is this, versus maternal advice about “finding and ‘locking down’ a man of means who can support her in the style to which she is accustomed”, or going to college for “the MRS degree” and such? Secondly, how much is this a recent thing? Examine for contrast pretty much any work from the Regency Era that touches on this issue.

            “I don’t know whether that’s the most common reason for women to work while married– I suspect just having more money coming into the household is more common”

            That was the motivating factor for my mother to start working in her late forties (for the first time in her adult life), so my experience supports the latter; and for those couples I know where “more money” isn’t the factor, it’s then very much a matter of “status requirements and norms of our social class” and “enjoying the work”.

          • Kevin C. says:

            To add further on the “nothing works”* end on birth rates, there’s an interesting argument made by “Shylock Holmes” in a recent post, “The Birth Control Basilisk“.

            I mostly think about the declining birthrates in much the same way as I think about the increase in obesity (which deserves its own post for sure). Specifically, that technology has produced an environment so unlike that to which we’re evolutionarily adapted that people’s instincts no longer produce reliably good outcomes.

            In other words, reliable contraception and abortion has been like a basilisk. It short circuits what had previously been a very successful evolutionary adaption which used to have high reproductive fitness. It leaves humans like the moth circling the light bulb, thinking it is the moon and flying in circles until it drops of exhaustion.

            He enumerates three instincts:
            1. a “very strong, uncomplicated and concrete desire” for sex,
            2. a “a somewhat strong, but quite complicated, abstract and malleable” desire for children “at some point in time”, and
            3. a “very strong, uncomplicated desire to love and care for the children they have.”

            The argument, then, is that the invention of modern birth control has changed our world from one where reproduction is driven primarily by #1 and #3:

            As a result, we’re now expecting the second, weaker desire to do the job where previously the heavy lifting was done by the first. You have to choose to have children. Is it a wonder that this doesn’t wholly succeed?

            *except banning contraception/abortion and rolling back the past century+ of “women’s rights”, or similar unacceptably illiberal measures.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @ Kevin C.

            First, you underestimate the strength of the need/drive in social apes for social contact

            I am not a social ape. Not the way you think of it.

            I am speaking from my own, personal point of view.

            I have researched this issue, and have discussed with others who have researched this issue for years.

            I have also observed people and introspected, and talked to others who have observed people and introspected.

            Just because *you* haven’t meant many married women who don’t work primarily for status reasons (or so you think) doesn’t mean bunk. Scott Alexander knows zero creationists, after all.

            Whatever the fuck you want to say about what I have done, I am done reading you. I stopped reading at the point I quoted, and I’ll avoid reading you from now on, to the extent I can.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ axiomsofdominion
            There’s no liberal acceptable method to increase childbirth rates.

            It’s not liberals who complain about welfare moms.

          • INH5 says:

            Yes, but first, how representative is this, versus maternal advice about “finding and ‘locking down’ a man of means who can support her in the style to which she is accustomed”, or going to college for “the MRS degree” and such?

            I’m pretty confident that the MRS degree is a thing of the past in the West.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I am willing to believe they don’t report on some particular lurid incidents, but are you really saying that they’re faking their whole national crime rate statistics just in case somebody tries to correlate them with immigrant numbers?

        • bean says:

          AIUI, the faking is taking place at lower levels. If the Mayor chews you out for reporting too many Muslim crimes, you stop reporting them. The same happens all over the country, and the national statistics are skewed without any deliberate action at a national level.

        • Cypren says:

          I recall some anecdotes coming out of Germany about how women who went to the police with sexual assault allegations against Muslim immigrant men were “encouraged” not to file a formal report and told to cover up more and not walk alone at night. It caused something of a scandal, as I recall.

          There’s definite political pressure from authorities in Europe at the moment to downplay incidents of Muslim criminality; it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if that pressure was translating to official reporting statistics. There doesn’t need to be a nationwide High Directive 732 of “thou shalt not report Muslim crimes” in order for unspoken political pressure to encourage police departments in areas with high concentrations of Muslims not to “cause problems” by fueling the fire their political bosses clearly want to put out. But that is of course not evidence of anything, just suspicion.

          I don’t think you’re likely to find clear-cut evidence of this unless you can get testimony under oath from people inside the Swedish police who are willing to lose their jobs over it. Do you?

          • Mary says:

            Recordings of victims being pressured to not file complaints would establish it at the lowest level.

          • random832 says:

            Recordings of victims being pressured to not file complaints would establish it at the lowest level.

            Well, you’d have to also prove it’s correlated to the race of the alleged attacker.

        • Aevylmar says:

          It’s somebody’s law – don’t remember who – that “when a measure becomes a target, it stops being a good measure.” David Simon wrote a fairly convincing article about police ignoring crimes in Baltimore (http://davidsimon.com/omalley-bad-math/) for the purpose of keeping statistics down for the purpose of looking good. It’s no surprise that this would be happening elsewhere – indeed, you’d expect it to happen inevitably (Moloch strikes again) anywhere the budget depends on the official crime rate and the official rate isn’t going down fast enough, or, worse, is going up.

        • Mark says:

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sweden-refugee-centre-attacked-rape-disabled-woman-gotland-claims-a7355186.html

          In Sweden, if you’re in a wheelchair, and you get gang-raped by six refugees, it doesn’t count as rape if you don’t “fight enough”.

          Just one story, but it does make me wonder how many of these incidents are being “disappeared”.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Noone else clicked the link I guess, so it falls to me to point out it doesn’t remotely support your view that that ‘doesn’t count as rape’.

            A more reasonable assumption is that when the police let anyone go, it is because they couldn’t prove they did it. There is nothing in the story as reported that suggests it is considered ‘not a crime’, or omitted from statistics.

            Also, what’s a single-victim crime of any kind in a foreign country doing being reported in UK newspapers anyway?

          • Loquat says:

            If you click the link, you’ll see that there were public protests following the suspects being released, one of which involved around 100 people and apparently featured stones being thrown at the town’s refugee center, and Swedish authorities were sufficiently concerned by all this to send extra police to the town. That seems a little more newsworthy than your run-of-the-mill single-victim crime.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago there was a shitstorm in Sweden when police officer Peter Springare from Örebro wrote on FB about how when they investigate crimes, turns out almost all suspects today have names like Muhammed or Ali, which is very different than decades ago, and there’s significant pressure from upwards to downplay it. Complaining about it too loudly will get you fired or worse. (Springare says he does not care and is making a public statement because he is going to retire soon anyway. FB post was investigated for hate speech, but the charges were dropped)

          It’s kinda disgraceful that only English-language source about this that I can find and is not Infowars or Breitbart, is …

          http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/20/trump-may-have-been-unclear-but-sweden-experiencing-migrant-crime-wave.html

          Swedish major newspapers and the FB post (run through Google Translate or something):

          http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/a/O547V/utredning-om-hets-mot-folkgrupp-efter-peter-springares-facebook-inlagg

          https://www.svd.se/inget-atal-mot-polischef-efter-facebookinlagg/om/polisens-kris

          https://www.facebook.com/peter.springare/posts/10208300682343230?_fb_noscript=1

          • One Name May Hide Another says:

            It’s kinda disgraceful that only English-language source about this that I can find and is not Infowars or Breitbart, is …

            Why is Breitbart considered either a relatively unreliable and/or far-right source? This is an honest question. I’ve always avoided Breitbart because I got the impression it was a far-right propaganda machine. However, I have just finished reading Andrew Breitbart’s “Righteous Indignation”, and my impression of the author is that he’s right-libertarian (who used to be a liberal), and generally an honest, intelligent and good guy.

            Is today’s Breitbart very different from the Breitbart from Andrew’s days?

            Or is Andrew full of it? I’d be very curious to read some balanced & rational responses to Andrew’s book, if anyone has any links or recommendations.

          • gbdub says:

            “Is today’s Breitbart very different from the Breitbart from Andrew’s days?”

            Short answer is yes.

            To me Breitbart does not seem very “alt-right” in the “white nationalist neo-Nazi” sense, but they are definitely clickbaity and unabashedly very right-wing biased. I’d certainly avoid them as serious news, and double check anything you find there, although they might occasionally signal boost something you wouldn’t otherwise look into.

    • Atlas says:

      Just a random corollary: anti-immigration people often talk about the higher crime rates of non-Asian, non-white immigrants. (And similarly, racists/white nationalists in the US often talk about the high crime rates of African-Americans.) And I think they’re usually borne out by the facts, but it’s worth considering the degree to which violent crime tends to be intra-racial, at least judging by the US. Even if some groups of non-whites commit crimes at a notably higher rate than whites, how much of an increase in the chance of violent crime victimization for the native-born population does that even produce? (I’m not asking rhetorically; maybe it does produce a real increase.)

      And, to engage in a flight of fancy, hypothetically one could imagine a “have your cake and eat it too” scenario, where the European (in racial, not geographic, terms) population is allowed to live in explicitly segregated gated communities if its members so desire to escape whatever real or imagined costs of diversity they don’t want to deal with, but in exchange we have huge European administered open borders charter cities where tons of people from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent are allowed to move and reap massive gains in their material living standards from the “place premium” as temporary workers. (As I understand it, something like this exists in some of the Gulf States, though it’s often criticized on human rights and labor grounds.)

      • Matt M says:

        I believe the word to describe the system you are proposing is “colonialism.” We had it. It worked pretty well but everyone hated it anyway.

        • Atlas says:

          Well, kind of. (I think the economist Simon Wren-Lewis proposed something like this under the semi-ironic title of “neo-colonialism”, but I can’t find the post so maybe I’m just imagining this.) The key differences would be that:

          1) The “subjects” would clearly and explicitly only join this community of their own free will, and be free to leave whenever they wanted, even if they would probably not have the right to vote. I think this would go very far in defusing the kind of “the blame of those ye better” resentment Rudyard Kipling wrote about in “the White Man’s Burden” that ultimately made colonialism unsustainable.

          2) In practice, European and Japanese colonialism, even the relatively more enlightened British variety, seemed to involve a lot of killing and looting. Hopefully, this proposal—though admittedly fanciful—would not.

        • tmk says:

          Would you like to be black in Belgian Congo?

          • Matt M says:

            I’d rather be in the Belgian Congo than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sure.

          • tmk says:

            Even considering the sharp population decline during the Congo Free State period?

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t know enough about the history of that specific location to speculate.

            Generally speaking, I am very confident that I would rather live in “Africa during the period of European colonialism” than Africa in any other period of time.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Matt M,

            The Congo Free State was to colonialism what the Khmer Rouge were to communism. A ridiculously high proportion of Congolese dead, baskets of human hands collected in lieu of taxes, cannibal tribesmen preferentially recruited as secret police, murdered missionaries, etc.

            The modern Congo is an abattoir, and Belgian colonial rule in the 20th century wasn’t particularly great for natives. But both of them look good compared to the Free State.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Careful now.

            Because the implication is that all the people who actually did not want the Europeans there/in power were just mistaken.

          • Matt M says:

            Because the implication is that all the people who actually did not want the Europeans there/in power were just mistaken.

            Yep. It sure is, isn’t it?

          • rlms says:

            Yes, Ian Smith didn’t seem to like British colonial rule.

          • Matt M says:

            “Yes, Ian Smith didn’t seem to like British colonial rule.”

            This is a very strong mischaracterization. He loved British rule. He hated that they decided to stop ruling. Casting Smith as part of “the people who wanted the Europeans to get out” strikes me as pretty dishonest.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            I am only pointing out that the argument “if they only understood how good our policies are for them they would be on our side” doesn’t usually merit a favorable mention from people on the right around here.

            It’s more complex than that.

          • Urstoff says:

            Nothing says “freedom” quite like having your child’s hand chopped off because you didn’t meet your work quota.

          • rlms says:

            Declaring unilateral independence from British rule doesn’t sound like something you’d do if you loved it.

          • Matt M says:

            “Declaring unilateral independence from British rule doesn’t sound like something you’d do if you loved it.”

            I mean, you love it, but you love being able to live and not have everyone who looks like you driven from the land in a frenzy of rape and murder a little bit more. There are priorities.

            Edit: It seems abundantly clear that the Rhodesians quite clearly would have preferred dominion status within the Commonwealth to UDI – but the British refused to grant them that after repeated promises to do so. They would have rather been ruled by England than by themselves, but that isn’t the choice they were given – the choice they were given was between themselves and Mugabe.

          • rlms says:

            Ah, I wasn’t aware of Ian Smith’s supernatural prescience. Given that Ian Smith decided to declare independence after gazing into his crystal ball and seeing the horrors of the Mugabe regime, I concur wholeheartedly.

          • Matt M says:

            Nah, he just gazed to the north to examine what happened in the Belgian Congo when they left.

            The idea that he somehow just got lucky, that he had no idea how bad Mugabe would be, is asinine.

          • Would you like to be black in Belgian Congo?

            No, assuming you mean the early period under Leopold.

            Would you rather be in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge or in Somaliland in 1955?

            If the answer is Somaliland, as it probably should be, can we conclude that you prefer anarchy to government?

            Or in other words, you picked the single worst example of modern colonialism and used it as if it was the norm.

            If your reference was to the Belgian Congo a little before independence, then my response is not appropriate and the answer is that I would probably prefer being a black in the Congo then to being a black in the Congo now.

          • tmk says:

            @DavidFriedman: Yes, I picked the worst example of colonialism I could think of as a counterexample to the idea that colonialism “worked pretty well” and people hated it for silly reasons.

            There seems to be an idea that life under colonialism was pretty good in all practical ways, and people only criticize it based on things at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy like self-determination, freedom and equality.

            You can or course argue that colonialism was good on average. Is that what you mean?

          • Matt M says:

            It was significantly better than any of the available alternatives.

          • rlms says:

            Leopold’s Belgian Congo was better than any of the available alternatives? I find that very hard to believe. For one thing, British colonial administrators didn’t usually decorate their houses with the severed heads of native slaves.

          • Matt M says:

            Once again, I am speaking in generalities. My claim is not that EVERY instance of colonialism is better than EVERY instance of not having it.

      • Nornagest says:

        Even if some groups of non-whites commit crimes at a notably higher rate than whites, how much of an increase in the chance of violent crime victimization for the native-born population does that even produce?

        I don’t know anything about immigrants, but the FBI collects statistics on ethnicity of perpetrator and victim for homicides in the US. tl;dr is that the black offender, white victim case is more common than the white offender, black victim case, though large majorities of crime are intra-ethnic and whites commit somewhat more total offenses (as we’d expect them to given their much larger population). This probably has something to do with the fact that most black crime happens in dense, ethnically mixed urban areas, so I’d expect the same to be true for those immigrant groups that end up with higher crime rates, since they usually settle in the same kinds of places.

        • Atlas says:

          Indeed, I was thinking of just those statistics in my comment. I really wish the FBI’s statistics were more clear with regards to Hispanics, incidentally.

      • Sandy says:

        if some groups of non-whites commit crimes at a notably higher rate than whites, how much of an increase in the chance of violent crime victimization for the native-born population does that even produce?

        There is of course the problem that NAM crime (or even NAM immigration for that matter) creates spillover effects not related to violent crime victimization itself. Property crime, neighborhoods get worse, no-go zones, parallel societies, decline in social trust, decline in trust between citizens and the state, decline in the perception that the state has authority over everything it’s supposed to have authority over.

        are allowed to move and reap massive gains in their material living standards from the “place premium” as temporary workers.

        Sure, but eventually you run into the problem of leftists deciding nations have no core ethnicity or culture, that everywhere is a Nation of Immigrants, and soon the temporary workers aren’t temporary anymore.

        • Atlas says:

          There is of course the problem that NAM crime (or even NAM immigration for that matter) creates spillover effects not related to violent crime victimization itself. Property crime, neighborhoods get worse, no-go zones, parallel societies, decline in social trust, decline in trust between citizens and the state, decline in the perception that the state has authority over everything it’s supposed to have authority over.

          I feel like there are two things here:

          1) no-go zones/neighborhoods get worse/parallel societies

          It seems to me that this comes down to “somewhere, non-Europeans are living in worse conditions than Europeans.” I guess that this could be/is a problem in a nominally unitary and facially racially neutral polity, how much of a cost would it really present in the scenario I outlined? As long as a citizen doesn’t have to physically enter the territory allotted for the huddled masses, does it really matter whether they’re 50 or 500 or 5000 miles away to him?

          2) loss of social trust

          While I agree that this is a fair criticism of immigration, I don’t see that it’s super relevant to differences in crime rates—e.g. notionally Chinese low-crime immigration will also produce these costs.

          Sure, but eventually you run into the problem of leftists deciding nations have no core ethnicity or culture, that everywhere is a Nation of Immigrants, and soon the temporary workers aren’t temporary anymore.

          Right, which is (part of) why we probably won’t have this scenario in the real world, even though allowing a larger number of temporary nominally unequal segregated migrants would be better for human welfare than a smaller number of nominally equal semi-integrated ones.

          • Sandy says:

            how much of a cost would it really present in the scenario I outlined? As long as a citizen doesn’t have to physically enter the territory allotted for the huddled masses, does it really matter whether they’re 50 or 500 or 5000 miles away to him?

            Parallel societies don’t stay parallel forever. Unless you’re willing to abdicate the rule of law to the huddled masses and allow them to set whatever rules they want for themselves in the territories they’ve been allotted, the kind of law that you’re comfortable with and the kind of law that they’re comfortable with will eventually come into conflict, and then those huddled territories will essentially serve as insurgent launch pads.

            While I agree that this is a fair criticism of immigration, I see that it’s super relevant to differences in crime rates—e.g. notionally Chinese low-crime immigration will also produce these costs.

            Perhaps, but to a substantially lesser degree. The feeling of alienation that might come from living in a neighborhood that has become more Chinese over the years is one thing, but trust within a society is bound to take a much bigger hit when an NAM neighborhood is linked to repeated and premeditated acts of violence against the native population (and all other groups, for that matter), the state claims it cannot do anything about it, and the state’s apologists tell everyone they are foolish to feel this is not a normal state of affairs.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            how much of a cost would it really present in the scenario I outlined? As long as a citizen doesn’t have to physically enter the territory allotted for the huddled masses, does it really matter whether they’re 50 or 500 or 5000 miles away to him?

            If these countries really are in such desperate need of an increased population and there’s no other way to accomplish that goal, how does importing a zillion people and then stuffing them into a ghetto where they never interact with anyone help? A large population number next to your country’s name in the World Almanac doesn’t help if those people aren’t contributing to society.

          • Parallel societies don’t stay parallel forever.

            That depends on lots of features of the societies. Diaspora Jewish communities stayed parallel–operating under their own legal system with permission from the rulers–for well over a thousand years. Old Order Amish have managed for more than two hundred and are still going strong.

          • Mary says:

            One notes that one problem is of the current immigrants that aren’t contributing. Indeed, are telling transparent lies about being 17 to get better benefits and listening to sermons that tell them that welfare is the current day jizya tax, and so their right.

            I’ve heard that less than 1% of those immigrating to Sweden have gotten jobs, for instance.

          • rlms says:

            @Mary
            And where did you hear that? I heard that Swedish schools teach that Islam is satanic, and the Swedish government kidnaps the children of immigrants and brainwashes them. You can assert anything you want, but if you want other people to consider your statements you should provide evidence for them.

          • Mary says:

            And where did you hear that?

            That? Which statement are you expressing disbelief of?

          • rlms says:

            Any and all of your specific claims.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        And, to engage in a flight of fancy, hypothetically one could imagine a “have your cake and eat it too” scenario, where the European (in racial, not geographic, terms) population is allowed to live in explicitly segregated gated communities if its members so desire to escape whatever real or imagined costs of diversity they don’t want to deal with, but in exchange we have huge European administered open borders charter cities where tons of people from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent are allowed to move and reap massive gains in their material living standards from the “place premium” as temporary workers. (As I understand it, something like this exists in some of the Gulf States, though it’s often criticized on human rights and labor grounds.)

        Ask the Germans how the Turkish Gastarbeiter program has worked out for them. “Temporary workers” have a tendency to stay for generations if there isn’t the political will to give them the boot.

        Beyond that, the gains from importing foreign workers come directly from lowering wages and working conditions below what native workers would accept. So it’s not really an enticing offer except for the upper classes who aren’t threatened by low-skill labor. And they typically already have segregated ethnic enclaves to retreat to.

        • Atlas says:

          Ask the Germans how the Turkish Gastarbeiter program has worked out for them. “Temporary workers” have a tendency to stay for generations if there isn’t the political will to give them the boot.

          I fully agree, which is why I don’t this is particularly likely to happen under current conditions in the West—it would require a much more explicitly ethnic/racial definition of one’s role in a political community than the mainstream has been comfortable with since the Second World War. But I think the experience of the Gulf States (which I caution I haven’t yet studied as much as I’d like) shows that something like this isn’t impossible given the will necessary.

          Beyond that, the gains from importing foreign workers come directly from lowering wages and working conditions below what native workers would accept. So it’s not really an enticing offer except for the upper classes who aren’t threatened by low-skill labor. And they typically already have segregated ethnic enclaves to retreat to.

          I don’t think the hypothetical/real gains from immigration, in the sense Michael Clemens outlined in “Trillion Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?“, come from lowering wages for native born workers; they come from allowing workers to move from places where their productivity is low to places where it’s higher. And I think the impact of immigration on real wages is more ambiguous than you suggest—see David Card. While immigrants might serve as a substitute to native born labor, they might also serve as a complement; and in any case natives buy goods that are made with immigrant labor and thus gain (disproportionately if they’re poorer) from cheaper prices.

          And even if the effect of immigration is just pure transfer of surplus from native workers to capital-owners, that’s hypothetically easily remedied with taxes and transfers.

          And on the upper classes thing, I hear anti-immigration people, from the mainstream to white nationalists, say this often and it just seems completely wrong (at least within the US.) The stereotypical most cosmopolitan, upper class and pro-diversity Euro-Americans are the ones who live in places like New York City and California, where there actually is a lot of ethnic diversity. Conversely, the stereotypical most nationalist and lower-class Euro-Americans live in places like Alabama without as much diversity. I would conjecture, before doing the research necessary to rigorously substantiate this, that the only non-white group liberal whites don’t want to live around is poor blacks, who aren’t immigrants. And again at least in America, in all the elite sectors—finance, technology, medicine, academia, etc.—it seems like there are a lot of non-whites, and that elite wisdom is to allow much more high skill non-white immigration.

          • Jiro says:

            I would conjecture, before doing the research necessary to rigorously substantiate this, that the only non-white group liberal whites don’t want to live around is poor blacks, who aren’t immigrants.

            I suspect that poor Hispanics would be equally included with poior blacks. And many of them are immigrants.

            And again at least in America, in all the elite sectors—finance, technology, medicine, academia, etc.—it seems like there are a lot of non-whites, and that elite wisdom is to allow much more high skill non-white immigration.

            Those tend to be Asian immigrants, who are considered non-white only when convenient (remember complainnts about how Silicon Valley is all white?), and who are at any rate subject to different immigration politics than Mexicans.

          • Cypren says:

            I would conjecture … that the only non-white group liberal whites don’t want to live around is poor blacks…

            I suspect you’re making a mistake here by looking at it through a racial rather than cultural lens. My experience living and working among upper-middle-class white liberals/leftists is that they’re delighted to have as many non-white friends as possible, because it’s proof of their worship of the Diversity Gods and hence a strong virtue signal to their peers. But what they don’t want is to live around people from a different culture. Observances of various “flavor” traditions from ethnic cultures — holidays, clothing, art, food and similarly fluffy stuff — are welcomed in the name of Diversity. But only one culture is permitted to supply ideas, behaviors and values: the modern day globalist religion of the Cathedral, taught in universities. All else is heresy.

            As such, white liberals tend, in my experience, to live in large multi-ethnic cities where people are divided into peers and peons. The peons can have whatever culture they want, because they’re background decoration; the only interactions an upper-middle-class professional will have with them are of the customer/service provider type. Meanwhile, friendships and any deeper interactions will be limited to a carefully selected set of other professionals like himself, probably mostly white/Asian with various token members of other minorities mixed in, much like college.

            It was deeply telling to me how many snide comments and uncomfortable looks I got while living in San Francisco for befriending store clerks and other working-class people and introducing them to my peer group. Nothing ever rose to the Hollywood movie level where you had a bunch of rich white people openly mocking and sneering at the poor person in their midst, but there were definitely some uncomfortable situations where I learned that people whose Facebook feeds are filled with preaching about privilege can be pretty blind to their own. And can be pretty damn intolerant of unprivileged people when they’re sitting at the same dinner table instead of off wherever “they belong”.

            Again, note that this isn’t about money, either — this is about culture. An impoverished grad student on food stamps is still “one of us”, the high-status professionals. A self-supporting security guard with no college degree is not.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            My experience living and working among upper-middle-class white liberals/leftists is that they’re delighted to have as many non-white friends as possible, because it’s proof of their worship of the Diversity Gods and hence a strong virtue signal to their peers. But what they don’t want is to live around people from a different culture.

            Yes, it’s the old LETELU phenomenon — Looks Exotic, Thinks Exactly Like Us.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @Cypren: not disputing the factual claim, but just to explain how this looks from the inside: despite the multiculturalism shtick, most liberals are moral realists (in fact if anything they try to derive way too much from supposed universal positive rights of man). So whatever parts of your culture imply ethical claims don’t register as “different culture”, they register as “mistaken.”

            To explain why this coexists with diversity rhetoric: While the immediate goal of diversity rhetoric is to get people to live in peace with one another, an important ideological goal is to elevate universal moral truth by denigrating competing communal commitments. If pro-diversity-ism included diversity of ethical commitments it would no longer serve this goal.

            (This is all massively confused by various alliances of convenience such as liberals and minority religions or liberals and conservative racial minorities.)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            Is it too uncharitable a summation to say it boils down to “Diversity on things that don’t matter, conformity on things that do”?

          • Cypren says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog: I think that makes a lot of sense from the internal view, yes. It definitely results in pretty hypocritical behavior in practice.

            A lot of what drove me away from the Left was the general observation that the right-wing people I knew tended to have harsh words for groups while being kind and generous towards individuals. The left-wing people I knew tended to spout lengthy, worshipful paeans to humanity and every non-white-male identity group they could find, but in practice, treated a lot of the people they met like stage props placed on this earth for their own convenience. The most abusive, dehumanizing tirades and venom I’ve ever witnessed personally have all been from individuals who think of themselves as champions of the underprivileged and underrepresented. But they only seem to care about people when they’re sufficiently abstract and far enough away that they don’t have to be personally inconvenienced by them.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @gobbobobble:

            Not uncharitable at all. My extra bloviating was for the 1% strengthening that being extremely universalist as to morals is part of the cause for being pro-diversity about everything else.

            There’s a similar pattern in liberal sexual ethics, where consent tends to push out all other criteria of sexual morality. Again there’s a superficial inconsistency (though much more superficial this time): if I told you there is a political group that is unusually concerned with sexual morality, in particular sexual immorality on college campuses and how schools handle it, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that this is the same group that most supports gay marriage.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        The flight of fancy is very close to the current world order. All we are missing is some open borders zones. I propose the U.S.A, that being the place with the most experience of unrestricted immigration (during the Ellis Island era).

        (Alas I don’t think the gulf states are typically like this: you need a visa, and your visa is under the control of your employer, hence the labor abuse).

    • Atlas says:

      Also, relevant to the “For Those Who Can See” post, does anyone have thoughts on why is America seemingly so much better at integrating its Muslim immigrants than continental Europe? I don’t mean in terms of terrorism, but rather crime, education, employment, and generally seeming like they enjoy being part of the society. Dearborn, Michigan and the Muslim communities in NYC seem just really, really different from Molenbeek or France’s banlieues. Is it differences in the immigrant population, institutions, both, or something else?

      And @Scott, if you’re interested in a fair-yet-critical examination of Muslim immigration in Europe in that vein, you might enjoy Christopher Caldwell’s relatively short book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.” (If you haven’t already read it.)

      • Sandy says:

        The shortest distance between Western Europe and the Muslim world is just nine miles; that’s the shortest distance between Morocco and Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar. All a Muslim has to do to reach Europe is hop on a boat across the Mediterranean. America has the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so it’s not just anyone who can get here. The Muslim population that winds up in America tends to be extensively filtered for things like class and education levels as a result.

        EDIT: And note that the Somali Muslims who were imported here as refugees do decisively worse than say, Lebanese Muslims who immigrated here during the civil war.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          And note that the Somali Muslims who were imported here as refugees do decisively worse than say, Lebanese Muslims who immigrated here during the civil war.

          Is this really true? I don’t have experience with Lebanese Muslims, but here in Minneapolis we have a large quantity of Somalis. My impression is that there is not a lot of crime by Somalis. I’ve never heard of any Somali gangs. They are pretty poor, which makes sense since many of them came as refugees and are not well educated. Mostly what I’ve heard is that they are entrepreneurial and hustle for jobs, which is kind of the gold standard for poor immigrants.

          Maybe this is one of those things that the authorities are carefully hiding from me, but I don’t think so. When a large number of Hmong came to St Paul a couple of decades ago, I did hear about the difficulty they were having with urban society and of many Hmong gangs. Contrary to that, Somalis have a good reputation. Sometimes one hears about young Somalis that go join ISIS, but that amounts to about a dozen total, not at all significant.

          • Sandy says:

            The Somali community in Minneapolis is the largest source of Americans leaving the country, or attempting to leave the country, to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

          • Cypren says:

            Okay, but so what? We’re talking about three dozen people, and the community is under increased surveillance because of awareness of the problem (and better yet, are actively cooperating with law enforcement because of recognition of the threat).

            I will grant that black swan events are dangerous and hard to quantify. It may be that we will one day experience a massive terror attack perpetrated by a Somali immigrant terrorist cell. But it may also be that we’ll experience a massive terror attack perpetrated by a Chinese sleeper cell or a white nationalist sect interested in destroying the hated Blue Tribe that’s “selling out America”. Radicals gonna radicalize, yo.

            For the moment, the quantifiable information we’ve got suggests that the terrorism threat from the Somali immigrant community is both fairly low-intensity and well-contained. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to panic over this.

            Dependency is another matter entirely. The last numbers I can find are from 2014 but indicate that of the 33,000 Somali immigrants the Census bureau counts in Minnesota, 17,300 of them are on food stamps. That doesn’t seem promising, but it may also be the effects of fairly recent immigration from an impoverished country with no vocational training for modern economies; Somalis haven’t been in the US long enough for us to tell yet if this is indicative of generational dependency.

            Anecdotally, though, people who live and work in the communities with the recent immigrants don’t seem to have a strongly negative view of them; many describe them as hard-working and industrious. This inclines me to take a charitable view for the moment and wait and see how things play out.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Somali community in Minneapolis is the largest source of Americans leaving the country, or attempting to leave the country, to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

            You say that like it’s a bad thing. I’m not sure I really see a down side. They want to kill or die in the name of their religion, so they go off to Syria and one of Putin’s guys kills them without the remorse we’d probably feel if it were one of our guys who had to do it. In the meantime, maybe they scare some more productively-minded Syrian to take their place in Minneapolis (or for the next 4-8 years Berlin or Stockholm or wherever).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Speaking entirely based on second and third hand anecdotes, it seems like Somalis in the US have a better reputation than Somalis in Europe. If this is the case – that’s a big if – does anyone have any ideas as to why that would be the case?

          • Cypren says:

            @dndnrsn: I don’t have any evidence, but my gut guess would be that because the US biases refugee admittance towards women and children first, followed by family reunification, we get more intact families and fewer young single men. Most of the problems I’ve read about in Europe seem to due to the heavily skewed ratio of single men that have come in via the refugee policies; I recall reading somewhere that they were close to 70% of all refugees.

            My guess is that without fluently speaking the native language, and with no skills to succeed in a modern economy and no realistic prospects for marriage or a family, they get into trouble. The American policies ameliorate a lot of this by (intentionally or not) selecting for people who are either young enough to be acculturated through the school system to their new home, or have children to motivate them to work hard and fit in for their family’s sake.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Indeed, the right analogue for North Africans in Europe is probably Central Americans in the US or maybe Mexicans (although Mexico is a rich and well-educated country). But they assimilate just fine in the US, so the mystery remains.

          • rlms says:

            Different populations. The North Africans I know in the UK are perfectly assimilated. They are also middle-class and well-educated.

      • shakeddown says:

        I’ve heard claims that north african muslims do significantly worse than muslims of other origins. If most of the muslims in Europe are north african (which makes sense given geography) and the ones in the US aren’t, this could explain it.

        • tmk says:

          Is that true? At least in northern Europe I think most Muslims are from the Balkan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria or Lebanon, some from Somalia.

          As for Atlas’ question, I think it is because America is more fundamentally multi-racial/cultural. There is an explicit separation between race and nationality. You can eat dim sum or chicken or beans and still be 100% American. In Europe people will call for immigrants to assimilate, but they conflate following the law and general modern liberal values with things like food, clothes, religion, holidays, etc.

          An other things I observed in both the U.S. and U.K. is that employers are quite willing to hire immigrants or people of an other race. That does a lot of help people become a part of civil society. In continental Europe, many people who would not say overtly racist things will still not hire someone who looks different.

          • Aapje says:

            There are a lot of Moroccans in The Netherlands, which is usually considered northern Europe.

            You can find the statistics for Sweden here.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        In addition to being very different populations:

        1) Employment is important for building social connections, and might be expected to be doubly important for a newcomer. So unemployment among immigrants may be a cause as well as an effect, and a higher employment rate for the low-skilled might be relevant to US success.

        1a) In particular, I’d guess that difficulty of firing people might lead to less risky decision-making when it comes to hiring. Then fewer people are going to follow the “hire a bunch of weird despised people for dirt cheap” strategy.

        2) tmk mentions that the US might be better at handling minority groups on an interpersonal level. I suspect it’s better on an institutional level as well. Laicite strikes me as strictly inferior to American-style secularism.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Most has already been mentioned by other commenters, but 2 summary points:

      1: Immigration to Sweden went up by an order of magnitude in 2015, the article covers up to 2013.
      2: A lot of the immigrants live in segregated communities where crime is not reported because the communities self-police. On one hand this is great because they are very good at it, on the other hand, the ‘laws’ that they police by have very low compatibility with a modern western society.

      • rlms says:

        It has a lot of something, but I think it’s a stretch to call “knew which voxsplaining faggot it would be before i clicked” analysis.

    • One Name May Hide Another says:

      Has anyone actually looked at the Swedish crime data referenced in the Wikipedia article that Scott linked? The Brå website has numbers up to 2015, and includes preliminary stats for 2016. So, after looking through some of the available spreadsheets as well as the Wiki article itself, I believe there has been an overall increase in reported crime, with some categories of crime falling (e.g., theft), others rising (e.g., “crimes against life and health”).

      At the same time, in addition to the reported crime data, there is another data source: the official annual survey of about 15000 people. Based on the survey, the Wiki article suggests that the crime rates have either fallen or remained steady (except for sex-related crimes).

      The Wikipedia article cites several reasons as to why the reported crime statistics might be inaccurate, but I fail to find any mention of potential problems with the survey data. Again, apparently, Wiki editors trust the survey to a much larger extent than they trust the crime reports.

      Potential problems with the reported crime data mentioned in the article include procedural changes in the 1960s and the introduction of a new crime reporting system in the 1990s. Additionally, changing attitudes to what constitutes a sex crime may have affected reporting of sexual assaults.

      Would any of these potential problems explain the rising rates in many categories of reported crime from, say, 1995 to 2015? (If so, why? If not, are there any other problems with the reported data not mentioned in the Wikipedia article?)

      Here are some numbers I have extracted from the spreadsheets.

      Total number of reported crimes per 100,000:

      1996: 13,294
      1997: 13,554
      1998: 13,344
      1999: 13,418
      2000: 13,694
      2001: 13,370
      2002: 13,663
      2003: 13,977
      2004: 13,885
      2005: 13,753
      2006: 13,490
      2007: 14,280
      2008: 14,938
      2009: 15,101
      2010: 14,605
      2011: 14,988
      2012: 14,734
      2013: 14,603
      2014: 14,890
      2015: 15,342

      Crimes against life & health reported per 100,000.

      1995 : 647
      1996 : 640
      1997 : 655
      1998 : 674
      1999 : 709
      2000 : 696
      2001 : 701
      2002 : 718
      2003 : 768
      2004 : 787
      2005 : 846
      2006 : 889
      2007 : 948
      2008 : 968
      2009 : 980
      2010 : 991
      2011 : 1,005
      2012 : 974
      2013 : 896
      2014 : 923
      2015 : 932

      Sex-related crimes reported per 100,000:

      1995 : 88
      1996 : 84
      1997 : 87
      1998 : 94
      1999 : 102
      2000 : 98
      2001 : 103
      2002 : 108
      2003 : 113
      2004 : 116
      2005 : 130
      2006 : 134
      2007 : 137
      2008 : 154
      2009 : 169
      2010 : 183
      2011 : 181
      2012 : 178
      2013 : 184
      2014 : 210
      2015 : 184

      But, here’s an example of a category with a falling trend: overall theft crimes reported per 100,000:

      1995 : 7,759
      1996 : 7,869
      1997 : 8,372
      1998 : 8,140
      1999 : 8,029
      2000 : 7,934
      2001 : 7,495
      2002 : 7,598
      2003 : 7,446
      2004 : 7,247
      2005 : 6,979
      2006 : 6,417
      2007 : 6,302
      2008 : 6,091
      2009 : 5,947
      2010 : 5,631
      2011 : 5,783
      2012 : 5,613
      2013 : 5,552
      2014 : 5,572
      2015 : 5,404

      With regards to sex crimes, according to NTU survey data, the estimated number of affected people in the population (as opposed to the estimated number of incidents) has changed in the following way:

      2005 : 64,000
      2006 : 54,000
      2007 : 52,000
      2008 : 56,000
      2009 : 67,000
      2010 : 54,000
      2011 : 52,000
      2012 : 62,000
      2013 : 98,000
      2014 : 76,000
      2015 : 129,000

      As far as I know, this has not been adjusted for population growth. However, population in Sweden in 2005 was 9.03 mln, whereas in 2015 it was 9.74 mln, so the relative numbers have increased dramatically as well. If I’m reading the data correctly, the estimated percentage of reported events has changed as follows:

      2005 : 11%
      2006 : 17%
      2007 : 14%
      2008 : 19%
      2009 : 12%
      2010 : 23%
      2011 : 19%
      2012 : 10%
      2013 : 12%
      2014 : 8%
      2015 : 9%

      If this is accurate, the supposed increase in reported sex-related crime cannot be attributed to increased rate of reporting.

      Now, there is a separate Wikipedia article about sex crimes in Sweden, which I haven’t studied in detail. However, their graph seems to include data only up till 2012, hence the article’s claim that the percentage of the population exposed to sexual crime hasn’t changed. (The big increase has occurred after 2012.)

      If the crime rates are actually increasing, this doesn’t necessarily mean immigrants have anything to do with it. There are some older data sources that suggests certain groups of immigrants committed crimes at much higher rates, and when I have a moment (and if anyone is interested in this discussion) I will try to find all the relevant links and post them here. However, I’m not making any claims that the old data can be easily extrapolated to today’s immigrant population.

      [Note: I am having problems submitting comments that contain links. I will try to post a separate comment with direct links to the sources I have used for the numbers above. In the meantime, all the spreadsheets are available on the Brå website.]

    • AnteriorMotive says:

      i assume part of it is a replacement effect. My model is that a society can only sustain a limited amount of crime, a niche usually filled by the poor and maladapted. When there’s an influx of people who are even more poor and maladapted, the burglary market gets overcrowded, and native swedes find it more lucrative to return to (mostly)legitimate sources of income.

      There was a pattern like that in America. The irish and italian gangs gave way to black and hispanic gangs once they stopped being the most poor and desperate kids on the block.

    • JayT says:

      I’m not anti-immigrant, but according to this Wikipedia entry:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Sweden#Crime
      as of 2013, 33% of people in prison or on probation are foreigners when they only make up 15% of the population. It’s possible that the native born population has gotten less criminal, so the overall rate could drop while immigrants could commit more and more crimes. I’d have to do more research (which is hard since I can’t read Swedish), but on the surface it seems plausible.

      • shakeddown says:

        This is plausible but seems like shifting the goalposts. An immigrant population that’s twice as criminal as the (very low-crime) swedish natives (even before accounting for confounders, like them being poorer) isn’t an “immigrant crime wave” by any means.

        • JayT says:

          Well, Scott isn’t asking about an immigrant crime wave, he’s asking what an anti-immigration person’s response would be to the fact that crime has been going down. To that, I could see this hypothetical anti-immigrant person argue that if immigrants are twice as criminal that the negatives of letting them into the country outweigh the positives.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        After looking at the official Swedish data, I don’t actually believe the overall rate has dropped. Reports of crimes against life/health and sexual crimes per 100,000 people are steadily increasing. Although reports of crimes such as theft are decreasing at the same time. Still, the overall rate has gone up (see the numbers in my previous comment). Now, in addition to the reported crimes data there is some survey data that seems to suggest crime hasn’t gone up (other than sex-related crime which has more than doubled since 2012.) The Wikipedia article relies on the survey as opposed to the reported data, but it doesn’t list satisfactory reasons as to why. The Wikipedia article on rape in Sweden, additionally, is out of date, as it cites numbers up till 2012 only.

  3. mrbodoia says:

    Hey everyone! In light of recent discussions about how political news is propagated, I thought some of you might be interested in a side project I’ve been working on.

    Tripartisan is a news aggregator (similar to HackerNews, Reddit, or Voat) focused on politics. The key difference between Tripartisan and other aggregators is that it asks users to identify their political stance on signup. Users choose between three broad categories: left-leaning (i.e. blue tribe), right-leaning (i.e. red tribe), and neither (i.e. gray tribe + anyone else). This makes possible a number of features which don’t exist on other aggregation sites. For example:

    1) You can see not just the number of votes a post or comment has received, but what the partisan distribution of those votes is.

    2) You can sort posts by partisan affiliation, or use the “best” sort, which prioritizes posts that received votes from across the political spectrum.

    3) For a given post, we can show the top comment from each of the three “tribes” directly underneath.

    4) When viewing a user’s profile, you can see both the partisan distribution of the people who upvoted that user, as well as the partisan distribution of the posts/comments which that user upvoted.

    These are just a few examples of the features that such a partitioning of users makes possible. I’m hoping that this framework could help prevent the echo chamber/hivemind problems suffered by other political news aggregators like r/politics or voat. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be politically neutral, I think (and I would assume many of you here agree) that it’s important to be exposed to what the “other side” thinks is the important news of the day – if only so that you know how best to refute their claims. I know that when I read particularly politicized articles, I often think to myself “This seems convincing to me, but what would a reasonable member of [other tribe] think of this?” My hope is that a news aggregator like Tripartisan might make it very easy to answer this kind of question.

    At the moment Tripartisan just a prototype, but I’d be interested to hear peoples’ thoughts on it (both the concept and the implementation).

    • cactus head says:

      I like the concept and I hope the website gets big.

      Two questions about the implementation: First, do you think it’s likely that in practice the website will end up being popular only among one tribe, like how e.g. voat has a reputation for being right-leaning? What do you plan to do about this if so?

      Second, if you weren’t going by blue/red/grey tribes, how would you have split it? I think the 3 tribes thing is an interesting idea from Scott but I’m a bit skeptical of it. (This isn’t the place to go into details but essentially: most of USA fits into blue and red but the tiny lesswrong diaspora gets its own third colour?)

      • mrbodoia says:

        Thanks!

        Regarding the first point: it does seem possible that the website will be more popular among one tribe than among others. However, I think that at least part of the extreme polarization of places like r/politics and voat is due to their design. Once a certain “tipping point” is reached, it’s very hard for your voice to be heard if you don’t belong to the ideological majority, and so any remaining members who doesn’t belong to that majority are driven out. I’m hoping that by making it easier for users to see posts/comments with broad partisan appeal or that appeal to their particular tribe, ideological minorities will be more tempted to stick around. So even if there does end up being an imbalance, as long as it isn’t overwhelming (say 50/30/20), the ranking system can be tweaked so that posts/comments popular among the minority tribes will still see the light of day.

        On the second point: I actually think that blue/red/gold (I use gold rather than gray for the third group, just for aesthetic purposes) is a decent split. It’s true that from my perspective (libertarian-ish), most of the US tends to seem either blue or red. But I think that a lot of the people that I would classify as blue or red would classify themselves as neither. I think this is borne out a bit by the party identification surveys. If most of the people who identify as independents place themselves in the Gold category, we’d have a pretty good balance.

        • Matt M says:

          Do you have any thoughts to what might happen if one tribe becomes predominant and then starts “registering” as the other tribe to mess with things?

          I’m a pretty far right guy. What’s to stop me from saying I’m a Democrat, but then upvoting all right-wing stories and down-voting left-wing stories in order to make it look like “even democrats agree with this ‘trump is the greatest president of all time’ story from Breitbart!”

          • mrbodoia says:

            Yeah, this concern has been raised by other people I’ve showed this to, and I agree that it’s the biggest potential flaw in the design.

            My current plan is to see how often this occurs in practice. If it turns out to be a major problem, I will have to try and identify “false flaggers” by their voting behavior and then either ban them or force them to change affiliations.

            I’m hoping that as long as the majority of users are truthful about their categories, that will provide enough signal to make automatic identification of deceivers possible. But if we reach a point where the majority of users lie about their tribe, then I’m not sure what could be done.

          • pedrodegiovanni says:

            I think an easy solution would be to include a separate score in which you assign political affiliation considering how an user votes instead of what they are registered as. For example, if you upvote red articles and downvote blue ones you belong to the red tribe regardless of what you consider yourself. Trolling would imply having a blue account that occasionally votes red and it’d be much more cumbersome.

          • Matt M says:

            One suggestion I might have is to ask a more specific question – such as “Who did you vote for in the election?” and use that for sorting purposes. While people could still lie, it’s more direct and a more obvious lie that eliminates people who are simply deluding themselves (i.e. the guy who genuinely believes he is an “independent” despite having voted exclusively for one party in every election in his life).

            This also gives you a clear frame of reference to see whether your site is representative. If you end up with 30% of your site identified as Gary Johnson voters, you know that either something you’re doing is appealing to libertarians specifically, or that a lot of people are lying about having voted for him.

          • mrbodoia says:

            @pedrodegiovanni Yeah I think that’s a good idea. It would be difficult to implement something like that at this time since there’s not much data so far. But if the site gets bigger, I’m definitely going to explore automated detection of users’ affiliation.

            One issue with this tactic is that it still requires some sort of ground truth. So even if we set users’ affiliations based on whether they tend to upvote red or blue articles, we still need a way to categorize the articles as red or blue in the first place. I was anticipating that users’ self-identification would be the ground truth, but if we instead infer user affiliation from their behavior, we’d need a new ground truth.

            Though now that I think about it, that isn’t necessarily true. If I just clustered the users into three groups based on voting preferences, without attaching any partisan labels to either users or posts, it might turn out that the three groups correspond nicely to the left, the right, and some independents/neutrals. Of course, it might also turn out that the groups correspond to something completely different, or don’t cluster nicely at all. In any case it’s something that I’m eager to try when I have a bit more data to work with.

          • mrbodoia says:

            @Matt M That’s an interesting thought. Based on what some other commenters have said, I’m thinking about implementing a quick political orientation quiz on signup – a handful of questions to try and gauge which group people should belong to.

            I see your point about using something concrete (voting record) to tease out people who might be in denial about their true orientation. But I also think that voting behavior – particularly in this past election – might not give the clearest signal. For example, there are a significant number of #NeverTrump conservatives, who didn’t vote for Trump but who I would nevertheless like to end up in the right-leaning group. Also, focusing too much on the U.S. election might alienate users from other countries.

          • Daniel says:

            @mrbodoia You can do high quality automatic classification of users even with a very low quality, sparse signal for ground truth, if the number of votes reaches a reasonable threshold. You can use a recursive algorithm similar to PageRank. There’s a clever aphorism by Cosma Shalizi that’s relevant here: “One man’s vicious circle is another man’s successive approximation procedure.”

            An example of a sparse signal would be simply a short list of known partisan websites. You can bootstrap from there. Instead of a hard classification into three clusters, it’s better to make the algorithm emit a probability distribution (three numbers), and use that instead of the hard clustering whenever possible.

            Of course this fails if the near-majority of your users do creepy things like using many dishonest votes on unimportant comments just to mislead the algorithm. But then you are in trouble anyway.

        • Jiro says:

          If you use red, blue, and “gold”, you are imitating the colors of Pokemon Go factions. You may wish to do this anyway, but keep it in mind.

          (I was getting ready to post a snarky comment about the gyms in my area all being occupied by Team Mystic, but wasn’t sure enough people would understand it.)

      • Brad says:

        Second, if you weren’t going by blue/red/grey tribes, how would you have split it? I think the 3 tribes thing is an interesting idea from Scott but I’m a bit skeptical of it. (This isn’t the place to go into details but essentially: most of USA fits into blue and red but the tiny lesswrong diaspora gets its own third colour?)

        To be fair in the original post Scott didn’t have grey as a full fledged tribe. He called it something like a half formed offshoot of the blue tribe. It was commentors that ran away with it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Well, he said blue tribe was his outgroup, so ….

          • Aapje says:

            And the red tribe his far group, so that leaves only 1 ingroup…

          • tmk says:

            I think Scott meant that the red tribe is so far away that it’s not even the outgroup.

            Someone joked that the tribes are: grey – who are right, blue – who are wrong, and red – who are incapable of making moral decisions. It’s a joke but I think it gets at something. I often see grey people addressing the blue tribe in writing and criticizing them. I never see greys addressing the red tribe. The red tribe is treated as some kind of irrational mass that responds to stimuli from the other tribes and can be used as a tool, but is not something worth criticizing.

            On a side note, I think the tribe theory has made some wrong predictions. Last year many argued that while Trump is saying a lot of seemingly right-wing things, he is a successful New Yorker so he must be blue tribe at heart. He was just saying all those things about Muslims and Mexicans to get the red tribe behind him, then he would implement centrist or even liberal policies. Can we agree that has turned out to be completely false?

            Btw, tell me if I am posting too much in this thread.

          • shakeddown says:

            I don’t know if the interpretation is that Red is incapable of making moral decisions – it can seem* like Red are capable of making them, and deliberately make the opposite ones. For example, “Whenever you complain about Trump doing something terrible, republicans are filled with glee that you’re miserable”.

            *I don’t think this is actually true, but it’s an impression that’s easy to get, especially through internet interactions.

          • Brad says:

            Suppose we were talking about emos or goths instead of greys. (I may be dating myself here.) Wouldn’t it make sense to say that the mainstream blue tribe was their outgroup while at the same time saying they are part of the greater blue tribe rather than a full fledged independent tribe?

          • I often see grey people addressing the blue tribe in writing and criticizing them. I never see greys addressing the red tribe.

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but my early political writing largely consisted of a column in The New Guard, the magazine of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student group. I was the token libertarian.

            A good deal more recently, but still a while back, I attended a high up conservative get together to debate one of their people on (I think) free trade vs protectionism. I had the opportunity to meet, and be positively impressed by, Phyllis Schlafly.

            And I debated encryption with Ed Meese, but that was back in 1997.

          • tmk says:

            @shakeddown: Interesting point, but this is not something I see the typical internet libertarian write about. Maybe Trumpism appears so trivially evil that it’s impossible to write a biting and intelligent critique.

            @Brad: I’m not sure, weren’t there emos and goths in red country too? I’m not convinced of the whole red/blue dichotomy. I would say emos and goths were a reaction against general mainstream suburban family life, which have aspects of both the red and blue tribe.

            @DavidFriedman: Thank you, it’s good to see that libertarianism has not be completely consumed by Trumpism. There was definitely a time when the grey tribe criticized conservatism, back when the prime online topics were creationism, DVD-decrypters, gay marriage and marijuana. It just feels like those days are gone.

          • Cypren says:

            I consider myself one of the members of the “gray tribe” and Scott’s description of them in that essay was one of the first times that I’d heard anyone really identify the niche where I so often found myself.

            Culturally, I’m a Blue in most ways. I work in a high-status profession, eat Blue foods, travel the world and have friends in many other countries, read a lot of books that get talked about at Blue dinner parties, watch Blue TV shows and movies, and so forth. If you met me at a party in Los Angeles you’d probably think I’m just a typical person in the entertainment industry.

            But politics and policy-wise, my intuitions are polar opposite of almost everything held sacred by the Blue Tribe. I’m strongly anti-authority and hence anti-government, believe that holding “diversity” as a meta principle is not just non-helpful but actively harmful, strongly disagree with affirmative action and identity politics, and believe very strongly in equity (defined as systemic rules which treat all individuals equally with no consideration of identity or special exceptions for favored groups), finding “equality” not just misguided but abhorrent as a moral precept. All of these things make me persona non grata to the Blue Tribe.

            But I also believe that abortion is an unpleasant but probably socially beneficial thing given the enormous downsides of reckless procreation, that people have the right to sleep with whomever consents and society should butt out of it, and that religion is a very, very dangerous foundation for public policy. All of these things put me directly at odds with the Red Tribe.

            And on top of that, I think foreign interventionism is sometimes necessary and justifiable both for humanitarian reasons and for proactive defense against looming threats. (Better to nip some things in the bud than wait until they’re at your gates.) And I think that markets have discrete failure modes and that coercive monopolies are sometimes the lesser evil to protect both economic efficiency and individual rights. These principles put me at odds with libertarians.

            So the “gray tribe” — culturally Blue, lifting some ideas from the Red Tribe and with some sympathies towards libertarianism without accepting it wholeheartedly — seems like the best label I can use. Judging by the reactions around the web since the essay was published, I’m not the only one in this odd niche, either, though I’m sure it has slightly different meanings to different people.

            I interact with the Blue Tribe every day of my life and am completely surrounded by them. If I ever interact with Red Tribe members in the real world, it’s only likely to be service workers with whom I’m not talking politics and am unaware of their views. I know exactly two people in real life who believe that abortion is infanticide, and neither one self-identifies as a Republican. I know no one who believes that prayer should be in schools or that the Bible should be displayed in a courtroom.

            The Red Tribe is a “fargroup” for me because I don’t interact with them and hence there’s no real emotional urge to criticize them. It’s not agreement; it’s disinterest borne of inattention. They’re not doing anything to irritate me on a regular basis in my personal life, they’re just a bunch of weirdos somewhere else in the country holding different beliefs, some of which overlap with mine and some which don’t. On the other hand, there’s a pretty good chance that if someone says something horribly intolerant or offensive to me in a given day, it’s a Blue Tribe member. So I’m a lot more inclined to rant about them since they’re causing friction for me every day, if not in overt comments then simply in the groupthink assumption that everyone who doesn’t believe their “religion” is an evil fascist.

            Judging by Scott’s posts, he seems to be in a similar situation, and I’m guessing his rationale for directing most of his criticism at the Blue Tribe is similar.

          • Brad says:

            @Cypren
            I just don’t see that the tribe concept works for what you are describing. Yes, you have different politics from the majority of people around you. But we already have words to describe people’s politics. If the tribes are redundant with that, what’s the point?

            The thing that really struck me about the essay Scott wrote about the tribes was the concept of dark matter. How many of us move through the world and never come into sustained contact with someone from the other tribe. That’s what makes him and you Blue Tribe no matter how much you loathe the politics that most of us have.

            The Grey Tribe isn’t a real tribe because it doesn’t have to the critical mass to achieve this isolation, at least not yet and not in most places. Someone that works at MIRI or something, might seem to be to the contrary, but even they probably don’t have sufficient isolation. And when you start to talk about really tiny bubbles it doesn’t make sense to define an entity at the same top level as blue and red.

            If we wanted to extend the metaphor to a third tribe, Black would make a lot more sense than Grey. It wouldn’t include all African-Americans, but there are large-ish groups of black people that have a distinct culture and no regular or deep interactions with white people.

          • Cypren says:

            @Brad: On the whole, I think you make a good point. But let me offer a counterargument: the reason I can coexist with the Blue tribe is specifically because I disguise my politics. Political ideology is at this point fairly central to tribal cohesion; if I were to say what I really think at Blue parties, I would become a social reject in short order, if not be hounded out of my job and career for CrimeThink.

            To wit: I’m only a member of the Blue Tribe so long as I’m play-acting the part of being one. It’s not that I wouldn’t happily stay a member despite my disagreements; it’s that they wouldn’t have me. So I don’t think I’m really a “member” so much as an “infiltrator”: good enough at impersonating actual members to avoid being thrown out.

            Maybe everyone is secretly hiding massive philosophical differences with the tribe that would get them socially ostracized, and the pressure for ostracism is entirely a construction of preference falsification. But I doubt it; I think most of the Blue Tribe are sincere in their beliefs and really do consider my real viewpoint to be objectively evil.

          • tmk says:

            @Cypren: Most people are hiding something when socializing. I think the tribe around you only appear homogeneous because everyone is hiding thing to fit in.

          • Brad says:

            @Cypren If you want to describe your exact connection to the blue tribe as complicated, that certainly makes sense to me. My (quixotic) project is a continued objection to the concept of a grey tribe. It doesn’t seem to carve reality at the joints.

          • Megaflora says:

            l think that it is difficult to determine the political views of people by watching how they act within a specific group. I think that most people will soften or mute their unpopular beliefs in response to what direction they think the wind is blowing.

            I would guess that there are even groups where the majority actually hold a certain belief but keeps it to themselves. This is similar to the reason that figuring out how many people oppose governments which punish dissent is so difficult and revolutions can appear to come out of nowhere.

            One has to admit that tabooing the expression of particular beliefs (along with perceived dog whistles) is a very effective way of preventing people who hold the beliefs from coordinating in meatspace.

            I actually get where SJWs are coming from here. It’s not just that they find certain beliefs morally repugnant and want them obliviated, what they really fear that if the -ists are able to publicly express these beliefs without suffering huge costs, one of (if not the biggest) hurtles that prevented them from being able to publicly coordinate will collapse.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Megaflora:
            I agree with what you’re saying here – preventing people from coordinating is part of the point of some things being acceptable to say and other things not be – but one quibble:

            “Say” and “act” are different. I know white people who will rail against racism, condemn other white people as racists, etc, but have friend groups that are noticeably disproportionately white, etc. More than once I’ve had the surreal experience of hearing racism loudly condemned at all-white parties (not, like, the theme was “only white people! 50s attire!”, but somehow only white people showed up…)

            Even in environments that are quite diverse – I went to a university that is under 50% white, for example – there’s rarely punishment for white people who act racist in lowkey and relatively unimportant ways. The white person who only has white friends is unlikely to get any flak – nobody really says anything openly about it. If they were in charge of university admissions and let in disproportionately white students, heads would roll, of course.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            Only the most extreme of the extreme try to police the racial diversity of other’s personal friends. That’s a good thing. Do you really think it’s racist to have friends whose racial mix doesn’t mirror the larger group you’re in? It seems to me that this is pretty natural as a result of non-racist factors. One, de-facto segregation; most people will have met their friends in groups which did not look like society overall. Two, culture (which is correlated with race); most people are going to be better able to make friends with those from similar cultures.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler:

            I’m not proposing anything of the sort. It’s not racist to have a friend group that has different demographics from society at large. It is a wee bit interesting, however, when the (white) people who are the most frothing-at-the-mouth about the general iniquity and racism of (other) white people have a friend group that is infinitely (in the literal sense of the term) whiter than their immediate surroundings. I’m not objecting to people having nonrepresentative friend groups. I’m gesturing at likely hypocrisy.

        • Deiseach says:

          I liked the idea of Violet Tribe (an off-shoot of the Red Tribe in the same way that Grey Tribe was an off-shoot or sub-set of greater Blue Tribe culture) – culturally/by inclination of Red Tribe background or values, but with cultural interests or living/working/assimilated into Blue Tribe spaces. You know, you can like hunting and opera, or yes sure you’re a Bible basher but you’ve also read Dostoevsky or Tolstoy kind of thing.

          That never seemed to get anywhere, though 🙁

    • Nornagest says:

      You’re gonna get three (or fewer) echo chambers, because eventually everyone’s going to filter by tribe and only delve into the other tags for point-and-laugh/quote-mining purposes. There is so little cross-tribal trust right now that downvotes from the other tribe may well be taken as a positive incentive, far from encouraging bipartisanship; see for example the main political subreddits.

      Also, if the proportion of committed Gray/other people is small enough compared to the left or the right, the “other” category is going to end up being dominated by identitarians who for whatever reason don’t want to identify as such — maybe they’re ideologically heterodox, maybe they e.g. think of themselves as “leftists” and you called the category “liberal”, maybe something else. Depending on details and initial conditions you might even end up incentivizing lying about your views; if that goes far enough you’ll end up with a monoculture, just one where some percentage of the posters are concern trolling or playing Simplicio. Maybe there’ll be a few posters of other political persuasions staying on as court eunuchs, but that doesn’t really matter.

      I don’t think these are solvable problems as long as you’re using a karma system and relying on self-reports for partisan tagging. A more robust method might involve using some kind of clustering algorithm to identify natural categories.

      • mrbodoia says:

        I agree that trying to avoid echo chambers is basically an uphill battle against human nature.

        However, I think there is an important difference between the subreddit framework and the framework for my site. For one thing, the front page of Tripartisan is explicitly designed to make sure that posts which are popular among all three types of users float to the top. So it’s true that people can choose to sort by e.g. left-leaning posts only, but the default is guaranteed to show a mix of all three.

        Comments are ranked the same way. This means that even if the vast majority of commenters on a post are e.g. right-leaning, a post which gets a small number of left-leaning votes will still rise to the top. So it isn’t really possible for any number of voters from one side to drown out the voices from the other side.

        That being said, the second problem that you mentioned – false flagging, or lying about your affiliation on signup – is definitely not overcome by this framework. I’ll have to try and make sure that there isn’t a strong enough incentive to do that, but it may not be possible.

        I do like the idea of using a clustering algorithm – that was actually the original idea. But I figured I would try something with more explicit categories first and see how that worked. If false-flagging turns out to be too great of a problem, then I will investigate the clustering idea further.

        • WashedOut says:

          Why not start the registration with a questionnaire made up of political discovery questions?

          The user is then presented with a scale (or in this case maybe a point on the inside of a triangle, each vertex representing a strong political persuation) – this does the coarse-grain allocation to a political “bin”. Then the user is free to navigate within a political subarea of the scale or triangle so they can fine-grain their views.

          This could also act as a speed-hump in the middle of the signup process to disincentivise false-proclamations.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Users choose between three broad categories: left-leaning (i.e. blue tribe), right-leaning (i.e. red tribe), and neither (i.e. gray tribe + anyone else).

      Ehhhhhhh

      In addition to the other problems (e.g.: left-leaning and right-leaning don’t mean a lot in terms of actual ideas), let’s be careful; that’s not what those terms mean. In particular recall that Scott’s “gray tribe” is a subset of his “blue tribe”, not something altogether separate.

      • mrbodoia says:

        I might be using the tribal labels a little loosely here. I was using “gray tribe” to mean something like “futurist libertarian”, which is a group that I see a lot of around the internet and that seems distinct from the blue tribe, but rereading Scott’s original post about the tribes it seems that he is indeed referring to a subset of the blue tribe. And you’re right, it looks like his definitions of “red tribe” and “blue tribe” are a little bit different than what I was remembering. So I’m going to retract my comparison between the groups on Tripartisan and the “tribes”.

        Anyway, my goal is not so much to get people to group themselves according to the specific groups that Scott identified. The point was more to try and get users to cluster themselves into three groups which are likely to have somewhat similar up/down-voting behavior, so as to extract more signal from each user’s votes. I figured that the groups people would find most intuitive were left-leaning, right-leaning, and other. But I’m also open to suggestions here. If you had to divide all participants in current political conversation into three very rough groups, how would you do it?

        In case you’re wondering why I picked three groups specifically, it seems to me that three is the right balance between too few groups (in which case we end up with large in-group ideological differences) and too many groups (in which the strength of the signal from each group is lost). But if you think there is a reasonable partition into more or less than three groups, I’d be interested to hear that as well!

        • Evan Þ says:

          Use the good old Political Compass and divide people into four groups? That’d roughly be Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, and (in the old European sense) Christian Democrats.

          • rlms says:

            Are you saying the top-left quadrant is Christian Democrats?

          • shakeddown says:

            The weird thing for me with that grouping is that I somehow come off on the right in both subcategories despite being firmly in the left.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @rlms, pretty much. People like (I imagine) Deiseach, who both vehemently oppose abortion and vigorously support welfare. Not sure how common they are over on this side of the ocean, though.

          • rlms says:

            I think I agree that those kinds of people are in the top-left (when I filled out the Political Compass test trying to answer like I thought the Pope would, that’s where I ended up), but there are also quite a lot of non-Christian authoritarian leftists. So I think there is another distinction to be made.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Not sure how common they are over on this side of the ocean, though.

            Plenty, at least below the eventual wall.

            So I think there is another distinction to be made.

            Yes, the most obvious (to me) missing piece of the classic political compass is the lack of a third Conservative/Progressive axis.

          • mrbodoia says:

            @ Evan Þ: I think this is a good idea. The original Political Compass test is a bit long and might discourage people from signing up. But I’m considering offering a watered-down version to people who don’t immediately know which group to pick.

            I would be willing to expand from three groups to four if it looks like each group provides a strong signal. However, I’m not convinced that there are enough Christian Democrats out there to justify them getting their own group (Not to mention the fact that “Quadpartisan” just doesn’t have the same ring to it!). If that’s the case, then I’ll probably just lump them together with the Libertarians in the Gold group.

            I realize that imposing these broad partisan categories glosses over a lot of important differences between individual users’ views. But it seems to me that by far the most important divide in contemporary politics is between the left (Political Compass Liberals) and the right (Political Compass Conservatives). My thinking was to give each of those contingents their own category, and then include a catch-all category for everyone else.

            Even if I do stick with three groups, I’m definitely going to change the name of the third category. The people that I’m expecting to end up in that category usually have strong and considered political opinions, and I imagine it’s not very gratifying to have those opinions summed up by a button that says “Neither”.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’d urge you to at least keep track of all four (or more?) on the back end, even if you lump everyone into three groups in practice. Who knows; maybe a couple hundred Christian Democrats will sign up, and you’ll be able to split them pretty soon. That’d also get past the problem of the “Neither” button.

          • mrbodoia says:

            Good point. In fact, the best solution would probably be to just save everyone’s answers to the political orientation quiz. That way I could experiment with different ways of dividing people up based on how they answered, and pick whichever partition seems to provide the best signal.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I have a notion that there should be a way for people to develop new groups, either on their own or with moderation.

            Maybe people can design their own logo (if you’re using stars, then choose color of star, maybe allow multi-colored stars), then see if a group accretes to the new logo.

          • mrbodoia says:

            @ Nancy Lebovitz: It’s an interesting idea, but I would probably want it to be carefully controlled. What I like about the current system is that you can see at a glance what kind of partisan support each post/comment received (since there are only three user groups). With more than three groups, and particularly with no strict limit on the total number of groups, this feature would be less useful.

            A variant of this idea which came up somewhere else in the thread is to retain the current division into three (or possibly four) groups, but allow the members of each group to divide themselves into subgroups. So both social justice types and Marxist types would be part of the Blue group, but they could have their own subgroup and a corresponding shade of blue. Similarly, both libertarians and Christian Democrats would belong to the Gold group, but they would have their own subgroup and shade of gold.

            If I went down this road, I would likely display a simple blue/gold/red vote tally on each post/comment as I’m doing now, but clicking on the tally would trigger a popup with a more detailed breakdown of the votes by subgroup.

        • Deiseach says:

          If you had to divide all participants in current political conversation into three very rough groups, how would you do it?

          Discounting everyone on here but based on what I’m seeing elsewhere:

          (1) Shrieking Termagants Of Every Gender

          (2) Head In The Sand Obstinate ‘All Is As It Should Be’

          (3) The Disgruntled Majority For Whom The Eschaton Cannot Come Fast Enough

          The first two don’t necessarily line up neatly with parties; Head In The Sanders (but nothing to do with Bernie) can be found in both parties, where they and theirs have done nothing wrong, their candidate(s) were perfect, they have no need to re-evaluate policy or direction, they wuz robbed by the Russians, the machinations of the Other Lot, the Gnomes of Zurich, etc.

          Ditto for the Termagants. “Burn it all down!” comes from the extremes on both sides.

    • John Nerst says:

      It feels like a good idea but I’m skeptical it’ll work as intended. Are the affiliations of people who comment displayed in some way? That’d probably make things worse, as you tend to interpret someone’s words based on who they are and what side they represent, i.e it might just make it easier to identify who you should ignore.

      Even if not, three groups aren’t enough, IMO. You could get a lot better data by having more categories (something like old left, new left, liberal, libertarian, conservative, nationalist etc.), or even allow several labels and different category schemes.

      And try not to reinforce the “tribes” = “political parties” idea. Red vs. blue tribe is a social and cultural model, not a partisan one. The tribes exist in other countries as well even where the political situation is different.

      • mrbodoia says:

        Yes, the political affiliations of both post authors and commenters are displayed (your username is colored either blue, red, or gold to indicate affiliation). I agree that this could potentially make people more disagreeable. But I also think that there’s something to be said for “wearing your views on your sleeve” so people know where you’re coming from. In addition, my goal with this site is not so much to get different sides to agree with each other, but more to give each side an equal voice in the same space. If a user wants to ignore comments made by the other side, that’s unfortunate, but it’s at least an improvement over the old model where minority viewpoints get filtered/downvoted out of the conversation entirely.

        The question of exactly how many groups to have is a good one. My thinking for using three was that left vs right seems to be the most salient divide in politics today, but since there are a lot of people that don’t strongly identify with either side of that division, there should be a third “catch-all” group. It’s certainly true that we could achieve more in-group ideological homogeneity by increasing the number of groups. But I worry that with more than three, it will become difficult for people to keep track of what each group means. Perhaps a good middle ground would be to keep the three current groups, but create subdivisions within the groups (e.g. the left-leaning group could have old left, new left, and liberal subgroups).

        You’re absolutely right about the “tribes” != “political parties” point. My intention in referring to the tribes was to capture the idea that the left and right groups on Tripartisan are more broad than just liberal/conservative or Democrat/Republican. For example, old-school conservatives like McCain or Romney are quite ideologically distant from Milo and the alt-right, but they also both seem to be part of larger category that is often referred to as the “right”. However, as both you and Sniffnoy pointed out, this isn’t the idea that “Red Tribe”/”Blue Tribe” is meant to capture – the tribes are more about social and cultural characteristics. So I take back my comparisons between Tripartisan’s groups and Scott’s tribes.

        • Spookykou says:

          This is not a serious contribution, but when you say Gold do you mean metallic, or just a dark/rich yellow/orange color. Because I think the desire for a Gold name, if you mean metallic/shiny, might mess with your sorting.

          • mrbodoia says:

            It’s just a sort of dark yellow. You can see it for yourself at tripartisan.io! I wanted to pick a color that was visually dissimilar to both red and blue.

            I know your post isn’t meant to be serious, but it’s funny because I actually had a similar thought when I was picking colors. I originally chose green as the third color since it’s easily distinguishable from red and blue. But then I worried that green might seem too “positive”, so I went with a more neutral yellow.

        • John Nerst says:

          I see your point about “wearing your views on your sleeve” but I don’t think declaring for one of three groups is a good way of doing that – it “rounds off” far too much and reinforces the destructive idea that there are a small number of “teams” and that each person represents their team. It’ll likely make some bad behaviors more common, like seeing other people as avatars of an ideology and not real people, demanding they defend views they don’t hold etc.

          I know this isn’t what you’re looking for, but I’d be interested in a model where people’s up-and-downvotes could be used to group them, and then posts and comments could be sorted based on support across groups, i.e something would wind up on top if it was upvoted by people who normally don’t vote the same way.

          • mrbodoia says:

            Yeah I agree that forcing people to publicly declare allegiance with one of only three groups might lead to bad behavior. Currently, the way that I’m mitigating this is by allowing people to choose a short tagline that gets displayed alongside their username. So for example, if you’re in the right-wing/red group but want to distance yourself from Trump, you could write “Never Trump” or something like that.

            Another idea which has been developed elsewhere in the thread is to allow users within each of the main groups to divide into subgroups. If these subgroups were given recognizable “flairs” that also displayed next to people’s usernames, this might help the problem of “rounding off” too much of one’s politics.

            The reason that I want to force people to declare a group is so that I can do exactly what you suggest: “posts and comments could be sorted based on support across groups, i.e something would wind up on top if it was upvoted by people who normally don’t vote the same way.” Under the current implementation, the highest-ranked posts are those which received support from all three groups. It’s true that with only three groups, there is bound to be a wide variety of viewpoints within each group. But the main distinction that I’m interested in for the purposes of this site is left/blue vs. right/red, since that seems to be the most important split in contemporary politics.

            The idea of inferring groups based on voting behavior rather than explicit declarations is interesting. It’s definitely something I want to explore eventually, but unfortunately until there are a lot more users, it will be hard for me to get any meaningful signal out of the data. However, with enough data I could do exactly what you suggest: cluster people based on voting behavior and then prioritize posts which get cross-cluster support, without bothering to try and label the clusters.

    • tmk says:

      Tripartisan looks like an interesting idea, and I will try it for a while. I suspect it will fail horribly but I cannot say how, and that must a good sign. Maybe the independent group will end up aligning to one of the sides. Or maybe one of the sides will end up with people who are not at all representative of that side.

      • mrbodoia says:

        Thanks!

        It’s certainly an open question how the group affiliations will play out in practice. I don’t think it would be a huge deal if the independent group turns out to lean one way or another. The bigger problem is the second one – if one of the sides gets hijacked by people who are not representative, or perhaps even actively deceptive about their views. That could indeed cause Tripartisan to fail horribly, and I’ll have to be on the lookout for those kinds of dynamics.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Can people’s affiliation change? And if so, how is this change recognized and parsed in their past interactions and future interactions?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Has anyone shrilly alleged that the name is a reference to the Tripartite Pact and therefore you are secretly a Nazi who should be punched, yet?

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Well Sanders used to pass tri-partisan amendments when he was in the house and according to Dianne Rehm he is a secret Israeli citizen so I’m not sure anyone could effectively equate the word tri-partisan to Nazis.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      This is a good idea.

      I’d stick with a two-category system. Maybe my ‘murca is showing, but everyone is either left, right, lying to themselves, or too special to matter. Besides, the big communication barrier is between left and right. (Of course then you need a new name.)

      I don’t think something like this will be able to compete with memeorandum unless big stories reliably appear there quickly. Some light bot-posting might be needed for takeoff (maybe the most popular story of the day from LIST. Not sure how best to compile LIST.)

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Like most other online things having to do with politics, it will likely consist disproportionately of users who have a social/community orientation. With disproportionately few loner-, or loner-sympathetic oriented people.

      I don’t know that anything particular can be done to encourage us to integrate into such fora, but would still be interested in anything that breaks us out and analyzes us separately from the larger aggregation. I’d guess that, in general, we’d fall more strongly on the non-authoritarian axis than average (regardless of political “tribe” leaning), but I may very well be wrong about this.

  4. Machina ex Deus says:

    Another installment in the popular series, “Things Machina ex Deus Doesn’t Get”:

    I keep hearing that “it’s impossible to prove a negative.”

    a) What does this even mean? What makes a proposition “a negative”? Just having “no” or “not” in it? Then I can turn any proposition into a negative. And I’m pretty sure there’s at least some proposition that can be proven—that is, it’s not true that no proposition can be proven.

    b) If it does have an intelligible meaning, why should I believe it? Isn’t it telling me it can’t be proven?

    • Nornagest says:

      I think it means statements of the form “there are no cases in near-infinite set X such that Y”. It’s easy to disprove that — just find a counterexample. But you’re never going to be able to prove it by exhaustive search.

      Of course, there are situations where you have more powerful tools than search available — anything to do with math, for example. But real life’s often messy enough that those tools are impractical.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      In context proving a negative comes from a James Randi talk and means something for which there is no evidence (like, I claim to be a time traveler, or I am telepathic, or Machina ex Deus is literally a machina ex deus, now prove me wrong). It’s a claim for which there is no evidence either for or against, but since I made the claim first, I can demand you prove me incorrect (which is impossible).

      • Thats “burden fslls on the claimant” or “extraordinary clsims require extraordinary evidence”?

        • Matt M says:

          I like this, but it gets tricky because “extraordinary” is a subjective issue. Take the case of Trump claiming three million illegal aliens voted in the election. The media treats this as equivalent of a lie, regularly pointing out that “the administration has offered no evidence of this claim.” They consider it to be an extraordinary claim requiring detailed proof.

          But to Trump and his people, the notion that a huge number of illegal aliens wouldn’t vote is the extraordinary claim. So their response is something like “Well you haven’t proven that it didn’t happen” and then we get dragged into this “proving a negative” argument.

          • Deiseach says:

            Is there a difference between undocumented and illegal aliens in this case? I saw something today about undocumented immigrants paying taxes but they can’t get the benefit of them, plus ICE now has their addresses.

            So if an undocumented migrant can pay tax, can they vote? Would it be possible for them to register to vote? Might they feel they were entitled to vote, if they’re working towards becoming legal and paying taxes?

            I’m thinking of the likes of the “I’m an undocumented migrant student in Berkeley and Milo speaking there had me scared I’d be deported” article in the Berkeley student newspaper – surely that guy would be out there voting for Hillary as hard as his little heart could go – and this article about Obama’s amnesty. Is this where Trump is getting the three million figure from?

            President Obama’s temporary deportation amnesty will make it easier for illegal immigrants to improperly register and vote in elections, state elections officials testified to Congress on Thursday, saying that the driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers they will be granted create a major voting loophole.

            While stressing that it remains illegal for noncitizens to vote, secretaries of state from Ohio and Kansas said they won’t have the tools to sniff out illegal immigrants who register anyway, ignoring stiff penalties to fill out the registration forms that are easily available at shopping malls, motor vehicle bureaus and in curbside registration drives.

            …Democrats disputed that it was an issue at all, saying Mr. Obama’s new policy, which could apply to more than 4 million illegal immigrants, doesn’t change anything in state or federal law.

            Feck it, if I had a driver’s licence and a Social Security number and I was paying taxes, I’d feel sure that I could register to vote!

          • Randy M says:

            Undocumented is code for illegal. They pay taxes when they are hired for jobs using fraudulent SS numbers, and in sales tax. The “can’t get the benefit from them” means it is probably referring to the SS taxes, as they get access to public roads, emergency services, schools, etc. pretty much the same as any citizen, minus mostly ungrounded fears of interacting with authorities for fear of being referred to immigration enforcement. They can show up to vote and vote provisionally or under someone else’s name, I guess; opinions differ on how severe a problem this is, but it is unconnected to having a SS number to paying taxes.

          • Loquat says:

            Fun fact: that same undocumented student is well aware he can’t vote.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there a difference between undocumented and illegal aliens in this case? I saw something today about undocumented immigrants paying taxes but they can’t get the benefit of them, plus ICE now has their addresses.

            “Undocumented” means essentially the same thing as “Illegal” in this context, just one step up the euphemism treadmill. Most undocumented/illegal immigrants will have at least some documents, just not a proper visa or residency permit (“green card”), and will pay most of the taxes a legal immigrant or citizen would.

            So if an undocumented migrant can pay tax, can they vote? Would it be possible for them to register to vote? Might they feel they were entitled to vote, if they’re working towards becoming legal and paying taxes?

            It would be illegal for an undocumented migrant to vote, but if they sign a voter registration form declaring that they are a citizen, nobody will check. And given the enthusiasm of some of our get-out-the-vote campaigns, it is likely that many such people have registered in good faith because the nice volunteer told them it was the right thing to do and all that anglo fine print made their eyes glaze over. And then there’s the intersection between no-questions-asked drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants in some states, and automatic voter registration via drivers’ license rolls.

            How many “undocumented migrants” actually do go cast ballots, is a subject that seems to never be adequately researched.

          • BBA says:

            I had always understood it to mean sales tax and (indirectly) property tax, which unless you live in one of the states without sales tax and you’re squatting are impossible to avoid.

            The benefits here are Medicaid and food stamps, which you have to apply for in person and they have to check your documentation, a fake SS card isn’t going to cut it.

            I mean, I guess it’s conceivable that someone could have enough paperwork in order to satisfy the IRS, the DMV, the board of elections, etc., but not enough for the SSA or ICE, but I’m not totally sure how.

          • gbdub says:

            Yes, “undocumented” is just the euphemism treadmill term for “illegal”. Because “no one is illegal” and “people aren’t contraband”, you see. (To be fair, referring to the category as simply “illegals” is often done in a manner that seems at least slur-adjacent. But “illegal immigrant” is precisely descriptive, and labeling it a slur is annoying)

            Anyway, non-citizens, whether in the country legally or not, are not allowed to vote in any federal US election.

            Most documents that you can use (usually a drivers’ license) to register to vote establish residence, but not necessarily citizenship. In theory you can be convicted of a crime for attempting to register to vote as a noncitizen, but this seems rarely enforced.

            A paper in Electoral Studies reached the conclusion, via polling, that a single digit percentage of non-citizen immigrants do in fact register and apparently successfully cast ballots. (Problems: the surveys were from 2008 and 2010, and the actual number of illegal voter responses (<50) was small. So there's some potential for error/lizardman constant).

            "3 million illegal immigrants voted" is an extraordinary (and probably false) claim. But "Zero (or statistically zero) non-citizens voted" is also an extraordinary claim (and probably false).

          • Matt M says:

            “3 million illegal immigrants voted” is an extraordinary (and probably false) claim. But “Zero (or statistically zero) non-citizens voted” is also an extraordinary claim (and probably false).

            Right. I agree with this sentiment completely.

            Which is why I generally roll my eyes at any media outlet who wants to blast Trump for “providing no evidence” for his claims, while simultaneous refusing to give us what they think the number of illegal votes actually is. Because it’s presumably more than zero…

          • Deiseach says:

            Fun fact: that same undocumented student is well aware he can’t vote.

            I applaud his honesty, but looking at things, if he wanted to vote, I don’t see any strong barriers in the way preventing him from registering and if that is accepted, casting a vote.

            If he’s eligible under the DACA Act (which he would seem to be), he would get a temporary Social Security number and a renewable work permit. Governor Brown of California has signed into law permission for young undocumented immigrants to get driving licences. With a driving licence and a Social Security number, could he not register? Particularly as he is in a Democratic enclave where stringent enforcement of voter registration laws and checks is seen as disenfranchising the people and a sinister Republican tactic to harass, oppress, and deprive of their vote minority voters?

            Looking at the form to register to vote, the one big hurdle is the question “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?” That is the one question where a non-citizen would have to lie. All the rest they could fill in honestly:

            What You Will Need

            Your California driver license or California identification card number,
            The last four digits of your social security number and
            Your date of birth.
            Your information will be provided to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to retrieve a copy of your DMV signature.

            If you do not have a California driver license or California identification card, you can still use this form to apply to register to vote by completing the online interview by 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the 15th calendar day before an election.

            Even the date of birth question isn’t too tricky, because they can’t apply or check up your birth certificate themselves; if they had any queries (as to “is this guy a citizen?”) they would have to ask you to provide a copy – and as I said, where being strict on voter registration is seen as the devil’s tool to help the Republicans, would they really be that rigorous?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            Well, by registering to vote they would be committing a federal felony. Also, if my memory is correct from when I implemented it, the SS number check that was implemented post HAVA includes a flag for citizenship.

            Someone on DACA might register to vote, but that is a really good way to stop being elegible for the DACA program.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, by registering to vote they would be committing a federal felony.

            Yes, and buying a gun for your boyfriend is also committing a federal felony, but I distinctly recall being told we can’t expect the average thug’s girlfriend to know that or hold her responsible because nobody can keep track of all that legal trivia – even when it’s specifically printed on the form right next to the question.

            Here in California, anyone who applies for a drivers’ license is automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. And California explicitly grants drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. California conspicuously does not make their drivers’ license application form available online, so I can’t see how clearly the relevant sections are labeled, but it seems quite plausible that the average migrant may not understand that we are giving them the drivers’ license even if they check the “no I am not a citizen box” and that we are going to throw them in jail if they check the “yes I am a citizen” box.

            Also, we’re not actually going to throw them in jail if they check the “yes I am a citizen” box.

          • John Schilling says:

            Per the article, Texas averages about six such prosecutions per year, and usually when there is organized fraud going on rather than confused immigrants checking the wrong box on a form. I’m going to guess that California comes in an order of magnitude lower on immigrant voting fraud prosecutions.

            So, a lottery where 99.99% of the time nothing happens and 0.01% of the time you go to jail for eight years, for checking the wrong box on a form that isn’t labeled to indicate that it’s eight-years-in-jail important to get this one right, probably isn’t the way we want to handle this one. What is the right way to handle this one?

            Note that national ID cards and citizen databases were too controversial to implement even before we had a POTUS that has us wondering whether we might have accidentally elected Hitler.

          • Brad says:

            If there’s 60 or 600 or even 6000 ineligible people a year voting, the right way to handle it is probably doing pretty much nothing.

            If Trump thinks it’s in the millions let him provide evidence. If it is in the millions I’d be all for taking measures to bring that down. A national ID card is fine with me. You can even give me the one with the ID 666.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, what’s the best way to get a reasonably accurate number?

          • Brad says:

            Probably the best bet would be intense audits of some tractable number of randomly selected polling places. I don’t think you’d need government authority to do it, though it might help.

          • Iain says:

            Florida tried purging non-citizens from its voter rolls in 2012.

            Florida officials at the time said they had drawn up an initial list of 182,000 potential non-citizens. But that number was reduced to fewer than 200 after election officials acknowledged errors on the original list.

            This link says that they eventually removed 85 people. At the time this Globe and Mail article was written, only one person was actually charged — a Canadian citizen. (Six other cases were still under investigation.)

            At some point, absence of evidence becomes evidence of absence.

          • random832 says:

            @John Schilling

            California conspicuously does not make their drivers’ license application form available online, so I can’t see how clearly the relevant sections are labeled,

            The page for the form doesn’t link to it, but they do have a non-fillable sample

            Section 6 is all about voter registration (it mentions an attached form that’s not in the sample), and doesn’t mention citizenship – on the one hand meaning it may not be clear to someone that they will get in trouble for checking yes, but on the other hand not leaving the impression you’re suggesting that they won’t get a license if they check no.

            This page contains more information on the voter registration forms. It looks like the process isn’t quite as automatic as has been suggested here.

            EDIT: The VRC itself contains a declaration of citizenship.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, “motor voter” just says that they have to ask if you want to register. You then fill out the registration at the DMV. Your partial SSN is verified with SSA. That partial SSN verification system was implemented by SSA as part of the implementation of the bill.

            I worked on the system that automatically transfers that information, included the scanned registration card, from DMV to the BOE in my state.

          • Matt M says:

            Do we think that the paid DNC operative who is standing outside the taco truck with the explicit goal of “sign up as many new voters as possible” and who kindly helps people fill out the form gives a single lick whether they are perjuring themselves or not?

            I have to imagine that most people are given the form and simply told “This is for you to register to vote. Sign here, initial here, check yes in this box” and they just do so.

          • John Schilling says:

            @random832: Your link is to a 2006 CA DMV form; California explicitly changed their “motor-voter” registration system from opt-in to opt-out in 2015. The statute is hard for me to decipher as to who provides what information and how; a literal reading (see 2263 para K) suggests that the DMV is required to tell the DOS that every drivers’ license applicant has attested that they are a citizen, even if they explicitly tell the DMV otherwise. But it doesn’t seem to me that they can still be using the 2006 form that starts with “Do you want to register to vote? If so, fill out a separate form”. I’d like to believe the current form is clear about who may and who must not register to vote and how to go about it, but their inability to write a clear statute does not inspire great confidence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Are there illegals who have submitted registration cards? Sure.

            Would someone you went through the ICE process to gain DACA status be much less likely to do that? Again, I think the answer is clearly yes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Attestation to citizenship is still required under the new law:

            (K) A notation that the applicant has attested that he or she meets all voter eligibility requirements, including United States citizenship, specified in Section 2101.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HBC: Paragraph K, requiring an attestation of citizenship, is part of section 2263, listing things the DMV is required to provide to the State Department, not things the applicant is required to provide to the DMV. Unless I am missing something, the statute says that the DMV shall provide such an attestation for each person who applies for a driver’s license.

            Taken literally, that means that the DMV is either prohibited from accepting drivers’ license applications from noncitizens, or required to itself create a false attestation of citizenship for anyone who says “I just live here, I’m not trying to vote, I just want to drive a car”. I am reasonably certain that the bureaucrats in charge of implementation weren’t so daft as to actually do it that way, but I am far less confident in any guesses I might have as to what they did do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Given that the legal status of voter registration for non-citizens has not changed, the Sec. State would be in dereliction of duty if the registered people for whom they did not have a valid attestation.

            I really, really doubt that Sec. State is willing to take the fall for a process that simply ignores citizenship.

            And this still doesn’t change, to my knowledge, the federal law around motor vote which requires that you establish that you have a valid SSN which matches your name and DOB, and again, from memory, that electronic check included a flag for citizen.

          • BBA says:

            Of course the system has holes – it’s made of humans after all. I’m nearly certain that somewhere in America there’s an illegal immigrant with a (falsified) birth certificate on file at a state public records office, which they used to get a legitimate SSN and passport from the respective federal agencies.

            The question then becomes, how would ICE know to deport them?

            (Also, California Vehicle Code § 12801.9(d) requires some way to tell a license issued to an illegal immigrant from a license issued to anyone else. Which means the DMV has to be keeping track of who showed proof of citizenship/visa status and who didn’t. Which in turn means if illegals are getting registered to vote en masse through motor voter, it should be possible to track them down.)

    • cassander says:

      Prove that prove the Affordable Care Act doesn’t legalize sharia law.

      Obviously it doesn’t, but there’s no positive bit of evidence you can offer to that effect, you just have to read the whole law to note that it never says any such thing.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        This is not a good example at all. What the heck?

        If you read the entire law and observe that it doesn’t legalize sharia law, then you have, thereby, proved that it doesn’t… “it is quite possible to in fact read the whole text of the law; here it is, and in searchable text format, even; as you can see, nowhere in here is anything about sharia law” — that’s the proof.

        Nornagest’s formulation is correct.

        • If you read the entire law and observe that it doesn’t legalize sharia law, then you have, thereby, proved that it doesn’t

          I don’t think that’s a proof, because a law may have implications that are not immediately obvious.

          Consider the 14th Amendment. It doesn’t say anything at all about the first or second Amendment. But courts quite a while back concluded that it implied that the First Amendment, which as written applied only to the Federal government, applied to the states as well. Much later they reached the same conclusion with regard to the Second Amendment.

          • icthys says:

            The point is that the Affordable Care Act legalizing Sharia Law is clearly absurd, whereas a non-zero number of illegal immigrants voting is not clearly absurd. They are not at all comparable.

            The rest is philosophical posturing of the kind we all know and love from first-year philosophy class. How do you REALLY know anything is real… what if a malicious demon is controlling all your perceptions like Descartes postulated? What if the Loch Nes Monster is sitting right behind you now? You didn’t check, did you? I’m not losing any sleep over these, and I know you aren’t either. They don’t invalidate the idea of science or rational inquiry.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            How is “the Affordable Care Act legalizes Sharia Law” clearly absurd? This sounds like the “it’s true, because I disagree with the alternative” argument.

            I can even see a narrow reading that is correct; all that would be necessary would be to show that ACA mandates or permits practices that are also mandated or permitted by Sharia law. In other words, the two systems overlap. Given that both systems are quite large, this is plausible to me, as someone who knows a little about ACA and a little less about Sharia.

            One conclusion I could see myself drawing if I were to look deeper is that there are parts of Sharia which are actually quite reasonable by Western standards. Meanwhile, I can safely say that ACA probably does not mandate or permit everything treated similarly by Sharia, but that, too, is a very narrow reading.

          • random832 says:

            Instead of playing games with arbitrarily narrow readings, consider the range of meanings that “allows/legalizes/mandates Sharia Law” actually means when said by Western commentators. At the very narrowest end of the range of meanings, it’s “allows parties to voluntarily choose mediation/arbitration that follows the principles of Sharia for civil dispute resolution” (theoretically with protections against being coerced into accepting such terms, but the real world isn’t so simple)

        • Deiseach says:

          nowhere in here is anything about sharia law

          Said, I’d be more convinced by that if it weren’t the same argument some religious left types use about homosexuality/gay marriage: “If you look in the Bible, Jesus says nothing about gay sex/gay marriage! That proves he’s okay with it! (Because if he weren’t, he would have deliberately said so!)”

          If the Affordable Care Act has not one line in it saying “Sharia law is not to be legalised”, then that proves the ACA supports legalizing sharia law 🙂

          • Said Achmiz says:

            Well, now, Deiseach, hang on. The two cases aren’t identical.

            “Does the ACA legalize sharia law?” is a question about whether a law does a specific thing. A specific law does what it does; there’s no sense in which we can talk about whether that particular law has views on things that aren’t in the law. “What are the ACA’s views on sharia law?” is an incoherent question.

            Meanwhile, we certainly can intelligibly talk about whether a person has views on a thing. That’s a perfectly intelligible think to speak about, quite apart from any particular thing or things that person may have said on the topic of that thing. That is, “what were Jesus’s views on gay marriage?” is a quite intelligible question to ask—it’s not incoherent or anything.

            Which means that “we read some stuff Jesus wrote, and now we’re attempting to deduce his views on gay marriage from these things he wrote” isn’t fundamentally nonsensical. (Now, maybe your attempt is flawed, maybe your conclusions about his views are unwarranted, fine, but the point is, you’re asking a perfectly intelligible question.) On the other hand, “we read the ACA, and now we’re attempting to deduce the ACA’s views on sharia law” is incoherent. The ACA is not a person, it does not have views on anything, it’s just a body of text. It either contains certain things or it does not.

            So, no, it’s really not the same argument at all!

    • suntzuanime says:

      Basically what it’s saying is that proving a “there exists” (positive in this sense) statement is harder than proving a “for all” (which is basically a negative “there exists”) statement. It’s not using perfect formal logic language because people don’t think in that language.

      The reason this is the case is because one example can prove an existential, whereas you need a different strategy to prove a universal.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Yes — the intended meaning seems to be is that you can’t (at least not easily) demonstrate a universal statement IRL. (Or “prove” one, whatever that means.)

        Why existential statements are taken to be “positive”, so that universal statements are “negative”, is unclear. Regardless it’s a terrible statement that has just led to lots of confusion. One has to wonder what whoever came up with this idiom would make of statements with alternating quantifiers…

        • Loquat says:

          I feel like, in the wild, the “can’t prove a negative” phenomenon generally occurs when someone makes a claim that X exists, and someone else thinks that’s ludicrous and X does not exist. Like, how would you ever prove the nonexistence of the Loch Ness Monster, or UFOs, or any other supernatural/alien/etc entity?

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Right — those are universal claims. The negation of an existential is a universal. (In classical logic, anyways!)

    • Fossegrimen says:

      The classic example would be “there is no God” which cannot be proven because absence of proof is not proof of absence.

      Proving the existence of God is conceptually “easy” in that God showing up and making the sun stand still is pretty conclusive proof of his existence.

      Absence of evidence can however be evidence of absence, I think there is a Eliezer post about that on LW.

    • Anatoly says:

      In this context, “positive” and “negative” refer to statements “There exists X such that P(X)” and “There doesn’t exist X such that P(X)”, where P(X) is some other statement. Typically in such usage, P(X) itself doesn’t use quantifiers (words like “exists” or “for all”). The word “negative” comes from the fact that the negative statements start “there DOESN’T exist X…”.

      Statements “there exists X such that…” are called existential, while statements “for all X it is the case that…” are called universal. The quantifiers “exists” and “for all” are more than what’s strictly needed (by design), in the sense that one of them can always be translated to the other with proper modifications. In particular, “for all X it is the case that P(X)” is equivalent to “there doesn’t exist X such that P(X) is false”, and is therefore negative in the sense above. So a statement like “All balloons are red” perhaps doesn’t seem negative at first glance, but when converted to an existential form, it runs “there doesn’t exist a balloon that is not red”, and is therefore negative.

      Normally the possible X come from some sort of “universe of discourse” (people, numbers, buildings, countries, what have you). Now, proving a positive “there exists X such that P(X)” is “easy” in the sense that it is enough to demonstrate one X that has the property P. Proving a negative “there doesn’t exist X such that P(X)” is “hard” in the sense that at least the straightforward way of doing so involves checking every possible X for whether P(X) or not. Since universal statements “for all X it is the case…” are negative, it is often difficult to prove them. When it is possible, such proofs usually involve some properties of the universe of discourse that hold for all or many X, rather than looking at every particular X.

      Example: “I’ve lied in the past” is a positive statement that can be formalised “there exists a past utterance of mine that is a lie”. It can be proved by demonstrating such an utterance, and proving that it is indeed a past utterance of mine and a lie.

      “I’ve never lied” is a negative statement that can be formalized “none of my past utterances are lies” = “all of my past utterances are not lies” = “there is no past utterance of mine that is a lie”. To prove it in a straightforward manner, we’d have to examine everything I’ve ever said, and it is difficult.

      On the other hand, suppose that you’re able to show that I’m a robot who’s infallibly programmed to tell the truth. That would indeed prove that I’ve never lied, without examining each and every thing I’ve ever said. But it relied on other universal (=negative) statements taken on faith or proved somehow in their turn, like “robots who run this program never lie”. Entities in the real world (people, countries, budgets, crimes) are often joined in ad hoc categories that are messy and fuzzy and come without reliable universal statements about them. Therefore it is often difficult to prove a negative about them.

    • Deiseach says:

      “it’s impossible to prove a negative.”

      It’s possible to prove or disprove a positive, e.g. “Machina ex Deus writes comments on SSC”, because we can see whether or not that’s true – yes, there is/no, there isn’t a commenter by that name here. Machina ex Deus doesn’t even have to tell us “Yes, indeed I do comment on SSC”.

      It’s harder, even impossible, to prove or disprove a negative, e.g. “Machina ex Deus is not a woman” based on the evidence we have – the rest of us could debate it until we’re blue in the face, but unless Machina provides credible evidence one way or the other, in the end just going on what we have here (“the writing style is that of a woman!” “no, the analysis says it’s male!”) we can’t know for sure so we can’t say “Machina ex Deus is not/is not not a woman”.

      • rlms says:

        But it’s equally impossible (or possible if we have evidence) to prove/disprove “Machina ex Dues is a woman”.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Thank you for all your responses. My conclusion:

      1) “It’s impossible to prove a negative” is stupid, for two reasons:
      a) They don’t mean “impossible”, they mean “really hard”.
      b) They don’t mean “negative”, they mean “universal”.

      2) A more-accurate reformulation would be:
      “It’s really hard to prove a universal.”

      3) An even-more-accurate reformulation would be:
      “It’s really hard to prove a universal, except when it isn’t.”
      (For an example of the latter: “I’ve never written a comment on SSC with more characters than there are atoms in the Solar system.”)

      4) A more-honest (as opposed to more-accurate) reformulation would be:
      “C’mon, man! You can’t expect me to prove a universal! You lose the argument!”

      5) Whenever I see “It’s impossible to prove a negative,” I will mentally replace it with the reformulation from (3). If possible, I will refrain from (visibly) rolling my eyes.

      6) We should restrict the ability to coin rules of argument to philosophy majors who took a lot of logic classes (like, say, me), as magicians seem to be bad at it.

      7) I need to take a closer look at the ACA, especially any parts that deal with mediation or arbitration, to see if it promotes sharia law.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        At least in my social circle, 4) is the way the statement is used.

      • suntzuanime says:

        It’s not stupid to use language in an inexact manner in ordinary conversation. Don’t be an asshole.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          a) “You can’t prove a negative” doesn’t come up in ordinary conversation—it comes up in arguments.

          b) I don’t care that it’s imprecise; I care that it’s misleading as hell. Confusing “won the vote” with “won the majority of the vote” is imprecise; confusing “negative” with “universal” is just…. words fail me. It’s as idiotic as “steer into the skid”, or “you can never put too much water into a nuclear reactor”. We’d all be better off if people used one of the translations above.

          Don’t be an asshole.

          c) Don’t worry: I’m not trying to horn in on your territory.

  5. Machina ex Deus says:

    Back to “obstructionism”:

    Is it only obstructionism if you refuse to go along with things you otherwise would?

    Given some definition we can all agree on: what’s bad about it?

    And if it is bad, why can’t we rely on the voters to discipline their representatives for obstructionism?

    (I don’t pay much attention to politics because it never seems to make much sense, or when it does make sense it turns out everyone’s lying their respective asses off. So I’m sorry if these questions sound naive.)

    • Matt M says:

      It’s mostly cheap partisan rhetoric that doesn’t work because everyone sees through it as cheap partisan rhetoric. It’s meant to strongly imply that people are refusing to go along with things they otherwise would – but in the vast majority of cases it is plainly obvious that this is not so.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think the basic definition most people would agree on is what Matt said – when politicians refuse to go along with a proposal they would support, were they not engaging in a specific stratagem of blocking it to hurt the other party.

      An arguable example of this is Merrick Garland – Obama picked him specifically because he was a candidate Republican Senators were known to be favorable toward, to the extent that, when Elena Kagan was nominated, Orrin Hatch remarked that if Obama had simply picked a consensus nominee like Garland, the Republicans in the Senate would have confirmed him without hesitation.

      Or consider a counter-example – when Trump first came into office, Bernie Sanders said he’d love to work with Trump on infrastructure and trade, because Trump is closer to left-wing on those issues than he is to anything like an orthodox conservative. But the Democratic base started screaming for Sanders’ head over that – because even if Trump passed a big old New Deal style infrastructure bill and old-school lefty protectionist trade policies exactly like a lot of them want, his successfully doing so makes it more likely that he will A) get reelected, and B) have political capital to succeed on other things.

      So Trump could come out with a trade bill that is word for word identical to something Sanders would propose, and the Democratic base would demand that every Democrat in Congress oppose it.

      (And to flip back to the past few years, McConnel gave multiple interviews where he was very up-front that this is exactly the logic that informed the Republican stance on Obama. It didn’t matter what he proposed, their mission to was to ensure he had no political victories, even if the things he proposed were things they wanted.)

      The reason voters probably aren’t punishing this the way you might expect is that voters in this country seem to be becoming polarized to a greater extent than the historical norm in America. Each party wants their representatives to halt the opposing party’s initiatives at all costs, even if it means passing on proposals where in theory both sides agree, because granting a victory to the party in power is considered too dangerous.

      • cassander says:

        >(And to flip back to the past few years, McConnel gave multiple interviews where he was very up-front that this is exactly the logic that informed the Republican stance on Obama. It didn’t matter what he proposed, their mission to was to ensure he had no political victories, even if the things he proposed were things they wanted.)

        This is not precisely accurate.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I was actually thinking of this piece – https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/strict-obstructionist/308344/

          It doesn’t have any quotes as pithy as the famous (and misleading) one about making Obama a one-term President, but it does have this bit – “We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

          It also lays out how when the Republicans were in the minority, they still filibustered even the things that would ultimately pass with a bunch of Republican votes, just to apply drag to proceedings and make even the most trivial business eat up valuable legislative time, which seems like a lesson the Democrats learned and are now applying as well.

          • cassander says:

            >It also lays out how when the Republicans were in the minority, they still filibustered even the things that would ultimately pass with a bunch of Republican votes, just to apply drag to proceedings and make even the most trivial business eat up valuable legislative time, which seems like a lesson the Democrats learned and are now applying as well.

            They filibustered and then they got shut down. The 111th congress has, if not the most, close to it, cloture motions in the history of the senate. that’s proof of an overwhelmingly strong majority, not a successfully obstructionist minority.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Obstruction takes many forms and you don’t seem familiar with all of the ways that senators can prevent things from occurring.

            For instance, one frequent tactic is putting a “hold” on a nomination. Individual senators can prevent certain nominees from receiving a vote, and they can do so indefinitely.

            Or, take what the Democrats are dong right now, which is forcing many votes to take up all, IIRC, 30 required hours of debate. Given the number of positions that require Senate confirmation, the Democrats could consume roughly the entire calendar in this congress just on nominees.

            You can’t prevent every single thing you don’t want from occurring, but you can gum up the works and force the majority to consume the resource of time. That has an effect on the total number of things which can be done in a given Congress.

          • MrApophenia says:

            They filibustered and then they got shut down. The 111th congress has, if not the most, close to it, cloture motions in the history of the senate. that’s proof of an overwhelmingly strong majority, not a successfully obstructionist minority.

            Just the opposite is true. Another quote from the linked article:

            “Reporters underestimate how powerful the calendar is,” says Jim Manley, the former communications director for Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader. “Say you want to break a filibuster. On Monday, you file cloture on a motion to proceed for a vote on Wednesday. Assuming you get it, your opponents are allowed 30 hours of debate post-cloture on the motion to proceed. That takes you to Friday, and doesn’t cover amendments. The following Monday you file cloture on the bill itself, vote Wednesday, then 30 more hours of debate, and suddenly two weeks have gone by, for something that’s not even controversial.” All of this has slowed Senate business to a crawl.

            Every single one of those cloture votes was performed solely for delaying purposes, and they worked. The reason there were more cloture votes than ever before isn’t (just) a sign of a dominant majority, it’s a sign of a minority party that is using the filibuster more than has ever happened in the history of the Senate, because it’s an effective stalling tactic even if you can’t halt legislation. (And if you stall enough, that halts legislation in and of itself.)

            I expect that we may see the Democrats try to break their record now.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >No, it isn’t. Previously you could shut down my radar with a small ARM. Now it takes an ASM to do. This is better for me. Particularly as you no longer are shooting that ASM at my waterline.

            Let’s remember how we got here. You said you could force up the size of my ASM with armor. I said no, you can just switch to attacking your radars instead. At no point were we talking about using standard sized ARM missiles against your ship, we were talking about using anti-rad seekers on normally sized ASMs with warheads designed to do maximum damage to arrays.

            >You lost your last bet. I think it’s reasonable to point out that this shouldn’t fill me with confidence on your current one, particularly when you’re saying ‘I bet’ instead of making any effort to provide numbers. And when you doubled down on the last one after I went to the trouble of getting said numbers.

            Forgive me for not having time to immediately track down rival numbers to win an internet debate.

            >Well, yes. Of course it is. Power comes from the ship.

            If your radar needs X amount of power to operate, and you expect to operate it in addition to all the other things the ship is doing, it makes sense to include that power generation capacity as part of the weight calculations.

            >Software cost? That’s a complete red herring. Software is the cheapest part of buying another system. It’s expensive to write, and free to duplicate. If you’re not buying the radar system ‘retail’, then ‘free’ is the correct value to apply to cost. Likewise, development cost of the antenna is not particularly relevant.

            It’s only free if you think that raytheon charges a few billion for the first ship the software goes on, then gives it away for free to all the others. That’s not how they do things. the cost of writing the software is amortized over the units sold. And, presumably, we’d need new software to deal with antennas re-designed to minimize damage from physical attack.

            >Would you care to give a source on this?

            I don’t have a specific page number, but I know that friedman mentions in at least a few places ships with metacentric heights that were unexpectedly, or problematically, high or low. Perhaps someone simply screwed up the math, but I presume from that that the calculations are not always straightforward.

      • Matt M says:

        The reason voters probably aren’t punishing this the way you might expect is that voters in this country seem to be becoming polarized to a greater extent than the historical norm in America.

        I don’t even think it’s this. It’s just glaringly obvious that both parties engage in this behavior whenever they’re out of power. So it makes no sense to punish one party or the other for something they both would do in the same situation.

        • MrApophenia says:

          The parties didn’t always do this, though – the voting records of both Republicans and Democrats have become much more ideological than they used to be, as have the voters’ view of the issues.

          http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/political-polarization-in-the-american-public/

          There are lots of contradictory theories as to why this is, but the fact that it is happening (both on the left and the right) seems fairly uncontroversial.

          • Matt M says:

            “the last two decades” is a small sample size in American politics

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The parties now are ideologically coherent at a national level in a way they haven’t been before, though.

            It truly is different now.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It’s not *that* small, considering most of the Eras for the American political system span roughly 30-40 years. The exception being the Post-Depression 5th/6th Party System which is still too contemporaneous for there to be historical consensus on the dividing line.

          • Matt M says:

            You didn’t define within this era. You said, basically, “more polarized than ever,” then linked to an article that says “most polarized since 1994”

            I’m inherently skeptical of these sorts of claims, because they serve to benefit both parties and help them stay in power – and because they are inherently hard to measure (voting records doesn’t cut it, because voting records are manipulated for the express purposes of gaming various people who track votes for various reasons).

            It’s a bit cliche to go back to the Adams/Jefferson negative campaigns, but worth pointing out. Political polarization has always existed. We have a recency bias that is fueled by various interests who stand to gain by feeding said bias. I’m not saying it’s impossible that your conclusion is correct, just that I see no particular strong evidence for it.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            You didn’t define within this era. You said, basically, “more polarized than ever,” then linked to an article that says “most polarized since 1994”

            I’m not sure if this is directed at me or not… if so, you’ve got some wires crossed with who you’re talking to.

            I should have been more explicit in my previous post, but what I was trying to imply is that it’s entirely possible the past 2 decades represent a shift in the political tectonics and we’ve come back around to a “new” era that is much more ideologically driven than the era that preceded it.

            FWIW, you’re right that polarization has always existed. On the grand timescale, I would wager that the (post-)WWII era is the anomaly in having less polarization (if it even did, I’m not old enough to remember that age. For now will take HBC’s word for it) than normal due to its unique circumstances. The Cold War is over and we don’t have the ICBM of Damocles omnipresent in our minds anymore, so we can “safely” descend into bickering amongst ourselves again. Lovely perk of being the hegemon.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      “Use of procedural hurdles to impede change in or action by the government, in ways not intended by the designers of the system of government”.

      US example: any use of the filibuster is obstructionism. (Speculation: I think it also results in this weird dynamic where the government does not respond at all to small majorities, resulting in those majorities getting frustrated and more extreme.)

  6. sflicht says:

    Just watched the 1984 cult classic “Repo Man”. What a ride.

    What are the best absurdist comedies of the past 20 years?

    • cassander says:

      Starship Troopers?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      If you mean capital-A Absurdist, like the philosophy, then I have no idea.

      Otherwise I’d go with the Big Lebowski for the top slot. I had to look this one up actually: I thought the film was much older, but since it was released in 1998 it just barely squeaks in under your twenty year limit.

    • hlynkacg says:

      A lot depends on how we’re defining “Absurdist” but Tropical Thunder and Anchorman are the two titles that immediately spring to my mind.

    • shakeddown says:

      I enjoyed don’t mess with the Zohan, but that might just be because I’m Israeli. Zoolander and Dodgeball would also be on my list.

      • Zohar was a funny movie. But it totally fails at its goal. If I recall the story correctly it’s basically a funny tough isralie special agent who is super Zionist, then after cutting hair and hanging out with a Palestinian chick with huge tits, decided they aren’t so bad.

        I bet you not many actual Palestinians appreciate the “other tribe” deciding they are okay, after fucking their most busty women lol.

        It was funny though.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      They’re more than 20 years old, but Soapdish and My Cousin Vinny are still classics IMO.

      Less than 20 years old, but very niche (it’s Finnish, with subtitles), is Rare Exports. It’s our go-to Christmas movie.

  7. bean says:

    During the last OT, the topic of battleships came up, and generated some interest. Therefore, I will continue to talk about it until it’s apparent that nobody is listening.
    For the sake of context, I’m a volunteer tour guide at the USS Iowa in Los Angeles. I’m not former military of any sort, just a naval geek, specializing in battleships. But I do know a lot about them, and have a lot of books on the subject.
    Battleship Lesson of the Thread – Introduction & History:
    The word ‘battleship’ originates in the phrase ‘line-of-battle ship’, the line of battle was the formation used during the Napoleonic wars and earlier. It refers to a capital ship whose primary weapon is big guns (with some exceptions, which I’ll deal with elsewhere). A capital ship is defined as the biggest and most important vessel in the fleets of the major naval powers. These days, the title is held by either aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines, depending on who you ask. There are no battleships in service today. The only ones in service since 1960 were the Iowas, which we are getting to. Anyone who refers to an active ship as a battleship is wrong.
    Another term often used is ‘dreadnought’, sometimes incorrectly spelled ‘dreadnaught’. This comes from HMS Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun battleship. Before Dreadnought there were pre-dreadnoughts, which were usually armed with 4 big guns (usually 12″) and something like 12 smaller guns (6″). All of these guns were part of the main armament, and intended for use against other battleships. Longer battle ranges and improved armor metallurgy made the smaller guns much less useful, and in 1905, HMS Dreadnought was laid down with 10 12″ guns and no other guns intended for use against other battleships. She was built in a year, in an attempt to signal to the world that Britain could maintain her former superiority, despite Dreadnought making every other battleship in the world obsolete.
    The all-big-gun pattern was adopted the world over, with the picture being dominated by the British and the Germans during the decade leading up to WWI. During the war, the opposing fleets mostly sat at home, the Germans trying to defeat the British in detail and the British hoping to catch the Germans at sea. The main fleets met only once, at Jutland. The battle was indecisive, the British losing 3 battlecruisers and the Germans one, with a few other ships also lost. (The battlecruiser was a battleship-sized ship which traded armor and/or weapons for speed. It does not usually refer to a smaller, faster ship.) It did bring about a revolution in battleship design, as it was fought at a much longer range than had been anticipated pre-war, and that meant that ships needed better deck protection.
    When WWI ended, the various navies were in different states. The German fleet was scuttled to keep it from falling into the hands of the allies. The British had a large fleet, but it was mostly older ships. They’d stopped building during the war, and had cancelled the ships they had planned to make sure the new ones reflected the lessons of Jutland. The Americans had a big fleet and a large building program, and had managed to figure out the lessons of Jutland in 1911, before the battle. The Japanese had a smaller fleet, but a very big building plan, as they had not had to stop during the war. (The Americans had, but later than the British.) Another arms race seemed to be brewing, but the Washington Naval Treaty stopped it, with a 5-5-3 ratio established between British, American, and Japanese fleets. All battleship construction was stopped for 10 years, except for two ships for the British, and a few ships the Americans and Japanese were allowed to complete.
    The restriction was extended another 5 years by the London Naval Conference. Battleship building eventually resumed in 1936.
    I think that the tale of the treaty battleships will have to wait for Wednesday.

    As an aside, this is actually installment two of this series. The first one was on fire control.

    • sflicht says:

      I would like to know whether you think lasers will revive the era of the battleship.

      • bean says:

        I wouldn’t call our hypothetical laser warship a battleship, but it could lead to a revival of the surface warship as opposed to air power. Not sure it will help deal with submarines.

      • cassander says:

        the trouble with lasers is short range. they don’t bend, so they can’t hit targets that are over the horizon, which is ~25 miles or so (on the surface). Lasers on modern warships are far more likely to be defensive weapons than offensive, shooting down aircraft and missiles, not other ships.

        Railguns might bring back something like a battleship, but even there I doubt it. As weapons get more accurate, and thus more dependent on sensors, armor becomes less and less useful. Having a ship that you can’t sink is no good if knocking out its radar antenna takes it out of the fight. In battleship fights, that sort of sensor damage was unlikely (the sensor was relatively small and weapons were very inaccurate). Today, the sensors are often the biggest targets for things like anti-radiation seekers. I don’t think you’ll see any ship armor besides some ballistic protection.

        • John Schilling says:

          the trouble with lasers is short range. they don’t bend, so they can’t hit targets that are over the horizon, which is ~25 miles or so (on the surface). Lasers on modern warships are far more likely to be defensive weapons than offensive, shooting down aircraft and missiles, not other ships.

          Right, but if lasers are a good enough defense, what’s the offense? What good is e.g. an aircraft carrier, when any aircraft or air-launched missile gets slagged as soon as it crosses the horizon of a Big-Ass Laser-Armed Warship?

          One answer is submarines for the win, but that opens a whole new barrel of interesting technical questions. If we limit the discussion to surface ships for now, the winning move would seem to be launching a missile salvo too numerous for the enemy’s finite number of lasers to shoot down before the surviving missiles cross the distance from horizon to target.

          That might well place a premium on ships that have lots of defensive lasers, lots and lots and lots of vertical-launch cells for antiship missiles, and are tough enough to take a few hits from missiles that leak through their defenses. Such a ship probably wouldn’t be called a “battleship”, but it would fill approximately the same function.

          • cassander says:

            >Right, but if lasers are a good enough defense, what’s the offense? What good is e.g. an aircraft carrier, when any aircraft or air-launched missile gets slagged as soon as it crosses the horizon of a Big-Ass Laser-Armed Warship?

            The same thing that’s been the real weapon of sea control since 1955, the submarine.

            >and are tough enough to take a few hits from missiles that leak through their defenses.

            the real trouble is that “tough enough to take a few and keep fighting” gets harder and harder as time goes on. But that’s not even the real trouble. The real trouble is that you can armor the lower parts of a ship, but not the upper parts, so your super structure, which holds all your C2 and sensors, can’t be protected, so even if you build a very strong hull, it does you no good, because unlike in battleship days, it’s just as easy to hit your radar/deckhouses as it is your hull. If everyone had armored hulls, everyone would use anti-radiation missiles or missiles like the javelin, which quickly makes the armor useless. they might not sink an armored ship outright, but they’ll put it out of action, and that’s just as good.

          • Civilis says:

            Will lasers be effective against artillery fire? My understanding about current laser development projects is that they’re all intended to work by overheating and destroying sensitive missile / aircraft components.

          • bean says:

            @cassander

            The real trouble is that you can armor the lower parts of a ship, but not the upper parts, so your super structure, which holds all your C2 and sensors, can’t be protected, so even if you build a very strong hull, it does you no good, because unlike in battleship days, it’s just as easy to hit your radar/deckhouses as it is your hull.

            Why can’t the C2 be in the lower, armored part? This isn’t WWII, where the radar waveguides force us to add control positions high in the ship.

            If everyone had armored hulls, everyone would use anti-radiation missiles or missiles like the javelin, which quickly makes the armor useless. they might not sink an armored ship outright, but they’ll put it out of action, and that’s just as good.

            Not necessarily. Phased arrays can use special operating modes to make at least some types of ARMs think they’re somewhere else. And making your ship physically tougher means that you’re inflicting virtually attrition on your enemy. If the missile needed to sink you has to be twice as heavy, it’s likely that the bad guy has only half as many missiles to shoot at you. And ASMs in large numbers are expensive.

            @Civilis

            Will lasers be effective against artillery fire? My understanding about current laser development projects is that they’re all intended to work by overheating and destroying sensitive missile / aircraft components.

            Some laser programs have been specifically aimed (no pun intended) at artillery projectiles.

          • John Schilling says:

            even if you build a very strong hull, it does you no good, because unlike in battleship days, it’s just as easy to hit your radar/deckhouses as it is your hull.

            Hit, yes, but phased-array radars can be integrated with an armored hull and designed to fail gracefully. Optical sensors can have multiple redundant sensor heads with the electronics under armor.

            veryone would use anti-radiation missiles or missiles like the javelin, which quickly makes the armor useless.

            Conventional anti-radiation missiles use fragmentation warheads which might not work so well if there’s a few centimeters of kevlar and ceramic over the array. Anti-tank missiles like Javelin use shaped-charge warheads that make very narrow holes, which will destroy one emitter element out of a thousand of so in the radar.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If the missile needed to sink you has to be twice as heavy, it’s likely that the bad guy has only half as many missiles to shoot at you. And ASMs in large numbers are expensive.

            N00b followup question to this:
            How big/expensive *are* ASMs, anyway? Like how many salvos/engagements could a boat reasonably be expected to carry enough effective ASMs for?

            N00b bias for context: I was under the impression that longevity was a factor in the carrier’s favor since aircraft weapons are smaller than ship-to-ship ones (but work as well or better due to better guidance). This could be *completely* wrong and I would love to be corrected if so.

          • John Schilling says:

            How big/expensive *are* ASMs, anyway? Like how many salvos/engagements could a boat reasonably be expected to carry enough effective ASMs for?

            The US Navy’s standard antiship missile is the AGM-84 Harpoon, which about five meters long, weighs about 750 kg, and costs about $1.5 million. Most of our surface combatant warships carry eight of them, but that number could be increased substantially at need. In particular, a US navy destroyer carries a 96-cell vertical launch system of which each cell can carry one long-range surface-to-air-missile, one land-attack cruise missile, one anti-submarine missile, or four short-range surface-to-air missiles. Only by historic accident can that launcher not launch Harpoons, and we could fix that. So if naval warfare were dominated by saturation missile barrages, 40-50 missiles per major surface combatant would be a reasonable loadout.

            On the other hand, if you expect people to be burning your missiles out of the sky with lasers, you might want to use anti-ship missiles that minimize their exposure to such fire by virtue of being blindingly fast. We don’t have any of those, except insofar as our antiaircraft missiles have a secondary anti-ship function, but the Russian-Indian BrahMos is a pretty good example and it comes in at four times the weight of a Harpoon. The Indian navy seems to be able to fit eight of these with their launchers and support hardware into a 4,000 ton frigate, and could probably double that if they really needed to.

          • bean says:

            N00b followup question to this:
            How big/expensive *are* ASMs, anyway? Like how many salvos/engagements could a boat reasonably be expected to carry enough effective ASMs for?

            Unhelpful answer:
            Depends on the size of the boat.
            Helpful answer:
            There are a couple of classes of ASMs.
            The smallest are things like Penguin and Sea Stuka, and are for shooting at small boats. Next, you have stuff basically intended to sink destroyer/frigate sized targets. Exocet, Harpoon, Styx and Silkworm are all of this family. They’re 600-750 kg apiece, and will mess up the upperworks of an armored ship, but not pierce the hull. You will occasionally find claims that Exocet will go through Iowa’s belt, even from otherwise reputable sources, but it’s just not true.
            Then you get big missiles. Almost all of these are Russian and intended for use against American carriers. These are in the 5-10 ton range, and are usually supersonic. They’re also much more expensive.
            How many missiles it takes to take out a target depends on how heavy the defenses are. The Soviets used to believe that it would take 4 missiles to get one hit, which is why their missile boats carry that many. That was back in the 60s and 70s. AEGIS changed the game immensely. These days, the answer is that it’s complicated, but you’re looking at needing at least a dozen to have any chance of getting through. Lasers might double that, if not more.

            N00b bias for context: I was under the impression that longevity was a factor in the carrier’s favor since aircraft weapons are smaller than ship-to-ship ones (but work as well or better due to better guidance). This could be *completely* wrong and I would love to be corrected if so.

            Well, if we take Harpoon as the US standard, the air-launched version is very similar to the ship-launched one. The big advantage of air-launched weapons (and the reason why Harpoon has been disappearing from the US fleet) is that over-the-horizon targeting is a very difficult problem, and in today’s environment, there’s too much risk that your ASM will lock onto a passing container ship instead of the intended target. Airplanes generally can see the target before they fire.

          • Protagoras says:

            It does seem like lasers should work against artillery shells. Artillery shells come in slower than the faster missiles, and so would actually be in some ways easier to target, and being hit with a laser could easily make shells detonate prematurely, or just alter their flightpath (the further away they are when first hit, the more they could be deflected from their target, and a laser could hit them quite far away). I don’t know about the programs bean mentions, but it just seems in general artillery shells would be an easier problem than missiles, not a harder one.

          • bean says:

            @Protagoras
            No, shells are a harder problem. They’re smaller than missiles, and built a lot more ruggedly to withstand the shock of firing. Also, they’re pointed directly at the target, and will hit if they aren’t blown up or deflected. Yes, a non-detonating shell is better than a detonating one, but it’s not particularly pleasant. A missile is going to miss you if you shoot it down, and it has a lot more moving parts. Also, most missiles aren’t supersonic, a situation unlikely to change soon.

          • Civilis says:

            No, shells are a harder problem. They’re smaller than missiles, and built a lot more ruggedly to withstand the shock of firing.

            And presumably a railgun projectile is both faster and more rugged than a conventional shell. I would suspect the more you focus on missile defense, the more viable a railgun-armed warship becomes (if you don’t want to build a submarine).

            In the short run, how do guided and range extended artillery rounds change the picture? On the one hand, it makes warship gunnery more viable at range. On the other hand, you no longer need to build a dedicated platform for a 16″ gun when a 5″ gun has the same effective range. For the cost of a battleship, you could send out a destroyer flotilla, put up some stealthy drones with laser designators to give you over-the-horizon targeting, and pepper the target’s vulnerable superstructure with 5″ rounds.

            Interesting question… what’s the comparative effective range of a laser designator vs an anti-missile / artillery laser? Obviously, if you have a sci-fi ‘kill anything in line of sight’ directed energy monstrosity, anything over the horizon is fair game, but in the real world, we still have power and atmospheric refraction issues. A tiny, state-of-the-art stealth drone with a camera and designator is going to have a lot lower radar cross-section than even a stealth combat aircraft. Could you put a laser designator on a satellite?

          • bean says:

            And presumably a railgun projectile is both faster and more rugged than a conventional shell. I would suspect the more you focus on missile defense, the more viable a railgun-armed warship becomes (if you don’t want to build a submarine).

            If they’re guided, then they’re pretty much by definition not more rugged. If unguided, then about the same. Going faster helps against lasers, but has mixed effects if you’re facing projectile defenses. The projectiles have to get farther out, but can use your own speed against you.

            In the short run, how do guided and range extended artillery rounds change the picture? On the one hand, it makes warship gunnery more viable at range. On the other hand, you no longer need to build a dedicated platform for a 16″ gun when a 5″ gun has the same effective range.

            Naval guided rounds have generally not worked that well. They seem to fall into a bad compromise between naval guns (cheap, low payload, not that accurate) and missiles (expensive, high payload, accurate).

            For the cost of a battleship, you could send out a destroyer flotilla, put up some stealthy drones with laser designators to give you over-the-horizon targeting, and pepper the target’s vulnerable superstructure with 5″ rounds.

            The words ‘stealthy’ and ‘laser designator’ do not belong in the same sentence here. Shining a laser on someone tends to tell them that you’re there. If they have a much more powerful laser, then they respond by shooting back at you.

            Interesting question… what’s the comparative effective range of a laser designator vs an anti-missile / artillery laser? Obviously, if you have a sci-fi ‘kill anything in line of sight’ directed energy monstrosity, anything over the horizon is fair game, but in the real world, we still have power and atmospheric refraction issues.

            Depends heavily on your tech. Not particularly helpful, I know. This is probably the best place to start.

            Could you put a laser designator on a satellite?

            In principle, yes. In practice, I wouldn’t want to try. It’s either going to be very far away, and you’ll have a very big beam (bad) or it’s not going to be available very often. If we assume that you need a 1 m beam, and that you’re lasing at 1 um with a beam quality of 1, then if you’re in geosync, I get an 87 m diameter mirror. If you go for 300 nm (about the highest frequency which can penetrate the atmosphere), then I get 26 m.
            But let’s assume we stick it on a sattelite in LEO, instead. I’ll use 1000 km for my math this time as an approximation of the typical slant range. For the same parameters as above, I get a diameter of 2.44 m for 1 um and 0.73 m for 300 nm. All of these are pretty big, probably too big for the roles they would need to fill.

          • Civilis says:

            The words ‘stealthy’ and ‘laser designator’ do not belong in the same sentence here. Shining a laser on someone tends to tell them that you’re there. If they have a much more powerful laser, then they respond by shooting back at you.

            I’m just having fun bouncing ideas off of someone that knows what they’re talking about, so if these ideas are silly on the level of mirror-drone, feel free to ignore them. I’m a gamer, so when presented with a seemingly overpowered tactic, my gut instinct is to ‘how would I counter this?’, in this case adding ‘besides submarines’.

            Presumably, with modern satellite imagery and long-range electronic sensors, the other side knows generally where your surface ships are at all times, so a true surprise attack is out of the question. If you know the ships are out there, you could be attacked at any time. Getting lased in a warzone is a signal ‘I’m being attacked now; fire up the countermeasures’. Are modern laser detection systems good enough to pick out where the beam is coming from with the targeting accuracy you’d get from an active radar?

            I can see the tactics now, at least well enough to write a Tom Clancy level technothriller blurb. Have a stealth drone with passive sensors over your destroyer flotilla to extend their range. When ready, fire the volley, then active laser ping the target while the shells are in flight. Based on quick calculations, if you do the active ping at the top of the shell arc, you’ve got 45 seconds to hit the drone (and hope the shells haven’t got you targeted already) and that’s going to be hard to do if you also try to maneuver your ship to evade the volley or try to take out the shells as well in their ballistic arcs.

            Probably not that much more difficult than trying to deal with supersonic sea-skimming cruise missiles coming from multiple directions, but a system capable of handling both is going to be more complex and expensive than one optimized for just dealing with low-flying targets, so it might be worth forcing the other guy to make the investment. You can always justify the cost of the gun turret and drone for onshore fire support and blockade interdiction purposes, if nothing else.

            Presumably the best attack plan is to pull a Midway. Launch shells and missiles in a coordinated attack, so if his defensive lasers concentrate on the sea-skimming cruise missiles coming in low, his upper superstructure (including the defensive lasers) gets wrecked by the shells coming in from above.

          • bean says:

            I’m just having fun bouncing ideas off of someone that knows what they’re talking about, so if these ideas are silly on the level of mirror-drone, feel free to ignore them.

            Not a problem.

            Presumably, with modern satellite imagery and long-range electronic sensors, the other side knows generally where your surface ships are at all times, so a true surprise attack is out of the question.

            Not as much as you’d think. There platforms (TerraSAR-X, IIRC) that are capable of doing non-cooperative recognition from orbit, but the data is usually delayed at least 7 hours.

            Are modern laser detection systems good enough to pick out where the beam is coming from with the targeting accuracy you’d get from an active radar?

            I don’t know offhand. I’ll try to check when I get home.

            I can see the tactics now, at least well enough to write a Tom Clancy level technothriller blurb. Have a stealth drone with passive sensors over your destroyer flotilla to extend their range. When ready, fire the volley, then active laser ping the target while the shells are in flight. Based on quick calculations, if you do the active ping at the top of the shell arc, you’ve got 45 seconds to hit the drone (and hope the shells haven’t got you targeted already) and that’s going to be hard to do if you also try to maneuver your ship to evade the volley or try to take out the shells as well in their ballistic arcs.

            Why ping that early? It’s not at all uncommon to launch something like a Hellfire blind, and then designate when it’s getting close to the target. And I know for a fact that they will ripple-fire them, designate one target, then switch to another after the first hit. I wouldn’t expect this to be the future of naval warfare, but it’s not impossible, either.

            Probably not that much more difficult than trying to deal with supersonic sea-skimming cruise missiles coming from multiple directions, but a system capable of handling both is going to be more complex and expensive than one optimized for just dealing with low-flying targets, so it might be worth forcing the other guy to make the investment.

            Sea skimming usually means you’re coming in slower, but this is true overall.

            You can always justify the cost of the gun turret and drone for onshore fire support and blockade interdiction purposes, if nothing else.

            That’s what the gun is almost certainly for. There’s also the unguided rounds for putting shots across people’s bows. Missiles are really bad at that. Actually the balance between cold war systems and hot war systems is one of the perennial problems of naval planning.

          • Nornagest says:

            the Russian-Indian BrahMos…

            I’m a bit late to the party here, but the Russians are the ones that made those supercavitating rocket torpedoes too, right? What is it about Russian doctrine that’s causing this emphasis on speed?

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >Why can’t the C2 be in the lower, armored part? This isn’t WWII, where the radar waveguides force us to add control positions high in the ship.

            You can put the people there, but you need the antennas higher up if they’re going to have range. The best C2 in the world is no good if you can’t transmit or receive.

            >Not necessarily. Phased arrays can use special operating modes to make at least some types of ARMs think they’re somewhere else.

            Sure, but then you’re using electronic wizardry to defend yourself, not armor, and thus aren’t really a battleship.

            >And making your ship physically tougher means that you’re inflicting virtually attrition on your enemy. If the missile needed to sink you has to be twice as heavy, it’s likely that the bad guy has only half as many missiles to shoot at you. And ASMs in large numbers are expensive.

            that’s only worth it if the cost to you in extra weight of armor is less than the cost you can make your enemy pay extra in weight of missile. you know full well how much a cost heavy deck armor imposes on a ship.

            @john schilling

            >Conventional anti-radiation missiles use fragmentation warheads which might not work so well if there’s a few centimeters of kevlar and ceramic over the array. Anti-tank missiles like Javelin use shaped-charge warheads that make very narrow holes, which will destroy one emitter element out of a thousand of so in the radar.

            You’re conflating the method of guidance with the warhead. Anti-rad missiles are mostly used to blow up AA sites and javelins for going after tanks, and have warheads appropriate for those tasks. But nothing stops you from pairing that sort of guidance with a warhead suitable for sinking ships.

          • bean says:

            @Cassander:

            You can put the people there, but you need the antennas higher up if they’re going to have range. The best C2 in the world is no good if you can’t transmit or receive.

            I believe you separated antennas from C2 in your comments. And what about things like Cooperative Engagement? Those antennas are, IIRC, pretty small and quite rugged.

            Sure, but then you’re using electronic wizardry to defend yourself, not armor, and thus aren’t really a battleship.

            So does the fact that the Iowas were fitted with SLQ-32s in the 80s make them not really battleships either?

            that’s only worth it if the cost to you in extra weight of armor is less than the cost you can make your enemy pay extra in weight of missile. you know full well how much a cost heavy deck armor imposes on a ship.

            I do. But you’re still missing the point. If I make my ship tough and that means you can only buy half as many missiles, then I have already cut in half the number of missiles headed my way. Is the armored deck cheaper than buying twice the air defense capability? That’s a job for analysts, but it’s not a question with an obvious answer.

            You’re conflating the method of guidance with the warhead. Anti-rad missiles are mostly used to blow up AA sites and javelins for going after tanks, and have warheads appropriate for those tasks. But nothing stops you from pairing that sort of guidance with a warhead suitable for sinking ships.

            What kind of warheads would those be? Shaped charges are bad against antennas. Frag warheads can be armored against. There’s no free lunch here.

          • cassander says:

            bean says:
            February 21, 2017 at 2:24 pm ~new~
            @Cassander:

            >I believe you separated antennas from C2 in your comments. And what about things like Cooperative Engagement? Those antennas are, IIRC, pretty small and quite rugged.

            Ah, I see where you were confused. I meant “the antennas for your radars and your C2”.

            >So does the fact that the Iowas were fitted with SLQ-32s in the 80s make them not really battleships either?

            They still had great big slabs of armor. The distinguishing feature of the battleship is hte combination of big guns and big armor, not the absence of EWAR.

            >I do. But you’re still missing the point. If I make my ship tough and that means you can only buy half as many missiles, then I have already cut in half the number of missiles headed my way. Is the armored deck cheaper than buying twice the air defense capability? That’s a job for analysts, but it’s not a question with an obvious answer.

            It’s not just dollar cost though. A ship of a given size can only hold so much stuff. Adding armor requires either giving up something, e.g. speed, firepower, other defensive systems, or sensors, so while armor cuts the enemy missile number, it also cuts numbers for your own defenses, or some equally valuable commodity, for a given size of ship.

            >What kind of warheads would those be? Shaped charges are bad against antennas. Frag warheads can be armored against. There’s no free lunch here.

            In the case of a Javelin-esque missile, I’d assume a massive shaped charge. I’m not sure what would be best for taking out antennas. Maybe some sort of explosively formed projectile?

          • bean says:

            The distinguishing feature of the battleship is hte combination of big guns and big armor, not the absence of EWAR.

            I’m still somewhat confused by your objection. If I’m using EW techniques to dodge ARMs, how does this make me not a battleship if I meet all the other definitions.

            It’s not just dollar cost though. A ship of a given size can only hold so much stuff. Adding armor requires either giving up something, e.g. speed, firepower, other defensive systems, or sensors, so while armor cuts the enemy missile number, it also cuts numbers for your own defenses, or some equally valuable commodity, for a given size of ship.

            I read books on warship design for fun. I’m well aware of the tradeoffs involved, and am not advocating armor as more than a possible solution to the problem that should be looked at. Merely listing the things we’re trading against isn’t going to impress me.

            In the case of a Javelin-esque missile, I’d assume a massive shaped charge. I’m not sure what would be best for taking out antennas. Maybe some sort of explosively formed projectile?

            EFP would be better than either frag or shaped charge against phased arrays, but I think the array could be designed to be survivable against even hits by those. The big worry would be fire in the superstructure.

          • cassander says:

            bean says:

            >I’m still somewhat confused by your objection. If I’m using EW techniques to dodge ARMs, how does this make me not a battleship if I meet all the other definitions.

            It doesn’t. It’s a question of emphasis.

            >In the case of a Javelin-esque missile, I’d assume a massive shaped charge. I’m not sure what would be best for taking out antennas. Maybe some sort of explosively formed projectile?

            >EFP would be better than either frag or shaped charge against phased arrays, but I think the array could be designed to be survivable against even hits by those. The big worry would be fire in the superstructure.

            EFP’s move at about mach 6, at that speed, the EFP has as much kinetic energy as 2-3 times its weight in TNT. I have a hard time imagining an array that is both light enough to be mounted high and strong enough to take that sort of impact. and if you spread out the array, or use multiple small arrays, to avoid that, you make any sort of physical armor even less of a possibility.

          • bean says:

            EFP’s move at about mach 6, at that speed, the EFP has as much kinetic energy as 2-3 times its weight in TNT.

            No, it doesn’t. Mach 6 is about 2 km/s. TNT equivalency is 3 km/s. An EFP is .44 TNT, not 2-3.

            I have a hard time imagining an array that is both light enough to be mounted high and strong enough to take that sort of impact. and if you spread out the array, or use multiple small arrays, to avoid that, you make any sort of physical armor even less of a possibility.

            The EFP is a penetrator (obviously). You design the array so that it’s distributed and can be penetrated without being put out of action. I don’t need to keep all the damage out, just stop it from being critical when it happens.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >No, it doesn’t. Mach 6 is about 2 km/s. TNT equivalency is 3 km/s. An EFP is .44 TNT, not 2-3.

            KE=MV^2. mach 10^2 is 100, a little over 3^2 is 10. At mach 3 you have about 1/10th the KE of mach 10. At mach 6, you have triple the KE of mach 3. The rod from god weighed about ~10 tons and hit with an impact of ~11 tons of TNT. I suspect you’re using a more precise definition of mach than either I or sources I’m quoting, but I’m definitely not off by that much.

            >The EFP is a penetrator (obviously). You design the array so that it’s distributed and can be penetrated without being put out of action. I don’t need to keep all the damage out, just stop it from being critical when it happens.

            It can’t be armored, distributed, and light weight. At best, it can be two of those things. And if it’s not light weight, it can’t be high enough to be useful.

          • John Schilling says:

            I have a hard time imagining an array that is both light enough to be mounted high and strong enough to take that sort [EFP] of impact.

            What do you mean by “taking” that sort of impact? An Explosively Forged Penetrator, as the name implies, penetrates. It makes a hole in something. A radar antenna with a hole in it still works pretty well as a radar antenna.

            Nobody is suggesting that the antenna be so heavily armored that an EFP or a shaped charge can’t make a hole in it. We mostly don’t care if the enemy makes a hole in the antenna, we just need him to not tear it completely apart or put a thousand holes in it. And those are things that EFP and shaped charge warheads aren’t good it.

            and if you spread out the array, or use multiple small arrays, to avoid that, you make any sort of physical armor even less of a possibility.

            We are accustomed, if you recall, to putting physical armor over pretty much the entire hull and deck of a warship, and with e.g. casemate ironclads the superstructure as well. But maybe some math will help.

            An antenna from an SPY-1 radar, as used on Aegis-capable warships, has a surface area of roughly 12 square meters. Covering that with 10 cm of radar-transparent(*) Kevlar and boron carbide would add about two and a half tonnes of topweight per face, or ten tonnes for the complete system. For a system that already has twenty-five tonnes of topweight.

            That stops the fragmentation effect of a typical ARM, which would otherwise disable the radar by riddling it with a thousand holes. Your notional EFP antiship missile will punch a hole right through it, which will have a negligible effect on its performance if the software has been set up to compensate for arbitrary holes.

            And for a hypothetical future battleship, we can provide multiple redundant antenna sets for each (heavily armored, below-decks) radar system.

            * You have to play some classified or at least proprietary tricks at the interface for that, but it’s a known art.

            ETA: Since we seem to be arguing the point, the speed of sound at sea level is 340 m/s. Mach 6 is 2040 m/s. The specific energy of a mass at Mach 6 is 0.5 * 2040^2 or 2,080,800 joules per kilogram. TNT equivalency is defined as 4,184,000 joules per kilogram. A notional mach-6 EFP is roughly 0.5 x TNT equivalence, not 2-3x.

            Which doesn’t matter, because whatever the TNT equivalence is it will in this application be mostly wasted in the form of a blindingly fast penetrator coming out the back side of an antenna it has just punched a small hole through.

          • bean says:

            KE=MV^2.

            I’m an aerospace engineer. I know how KE is defined.

            mach 10^2 is 100, a little over 3^2 is 10. At mach 3 you have about 1/10th the KE of mach 10.

            Doing well so far…

            The rod from god weighed about ~10 tons and hit with an impact of ~11 tons of TNT. I suspect you’re using a more precise definition of mach than either I or the source I’m quoting on EFPs is.

            No, you just screwed up the math. The standard unit for TNT-kinetic equivalency is the Rick, which is defined as 3 km/s, or 4.5e6 J/kg. I think the value they use for nuclear equivalency is 4.18 J/kg, which is close enough for government work. Mach 10 is theoretically 3.41 km/s, so the article checks out. But the EFP is going at 60% of that speed. .6^2 is .4, which is, astonishingly, the Rick value I assigned to your projectile.

            It can’t be armored, distributed, and light weight. At best, it can be two of those things. And if it’s not light weight, it can’t be high enough to be useful.

            Do you know what the term ‘metacentric height’ means? Because I sort of doubt it, and until you do, I’m not sure this discussion can be continued productively. This is a quantitative question, and you’re making unsupported assertions on that issue. Yes, the size of the array is a limit on how high you can mount it. But do you even have an idea how much modern arrays and their armor will weigh?
            (Edit: John appears to have answered this one already.)

          • bean says:

            Are modern laser detection systems good enough to pick out where the beam is coming from with the targeting accuracy you’d get from an active radar?

            Probably not. My big book of naval weapons is surprisingly silent on the subject (or at least I can’t find it, as it’s a very big book), but when even the manufacturer’s blurb gives an accuracy of 7.5 degrees I don’t think we’re going to get into FC accuracy soon.

          • cassander says:

            @john

            >Nobody is suggesting that the antenna be so heavily armored that an EFP or a shaped charge can’t make a hole in it. We mostly don’t care if the enemy makes a hole in the antenna, we just need him to not tear it completely apart or put a thousand holes in it. And those are things that EFP and shaped charge warheads aren’t good it.

            I was envisioning something more like this. There was an effort in the 90s to develop an EFP warhead that could form multiple shapes depending on the target profile. Obviously you don’t want to use a rod penetrator on 10cm of kevlar. But as I originally said, I’m not sure what type of warhead would be ideal for the target profile, I’m just bet there’s something very good you can pack into the 1000-2000lbs payload of your typical anti-ship missile.

            >An antenna from an SPY-1 radar, as used on Aegis-capable warships, has a surface area of roughly 12 square meters. Covering that with 10 cm of radar-transparent(*) Kevlar and boron carbide would add about two and a half tonnes of topweight per face, or ten tonnes for the complete system. For a system that already has twenty-five tonnes of topweight.

            That’s a very large increase in weight.

            >And for a hypothetical future battleship, we can provide multiple redundant antenna sets for each (heavily armored, below-decks) radar system.

            No, you can’t. First, antennas below decks are no good, they have no range. Second, the radiating elements in a modern AESA radar are expensive. I’d bet that they’re the most expensive part of the radar, not counting software.

            @bean

            >No, you just screwed up the math.

            You’re right, I was off by factor of 10, my bad.

            >Do you know what the term ‘metacentric height’ means? Because I sort of doubt it, and until you do, I’m not sure this discussion can be continued productively.

            Yes, I do. it’s the point vertically on the ship that, once over the center of buoyancy moves past it, the ship starts to roll the other way. Its effects, and the things that affect it, are….complicated and numerous.

          • bean says:

            I was envisioning something more like this. There was an effort in the 90s to develop an EFP warhead that could form multiple shapes depending on the target profile. Obviously you don’t want to use a rod penetrator on 10cm of kevlar. But as I originally said, I’m not sure what type of warhead would be ideal for the target profile, I’m just bet there’s something very good you can pack into the 1000-2000lbs payload of your typical anti-ship missile.

            So? We’ve already forced you to escalate substantially in terms of missile size over the much smaller warhead found in your typical ARM. This is what virtual attrition means. How many HARMs did you give up to get that P-270? I only had to increase the topweight by 40% to force you to spend a lot more.
            Also, I have some doubts about advanced EFPs. There’s lots of cool papers, but no actual hadware. It’s possible it was lost in the defense budget squeeze of Iraq and Afghanistan, but I still have doubts.

            No, you can’t. First, antennas below decks are no good, they have no range. Second, the radiating elements in a modern AESA radar are expensive. I’d bet that they’re the most expensive part of the radar, not counting software.

            He obviously meant that the radar control electronics are below-decks, not the antennas. And given the record of your previous bet, I don’t have that much faith in your judgement on these matters. SPY-1 has a belowdecks weight of 2.5 times the above-decks weight. The correlation between electronics weight and cost isn’t mentioned in my big book of naval weapons, but I think that assuming all of the expensive stuff is topside is a bit premature. (OK, I’ll admit that it’s not an AESA.) BBoNW does mention that the modules for APAR are reported to be $500, which is quite cheap. Buy in greater bulk, and that could come down. (Yes, the array does take 3,424 modules, but that only comes to $70 million all four on a ship, which is pretty cheap by naval standards.) It also says that you’re looking at 2 tons per array, and a total system weight of 20 tons.

            Yes, I do. it’s the point vertically on the ship that, once over the center of buoyancy moves past it, the ship starts to roll the other way. Its effects, and the things that affect it, are….complicated and numerous.

            That’s not a very good definition. It’s the number you use to characterize stability, and the things that go into it are underwater hull shape and weight distribution. Hull shape is pretty much constant, which just leaves weight distribution.

          • Protagoras says:

            I had thought that in contrast with anti-tank weapons with all their tricks (and the corresponding tank armor tricks to try to defeat them) the usual pattern of anti-ship missiles was just to carry a big bomb and count on the big explosion doing a lot of general damage, with the additional bonus that unless the hit was at the very limit of missile range, the missile’s remaining fuel would also splatter all over and likely start a bunch of fires.

          • bean says:

            I had thought that in contrast with anti-tank weapons with all their tricks (and the corresponding tank armor tricks to try to defeat them) the usual pattern of anti-ship missiles was just to carry a big bomb and count on the big explosion doing a lot of general damage, with the additional bonus that unless the hit was at the very limit of missile range, the missile’s remaining fuel would also splatter all over and likely start a bunch of fires.

            That was the pattern for a long time. Some more recent missiles do have multi-EFP warheads, although they’re radial rather than axial. I believe some versions of the C-802 do, at least. You’re right about the fires. However, I would point out that you’re still well out of ARM territory with those warheads. A typical ASM warhead weighs as much as an entire AGM-88.

          • John Schilling says:

            But as I originally said, I’m not sure what type of warhead would be ideal for the target profile, I’m just bet there’s something very good you can pack into the 1000-2000lbs payload of your typical anti-ship missile.

            The warhead of a typical antiship missile is 400-800 lbs, not 1000-2000 lbs. The warhead of a typical anti-radiation missile, which is what you were talking about before, is less than half that. If you make the warhead arbitrarily large, certainly you can get whatever effect you want out of it. But 1000+ lb warheads, coupled with the sort of supersonic antiship missile that could hope to penetrate advanced missile defenses, add up to 5-10 tonne behemoths that even a heavy cruiser could only carry a dozen or so of.

            In which case, mission accomplished – because the question at hand is, what sort of warship dominates in a hypothetical future where advanced air defenses will shoot down ~95% of the missiles launched against a first-rate warship. If you concentrate your attack on a small number of heavy missiles, the target concentrates its defensive fire accordingly and probably none of those missiles get through. If one of them does get through, the figure of merit is not, “can this missile destroy a radar antenna?”, but “can this missile mission-kill an entire warship?” If the warship is 20,000 tons of hardened and redundant systems, it almost certainly can’t.

            That’s [10 tonnes of armor on an SPY-1 antenna set] a very large increase in weight.

            It’s a 40% increase in topweight. If you’re trying to shoehorn an Aegis system onto a 4,000 ton frigate, yes, that’s a lot. On a 20,000 ton “battleship”, not so much.

            >And for a hypothetical future battleship, we can provide multiple redundant antenna sets for each (heavily armored, below-decks) radar system.

            No, you can’t. First, antennas below decks are no good, they have no range. Second, the radiating elements in a modern AESA radar are expensive. I’d bet that they’re the most expensive part of the radar, not counting software

            It isn’t the antennas that go below decks, it’s everything else. An SPY-1 radar system weighs just over 83 tonnes, of which 60 tonnes goes below decks, below armor, and if necessary below the waterline. The 23 tonnes up top, on even a cruiser-sized ship you could almost certainly armor, then duplicate, then armor the duplicate. On a battleship, you could then duplicate all that including the below-decks part.

            And I’ll take your bet about the antenna being the expensive part, because the antenna is just solid-state T/R modules that are mass-produced in lots of ten thousand or more. Also, we very much are counting the software. If a next-generation warship is viewed as a mobile computing platform for the “win battle now” software package, and that software is the expensive part, we might want to look into redundant I/O and other peripherals for the hardware we run it on.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >So? We’ve already forced you to escalate substantially in terms of missile size over the much smaller warhead found in your typical ARM. This is what virtual attrition means. How many HARMs did you give up to get that P-270? I only had to increase the topweight by 40% to force you to spend a lot more.

            The relevant comparison is to your average ASM, not ARM. You haven’t cost me anything yet in terms of size, you just made me switch types of warhead and seeker.

            >Also, I have some doubts about advanced EFPs. There’s lots of cool papers, but no actual hadware. It’s possible it was lost in the defense budget squeeze of Iraq and Afghanistan, but I still have doubts.

            .

            >He obviously meant that the radar control electronics are below-decks, not the antennas.

            That’s not obvious at all given that it is already done as much as possible to minimize top weight and protect the combat systems.

            >And given the record of your previous bet, I don’t have that much faith in your judgement on these matters

            Now you’re being unnecessarily, and undeservedly, snarky.

            >SPY-1 has a belowdecks weight of 2.5 times the above-decks weight.

            I’m surprised the number isn’t higher. I guess it’s excluding power generation.

            >The correlation between electronics weight and cost isn’t mentioned in my big book of naval weapons, but I think that assuming all of the expensive stuff is topside is a bit premature

            Which is why I didn’t do that. In fact, I said the opposite, that software, which is mostly below, is the most expensive thing. But the arrays aren’t exactly cheap, particularly when you include development cost, not just replacement cost.

            >That’s not a very good definition. It’s the number you use to characterize stability, and the things that go into it are underwater hull shape and weight distribution. Hull shape is pretty much constant, which just leaves weight distribution.

            “A number” is not a good definition either. And while Hull form for a ship remains constant, it can interact with weight distribution in non obvious ways, especially as you burn consumables.

          • bean says:

            The relevant comparison is to your average ASM, not ARM. You haven’t cost me anything yet in terms of size, you just made me switch types of warhead and seeker.

            No, it isn’t. Previously you could shut down my radar with a small ARM. Now it takes an ASM to do. This is better for me. Particularly as you no longer are shooting that ASM at my waterline.

            Now you’re being unnecessarily, and undeservedly, snarky.

            You lost your last bet. I think it’s reasonable to point out that this shouldn’t fill me with confidence on your current one, particularly when you’re saying ‘I bet’ instead of making any effort to provide numbers. And when you doubled down on the last one after I went to the trouble of getting said numbers.

            I’m surprised the number isn’t higher. I guess it’s excluding power generation.

            Well, yes. Of course it is. Power comes from the ship.

            Which is why I didn’t do that. In fact, I said the opposite, that software, which is mostly below, is the most expensive thing. But the arrays aren’t exactly cheap, particularly when you include development cost, not just replacement cost.

            Software cost? That’s a complete red herring. Software is the cheapest part of buying another system. It’s expensive to write, and free to duplicate. If you’re not buying the radar system ‘retail’, then ‘free’ is the correct value to apply to cost. Likewise, development cost of the antenna is not particularly relevant.

            “A number” is not a good definition either. And while Hull form for a ship remains constant, it can interact with weight distribution in non obvious ways, especially as you burn consumables.

            Would you care to give a source on this?

          • bean says:

            Forgive me for not having time to immediately track down rival numbers to win an internet debate.

            At this point, I’m not really going to take you seriously until you do. You doubled down after I made a good-faith effort to find numbers. This is not the first time I’ve seen this sort of behavior.

            It’s only free if you think that raytheon charges a few billion for the first ship the software goes on, then gives it away for free to all the others. That’s not how they do things. the cost of writing the software is amortized over the units sold. And, presumably, we’d need new software to deal with antennas re-designed to minimize damage from physical attack.

            That is pretty much how they do things, AFAIK, although it’s called a ‘development contract’ and separated from the hardware procurement. In extreme cases, one company handles the hardware, another the software. It’s not a consumer product. And it’s certainly not like you’re buying off the shelf. If you order twice as many units, the software cost gets cut in half if it’s part of the hardware in the first place. The re-design for damage tolerance is probably trivial. They re-write half the stuff every couple of years anyway. Old copies of Friedman’s World Naval Weapons Systems are not expensive, and an astonishing view into how this stuff works.

            I don’t have a specific page number, but I know that friedman mentions in at least a few places ships with metacentric heights that were unexpectedly, or problematically, high or low. Perhaps someone simply screwed up the math, but I presume from that that the calculations are not always straightforward.

            The calculations are not straightforward when done with a slide rule. The calculations are straightforward when done with modern computers. D.K. Brown is a better source for the actual mechanics of designing a ship.

          • KE=MV^2.

            I’m an aerospace engineer. I know how KE is defined.

            Back when I was studying physics, kinetic energy was
            (1/2)MV^2

        • skef says:

          Mirror drones!

          • rahien.din says:

            A swarm of mirror drones!

            Consider a battlegroup of several smaller ships with laser weapons. With mirror drones directing their fire, they could engage multiple targets with high flexibility, or they could concentrate fire on a single target.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            A swarm of mirror drones!

            Flying in a spherical formation! With lasers bouncing off them! And then the music starts!

            o/` In the Navy! o/`

        • Would it be possible to extend the range of a laser by having a mirror on a high pole and bouncing the laser beam off it?

          Or, to get more exotic, a mirror on the bottom of an airplane?

          • bean says:

            Theoretically, yes, but aiming like that is very hard, and the other guys will just shoot the airplane down. Tall poles on ships don’t work well. They move a lot, and topweight is always a problem. Expect the mirror to be high, but not a lot higher than the tops of current ships.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A computer-controlled drone hovering above or near a ship might be able to offer effective mirrorage.

            http://newatlas.com/astronomy-telescope-technique-stops-star-twinkling/15966/

            This isn’t solving quite the same problem, but it suggests to me that the problem is solvable.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Not much point extending the range of a laser. It’s a defensive weapon, you can wait for the missile/drone/plane to come to you.

            Similarly, if you are immune to long range shots, you don’t need need high-quality long range sensors. Small cheap ones in a drone work fine.

            The question is, can you get to the point where your lasers can safely take down a full volley of anti-ship missiles fired from over the horizon? That does seem plausibly doable if you have a ship with say 12 lasers and missiles moving at only mach 10 or so.

            With that assumption, the only way to get a kill is to get close. And the only way to get close is to have defensive weapons strong enough to get close.

            The resulting ship looks something like a Star Wars star destroyer, except with a modern targeting computer (and no ‘deflector shields’), every turbo-laser shot is a dead X Wing.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Hey, what’s all this talk about lasers being useless past the horizon?

            On the ocean, you typically have layers of air of different temperatures (the lower stuff affected by the water temperature), which are nicely-separated and make good waveguides for visible and near-visible light. We take advantage of that to make our optical sensors work beyond the horizon.

            It seems to me that with either some compensating optics, or massed beams, we should be able to effectively hit things over the horizon with lasers.

            (Failing that, we could mount some on sharks….)

          • bean says:

            I don’t think that’s a reliable method to get past the horizon. And if it does, how far? For that matter, it allows the other side to shoot back, too.

          • John Schilling says:

            We take advantage of that to make our optical sensors work beyond the horizon.

            I don’t think that we do. First, we rarely use optical sensors beyond about 10-20 km, preferring radar for long-range work. The days of putting the sharpest-eyed young men on your ship high on the mast with a big pair of binoculars to scan the horizon are about as far in the past as the sextant and the slide rule(*). Second, the extra range provided by atmospheric refraction at visual wavelengths is in the single-digit percentage, IIRC. Third and most importantly, in these contexts we define the visible and/or radar horizon to include refractive effects, because we have no reason to care about a purely geometric definition. When stated without qualified, “horizon” refers to how far you can see without the slightly-curved rays of light being blocked by intervening land or sea.

            And for microwaves, as opposed to visible light, the effect is significant, about 15-20%. So it will be possible to launch salvos of missiles at the hypothetical laser-armed battleships of the future without the launch or targeting platforms being immediately destroyed by laser fire.

            * And yes, you’ll find those binoculars in a cabinet on the bridge of any modern warship. Right next to the sextant, and if the captain is a traditionalist neither one will be dusty, but neither will they define or limit the performance of the ship.

    • cassander says:

      I’d argue that the US figured out the lessons of jutland in 1911 with the design of the Nevadas and the standard type battleship, specifically all or nothing armor, but otherwise I like it.

      • bean says:

        That was what I meant, actually. I picked 1914 because I was working from memory, and I think I got commissioning and design dates confused. Edited to fix.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      “The word ‘battleship’ originates in the phrase ‘line-of-battle ship’, the line of battle was the formation used during the Napoleonic wars and earlier.”

      And if I remember correctly, the term ‘cruiser’ originates in the Age of Sail as a lighter ship (frigate) optimized for independent operations. ‘Destroyer’ definitely originated as ‘torpedo boat destroyer’, said ships being overgrown, long-range torpedo boats designed to protect capital ships and convoys from other torpedo boats.

      Now a question… who the heck created the trope that pre-WW1 to WW2 naval terminology was the right one for starships in SF?

      • bean says:

        I’d have to look up where ‘cruiser’ came from, but that sounds right. ‘Cruising’ was the term for roaming around hunting for enemies, usually done by frigates. I’m not sure why ‘frigate’ fell out of english-language use. You’re spot on about destroyer, although to nitpick, it was only the fleet, not convoys. Torpedo boats were short-ranged, essentially defensive vessels, and wouldn’t be able to threaten convoys (if convoys had been part of doctrine then, which they weren’t).

        I’m not sure about who started SF naming conventions, but it is a good point, and one I’ve made in other venues.

      • John Schilling says:

        Now a question… who the heck created the trope that pre-WW1 to WW2 naval terminology was the right one for starships in SF?

        I’m going to go with Doc Smith, Gene Roddenberry, and a few others of that (broad) vintage. A fair number of whom, Roddenberry included, were WWI or WWII veterans. Smith wasn’t, but was something of an otaku for his day.

        But it’s worth noting that while SF writers seem to have settled on the WWI classification sheme, real navies seem to change the names every few generations just to mix things up. “Frigates” used to be the largest class of independent cruising warship, then they briefly became the line-of-battle-ships of the post-ACW era, then went out of style altogether, then came back as the smallest class of oceangoing escort, then got promoted to something roughly equivalent to a WWII destroyer.

        And here in the 21st century, however much it may make purists scream, the largest class of general-purpose surface combatant that isn’t a cold-war relic long out of production, the closest thing any navy has to a “battleship”, is the destroyer.

        By the time we put actual warships in space, we will have a completely different terminology for them. And almost certainly mission-based classification that won’t map to historic naval ship classes, because Space is Not An Ocean. Between now and then, I do so very much want some SF writer to have the audacity and imagination to give us a Space Galleon, because it’s at least as likely as a Space Battlecruiser and a lot more fun.

        • bean says:

          then they briefly became the line-of-battle-ships of the post-ACW era

          Not true, at least not in British practice (the US was busy neglecting its navy during the 15 years after the ACW, and whatever we were doing doesn’t really count).

          And almost certainly mission-based classification that won’t map to historic naval ship classes, because Space is Not An Ocean.

          One thing I suspect is that you won’t see escorts in space. Escorts for main combatant units have only ever existed to deal with threats that are orthagonal to the main means of combat. Destroyers came about to deal with torpedo boats. Later split to deal with airplanes and submarines, too. There are no analogs for torpedoes in space (that can’t be used by the big ships, too, at least), and you and I are part of the pact to beat anyone who brings up space fighters or (especially) space submarines.
          (This is where a Napoleonic analogy works well. The line of battle didn’t have escorts. Escort at the time was of convoys and the like, which is obviously different.)

          Between now and then, I do so very much want some SF writer to have the audacity and imagination to give us a Space Galleon, because it’s at least as likely as a Space Battlecruiser and a lot more fun.

          Star Wars did have Star Galleons. And a very inconsistent classification scheme. But that’s more an artifact of the authors being all over the place than of any master plan. I once tried to make sense out of it all. (Star Wars was what I did in high school before I discovered engineering.)

          • John Schilling says:

            then [frigates] briefly became the line-of-battle-ships of the post-ACW era

            Not true, at least not in British practice (the US was busy neglecting its navy during the 15 years after the ACW, and whatever we were doing doesn’t really count).

            My readily-accessible references are probably less comprehensive than yours, but I believe the Royal Navy of the 1860s and 1870s classified its oceagoing ironclads as “armored frigates”, not “ships of the line” nor “battleships”. Likewise the French and other Continental powers. Yet these were the ships which would have actually mattered in any major fleet engagement. In the 1880s I see a lot of ships that seem to have been referred to just as “ironclads”, or sometimes “turret ship” or “ram”, and not until the 1890s does “battleship” enter contemporary usage.

            Were there any armored “ships of the line” ca 1870, or any armored ships actually capable of standing in the line of battle but called something other than “frigates” in the language of the day? I genuinely don’t know, but I’ve never heard of any.

          • bean says:

            My readily-accessible references are probably less comprehensive than yours, but I believe the Royal Navy of the 1860s and 1870s classified its oceagoing ironclads as “armored frigates”, not “ships of the line” nor “battleships”. Likewise the French and other Continental powers. Yet these were the ships which would have actually mattered in any major fleet engagement.

            This is what I get for working from memory. You’re correct. The reason for the classification was that the ships in question only had one gun deck. Interestingly, though, the pre-ironclads of at least the RN may have been called battleships, although I’m not sure if that’s contemporary. I’ll check when I get home.

            Were there any armored “ships of the line” ca 1870, or any armored ships actually capable of standing in the line of battle but called something other than “frigates” in the language of the day? I genuinely don’t know, but I’ve never heard of any.

            Naval tactics at the time were very confused. So far as I can tell, the ironclad’s arrival removed the multideckers from service, and that had previously been the dividing line for line-of-battle ships. I’m not even sure how well line tactics survived the arrival of the turret and better steam power.
            (Most of my knowledge of that period comes from D.K. Brown, who is coming from a design perspective, and may be taking terminological liberties.)

          • bean says:

            This is what I get for working from memory. You’re correct. The reason for the classification was that the ships in question only had one gun deck. Interestingly, though, the pre-ironclads of at least the RN may have been called battleships, although I’m not sure if that’s contemporary. I’ll check when I get home.

            It appears that it was not contemporary. My references classify them as ‘steam two- and three-deckers’.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m finding a number of references asserting that “battleship” was officially introduced in a British naval reclassification in 1892, but nothing I would consider a solid primary source. It is at least plausible, which leaves a three-decade gap when there was no clear terminology for state-of-the-art capital ships. “Armored Frigate” seems to be the most common contender at least in British usage.

            Which means that over the course of a single century, “frigate” has meant the largest and most powerful sort of oceangoing warship, very nearly the smallest and weakest, and just about everything in between.

          • bean says:

            I’m finding a number of references asserting that “battleship” was officially introduced in a British naval reclassification in 1892, but nothing I would consider a solid primary source. It is at least plausible, which leaves a three-decade gap when there was no clear terminology for state-of-the-art capital ships. “Armored Frigate” seems to be the most common contender at least in British usage.

            My sources suggest that “Armored Frigate” was a term specifically used for what is also called the broadside ironclad, basically a ship that was shaped like a traditional sailing warship with armor. The 1886 Brassey’s (the first, unfortunately, but predating the 1892 redesignation) uses a number of different terms, but none of them is ‘armored frigate’. It and Conway’s both call Warrior and the like broadside ironclads. I’m not sure anyone had a clear understanding of capital ships at the time.

            Which means that over the course of a single century, “frigate” has meant the largest and most powerful sort of oceangoing warship, very nearly the smallest and weakest, and just about everything in between.

            And it hasn’t meant ‘aircraft carrier’ only because the Japanese chose to call them ‘helicopter destroyers’ instead of ‘helicopter frigates’.
            Actually, I had an early run-in with the term, which I still look back fondly on. I was reading a book from the early 60s, which referred to the nuclear frigate Bainbridge. I was very confused.
            (To explain, the modern usage of frigate was for small escorts. The USN pre-1975 used it to mean what we would now call cruisers. A nuclear cruiser makes sense. A nuclear frigate (escort) is a weird thing, although I do think there was a proposal to do that.)

        • cassander says:

          >the closest thing any navy has to a “battleship”, is the destroyer.

          I would say the nuclear submarine is that, from a mission perspective. the battleship was built first and foremost to contest control of the seas. Any ability to affect things on land or in the air was purely secondary.Today, almost destroyer or frigate of more than a couple thousand tons is going to devote most of tonnage towards AAW. the submarine, however, remains an almost pure creature of sea control, with some secondary land attack functions.

          • Protagoras says:

            Nuclear submarines are smaller, and not particularly designed to take hits; like most modern combat units, the emphasis is overwhelmingly on destroying the enemy before they can score any hits on you. Anything not designed to take hits is to my mind too far from the classical battleship to count, and as you said above it isn’t really feasible to design modern warships to take hits given the realities of modern weapons and tactics.

          • bean says:

            @Protagoras
            He was speaking of the nuclear submarine being the mainstay of sea control from the sea, which it is. In that respect, it is the spiritual successor of the battleship. In other ways, not so much.

      • who the heck created the trope that pre-WW1 to WW2 naval terminology was the right one for starships in SF?

        There is a sf/fantasy series by Melissa Scott in which the spaceship terminology is lifted from naval terminology in classical antiquity.

        • cassander says:

          You mean types of -reme and galley? How on earth does that work?

          • There was a system of labeling ships by numbers–a three, a four, a five. It’s conjectured that it represented the number of rowers at an oar position. A trireme had three banks of oars with one rower at each oar, so was a three. A single banked galley with three rowers would also be a three. A five would be a big trireme with two rowers on each oar in two banks, on rower on each oar in the third bank.

            There were also ships whose label translated as “fifty,” on a different scale–I think smaller than triremes.

            Scott uses the same labels–I’m not sure if she ever explains what characteristic they represent.

          • cassander says:

            No, I know that, I meant how on earth do you apply an oar based system to space ships?

          • I don’t remember her ever explaining it, although it was pretty clear that the relative strength of the spaceships corresponded to the labels. But I read the series some time back, perhaps should reread it–it was pretty good.

            If you wanted to justify it, you could have some propulsion device of which more powerful ships carried a larger number.

            I don’t remember her mentioning anything to correspond to the Ptolemaic Forty.

          • Protagoras says:

            Honestly, we’re not entirely sure what all the names of the classical galleys meant. The records were often unclear, and in some cases the obvious interpretations would be structurally impossible. It may have been an early version of the numbers they use in the names of cars, where sometimes they stand for one thing, sometimes for another thing, but most often they’re just for marketing purposes and don’t really mean anything.

          • The Nybbler says:

            As O Kapia put it, “F– it, we’re doing forty oars!”

      • Deiseach says:

        Now a question… who the heck created the trope that pre-WW1 to WW2 naval terminology was the right one for starships in SF?

        Well, who decided that space vessels would be called star ships in the first place? As for the naval terminology, I think Heinlein (ex-Navy and never quite got over it) is responsible for a lot of it, at least in post-war American SF – and see L. Ron Hubbard’s use of military/naval slang and terms for how Scientology is organised, also due to his family and personal background (father was an officer in the Navy, he served in the Navy during the Second World War). And since Hubbard also wrote prolifically for the pulps, he contributed his share to the SF terminology.

        • bean says:

          Well, who decided that space vessels would be called star ships in the first place?

          In fairness, the broad outlines of the naval model map well onto a hypothetical space future. You have vessels with crews of hundreds taking deployments of months or years. In practice, it probably won’t look like that, as they won’t start from scratch, and existing organizations will evolve into the relevant roles. We’ve been over this here before.
          Relevant link.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Historically, the OED puts the first use of “spaceship” in 1880, and claims that it is by analogy with “airship” (first attested in 1817).

          I think there’s a historical case for “ship” being used for any large vehicle with multiple crew. For instance, early tanks were known as “land ships”. This is partly because the committee which developed them- called the Landships committee, headed by the Admiralty’s Director of Naval Construction- started with plans for much larger vehicles comparable in size to actual ships. But even some of the actual tanks were given names starting with HMLS for “His Majesty’s Land Ship”.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Now that you mention it, why don’t we have much larger vehicles comparable in size to actual ships? Is it just too hard to shift all that weight without the aid of buoyancy or what?

          • bean says:

            Now that you mention it, why don’t we have much larger vehicles comparable in size to actual ships? Is it just too hard to shift all that weight without the aid of buoyancy or what?

            More or less. Moving things at sea is relatively much easier than moving them on land. Ships have some fairly strong economies of scale that don’t apply to land vehicles, either. Also, there aren’t trees on the ocean you have to fit between.

          • Protagoras says:

            One particularly big limit on land vehicles is that making them bigger consistently means more strain and wear on whatever kind of wheels or tracks or whatever you’re using. All of the methods of compensating for that have limits. One of the big ways of reducing the wear, of course, is to only operate your land vehicle on artificially flat and smooth surfaces, but relying on that means it can’t be any wider than your roads will permit. Otherwise, you need to make it slow to reduce the problems, and probably put up with it breaking down a lot (tanks, for example, require extremely frequent tread repair if they’re covering any significant distances), and even so you’re not going to get close to even a fairly small ship.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Not just wear and tear on the vehicle, but wear and tear on the roads. High weight vehicles are murder on a road.

          • Iain says:

            As a rule of thumb, road damage rises with the fourth power of the axle weight.

    • shakeddown says:

      More emotional than informational: Can you explain the charm/mystique of battleships (or naval warfare more generally)?

      I mean, when I was a kid I thought being a combat pilot was the one Cool Thing*. Then when I was a teenager, I started thinking of infantry as the Cool Thing (in the style of Band of Brothers). And it seems like there are a lot of people who get pretty excited about battleships, but I’ve just never been able to really get it.

      *Not meant to diminish the hardship of the people involved. Just to describe the glamour it can have.

      • bean says:

        More emotional than informational: Can you explain the charm/mystique of battleships (or naval warfare more generally)?

        If I could, it wouldn’t really be mystique, would it? I can’t explain why I like battleships more than carriers or even fighter jets. I just do. The closest I can come is to say that they’re almost entirely comprehensible by normal people (my FC spiel is long, but it’s nothing compared to what you’d have to do to explain how (say) modern electronic warfare works), and that there’s something really elegant about the engineering involved. Also, they’re obsolete enough that none of the fun stuff is classified. A few bits that Iowa had in the 80s are still secret, but they’re easy to ignore. And you have big guns.

      • John Schilling says:

        From a storytelling perspective, warships have the advantage of often being sent on missions of global importance, even in peacetime (see “gunboat diplomacy”), but before ubiquitous radio had to carry out those missions – and respond to an adversary’s – on the captain’s initiative alone. A frigate/cruiser captain was maybe second only to a King in the ability to change the world in a dramatically exciting way without being expected to ask someone’s permission every step of the way.

        Insofar as this has given us countless stories of captains Hornblower, Aubrey, Kinnison, Kirk, Picard, Harrington, et numerous al, I’m not going to complain too much about the liberties some of the relevant writers have taken with history or SFnal plausibility.

        • bean says:

          The overlap of ‘dreadnought battleships’ and ‘no radio’ is basically negligible. They had telegraphs everywhere of serious importance by, what, the 1880s at the latest? Yes, there was Emden coaling at Diego Garcia in October of 1914, but that was a weird exception. Jackie Fisher practically invented strategic naval C2 to help keep the cost of trade protection down in the noughties.

          • cassander says:

            WW1 era battleships had radios, but they were unreliable, especially for anyone who who wasn’t british and who thus couldn’t use the global telegraph network as a backup in wartime. Long range radio required a network of beacons that just didn’t exist, and what did exist was mostly british controlled. Just look at how much trouble the zepplins often had with communications.

          • bean says:

            WW1 era battleships had radios, but they were unreliable, especially for anyone who who wasn’t british and who thus couldn’t use the global telegraph network as a backup in wartime. Long range radio required a network of beacons that just didn’t exist, and what did exist was mostly british controlled. Just look at how much trouble the zepplins often had with communications.

            The radios weren’t that unreliable. Airplane and ship communications, while not totally unrelated, are differentiated even today by the fact that a big ship’s communications system weighs more than a typical airplane. Zeppelin experience is not particularly relevant. And only the British had the worldwide responsibilities that meant they needed long-range radio in the first place.

          • Protagoras says:

            Still, Cassander is right that the radios weren’t that great early on. And even in WWII and beyond, militaries were sufficiently paranoid about their communications being intercepted by the enemy to go to considerable lengths to use the radios they had as little as possible. With good reason, of course; indeed, they mostly seem not to have been paranoid enough, but they did worry about this a lot and they did try to minimize their radio use to minimize their vulnerability.

          • bean says:

            And even in WWII and beyond, militaries were sufficiently paranoid about their communications being intercepted by the enemy to go to considerable lengths to use the radios they had as little as possible.

            The British were paranoid, and to some extent still are. The Germans, not so much. In any case, it has very little bearing on my original point.

          • beleester says:

            I don’t think it’s necessarily the isolation that matters for storytelling, so much as the fact that a single warship is big enough to change a battle all by itself. Warships can be “heroes” with names, and backstories, and anecdotes about that one time she almost sank but got away by the skin of her teeth, in the same way a person can.

            (The existence of Kantai Collection, a show about personified Japanese warships, demonstrates this in the most literal way possible.)

          • tmk says:

            I have read that radio really helped Japan in the Battle of Tsushima of 1905. The Russian navy also had radios, but they were imported from Germany and not well integrated.

          • bean says:

            I have read that radio really helped Japan in the Battle of Tsushima of 1905. The Russian navy also had radios, but they were imported from Germany and not well integrated.

            It told Togo which side of the straits the Russians were coming through, but didn’t help him when he split his force into two divisions during the battle itself. My source is silent on Russian radio, but AIUI, the problem was that all radio at the time was Morse-only, which is great for strategic messages, but not really fast enough for tactical signalling. The Russian problem appears to have been insufficient scouting, not bad radios.
            This persisted all the way up to WWII. Even the Iowas have a Signal Shelter on the 03 level with 2-3 inches of armor, specifically designed to keep signallers safe near the flags and signal lights because they might be needed in battle. A report I have on possible future battleships suggested that this was now unnecessary on account of improved voice radio (TBS) and shouldn’t be incorporated to new battleships, but that it wasn’t worth removing. And it’s still there.

      • beleester says:

        BIG GUNS! HEAVY ARMOR! CASTLES OF STEEL!

        Yes, modern warfare with radar and missiles and stealth has its own charms, but if you want massive machinery, guns that crater the ocean when they fire, shells as big as a man and loading mechanisms the size of a building, there’s no substitute for a battleship.

        And I think Bean also has a point – WWII technology is right there on the border between “Simple machines” and “Computer-processed deep magic,” where the weapons are amazingly complicated marvels of engineering, but the underlying principles are still simple enough to comprehend.

        • Urstoff says:

          As much as we romanticize battleships, there have only been around 20 direct confrontations between battleships: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_naval_battles_between_battleships

          • bean says:

            So? We romanticize nuclear weapons (or at least I do, and I recognize that I may be a bit weird), but only two of those have been used.

          • Urstoff says:

            It’s not a knock. It just seems low for ships that were the pre-aircraft carrier force projectors. Maybe naval engagements are just rare in the first place.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s generally very difficult to replace your navy if it gets sunk — more difficult than it is to replace losses from your army, for example — so perhaps admirals are just generally cautious about getting into big battles.

          • bean says:

            @Urstoff:

            It’s not a knock. It just seems low for ships that were the pre-aircraft carrier force projectors. Maybe naval engagements are just rare in the first place.

            They are, by and large. There were only something like five major naval battles during the Napoleonic Wars. WWI did have an unusually low number, mostly because of the ‘fleet in being’ thing the Germans were doing. The Pacific war was unusual in that it was by and large a naval war, but the problem was that air power was so dominant that only fast ships could be used in the Solomons (where most of the surface naval battles took place) and the fast battleships on both sides were too valuable to risk there very often. Also, the US slow battleships were all in the yards after Pearl Harbor.
            I’ve often considered the reputation of the battleship in a counterfactual world where Halsey didn’t take them with him at Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of San Bernadino Strait took place instead of Samar. There may not be that many times you need battleships, but when you do, you really do.

            @The original Mr. X

            It’s generally very difficult to replace your navy if it gets sunk — more difficult than it is to replace losses from your army, for example — so perhaps admirals are just generally cautious about getting into big battles.

            That’s a big part of it. Not a single proper capital ship laid down after the relevant country’s entry into WW2 saw combat. Alaska and Guam were December of 41 and January of 42, but that’s why I said ‘proper’.

          • gbdub says:

            bean, you’re not counting carriers as capital ships? Certainly I’d say the Essex class at least deserves that designation, and several of them laid down after 1941 (e.g. the Wasp and Hornet) saw significant battle.

          • bean says:

            bean, you’re not counting carriers as capital ships? Certainly I’d say the Essex class at least deserves that designation, and several of them laid down after 1941 (e.g. the Wasp and Hornet) saw significant battle.

            Not exactly. I was thinking of gun-armed capital ships, although that wasn’t clear. Not surprisingly, carriers are cheaper and faster to build than battleships.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >Not exactly. I was thinking of gun-armed capital ships, although that wasn’t clear. Not surprisingly, carriers are cheaper and faster to build than battleships.

            Part of the reason for that is that the USN decided to prioritize carrier construction over battleships by the end of 42. And I don’t have figures handy, but I’d bet you that the midways cost more than the Iowas. And since they’re both about the same size, that feels like a fair comparison of cost.

          • bean says:

            Part of the reason for that is that the USN decided to prioritize carrier construction over battleships by the end of 42.

            Yes, but carriers also don’t have heavy armor or big guns. Those both take a long time to build. Take, for instance, Vanguard, basically patched together to make use of old turrets because they couldn’t get the new ones in time. Whereas carriers are, in principle, simple enough to be built by a new shipyard on merchant lines.

            And I don’t have figures handy, but I’d bet you that the midways cost more than the Iowas. And since they’re both about the same size, that feels like a fair comparison of cost.

            I’ll take that bet. Midway cost $85 million. The best source I have on hand for Iowa is wiki, which says $100 million, while other sources give numbers up to 125 million. I’ll have to check my books when I get home to be sure, but all of these sound plausible. The issue is that a lot of stuff is provided by the government separately from the main contract, so it’s actually slightly tricky to figure out the exact cost.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >I’ll take that bet. Midway cost $85 million. The best source I have on hand for Iowa is wiki, which says $100 million, while other sources give numbers up to 125 million. I’ll have to check my books when I get home to be sure, but all of these sound plausible. The issue is that a lot of stuff is provided by the government separately from the main contract, so it’s actually slightly tricky to figure out the exact cost.

            Yeah, I have to figure out modern defense documents for a living. It’s a nightmare. But I’ve seen 70-80 million quoted for the essex class. I have a hard time imagining that the Midways, which were 15-20,000 tons heavier and had 60,000 more SHP on their propulsion plant weren’t more than 80 million.

          • bean says:

            But I’ve seen 70-80 million quoted for the essex class. I have a hard time imagining that the Midways, which were 15-20,000 tons heavier and had 60,000 more SHP on their propulsion plant weren’t more than 80 million.

            Sorry, but I made a good-faith effort to solve the problem, and took the first numbers I found, from a source that I think most would agree is pretty reasonable. At this point, the burden of proof is on you to find other numbers and defend them, or you owe me the invisible trophy that we bet.
            And seriously, this makes no sense. The propulsion plants for Midway and Iowa were the same. Hull steel is pretty cheap. Armor steel is not, nor are big guns. Where did the extra money that would make Midway more expensive go?
            (No, the answer is not ‘air group’. We’re discussing shipbuilding resources here.)

          • bean says:

            I went and looked. Oddly, I struck out with Sumrall, Dulin & Garzke, and Friedman, but I found in Muir a figure of ‘about $125 million’. I’ll take that as my working figure right now.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            What costs? Arresting gear, elevators, the armored deck, more com gear, more and more expensive radars.

          • bean says:

            What costs? Arresting gear, elevators,

            Big gun mounts are also large piece of hydraulic machinery.

            the armored deck,

            Really? How is a 3.5″ deck more expensive than a 6″ deck? And a belt. And the turret armor. And the conning tower…

            more com gear, more and more expensive radars.

            I suggest you check the relative electronic outfits more carefully. The Iowas were set up as flagships, too.

          • cassander says:

            @bean says:

            Big gun mounts are also large piece of hydraulic machinery.

            >Really? How is a 3.5″ deck more expensive than a 6″ deck? And a belt. And the turret armor.

            I didn’t say each one of those things alone was more expensive than the Iowas, I said all of them together. And I’d have to check my Friedman, but I’d bet that the midway deck covered more area than the Iowa deck armor.

            >I suggest you check the relative electronic outfits more carefully. The Iowas were set up as flagships, too.

            As flagships, yes, but not as air traffic control for of several dozen aircraft.

          • bean says:

            @cassander
            So far as I’m concerned, the matter is closed until and unless you can turn up sourced cost numbers for one or both ships. I made a good-faith attempt to answer the question by finding numbers. Your attempts to refute it have been based on vague and unconvincing handwaving.

          • Protagoras says:

            @cassander, Midway class does not seem to have armored the entire flight deck; only part of the deck (the part over the most important structures below, of course) had the 3 1/2 inch armor (indeed, my quick research seems to suggest that this was usually the case for carriers with armored flight decks). So you may be wrong that the armored deck area was larger for Midway than for Iowa, and in any event it certainly was not as much larger as you imply.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I have nothing to contribute, just want to say that posts like this is my main reason to frequent the open threads; the chance to learn stuff that I would never have stumbled upon otherwise.

      Thanks.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      despite Dreadnought making every other battleship in the world obsolete

      I’ve heard a lot about WWI era ships “being already obsolete when they come out of the shipyard” – could you elaborate a bit on what “obsolete” means as regards to naval vessels?

      Does it just mean “we know how to make better ones and would never commission the USS Justfinished again, shame it took so long to build”? Or, especially in the case of Dreadnought, does it mean that HMS Currentlyunderconstruction could literally beat up any other ship on the market (say, 95%+ odds)? If the latter, how many pre-dreads would take to take down Dreadnought? Does “making every other battleship obsolete” mean that Dread’s armor was so thick it could take on virtually every other ship at the time and (ignoring ammunition) beat all of them?

      • gbdub says:

        I believe “could literally beat up any other ship on the market” is the usual interpretation, but “obsolete” ships are hardly useless.

        Dreadnought in particular was faster and better armored than her contemporaries, with numerous other technical advantages, but her big departure from previous designs was that she mounted “all big guns”. The entire main battery consisted of large (12 inch) guns, with no smaller guns intended for use against other large ships (she did have numerous small guns for e.g. shooting at torpedo boats and eventually airplanes).

        Previously, battleships mounted both large and medium size guns, all of which were intended for use against other battleships. But the medium guns were useless at the longer ranges battles would likely take place, and in any case could not penetrate the armor battleships carried.

        For “how many ships would it take to sink one”, tough question, since it depends on so many other factors, but consider that no Dreadnoughts were actually lost at Jutland, and also consider how tough the Bismarck in WWII proved to be, only eventually succumbing after losing all maneuverability and being surrounded by a fleet with vast numeric superiority (even then, she was incapacitated and scuttled, not actually sunk by enemy fire).

      • bean says:

        I’ve heard a lot about WWI era ships “being already obsolete when they come out of the shipyard” – could you elaborate a bit on what “obsolete” means as regards to naval vessels?

        WWI-era ships? Which ones? If you’re hearing about the last pre-dreads, then basically they mean “well behind the current design standards”. They weren’t totally useless, but their usefulness is greatly diminished compared to what came after, and even the latest of them were in secondary roles by the outbreak of war.

        Does it just mean “we know how to make better ones and would never commission the USS Justfinished again, shame it took so long to build”? Or, especially in the case of Dreadnought, does it mean that HMS Currentlyunderconstruction could literally beat up any other ship on the market (say, 95%+ odds)? If the latter, how many pre-dreads would take to take down Dreadnought?

        More the latter. They didn’t immediately get rid of all previous ships, and even the British finished Lord Nelson and Agamemnon after Dreadnought commissioned. The precise answer depends heavily on the circumstances of the battle, but at a guess, you’re looking at a 3-1 ratio in ship equivalency, which is slightly greater than you’d expect from gunpower alone. 4 guns is not enough for proper shooting.
        Edit:
        I should point out here that Dreadnought was originally introduced in an attempt to keep the British defense budget down. She was cheaper than an equivalent amount of naval power spread among pre-dreads. Of course, it didn’t work very well when the dreadnought race started, but by then the British had figured out how to pay for it anyway.

        Does “making every other battleship obsolete” mean that Dread’s armor was so thick it could take on virtually every other ship at the time and (ignoring ammunition) beat all of them?

        Dreadnought’s armor was actually thinner than that of the relatively contemporary Lord Nelsons. The big change was in turbine propulsion, which allowed more speed, and even more importantly allowed high speed to be maintained (reciprocating steam engines have very definite limits on how long they can be run at max power), and the switch to all-big-gun armament which allowed more effective shooting at long range.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Ahh so if the Dreadnought had a captain that (to put it in mongrel language) knew how to kite, it could win basically any fleet engagement single-handedly (at its time of launch, anyway). Aye?

          • bean says:

            Ahh so if the Dreadnought had a captain that (to put it in mongrel language) knew how to kite, it could win basically any fleet engagement single-handedly (at its time of launch, anyway). Aye?

            Definitely not. “More powerful” is not the same as “invincible” in this context. Dreadnought was, in many ways, an obvious development of things that were already happening. The US and Japan both designed all-big-gun ships before Dreadnought was revealed to the public, and from a gunnery standpoint, the US effort was actually better. The British didn’t believe in superfiring turrets (one turret shooting over another) as they thought it would interfere with the lower turret if they shot straight ahead. The US tested it and found that it didn’t really, so we introduced it on the South Carolina.
            Anyway, back to the point. Dreadnought’s guns were actually the same as the main guns on the Lord Nelsons, so if we remove their 9.2″ guns from consideration, it comes to 8 vs 8 for broadsides if both of the Nelsons are there. (Dreadnought had 10 guns, but 4 were in wing turrets, limiting them to 8 on a broadsides). The improved spotting made possible by the 8-gun salvo would help, but I’d give the two combinations roughly even odds, given that it’s two hulls against one, which always helps. The Nelsons also had 9.2″ guns, which would probably tip the odds in their favor. The big difference is that Dreadnought, for about 10% more money (according to R.A. Burt) is easily better than either one of them alone. Against something of the Majestic vintage or earlier, with 6″ secondaries, it’s easily equal to any two, and for a relatively small amount of extra money in exchange for that capability.
            I hope I’ve sufficiently confused you. If that’s not enough, I’ll bring up the Maximum Battleship.

      • Protagoras says:

        Honestly, I’d think two late model pre-dreadnoughts could take down dreadnought, if somehow there was a slugfest with exactly those ships involved (and dreadnought didn’t just use its superior speed to get away). But they quickly built a lot more dreadnought style ships, and if you’re comparing a large fleet of dreads to a large fleet of pre-dreads, it starts to become important that you can’t pack your ships too close together without them getting in the way of one another. As a result, having two to three times as many big guns (the only guns that matter) on the dreads means much more concentrated firepower. There probably isn’t any way to overcome that with just greater numbers of pre-dreads. The extra numbers will just make you even more spread out, which means the extra ships won’t be able to participate in the battle until all the ships you lose to the concentrated dreadnought barrage start making room for them. And good luck keeping your fleet organized enough to bring in those replacements in a timely and effective matter.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    As a result of the ACA, some people have more access to medical insuarance and care, and other people have less.

    What I’ve seen is that when less access comes up, someone will say that it wasn’t Obama’s fault, he tried as hard as he could to get care to be more generally available, but Republicans blocked him.

    It seems to me that the wrong question is being answered, but I’m not sure what the right question is. It just seems like a fast skid to go from bad situation to who should be blamed, with very little attention given to how the situation could be improved.

    Thoughts?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “less access to medical insurance and care”. Can you be more specific?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The cost of insurance has gone up for them. Sometimes they’re getting a worse plan which costs more money, sometimes they can’t afford insurance at all.

        This has some discussion of people losing jobs due to the cost of the ACA– in particular, legal support staff. It seems odd to me that the job loss would be so concentrated, but not impossible.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “The cost of insurance” can be a misleading category, for one thing. But it is the case that the young are paying more for policies than they would have. Over a lifetime, you make that up on average, though.

          Healthy people are paying “more” for policies than they would have as well. But, given that one can transition from healthy to not so, it’s not clear to me that we can count this as less access to care. Pre ACA, there are many things that could take you from “paid up health insurance customer” to “uninsured and uninsurable”, if you were in the individual market. Making a health insurance policy so that it actually covers the cost of the cancer treatment it purports to (annual/lifetime caps are no longer allowed, policies can’t be dropped when they get too expensive) makes things more expensive now, but it’s not actually because access to care is reduced.

          But the linked piece looks like it might be a case where they are in a state that did not expand Medicaid. Household income of something like 15K should be Medicaid eligible under the ACA. Obviously that’s not a designed piece of the law. (ETA: assuming it’s Pennsylvania, they did expand, but in a non-standard way. But they still should be eligible, I think).

          As to the employment piece, that seems more like a well documented trend pre-ACA. Health insurance costs were rising all of the time pre-ACA, and companies were constantly getting tipped from “this employee is profitable” to not, based on the cost of health coverage. My guess is that there were some one time accelerations of that trend, as well as price adjustments based on the annual/lifetime cap piece. The ACA makes a good scapegoat here, but “the insurance companies” were the scapegoat before.

          Healthcare inflation was the real enemy there. And the numbers seem to show that the ACA is doing good work on that front.

          The employee based health insurance system in the US is not how most anybody else does it. You can’t really fault the ACA for the intrinsic flaws in that system, when the ACA didn’t create that system. There was simply recognition that you can’t eliminate once it’s in place.

          • gbdub says:

            You’re right that the issues with employer-based insurance started before the ACA, but my big beef with the ACA is precisely that it largely entrenched the flaws with that system further. Now employers are mandated to provide insurance (incidentally causing a lot of employees to lose hours since there’s a huge incentive to cut your full-time employees if you’re near the cap). Insurance is still not portable between jobs or between states. It further encourages insurance as pre-paid care rather than actual insurance.

            Basically the ACA seems to have resulted in more nominally insured people (mostly through Medicaid, both by expanding it and by encouraging a bunch of already eligible people to actually sign up) at the expense of making everyone else’s insurance somewhat worse.

            It really sucks if you’re young, healthy, and make too much for a subsidy – the plans are all very high deductible (and usually don’t cover anything until the deductible) which would be okay if the premiums were cheap, but they aren’t because ACA mandated zero copay coverage of “preventative” care that’s mostly a benefit for old people (and oh yeah, it capped how much more you can charge old people – yet another wealth transfer to the older and wealthier).

            Frankly my new post-ACA insurance is the opposite of what I want. I’d rather pay a co-pay or out of pocket for routine care (which is relatively cheap and predictable, and anyway being relatively young and healthy I don’t use often) and have lower deductibles for unexpected emergencies (when I can’t shop around). But that’s illegal now. Instead I’m stuck with a higher premium and a literally 10x increase in potential out of pocket costs for a serious injury. I liked my plan, but I wasn’t allowed to keep it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            I feel like you are doing something akin to “I like the guaranteed coverage but we should get rid of the mandate”. You have to evaluate the whole package, not complain about only the things you don’t like.

            The trend to higher and higher deductibles was on-going before ACA. My sense is that almost everyone (including the insurance company actuaries) agree that higher deductibles are one of the things that lead to lower inflation in the healthcare sector.

            Primary/preventative care is not where the bulk of healthcare costs go. If you have some data that says this is what is driving health insurance costs rises under the ACA, I’m interested. But I think you are overestimating how much of your premium is paying for low/no copay everyday services.

          • Brad says:

            “The cost of insurance” can be a misleading category, for one thing. But it is the case that the young are paying more for policies than they would have. Over a lifetime, you make that up on average, though.

            Was it at all conceivable regardless of who won the last election that the ACA healthcare system was going to be in place for the rest of the lifetime of young people being overcharged under it?

            ACA was designed to broaden coverage it did little to nothing to deal with the cost crisis. Which meant that some other dramatic change would and will need to be done no later than the next decade or so.

            The life cycle excuse for a regressive funding mechanism just isn’t very compelling.

          • Matt M says:

            HBC,

            What do you expect is going to happen with the health insurance markets given this?

            I feel like this hasn’t gotten nearly enough coverage. If accurate, it essentially means that Republicans don’t have to do anything, and that Obamacare will simply get more and more expensive until nobody even wants it anymore, yes?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            The ACA has specific design elements which are intended to slow healthcare inflation. Current metrics are in line with and slightly ahead of the predicted pace of slowing. Maybe we won’t see that bear out, but it’s to early to say it doesn’t address cost growth, and definitely false to say it had no intention to do so.

            @Matt M:
            That just means this years policy at the IRS will be the same as last year’s.

            I do think the ACA can be greatly damaged by the Trump administration, moreso in states that don’t control their own exchange. We will see how that plays out.

          • Deiseach says:

            What do you expect is going to happen with the health insurance markets given this?

            Reading that article and speaking as a minor bureaucratic minion, I think that the IRS has seen the light with the people at the coalface processing the forms yelling that “if we refuse to process the forms without the box ticked, half the forms won’t get processed and people will owe tax and won’t be getting their refunds and then they phone up and yell at us so hey, management, give us a decision here: can we or can we not accept the form even if line 61 is not filled in?”

            It sounds like a typical ‘ruling from above’ that was meant to make people take out insurance plans, else they’d have to pay the penalty or not get their tax affairs straightened out. As any of the staff dealing with the public directly could have told them, it wouldn’t work like that. And it sounds like the IRS have discovered this, and have had to revise their methods accordingly in order to get back to normal levels of processing tax returns.

            Besides, it’s not the job of the IRS to chase after health insurance in the first place, and it was dumb to include that as part of the rule.

          • gbdub says:

            @hbc – I’m not saying “keep the coverage but nix the mandate”, I’m more saying that, if employer-based coverage was part of the problem, there should not have been an employer based mandate.

            My ideal version of the ACA (not necessarily ideal health care plan in general) would have been something like individual mandate, but only for catastrophic coverage, no employer mandate, shift tax credits/deductions for health insurance from employer to employees. The people currently getting employer-provided coverage are wealthier and healthier; they’re the ones you want in an individual marketplace to keep it solvent.

            I don’t know how much of the overall increase in health care costs are due to routine care. But for most people it’s most of their spending in a given year, and now it’s all been rolled into your insurance premiums + additional overhead. And on top of that nixing co-pays encourages overuse (it’s use it or lose it, after all), and “preventative healthcare reduces costs!” is based on bad statistics. It basically has to increase costs. Even if it’s not the main driver, it’s a definite knob in the wrong direction and a better law would have avoided it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I feel like this hasn’t gotten nearly enough coverage. If accurate, it essentially means that Republicans don’t have to do anything, and that Obamacare will simply get more and more expensive until nobody even wants it anymore, yes?

            Yes, but that happens regardless of whether the IRS enforces the individual mandate. The individual mandate is $695/adult + $347.50/child up to $2085/family, or 2.5% of income, whichever is greater. An average Obamacare bronze plan for a single 30-year-old is $3734. So, if you’re healthy and poor, even if you’re going to have to pay the mandate, it’s probably still better than paying for the medical plan.

          • Brad says:

            @HBC
            The most important cost measure, the Cadillac tax, was headed for repeal the moment the bill was signed. It would have had the same fate as the donut hole and for much the same reason.

            The other grab bag of nothing-burger programs were never going to bring health care cost growth in line with the rate of general inflation. And indeed if you look at national healthcare expenditures every year since ACA was signed each year it grew faster than the rate of general inflation.

            Cost growth is a crisis. It the underlying cause for basically all the unhappiness by insured people with health care system in this country since the 80s. The HMO, the giant deductible, the drug formula, the doctor that runs in and out of the room in 30 seconds, and so on are all traceable to the cost growth. ACA didn’t fix the problem, and even had the Cadillac tax not been DOA, didn’t really have a chance to. Bending the cost curve slightly was never going to be enough.

            Why exactly Obama and the Congressional Democrats decided to tackle access before cost growth is a bit of a puzzle to me. But clearly they would have had to go back if they were still in charge.

            So I just don’t buy the claim that the regressive cross subsidies scheme selected to fund the exchanges would all have worked itself out over the course of decades.

          • Matt M says:

            That just means this years policy at the IRS will be the same as last year’s.

            I’m just curious here though. How is it that both sides of the aisle have regularly stood up and loudly declared that the ACA cannot exist viably without the individual mandate, while it seems to be no particular secret that the individual mandate shall not be enforced?

            What was the point of all the time, expense, and drama of a supreme court case over whether or not it was legal if the IRS has no intention of enforcing it anyway?

            This strikes me as a partisan-flipped version of sanctuary cities. We don’t like what the law says so we’ll just ignore it. But the right complains pretty loudly about sanctuary cities. Why isn’t the left complaining about this?

          • John Schilling says:

            But the right complains pretty loudly about sanctuary cities. Why isn’t the left complaining about this?

            If “the left” complains about this now, people will see the left as specifically demanding that the government impose massive fines on poor people who don’t have any good options. The optics are much better if the complaining is delayed until the ACA either collapses or is replaced with something with a Republican label.

            Cynically, the ACA was designed to work tolerably well during Obama’s administration and self-destruct under his probably-Republican successor for precisely this reason.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s the cynical interpretation of it.

            I’m curious to get a left-leaning person who likes the ACA’s thoughts.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Isnt HBC a left leaning person who likes the ACA? I’m very left leaning, sort of, I campaigned for Bernie Sanders. He and I both think the ACA is a horrible mess and it never should have happened.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:
            C’mon, man. That is a bulllllshhhitttt argument. We didn’t immediately drop health care inflation to the CPI? Please.

            What we have done is spend far less on healthcare overall than predicted.

          • Brad says:

            Apparently not in 2019 either. In this theory that the law fixed the crisis, when exactly was health care cost growth supposed to converge with general inflation? Because that green line doesn’t look like it is converging with anything.

            ACA didn’t solve the cost catastrophe and it had regressive elements to boot. Don’t expect me to fall to my knees and sing its glories just because it’s probably better than whatever Paul Ryan is cooking up.

          • With regard to the Reason story on the IRS not enforcing the mandate …

            Is this any different, legally speaking, from Obama not enforcing the rules against illegal immigration on a specified subset of illegal immigrants? In either case, the underlying principle seems to be that the people enforcing a law have discretion on how hard they try to enforce it–which seems reasonable, given limited resources.

          • Cypren says:

            @HeelBearCub: Claiming that we’ve seen reduced healthcare costs since the ACA passed is true but extremely misleading. National healthcare spending did indeed grow at a rate of 4.2% over Obama’s term in office, compared to 7.2% over GWB’s term. However, the drop did not happen when Obama took office, but in the final year of GWB’s term, coincident with the financial crisis. Using the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data (see table 1) year-over-year cost growth dropped from 6.5% (2006-2007) to 4.5% (2007-2008). It then dropped to 4% (2008-2009) and went as low as 2.9% (2012-2013), though that one year was an outlier. So the initial drop in spending happened before Obama was elected and well before the ACA was passed; crediting it for the reduction in costs is quite self-evidently false.

            The ACA baseline estimate for cost growth was set at 6.5%, which was where growth sat prior to the recession. This was reasonable, given that no one knew how long the recession would last, but it means that comparing the actual growth in costs during a recession with an unprecedentedly slow economic recovery to a baseline estimate that assumed no recession makes the ACA appear to be a magic pill.

            Additionally, one must recall that the ACA was designed in such a way as to game the CBO numbers by front-loading all of its revenue-generating provisions and back-loading its benefits so that most kicked in starting in 2014; this provided 10 years of revenue generation for the CBO scoring window but only 6 years of full payment of benefits, making it appear to cost much less than it did. And indeed, from the CMS data, we see that the healthcare year over year increase rate jumped from 2.9% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2014 and then 5.9% in 2015.

            In sum, the claim that the ACA has slowed healthcare spending growth is extremely dubious and the weight of the evidence is against it. Claiming that costs are well under the ACA projected baseline is true, but the projections were overestimated and the decline in the cost trendline happened before the ACA passed and only held while its spending provisions were yet fully in effect.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression was that the ACA was sold as making things better for all health care recipients (with the possible exception of some young and healthy people), not just slow down the rate of things getting worse.

        • John Schilling says:

          Healthy people are paying “more” for policies than they would have as well. But, given that one can transition from healthy to not so, it’s not clear to me that we can count this as less access to care.

          Why not, for those people? Nancy isn’t claiming that ACA provides less health care for everyone, or for the average someone, or integrated over society as a whole.

          Pre-ACA, there were policies being sold to healthy adults that cost $X per month and would cover them for all reasonable medical expenses after a deductable of $x including those that might occur in the future when they became really sick – without requiring them to pay more than $X/month even after becoming sick. I used to have one of those policies.

          Now, policies that cover all reasonable future medical expenses cost $2X and have deductables of $10x. This is the only way to make the insurance industry even remotely viable when the rules change so they have to sell insurance to people who are already sick. But it means that the people who are A: healthy now and B: foresightful enough to buy insurance when they are healthy and C: can afford to budget only $1.5X for insurance or $3x to cover deductables, receive absolutely less health coverage under the ACA than they did beforehand. Less coverage now when they are healthy, less coverage in the hypothetical future when they are sick. Before, they could have insurance policies that covered them when they were healthy and when they were sick. Now, they have nothing – or they have policies whose deductables are so high that they’ll be broke before they receive a penny in benefits.

          You have to evaluate the whole package, not complain about only the things you don’t like.

          If I am trying to determine whether there are people who receive absolutely less care or coverage under the ACA, I only need to consider the parts of the package that affect those people. You may want this to be an argument over whether the benefits of the ACA to other people outweigh the harm it does to e.g. young healthy people, and that might be an argument you could win, but arguing that there are no people who are harmed at all is much tougher for you and it does not require the opposition to integrate over all aspects of the program.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling, thank you for this explanation and for various other times you’ve been accurate about what I meant.

            I think it’s really bad for supporters of the ACA to tell people who are worse off that, in effect, the most important thing is that Obama shouldn’t be blamed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m definitely not saying everything is peachy keen.

            But I am saying that when you buy health insurance, it should actually insure you. It’s all well and good to pay for health insurance and have it then pay for your yearly physical and your prescriptions. But you can pay out of pocket for those (yes, at a higher price, but still probably less than your premium). And yes I understand that there are many doctors who won’t accept if you don’t have insurance. And that definitely sucks.

            That cost isn’t what determines your cost of insurance though. The individual market wouldn’t let you pay less in the premiums than they shell out for the every day stuff.

            You have insurance for the overall package, and especially if you need high dollar care.

            So if you paid all that money in premiums, and you don’t get really sick or need some sort of high dollar care, that’s great, because you aren’t sick. But having the insurance didn’t prevent you from from getting sick.

            And if you do get sick, and they cancel your policy or you reach your limits for whatever reason, then how much care did you actually buy?

            Under the old rules, you were always a bad day away from losing all access to health insurance. And you have to include the chance of that happening in to your calculation.

          • Under the old rules, you were always a bad day away from losing all access to health insurance.

            That would seem to eliminate the point of insurance qua insurance.

            I’ve frequently seen the claim that insurance companies reneged on their contractual obligation by canceling on some excuse if someone got sick, but I have never seen any evidence of it and it is inconsistent with my very limited observation.

            I can believe that it happened at least once. I can also believe that someone deliberately misrepresented his condition when applying for insurance, got caught, and then blamed the insurance company for canceling. But does anyone have actual data showing that fraudulent cancellation was common enough to be a real problem?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            Rescissions were common enough to affect tens of thousands of people.

            And that doesn’t get into the issue of whether your insurance policy was guaranteed to be renewable. I believe that even if they didn’t rescind your existing coverage, they could deny your renewal.(Most coverage renewable, see below). In addition, if an existing policy pool was small enough, they might just stop offering that product altogether.

            Any of which would leave you without insurance, and therefore looking for new coverage with a pre-existing condition.

            ETA:
            Here is a good overview of the pre -ACA marketplace. One of the biggest issues for people with existing coverage were how the company composed the underwriting pools. If they wanted the lowest cost product possible, it would be comprised of only new-enrollees, and then closed to new members. Adverse selection then takes its toll, causing the insurance pool to be more and more composed of only the members most in need of care. Premiums for those who are in need of care aren’t supported by those who are not. Premiums rise each year to levels which cannot be paid.

          • John Schilling says:

            And if you do get sick, and they cancel your policy or you reach your limits for whatever reason, then how much care did you actually buy?

            Well, if you reach your lifetime limit of $1 million or whatever, I’m going to make an educated guess and say you actually bought $1 million worth of medical care.

            Under the old rules, you were always a bad day away from losing all access to health insurance.

            If by “a bad day” you mean the insurance company going bankrupt or exiting an entire segment of the market, sure. That risk hasn’t exactly gone away under the ACA, if you’ve been paying attention.

            Otherwise, as David Friedman has already noted and you have belatedly discovered, continued coverage was pretty much guaranteed by the law and market. Yes, “tens of thousands of people” were affected by rescissions – out of a market of tens of millions.

            And you have to include the chance of that happening in to your calculation.

            I did, back when I was a customer in the individual market. From my experience and from my research at the time, the vast majority of the people who purchased pre-ACA health insurance while they were still healthy, got exactly what they paid for and without paying an exorbitant price – an insurance policy that actually covered their health care expenses even if and when they got really sick and started costing the insurance company $bignum.

            Those people today, if they can get that sort of insurance at all, have to pay far more to get it. They are, absolutely, worse off under Obamacare. And they are not some tiny fringe population. If I didn’t presently have an employer that insists on buying me more insurance than I know what to do with, I’d be one of them.

            Tell me that I’m subsidizing a greater good, and I might believe you. Tell me that I haven’t lost anything, and I no longer believe you are even trying to argue in good faith.

          • skef says:

            Comparing recision counts to the number of paying customers makes no sense. At a minimum you have to compare recision counts to the number of patients over the time-span who have become unprofitable.

            Part of the pre-ACA problem that has gone underaddressed by its opponents is the number of cheap “insurance” policies that were structured to only provide routine care and were purchased by people who simply didn’t understand that. They were happy with their insurance because the hadn’t happened to have run into a serious problem, but would (it was pretty obvious) be counter-factually very unhappy with it had they done so. A portion of the “I want to keep my plan” people had the medical equivalent of dental insurance.

            I saw the same thing to a lesser extent with normal policies and coverage hassles. Lots of tech programmers were convinced that because they were Masters of the Universe, that universe must have provided them with gold-plated health insurance. But then some (not all) of the people who ran into problems would have trouble getting coverage for things they needed because their plans were pretty much the same off-the-shelf entities as most people got, with the tweaks being mainly in the monthly charges and deductibles. (HR departments are presumably aware that the graveyards of the world are filled with indispensable people.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Comparing recision counts to the number of paying customers makes no sense. At a minimum you have to compare recision counts to the number of patients over the time-span who have become unprofitable.

            Do I really need to do the math to show that the number of health insurance customers whose costs exceeded their premiums was much more than a hundred thousand?

            I get that you and HBC and far too many others want to paint the entire pre-ACA insurance industry as nothing but a bunch of con artists who took people’s money and found excuses not to pay their medical expenses. It ain’t so. Those of us who were there at the time and did do the research, know there was much more to it than that, and that most of it was pretty damn good.

            We know what we have lost. We know how much we are paying to subsidize your guy’s master action plan to Make Health Care Great Again, and we know – we have known from the start – exactly how it was going to collapse in ruin even if Saint Obama had been anointed president-for-life to try and hold back that tide. In the interim, between the creation of the ACA and its inevitable demise, it has helped some people. You get to share credit for that, at least. But don’t try claiming that it helped everyone, or that it came without a real cost even in the era when it was doing some good.

          • skef says:

            Do I really need to do the math to show that the number of health insurance customers whose costs exceeded their premiums was much more than a hundred thousand?

            No, you don’t, but some math to determine how much more than that would be helpful, given that a 5-10% effective recision rate would still be entirely unacceptable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            As I already pointed out, rescission was an issue, but not the big one. Did you read the article I linked?

            To reiterate, the biggest issue was how the underwriting pools could be structured. If you are healthy, every time you go the market, you get quoted a very affordable rate. Everyone in your pool is also healthy.

            If you get sick, then you are locked into that pool (because you can’t go out and get another policy). As that pool naturally bleeds people, it becomes more and more comprised of only sick people. This causes premiums to rise each time you renew. The rising premiums incentivize the healthy people in the pool to get a different policy. The risk pool goes into a so called death spiral.

            That’s adverse selection at work, and it absolutely was a feature of the old market. Not ALL policies, but many of them.

            This isn’t a false critique of the pre-ACA market. It’s not complaining about very small numbers just to make one’s own case look better. It’s a simple recognition that actors in the market are going to look for a way to price their product to new customers as inexpensively as possible, while protecting themselves from the risk of that low price.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, you don’t, but some math to determine how much more than that would be helpful, given that a 5-10% effective recision rate would still be entirely unacceptable.

            Fine. Quick and dirty only. Average annual health insurance premium (including employer contribution) for a covered adult in 2009, $4526. Fraction of insured with more than $5k in claims, eyeballing the graph here, 15%. Fraction of health insurance policies subject to rescission in 2009, 0.37%. Fraction of health insurance policies subject to rescission for reasons other than a medical condition diagnosed to the insured at the time of application, 0.019%.

            If you bought pre-ACA health insurance when you were still healthy, and kept up the premiums, you were 99.87% certain of still having insurance that paid your expenses when you started costing the insurance company more than you were worth in premiums. 97.5% certain even if you were diagnosed as chronically ill when you bought insurance.

            And, HBC:

            That’s adverse selection at work, and it absolutely was a feature of the old market. Not ALL policies, but many of them.

            Would it be too much trouble to ask you what fraction of insured consumers in 2009 were being priced out of the market, or even above current ACA levels for equivalent coverage, by these “many” policies?

            Not that it matters, because while you are correct that this didn’t affect ALL policies pre-ACA, it does now. Adverse selection is being applied to the entire Obamacare customer base, as healthy people find themselves better off going without insurance (and even paying the ACA mandate penalty), than paying the excessive prices for the low-coverage, high-deductible policies that are the only ones allowed under the new order.

            In the name of your perverse refusal to admit that SOME people actually were better off under the old rules, you have had to back off from your prior claim that rescission was the thing and are now reduced to invoking a type of cost growth that affected some but not all customers then and all customers now.

            But show me your numbers anyway. Defend, with actual math, your claim that Obamacare is better for everyone.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            If you want me to admit that people who are relatively healthy, and stay that way, would be better off under the old system, sure, I admit that.

            I don’t that gets us much of anywhere, but there you go. And I imagine that you will be annoyed by this answer, but it is not meant to be annoying.

            I also admit that the ACA makes the landscape different. People hate change, so they will certainly perceive this as a negative. I also admit that, on the margin, there are people who were actually better off under the old system who are worse off now.

            But I also submit that many people who perceive that everything was fine pre-ACA simply had been lucky enough not to encounter the problems of the market pre-ACA. When you run the clock forward, you can’t say for certain that any of those individuals would stay better off under the old regime.

            Take as an example the couple that Nancy linked to earlier, who had health insurance through the wife’s employer. The ability to simply cover your spouse, at low cost, had been going away before the ACA. Or if that spouse lost her job pre-ACA, they might have been on the individual market with pre-existing conditions.

            Maybe I will come back later with a more math based approach.

          • skef says:

            If you want me to admit that people who are relatively healthy, and stay that way, would be better off under the old system, sure, I admit that.

            My own version of this sentiment is that of course some people are worse off under the new arrangement. The ACA architecture is redistributive. To the extent that [in my view] Obama can be criticized for “you get to keep your old plan”, it’s that plan features were no doubt going to change, and did. It was never plausible or meaningful that people would get to keep their plans at the same price — prices were changing constantly (upward) before the ACA anyway. The hope, realized or not, was that prices would level off, not that they would be fixed at the inception cost.

            As for people suffering under the yoke of the ACA now, what is their situation? Have they become actually deprived, or is the issue just a reduction to a living standard that an outsider would have trouble recognizing as substantially different? Must the fundamental organizing principle of society be loss aversion?

          • Cypren says:

            The larger issue with the ACA are not the individuals whom it negatively impacted (a significantly smaller set than the number of people who gained coverage through the law), but the fact that it completely destabilized the individual market into an unsustainable trajectory.

            The exchange market as a whole has been losing money every year since its inception. You can cherry-pick individual insurers who made profits, but someone else was always taking a larger loss to compensate. The Obama Administration was able to make under-the-table payments (the so-called “risk corridor transfers”, which were eventually ruled illegal expenditures) to compensate insurers and keep them participating for a while, but those were heroic efforts and couldn’t sustain the program long-term. Obama’s goal was simply to keep it on life support long enough to replace the Republican Congress so they could rewrite the law.

            “It would have worked if only we’d been able to pass a law that was totally different from what we actually passed” is not a justification or an excuse for the disaster that was the ACA. Neither is “but look at all these people it helped who were uninsurable” when the insurance they’ve got is going to be gone shortly as the market collapses.

            I’m deliberately biting back a long and angry rant here about people who claim healthcare is a “fundamental right”. But whether or not you think it’s a right, the fact is that if you want universal healthcare, there has to be a sustainable funding mechanism for it. And Obamacare wasn’t and isn’t one, as evidenced by the rapidly collapsing exchange markets and the pullout of insurers both large and small.

            It’s very nice that ACA proponents wanted to bump all of the coach cabin customers up to first class. But if the weight of the plane is now unbalanced and it’s crashing into the ocean as a result, you can’t really make the argument that people’s lives have been substantially improved.

          • John Schilling says:

            @HBC: If you want me to admit that people who are relatively healthy, and stay that way, would be better off under the old system, sure, I admit that.

            But it’s not just the people who are relatively healthy and stay that way. The pre-ACA system was also better for people who were healthy and then got very sick, provided they had the foresight to buy insurance when they were healthy and keep up the payments.

            Not every single one of them, because you are correct to note that some insurance salesmen were frauds or nearly so, and some people were hornswoggled by them. But not all of them, not most of them, and I’d be surprised if you could show it was more than 10% of them. Mostly, when healthy people went to insurance companies and asked to buy insurance that would cover them if they were sick, insurance companies sold them policies that were a better deal than they can afford to offer under the ACA and they mostly kept up their end of the bargain without cancelling the policies or jacking the premiums into the stratosphere or whatnot. Those people, even the really sick ones, were better off under the old system.

            But I also submit that many people who perceive that everything was fine pre-ACA…

            …are not present in this debate and you are not arguing in good faith when you go there. Everyone you are arguing against here, has been careful to be clear that they are asserting only that some people were better off under the old rules, that some harm was done by the change. This is in no way an assertion that “everything was fine”, and to claim otherwise makes me doubt the sincerity of your handwaving attempts at minimizing the harm of the present system or the benefits of the old.

            @skef: Must the fundamental organizing principle of society be loss aversion?

            If someone says “here is a loss that we should factor into our moral calculus”, they are not demanding that the fundamental principle of society be loss aversion. If you aren’t willing to meet them in the middle and address the magnitude of that loss and the benefits you wish to weigh against it, you are taking up the burden of proving that there is no loss.

          • Iain says:

            @Cypren:
            Risk corridors were designed into the original structure of the ACA, and their current problems have a lot to do with the fact that the Republicans added in a new requirement that they be cost-neutral as part of the 2014 omnibus bill. “It would have worked better if some of its mechanisms hadn’t been deliberately crippled” is a meaningful defense. It is not hard to see why risk corridor payments not being made in 2014 and 2015 might have a deleterious effect on insurance premiums in 2016.

            To put it in perspective: paying out the risk corridor transfers to date would cost $8B. That is a lot of money by most standards, but not by the standards of the US government’s healthcare spending, which was $980B in 2015 (and that’s not even counting tax expenditures). The generally accepted number for people who gained insurance under Obamacare is 20M; at $8B, that’s $400/person. For comparison, national health expenditure per capita in 2015 was $9,990.

            Nobody’s saying that the ACA is perfect, but your airplane metaphors are pretty overblown.

          • BBA says:

            Re risk corridors: they weren’t illegal, under-the-table payments, but part of the ACA as originally enacted (section 1342 if you have your copy handy). Congress subsequently defunded them but the Court of Federal Claims recently ruled that the government is still liable to pay.

          • skef says:

            @John Schilling

            To be clear, my point was that much of the resistance to the ACA’s re-distributive aspects don’t seem to be driven by arguments over levels of effective taxation — whether explicitly through taxes or in virtue of regulation, but by the reaction to the increase in cost by those who are on the loosing end of the redistribution. In that light it doesn’t seem to be so much about who should be paying as about “I had this and now I don’t have this”. Hence, specifically, “loss aversion”, which is at least arguably a cognitive distortion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            …are not present in this debate and you are not arguing in good faith when you go there.

            I actually gave a specific example which had actually been brought up by Nancy in this debate. I’m pretty tired of you accusing me of arguing in bad faith.

            I was not my intention to argue that all insurance companies did recission or that they all composed risk pools subject to adverse selection. I just said that it was an issue pre-ACA and that it affected a significant number of people. I linked to a very detailed write-up of these issues.

            But, even given a great company and a good plan, if you had insurance and got sick pre-ACA, especially a chronic illness rather than an acute, you could be locked into the individual policy you had (or, if it happened when you had insurance through an employer, locked out of the individual market). You also could run through the annual or the lifetime cost cap. I imagine you probably would have been constrained from moving to different state.

            These are all benefits that accrue to everyone under the ACA, the mitigation of these risks. You can’t just discount them because the risk is not a certainty for any given individual.

            Certainly the sick and the less well off benefit more from the ACA (especially as designed, rather that what happened after the SCOTUS ruling). In strictly monetary terms, higher income people may end up paying more.

            And yeah, some people who would have health insurance in a given year under the old plan won’t under the new. There is very little in life that is unalloyed good. If it sounded like I was arguing against that, it was not my intention. I don’t know how many of these people there are, but they certainly exist.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @skef:

            In that light it doesn’t seem to be so much about who should be paying as about “I had this and now I don’t have this”. Hence, specifically, “loss aversion”, which is at least arguably a cognitive distortion.

            “Loss aversion” isn’t “people don’t like losing good things”. That’s just the nature of “good” and “losing”. There’s no cognitive distortion here. And your example is about people paying more for the same thing; they have less of a good thing (money).

            “Loss aversion” is the asymmetry between how humans react to the chance of a loss vs. the chance of a gain of equal value—we seem to need about twice as big a gain as the possible loss to view the situation as balanced. That’s assuming the phenomenon exists, which, it being in the field of psychology….

        • Matt M says:

          Besides, it’s not the job of the IRS to chase after health insurance in the first place, and it was dumb to include that as part of the rule.

          How else could it be enforced though? Filing a tax return is pretty much the only thing that all citizens are required to do. It seems like this is basically the only option besides having roving policemen randomly stop people on the street and demand to see their proof of health insurance…. not exactly good optics for a Democratic regime in power.

    • raj says:

      As a rider to this, is everyone aware of short-term insurance?

      Superficially they are intended to compensate for gaps in coverage by “real” policies. They do not satisfy ACA requirements, which sounds like a bad thing, except as near as I can tell what that actually means is that they can discriminate against preexisting conditions. Which, as a healthy insurance shopper, is desirable.

      Given that the mandate likely won’t be enforced, I decided to risk it. It means a difference in yearly premiums of $4000 (bronze-tier obamacare plan) and $600 (with better deductibles!). Both provide zero coverage for my normal level of usage, but of course the question is if the coverage is actually comparable in the situation that I incur real expenses.

      It seems to me that without the personal mandate the ACA has effectively zero power to correct for the market. People paying more than their actuarial share will leave.

  9. Mark says:

    Re: Trump’s Sweden comments – I wake up this morning, check the news, and it seems as if Trump has made some big mess-up by referencing some non-existent terrorist attack in Sweden, he has admitted his mistake and states he got his info from some (faaaake) Fox news story.

    Real story – Trump was referencing a Fox news story about immigrant crime in Sweden.

    I like this guys take:
    Angry Foreigner

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Eh.

      Trump was most likely referring to an terrorist attack which was referenced on Tucker Carlson’s show the previous night but took place in 2010.

      The real issue is that Trump does not care about getting his facts correct, so he does not bother to check things. He said he was surprised, that it was “unbelievable”, but this does not prompt him to make sure the information is correct.

      • Mark says:

        He didn’t mention terrorist attacks in Sweden, though. He said –

        “The President has the right to keep people out if he feels it’s not in the best interests of our country… we’ll be doing something over the next couple of days..we don’t give up… we never give up. We had a court that I disagree with bigly…
        Here’s the bottom line – we’ve got to keep our country safe. We gotta keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden! They took in large numbers now they are having problems they never thought possible. You look at what is happening in Brussels. You look at what is happening all over the world – look at Nice. Take a look at Paris….”

        It’s pretty clear to me that he is saying there are problems with immigration (mass sexual assualt in Germany/ rape in Sweden / lack of integration in Brussels / terrorist attacks in France) and that as President he has the right to restrict immigration where it might not be in the country’s interest.

        Has to be a pretty uncharitable reading to get “Trump invented a terrorist attack in Sweden” from that.

        The criticism seems to have mutated into “well, he gets all of his information from television” now. Still seems pretty uncharitable to me.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Trump is talking about the ban he put in place, which he says is to specifically stop terrorist attacks, and lists several place where terrorist takes have taken place.

          what’s happening last night in Sweden

          It takes a very charitable reading to say that Trump wasn’t indicating that something had happened “last night.”

          And perhaps reading Trump very, very charitably is the only way to make his actual words make sense as a general rule. But given there had been a program on the previous evening where a terrorist attack in Sweden had been referenced as happening recently, it’s not a stretch at all to believe he was referencing that.

          Again, the big issue is that everything he says has to be interpreted to get to what he might possibly be referring to. He clearly does not care about precision when claiming things are facts.

          • Mark says:

            I think it’s a conversational style – like if I said “Hey – did you see the Second World War thing last night?” it’s perhaps not the best way to phrase things, but it’d be a bit of an odd response to call me an idiot for not knowing that the war ended 70 years ago.

            It would also be a bit odd to pedantically insist that I rephrased my statement as “Hey – last night I watched a TV show about the Second World War – did you see that?” – in normal conversation people often phrase things somewhat ambiguously – we manage to get by because we interpret their words in ways that make sense.

            The thing that makes most sense is that Trump was referring to generally bad things associated with undocumented immigration (he has form – bad hombres/rapists/ etc.) and specifically to a TV show he watched the night before (which is what he has said he was saying) rather than him imagining a terrorist attack.

            I take this as evidence that his critics are uncharitable and pedantic.

          • random832 says:

            It would also be a bit odd to pedantically insist that I rephrased my statement

            The difference is that “second world war thing” can reasonably refer to “a TV program about the second world war” and requires no excessively charitable reading to be so. There is no such meaning available for Trump’s words. He talks about something happening last night, and the emotional content of the message is definitely that something happened recently (not six years ago) that people should be concerned about. This last point removes the validity of a pedantic “yes, a TV broadcast is a thing that happens”.

            I take this as evidence that his critics are uncharitable and pedantic.

            I take it as evidence that this is the response their words are designed to provoke, just like how Kellyanne Conway “misspoke” about the “Bowling Green massacre” and then it later turned out that had been carefully rehearsed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not pedantically insisting on anything.

            Hey – did you see the Second World War thing last night

            Yes, but if you say “Dieing in a fire is horrible. That thing with the Branch Davidians, and can you believe what happened last night in Dresden? So many people who died in that fire.” People are going to be confused.

            And, if your buddy says “What the heck are you talking about?” You should not get huffy at them.

            When the President of the U.S. says something happened in Sweden last night, no one should be surprised when people hear that for the plain meaning of the words and wonder what in the heck-fire he is talking about.

            And that is all that is happening. Donald Trump does a Donald Trump thing and people are pointing it out.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark
            “last night in Sweden” implies something happening last night in Sweden, not that you saw a programme about something in Sweden last night. The correct comparison would be “hey, there was a Second World War thing in Germany last night”, which does sound odd.

          • Mark says:

            There is no such meaning available for Trump’s words. He talks about something happening last night

            random832 – I think you’re wrong.

            I would say Trump was saying “Look at (the TV), (showing) what is happening, (oh yeah it was on) last night, in Sweden.

            I think we can know that this is what he means because of his use of the words “is happening”. If I was talking about something that happened in Sweden last night, there is no way I’d use the words “is happening” – it doesn’t make any basic sense – “Look at [the terrorist attack] that is happening in Sweden last night.”
            I think you’d have to be a non-native speaker or George Bush to say something like that.

            It’s not the emotional content of the message that makes it sound as if something happened recently – it’s the grammar that tells us it’s something that is still occurring, and that “last night” must be referring to something else.

            I don’t know – I think I’m just finely attuned to Trump’s manner of speaking – that supposedly indecipherable comment he made that was doing the rounds a while ago made perfect sense to me – and yeah, it could always be some kind of planned controversy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark:
            But Trump could just as easily have said in a speech the day after Orlando “and look at what is happening last night in Florida” and it would still have parsed correctly in your view.

            In other words, if you already know what Trump is talking about, you can understand what he probably means.

          • random832 says:

            @rlms

            The correct comparison would be “hey, there was a Second World War thing in Germany last night”, which does sound odd.

            I don’t think this is nearly a strong enough claim. The correct comparison is more like “nazi thing in Germany last night” – the fact that it has enough surface plausibility that almost certainly many people walked away from the rally thinking there was a real thing that really happened last night and never saw any of the fact-checking (or, if they did, they assumed it was more left-wing media lies) is important to the analogy.

            @Mark

            I would say Trump was saying “Look at (the TV), (showing) what is happening, (oh yeah it was on) last night, in Sweden.

            But that’s because you already know the facts. Without it, it sounds like “what is happening” is just “too many refugees, causing problems”, which would justify the present tense, and “last night” something went wrong in a specific way related to that (i.e. a terrorist attack, or maybe riots or something).

            And if someone had told me, in the comments here this morning, that there had been an incident in Sweden last night, I would have believed them. I would also be very angry with them after I googled it and found nothing, but my point is, it’s certainly plausible for me, just as for everyone at his rally – basically anyone who doesn’t watch 24/7 cable news – to have not yet heard about a real incident that had happened so recently. And that goes double for his supporters who are constantly being fed a narrative about the media suppressing and refusing to cover terrorist attacks.

          • Fahundo says:

            I would say Trump was saying “Look at (the TV), (showing) what is happening, (oh yeah it was on) last night, in Sweden.

            So you can only understand the sentence if you already know exactly where the blanks are and how to fill them in properly?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Here’s the bottom line – we’ve got to keep our country safe. We gotta keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden! They took in large numbers now they are having problems they never thought possible. You look at what is happening in Brussels. You look at what is happening all over the world – look at Nice. Take a look at Paris…

          Looking at that in context, it seems to me that talking about the Sweden thing is a bit of a red herring. Sure, it looks like Trump goofed up there. But the rest of his examples, and the overall point he’s trying to make, are still clearly right.

        • Odovacer says:

          @Mark

          This reminds me of the “fake but accurate” meme during the Bush administration. Every time I hear a plea to take Trump seriously, but not literally, fake, but accurate comes to my mind.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            probably because it makes sense though

            like, it’s no fun that Trump is this easily fooled by news shows. But he’s clearly correct about Sweden in general. It sucks that we need to have someone like that in power just to address these basic issues that we should’ve already addressed, but clearly we do or he wouldn’t be here.

          • It isn’t clear, listening to the speech, that Trump was fooled by news shows. The alternative interpretation is that what he meant was “what we heard about last night that has been happening in Sweden” not “what we heard about that happened last night.”

          • Randy M says:

            Or as a sort of more emphatic “currently”, though I’d only give him benefit of the doubt here if he is talking extemporaneously.

        • Matt M says:

          I hadn’t actually heard or seen the quote before. The fact that he brings up Nice and Paris, where attacks obviously did happen, seems relevant. And seems to expose that the media is being deliberately uncharitable here. His point is “lack of immigration restrictions leads to terrorism.” In proving that, he cites 3-4 examples, all but one of unquestionably happened. By ignoring those and focusing entirely on “HE SAID SOMETHING HAPPENED IN SWEDEN BUT NOTHING DID LOL WHAT AN IDIOT” it seems as if they are ignoring his greater point entirely. Not having a constructive debate on the issues, but engaging in pointless partisan “gotcha” journalism.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There is and has been plenty of coverage of Trump’s idea that stopping immigration from these countries would stop terrorist attacks. This is not a new claim of Trump’s.

            But they call it “news” for a reason.

          • Matt M says:

            There also is, and has been plenty of coverage of Trump saying weird things that have little bearing on actual facts.

            “Trump says thing that, under normal interpretation of English, would seem to be totally wrong, but can be defended if interpreted a certain way by people generally sympathetic to him” is a story that we’ve already seen 500 times in the last year. That’s not “news” either.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But a statement that strongly implies an event in Sweden last night is new. Him mentioning Sweden at all is new.

            That’s going to get noticed and commented on. People have to figure out what the fuck he might mean, depending on whether today is the day he is being serious or the day he is being literal.

            I mean, if something actually did happen in Sweden and people didn’t go figure out what he was talking about, Trump would be all over that too.

          • Matt M says:

            “That’s going to get noticed and commented on. People have to figure out what the fuck he might mean, depending on whether today is the day he is being serious or the day he is being literal.”

            Yeah, and it took about five seconds for people here to tell you exactly what he meant. It’s fairly obvious. The constant harping of it does not come from some genuine desire to inform the public, but from an ideological desire to harm Trump.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            I didn’t bring it up.

            Look, in the 12 to 24 hours after he says that, people are going to note that he said something about Sweden, point out that nothing happened last night, try to figure out what he meant, report what they think he meant, ask for official clarification and try and figure out if the official clarification matches the new thing he said. Slightly more time because it was over a weekend.

            And then it goes away, unless people try and bring it up as an example of how he is being mistreated by the media.

            ETA: Remember, my original thesis was simply that he needed to be more precise about what he says and make sure it matches what actually happened. Not that it was a very big deal that he said it.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I think this is pretty easy to overlook – when people started pointing this out, they didn’t know about the Fox News thing. They just knew Trump said something in Sweden last night, and nobody knew what he was talking about.

            Also, two of his staff members had already been caught repeatedly referring to (separate instances of) attacks that didn’t happen, which is going to lead people to noticing a pattern.

            (And I actually do think the pattern still sort of lines up, since the Bowling Green thing was also likely a case of ‘misunderstood something I saw on TV, didn’t bother to check, made myself look dumb/dishonest’.)

          • random832 says:

            Yeah, and it took about five seconds for people here to tell you exactly what he meant. It’s fairly obvious. The constant harping of it does not come from some genuine desire to inform the public, but from an ideological desire to harm Trump.

            Or the fact that they have to provide enough coverage of something for people not to conclude “there was a real attack and the media refused to cover it, just like Trump and Conway are always saying they do.”

            The piece you’re missing is that people hearing the Trump speech, and people seeing this coverage of it, don’t already know that there was no incident in Sweden last night, let alone already knowing that there was something on Hannity about a 2010 attack in Sweden.

          • Deiseach says:

            If he mentioned placenames where historical (in this context “did not happen last night, happened some time before”) attacks occurred, using the formulation “what is happening in – ” and mentioned Sweden in the middle, that does lean towards the interpretation that what he meant was “all this list of examples where countries that took in large numbers of migrants had problems with crime and rioting”, rather than “and something happened last night in Sweden”.

            I haven’t seen anybody taking him to task for saying “what is happening in Germany/in Brussels”, even though at the time there was nothing happening right then – but they did jump on “last night in Sweden”, which does seem to be looking for any stick to beat the dog.

            I know people like to say Trump is dumb, but this and the thing alleged about his lack of focus – he could be ADHD and quite smart, but his mind jumps from one link of the chain of thought to another in a fast, unstructured way so he leaves out the intermediate steps in “And another example is something I saw last night on the TV about similar trouble in Sweden” and “this is happening in Sweden also”, so you get “happening last night in Sweden”.

          • beleester says:

            @Deiseach: “Is happening” is generally used to mean “Has been happening in recent times,” because unless Trump is a clairvoyant, he’s probably not describing an incident which is happening right this very instant. “Last night,” on the other hand, is usually used to mean “last night.” It takes a tremendous amount of charity to interpret it any other way, and it’s unreasonable to say that the people who took it literally are just looking for trouble.

            Because obviously, a reasonable, virtuous person would have spent the evening looking through the Fox News archives to find out what he meant, right? That’s the natural thing to do when you’re told about an event last night in Sweden, and anyone who says otherwise is just trying to smear him.

            And it takes a significant amount of chutzpah to decry the media for reporting statements that, while truthful, might give listeners the wrong impression, but to defend statements by Trump that, even if you twist yourself into pretzels to show how they aren’t really lies, are definitely going to give someone the wrong impression.

        • rahien.din says:

          Mark,

          You look at what’s happening in Germany, what’s happening last night in Sweden.

          Your claim seems to be that the phrase “last night” modifies “You look,” rather than “what’s happening in Sweden.” There’s no way to reach that conclusion from the syntax. So, in order for your claim to be true, we must interpret/reject syntax in the context of the sentence’s presumed meaning.

          To some degree that is a reasonable and normal thing to do in conversation. But, in order to give someone the benefit of the doubt in that way, there has to be some common ground of discourse. Trump’s administration has become known for “alternative facts,” which run the gamut from competing interpretations to provably false statements. It is hard to tell how much of this is carelessness and how much is tactical (as they are so hostile to the press), but either way, the common ground has undeniably been eroded.

          With no common ground to rely on a priori, and when he so tortures the syntax, there is no basis for deciphering his statements. We can only restate our logical priors – exactly what everyone has done. Charity demands we acknowledge that Trump’s statement is simply unclear.

          I do agree that his sentence does not imply a terrorist attack whatsoever. Even the most syntactically-strict reading is merely that something happened last night in Sweden.

      • gbdub says:

        The news spin is implying that he referenced a specific event and conflating it with the earlier Bowling Green gaffe. But while he did refer to “last night” he otherwise said nothing about a specific incident (or even say that whatever “last night” referred to was a terrorist attack).

        I am seriously in full on pox-on-both-their-houses mode. Trump is awful, but the press is in such a lather that they can’t help feeding his narrative.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But “last night” strongly implies a specific incident!

          In the grand scheme of things, this particular malapropism is nothing. But as part of the pattern where Trump and the administration repeat confusing bullshit statements over and over?

          At some point you just have to admit that you can’t believe there is objective meaning in any particular thing he says.

          • gbdub says:

            So you have to read over-charitably to get a non-BS reading out of the statement.

            But you have to read under-charitably to get “Trump made up a Swedish terror attack that didn’t happen!”

            I’m just sick of the cycle: Trumps says something exaggerated/dumb -> media battles to see who can make most uncharitable overreaction -> Trump calls out media. Media tells their audience Trump is a liar and buffoon, Trump tells audience media overreacts and is against him, both audiences pat themselves on the back for their views being vindicated (and they’re both partly right!). It’s tiresome.

          • random832 says:

            What else is the media supposed to do? The “they suppress coverage” narrative makes silence a losing option, so if there’s no story about a real attack, there has to be a story about a fake attack, otherwise large numbers of people will walk away believing there was an attack and the media didn’t cover it.

          • gbdub says:

            Run the quote and say “it was not clear what specific event, if any, Trump was referring to”. Run some stats on Swedish crime if you want to spin it whichever way. Anti-Trumpers will still get it.

            He never said anything about an attack in Sweden, just an amorphous reference to last night and “problems they never thought possible”, so I’m not sure why a terrorist attack is the only possible conclusion. In any case, more people are probably hearing about the quote because of the negative coverage than they would with a blander story about the speech. Hell, there are probably way more people associating “terror attack” and “Sweden” now than if the media had stayed silent!

        • beleester says:

          it was not clear what specific event, if any, Trump was referring to

          That’s even worse! That implies that there could be multiple events that “last night in Sweden” refers to!

          If there was no terror attack, then you shouldn’t hedge and say “maybe there was a terror attack, maybe there wasn’t.” It’s not virtuous to create uncertainty where none exists. Say “There was no terror attack last night in Sweden, and it is unclear what Trump was referring to.”

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I wake up this morning, check the news

      Well, there’s your problem.

      But yeah this doesn’t seem particularly notable. Another day, another MSM #fakenews story.

      The genuinely interesting question is whether Trump will actually do anything to “keep our country safe” or just keep tweeting. His performance so far has been disappointing: rolling over meekly for the courts instead of ignoring their illegal rulings, letting the rogue intelligence community take out his people one-by-one rather than going after them, etc. I’m still trying to suspend judgement until his first 100 days are up but he’s quite got a lot of work left to do.

      • beleester says:

        His performance so far has been disappointing: rolling over meekly for the courts instead of ignoring their illegal rulings

        Say what? The courts are the ones who decide if something is illegal or not. Not Trump. The President doesn’t get to ignore court rulings he doesn’t like, that’s not one of his powers.

        (Yes, yes, Jackson got away with saying “The court has made their decision, now let them enforce it,” but that’s not a strategy you should encourage. In general, ignoring the federal courts is how you get the US Marshals sent after you.)

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Hardball answer: Marbury v Madison was illegitimate, since the court can’t interpret the power to interpret the Constitution into existence. The Supreme Court and lower courts have no power to overrule an EO except on Constitutional grounds.

          Softball answer: If the courts abandon the Constitution, they lose their legitimacy. A “living document” isn’t law, it’s ideology and thus rulings based on it have no legal force.

          Either way, as a practical matter as long as Gen. Mattis backs him up, it doesn’t matter what the courts say is legal or illegal.

          • beleester says:

            You are literally saying Trump should use military force to override the legal system.

            If you’re wondering why people keep calling Trump supporters fascists, this is why.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But judicial review was clearly anticipated as early as Federalist #16:

            The success of it would require not merely a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void.

            There’s a lot to dislike about judicial review, especially how it’s devolved into the executive and legislature leaving the Constitution completely up to the courts to determine. But, it’s pretty clearly in there.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            “Hardball answer: Marbury v Madison was illegitimate”

            Marbury v. Madison was over two hundred years ago. You can try to argue that America’s been doing Constitutional jurisprudence wrong for ~94% of its existence, but it will be quite a hard sell even on the American Right, let alone the Left, particularly those in government and law with the most say on this issue. (Add in Evan Þ’s reply as well.)

            “Softball answer: If the courts abandon the Constitution, they lose their legitimacy.”

            But the courts haven’t abandoned the Constitution, they’re closer to it than anyone, the same way a ventriloquist is the closest to his or her dummy.

            “A “living document” isn’t law, it’s ideology and thus rulings based on it have no legal force.”

            It seems to me like most people disagree with this; they accept that a ““living document” is indeed law, and they certainly act as if the resulting rulings have legal force; again, particularly among those in law and government.

            “Either way, as a practical matter as long as Gen. Mattis backs him up, it doesn’t matter what the courts say is legal or illegal.”

            First, there’s a whole power structure with plenty of layers between Gen. Mattis and the (purportedly) Trump-loyal rank-and-file. What if he were to “side with Trump” in these sorts of action, and then his subordinates defy his commands as “unlawful orders” (which they are supposedly required to disobey), and help with his arrest for sedition, or whatever the appropriate charge under US law is for those attempting a coup d’état?

            Second, you do seem to be at least strongly implying here that for Trump to “win” against the bureaucratic establishment and the “deep state”, he’ll indeed have to carry out a sucessful military-based auto-coup and massive “purges” of the federal government, said purges one can pretty much guarantee will not be bloodless (at the very least due to resistance from those to be “purged” and their supporters). This comes pretty close to the “Trump: Caesar or Romanov” and “helicopter rides” view I’ve criticized here before. And as beleester illustrates, promoting such a position invites significant escalation from the Left to prevent that “fascist takeover”.

        • Brad says:

          FYI:
          “The court has made their decision, now let them enforce it.”
          or more commonly
          “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”

          Is believed to be apocryphal. Though it probably does reflect Jackson’s general attitude.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “ignoring their illegal rulings”

        And how would this work? After all, recall that Trump simply gives orders; it’s up to the people (nominally) under him to do the actual defying. And can a court ruling be “illegal” anymore, given how, in the way our system actually works in practice (rather than the theory from which it has significatly diverged), the courts get to decide what the law “really says”, and so decide what is “legal” and what is “illegal”?

        “going after them”

        How exactly would Trump “go after” the “rogue intelligence community”? Give them more orders to ignore?

        And look at how bad the screaming about fascist dictatorship and auto-coup are, and the talk of the need for pre-emptive violence to “defend” against having to “be hiding Anne Frank in their basement a few years from now”, and so on. What would it be like if he did do any of things you’d like him to? Would it be days, or just hours, between his taking that sort of action and Congress beginning the impeachment proceedings?

        • Kevin C. says:

          Not to mention, there’s Chuch Schumer’s comment from early January:

          “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

          “So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

        • hlynkacg says:

          How exactly would Trump “go after” the “rogue intelligence community”?

          The Intelligence Services are a branch of the executive which means Trump has the authority to fire them if he so pleases.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “Trump has the authority to fire them if he so pleases”

            So people say, but see my previous comments about how it takes years to actually remove a Federal employee who resists their firing, particularly a “politically motivated” firing. And that’s before the courts get involved. So when Trump says “you’re fired”, and they reply “no, we’re not” and keep on coming to work, and the court eventually agrees their jobs are still theirs, what then?

            The people of the Executive Branch work for, answer to, and can be fired by President Trump in theory. As we are seeing, it looks like the reality is quite different.

          • Cypren says:

            It’s not really a problem of authority, but one of practicality: how are you going to find the leaks when the majority of the senior members of the organization hate you and aren’t going to actually cooperate? They’ll feign cooperation and then do everything in their power to make sure you pay for crossing them, and you can’t fire them all without bringing the agency to a halt.

            Fighting the bureaucracy in Washington is a sisyphean task and almost always going to fail catastrophically. This goes doubly so for the intelligence community, who have access to all kinds of information to undermine politicians from sources both legal and illegal, as Mike Flynn found out.

        • random832 says:

          Would it be days, or just hours, between his taking that sort of action and Congress beginning the impeachment proceedings?

          I mean, technically you can measure any interval in any unit of time. Days, let alone hours, are an odd choice, given the 2018 election is in 623 days.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Trump does tend to bring a lot of these problems on himself, you have to admit. There was no need to muddle up the immigration order in a way that created innumerable camera-friendly victims at airports, or to start picking fights with the bureaucracy before he had his Cabinet in place, or to have Administration spokespersons wandering around saying random crap without even thinking about it. Yes, yes, the media are partisan jerks will spin everything in the worst possible light anyway, but that doesn’t mean one should make their jobs easy, does it?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I like this guys take:
      Angry Foreigner

      I watched the first 5:33, and it was very informative. This doesn’t change the fact that the refugee and immigration system the US has/had prior to Trump’s inauguration isn’t comparable to Sweden’s. And Trump is being disingenuous by implying it has to change to prevent a Sweden-like state.

    • DavidS says:

      My take is that
      1. Reading him charitably, I can accept he wasn’t claiming there had actually been a terrorist attack the previous night and was instead referring to the Fox thing (though I agree with HBC that the reference read at surface would have suggested some sort of specific incident and I suspect most people hearing the speech would have assumed that too)
      but
      2. But if we accept this, he said ‘what’s happening last night in Sweden’ meaning ‘what was claimed on a show I watched last night’ and expected everyone to understand what he meant. Which means that
      a. POTUS is getting his understanding of foreign affairs (and justification of hasty and radical action at home) from watching random things on Fox
      b. Almost more worryingly at a psychological level, he seems to think that because he saw it last night, everyone else saw it too (or that it just ‘happened’ last night in some fundamental sense). This is to me a quite bizarre way to see the world (except for small children). It’s like he doesn’t quite grasp other people have different experiences to him. Unless constantly watching Fox is actually a quality of all Republicans, I guess.

      • shakeddown says:

        If Trump just doesn’t have much of a theory of mind, it would explain a lot. Compare the thing where Abe told him the photographer said “look at me”, so he looked at Abe.

        • Iain says:

          That one is a stretch. I watched the video, and I think most people would have been just as confused at that point.

          • shakeddown says:

            It’s a bit of a stretch, but I think “weak theory of mind” explains a lot of both Trump’s weaknesses and strengths (he’s much better at the type of mass social interaction, like rallies, that doesn’t rely on theory on theory of mind). I don’t think there’s strong evidence for it, just enough for it to be considered a plausible idea.

          • Randy M says:

            Would a “weak theory of mind” make someone better at rallies than another person, or just less worse at them? I don’t see why it explains his strengths.

          • shakeddown says:

            It wouldn’t make him bad at rallies, unlike most potential explanations of his weaknesses.

        • Compare the thing where Abe told him the photographer said “look at me”, so he looked at Abe.

          Spoken English does not usually include quotation marks, so the listener cannot easily distinguish between “The photographer said ‘look at me'” and “The photographer said look at me.”

          It’s true that the latter ought to be “The photographer said to look at me,” but spoken English isn’t always that precise.

          • Matt M says:

            Not to mention that it’s entirely reasonable, in context, that the photographer might want a photo of Trump looking at Abe, rather than at the camera.

  10. Odovacer says:

    When did nice take on a bad meaning?

    I’ve read numerous pieces online about how being nice isn’t a good thing, e.g. “nice guys”, “be kind, not nice” I remember countless messages in pop culture about how you should be nice, or how being nice was a good thing. Does anyone know when this transition happened?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Nice is a compliment of last resort. It’s what you say about someone when the best you can say about them is that they’re inoffensive. So calling someone nice is damning by faint praise.

      Beyond that, “nice guy” has a very specific meaning. It’s not so much a Mensch but a schmuck: someone who is taken advantage of because he plays by the rules and observes social niceties. Listening to the “countless messages in pop culture” about being nice is his weakness, not his strength.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t think this is new.

      What comes to mind is the stock overbearing mother phrase “You should call him/her. Such a nice boy/girl”.

      It’s a bland sentiment, and those tend to easily fall into a sort of uncanny valley where they are performed, rather than sincere.

      • Odovacer says:

        It’s a bland sentiment, and those tend to easily fall into a sort of uncanny valley where they are performed, rather than sincere.

        Can you explain this? I’m not sure what you mean exactly.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If as I am going through a door, I briefly glimpse back, see someone right behind me and pause half a second so that they can catch the door before it swings closed, it’s just a sort of politeness.

          If I realize someone is behind me, open the door, smile warmly and say “Pretty day out there!” it’s actually nice. It’s really an outward social display of my own self-confidence and ability to be both social and magnanimous.

          If I half mumble “Have a nice day” while awkwardly bobbing my head, that’s the uncanny valley effect. You are close to it enough to be off-putting. Anything that’s not either confident, socially appropriate, or actually magnanimous.

    • Wrong Species says:

      It’s because people hate nerds but it’s difficult to justify bullying someone who is nice to you. So they make up this epidemic of “nice guys” who are actually more sinister.

      • Matt M says:

        Yes, the implication is that the “nice guy” is not nice out of a genuine, heartfelt desire to be kind to others – but that he is deliberately planning and perpetuating a fraud, wherein he masquerades as nice solely to obtain some sort of benefit for himself (typically female affection).

        • John Nerst says:

          TBH I suspect self-identified “nice guys” are often (not always) not full of a hearfelt desire to be kind more than anyone else, and use “nice” to mean something more like a passive “not mean”. Thing is, “nice” and “mean” are not perfect opposites and you can easily be none of them.

          Of course, implying that people are secretly pretending is uncharitable in the extreme.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Neither of the linked articles read that way.

      • Loquat says:

        Well, if you’re looking at specifically feminist condemnation of “nice guys”, their actual argument is more like Dr Dealgood’s “compliment of last resort” above – that the stereotypical Nice Guy complaining that women want jerks and won’t go out with him does not in fact have much in the way of actually desirable qualities, and “nice”, aka “inoffensive” is the best that can be said of him.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          This is a common belief, hence the choice of label, but its not really true. Nice guys are failing socially in a couple specific ways and in fact might have quite a bit to offer, even their derided “niceness”, if only their errors were corrected. Many “nice guys” can gain the ability to sleep with, if not have a functional relationship with, women after going through some of the training provided by PUAs. Of course such a choice by them probably doesn’t do much to counter the idea that they are secretly entitled assholes. Misguided is perhaps the most positive description of people involved in “The Game”.

          • Randy M says:

            To steelman pick-up artistry, granting that there are techniques or attitudes that can increase attraction, someone who would otherwise be a good mate is doing a disservice to their partner or potential partners in not maintaining sexual attractiveness.

            In other words, pick-up artist techniques are only negative if either used carelessly (as those who devise them probably do) or if there are some inherent negative trade-offs to using them, in which case one would have to get down to the object level to hash out.

            But all that aside I don’t think that’s where nice gets it’s perjorative connotations from.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            A Nice Guy is a guy who complains that he is so nice but girls only date assholes and not him. The implication of the capitalization and trademark symbol/quote marks is that he is really an entitled jerk expecting his mercenary niceness to equate to a sort of sex currency he can trade in for female attention/affection. The nice guy is often assumed to have no attractive qualities aside from his affected niceness. I was arguing that that is not the root cause of his issue. My example being the very blech skills taught by pick up artists that allow a Nice Guy to get laid. Therefore its unlikely he has no good qualities. Its more likely he lacks knowledge of the natural, not morally objectionable skills that are perverted by pick up artists and used to manipulate women.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Just some general points about Nice Guys– the original definition was a man who hangs around a woman he’s attracted to. He never makes it clear he’s attracted because he’s afraid she’d dump him.

            Instead, he spends years listening to her complain about the awful men in her life and keeps hoping she’ll notice that he isn’t awful.

            After a while, he starts complaining that women are only attracted to awful men, instead of someone nice like him.

            In the real world, *some* women are attracted to awful men. The Nice Guy seems to have a filter which prevents him from seeing women who are attracted to men who treat them well.

            Then some women notice the pattern, get annoyed by it, and give it the unfortunate name of Nice Guy.

            Humans are a nervous bunch, and men (many of whom don’t fit the whole pattern) start wondering if they’re being attacked for behaving decently. Women get defensive about being blamed for being angry at something that gets on their nerves…..

            If I weren’t more or less a materialist, I’d be blaming the whole thing on demonic intervention, but it’s probably just Murphy.

            Now that I’m looking at the behavior of the Nice Guy I described at the beginning, I think he’s depressed. He doesn’t have the initiative to think “I’m attracted to this woman, but she isn’t interested in me and listening to her complain about other men is no fun”, and then either spend less time or no time with her.

            He’s desperate for some sort of companionship, even not very good companionship, and unwilling to take the risk of seeing if he can do better.

            She’s not very clear-headed about getting good relationships, either.

            I blame parents who aren’t good at raising children and who have bad relationships themselves, but that might just be my filter.

            Now, let’s get to niceness. What I grew up with (female, 1950s/60s, middle class, northnern Delaware) was superficially that being nice was being considerate and virtuous. What it actually meant was behaving as though my desires were less important than other people’s.

            It’s a complicated matter because people do need to give way to each other to some extent to live well with each other, but giving way isn’t an absolute virtue.

            Girls get (got?) more niceness training than boys, but we can assume some overlap there. It’s not as though unassertive men get noticed a whole lot.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Well yes. The problem is the definition has vastly expanded and is quite often used as a personal attack. We live in a descriptivist society linguistically. What the concept was originally conceived to mean is mostly irrelevant.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            A complication is that a fairly common feminist narrative is to complain about men who initiate. I’ve seen a decent number of feminists give advice to men that is basically grooming ‘nice guys:’ be yourself*, get to know her first**, wait for signals***.

            * If the guy is shy, that means no initiating
            ** Invest a lot of time in her, expecting a chance at romance
            *** If the guy is bad at reading signals, that means waiting around forever, until he gets upset over nothing happening

            Basically it’s a recipe that is completely wrong for some personality types & mostly based on expecting that successful strategies for women also work for men, which due to gender norms is often not true. So it tends to fail and result in a slow building up of frustration. When that is vented by expressing disappointment, it is taken as proof that the guy is an asshole and thus doesn’t deserve anyone, rather than that the advice is misguided.

            He doesn’t have the initiative to think “I’m attracted to this woman, but she isn’t interested in me and listening to her complain about other men is no fun”, and then either spend less time or no time with her.

            Actually, a lot of it seems to involve miscommunication. For example, a common narrative that you hear from men in this situation is that the woman makes statements like ‘why can’t my boyfriend be more like you’ or she calls him ‘nice’ and then later complains that there are no nice guys to date.

            A strong cultural narrative is that most men (who are not George Clooney) are inherently unattractive and thus merely desired by women for practical purposes. So many men don’t understand that there is a lack of physical attraction at play, so those previous statements should actually be parsed as: ‘why can’t my boyfriend be more like you, except not unattractive?’ or ‘where are all the nice guys who are also hot?’

            This lack of understanding is why a (simplistic) concept like ‘friend zone’ can be eye opening to these guys.

          • John Nerst says:

            those previous statements should actually be parsed as: ‘why can’t my boyfriend be more like you, except not unattractive?’ or ‘where are all the nice guys who are also hot?’

            They should obviously be interpreted that way, which raises the question: am I crazy to think that saying such things is actually really rude?

          • Cypren says:

            Personally, I suspect there’s a pretty strong inverse correlation between male attractiveness and attentiveness to female needs for very good reason: men who are naturally attractive don’t need to be attentive and polite to women in order to attract them, so most don’t ever learn to be. We are all ultimately creatures who respond very strongly to incentives, and the incentive structure here is to only learn courtship behaviors to the extent required to obtain your objective.

            For many men, the objective is simply sex, not romance or a long-term relationship. So the answer to, “why can’t my boyfriend be nice like you?” is really simple: “because you sleep with him anyway.” As the classic saying goes, “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?”

            The corresponding female gripe is about how airheaded women with lovely figures can attract men while intelligent and successful but less attractive women struggle for dates. And the trope of the desperate girlfriend who is trying to cater to her man’s every whim at the cost of her own individuality or identity (because she’s terrified of losing him to a younger or prettier woman) is a pretty strong parallel to the pathetic loser “nice guy” who spends his days as a shoulder for women to cry on when their asshole boyfriends dump them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, those are fair points, especially since feminists don’t explain what is plausibly a signal, though they do talk about what isn’t a signal.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Nerst

            My first example is obviously rude, but the second is merely implicitly so, which seems fine to me.

            But my point is more that giving only compliments can easily be misconstrued. Imagine a boss that only gives you compliments, but never gives you a raise or promotion. Wouldn’t that be really confusing to most people?

          • valiance says:

            So this was supposed to be in response to Cypren but I think comments were nested too deep and I couldn’t reply to the below comment:

            Cypren:

            Personally, I suspect there’s a pretty strong inverse correlation between male attractiveness and attentiveness to female needs for very good reason: men who are naturally attractive don’t need to be attentive and polite to women in order to attract them, so most don’t ever learn to be.

            Berkson’s Fallacy explains why handsome men are such jerks:
            http://www.slate.com/blogs/how_not_to_be_wrong/2014/06/03/berkson_s_fallacy_why_are_handsome_men_such_jerks.html

            In short, Cypren you’re exactly right:

            http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/how_not_to_be_wrong/traingle-of-acceptable-men.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge.jpg

            The handsomest men in your triangle, over on the far right, run the gamut of personalities, from kindest to (almost) cruelest. On average, they are about as nice as the average person in the whole population, which, let’s face it, is not that nice. And by the same token, the nicest men are only averagely handsome. The ugly guys you like, though—they make up a tiny corner of the triangle, and they are pretty darn nice. They have to be, or they wouldn’t be visible to you at all. The negative correlation between looks and personality in your dating pool is absolutely real. But the relation isn’t causal. If you try to improve your boyfriend’s complexion by training him to act mean, you’ve fallen victim to Berkson’s fallacy.

    • Deiseach says:

      It does depend what you mean by “nice”. As regards the complaints about “nice guys”, I think that’s because the stereotypical example of that is someone who says “Why won’t [Object of Interest] go out with me? I’m a Nice Guy!” and then segues into ‘why do women like the bad guys’. The answer to that is nobody is obligated to return your romantic interest, no, not even if you’re Nice. Being nice is basic human courtesy and decency, you don’t get a reward for not behaving like a jackass, just the same as you don’t get a reward for “hey, today is the 1,000th day in a row I didn’t murder anyone!”

      The larger context of “be kind, not nice” is that niceness is seen as a social construct, a fake politeness that is meaningless, and with the craze for “authenticity”, fakery is seen as bad. So therefore niceness is seen as bad, it’s seen as false, as not costing and therefore not meaning anything, whereas being kind involves genuine effort.

      I tend to disagree with that second view, I see nothing wrong with niceness as social ritual keeping the gears of human interaction lubricated so they don’t grind against each other and break down.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        The problem with the whole “nice guy” who whines that girls only like assholes is that the “nice guys” are sort of correct. Girls don’t only like assholes in the sense that ice cream doesn’t cause rape but the correlation is there and its pretty strong. Unfortunately modern culture operates under the utterly ridiculous assumption that social skills will be gained automatically totally unlike regular skills which we teach in school and clubs. Thus people who fail to naturally intuit how to obtain social success haven’t got much of a chance.

        This results of course in all the MRA/PUA nonsense because when faced with a choice between having no way to learn to achieve romantic or sexual success, which is a massive part of status in modern society, and using shady “dark arts”, which are not only morally problematic but also about as useful as a degree from a sketchy for profit university, people choose the latter because its not really a choice if you only have one clear option. This is actually a major reason why Trump received so many votes from certain classes of people. He was a shitty choice but he was functionally their only choice.

        • Mark says:

          Are there such things as social lessons? It feels like that should be a thing.

          I would definitely pay to go somewhere where I could have myself recorded in various social role-play situations, and then get feedback and advice on what is happening.

          Is that a thing?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Well therapy is often one way you can learn this stuff. Couples therapy, special needs targeted therapy, and others. We often have some vague morals based learning, and in the old days of course you learned the proper behavior for traditional gender roles. Um, there also used to be stuff like charm school for women. There has probably never been a low level, broad material, secular school or section of a curriculum that dealt with this issue, though.

          • Randy M says:

            “Don’t point, it’s rude” and “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” are social lessons. If there are full-on curriculum to teach advanced topics or catch up late bloomers, its news to me, but the social skills most people pick up at home and through observations tend to work passably.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Passably depends on your definition of success. If 20% of men, or women, fail to organically learn the skills needed to achieve romantic or sexual success, even with people in their own “league”, that suggests that something can and should be done, especially given the value of those things both culturally and psychologically.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve heard that the Dale Carnegie course offers something sort of like this.

          • Chalid says:

            There are some corporate versions of this. One company I know of had new managers go to a class where they roleplayed various situations – e.g. “I’m an employee who has seemed distracted at work lately. You are my manager and you want to discuss the situation with me,” followed by feedback.

          • Randy M says:

            something can and should be done,

            Oh, sure, by all means; my point wasn’t that everyone is well served at the moment but more that there is in fact passing on some knowledge and not everyone is just winging it at every moment.

          • John Schilling says:

            there is in fact passing on some knowledge and not everyone is just winging it at every moment.

            The social skills necessary to avoid offending peopleand making them angry, e.g. your “don’t point” example, are very effectively passed on because of the immediate negative feedback for getting it wrong.

            Building a positive social life requires a different set of social skills, and those aren’t so readily learned by trial and error because failed attempts put one in a sort of uncanny valley that garners worse feedback than staying quiet.

            If you are one of the people who was taught or managed to otherwise learn that latter set of skills, then you may find yourself in a world that consists of some people who are your friends and lots of people who manage to not annoy and offend you and so conclude that social skills generally are being efficiently taught. This is incorrect. Only the “how to not make people actively angry at you” social skills are being efficiently taught. And since one of the things the socially inept do learn is that complaining about their loneliness gets them labeled as Creepy Nice Guys and otherwise offends people, they generally don’t complain and you generally don’t notice they exist. Which is great for you, not so much for them.

            People blindly assuming that this is a solved problem and that positive social skills are being passed on to everyone who wants to learn, that offends me. So please don’t do it any more.

          • Randy M says:

            People blindly assuming that this is a solved problem and that positive social skills are being passed on to everyone who wants to learn, that offends me. So please don’t do it any more.

            Is this to me? Because “Are there social lessons” and “Does everyone have adequate social lessons” are two different questions that I would have answered differently.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Social skills ARE learned automatically. The problem with this is you learn the social skills appropriate to your position in the status hierarchy. If that position is “buttmonkey” or “pariah” (and these positions have to exist), those are the skills you learn. And that’s the position you’ll have anywhere you go.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            No I’ve seen people taught, mostly by friends, better social skills who then improved their lives. Scott himself admitted to being a nice guy for ages. Now you’re just some random right wing nobody on his blog.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t think this is true. There are a lot of guys who are nerds and then learn how to talk to women and suddenly gain social status. It’s like having career related skills. Some people are naturally better than others, but people can usually improve from where they are at.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think this is true. There are a lot of guys who are nerds and then learn how to talk to women and suddenly gain social status.

            In roughly the same sense that there are a lot of people who are poor and then learn how to get jobs and make money.

            Quick, let’s dismantle all the social welfare programs, poverty is a solved problem. Anybody who is still poor, it’s their own damn fault for not learning how to get a good job.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            I certainly don’t believe anything like that. My point was just that social skills don’t perfectly correlate with potential social status. Imagine a guy who was friendly, charismatic and helpful being considered for a retail job. The only problem is that he doesn’t take showers and doesn’t understand how badly he smells. He could be a good worker but this one issue is going to be debilitating.

          • John Schilling says:

            He could be a good worker but this one issue is going to be debilitating.

            He’s also a figment of your imagination, as is the corresponding hypothetical of the man who would in every way be a good lover except for one debilitating quirk. The cases where all we need for a happy ending is one piece of good advice are trivial, uninteresting, and sufficiently rare that when they are invoked I tend to suspect someone is trying to avoid dealing with the hard problem.

            In the real world, the person who as an adult can’t get a job or a date is probably deficient in dozens of ways, any one of which might be small and easily corrected but as a package are damnably hard to address because the feedback for fixing 75% of the problems is the same as for fixing none of them – “shut up and stop bothering me you loser”.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If you have never met someone who was generally a normal person but was not good with women then you need to talk to more people.

          • Matt M says:

            If you have never met someone who was generally a normal person but was not good with women then you need to talk to more people.

            I’m pretty sure that’s not what he’s saying. You seem to be acting as if the majority of people are completely fine except for one fatal yet superficial and easily fixable flaw – when that’s pretty much not the case. A lot of people who struggle to form relationships do, in fact, take showers and dress reasonably well. We’re not really talking here about the people where you can readily identify one fixable flaw – we’re talking about people who when you meet them, they seem “just a little bit off” and they make you uncomfortable for some vague reason that you can’t quite put your finger on. You couldn’t even explain to them what they’re doing wrong even if you wanted to, because you don’t quite know yourself – you just know that it’s something.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I never said anything about easily fixable. If someone can’t get laid, then obviously something as simple as “take a shower” is probably not going to help. But if they can get a women’s attention then they’re fine. He said that anyone who can’t get dates is “deficient in dozens of ways”. There are plenty of guys who struggle with that issue even though it’s not obvious when you first meet them.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Being nice is basic human courtesy and decency, you don’t get a reward for not behaving like a jackass, just the same as you don’t get a reward for “hey, today is the 1,000th day in a row I didn’t murder anyone!”

        I forget who it was that said that “nice guys” are just men who take what feminists say too literally, but this seems like a good example of the phenomenon. If you accept all that nonsense about rape culture, patriarchy theory, and the like, being nice and non-threatening towards women *is* an achievement.

        • Matt M says:

          Not to mention that the attitude of “I didn’t murder anyone, so why don’t I get to have a girlfriend?” does not exist in a vacuum. It usually is accompanied by a lifetime of watching guys who do murder people obtain numerous girlfriends with little difficulty – AND a lifetime of listening to women openly, loudly, repeatedly declare that “nice” is the one primary attribute they desire.

          I’ve had two ex-girlfriends who dumped me for what were (in my opinion) rather trivial complaints about my personality, who also stayed with literal punch-you-in-the-face-if-dinners-not-ready abusive boyfriends for several years (one before dating me, one after). So while intellectually, I know that I am not entitled to anything and that women have a large variety of preferences and it is not my place to judge them – it’s definitely hard to watch something like that and not feel like you’ve somehow been wronged by the universe.

          It’s hard NOT to become a male chauvinist when you have to reconcile your brain to things like “Sure, he may beat the shit out of her, have no job, be addicted to drugs, and cheat on her constantly, but one can hardly blame her for choosing him – after all his butt looks better in tight jeans than mine does.”

          • Deiseach says:

            And the hard truth is, there is still no automatic entitlement to companionship (romantic or sexual), friendship, pleasant work colleagues or the like simply because you yourself behave like a decent human being.

            Joe the Jerk is an abusive asshole? Yes. But he still gets the girls? Yes. And I don’t? No. No more than “Joe the Jerk stabbed three guys and he managed to get away with it when his lawyer did a plea bargain, why can’t I just give this guy a bloody nose?” Joe’s bad behaviour does not mean you are entitled to “but at least I’m not as bad as he is, I should be doing equally as well”.

            I don’t know what to tell anyone other than “life is not fair”. There’s an online acquaintance currently sobbing her heart out (and that’s not a metaphor) because she has just broken up with her boyfriend – or rather, he’s broken up with her. She’s asking why is she so terrible and what did she do to deserve this.

            The plain, hard, truth is: she’s not terrible, she didn’t do anything to deserve this, and he’s not a louse (at least there’s this much: nobody is blaming him or calling him names), sometimes you get your heart broke because that’s how love and sex works. The person you are into is not into you, or is no longer into you. She’s no more entitled to keep him as a boyfriend than a Nice Guy is to get a girlfriend ‘just because’.

          • Mark says:

            “And the hard truth is, there is still no automatic entitlement to companionship (romantic or sexual), friendship, pleasant work colleagues or the like simply because you yourself behave like a decent human being.”

            Of course there is. A society where people aren’t entitled to friendship and companionship is a sick society. Especially, if we’re going to make a big song and dance about those same people being entitled to something relatively unimportant, like tv. Or bread.

          • Randy M says:

            Nah. You’re entitled to the pursuit of companionship, not the thing itself. Even moreso than bread, because friendship and love depend upon the spirit in which they are offered. The most we could guarantee, if we were okay conscripting the labor to do so, is time with a therapist or prostitute.

          • Deiseach says:

            Of course there is. A society where people aren’t entitled to friendship and companionship is a sick society.

            No, you’re not entitled. Mark, imagine someone coming up to you and demanding “Be my friend! Do all the friend things friends are supposed to do! I’m entitled to a friend, I want you as a friend, and you have to be my friend!”

            Would you feel inclined to befriend a clingy, demanding, entitled person? If you and he/she have common interests or meet and strike it off, that’s one thing; but someone declaring they are entitled to friendship and they’ve decided they want you, with no input or choice from you – how would you like it?

            There are a lot of lonely and friendless people out there. If there is an automatic entitlement, are you going to go out right now and seek them out and befriend them? You’re telling me it’s a civic duty and a right, so?

          • Randy M says:

            There’s no entitlement without an inverse responsibility.

            That said, maybe we’ve got a solution to the under-employment problem. UBI + randomly assigned mandatory friends. What could go wrong?
            It could even be staged. For every 25,000 in taxes, get one friend. For every 100,000, one mistress.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            @Randy M, I remember a story with a concept called the public service, basically regular people providing sex to the public. With safety controls. Involved a lottery as well. Possibly I first heard about it here?

            Also we do have paid for friends. Therapists. In fact we also have paid for sex therapists as well. Presumably the government could provide social interaction welfare for money. Though you’d probably start with friends rather than sex since sex is such a touchy subject.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Therapists are not your friends. They “hang out” with you once a week to talk about your bullshit and never do any other kind of activity. Can you imagine Snapchatting your therapist?

          • Mark says:

            “There are a lot of lonely and friendless people out there. If there is an automatic entitlement, are you going to go out right now and seek them out and befriend them? You’re telling me it’s a civic duty and a right, so?”

            I think the fact that I’m not doing that says something about my lack of character. Yes, of course we have a duty to make the lives of the lonely more bearable.

            Of course we have a duty to be kind and considerate to those around us. (Even if they smell a bit funny.)

            No, they don’t have the right to eat all of our chocolate biscuits without asking – but we can make some sacrifices.

            [I’ve always tried to be kind to the isolated/friendless, in my experience they’re normally not that interested in spending time with me…]

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Therapists allow you to vent. They provide advice, and according to Scott the advice is about on par with what a friend could tell you a lot of the time, and a couple other things. They aren’t perfectly equivalent to friends but they do fulfill some of the rolls.

          • Mark says:

            I went to a therapist and I didn’t really like it.

            It’s not like a friend, because therapists are too interested in listening to you talk about yourself.

            If you hired a friend, it’d just be someone who sat in the same room as you while you watched tv, and occasionally cracked some jokes.

          • rlms says:

            @Deiseach
            To advocate for the Devil, you can be entitled to friendship without being entitled to a specific friend. Consider the idea that people have a right to food and healthcare. A strict libertarian would disagree with that idea, on the basis that it seems odd to call something a universal right if it was impossible to universally fulfil for the majority of history. But (to the extent I agree with rights-based ways of looking at things, which is not very much) I think it is possible to say that people nowadays have a right to things like food and healthcare that can easily be provided.

            Applying the same logic to the right to friendship (or sex), I don’t think you can say people nowadays have that right on the basis that it isn’t practical to supply everyone with those things. But in a future where improved technology has made many jobs redundant and there are many people willing to work as a companion (either platonic or Firefly) for reasonable wages, I might agree that people have the right to friendship and sex.

            Alternatively, if you interpret “people have a right to x” as “it would be *very nice* if all people had x” (which means it makes sense to describe people in the 14th century as having a right to food and healthcare) then I would also agree that people have a right to friendship and sex.

          • Evan Þ says:

            But if you interpret “right” as “it’d be very nice if…”, then that throws out most of our protection against the government infringing on free speech, free press, etc. Maybe you could construct something along the lines of SCOTUS’s “strict scrutiny” standard?

          • Wrong Species says:

            A hooker fulfills the roll of letting me have sex with them that a girlfriend provides but it doesn’t mean I’m bringing them back to meet my parents.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think you can say that some situation is unfair without any particular person involved acting unfairly. Consider, for example, being unable to get a job for years on end because, although you’re well-qualified, have a great work ethic, etc., it just so happens that for every job you apply to somebody slightly better also applies and ends up getting hired instead. Nobody involved is wronging you in any way, but I don’t think it would be inappropriate to describe the situation as unfair in some sort of general, cosmic sense.

          • rlms says:

            @Evan
            I think there can be a distinction between positive rights to do or have things, and negative rights for people not to interfere with your things and actions (or possibly two other similar categories). One category of rights (mostly negative rights) *can* be guaranteed regardless of how advanced farming/medicine is, so you can call them universal. Others (mostly positive rights) can only be guaranteed with a certain level of technology.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ rlms:

            Alternatively, if you interpret “people have a right to x” as “it would be *very nice* if all people had x” (which means it makes sense to describe people in the 14th century as having a right to food and healthcare) then I would also agree that people have a right to friendship and sex.

            Maybe not a right to healthcare, but I’d say they had a ri