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Open Thread 72.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Vaniver’s group house in Berkeley has the opportunity to take over a local cafe and turn it into a rationalist hot spot, but needs someone with experience to take over running it. Email vaniver@gmail.com with your resume if you’re interested; he will take care of moving you out ]and finding you a place to live.

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319 Responses to Open Thread 72.25

  1. bean says:

    This OT, we’re going to take a detour into some of the weirder corners the dreadnought found itself in. (Series index) We’ve looked, with varying degrees of detail, at the ships of the US, the UK, Germany, and Japan. The Russians/Soviets, French, and Italians have also gotten mentions. But these were not the only users, or potential users, of the type. Battleships and battlecruisers were also used by Brazil, Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Spain and Chile. Greece also sought to buy ships of their own, although this was thwarted by the First World War.

    The most prominent of these ships are those involved in the South American Dreadnought Race, a competition kicked off by Brazil, who, in an attempt to become a world power, bought what were briefly the most powerful dreadnoughts in the world with the two ships of the Minas Geraes-class. They had 12 12” guns, but were able to muster a 10-gun broadside by combining superfiring and wing turrets.

    These ships never fought a naval battle, but did have a colorful role in Brazil’s internal politics. A flogging on Minas Geraes only months after her completion set off the Revolt of the Lash, a naval munity brought on by the harsh punishments common in the Brazilian navy. Sao Paulo, her sister ship, joined, along with other elements of the fleet. The mutineers, who were said to have handled the ships very well, managed to win their cause, convincing the government to abolish corporal punishment and improve living conditions for the sailors.

    When Brazil joined the first world war, they offered the ships for service with the British Grand Fleet, but were turned down due to the fact that they had not been modernized since completion in 1910, and advances in fire control meant that they were unsuitable for front-line service.

    In 1922, Sao Paulo suppressed the Copacabana Fort Revolt, a revolt by a group of Brazilian Army officers against the elites. However, her crew mutinied in 1924, apparently seeking the release of the prisoners of the Copacabana Fort Revolt. They tried to entice Minas Geraes to join them, and when that failed, they steamed for Uruguay, where the rebels were granted asylum and the ship returned to Brazil.

    Minas Geraes was reconstructed in the 30s, but neither ship played a role in the Second World War, and both were sold for scrap in the 50s, Sao Paulo sinking while under tow.

    Argentina and Chile responded by looking for ships of their own. Argentina bought a pair of ships, Rivadavia and Moreno, from the US, armed with 12 12” guns, all on the centerline. The awarding of these ships to the US was shocking, as traditionally Latin America bought armaments from Europe. A US government loan, various diplomatic assurances and a promise to include the latest fire-control equipment helped secure the contract. The ships became the objects of considerable diplomatic maneuvering even before World War One. The South American Dreadnought Race was cooling with falling commodity prices, and Argentina began to look at putting the ships up for sale. The US government objected, as it did not want its latest technology falling into other hands. The contracts for the ships did give the US first right to buy them, but the USN did not want to, as the ships were pre All-or-Nothing designs, and buying them would likely have replaced new construction. When WWI began, the diplomatic maneuvering intensified. Germany and Britain were both concerned that the ships would fall into the hands of their enemies, and accused Argentina of plotting with the other to turn the ships over. The US, wanting to stay neutral, pressured Argentina not to sell the ships.

    These ships had a much less colorful history than did their Brazilian counterparts, dividing their time between reserve, training duty, and serving as the vessel for diplomatic missions. Both survived into the late 50s before being scrapped.

    Chile also bought two battleships from the British, Almirante Latorre and Almirante Cochrane, each armed with 10 14” guns. However, at the beginning of WWI, these ships were purchased by the British. (This was with Chilean concurrence, as the country was an important source of nitrates for use in explosives.) Almirante Latorre was commissioned as HMS Canada in 1915, while Almirante Cochrane was converted to the carrier HMS Eagle, and commissioned in 1918. HMS Canada participated in the Battle of Jutland, where she fired 42 rounds from her main guns, taking no hits. She was sold back to Chile in 1920, and regained her original name. Eagle remained in British service until sunk by a U-boat in the Mediterranean while covering a convoy to Malta.

    Back in Chilean service, Almirante Latorre was the scene of a munity in 1931, brought on by the massive effects on Chile of the Great Depression. (The League of Nations declared Chile the hardest-hit of any country.) Facing massive pay cuts and inflation, the sailors mutinied and took their officers prisoner, the mutiny spreading to other elements of the armed forces. Eventually, an attack by the army and bombing from the air force induced the mutineers to surrender with their demands unmet.

    The ship was inactivated during the most of the 30s, and although she was thoroughly obsolete by the start of WW2, the US approached Chile about purchasing her after Pearl Harbor. She was placed in reserve in 1951, and sold for scrap in 1959.

    There is one other ship that deserves to be mentioned in the context of the South American Dreadnought Race, which had the distinction of being owned by three different governments within 12 months, and carrying the most heavy guns ever mounted on a dreadnought. The ship in question began life as Rio de Janeiro, a follow-on to the Minas Geraes. Originally, she was to have had larger guns, but a change in government prompted the Brazilians to gain superiority with number of guns instead of size. As a result, she mounted 7 twin 12” turrets on the centerline. The nomenclature used was to name each after a day of the week. She was widely considered a handsome ship, and a full broadside was said to resemble a battlecruiser blowing up.

    A slowdown in the Brazilian economy in 1913 prompted them to put the ship up for sale, and the Ottoman Empire swooped in to buy the ship to accompany the other ship they had on order, the Reşadiye. Renamed Sultân Osmân-ı Evvel, the former Rio de Janeiro was completed in August of 1914, and was seized by the British to prevent her falling into Ottoman hands. Renamed again, this time to HMS Agincourt, she was considered the most comfortable vessel in the fleet, although a knowledge of Portugese was required to work some of the fittings. The takeover caused considerable anti-British feeling in the Ottoman Empire, as the ship had been purchased by a public subscription campaign, although it is likely that if the ships had been delivered, they would have been handed over to Germans.

    In British service, she was manned by a combination of the crew of the Royal Yacht and men released from the detention barracks, due to a shortage of men. At Jutland, she was part of the 6th Division of the 1st Battle Squadron, a unit where each ship was from a different class and had different guns. During the battle she fire 144 12” shells, and is believed to have made at least 3 hits on German ships, without taking damage herself.

    After the war, the British attempted to sell her back to Brazil, but after this fell through, she was sold for scrap under the Washington Naval Treaty.

    Hmm. This ran a lot longer than I thought it would. The tale of the other dreadnoughts is going to have to wait for next Wednesday, as I plan to continue armament next time.

    • cassander says:

      I’ve always loved/been horrified by the cargo cult aspects of these purchases. They’re so absurd, so utterly undefendable as sensible investments, and yet I’m sure they were all enormously popular, both among the public and with the navies that were buying them. The high seas fleet was a bad idea for a lot of reasons, but it was at least a plausible idea. What the hell are you supposed to do with 2 battleships?

      • bean says:

        Well, presumably you use them to beat up on the various people who have one battleship or none at all. I agree that they’d have been better off with cruisers, but capital ships are almost as much for PR as they are for military purposes.

        • cassander says:

          and you can absolutely beat them up….. for a day, a week, maybe even a month, but then you have to send them back to refuel, and after doing that a few times to re-fit. and while you’re doing that, you don’t have command of the seas. Mahan is useless to the country that can only afford two capital ships.

          • bean says:

            Yes and no. Yes, it’s not the optimum hot war mix. No, in that you have at least temporary command of the sea, and can hopefully squash anything strong enough to challenge the force you can leave on station while you’re rotating your fleet. Also no, in that often the optimum for a hot war and a cold war are very different. And second-rate militaries are well-known for optimizing for non-hot-war roles. The Brazilians bought the ships for prestige and intimidation. Their rivals did the same. I won’t say that nobody planned a war, but if they had, they probably would have acted differently.
            Of course, the same could probably be said of the Germans.

          • John Schilling says:

            Two battleships plus escorts is enough for a Mers-el-Kebir or a Dakar, so by the time you have to send them back to refuel you would hopefully have either sunk your enemy’s main fleet at anchor or in the battle where they sortied to try and stop you from sinking their fleet at anchor. After that, two capital ships in rotation should be enough to keep one on station for about a year in a local conflict.

      • Protagoras says:

        I thought the Chinese had two battleships (pre-dreadnought, of course) in the first Sino Japanese war. And at least as I heard the story, the Japanese were sufficiently impressed at the performance of the Chinese battleships (particularly how hard they were to sink) to change their own naval strategy, which had formerly been focused on smaller vessels, and invest heavily in battleships of their own.

        • bean says:

          My knowledge of the Sino-Japanese war is almost nonexistent. I know a lot about the predreadnought era in the UK, quite a bit about the US, and very little about anyone else. Hazard of the books I have, I guess. I should probably read more on it, but my reading list is already massive.
          Looking over the wiki articles, they weren’t even proper pre-dreads, as they had a secondary battery of two single 5.9″ guns, not the 12 or so of that size you saw from the Royal Sovereigns onward. And the layout is just weird. If that was a serious problem for the Japanese, then their fleet must have been terrible.
          Edit 2: It looks like a lot of people underestimated the scale of the changes in naval technology between 1880 and 1895, most notably the introduction of QF guns. The Japanese ships were mostly about 5 years newer than those of the Chinese. Also, they had a quasi-functional military, instead of something so corrupt that I hesitate to even call it a navy.

  2. Machina ex Deus says:

    I’ve been thinking lately about something I’m calling “Clone Horror”. It’s deeply tied to an unsettling realization that you are not unique.

    This pops up all the time in science fiction, sometimes with actual clones. Spoilers encrypted with triple-rot-13:*

    Gung zbivr nobhg n thl ba gur zbba ol Qnivq Objvr’f fba. Charlie Stross’s Zvffvyr Tnc. Gur zbivr “Gur Vfynaq”. Perrcl qbccrytnatref va trareny, vapyhqvat “Vainfvba bs gur Obql Fangpuref”.

    The point is not the clone so much as puncturing the illusion of uniqueness, and possibly with it the illusion of free will (since we tend to view other people as less free-willy than ourselves.)

    Am I onto something here? Is there already a name for this? Should I just go check TV Tropes? Is anybody impressed that I typed directly into 3-rot-13—doesn’t that prove I’m unique?

    (* NB: double-rot-13 is deprecated, because of a subtle security flaw.)

      • BBA says:

        No, Parts is parts.

        But it is an example of what Machina is talking about, having a nearly identical plot to The Island but predating it by a few decades.

    • Well... says:

      It seems to me like something that exists already but I can’t put my finger on any examples of it.

      I do agree it’s got a lot of potential. I think in some ways the horror is borne out of the fear many of us had as kids that our parents didn’t really love us, and took off masks and donned lab coats after we went to bed: if you have a clone out there who’s achieving the same things as you and building a life just like yours, then your parents must have known you weren’t as special as they pretended you were. They didn’t really treasure you. That realization evokes feelings of abandonment that are horrifying.

      As a twin, I’d also say the topic of clones has the potential to be very fun and interesting as well. (Some of my favorite books and movies–e.g. “Heart of Darkness”/”Apocalypse Now”–deal with doppelgangers.) But also extremely horrific if you want to make it that way.

    • goddamnjohnjay says:

      This was actually the subject of an Alice Cooper song, Clone’s (We’re All), released in 1980, which was only two years after The Boys from Brazil popularized the idea of human cloning.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t particularly understand the horror of it. I would very much like to have clones. It’s like having a twin brother, but better. Someone you can trust utterly, because he thinks just like you do.

      • Isn’t having a clone more or less exactly the same as having an identical twin brother, except that possibly the length of time during which differing environments have enabled you to diverge has been shorter?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Better to have a brother you can trust utterly but who thinks slightly differently from you, so he can complement the areas in which you’re weak, and provide diversity, that greatest of treasures.

        • ProfessorQuirrell says:

          I have an identical twin brother; this is very true.

        • Anonymous says:

          The moment we diverge, our experiences will necessarily make it so. Now, I have nothing against brothers – I wish I had any – but I think a clone-brother would be slightly more preferable, given the increased ability to trust him, even if he shares my weaknesses as well as my strengths.

      • Jaskologist says:

        What if it turns out that you’re not trustworthy?

        • Anonymous says:

          Then we duel to the death.

          Seriously, though, being trustworthy is one of my core values and something I try to build every day. Long-term acquaintances think me trustworthy, new acquaintances are positively surprised if they set their trust too low. I’m fairly certain I *am* trustworthy, and my clones would *also* believe I am.

      • Betty Cook says:

        I am reminded of the cartoon in which Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) creates a bunch of duplicates, so they can do his homework and chores while he has fun. Problem is, they do think just like him.

        And you and an identical twin are clones of each other–those are the only examples of human clones, so far. If someone managed to create a clone of you right now, what you would have when all the science, etc, was done, would be a baby who would grow up to be very like you.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am reminded of the cartoon in which Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) creates a bunch of duplicates, so they can do his homework and chores while he has fun. Problem is, they do think just like him.

          That’s why you should think about this beforehand. With high trust comes also the ability to make predictable contracts. Of course, all of this hinges on the properties of the original – a bunch of Calvins isn’t going to get along. OTOH, a bunch of mes would do much better, I expect.

    • I think the source of the problem is that human uniqueness is something that is actually statistical, but which people treat as a metaphysical absolute.

    • Spookykou says:

      One William Riker is… unique, perhaps even special. But a hundred of him, a thousand of him… diminishes me in ways I can’t even imagine.

      • Jaskologist says:

        And then a few seasons later they permanently clone him.

      • quanta413 says:

        That was a great episode. I like how they turned around the supposed advantage of making so many to show make the ruling that would allow this look morally reprehensible. Emotional moral jiu-jitsu of the highest order.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      There’s two entirely separate concepts here that can get lumped into clone horror.

      The first is the innate horror of being a clone, as though not being the origonal human is innately negative.

      The second is the horror of your life being a lie. Is discovering you’re a clone in your adulthood that different from discovering your adopted? Quite a few stories play the discovery of adoption as though it was a shock; though usually not as outright horrifying.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Part of it is the fear of replicators, like the Blight in Fire on the Deep. Quiverfulls freak me out in the same way (though not nearly as much) as cloning does. (Fun thought: fear of replicators as a memetically evolved memetic antibody.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      In the often-excellent Farscape, the audience surrogate is “twinned” (we are told that they are both equal and neither/both is “original”) and it is not undone at the end of the episode. They both continue to run around and it becomes a pretty important plot point.

      Neither twin is very keen on this arrangement, but that’s mostly because they are both after the same woman.

    • Jaskologist says:

      For a completely different perspective, read Kiln People by David Brin. There, technology exists to duplicate your mind into another body (but only for a short time, after which they can merge back into the original. It forms an essential part of their economy.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Come to think of it, David Brin’s Glory Season also deals with a clone-based society. It deals with a planet where humans have been genetically engineered so that women give birth to clones of themselves during one season, and produce “vars” through normal sexual reproduction the other half of the time. Society is dominated by the large Houses of clones, who know exactly how they will mature and develop, and who raise up their “vars” until they are old enough to strike out on their own, and perhaps form a new House.

    • beleester says:

      Am I onto something here? Is there already a name for this? Should I just go check TV Tropes? Is anybody impressed that I typed directly into 3-rot-13—doesn’t that prove I’m unique?

      TVTropes splits this into two tropes. “Tomato in the Mirror,” where the protagonist discovers something horrifying about themselves, such as realizing that they’re actually a tomato, and “Cloning Blues,” in which a clone angsts over the fact that they’re just a copy and therefore not special or important.

      There’s also “What Measure is a Non Unique?”, which discusses the narrative weight that being unique gets in general, because that has bigger effects on the story than just existential dread.

      And I’m afraid that typing in triple rot-13 is actually a sign you’re one of the older-model clones. The newer versions of you were trained in quintuple Rot-13 for future-proofing. 😛

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      Have you ever seen The Prestige? It actually deals a bit with this concept. Clone horror is probably a subset of body horror also.

  3. Controls Freak says:

    Question: Do we actually “pay too much for healthcare”? I’ve seen several attempts to try to quantify this. Scott recently made an attempt based on inflation. Others start from this chart and try to quantify what we spend more/less on. I’ve recently found someone who argues that we may pay about the amount you would expect, given our wealth. (This is similar to the, “A big part of the reason we spend so much on the military relative to other countries is because we pay American wages and not Chinese wages,” argument.)

    So, I put it to the group. What measures should we actually look at? Why?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Maybe we should outsource our military to China?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        No, no. Outsource China’s military to the United States. We get control over their military power and they’re bankrupted by our outrageously poor cost control; win-win!

    • Anonymous says:

      I think that’s the wrong question to ask, sort of.

      There’s no upper bound to healtcare costs. There will *always* be room to add more budget, to treat an ever more marginal patient, keep an ever older person alive on life support, cure an ever rarer condition. You could probably cut expenditure in half without substantially affecting the service. You could probably decimate it (in the strong sense) with only marginal loss of function.

      The right question would be whether we could provide the same service at a much lower cost, like is evidenced by other places who manage this.

      • Corey says:

        The usual argument that we can’t control costs is the assumption that our high prices subsidize medical innovation for the rest of the world. This argument is strongest for drugs, but applies to some extent across the board.

        My preference is for subsidies to be as explicit as possible, so I’d of course rather see us institute price controls like everyone else does, then subsidize R&D directly. Getting there could be a bit of a challenge though.

        Also, if we’re not capturing the innovation for ourselves (which must be true if we’re subsidizing the rest of the world, and is probably true for humanitarian reasons) that makes healthcare R&D a public good.

    • dodrian says:

      In the first link under ‘Red Herrings’ I notice that the US has lower alcohol consumption than average.

      Maybe, given the high incidence of coronary disease, we should try drinking more? 🙂

    • dodrian says:

      In seriousness, reading through the first link and skimming the second, the impression I got is that a big part of why healthcare costs are higher in the US is because there isn’t a strong method for assessing the efficacy of a treatment when deciding which ones to try.

      In the UK’s NHS (and I imagine other countries’ equivalents) there’s a board that assesses new treatments and drugs, and approves some of them based on QALY measurements. If the treatment isn’t approved a NHS doctor wouldn’t recommend it, and a patient who finds out about a treatment that they think might help them but hasn’t been approved by the board still won’t be able to receive that treatment. They might at this point go private, but I imagine that number is actually very small.

      In the US I get the impression that a lot more people are going to try that marginally beneficial treatment. There’s the incentive for doctors and hospitals to offer it (if the side effects aren’t too severe), and if insurance won’t cover it people in the US are more likely to fundraise or go into debt.

      I think maybe the metric you’ll want to use is QALYs / $$$ spent. How you’d calculate/collect that data is an exercise left to the reader.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        In the UK’s NHS (and I imagine other countries’ equivalents)

        No, this is pretty much unique to the UK.

        • dodrian says:

          How do Canada or other European countries ration public healthcare?

          • goddamnjohnjay says:

            Canadian — You need a referral to see a specialist. It takes about 3 months minimum to actually meet said specialist, longer to get useful results.

            I had a relative wait over a year to get a pacemaker in.

        • There is some information about this in this BBC article from 2009. There are various bodies similar to NICE in countries other than the UK. There are also a number of (mostly smaller) nations that either use the normal NICE guidelines or pay NICE to develop guidelines adjusted for their particular context. I heard some more details about this in a talk by the director of NICE a couple of years ago, but unfortunately I cannot find a record of that. There is also relevant information in the book Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine; some international comparisons are given starting on page 21.

    • onyomi says:

      I’ve had MRIs done in three different countries and the US was by far the most expensive for no discernible difference in quality (like 24x more expensive, though admittedly, I’m judging MRI quality by whether or not it makes clunky noises and produces a clear-looking picture of my insides). My out-of-pocket (which was 1/6th of what they billed the insurance company due to my never meeting the ridiculously high annual minimum) in the US was something like 4x the total cost of the MRI done in China. Now, I’m sure US radiologists get paid more than Chinese radiologists, and that the Chinese MRI machines are more fully booked than the US, but not that much more.

    • ProfessorQuirrell says:

      My first thought was that even if spending is actually not out of line with other countries, surely our outcomes are, but it turns out that the author addresses this argument to some extent as well.

    • Corey says:

      This is usually McArdle’s argument; if we want to spend 17% of GDP on health care, and we must because revealed preference, who’s to say we oughtn’t? (Overall she seems kind of knee-jerk on healthcare, and this argument in particular strikes me as a bit fully-general, so take that for what it’s worth).

      The TIE series you link to actually *does* take our wealth into account. The metric is “overpaying” where that’s defined as “take the OECD-ex-US average, scale it up to our GDP per capita relative to theirs, then look at how much more we pay vs. that”.

    • GregS says:

      I think if you compare actual resources consumed, as opposed to adding up dollars spent on those transactions, the US compares more favorably to other countries. I can’t find it now, but I recall a post from the NCPA healthcare blog making this point several years ago. It’s similar to the problem of measuring “GDP” during WWII. So many transactions were price-controlled, so simply adding up the dollars exchanged in transactions won’t result in a meaningful GDP figure. Similarly, adding up dollar transactions in the US and comparing them to some other country might be misleading. I’m thinking that in the US, healthcare transactions enter accounts at larger dollar values, even though roughly the same amount of resources were used for treatment. You have a doctor look over a patient, send him to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Maybe those things are more (or perhaps less) accurately market-priced in the US as compared to other OECD countries. To take onyomi’s comment above, the actual resources consumed to do an MRI were probably roughly the same in all countries, it’s just that the transaction enters the accounts at a higher dollar amount in the US. Someone once told me they had an ambulance ride to a hospital in Singapore, and it only cost $25. I thought, “No, it actually ‘cost’ the labor of the EMTs and driver, plus gas and maintenance on the ambulance.” The same ambulance ride might ‘cost’ $1,000 here in the US, as in “it enters financial accounts at $1,000”. But the actual cost is the same in both countries. I suspect that inter-country comparisons don’t adequately account for price controls, but I don’t know of any really good effort to handle this problem.

      Inflated dollar prices as described here *might* make overall affordability a problem if some residual claimant is consistently reaping a huge profit, but it’s hard to tell the narrative where this explains the difference in US vs European health spending. If that were the case, you’d expect to see huge profit margins for hospitals or for doctors or something. The pie-chart in this Incidental Economist post shows that it’s kind of going everywhere.

      From the viewpoint of society as a whole, we’re only really “spending too much” if we’re using too many resources, or if there are enormous rents being collected by someone. We can try to tell the rent-seeking explanation, but that should show up as abnormally high (and implausibly high!) profits in some sector.

      • Brad says:

        I’m not sure I understand your argument.

        Suppose, for the sake of argument, that country A had the same number of doctors per capita as country B but the average total compensation for doctors in country A (net insurance and amortized tuition if you like) was 1.5x times as high. Would you say that country A’s health care was consuming more resources than country B’s? What about if average total compensation was the same, but country A had 1.5 times as many doctors per capita as country B?

        Is this an external flows argument (imports/exports) or something else?

        • GregS says:

          I’m trying to say that if you have two basically similar countries who consume the same market basket of health care, the country with tight price controls will show up as having “lower spending”. That’s if we’re merely adding up the dollar (or yen, yuan, euro) value of the transactions. I don’t know how these aggregates like “total health spending” are compiled, but I suspect the effect of price controls is handled poorly or not at all. Someone who knows better than me, tell me why this argument is wrong (and links please, if you have any good ones).

          In Brad’s country A vs B example, I’d want to know why country A is spending more per doctor. Does country B have government run hospitals with tight controls on doctor salaries? In that case, I’d bet that country B’s citizens are getting screwed over in a way that’s not adequately reflected in “health spending” aggregates. Does country A have a strict limit on the number of new doctors licenses? In that case there is “rent seeking” of the kind I alluded to. For either explanation there is a dead-weight loss that doesn’t enter any financial accounts, so comparing “total spending” across countries is misleading. Are both countries running an optimally efficient healthcare marketplace, and the difference in salary reflects a true difference in productivity? In that case, country A spends more but the extra spending isn’t a problem.

          I think to do these cross-country comparisons correctly, you’d want to get an estimate of the dead-weight loss from bad policy: competition of med students for fixed med school slots, medicine not produced because the government-set price is too low, time spent waiting because office visits are rationed by queuing instead of pricing, etc. It’s hard to do this, but failing to do so misses much of the true cost of medicine.

  4. John Schilling says:

    We’ve talked about North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and the missiles they have to carry them. Before we move on to the final act, which is to say what they plan to do with all of those wonderful toys, there’s an obvious question that some of you might be asking: Just how do we know so much about the strategic weapons of one of the most secretive and isolated regimes on the planet? It’s not like they are going to just tell us about them, right?

    And actually, they sort of do. As no less an authority than Dr. Strangelove pointed out, the whole point of a deterrent weapon is lost if you keep it a secret. The North Koreans go out of their way to tell us, show us, and demonstrate for us their missiles and even occasionally their nuclear warheads. And they usually aren’t lying. They aren’t being entirely honest about it either, exaggerating some parts and concealing others. So we’re not going to take their word for it. But their parades and photo ops and public demonstrations are often a good starting point.

    Other good starting points: seismic data from nuclear tests. There’s a pretty unambiguous seismic signature from an underground nuclear test, giving us the time and location and approximate yield. It is in theory possible to spoof by setting off a nuclear device in a very large artificial cavern, but we keep a close enough watch on their usual test sites to be confident they aren’t doing that sort of excavation. There’s a network of seismometers being monitored 24/7 for this sort of thing. And while it’s theoretically possible to detect missile launches from seismic data (the reverberation from rocket exhaust hitting the pad can be detected across a few hundred kilometers), that’s a much trickier signature to interpret. So we typically just let the US or South Korean military tell us when the North launches a missile. Their satellites and radar will detect the launch in minutes, they will send out a warning to their own key people almost as fast, and then follow up with a press release in a few hours because if they don’t it will leak out anyway. North Korea’s press releases usually take longer.

    Whatever the initial source, once the news breaks we have to figure out what happened and integrate that knowledge into our broader understanding. Melissa Hanham of the Middlebury Institute (Monterey, CA), offers one account of how this proceeds. I particularly like her comment about tweets travelling faster than seismic waves; it does convey the almost literal wave front of tweets, texts, and emails that brings the news to the geographically-dispersed community of wonks that deals with this sort of thing. I’ve worked with the Monterey team in the past, but am more closely associated with the 38 North project run by Johns Hopkins University. It’s a friendly and cooperative rivalry.

    If we do start with North Korean propaganda, the next step is to look for what they are hiding. As Melissa notes in her account, the Monterey team has the tools and technical expertise to detect most any sort of image manipulation, and while it is rare for North Korea to fake photos of things that don’t exist they quite frequently edit them to hide things that do – e.g. cutting away from one missile just as it begins to explode, and going to a long shot of a different missile ascending majestically into the heavens. Monterey is equally skilled at geolocation; if an interesting picture comes to their attention, in an hour or two there will be a tweet saying when and where it was taken and what other interesting stuff happened there.

    We’d rather have our own pictures, and for that we have satellites. Google Earth doesn’t have the resolution or the refresh rate we really need; fortunately the 38 North team has ties to Digital Globe which can provide 30cm imagery on a daily basis if we tell them what we need. If what we need are pictures of an event that happened yesterday afternoon, probably the best we can do are before-and-after shots, but even those are helpful. And for some propaganda events, e.g. parades, there will be foreign journalists present – usually Chinese, but some of them will share their own unedited photos if we agree not to publish them,

    Pictures can tell us the size and shape of e.g. a missile’s exterior, and sometimes telling details like the location of propellant fill/drain ports or extra riveting for structural reinforcement. We want to know what’s on the inside, and more importantly how it will perform.

    If there’s an actual flight test, performance can be straightforward – radar tracking will give us the range and apogee, or for a satellite launch the orbital parameters and usually the first-stage impact point. We’d like more detailed trajectory data, like the acceleration profile, but the people with the tracking radars only rarely release that level of detail. For ground tests, we can sometimes read bits of telemetry data off the screens Kim Jong-Un insists on posing in front of, but mostly we are limited to studying rocket plumes. Plume size can give approximate thrust, color and intensity the propellants used, and detailed geometry can give hints to e.g. operating cycles (is there a separate turbopump exhaust?) or control mechanisms (separate verniers, or jet vanes?).

    For internal arrangement, it helps that so many of North Korea’s missiles are based on old Soviet technology, because the Russians have published a fair amount of detail on their older models and we can sometimes talk to Russian academics with inside knowledge from the old days. Now that the North Koreans are designing their own engines and other systems, that’s going to be a bit harder – but in partial compensation, they are now showing us pictures of their engine ground tests. So we can maintain a sort of shopping list of e.g. rocket engines available to North Korea, and see which of them are a good match for any new missile we might see.

    Also particularly helpful, in 2012 they finally managed to launch a satellite successfully, and the first stage of the launch vehicle necessarily landed far enough from home that South Korea, with a proper oceangoing navy, was able to recover it before their Northern cousins. That was a space launch vehicle, not a missile, but there are clear indications that they are using some of the same technology. So that gives us a pretty good idea of the North Korean state of the art in missile structures and systems in 2012. In their next satellite launch, the first stage disintegrated into several hundred radar-trackable bits just after separation. This probably wasn’t an accident.

    Finally, we look for anyone else who might have insight or information we lack. As I mentioned, there’s a friendly rivalry between several teams in this field, and we all talk. Beyond that, the most obvious sources are the national intelligence services of nations with a particular interest in North Korea, namely the United States, South Korea, Japan, and China. They are doing basically the same things we are and with about the same tools, but some unique edges. The United States Government has better satellites than Digital Globe. South Korea and Japan have radar sites positioned to track North Korean launches, and the South Koreans have a bunch of North Korean defectors they can talk to (alas not usually technical specialists). They all typically issue terse press releases with whatever they publicly want people to know, and we arrange occasional closed-door meetings to give them an opportunity for greater candor. But these are all basically spies, and so not to be entirely trusted. They rarely outright lie, but every truth is carefully selected to serve an agenda, and if we can’t verify it directly we at least want to see different governments with different agendas saying the same thing.

    Other knowledgeable sources include the Iranians and Pakistanis, who have purchased missile technology from North Korea and in Pakistan’s case sold them nuclear technology in return. These aren’t exactly open and transparent governments, but they have different ideas about what needs to be kept secret and what they ought to brag about. There’s also the important resource that is random nerds on the internet. When North Korea first paraded their mobile ICBM, most of us focused on the missile. Within a day, a bunch of heavy-equipment otaku identified the exact make and model of the transporter chassis; a Chinese product that the Chinese government promptly threw down the memory hole because they hadn’t meant it to be seen carrying North Korean missiles. Nice try – scrub it from the internet, bar the gates of the Great Firewall of China, I’ve already got a copy of the advertising brochure complete with a dimensioned three-view drawing.

    For nuclear warheads there’s usually less visible evidence, as the tests are conducted underground. But the seismic signatures of those tests can be precisely measured, and their implications are well understood. We also have satellite imagery of their reactors, whose waste heat really can’t be hidden, though the uranium enrichment centrifuges unfortunately can be. To bridge the gap between the fissile materials we infer them to be producing and the earth-shattering kabooms we hear them produce, we make comparisons to the extensively documented history of the early US nuclear weapons program. Also the programs of nations like Sweden, South Africa, and Iraq – less well documented, but more on point for what an emerging nuclear power in an established nuclear age might do.

    But all of these sources combined only add up to fragmentary pieces of a puzzle we have to assemble. For the rest, there’s engineering judgement, analysis, and the presumption of competence. The people who have demonstrated the ability to launch satellites into orbit, we assume will design their other rockets in a manner that at least plausibly could work. The regime that has survived three generations with most of the world turned against it, we assume will adopt military strategies that plausibly could defend that regime against its enemies rather than assure its destruction.

    So, given the fragments of hard data, we make educated guesses as to what might make up the rest, apply various modeling tools (and I’ve written a couple of custom codes to handle the missile side) to estimate the performance of the postulated system, and see if the result makes any sense from the North Korean standpoint. Given the number of missing pieces of the puzzle, the problem isn’t finding an answer that makes sense, it’s narrowing it down to one. And establishing confidence bounds, given that some of those puzzle pieces come from very sketchy sources. My initial assessment of the KN-08 ICBM listed six possible configurations plus “maybe it’s just a hoax”, and it took another three years (and four more North Korean photo ops) to get to a single reasonably firm conclusion.

    That’s for assessing the technology, where at least there are specific, knowable answers to questions of the form, “If I put together a missile thusly, will it work and how far will it deliver a payload”? Things are a bit fuzzier when the question is, “What is Kim Jong Un going to do with all those missiles, and what can we do about it”? But we haven’t been ignoring those questions, and I’ll deal with them in my (probably) final segment next time.

    • Controls Freak says:

      I liked the others, but this is my favorite post in this series so far.

    • soreff says:

      Many thanks for an interesting and informative comment!

    • Amos says:

      I like the assumption the North Korean government is rational. I think to easily and too often we can mistake people we don’t like or who’s aims we find objectionable to be stupid. I’d like to think I’m not the kind of person who would like to be a totalitarian dictator – but if I were in Kim Jong Un’s position and did want to continue to be a dictator then his actions make perfect sense. Nuclear weapons would seem to be a better guarantee of survival for the regime then any guarantees or non-aggression pact the west could offer.

      I mean look at what happened to Gadhafi in Libya. He had a secret nuclear program he publicly gave up to avoid being attacked like by the U.S. like Saddam. Fast forward a few years later and NATO is bombing him to help a bunch rebels (who it turns out might not have ended up being nicer rulers then he was). If Gadhafi had instead kept his nuclear program and had a Nuke and the capability to deliver it, or at least look like there was a significant risk he had such would NATO have been so willing to bomb him? I think not. And knowing that western support was much less likely to be forthcoming and that their homes could be nuked would the rebels have attracted as many recruits as they did? Again, I think not. If the Gadhafi regime had nukes it would still exist, probably in control of all of Libya, but at least in the parts he still controlled before the NATO bombings started.

      If I were Kim Jong Un the lesson I would draw is get the capacity to hit the west hard with Nukes, and then negotiate.

  5. albertborrow says:

    Just for the sake of curiosity, did anyone attend/speak at the AP lecture in the Strong Museum of Play this Wednesday? I know it’s a bit of a long-shot, but we had four PhDs in various fields host a short panel on “American Identity” and I know that Rochester itself has some SSC readers.

    The lectures themselves were lackluster and blatantly partisan, which I thought was bad for a school event. A lot of it reminded me of why I was dragged into the culture war in the first place.

  6. HeelBearCub says:

    This is a bit of a nit, so pardon me for my nitpicking ways.

    jim/redneck is doing something over on the “Guided by the Beauty of Our Weapopns” post that strikes me as violating a certain kind of community norm. Specifically I am talking about using a kind of backdoor to reply directly to a comment in a long thread, injecting his reply into the chain out of order.

    He is munging it fairly often too, meaning a bunch of his replies are showing up at the bottom of the posts.

    For some reason, this kind of thing really irritates me. Not because he is successfully replying directly when others can’t, but because it’s an abuse of the commons. If everyone did this we would have a comment section that felt unreadably confusing.

    • Nornagest says:

      And this is why you don’t URL encode anything you don’t want users to monkey with. But it’s a clever exploit; I wouldn’t have thought of it before seeing it in the wild.

      Honestly, though, I think that’s about the least irritating thing Jim’s doing. But if someone were hypothetically looking for an excuse to ban him — you know, other than the fact that he’s already banned — this might be a good choice.

      • Mark says:

        How do you do it?

        Change the comment parent?

        • Aapje says:

          Each comment has an ID and when you click ‘Post Comment’ it doesn’t just send the comment text, but also the ID of the comment you are replying to.

          You can change that ID, to reply to a different comment than the one for which you clicked the ‘Reply’ button. Theoretically, you can then reply to a comment that doesn’t have a Reply button and if WordPress doesn’t actually check at that point whether you are allowed to reply to that comment, you’d be able to reply to the 5th level comments, where you are normally only allowed to reply to 1-4th level comments.

          Then WordPress might not actually show that now 6th level comment with extra indentation, but insert into the 5th level comments. So effectively, you can insert your comment between other comments, rather than have it show up at the end of the chain.

          Edit: I tested this theory with the three replies to this post and it checks out.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Curiousity killed that cat, you know.

          ;-D

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Honestly, though, I think that’s about the least irritating thing Jim’s doing.

        Right, I recognize this is not anything like the most consequential thing about his or anyone’s posting, hence describing the complaint as a nit.

    • Anonymous says:

      One way to solve this would be to make the 6th level visible. Another, to have automatic links to whichever post you clicked reply to inserted into your post, like happens on 4chan.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Making the 6th level visible does not solve the problem. If anything it makes it worse, by further narrowing the size of the bottom level where “all” the comments go. Unless you are saying to do it only for people who hack their way into the 6th level, and that strikes me as simply encouraging the abuse of the commons, which amounts to much the same thing as going to 6 levels by default.

        I do think a reply button at the fifth level, that replies to the 4th level comment and that auto references the 5th level comment replied to as text in the reply is a good idea.

        • Mark says:

          Give each comment two ids one of which is only exposed when the reply button is present.

          Use that id to link comments to parents.

          • Nornagest says:

            That would be one way to do it. An easier way would be to disallow replies to bottom-level comments internally, rather than just hiding the reply button.

          • Mark says:

            Would it be easier?

            The reply button is already hidden – all you’d need is some secret id value associated with comments, then change the comment_parent value to that secret id within the reply form.

            Though, I guess they are already doing the work to know which comments shouldn’t have the reply button, so maybe it’d be easier to just check if that property is there.
            Right, yeah, makes sense.

          • Nornagest says:

            The hidden-value approach looks harder to me because you are now indexing off of two comment IDs — the old ID, which needs to be exposed to allow for direct links, and the reply ID, which you use for replies. I don’t know anything about how WordPress works on the back end, but it’s likely that the SQL queries or equivalent that it uses are not optimized for double indexing; this might not be a big enough forum for it to matter, but it’s definitely a possible issue.

            You also need to come up with some way of generating reply IDs for comments that don’t have them, or accept disabling replies for everything before your change point.

        • Anonymous says:

          It does solve the problem of there being confusing comment ordering due to arcane knowledge. It introduces a new problem of too narrow comment lanes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The same exploit can be used to reply to things at the 6th level, so I don’t think it solves even that.

          • random832 says:

            Then make the 7th level visible. And so on. With no hard limitations, people would be naturally encouraged to self-police as their own comments become unreadably narrow.

        • random832 says:

          How about: Unlimited levels plus making the level of indentation narrower plus some other solution for “too narrow” comments: horizontal scrolling, separate pages like Reddit… or just self-policing – i.e. have a community norm that if you have to reply to something that’s already nested too deep (for a “soft” definition of “too deep”) collect your thoughts into something that can be a new top-level (or perhaps 2nd-level, for open threads where the top level organizes broad topics) post.

          The fact that comments turn sooner or later (all too soon) into a completely flat sequence, with no other way (other than manual quoting) to link replies together to their parent comments (e.g. like 4chan, which also adds links to each reply in the header of the replied-to post, and hovering over any such link brings up a preview copy of the post), is the core problem.

          • Mark says:

            I like it the way it is. If you want to respond to something specific that someone has said you have to quote them – it actually makes things more readable IMO.

            Reddit is the worst – it’s almost impossible to find interesting new comments below top level.

          • dodrian says:

            I posit that the discussion becomes more nuanced once we reach level 6 (if there are more than two commenters involved), because you’re no longer replying to one specific post and are more likely to consider multiple peoples’ comments in a single reply.

          • random832 says:

            The problem is it’s a pain to trace back the discussion. I ran into this in an argument on a link thread a couple weeks ago. Maybe keeping the current system but adding 4chan-style interlinking and a quote button (instead of having to type the quote tags and username by hand) at all levels would be useful.

      • Fahundo says:

        Another, to have automatic links to whichever post you clicked reply to inserted into your post

        I like this idea best. Stop indenting further after a while, but make it easy to see which comment each reply was directed at.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      One of the things I find interesting about my reaction is how strong it is (even while recognizing that this is a fairly minor complaint).

      I’m sure this says something about my personality.

      And I’m curious if there is anyone else who had a similar reaction.

      • Aapje says:

        Authoritarian response: Bloody hacker!

        Anti-authoritarian response: That is very clever!

        Somehow I expected a bear cub to more of an anti-authoritarian (see the panda video in the links thread).

      • suntzuanime says:

        It’s the sort of cute but mostly harmless trick that you don’t have to responsibly disclose and you can have a little fun with before the mods bop you upside the head and tell you to knock it off.

        Reregging to evade a ban is not as cute or harmless.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Oh, he’s doing that on purpose? I thought that was some bug. I’m surprised he hasn’t been banned already for more substantive reasons.

    • bean says:

      I’ll agree that this is a bad thing and should be discouraged. And in his case, as he’s evading a ban, I’d suggest that the appropriate response from Scott is one warning, then another ban.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        He’s already been banned.

        If he is doing something warnable, then he is pre-warned, so he should be banned again.

        Scott is free to do whatever he deems appropriate (obviously), but that’s my take.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Jim has been banned for a long time. As soon as I saw he had a new account, it was banned too. If he makes more accounts let me know and I’ll ban them also.

  7. secret_tunnel says:

    What great reasons are there to not invest the majority of my income into the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, as per Mr. Money Mustache’s advice?

    • Mark says:

      I don’t know if these are good reasons, but:

      If you have a large amount of money and are concerned about tax, you might be better off making your own diversified portfolio of stocks that would allow you to offset gains with losses.

      I’ve read that some people prefer equal weighting of stocks in their portfolio, rather than by-value indexing.
      You might be able to diversify better than the index.

      Also, I suppose each additional layer of administration/ownership that you add between you and your money adds some risk.

      edit: link – https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Passively_managing_individual_stocks

    • HeelBearCub says:

      – You shouldn’t just dump your money into one place over the (very) long term. Eventually you will want a portfolio that trades stability for returns, more so as you approach retirement.

      – Depending on your tolerance for loss, you might want to have counter-cyclical assets as well.

    • Brad says:

      Suntzuanime has the best reason, but focusing on the VTI part instead of the majority part–

      I don’t understand how people that are self identified passive fundamentalists can gleefully ignore so much of the asset universe. There’s a lot more out there than US listed equities, you’re leaving a ton of diversification on the table with that strategy.

    • Chalid says:

      There’s a good case to be made that the US’s historical stock market return is anomalous, and we should not depend on that market having another good century.

      So diversify further! If we’re thinking solely about very simple long-term investments which run on autopilot, then Vanguard Total World Index is probably a good starting point. If you can add a second investment at low cost, then it should probably be a similar very broad bond fund with exposure to the whole world *and* to different types of debt. The third piece would probably be some real estate exposure (if you own your home, that counts; if your parents own a home and you expect to inherit it or some fraction of it, that counts too; if you rent, you’re implicitly massively short real estate).

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      You need to be very confident in your level of risk tolerance to go 100% equities. The next time there’s a big drop you could find yourself selling everything near the bottom. You never really know until you’ve been tested.

    • Rock Lobster says:

      The short answer is, if you’re investing for a long time horizon, like 10+ years, then the passive approach is best for Joe Schmoe. VTI is good, VT is also good for more international exposure but that’s frankly not a big deal. For example VTI’s 4 biggest holdings are Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Exxon Mobil. Those are American companies but they have huge exposure to the global economy. Meanwhile in VT the top 14 holdings are all US companies, the first non-US one is Nestle which is basically a global company, including sales in the US. Point being, they’re both basically fine, and they tend to move around together.

      Another option is these increasingly popular robo-investors like Wealthfront. They charge you 25 bps (i.e. 0.25%) annually but they’re supposedly doing some optimization between different asset classes like commodities, bonds, structured products, and so on, and they also will do “tax loss harvesting” for you, which I won’t get into now. I don’t personally use them because managing my investments is sort of a hobby of mine, but I have friends who like them.

      I should add that I work in finance and even I am about half passively invested (though lately that’s been trending down).

      Also my personal opinion is that unless you’re straight up retired or very close to retirement, bonds are not good for retail investors. They grossly underperform over the long-term, and I think the yields are low because there’s so much institutional money that’s required to invest in bonds (check out a phenomenon called the “equity premium puzzle”), so if you’re an individual, you don’t have to settle for that crummy return. Also the interest is taxed as ordinary income. The only context in which bonds are attractive is in tax-sheltered retirement accounts. I have an IRA that’s invested in a high-yield bond ETF for this reason.

      Some of the other commenters are right to point out that if you’re not confident in your ability to weather a down period without having a freak out, you may want to scale your stock exposure back a bit, but that has more to do with your, let’s call it volatility tolerance.

    • Anon. says:

      Diversification is a free lunch.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I started putting more money in biotech funds, assuming that it’s going to be a lot bigger in a decade or so. It’s much more volatile than the regular stock market though.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        I’m also interested in the question of whether the biotech space is attractive again. It’s done well longer-term but the past couple of years have been a disaster as I’m sure you know, and I wonder if that ship has simply sailed already from a stock investment perspective.

        I haven’t come across any good comprehensive bottom-up research on this; the waters are also muddied by developments in the policy space.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      1) It might be better to have a fixed percentage in that and a fixed percentage in… something else, maybe bonds or foreign stock. This has the advantage of automatically moving wealth from stocks to bonds when stocks have done well and moving from bonds to stocks when stocks have done well. Vanguard has mutual funds that will do this for you.

      2) Particularly if you own a home, you are already exposed to your country’s economy. This is a reason to invest in foreign stocks. On the downside the management fees are higher and the changing value of currency makes this extra-volatile (but if you’re buy-and-holding for decades, you don’t care about this volatility).

      3) Go all in on meme stocks: reddit.com/r/wallstreetbets

  8. IrishDude says:

    The Little Red Hen and Just Deserts

    Based on recommendations on an OT a bit ago, I bought The Little Red Hen to read to my kids. The Hen lives with a cat, dog, and mouse. One day the Hen comes across some grain and asks the roommates for help planting it, to which all the roommates, lounging on hammocks and couches, reply “Not I”. The Hen takes on other tasks like watering the grain, reaping it, and milling it into flour, at each stage asking for help and each time getting told “Not I”. Finally, the Hen makes a cake and asks who will eat the cake, at which point the cat, dog, and mouse eagerly say “I will!”. The Hen tells them off for not participating in the work and eats the cake herself, and the story ends with the roommates helping out with chores after being taught a lesson. I enjoy teaching the moral tale to my son, that you need to put in the effort if you want the reward.

    However, I’m curious if people would change their opinion about who deserves the cake if the cat, dog, and mouse were genetically predisposed to be lazy while the Hen had ‘hard work genes’. Or if the cat, dog, and mouse were raised in tough environments with poor role model parents and the Hen had positive role models and their childhood environment was completely determinate of their work ethic as adults. If genes and environment heavily influence which animals work hard and which don’t, and free will accounts for little, does that change at all whether the cat, dog, and mouse deserve to eat the cake that they didn’t put in effort to create?

    • Spookykou says:

      I would, but I lack a lot of agency and just have a really hard time taking care of myself so I can totally relate to a character who in theory could work/pay their bills on time/do their taxes/take their meds but actually ends up homeless and starving. I guess I probably just think of it as an issue of perspective, there are plenty of examples of genetic disadvantages that we(modern western morality?) would feel an obligation to subsidize. Different levels of agency just has horrible optics, especially in the land of hard work and boot straps.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Hmm, the version I remember doesn’t have the others learn the lesson; it ends with ‘”Oh no you won’t! I will!” And she did.’

      But I think your question is somewhat self-contradictory. If the other animals’ unwillingness to work is not a matter of free will, then “deserve” is meaningless. The hen’s refusal to share is equally determined, and thus equally without moral signficance.

      • IrishDude says:

        Hmm, the version I remember doesn’t have the others learn the lesson; it ends with ‘”Oh no you won’t! I will!” And she did.’

        My book version has that line on the penultimate page, and then on the last page the cat, dog, and mouse are doing chores around the house, presumably so they can eat cake the next time it’s made.

        If the other animals’ unwillingness to work is not a matter of free will, then “deserve” is meaningless. The hen’s refusal to share is equally determined, and thus equally without moral signficance.

        Suppose work ethic is determined, but willingness to share subject to free will. Does the Hen then have any moral obligation to share with her roommates?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Suppose work ethic is determined, but willingness to share subject to free will. Does the Hen then have any moral obligation to share with her roommates?

          This is very contrived, but I still don’t see any source for such an obligation.

          • IrishDude says:

            This is very contrived

            Scott linked here in the links post. There’s a chart showing varying genetic correlations for behavioral traits, so I don’t think my scenario is necessarily too contrived. I am positing an extreme hypothetical to try and get what factors matter for deserts and moral obligations.

        • John Schilling says:

          Can the other animals prove they are sentient individuals rather than P-zombies, give the suspiciously specific difference we are attributing to the way their consciousness works?

    • Anonymous says:

      If it’s all down to genes, I would *doubly* support the moral. Let the parasites’ lineages perish, for their are critically maladapted.

    • Aapje says:

      @IrishDude

      It depends. Do cat, dog, and mouse starve to death if they don’t get any cake? Do they have cat children, dog children and mouse children who can’t be blamed for being lazy, but who will never know the taste of cake due to their lazy parents? What if getting the cake is what changes their environment to make them non-lazy?

      Basically, your modified story doesn’t address my main reasons to favor redistribution.

      • IrishDude says:

        It depends.

        From your response, I can’t tell whether you think genetic/environmental determinism of work ethic versus free will work ethic affects whether the cat, dog, and mouse deserve the cake. Instead, I get the impression you think what’s mostly relevant is the outcome of giving them the cake or not (would they starve?). If you think why they are lazy is relevant, can you be more explicit about your reasoning?

        What if getting the cake is what changes their environment to make them non-lazy?

        I’d think that unlikely. Not doing any work and still getting rewarded seems like it would incentivize not doing any work in the future since you expect a reward regardless of effort.

        • Aapje says:

          I currently favor meritocracy, but not based on a belief that laziness is inherently immoral, but for the same reason as you: we need work to be incentivized. Perhaps in the future almost all of the actual work is done by robots. At that point, most people will have hobbies where it doesn’t matter if they are productive at them or not. But not now.

          So basically this is why I favor meritocracy-based capitalism. However, capitalism is inherently a system that merely rewards ‘does’ and thus cannot distinguish reliably between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t.’ So in a society that is 100% ideologically capitalist (where I’m not just talking about the way the rules are structured, but also how people act voluntarily), a person who ‘can’t’ dies.

          Fortunately, humans actually have different biological programming and in my experience, libertarians actually depend on this for their system to work (as they tend to argue that voluntary wealth redistribution will solve many problems). So we can take the basic desirability of redistribution as a given.

          Redistribution often has similar problems as meritocracy-based capitalism: inability to distinguish reliably between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t.’ So in reality you are often seeking a balance between providing for the ‘can’t,’ while preventing the ‘won’t’ from being too disincentivized.

          Your parable is basically a thought experiment since it simplifies reality by assuming ‘won’t’ so a simplistic answer is possible, which is fine as far as it goes, but it should not be confused for the answer being valuable for finding an actual workable balance.

          Admittedly I was a bit oversensitive to your parable, given that many people abuse simplified thought experiments to argue for extremist positions, where the cases where this fails are ignored.

          • IrishDude says:

            but not based on a belief that laziness is inherently immoral

            I don’t think laziness is inherently immoral. I do think imposing on others when you could take reasonable steps to lift yourself up could be immoral.

            However, capitalism is inherently a system that merely rewards ‘does’ and thus cannot distinguish reliably between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t.’ So in a society that is 100% ideologically capitalist (where I’m not just talking about the way the rules are structured, but also how people act voluntarily), a person who ‘can’t’ dies.

            I don’t know exactly what it means for society to be 100% ideologically capitalist, but I do support Civil Society and the voluntary efforts of people to care for their friends, family, and strangers struggling in circumstances outside their control. Personally, I find I gain more than I lose by helping other people who “can’t” on at least some occasions. Not all value is monetary.

            Fortunately, humans actually have different biological programming and in my experience, libertarians actually depend on this for their system to work (as they tend to argue that voluntary wealth redistribution will solve many problems). So we can take the basic desirability of redistribution as a given.

            Sure, and as you note I strongly prefer to voluntary redistribution over coercive redistribution. In rare, extreme circumstances, I do think involuntary redistribution can be justified.

            Your parable is basically a thought experiment since it simplifies reality by assuming ‘won’t’ so a simplistic answer is possible, which is fine as far as it goes, but it should not be confused for the answer being valuable for finding an actual workable balance.

            Do you think “can’t” and “won’t” can ever be identified? I think they can, at least sometimes, and locally and personally provided assistance will do a better job of this than distant and impersonal assistance. People are more aware of what their friends and family are capable of than bureaucrats. Also, people spending their own money helping others have stronger incentives to differentiate “can’t” and “won’t” than people spending other’s money.

            One of my charities is St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and I feel comfortable that they do a good job providing assistance to people who can’t improve their situation on their own.

            Do you think some are deserving of assistance and others not? If so, do you think it’s worth trying to identify who’s who, and varying assistance levels based on that judgment?

          • Aapje says:

            Obviously some kinds of ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ can be distinguished. If you don’t have any arms or legs, inability to open a can probably is ‘can’t’ (then again, some disabled people manage remarkable things with their remaining abilities).

            On the other hand, no human being ever maximizes their capabilities fully, because it would be mentally harmful to live a life that is solely about maximizing productivity, so it’s not reasonable to ask that either.

            As for ‘deserving,’ ultimately very little is free and we all impose on others. We need to balance imposition with our willingness to combat the ‘cruelty’ of the universe.

            PS. By ‘100% ideologically capitalist’ I meant that everyone seeks to maximize their personal utility and that this does not involve caring for others. Basically, psychopath behavior.

          • IrishDude says:

            On the other hand, no human being ever maximizes their capabilities fully, because it would be mentally harmful to live a life that is solely about maximizing productivity, so it’s not reasonable to ask that either.

            As for ‘deserving,’ ultimately very little is free and we all impose on others. We need to balance imposition with our willingness to combat the ‘cruelty’ of the universe.

            Mostly what I ask for from other people is if they can reasonably take steps that would prevent them from involuntarily imposing on others, they do so. If an adult that is physically and mentally capable of working chooses not to, finds himself in financial trouble, and then asks me for help, my first reaction will be to tell him to get a job first and see if that resolves his financial issues. If getting a job doesn’t resolve the issues, and there are no other reasonable steps he can take to improve his situation (cutting back on eating out, living in a cheaper location, buying generic instead of name brand food, etc.), then I’m much more willing to provide assistance.

            Do you think it is too much to ask people to take reasonable steps to help themselves before asking for and expecting help from others?

            Speaking for myself, one of my big life goals is not being a burden on others. It can be tough enough for each person to keep their own stuff together, and I really don’t like making my problems someone else’s problems. I do have several people in my ‘circle of trust’ where we can count on reciprocal assistance if needed, and I have asked for help before, but even with friends and family I try hard to solve my own problems before asking for their help. Also, when I do get help, it’s important to me to show appreciation to the person giving the help.

            I think there’s a large contingent of people out there that are too quick to have other’s solve their problems rather than work on solving their own issues first, and unconcerned with showing appreciation for the help they do get. I’d like society to be structured in way that discourages this type of behavior, and worry that the modern welfare-state actually incentivizes this behavior rather than discouraging it .

    • dndnrsn says:

      Are you posing this to us as a question for us to answer, or as a question regarding moral lessons to be taught to children, or both? Stories told to children of this sort have a didactic aim. If free will is limited or nonexistent, is it better for us if we pretend it is more influential than it is, or influential at all?

      • IrishDude says:

        Are you posing this to us as a question for us to answer, or as a question regarding moral lessons to be taught to children, or both?

        I’m asking for other’s thoughts on deserts so I can improve my own thinking on the subject.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I suppose my personal thinking on this – and I’m not going to pretend this isn’t at least half gut instinct – is that, if the other animals couldn’t provide a cake for themselves if they tried… I don’t know if they deserve cake but it’s no longer a strike against them. If the Hen were to give them cake, she’d be doing something good and generous, instead of being a sucker. Likewise, the Hen is being nasty if she knows that the other animals couldn’t have done any better and holds their lack of cake contribution against them when refusing them cake.

    • Brad says:

      Seems like a pretty terrible children’s book. Suppose you make your kids do chores or earn toys in some other way. Then you or your spouse arranges a playdate with other children. Are they going to refuse to share their toys on this playdate because the other kid didn’t help earn the toys?

      I can just imagine a child running around a playroom calling other kids moochers.

      • The Nybbler says:

        “The Little Red Hen” doesn’t include the term “moocher” at all. Further, it’s not about anything so arbitrary as parental rewards for chores; the work the Little Red Hen does results in the cake being made. The cake is a consumable, not a somewhat-durable good like a toy. The other animals were given every opportunity to help with the work.

        You can argue that a child might find it hard to make those distinctions, but if so, I suggest you teach them those distinctions rather than teaching them that it’s perfectly OK to refuse to lift a finger while someone else does a bunch of work, then to demand the product of that work

        • Spookykou says:

          I am not sure, from the children I have worked with, I agree with Brad’s concern about the ‘misinterpretation’ risk. Why have them read the book then explain what it does and does not actually mean, and all the subtle nuances, instead of just telling them that,

          it’s not OK to refuse to lift a finger while someone else does a bunch of work, then to demand the product of that work

          Although, from what I have seen in America, the above almost perfectly describes the vast majority of parent child interactions, so even that message is going to be murky. I wonder is the meat of the complaint in the ‘demand’ part(which I don’t think the animals in The Little Red Hen actually do, the Hen asks if they want cake and they say that they do)?

          • Anonymous says:

            Although, from what I have seen in America, the above almost perfectly describes the vast majority of parent child interactions, so even that message is going to be murky.

            What? Is American parenting that awful? I imagine I would have been given a lot more spankings if I ever showed such an attitude. When Mom asks to bring her something from the cellar to make dinner, you do it. Refusing to do so on grounds of not wanting to, and then demanding to share in the products would be highly immoral and unacceptable.

            Even in the grander view, where parents put in a lot of effort, time and money into raising their kids for little immediate return, there is the expectation that the children will take care of the parents in their old age. My parents take care of my grandparents, and I will take care of them when they are no longer capable of caring for themselves.

          • Spookykou says:

            Well, in general America is not big on spankings any more.

            However I think the example you give is reasonable, I just don’t think it is particularly common. The vast majority of meal preparation that I have seen, in my own house and others does not involve any participation by the children, who still expect to be fed. I think the vast majority of American children do very little measurable work before they are, 16-22 and tend to also feel entitled to the things their parents work for and give them, like housing and clothing etc.

            To see the most extreme end of the spectrum watch some episodes of, ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen’. On the other end you probably have latch key kids of single mothers (like me, I still at most only prepared one meal of my three a day, and I didn’t start helping my mom bake desserts till I was, 17ish) who, at a relatively young age(compared to other Americans) start taking care of themselves and their siblings, I think the average American experience is something in between, where kids might occasionally help out around the house, but still regularly except to receive things that they had absolutely no hand in producing.

            American’s do considerably worse on the whole ‘taking care of our elders’ thing, as I understand it. Also it is getting pretty far removed from the original moral, we have no implication of what the other animals will do/planned to do in the future.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yeah, I know, it’s just an inb4 in case someone objects on those grounds.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          “The Little Red Hen” doesn’t include the term “moocher” at all.

          Once upon a time there was a little Rand hen, who lived on a steel mill with a moocher dog, a looter cat…

      • Randy M says:

        The toys bought with a child’s earned money are indeed their property. Fortunately we are well off enough that this is not even a majority of the total toys available. If a child chooses not to share their personal belongings, there are other toys to offer, which they will be informed were purchased by their parents who can and do offer them to guests who treat them with care because we enjoy bringing joy to others, and children who are selfish to no end are often also lonely. Of course, some friends are more destructive and are directed away from delicate toys. But the tragedy of the commons is definitely a thing, and their favorite horses etc. are kept separate from the group tub.

        They are also taught that there is work that needs to be done and it is fair that everyone has a share in it. Primarily this is cleaning up after one’s own messes, but extended to communal chores–between them they split all the dish washing. The nine year old makes an occasional meal. Further chores are usually rewarded. A child refusing chores would not be starved, and the difference expectations for a stranger and a child could be expounded upon, but there would be some loss upon refusal.

        PS. Right now the three are pooling their savings to buy an incubator to hatch their bearded dragon’s eggs, since the female seems to be exhibiting pregnant behavior (lots of digging, mostly).

      • IrishDude says:

        Suppose you make your kids do chores or earn toys in some other way. Then you or your spouse arranges a playdate with other children. Are they going to refuse to share their toys on this playdate because the other kid didn’t help earn the toys?

        I think it’s nice to share and encourage my kid to do so. I don’t think other kids have a justifiable claim to my kid’s toys though. If other children think they deserve my kid’s toys then I think they’re mistaken. Similar if my kid thinks he deserves his friend’s toys. Now, if it’s explicitly stated in advance that the playdate will involve each kid sharing their toys that changes the dynamic.

        Making the situation more analogous to the Little Red Hen, if my kid had a friend over and I told them I’d give them some ice cream if they did a chore, and either my kid or his friend didn’t do the chore, I’m under no obligation to give them the ice cream and they have no enforceable claim to the ice cream. It might be nice if I still gave them ice cream*, but I don’t think it’s morally required.

        *…or a bad idea for encouraging idleness

        • Brad says:

          Have you ever set up a playdate? One kid goes over to another kid’s house. He doesn’t bring a chest of toys with him. It’s implicit that they are going to be playing with the host’s toys. I have never heard of a contract being written to determine justifiable and enforceable claims before a playdate.

          I think I need to end this conversation here, lest I say something unkind. Best of luck to you and your children.

          • Skivverus says:

            It’s also implicit that they’re not going to be playing with, say, the host’s fragile antiques; I think IrishDude’s point here is just that toy-sharing is opt-in, not opt-out.

          • IrishDude says:

            Have you ever set up a playdate?

            I have. Kids sometimes get attached to particular toys as their favorites, and on some playdates my kid would try to take or use his friend’s favorite toy, to the consternation and objection of his friend. There’s usually a simultaneous reaction: I tell my son it’s not his toy and to give it back and the friend’s parent encourages their kid to share. Vice versa when my son’s friend wants to use my son’s favorite toys at my house.

            EDIT:

            I have never heard of a contract being written to determine justifiable and enforceable claims before a playdate.

            Explicitly stated doesn’t require a written contract. Telling my kid that he’s expected to share and conveying that information to his friend is sufficiently explicit.

            BTW, currently my kid hasn’t earned any of his toys so I’m the ultimate arbiter of who gets to use what, but I am sensitive to the fact my son thinks he owns some toys.

          • Randy M says:

            I tell my son it’s not his toy and to give it back and the friend’s parent encourages their kid to share.

            Showing it is in fact possible to teach both respect for property and compassion at the same time.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Making the situation more analogous to the Little Red Hen, if my kid had a friend over and I told them I’d give them some ice cream if they did a chore, and either my kid or his friend didn’t do the chore, I’m under no obligation to give them the ice cream and they have no enforceable claim to the ice cream. It might be nice if I still gave them ice cream*, but I don’t think it’s morally required.

          *…or a bad idea for encouraging idleness

          Bad bad bad idea to give ice cream anyway after telling them it is for them doing something. It is much worse then encouraging idleness. It tells the kid that you lie. It tells the kid that he can safely disregard whatever you tell him. If you do this sort of thing often, you will soon have zero parental authority. These are the kids out there that are spoiled brats and don’t do anything for anybody.

          This is a bit far afield from the discussion, but I had to pipe in at this very bad suggested action.

          • IrishDude says:

            For the record, I agree that it’s a bad idea to give a treat if the kids don’t do the chore they were requested to do. Sticking to my word* is important to establish trust that my words mean something.

            *Flexibility can be important in some situations, like telling my son we’d go to the park tomorrow, then it rains tomorrow, and so the plans get broken rather than taking my son out in the rain. Or, I ask him to do a specific thing to get a treat, he does the thing but not exactly as I asked but still in the spirit of what I wanted him to do, and he gets the treat. Usually to avoid these situations I’m careful in what I tell my son, like “We’ll go to the park tomorrow, contingent on the weather”, and rather than being too specific in certain if/then requests, being a little more general. It’s a skill I’m still working on.

    • Salem says:

      If genes and environment heavily influence which animals work hard and which don’t, and free will accounts for little, does that change at all whether the cat, dog, and mouse deserve to eat the cake that they didn’t put in effort to create?

      What does “deserve” mean at this point? If Hitler had “genocide genes,” does that mean he isn’t to blame for the Holocaust? If you have so abstracted “desert” that people can never be blamed or praised for what they do or say, it can no longer do any heavy moral lifting. It’s a stolen concept.

      Besides, even if your argument were correct, my “justice genes” make me genetically predisposed to reject it.

      • IrishDude says:

        What does “deserve” mean at this point?

        One definition: have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation.

        Besides, even if your argument were correct

        I didn’t make an argument, just asked a question. There’s been discussion of deserts in a few threads, and I’m puzzling through how to think about it by reaching out to get other people’s thoughts.

        • Salem says:

          One definition: have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation

          Right, that’s the traditional definition, one I’m happy to stipulate. So based on his actions (refusing to help), qualities (selfishness) and situation (neutral), the dog doesn’t deserve any cake. That’s the traditional view. But you’re now saying – hang on, if the dog’s actions and qualities are genetic, is it fair to hold him responsible for them? To put it another way, he may not deserve cake, but he deserves to deserve cake. And I’m saying that if you strip out the actions/qualities/situation bit, then you stripped the meaning right out of the word “deserve.”

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      The fact that the other animals help with chores afterwards justifies the hen’s choice, in any case. If people are genetically wired so they can only work given sugary incentives, by all means give them those incentives!

    • suntzuanime says:

      I don’t believe in deserts. Realistically, the dog is probably strong enough to chase away the hen and claim the cake for itself. If you want cakes baked you probably need a farmer to enforce property rights.

      • IrishDude says:

        If the dog has no moral qualms, then instead of chasing the hen off it might find it better to enslave the hen and order it to continue to make cakes for it.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I just realized that nobody’s made a bad pun yet, so: the other animals have no claim to the cake; the question of desserts is ultimately irrelevant.

    • Jiro says:

      If genes and environment heavily influence which animals work hard and which don’t, and free will accounts for little, does that change at all whether the cat, dog, and mouse deserve to eat the cake that they didn’t put in effort to create?

      Under those conditions, the very concept of “deserve” is meaningless.

      • anaisnein says:

        And yet the question remains salient. Maybe justice isn’t, or isn’t wholly, about desert.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      You shouldn’t assume that if genes/environment determine how people behave, they do not have free will. The dominant position on free will/moral responsibility among philosophers is compatibilist (https://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl), and denies this tension.

      • IrishDude says:

        I looked up compatibilism, and without having a deep understanding I guess I agree with the wikipedia critique that it contains a different conception of free will than I do. Do you have the ability to choose to respond to this post I’m making right now? Or immediately after you read this post will the ‘decision’ to respond or not have been purely determined by physical events that immediately preceded it?

        • Philosophisticat says:

          Both.

          I think compatibilist accounts of free will (and there are many) are probably not as far away from your conception as you think, at least if you think about free will in anything like the way ordinary people do – compatibilists can accept that you have the ability to do otherwise, that you have control over your actions, etc. etc. That said, I think whether or not your private conception of “free will” is compatibilist is secondary to whether the compatibilist notion of free will is what matters for moral responsibility, etc. I think reflection shows that the libertarian conception of free will is at best irrelevant to moral responsibility, and at worst actively undermines it (if one’s action is not explained by one’s character/preferences, this seems bad for the assignment of moral responsibility).

          I actually think the problem of free will is one of the great successfully solved problems of philosophy. I’m pretty sure the major part of the 14% who endorse the libertarian conception are theists who need it for e.g. defense against the problem of evil (if you look at the survey by area, the theist-heavy philosophy of religion specialty is the only one that breaks in favor of libertarianism).

          • compatibilists can accept that you have the ability to do otherwise, that you have control over your actions, etc. etc

            How can you have the ability to gave done otherwise if the universe doesnt have the ability to evolve into different possible futures? I have never seen a good defense of that point.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Here’s a very simple account of what it is to have the ability to do X: to be such that, if you wanted/decided/tried to do X, you would succeed in doing X. I have the ability to play the first movement of the moonlight sonata, because if I wanted/decided/tried to play it, I would succeed.

            I think something like this is the correct account of the ordinary notion of what it is to have an ability. In this sense, I have the ability to do lots of things I don’t decide/want/try to do, including things I am determined not to try/want/decide to do.

          • So I could have done otherwise conditional on my having wished otherwise. But I could not have wished otherwise, so I could not have done otherwise.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            If you accept the account of ability to do otherwise I just described, it’s not that you have the ability to do otherwise only conditional on your having wished otherwise. You have, unconditionally, the ability to do otherwise, as long as it is the case that: you would have done otherwise if you had wanted to.

            Now, maybe what you’re trying to get at is a kind of argument raised by Peter van Inwagen, which appeals to the principle that if some prior condition A (say, my desiring to do X) would need to hold for me to do X, then I don’t have the ability to do X unless I have the ability to realize condition A. There’s a lot to say about this argument, but I think we ought not accept that principle, and if you reflect on accounts of “ability” of the sort I gave above, you’ll see that it does not hold for them.

  9. dodrian says:

    In the last OT as part of a discussion on US healthcare costs, I pondered on if the US is “more rural” than other countries. That’s certainly my impression, but admittedly I grew up in London but am now living in the US in the desert, so there could easily be personal biases at play.

    How would you go about measuring and comparing ‘rurality’ between countries. The easiest way would be to look at population density (people / square mile), but with two countries of the same size, one where everyone lived clustered in cities, and one where every family owned their own farmland, they would both have the same population density but I would consider the first one urban 100%, and the second 100% rural. You could also look at % or residents who live in city of >N people, and that’s fairly easy to measure, but then we get into issues of city boundaries, ie, is someone who lives in a village of 300 people, but who can get to a major city in half an hour travelling time really rural when compared to a small town in flyover country that takes at least two hours to get to anywhere of note?

    I suggested trying to measure ‘ruralness’ in “% of population living > X miles of a city with population > Y”, Murphy pointed out that travel time might be a better metric (you can usually drive quickly in the rural US, but not so quickly in rural Europe), so maybe “% of population living > X minutes travel time of a city with population > Y”.

    Does anyone have any ideas of how to calculate this (Google Maps API?), or suggestions of a better metric?

    • Brad says:

      The most common number reported in international comparisons is urban population percentages. E.g. https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/CD-ROM/

      If you dig into where this data is sourced, you eventually find that it comes from national government statistical offices, but there is some attempt made to correct for differing definitions.

      On this basis the UK and the US are not that far off–US rural percentage is 18.55% and the UK’s is 17.66%.

      However, this treats urban and rural as two binary options rather than a continuum. You pointed out the problem with pure population density statistic. Another possibility is a population-weighted density metric. That is the density that the average person experiences.

      The US has a quite high population weighted density — 5369 people per square mile in 2010 (see e.g. https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/reports/c2010sr-01.pdf) but unfortunately the only number I can find for the UK is from 1991 and is for Britain — at 3421 per square mile. (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.231.2106&rep=rep1&type=pdf)

      That’s still not quite satisfactory if we expect that total cost is driven by some supra-linear function of increasing ruralness. If 100 villagers in the middle of the Alaska wilderness hundreds of miles away from the nearest other people impose tremendous costs on a healthcare system that wouldn’t be sufficiently reflected in any abstract metric I can think of. You’d really need to specify the cost function and then apply it to the density patterns.

    • Spookykou says:

      I could be missing something obvious here, but couldn’t you compare the proportions of the populations living in high or low density areas between countries?

      Pulling numbers out of the air, In the UK 80% of the people live in 1,510 inhabitants per square kilometre(density of London) areas and in the US 70% of the population does. In the UK 5% of the population lives in 52.9 people per square mile(density of Kansas) areas and 15% of the US population does. You could probably create a sliding scale between lowest and highest population density and then just plot what proportion of a countries population lives at what densities.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      Lyman Stone, a blogger I occasionally read, has done a lot of work on “rural-ness” and “urban-ness”. He had a bunch of recent posts on this, including an international-comparison one, a US-only one, and a US-states-versus-other-countries one. The international one fits best with your question, you can find it here.

      You can find his collected works here.

  10. Well... says:

    After lurking on the Discord server and witnessing some interesting conversations there the past few days, I’ve been thinking and writing lately about open-mindedness and its limits, specifically in the context of acknowledging other people’s claimed identities.

    When a person claims to have an atypical sort of identity (e.g. to be transgendered, plural, otherkin, etc.) and asks to be accepted as such, it requires us to give that person the benefit of the doubt, since identity is a phenomenon of the mind. This gets harder for us as the identity in question gets further from “normal.” For instance, most people can probably at least wrap their minds around how someone might feel too feminine to be a man despite having a man’s body, but it’s incredibly difficult to imagine that someone could legitimately have several distinct consciousnesses with their own names and personalities (outside of psychological disorders, and even there it’s controversial). Some identities, if accepted, would even require us to believe in the existence of mythological entities–for example someone who believes himself to be a mystical creature of some sort who happens to look human.

    And yet this is what being considered tolerant and respectful of others requires us to do. Is that good? Can society function if the baseline requirement for socialization is that everyone take everyone else at their word about who or what they are? Or is there a line somewhere where it’s OK to call BS?

    I’m asking the above to anyone who reads this, but I’d be especially interested to hear from people with atypical identities. To those people: how much empathy do you feel for people who are skeptical of the authenticity of your identity?

    • Spookykou says:

      I think utilitarianism is decent for dealing with this issue, for most atypical identities that a person would take the time to articulate, it is more important to them that I address them in their preferred way, then it is for me to address them in a neutral/default way(Of course the math here will vary from person to person, and some people might get more upset at the idea of using someones preferred identity than I do.)

      That being said, I imagine it is a continuum(I have never actually interacted with anyone who had a mythological entity identity, but maybe something like that) where the burden of respecting some identities could be worse than others, and if it got bad enough I might simply try to avoid the person in question, it would still have to be really bad before I would be comfortable consciously doing something that I knew would give offense.

      • Jiro says:

        I think utilitarianism is decent for dealing with this issue, for most atypical identities that a person would take the time to articulate, it is more important to them that I address them in their preferred way, then it is for me to address them in a neutral/default way

        If you don’t put a limit and say “I don’t care how important it is to you, I will never treat it as having an importance of more than X”, you’re encouraging the creation of utility monsters.

        • Spookykou says:

          True, I normally don’t worry about that because my default assumption is that nothing human is a utility monster and the caveat you state always applies.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think “utility monster” here is shorthand for something like “modifying your preferences so that you experience more disutility when they’re violated”. Inasmuch as this is possible, it looks self-evidently stupid, but it may actually be rational if enough people around you are running on utilitarian rules: if you always expect people to choose the lesser of two evils, then the more you’re hurt by being disappointed in some context, the fewer people will disappoint you.

            I can also see it working on a group level.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            What Nornagest said is octuply true if making other people change their behavior is the thing that gives you the most utility.

          • Spookykou says:

            That actually doesn’t sound so stupid to me.

            Personally I have experienced my Misophonia getting worse with time, and that feels not totally dissimilar.

            More generally I think people can get into outrage feedback loops or something, where they go from being able to talk about a contentious topic to being totally unable to talk about it because it is so upsetting(a friend of mine).

            Edit: I misunderstood your use of stupid to mean the idea in general, and not that the conscious effort to increase your disutiltiy was stupid, sorry for the maybe insult.

          • Jiro says:

            I think “utility monster” here is shorthand for something like “modifying your preferences so that you experience more disutility when they’re violated”. Inasmuch as this is possible, it looks self-evidently stupid

            People are able to, and do, naturally do this without even trying.

        • It seems to me that at some point the other person is asking you to tell lies, to pretend to believe things you don’t, which I find objectionable.

          • Anonymous says:

            “In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
            ― Theodore Dalrymple

          • It seems to me that it is on the general spectrum of polite behaviour, and polite behaviour doesn’t require sincere belief.

            There seems to be a sort of heads-I-win-tails-you lose going on here. If someone is required to believe in the actual existence of new genders and so on, that is bad, and if someone is required to play along with trans pronouns, that is doublethink…which is also bad…because.. I don’t know… cruel? Unusual?

          • Anonymous says:

            It seems to me that it is on the general spectrum of polite behaviour, and polite behaviour doesn’t require sincere belief.

            The communists who are silent or who repeat the lies don’t believe them either. That’s not the point. The point is that they do stay silent or repeat them, in the process damaging themselves, and being easy to govern.

            There seems to be a sort of heads-I-win-tails-you lose going on here. If someone is required to believe in the actual existence of new genders and so on, that is bad, and if someone is required to play along with trans pronouns, that is doublethink…which is also bad…because.. I don’t know… cruel? Unusual?

            I don’t doubt that at least a significant minority of public transsexuals are honest about their feelings. I even admit that there’s a remote possibility that there might be a one or two people who honestly sexually identify as attack helicopters. Still – I am strongly inclined to apply the same treatment as I would to someone claiming to be Napoleon I Bonaparte against all evidence to the contrary.

          • The communists who are silent or who repeat the lies don’t believe them either. That’s not the point. The point is that they do stay silent or repeat them, in the process damaging themselves, and being easy to govern.

            So, assuming you are correct, you are correct.

          • Anonymous says:

            I am ever more confused as to whether you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me, or just adding in your own reflections.

      • Well... says:

        I think many people sense they are actually harmed by having to say something they consider a lie just to protect others’ feelings–even if it is a simple reversal of the gender they perceive the other person to be–and they may also sense it is not ethical to indulge someone in what they consider a serious delusion.

        From a utilitarian perspective (though this is not the perspective I necessarily consider most appropriate), the above has to be weighed against the importance to someone of being addressed according to his or her preferred identity.

        Do those with atypical identity claims have an obligation to at least try and empathize with people who are skeptical of their claims?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        There’s also the extent to which it is being demanded that you cooperate. Most people might go along with polite, calm asks, but the point at which they sense they are being given orders they are going to get real obstreperous, real fast. So the modern model of “call me X, which I just made up, or the mob will get you fired” has made the situation far worse for those people.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      It’s probably important that there is only a norm of accepting certain types of identities. No one thinks you are under an obligation to accept someone’s self description as correct, leftist, rightist, IQ 190, Finnish, etc. You are also not obligated to accept it if someone claims to be speaking on behalf of a committee, even though on the internet they absolutely might be.

      The real proposed norm seems to be “accept peoples’ self-description, as long as their identity doesn’t matter.” I can get behind that.

      (The interesting case is when the identity might matter in different ways and to different extents in different circumstances. In a debate about abortion it might be reasonable to argue about whether one arguer can characterize herself as female, but in a debate about Counterstrike it might not be (and deploying this norm in a Counterstrike context is close to claiming that gender ought not to matter in this context).)

      • Well... says:

        “accept peoples’ self-description, as long as their identity doesn’t matter.”

        What makes an identity matter though? As soon as the way you describe yourself has external manifestations then you’re likely impacting other people in some way, and that matters.

        For instance, if I wake up tomorrow describing myself as a woman but not changing anything else about my life–not the way I dress, not my beard or buzz cut, not my name, not the fact that I’m married to a straight woman, not the fact that our kids call me daddy, etc.–then maybe it’s safe to say my self-description doesn’t matter.

        But how often is that the case?

        • The Nybbler says:

          But how often is that the case?

          At least once

          • Well... says:

            Nah, still changed name to “Danielle”

          • quanta413 says:

            Nah, still changed name to “Danielle”

            What if name had been changed to “Pat” or “Chris” or “Aron”?

          • Well... says:

            @quanta413:

            In that case it’s less obviously not one of those cases. Also, do other people have to use female pronouns to refer to Pat/Chris/Aron?

          • random832 says:

            Also, do other people have to use female pronouns to refer to Pat/Chris/Aron?

            Why is using female pronouns to refer to someone a burden, and why so only when that person is trans and known to you to be trans?

          • Jaskologist says:

            If the box contains a diamond,
            I desire to say that the box contains a diamond;
            If the box does not contain a diamond,
            I desire to say that the box does not contain a diamond.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Random832:

            Why is using female pronouns to refer to someone a burden, and why so only when that person is trans and known to you to be trans?

            Well, it’s a small burden, if your system 1 habitually parses someone as male, having to consciously override your system 1’s control of your grammar every time you speak about that person in order to say ‘her’ instead of ‘him’ etc. This is a smaller burden the more convincingly the person passes for their target gender (and thus the less you need to fight your own onboard gender-parser in order to use their preferred pronouns).

            I don’t know how this feels if you speak a language that does not have a masculine/feminine distinction baked into its grammar (hey, Hungarian is on my list, but it’s a few places below other languages at the moment…) but I’d assume it would feel less of a burden.

            But that said, I think it is a relatively small burden, compared to the burden of having everyone refer to you by a set of gendered pronouns that your brain screams at you are wrong. I acknowledge that there may be some people insisting on being addressed / spoken of in a way that doesn’t match their appearances for purely trollish or otherwise sinister purposes, but I am skeptical that they form enough of a cohort to make it an optimal policy to blanket refuse to honour anyone’s preferences (and thus needlessly antagonise those for whom being misgendered is genuinely psychologically traumatic) – i.e. I think Scott’s position regarding categories is about as reasonable as you’re going to get.

          • Well... says:

            There’s a Star Trek TNG episode where Picard is taken prisoner and tortured until he will say there are 5 lights in the torture chamber, when in reality he can see there are 4. (He is rescued just before he gives in.)

            Whether there are 4 or 5 lights isn’t of great importance in itself; what matters is the symbolism of it, as it would signify his being broken by the torturer and his betrayal of his Federation colleagues.

            People who are skeptical of atypical identity claims are often not skeptical merely on a claim-by-claim basis, but on a categorical basis. They might say something like “It’s not just that I doubt you in particular are actually 3 consciousnesses trapped in one body, it’s that I am skeptical anyone is or can be and I don’t want my society to change such that it becomes normal to accept a prima facie absurd claim like that one uncritically, while skepticism of it becomes taboo and marks one as a Bad Person. Referring to you with a singular pronoun instead of a plural one is a non-aggressive way for me to put my foot down.”

          • LHN says:

            Since it seems to have largely replaced it in the public mind, it’s worth noting that the TNG scene was a fairly close lift of O’Brien torturing Winston Smith in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, give or take O’Brien using fingers instead of lights.

            http://www.george-orwell.org/1984/18.html

          • Randy M says:

            Yep, but Picard’s anguished defiance in the final scene of the episode really drives the point home.

      • Aapje says:

        @hoghoghoghoghog

        The real proposed norm seems to be “accept peoples’ self-description, as long as their identity doesn’t matter.” I can get behind that.

        I think that an element that is often missing from the ‘you have to be tolerant’ narrative is the sense that there is a cost to being tolerant if not everyone is.

        For example, society is set up with a gender dichotomy which doesn’t just mandate different behaviors for men and women in general, but also mandates & allows different interactions between the various permutations. So men have to treat women differently from men and so do women.

        A key feature of this is that it is not just voluntary, but enforced by various means. So despite the claims by some, it is not simply a matter of convincing people that it is wrong to perpetrate it themselves, but you need to address the enforcement mechanisms. Otherwise, people who care more about not getting punished than doing the right thing, will follow societal customs, as it is dangerous to not treat a man or woman as a person of your gender ought to (according to social norms).

        For obvious reasons, people dislike it when they inadvertently break rules, when breaking those rules often results in punishment. So there is a logic to getting upset when people pass (to them) as group X, but those people don’t pass to all the rest of society and are considered to belong to group Y. After all, there is a good chance that the person will then get punished for using their best judgment to treat this person as X. It is also logical that they blame that person for not clearly signaling membership of one fixed group, in a way that society as a whole agrees on. So you get policing to force people to adopt a fairly consistent set of signals (no pink for you, boy; no short hair for you, girl).

        My experience that people who demand that others behave in a certain way often tend to ignore or downplay the cost to others of doing so; which is the part where I get a desire for obstinacy (in the same way that I do for any behavior that I see as overly selfish).

        • random832 says:

          I think that an element that is often missing from the ‘you have to be tolerant’ narrative is the sense that there is a cost to being tolerant if not everyone is.

          This is interesting, because it suggests a dynamic that can be flipped – if “everyone” (or a sufficient majority) is tolerant, those same forces create costs to being intolerant.

          And if the outcome of successfully flipping it is that (e.g.) trans people are much better off, and other people are not on average any worse off (intolerant holdouts are worse off, but by their own choices, and not by enough to match how much worse off trans people were under the old system, even were it not already matched by the early tolerant minority), it’s hard to see why this is not a good thing to push for. I think you’ve explained the existence of SJWs.

          If one set of norms is “objectively” better than the other (i.e. it makes trans people suffer much less, and does not make other people – which either set of norms harms less intensely than the established set harms trans people themselves – suffer more or less on average), why shouldn’t people favoring those norms do all they can to try to grasp the levers of enforcement?

          —-

          I wonder if you were aware of this when you wrote the following in a perfectly symmetric way:

          So there is a logic to getting upset when people pass (to them) as group X, but those people don’t pass to all the rest of society and are considered to belong to group Y.

          Isn’t that, after all, what SJWs are upset about too, where “society” is intolerant? It doesn’t seem to be what you meant, I assume, since the rest of the context is about excusing right-wing anger (since they’re the only group involved who blame trans people themselves for this dissonance), but it fits just as well.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            The problem I have with that is that I don’t think that you can eliminate intolerance, because it is a core part of humanity. Furthermore, hardcore intolerance of intolerance is like giving into the dark side: it corrupts since you start denying your own subjective definition of ‘tolerance’ and you get high on your ‘justified’ intolerance.

            What I see in SJW is that horseshoe theory become reality, as replacing one group by another in their writing often makes it indistinguishable from extreme right writings.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            The problem I have with that is that I don’t think that you can eliminate intolerance, because it is a core part of humanity.

            You might try turning that thought around and applying it to the social justice movement.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            What do you mean by that? I’m not under the illusion that I’m free from intolerance, if that’s what you are implying.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            If intolerance is built-in to the human animal, we should expect that every group will include some who are intolerant.

            So, hardcore SJ”W”s are inevitable, but don’t reflect on the movement as a whole.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The intolerance of SJWs is core to the movement. If you didn’t have it, there’d be nothing there.

            There is a cost to being “tolerant” if not everyone else is. But there’s _also_ a cost to being “tolerant” even if everyone else is. Where “tolerant”, in this case, means things like referring to a bald guy with a full beard as a woman, or referring to a human being as if they are multiple people (and presumably dealing with each persona separately).

            That’s why turning it around so being “tolerant” is expected and “intolerant” is not tolerated is not symmetry, and results in something that looks nothing like tolerance. Because what’s being called “tolerance” is the requirement to buy into unreality; to engage in constant doublethink. And since the ability to force someone else to believe (or even just act as if they believe) in your unreality is power over them, this turned-around system results in people inventing unrealities in order to obtain power.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            things like referring to a bald guy with a full beard as a woman,

            I’m not sure we can still call this a weak-man, but it’s a good sign you aren’t engaging in good faith.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not sure we can still call this a weak-man, but it’s a good sign you aren’t engaging in good faith.

            From my perspective it’s the bald person with the full beard who isn’t engaging in good faith.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            Yes, I understand why you want to argue against straw and weak men.

            Still doesn’t make it right to do so.

          • random832 says:

            The problem I have with that is that I don’t think that you can eliminate intolerance, because it is a core part of humanity.

            Intolerance as a concept? Sure. Intolerance of any particular non-self-selected group? Not so much.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            People vary in their natural level of tolerance (probably a normal distribution).

            Advocacy groups are not created by lottery, so you get random people, but instead they are attractive to people with preferences that fit that group. Furthermore, groups enforce social norms that suppress certain human behavior and stimulate other behavior. They also often purge people who are considered a bad fit.

            Ergo, groups whose membership is optional usually have characteristics that deviate from average humans.

            So, it’s perfectly possible for Stormfront to be filled with extremely intolerant people, as the culture revolves around a very strong victim-perpetrator narrative, where the divide tends to be by race.

            Other groups that define the victim and perpetrator by race, gender or such, can also be expected to be attractive to especially intolerant people and to encourage its members to give in to these feelings.

          • random832 says:

            The problem I have with that is that I don’t think that you can eliminate intolerance, because it is a core part of humanity.

            I didn’t have this thought fully formed when I replied earlier, so I’m sorry for double replying, but it seems like this is an attitude fundamentally opposed to rationality – the idea that base instincts like (in this case) intolerance (also tribalism, various status positioning contests, etc) are “human nature” and that there is therefore no merit to trying to rise above them by consciously deciding to notice and correct for them, even when they harm people.

            Also… in your earlier post, you said:

            My experience that people who demand that others behave in a certain way often tend to ignore or downplay the cost to others of doing so; which is the part where I get a desire for obstinacy (in the same way that I do for any behavior that I see as overly selfish).

            I’m not sure I’m prepared to automatically believe that the cost to someone else is higher than the cost to me, just because I have accepted that cost and they have not. Nothing is being “ignored or downplayed”, because there’s no effort to explain why they consider the cost to be so high in the first place.

            I actually thought here of all places people would be willing to engage with the question – when I asked “why is it a burden” I expected “for the following reasons:” rather than “you’re downplaying the cost I won’t explain”

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            I don’t think that you can eliminate intolerance, because it is a core part of humanity.

            the idea that base instincts like (in this case) intolerance (also tribalism, various status positioning contests, etc) are “human nature” and that there is therefore no merit to trying to rise above them by consciously deciding to notice and correct for them, even when they harm people.

            There is a big difference between eliminating and working against them. I think that there is value in doing the latter, but the former is utopian or rather, dystopian, as it will result in a society where any spontaneity will be punished. After all, spontaneity is surely often going to be a microagression, an act of status positioning, or otherwise imperfect.

            For most people it is far too complex and you either get people living in isolation due to fear or what you see in SJW spaces, just different status games and different intolerance based around simplified rules about what does harm.

            Besides, historically a lot of this has been managed by redirecting such impulses, for example, through sports and sports fandom. Is it rational to over-ask people and pretend that they are robots or all have 130+ IQs?

            I actually thought here of all places people would be willing to engage with the question – when I asked “why is it a burden” I expected “for the following reasons:” rather than “you’re downplaying the cost I won’t explain”

            I was making a more general point, but you seem to specifically refer to gender pronouns. I was intending to stay out of that conversation, but anyway:

            One thing I’ve heard several people argue is that they had great trouble using the new pronoun for a person they knew as one gender who later preferred to be seen as the other gender. I would presume that this is because the trans person was categorized mentally as one gender and that this categorization cannot just be undone by willing it. In such a case, a desire by the trans person to be called by the new pronoun, requires some/many/all of their old acquaintances to constantly check their conversation (if they even can, otherwise they are apologizing a lot), which is a substantial burden, IMO.

            Similarly, a lot of people assume gender based on various clues and can make the wrong decision for someone with some typically male and some typically female attributes. It is typically considered extremely rude to be uncertain about the gender of a person and asking, so a rule that people always ask or ask when there is even the slightest uncertainty, can result in a painful situations for a substantial number of cis-cis interactions. Obviously a trans person making the demand would not experience this and is likely to underestimate the negative consequences.

            Now, I’m not saying that people can’t be better to trans people or that they shouldn’t make an effort, but I don’t find it acceptable that such honest mistakes or common human deficiencies are treated like this.

            The article overflows with demands that trans people get treated completely differently from the way people normally treat others, which goes way further than just demanding that people try their best to use the right pronoun. They even have to think differently, as the article claims that cis people aren’t allowed to make their own judgments.

            There is no consideration how impossible and undesirable this is from a cis perspective.

          • @Random8

            I didn’t have this thought fully formed when I replied earlier, so I’m sorry for double replying, but it seems like this is an attitude fundamentally opposed to rationality – the idea that base instincts like (in this case) intolerance (also tribalism, various status positioning contests, etc) are “human nature” and that there is therefore no merit to trying to rise above them by consciously deciding to notice and correct for them, even when they harm people.

            It’s the naturalistic fallacy. You get it a lot in HBD and related narratives, the idea that some kind of scientific fact directly implies some kind of ethics or politics.

            From my perspective it’s the bald person with the full beard who isn’t engaging in good faith.

            Is that a real individual?

            That’s why turning it around so being “tolerant” is expected and “intolerant” is not tolerated is not symmetry, and results in something that looks nothing like tolerance. Because what’s being called “tolerance” is the requirement to buy into unreality; to engage in constant doublethink

            As far as I can see, everyone is already engaging in a lot of doublethink. Is your baseline set at a place where you think it is beneficial to tell overweight people that they are overweight?

            This set of issues seems to concern nerds more than others: I am trying to find if that is because they are a) not noticing the prevelance of doublethink b) noticing it , but refusing to play consistently or c) noticing it and refusing to play inconsistently?

          • publiusvarinius says:

            As far as I can see, everyone is already engaging in a lot of doublethink. Is your baseline set at a place where you think it is beneficial to tell overweight people that they are overweight?

            I don’t think that fits with the point you’re trying to make. While it’s true that discussing body weight issues is not polite, our standard for referencing body weight is actual weight even in a polite context.

            Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight even though they are in fact underweight. Reasonable standards of politeness may mandate avoiding the issue in conversation, but they certainly don’t mandate acknowledging the distorted body image by referring to obviously anorexic people as chubby.

          • I don’t think that fits with the point you’re trying to make. While it’s true that discussing body weight issues is not polite, our standard for referencing body weight is actual weight even in a polite context.

            As opposed to? You are saying that if someone claims gender dysphoria, they are automatically stating a falsehood?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Is that a real individual?

            Yes, Danielle Muscato.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            As opposed to? You are saying that if someone claims gender dysphoria, they are automatically stating a falsehood?

            I may be unclear, but I’m pretty sure I did not make any ontological claims about gender dysphoria.

            The point was that the politeness standards about weight that you alluded to never involved making claims that the speaker personally believes to be incorrect.

            Therefore, this specific example is not suitable for arguing against the opinion that trans people get treated completely differently from the way people normally treat others.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If one set of norms is “objectively” better than the other (i.e. it makes trans people suffer much less, and does not make other people – which either set of norms harms less intensely than the established set harms trans people themselves – suffer more or less on average), why shouldn’t people favoring those norms do all they can to try to grasp the levers of enforcement?

            yes

            this is the core of authoritarianism good and bad

            IF you are an authoritarian, then you must be objectively correct. Because if you’re not, then the cases where you are wrong won’t be worked out among people on a case-by-case basis.

            This is why I personally moved away from authoritarianism despite having tendencies towards it – there’s always something you didn’t think of.

            If intolerance is built-in to the human animal, we should expect that every group will include some who are intolerant.

            So, hardcore SJ”W”s are inevitable, but don’t reflect on the movement as a whole.

            but why can SJW not be replaced with KKK or NAZI or whatever word you want

            Even assuming it can’t, you haven’t sufficiently established the argument that it can’t. The main argument used in this scenario is generally their upfront presentation and the main counter-argument is that their behavior belies this.

            I tend towards the latter, but not trying to have a big SJW argument in every comment thread. Either way though, this argument isn’t particularly revolutionary – it’s just “only the fringe” rather than “all SJWs”, but done a bit different.

          • The point was that the politeness standards about weight that you alluded to never involved making claims that the speaker personally believes to be incorrect.

            Sure they can…eg. “you do not look overweight to me” when the speaker believes that they do.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            Sure they can…eg. “you do not look overweight to me” when the speaker believes that they do.

            This is something one might choose to say, but it is miles above any everyday expectation or standard of politeness.

          • Well, that tells me something about the US.

    • I don’t think it’s right to frame the question as to do with authenticity. Statements of identity (of the sort you’re talking about) are not the same as statements of fact; they’re statements about a social role that the person wants to adopt, with concomitant implications about how they feel they should be treated. You should respect people’s identities as far as the implicit demands placed on you by their identity statement are reasonable. It’s essentially an ought question and not an is one. The demands aren’t always reasonable; for example, if I adopted an identity as a king and requested everybody to address me as “Your Majesty”, then (because of the strong association of the king identity with very high status in the past) I’d be implicitly setting myself up as having a very high status, which is rude to do if I haven’t earned it.

      I guess there is also a separate question of whether people who claim to have multiple personalities have minds that really do work differently from other people’s, but I’m not so interested in this question for the purpose of interacting with other people. I’d say I see both single-personality and multiple-personality as imperfect models of how the mind really operates, and I’m not sure which is better or whether that question makes sense; I go with the single-personality model when describing myself, because that’s the one favoured by my culture (do all cultures favour it? if so, that’s an interesting cross-cultural universal).

      • Well... says:

        What demands are reasonable though? All social roles have some kind of status associated with them, and as with “king,” many social roles are only legitimate if you were actually born into them. It therefore is just as unreasonable a demand, to many people, that they regard a prima facie man as a woman–perhaps even a more unreasonable one since “woman” is also a biological sex, unlike “king” which is truly a social construct..

        • I’d say reasonable demands are those that don’t cause harm. The two most obvious ways in which I think an identity adoption can cause harm is if it will be perceived as an insult—setting up others as low status in comparison to you when that’s not justified—or if the identity requires you to be treated in such an unusual way that the effort others have to put in to do this outweights the benefit to you from your identity’s validation. I don’t see AMAB people asking to be treated as a woman as causing either of these harms, so I’m OK with it. (I wonder if the problem some radical feminists have with trans people is that for them women are more high-status than men, and so the ‘woman’ identity is analogous to the ‘king’ one.)

          I think different definitions of “reasonable” are possible, though. If you say what’s reasonable is what’s in accordance with what people actually are, then you get the authenticity-based thing which appears to be your conception of identity. The conception I’m outlining is a more general one, of which that conception is a special case. My preferred conception of identity is a different special case, which I think I favour because I’m not sure what “actually are” means.

          • Well... says:

            My best response to this is something I’ve already said, above.

            David Friedman, above, also summarized it well

            It seems to me that at some point the other person is asking you to tell lies, to pretend to believe things you don’t, which I find objectionable.

            Where “some point” is will vary from person to person, but I’m saying those with atypical identity claims should realize that for most people that point will be pretty close to anything outside of what’s on one’s birth certificate, and be more empathetic.

          • Loquat says:

            I wonder if the problem some radical feminists have with trans people is that for them women are more high-status than men, and so the ‘woman’ identity is analogous to the ‘king’ one.

            It’s possible there are a few for whom that’s true, but my impression is that Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists are more likely to see trans women as male entryists trying to co-opt feminism to serve their own goals and make all the women jump through hoops to cater to their preferences. There’s also a certain level of annoyance with transfolk who insist on gender-neutralizing everything, up to and including traditionally female issues like pregnancy and menstruation. For example: a few years ago there was a fundraiser for abortion rights entitled A Night of a Thousand Vaginas, and a fight promptly broke out over whether or not the name was trans-exclusionary. Because apparently trans women object to not being included by abortion rights activists even though they can’t get pregnant, and trans men object to the word “vagina” and would prefer a more neutral term.

            I mean, it doesn’t do me any actual *harm* to use gender-neutral language for all the sex-specific things I’m accustomed to using gendered language for, but it is really really annoying.

          • rlms says:

            Darius Quebec makes a good point here: referring to trans persons’ genitals as “vaginas” is a clear violation of the non-aggression principle.

          • Brad says:

            Does titling a fundraiser to oppose abortion restrictions “Night of Thousand Vaginas” constitute “referring to trans persons’ genitals as ‘vaginas'”?

          • rlms says:

            According to some of the twitterers in Loquat’s link, yes.

          • Brad says:

            Yes, I noticed that. But you said Darius Quebec made a good point, so I was wondering if you wanted to defend that proposition. If not, no big deal.

          • random832 says:

            @Loquat

            and trans men object to the word “vagina” and would prefer a more neutral term.

            @rlms

            Darius Quebec makes a good point here: referring to trans persons’ genitals as “vaginas” is a clear violation of the non-aggression principle.

            I can accept this, but a brief perusal of the linked discussions did not reveal any neutral term being proposed. You seem to be more aware of the controversy than I am, is there something I’ve missed? Without a proposed alternative, it reads more like “talking about That Kind Of Genitalia makes some people uncomfortable (because their identity is built in part around wishing they didn’t have them), so you’re not allowed to talk about them even when not particularly talking about those people”, which I’m less prepared to concede.

          • Loquat says:

            @random832

            I did a little more clicking around on that page to see replies that weren’t included, and found that someone on twitter had indeed asked that question. The response given was that one should say “genitals” or “internal genitals”, or just not mention genitalia at all so as not to remind transmen of what they’ve got.

            Whether the widespread adoption of such principles would wind up inhibiting the efforts of activists for women’s reproductive rights was left unaddressed.

          • rlms says:

            @random832
            It appears my sarcasm was too lowkey: the word “non-consensual” and form of argument in that tweet made me think of libertarian arguments about the non-aggression principle, but I’m pretty sure very few libertarians would endorse the non-aggression being used in that way. I don’t endorse not using the word “vagina” because it might offend trans people (and I’m pretty sure most trans people don’t either).

          • quanta413 says:

            It appears my sarcasm was too lowkey: the word “non-consensual” and form of argument in that tweet made me think of libertarian arguments about the non-aggression principle, but I’m pretty sure very few libertarians would endorse the non-aggression being used in that way.

            Actually, since you’ve admitted that this was the point allow me to give you some data. It was too obvious you were either being snarky and/or trying to bait people with an argument in bad faith, so I typed some stuff into the reply box, thought better of it, deleted it, and didn’t respond.

    • Loke says:

      In the case of transgender people I think respecting their identities is simply a matter of acknowledging that a) gender has traditionally been defined primarily by genital configuration but b) in most cultures the genitals are traditionally kept covered most of the time, it’s not always possible to guess what genitals a person has based on the rest of their appearance, and basing an entire very socially significant categorization system around something as private as genitals is kind of ridiculous anyway. Therefore the polite thing to do is to just accept that a person “is” whatever gender they tell you they are.

      In the case of “multiples” and otherkin, it really depends on what “respecting their identity” would consist of exactly. I don’t think it makes sense to say, for example, that a wolf otherkin “is” a wolf in the same sense that biological wolves are wolves, because that would require treating the otherkin individual, literally, like an animal with no human rights. I don’t think most otherkin are actually asking for that: I don’t think they’re literally asking to be treated like a member of the species they claim to identify with. I’m not 100% sure what they are asking for, but if it’s just “accepting that they feel, internally, that they have a mental or spiritual connection to the idea of ‘being a wolf'”, then sure — I don’t see that as any different from respecting other people’s religious beliefs that I don’t happen to share.

      • Anonymous says:

        In the case of transgender people I think respecting their identities is simply a matter of acknowledging that a) gender has traditionally been defined primarily by genital configuration but b) in most cultures the genitals are traditionally kept covered most of the time, it’s not always possible to guess what genitals a person has based on the rest of their appearance, and basing an entire very socially significant categorization system around something as private as genitals is kind of ridiculous anyway. Therefore the polite thing to do is to just accept that a person “is” whatever gender they tell you they are.

        OTOH, error has no rights. And there’s the issue of what you can reasonably infer.

        If someone shows up in an online chat, and implicitly or explicitly identifies as male or female, I’ll give them the benefit of doubt – I don’t care if they’re a man, woman or FBI agent, and have no way of telling. Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t care.

        However, if they tell me, or I somehow come to know, that they’re transgender, they’re giving more information than the above. In this case, I know – or at least give them the benefit of doubt that they’re not pretending to be transgender in the first place – that there’s a mismatch between their identity and their biology. In which case comes in the issue of being truthful or not, in referring to the parties in question by pronoun.

        Under the current rules of this blog, the best I can do wrt politeness, is to skip pronouns entirely in known cases. Using their preferred pronouns would constitute lying in my case, since I believe their identity is the aberration, not their biology.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        b) in most cultures the genitals are traditionally kept covered most of the time, it’s not always possible to guess what genitals a person has based on the rest of their appearance,

        In the vast majority of cases, it’s actually pretty easy.

        • Well... says:

          Yeah, exactly.

          “[B]asing an entire very socially significant categorization system around something as private as genitals” is totally not what goes on, since men and women can be differentiated 99% of the time in countless other ways that are equally biological: tone of voice, facial hair, bone structure, physical strength, etc. And even many non-biological signals are still closely tied to biological ones: if a person is holding a baby to his or her chest with his or her shirt lifted up, I can be reasonably sure that person is a female.

      • Jiro says:

        it’s not always possible to guess what genitals a person has based on the rest of their appearance

        Genitals and appearance are correlated with very high probability, even though the certainty is not literally 100%.

        basing an entire very socially significant categorization system around something as private as genitals is kind of ridiculous anyway

        Not really. You guess genitals from appearance. Almost all of the time that’s fine and nobody complains. If you guess incorrectly, and someone tells you that, you can accept the correction.

        The real problem happens when you correctly guess genitals from appearance and the person still doesn’t like it.

        • random832 says:

          Not really. You guess genitals from appearance. Almost all of the time that’s fine and nobody complains. If you guess incorrectly, and someone tells you that, you can accept the correction.

          The real problem happens when you correctly guess genitals from appearance and the person still doesn’t like it.

          Now that we’re talking about guessing, it’s not clear why genitals should be part of the loop. Why not “You guess preferred pronouns from appearance. Almost all of the time that’s fine and nobody complains. If you guess incorrectly, and someone tells you that, you can accept the correction.”?

          In particular, it’s not clear why someone correcting you, even if they do have the opposite set of genitals from what you assumed or not, should have to show you any proof of this. And, for that matter, I assume you don’t in fact ask to see someone’s birth certificate (or for them to drop their pants), regardless whether they claim to be a cis woman (or man) or not. So it’s only people who volunteer the fact that they’re trans who get this treatment, even though those are the ones for whom using their preferred pronouns is least like lying about because all the facts are in the open and it is therefore impossible for anyone to be deceived.

          • Jiro says:

            Why not “You guess preferred pronouns from appearance.

            Because it isn’t “guess an arbitrary thing”, it’s “guess whether they fit my conception of gender” and people’s conception of gender is genitals, not pronouns.

            I assume you don’t in fact ask to see someone’s birth certificate

            If someone tells me he’s a plumber, I don’t ask him to fix a couple of pipes in front of me, either, even though what I mean by “plumber” is a person who fixes pipes.

            And if I do think he’s lying about being a plumber, it’s because of evidence, and evidence is not the same thing as 100% proof. Of course I take the risk of being wrong, but no more so than when I think any other claims are lies based on evidence.

            Likewise, if someone claims to have ___ genitals (or more often, says something that is normally understood as an implicit claim to have ____ genitals) I would either believe that person or not, and in neither case would I ask for a birth certificate.

    • rlms says:

      You (and many of the people replying to you) seem to be focusing on the part of identity acceptance where you believe “is” (in some ill-defined way) what they claim to be. But I imagine that the more important part to most people with atypical identities is that you interact with them in a certain way (for instance by using certain pronouns). If you believe that an otherkin is not actually whatever they claim to be, then saying so in response to them asking seems reasonable if you have an aversion to lying. But refusing to use their preferred pronouns seems unnecessarily rude (like obnoxiously calling someone a nickname they’ve told you they hate, but worse because the connotations of disrespect are larger).

      • Well... says:

        But refusing to use their preferred pronouns seems unnecessarily rude (like obnoxiously calling someone a nickname they’ve told you they hate

        That makes sense, and I agree. That’s a reasonable standard of interaction for common courtesy’s sake. The problem is:

        If you believe that an otherkin is not actually whatever they claim to be, then saying so in response to them asking

        gets you the same offended response or worse.

        • rlms says:

          But how often do people with atypical identities explicitly ask people “So, do you think I’m an [x]?”?

          • Well... says:

            Exactly! You are likely to not even get an opportunity to state your objection to the pronouns you must use out of common courtesy.

        • Nornagest says:

          If you believe that an otherkin is not actually whatever they claim to be, then saying so in response to them asking

          gets you the same offended response or worse.

          From the otherkin, sure (though I’ve only met a real live otherkin, like, once). From the audience?

          • The person I know best who is physically of one sex but self identifies as the other is a very reasonable person who does not seem to have any inclination to make offended responses to being referred to by the gender that corresponds to the physical form. Perhaps I’m unfair, but my automatic reaction to someone who does is to interpret it as bullying.

          • BBA says:

            From the audience?

            That’s the crux of the matter. Society at large, however you want to define it, accepts certain self-identifications while rejecting others. Which are accepted and which are rejected vary based on how you define society. Trying to come up with a rational rule that applies to everything and is consistent with societal expectations will necessarily fail, because society is made up of humans and humans are irrational.

          • Trying to come up with a rational rule that applies to everything and is consistent with societal expectations will necessarily fail, because society is made up of humans and humans are irrational.

            Humans are neither completely irrational nor completely rational. Politeness is a rational thing for most people to buy into , because in exchange for not telling other people unwelcome truths about themseleves, they don’t tell you inconvenient truths. Utilitarianism is a promising way to set limits, as well.

      • But refusing to use their preferred pronouns seems unnecessarily rude

        I don’t think refusing to use their preferred pronouns is rude. Using their non-preferred pronouns when it is possible to avoid using gendered language at all might be. There is a difference between deliberately doing something that will offend someone and failing to do something someone wants you to do that it offends you to do.

        And insisting on the latter I also take as rude.

        • rlms says:

          I think that sometimes it is impossible to avoid gendered language without very awkward constructions. Doing so can remind the person you are talking about that you don’t view them in the way they want, and doing that is somewhat rude (like making comments that imply you think someone is unattractive or incompetent at something is). It is obviously a lot better than being overtly antagonistic by using their non-preferred pronouns.

          I don’t think insisting on someone using your preferred pronouns is necessarily rude. Suppose I insisted on referring you as she/her (I’m tempted to actually do this experiment, but it might confuse people) and you politely asked me to use he/him (rather than trying to avoid pronouns completely). I don’t think it would be reasonable to take offence at that.

          • Well... says:

            If you believe a cookie is a type of beverage but I disagree, and you say “Fine, you don’t have to agree it’s a beverage but you still should at least refer to the act of consuming a cookie as ‘drinking’ it” you are attempting to smuggle in my acceptance of your belief.

            What’s more, if I acquiesce and say that cookies can be drank, then I must also say that broth can be nibbled, ice cream can be snorted, and that a single crumb can be gnawed. (Because why not?) If I go along with all this but find it absurd, then you have sneakily caused me to adjust my language as if I lived in an absurd world without my ever explicitly accepting your absurd claim about cookies. If there is a threat to my well-being should I resist, then you haven’t just “caused” me to do so, you’ve bullied me into it.

          • I don’t think insisting on someone using your preferred pronouns is necessarily rude. Suppose I insisted on referring you as she/her (I’m tempted to actually do this experiment, but it might confuse people) and you politely asked me to use he/him (rather than trying to avoid pronouns completely).

            “Politely asking” isn’t “insisting on.”

            I agree that avoiding gendered language is sometimes clumsy.

            Doing so can remind the person you are talking about that you don’t view them in the way they want, and doing that is somewhat rude

            On the contrary, doing so shows that you are making an effort to avoid unnecessarily offending them. It’s rude only if they believe that you are obligated to express their view of the world instead of yours, which I consider an unreasonable position, sufficiently so that expressing it is rude.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            Imagine someone, say a work colleague, kept calling your daughter “Mr. Friedman” and when asked why said “well he looks like a man in a dress” and then thereafter proceeded to consciously and at all times avoid using any gender when referring to her.

            Would you find it quite understandable that she was upset by this?

          • Well... says:

            @HBC:

            David Friedman’s daughter has a birth certificate showing she is female. She’s gone her whole life as a female, everyone she’s ever met has correctly identified her as female, and she has a reasonable expectation that society will recognize her as female.

            If she was an unusually masculine looking woman, so that people sometimes mistook her for a man, it would be appropriate for her to first try to modify her appearance (say, by wearing more feminine clothing and makeup and a more feminine hairstyle) than to get angry at people who mistook her for male. (Though, if she refused to modify her appearance but she still really wanted to give them proof, she could do so by showing her birth certificate, and if they didn’t believe her she could as a last resort get pregnant and say “Told you so!”)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Well:
            Note that you did not actually answer my question.

          • Well... says:

            @HBC:

            Wrong, I answered your question:

            If she was an unusually masculine looking woman, so that people sometimes mistook her for a man, it would be appropriate for her to first try to modify her appearance […] than to get angry at people who mistook her for male.

            Your scenario as-written is not analogous to the one in which any trans person is likely to ever find him- or herself. In your scenario, it seems the whole world instinctively recognizes DDF’s daughter as female except for this one guy.

            We were trying to discuss the dynamics of the skeptic going from “skeptic’s preferred pronouns” to “neutral pronouns” and whether that could be construed as an aggressive tactic towards the trans person who prefers “trans’s preferred pronouns”. To do that we must modify your scenario:

            Imagine that DDF’s daughter appeared unusually masculine so that she was often mistaken for a male by just about everyone, even her own parents (at least up through adolescence when she was finally able to convince them to regard her as female). She also did not modify her appearance to appear obviously feminine, and for some reason her birth certificate listed her as male and she did not possess a uterus but did possess testicles.

            Now I would say she ought to acknowledge the gracefulness of her father’s colleague’s compromise, as he might be one of the few people she’s met who’s willing to make it.

          • Montfort says:

            I don’t mean to censure either of you, but please just recall that David Friedman’s daughter has visited SSC’s comments before and may do so again.

            (Also, Well…, I don’t think it’s all that relevant, but fyi trans people can get their birth certificates changed in many states with varying amounts of hassle)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t mean to censure either of you, but please just recall that David Friedman’s daughter has visited SSC’s comments before and may do so again.

            While this is a good point to remember in general, and I am aware of it, I’m not sure if it applies to my comment? It’s completely a hypothetical. Although, I am also completely unaware of any physical attributes of his daughter, which could be a strike against me. There was an assumption on my part that this very specific scenario wasn’t actually plausible.

            I am trying to affect David’s emotional reaction to the scenario. He is not a trans-woman, but I’m trying to get him closer to accurately emotionally modeling how someone might feel when being misgendered.

            His insistence that consciously misgendering someone for not looking sufficiently fe/male should be seen as completely neutral seems blithely oblivious to me.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think that sometimes it is impossible to avoid gendered language without very awkward constructions.

            People say this, and yet I really don’t see it, if you use the singular “they” most people won’t even notice except grammar nazis.

            Suppose I insisted on referring you as she/her (I’m tempted to actually do this experiment, but it might confuse people) and you politely asked me to use he/him (rather than trying to avoid pronouns completely). I don’t think it would be reasonable to take offence at that.

            I know you weren’t asking me, but I don’t feel bothered by being misgendered. I am only bothered if a person actually disrespects one gender or the other in which case I don’t care if they got my gender right or not! I also understand this isn’t a typical reaction, but there you go.

            EDIT: @HeelBearCub

            His insistence that consciously misgendering someone for not looking sufficiently fe/male should be seen as completely neutral seems blithely oblivious to me.

            This might be more relevant if he actually claimed that. What he said was

            I don’t think refusing to use their preferred pronouns is rude. Using their non-preferred pronouns when it is possible to avoid using gendered language at all might be [rude]. There is a difference between deliberately doing something that will offend someone and failing to do something someone wants you to do that it offends you to do.

            It is very, very rare that it is impossible to avoid gendered pronouns. So he thinks that in fact it might be rude to consciously misgender someone.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta413:
            You should go back and read my hypothetical again.

            It involves first misgendering, and then refusing to use the gender a person claims by consciously using gender neutrality after that. This is simply follow on behavior to the original.

            And David was claiming that this follow on behavior is not rude. And further claims that it shows you are going out of your way not to be rude.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The power of the hypothetical derives from the fact that David’s daughter is, in fact, female. It’s hand-waving away the entire point under discussion.

          • rlms says:

            @Jaskologist
            Since David doesn’t put forward a position on whether or not trans people are the gender they claim to be, I’m interpreting her as saying it’s unreasonable to be offended by someone not using your preferred pronouns in general, regardless of how legitimate your claim to those pronouns is. Your objection would be relevant if she was arguing that right to be offended stems from how reasonable your beliefs are, but she isn’t.

          • quanta413 says:

            You should go back and read my hypothetical again.

            It involves first misgendering, and then refusing to use the gender a person claims by consciously using gender neutrality after that. This is simply follow on behavior to the original.

            I read your hypothetical carefully already and read it again since you insisted. My opinion is unchanged. Using someone’s name instead of gender or saying “they” seems just as reasonable position to me as using their preferred pronoun. You think he has this belief because he is oblivious i.e. heedless or ignorant but you give no evidence for this except that he disagrees with you. But this takes me away from another point I want to make now: You posted after David Friedman and he has not responded to your hypothetical yet. The way you are behaving I almost think you think/know “Well…” is “David Friedman”.

            But since you want me to focus on your hypothetical allow me to express why I hate it and think it is in bad taste. What it looks like you are doing is using your hypothetical to try to strike an emotional low blow by dragging his family into the conversation while you avoid the actual point of contention between your position and his position in favor of trying to make him look like an uncaring or ignorant person. And a few posts after stating your hypothetical you accuse him of being “blithely oblivious” which is really just a slightly more polite way of saying he’s uncaring and/or ignorant.

            The two of you do not disagree that some trans people will feel hurt if they aren’t referred to as their preferred gender. To reiterate what you already know, the point of disagreement is more along the lines of whether or not the pronouns are more important for referring to sex or gender, how much gender is a social role with no meaningful basis in biology that people can choose, and how to weigh the demand that someone else say something that they think is a lie (which would cost them some of their honesty) against somebody being hurt by their own identity not being affirmed. You have not even bothered engaging with any of these points.

            Instead you started by dragging his family into it with the lame defense “It’s completely a hypothetical” and “I am trying to affect David’s emotional reaction to the scenario. He is not a trans-woman, but I’m trying to get him closer to accurately emotionally modeling how someone might feel when being misgendered.” Which I might believe was your true motivation if instead you had said “David, imagine someone called you she upon first meeting you and refused to use gendered pronouns to refer to you ever after”. You then proceed to argue with a different person, and then finally insulted David Friedman as “blithely oblivious”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta:

            I would suggest you pull your righteous anger back several notches.

            First off, it is inevitable that we are going to have several arguments going on simultaneously. It’s unavoidable. I don’t know why you are attacking me for responding to other posters besides David.

            The two of you do not disagree that some trans people will feel hurt if they aren’t referred to as their preferred gender.

            Yes, but David thinks their emotions are unreasonable.

            If I put David in the hypothetical, he can simply claim he wouldn’t feel any harm had been done. He will neatly sidestep the actual point of the hypothetical. He can’t do that if I simply posit that his daughter felt hurt and ask whether he would find that unreasonable.

            And there are, in fact, actual trans men and women reading these arguments. So let’s not think that my “pulling in David’s family” is adding much in the way of actual, real people to the conversation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Well:
            Somehow your reply snuck by me.

            Your scenario as-written is not analogous to the one in which any trans person is likely to ever find him- or herself.

            Why? Someone who is wearing a dress and makeup but is believed to be masculine/male seems exactly the scenario trans people are faced with all the time.

            And the question I asked was whether it was reasonable for her to be upset, not whether they are more productive things she could do. Both can be true. The upset we are talking about here can be completely internal and is orthogonal to any actions she might take to appear more feminine.

            The only question I asked is whether it is reasonable for her to be, in other words to feel, upset.

          • quanta413 says:

            I would suggest you pull your righteous anger back several notches.

            I will consider it, and it is normally my preference to not write in an angry tone. And my anger whether affected or real is definitely not righteous. But from my point of view, writing in a more emotional tone and expressing anger instead of trying to politely discuss object level points or meta-object level points has now gotten better results in terms of you actually engaging me in conversation. When I was polite in my first reply in this thread and at least one other time I can recall, you simply imply that I lack reading comprehension and should read what you wrote again. Obviously a very small sample size, but well… sometimes that’s all you have. EDIT: just to be totally clear, I wasn’t expecting to get what I viewed as a better response, it’s just more fun to write that way when piqued, and I’d sort of written you off a bit which was unfair. My apologies.

            I don’t know why you are attacking me for responding to other posters besides David.

            My mistake in my writing. I didn’t mean to attack you for responding to other people. I meant to express that I don’t like that before David even responds to your hypothetical you decide to insult him. You write something in response to David. Someone responds. David has not yet responded, and then you insult David.

            Yes, but David thinks their emotions are unreasonable.

            If I put David in the hypothetical, he can simply claim he wouldn’t feel any harm had been done. He will neatly sidestep the actual point of the hypothetical. He can’t do that if I simply posit that his daughter felt hurt and ask whether he would find that unreasonable.

            And so what? David was originally talking about manners, and even if he found that his hypothetical daughter’s feelings reasonable, it doesn’t matter to your point without adding more logical steps to the chain. Why is someone’s daughter feeling hurt reason for someone else to lie? Why is it right for someone to be called “she” if they want to but not “African-American”? I can give valid answers in either direction for these sorts of questions, and I would like to see yours.

            Here, I’ll give an argument (not the best, but I find the direction interesting in that the first bit of it I haven’t seen elsewhere before) for why its ok to be transgender but not “trans-racial”. Given who your parents were and that you were the nth child, there was a roughly 50% chance their nth child (you now not-you I suppose) could have been of the opposite sex. There was a 0% chance you could have been a different race. Furthermore, separation and inequality is not as strictly perpetuated down the generations of sex and gender because men and women must come together to reproduce whereas racial groups have often been totally excluded from a social sphere and could expect their children would be excluded and so on. Whereas even though women as a group were treated differently (almost always worse) and denied power, their sons were still of the same status as any man.

            Or I could rig hypotheticals for emotional purposes too and likely accomplish nothing. To be extreme, I could posit hypothetically that you had a friend who was a TERF that was deeply hurt by biological males claiming to be females + [horrifying details designed to reach my predestined conclusion], but hypotheticals like that are a pointless and rigged game.

            And there are, in fact, actual trans men and women reading these arguments. So let’s not think that my “pulling in David’s family” is adding much in the way of actual, real people to the conversation.

            And there are conservatives and there could be TERFS reading this argument. You might think there is no difference in an argument in personally dragging someone’s family into a hypothetical and discussing it where people who are affected by it can read it, but I beg to differ. It’s already hard enough to have reasonable conversations on contentious issues because of the emotional investments of the people writing. Hypotheticals involving family make it even harder because you drag things towards “even more personal”.

          • Well... says:

            @HBC:

            Why? Someone who is wearing a dress and makeup but is believed to be masculine/male seems exactly the scenario trans people are faced with all the time.

            Because it matters whether female-identifying people achieve their goal of appearing female to others in general—by wearing dresses and makeup or whatever else. If not, they should expect to be faced with skepticism about their claim to femaleness, and they should treat as a gracious compromise others’ willingness to avoid gendered language on their behalf.

            It is unreasonable for them to feel upset when someone has graciously met them halfway, but if all they’re doing is nursing internal hurt feelings with no outward manifestations of those feelings whatsoever then I suppose that’s their masochistic right.

            @quanta:

            From a few admittedly brief online exchanges with her, I gather that David Friedman’s daughter is mature enough to understand that the reference to her in this conversation was purely hypothetical and, as HBC admitted, introduced as an attempt to appeal to David Friedman’s emotions: literally a “How would you feel if it was your daughter” type argument, and a poorly executed one at that. Fine, those types of fallacious arguments are nothing new.

            But to me HBC’s use of this argument reveals that he must think David Friedman only disagrees with him because he lacks empathy. “If only you could be made to care about atypically-identifying people, you’d see my point”—as if HBC is coming from a position of emotional enlightenment, and anyone arguing against him is just a Grinchlike meanie. It’s a concession that he has lost the argument.

          • Skivverus says:

            I admit I’m sort of surprised that the other sort of trans hasn’t come up in this discussion at all – transvestites presumably may or may not also be transsexual, and it’s far from inconceivable that the two might be confused for one another.

          • Jiro says:

            Suppose I insisted on referring you as she/her (I’m tempted to actually do this experiment, but it might confuse people) and you politely asked me to use he/him (rather than trying to avoid pronouns completely). I don’t think it would be reasonable to take offence at that.

            I think there’s a difference based on why you are doing that. Are you misgendering the person by your own standards as well as by the other person’s standards? It is almost certain that if you call David “she”, you will be doing that.

          • Jiro says:

            Since David doesn’t put forward a position on whether or not trans people are the gender they claim to be, I’m interpreting her as saying it’s unreasonable to be offended by someone not using your preferred pronouns in general,

            You know, misgendering commentors can get you banned and there isn’t an exception for doing it because you want them to know how it feels. (Which in this case is also based on a poor analogy because you are misgendering David by your own standards as well as his.)

          • rlms says:

            @Jiro
            I was considering that possibility (or rather remembering that someone was banned for misgendering), but as David implied he wouldn’t be offended I can’t see it being a problem.

          • Deiseach says:

            as HBC admitted, introduced as an attempt to appeal to David Friedman’s emotions: literally a “How would you feel if it was your daughter” type argument

            Which is a terrible, terrible argument, of the “hard cases make bad law” type. What do you think all the objections that give rise to the “bathroom laws” are about? Haven’t you read the men and women going “I don’t want boys/men in the same bathroom as my daughter”? Haven’t you seen the story of the woman who said “My young daughter was very distressed when three obvious guys dressed up as women came into the bathroom we were in”?

            The American Civil Liberties Union’s state director in Georgia has resigned after her young daughters were “visibly frightened” and concerned for their safety when three men dressed in drag entered the women’s restroom with them.

            Maya Dillard Smith, whose resignation was first reported by Atlanta Progressive News, wrote: “I have shared my personal experience of having taken my elementary school age daughters into a women’s restroom when shortly after three transgender young adults, over six feet [tall] with deep voices, entered.

            “My children were visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which I, like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer,” she continued.

            Smith — who was one of just three African-American state directors in the ACLU and describes herself as “unapologetically black” — said that she could no longer work for the organization, which was been a staunch advocate of allowing men who self-identify as women to use whichever bathroom they please.

            You do not want to go the route of emotional appeals to family feeling if you want equal access for transgender people, because it’s already present in the debate and it’s very much vehemently against your side of the argument.

          • Jiro says:

            as David implied he wouldn’t be offended I can’t see it being a problem

            Again, distinguish between “you are misgendering him by his standards” and “you are misgendering him by your standards”. I can imagine being offended by one and not being offended by the other. I don’t think he implied it with sufficient detail for you to tell the difference.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If someone’s pronouns are he / her, and not an artificial pronoun like xe (I can discuss this situation if anyone wants), then yes it’s rude not to use them if asked, especially in interpersonal situations.

            Most of the situations I’ve seen is people pointing out that the transgender person has disrespected them and thus they feel free to throw respect to the wind, which also inherently acknowledges that there is an aspect of disrespect to misgendering.

    • Brad says:

      After lurking on the Discord server and witnessing some interesting conversations there the past few days, I’ve been thinking and writing lately about open-mindedness and its limits, specifically in the context of acknowledging other people’s claimed identities.

      When a person claims to have an atypical sort of identity (e.g. to be transgendered, plural, otherkin, etc.) and asks to be accepted as such, it requires us to give that person the benefit of the doubt, since identity is a phenomenon of the mind. This gets harder for us as the identity in question gets further from “normal.” For instance, most people can probably at least wrap their minds around how someone might feel too feminine to be a man despite having a man’s body, but it’s incredibly difficult to imagine that someone could legitimately have several distinct consciousnesses with their own names and personalities (outside of psychological disorders, and even there it’s controversial). Some identities, if accepted, would even require us to believe in the existence of mythological entities–for example someone who believes himself to be a mystical creature of some sort who happens to look human.

      And yet this is what being considered tolerant and respectful of others requires us to do. Is that good? Can society function if the baseline requirement for socialization is that everyone take everyone else at their word about who or what they are? Or is there a line somewhere where it’s OK to call BS?

      One thing that I haven’t seen addressed in the comment threads under this post is the virtue of reticence.

      The whole “identify as” thing in general seems to have blown way out of control in recent years. The most obvious are sexual and gender identities, but it goes way beyond that. People seem to feel that it is oppression if there is ever a circumstance where it isn’t appropriate to say exactly what’s they feel or believe. You can’t just happen to think that HBD is correct, instead it has to somehow be a part of your identity and if there’s a time or place where you can’t talk about it you are “in the closest” and that is a major imposition.

      I admit some of these things unavoidably need to come up early in any interaction. If you want me to use female pronouns and it isn’t obvious that I should, then you are going to have to let me know. But a lot of other things you can just keep to yourself. Not because you are ashamed or hiding but because most other people just don’t want or need to know.

      • Randy M says:

        One thing that I haven’t seen addressed in the comment threads under this post is the virtue of reticence.

        I don’t think you can be surprised people are hesitant to bring up the virtue of reticence. But in all seriousness, it would be a good strategy for either side. Don’t tell me you were born a man or that you believe sex deserves a unique linguistic tag.

    • Well... says:

      Spinoff question:

      Consider two hypothetical people, Bill and Roberta. Roberta was originally Robert. Bill is a straight cisgender guy.

      Roberta would like Bill (and everyone else) to empathize with her: to imagine what it must be like to realize you are not the same gender as the body you were born with, and to respect her wish to be regarded as fully female–name, pronouns, and all.

      Bill would like Roberta to empathize with him: to remember that when he and most everybody else look at Roberta they can’t help but see a man asking them to pretend they see a woman, and adjust all other mental references accordingly.

      Which of them is making the heavier/more challenging demand for empathy?

      • quanta413 says:

        Which of them is making the heavier/more challenging demand for empathy?

        My first answer is that if you are trying to be empathetic, you’ve basically lost when you ask these sorts of ranking questions.

        But intellectually, I think it’s harder to imagine an internal context that feels alien to most people than to imagine being forced to externally accept something alien. I think most people are sometimes forced to externally act in ways that are alien to their interior mental state. Just to be clear, unless it is your experience, I think it’s more challenging to imagine feeling like a “woman”/”man” in an obviously male/female body considering that no one can even inspect anyone but themselves for what it feels like internally to be a “woman” or a “man”.

        • Well... says:

          I think it’s harder to imagine an internal context that feels alien to most people than to imagine being forced to externally accept something alien.

          This is the essence of what I think I’ve realized about this topic, and why my conclusion is that atypically-identifying people ought to have more empathy for everyone else. In fact, it might be true in general of minority/majority dynamics.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think that may be somewhat true at least when the majority isn’t too utterly annihilating the minority or vice-versa forcing people to focus only on their own survival.

            But at first glance it seems like sort of a double-edged sword. I would think that the atypically-identifying people need a little more give or compromise from other people to get along but if they are too empathetic they might be bad at being selfish enough to get that.

            On the other hand, having a better understanding of human dynamics and empathy can work in your favor if you can do the very difficult work of bridging enough of the gap to your outgroup to affect their sense of empathy. I think that’s the part of nonviolent protest and resistance that people tend to view as almost holy in retrospect. But you’ve also got to stir people up and inconvenience them to get them to pay attention in the first place.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I’m not going to go through the whole subthread and track down who first introduced this, but:

      It really, really bothers me that “politeness” is uncritically being used in this subthread as obviously, inerrantly a good thing. Is it that hard to think of situations where norms of politeness might lead you astray? (Hint: how polite would it have been to point out to an antebellum plantation owner that it’s wrong to own slaves? How polite would it be to criticize the Führer at a 1941 Berlin dinner party?)

      Furthermore, “politeness” connotes behavior (usually verbal) that goes above and beyond what we can reasonably demand from one another. That is, being rude (a word which itself is a slam on rural poor people) is not something that we get the state to punish (except in the narrow case of being rude to a judge while he’s acting in his official capacity).

      When I teach my kids about politeness, I mention that much of it is lies you’re supposed to tell (if only by omission). I truly think that’s the case, and I’m dismayed to see such unreflective use of “politeness” in a rationalist(-adjacent) forum.

      • Jiro says:

        Slaveowners and Nazis are special cases because they are malicious to third parties, which is inherently impolite. If someone is impolite to a third party, it’s easier to justify being impolite to him. (Note that “malicious to” isn’t the same as “well-intentioned but harmful”.)

        And even then, it may be a good idea to require politeness when dealing with Nazis and slaveowners. Because lots of people think their enemies are as bad as Nazis and slaveowners. Creating a norm which says that you can be rude to Nazis and slaveowners means that everyone who thinks Trump supporters are Nazis gets to be rude to them as well.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Politeness is following rules made and maintained (and often enough, violated) by those of high status. When someone asserts that something that is “politeness” when there is not already general agreement on that (among the high-status people), they are asserting that they are higher status than you. How could it be otherwise? They’re literally inventing a standard and holding you to it.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Politeness is following rules made and maintained (and often enough, violated) by those of high status. When someone asserts that something that is “politeness” when there is not already general agreement on that (among the high-status people), they are asserting that they are higher status than you. How could it be otherwise? They’re literally inventing a standard and holding you to it.

          To address this: As I understand it, there’s differing standards of politeness among different classes and those are not necessarily determined by elite trickle-down. And of course things like “culture” influence this enormously.

          On top of that, what’s happening here is that people are including an act (misgendering) into an already existing category of impoliteness because they feel it meets the same standards and has the same characteristics. Even if you don’t think it deserves to be there, it’s not like they’ve taken a heretofore unremarked-upon act, let’s say whistling, and declared it verboten. Instead they’ve taken two rules of politeness: “If someone asks you politely to do X and it costs little to do X then it is rude not to do it”, and “You shouldn’t call people by genders they aren’t”. The counter-argument I see in this thread is that transgender people aren’t necessarily those genders, but – here’s the kicker – it costs little, personally, to pretend otherwise. (By the way, using the correct pronoun isn’t X – pretending about gender is. Didn’t see that coming, eh?) So there is a pretty strong argument that this is impolite and most people would agree; all that’s left is various types of slippery-slope consequentialism and while I like slippery-slope consequentialism and will undoubtedly employ it at many points in my life, I don’t see it working out in this context.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “If someone asks you politely to do X and it costs little to do X then it is rude not to do it”

            I don’t think this is actually a generally-agreed-on rule of politeness. Furthermore, even if it were, they’re claiming to know my cost function. If I claim it costs me very much to pretend about gender, they either pull the status card openly (“Who cares how much it hurts you cis white males? Helping trans- people is much more important”), or they go utility monster (“Any cost to you is dwarfed by the terrible injury trans- people go through by being misgendered”). In any of these cases, it’s all status games, even if disguised.

          • I don’t think this is actually a generally-agreed-on rule of politeness

            I think it is time your side of the argument put forward a theory of politeness.

            Any cost to you is dwarfed by the terrible injury trans- people go through by being misgendered”

            So there is a high cost to you , so you never pretend. What is life like when you engage in constant blunt truth-telling? Do you still have your teeth?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think it is time your side of the argument put forward a theory of politeness.

            Not my burden; I’m not the one trying to use politeness as a bludgeon to get my way.

            So there is a high cost to you , so you never pretend. What is life like when you engage in constant blunt truth-telling? Do you still have your teeth?

            Really, the argumentum ad baculum? Over the Internet?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I don’t think this is actually a generally-agreed-on rule of politeness. Furthermore, even if it were, they’re claiming to know my cost function.

            Stipulating that it is, in fact, a generally-agreed upon rule of politeness – I’d argue it is, you think it isn’t – then it’s true for anything in regards to this principle of politeness, and therefore it becomes subjective. If you can make a good case for your cost function invalidating the rule, then fine. But how many people can really do that?

            If I claim it costs me very much to pretend about gender, they either pull the status card openly (“Who cares how much it hurts you cis white males? Helping trans- people is much more important”),

            This is an extremely accurate representation of that mode of thought, but I don’t think it’s status, so much as something made holy by ideology.

            or they go utility monster (“Any cost to you is dwarfed by the terrible injury trans- people go through by being misgendered”). In any of these cases, it’s all status games, even if disguised.

            Well again it’s holy ideology and not status, but yes.

          • Holy ideology is a game all can play; “I am not going to do that because I respect The Truth!” (Like the good people, unlike the bad people).

      • AnonYEmous says:

        That is, being rude (a word which itself is a slam on rural poor people)

        i can’t really speak to etymology as such but rich people are often quite rude, as well as obnoxious, boorish, and so forth. and they are accurately described as such.

        It really, really bothers me that “politeness” is uncritically being used in this subthread as obviously, inerrantly a good thing.

        let us say rather that usually, it is. Jiro picks the rest of this apart quite well.

        a counter-argument to politeness being lies that you’re supposed to tell is that politeness is a way you should be so that you can exist as a good member of society and you should strive to be that way, so that you can still be honest while being polite

        • i can’t really speak to etymology as such but rich people are often quite rude, as well as obnoxious, boorish, and so forth. and they are accurately described as such.

          Not really, since boor means farmer. Many words for rude behaviour equate to “low status person”, eg vulgar, ie of the people.

          • Montfort says:

            What do you mean “not really”? Boorish does not (just) mean “peasant-like” – more typically it means “uncultured and rude.” If a word has two meanings and one is apt while the other is not, using it remains accurate.

            Besides which, the other two examples Anonyemous gives do not mean “low status person” – obnoxious simply means injurious or annoying, and rude sometimes means “wild” or “undeveloped” or “basic” but none of those are specifically about people.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Montfort:
            Words change meanings over time, but it’s pretty commonplace for a word that equates to someone you don’t wish to associate with (i.e. low status) to become an insult.

            Take the word “peasant” itself, which now exists almost exists exclusively as an insult, although it’s now out of favor.

            Frankly, it would surprising if “low-status” and “insult” didn’t have convergence.

          • Montfort says:

            Yes, obviously there is a relation, but it doesn’t make the words inapt for use describing rich people today, nor does it make a coherent response to anonyemous.

      • It really, really bothers me that “politeness” is uncritically being used in this subthread as obviously, inerrantly a good thing. Is it that hard to think of situations where norms of politeness might lead you astray

        I think that side of the argument only needs politeness to be mostly a good thing.

      • keranih says:

        If the thing which is being criticized is so very bad as to be universally seen as evil –

        – like, oh, selling mind-altering intoxicants to the despairing poor, or aborting live babies –

        – then what does it gain, to be impolite about one’s opposition? The thing will not become *less* evil because those opposed to it were moderate in their tone and words when opposing it.

        On the other hand, if the evil action were not so universally seen as evil – if, by chance, one was among people who worked for the National Socialists, or whose parents owned slaves – then being polite would deny those evil-condoners an easy way to dismiss one’s arguments in favor of righteousness.

        Strict forthrightness has its place. But a heart armored against blunt tactlessness can still be pierced by the thin blade of a polite dissent.

        • Aapje says:

          If it is truly universally seen as evil, there is no point to criticizing it on the level of good vs bad, because your premise is that everyone already considers it bad.

          If it is not actually universally considered bad, then you get to choose between being convincing vs suppression. What you favor (more) depends on how much you trust the level of rationality of the opposition, your own ability to convince and your belief in your own righteousness. I would argue that there is generally a cut off point. If a sufficiently large group favors something that you consider evil, it is unlikely that these are all highly irrational and or psychopathic people, so it ought to be possible to peel of a large part of that support by reason. Furthermore, if the group is large, that increases the likelihood that it is you who is wrong, so when you then choose suppression, it may be you who is actually evil/Stalin. Finally, the larger the group is with ideas that you consider evil, the less effective suppression is anyway.

          • keranih says:

            Yes, this.

            (Regarding wrongness and the strength of numbers, here I’m with Cap.

            I see the value in a mind open to debate, but conviction has a quality of its own.)

  11. Forlorn Hopes says:

    Anyone else read The Road to Somewhere by David Goodhart?

    I’m about half way though and for the most part I think it’s a good book for the background of Brexit/Trump based on the core idea that there’s two tribes in Britain and America. Somewheres who’s identity is based on their origin/community and Anywheres who’s identity is based on personal qualities and achievements. And that recent political upheavals are an Somewhere backlash against Anywhere over-dominance in culture and politics. (Somewhere and Anywhere do not map to Red/Blue).

    But sadly lacking depth on the cultural differences between Anywhere and Somewheres. It touches on lots of individual points of contention, but it never ties the individual issues into a broader cohesive worldview.

    Anyone else read it? What did you think?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I have not read it, but the thesis is interesting. It seems to capture the similarities between a “Somewheres” from, say, Allentown, PA and Greenville (in just about any state).

      I’ve talked about it as the Urbane/Rural divide, and I actually think it maps a lot closer to Red/Blue than you think.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        I’ve talked about it as the Urbane/Rural divide, and I actually think it maps a lot closer to Red/Blue than you think.

        I’m really not convinced. Trump was in many ways the least Red Republican candidate we’ve seen for a while; and he’s definitely not Rural by any standard. Yet he crushed more traditionally Red candidates in the primaries, and swung a load of lifelong democrats in the general election. Red Republican officials hated him almost as much as Hillary’s Blue base.

        What explanations fit this data?

        I think it’s a lot more plausible that Trump found an alternative to Red/Blue Rural/Urbane than that he managed to dance between Red/Blue while changing his colour like a chamalion and getting away with it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But Trump is distinctly not “urbane”.

          I think I have at times called it the urbane/not urbane split.

          And if you go back and look at the post where Scott coined Red Tribe and Blue Tribe, you will find that the Blue Tribe description does not fit, at all, the urban working class guy who gets his coffee at McDonalds and drinks Schaeffer beer by the case and used to be in the union before the jobs went away. Ralph Kramden, city bus driver, ain’t Blue Tribe.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            But Trump is distinctly not “urbane”.

            If you’re defining “urbane” as “close to Blue” (which was implied in your first post in this thread) then I cannot argue with that.

            Trump is nothing like Scott’s definition of Blues.

            And if you go back and look at the post where Scott coined Red Tribe and Blue Tribe, you will find that the Blue Tribe description does not fit, at all, the urban working class guy who gets his coffee at McDonalds and drinks Schaeffer beer by the case and used to be in the union before the jobs went away. Ralph Kramden, city bus driver, ain’t Blue Tribe.

            Note though that I didn’t refer to urban working class Blues in my post, for precisely this reason.

            The point I was making is that the traditional divisions failed with Trump. While Ralph might not be Blue, he’s also not the same Tribe as Hank Hill from Texas. Normally Ralph’s Tribe and Hank’s tribe vote differently. However Trump managed to find common ground shared by both tribes and plant his flag there.

            In doing so he made enemies of both the Blue Tribe and most of the Republican party’s establishment; suggesting there’s a second set of common ground that Trump’s platform opposed. I think it’s worth identifying those grounds.

            I think I have at times called it the urbane/not urbane split.

            Again, assuming you’re describing urbane as “close to blue”. I’m still not convinced.

            Urbane/not urbane would paint a lot of the Republican establishment as Blue; I can’t square republican policies on reproductive issues with the definition of Blues.

            I do accept that they were closer to Blues than to Trump. But in that case it’s still worth identifying their common ground. Which I guess would would mean defining the difference between Urbane and Blue?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not exactly sure why you aren’t assuming I’m using the actual definition and connotation of urbane.

            For example, the list of synonyms given by google is:
            suave, sophisticated, debonair, worldly, cultivated, cultured, civilized, cosmopolitan;

            I’m probably putting emphasis on worldly, cultivated, civilized and cosmopolitan.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It occurs to me that this a good illustration of Scott’s point that tribe != party. There are Red Tribe Democrats (the old trade union types), and there are Blue Tribe Republicans (Harvard educated lawyers and doctors etc…). Trump is probably the least “republican” man to be the Republican party’s nominee in living memory, but he is one of the “reddest” in the sense that his style and sensibility is much closer to that of a NYC construction worker than our ordinary politicians.

        • Spookykou says:

          Rural, Somewhere as you have described them, and Red Tribe all have a lot of overlap as I would think of them. Your definition of Red seems to be very ‘Republican’ where as I don’t think main stream Republicans(actual party members, not voters) are very Red. Don’t most Republicans have college degrees and live in cities?

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Rural, Somewhere as you have described them, and Red Tribe all have a lot of overlap as I would think of them.

            No argument here. There is definitely overlap.

            However I’d argue that there’s plenty of overlap between somewhere and urban (not urbane) too. Ralph Kramden would be a Somehwere.

            There’s also overlap between Labour, Gentry, and Elite from Staying Classy, but again it’s not a perfect overlap.

            Most Gentry would be Anywhere, but a Britebart journalist with nationalist values would be a Somewhere. So would a lot of Orthodox Jews.

            Don’t most Republicans have college degrees and live in cities?

            I’m not sure about most, but the evangelical vote is an important block in the republican primaries. And even if the college educated urban Republican party members aren’t Red; the fact they’re not conspicuously angry at their party’s anti-abortion policies suggests they’re not Blue either.

    • sohois says:

      I’ve not read it, but there were some lengthy excerpts in the Sunday Times, plus an interview so I’d say I have some grasp of the core thesis.

      Can’t say I’m a fan. Seems like just another book saying “You know that complicated, multi-factorial event that people struggle to understand? Actually it’s all due to thing!”

      I’m not even suggesting that the anywhere/somewhere idea is even completely wrong, it might be able to explain some part of the political situation. But the obsession these types of writers have with the big idea explaining everything just puts me off from the start.

  12. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Discussion in [this reddit thread](https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/comments/62eefp/girlfriend_applied_for_a_job_within_24_hours_they/) made me much more aware of how bizarre checks are.

    • Wrong Species says:

      FYI, links don’t work like they do in reddit. You can always just use the “link” button down below.

      [a href=”https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/comments/62eefp/girlfriend_applied_for_a_job_within_24_hours_they/”>link text[/a]

      Do it like that but replace the “[” and “]” with “”.

  13. hlynkacg says:

    To anyone who’s interested…

    After a year of landing their rockets on barges SpaceX is about to attempt the first ever re-launch of an orbital rocket.

    You can watch the launch live here. and follow the technical webcast/mission control comms here.

    Edit: We’re at T – 2 minutes. Transitioning to internal power, start up sequence initiated

    Edit: Liftoff!

    Edit: Max Q, Stage 1 Seperation, Looking good.

    Edit: First stage reentry burn in progress. Second stage on track.

    Edit: First stage has landed safely! Fly that puppy again!

    Final edit: second stage has reached orbit, waiting on transfer window to GTO. Congrats to SpaceX on a successful launch and historic milestone.

    • dodrian says:

      I think the booster that was reused and landed again is to be retired and will become a permanent display piece outside SpaceX HQ. After all, it’s the first properly reusable rocket stage and quite the bit of history!

    • Randy M says:

      That’s cool. What’s usually done with spent rockets? Recycle? Museum? Junkyard? Drop into the Ocean?

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Drop into the ocean from the top of their ballistic arc. Outside of SpaceX (and the now-retired Shuttle), nobody has been able to land an orbital rocket.

        The reused first stage is said to be about 70% of the total cost of the rocket, btw.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Drop them in the ocean, or allow them to burn up on reentry because heat-shields are heavy and expensive.

      • John Schilling says:

        What a used first stage typically looks like, on the rare occasion when it is worth fishing out of the ocean. As sandor and hlynkacg have noted, landing first stages is hard. Even for SpaceX, the only people who can presently do it at all, recovering the first stage costs them anywhere from 15% to 50% of their payload capacity, depending on what orbit they are going to and whether they land on a barge at sea or fly all the way back to the launch site.

  14. Rock Lobster says:

    I may be a little late to the party for this thread, but I was wondering if I could hit you all up for recommendations on:

    1. Plato translations. I don’t mind Jowett if that’s basically good enough for a casual reader. There’s also a complete edition edited by Hutchison and Cooper. I’m open to suggestions though.

    2. A single-volume history of the Spanish Civil War. Beevor amd Preston seem to be the most popular.

    • Polycarp says:

      I recommend Tom Griffith’s translations of Plato. Those whose Greek is far better than mine tell me that he is a master of capturing the conversational feel of the dialogues while at the same time staying true to the text. I have read several translations of the Republic; his is by far my favorite.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I don’t know Greek, but I use the Cooper edition when I teach Plato and I think it’s great.

  15. Mark says:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/03/guys-its-time-for-some-troll-theory/521046/

    So, I guess trolling now means “online abuse”?

    I don’t think I’ve ever been abused online, and I wonder what other people’s experience of this is.

    Is it something largely experienced by women in the public? On twitter?

    (Actually, thinking about it, I’ve been abused when commenting on feminist websites before, to the extent that I thought, ‘these people are scary, I hope they can’t track me down’, but I’d more or less forgotten about that since it’s so easy to avoid.)

    With the more traditional definition of trolling – I guess it just doesn’t bother me all that much. I’ve read things that irritate or disgust me, but I don’t feel especially upset. Seeing a dog turd on my (irl) street is far more of a problem for me than somebody advocating for holocaust denial, or something. Just not that bothered.

    The very worst online experience I’ve had is being trolled while gaming. That can be super infuriating, but I don’t think it’s the kind of thing most people are talking about.

    • Corey says:

      So, I guess trolling now means “online abuse”?

      The alternative would be that the people doing the abusing are sincere, and nobody wants to believe that.

      If you don’t want to look to women for examples, look for any Matt Yglesias tweet mentioning economic anxiety. It’ll be quoting a tweet or email to him that’s explicitly anti-Semitic and/or wishes for his death.

      Twitter’s a haven of harassment by nature; the short messages mean context and nuance are impossible so outrage gets amplified, and the anyone-can-talk-to-anyone feature means it’s easy to organize pile-ons.

      • Mark says:

        I don’t get the sense that they are saying that people abusing others are trolls (in the classical sense of a troll) it’s more that the definition of “troll” has shifted to mean, basically, deeply unpleasant behaviour on the internet.

        I think this started a few years ago with extreme trolls, who would do things like abuse bereaved families for fun – which was still somewhat related to the classical troll, but that’s now evolved into anyone who is bad and says bad things?

        Yeah, so I guess that somewhat public figures are the normal target of this kind of violent abuse? Also, I’ve never used twitter, so maybe that’s part of the reason why I’ve managed to avoid this kind of thing.

        • I think popular parlance has basically subsumed the term “flame” into “troll”. It used to be that when people said something in order to annoy or harass somebody else, you called it “flaming” if they believed in the literal content of what they said and you called it “trolling” if they didn’t. Now both types of actions are referred to as “trolling”. Maybe this is because “trolling” in the old sense implies a deliberate attempt to harass for the sake of it, whereas “flaming” could just be a “I regret that I have to say you’re an asshole, but you’re an asshole” kind of thing. So “trolling” more clearly connotes wickedness of the perpetrator and innocence of the victim.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It’s kind of how people who did creative things with computers called themselves “hackers” and that got used to cover people who did creatively malicious things, and then just malicious things. I always sort of rolled my eyes when people would complain about the misuse of the word “hacker”, but as a proud troll I guess I understand where they were coming from now.

  16. skef says:

    Today I am wondering if I have actually never received a “reminder” of ostensibly amusing but non-existent mailing lists I (don’t) subscribe to, or if I’ve just never noticed receiving one.