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OT75: The Comment King

This is the bi-weekly visible 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. My serial novel Unsong will be finished next week. I’ll be doing a reading of the final chapter in Berkeley on Sunday, May 14, details at the bottom of Chapter 71, RSVP at the link mentioned there if you’re interested. There are other events planned in NYC, Tel Aviv, and Boston.

2. I’ll be visiting California starting next week. I still need to figure out exactly where and when I’ll have time for meetups, so watch for a post about that if you’re interested. Provisionally I’ll be going to the SSC Berkeley Meetup on Tuesday, May 16th at 7PM at the 7th floor of 2030 Addison St.

3. On a related note, I’ll be at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in San Diego later this month. In particular, I’ll be presenting a version of this analysis on Sunday May 21 starting 10 AM at the resident poster session, so if you’re at the conference come say hi. I don’t know how many readers are going to the APA, but if enough people are interested we can try to figure out a way to meet over dinner one night or something.

4. In a previous post, I described FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) as related to conservatives fighting liberal dominance of academia. FIRE has asked me to correct the record and specify that they are a politically neutral organization fighting for everyone’s rights within academia. I regret the error.

5. In case the subreddit and Discord aren’t enough for you, there is now an old-school online bulletin board for the rationalist community.

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867 Responses to OT75: The Comment King

  1. Amy says:

    About the link and the poem generated by the RNN:

    “Existence enters your entire nation.
    A twisted mind reveals becoming manic,
    An endless modern ending medication,
    Another rotten soul becomes dynamic.
    Or under pressure on genetic tests.
    Surrounded by controlling my depression,
    And only human torture never rests,
    Or maybe you expect an easy lesson.
    Or something from the cancer heart disease,
    And I consider you a friend of mine.
    Without a little sign of judgement please,
    Deliver me across the borderline.
    An altered state of manic episodes,
    A journey through the long and winding roads.”

    The line “Or maybe you expect an easy lesson.” really struck me as a product of intelligence. The implications of it, as in “Does this seem too complicated? You shouldn’t have expected it to be simple.” I googled it and there was no source I could find that it could have copied it from. What do you think? Is this just a random coincidence, or does the RNN really have some understanding of the meaning?

    • Iain says:

      Just a random coincidence, although the researchers deserve credit for their work to increase the odds of getting something that seemed deep.

      All the RNN knows how to do is evaluate how much a given sentence resembles the corpus it was trained on, which in this case was the lyrics to 94,882 songs. It’s just a two-layer recurrent network, which is nothing to write home about. It’s been trained to mimic profundity, but there’s no real understanding there.

    • rlms says:

      TIACBWYRGMLOPSOTWIBG (this is a coincidence because when you randomly generate many lines of poetry some of them will inevitably be good).

  2. hyperboloid says:

    Here is a survey question question that I don’t think Scott has ever bothered to ask: how many SSC commenters suffer from health problems, either chronic conditions or permanent disabilities, that limit their options for real world non-internet based social interactions?

    Basically what is SSC’s “shut-in factor”? It doesn’t have to be something that makes employment impossible, it just needs to be severe enough that it makes it easer to socialize on the Internet rather than off, and can include mental health issues like depression, agoraphobia, OCD, ext.

    I for instance have MS. Anybody else?

  3. Kevin C. says:

    Does anyone here know of any fictional works, produced in the last decade or two, featuring a rebellion as a major plot or setting element, where the rebel side aren’t the heroes?

    • LHN says:

      Lois McMaster Bujold’s Komarr (1999) features an underground resisting the empire that conquered their planet a generation earlier. The protagonist is the Emperor’s representative and Voice, the rebels are the antagonists. (The rebels’ perspective is acknowledged, but the empire’s strategic needs take precedence.)

      • John Schilling says:

        Bujold is so consistently good at writing from the “We have an Empire with a hereditary monarchy here, and we are going to make it work because it can work and the consequences of failure are unthinkable” perspective, that it’s hard to remember she isn’t really a Death Eater.

        • LHN says:

          It’s likewise striking that Beta Colony is the place with democracy, human rights, the highest tech, and a foreign policy that seems to have a genuine moral component to it, and it generally doesn’t come across as very likeable.

          (And not just when they’re threatening a protagonist with a potentially disastrous psychiatric commitment, for entirely understandable reasons.)

    • Sivaas says:

      The Expanse series. There are times where the rebellion has a point, but also times it doesn’t, and the overwhelming message seems to be “well, it’s complicated”

      The protagonists are pretty explicitly not allied with the rebels.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Although it’s (rotted for really big spoilers that shouldn’t be read unless you’re either up to date on the series or never planning to read or watch it:) irel fgenatr gur jnl gung nzovthvgl pbagvahrq guebhtu gur zbfg erprag obbx. Gur zbzrag gurl qebccrq gung ebpx ba Rnegu V ybfg nyy cngvrapr jvgu gur Orygre pnhfr. Znepbf xvyyrq ovyyvbaf bs crbcyr, arneyl xvyyrq na ragver ovbfcurer (juvpu, nf Pvobyn Ohea rfgnoyvfurq, vf gur bayl ovbfcurer jurer crbcyr pna yvir fnsryl jvgubhg nal srnef bs fgenatr sngny qvfrnfrf fhqqrayl nccrnevat), naq lrg unys gur Oryg jnf fgvyy jvyyvat gb fhccbeg uvz? Gung qhqr vf cerggl zhpu yvgrenyyl n gubhfnaq gvzrf jbefr guna Uvgyre! Naq lrg, gur nhgube nyfb frrzf gb fgnl va n “guvf vf pbzcyvpngrq” senzvat.

        • LHN says:

          Yeah, I took a break from the series after that. It’s possible I’ll go back to it, but that wasn’t really the story I was hoping to read based on the earlier books.

        • Incurian says:

          I think it’s important to note that “series” here doesn’t mean tv series, and this is a spoiler for the tv series (unless I missed something big).

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I had the same reaction, Herbert.

    • lvlln says:

      The indie roguelike game FTL: Faster Than Light has you playing as a spaceship of the Galactic Federation delivering information that could crush the rebellion while the rebels are hot on your pursuit. The game itself doesn’t really say much on which side is the good or the bad guy, but the “heroes” are ostensibly your player character, which is with the Federation, with the goal of crushing the rebellion.

      What’s interesting to me is that the game could’ve been made pretty much the exact same way with the roles reversed, just with a few lines switched around here and there. It almost seems to me that the dev decided to take the “rebel hero” cliche and turn it around just for the hell of it.

      • LHN says:

        Speaking of the Federation: the Maquis on Star Trek were of the “they have some legit grievances, but at the end of the day they’re terrorists and we’re shutting them down” brand of rebel, and the protagonists of TNG and (especially) DS9 proceeded to do so.

        (Voyager took place far away and had a half Maquis crew, but as far as I know the issue was dropped pretty quickly.)

        • cassander says:

          The maquis were introduced into the DS9 plot as a way build up to voyager. I can’t prove it, but I’ll bet that if you searched all the scripts, the word “maquis” would come up in DS9 more often than it does in Voyager. If you take out the innocuous references, definitely so.

      • Murphy says:

        That was my own first thought as well.

        Another game example would probably be skyrim.

        Sure, the empire is shown to have problems but if you side with the rebel stormcloaks you pretty quickly realize you’ve allied yourself with nazis.

        • Nornagest says:

          Nord nationalists, certainly, but if anything’s a Nazi analogue in that game it’s the Thalmor, who you end up fighting no matter which side you pick (or even if you don’t pick a side).

          Skyrim’s pretty nuanced, I’d say. The Empire’s a lighter shade of gray if anything is, but the Stormcloaks are definitely painted as having a point.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I kind of the thought it was more “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink”.

            Sort of like the end of Fallout 4, where you are going to be forced to do something fairly awful.

    • Incurian says:

      Harry Potter, perhaps.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      The Sons of the Harpy in ASoIaF, perhaps? Although they may be a different but related trope where the supporters of the previous rulers intend to displace the hero’s faction after the latter take power.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Ahh, but everyone knows that reactionary, counterrevolutionary elements are bad, AG 😉

        • LHN says:

          Except in the later Harry Potter books, where that’s what Harry, the Order of the Phoenix, and the DA pretty much are, trying to overthrow the revolutionary government and restore the former regime.

          • Nornagest says:

            I wonder if this is a British/American cultural difference. For all that most of the plot translates pretty well, there’s still some very British stuff in Harry Potter‘s worldview; stands to reason that the emotional valence of rebellion might be one of those things.

          • LHN says:

            I did find it interesting the gyrations The Force Awakens went through to make the new heroes part of a small, underpowered Resistance, even though they’re nominally backed by (and recruiting leadership from) the established government of the galaxy.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Never mind UK/US; Rowling is a committed Unionist and has compared (some) ScotNats to Death Eaters…

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            >overthrow the revolutionary government

            Voldyparts’ government isn’t your standard “revolutionary” (in the sense of 1789 France, 1918 Germany, or even the American one), it was rather the government from a conspiracy theory mythology: the Scrimgeour’s ministry fell to an act of conspiracy and assassination (kept secret from the public), and afterwards the official government bureaucracy was controlled by the shadowy cabal of terrorists (with masks and black robes and tattoos! and giant snake!), who installed their own mind-controlled puppet as a minister. De jure nothing changed about the structure of the government.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Maybe Hunger Games, maybe.

      • K.M. says:

        My first thought as well, though I don’t think Suzanne Collins completely intended that.

        Speaking of YA series, the Bartimaeus Sequence involved a rebel group that was more explicitly a mixed bag of genuine heroes and shoddy opportunists (I believe. I haven’t reread it in a long time). The main protagonist, while often portrayed unsympathetically, was a member of the government, and the series culminated with more reform than revolution.

        If we’re doing videogame examples, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn had you play portions of the game as the Resistance: citizens of country that was an enemy in the previous game (Path of Radiance), rebelling against an occupying country that was an ally in the previous game. They weren’t the “bad guys,” but the game made a point of giving nuance to both sides, and had you control both armies (sometimes against the other) at different points in the game.

        • The Nybbler says:

          My first thought as well, though I don’t think Suzanne Collins completely intended that.

          The leader of the rebellion was named Coin; I assume the reference was “the other side of the…”. The rebels prosecuted their rebellion with as much regard to morality and what we’d call war crimes as the the Capitol did (that is, none at all). When the rebels won, the first thing Coin wanted to do was have another Hunger Games, this time with Capitol children.

          On the other hand, the Capitol was pretty terrible, and it’s implied that the regime which arises after the events at the end of the book is in fact much better than the Capitol regime.

    • Chalid says:

      Malazan Book of the Fallen. Book 2 in particular is about an imperial army trying to get imperial citizens/refugees to safety during a massive rebellion. The Empire isn’t exactly the “good guys” but the rebels are very definitely “bad guys.”

      Not as well-known, but I just read Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay series (recommended! think steampunk Firefly) where the popular rebellion against the nobility is also very bad.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      -Komarr, as noted.

      -David Weber plays the rebel and revolution trope multiple ways in his Honorverse novels, with successive waves of both fairly horrible and fairly noble revolutionaries taking control of a “People’s Republic” over the course of a drawn-out war with a constitutional monarchy.

      -The Expanse books to some extent, though this is handled with more nuance and they’re depicted as very much having a -point-, even if they go too far in pursuing it.

      I’m sure there are others.

    • Nornagest says:

      Maybe the Maquis of Star Trek: The Next Generation and later series? They don’t have the prominence of, say, the Klingons, but there are some plotlines focused on them.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Ehhh, they’re treated even more sympathetically than the OPA/Belters in The Expanse, I’d say.

        • LHN says:

          They’re given some sympathy, but at the end of the day Sisko is willing to poison a planet’s biosphere to force them to surrender, and he’s still the hero. (A somewhat compromised hero, as in “In the Pale Moonlight”, but a hero nonetheless.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      The Star Wars prequels.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        Like in Harry Potter, the Sith conspiracy of not rebellion or revolution: the prequel trilogy culminates at the head of government having the senate approve his new dictatorial powers.

        Or are talking abut the Confederacy of Independent Systems? That might be your example, but the problem of the prequel trilogy writing is that I actually forgot for a moment that they were supposed to be rebels and had to look them up from Wookiepedia.

    • Eltargrim says:

      The video game Bioshock Infinite. The rebels might not be the bad guys, but they’re not the heroes. They’re delightfully human, with all the ugliness that entails.

    • cactus head says:

      I’d place Twig by Wildbow as this. One reason I find the story fascinating is that the in-story Overton window (setting is a 1920s alternate history where the British Crown ruled far more successfully) has almost no overlap with the Overton window of Western civilisation in the current year. The story is still in progress but will be wrapping up soon.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      So, to narrow it down and make it more interesting:

      How many examples can we come up with where non-reactionary and/or nationalist rebels aren’t the heroes?

      That is, ones where the rebels’ goals are democratic/anti-authoritarian, but they are the villains?

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        The Weberverse might qualify. The Committee of Public Safety does some pretty hardcore Soviet-style stuff, but it’s often implied that President Pierre ultimately truly does want to reform Haven and remake it into the beacon of democracy and civilization it once was. The books with him as the main antagonist really give a sense of “riding the tiger.”

        That said, in practice the Committee is not democratic at all, so I’m not really committed to this example.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Maybe, but only barely. After all, I think it’s fair to say that Victor Cachat and Eloise Pritchart and so on are considered to be every bit as heroic as Honor and Mike Henke.

        I can only think of one clear cut example myself, and it’s from a series that’s I think of as “Alt-Right Revenge Porn”. Although even there, the author makes a point of pointing out that the people cloaking themselves in the rhetoric of “restoring democracy” actually intend to reinstall a corrupt oligarchical elite who are simply more biddable and amenable to selling their country out to the evil cosmopolitan/universal culture progressives who are the real villains of the piece (see above about “Alt-Right Revenge Porn”).

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        From a far enough leftist point of view, every fictional story involving communists or anarchists as villains. Or not you don’t even need to go “fictional”, I think Orwell’s opinion of every right-ist account of Spanish civil war could be summarized thus: democratic rebels being portrayed as villains who lose at the end. (Well, there is a problem that the Republican Spain was the legitimate republican government, but for all intents and purposes they were the rebels…)

        But speaking of fiction.

        Does Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday count? Except, of course, Chesterton does not portray anarchists as democrats (it looks like that he is dealing with quite stereotypical anarchists rather than the philosophically serious ones, which is a shame for a “metaphysical thriller”.)

        If you are sympathetic to the Jacobins, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities?

        According to an obscure Russian fanfic version of LoTR I’ve seen referenced on the internet, Sauron’s government.

        Vetinari’s Ankh-Morpork in Pratchett’s Discworld cycle might qualify. Vetinari is, after all, the tyrant. There are no democratic rebels per se, because nobody is not that impressed by the democracy in the setting, but in one book there were some antagonist rebels that tried to install the Rightful King?

        And ooh, the universe of Girl Genius. But it seems to be rather the case that there is no true democratic rebels, all rebellions that Baron Wulfebach (a Vetinari-like figure as a “good tyrant”) keeps crushing is smoke and mirrors and/or product of ambitions of some local aspiring evil/mad/mad and evil scientist.

        • Sivaas says:

          Note that while I can’t think of any examples of good-guy rebels against Vetinari, the Discworld series does have good-guy overthrow-the-government rebels, both in the Les Mis parody in Night Watch and in Stoneface Vimes. They tend to be less idealists and more “well, this is what we have to do to get things back to normal”

          And as far as I know, none of the rebels against Vetinari were trying to install a democracy. The four movements I can think of (Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, The Truth) were all trying to install a less democratic government: two “basically the same, but run by men in smoke-filled rooms”, one who was trying to reinstall a monarchy with his puppet as the monarch, and one who just thought monarchy would solve some things, but with no personal designs on the reins of power. And none of them were “by the people”, it was always a few men that were either generally powerful or just had a specific trick up their sleeve.

      • keranih says:

        The short story “Traitor” by R.M.Meluch (from the collection “Women at War” edited by LMB.)

        Also I think the Company novels by Glenn Cook count. And so do the Metzadia works by Joel Rosenberg. And thinking about it, a rather interesting number of works from the There Will Be War series were…emm…rather autocratic in the pov of their protagonists.

        • LHN says:

          And of course Jerry Pournelle’s reenactment of the Nika riots in the Falkenberg series (for that matter most of Pournelle, I’m pretty sure), though that falls outside the original twenty year window.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Stross’s _Iron Sunrise_

  4. b9qtsr says:

    I work in the tech sector in Boston – immigration reform and H1B abuse have been frequent topics of workplace debate lately. I chanced upon this op-ed in Fortune.

    Those critics point out that the Infosyses tend to pay below-average wages. But so do U.S. firms. The wage rules for H-1B and green card sponsorship are broken down into Levels I, I, III and IV, with Level III being the median. For software developers, the most common type of foreign tech worker, the green card data show the following percentages of foreign workers at Levels I or II making below-median wages: Amazon 91%; Facebook 91%; and Google 96%. These firms, putatively in the vanguard of advanced technology and certainly in the vanguard in Capitol Hill lobbying regarding H-1B, are paying almost all of the foreign workers wages below the median for the given region.

    Reasonable point overall – but the ridiculously high percentage below-median-salary numbers jumped out at me (I used to be employed at one of the three companies). Digging deeper, his source for this 90%+ claim (which he repeats often in his blog) is the Online Wage directory which confirms that Level 3 is the mean (but not the median) salary.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You can get data on the salaries at http://h1bdata.info/

      Comparing the big tech companies and the offshoring consultants reveals a very big difference. For instance Google hires a bunch of H-1Bs at right around $95,000 $100,000 base — this is below mean, but this shouldn’t be surprising as these are new grads. The consulting companies have a lot at $60,000. And Google (and the other tech companies) have significant additional bonus and equity compensation.

      These levels seem to be too coarse-grained to show the difference.

  5. Paul Brinkley says:

    Comey’s fired. Must admit, I did not see that coming. I thought he defended his actions wrt the Clinton emails well, based on what I caught of his testimony on CSPAN, but there could easily have been something I missed.

    So what else is going on here?

    • gricky says:

      I actually think Comey seems like an honorable man who is more astute than I am and if I had been put in his position, I’d have made 10,000,000 far worse mistakes and the only reason it’d be that few is because I’d be fired in the first week.

      Having said that, Comey was likely to get fired. His handling of the Clinton classified info investigation was manifestly NOT consistent with the rule of law, and, not the way law enforcement should handle ANYTHING. On July 5 last year, he held a press conference(!) to announce that the target of his investigation broke the law a whole bunch of times, but, he was going to stop the investigation anyway because (it is implied) he knew the AG wouldn’t do anything about it. Sure, he was probably right the AG wouldn’t do anything, but, that’s the AG’s freaking problem! And that is NOT a valid reason to close an investigation. I suppose he thought he was balancing it out by giving a bizarre speech that amounted to a very effective attack on Clinton, but, that’s sure as hell also not the FBI director’s job.

      In short, the FBI director should neither be closing meritful investigations because of what he expects the AG to do, nor should he then hold press conferences to criticize subjects of investigations to “compensate” for closing the investigations.

      I think Comey was trying to thread the needle, which is of course not what “rule of law” is about and it’s also why many opinion makers on the left were constnatly calling for Obama to fire him, literally right up through January. The right was also correctly pissed at him because, basically, politics isn’t a valid reason to close an investigation. And last week he stepped in it again with the media, getting them very upset at him over his representations about exactly how many times Huma Abedin broke the law. The same upset media that’s now very upset he got fired over the same issue they were extremely upset at him about. Funny how that works.

      Comey seems like a good guy who likely would have also gotten destroyed if he did the “right” thing, but, it’s more important to me that he didn’t do the “right” thing here.

      Personally I’d be thrilled if we end up with independent prosecutors investigating Trump-Russia. I don’t expect that to happen, and I also doubt someone preferable to Comey will be appointed to succeed him – although maybe someone more politically savvy will follow. But I read carefully when I see these media personalities who were screeching about how bad Comey is, and are now screeching about him being fired. This can only be redeemed if Trump in fact turns out to be a Russian agent, which is not a theory that’s panning out too well in my view.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        I don’t think it’s a good thing that law enforcement is so heavily politicized in the US, but I don’t agree that it is appropriate for law enforcement continue to investigate once it becomes obvious that the putative offence was not serious enough to warrant prosecution. (Mens rea, and all that.)

        It is however unfortunate that this reasoning all too often only seems to apply to well-connected or wealthy people.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Mens rea

          The particular laws Hillary was likely to have broken did not have a mens rea component. They were strict liability. You just have to mishandle classified documents to be guilty of mishandling classified documents, you do not have to do so “knowingly” or “willfully.”

          That said, the press conference was ridiculous. You’re not supposed to do that. If you’re investigating Steve for beating his wife, and it turns out you can’t prove Steve beat his wife, you don’t hold a press conference to announce to the world that “Yeah Steve totally did lots of things that maybe included beating his wife but we’re not going to charge possible wife-beater Steve with wife beating.” That unnecessarily damaging to Steve’s character.

          • Brad says:

            What section of the code do you think creates a strict liability crime?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            18 USC 1924:

            (1) Whoever, being an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States, and, (2) by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, (3) knowingly removes such documents or materials (4) without authority and (5) with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location [shall be guilty of this offense].

            I walk back the “knowingly” part, but yeah all you have to do is move the classified material to an unauthorized location.

            It’s up to a jury to decide if someone did that or not, though, but on the face of it I don’t see how one can say she definitely didn’t do the actions as prohibited by the law.

            If you jaywalk, a cop sees you and says “don’t do that, but I’m not going to ticket you” that doesn’t mean you’re innocent of jaywalking. You totally jaywalked. The cop just chose not to punish you for it.

          • Brad says:

            I see a knowingly provision and an intent provision. Both constitute mens rea elements. Strict liability crimes are very rare and as a matter of statutory construction have to be made fairly clear — courts will interpret any ambiguity against strict liability.

          • gbdub says:

            There is knowingly/intent, but that’s a fairly weak defense in this case – it excuses from criminal liability for accidentally transmitting classified, or for transmitting information you didn’t know was classified.

            But it doesn’t require “mens rea” in the sense of requiring the actor intended to do something nefarious with the data.

            For Hillary/Huma to not be liable under that statute, they’d either have to think their private bathroom server and Tony’s laptop were approved for classified, or not known that the classified data was classified. But that would take a pretty high level of willful ignorance. I think you’re in one of those “either you ignored the law, or you’re really stupid” situations.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            I’d have to look at the case law, if any, to see how those provisions have been interpreted in the past. I have a niggling memory in the back of my head that I did once before but I don’t remember what conclusions I came to. Frankly, I don’t have an interest in relitigating the whole question.

            Conrad Honcho’s “They were strict liability” caught my eye because, as I said, very few crimes are strict liability. We’ve cleared that up, and I’m satisfied to leave it there.

      • cassander says:

        The right thing to do would be to announce 6 months ago that he would resign regardless of who won in order to maintain the appearance of impartiality. He chose instead to cling to power and influence for reasons we can’t know, but few of which recommend him.

        As for the idea of trump-russia investigations, what, exactly, do you think you’re going to find? That trump is some sort of manchurian candidate? This is just benghazi from the left/anti-trump right.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I have a hunch that Trump did not fire Comey for his handling of Clinton’s emails. Just a hunch.

    • BBA says:

      How do we go about placing friendly wagers? Because after reading all the bloviating of “obviously this is about Russia! Saturday Night Massacre! Watergate 2.0!” I’m ready to lay very generous odds that if Donald Trump is still alive at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2021, he will still be President.

      Just so you know I’m not talking my book, this is a bet I’d be extremely happy to lose.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I’m not going to bet on it but what kinds of odds would you put on that offer?

        • BBA says:

          My initial instinct was 5-to-1. I haven’t been calibrating my belief system properly, though, so I assume this is waaaay off in one direction or the other, but I don’t know which.

    • cassander says:

      It was inevitable, regardless of who won. There was nothing he could do that wouldn’t leave almost everyone not trusting him. Comey should have insisted that he would resign regardless of who won 6 months ago.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        yeah

        my perspective is that everyone kind of agreed that Comey screwed up, albeit in opposite ways (he was too hard / too soft on Clinton, basically)

        Personally I held one of these views (no prizes for guessing which) so I’m fine with it. Honestly, he screwed up big-time; why keep him?

        as for Trump x Russia, the scandal, it doesn’t seem like anything really matters anymore one way or another. Maybe an independent prosecution that vindicated him would, but I worry that it gets infiltrated or corrupted somehow and ends up screwing everything up even further. Guess we’ll see what happens next.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          my perspective is that everyone kind of agreed that Comey screwed up, albeit in opposite ways (he was too hard / too soft on Clinton, basically)

          I think it was both. She should have been put before a grand jury because when there’s enough evidence to indict you need to let a jury decide whether or not to let it slide, not the government. That’s how we get the whole “nation of men instead of laws” tyranny where you make everything illegal and then punish your enemies while letting your allies get away with murder.

          However, if you’re not going to recommend charging someone, you don’t hold a press conference to detail all the bad stuff they did so they can be tried in the court of public opinion. That’s unnecessarily damaging.

          So he was both too soft by not recommending charges and too hard by holding a press conference to say he wasn’t recommending charges.

          • John Schilling says:

            She should have been put before a grand jury because when there’s enough evidence to indict you need to let a jury decide whether or not to let it slide, not the government.

            This is not the way the US legal system actually works. Three Felonies a Day is almost certainly an exaggeration, but there’s almost certainly enough evidence to at least indict you on three felonies this year. You, me, every man, woman, child, and ham sandwich in the union.

            You might prefer the legal system not work this way, but it does. Not only is there is no need to let a jury decide, we cannot afford to allow a jury to decide on every factually and legally indictable offense, in the general case. And making a specific, “Hillary, now her we need to indict” rule, that is the sort of politicization of the legal process that we need to avoid, even more so than we need to cut down on the number of laws that make honest men into unintented criminals.

            We also need reasonably clear and predictable rules, and in this case we have them. It is reasonably clear and predictable that if all you do the sort of stuff Hillary can be proven to have done, your career is over but you don’t get indicted. More formal codification of that, for better protection against abuses, would be somewhere in the middle of my legal-reform wish list.

        • cassander says:

          Personally I held one of these views (no prizes for guessing which) so I’m fine with it. Honestly, he screwed up big-time; why keep him?

          The reason to keep him was that firing him gets you accused of politicizing justice. Note, this applies basically regardless of what he does or of who won the election. Which is precisely why he should have resigned and forestalled that problem.

          Maybe an independent prosecution that vindicated him would, but I worry that it gets infiltrated or corrupted somehow and ends up screwing everything up even further. Guess we’ll see what happens next.

          Vindicate him of what? Not being the Manchurian candidate?

          • Rob K says:

            There is an ongoing investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign or, less likely, Trump himself coordinated with Russia regarding the leaking of various documents from the DNC and John Podesta. Stemming from that, there’s an investigation into whether some of those Trump campaign members lied on various disclosure forms regarding their foreign contacts.

            You’re free to write that off as ridiculous suspicion of being the Manchurian candidate. I don’t.

      • engleberg says:

        Trump is obviously comfortable with high turnover with high-level subordinates.

        The Justice Department has the clout to tell the head of the FBI to end an investigation. They did, he did. Congress has the clout to tell the head of the FBI to write them a letter saying he will investigate new emails. They did, he did. Comey was whipsawed by two different bosses. Should he have resigned? Maybe. Or maybe that’s a day ending with y for the head of the FBI.

    • John Schilling says:

      “It makes me mildly nauseous to think we had an impact on the election.”
      – James Comey, 02 May 2017

      That can easily be read as Comey being upset that Trump won the election, which casts him in the role of a Clinton or at least Democratic partisan operative. When the election was in doubt, he conspicuously refused to indict Hillary in spite of clear evidence that she had violated the law. When everybody understood that Hillary was going to win, he issued a preemptive statement to ensure that her legitimacy wouldn’t be harmed when Wienergate inevitably came to light right after the election. When Trump actually won, he begins investigating possible Trump-Russia ties that others are using to justify talk of impeachment.

      I believe that Comey’s actions were in all three cases the right ones for an apolitical FBI director who isn’t taking sides in Trump v. Hillary. Yes, she did break the law, but no, we generally don’t indict people for breaking that law in the way Hillary can be proven to have done, we just fire them from any government position they may hold and put a note in their permanent record saying “cannot be trusted, do not hire for government work”. Mission accomplished; actual prosecution would have been politically-motivated vindictiveness. Likewise, once the issue has become public, we want reasonable transparency on both investigative fronts.

      But if Trump sees Comey’s actions as even potentially partisan, and it isn’t an implausible stretch, then obviously he’s going to want Comey gone. And really, if we are in the position of arguing over whether the FBI director is playing politics, it’s probably best that we get a new FBI director. The important questions are. A: what sort of FBI director are we going to get, and B: who is going to take over the Trump/Russia investigation?

      • Rob K says:

        It isn’t appropriate, though, for the person overseeing the Trump/Russia investigation to be dismissed on the grounds that “Trump wants him gone.”

        So the options were (1) Trump respects a norm of thorough distancing from an ongoing investigation and leaves Comey alone even if he otherwise would prefer not to or (2) the investigation needs to be handed over to an independent investigator.

        Now that (1) is off the table, failure to proceed to (2) would become a very big problem. (And I don’t say this from a perspective of being sure that there’s anything to be found; it’s just the sort of thing that needs to be fully investigated by someone the public can have confidence in).

        • John Schilling says:

          It isn’t appropriate, though, for the person overseeing the Trump/Russia investigation to be dismissed on the grounds that “Trump wants him gone.”

          But it is appropriate for the head of the FBI to be dismissed on the grounds that “Trump wants him gone”. The FBI is an executive branch agency. POTUS is the head of the executive branch, and while it may be appropriate that civil-service protections make rank-and-file members politically unfireable, I don’t think it is workable to have agency heads not serving at the pleasure of the president. The FBI is too powerful, and that power too terrible if misused, not to be answerable to someone.

          If there’s an inconsistency, it is in the Trump/Russia investigation having been assigned to an executive branch agency.

          • Rob K says:

            I agree that having the FBI handle the investigation was the wrong choice. People have been calling for an independent investigation for some time now. Set up an independent investigation of the Trump campaign, you’re fine to fire Comey.

            If the president and his party weren’t going to allow that, then he was going to have to exercise an unusual degree of hands-offness with respect to the FBI.

            And again, now that that’s off the table, there really needs to be an independent investigation.

            Put another way, you’re under-interpreting the implications of the president’s need to oversee the FBI. If there’s a conflict between that presidential duty and the need to have an investigation of the president’s campaign that isn’t subject to political interference, then the president needs to acquiesce to the creation of an appropriately independent investigative body. When he fails to do that and then fires the FBI director, appeals to the general principle of presidential oversight of the executive branch ring hollow.

          • Brad says:

            I tend to agree with Scalia’s position in Morrison v. Olson. If the President cannot be trusted to oversee the investigation of a certain case than Congress itself should undertake to investigate it. And if during the course of that investigation it finds what it believes to be criminal wrongdoing the warrants prosecution but the Attorney General and/or the President refuse to prosecute, it has the power of impeachment and removal to remedy that situation.

  6. Incurian says:

    Does anyone have a take on ESR’s Your identity is not your choice? His position is further clarified in the comments. I don’t think it’s completely inconsistent with Scott’s Categories post, although the conclusions (and, possibly more importantly, the TONE) are different.

    • Urstoff says:

      Didn’t he used to post here (a lot, within the span of a couple of weeks / months)?

      If we could expunge the concept “identity” from the social conceptual vocabulary, I think it would be probably a net gain. The social utility gained by the essentializing/reifying/instrumentalization of complex psychologies and biologies does not seem to be worth the instrumental gain for the othering and various territorial disputes that it inevitably engenders.

      • Nornagest says:

        I see him every couple of months. He’s not a regular, but he does post here.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I’m kind of hoping intersectionality eventually grinds down to individualism. “Hi, I’m Conrad Honcho, I identify as Conrad Honcho and have all the problems associated with being Conrad Honcho. Please respect my value as Conrad Honcho and my unique Conrad Honcho-esque contributions to society.”

    • Brad says:

      (and, possibly more importantly, the TONE)

      This is the same get off my lawn rant I’ve read a dozen times. Completely with the “I claim to the queen of England”.

      It’s not calculated to convince anyone, so I’m not sure what the point of writing it was. I guess you’d have to ask Robin Hanson.

  7. Mark says:

    ALGOL (short for Algorithmic Language) is a family of imperative computer programming languages, originally developed in the mid-1950s, which greatly influenced many other languages… In the sense that the syntax of most modern languages is “Algol-like”, it was arguably the most influential of the four high-level programming languages with which it was roughly contemporary… and eventually gave rise to many other programming languages, including PL/I, Simula, BCPL, B, Pascal, and C.

    Algol: Tragedy of Power is a 1920 German science fiction film about an alien from the planet Algol…. The story centers on a human who is given a machine by an alien spirit which, if used, would allow him to rule the world.

    Algol, designated Beta Persei, known colloquially as the Demon Star… The name Algol derives from Arabic رأس الغول raʾs al-ghūl : head (raʾs) of the ogre (al-ghūl)… in Hebrew folklore, Algol was called Rōsh ha Sāṭān or “Satan’s Head”… A Latin name for Algol from the 16th century was Caput Larvae or “the Spectre’s Head”… In Chinese, 大陵 (Dà Líng), meaning Mausoleum, refers to an asterism consisting of β Persei, 9 Persei, τ Persei, ι Persei, κ Persei, ρ Persei, 16 Persei and 12 Persei. Consequently, β Persei itself is known as 大陵五 ( English: The Fifth Star of Mausoleum.)… Historically, the star has received a strong association with bloody violence across a wide variety of cultures.

  8. sandoratthezoo says:

    So here’s a really straightforward objection to the intelligence-bootstrapping superintelligence concept:

    We know that there exist problems that are NP-hard or NP-complete. Which means, roughly, that as the size of the problem scales, the amount of resources necessary to solve the problem in a given time scales exponentially higher. Assuming that NP != P of course.

    While we don’t have a definition of “intelligence” that would let us formally prove that “intelligence” is NP-hard, isn’t it clearly obvious that human-like-intelligence is, at least, NP-hard?

    Which means that advancing hardware will, like, at best lead to linear advancement of intelligence, and actually probably intelligence is exponential with a higher base number than hardware advancement, so probably logarithmic intelligence growth due to hardware.

    This objection is straightforward enough that there must be a counterargument, but I don’t know where that counterargument is. Could someone state it or point me to it?

    • Nornagest says:

      isn’t it clearly obvious that human-like-intelligence is, at least, NP-hard?

      No. It’s possible, but it’s not obvious.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Okay. It seems nuts to me to imagine that general intelligence is computationally simpler than, say, the traveling salesman problem.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, it is fairly obvious that a hypothetical AGI wouldn’t be much better at solving the traveling salesman problem than we are, assuming we don’t prove P=NP, but that’s not much of a qualification.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I’m going to take P != NP to be true for the duration of this comment chain. If we live in a world in which P == NP, then All Bets Are Off.

            But, like, even if we take the huge leap that human general intelligence isn’t NP-hard (which still seems nuts to me), surely we can agree that all of these feats of superintelligence that people are worried about (like simulating the universe so completely that you can reason natural laws, or mind-control-communication) involve classic lookahead combinatorial explosions that are squarely and trivially NP-hard.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure, maybe some of that stuff will turn out to be impractical for complexity class reasons; I could quibble with your examples, especially the simulation one, but I don’t want to get sidetracked. But that wasn’t the question. The question was humanlike intelligence, and we can’t do that stuff either.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            The question was actually whether this was a decent argument against superintelligence explosion. I’m not arguing that it’s impossible to make a basically human-intelligence AGI.

          • Nornagest says:

            Eliezer and some of his followers have a bad habit of coming up with dramatic examples of superintelligence that may or may not actually be feasible. But the basic argument for AI safety doesn’t hinge on any of those examples. The real question is, can we make a machine that can kick our ass?

            Well, we basically don’t know. But if we can make a human-level intelligence, and it certainly seems like that might be in the cards, it seems like it’d be excessively convenient if superhuman intelligence wasn’t. We needn’t be talking about the near-divine levels that sometimes get thrown around; Scott’s von Neumann example elsewhere in this thread would be more than enough to render us quite obsolete.

        • Anon. says:

          Do you know any NP-hard problems that the human brain can solve?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Er… all of them, at one size or another?

          • Murphy says:

            @Sandoratthezoo.

            Lets rephrase: Do you know any NP-hard problems that the human brain can solve more effectively than a small desktop PC running a reasonably modern algorithm.

            Of course humans can solve the traveling salesman problem for, say, 4 nodes but can they for 25?

            How close to the optimal path can a human come for a 10,000 node case? A computer can come to within about 3% of the optimal path.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Of course not.

            But that doesn’t prove — or even provide evidence for — whatever it is that you’re trying to prove or provide evidence for.

            The human brain is some kind of computing device of a certain hardware power. That hardware power is clearly, by even the most conservative estimates, vastly more hardware power than a modest desktop PC. However, unlike a desktop PC, we can’t load an optimized algorithm for a specific problem on it, and perhaps more importantly, we can’t dump everything else that the brain is doing to disk and use all or the vast majority of the hardware to solve a specific algorithm.

            None of that has anything to do with whether the algorithms (clearly there are many) that the brain does run (all the time) and which it does use all of its hardware power for are NP-hard. If they are or aren’t NP-hard, that makes it no more or less likely the brain would or would not be able to solve a different NP-hard problem at a given problem size more or less quickly.

    • Brad says:

      I’m not sure the question is well formed. What’s the problem size in this case?

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        “Intelligence.”

        I mean, if we’re having this conversation at all, we believe that on some level you can describe intelligence in a some kind of quantifiable way. Like, if you want to go all hand-wavey and say, “There’s no way to quantify intelligence,” then you’re already saying you don’t believe in superintelligence.

        • Brad says:

          So something like going from a computer that could get a 75 on an IQ test to one that could get a 150 would be a doubling of the problem size for big O purposes?

          NP is only defined for parameterized problems in asymptotic terms. It doesn’t makes sense to say a particular discrete problem is or is not in NP.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            No, presumably not. Make a linear scale of intelligence in which a 0 on the intelligence scale is what you’d get with, like… one transistor or something. Put 75 IQ and 150 IQ on that chart, and I doubt that 150 IQ is twice the absolute magnitude of 75 IQ.

          • Brad says:

            How many units is deep blue? Is Watson smarter or dumber than AlphaGo?

            I don’t think you can just handwaive away the issue of what problem size even means in this case. Computer science is a branch of math — these things are rigorously defined.

      • rlms says:

        Agreed. What’s the problem you’re talking about as, and what resources requirements are you saying grow exponentially with the input size? I don’t think “being intelligent” is the kind of thing you can analyse in this way; your argument is invalid in the same way that “having an effective economy is really complicated, so it must be NP-hard and hence difficult to scale”.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          I like that analogy. In particular, I think it points out another flaw in the original argument; most (?) practical NP-hard problems, including things like the travelling salesman, have perfectly adequate approximate solutions that are not NP-hard. That, I guess, is why there’s no major problem with scaling a free-market-ish economy; it isn’t strictly optimal from a computational point of view, but it doesn’t have to be.

          … and then compare to all the heuristics and approximations the human brain uses to make decisions, and your analogy starts to look really good.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Oh, come on. That’s the argument that got mocked as being, “What is size anyway? We can’t even measure that. It’s meaningless for a machine to be bigger than a human.”

          If you believe in the concept of “superintelligence” at all, you have to believe that there’s some thing or some combination of things that can be measured and maximized, and that they don’t cannibalize each other (if they’re multiple things). If you believe in artificial intelligence at all, then those things run on processors. If they run on processors, then there’s a limit to how much of them you can run before you run out of processor speed.

          Your economy parallel is flawed, I think, because you seem to be regarding the idea that we can connect people to the economy without it collapsing as indicating that the economy scales linearly or something. I’d argue, however, that the per-capita output of the economy (or the technological advance that it generates, or the level of specialization it supports) scales considerably less than linearly, and not-implausibly it scales logarithmically.

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      It seems obvious to me that human intelligence isn’t NP-hard, because if it were it couldn’t be implemented by the human brain. But I’m not well-informed on the subject.

      Scott Aaronson might be the best person to ask.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        You can’t extrapolate a curve from one point. There is some amount of an NP-hard problem that is tractable on any given hardware.

        And I think that it’s pretty reasonable to imagine that if there were major intelligence gains to be had from our existing hardware or else very modest increases to our hardware, evolution would have found them.

        • Nornagest says:

          Our hardware has to fit through a birth canal, sucks up a ton of energy by biological standards, and has various other limitations. There is no particular reason to think that it landed where it did because of complexity classes.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Sure there is. It’s a cost-benefit analysis. Yes, there are costs to be had from having more hardware. If the benefits were large, then the costs would be worth it. If the benefits were small, then the costs would not be worth it.

            Since we landed where we did, we got to a point where further benefits aren’t worth the costs. That’s very congruent with scenarios in which, for example, to get to 2x higher intelligence, we’d need a brain 10x the current size (or power throughput or whatever). It’s not very congruent with scenarios in which to get 2x higher intelligence, we’d need a brain 1.05x the current size.

            Now, obviously, there’s a lot of space between 1.05x the current size and 10x the current size. This isn’t a formal proof or anything. But we see a LOT of computational problems that scale exponentially. I think that we see when humans coordinate results that seem to me to be very roughly exponential.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re not arguing for complexity limits on intelligence, you’re just arguing for limits on human intelligence. It’s very likely that those exist, since we at least don’t have anatomical evidence for much change in intelligence over the last 100,000 years or so. Social looks like a similar story, modulo whatever’s causing the Flynn effect (which is recent and relatively small).

            That those limits are down to complexity? No evidence whatsoever. I’d even argue that there’s direct evidence against complexity limits, since if complexity was the issue, we’d usually expect the gains to peter out before we started seeing major phenotype adaptations for brain size. Instead we get a situation that looks a lot like an evolutionary strategy running out of steam as it hits physical limits.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Wait, what is your hypothesis for the limits of human intelligence if it’s not complexity?

          • Nornagest says:

            Wait, what is your hypothesis for the limits of human intelligence if it’s not complexity?

            Any of the tradeoffs I already mentioned, and a few I didn’t. Anatomy, food energy balance, benefits of higher intelligence shifting more toward group than self-selection, etc.

            Note that none of these require any of the components of intelligence to be NP-hard! You can find a local maximum just fine if one of the things you’re comparing is a higher-degree polynomial than the other, or the same-degree polynomial with different constant factors.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            “Anatomy” or “food balance” isn’t a limitation on intelligence. It’s a limitation on hardware. If the hardware isn’t limiting intelligence, what is? If the hardware is limiting intelligence, what is the mechanism by which it limits intelligence other than complexity? (I mean, there are answers — maybe it’s storage and not processing that bounds intelligence, but on some level we don’t really care about it, since from the very broad level we’re looking at, most computer hardware advances in fairly similar ways).

            If “the benefits for higher intelligence” can’t be applied to individual benefit, I have a difficult time seeing how that’s consistent with a superintelligence explosion scenario as well.

          • Nornagest says:

            I am using “complexity” here as a shorthand for “limits incident on tasks in an NP-hard or complete complexity class”. It’s fairly obvious that intelligence has some kind of scaling factor attached to it; it’s much less obvious that that factor is an exponential or even a high-degree polynomial.

            For what it’s worth, artificial neural networks generally scale as O(n^2) on the size of inputs.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          True, but we are (?) considerably more intelligent than many other mammals, without a corresponding exponential increase in brain size and complexity. That’s subjective, I guess, given the absence of an objective and quantitative measure for intelligence.

          As for evolution, I know there’s some controversy about the significance of the Flynn Effect, but it seems to me that we can’t rule out the possibility that human intelligence really is slowly increasing over time, and at least some of that might be evolutionary in nature. (I think the other cliche explanation is that our brains can’t get much bigger or more complex without undesirable side-effects, e.g., problems in childbirth.)

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          On second thoughts, I think I was missing a more obvious point.

          Human brains are about 20 times as big as cat brains.

          So, assuming exponential difficulty, a machine with 20 times the complexity of the human brain (which certainly doesn’t bump into physical limits) could still be about as much more intelligent than us as we are more intelligent than cats. That sounds like a pretty big advantage to me.

          (If you work relative to body size, you would only need 2.5 times the complexity of the human brain.)

          … really I don’t think it works that way anyway. What matters most is levels of abstraction, or something like that, not raw brainpower.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Which is why blue whales dominate the world?

            I think concentrating on brain size or body size is not really telling us anything.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Do blue whales have an unusually large brain proportionate to their body size?

            It seems reasonably obvious, looking at hominids, that brain size does have something to do with it. It clearly isn’t as simple as that. I’m just saying that, even if it were as simple as that, it still wouldn’t be a good argument against the possibility of superintelligence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Human brains are about 20 times as big as cat brains.

            Was this a claim about ratio to body size? Or absolute size? It looks like, the ratio of cat brain weight to body weight is about 1/2 of the same in humans.

            I agree that brain size has “something” to do with it, but it’s just not anything like the only thing or the most important thing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Look at how astutely they manipulated us into pulling off from whaling, saving some species from the brink of extinction. Look at the shift from whale oil to petroleum. Now instead of whaling for fuel, we fight bloody wars for oil, destabilizing human realms, and causing global warming that raises the sea level. Who lives in the sea? Whales.

            Now, I’m not saying that 20th century human history was largely the result of a conspiracy by whales, but in fact, that is exactly what I’m saying.

          • Jordan D. says:

            I am prepared to give my life for the Great Whale Conspiracy.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            We all understand that everyone’s intelligence is probably pretty close to the maximum intelligence that their brain hardware will allow, right? Because evolution will increase your intelligence until it hits the maximum for your hardware, because what exactly is the cost that would prevent it from doing so?

            That hardware bound may be something like glucose throughput rather than size per se, but size is probably a decent proxy for the hardware power of your brain.

            There is the whole thing where, yes, some part of your brain is not doing general purpose cognition, but is just running your body, and yes, the requirements to run your body presumably scale up as your body scales up (and probably also have to do with how many advanced senses you have and so forth).

            But whales are good evidence for a logarithmic relationship between hardware capacity and intelligence “output.” A sperm whale has a 9kg brain. A human has about a 1.4kg brain. If a sperm whale could get a LOT more intelligent by adding another 0.5kg to its brain size, we should wonder why it doesn’t have a 9.5kg brain — I don’t think its birth canal is the limiting factor. It live in a cold and heat-conductive environment, so heat dissipation is unlikely to be an issue. And given the size of the whale, I have a hard time believing that it would just be unable to dig up the metabolic cost of another 0.5kg of brain tissue if that brain tissue gave it great results.

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn: Have you read Bulk Food (by Peter Watts of Blindsight fame)? It’s a short story about what happens when we learn to communicate with killer whales, and they turn out to have their own ideas…

          • Nornagest says:

            @Iain — That guy’s got a real gift for the plausibly spooky.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            Thanks. That was great.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @HeelBearCub,

            Was this a claim about ratio to body size? Or absolute size?

            I was just assuming the worst-case scenario, that it was absolute size that counted. That’s obviously not true, but it should err on the pessimistic side – pessimistic from the putative superintelligence’s point of view, that is. 🙂

            @sandoratthezoo,

            I’m not sure why you think that a 5.3% increase in brain power (from 9 units to 9.5 units) would necessarily justify the metabolic cost involved. But as previously mentioned, even if we do assume that the output is logarithmic, that still doesn’t rule out superintelligence.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Why should human intelligence be NP-hard? The two concepts don’t seem to be on similar levels; NP-hard refers to a decision problem (something that requires a yes-no answer) which 3-SAT can be reduced to in polynomial time. Human intelligence is, well, human intelligence.

      Perhaps an answer close to what you’re looking for is that many of the NP-complete problems, in particular the famous Traveling Salesman Problem, have optimization-problem versions. These problems, while they cannot be exactly solved in polynomial time unless P=NP (because doing so would solve the underlying decision problem), can be approximated very well in polynomial time. By analogy (and there’s a LOT of handwaving going on here), intelligence may require only good approximations, not exact solutions.

  9. Kisil says:

    NYTimes has an intriguing write-up on a new salt study, suggesting that salt intake increases metabolic rate:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/health/salt-health-effects.html

    Can someone who understands biology/nutrition better than I do de-journalize this?

  10. Urstoff says:

    Is American bureaucracy uniquely inefficient in the developed world? Or maybe at least in large cities? I ask because it seems like any major transportation project in the US costs about ten times what it would in an equivalent European or Canadian city. Maybe this is just a New York / California problem, but if so, what makes them so much worse than pretty much any other place in the developed world?

    • dndnrsn says:

      I’m not sure whether to disbelieve or be horrified that transportation projects are supposedly better here (Canada) than in the US.

    • Brad says:

      NYC apparently has the highest per km cost for rail projects anywhere in the world by something close to an order of magnitude. The costs for the second avenue subway were so fantastically high that despite its enormous utility it probably wasn’t worth it.

      After having looked into it a bunch (the pedestrian observations blog is very good) I think it is a mistake to point to any one factor and say that’s it. Unions are a problem, the contracting system is a problem, the governing structure of the MTA is a problem, political corruption is a problem, the federal grant system and its rules are a problem, ConEd and Verizon are problems, NIMBYs are a problem, and so forth and so on.

    • dodrian says:

      Attempting to go through immigration at Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport yesterday (with an American Passport even!) I was struck by how impressive the US bureaucracy actually is.

      They appeared to have come up with a system that is more expensive, more difficult, and more time consuming.

      Rather than employ more border agents, they have a huge number of electronic machines. Unfortunately not everyone can figure out how to use these, so they need to employ people to wander around and help people use the machines. There are actually two different types of machines depending on whether or not you pre-enrolled in some program, so there are people employed to help you figure out which machine you need to go to. Then, depending on what appears on the slip of paper the machine gives you, you have to go to the correct line, which of course requires people to check those slips of paper and make sure you are in the correct line. After all this you end up presenting your passport and slip to a border agent, who goes over everything to verify its correctness. We had to wait an hour in line to see one of the five agents assigned to checking US passports. My only guess as to the reasons why this complicated system came into being are that border agents are unionized and expensive, but the people “helping” and directing on the floor were minimum wage.

      Compare this with London Heathrow last week, which simply employed more border agents, and one or two people to direct you to the correct line (EU E-Passports, EU regular passports, non-EU passports).

      • keranih says:

        The electronic system is pretty new (last few years) and was when I went through it last, a significant improvement over the long lines that proceeded it.

    • Allah says:

      I don’t know about transportation projects in particular, but I suspect affirmative action for veterans, minorities and women may be a big factor. There’s AA for both bureaucratic positions and contract work where minority business owners are given a preference. My experience has been that customer service at American bureaucracies is pretty bad, and the workers are rude and incompetent generally. But I also don’t have any experience with the bureaucracies of other countries. The low quality of workers might just be a general feature of governments and the US bureaucracy might not be especially bad.

      According to Steve Sailer (http://www.vdare.com/posts/whatever-happened-to-the-federal-civil-service-exam), the civil service exam was nixed in 1981 due to a gap in test scores between whites and minorities. I have never heard about this from anyone except Steve Sailer, so maybe it’s not that big of a deal.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I have never heard about this from anyone except Steve Sailer, so maybe it’s not that big of a deal.

        Well, Wikipedia says, in its page on the US federal civil service,

        The United States Civil service exams have since been abolished for many positions, since statistics show that they do not accurately allow hiring of minorities according to the affirmative action guidelines.

        With citation to: E. Chemerinsky, “Making Sense of the Affirmative Action Debate”, (1996)

        Or, from the January 10 1981 New York Times:

        WASHINGTON, Jan. 9— Over the objection of President-elect Ronald Reagan’s transition team, the Carter Administration settled a job discrimination suit today by agreeing to replace one of the Government’s basic Civil Service examinations.

        Members of minority groups charged in a suit filed two years ago that the Professional and Administrative Career Examination, called the PACE exam, discriminated against blacks and Hispanic Americans. The test is the primary means of screening applicants for 118 separate white-collar jobs, including customs inspectors, tax examiners and Social Security adjusters.

        The Government, in its consent decree filed today, did not acknowledge that the test was discriminatory, but Justice Department officials said subsequently that they believed the Government would have lost if the case had gone to trial.

        Over the last two years, 42 percent of the whites who took the examination passed it, compared with 13 percent of the Hispanic Americans and 5 percent of the blacks. High Court Ruling Cited

        The Supreme Court has held that employment tests that result in disproportionate failures by members of minority groups can be used only if it can be shown that scores on the tests are accurate predictors of successful performance in the occupations.

    • Civilis says:

      Is American bureaucracy uniquely inefficient in the developed world? Or maybe at least in large cities? I ask because it seems like any major transportation project in the US costs about ten times what it would in an equivalent European or Canadian city. Maybe this is just a New York / California problem, but if so, what makes them so much worse than pretty much any other place in the developed world?

      It may be the grass is always greener on the other side. I work for a company that has contracts with the US government and NATO, and the NATO contracts are always much more problematic because there are extended periods of time when we know nobody in Europe is doing any work, like the whole month of August.

      Then again, I’d wager the most heavily bureaucratic sectors of the US economy are education and health care…

  11. Tatu Ahponen says:

    https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/california/articles/2017-05-08/california-may-end-ban-on-communists-in-government-jobs

    Considering how much discussion there has been in the comments of this blog about the injustice of people being fired for racist comments, hasn’t this been rather a more severe restriction on the freedom of speech and assembly? Why haven’t I heard about these laws still being in place until now, and how many more states have them without any intention of changing them?

    • keranih says:

      Here is the bill in question.

      This came up a few times before in CA – it was voted in under Schwarzenegger, and he vetoed it.

      “Political party” is not a federal protected class, but it is a protected class in some states. When I’ve applied to federal jobs, I’ve always had to sign an affidavit that I wasn’t a member of a violent or extremist group, or any group that intended to overthrow the US government by force or violence. (Sideways of that, and because this was a cool link – Laws across the USA regarding wearing masks, and why they got there.)

      As for why some/many people think discriminating against card-carrying members of the Communist party is/was a perfectly reasonable thing…oh, you sweet summer children. Marxism really is dead, isn’t it? We’ve come all the way from witch hunts to “those weren’t *actual* witches” to “don’t be stupid, it’s a myth that witches ever had power and did evil things” to – to whatever the “otherkin” version of playing dressup in a pointy hat is.

      • DrBeat says:

        Marxism is dead except for, you know, all of academia and all of Blue Tribe activism and the entire “mainstream respectable” media’s continued insistence on covering up and excusing misdeeds by Marxists.

        Marxism allows the popular, who wish to punish people for doing useful things, to endlessly justify the punishment of people who do useful things. Marxism will never, ever, ever go away.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Yes, Communism was considered a real genuine threat by the conservatives and the center-left, and so freedoms of speech and assembly went right out the window when it was felt necessary.

        But, yea and truly, the contemporary left is being incredibly reckless and naive by not taking their contemporary opponents’ freedoms of speech and assembly very, very seriously.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Nobody’s saying commies can’t speak or assemble. However I do think there is something odd about allowing people into the government whose ultimate political goal is the dissolution of the government.

          • Nornagest says:

            Strikes me as better than the alternative, which is allowing those organizations no recourse but the external (and thus oppositional, and probably violent) overthrow of the government.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Nornagest

            Traitors inside your fences are more dangerous than enemies without.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure, but “traitor” is a high bar to clear, and usually implies that people are already shooting each other. If someone just wants to liberate the proletariat and doesn’t particularly care how it’s liberated, I’d rather have them trying to run a state senate campaign than trying to organize a guerrilla cell. Fewer bodies that way.

            And honestly, if 51% of officials can get elected on a platform of overthrowing the government, the government probably sucks enough that it deserves to be overthrown. But I don’t usually expect that to be the case.

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest

            The law isn’t against voting for communists, it’s against the government hiring them as civil servants.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I do think there is something odd about allowing people into the government whose ultimate political goal is the dissolution of the government.

            Shouldn’t that also apply to libertarians, then? 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            Shouldn’t that also apply to libertarians, then?

            For the 832nd time, libertarian != anarchist.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I was joking, but since you ask, I think they’re close enough in this particular context. That is, the post-libertarian government would be so very different from the current government that to all intents and purposes the latter might as well have been completely dissolved. (Not all that different from the communist victory scenario, in fact.)

        • This particular restriction wasn’t on freedom of speech and assembly but on membership in a particular organization.

          Would you have the same reaction to a ban on Nazi party members in government employment? Members of the Klan?

          • herbert herberson says:

            Would you have the same reaction to a ban on Nazi party members in government employment? Members of the Klan?

            Yes, assuming you’ve pegged my reaction as “appealing to principles that will supposedly protect a given group when they are in the minority even though those principles are invariably bent to protect the interests of the powerful no matter who happens to be in power is a waste of time for all concerned.”

          • Brad says:

            Would you have the same reaction to a ban on Nazi party members in government employment?

            Would you have the same reaction to a ban on members of the Federalist Society in government employment?

          • Would you have the same reaction to a ban on members of the Federalist Society in government employment?

            At the moment, I would think a ban on members of the Federalist Society, the Communist Party, or the Nazi Party (if there is one) from federal employment would be inappropriate.

            Back when the U.S. was fighting a cold war with the Soviet Union the Communist Party was loyal to them not us, so it made sense not to hire them, at least in any position where loyalty was relevant. The same would have been true of the Nazis during WWII.

            After we establish an anarcho-capitalist stateless society, start engaging in active attempts to subvert the U.S. government, convert the Federalist Society to anarchists–I’m working on it–and they declare in our favor, I could see arguments for banning their members from federal employment.

            Since you asked.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        “As for why some/many people think discriminating against card-carrying members of the Communist party is/was a perfectly reasonable thing…oh, you sweet summer children. Marxism really is dead, isn’t it? We’ve come all the way from witch hunts to “those weren’t *actual* witches” to “don’t be stupid, it’s a myth that witches ever had power and did evil things” to – to whatever the “otherkin” version of playing dressup in a pointy hat is.”

        Sure, it’s obvious why they did it, but isn’t it similarly obvious, on the same grounds, why racism and sexism would lead to job losses? It’s not exactly like there are no atrocities connected to those things in the American history, no?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Is the goal of racists and sexists to overthrow the government of the United States?

    • John Schilling says:

      Such laws were, at least in theory, narrowly tailored to ban membership in the Communist Party, not advocacy of communist ideals. So, not a free speech problem. Maybe a freedom-of-association problem, but that’s one of the more ignoreable civil rights in practice, and it doesn’t apply to active participation in a criminal conspiracy. Arguing that the CPUSA was a criminal conspiracy and every member an active participant was a bit of a stretch, but not an implausible one.

      Expecting members of a criminal conspiracy to carry membership cards to better identify themselves to law enforcement was never very plausible, so in actual practice such laws turned into “advocates communist ideals too much, so they must really be a CPUSA member and a part of a criminal conspiracy so there”, which did tread on too many free-speech toes. Eventually, communists and prosecutors alike learned that it was never worth the bother of picking that fight, and the laws were forgotten.

      The United States, particularly at the state and municipal level, has lots of stupid old laws that everybody has forgotten but nobody ever got around to repealing, that nobody will ever be arrested for unless they go out of their way to get themselves arrested. These laws should be repealed and occasionally are, but otherwise there’s no reason for you to hear about them unless somebody is compiling a funny list.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        “Arguing that the CPUSA was a criminal conspiracy and every member an active participant was a bit of a stretch, but not an implausible one.”

        But the CPUSA was not legally declared a criminal conspiracy at any point – it continued to operate as a legal, if heavily restricted, organization. Which would seem to be rather important here.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        Furthermore, as the article says, “Employees could still be fired for being members of organizations they know advocate for overthrowing the government by force or violence.” This would imply that “being members of organizations they advocate for overthrowing the government by force or violence” and “being members of CPUSA” are two different things. I don’t know what CPUSA’s current position on violent revolution is, but it’s fairly well known their actual conduct – which mostly seems to consist of supporting the Democrats in every presidential election – is fairly tame.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        lots of stupid old laws that everybody has forgotten but nobody ever got around to repealing

        See, for example, Dueling Still Not Advisable in Oregon at Lowering the Bar. Soon as I saw that post I thought of this thread. 🙂

        (The author, Kevin Underhill, has actually published an entire book listing unusual laws around the world, The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance. Worth a look if you enjoy that sort of humour.)

  12. jeffbruins says:

    The topic of Islam and the subjugation of women came up recently inside my social circle. The majority agreed that the influence of Islam in any given country is not a causal factor in the treatment of women; rather it reflects the socioeconomic status of the country. I can think of several wealthy muslim-majority nations that have a far worse track record compared to objectively poorer countries like Vietnam, Guatemala, Laos, etc. which may not treat women “great”, but better than a handful of richer Muslim nations.

    But are there any studies or blogposts I could read relating to this topic?

    • Murphy says:

      The rise of theocracy in general doesn’t tend to be great for women.

      Look at some of the old photos from Saudi Arabia from before the current leaders took power, they could have been taken in america from the way women dressed. Then theocracy happened.

      It’s hard to prop up theocracies in resource poor countries. Notice that most of the worst countries for gender equality are physically close together and have a lot of oil wealth that props up very theocraticf governments.

      • Anonymous says:

        The rise of theocracy in general doesn’t tend to be great for women.

        Which women?

        Islamic modesty regulation levels the playing field between young and attractive women and the older and less attractive women.

      • I have reasonably good information on the Saudi case, having just taught a class consisting largely of Saudi LLM students, including one woman.

        It’s an interesting system. Gender segregation is very strict. Almost all universities are either men’s universities or women’s universities. At a woman’s university, all staff are women–if a man teaches a course it’s by closed circuit TV from another building. Women’s hotels have only women as staff. Women interact socially with women, men with men, and the only significant exception is within the family. Restaurants have a men’s section, a family section, and sometimes a women’s section, the last being for groups of women going out together.

        Marriage is arranged, mostly limited to kin, the arranging done mostly by the women. According to my student, if her mother was looking for a wife for her son she would be considering about five candidates. Presumably it would be her mother not her father doing it because the mother could know the candidates, the father could not.

        A very different system. On the other hand, my student’s mother is a professor–of Islamic law. So relatively high status professions are not closed to women, although I suspect they are less open than to men.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      How did the thought process work to arrive at such a conclusion? When there are so many readily available examples of rich-and-oppressive Muslim nations and poor-but-not-nearly-as-bad non-Muslim nations?

  13. Kevin C. says:

    How big and how real a concern is “peak phosphorus”?

  14. Kevin C. says:

    So, how many people are familiar with the origins of the oft-used term “pecking order”? (It looks like urban chicken-keeping is increasing familiarity with that first meaning.) And how transferable are insights into avian status mechanisms toward primate behavior?

    • keranih says:

      There are more-or-less stable hierarchies in nearly all social species (I waffle because I can’t think of any but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there) and definitely in most of our domestic species.

      Seeing as we have primates to look at (sort of – it’s not like we can do actual experiments) as well as plenty of other animals like dogs (actually not a bad choice) plus horses, cows, goats, rabbits, etc, etc, I don’t think going to avians is the best choice for human specific insight. If there was a group-living species that tended to be monogamous, that would be worth looking into, and as soon as I close the browser I’ll think of one.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I don’t think going to avians is the best choice for human specific insight.

        Best choice, no. But the example given (by chickens) of a role of directional infliction of harm in the formation and maintenance of hierarchies is at least slightly suggestive, no?

    • US says:

      How transferable are insights..?

      I’m not sure why you’d want to focus on birds when there’s presumably a large primatology literature on these topics, which should yield insights much more likely to be transferable. I’m certain books like these (the latter book does include coverage of non-primate species, but most of it is devoted to primatology – and I’d definitely recommend both, they are great books..) are significantly more useful than books about various bird species, even if I’ve only read the former books and have admittedly yet to read a book about avian status mechanisms.

  15. Kevin C. says:

    Back in the previous visible open thread, there was a discussion started by Nancy Lebovitz on what opposition to capitalism, and wanting to “destroy capitalism” means specifically. In there, I brought up opposition to capitalism on the grounds of opposing “bourgeois values” (in favor of the “aristocratic values” they replaced).

    Murphy, in reply, asserted that the two are not necessarily connected, and that one can have aristocratic values, rejection of bourgeois values, and yet have an economy of capitalist markets. However, examining history, the decline of aristocracy and aristocratic values in favor of the rising “bourgeoisie” certainly looks to be strongly correlated with the start of the capitalist system. Every environment selects for something; it at least looks like bourgeois values are more adaptive to the capitalist environment than their predecessors.

    So, the question is, to what extent does capitalism ensure the rise of bourgeois values? Do the two automatically go together, or are they separable? And if separable, what does “capitalism with aristocratic values” look like, and how would it work?

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I doubt a fully-capitalist society with aristocratic values would ever arise, although in a society where both manufacture and agriculture were important sources of income capitalist and aristocratic values could probably co-exist, at least to a degree.

    • Murphy says:

      To an extent I think there is a conflict but it’s implicit, not explicit.

      Control of assets/money typically grants power. It’s very hard to construct a system in which it does not. It may also grant social status and prestige but it’s much easier to separate those.

      In a market capitalist system part of the idea is that if you’ve got 2 firms and one is run well and efficient and one is not then the well run firm should, on average, win.

      In an aristocratic system… it’s a tad fuzzy but if you want to keep your aristocracy stable… the firm owned by the highest ranking noble wins because he has a word with his drinking buddy the king and the king has some armed guards go and beat the crap out of the other guy to teach him his place.

      This has the major downside that your economy will gradually slide into the toilet since it’s easier to maintain a monopoly through violence than through being better at what you do and it would hit everything across the entire economy.

      Another option is a mix of the 2: an aristocracy which allows allows some churn and accepts the fall of it’s most inept members along with the rise of the most competent from the classes bellow.

      The problem is: Rising stars will tend to carry their own values with them. If there’s a lot of rising stars they may overwhelm the old guard and change the values of the society they enter and make the society even more accepting of rising stars, an Endless September for the upper classes as it were.

      Because aristocrats are rare in comparison to the general population. If you split the population in 2 and draw the normal distribution for each, even if the aristocracy starts off as a group of the healthiest and most capable after a few generations their numbers are still going to be dwarfed by members of the general population who are more capable than themselves.

      I suspect that is what the “rising bourgeoisie” refers to: the aristocratic being overwhelmed by the competent. They’re hard to oppose because, well, it’s hard to fight against a group who are natural allies to each other and are pretty much defined by their own competence in various fields.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I suspect that is what the “rising bourgeoisie” refers to: the aristocratic being overwhelmed by the competent.

        But competent at what is key. Here, it’s “the aristocratic being overwhelmed by the competent” at making money. After all, there was a previous period where being competent at making money didn’t let you “overwhelm” the aristocrats. And, of course, there’s the issue of how the aristocrat lineages became such in the first place, which was, basically, as warlords. They were competent at being and leading a warrior elite. So there was a time when being capable at breaking faces on horseback was more important than being capable at making money, so the leaders-of-face-breakers and their descendants ruled. Then came a period, where, as you note, the competent at making money class overwhelmed the former leaders-of-face-breakers class. This again looks like a shift in environment producing a shift in selection pressure. Though the change in military technologies, and the “age of the gun” may also have been a factor. (Which leads to the idea that recent shifts away from the mass armies model in favor of expensively-equipped elites opens a space for a possible shift back.)

        Anyway, this does sound like agreement with the “capitalist economy selects for bourgeoisie over aristocrats” model.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          So I think you could make a fairly plausible argument that what you’re always talking about is some kind of raw “power,” and that various things like military ability, making money, swaying hearts & minds like religions do, etc. all are ways of getting “power” at some exchange rate.

          And when technology got good enough, and maybe when rule of law became advanced enough, it became possible for significant numbers of merchants to accumulate sufficient enough wealth that even if wealth has a lower exchange rate to “power,” compared to military advantage, the power balance shifted from aristocrats to merchants.

          Which may just be a way to restate your thesis.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s always been leadership. The ability to get other people to follow you is selected for in all cases; aristocrats vs bourgeoisie is selecting on secondary characteristics — leaders of those who can break faces versus leaders of other endeavors.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        This has the major downside that your economy will gradually slide into the toilet since it’s easier to maintain a monopoly through violence than through being better at what you do and it would hit everything across the entire economy.

        Europe during the middle ages was pretty aristocratic, and I don’t think “the economy gradually sliding into the toilet” would be a very accurate description of what happened.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t think this is entirely unjustified, given the loss of the Mediterranean to the Mohammedans.

          • On the other hand, European population is going up until the 14th century, which I take as a rough proxy for how well the economy is doing in a poor society.

            And, pace Pirenne, I’m not sure in what sense the Christians lost the Mediterranean to the Muslims. The crusades were largely transported by sea, and the Christians held out longest along the coast.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Well there’s the sense that the Christian Romans controlled the entirety of the lands around the Med and then the Umayyads happened. Sure, taking half is not taking the whole, but “Mare Nostrum” was shattered.

          • @
            Gobbobobble:

            I thought the reference was to the Mediterranean, not the lands around it–the Pirenne thesis.

            The Umayyads didn’t take much land from the feudal Christians. Most of their territory was taken from either the Byzantines or the Sassanids. The one big exception would be Iberia, but the Muslims never got all of it and the Christians were pushing back pretty early.

            The Byzantines lost a lot of land–eventually all of it. But they were more nearly a continuation of classical antiquity than a part of feudal Europe, although admittedly a mix.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think this is entirely unjustified, given the loss of the Mediterranean to the Mohammedans.

            The exact effect of the Muslim conquests on Christian Europe is still disputed, but even if it was negative, this has nothing to do with aristocratic states ruining economies due to intra-aristocracy violence, which is the claim I was responding to.

        • Tekhno says:

          That’s relative. The medieval world had a medieval economy, so sliding back to a medieval level of economy would be “the toilet” from our perspective even if we’re all mostly still alive. The medieval economy had much more limited markets compared to today, what with a for-use agricultural economy tied to feudal dues, and a craft economy based on a hyper-protectionist guild system. The rising merchant class purposefully destroyed all that stuff in their liberal revolutions.

        • Europe during the Middle Ages wasn’t the system being described. That’s absolute monarchy, which comes later.

      • In an aristocratic system… it’s a tad fuzzy but if you want to keep your aristocracy stable… the firm owned by the highest ranking noble wins because he has a word with his drinking buddy the king and the king has some armed guards go and beat the crap out of the other guy to teach him his place.

        So by your definition, medieval feudal society was not aristocratic? There was substantial social mobility and success as a noble depended on how well you ran your territory, how well you managed relations with other nobles, including marital alliances, how good you were at military conflict, and similar things. William Marshall, to take my favorite example, was born the fourth son of a minor noble, before he died was regent of England as well as a very powerful and wealthy baron.

        You seem to be identifying aristocracy with absolute monarchy, which was a late development and one that didn’t last all that long.

        • Murphy says:

          I defer to your expertise on ancient legal systems.

          Though it sounds like what you describe did allow some churn and accepted the fall of it’s most inept members along with the rise of the most competent. At least if they didn’t rise too far above their original station.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I defer to your expertise on ancient legal systems.

            Medieval feudal society had, as the name suggests, a medieval legal system, not an ancient one.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I can think of an obvious example of a capitalist and aristocratic society: the American South. And it’s instructive. The South’s economy needed to expand to survive (there’s a lot of reasons I think this, but the biggest one is the simplest: they clearly thought they did because they started a war to oppose a Free Soil government); this need to expand created conflict with neighbors, and that conflict eventually ended the entire system.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I could be mistaken, but I thought the opposition to new free states was because the south would get overwhelmed politically, not because individual southern aristocrats planned to build new plantations in newly acquired territory.

        • herbert herberson says:

          That was part of it (although I think it tends to be over-emphasized, as true abolitionism wasn’t a terribly popular position in the north and wasn’t necessarily likely to be any time soon) but there were economic reasons as well. Plantations tended to suffer soil depletion; while a purely feudal/aristocratic system may have been able to solve this through traditions of leaving land fallow, the aristo-capitalist south would have found it far more difficult to do so, as it would be a competitive disadvantage for any particular grower to do so. A similar but possibly even more serious problem came from the fact that slaves had kids. If a slave owner were to limit this to a replacement level, he’d also be putting himself at a competitive disadvantage and just generally leaving money on the table. If he doesn’t, he’s either contributing to a potential glut of slave labor and/or contributing to a population of free blacks, either of which would be very threatening to the South. Empire of Cotton by Beckert goes into this stuff in more detail, if I recall correctly.

          Regardless, the theme of the fundamental conflict is clear: capitalism requires growth, whereas aristocracy is built for stasis. You can combine the two if you have an aristocratic means of production and an ability to grow it, but historically aristocratic means of production have pretty much always (if not always-always, I for one can’t think of any exceptions) linked to land, and eventually you will run out of land.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Very interesting. Thank you.

          • I don’t see any reason why capitalism requires growth, although it tends to produce growth.

            Plantations tended to suffer soil depletion; while a purely feudal/aristocratic system may have been able to solve this through traditions of leaving land fallow, the aristo-capitalist south would have found it far more difficult to do so, as it would be a competitive disadvantage for any particular grower to do so.

            You don’t believe capitalists invest in capital? If the increase in the future value of the land through holding some of it fallow part of the time is greater than the lost production through doing so, a profit maximizing capitalist holds it fallow.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You don’t believe capitalists invest in capital? If the increase in the future value of the land through holding some of it fallow part of the time is greater than the lost production through doing so, a profit maximizing capitalist holds it fallow.

            I think capitalists have a hard time “investing in capital” when it means making one’s existing capital less productive, yes. It’s the same reason the mom and pop store that closes on Sundays and pays a living wage goes out of business when WalMart comes to town. Granted, if a practice is sufficiently well-known and understood to be a good idea, it could become an industry standard, but a) I’m pretty sure mid-19th century soil science wasn’t there and b) even there, the incentive is always going to be to run right up to the wire–as shown by the abyssal state of our contemporary topsoil reserves.

            Moreover, even if a pure capitalist can find his way out of this trap–and I’m not trying to say it’s impossible so much as very difficult–how much more difficult is the task for a capitalist whose main form of capital is agricultural slave labor (now that a quarter of his fields are fallow, he’s got to find shit for them to do) and whose social standing is tied to his status as a land-owning planter?

          • Jiro says:

            The idea that mom-and-pop stores pay good wages is bizarre.

          • Aapje says:

            If a living wage is a ‘good wage,’ rather than merely OK, something is very wrong.

          • I think capitalists have a hard time “investing in capital” when it means making one’s existing capital less productive, yes. …

            Investing always means giving up a present value for a future value, which is what you are describing. Do you assume that modern firms never shut down a factory to install new equipment? That makes the existing capital less productive for a while.

            Granted, if a practice is sufficiently well-known and understood to be a good idea, it could become an industry standard, but a) I’m pretty sure mid-19th century soil science wasn’t there

            1. If the problem was lack of knowledge, then it wasn’t due to your previous explanation.

            But

            2. Crop rotation was a very old and familiar technology by then.

    • it at least looks like bourgeois values are more adaptive to the capitalist environment than their predecessors.

      Causation could go in either direction. I think McCloskey’s argument is that the bourgeois values were part of what caused the rise of modern capitalism.

  16. GigaFauna says:

    BBC yesterday: NOT having gender-specific awards is discriminatory
    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39634590

    BBC today: having gender-specific awards is discriminatory
    http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-39513543

    • Kevin C. says:

      Well, first, they are written by different people. Maybe Jolly and Saunders should argue it out between them. Also, insert parables and proverbs about the impossibility of pleasing everyone.
      But to the extent that these sorts of accusations of being discriminatory cannot simply be ignored, and can do harm, then this looks to be another example of “you cannot win with these people”. If you do A, you are “punished”, and if you do not-A, you are “punished”. In short, if they (to the extent “they” is a meaningful group or class) can strike at you, they will, so long as you are unable to stop them from doing so.

    • Aapje says:

      The sure winner for every award: outrage.

    • dodrian says:

      It feels unfair to criticize an news organization for posting two pieces arguing the opposite. Surely having a range of differing opinions is exactly what you want from a news source?

      It feels even more unfair when those articles are written about two entirely different fields: surfing vs. acting. There’s no apparent difference in what male and female actors do – portrayal of a character. While there are arguments about whether there is the same availability of interesting, complex characters for women to play, I’ve never heard anyone seriously suggest that that’s because women are less able than men to play those characters. But if gender-specific events didn’t exist in sport women would be driven out of almost all top-level competition. Though, there can be some sports awards won by both men and women.

      I am in favour of calling out authors who write contradictory articles based on political posturing. For example:
      Hannah Fearn: Theresa May should call a general election / Theresa May’s call for a general election is undemocratic.
      A good newspaper shouldn’t allow that.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        Exactly. “Extreme sports and acting not the same thing: news at 11.”

        It should also be noted that the “discrimination” the first article was talking about (keeping in mind that the article never used that word) was not allowing women to compete at all.

        It is not at all contradictory to both praise a move from “not allowing women to compete” to “allowing women to compete, albeit in a separate event” and to praise a move from “having a separate event for women” to “having a single aware for women and men”. From a women’s rights perspective, both are progress.

      • gbdub says:

        Agree.

        Though on the subject, non-gendered acting awards seem problematic for a couple reasons:
        1) There are half as many awards. Good for shortening awards shows, bad for padding actors’ resumes.
        2) If both the “best lead” and “best supporting” (or in the case of MTV awards, “best in film” and “best on TV/streaming”) go to men, there will be complaints of gender bias. If both go to women (as they did at the MTV awards) there won’t be. As a result, there will be actual bias to select women.

      • LHN says:

        The gendered awards could be replaced by two or more awards in different genres or acting styles. Best Actor in an Action Movie might be more likely to be a man most years while Best Actor in a YA might be more likely to be a woman, but there’d be room for the Ripleys and Sarah Connors and Furiosas for the first and the Harry Potters and such for the second.

        There are certainly differences in the sorts of roles offered. But that would point to an argument for actor weight classes, height classes, “Best Actor in a Role over 65 years old”, etc., since all of those also determine what roles it’s considered realistic for a given actor to play. (Meryl Streep is never going to play Lear except as a gimmick, but then neither is Peter Dinklage.)

        And the whole idea that it’s possible to compare the performances in a musical, a historical drama, a disease-of-the-moment picture, a comedy, and a fantasy epic and call one “best” suggests that nothing is really considered incommensurable by the Academy.

        • gbdub says:

          A drama/comedy split would be good, mostly because we haven’t had enough good comedy lately.

  17. mindlevelup says:

    I seem to recall reading a comment by Scott or someone else here that said that most of Cialdini’s work was under shaky ground following the replication crisis. I have not diligently looked at the OSF papers, but does anyone have a definitive answer on this? (This came up on LW when I made a post, and maybe someone here knows.)

  18. R Flaum says:

    I’d like to share with you all a tip I recently learned for dealing with bureaucracies. When asking them for information, don’t say “How do I do X?” Instead, say “Do you know how I can do X?” The reason for this is that if you phrase it the first way and the person you’re talking to doesn’t know the answer, they won’t want to admit that they don’t know, so they’ll give you a bullshit answer. However, if you phrase it the second way, that legitimizes “I don’t know” as a valid response, so they’ll be willing to say so. And it’s better to have no information than wrong information.

  19. Paul Brinkley says:

    @Scott: Still wondering what you thought of your Penguicon GwG experience. (I keep missing this event, mostly because I couldn’t make it to Penguicon every year except this one, in which I couldn’t afford to take more than a day off work…)

  20. Tekhno says:

    1: Would lie detector tests as part of citizenship tests be effective?
    2: Would the left care more about preventing Islamic fundamentalists from emigrating to the West if we could A: reliably detect them, and B: make that just a small part of rejecting the application of anyone who had socially conservative opinions? Essentially, marketing it as an anti-right wing immigration policy. Could you sell “we need to limit the immigration of conservatives” to the left?

    • andrewflicker says:

      My understanding is that lie detectors are basically only useful in inducing confessions- they add no reliable truth-biased information other than scaring out voluntary confessions.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Lie detectors measure anxiety which is only very loosely related to lying.

      • Tekhno says:

        I was under the impression that they were really effective so long as the test is administered by a professional.

        • Eltargrim says:

          Not a primary source, but from here:

          The panel’s report to NRC found no evidence of polygraph validity.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes and no. In very specific tests they work better than chance, but mostly they work on a psychological level; the impression given that “this machine can tell if you’re lying!” coupled with “This is Real Science and Real Science always works, look at all the crime shows!” and the whole ritual of putting on the leads and setting up the machine and the gravitas of the situation etc. is partly designed to make the nervous even more nervous so they will not try and bluff it out but will instead confess.

          Because there are tricks to get around them, and because there is such a thing as “white coat effect” (i.e. where the stress of having your blood pressure taken in an Official Setting by a doctor or nurse causes your blood pressure to go up), they aren’t much good as evidence – any half-way competent lawyer can work out ways to throw doubt on the results and it’s up to the individual judge to decide if they will or will not admit them as evidence.

          Naturally, both the companies that make and sell polygraphs and their expertise in operating them, and the police, prefer to emphasise that oh yes there’s no reason this can’t be used in court and oh yes, if it’s operated by a professional it’s nearly infallible but this ain’t necessarily so. For the police – who, remember, in America are legally permitted to lie to suspects – it’s a tool to trick encourage a confession out of someone, or at the least an agreement to a plea bargain.

          Personally, I’d rely as much on polygraph evidence as I would on casting someone’s horoscope to see if they’ll win their case or not.

        • cassander says:

          tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of of trained professionals to administer lie detector tests to millions of immigrants in hopes of capturing a few terrorists sounds prohibitively expensive.

          • shenanigans24 says:

            The entire immigration office has less than 20,000. Why would it take hundreds of thousands of people to do something that’s no more consuming than the application processes. Not that I think it would work for other reasons.

        • Tekhno says:

          @Eltargrim
          @Deiseach

          Thanks for the sources.

          @cassander

          I’m assuming you keep a cap on immigrants per year to begin with.

        • Aapje says:

          I suggest reading this free book, it’s really informative.

          Short summary:

          The assumption of the polygrapher is that people lie on some ‘control’ questions (like: have you smoked weed? Have you ever stolen anything?). Then the polygrapher compares the anxiety reaction for those questions to the real questions (like: are you a spy?).

          So the lie detector won’t work for people who never tell white lies (sorry, autistic people). It also can’t distinguish between lying and other causes for anxiety. For example, you might be upset over being asked a question about drugs if a family member OD’d. And some people can lie without stress (psychopathy does have some advantages).

          The lie detector can be defeated intentionally by figuring out the control questions and giving yourself a major bodily reaction for those. For example, by putting a tack in your shoe, biting your tongue/cheek, solving a quick math problem before answering, etc. You need to make sure that the polygrapher doesn’t figure that out though. They don’t like that.

          In practice, the main use of the lie detector is what andrewflicker said, to scare people into believing that they can’t hide the truth and then confessing.

      • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

        Psychopaths who don’t get stressed by lying go undetected.

    • rlms says:

      No. No. No.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      1. No.

      2. No. The left doesn’t really care whether muslims are extremists or not. They support muslim immigration because any non-European immigration dilutes the political power of the right.

      • Brad says:

        You know this how?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Do leftists not gloat over the demographic shifts that they eventually expect to deliver them a permanent Democratic majority?

          • Brad says:

            Any? All?

            What exactly are you trying to accomplish with broad sweeping statements about “the left”? Do you really think you will convince anyone that’s not already on board? Or were you just hoping for a safe space to express your rage and resentment?

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes, but that has next to nothing to do with the religious issue in the US. There just aren’t enough Muslim immigrants to the US — let alone fundamentalist ones — to matter. Europe’s a different story, but it also has different politics.

            (It’s also dumb, since the parties always realign before the hoped-for majority materializes. Ten years ago, the meme was that Evangelical and Mormon birth rates would deliver permanent majorities for the GOP; didn’t happen. More recently the mainline GOP was gearing up for a big push to bring Hispanics into the fold; Trump probably ruined that, and it didn’t look too likely to work even before him, but the idea was sound.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad:

            Demographic change is moving political power away from the Red Tribe, which is traditionally white, Christian, and strongly identifies as “American” towards the Blue Tribe. Some people on the political left understand this and actively advocate for it. Others may not actively advocate for mass immigration, but see the benefit to them politically so they do not oppose it.

            Is this true or false? Please educate me if I am misreading the situation.

          • Nornagest says:

            Immigrants aren’t Blue Tribe, though. Their kids might become Blue Tribe, if they grow up in Blue territory and don’t stay in their own cultural enclaves, but that’s true of Red Tribers who move to Blue areas too.

            Insofar as immigration is shifting power towards the Blues, it’s because of urbanization and inter-tribal alliances, not because it gives Blues a direct demographic advantage.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nornagest

            Immigrants aren’t Blue Tribe, though. Their kids might become Blue Tribe, if they grow up in Blue territory and don’t stay in their own cultural enclaves

            But we’re talking politics in a democracy, which means the question is of voting. Those immigrants and their descendants, whether in “cultural enclaves” or not, might not be Blue Tribe, and might not share Blue Tribe values, but they certainly vote in alliance with the Blues. I mean, name an immigrant group that votes Republican, besides maybe Cubans. I suppose this is what you meant by “inter-tribal alliances”, but if so, I don’t see how this isn’t a demographic advantage in politics. The size of the demographics who consistently vote Democrat goes up as a fraction of the population, and so the fraction that votes Republican is smaller (due to larger denominator).

          • Brad says:

            Demographic change is moving political power away from the Red Tribe, which is traditionally white, Christian, and strongly identifies as “American” towards the Blue Tribe. Some people on the political left understand this and actively advocate for it. Others may not actively advocate for mass immigration, but see the benefit to them politically so they do not oppose it.

            Is this true or false? Please educate me if I am misreading the situation.

            False. Few people are as cynical as you seem to think.

          • Nornagest says:

            But we’re talking politics in a democracy, which means the question is of voting. Those immigrants and their descendants, whether in “cultural enclaves” or not, might not be Blue Tribe, and might not share Blue Tribe values, but they certainly vote in alliance with the Blues.

            For now. These alignments have historically been more tactical than ideological, and I don’t see any reason for that to change.

            I mean, it won’t necessarily be an immigrant bloc that the GOP eventually splits off; there’s been a lot of noise made about Trump and white union workers, for example, though time will tell if it lasts. Two well-matched parties is a stable attractor in American politics; any particular composition is not. But they’re one of the more vulnerable parts of the Democratic coalition, so I think they’re a decent bet.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            False. Few people are as cynical as you seem to think.

            Huh. Well, FYI, immigrant groups disproportionately vote Democrat, so you should probably advocate for more immigrants if you like the Democratic party.

            Why do you think it is no Democratic Party policy makers or thought leaders have ever noticed this trend?

          • Brad says:

            Very few people has as their highest terminal value the maximum possible percentage of votes for the Democratic Party. If there are lots of people out there on your side of the aisle that have as their highest terminal value the maximum possible percentage of votes for the Republican Party, frankly that’s fucked up.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            I would say the terminal value would be the policies one could enact with the maximum possible votes for the Democratic party.

            There are elements in the Democratic party and among their allies that want as much immigration as they can get for political power. From your other comments I’m guessing you don’t follow politics much? I don’t know how else to explain your hostile reaction to very common observations. Left-leaning journalism has been crowing about demographic change for years. I don’t know how you missed it.

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            You’ve gone from

            The left doesn’t really care whether muslims are extremists or not. They support muslim immigration because any non-European immigration dilutes the political power of the right.

            to

            There are elements in the Democratic party and among their allies that want as much immigration as they can get for political power.

            These are very different statements. The second is a lot more defensible and so less objectionable. You should have started with that.

            Better still let people answer for themselves instead of putting words in other people’s mouths. Do you really think that Tekhno was hoping that someone implacably hostile to the left would explain its thinking to him? Would you go ask stormfront how Jews think about a particular issue?

          • Nornagest says:

            Very few people has as their highest terminal value the maximum possible percentage of votes for the Democratic Party.

            Nothing in this conversation requires anyone to have that as their highest terminal value, and I’m tempted to say you know it.

            At the end of the day, we all want roughly the same things: freedom, prosperity, justice. But the parties have very different ideas about how to get there, and in the long term those ideas can only be realized if there are enough voters on the ground to support them. Voter rolls therefore are not a terminal goal for party strategists, but they are a very strong instrumental goal, and demographics are one of the more important moving parts there. Anyone who’s paying attention knows this; it’s why, every ten years or so, the newspapers are full of gloating or hand-wringing about one party or the other’s impending demographic victory (which then fails to materialize).

            If large-scale immigration from North Africa or the Arab world was on the table, the Democrats would be stupid to ignore it. It’s not, so it’s nowhere near the issue here that it is in Europe (recent travel bans notwithstanding), and instead the immigration issue revolves around Mexico, Central America, and to a much lesser degree Asia. But the reason it’s not is because of the facts on the ground, not because of principle and definitely not because the only people that care about demographics have [R]s by their names.

          • Iain says:

            Reminder: it is not that long ago that Muslim immigrants were a Republican-leaning demographic. George W. Bush won the Muslim vote in 2000. (This is my favourite piece on the topic.)

            Even in the world where the affinity between Democrats support Muslim immigration as a purely partisan ploy, it’s not because it “dilutes the political power of the right”. It’s because it wins them the votes of American Muslims. Given the choice between a party that demonizes your religion and wants to prohibit your coreligionists from entering the country, and a party that does not do those things, you are obviously going to vote for the party that doesn’t hate your guts.

            There’s no iron law that says immigrants have to vote for the left. In Canada, immigrant communities are important swing voters, and the major parties all compete for their votes. The Republican party has positioned itself in opposition to Muslims and largely taken itself out of contention for their votes. That’s not the Democrats’ fault.

          • keranih says:

            This is not the Democrat’s fault.

            Emmm. A quibble here – the perception of Republicans and Republicans only being biased against Muslims without justification and with cruel intent has been a narrative pushed by Democrats/progressives in the news media and in social media/minor outlets for a decade and a half now.

            I am not saying that the conservative suspicion of Muslims was made up out of whole cloth. I’m saying that what was/is there was blown up out of proportion and that Democratic affirmations of how pro-Muslim they were made with the primary intent of poking Republicans in the eye and calling them evil intolerant racists. *That* is the fault of the Democrats.

            (Not that I can seriously expect them to feel sorry about it. It’d be a nice touch, but it’s a bit much to ask.)

          • Iain says:

            Sure. The Republicans gave them an opening, and the Democrats took it. Your perception of how much they had to exaggerate to do so will likely depend on which side of the aisle you’re standing on; at the point where the Republican president campaigned on a ban on Muslim immigration, I tend to think that very little exaggeration is necessary.

          • keranih says:

            ‘Tis very true that it depends on where you are standing.

            (Which means that from where I stand, the Democrat’s refusal to take seriously the political repercussions when the next attack by an immigrant Muslim kills and maims Americans, because thinking about that now will hamper their ability to scream ‘racist’ at the President, means that the D’s care for neither American lives nor their own political future.)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.

          Source.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Conrad Honcho

        It dillutes the power of the existing right, but they’ll simply be replaced by the Islamic right (fundamentalists).

        • Kevin C. says:

          It dillutes the power of the existing right, but they’ll simply be replaced by the Islamic right (fundamentalists).

          But not immediately. And in the meantime, how do those Islamic fundamentalists vote? For the “existing right”, or the left? And how long will that last? Plus, once the “existing right” has been diluted enough, do you not then expect efforts to be stepped up to convert and assimiliate those “Islamic fundamentalists” into proper people of the European left, so as to avoid them becoming a “replacement” for those they were brought in to help defeat, as it were?

          Edit: Or are you envisioning the “handover” as something like the scenario of Houellebecq’s Soumission?

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        “The left doesn’t really care whether muslims are extremists or not. They support muslim immigration because any non-European immigration dilutes the political power of the right.”

        Or maybe they just want to help people.

        • Anonymous says:

          Do you really want to make that counterargument?

          – “They’re evil!”
          – “No, they’re stupid.”

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            What, helping people is now *self-evidently* synonymous with stupidity?

          • Anonymous says:

            If the method used is actively harmful, for obvious and straightforward reasons, yes.

            I think I’d rather believe that they left is smarter than this. That they have some kind of objective here that actually benefits them somehow, at least in the short term.

          • keranih says:

            I think Grey Anon overstates it, but I’ve had the experience of expressing reservations about letting immigrants enter in numbers that overwhelm the system – to the point where 25 year old young men are passing as “unaccompanied minors” – and been met with push back that “Don’t you want to help these people?”

            Granted, that’s not as bad as “SO YOU WANT THESE PEOPLE TO DIE???” – a response I’ve also seen – but it still sidesteps the question.

            I might want to help the people, but don’t think that letting them in, or letting them in via manner XYZ, is the best way to go about it. We should find common ground, and agreeing that we both don’t wish harm to these people is a place to start, yes, but let’s not assume that I don’t want to help, just because I don’t like your idea for helping.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Or maybe they just want to help people.

          Then why not help them in their home countries, where there’s a much lower chance they will harm people already here?

          I just see the extreme hostility from the left towards travel bans from war zones and the establishment of safe zones. But one could help more people for less money with safe zones. So that seems to be the obvious choice if you want to help the maximum number of people, and it does so in a way that doesn’t put our citizens in danger. Seems like a win-win. The hostility to such endeavors leads me to believe the terminal goal is, in fact, “get more potential political allies in the country.”

          Also, refugee resettlement is big money for charity groups like Catholic Charities.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            The issue is what to do with people who have already come here and applied for asylum. If someone’s saying that if they are returned home they will get killed or grievously harmed in some other way, do you just give them some money and send them home? No, you sit down and try to figure out if what they say is true, and if it is, then there’s not obviously going to be a good way to “help them in their home countries”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            The majority of refugees are in countries immediately surrounding the home countries, or internally displaced.

          • Zodiac says:

            Correct me if I’m wrong but haven’t safe zones and refugee camps a pretty bad trackrecord? Serious question.

          • Nornagest says:

            A bad track record in what sense? There are lots of refugee camps now, there have been a lot in the past, and they usually succeed in their goal of temporarily housing refugees. Quality of life usually isn’t so great, but we’re usually not talking a major humanitarian crisis level of not-so-great.

          • Zodiac says:

            I haven’t looked very much into it but I had the impression that they left people living borderline inhumane and in a state of hopelessness since they turn out not to be temporary at all. All if this supposedly makes them a very viable breeding ground for extremism.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @Zodiac, you might be thinking of the Srebrenica Massacre. That’s what came to my mind, at any rate.

          • Aapje says:

            @Zodiac

            Correct me if I’m wrong but haven’t safe zones and refugee camps a pretty bad track record?

            These are….not the same thing at all.

            The track record for both depends primarily on the willingness of those who run/protect the places to do what it takes; and on what you compare them to.

            Most refugee camps are pretty shit compared to our lives, but pretty good compared to being dead.

          • keranih says:

            It is the policy of the UN refugee agencies (*) that refugees be allowed to move out of danger, not encouraged to move further than that, supported within established towns when possible, minimally supported in mass camps when those camps arise, and be encouraged to return to their homes if at all possible, as soon as possible, and if not, allowed to integrate into the local economies if it is impossible for them to return.

            Given an option between staying in a camp in Turkey waiting on peace to break out in Syria and being given an apartment and training in Germany, most people pick Germany. But that’s not evidence that this set of choices was complete.

            (*) with the long-standing exception of the Palestinian camps, which I am not getting into.

          • Aapje says:

            @keranih

            Sure, but much of Africa, India, Russia, etc would also prefer to live in Germany.

            I don’t think that it is very fair to give things to refugees that are not related to their refugee-status (their need for safety) and that go way beyond what you would be willing to give to to non-refugees.

            This is especially true when only a small percentage of refugees can profit. At that point, you just have a lottery with riches for some and nothing for others.

    • Deiseach says:

      1: Would lie detector tests as part of citizenship tests be effective?

      I tend to think not, given that if you really are a desperado plotting to cause mayhem, you may have anticipated being questioned on your motives and have practiced some form of handling interrogation. You would need a whole-hearted faith in the infallibility of the polygraph to think it could screen bad ‘uns out with little error and catch all the villains before they could do harm. That brings to mind the reaction of Chesterton when filling out, as part of the application to visit the USA, the question form required which asked about ‘are you an anarchist or a polygamist or a violent revolutionary?’:

      Then there was the question, ‘Are you in favour of subverting the government of the United States by force?’ Against this I should write, ‘I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning.’ The inquisitor, in his more than morbid curiosity, had then written down, ‘Are you a polygamist?’ The answer to this is, ‘No such luck’ or ‘Not such a fool,’ according to our experience of the other sex. But perhaps a better answer would be that given to W. T. Stead when he circulated the rhetorical question, ‘Shall I slay my brother Boer?’ — the answer that ran, ‘Never interfere in family matters.’
      But among many things that amused me almost to the point of treating the form thus disrespectfully, the most amusing was the thought of the ruthless outlaw who should feel compelled to treat it respectfully. I like to think of the foreign desperado, seeking to slip into America with official papers under official protection, and sitting down to write with a beautiful gravity, ‘I am an anarchist. I hate you all and wish to destroy you.’ Or, ‘I intend to subvert by force the government of the United States as soon as possible, sticking the long sheath-knife in my left trouser-pocket into Mr. Harding at the earliest opportunity.’ Or again, ‘Yes, I am a polygamist all right, and my forty-seven wives are accompanying me on the voyage disguised as secretaries.’ There seems to be a certain simplicity of mind about these answers; and it is reassuring to know that anarchists and polygamists are so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions and they are certain to tell no lies.

    • 1: Would lie detector tests as part of citizenship tests be effective?
      2: Would the left care more about preventing Islamic fundamentalists from emigrating to the West if we could A: reliably detect them, and B: make that just a small part of rejecting the application of anyone who had socially conservative opinions? Essentially, marketing it as an anti-right wing immigration policy. Could you sell “we need to limit the immigration of conservatives” to the left?

      First of all, lie detectors are expensive bullshit.

      Second, let’s say there was clear and convincing evidence that a specific immigrant was a terrorist. I think you’d get broad agreement across the American left, right, and center that such a person should be excluded. Even those most strongly committed to immigration would agree on a ban against known terrorists.

      Third, “socially conservative opinions” sounds like a really nonsense criteria for evaluating potential immigrants. Most Americans are descended from immigrants with socially conservative opinions, no?

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      The people immigrating to Europe causing the controversy do so as refugee applicants and asylum seekers. You can’t really filter those sort of people out due to their political views; human rights are human rights, no matter what opinions people applying for asylum hold.

      • shenanigans24 says:

        You can filter people out view to beliefs. I don’t know why this has become verboten. Beliefs are how people should be judged, not physical characteristics. If neither are on the table we are demanding people be rocks.

        • lvlln says:

          Judging people by beliefs had some famously horrifying consequences in the early 20th century, from what I recall.

          Less snarkily. judging people by beliefs never made sense to me. I didn’t choose my beliefs. If someone held a gun to my head and told me to truly believe that the Earth was flat or that the Christian God existed, then I would have no choice but to try to lie really well. Why should one be judged by something one has no choice in?

          • Why should one be judged by something one has no choice in?

            An interesting question aside from the particular context.

            You seem to assume that the only reason to judge people is to decide what reward or punishment they deserve. You don’t deserve things you had no choice in, so shouldn’t be judged on them.

            But that assumes a world where the only issue is handing out existing goodies. That isn’t the world we live in. Someone doesn’t deserve to be tall or short, but if you are hiring basketball players it makes a lot of sense to judge candidates in part on that. Someone doesn’t deserve to be born in one country or another, but if you need native speakers of English it makes sense to judge people on how well they speak English, which depends mostly on whether they grew up in an English speaking society. Someone doesn’t deserve to have a high or low IQ, but if you are hiring computer programmers or math professors it makes sense to judge them on, among other things, how smart they are.

            Arguably, someone doesn’t deserve to have particular beliefs. But if you are hiring a company treasurer, you have good reason to prefer someone who believes that stealing is wrong.

    • Tekhno says:

      @Larry Kestenbaum

      Most Americans are descended from immigrants with socially conservative opinions, no?

      So? We want to prevent people who have socially conservative opinions now from coming in in large numbers and causing the loss of gains in creating a more liberal culture. (Well, at least I do. I think the far-right position is kind of nonsensical and contradictory on this issue). If they come in in small numbers over time, then they can lose their conservatism through social pressure, but if they come in in large numbers then they can overwhelm the local cultural norms.

      Obviously, the paradox of liberal laws is that conservatism must be allowed as a value within a free society, but we don’t have to apply this to non-citizens (unless you believe in some magical natural rights silliness). Any free society comes up against the contradiction that it allows a large amount of freedom within that society for those who want to destroy it. Therefore, even liberal societies should be careful about who they let in to join them in enjoying liberal culture and laws, because once they are citizens it is too late to do anything about non-criminal but negative influencers (unless you give up liberalism altogether, which would be really really really bad).

      Though I guess this is moot, because lie detectors won’t work. We really will have to screen on a country of origin based metric, after all.

      @Tatu Ahponen

      Refugees aren’t the totality of socially conservative immigration. Also, if refugees get a free pass then you have to screen who is a refugee and who isn’t, otherwise you have de facto open borders because anyone can just claim to be a refugee. As far as I’m aware, “human rights” don’t allow you to go to any country you want, only to get to safe territory too.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        “Refugees aren’t the totality of socially conservative immigration. Also, if refugees get a free pass then you have to screen who is a refugee and who isn’t, otherwise you have de facto open borders because anyone can just claim to be a refugee. As far as I’m aware, “human rights” don’t allow you to go to any country you want, only to get to safe territory too.”

        Yes, and that’s what we do – but the screening is related to figuring out if they are really escaping oppression, not what social beliefs they have. Socially conservative people can be repressed just as well as non-conservative people.

  21. Yakimi says:

    Your predictions, please, as to whether the victory of Macron—now the avatar of the perverse neoliberal–social justice alliance that Clinton was meant to become—over the nationalist yet socialistic Le Pen will accelerate the rise of an ecological National Bolshevism as the only coherent challenge to the depredations of open-borders, gender-free, late-capitalist McBugworld.

    • Kevin C. says:

      I doubt it. Primarily because it’s questionable how well National Bolshevism translates out of the specifically Russian context. I note first its Smenovekhovtsi roots, with those who, like Nikolay Ustryalov, initially opposed communism, but became reconciled to Bolshevism on the grounds it could be directed to serve as a vehicle for Russian nationalism, the only thing left after the civil war capable of “restoring greatness to Russia”. And examination of modern leading figures like Limonov reinforce the view that it remains a vehicle for “the creation of a grand empire that will include the whole of Europe and Russia, as well as Northern/Central Asia to be governed under Russian dominance.”

      There’s also the strong association with Aleksandr Dugin (whom I became familiar with mainly through Nick Land’s repeated mentions), and there looks in the present context to be set heavily in his theories of geopolitics, with the core opposition between “mercantile, modernist, and materialist”, “seapower”-based Atlanticist civilization —embodied in Anglo-American hegemony — and “traditionalist, spiritual, and heroic”, “landpower”-based Eurasian civilization. In terms of “Bolshevism”, what “anti-capitalism” is present looks to be an outgrowth of the anti-liberalism, rather than belief in a specific (communist) alternative. Some Dugin quotes:

      The liberalism affirms only individual identity and prohibits any kind of collective or organic identity. So liberalism step by step refuses religion, nation and gender belongingness in order to set individual completely free from any kind of holism. Gender is the core political problem because the liberals insists on the optional nature of gender, a gender as individual choice (before the struggle was around religion as individual choice or nation as individual choice). The other crucial point is immigration. The liberalism refuses to acknowledge religious or cultural identities as well as gender one: so immigrant is not considered as the bearer of different identity but one numerical atomic individual more. So liberalism destroys any collective identity. Logically liberalism destroys European identity (with so called tolerance and human rights theories). Together with intensive destruction of sexual identity it accelerates the end of society as such. The end of Europe is granted by the very fact of acceptance the liberalism as mainstream ideology.

      The last step in developing liberalism will be negate human identity as collective one. So welcome to trans-humanism. That is liberal agenda for tomorrow.

      (source)

      “But how does this relate to merchants, traders, and usurers?,” you ask. In no way. Such kinds were despised in Indo-European societies. Capitalism appeared only once Indo-European values began to be rapidly forgotten, degraded, and degenerate. Indo-European societies also did not know equality, a sign of degeneration. They did not know feminism or sodomy, by which differed the matriarchal lands and non-Indo-European cults such as the cult of Cybele.

      European modernity, which abolished religion, faith in the King and the Heavenly Father, the castes, the sacred understanding of the world, and essentially patriarchy, was the beginning of the fall of Indo-European civilization. Capitalism, materialism, egalitarianism, and economism are all the revenge of those societies against which the Indo-Europeans waged war, subjugated, and strove to remedy, which composed the essence of all Indo-European peoples’ history. Modernity was the end of Indo-European civilization. It naturally corresponds to the nadir. This is not an abstraction, for it affects us in the most direct ways.

      No compromises will help us. Either we will disappear and be dissolved, or we must restore our Indo-European civilization in its entirety, with all of its values, ways, and metaphysics. If we want to preserve ourselves as a people, as an Indo-European people, we must wake up and be reborn in contrast to all that has been taken for granted in the world of modernity. To hell with this world of modernity.

      (source)

      The West believes that only its path of development, only its logic, and only its values are universal and common to all of mankind, and that all other peoples have simply not yet understood this. This means that the West, albeit temporarily (until they understand this), can and is even obliged to rule others. With such a blatant agenda, the West has in practice managed to colonize the East. This is no easy feat, but it managed to. But the West faltered in the face of Russia, Eurasia. We, Russians, opposed the West with something that stopped it in its tracks. It repeatedly tried to take us by force and ruse, but we held on. The East fell, but we didn’t. And we are holding out to this day. This is Eurasia as an idea.

      Eurasia means not succumbing to the West’s claims to universality, rejecting its hegemony, and insisting that no one has a monopoly on truth, especially not the West. Eurasia is the possibility for peoples and civilizations to follow their own path and, if the logic of the path demands such, not only a non-Western one, but even an anti-Western path. This is Eurasia. This idea was understood by the first Eurasianists, Trubetzkoy, Savitsky, and Alekseev in the 1920’s. We too understand it. And Vladimir Putin understands it, since there is no other meaning of Eurasia.

      (source)

      There’s a lot here that I am highly sympathetic to, and find congruent with my own views… which immediately makes me highly skeptical as to its odds of finding any sort of success, even as an “alternative” to the “neoliberal–social justice alliance”. And there’s the contradictory position wherein they defend particularism, cultural self-determination and opposition to homogenization… but not for, say, Ukraine, because “Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning. It has no particular cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness” (Foundations of Geopolitics, p 377). It looks like traditionalist opposition to the “Universal Culture” demon from beyond married to distinctively Russian expansionist nationalism. Not my personal cup of tea, but far better than the alternative.

      Or else, I could be misunderstanding you, Yakimi. Perhaps by “ecological National Bolshevism”, you mean something like trying Stalin’s “Socialism in One Country” all over again. That the primary point of opposition to “the perverse neoliberal–social justice alliance” of which Macron is now “avatar” is that this system has made its peace with private ownership of the means of production, and with (mostly) free markets and economic inequality only partially ameliorated by limited redistrubution of monetary wealth. Here, we have instead an opposition between two forms of egalitarianism… or at least differences in focus, with one placing first addressing ethnic, gender, etc. inequality, including with the globalist weakening of borders both geographic and cultural; and the other placing first class and economic inequality, with an eye on environmental “sustainability” as holding a role in limiting wealth and consumption. This reading would be a bit more plausible as a pair of views to which the space of “plausible, coherent alternatives” could become reduced, but I don’t particularly see how Macron’s victory accelerates this process.

      If you could clarify which you meant, I would be appreciative.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Also, as a follow-up, Dugin on Macron’s victory. The start:

        Marine Le Pen lost the elections. Globalist Macron won. Transnational (and transgender) elites defeated the People. Welcome to Hell! The fall continues. Defeat of the People is our defeat. And the blow must be taken as a blow. It makes no sense to grumble: “We said …” Life – including political life, and political life in the first place – is a war. The battle is lost, but the war is not. Everything is ahead. The world’s scum will not give up and try to drag the whole of humanity into the abyss. But we do not lose our hands. Now it is clear that Resistance with necessity must be global. After all, the enemy is global.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I don’t think so. People like Bannon and Le Pen only care about economic issues secondary to the culture wars. They might be less approving of free trade and might be willing to put more regulations on banks but that’s about it.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      I don’t think MLP can be classified as socialist – her economic policies hew back to old-school European conservatism, which was generally protectionist and often quite favorable to state interventionism. Many parts of the European welfare states bear strong conservative influence.

  22. FactsLittleKnown says:

    Hi guys! Long time lurker here who thought this audience was a great place to get feedback on a new idea. Me and a few friends have been exploring whether it’s possible to solve the problem of biased news by leveraging technology to quickly filter through news and then allowing humans to just convert the lists of facts into a readable story. We’re really excited about the possibilities here to massively improve people’s ability to absorb true (and ignore false) information. But we want to make sure we’re not the only ones interested in this sort of thing, so we’ve put together a brief (5 min) survey. If you’re interested in helping us build up a source of unbiased news, please take the time to offer your thoughts! Thanks!

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’m very dubious about this. Anyone putting together a list of facts will need to decide what to include and what to leave out, and anyone writing it up into a readable story will need to decide what vocabulary to use. For a less culture-war-dominated example, say a car hits a bicyclist, who dies from his injuries. Do you call it an “accident” (which is traditional but implies lack of motive), a “collision” (saying absolutely nothing except the physics), or “homicide” (which is also correct)? Do you mention whether the cyclist was or was not wearing a helmet (which helps in some collisions but not all, and can lead to a whole lot of victim-blaming)?

      Your news source could definitely improve on the current sites – but if it waves the flag of objectivity too hard, it could also make things worse.

      • FactsLittleKnown says:

        Disclaimer: Please don’t read this until you’ve taken the survey!!!

        Totally agreed that this is hard! There are a couple of responses to your specific concern, but first I’ll say that I agree that flag-waving poses a risk in and of itself. The goal for this platform is for it to be marketed as (and maintained in actuality as) as jumping-off platform for people who actually want to be informed. In other words, this is where you go to learn “what has been going on that’s valuable for me to know about at all”, and then we would provide basic context as well as potentially guidance on how to do further research. (For instance, on the topic of “Is X constitutional”, our article would like like “Person A did/would like to do X. There are some legal questions about exactly how much authority they have to do this – here’s the relevant link to the Constitution or appropriate amendment, as well as links to cases that have had similar questions.” We’ll try hard not to inject our own beliefs about what’s right/wise/moral, and just focus on stating objective facts.

        Of course, we’ll still fail sometimes. But personally I believe we’re really far on the “everyone’s in their tribal bubbles” side of the spectrum, and so fighting to push us more towards equality, even if true equality is impossible, ill-advised, etc, can still be a powerful force for good.

        Finally, in terms of “decide what to leave in/leave out” – we believe that 90% of what people here isn’t news, in the sense that it doesn’t actually convey information that would lead a reader to update their model of the world. (For instance, “Random guy says random hateful thing”, “a car crash happened”, etc is generally not news in the way we care to define it.) We also intend to avoid “research” stories, and focus only on reporting events that have occurred in the last 24 hours. Our expectation is that a typical day would only include ~2 news stories, and those stories would pretty explicitly be things everyone would agree were news. If you want yet more stories about things we don’t cover, there will always be ways to obtain that, but we want to start with a very tight filter where we only include what we think is truly valuable.

        Thoughts?

    • Well... says:

      Took the survey. I hope you actually read all the responses and don’t just skim for a general sense of how people reacted. I had very specific high-level answers.

  23. colonel_trick says:

    W.r.t. point 3: This might be a silly question – is there any reason why one might be suspicious of the validity of reviews on the drug review sites being analyzed? I know that large companies using user-generated product reviews, such as Amazon, have had to take action against fake reviews in the past. I’m not very familiar with online medical resources, but I have at least heard of WebMD – would that possibly be a big enough target to try to buy reviews for? Or are those sites sufficiently unrelated to the majority of patients’ actual prescriptions to not be worth any particular proponent’s time?

  24. Kevin C. says:

    So, I’ve seen people on both sides of the political spectrum who think it probable that sometime in the near-future, President Trump will “go Jacksonian” on the courts — as in “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”* I’m much more skeptical. How do folks around here rate the likelihood of such a thing happening, and what sort of scenario does one see unfolding in its wake?

    *The quote itself is likely apocryphal.

    • herbert herberson says:

      It was always my biggest concern, and one that I felt needed to be taken very seriously–this is a person who took great joy in dismantling political conventions and was repeatedly rewarded for doing so–but when he didn’t do it to protect a signature policy like the Muslim ban at when his electoral mandate was at its strongest point, I became much less concerned. At this point, I don’t expect it to happen absent a big terrorist attack, an event which could raise multiple such problems, and could do so under any president.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Less than 10%, but one can always dream.

    • rlms says:

      Attempt to do so, or succeed?

    • Drew says:

      How do folks around here rate the likelihood of such a thing happening, and what sort of scenario does one see unfolding in its wake?

      This seems like a matter of degrees. Any President could drag his feet when complying with an order from SCOTUS. They all will, at some point or another.

      So, “Going Jackson” isn’t about ignoring SCOTUS. Instead, it’s about ignoring SCOTUS and giving a speech about how you’re ignoring SCOTUS.

      Trump has a slightly better-than-average chance of trying “evil” policies, and a profoundly worse-than-average chance of pulling them off successfully.

      Trump is an AMAZING foil for his opposition. He’s boorish, culturally-offensive and tactically sloppy. He’s malicious, but only in extremely petty ways.

      I couldn’t have designed a more-convenient opponent.

      —-
      Consider the “Muslim Ban”.

      Trump could have gotten this passed if he’d just shut up about his motivation. But he went and told everyone that it was a Muslim ban. Then he wrote a sloppy executive order that pissed off the courts.

      You’re a mid-level functionary. The memo arrives on your desk, “ignore SCOTUS, block the visas anyway.” Do you follow the order? I’d expect not. Why would you?

      Refusing would be easy. It would feel moral. And it would make you popular. A simple choice.

      Virtually any other president would have a better chance of getting functionaries to go along with blatantly illegal orders.

    • LHN says:

      Was just reading a piece arguing that, at least thus far, Trump has been more restrained by his legal advisors than the author (or I) had expected given his threats and tweets. “Time after time, Trump has tweeted boorish and inappropriate messages after courts halted his executive orders. And time after time, Trump’s bluster was nothing more than bluster, as his Justice Department took the same prudent course that previous Justice Departments would have.”

      http://joshblackman.com/blog/2017/05/07/all-the-presidents-lawyers/

      It’s still early days. But I’d certainly feared worse sooner, so to that extent it’s a relief.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      What I would prefer to see him do is dissolve and re-create the 9th Circuit Court. The only court established by the constitution is the Supreme Court. Every other court is established by legislation signed by the executive. Congress could just pass a law and the president sign it that says “As of X date the Ninth Circuit Court is dissolved.”

      The judiciary has far, far overreached its power and is acting like it has a political veto over any law in the land. It doesn’t work that way, and we need the other two branches of government to check the power of the third.

      • LHN says:

        They can reshuffle the circuits and choose not to replace them when they retire, but as far as I know the other two branches can’t use a circuit reorganization to strip appellate judges of their lifetime tenure. So the advantage to the administration over just replacing them with judges the President and Congress like better as they retire would be relatively small.

        (And would depend on whether the major effect of scattering them was to dilute the effect of their en banc decisions, or to make binding opinions by those judges in standard appeals more widespread across more circuits.)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          but as far as I know the other two branches can’t use a circuit reorganization to strip appellate judges of their lifetime tenure.

          I’m almost certain they can. If the circuit to which you are appointed no longer exists, you no longer have an appointment.

          We’re supposed to have three co-equal branches of government, and neither branch is supposed to be able to stand up to the other two. How else do the legislative and executive check the judiciary when it’s seized powers it shouldn’t have?

          • LHN says:

            Impeachment, if they’ve actually seized powers extralegally– the lifetime appointment is only “during good Behavior”.

          • LHN says:

            It looks like there is a precedent of sorts for abolishing circuit judgeships in the Judiciary Act of 1802. But it’s not clear that it would be found constitutional today, particularly if new vacancies were created and filled. (Making it a clear end-run around lifetime tenure.) Matthew J. Franck addresses a proposal along those lines in this 2011 National Review piece:

            http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/286040/gingrichs-awful-proposal-abolish-judgeships-part-2-matthew-j-franck

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Conrad, you’re absolutely right. Cf. when the new Republican Congress repealed the “Midnight Judges Act” passed by the previous lame-duck Federalist Congress: the new circuit courts vanished, and the judges recently appointed to fill them lost their jobs without any compensation.

            EDIT: Franck’s arguments (linked by LHN above) do weigh against the constitutionality of abolishing the Ninth Circuit one day and recreating it the next. But if we divide it among the Eighth and Tenth Circuits, that seems almost exactly analogous to the Judiciary Act of 1802 – which’s been acquiesced as Constitutional for over two centuries. It seems to me if we establish multiple new circuits, that’d also be Constitutional.

            Alternatively, a shrewd President Trump could divide the circuit into two or three divisions – as has been advocated by people from both parties – appoint a couple dozen new judges, and dilute the existing liberal judges that way.

    • Trump would need a lot more popular support than he has to pull something like that off. Jackson could do it because he was genuinely very popular (and had just replaced pretty much the entire bureaucracy with cronies).

  25. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m taking another crack at Unsong in the hopes of getting caught up before the end. Previous efforts have failed because I felt compelled to Read All the Comments. I’ve been told that the comments don’t add that much, and I should just read the novel.

    Anyway, I remember a listing of other books Unsong resembled, and Scott saying he hadn’t read them, or at least hadn’t read most of them. Anyone remember the list?

    • gwern says:

      Two of the comparisons would be Illuminatus! and Foucault’s Pendulum, so I would start hunting in site searches with those keywords.

      • yodelyak says:

        Stories of your life and others is a 2002 short-story collection by Ted Chiang. The short story “Seventy-Two Letters” has a very similar play on deliberate divination of words of power. I didn’t see the original list, so I don’t know where to refer you, but as Gwern notes maybe this will help a keyword search.

        • Wander says:

          Adding to this: Hell is the Absence of God in the same anthology also has some similarities.

    • Anon. says:

      Sam Hughes’ Fine Structure and Ra have quite a few similarities.

      • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

        I found Fine Structure too confusing. Its author is planning to rewrite (or wrote so somewhere).

        Highly recommended: Ventus by Karl Schroeder.

    • Luke Somers says:

      Aside from the connections already mentioned, the very first few chapters had a vague resemblance to the premise of A Beginner’s Guide to Magical Site Licensing, but Unsong goes in a completely different direction. ABGMSL has nothing particularly rationalist about it; as a consumer of web fiction I say it’s ok but misses a lot of opportunities to be better, while its premise isn’t actually a tenth as interesting as Unsong.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      A very recent, ultra-short, ultra-nerdy, notably Unsong-compatible work is last week’s Dinosaur Comics #3131, “Attention Wizards“.

      Also very recently, Dinosaur Comics #3129, in which G*d threatens “If this is a setup for an atrocious pun, I will destroy the universe” (hint: the G*d of Dinosaur Comics always speaks in bold-face) is plenty scary for Unsong fans. 🙂

  26. eyeballfrog says:

    Is there going to be any attempt to get Unsong published or will it remain an online-only thing?

    • Evan Þ says:

      According to Scott on the /r/rational subreddit, he’s been approached by a couple publishers, is considering what to do, and will tell us one way or the other when he decides.

      (Go Scott!)

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Does approached by a publisher mean “hey you should submit this to us for consideration” or “we’ve already decided to publish it if you let us”?

  27. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but I was really disappoint that the “old-school online bulletin board” was web-based.

    • maintain says:

      Yeah, same here. I heard “old-school”, and I was thinking I’d dust off my modem and dial in.

  28. GregS says:

    How much can physicians slack off in writing their notes? My wife is a pediatrician, and she has to document every office visit. She spends probably a full work-day doing these notes each week. She told me that her partner at the clinic writes extremely short notes. That could come back to bite him if he gets sued or if he hands off a patient, because the documentation isn’t thorough enough. She had been praised for her diligent note-taking, while her partner had been criticized for being too lax. I suggested she could probably do something between her current diligence and her partners and be fine, rather than spending (wasting?) so much time getting her notes perfect. I thought I’d put the question out there. “More documentation is better” in some ideal, all-else-equal sense. But it seems like there’s a lot of variation in note-quality, which seems to imply the diligent note-takers could get away with doing less. (And the slackers should probably be more thorough.)

    • acrimonymous says:

      I think over time, she should be able to apply detail less consistently, becoming more aware of when it is warranted.

      There ought to be some research out there that identifies what characteristics are associated with lawsuits, whether of cases, patients, or families. These would be the situations to take more care in.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Is she literally writing notes? I thought most doctors dictate and have someone else type them up.

      • GregS says:

        Some doctors do this, but they have to hire their own transcriptionist.
        The clinic’s computer system documents all the patients names and visit times and maybe some other stuff (prescriptions, hospital admissions?). The physician has to add notes to capture all the details.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Have speech-to-text tools gotten much traction? I know healthcare tech companies love to brag about having it, but that’s never been a good bellwether for actual adoption.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            1. Even 20 years ago, transcription was good for a system a) trained on the doctor’s voice and b) the doctor trained to speak in a recognizable matter.

            2. Even if not, transcription services are cheap compared to a doctor’s salary.

  29. acrimonymous says:

    I’ll be presenting a version of this analysis on Sunday May 21 starting 10 AM at the resident poster session

    I just read through the old post and comments. I thought there were some good points made in the comments that you didn’t address, so I’d be interested to see what you’re presenting now. I hope you post it on the blog.

  30. ksvanhorn says:

    I would be interested in reading Scott’s take on this article:

    Societies With Little Coercion Have Little Mental Illness
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/08/societies-little-coercion-little-mental-illness/

    • herbert herberson says:

      Initial, gut response: if a society lacks coercion, wouldn’t it be much less likely to formally identify people as mentally ill whether or not the actual rates have changed? That is, the main way we find out that people have mental health problems is that they aren’t doing the things that Rational People Are Supposed To Do, and if your society happens to have a shorter list of such things, then you’re going to have a larger number of people getting by under the “merely eccentric” label

      • neaanopri says:

        I think this may be a feature rather than a bug, the rules of a society being easy to follow should reflect well on it. Of course this view discounts the idea that society could cause mental illness.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      And a claim that a supportive environment without coercion is good for people with mental illness.

      http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/496/an-open-mind

    • Deiseach says:

      Okay, I stopped reading when he started approvingly quoting from a 1921 quasi-anthropological treatise on the Pacific Islanders. Have we learned nothing from Margaret Mead being taken for a ride by Samoan teenagers?

      Plus, my own amateur opinion is that mental illness in such societies may not be regarded as the “okay, obviously nuts” that it would in our society. You go to your doctor and say you’ve been in regular communication with the fairies living in the tree stump at the bottom of your garden, you’ll get a bottle of pills. Do it in a less ‘modern’ society and people will think of you as “oh yeah, the guy who can talk to the fairies, and everybody knows and accepts that fairies exist”. Ditto if you complain of being tormented by evil spirits who want to burn down your house – here the doctor will wonder if you’re maybe schizophrenic, there people will recommend you see a good shaman to get rid of the malign forces.

      That is, it’s not so much “less coercion = less mental illness” as it is “different categories for what we would consider mental illness”.

  31. Kevin C. says:

    A prediction on where free speech in America is headed.

    This is not entirely a racial issue. The seeding for speech restrictions starts early, just like any other large political propaganda campaign… In America, the seed meme was anti-bullying. Anti-bullying was so strong a school movement that it made it to state legislation. Bullying has been with humanity forever but formerly was something dealt with between the bully and the bullied. Overcoming a bully, simply by standing up to the bully, was once a test of one’s mettle or a moment character development for young people. No more. Rather than have the bullying be dealt with by the two student, or even the students’ parents, school authorities took over.

    The generation that grew up with anti-bullying messaging is now of voting age. Each year, new voters enter the pool with even more years of prime propaganda. This lower-level indoctrination does not compare to the effect universities can have on forwarding the anti-bullying and therefore anti-speech idea.

    The Supreme Court will have a wealth of academic output to fall back on, millions of Americans will support it, and your corporations and businesses will already have codified them for decades. The era of progressives saying that the freedom of speech only protects you from the government limiting you, not from you starving due to blacklisting, is upon us. After all, we all don the mask of the anon when online.

    • beleester says:

      Overcoming a bully, simply by standing up to the bully, was once a test of one’s mettle or a moment character development for young people. No more.

      Maybe it was for you, but I suspect most bullied students would disagree. See, bullies try to avoid targeting the kids who will fight back. Not every kid is going to discover their Inner Warrior and have a character-building moment where they stand up to their bullies. Some are just going to break under the pressure and have several long, miserable years at school. Schools shouldn’t be okay with their students breaking.

      (This viewpoint pisses me off on a personal level, because one of my bullies used exactly this excuse. “Oh, we’re just toughening you up. You can handle a few insults, right?” I don’t know if he honestly believed that or it was just a handy justification, but I did not leave school a better person for knowing him.)

      I’m having trouble paying attention to the rest of the article because there’s the massive stumbling block that this guy is defending bullying. Not even arguing what counts as bullying, which would be pretty normal for this discourse, straight out defending it!

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        It’s not that bullying is “good” it’s that the cure may be worse than the disease. You end overt bullying but lose freedom of expression. And probably doesn’t really “cure” anything anyway, it just changes the methods and targets of attack. You’re never going to stop kids from being mean to each other.

        Establishing dominance hierarchies is built into human nature, so kids are going to express these hierarchies in whatever social paradigm you put them in. Sure, you end overt bullying and then you get cyberbullying, or creepshaming, or whatever. The popular or those who want to be popular are always going to be looking for a way to punish those of low status.

        • Wrong Species says:

          What exactly do you consider bullying? Because beating people up is not a legitimate means of freedom of expression.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The bullying in question tends to be social, mental, or emotional.

          • Aapje says:

            and/or violent.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m pretty sure “anti-bullying” endeavors are about punishing behaviors beyond physical attack, which has always been verboten.

            I could be mistaken. When I was growing up in the 80s-90s punching other kids was not allowed in my school. Was it allowed in other schools and only banned in the 2000s, and am I’m completely mistaken about what “anti-bullying” means?

          • caethan says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I wouldn’t go so far as “allowed”, but tacitly permitted, yeah. Minor stuff, usually – shoves, noogies, indian burns, all the fun minor indignities. Drawing blood would usually get the attention of an administrator. Of course, when the zero-tolerance stuff came in, then you had the bullies who start fights and the bullied fighting back getting the same punishment – my sister once got 2 weeks detention for punching a guy who was groping and violently restraining her friend.

          • cactus head says:

            I live in Australia so zero-tolerance was never something explicitly put into place in the schools I went to, there was only generic don’t-bully stuff. From what I hear of it, it always fails because the bullies can just game the system really easily and bait the victim into fighting back hard enough that it crosses the line.

            Is it really this bad? It seems to me like zero-tolerance policies in particular are easily gamed above and beyond other anti-bully policies–if so, why is that? Or maybe it works fairly well and there’s a silent majority of cases where teachers suss out who the real bully is, and appropriately punish them according to the policy?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            caethan & cactus head, thanks for the information. I think that still supports what I said, though. The bullying doesn’t stop it just changes forms. The social dominance hierarchy is the product of millions of years of evolution. Jockeying for position doesn’t end because the school board makes a rule. The lesson is “don’t be at the bottom of the hierarchy.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            From what I hear of it, it always fails because the bullies can just game the system really easily and bait the victim into fighting back hard enough that it crosses the line.

            Bullies aren’t that smart and the adults aren’t that stupid. It appears that way because the line is set to “whenever the victim fights back”. As a school administrator told me and my parents when suspending me for fighting, “It takes two to fight”.

          • Aapje says:

            I had adults merely give the advice to fight back. I’ve had teachers punish both bully and bullied, without any attempt to identify the guilty. I’ve seen teachers ignore pretty severe bullying that happened in their class, pretending it was not happening under their nose.

            It led me to conclude that the rule of law, human rights and such are not applied to children, which made me wonder how people are supposed to gain trust in these institutions if they are taught otherwise in their youth.

            It also made me wonder about the rather arbitrary distinction between the ‘allowed’ amount of violence vs kids who kill. If one doesn’t condemn violence or give a non-violent path for kids to end severe bullying, then what is the justification to condemn a kid who takes effective measures to ensure his safety?

            The thoughts of a child…

            PS. I think that zero tolerance goes overboard in the other direction.

          • Zodiac says:

            The lesson is “don’t be at the bottom of the hierarchy.”

            Given that per definition somebody will be at the bottom of the hierarchy I consider this a horrible view of reality.
            Am I really the only one who didn’t see these hierarchial structures like that? Even in my elementary school there were more complex social dynamics at work that just don’t map to the idea of a hierarchy.

          • Mark says:

            The idea of a hierarchy doesn’t really describe most social settings I’ve been in in my life – it’s normally more of a group dynamic – you’re in the group or you’re out, and within the group there are sort of shifting interactions rather than strict hierarchies.
            The one exception to this is that there is often one person who gets the blame for everything and who everyone hates. I think this normally happens in the absence of an “out group”.
            So, that’s the person you don’t want to be. An out group of one.

            I suppose you get into trouble in high school because people are sorted into groups according to charisma/popularity etc.

            Where this isn’t the case, you don’t have the “hierarchy” problem, and I’d say most of the time, proximity is more important for forming relationships than success in the personality market.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Given that per definition somebody will be at the bottom of the hierarchy I consider this a horrible view of reality.

            It’s not the _view_ that’s horrible.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Given that per definition somebody will be at the bottom of the hierarchy I consider this a horrible view of reality.
            Am I really the only one who didn’t see these hierarchial structures like that? Even in my elementary school there were more complex social dynamics at work that just don’t map to the idea of a hierarchy.

            I’m not advocating for it. I’m saying that’s how it is. The stinky kid nobody liked and everybody picked on was at the bottom of the hierarchy. The popular kids everybody knew and who pretended they didn’t even notice anybody else were at the top of the hierarchy. And the hiearchy is shaped more like a diamond than a ladder, with a few people at the very top and a few people at the very bottom and lots of people in the middle. And you can tell where you are in the hierarchy by where you can sit and where you shouldn’t sit at lunch, and which girls you’re allowed to talk to.

            Banning bullying doesn’t stop bullying. The bullies just get more creative.

          • John Schilling says:

            Or maybe it [Zero Tolerance] works fairly well and there’s a silent majority of cases where teachers suss out who the real bully is, and appropriately punish them according to the policy

            Zero Tolerance means teachers aren’t allowed to distinguish between “real bullies” and “not real bullies”, because we know they can’t be trusted to do that because they are lazy/incompetent/on the bullies’ side/whatever. So there has to be some objective criteria like “student hit someone”, and anybody who does that For Any Reason Whatsoever Whether They Are A Real Bully Or Not, has to be punished.

            If there are cases where it is working out all right because the teachers identify and punish only the “real bullies”, that’s happening in spite of Zero Tolerance, not because of it. Zero Tolerance, is practically made to be gamed by people who study the rules so they can dance right on the edge of what is Tolerated and provoke the other guy in his ignorance to cross the line. And it does not allow teachers who know full well that is exactly what is going on, to do anything about it.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Conrad

            I believe a hierarchy is slightly wrong word for any informal social dynamics. I don’t say it does not exist (it does), but “hierarchy” sounds too rigid. I would not have been able to sort my classmates in a topological order by popularity. In my experience, such “hierarchies” are more like interconnected fuzzy clusters, connected by wildly varying relationships (ranging from friendships to rivalry to romance to “invited to parties” to “I copy homework” to anything really).

      • John Schilling says:

        Maybe it was for you, but I suspect most bullied students would disagree. See, bullies try to avoid targeting the kids who will fight back.

        Which may not be a fixed population. If, say, 40% of students enter first grade as easily-bullied wimps and only 10% graduate as such, then there’s a steady supply of kids who won’t, for the moment, fight back, and bullies would be performing a useful service in selectively targeting kids in that demographic until they learn better.

        Not every kid is going to discover their Inner Warrior and have a character-building moment where they stand up to their bullies. Some are just going to break under the pressure and have several long, miserable years at school.

        But what are the numbers? That’s critical to this analysis.

        It is awkward for me to be the one offering even a qualified defense to bullying, but there is a Chesterton’s Fence aspect to this. The side of the story where childhood bullies serve as a vaccine against adult bullying isn’t completely wrong, so it probably is worth quantifying how wrong it is and figuring out how else to capture any benefits, somewhere along the way to the idealized bully-free world.

        Schools shouldn’t be okay with their students breaking.

        Some students will be broken by nothing more than insisting that they learn to read and do simple math. So at some point, we have to figure out which subgroups of breakable students need to be pulled aside for special treatment, rather than insist that the general educational experience be tailored to the lowest common denominator.

        • Jiro says:

          If you’re serious about this, you could start by figuring out what behavior is considered unacceptable by adults, and assume that such behavior should be unacceptable bullying when done by children. Most childhood bullying applied to adults would be assault, stalking, or harassment and the subject of a restraining order.

          • LHN says:

            And quite a bit of “it takes two to fight” would be reasonable and proportionate self defense on the part of the person attacked.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But kids, by definition, don’t have the maturity to behave like adults. I have small children. You can rationally explain to them all you want why they should sit still and eat their dinner but that doesn’t make them sit still and eat their dinner.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Kids actually have a lot of maturity if they have to, just look at kids who have to deal with (mentally) ill parents or kids who have a bad illness. That kind of fast-tracking to adulthood is probably not very healthy, but the idea that they can’t be corrected to behave better is silly.

            Also, the French do seem to be able to get their children to sit still during dinner.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Regarding maturity:

            Isn’t there some amount of social history literature which argues that childhood as we now understand it is a relatively modern concept? While physical development has not changed too much, the what kind behavior is expected (and how it is enforced) has changed.

            The British navy used to have 12 year old midshipmen. In countries with armies, kids would enter the officer cadets corps at about the same age or earlier.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Bullying has long-term bad effects for those who were bullied

      I haven’t heard of any research about people who have fought back sucessfully against being bullied, but I think they’re far from the majority of those bullied.

      Also, the model of fighting back doesn’t include bullying that isn’t violent.

      ****

      I was bullied/harassed from 4th grade through 12th. It was far from the worst– I was physically attacked very rarely, and at least no one pretended to be my friend and then laughed at me for believing it.

      However, it took a long time for me to recover, and I’m not sure I’ve done so completely. I think I was in my 30s before I more or less calmed down about my height.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        What makes you think that “people who have fought back successfully against being bulled” are far from the majority? Serious question.

        My interpretation of “fought back” would include non-physical methods of fighting back.

        Anecdote of perhaps some interest, not intended to indicate that this is the usual experience: I was bullied in 2nd grade a bit. Nothing incredibly tough, but I was in the outgroup and knew it and people made fun of me and maybe shoved me somewhat (memories are a bit hazy at this remove). I deliberately set out to ingratiate myself with the alpha boy (I am also male) in our school, flattering him and inviting him to things and generally being sycophantic (despite finding him not personally appealing as a friend). I succeeded in becoming his friend, used that position to avoid being bullied, and as I recall fairly ruthlessly tried to maintain my standing in the group against anyone else who might supplant me in my position (mainly just by sticking to alpha boy like glue and sidetracking conversations where other people seemed like they were gaining status. It’s not like I shivved anyone).

        This worked pretty well. After a year or two, alpha boy changed schools or something and I occasionally was teased and bullied again.

        My main anti-bullying tactic was to go to very small schools.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think successful responses to bullying are fairly rare because the stories seem rare compared to stories about the bullying just not stopping. On the other hand there could certainly be both reporting bias in general and/or perceptual bias at my end.

        • shenanigans24 says:

          Yeah generally speaking bullies will target people in the out group. Kids learn how to not be in the out group. It’s a useful social function. Some kids never learn and the parents may have to step in, but that may stop the bullying of a certain sense but they will still be people who cannot merge into a group. I know it sounds great to say just be yourself don’t worry about the group but I think humans need interaction, even those who can’t figure out how to get it.

          Studies that show bullies harm could be just showing that people that struggle to fit in have a tough time with life. Or the inability to fit in is the variable causing bullies and other problems in life, not vice versa.

          • Chalid says:

            Kids already have plenty of incentive to not be in the outgroup even if they’re not being beaten up for it.

          • keranih says:

            @ shenanigans –

            What you say rings true. I’d like to see studies or broader perspectives, though.

            Kids learn how to not be in the out group. It’s a useful social function. Some kids never learn and the parents may have to step in, but that may stop the bullying of a certain sense but they will still be people who cannot merge into a group.

            Yes. Also – Jesus Christ, I wish I could have learned earlier how to do the “group merge” thing, or, failing that, learn how to do the “go my own way serenely” thing (which is what I eventually sorta got the hang of, decades later.)

            And unlike Nancy L, I did have people pretend to be my friend in order to better mock me.

      • Chalid says:

        Let’s not forget that there are probably long-term bad effects on the bullies themselves, too; they aren’t exactly learning useful lessons for adulthood either.

        • dndnrsn says:

          “You can use a combination of violence, threats of violence, and social manipulation to get what you want, as long as you pick your targets well” seems like a useful lesson for adulthood, if not a good one.

    • BBA says:

      Oddly, one figure on the extreme left has also made the point that anti-bullying laws are counterproductive. Without bullying some obnoxious behaviors are never stamped out in the schoolyard and survive to wreak havoc in adulthood. Well, okay, it’s Sam Biddle who said that, he was bullied into retracting (oh, the irony), and he’s driven more by his extreme hatred of the tech industry than by any sort of coherent worldview. Still, there might be some merit to it.

      (Yes, I was bullied. Funny how almost everyone remembers being bullied and almost nobody remembers being a bully. Funny.)

      • cactus head says:

        I have vivid memories of both being the bully and being bullied from primary school. I feel much worse about being the bully.

      • Zodiac says:

        I’ve avoided being bullied for the most part, eventhough I was probably at risk.
        I think I can honestly say that I wasn’t a bully. There were however two or three cases where I accidentally contributed to the bullying.
        Once by inventing a mean nickname that stuck, once through bringing up an annoyance about somebody which sparked an avalanche of gossip and verbal abuse about that person and once by participating in a shoving game which wasn’t really bullying but was certainly very close. I feel especially guilty for the first one since that kid was really all alone and I tried supporting him but just couldn’t.

    • Machine Interface says:

      If the choice is between, on the one side, having censorship, and, on the other side, letting children torture other children in a rule of honor setting, for *possibly* a bit less censorship, well I for one welcome our new [redacted] overlords!

      • DrBeat says:

        The problem is antibullying laws do not and can not work. Bullies are popular and their victims unpopular; teachers and administrators will consistently side with the bullies and against their victims. This is why when you are attacked with no provocation in school, and do nothing, you will be punished more harshly than your attacker every single time. All antibullying laws are is another tool to be used by bullies.

        • LHN says:

          Leaving aside the overall thesis, in my personal school experience my bullies weren’t particularly popular, and the popular kids didn’t tend to be the bullies.

          Nor did the teachers or school administration much like the kids who bullied me, and they did like me (probably more than the kids) since I was a goody goody smart kid.

          None of it helped much, since the problem was that the administration didn’t have a lot of power to stop it. We weren’t under constant watch, the power to punish was limited (especially since it was pretty clear that the parents either didn’t believe or didn’t care what the kids were up to) and the bullies knew how to get away with stuff. But popularity was pretty much orthogonal to the problem.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The bullies don’t have to be the most popular. They merely have to be more popular than their victims.

          • LHN says:

            @The Nybbler I’m not even sure that was true in my case.

            It was a long time ago and my observations were obviously skewed, but my recollection is that it tended to be mostly a bully and maybe a couple of cronies, with the mass of kids largely ignoring it except when there was a fight or an entertaining outburst provoked.

            (Several different bullies with different sidekicks over the years from first grade through mid-ninth, across four schools and two towns. So it was at least a repeating pattern.)

            On the one hand, it was clear that there weren’t any heroes to keep you safe and that authority wasn’t particularly able or motivated to enforce justice.

            (And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my longstanding interest in superheroes has some connection to the desire for that absence to be corrected. Though in fact I think the interest predates my experience with serious bullying.)

            But more often than not, at least in retrospect, the main problem was institutional and public indifference to (or impotence with respect to) the Hobbesian interpersonal dynamic, far more than any active social support for the bullies.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The only account I’ve seen of a school with an effective anti-bullying policy was in Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back by Frank Schaeffer.

          He went to British public school in the 50s which happened to have a headmaster who hated bullying.

        • Wrong Species says:

          How do you know that antibullying rules don’t work?

        • Zodiac says:

          Yeah, I’m gonna second what the others said. My first reaction to your comment was disturbing my cats sleep with a loud “Bullshit!”.
          The bullies in my schools weren’t just unpopular they were hated. By the other students as well as the administration. The reason they could still continue was that they had their own groups within the classes where they validated each other as well as the administrations and other students indifference and inability to do anything against them.

          • DrBeat says:

            The administrators’ “inability to do anything against them” was due to their popularity. They could not find it in themselves to do anything about it even if the social scripts they instantiate demand they provide superficial performance about not liking bullying.

            When a student was unpopular, they DID find the ability to do things against them. Like punishing them for being victimized.

          • Zodiac says:

            The administrators’ “inability to do anything against them” was due to their popularity. They could not find it in themselves to do anything about it even if the social scripts they instantiate demand they provide superficial performance about not liking bullying.

            No, they couldn’t do anything because the bullies were usually smart enough to commit the greater part of the bullying when they were not looking. They DID get punished for what they did but only when they were seen. The bullies just didn’t care enough about the punishments they were given and the stronger punishments (like expulsion) didn’t seem warrented because they only knew about ~20% of the bullying.

            When a student was unpopular, they DID find the ability to do things against them. Like punishing them for being victimized.

            No, they frikkin didn’t.

            What you’re describing doesn’t match my experience of 13 years in education at all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When a student was unpopular, they DID find the ability to do things against them. Like punishing them for being victimized.

            No, they frikkin didn’t.

            Yes, they frikkin’ did. Typical situation would involve multiple bullies attacking one victim. Authority would show up to find a fight or result of one. All bullies would say victim started it. Authority would either punish everyone, or punish only victim. Administration’s attitude was that if a person had trouble with a bunch of other people, that person must be the problem.

          • Zodiac says:

            Yes, they frikkin’ did. Typical situation would involve multiple bullies attacking one victim. Authority would show up to find a fight or result of one. All bullies would say victim started it. Authority would either punish everyone, or punish only victim. Administration’s attitude was that if a person had trouble with a bunch of other people, that person must be the problem.

            Okay, two against one. In that case I was lucky.
            In my case the better teachers usually were able to tell what was going on. The worse ones would either just stop what is happening and not care beyond that or collectively punish everyone (even bystanders) which would often later be repealed after a lot of discussion.

          • Brad says:

            Clearly a few posters’ memories of unhappy childhoods are overwhelming evidence of what happens in every school across time and space.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Zodiac

            Forgive me for crossing threads, but didn’t you say you’re from Germany? Might be a better system over there.

            I can second DrBeat & Nybbler’s experience with administrators punishing the victims here in the US. It’s not universal but it very much does happen.

          • Zodiac says:

            @Gobbobobble

            That might be the case. I have a hard time imagining the described situations.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Understandable. It’s pretty fucked up.

          • At a considerable tangent but a possibly relevant anecdote …

            I remember being bullied by one kid somewhere around ninth grade or a little earlier. I cannot remember any teachers ever getting involved. I am pretty sure that one incident involved rubbing chewing gum into my hair.

            The odd part is that the bully left the school for some reason for a few years, came back, and became a friend of mine, having apparently reformed.

            I have no clear picture of where I was in the school hierarchy at the time, probably because, from my standpoint, I was outside it. Judith Harris somewhere comments that one rare situation which doesn’t fit her model is the one in which the family is the peer group, and I think that was my situation. I presume that in high school there were parties, dating, and the like, but I was mostly unaware of them, aside from things such as the junior and senior prom. For one of those I remember some helpful person matching me up with a girl who was, I presume, also a social outsider–I think the only kid in the class younger than I was. I took her to the event, but nothing came of it.

            I had friends, but at the individual level not as part of school society and its related hierarchies.

            I should probably add that that was at a relatively small and elite private school, where each year’s class was a little over a hundred.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I gather that one way bullies can get away with it is by having aggressive high status parents.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Maybe this is true in the US school culture, but I doubt it. And as a blanket statement “the every single time” is very easily falsified with any particular example. (For example, does not match my experiences; the bullies I remember from school were not popular outside their own small group. The popular students made at least a token effort to be decent towards everyone, even the outgroup-ish kids that bullies targeted, while not being friends with them either.)

  32. Odovacer says:

    Are there any words that really bother/annoy you?

    When I was younger I couldn’t stand the word, “hella”. I found it very grating to my ears. Thankfully, people don’t say it as often as they used to. However, currently words like, “doggo”, “pupper”, and “doge” to mean dog or puppy annoy me. I see them used often on reddit. Just call it a dog or puppy. It’s cute already, you don’t need to “cutify” it’s name.

    I’ve always turned against the word, “dude” because I’ve seen it used online in multiple places as an affectation of humility.

    • Brad says:

      ‘Anyways’

      Drives me up a wall.

    • onyomi says:

      What the fuck is a pupper?

      (I have to admit I like that one).

      I can’t stand “on fleek.”

      Less millennial, I hate the word “academe” instead of academia.

      • RDNinja says:

        I agree about “on fleek.” Americanizing foreign phrases is always ugly. I prefer the original French spelling, “en fleeke

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I had never heard “on fleek” but now I hate it too. The Urban Dictionary entries on it are quite entertaining, though.

    • Urstoff says:

      feels (as a noun)

      • JayT says:

        I hate this one as well. Especially when it is phrased something like “hit you right in the feels”. Just typing that was like nails on a chalkboard for me.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      The abbreviation “ppl” is absolutely disgusting. I don’t really know why, but it pisses me off like no other.

      • acrimonymous says:

        Pisses me off, and other combinations with piss. The worst is the British-ism “taking the piss”.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Not a fan of appropriation of lower class affectations and figures of speech in the languages I speak (moreso, though less relevant to this thread in my native one).

    • FactsLittleKnown says:

      I’ve always been annoyed by abbreviations that either lose their meaning or are longer than the actual idea. (For instance, LOL – I’ve never once seen that used to actually indicate the speaker genuinely laughed.)

    • Yakimi says:

      “preggers”

      I win the thread.

      • Chalid says:

        I find “knocked up” to be far worse. Why would such a violent-sounding phrase be used for it?

    • Mark says:

      “Me other half”
      “My partner”

    • Gobbobobble says:

      “Content” and “leverage” both make me immediately start tuning out. Grossly overused these days.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Working in business, while both of those get annoying, “synergy/synergize” is still worse.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Agreed. At least I feel like we’re at least past the point where everyone recognizes that’s a meaningless businessese term, though. People still use “content” and “leverage” and expect to be taken seriously. Maybe they still do with “synergy” by you, and if so I’m sorry 🙂

          • andrewflicker says:

            I work with a lot of people who started working in the industry before I was born. “Content” as a word is still cutting-edge to them, and has to be explained/taught to be used in context.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Synergy has a perfectly good meaning in Magic: the Gathering deckbuilding. Mercifully, my career choices mean that’s the only context in which I encounter the word.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Heh, I’ll defend the use of synergy and synergize in the original and appropriate contexts. Thankfully I usually only see it in the context of video game discussions figuring out which units/powers/abilities compliment and enhance one another, so that’s fine 🙂

      • Luke Somers says:

        Leverage has a mathematical definition, but it IS massively overused by (generally very poor) analogy. In its proper place, I see no problem.

      • bobbingandweaving says:

        I agree

    • gbdub says:

      Normalcy and overexaggerate.

    • Zodiac says:

      90% of English words taken into German when they are supposed to be pronounced in a German way. Especially when the second half of the word is still English. Contactlinsen, Actionspreise,…

      • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

        German has its own ‘Kontakt’ and ‘Aktion’; they are not imported (and apart from wannabe-fancy ad people, nobody spells them with ‘c’).

        ‘Kekse’, though, is another story (‘cakes’ (pl.) became ‘keks’ (sg.)), although I doubt you’d have something so transmorphed in mind.

        • Zodiac says:

          and apart from wannabe-fancy ad people, nobody spells them with ‘c’

          Problem is that it won’t be long until normal people will follow the fancy ad people. My local Müller, Aldi and Rewe use Actionspreise and the Fielmann I go to has Contactlinsen.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            Zodiac, go visit the country while it doesn’t hurt so much yet… 🙂

          • Zodiac says:

            Visit Germany? I already live here though.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            Should have been obvious. ‘Müller, Aldi and Rewe’. ..

          • Creutzer says:

            I find this both baffling and ironic.

            There is nothing whatsoever about the German words “Kontakt” and “Aktion” that suggests to a native speaker that they are loans from English. There is a loan “Action” (as in “action film”), which is pronounced entirely differently and has different morphological behaviour as well. Of course, the meaning of “Aktion” in “Aktionspreise” doesn’t even exist in English, either.

            So to be honest, I don’t know what’s wrong with these people. But here’s the ironic bit: as Latin loanwords, these words would have been spelled with c instead of k two hundred years ago. I’m in favour!

    • IrishDude says:

      I’ve always turned against the word, “dude” because I’ve seen it used online in multiple places as an affectation of humility.

      : (

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The special Internet meaning of “insipid”, which makes it nearly a synonym for “offensive”. In real life, it continues to be not far from an antonym.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I hate it when people say “I” when it should be “me” (the other way around doesn’t bother me in the slightest).

      Niche, but I also bloody loathe “theatre maker”. “Vibrant”, too. That can fuck right off.

  33. Zodiac says:

    I just read Prescriptions Paradoxes and Perversities.
    As somebody who might have to take an antidepressant (and/or get other therapy) in the near future that article is very relevant to me but I’m not certain if at all useful. Just superficially going through the comments it looks like there are far too many factors that might influence the data.
    Does anyone have any recommendations on how I should approach the matter of finding the right antidepressant? Given how long some of them take to be effective it seems like I could save a lot of time (and spare me a lot of suffering) by a lucky guess.

    • acrimonymous says:

      I don’t know for sure, but I am guessing that your first issue is going to be whether the MD has a strong opinion.

      And this implies yet another issue I don’t remember reading about on the previous comment thread, which is… If doctors don’t like the older anti-depressants, how are the patients getting them? In other words, maybe the patients who are getting access to the older medications have more control over their treatment, more knowledge about what’s available, are more pro-active because at a different stage or different degree of depression, etc. In other words, maybe access to the type of drug is a kind of selection effect.

    • anon1 says:

      When I was in this position a while back, one of the main things I considered was how quickly I’d be able to evaluate a given drug so I’d waste the least time. The largest variation there seemed to be in how soon the more common deal-breaking side effects would show up if they were going to. On the grounds that if I got horrible insomnia and anxiety I’d notice pretty quickly and be able to try something else, I went with bupropion over whatever SSRI they were going to default to.

      One other thing to differentiate antidepressants is their set of non-depression-related, possibly off-label, uses. Going back to my anecdote, it turns out that if your depression is related to being a flaky, disorganized underachiever who can’t keep their mouth shut and who is constitutionally incapable of finishing anything before it’s exactly one minute late, it may be very convenient if your antidepressant is also fairly effective on ADHD (bupropion, and also at least some some tricyclics for example).

  34. Deiseach says:

    (1) Everyone who bet against Le Pen, how did you fare on the prediction markets? Make a nice few bob or was everyone betting she’d lose so there were no real gains?

    (2) “Veganism is better for the planet” – it may be slightly more complex than that:

    A growing body of research is pointing to the role of reducing or eliminating meat consumption in order to tackle climate change. Research conducted by the Oxford Martin School found that widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would lower global emissions by 63pc while the adoption of a vegan diet would reduce emissions by 70pc.

    The theory is based on the scientific evidence that livestock-based products have a higher carbon footprint than fruit, vegetables or grain-based foods, mostly due to the high levels of methane emitted by cows. However, recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stresses the importance of looking beyond the calorific value of food stuffs.

    The study found that while meat and dairy products have a higher carbon footprint per 100g or 100 calories consumed than plant based foods, the difference is reduced substantially when measured using nutritional density which accounts for the vitamin and mineral content per calorie consumed.

    Furthermore, a recently published index linking the nutrient density of beverages to greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production found that milk performed highly in terms of the nutrient density per carbon equivalent emitted, relative to other beverages.

    Within an Irish setting, recent research conducted by UCC and Teagasc examined the carbon footprint of the diet of Irish adults.

    Distinct dietary patterns within the Irish population were examined in terms of their emissions profile. The study found that red meat was the food group that contributed most to emissions.

    However, the more complex and interesting finding was that those who ate the most red meat did not differ significantly in their carbon footprint compared to the group that consumed the least amount of red meat.

    Instead, the total quantity of food consumed was the important factor as was the quantities of processed meat, carbonated beverages, savoury snacks and alcohol within the diet.

    The conclusion of the research was that a holistic assessment of diet is required when making dietary recommendations based on climate change rather than focusing on one food group alone.

    • Mark says:

      I got about a 25% return on my anti-Le Pen bet which is mad considering that she has been a massive outsider from the very beginning, and (AFAIK) didn’t come closer than 15% of any potential opponent in the head-to-head polls for the second round.

      I also got a 50% return on my bet on Macron, which was made after the (Belgium) exit poll for the first round suggested he’d be going through to the next round against Le Pen, which, again, seemed like mad odds.

      I think I might be missing something with respect to the odds that were available, but, in this case at least, ignorance is bliss!

    • gbdub says:

      Re: veganism and the environment, a couple things I’ve wondered about accounting for:
      1) At least in theory, there may be a niche where livestock can be raised on free calories – cattle can graze on marginal land that would require intensive improvements to grow human edible food. Pigs can eat food scraps that would otherwise be wasted. May not apply to how livestock are raised now, but might mean the ideal amount of meat consumption isn’t zero.

      2) Vegan foods can vary a lot in terms of carbon output per calorie. E.g. lettuce takes a lot of energy to grow and transport, but has very few calories.

      3) One of the issues with livestock is their methane output – but how much more methane does a vegan human output vs an omnivore? Most measures I’ve seen only go up to the point of human consumption, but I think you have to consider human output as well.

      • random832 says:

        Re #3, I think the general idea is that even if a human vegan would have the same methane output as, say, a cow (a very small cow, to weigh the same as the human), the human omnivore will eat multiple cows in their lifetime.

        • gbdub says:

          Humans live much longer than cows raised for beef and most of the presentations I’ve seen are something like A amount of GHG emissions per B calories, so I’m not sure your objection is relevant.

          Maybe a cow outputs X GHG to produce 100 calories of meat, and a human outputs x GHG while digesting 100 calories of beef. Meanwhile 100 calories of spinach requires Y GHG to produce, and releases y GHG when digested.

          I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of X > Y. What I’ve not seen is whether / how much X+x > Y+y.

  35. neaanopri says:

    It’s concerning to see the Left getting more hawkish with Russia and China. Is there any chance we could get to a world where there are no Great Powers and everyone gets along about as well as Europe does now? Is the detente in Europe because of US/Soviet hegemony during the cold war, and US hegemony afterwards, or is it because of the individual states being prosperous liberal democracies with well-set ethnuc and Linguistic borders and thus nothing to fight over with neighbors?

    • Sandy says:

      or is it because of the individual states being prosperous liberal democracies with well-set ethnuc and Linguistic borders and thus nothing to fight over with neighbors?

      Which individual states are you thinking of?

      Not sure how much hawkishness there is re: China, certainly there’s a lot re: Russia, but part of that is because liberals are still mad about Russian interference in the 2016 election and they have to vent somehow. Hard not to blame Russia for that. Although I note that the latest spending bill allots $100 million to a fund dedicated to “promoting democracy in Russia” and $0 to funds dedicated to “promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia”. Leftists should realize the State Department fits the Great Satan appellation much more than the CIA does.

      • Deiseach says:

        Although I note that the latest spending bill allots $100 million to a fund dedicated to “promoting democracy in Russia” and $0 to funds dedicated to “promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia”.

        There was some minor fuss raised at home over the Irish vote (did we or didn’t we vote for them?) when Saudi Arabia was given a place on the UN Commission on Women’s Rights, but nothing more seems to have come of it.

        Has there been any reaction in the USA about this, or are all the usual suspects too busy firing off approving tweets about how the new TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale is exactly what is going to happen women’s rights in America today under Trump?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Has there been any reaction in the USA about this

          Yes, but it seems to be getting buried under the second sort, and people attacking the cluelessness/hypocrisy of the same. (at least as far as talking heads and 24-hour news aggregators are concerned)

      • neaanopri says:

        I was thinking of the European states: Germany, France, Britain, Poland, all of the states west of Ukraine and Belarus and north of the former yugoslavia have no hint whatsoever of armed conflict amongst themselves. They went through two incredibly traumatic world wars, eventually found borders that match the ethnic groups on the ground (with some ethnic cleansing and forced migration at the end of WW2), and are all some sort of democracy (though Hungary and Poland’s current governments are pretty illiberal, there seems to be no militarism directed at their neighbors).

        I was putting up for debate which of the factors was most important:

        1. Exhausted by the World Wars
        2. Well-drawn borders
        3. Prosperous liberal democracies

        • John Schilling says:

          Germany, France, Britain, Poland, all of the states west of Ukraine and Belarus and north of the former yugoslavia

          Isn’t that basically just the European part of NATO? I don’t think you can exclude that from your analysis, particularly insofar as the conflict rate takes a dramatic jump as soon as you step outside NATO’s bounds, and I don’t think you can say “See, look how wonderful it is that there are no Great Powers!” about anything that involves NATO.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Once you get east of Berlin, the well-drawn borders are almost all a consequence of end-of-WWII ethnic cleansing. Multiethnic and minority communities dating back centuries were vanished in months, with people told (or all-but-told) to move inside their assigned borders.

          This is not a central example of ethnic cleansing because (a) nobody was murdered in a coordinated fashion, and (b) everyone was already exhausted thanks to the war, daily life was horrendously disrupted, and I’d guess at least half the population under consideration was already refugees. However, it still happened. The borders were not drawn to match the population on the ground; the population on the ground was moved to match the borders.

          I’d agree with John Schilling’s implication that the real causes for peace in Europe are (a) cherrypicking what you count as “Europe” (e.g. excluding Yugoslavia), and (b) a half-century of being divided into two armed camps held back by superpowers, preparing for a nuclear war that never came.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is coordinated murder required for something to be a central example of ethnic cleansing? Your second point also would explain why it is not brought up much (also, for obvious reasons, people have a hard time finding much sympathy for the ethnic Germans, and they were a big chunk of the expelled) but not why it’s not a central example.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @dndnrsn, with the current popular connotations of “ethnic cleansing,” yes. Absolutely.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pretty sure “ethnic cleansing” was a term we invented because we were upset that people were causing ethnic groups to disappear from their traditional homelands in non-murdery ways that we couldn’t get away with calling “genocide”.

            The official UN definition is “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group”. No murder required, and if present murder may be uncoordinated and non-systematic.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What are the current popular connotations of ethnic cleansing, then? I have always seen it used to mean a sort of sub-genocide: the paramilitaries (or whatever) rob, rape, burn stuff down, beat people, do some killing, and thus drive the targeted ethnic group away. Or, outright force them from one place to another.

        • juribe says:

          3. A little bit, 1. and 2. make no sense. The many, many wars between European powers before the World wars did nothing to stop them from fighting. The borders are not well drawn in ethnic or linguistic terms. People in border towns speak both languages (or a mix of them). Ethnicity is basically meaningless in those places.

          The main reason there has been no European conflict is the European Union. Open borders, free trade and some political integration make petty political squabbles seem pettier and very costly.

    • Brad says:

      It’s concerning to see the Left getting more hawkish with Russia and China.

      I don’t see the left getting more hawkish with respect to China. As for Russia, it boils down to their domestic drift back towards illiberal dictatorship and on the international stage their invasion of Ukraine (for Wilsonians) and to their latent interference in Western elections on behalf of far right candidates (for everyone not on the far right).

      • gbdub says:

        Russia has been drifting toward illiberal dictatorship for a while now, and they invaded Georgia in 2008 – Ukraine is just the sequel. 2016 was not their first attempt to meddle in US politics.

        Yet Romney was mocked for being worried about them in 2012, and hawkishness toward Russia on the left was not a major theme prior to the 2016 election.

        There are legitimate reasons to be concerned with Russia, but right now liberal hawkishness comes with a helping of sour grapes and wishful conspiracy theorizing. (In short, they weren’t hawkish enough pre-2016, and are more hawkish than they probably should be now. Not sure which version is closer to correct)

        • Brad says:

          It may not have been their first attempt, but it was certainly the most successful so far. And not just the United States either.

          I agree that the democrats probably were probably insufficiently concerned about Russia since the early to mid-aughts but I disagree that the left, by and large, is too hawkish now. I see very little in the way of suggesting escalation that risks open military conflict. The mainstream left position is more sanctions and ostracism. I doubt that would accomplish anything, but it isn’t too hawkish.

          • gbdub says:

            How much of the success was actually due to anything different the Russians did this time though? Seems like a lot of luck – a surprisingly close election and someone high enough up with enough embarrassing material to leak taking the phishing bait.

            In retrospect I agree that Democrats aren’t too hawkish now. I guess I what I was really thinking was that they are now overstating (rather than ignoring) the scope of Russian involvement in US politics. I also worry that, if their reasons for being hawkish now are poor (sour grapes) the prudent hawkishness won’t outlast the Trump administration (or even the first time Trump takes a hawkish anti-Russian stance).

          • JayT says:

            Well, the Democrats did just run someone for president who explicitly called for a no fly zone in Syria, which would mean possible attacks on Russian planes if they didn’t go alone with the no-fly zone. That was a very hawkish stance.

        • cassander says:

          They didn’t invade Georgia, Georgia invaded them. They provoked Georgia, a lot, but it was still Georgia that first crossed borders.

          • gbdub says:

            Assuming South Ossetia was part of Russia sort of begs the question though doesn’t it? Russia definitely invaded and bombed Georgia proper.

            In any case it was basically a prelude to Crimea, which followed more or less the same script.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Except that Crimea didn’t attempt to separate from Ukraine at pretty much the moment that Ukraine became sovereign, and didn’t maintain de-facto independence since that time

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not sure the relative validity of claims to the autonomy and Russian-ness of the disputed regions is all that important to the Russian script. The point from the Russian perspective was to have a pretext for aggression against an aggravating neighbor.

          • herbert herberson says:

            I think it matters! It’s the difference between a Russia that wants to forcibly reform the Warsaw Pact no matter how little the likes of Estonia and Lithuania want them to vs. a Russia that is picking up easy sphere-of-influence baskets by supporting local populations that like them more than their own governments.

        • episcience says:

          In what sense was the American left between 2012 and 2016 not sufficiently hawkish? How many more middle east land wars or drone campaigns should it have been involved in to be sufficiently hawkish, in your view?

          • gbdub says:

            Hawkish regarding Russia, specifically. And hawkish may not even be the right word, but it was the one being used in this thread – have you read the rest of the thread or are you just hopping in here?

          • John Schilling says:

            It may obscure something important that we use “hawkish” to refer to,

            A: An eagerness to use our powerful military against whatever polite liberals would have us call “wogs” these days, who can’t hurt us back and who need to be Taught A Lesson in how to live like civilized people, and

            B: A willingness to use our powerful military against people who can cause us great, possibly nigh-apocalyptic, harm, because we believe leaving them unconstrained would be even worse.

          • rlms says:

            When has meaning B ever been used? I think the general meaning is “an eagerness/willingness to use our powerful military to Spread Freedom, and/or further our interests”.

          • LHN says:

            B covers the primary meaning of “hawk” during the Cold War, where it was mainly focused on the Soviets. Hawks supported military buildups and brinksmanship, but (with very rare exceptions) aimed at deterring war with the USSR, not engaging in it.

          • rlms says:

            But while hawks then didn’t commonly advocate war against the Soviets, they did frequently advocate war against other groups who couldn’t cause “great, possibly nigh-apocalyptic, harm”. So they would not have been characterised by B.

          • John Schilling says:

            they did frequently advocate war against other groups

            Which were almost exclusively proxies of the Soviet union waging war to expand Soviet influence.

            As the originator of the “Type B” classification, yes, this is exactly the sort of thing I meant by it. Faced with a powerful adversary capable of either destroying you or ignoring you, it is classically hawkish to call them out, explicitly threaten total war against them if they step out of bounds (and mean it), and wage actual war against their allies who are trying to expand those bounds by proxy.

            The bit where you wage wars against various tin-pot dictators who have no allies and pose you no threat, because they didn’t do what you said about human rights and democracy and whatnot, we can call that “hawkish” too, but it’s a very different thing.

        • If it were just a matter of invasion then the US would wouldn’t have freaked out so much given that we’ve also invaded a bunch of countries. The big difference is that with Crimea the Russians invaded and then annexed the territory they conquered. That’s only happened a few times anywhere post WWII.

      • shenanigans24 says:

        There’s no legitimate reason to worry about Russia. The “interference” consists of complaints that Russian news wasn’t nice to Hillary and unproven accusations that a basic phishing scam could only be masterminded by an evil genius in Russia. It’s just bluster to rile the base. The US offers more interference on every foreign election the President cares to comment about.

        Russia has an economy smaller than North Carolina. The entire hysteria is manufactured from a need to assuage the anxiety from learning a bunch of Americans didn’t like Hillary more than Trump.

        • John Schilling says:

          Russia has an economy smaller than North Carolina

          North Carolina has a GDP of $400 billion. Russia’s GDP is $1.4 trillion at current exchange rates or $3.7 billion by purchasing power parity, putting it in the same league as California. And, living in California, I am constantly reminded of how the state’s economy qualifies it as a great power on the global stage in its own right even if we aren’t allowed to spend it on nuclear missiles.

          Who is telling you that Russia’s economy is smaller than North Carolina’s, and why are you listening to them?

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      “It’s concerning to see the Left getting more hawkish with Russia and China.”

      Again, seeing “the Left” and liberals as two different concepts is useful.

  36. onyomi says:

    Does this particular corner of the “Rationalsphere” endorse the so-called “RationalWiki”? I feel like every time I Google some term to find out e.g. whether “Cultural Marxist” is really a slur meaning “gays, Jews, and degenerates,” it pops up to tell me that yes, in fact, term I thought was a fairly neutral descriptor is actually a horrifying snarl word (or at least has, at some point, been used that way).

    The overall perspective there is definitely more left-wing and “I Fucking Love Science”-y than mine, but then, maybe so is that of “the Rationalist community” more generally. They do seem to aim for some sort of balance–including, for example, a long section on “Stalin atrocity denialism,” though I can’t help but feel somehow that their relentless war against tendentious language is itself somehow tendentious, in addition to feeling a bit preachy?

    • Anonymous says:

      Those guys are just squatting on the namespace. The closest analogical equivalent I know of is Conservapedia. IIRC, the lesswrong rationalists are quite annoyed that it exists.

      • Peter says:

        The analogy with Conservapedia is no coincidence – Rationalwiki was created when a bunch of people trolling Conservapedia got banned, so they set up their own site as a counterweight.

        Our genial host is on record as disparaging Rationalwiki – see https://twitter.com/slatestarcodex/status/346851748243206144?lang=en. Incidentally, it seems that he got his Tumblr six years ahead of when he predicted, so watch http://getstungbymillionsofwasps.com for Scott some time in mid-2019 if current trends hold. At least it’s not RationalWiki!

        Edit – there used to be a “real” website – OK a placeholder joke – at getstungbymillionsofwasps.com but alas it seems to have lapsed.

    • Aapje says:

      RationalWiki is a wiki by a bunch of people who considered Wikipedia too neutral and informative about uncontested facts & most importantly, not snarky enough when someone is wrong on the Internet. So they made RationalWiki as an ammunition depot to aid in winning debates and to be fun to read if you share their bias.

      It’s not very rational however, since they just collect information to support their existing beliefs and are hostile to evidence against them. Furthermore, the snark often consists of making factually incorrect statements where the reader is supposed to know that they are false. It’s a poor source of information if you can only tell which parts are true and which parts are false, if you already know what is true and what is false.

      • onyomi says:

        That articulates exactly my problem with it, now that you mention it. Setting aside how accurate or inaccurate its information may be, the tone and presentation are such that, yes, it feels not designed to convince or educate anyone, but rather to provide convenient “checkmate, [theists, anti-vaxers, creationists, Republicans…]!” talking points, which themselves will only help with point-scoring among the sort of people already inclined to agree with the RW viewpoint (at the expense of whichever foolish Republican wandered into your Facebook comment space).

        In other words, it’s a Your Republican Uncle-type resource.

    • sohois says:

      I do remember that it was never particularly popular on LessWrong, as Aapje points out, and the feeling appeared to be mutual given their wiki on LW.

    • RW is pretty much my belief system from a few years ago…i still agree with some parts of it. After spending a week reading what the intellectual cream of the US right have to offer, I believe even more that the US right are fact hating crazies as per RW.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Oh? Which did you read first? Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative? Sowell’s A Conflict Of Visions? Maybe something from William F. Buckley?

        Or maybe you’re one of those who sees Libertarians as Right-Wing, and you were reading Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom? Hayek’s Road To Serfdom? Nozick’s Anarchy, State, & Utopia?

        I know you weren’t just talking about arguing with random first time posters on a comment thread on the internet.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      How on earth would “Cultural Marxist” be a fairly neutral descriptor? Most of the times it’s used it describes people who are not Marxists of any sort with a term that carries a large amount of baggage.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Before it was seized upon by Breitbart (and the paleocons before him, to some extent) as the ur-theory for everything that he disliked about the left, Cultural Marxism was a real, endonymic academic tendency within critical studies.

        • Brad says:

          A small one in terms of numbers of adherents and limited in time largely to the 1970s. There’s almost no legitimate reason for anyone to have used the term in the last 20+ years.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What word should be used to describe the phenomena of “the tendency of leftists to enforce equality via cultural institutions when direct governmental power is unavailable?”

            What is the non-snarl word for this?

          • Brad says:

            I don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

          • Skivverus says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            “Social pressure” or “peer pressure” come to mind, but those aren’t left-specific. Also “soft power”, but that’s again not left-specific.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad:

            “I can’t use the government to punish people who say the races or sexes are not biologically equivalent, so I will push for Codes of Conduct at the schools and HR departments to punish racists and sexists at school or at work.”

            “I will negatively critique all western cultural and economic institutions through the press so that people may lose faith in them and no longer support them.”

            “I will establish Gender Studies departments at universities that will give theoretical support to ideas that undermine traditional marriage and gender roles.”

            You understand these things happen, right? What should one call the distributed effort to bring about Marxist revolution through large-scale cultural shifts rather than acute insurrection?

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            You understand these things happen, right? What should one call the distributed effort to bring about Marxist revolution through large-scale cultural shifts rather than acute insurrection?

            No, I don’t “understand” that these things happen. It’s pretty apparent between this and your other comment about Muslim immigration that have zero insight into how left leaning people think.

            A good name for your wild conspiracy theory is the last thing you need.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad:

            So the idea that leftists want a more leftist culture and work to make it so is a “conspiracy theory.” What exactly are culturally active leftists doing then, if not working for a leftist culture (and thereby eventually leftist politics?)

            Does the right do anything to influence culture their way? Do we have any culture conflicts at all or am I simply a crazy person imagining some kind of cultural conflict in the united states that doesn’t exist?

          • dndnrsn says:

            First, “left-wing” and “leftist” aren’t really synonyms. Second, there’s a pretty big gap between “making the culture more left-wing” and “bringing about Marxist revolution” eh?

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            You are trying to have your cake and eat it too. If the right also engages in this activity, then it’s unclear why you need a specific term for the left-wing version. Skivverus gave a number of reasonable options that are not left-specific.

            If you are asking for a specific term for the broad-based effort on the left to bring about Marxist revolution through the power of Gender Studies and Codes of Conduct, then you need a better question. The fact that you dislike multiple things is not proof that they are all secretly interconnected.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “left-wing” and “leftist” aren’t really synonyms

            Which bucket does “gaslighting people who notice Cthulhu swimming left” fall into?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn

            Politics is downstream from culture.

            I would say Cultural Marxism is about as real as The Patriarchy. No, there is no shadowy group of white Christian males who meet biweekly to plot the oppression of all non white Christian males. But there are cultural institutions and media representations that perpetuate traditional gender and sexual norms.

            There is no secret Committee of Cultural Marxists plotting the downfall of the west. But there are feminists, anti-racists, queer acceptance groups, etc, who produce art, literature, social science studies, etc, to promote a radical egalitarian (i.e., Marxist) culture.

            This is kind of the whole “Culture War” thing people on SSC talk about only all the time. “Cultural Marxism” is just basically a snarl-word for the people opposed to “the White Supremacist Patriarchy.”

            No one identifies as a cultural marxist. No one identifies (unironically) as The Patriarchy. I don’t think anyone even identifies as a White Supremacist (white nationalism isn’t the same thing). Yet, these things exist. I would highly recommend tabooing them to avoid mindkill, but I don’t think you can say concepts don’t exist. Again, you might as well argue The Patriarchy doesn’t exist because there is no Patriarchy, Inc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Oh no! The jig is up! I’ll have to alert my handlers in Berkeley and Davos!

            I’m not denying that western society has moved to the left considerably, socially speaking at least, in the last hundred or however many years. But this isn’t the result of a conspiracy, there’s no centralized control, and it isn’t to bring about Marxist revolution.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            What’s the difference between ordinary egalitarianism and “radical” egalitarianism? How is the former by definition Marxist?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            Right-wing cultural domination: The Patriarchy; White Supremacy.

            Left-wing cultural domination: Cultural Marxism.

            I don’t understand why this is a difficult concept. We have a Culture War. “Cultural Marxism” is a descriptive term for the common cultural ideology and methods of those on the left.

            You don’t have to use the word. I don’t recommend using the words. But either explain to me why there is not, in fact, a culture war going on and I’m just a crazy person thinking there is, or give me a different phrase for “the left-wing side of the culture war.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Expect something in a couple hours about the whole “cultural Marxism” thing. I’ve talked about this before but I don’t have the time at this moment.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Edit: Saw the “expect something” message after I posted the below. I look forward to your reply. Thanks!

            What’s the difference between ordinary egalitarianism and “radical” egalitarianism? How is the former by definition Marxist?

            I would say the later is Marxist. Ordinary egalitarianism would be equality of opportunity. Radical egalitarianism would be equality of outcome.

            It’s Marxist because that’s what Marx advocated for: equality of outcome. It’s cultural instead of political because there is no seizing of the political system to forcibly redistribute resources. Instead, heavily influence or take control of cultural institutions like universities and HR departments and push the agenda there.

            I really don’t understand why this is such a difficult concept.

            Please help me identify where I’m wrong in my chain of reasoning here:

            1) There are people who strongly believe in equality of outcomes.

            2) One reasonable description of a desire for equality of outcomes is “Marxism.”

            3) Some who seek to establish a condition of Marxist equality do so via cultural means, for example feminism, anti-racism, multiculturalism, “Celebrate Diversity” campaigns at work. Note these are cultural phenomena, not political (no one’s seized control of the government and is forcing you to celebrate diversity, but it’s heavily pushed onto the workplace culture).

            4) A reasonable term for the application of Marxist ideas of equality via changes in culture instead of political system is “Cultural Marxism.”

            Which of these points is wrong?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But this isn’t the result of a conspiracy, there’s no centralized control, and it isn’t to bring about Marxist revolution.

            Uh, Brad, and now you, are the only ones to mention centralization or conspiracies. It’s part of what I was referring to as gaslighting.

            I mean really, this shit just shows an utter contempt for charity:

            What word[, if not Cultural Marxism,] should be used to describe the phenomena of “the tendency of leftists to enforce equality via cultural institutions when direct governmental power is unavailable?”

            I don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

          • random832 says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I would say Cultural Marxism is about as real as The Patriarchy

            Right-wing cultural domination: The Patriarchy; White Supremacy.

            Left-wing cultural domination: Cultural Marxism.

            So is it hypocritical to use the latter while objecting to the use of the former?

            Also in what way is “Marxism” plainly descriptive of it in the same way that the others are (if uncharitably, and let’s not pretend they’re not also “snarl words”) descriptive of the things they refer to? What has the modern left to do with Marx?

          • herbert herberson says:

            2) One reasonable description of a desire for equality of outcomes is “Marxism.”

            I don’t think this is a reasonable definition of Marxism. Marxism is a theory that workers are economically exploited when non-workers own the means of production, and a political program that advocates for that exploitation to be ended by putting the means of production in the hands of workers. Marxists do typically advocate for peoples’ basic needs to be provided equally, but the ideological basis for that is that lacking basic needs makes one far easier to exploit (while the practical basis is the obvious). The premises aren’t designed to achieve an equality-of-outcome end; the ends flow down from the original premises.

            This kind of leads into the problem with trying to use the term the way you are here: a ton of these people aren’t Marxist at all. They’re just left-liberals. Indeed, I think you dramatically overestimate the number of people who are seeking equality of outcomes at all, Marxist or otherwise. Instead, I think the most common belief in these circles is that you need to take certain re-compensative actions to overcome past injustices and achieve true equality of opportunity.

            I don’t think the tendencies you’re talking about are sufficiently coordinated or uniform to warrant a single term beyond “the left” (and I’d say the same thing about the other side of the oppositional pair you propose–I don’t blame the Patriarchy for white supremacy and its legacy, for example). Perhaps “left-wing hegonomy over X, Y, and Z” could work, if you really needed something more specific than “the left” but less specific than “academic feminists” or whatever.

          • random832 says:

            @herbert herberson

            Instead, I think the most common belief in these circles is that you need to take certain re-compensative actions to overcome past injustices and achieve true equality of opportunity.

            With a side order of the belief that equal outcomes will naturally arise once equal opportunity is sorted out. Huh, put that way it does sound a tiny bit Marxist.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So is it hypocritical to use the latter while objecting to the use of the former?

            Yes, I think so. I don’t think any of these words are charitable, because no one identifies themselves that way. If we have feminists saying “Patriarchy” and right-wingers saying “Cultural Marxist” we’re now just screaming ideology at each other. I can’t argue with a feminist attacking The Patriarchy because that is a whole general mish-mash of “stuff feminists don’t like in society,” parts of which I may or not agree with, shouldn’t be lumped in with, and have never self-identified as. However, if feminists are talking to each other about examples of the stuff they don’t like in society, “Patriarchy” is pretty useful shorthand for them.

            Similarly, if someone starts accusing you of “Cultural Marxism” there’s not much useful discussion to have unless you identify as a Cultural Marxist, which no one does. However, when talking among like-minded folk, it’s a pretty useful shorthand for a wide variety of behaviors.

            Objecting to the existence of one description and not the other is essentially playing “my political allies get to use short descriptions for common concepts but your side is crazy unless you write 12 paragraphs describing each individual issue.” i.e., an isolated demand for description.

            What’s most ridiculous in this discussion though is the accusation of “conspiracy theory.” That’s not even a weak-man, that’s a complete strawman as I don’t think anyone, anywhere, has ever described Cultural Marxism as a conspiracy of active participants. If someone thinks it is, they must be incredibly confused about The Patriarchy. I’ll enlighten them: feminists talking about The Patriarchy are not talking about a shadowy meeting of white Christian cishetero men in a castle in Bavaria plotting the oppression of all non-white Christian cishetero men, and they are not suggesting such a group exists. If I’m wrong about this, and feminists are suggesting such a group exists, please let me know where it is so I can join it because that sounds awesome.

            Similarly, no one is suggesting a Shadow Politburo of Cultural Marxists is plotting “Celebrate Diversity Day” at your office. To pretend that they are suggesting that is uncharitable. Someone asked for a definition of Cultural Marxism, I gave it to them, and at no point did I suggest any kind of organized conspiracy or central control.

            Also in what way is “Marxism” plainly descriptive of it in the same way that the others are (if uncharitably, and let’s not pretend they’re not also “snarl words”) descriptive of the things they refer to? What has the modern left to do with Marx?

            Because the equality of economic outcome Marx advocated for is extremely similar to the equality of racial/gender/orientation/etc outcome the modern Culture War left advocates for. Feminist theory, anti-racist theory are heavily influenced by Marx. The first person we know of to use “racist” as an epithet was Leon Trotsky, a prominent Marxist theorist. (Note, I’m not saying he invented the word “racist.” I’m saying he first used it as a pejorative rather than a neutral description of “one who evaluates the differences between races.”) As these concepts are all closely linked, “Marxist” is not a completely out of left field description.

            Again, though, this is not a self-description. This is a critical description of political opponents. It seems odd to take particular exception here, but have no problem describing wide swaths of people on the right side of the political spectrum as “Nazis,” despite them not being National Socialists in 1930s Germany.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @herbert herberson

            I don’t think this is a reasonable definition of Marxism. Marxism is a theory that workers are economically exploited when non-workers own the means of production, and a political program that advocates for that exploitation to be ended by putting the means of production in the hands of workers.

            Cultural Marxism is the theory that minority groups are exploited when majority groups hold the levers of power in society, and a cultural attitude that advocates for that exploitation to be ended by putting the levers of power in the hands of at least a proportional number of minorities.

            Do you see the similarity?

            Indeed, I think you dramatically overestimate the number of people who are seeking equality of outcomes at all, Marxist or otherwise.

            Feminists advocating for an end to the gender pay gap? Dismayed at the disproportionately small number of female CEOs? Racial advocacy groups trying to solve the income inequality between blacks, hispanics and whites? The lack of minority participation in the tech industry?

            Am I merely imagining that these are topics of much discussion in US politics, and were among the central themes of both major Democratic presidential candidates’ campaigns in 2016?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            So:

            Before we begin, you may be using an atypical definition of “Marxism” but the problem with defining Marxism is that someone is always going to say “no, you need to read more Marx/books about Marxism”.

            My understanding of the “cultural Marxism” concept is that it is basically a certain, quasi-conspiratorial, overwhelmingly negative interpretation of stuff that has happened in academia and has percolated out to the culture at large.

            It seems to have gone like this: Marxist analysis is actually pretty useful. Academics started applying it to other things, with varying degrees of success, and it percolates out into the real world, as things do. It’s important to note that using Marxist analysis does not make you a Marxist, a communist, whatever. It’s become a basic part of the toolbox of academics in various disciplines. You can certainly see a certain mode of thought in a lot of stuff: exploiter vs exploited, a lot of focus on power dynamics, etc. Then a funny thing happens: class starts to matter less and less in these analyses, and other factors (race, gender, etc) a lot more. People who put class first get criticized: see “brocialist” – putting class first is now seen as the province of cishet white men. You start to see some ugly stuff – my “favourite” is seeing a woman from an upper-middle class family, with a top-notch education, posting an article about blue collar white men in places with crap economies due to the factories leaving, planning on voting Trump, along with a snarky comment along the lines of “oh their lives must be so hard.”

            Why did this happen? Well, first, academia is not the kind of place you really find actual poor people. I can’t think of anybody I knew in university who was poor. Lower-middle-class, maybe. But “oh shit textbooks are expensive” was about the extent of it. All women are going to have stories about getting catcalled or worse. Being well-off isn’t going to protect a black guy from getting stopped and asked what he’s doing in this neighbourhood. But in a group of middle-class people, nobody’s going to have a story about hoping they can get enough hours at their minimum-wage job that week so utilities won’t get cut off again. Beyond this, for the people who have it good, pinning the “why I have it (unfairly) good” on things that can’t in and of themselves be changed doesn’t have to do anything material. “I feel guilty because I’m rich” raises the obvious “then just give it away”. Whereas, consider the stereotypical “white guy who complains about how white guys suck” – he puts in, at most, some self-centred self-flagellation, and gets out of it some thumbs-up Like clicks. (And it’s not really self-flagellation anyway, because it’s usually posturing as “but I’m one of the good ones; look how woke I am”).

            Second, as herbert herbertson points out, many of them are really just left-liberals. I think of them as pseudo-leftists. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. (Lest anyone think I’m some brocialist hating on identity politics, I consider myself a liberal). Saying “we need to change society and make it fair” along any lines is just going to find an easier road because, well, it doesn’t threaten the most powerful people in society. Actual Marxist revolution is serious business: the Czar and his family get shot in a basement, for starters. In comparison, “more women in the boardroom” does not threaten the existence of boardrooms. Even in the belly of the beast, it is not as though you won’t find cishet white men thriving in academia on left-wing campuses. They just have to do a little performative song-and-dance about their general iniquity and how they are working super hard to be better (actually being better is largely optional; the periodic “big name Male Feminist turns out to be rapist/abuser” scandals are a great example of this). Actual class-based revolution is extremely threatening to society and thus to the powers that be. Those into identity politics, in comparison, can be easily bought off: just give them some jobs.

            (This has given rise to a whole ecosystem of professional and semi-pro activists. I don’t know how it is in the US, but in Canada, they get into the hilariously corrupt and basically feudal student union system, and then go on to work for unions, nonprofits, etc.)

            The point of all this is that this is not a victory for Marxism or leftism. Insofar as those things are a part of this, they’ve been completely coopted. It’s energy that once upon a time might have gone to something that would seriously threaten society and threaten those with power in society being diverted to stuff that threatens neither society nor those on top of it.

            “Cultural Marxism”, as a theory, models identity politics as a sort of stealth Marxism. It’s more like pet Marxism, unthreatening to the ruling classes. Sure, it might piss on the rug every now and then, but it’s not gonna maul anybody.

            Uh, Brad, and now you, are the only ones to mention centralization or conspiracies. It’s part of what I was referring to as gaslighting.

            What am I supposed to be gaslighting? There’s been a clear movement to the left in the last century plus on the social front. It’s not disputed that something is swimming left.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            dndnrsn,

            My impression is that there are people in academe who grew up really poor, but they tend to hide it until/unless they’re really established.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There are some, definitely. But if they’re hiding it, then they don’t really contribute to the general sense of what society’s problems are (which, after all, we all base to a large extent on our own personal experiences).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn

            I don’t disagree with much of any of that. I think the only point of contention between us would be the applicability of the word “Marxism.” I think you object because you see Marxism as strictly class-based.

            But as you said, the things described as “Cultural Marxism” are using Marxist critique and power dynamics. “Marxist” is basically an adjective in that sense, not a noun. “My teacher made us write some Cultural Marxist essay about how Super Mario Bros perpetuates outdated gender norms and ‘otherizes’ Italian masculinity.”

            Now if you do want to get conspiratorial about it, the methods of Cultural Marxism closely match KGB subversion techniques used against societies they were attempting to destabilize and foment revolution in. You can’t just get 1950s America to throw off capitalism and embrace communism. You need to attack the cultural pillars of their society first so they will want to throw off their capitalist oppressors. Subvert support for their religion, their government, their economic system, law enforcement, history, etc. How do you do this? Criticize, criticize, criticize, criticize. It’s no secret that the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movements, etc in the US were of great interest to the Soviet propaganda machine.

            Again, I’m not saying the KGB is behind “Celebrate Diversity Day” at your office. I’m just saying the whole pattern of culture war, propaganda, and Marxism are closely related enough that calling such efforts “Cultural Marxism” is not insane, certainly not any more so than Patriarchy Theory.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            The biggest problem I see with the whole “Cthulhu swims left” shebang (which “cultural Marxism” as you’re describing it plays into) is that being coopted is not victory. The last hundred-odd years have seen a huge movement to the left socially, but in a way that has fit into the whole capitalist system, and has been coopted by that system. It’s seen a huge expansion of social welfare systems, but little systemic change. It’s seen a movement towards crony capitalism – the system makes capitalists happy, by and large, but it doesn’t make laissez-faire advocates happy.

            Now, I’m a left-winger, so I think a lot of the social changes that have happened are good, and I think social welfare systems are pretty good (with the caveat that badly-designed social welfare systems create significant social problems – a lot of the social changes that have been bad as opposed to good are due at least in part to bad incentives created by poorly designed social programs).

            There is undermining of pillars of society, little to no building of new pillars (my preference would be for newer, better pillars, by and large), but without any movement whatsoever to throwing off the capitalist oppressors. Even if it is a KGB plot (which neither of us is saying it is, and in any case, I think that human nature is vastly more powerful than any plan, friendly or malicious) – modern capitalism destroyed the Soviet Union, not the other way around.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s energy that once upon a time might have gone to something that would seriously threaten society and threaten those with power in society being diverted to stuff that threatens neither society nor those on top of it.

            The idea that undermining the pillars of society doesn’t threaten society strikes me as extraordinarily naïve.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            The claim that feminists are trying to undermine society is obviously false. All the various sub-groups clearly believe that their changes will improve society for everyone.

            However, there is a suspicious similarity between the broken parts of Marxism and the broken parts of SJ.

            In Marxism, there is a clear separation between the oppressors (bourgeoisie) and the oppressed (proletariat). People are born into a class, but are not automatically aware of it. As Georg Lukács argued, the proletariat can only achieve class consciousness as the result of a permanent struggle to understand the “concrete totality” of the historical process. In contrast, the bourgeoisie are limited to a false consciousness.

            The same model is common in SJ, with a clear separation in oppressors vs the oppressed, where the oppressors can never truly understand their privilege, while the oppressed can see the true nature of the oppression. So the oppressors are limited to a false consciousness, which means that they can never act as more than allies. To solve oppression, they must be replaced, not educated (see the typical demand by SJ activists to have ‘oppressed’ people in positions of power).

            Marxists have also claimed that SJ is consistent with Marxism, although they (of course) chastise it for not focusing on economic class (enough).

            Of course, there are also differences, but Marxism is not a single ideology, it is a spectrum.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “Now if you do want to get conspiratorial about it, the methods of Cultural Marxism closely match KGB subversion techniques used against societies they were attempting to destabilize and foment revolution in. ”

            Is there a better source for this than one guy saying guys for a Youtube video?

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            The point in this whole discussion is that people insinuate that Cultural Marxism is like Marxism without focusing on economy and class, which is kind of like saying something is like Christianity except without focusing on Jesus. Economy and class are the whole point! Marxism is, of course, radically egalitarian, but there have been radical egalitarians who have preceded Marx and not been Marxist in any way – “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman” etc. There doesn’t seem to be any point to using the term Marxism here, except because 1. it is extremely emotionally charged and makes people predisposed to take a hostile attitude, especially in the US and 2. it allows for conspiracy theories about communist influence, such as with the KGB defector video.

          • herbert herberson says:

            +1 to Tatu. Well put.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The claim that feminists are trying to undermine society is obviously false. All the various sub-groups clearly believe that their changes will improve society for everyone.

            That’s far too strong a statement. There are certainly those who are openly supportive of the idea of the “privileged” being harmed. They may think their changes will make society better off overall, but not that there will be no losers.

          • Anonymous says:

            Also: Motte and bailey.

            Any given movement can claim that the changes will benefit everyone, but be mostly concerned about helping some segment, which coincidentally includes mostly themselves.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            which is kind of like saying something is like Christianity except without focusing on Jesus.

            Replace “Christianity” with “Puritanism” or “Calvinism” in the above statement, and don’t you get the Moldbuggian model of Progressivism?

          • Brad says:

            @Tatu Ahponen
            Well put. A usage of Marxism completely untethered from Marx is nonsensical.

            @Gobbobobble

            I mean really, this shit just shows an utter contempt for charity:

            You are going to accuse me of a lack of charity in a thread that includes:

            “I will negatively critique all western cultural and economic institutions through the press so that people may lose faith in them and no longer support them.”

            What ever happened to avoiding assuming that people that disagree with you are evil mutants?

            and, at the risk of further accusations of showing utter contempt for charity:

            Which bucket does “gaslighting people who notice Cthulhu swimming left” fall into?

            I have no idea what this is supposed to mean either. I gather by osmosis that it is reference to some essay Curtis Yarvin wrote, but there’s no way I’m going to read one of those 30,000 word impenetrable screeds.

          • random832 says:

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/23/in-favor-of-niceness-community-and-civilization/ has some commentary on the four-paragraph bit that this particular phrase is a reference to.

            Personally, I suspect that this is mostly an artifact of the fact that the political spectrum is generally defined such that any discredited ideas of the past end up on the right and any forward-looking “progressive” ideas are on the left (even the ones that don’t pan out, like eugenics), rather than ‘Cthulhu’ ‘swimming’ in any particular objectively definable direction.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Original Mr. X

            The idea that undermining the pillars of society doesn’t threaten society strikes me as extraordinarily naïve.

            It doesn’t threaten society enough to threaten to unseat those on top of society. Take, for example, the increase in children born out of wedlock: there’s a good argument to be made that this has negative material effects. But it harms the people at the bottom of society far more than the people at the middle, let alone the top.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @dndrsn

            What am I supposed to be gaslighting?

            My apologies for not being clear: Brad is the one gaslighting. Your posts have been quite reasonable and I thank you for making them. Your bit on Davos drifted in the direction I took issue with, but I can see it was mostly my fault for not unpacking my original accusation better.

            It’s not disputed that something is swimming left.

            Um, that’s precisely how the top of this subthread’s max-nesting started. Conrad Honcho asked what to call some various leftward-swimming phenomena and was dismissed as a crazy racist with “wild conspiracy theories”. That is what I am accusing of gaslighting.
            (And now I’m being accused of Moldbuggery for calling it out. Lovely.)

            Luckily the thread has evolved in a much more constructive direction since I was last online.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            The point in this whole discussion is that people insinuate that Cultural Marxism is like Marxism without focusing on economy and class, which is kind of like saying something is like Christianity except without focusing on Jesus.

            But we get this all the time when people are talking about ideas influenced by past thinkers. I’ve been frequently told that “Jesus would be a socialist” because caring for the poor or something (I disagree with this: Jesus’ call to charity was personal, and cannot be outsourced to the state. When you die, God judges your soul, not your government’s soul). Lots of right-wing movements are called “Nazi” despite not having anything to do with the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party in the 1930s. I expect that next time someone calls a white nationalist a “Nazi” you’ll correct the person because Richard Spencer has nothing to do with gaining power for Adolf Hitler and NSDAP in Germany.

            The point of the term “Cultural Marxism” is that the activities and methods are inspired by Marx’s economic ideas, but operate in the cultural domain. No one is suggesting Marx invented modern feminism, anti-racism, queer acceptance, etc. Just that “Marxist methods and goals except applied to culture and identity groups, frequently with economic goals in mind” is a useful lens through which one can examine these movements.

            You’re right, it’s not purely economic, but to say Marxist thought can only be applied to the specific economic conditions Marx wrote about it seems silly, like saying the teachings of Jesus apply only to ancient Judea and the philosophies of Hitler apply only to 1930s Germany. One can take the core ideas and methods of an author/leader and apply them to a different societal context.

            Economy and class are the whole point!

            Except pure Marxist economic ideas are kind of a hard sell given the 100 million corpses piled up in the 20th century in pursuit of equality. So the point of Cultural Marxism instead is to go for economic and power equality between different groups in society.

            So, do you understand the similarities between economic Marxism and Cultural Marxism? It’s just applying the class ideas to identity groups. I think that makes sense. At this point are you just upset about the co-opting of the name? Ideological appropriation?

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Conrad Honcho asked what to call some various leftward-swimming phenomena and was dismissed as a crazy racist with “wild conspiracy theories”.

            I never said anything at all about racism. Interesting that you would make that specific thing up.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Aapje

            The claim that feminists are trying to undermine society is obviously false.

            But they are trying to undermine traditional gender and family roles, no? To some extent or another, certainly. Some want to abolish marriage altogether. What’s the difference between “undermining society” and “undermining the foundational unit of society?”

            All the various sub-groups clearly believe that their changes will improve society for everyone.

            I don’t think that’s true at all. I do not at all think the Nazis thought their changes would improve society for Jews, for example.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I never said anything at all about racism. Interesting that you would make that specific thing up.

            It’s pretty apparent between this and your other comment about Muslim immigration that have zero insight into how left leaning people think.

            Is anti-Muslim sentiment not considered racism anymore?

          • Brad says:

            If you had read the comment, rather than assuming its content, you would have seen that what I objected to was the sweeping nature of claims about why the left supports immigration. Not any sort of accusation of racism. That’s even alluded to in the part you quoted.

            You were saying something about charity?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It reads an awful lot like ad hominem tarring-by-association (with a side helping of cross-threading), like your little blurb on Yarvin.

            But whatever, take your pedantry win. It’s still shitty gaslight-y behavior to treat someone as a “crazy racist person with ‘wild conspiracy theories'” when they comment on society moving leftward.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “Lots of right-wing movements are called “Nazi” despite not having anything to do with the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party in the 1930s. I expect that next time someone calls a white nationalist a “Nazi” you’ll correct the person because Richard Spencer has nothing to do with gaining power for Adolf Hitler and NSDAP in Germany.”

            So do you think this is a neutral description? Is it something you would endorse yourself? Do you think white nationalists should be all called Nazis? The whole “gaining power for Adolf Hitler and NSDAP in Germany” is rather beside the point, BTW – there are communists despite there not being Lenin and Soviet Union, after all. The whole discussion started by me asking how on earth “Cultural Marxism” is a neutral descriptor. The people who call white nationalists Nazis would probably agree that the descriptor is not neutral in any way, and it’s not meant to be so.

            Likewise, you seem to believe that saying “Jesus would be a socialist” is wrong, but somehow, saying “Cultural Marxism” is then right, despite you comparing the two. Which is it?

            “The point of the term “Cultural Marxism” is that the activities and methods are inspired by Marx’s economic ideas, but operate in the cultural domain. No one is suggesting Marx invented modern feminism, anti-racism, queer acceptance, etc. Just that “Marxist methods and goals except applied to culture and identity groups, frequently with economic goals in mind” is a useful lens through which one can examine these movements.”

            So do you think that the only reason for modern feminism, anti-racism, queer acceptance etc. is the utilization of Marxist methods and goals? What would these methods and goals be, here, anyway? Marx’s methods and goals were intimately connected to economy and class – ie. the intent was abolishing the class society and the method was the workers wielding the power given by the necessity of their labor for production. These are not directly transferrable to the fields of race, gender etc. Again, the economy and the class are the whole point – and the lens is, in fact, not useful at all.

            “You’re right, it’s not purely economic, but to say Marxist thought can only be applied to the specific economic conditions Marx wrote about it seems silly, like saying the teachings of Jesus apply only to ancient Judea and the philosophies of Hitler apply only to 1930s Germany. One can take the core ideas and methods of an author/leader and apply them to a different societal context.”

            Nobody said that they can only be applied to specific economic conditions Marx wrote about, but rather to the relationship of labor and capital in general.

            “Except pure Marxist economic ideas are kind of a hard sell given the 100 million corpses piled up in the 20th century in pursuit of equality. So the point of Cultural Marxism instead is to go for economic and power equality between different groups in society.”

            Again, this seems like a conspiracy theory – like there’s some group of “economic” Marxists just hiding behind a “cultural” shell. If there’s a conspiracy like this, well, where’s the proof?

            What do you gain by using the term “cultural Marxism”? As a model of explanation for why people support certain causes, it’s not useful at all, and the only point still seems to be causing people to associate causes you don’t support with words that cause negative emotional reactions.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Marxists weren’t strictly about economic matters, at least not as we would understand them (they probably would have said that everything is economic, in the same way that some would now say everything is political right down to random github projects). A lot of the things being pushed by the “Cultural Marxists” now were pushed by the actual Marxists back then, too.

            See, for example, this contemporaneous report on “The Russian Effort to Abolish Marriage.”

          • random832 says:

            @Gobbobobble

            (And now I’m being accused of Moldbuggery for calling it out. Lovely.)

            It reads an awful lot like ad hominem tarring-by-association (with a side helping of cross-threading), like your little blurb on Yarvin.

            If you’re going to use a phrase that everyone knows who coined it and that has not particularly caught on, please don’t pretend to be utterly baffled when people associate you with the person who coined it.

            Anyway, whether it suggests a “conspiracy” or not, things like “cultural marxism” do suggest you are accusing leftists of having a goal of ‘undermining society’ beyond the value-neutral object-level ‘racism/sexism/whatever happens to be part of society as it exists today, so fighting against that undermines (part of) society’

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            So do you think this is a neutral description?

            No, I said repeatedly that it’s a snarl-word that should be tabooed for useful discussion. The comment under which sits the Reply button you hit to make your comments reads:

            What word should be used to describe the phenomena of “the tendency of leftists to enforce equality via cultural institutions when direct governmental power is unavailable?”

            What is the non-snarl word for this?

            This then turned into Brad apparently being entirely unaware that there’s some sort of culture war thingy going on? And that maybe some people are kind of pro-gender and racial equality? And sort of use power and influence in cultural fields to attain it? Some sort of whacky nutjob conspiracy I guess.

            So, yeah, back to my question, what is the non-snarl word for feminists + anti-racists + gay acceptance + trans rights + diversity + etc etc etc stuff people generally on the left in the culture war do via cultural influence and control of cultural institutions?

          • random832 says:

            @ Conrad Honcho

            What word should be used to describe the phenomena of “the tendency of leftists to enforce equality via cultural institutions when direct governmental power is unavailable?”

            Why is this a “tendency of leftists” in particular? Isn’t it natural for anyone to try to accomplish whatever their individual object-level goals may be by whatever fair means are available to them? Why do we need a word for it applied to one particular group of people, one particular set of means, and one particular set of goals?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @random832

            Anyway, whether it suggests a “conspiracy” or not, things like “cultural marxism” do suggest you are accusing leftists of having a goal of ‘undermining society’ beyond the value-neutral object-level ‘racism/sexism/whatever happens to be part of society as it exists today, so fighting against that undermines (part of) society’

            What do the feminists mean when they say they want to “smash the patriarchy?” What does BLM mean when they say they want to “smash white supremacy?” And the gender activists who want to “end gender?” And are these not fellow travelers?

            If all of the sex and race oppression is “structural,” that is, built into the structure of society, how do you fix the racism and sexism without restructuring the society?

            It seems like having your cake and eating it to. “We don’t want to undermine society, we just want to change everything about it at the most basic structural levels.”

            Also, it doesn’t seem like there’s a real clear vision for what to replace “patriarchy” and “white supremacy” with. So if you’re going to fundamentally change the deep structure of a society but don’t really know what you’re going to change it to, that sounds an awful lot like “undermining.” Also, knocking down a working but imperfect system and just kind of hoping everything works out magically great sounds awfully Marxist.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @random832:

            Why is this a “tendency of leftists” in particular? Isn’t it natural for anyone to try to accomplish whatever their individual object-level goals may be by whatever fair means are available to them? Why do we need a word for it applied to one particular group of people, one particular set of means, and one particular set of goals?

            Because I’m asking for a name for the stuff done by leftists. The feminists call the stuff done by the right “The Patriarchy.” Which is also a snarl-word. The non-snarl word I would use for “The Patriarchy” is “Western Civilization.”

            What’s the non-snarl word for the common phenomena that produces Celebrate Diversity Day at my office, anti-hate speech codes at the University, “refugees welcome” signs on FaceBook, and only evil Christians on TV and never evil Jews or homosexuals?

            What do you call that?

          • random832 says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            The non-snarl word I would use for “The Patriarchy” is “Western Civilization.”

            Really?

            If all of the sex and race oppression is “structural,” that is, built into the structure of society, how do you fix the racism and sexism without restructuring the society?

            Do you honestly believe that there are no parts of society that can be kept while reducing the sexism and racism? You sound like a radical feminist.

            Slavery was part of western civilization from the beginning of recorded history all the way up to the middle of the 19th century (and by all accounts it was worse towards the end than it had been in previous eras). Was “western civilization” destroyed and replaced by something wearing its skin, or did it simply evolve to be better? Were the people who worked against slavery “undermining society”?

            (I don’t think I’m out of line bringing this up – regardless of value judgements, your fundamental position is that “western civilization” is indivisible, and working to change any part of it is inherently destructive. If we can’t agree on value judgements of present aspects of it, I think it’s fair to get past that by bringing up past aspects that I expect us to agree were bad.)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If you’re going to use a phrase that everyone knows who coined it and that has not particularly caught on, please don’t pretend to be utterly baffled when people associate you with the person who coined it.

            What the what? Do you mean “gaslighting”? That is absolutely not a Moldbugism. “The term owes its origin to Gas Light, a 1938 play and 1944 film.” Jesus Christ, I first learned the term from the frigging online dating scene. It’s caught on pretty hard there.

            Or do you mean “Cthulhu swimming left”??? That’s common parlance around here. FWIW I think I learned it from this one.

            Care to explain what you’re referring to?

            Okay so when I bother to read my own damn link (hastily slapped in from googling “cthulhu”-on-SSC and only reading the abstract), apparently “Cthulhu swimming left” is actually a Moldbugism. I maintain it’s used frequently enough on SSC to the point where invoking it is not sufficient evidence of Moldbuggery.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Because I’m asking for a name for the stuff done by leftists. The feminists call the stuff done by the right “The Patriarchy.” Which is also a snarl-word. The non-snarl word I would use for “The Patriarchy” is “Western Civilization.”

            But, like I said before, feminists don’t use “The Patriarchy” as a catchall for all cultural influences from the right. If the left wants to talk about reactionary gender views, we might mention the patriarchy, but if we want to talk about racism, we say “white supremacy”; if we want to talk about malign military adventures and other disliked foreign policy, we might say “imperialism”; if we want to talk about corporate offenses, we say capitalism. All of those tendencies have obvious antonyms (feminism, anti-racism/pro-diversity, anti-imperialism/post-colonialism; socialism/Marxism). So, uh, use those, and when you really need to put them all in the same basket, there’s nothing wrong with “the left” or “the activist left.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @random832

            Do you honestly believe that there are no parts of society that can be kept while reducing the sexism and racism? You sound like a radical feminist.

            No, I don’t believe society is “structurally racist and sexist.” But the radical feminists do, which is why I sounded like a radical feminist when describing the consequences of their argument. Am I accurately describing their position, or am I mistaken?

            Slavery was part of western civilization from the beginning of recorded history all the way up to the middle of the 19th century (and by all accounts it was worse towards the end than it had been in previous eras). Was “western civilization” destroyed and replaced by something wearing its skin, or did it simply evolve to be better? Were the people who worked against slavery “undermining society”?

            That’s an interesting question. I would argue marriage, family, and traditional gender roles are central to western civilization. Do you think slavery was central to western civilization?

            Meaning, attacking slavery is not a direct attack on western civilization, as many, many parts of western civilization had no slavery, but none lacked marriage and traditional gender roles.

            (I don’t think I’m out of line bringing this up – regardless of value judgements, your fundamental position is that “western civilization” is indivisible, and working to change any part of it is inherently destructive. If we can’t agree on value judgements of present aspects of it, I think it’s fair to get past that by bringing up past aspects that I expect us to agree were bad.)

            No, you’re not out of line. This is a fun discussion, thanks for having it with me. No, I don’t think “changing any part of it” is destructive. I think changing the core parts of it are destructive. That is, structural issues. And when we’re talking about feminism and modern anti-racism activists, I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that structural issues are core to their efforts. Would you agree that there is little overt racism and sexism in the west today? Meaning if there is still significant racism and sexism in the west, it would be structural, rather than overt?

            I’d still like a non-snarl word for Cultural Marxism, though.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @herbert herberson says:

            So, uh, use those, and when you really need to put them all in the same basket, there’s nothing wrong with “the left” or “the activist left.”

            Then you get arguments over whether or not “the left,” “left-wing,” and “leftists” are different things, accused of painting with the broad brush, etc. Of course, the entire purpose of the term is to describe a broad range of activities.

            Anyway, I stand by my statement that it’s a snarl-word that should be tabooed for across-aisle discussions, but it’s a useful term for right-wingers for describing a wide range of leftist activity, and does not imply central coordination or conspiracy but rather a mindset and toolset that results in similar activity in different domains.

            Also, you’ll notice that most of your words for opposition behavior (imperialism, patriarchy, racism) are not things the opposition uses to describe themselves. They’re all also snarl-words.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            Ya know, if there’s not a non-snarly term for something, you can just resort to talking it in terms that don’t condense it to one term at all, such as explaining what you mean in a longer form. That’s better than using an inexact snarl description, anyhow. Not everything urgently needs a snappy term.

            “See, for example, this contemporaneous report on “The Russian Effort to Abolish Marriage.””

            As you can see, the source is not exactly particularly balanced, and even it states that all of this was quite a controversial development and, I would argue, has a lot to do with the general breakdown of social order during the period ranging from the start of the WWI to the consolidation of the Soviet state. The most important Marxist in Soviet Union at that general period certainly took a rather fuddy-duddy view on these things.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            That seems like an isolated demand for rigor. “We’ll call your activities ‘white supremacist imperialist service to the Patriarchy’ in public discourse and expect to be taken seriously but you have to criticize each of our activities in detail without naming any overall patterns of behavior or you’re a crazy conspiracy theorist.”

            “Cultural Marxism” as a description of behavior isn’t any nuttier than “The Patriarchy” but is just as emotionally loaded.

          • herbert herberson says:

            That seems like an isolated demand for rigor. “We’ll call your activities ‘white supremacist imperialist service to the Patriarchy’ in public discourse and expect to be taken seriously but you have to criticize each of our activities in detail without naming any overall patterns of behavior or you’re a crazy conspiracy theorist.”

            It’s not isolated, though, because there is no left-wing equivalent to “Cultural Marxism,” as demonstrated by the fact that when you attempted to provide one here, it required a seven-word clause that you just made up.

            Also, you’ll notice that most of your words for opposition behavior (imperialism, patriarchy, racism) are not things the opposition uses to describe themselves. They’re all also snarl-words.

            I’m not really here to object to the snarlness of “Cultural Marxism,” and if you want to propose uncomplimentary right-wing synonyms for those feminism/antiracism/anti-imperialism/socialism, I’m not going to stop you. I just think it’s an empty term that completely misunderstands Marxism, suggests a conspiracy where there is none (I understand that you’re not saying this, but there’s a reason you’ve had to repeatedly say you’re not saying this) and offers nothing that existing terms and concepts already don’t. It was born as a propaganda term and it cannot be redeemed, because there’s really nothing else there.

          • Nornagest says:

            How about “privilege”?

          • psmith says:

            It’s not isolated, though, because there is no left-wing equivalent to “Cultural Marxism,” as demonstrated by the fact that when you attempted to provide one here, it required a seven-word clause that you just made up.

            “Kyriarchy” seems about right to me.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yeah, that one does fit the bill in every sense except commonality of use (privilege kind of does too, but it feels unwieldy to use it as that kind of noun).

            It is derived from the Greek words Greek: κύριος, kyrios, “lord, master” and Greek: ἄρχω archō, “to lead, rule, govern”.[5][2] The word “kyriarchy” in Greek (Greek: κυριαρχία, kyriarchia, a valid formation, though it is not found in ancient Greek) can now be used to mean “sovereignty”, i.e. the rulership of a sovereign.

            So maybe something like “diakonarchy” or “doularchy” could answer Conrad’s question (although I still don’t see any advantage over “the left”)

          • Nornagest says:

            “Kyriarchy” is in live use on the Left; it’s not as common as e.g. “patriarchy”, but I’d say it’s in the same ballpark as “cultural Marxism”. Similar pattern of use, too: it was coined to be a more intersectional/inclusive version of “patriarchy”, just as “cultural Marxism” integrates over all the various attempts to apply Marx-style class reasoning (only sometimes explicitly Marxian, more commonly going through later Marx-influenced thinkers like Foucault) to different demographic groups.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “That seems like an isolated demand for rigor. “We’ll call your activities ‘white supremacist imperialist service to the Patriarchy’ in public discourse and expect to be taken seriously but you have to criticize each of our activities in detail without naming any overall patterns of behavior or you’re a crazy conspiracy theorist.””

            “We?” Have I used that term? I don’t quite think you caught what I was trying to say – I wasn’t talking about “criticizing each activity in detail”, just that it’s better to use a few more words than one term to talk about what you are talking about instead of resorting to one snappy but inexact term that’s tailor-made to poison the discussion.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            Do you agree that “The Patriarchy” is a snappy but inexact term tailor-made to poison the discussion?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @Conrad,

            That’s an interesting question. I would argue marriage, family, and traditional gender roles are central to western civilization. Do you think slavery was central to western civilization?

            Personally, I would imagine that the people supporting slavery believed that it was, while those opposing it thought that it wasn’t. Exactly the same as is now the case with marriage, family, and traditional gender roles.

            What’s the difference between “undermining society” and “undermining the foundational unit of society?”

            Whether or not you believe that something is in fact foundational. I can understand your argument that certain groups are undermining society, even if I don’t entirely agree with it, but I think the point being made was that they don’t intend to undermine society.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad

            If all of the sex and race oppression is “structural,” that is, built into the structure of society, how do you fix the racism and sexism without restructuring the society?

            It seems like having your cake and eating it to. “We don’t want to undermine society, we just want to change everything about it at the most basic structural levels.”

            I don’t think you can equate restructuring with undermining. If you run a company, then restructure it and end up with 20% more profit, did you undermine it?

            You can argue that radical feminists/SJ people want to destroy the fundamentals of our society, while the liberal feminists don’t. But even then it’s not very productive to use the term ‘undermining, ‘ as it has too much emotional baggage.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Harry Maurice Johnston

            Personally, I would imagine that the people supporting slavery believed that it was, while those opposing it thought that it wasn’t. Exactly the same as is now the case with marriage, family, and traditional gender roles.

            Can we agree that something common to every part of western society and that faced essentially no opposition throughout the history of western society until now (traditional gender roles and marriage) is far more likely to be foundational than something that existed in only some small portions of western society for limited times and was extremely contentious whenever it existed (slavery)?

            If you’re going to claim slavery has been just as important to western civilization as marriage then I think you’re going to need to back that up. It is non-obvious.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            dear god this is a long thread

            but uh

            The point in this whole discussion is that people insinuate that Cultural Marxism is like Marxism without focusing on economy and class, which is kind of like saying something is like Christianity except without focusing on Jesus.

            Cultural Marxism absolutely focuses on class. It’s just a class constituted by race and racial privilege instead of wealth and wealth privilege, with a complementary argument that racial privilege creates wealth privilege or even in certain cases (justice system, possibly politics) supplants it in most meaningful ways. “The proletariat” is replaced by “the oppressed minorities”. And others in this comment thread have laid out many similarities to traditional Marxist thought replicated by so-called cultural Marxists.

            As to not focusing on the economy; sure, cultural Marxism focuses on culture instead of the economy. That’s why it is called “cultural”. I think you need a stronger claim than this to dismiss a very reasonable argument; namely, that traditional Marxism posits a zero-sum economic game between the oppressed class, the oppressors, and occasionally an in-between middle class, and cultural Marxism posits a zero-sum cultural game between the oppressed class(es), the oppressors, and occasionally an in-between middle class. This argument establishes pretty solid similarity between the two.

          • Anon. says:

            Cultural Marxism is like Marxism without focusing on economy and class, which is kind of like saying something is like Christianity except without focusing on Jesus.

            Coincidentally? Marxism is like Protestantism except without focusing on Jesus.

          • herbert herberson says:

            that traditional Marxism posits a zero-sum economic game between the oppressed class, the oppressors, and occasionally an in-between middle class, and cultural Marxism posits a zero-sum cultural game between the oppressed class(es), the oppressors, and occasionally an in-between middle class.

            Marxism doesn’t posit a zero-sum economic game. The fact that capital expands both itself and develops increased productivity is well understood in his writings, and an important part of many of its components.

            All these things you guys think are obvious and uncontroversial characteristics of Marxism are straw men of straw men filtered through the books written by the victors.

          • keranih says:

            @ AnonYEmouse

            You said it, brother.

            @ the rest

            And it took y’ll forever to get to “Kyriarchy” – which I have seen to be used as the non-snarly slightly clinical term for “all the oppressive forces which proper people are in opposition to.”

            Kyriarchy is the core of the…err…anti-liberty, ant-justice and anti-progress stuff that the liberal/progressive side of the house is here to fight. Unfortunately, while I think many are of pure heart and mean to attack the core/root stuff, there is a great deal of flailing and flaws, which ends up hitting not kyriarchy, but people.

            IMO, “Cultural marxism” is a term for the flawed flailing, or at least one version of it. What to call the utopia-seeking impulse at the heart of cultural marxism, I don’t know.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Kerinah:
            But kyriarchy isn’t used to self-appellate. It’s a description of what is oppressive (as a replacement for patriarchy). So when some refer to “cultural marxists” they are referring, perhaps, to people who believe in the concept of kyriarchy, but not the kyiarchy itself.

            Although that maps to “feminist”, and isn’t “cultural Marxist” meant to encompass more?

          • random832 says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Do you agree that “The Patriarchy” is a snappy but inexact term tailor-made to poison the discussion?

            The difference between “The Patriarchy” and “Cultural Marxism” is that “Patriarchy” is at least somewhat indicative that it’s talking about specifically the problem of gender inequality, whereas “Cultural Marxism” mostly evokes the idea of KGB conspiracies to sabotage other states (and even if you don’t mean it that way, there is no shortage of rightists who do explicitly believe this and aren’t shy about saying so – if they’re feeling charitable, leftists are the victims of “soviet memetic warfare” rather than its soldiers EDIT: Huh. That comment I wanted to link as an example and couldn’t find on another blog was actually you/here) and isn’t really very descriptive at all.

          • keranih says:

            @ HBC –

            You’ll forgive me as I suss out what I’m thinking here.

            Most of the activist feminists that I have dealt with socially/on social media stopped being strict feminists about 12-15 years ago, and became “cultural marxists” in that they were in opposition to all sorts of oppression (*) and not just the patriarchy.

            So to me, feminists vs ‘people against the ‘Kyriarchy’ is a false distinction.

            You are right that people don’t go around calling themselves “Kyriarchists” but I think that was more because when the term came out, “fuck you” wasn’t yet the go-to response to accusations of sexism/racism/Kyriarchism. (And Pepe peps are still not quite in the same academic circles as the people who use kyriarchy as a term.)

            And you’re right, that one could/should(?) talk about a system, not people. Would it help if people used “cultural marxism” rather than “marxists”? I’m not sure.

            As for “non-snarly words” I think that gets hung up on the framing. “Cultural Marxism” is a problem. Kyriarchy is a problem. Those opposing either self-identify as “right thinking people fighting the good fight.”

            So I am not sure what to do here, for the sort of word that is wanted.

            (*)excepting the sort that hit me (a southern ‘white’ gal) or my male relatives.

          • Brad says:

            Cultural Marxism absolutely focuses on class. It’s just a class constituted by race and racial privilege instead of wealth and wealth privilege, with a complementary argument that racial privilege creates wealth privilege or even in certain cases (justice system, possibly politics) supplants it in most meaningful ways.

            Marx’s project wasn’t to ensure that a proportionate number of children on the proletariat got to be exploitive capitalists.

            There’s no way to square the social left’s deep and unreflective acceptance of capitalism with Marxism, regardless of what kind of adjective you shoe-horn in there.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            I wasn’t drawing a distinction between feminists and the social justice movement, I was saying they are largely overlapping.

            If all that is meant by “cultural Marxism” is social justice, then isn’t that the non-snarl term? (And note, I completely agree that any term can be turned into a snarl term, euphemism treadmill, etc.)

          • John Schilling says:

            The difference between “The Patriarchy” and “Cultural Marxism” is that “Patriarchy” is at least somewhat indicative that it’s talking about specifically the problem of gender inequality, whereas “Cultural Marxism” mostly evokes the idea of KGB conspiracies to sabotage other states

            “Patriarchy” is somewhat indicative of what more reasonable speakers are talking about, but mostly evokes smoke-filled rooms wherein a cabal of Evil White Males plots the subjugation of women. “Cultural Marxism” is somewhat indicative of what more reasonable speakers are talking about, but mostly evokes the idea of KGB conspiracies to sabotage other states.

            Language where one has to ignore the obvious derogatory connotation and steelman a reasonable interpretation assuming a reasonable speaker, is bad language that should be excised from political debate.

            (and even if you don’t mean it that way, there is no shortage of rightists who do explicitly believe this and aren’t shy about saying so)

          • John Schilling says:

            Personally, I would imagine that the people supporting slavery believed that it was [central to Western civilization], while those opposing it thought that it wasn’t.

            “Peculiar institution” as a euphemism for slavery, was invented by antebellum Southern slave owners defending slavery in the antebellum South. So I’m thinking that they didn’t believe it to be central to Western civilization in general, but rather peculiar to one corner of that civilization. One can defend a thing without believing that the thing is the right choice in all circumstances and environments.

          • ChetC3 says:

            “Cultural Marxism” is even more blatantly about signaling ideological purity at the expense of logical or persuasive value than local bugbears like “patriarchy” and “rape culture.” It is, of course, entirely expected that so many regular commenters are tripping over themselves to defend a feeble reflection of the ideas they claim to hate.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            But kyriarchy isn’t used to self-appellate. It’s a description of what is oppressive (as a replacement for patriarchy).

            Kyriarchy is actually a claim that we live in a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression, and submission.

            If you believe in that, you do have to rationalize very hard to not advocate the revolution, so I can see why Conrad believes that the believers want that.

            As for myself, I choose not to believe that most SJ people actually believe the things they say they believe and/or understand & support the consequences of their beliefs, which I have found makes my predictions/analysis of their actual behavior much better. It also reflects better on them. For example, the common belief that rape is more common on campus than elsewhere for women of the same age, combined with the support for special scholarships for women and the fight for less gender segregation in colleges, would result in more raped women, if their beliefs were true and their actions effective. If you assume that they just can’t connect the dots, you can avoid the conclusion that they hate women.

          • Iain says:

            I’ll stand in defense of “kyriarchy”.

            “Patriarchy” is the claim that, all else being equal, it is easier to gain power in society as a man than as a woman. The inevitable comeback is: “Well, things aren’t always equal. Is it easier to gain power as a poor black man than a rich white woman? Checkmate, feminists!” In response, you get intersectionality, which basically just says “Hey, so, there are lots of axes along which one end gets better treatment — man/woman, gay/straight, rich/poor, and so on — and they all interact in complicated ways, so instead of fighting about which of those axes is most important, why don’t we just work on improving the situation?” There’s a tendency on SSC to use “intersectionality” as an epithet, which seems deeply weird to me, because it is precisely the direction that you should want social justice to be moving: less focused on a single explanation for all problems, more interested in nuance, more willing to respect people who are disadvantaged along a less traditional axis. It may well be the case that the current discourse, as Keranih says, does not recognize oppression against a “southern ‘white’ gal” or her male relatives — but intersectionality is the kind of framework that can (and should!) include that kind of thing.

            In an intersectional framework, “patriarchy” no longer really makes sense as an overarching term. Hence, “kyriarchy”.

          • herbert herberson says:

            It is, of course, entirely expected that so many regular commenters are tripping over themselves to defend a feeble reflection of the ideas they claim to hate.

            No one is doing this.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Iain

            This is a good steelman, thank you. I’ve updated to “oh, intersectionality could actually be a useful tool if more people would use it as more than a cudgel for beating up outgroupies”

          • Kevin C. says:

            @aapje

            Kyriarchy is actually a claim that we live in a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression, and submission.

            If you believe in that, you do have to rationalize very hard to not advocate the revolution

            Or else be in favor of “domination, oppression, and submission”.

            And to this thread in general, thanks for the introduction to the term “kyriarchy”. I’ve been looking for a shorter political self-descriptor, and “kyriarchist” should work pretty well.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            Marx’s project wasn’t to ensure that a proportionate number of children on the proletariat got to be exploitive capitalists.

            There’s no way to square the social left’s deep and unreflective acceptance of capitalism with Marxism, regardless of what kind of adjective you shoe-horn in there.

            Yes, this is a good way of putting it. I like to think of it as, there’s a segment of the left that doesn’t mind inequality – they just want the inequality to be distributed equally.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Aapje

            I don’t think you can equate restructuring with undermining. If you run a company, then restructure it and end up with 20% more profit, did you undermine it?

            You can argue that radical feminists/SJ people want to destroy the fundamentals of our society, while the liberal feminists don’t. But even then it’s not very productive to use the term ‘undermining, ‘ as it has too much emotional baggage.

            But does feminist restructuring of [right here I’m not sure if we’re talking about “society” or “traditional gender roles and marriage” or both] result in 20% more profit? What is profit in this context? I would think that would mean “the society perpetuating itself into the future, creating children and transmitting its values to them.” Is that likely to happen via feminism?

            As you said in your later post, if one sees a relationship as “oppressive” then “destroy” or “undermine” are expected responses.

            Where does “get married and have a family” rank on the feminist value stack? I’m thinking it’s not very high, as I only ever hear feminist critiques of marriage and not praise. I don’t think that family and career are equally valued, either. Try an experiment: in front of an average feminist, tell a little girl one of these two things:

            1) “Are you excited to grow up, get married and have babies?”

            2) “Are you excited to grow up, go to college and get a job as a computer programmer?”

            Which one gets either an approving nod (or silence), and which one gets a “well, actually you know you have other options” correction and a stern talking-to later?

            And this is not counting the radfems who explicitly say stuff like “marriage is rape” or whatever.

            If you’re at work, and one of your coworkers rolls their eyes or sighs at everything you say in a meeting, quickly provides “helpful alternatives” to all of your plans, and talks about all the problems with you and your ideas (while ignoring or downplaying any of your positive attributes), would you not say they are “undermining” you?

            And today in the US we have 70% of young men 20-34 unmarried and birthrates below replacement across the west. Feminists seem to claim this as a feather in the cap. I’ve frequently heard that low birth rates are a beneficial consequence of education and economic mobility for women.

            If this isn’t “undermining,” what exactly is it? More importantly, what would “undermining” marriage and traditional gender roles look like, so I’ll know it when I see it if feminism isn’t it?

            Finally, if the argument is going to be that encouraging young girls to seek education and employment at the expense of marriage and family is correcting a historical imbalance, then given the low birth rates, low marriage rates, but female education outstripping male education, they can stop now, because mission accomplished, right? We seem to have an overabundance of women in the workforce instead of the home now.

            Finally finally, if part of the feminist argument is that “marriage and family are just as good as career” and it’s simply a social construct to prefer one over the other, and the objection to “Cultural Marxism” is the reference to Marx, then how about “Applied Postmodernism?” Now we have a direct link between Derrida’s deconstructionism that explicitly rejected western logocentrism as establishing illusory hierarchical binaries in every aspect of society, including but in no way limited to race and sex, and by exposing them seeks to undermine them? Now we can’t say “it’s just about class.” Of course, the French intellectuals were Marxists who finally had to acknowledge the stacks and stacks of corpses growing up around them, which is why they switched from “economics” to “power” and “class” to “identity.” Ya know, kind of like Marxism, except for culture.

            So, is “Applied Postmodernism” okay? Non-snarly. Definitely opposed to power imbalances. Definitely applied to all aspects of society rather than just economic class. And the word “Applied” means “we’re going to actually install Celebrate Diversity Day in your office instead of just writing in French about how all cultures are equally awful.”

          • Brad says:

            @dndnrsn
            I should note that I’m thinking specifically about the United States here. The composition of the left in Europe and Latin America–and presumably Asia and Africa, though I’m far less familiar with those regions–is very different.

          • psmith says:

            Nobody seems to have mentioned “structural oppression” yet, which would also be apt.

            But kyriarchy isn’t used to self-appellate

            I don’t see why not! Perhaps we ought to reclaim it.
            (Edit: Kevin beat me to it, that’s what I get for commenting before posting.).

            See also:

            The word “kyriarchy” in Greek (Greek: κυριαρχία, kyriarchia, a valid formation, though it is not found in ancient Greek) can now be used to mean “sovereignty”, i.e. the rulership of a sovereign.

            and cf “archism.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            I should note that I’m thinking specifically about the United States here. The composition of the left in Europe and Latin America–and presumably Asia and Africa, though I’m far less familiar with those regions–is very different.

            Probably the whole “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” effect.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @dndrsn

            they just want the inequality to be distributed equally.

            Forgive me if this is an elementary question, but could you unpack this a little? Like a material inequality axis is okay as long as it’s completely orthogonal to various social axes (gender, race, etc)?

            The other interpretation I can think of is a tongue-in-cheek, almost Animal Farm-y, phrase to accuse them of losing touch with their proletarian roots.

            I suppose it could be both, depending on whether you think it’s a good or a bad thing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Gobbobobble:

            Bit of column A, bit of column B. A lot of them don’t seem to mind income inequality anywhere near as much as they mind that some demographic groups are disproportionately represented on the bottom and some are disproportionately represented at the top. Most of them do this, however, without acknowledging that what they are arguing for is not leftist or radical or whatever – it’s just arguing for the same capitalist game to be played, only fairer – while still presenting themselves as leftists, radicals, etc.

            An argument can be made that society is always going to have inequality – you’re always going to have some people on the top and some people on the bottom – but that (some, most, all) differences in this regard along demographic lines are due to discrimination. That if society was fair you’d still have some people living paycheque to paycheque and others with private jets, but that each group would resemble society in general in its demographics more than each group currently does. However, the people who seem (based on their actions, revealed preferences, etc) do not have this as their stated preference – they rarely, if ever, make this argument.

            They (“they” being a certain variety of left-wing activist) use the language and make the claims of leftist radicalism, but when you look at what they do, it’s liberal reformism, minus some of the good bits (eg, they tend to have little respect for freedom of speech as a value, and I think that’s one of the better bits of liberalism, being a liberal myself). They also tend to argue for things that will benefit themselves personally as though it is something that will benefit a group as a whole (eg, when a bunch of group x people, x studies majors mostly, storm into the university president’s office and demand more hiring of group x professors, and an expansion of the x studies faculty … where are those profs going to come from? is the obvious question, and it’s far from clear how any of this will help the most downtrodden and impoverished members of group x, despite their being front and centre in the rhetoric).

            What bothers me primarily is the hypocrisy. It’s the best-off members of groups that are, as a whole, oppressed, talking the talk but not walking the walk of radicalism. They’re surfing to personal success on the backs of the worst-off members of those groups, while doing little to nothing to materially help the worst-off members.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            You have to keep in mind the distinction between intent and outcome. The intent of SJ is to make things better for everyone. However, the pseudoscience and bad logic means that mainstream SJ policies generally have different outcomes than predicted and/or desired by them.

            Whether the end result is actually undermining Western society to such an extent that will ruin us, is subjective and speculative. The human population is increasing pretty rapidly and the West is still growing. Whether the increase in lifetime expectancy, combined with few young people will stagnate the West is speculate. Might be true, might not be true.

            Whether young men will start checking out in really large numbers is speculative.

            There have been bad crises in the past, people often found a way. I do think that we are heading for a major crisis (although neoliberalism is much more to blame than SJ) and the longer people keep their head in the sand, the worse it will be. But the worse it gets, the harder it is to keep your head in the sand, because the signs will get pretty big. No one missed Brexit or Trump, although there is still major denial. But denial is just the first stage in grief.

          • (Question)

            Do you think slavery was central to western civilization?

            (Reply)

            Personally, I would imagine that the people supporting slavery believed that it was, while those opposing it thought that it wasn’t.

            When?

            Southerners before the Civil War may have believed it was central to their civilization, but it had been effectively eliminated in most of Europe about six hundred years earlier and entirely eliminated from English law in England in the previous century. So I don’t see how the supporters could believe it was central to western civilization.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @Conrad,

            Can we agree that […] traditional gender roles and marriage is far more likely to be foundational

            That’s an argument about whether or not SJ beliefs are reasonable, which is at most only weakly related to whether or not they are genuinely held.

            (Reading your later post, it seems to me that you’ve shifted from “they are intentionally undermining society” to “they are undermining values that I personally think are essential to society”. I don’t have any strong objections to the latter formulation, so if that’s what you meant all along, never mind.)

            Personally, I’m in favour of marriage in much the same way that I’m in favour of gravity; I’m not worried that either is likely to be “undermined”. Gender roles, on the other hand, are and IMO have always been contingent on the nature of the economy, and I see no value whatsoever in futile attempts to preserve or re-establish pre-industrial gender roles in a post-industrial society.

            (Yes, I’m probably heavily influenced by Scott’s work here. At least, that last sentence doesn’t sound much like something I’d have come up with entirely on my own. The overall sentiment is mine.)

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Marx’s project wasn’t to ensure that a proportionate number of children on the proletariat got to be exploitive capitalists.

            I hate to be *that guy*, but isn’t this precisely what ended up happening as a result of Marxism? Certainly hardcore communists seemed to think so, with the appellation “state capitalism” given to the Soviet Union and similarly constructed entities.

            A better analogy would be that social justice warriors are attempting to fight exploitative white men, and aren’t trying to make a proportionate amount of minorities into exploitative “white men”, except lol because that’s exactly what will happen.

            There’s no way to square the social left’s deep and unreflective acceptance of capitalism with Marxism, regardless of what kind of adjective you shoe-horn in there.

            yes there is

            it’s called: regular marxism focuses on the economy, cultural marxism focuses on culture. They use similar forms of rhetoric, probably the same tactics, and even draw from the same political wing generally.

            Yes, this is a good way of putting it. I like to think of it as, there’s a segment of the left that doesn’t mind inequality – they just want the inequality to be distributed equally.

            this quote is here only to poke a bit of fun at you 😉

            They (“they” being a certain variety of left-wing activist) use the language and make the claims of leftist radicalism, but when you look at what they do, it’s liberal reformism, minus some of the good bits

            However this quote is placed here to resolve a larger dispute; namely, I think that they are simply radical on a cultural level, insofar as they wish to totally alter the dynamic between the two genders and within each gender, which then alters much of human behavior, including work, education, sexual relationships, and so forth; they also wish to silence a large group of critics and so forth.

            In other words, they’re fine with corporations existing, so long as those corporations say only what they want them to say. The fact that this is said cynically means little, so long as it isn’t exceedingly obvious, because this establishes a propaganda echo chamber where everyone knows the right thing to say; couple that with many corporations and institutions outright disemploying those who speak out against feminism, and you have a tool for policing what everyone says, which has a larger trickle-down effect on what they think (so long as everyone’s saying it). As I had explained to me once, every society has a ton of propaganda, but pluralistic secular societies have many different forms of propaganda which roughly act to counterbalance one another. But totalitarian societies have only one brand, and also silence all others, which not only brainwashes many but also leaves those un-brainwashed unable to get their message to the masses. That…is radical. It’s simply not economically radical. They’re not interested in transforming the idea of a CEO; they want to transform the CEO himself, or at least assert significant control over his public actions.

            Marxism doesn’t posit a zero-sum economic game.

            I would argue that there is some type of zero-sum thinking inherent in the battle of the classes, but I could legitimately be wrong. I’ll admit that I have never read Marx, because I am both busy and lazy (mostly the latter).

            I’ll stand in defense of “kyriarchy”.

            Yes, ignoring the truth or falsity of the concept, the kyriarchy is an entirely logical concept. Especially insofar as it is simply a way of saying “the white cis patriarchy”, and I hope no one is offended by me saying that.

            “oh, intersectionality could actually be a useful tool if more people would use it as more than a cudgel for beating up outgroupies”

            Yeah. I mean, I think it would lose part of its usefulness if the progressive stack were removed, insofar as there would be no easy way to determine a victor. But that’s just saying that oppression, as a “number”, is hard to measure; that doesn’t mean that you can’t add the numbers, assuming you knew them.

          • keranih says:

            I’ve been looking for a shorter political self-descriptor, and “kyriarchist” should work pretty well.

            *facepalm*

            Well, when I show up on Old Nick’s doorstep, at least I’ll know why.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @John, David,

            It certainly seems that they felt it was central to their particular corner of western civilization. Did they particularly care what the rest of the world thought? (I didn’t know that “peculiar institution” was an expression of approval, though. Interesting.)

          • John Schilling says:

            It certainly seems that they felt it was central to their particular corner of western civilization.

            The herring trade was once central to the economy of Denmark, but I doubt any Dane, however devoutly patriotic w/re his nation’s place in the civilized West, would ever have said “the herring trade is central to Western civilization”

          • LHN says:

            @keranih

            Well, when I show up on Old Nick’s doorstep, at least I’ll know why.

            I can relate. Back in the 90s, I contributed to a gaming supplement that contained various alternate histories. On the Usenet newsgroup soc.history.what-if, there was a poster who espoused what, in retrospect, was a proto-Death Eater political philosophy. (Something I never ran into between then and rediscovering it here.)

            At one point, he explained that he’d been substantially inspired by one of the histories we’d included in the book. (Not even the central thrust of that history! It just happened to have an authoritarian Hohenzollern Germany as one of the states in the background.)

            He used a pseudonym then that I haven’t seen used since. (Though I found it cited in an academic article, years later, that quoted some of the group’s discussion around the time.) So if he turned out to go on to be one of the formative intellects of the modern movement, I’m at least spared the knowledge. (And of course there’s no reason to think so.)

            But still, as indirect influences I might have had go, it’s not one that I would look forward to defending on my life’s balance sheet. 🙂

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I’d like to remind you of the documents written in the run up to the civil war, the defenses of slavery and Sothern culture, and the various declarations of secession. These do show that they found Slavery to be foundational and essential for the values of their society. In particular, the existence of slavery made every white an aristocract, freeing them from the requirement to engage in base labor. At least, these were the arguments that were made.

          • keranih says:

            @HBC –

            You might find this Ann Althouse column on Andrew Jackson interesting.

            @LHN –

            I’ll save you a seat next to the fire.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            this quote is here only to poke a bit of fun at you 😉

            ?

            However this quote is placed here to resolve a larger dispute; namely, I think that they are simply radical on a cultural level, insofar as they wish to totally alter the dynamic between the two genders and within each gender, which then alters much of human behavior, including work, education, sexual relationships, and so forth; they also wish to silence a large group of critics and so forth.

            But part of my point is that there’s frequently a gap between stated preferences and revealed preferences. When a bunch of Martian Studies students say that they are acting in the name of the oppressed Martian underclass, half of whom drop out of high school, and then their demand is an expanded Martian Studies program (and thus jobs for themselves), and nothing that reasonably would help keep those Martian kids from dropping out…

            Likewise, when someone says they want to alter the dynamics between the genders, but everything they actually propose just reinforces the dynamics that currently exist…

            In other words, they’re fine with corporations existing, so long as those corporations say only what they want them to say. The fact that this is said cynically means little, so long as it isn’t exceedingly obvious, because this establishes a propaganda echo chamber where everyone knows the right thing to say; couple that with many corporations and institutions outright disemploying those who speak out against feminism, and you have a tool for policing what everyone says, which has a larger trickle-down effect on what they think (so long as everyone’s saying it). As I had explained to me once, every society has a ton of propaganda, but pluralistic secular societies have many different forms of propaganda which roughly act to counterbalance one another. But totalitarian societies have only one brand, and also silence all others, which not only brainwashes many but also leaves those un-brainwashed unable to get their message to the masses. That…is radical. It’s simply not economically radical. They’re not interested in transforming the idea of a CEO; they want to transform the CEO himself, or at least assert significant control over his public actions.

            Plenty of non-totalitarian – not even authoritarian! – states have had personal beliefs that would get your ass fired, from both public and private sector jobs. Unless the US in the 40s and 50s was totalitarian.

            You see, say, feminism coopting the corporations – I see the corporations coopting feminism and other social movements. The corporation pays Tim Wise or whoever some money to come in, talk about white privilege or whatever, mostly so that they can point to it and say “see we aren’t creating a hostile work environment” in case equal opportunity lawsuits happen.

          • onyomi says:

            I avoided commenting here because I already participated in an earlier, long thread on the topic. But because this one went on so long, I’ll provide a note of explanation as a point of reference.

            What initially caused me to start looking into the term “cultural Marxist” was the fact that I was using it in an apparently idiosyncratic way that was neither of the ways being discussed here (one being basically a “snarl word” for what I’d call the post-90s “intersectionality” trend in academia, or, more colloquially, “social justice,” and the other being what Brad calls a minor trend largely limited to the 70s–though I think the narrower definition of “cultural Marxist” would probably focus more on the Frankfurt School specifically, most active prior to that time).

            I was using it to refer to the larger trend in academia of studying culture from a Marxist perspective, beginning especially with “the Frankfurt School,” but also including people like Brecht, Barthes, and Bourdieu, and also related to the more general tendency Jaskologist mentions for Marxists in e.g. the USSR and PRC to view art/culture and politics as intimately bound up (the Cultural Revolution’s “model operas,” for example).

            Although I was aware that Republicans had recently begun to use the term as a general attack on left-wing cultural politics, I had considered that to be the more non-standard, idiosyncratic usage, rather than my own. The problem being, people sympathetic to the viewpoint I was talking about would tend to describe it simply as something like “the Frankfurt School” or “cultural analysis,” and those unsympathetic rarely talk about it in much detail except as part of a larger attack against the general left-wing tendencies of the academic humanities.

            The conclusion I came to was that probably the best neutral term for what I was talking about is “Marxist cultural theorist” (also keeping in mind, of course, that not every Marxist who writes about culture does so from a Marxist perspective).

            To my mind, “Marxist cultural theorists” did, in fact, lay the ground work for Queer Studies, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and most of the other academic disciplines currently lending support to SJ, but are still distinct in that, as others have mentioned, the original focus was on economic class, whereas now the focus is on solidarity of others sorts of identity.

            I also think that if I were an economic Marxist, I would be unhappy about these developments because “workers of the world” have more trouble uniting when other people are telling them about all the ways they face oppression along lines of race, gender, etc., even if Intersectionality assures them they can be oppressed in an exciting variety of ways.

            Edit to add: these two articles on the contested and varied uses of the term make me feel a little less crazy for having used it as I did.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            ?

            You’re using inequality to mean “being poor”, its generally understood meaning, but its literal meaning, “people not being equal”, is obviously reduced by everyone being equally poor (not that I endorse this, and not that I should have to say this either)

            But part of my point is that there’s frequently a gap between stated preferences and revealed preferences. When a bunch of Martian Studies students say that they are acting in the name of the oppressed Martian underclass, half of whom drop out of high school, and then their demand is an expanded Martian Studies program (and thus jobs for themselves), and nothing that reasonably would help keep those Martian kids from dropping out…

            They’re interested in seizing cultural power such that institutions will do what they say. Or does that not count if they benefit from it? Don’t most communists and socialists assume that they will be the ones in positions of power within the state apparatus?

            Likewise, when someone says they want to alter the dynamics between the genders, but everything they actually propose just reinforces the dynamics that currently exist…

            What feminists do is both reinforce the dynamic in some cases and radically break it in others, depending on which gives women more power. In situations where they want to be treated as weaker, that is reinforced. In situations where they don’t, that is completely disallowed. Power uber alles, and power power always. Also still a significant shift in the gender dynamic.

            Plenty of non-totalitarian – not even authoritarian! – states have had personal beliefs that would get your ass fired, from both public and private sector jobs. Unless the US in the 40s and 50s was totalitarian.

            edit: missed the link, guessed right for the wrong reasons

            I think what happened in the case of the Red Scares was frighteningly totalitarian. But at least it happened in regards to a specific and very murderous ideology. Even so, as non-authoritarian as America can be in peace, in war that all seems to slip away, so I don’t think this is a great example. Especially given that anti-feminism has been linked to no one worse than Elliot Rodger.

            You see, say, feminism coopting the corporations – I see the corporations coopting feminism and other social movements.”

            It is both simultaneously. And I will show you why:

            The corporation pays Tim Wise or whoever some money to come in, talk about white privilege or whatever, mostly so that they can point to it and say “see we aren’t creating a hostile work environment” in case equal opportunity lawsuits happen.

            And then everyone within the company receives yet another message about white privilege, or whatever piece of propaganda the propaganda-pushers are attempting to push, all while pushback is rendered near-impossible. Do you really think this doesn’t shift the margins?

            I don’t think people are dumb enough to just fall for any bad argument they hear. But when you’re forced to mouth along, those arguments take root, and in the absence of counter-arguments, with one side of the story having prepared and found whichever facts suit them… meanwhile, the corporation’s officers must also mouth along to the dogma of, in this case, white privilege. They have given up that power in exchange for profit.

          • Aapje says:

            @AnonYEmous

            Yes, ignoring the truth or falsity of the concept, the kyriarchy is an entirely logical concept. Especially insofar as it is simply a way of saying “the white cis patriarchy”, and I hope no one is offended by me saying that.

            It’s more the ‘white cis Western heterosexual non-handicapped rich male hierarchy.’ It’s like a pyramid where the fewer axes of oppression a person is subject to, the more unearned privilege they experience.

            You call it logical, but the way it is used in SJ is as an unfalsifiable concept, where no outcomes are treated as falsification of the concept; and where there is no room for the possibility of unearned privileges for ‘oppressed’ people. The entire concept falls apart if you don’t start with the assumption of certain groups being oppressed and always lacking privilege.

            An example is women doing better in education right now. According to kyriarchy, you’d think this would be impossible. Except…feminists now argue that women in college profit from the lack of toxic masculine conditioning, while men experience ‘patriarchy/kyriarchy backfiring.’

            So the argument is that women are simply earning their better outcomes. However, SJ advocates generally treat any disparity in outcome where designated ‘oppressed’ groups do worse as sufficient evidence of oppression and are thus not willing to accept that better outcomes for men may be due to them earning these better outcomes.

            So…the end result is that all situations where ‘oppressed’ groups do worse is taken as proof of the kyriarchy, while any situations of ‘oppressor’ groups doing worse is taken as proof of the underlying mechanism of kyriarchy existing (oppressors being conditioned to demand special treatment and being unable to cope if society doesn’t allow them to be oppressive, as they never learned to compete on an level playing field).

            So what we see in practice is that SJ resorts to victim blaming in every situation where ‘oppressors’ do worse and ignore the sacrifice that ‘oppressors’ make that result in better outcomes*.

            * And even the SJ concept of ‘better outcomes’ stacks the deck, as it is centered around achieving positions of power, not happiness, agency, a lack of suffering or unearned benefits. If you take one of the latter as indicating ‘better outcomes,’ then some of the ‘oppressed’ groups seem quite privileged.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            I’d like to remind you of the documents written in the run up to the civil war, the defenses of slavery and Sothern culture, and the various declarations of secession. These do show that they found Slavery to be foundational and essential for the values of their society. In particular, the existence of slavery made every white an aristocract, freeing them from the requirement to engage in base labor. At least, these were the arguments that were made.

            Again, though, the claim was that defenders of slavery thought slavery was integral to Western civilisation, which is a different and far broader entity than the antebellum USA. Pro-slavery apologists might have said that slavery was essential to their (southern US) culture; they didn’t, as far as I know, say that it was essential to Western culture as a whole, and if they did they’d have been demonstrably wrong, since there had been plenty of unambiguously Western countries without it.

            @ dndnrsn:

            Likewise, when someone says they want to alter the dynamics between the genders, but everything they actually propose just reinforces the dynamics that currently exist…

            No-fault divorce, free love, encouraging people to marry later, denigrating child-rearing as an alternative to paid labour, 50 genders, rape culture hysteria, etc., have in fact altered the dynamics between the genders, and seem likely to alter them further in the future.

          • Iain says:

            @The original Mr. X:
            From the introduction to Mississippi’s declaration of secession:

            Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            The entire concept falls apart if you don’t start with the assumption of certain groups being oppressed and always lacking privilege.

            Like I said, it’s not always possible to calculate oppression a as a numerical value. And progressives aren’t exactly talented mathematicians. I’m just saying that if you assume the ability to calculate the numbers, the ability to add them makes perfect sense.

            Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.

            I fucking knew it

            I was literally going to address this argument and say something like “well maybe they would say it because cotton” and lo and behold they fucking did.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            You’re using inequality to mean “being poor”, its generally understood meaning, but its literal meaning, “people not being equal”, is obviously reduced by everyone being equally poor (not that I endorse this, and not that I should have to say this either)

            What I mean is that a lot of them, in their revealed preferences, seem to be fine with a society where there is a clear stratification of socioeconomic classes. They just aren’t happy about the fact that some demographics are overrepresented at the top and some at the bottom.

            They’re interested in seizing cultural power such that institutions will do what they say. Or does that not count if they benefit from it? Don’t most communists and socialists assume that they will be the ones in positions of power within the state apparatus?

            But look at the institutions they have seized: in Canada (I don’t know about the US) student unions are basically owned by left-wing activists of a certain type, and they seem far more interested in setting up their successors for power, providing sinecures for themselves and their buddies, and basically running a quasi-feudal apparatus. Sure, they have their marches where they demand this, that, and the other thing, but what they actually succeed at doing is making sure that the Vice President Whatever goes on to be the President of the student union next year.

            What feminists do is both reinforce the dynamic in some cases and radically break it in others, depending on which gives women more power. In situations where they want to be treated as weaker, that is reinforced. In situations where they don’t, that is completely disallowed. Power uber alles, and power power always. Also still a significant shift in the gender dynamic.

            If this is true, though, then their revealed preferences are different from their stated preferences, which is part of the point I’m trying to make.

            I think what happened in the case of the Red Scares was frighteningly totalitarian. But at least it happened in regards to a specific and very murderous ideology. Even so, as non-authoritarian as America can be in peace, in war that all seems to slip away, so I don’t think this is a great example. Especially given that anti-feminism has been linked to no one worse than Elliot Rodger.

            What war? I don’t think the US can at any point in history be called truly authoritarian, let alone totalitarian.

            And then everyone within the company receives yet another message about white privilege, or whatever piece of propaganda the propaganda-pushers are attempting to push, all while pushback is rendered near-impossible. Do you really think this doesn’t shift the margins?

            I don’t think people are dumb enough to just fall for any bad argument they hear. But when you’re forced to mouth along, those arguments take root, and in the absence of counter-arguments, with one side of the story having prepared and found whichever facts suit them… meanwhile, the corporation’s officers must also mouth along to the dogma of, in this case, white privilege. They have given up that power in exchange for profit.

            But does it work? Is it successfully spreading the message, or is it just letting companies say “look how we’re working for a better world”, make some jobs for the Tim Wises of the world, etc, while everyone rolls their eyes?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:
            I’m sure you can find plenty of numbskulls who will argue any old thing, but I don’t think there is much disagreement that one reason plantation holders didn’t want slavery to end was because it enriched them.

            And I think you could also get broad agreement that, if slavery was not enriching, you would not have had (American and Caribbean chattel) slavery.

            If you want to stipulate that you think they reasoned backwards from this to all of their other conclusions, I think you are mostly right.

            But it doesn’t change the argument or the evidence that they held those other beliefs sincerely. Not all of the individuals, but most of them. It’s an example of the frequently mentioned Sinclaire aphorism ” “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            I jumped in after John attempted to rebut the following statement:

            It certainly seems that they felt it was central to their particular corner of western civilization.

            I was just rebutting his rebuttal. I don’t think your objection applies to this exchange.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            they seem far more interested in setting up their successors for power, providing sinecures for themselves and their buddies, and basically running a quasi-feudal apparatus.

            *looks at Communist party of Soviet Russia*

            *looks also at Title IX show trials and other stifling political correctness*

            in other words they created a fair amount of radical change and then entrenched themselves at the top of the system. Fuck, who is a left-wing radical by your definition? Only the failures?

            If this is true, though, then their revealed preferences are different from their stated preferences, which is part of the point I’m trying to make.

            So again, like every single communist and socialist party so far, more or less?

            What war? I don’t think the US can at any point in history be called truly authoritarian, let alone totalitarian.

            I think the Red Scare itself belies that. This makes my argument a bit circular, but true nevertheless.

            But does it work?

            Radicals are famous for doing really stupid stuff that has no chance of working, so this question is irrelevant. Plus, I’d say it absolutely is, because

            while everyone rolls their eyes?

            some people don’t roll their eyes, and the eye-rollers can’t explain to them why. Heck, most totalitarian regimes had plenty of dissenters; they just suppressed their speech so no one else knew about it. What was that old saying, about Rome, slaves, and slave markings?

            and to HBC: yeah yeah I know, cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug. I just didn’t think it was quite that powerful, but shrug.

          • Brad says:

            @AnonYEmous

            Marx’s project wasn’t to ensure that a proportionate number of children on the proletariat got to be exploitive capitalists.

            I hate to be *that guy*, but isn’t this precisely what ended up happening as a result of Marxism? Certainly hardcore communists seemed to think so, with the appellation “state capitalism” given to the Soviet Union and similarly constructed entities.

            Does it matter to the argument? If the Russian Revolution never happened the word ‘Marxism’ would be much more obscure but it would still mean something.

            There’s no way to square the social left’s deep and unreflective acceptance of capitalism with Marxism, regardless of what kind of adjective you shoe-horn in there.

            yes there is

            it’s called: regular marxism focuses on the economy, cultural marxism focuses on culture. They use similar forms of rhetoric, probably the same tactics, and even draw from the same political wing generally.

            It doesn’t even make any sense to have a marxism “focused on culture”. It’s a category error. As for the second part, I disagree with the first two and the third is by convention rather than any sort of independent variable.

            Look I’m a descriptivist, so I’m not going to say that you can’t call it Cultural Marxism because it lacks internal logic. But on the other hand it lacks internal logic, so when you say “we aren’t being totally obnoxious and unfair with this usage it actually makes sense” you aren’t convincing me (or I’d think much of anyone else). If enough people use it, it should go in the dictionary, but it should also get the pejorative tag and a usage note.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous

            *looks at Communist party of Soviet Russia*

            *looks also at Title IX show trials and other stifling political correctness*

            in other words they created a fair amount of radical change and then entrenched themselves at the top of the system. Fuck, who is a left-wing radical by your definition? Only the failures?

            The student union sinecure crew haven’t created radical change, not in the slightest.

            So again, like every single communist and socialist party so far, more or less?

            I did note that a big part of what bothers me is the hypocrisy.

            I think the Red Scare itself belies that. This makes my argument a bit circular, but true nevertheless.

            Is “people working in the government and film industry lost their jobs if they were maybe commies” hugely authoritarian? By the standards of authoritarianism that’s weak tea.

            Radicals are famous for doing really stupid stuff that has no chance of working, so this question is irrelevant. Plus, I’d say it absolutely is, because

            some people don’t roll their eyes, and the eye-rollers can’t explain to them why. Heck, most totalitarian regimes had plenty of dissenters; they just suppressed their speech so no one else knew about it. What was that old saying, about Rome, slaves, and slave markings?

            Is this really the case? Plenty of stuff on the internet. People who disagree with feminism are hardly resorting to samizdat.

          • John Schilling says:

            I was just rebutting his rebuttal. I don’t think your objection applies to this exchange.

            The claim under debate is, “people supporting slavery believed that it was central to western civilization”, as distinguished from “…central to a particular society that is a small subset of western civilization”.

            I do not believe that any great fraction of slavery’s supporters have ever held the former, as opposed to latter, position. You seem to be claiming that “Not all of the individuals, but most of them” did hold the former position.

            The best and only evidence presented for your case so far, has been the Mississippi declaration of secession, and conspicuously not those of any of the other members of the Confederacy, and even that wasn’t your work. All I’ve seen from you is arguments for other, weaker propositions which are not under debate. So I’m not seeing you as successfully rebutting anything.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I am responding to this exchange:

            It certainly seems that they felt it was central to their particular corner of western civilization.

            The herring trade was once central to the economy of Denmark, but I doubt any Dane, however devoutly patriotic w/re his nation’s place in the civilized West, would ever have said “the herring trade is central to Western civilization”

            Southern slaveholders did not describe the institution of slavery as merely central to their economy, but central to their civilization aside from economic concerns. So merely pointing out that it was an economic necessity, and that other economic necessities weren’t considered the foundation of a civilization, is a bit like arguing that Ray Charles is God.

          • John Schilling says:

            Southern slaveholders did not describe the institution of slavery as merely central to their economy, but central to their civilization aside from economic concerns

            You don’t see a distinction between “their civilization” and “Western civilization”? You don’t understand that people might in some contexts describe as their civilization, something smaller than all of Western civilization? And you didn’t notice me, at every opportunity, explicitly clarify the distinction between Western Civilization and specific cultures within Western Civ, even as you conspicuously avoid such clarification?

            I do not believe you are arguing in good faith.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “Cultural Marxism absolutely focuses on class. It’s just a class constituted by race and racial privilege instead of wealth and wealth privilege, with a complementary argument that racial privilege creates wealth privilege or even in certain cases (justice system, possibly politics) supplants it in most meaningful ways. “The proletariat” is replaced by “the oppressed minorities”. And others in this comment thread have laid out many similarities to traditional Marxist thought replicated by so-called cultural Marxists.”

            But that is not what Marxism means by class. Marxist classes are by definition related to production relations, not privileges. You are trying to shoehorn an ideology originating from the 1800s to current discussions.

            I have not yet seen similarities to traditional Marxist thought that were unique to traditional Marxism and “cultural Marxism”, instead of radical egalitarian thought in general.

            “namely, that traditional Marxism posits a zero-sum economic game between the oppressed class, the oppressors, and occasionally an in-between middle class, and cultural Marxism posits a zero-sum cultural game between the oppressed class(es), the oppressors, and occasionally an in-between middle class.”

            That’s like saying “nationalism posits a zero-sum economic game between nations and ethnicities, and thus, nationalism should instead be called nation Marxism”. (Of course, we have NatBols etc., but we don’t call all nationalists “nation Marxists” or whatever.)

            “Coincidentally? Marxism is like Protestantism except without focusing on Jesus.”

            No it’s not.

            LHN: Do you mean Quonster, or was there someone else?

            Also, apropos of everything: https://theredphoenixapl.org/2011/08/26/debunking-william-s-lind-cultural-marxism/

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            a) I’m very tired of you accusing me of arguing in bad faith.

            b) “It certainly seems that they felt it was central to their particular corner of western civilization.

            I am trying show that the bolded part of the quote is true, which then doesn’t require a an applicability to all of Western Civ. That’s the part you seem to be studiously ignoring.

            In fact, I’d venture to guess that they thought their society was superior to the rest of western civilization. An improvement upon what had come before.

          • LHN says:

            LHN: Do you mean Quonster, or was there someone else?

            That’s the one. IIRC, he also went by “Feudalist” for a while. (Though what he was talking up wasn’t really feudalism.)

            I’m told by a friend who frequented talk.bizarre that C. Yarvin was a regular on that group around the same time. Whether his and Quonster’s paths ever crossed, I can’t say.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Pro-slavery apologists might have said that slavery was essential to their (southern US) culture; they didn’t, as far as I know, say that it was essential to Western culture as a whole, and if they did they’d have been demonstrably wrong, since there had been plenty of unambiguously Western countries without it.

            I think a very similar argument could be made regarding at least some of the culture-war claims upstream of here. There are parts of western civilization that are considerably further to the left than the US is, and they haven’t suffered thereby.

            It is nonetheless true that I spoke imprecisely, and David and John’s corrections on that matter were entirely justified.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Does it matter to the argument? If the Russian Revolution never happened the word ‘Marxism’ would be much more obscure but it would still mean something.

            I think it matters because you either have to admit that there are no radicals or that this is as radical as it gets. Radicals often end up turning moderate once they’ve secured power for themselves. In other words:

            Fuck, who is a left-wing radical by your definition? Only the failures?

            It doesn’t even make any sense to have a marxism “focused on culture”. It’s a category error.

            And I disagree, because the part of Marxism I’m talking about is Marxist tactics, namely class conflict, but simply applied to cultural class rather than economic class. In other words, cultural Marxism is the tactics of Marxism applied to culture (race and sexual class) rather than economic class.

            As for the second part, I disagree with the first two

            There is a clear attempt to create a division between a privileged upper class, which oppresses an oppressed lower class to benefit itself, and to say that this should be upended to create equality among the classes. It’s just that they talk about cultural status and stereotypes instead of cold hard cash.

            and the third is by convention rather than any sort of independent variable.

            I mean…as fucked as politics are right now, and as fucked as they’re going to get…you know what, I’ll allow it I guess.

            The student union sinecure crew haven’t created radical change, not in the slightest.

            The telos of the university, is diversity.

            That’s a fucking radical change, my guy. An institution which was once about education, is now about benefiting minorities, and states this as one of their core missions to which they devote many, many resources. I don’t care if they actually believe in it or not, so long as their actions are in this direction. Because that’s what power is all about.

            I did note that a big part of what bothers me is the hypocrisy.

            Sure, but isn’t the discussion about radicalism vs. not? If most radicals are hypocrites, that’s a hole in the argument. If you just want to condemn them for being hypocrites, go ahead and I’ll join you.

            Is “people working in the government and film industry lost their jobs if they were maybe commies” hugely authoritarian? By the standards of authoritarianism that’s weak tea.

            I suppose it really depends on how far you think it extended into the culture and general views, as feminism versus anti-feminism does currently. If you think it extended far, then authoritarianism, and if you think it didn’t, then it’s not the same as what’s happening now.

            Is this really the case? Plenty of stuff on the internet. People who disagree with feminism are hardly resorting to samizdat.

            There’s certainly been a resurgence of anti-feminism, but let’s not forget that internet comments are often anonymous; an anonymous wordpress blog is an OK modern analogue to samizdat (and I do know what that was, so I recognize some of the issues with the comparison, but hey).

            Marxist classes are by definition related to production relations, not privileges. You are trying to shoehorn an ideology originating from the 1800s to current discussions.

            wikipedia sez:

            By “relations of production”, Marx and Engels meant the sum total of social relationships that people must enter into in order to survive, to produce, and to reproduce their means of life.

            Marx and Engels typically use the term to refer to the socioeconomic relationships characteristic of a specific epoch; for example: a capitalist’s exclusive relationship to a capital good, and a wage worker’s consequent relation to the capitalist;

            Sure sounds like the capitalist has capitalist privilege, due to being of a higher economic class. Look, I don’t want to come off as an asshole, but if you think the concepts are significantly different, can you expand on why?

            That’s like saying “nationalism posits a zero-sum economic game between nations and ethnicities, and thus, nationalism should instead be called nation Marxism”.

            But nationalism doesn’t have an oppressed class and an oppressor class, whereas both forms of Marxism under discussion draw heavily from the idea of an oppressed class and an oppressor class. I guess you can maybe find some examples of nationalism that complains of oppression (though such may veer close to National Bolshevism as well), but honestly nationalism cares only about one class, their favored nationality, to the exclusion of all others.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            But that is not what Marxism means by class. Marxist classes are by definition related to production relations, not privileges. You are trying to shoehorn an ideology originating from the 1800s to current discussions.

            Georg Lukacs clearly went beyond mere production relations when he argued that capitalism results in the objectification (reification) of social relations and those involved in social relations. This mirrors the feminist concept of objectification very, very closely.

            Secondly, his claim that different social classes can achieve different maximum levels of social consciousness is very similar to the SJ claim that the privileged can’t see their own privilege and the common belief by radical SJ people that no ‘oppressors’ can achieve enough awareness of the kyriarchy to speak for the oppressed.

            Of course, you can argue that the commonality is insufficient to call it Marxism, rather than merely call it inspired by Marxism, but you even seem to argue against the latter claim, which seems very silly given the strong similarities in some core concepts.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            The telos of the university, is diversity.

            That’s a fucking radical change, my guy. An institution which was once about education, is now about benefiting minorities, and states this as one of their core missions to which they devote many, many resources. I don’t care if they actually believe in it or not, so long as their actions are in this direction. Because that’s what power is all about.

            Ask people at a university what university is for, and you’ll get several different answers. The resources devoted to that – how significant are we talking? Is it a core mission thing, or a “let’s buy off those annoying kids” thing?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Ask people at a university what university is for, and you’ll get several different answers. The resources devoted to that – how significant are we talking? Is it a core mission thing, or a “let’s buy off those annoying kids” thing?

            let us say that, because bureaucracy rules, “buy off the annoying kids” becomes the chief purpose, by way of their chief purpose being “retain our jobs”

            but in practice, this cedes immense discursive power to them, and quite some real power as well.

    • rlms says:

      It has no connection with internet rationalism (other than the name). Culturally, I think it’s part of the internet skepticism movement (think atheism, getting annoyed by homeopathy etc.) with a little more politicisation. I think they get unwarranted levels of hate from internet rationalists. The link Aapje gives is kind of missing the point in my opinion: they’re not trying to be like Wikipedia or LessWrong and present unbiased truths about everything. They do one thing (chronicling people being stupid in particular directions) and they do it pretty well.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      It’s a wiki edited by the people conservatives think liberals are.

      So not a great place, in my opinion.

      • Evan Þ says:

        As opposed to Conservapedia, which is a wiki edited by the people liberals think conservatives are.

        (I was on Conservapedia as a sincere contributor for several months when I was younger and more trusting; then I got banned for – of all things – IIRC leaving a message on someone’s userpage “Hey, you might want to join in the debate on this talk page.” But if not that, I probably would’ve been banned anyway in a week or two when I finished my Letter of Admonition against their new Bible “translation” [sic].)

    • BBA says:

      At the time it started, “rational” was just internet code for anti-Bush, nothing more or less.

  37. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Tyler Cowen has published a big philosophical essay. So far, I’ve only listened to the podcast, so I don’t know how he defines or describes sustainable economic growth, nor how complete or defensible his list of rights is.

    Also, in the podcast, he says that philosophers only talk about redistribution and neglect the question of how production happens. Is this an accurate claim about the field?

    • Philosophisticat says:

      “Philosophers only talk about X” is probably going to be false for just about everything. I haven’t listened to the podcast so I don’t know what exactly he has in mind with “how production happens” and can’t judge whether that particular problem is one philosophers have neglected.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Cowen’s point is that economic growth as a moral good is less emphasized as opposed to redistribution and it shouldn’t be like that. He thinks that philosophers should be more attuned to the question of what makes economic growth possible and what we can do to influence it.

        • bobbingandweaving says:

          Yeah but those people would probably become growth economists (with the implicit value judgement that growth is good) instead of applied ethicists lol, also because of the contentious equal weighting of each dollar of production in the GDP calculation you can say that you don’t know the size of the economy until you know it’s distribution. Coleen wants people to analyse growth as distributively neutral productive value but philosophers want to weigh the productive value according to where it goes then add that up together and see it’s summation only then. It’s a tough one though, since there’s no end to redistributive arguments I have some sympathy with Coleen who just wants to get on with things and enlarge the distributively neutral pie, on the other hand he should understand that studying where growth comes from is pretty difficult without running into philosophical dilemmas like the Ramsay equation of the Non Identity Problem which acknowledge the ethical underpinnings of putatively vale free economic concepts such as GDP growth.

  38. bean says:

    No battleship post today, sorry. Yesterday, the time I might have spent writing it was instead spent at a lecture by Nicholas Jellicoe, the grandson of Admiral John Jellicoe, the commander of the Grand Fleet at Jutland. So instead, I’ll link to his website. I’d recommend the animation as the best way to understand what happened there.

    • neaanopri says:

      Hi Bean, this isn’t about battleships but it’s not far off.

      I’m a big fan of a specific World War 2 Grand strategy game, and one of the important parts of it is “fleet composition”: the ratio of Battleships/Carriers/Heavy Cruisers/Light Cruisers/Destroyers in a fleet. In the game, the fleets serve various roles, but I’m going to focus on the “Search and Destroy” role in which two fleets are trying to win a Mahanian decisive battle.

      Some quick googling gives me some answers: at Jutland, the Germans seem to have very few screens compared to the British, and they got the better of the fight. But at the Battle of Tsushima, the Japanese have far more screens and far fewer capital ships than the Russians, but the Japanese won decisively. I think this paradigm breaks down in WW2 because of carriers, so these two battles are all the data I know of.

      So how was a battlefleet “balanced”, so to speak? What were the general approaches to questions of “screens vs. capital ships”, and what would screens do in a fleet action?

      • bean says:

        The answer is that it depends on when and who. In WWI and earlier, the screen was there to keep out scouts and submarines, and in battle would deliver torpedo attacks on the enemy. (Usually. Some navies planned other things.) Light cruisers were the usual scouts, counters to scouts, and killers of destroyers, which were quite lightly armed.
        In WWII, the scouting issue had gone away with the arrival of the airplane. The screen now focused on AA and ASW, with a minor in torpedo attacks and a bit of surface gunfire. The problem is that destroyer gunfire wasn’t quite heavy enough to be really effective. The preferred US combination for a night action was 6″ cruiser guns and destroyer torpedoes.
        The general approach was to figure out how many destroyers you needed to protect your main body, and try to get about that many to your fleet. This is usually 4-6 per capital ship, to provide a sufficient anti-submarine screen, and to have some chance of torpedo attack. The ratios of available ships had a lot more to do with industrial capacity than anything else, as destroyers were about the largest ships that could be built cheaply in general-purpose shipyards, while cruisers and bigger took specialized resources. On the other hand, destroyers were also used as escorts for other ships, which bigger ships usually weren’t.

  39. onyomi says:

    I see some value in Scott Adams’s idea of the “confusopoly“: basically that both private companies and the government can take advantage of consumers/voters by making all available options needlessly complicated (his go-to example being cell phone plans).

    I am also a huge hater of long legalese which you have to agree to for everything nowadays, and which no one ever reads, with the result that they can just keep adding more of it, because seemingly no one ever says “never mind, I won’t buy this good/service since there is too much to read and sign”; quite the contrary, the probability of anyone caring probably goes down the longer it gets because the probability of reading it goes down.

    Other than just passing a law which says “all laws must be no more than x words long” or “it’s not lawful to demand agreement to a document of more than x characters as precondition on offering a good or service” (the latter seems especially problematic, as it limits the kind of private contract free individuals can enter into), is there any other way to have less of this?

    Related, does anyone who actually understands the new health care bill want to tell me what the really salient differences are as compared to ACA?

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      Well … I don’t think you’ll like this idea, but FWIW you could take care of, not the entire problem, but a large subset of it, by having a small number of standard contracts for various types of services, and mandating that only those contracts (perhaps with some explicitly spelled-out permissible variations) are legal. Software EULAs would be a good example of the sort of field where I think this would help.

      You could also somewhat reduce the impact on freedom of choice by not making other contracts illegal, but by requiring that the contracting party obtain legal advice on what they mean, and perhaps something like requiring a physical signature and a counter-signature by the advising lawyer. Basically it seems to me that the main problem is click-through or shrink-wrap contracts, which this would take care of while still allowing more complicated arrangements when it is worth the cost of making sure there is actually a “meeting of minds”.

      You might also be interested in the rules on tenancy agreements in New Zealand.

      • neaanopri says:

        As a follow up to that, there might be some work a motivated individual could do in standardizing EULA’s to make them saner. But, if the purpose is to obfuscate, only adversarial tactic vs. corps will work

      • Deiseach says:

        Software EULAs would be a good example of the sort of field where I think this would help.

        So far as I can make out from reading (okay, skimming) through these when I’m trying to download something, they all say “1. We don’t care where you live, anything is going to be decided under Californian law* (and that’s on our side, so good luck there, suckers!) 2. We want an arm and a leg and a pint of blood from you if you so much as entertain the thought ‘hey, I already paid for this, wonder if it’s possible to use it on another device I own without buying a second full-price licence?’ (see point 1 for clarification) 3. If this software makes your computer explode and your house burn down and your gerbil dies and you are left naked and penniless in the street, too bad, we accept no responsibility whatsoever (see point 1 for clarification)”.

        *To the point where I was actually surprised when skimming a EULA and seeing a reference to Polish jurisdiction, because this was software from a European country 🙂

    • With tens of thousands of terms and conditions style contracts flying around, you’d think there’d be some scope to standardize them. Then you could become familiar with the contracts you are willing to sign and which you are not, or you could see well established reviews of them from reputable consumer groups, or friends, or whatever. You could even use them as a starting point so a product would be under Standard Contract 12 with a couple of lines of specified variation. That way you get customized contracts but you have a reasonable chance to assess them carefully against your own needs.

    • onyomi says:

      Has there been already/how long before we see a major, sensational legal case in which the defense is “nobody reads that stuff”? And how long do these agreements have to get before it’s accepted?

      • Linvega says:

        As far as I heard, here in germany it’s not just a sometimes-used defense, but actually a guiding principle for legal disputes involving customer agreements.

        Basically it says that the average customer not only doesn’t read it, but that he can’t be expected to even understand the fine details. Instead, the customer has a general sense of how other products in the same industry operate and based on that has a “reasonable expectation” what the agreement entails.

        So if you find out a product where you agreed to the customer agreement does something that you don’t want it to do, and you can proof that this is highly erratic for its industry and unfairly disadvantages you, the agreement becomes void.
        On the other hand, if you don’t like it but it’s actually the norm in the industry, you ARE expected that you should have read the fine print. After all, you’re obviously NOT their average customer.

        Unfortunately, I can’t find anything on it right now, so I can’t verify whether this story was actually true or not.

        • Egalisator says:

          I can confirm this. It’s part of the AGB-Recht in § 305c BGB (German Civil Law).
          The official translation can be found here:
          link text

          305c
          Surprising and ambiguous clauses

          (1) Provisions in standard business terms which in the circumstances, in particular with regard to the outward appearance of the contract, are so unusual that the other party to the contract with the user need not expect to encounter them, do not form part of the contract.

          (2) Any doubts in the interpretation of standard business terms are resolved against the user.

      • Protagoras says:

        I know that contracts are not automatically enforcable; there are some explicit legal as well as common sense constraints on what the court will enforce. Since I’m not a lawyer, and anyway in the U.S. there’s the annoying thing where the laws are different in every state, I can’t provide specifics on how that affects crazy EULAs, but I’m sure a lot of elements of them are not enforceable. I know that nearly all states have tenant protection laws that make many elements commonly included in residential leases unenforceable, which doesn’t prevent landlords from including those clauses (presumably in hope the tenants won’t realize they are unenforceable and will just follow the rules); this seems to be a not uncommon pattern in contract law, and probably true of many EULAs.

      • MNH says:

        I’m no lawyer, but there is a wikipedia section that addresses this directly:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End-user_license_agreement#Enforceability_of_EULAs_in_the_United_States

    • Luke Perrin says:

      What would be the coordination mechanism for cell phone plans being too complicated? Did all the telecom CEOs sit around a big table and say “Let’s make our prices too high and our plans really confusing”?

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, I assume that’s how they do it if there’s only a handful of them operating in a given country. Not sure what the situation is in the US.

      • onyomi says:

        There are only a few major carriers in the US.

        I don’t imagine it being so much “CEOs from every major carrier get around a table and all say: let’s make the plans super confusing and nobody defect by offering a simple plan!”

        Rather, there is probably a general tendency for the companies to gradually make the options more convoluted because they find that doing so optimizes profitability up to a point. That point seems to be rather high at the moment in part because, yes, there isn’t much competition between carriers, and what competition does exist seems to occur more at the level of network coverage, which phone supports which network, and, to a lesser extent, overall price point.

        The average consumer cares most about two things: how much is my monthly bill and how good is my coverage. “Could I, in theory, be getting a better deal, given my current usage patterns,” doesn’t seem to be something people think much about, since the plan options are presented to the consumer as rather set in stone. And it is to their advantage to present it that way.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          There are a few mobile players out there competing on simplicity and transparency, actually. I use Ting (a bit shill-y, I know, but their chart is illustrative of the point) but I know there’s others like it out there too. They piggyback on the existing networks, though, so maybe they can only get away with it due to being small players?

    • cassander says:

      Adam’s idea is too conspiratorial. It makes more sense to think of a confusopoly as a sort of market failure where competitive pressures break down because consumers aren’t capable of distinguishing between products.

      That said, the solution is clear, such complications are the inevitable result of thickets of regulation. cut down the thicket.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I think there’s room on the margin for confusology even so. Consider that any large organization’s legal team will be significantly more familiar with the legal terrain than the average consumer. That familiarity breeds exploitation; legal advises corporate on what it can get away with, while the consumer can afford less familiarity for all products the consumer consumes. Even Warren Buffett probably doesn’t optimize his toothpaste.

        Cutting down the thicket is a possible reaction to this, but it probably works about as well as it does on taxation: rare major purges punctuating an otherwise upward trend on complexity.

        One dream of mine was to automate the processing of such regulations by fitting them into a formal semantic model, and then people could develop software that parsed contracts into the model, or even cut out the intermediate step and had legal staff issue their contracts in the model. More software could analyze contracts for vulnerabilities, support their modification, alert either party to clauses they would find objectionable, and so on. My vision of QoL improvement was, for example, getting an instant map of all housing in an area that provided a specific type of maintenance agreement, allowed dogs as pets, and fell within a given price range, with an alert for any places with a contract clause that didn’t fall within the set of concerns that the consumer had specified a preference for (“you didn’t say how you felt about free cable internet with a data cap”).

        • cassander says:

          given how people respond to the paradox of choice, I tend to assume that non-legally mandated confusion will be out-competed, or at least there will always be money to be made in non-confusing options. “pay us 20 bucks month, end of story” might not be the most efficient way to buy something, but enough people will throw up their hands at complexity that it can be sustained.

        • Kevin C. says:

          One dream of mine was to automate the processing of such regulations by fitting them into a formal semantic model

          But what about cases where the “formal semantic model” fails. Either because it fails to clearly cover the case (incompleteness), or else generates conflicting or contradictory requirements or outcomes (inconsistency)? Because, based in my understanding of Gödel, I expect that for any such “formal semantic model”, there will exist cases for which one of the two above occurs.

          • rlms says:

            Your understanding is wrong. Gödel only applies to certain kinds of model (a model that just e.g. considered whether or not a contract contained certain phrases would be a different type of thing), and even then only to sufficiently powerful ones. But even supposing that the model was complex enough, there is no guarantee that the “unprovable theorems” Gödel gives (in this case I suppose they would be facts that could be deduced intuitively from a contract but not found by the model) would be important. In maths, unprovable statements are rarely found “in the wild”. For contracts, it is implausible that writing one with unprovable implications would ever be necessary.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The ambiguity creates a difference in cost that is comparable with the cost of removing it. If the former is greater, then at least one party will seek to remove it. If not, both parties will give up on it and either ignore the discrepancy, or agree to (cheap) arbitration if it becomes an issue.

            This happens all the time. A consumer shopping for beans likely isn’t going to sweat the 5-cent difference between two brands of beans, or a 0-cent difference between two brands that may or may not be using GMO material, etc. In larger negotiations, two corporations reading a $1M contract aren’t going to spend $400k haggling over a line item worth 5%. If they do, it’ll be a one-time thing (perhaps to establish reputation); if it’s a habit, at least one of them will not stay solvent for long.

            This can work even if the ambiguity is hard to measure. If an obscure clause in a contract has an probability curve of X% chance of making $f(X) of a difference, and one party doesn’t know X or f(X), they’re going to take their best guess at both, and spend no more than that on finding out, and if both are low enough, they’ll not sweat it. If the other party knows, then it’s because they spent the money to find out, perhaps because it’s worth more to them to know X and f(X) since they’re in that business.

            If so, then I look at that as a numeric expression of the value of the division of labor. It’s a subtle improvement in society overall, to have multiple players figuring out these curves, with a built-in limitation: if a player does a good enough job at this, then all the other players have to do is copy whatever that person does, or discover the pattern.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            For contracts, it is implausible that writing one with unprovable implications would ever be necessary.

            I’m now amusedly wondering what such an analog would be. Party of the first part is to be paid for damages in arbitration if and only if arbitration cannot settle on an interpretation of the contract?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @rlms

            Gödel’s theorem may not strictly apply completely, but similar reasoning should; analogies to the halting problem could be considered as well. And consider the story told about Gödel, Einstein, and the US Constitution. It relates back in ways to Carl Schmitt’s theory of the “exception”. In short, it seems pretty clear to me that “algorithmic government” cannot be complete; no finite algorithm and rule set (implementable in finite time) can unambiguously cover every possible situation. Now, if you wish to argue that the set of all plausible contracts between human beings are a sufficiently restricted subset that contract interpretation and enforcement can be fully “automated” (and human judgement and discretion replaced completely), but I don’t think that can merely be assumed, and if true, then it implies severe limits on “contractualist” theories and models.

            @Paul Brinkley

            If the former is greater, then at least one party will seek to remove it.

            But how do you — or more accurately, your automated contract system — determine whether or not this party succeeds in doing so?

            If not, both parties will give up on it and either ignore the discrepancy

            Which is to say, human beings ignoring the output of the algorithm.

            or agree to (cheap) arbitration if it becomes an issue.

            Which is again human judgement substituting in for “the computer”. So, in fact, you then haven’t fully “automated” and replaced all human judgement in contract interpretation. Which is my point.

          • rlms says:

            @Kevin C.
            There is no reason to think that Gödel’s alleged constitutional flaw is at all connected with his theorem, any more than there is to think that either of these is connected with his marrying a stripper.

            You can’t just vaguely wave at Gödel to argue that something is incomplete. Many complex models (e.g. first-order logic) are complete and consistent. But even if you assume that the contract thing is sufficiently powerful that Gödel applies, that doesn’t mean it will actually affect anything. There are very few naturally occurring true unprovable mathematical statements. If you think that there will be a significant number in a contract system (despite the fact that that system would be less introspective than mathematics) then that is a very bold claim, and the onus of justifying it is on you.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Kevin C: But how do you – or more accurately, your automated contract system – determine whether or not this party succeeds in [removing ambiguity from a contract]?

            My automated system wouldn’t. Well, not in its first iteration. It wouldn’t know enough to even be able to recommend a possible solution. Removing ambiguity requires consideration of the real-world scenarios the parties care about. The key is that in many cases, you only have to do this once, and then it works for many future cases.

            For example: I offer you insurance against lung cancer. In pseudo-formal terms: I offer to pay for up to $200k in lung cancer treatment for you alone, in return for $20/month, for the period of months in which you’re paying it. Very simple terms, but what if you’re a smoker? I care about this enough to alter the terms – the cost of altering the terms is less than the difference I expect if I go around covering chronic smokers – so I say that if you’re a smoker, you have to pay $40/month for the same coverage. Now there’s ambiguity the other way. What if you only smoke cigars, and only at parties, say, once about every three months? This makes enough difference to you to offer another amendment to the formal terms, and let’s say I agree, and you’re back to $20/month. And now I’m worried about the chance that you’ll get lung cancer anyway, but after a quick check with my actuary, I find the chance to probably be so low that it’s not worth amending the formal contract further, so it goes through and now we’re both better off, after three iterations of looking at scenarios.

            Which is to say, human beings ignoring the output of the algorithm.

            Nah. The algorithm says I pay for up to $200k of your cancer treatment, despite your cigar smoking having made it more likely, because I decided I didn’t care enough about how much more likely it actually was, because it would have apparently cost me too much to find out exactly how much.

            [Cheap arbitration] is again human judgement substituting in for “the computer”. So, in fact, you then haven’t fully “automated” and replaced all human judgement in contract interpretation. Which is my point.

            So what? You’re arguing as if this is worthless just because it’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be; it just has to reduce the number of cases where someone realizes an unfavorable contract they’d signed, because they lacked time to manually read and analyze the terms. It can miss a few and still be better than status quo.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            It looks like I misread you. I’ve seen a number of “the law code is a set of rules, so if we ‘code’ them properly, they can be implemented by machine, and we can completely replace all judges, lawyers, courts, etc. with a computer” arguments before, and I read you as arguing the same for contracts: that we can remove the human element altogether and have The Computer Decide Everything. Apparently, that’s not what you meant.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Oh, right then. Yeah, you had no reason to know this, but I tend to treat nearly all innovation that way. None of it eliminates a trade entirely, except in exceedingly rare cases. Usually, it just allows one person to do the work that required ten before.

            An “automatic lawyer” would fall into the latter category. Much like how Grammarly doesn’t make editors obsolete. It just eliminates a great deal of the boring scutwork, and also gives ordinary schmoes affordable access to the power of a decent specialist.

    • tomogorman says:

      You can make the laws/contracts shorter – but that just means you shove the decision on those cases out to a future judge when the edge cases come up, which is if anything more obscure. Frex, you didn’t specify a choice of law provision then the court deciding the case applies its legal precedent to determine choice of law. You didn’t specify if arbitration – you de facto specified any State court that has jurisdiction. You didn’t specify venue (physical location where the proceedings will happen) – you de facto give the plaintiff choice of any appropriate venue. And so on and so on.
      U.S. law has already heard the challenge of no one reads the fine print (usually referred to as adhesion contracts), and has generally decided as long as the contract term is not simply ridiculously unfair (in U.S. legalese unconscionable) then you are stuck with it. You bargained for a contract written by the big company and therefore written to favor the big company within reason in exchange for a lower price. It simply wouldn’t be commercially reasonable to have individual bargaining. And for most contracts most people really don’t care (as you said below for cell phones people care about their price per month, phone options and coverage)

      As to the AHCA v ACA; its obviously very complicated at the margins, but major differences are:
      1) offer less in subsidies for the very poor (cutting Medicaid, especially the ACA’s expansion thereof but also capping regular Medicaid’s future growth).
      2) within the exchanges have less of the young/healthy subsidizing the poor/old by;
      i) fewer conditions that must be covered; and further allowing States to request waivers that allow insurance companies not to have to cover pre-existing conditions
      ii) changing the age band so that insurance can charge old people 5x the rate for young people (under ACA it is only 3x)
      3) instead of subsidies there are refundable tax credits (also the schedule for these changes such that there is a shift in favor of higher incomes)
      4) instead of a mandate (tax penalty owed annually if you don’t have insurance that year) there is a premium penalty (if you go without insurance for 2 months when you do buy insurance again the company is required to charge you 30% more)
      5) repeal of various ACA taxes that mainly hit higher incomes
      6) as what many believe is the intended effect of all of this spends roughly 1 trillion less over 10 years which gives the Republican Congress budgetary room to cut that much in taxes through reconciliation.

      So in sum; costs less, but provides less coverage. May be good if you are young and healthy as your insurance rates could go down when insurance companies are allowed to offer you coverage and price that takes into account you are young and healthy. Bad if you are old and/or sick as insurance companies can offer you coverage and price that takes into account you are old and/or sick. Is bad if you are poor – you get less money from the government to help. Is good if you are richer, pay less in taxes/get better refundable tax credits.
      (* there is also a fear that will just destroy the individual market as the premium penalty is far to weak to do the work of the mandate, which many believe is already too weak)

      • My interpretation of what is going on is that a complicated contract written in favor of the seller is a way of substituting reputational constraints for legal constraints. I’m pretty sure that Blizzard, under their contract, could do lots of things to me as a WoW player that I wouldn’t like, but if they did such things very often people would stop playing WoW.

        That makes sense if the legal system is sufficiently badly designed or biased that a seller can’t write a short contract that it can expect to be interpreted reasonably when a problem comes up and someone sues it.

        • gbdub says:

          How much of it is that the manufacturer has much more to lose in litigation than any individual consumer? From that perspective, it might make sense to cover their butts with a lot of legalese, giving them a lot of anti-consumer rights that they never plan to actually use but protecting them against edge cases that could hurt them a lot.

        • tomogorman says:

          it probably makes sense even if the legal system isn’t badly designed or biased just because reducing uncertainty is worthwhile

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Two very SlateStarCodex-y suggestions:

      1. For laws

      We need another level of law! We currently have statutory law and Constitutional law, right? Constitutional law is shorter, less technically written, and less detailed, and trumps statutory law which is incredibly long, incredibly technical, and incredibly detailed.

      We need a “superior law,” which stand between statutory law and Constitutional law, and is intermediate in those respects. It would articulate principles and intents, not at the super high level of the Constitution, but not at the highly detailed level of statutory law, either. So while the Constitution has, I believe, one sentence on the subject of copyright (To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.), and I presume statutory law has 857,923 pages on copyright, you might devote like… a page of superior law to copyright.

      Courts would strike down statutory law if it was in conflict with superior law, and superior law if it was in conflict with Constitutional law.

      2. For contracts

      LAW-BOTS

      I think that we are at a point where you could have a service that you could submit your contracts to and it would read them, using AI to parse out typical legal language, and then essentially bottom-line it for you, call out things that are unusual or inappropriate, give you good advice about what to object to, maybe rate it or whatever.

      We are certainly at the technological capability to do this if people were required to structure their contracts a little more formally. I think that law-bots would possibly create very healthy incentives to people not to try to sneak bullshit into their contracts, too.

      • Skivverus says:

        I like 1 in particular, though I’m tempted to expand it to numbered ranks – tier 3 law overrides tier 2 and tier 1 law but not tier 4+, that sort of thing (though as a libertarian I’m leery of anything that’ll allow the government to get bigger, and that sort of structure very likely will).
        It’s sort of like commenting one’s code.

      • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

        We need another level of law! We currently have statutory law and Constitutional law, right? Constitutional law is shorter, less technically written, and less detailed, and trumps statutory law which is incredibly long, incredibly technical, and incredibly detailed.

        Why not state within each law for every section, paragraph, sentence, and number the aim it is to accomplish (i.e.: why was it made into law)? And courts must give them priority over the explicit detailed rule. A great number of cases would not be taken to court then because the exploit of loopholes and edge cases becomes impossible. Much less micro-/nano-regulations, less dense legal thicket, less bigger-fool-economy….

        • LHN says:

          @TheEternallyPerplexed We see how well that’s worked to avoid disagreements over, e.g., the Second Amendment.

          Late last century, I took a course that touched on the application of formal logic to law. The professor had a standing bet that any law beyond a (very short) minimum length contained identifiable ambiguities. As far as I know, no one ever collected.

          Partly because natural language is just like that. Partly because ambiguity is probably necessary to any law being passed by a legislature full of people with conflicting interests. (In practice, the legislative intent behind many laws may have been “get this thing off the table so we can break for lunch”.)

          (One reason constitutional originalism has evolved from “original intent” to “original public meaning”– a group of people passing a compromise can hardly be said to have had a single intent. The latter isn’t immune to similar criticisms, but it’s at least possible on the level of researching how a stock phrase like “well-regulated” or “the press” was generally used and what it encompassed.)

          That doesn’t mean it’s never worthwhile to attempt clear drafting. And of course lots of times it works– most applications of the law are never challenged. But as long as the law is being disputed by smart individuals with strong incentive to engage in motivated reasoning, trying to avoid the need for interpretation with added explanatory language will tend towards turtles all the way down.

          Especially in the likely case that different legislators at different stages of the drafting and amendment process had different ideas what the law was trying to accomplish.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Oh, I forgot to mention another property of superior law in my proposal: it would be harder to pass, requiring a supermajority of legislators (but not as difficult to pass as a Constitutional amendment).

          So that’s why not make it just part of statutory law, and also I think it would be better and easier to organize if you had it as a separate document. Easier for congresspeople to defend it as a separate document, I think.

          (You could reasonably ask your congressperson to actually read the superior laws they wanted to pass.)

      • LHN says:

        Re types of law, there’s also case law (in common law jurisdictions) and regulatory law.

        I’m skeptical of the lawbot idea. Identifying boilerplate (and what isn’t), sure. But correctly interpreting the implications of contract terms in an adversarial negotiation is something I’m guessing we haven’t quite reached.

        I did a short CLE course on entertainment law contracts by someone who’d been on both the artist and record company side, and the main thing I learned is that if you’re ever involved you want not just a contract lawyer but someone familiar with those sorts of contracts. They’re just as ruthless as rumored, and experts in hiding an innocuous-looking term that happens to massively shift how much money is going where and who owns what rights.

        So I’m pretty confident that if there were a TurboTax for contracts, there’d be highly paid staff running sample clauses all day looking for (and finding) its blind spots.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Law-bots could definitely be defeated by using novel phrasing with current AI technology (at least, current commonly-available AI technology, god knows what Google or the NSA have in their labs). That’s why I added a proviso that says that we definitely have the technology if people are forced to enable law-bots to a certain degree.

          They’d also learn pretty quickly, and I think with a non-zero but pretty small amount of human intelligence backing them up. It would be easy for a law-bot to tag a piece of text as “I don’t understand this,” and bring it to a human backup’s attention.

          It would definitely be a tool for helping lay people with common, mostly-boilerplate agreements, not the domain of highly customized, highly technical contracts