SELF-RECOMMENDING!

Links 5/17: Rip Van Linkle

Multiocular O, “the rarest Cyrillic letter”, used only to describe the eyes of seraphim. Kind of sounds like something out of a Borges book.

More on Low-Trust Russia: Do Russian Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contestants avoid asking the audience because they expect audience members to deliberately mislead them?

Xenocrypt on the math of economic geography: “A party’s voters should get more or less seats based on the shape of the monotonic curve with integral one they can be arranged in” might sound like a very silly belief, but it is equivalent to the common mantra that you deserve to lose if your voters are ‘too clustered’”

Please stop trying to “buy Congress’ Internet history” to “punish” them for “ending Internet privacy”. Please stop donating to crowdfunding campaigns promising to do this. Please stop claiming that now anyone can learn what you read on the Internet in a personally identifiable way. And please remember that the sense in which they “ended Internet privacy” was “they repealed a less-than-one-year-old regulation that hadn’t come into effect yet, changing literally nothing” (though see here for counterargument)

Facebook plans to launch GoFundMe-style fundraising tool. Seems like a good business move, though a little bit monopoly-ish.

Amber A’Lee Frost on attending Left Forum. “At its best, Left Forum remains a reassuring beacon of cameraderie and ambition…at its worst, however, Left Forum is Comic Con for Marxists — Commie Con, if you will—and an absolute shitshow of nerds and social rejects.”

Contra stereotypes, at least one study shows autistic children are more likely to share.

A combination men’s business suit / onesie is a thing that exists and that you can pay $378 for. The company involved being called “Betabrand” might be a little too on the mark, though.

Largest ever study on sex differences in the brain finds the usual – sex differences definitely exist and are significant, but there are nevertheless large areas of overlap between sexes in pretty much everything.

Okay, look, I went way too long between writing up links posts this time, so you’re getting completely dated obsolete stuff like Actually, Neil Gorsuch Is A Champion Of The Little Guy. But aside from the Gorsuch reference this is actually pretty timeless – basically an argument for strict constructionism on the grounds that “a flexible, living, bendable law will always tend to be bent in the direction of the powerful.”

Epidemiology buffs, is this true? US life expectancy, long believed one of the worst in the developed world, is actually the best in the developed world if you correct for our very high violent death rate. [EDIT: This CDC paper investigates fewer causes of violent death but might get proportionally similar results]

The Kernel Project is an in-planning rationalist group house and community center in Manchester, UK.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel proposes denying diplomas to students leaving high school unless they can provide a “plan for their future” – acceptance to college or some kind of trade. Current Affairs has pretty much the right take with Rahm Emanuel’s College Proposal Is Everything Wrong With Democratic Education Policy, although I might have used the words “tulip subsidies” a few more times.

The company that makes Taser is offering free body cameras to every police officer, although this might just be part of a plot to get police locked into their system so they can jack up prices later.

Reductress: Are You Dating, Or Just Friends Who Have Sex And See Each Other Five Times A Week? This is even more confusing when you’re poly.

Otium: Are Adult Developmental Stages Real? Looks at Kohlberg, Kegan, etc.

Edge asks “What do you consider the most interesting recent scientific news”. Evo psych founder John Tooby answers: the race between genetic meltdown and germline engineering.

FDA agrees to let 23andMe start telling people their genetic disease risk again. Seems to be less of a Trump pivot than a carefully-considered decision that, whatever point they were trying to make by randomly impeding technological growth and preventing people from getting important health information, they had apparently finished making it.

Beeminder adds a feature to automatically beemind your writing by tracking word count.

I mentioned the debate over 5-HTTLPR, a gene supposedly linked to various mental health outcomes, in my review of pharmacogenomics. Now a very complete meta-analysis finds that a lot of the hype around it isn’t true. This is pretty impressive since there are dozens of papers claiming otherwise, and maybe the most striking example yet of how apparently well-replicated a finding can be and still fail to pan out.

Rootclaim describes itself as a crowd-sourced argument mapper. See for example its page on who launched the chemical attack in Syria.

Apparently if you just kill off all the cells that are growing too old, you can partly reverse organisms’ aging (paper, popular article)

Pope John XIX ruled from 1024-1032; Pope John XXI ruled from 1276 – 1277. It wasn’t until years later that the Catholic Church realized they had gotten confused and accidentally skipped over having a Pope John XX

[Small brain]: Attachment style toward parents
[Bigger brain]: Attachment style toward peers
[Giant glowy brain]: Attachment style toward God

Overcoming Bias on the role of jargon and mythology: “Similarly, religions often expose children to a mass of details, as in religious stories. Smart children can be especially engaged by these details because they like to show off their ability to remember and understand detail. Later on, such people can show off their ability to interpret these details in many ways, and to identify awkward and conflicting elements. Even if the conflicts they find are so severe as to reasonably call into question the entire thing, by that time such people have invested so much in learning details of their religion that they’d lose a lot of ability to show off if they just left and never talked about it again. Some become vocally against their old religion, which lets them keep talking and showing off about it. But even in opposition, they are still then mostly defined by that religion.” Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about that.

From Garrett Jones on Twitter: no correlation between a country’s change in education and its change in growth rate.

List Of Greek And Roman Architectural Records. Did you know Constantine’s bridge across the Danube was over a mile long?

The American Federation Of Teachers, one of the US’ largest teachers unions, comes out in favor of bombing Syria. I feel like this is some sort of reductio ad absurdum of unnecessary politicization of stuff.

Some past studies that I took somewhat seriously suggested that antidepressant use during the first trimester pregnancy could slightly raise autism risk. The latest very large study fails to replicate this result and finds only a slightly increased risk of preterm birth.

The person who put together the list of vindicated scientific mavericks responded to my criticism here; I responded to the response here.

The Politics Of The Gene: “Contrary to expectations, however, we find little evidence that it is more common for whites, the socioeconomically advantaged, or political conservatives to believe that genetics are important for health and social outcomes.”

Related: the hereditarian left. This seems like as close to a useful self-identifier as I’m going to get.

White House refuses to give Exxon Mobil special waiver to drill in sanctioned Russia. I want to emphasize how proud I am of (some parts of) America right now. Our Secretary of State is the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, our President is widely suspected of having benefitted from Russian interference in his election, but the government is still able to rule against Exxon and Russia when it needs to. Given how corrupt half of what we do is, it’s nice to know we have some weird hidden talent at not-being-corrupt that we can pull out sometimes.

More interesting techniques for surveying scientists and sounding out consensus: “As level of expertise in climate science grew, so too did the level of agreement on anthropogenic causation…the respondents’ quantitative estimate of the [greenhouse gas] contribution appeared to strongly depend on their judgment or knowledge of the cooling effect of aerosols.” Also: “Respondents who characterized human influence on climate as insignificant, reported having had the most frequent media coverage regarding their views on climate change.”

Siberian Fox linked me to two studies that somewhat contradicted my minimalist interpretation of childhood trauma here: Alemany on psychosis and Turkheimer on harsh punishment.

Deep learning system is able to generate new poems on arbitrary topics. See page 6 for its poem about bipolar disorder, which passes the Emo Teenage Girl Turing Test with flying colors.

A certain population in Bosnia is found to be the tallest in the world, likely for genetic reasons (study, popular article). This sort of thing drives me berserk; everyone can talk about between-populations genetic variation in height as if it’s so obvious it doesn’t even need defending, and then as soon as someone mentions between-populations genetic variation in cognitive abilities, it’s “Haven’t you heard? Scientists proved race is a social construct!” People should either be frantically trying to debunk all of these height-related claims, or else shrugging and saying “yeah, that’s a plausible minor extension of the existing literature” when they read cognition-related claims.

More evidence linking BDNF to depression: it appears to be a good biomarker for antidepressant treatment response. Usually my eyes start rolling when I see “psychiatry” and “biomarker” in the same paper, but with an n = 6000, d = 1.3, and p=4.4E-07, I am grudgingly prepared to take note. Extra neat – it’s serum rather than CSF, so we might actually be able to use it in real life.

Pictures of big data dot tumblr dot com

Matthew Yglesias changes my mind and convinces me that Obama accepting a $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee is bad. Basic argument: as long as corporations can offer politicians lucrative deals after they retire, they can reward pro-corporate decisions with plausible deniability, which incentivizes politicians to be pro-corporate. If you’re anti-corporate, this is directly bad; if you’re pro-corporate, this makes it impossible to convince people that you’re really making well-considered decisions in their best interests and not just being corrupt.

There have been a lot of hot takes that the March For Science was bad in some vague way (see eg Slate’s here), but despite sharing their intuition of discomfort none of them really rang true to me. One thing that did strike me was this tweet about the focus on funny signs and who had the best costume. It seems to me that if we were protesting something genuinely awful (like a genocide abroad), we wouldn’t wear silly costumes and funny signs. Does that mean that a decision to go ahead with the signs and costumes reflects some kind of subconscious feeling that this isn’t really that bad, or a motivation springing from something other than true outrage?

Lyrebird is an AI project which, if fed samples of a person’s voice, can read off any text you want in the same voice. See their demo with Obama, Trump, and Hillary (I find them instantly recognizable but not at all Turing-passing). They say making this available is ethical because it raises awareness of the potential risk, which a Facebook friend compared to “selling nukes to ISIS in order to raise awareness of the risk of someone selling nukes to ISIS.”

Rod Dreher’s Monastic Vision. I had always thought of Rod Dreher as some sort of crotchety conservative blogger who was deeply concerned about The Gays. Apparently he is actually a tragic figure resembling an Old Testament prophet come to life. I regret the error.

Current Affairs on the back-stabbing, infighting, and comical errors of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Although of course if a handful of Rust Belters had voted differently, we’d be praising every one of these people as geniuses right now.

Magazine The American Interest recently print-published a version of my essay Considerations On Cost Disease. And here’s the editor’s commentary and proposed explanation.

FHI’s April Fools’ joke – a paper On The Impossibility Of Supersized Machines. Size isn’t even a well-defined natural concept, so how could machines ever become “larger” than humans?

The Myth Of Superhuman AI is yet another poorly thought-out repetition of the same anti-AI claims, and in some cases uses exactly the arguments the article above is parodying. But I link it because it’s the first article that explicitly claims that the “scientific consensus” is in favor of superintelligence, saying things like “a panel of nine of the most informed gurus on AI all agreed this superhuman intelligence was inevitable and not far away”, and that it wants to distinguish itself from the “orthodoxy”. I’m not sure that’s quite right, but it’s nice to see the criticism shift from “stupid crackpot idea that no sane person believes” to “entrenched scientific orthodoxy that must be challenged”, even if I do wish we’d been able to spend at least a little time as “plausible idea that should be approached with interest and curiosity”.

Related: Siberian Fox – “Before thermometers, people mocked the idea of temperature ever being measurable, with all its nuance, complexity, and subjectivity.”

Freddie deBoer gives lots of evidence that there is no shortage of qualified STEM workers relative to other fields and the industry is actually pretty saturated. But Wall Street Journal seems to think they have evidence for the opposite? Curious what all of the tech workers here think.

Also, I can’t remember if I’ve recommended Freddie deBoer’s new education science blog ANOVA on here yet, but you should definitely read it. He’s one of the most engaging writers I know, plus also one of the few people I really trust to report on scientific research accurately, plus also has a rare gift to write about politics without making me want to scream at my computer. See also: his Patreon.

80,000 Hours presents what they recommend as a rare actually-evidence-based self-help career guide. I am a little skeptical of the billing – the “evidence” is mostly along the lines of “a popular book written by science-y sounding person recommended this”, and there are actually ten million different self-help guides that do that kind of thing. But it’s not bad advice and if you’re looking for self-help you could probably do worse.

Scott Sumner: How Can There Be A Shortage Of Construction Workers? That is, is it at all plausible that (as help wanted ads would suggest) there are areas where construction companies can’t find unskilled laborers willing to work for $90,000/year? Sumner splits this question in two – first, an economics question of why an efficient market wouldn’t cause salaries to rise to a level that guarantees all jobs get filled. And second, a political question of how this could happen in a country where we’re constantly told that unskilled men are desperate because there are no job opportunities for them anymore. The answers seem to be “there’s a neat but complicated economics reason for the apparent inefficiency” and “the $90,000 number is really misleading but there may still be okay-paying construction jobs going unfilled and that’s still pretty strange”.

Roscoe Arbuckle, one of the most famous silent movie actors, had his career destroyed by a Trial-Of-The-Century-style rape scandal that sounds like a 1920s version of the UVA Rolling Stone case. Key quote “The jury began deliberations April 12, and took only six minutes to return with a unanimous not guilty verdict — five of those minutes were spent writing a formal statement of apology to Arbuckle for putting him through the ordeal…After the reading of the apology statement, the jury foreman personally handed the statement to Arbuckle who kept it as a treasured memento for the rest of his life. Then, one by one, the entire 12-person jury plus the two jury alternates walked up to Arbuckle’s defense table where they shook his hand and/or embraced and personally apologized to him”. Also a good example of how it doesn’t matter what the justice system finds as long as an industry is controlled by people happy to blacklist you for being unpopular. Also, trigger warning for…fatphobia? That wasn’t the trigger warning I was expecting to have to give, but it’s definitely needed here.

US Supreme Court rejects the argument that states can keep certain suspects’ money even after they are found innocent. This seems like a kind of niche situation, but the article correctly points out that it establishes a strong precedent that might be applied later to rein in civil forfeiture, which definitely isn’t a niche problem and is a really important issue.

Also, Alyssa Vance on Facebook on law: the test cases that set Fourth Amendment precedent will inevitably be ones where defendants are clearly guilty, biasing judges in favor of expanding police search powers.

Study which is so delightfully contrarian I choose to reblog it before reading it all the way through: mandatory class attendance policies in college decrease grades by preventing students from making rational decisions about when and how to study.

You’ve probably heard of Vantablack, the “world’s blackest pigment”, and seen the creepy pictures. But it’s proprietary, it requires special equipment to apply, and you can’t have it. But now artist Stuart Semple has released an open-access version that anyone can use – except, presumably, Anish Kapoor.

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

912 Responses to Links 5/17: Rip Van Linkle

  1. Yosarian2 says:

    One thing that did strike me was this tweet about the focus on funny signs and who had the best costume. It seems to me that if we were protesting something genuinely awful (like a genocide abroad), we wouldn’t wear silly costumes and funny signs. Does that mean that a decision to go ahead with the signs and costumes reflects some kind of subconscious feeling that this isn’t really that bad, or a motivation springing from something other than true outrage?

    I think this may just be a consequence of the fact that the most effective way to get your political ideas across to a wide audience today may be to create something that will go viral on social media. A funny image that gets your point across and people will share on Twitter and facebook and reddit may be more widely seen and influential then anything else an average individual can do.

  2. Lawrence D'Anna says:

    If a handful of Rust Belters had voted differently, they still would have almost lost to Donald Trump, which is still pretty darn embarrassing.

  3. dopefishjustin says:

    Re: STEM employment, it’s worth pointing out that deBoer’s piece was published in November 2013, whereas the WSJ piece is from April 2017, so some of the discrepancy may be due to changed economic conditions over the past three and a half years.

  4. “Apparently if you just kill off all the cells that are growing too old, you can partly reverse organisms’ aging”

    Nobody seems to be commenting on this which, to me, was the most interesting of the links. It could easily be wrong, or work for rats and not humans, but it is at least a hint at a way of not merely slowing but reversing aging.

    Which for some of us is a matter of some importance.

    • engleberg says:

      According to Art de Vany, you can maintain the physical health of an athlete in his forties through your seventies if you 1) lift weights until you puke once a week, then relax and just play a little, 2) no sugar and no bread, pasta-type carbs, and 3) some vitamins that cost about a thousand dollars a year that he gets paid a little for. He’s not pushing 3) very hard.
      He had a diabetic wife he kept alive for a couple extra decades by being nuts against carbs and sugar. He’s always been an olympic weight lifter (I mean the style of lifting, not that he’s gone for medals). Might just be him, but if Trump was looking for a Surgeon General who’d get press and might make Trump look good, I’d like to see Art de Vany appointed.

  5. pico says:

    They say making this available is ethical because it raises awareness of the potential risk, which a Facebook friend compared to “selling nukes to ISIS in order to raise awareness of the risk of someone selling nukes to ISIS.”

    It’s more like selling ISIS a conventional weapon that really, really looks like a nuke but then also selling the same thing to everyone on the planet.

    Tools like Lyrebird will lead to fraud but the only defense is knowing about the technology. The sooner the knowledge spreads, the more likely the fraud stays at conventional levels instead of nuclear and it’s better to publicize this while the tech is imperfect.

    Better than Lyrebird, which can be used for anything, would be an I Am T-Pain app that makes you actually sound like him instead of like auto-tune. That way, you could only defraud people who would reasonably expect to talk to T-Pain.

  6. Deiseach says:

    Given that sometimes people ask on here for careers advice in the wide field of computer science, this may be relevant to their interests.

  7. JoeCool says:

    I’m also proud of America for not being corrupt in this instance, yet I still wish they’d allowed drilling.

    I hate sanctions for the same reason I hate war, massive collateral damage, and since the future of geopolitics is hard to predict, I’m highly skeptical the claim that it is for THE GREATER GOOD, at least with Trump at the helm of policy.

    • Deiseach says:

      There probably were reasons for the decision, but I have to think at least some tiny part of “can you imagine what would be said if Trump agreed to this – let the company, where one of his staff used to be CEO, drill for oil in Russia – the country he is accused of being a patsy of – despite existing sanctions”? had an influence.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      So what do you think would be a better means to deter/punish state-level actors from defecting? Particularly ones that we can’t simply Send The Marines to?

  8. VivaLaPanda says:

    I wrote an article RE the Russian Gameshow story : https://medium.com/@vivalapanda/fundamental-attribution-error-and-the-other-403ce7c79698

    Fundamentally I think the article was too willing to ascribe the audience’s behavior to a particular cultural factor, or at least was too confident in that assertion.

  9. pelebro says:

    The spanish machine generated poem has a lot of noun gender errors. Reads like a foreigner.

  10. P. George Stewart says:

    As an interested onlooker, I think the problem with the way people are looking at AI is in thinking of intelligence as being something that can be a “one box solution,” i.e. something that can be intelligent in standalone sense.

    Judging by how the most intelligent species are social (apes, corvids – the octopus seems to be the odd one out, but it has a sort of “society” of brains in its tentacles), it seems to me that the degree to which intelligence is the product of sociality, i.e. of individual, independent things multiplying each others’ individual intelligence, by means of games and play involving co-operation and competition, is likely to be the constraint on the “one box solution” notion as it currently seems to be conceived.

    Another way of putting it: I think you could get intelligent AIs, but only as part of an intelligent AI species (or some kind of digital species analogue), comprised of individuals with their own different wills, desires, etc., interacting with a balance of co-operation and competition, and having both a sense of “me” and “us.” Even simpler: there is no “I” of the kind that makes for reflective intelligence without “we”, and possibly also “them”; these all hang together, have meaning only relative to each other.

    Ofc it depends on what “box” means and where you draw the outlines, but the key point is that there has to be independence and interdependence between the units that become intelligent.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Assuming you’re right, being exterminated by multiple AI’s isn’t any better than being exterminated by one.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Scott, why did you start out preferring a minimalist interpretation of childhood trauma?

    What do you think of Adverse Childhood Experience study?

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/05/how-beauty-evolves/525741/

    Argues that aesthetic preference rather than optimizing for fitness drives a lot of sexual selection.

    “Duck sex is intense and violent. Several males will often try to force themselves onto a female, and they use their ballistic penises to deposit sperm as far inside their mates as possible. But Brennan, by getting drakes to launch their penises into variously shaped glass tubes, showed that a female’s counter-spiraling vagina can stop the progress of her partner’s phallus. If she actually wants to mate, she can change her posture and relax the walls of her genital tract to offer a male easy passage. As a result, even in species where 40 percent of sexual encounters are forced, more than 95 percent of chicks are actually sired by a female’s chosen partner.”

    I’m not sure this contributes to the thesis, but it’s interesting.

  13. Eli says:

    Amber A’Lee Frost on attending Left Forum. “At its best, Left Forum remains a reassuring beacon of cameraderie and ambition…at its worst, however, Left Forum is Comic Con for Marxists — Commie Con, if you will—and an absolute shitshow of nerds and social rejects.”

    A few short years later, and half of all DSA meetings feel like some of Amber’s stories from Left Forum.

  14. Eli says:

    Freddie deBoer gives lots of evidence that there is no shortage of qualified STEM workers relative to other fields and the industry is actually pretty saturated. But Wall Street Journal seems to think they have evidence for the opposite? Curious what all of the tech workers here think.

    I got laid off and spent four months job-searching. By now I’m going to get an offer from at least one of three possibilities. Two of those are because friends threw my name in the company hat.

    I’ve worked with recruiters and asked them what’s going on. What they say is that most companies come back to them and say, “He seems smart and friendly, but he doesn’t have the web development skillset we’re looking for.” They also just don’t have that many jobs doing metal-level and systems-level C programming like I used to. One explicitly said, “It’s a tough market right now and everyone’s looking for perfect.”

    Maybe we’re not in some humongously saturated glut where everyone who gets laid off stays unemployed for years, but I definitely don’t think there’s a shortage.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I definitely experience that feast-or-famine mode. No one will respond to my resumes for a few months, and then all of a sudden a bunch of people are interested.

    • bean says:

      There’s definitely a shortage of perfect candidates. The problem seems to be that there’s a big disconnect between what companies want and what they have available. I’m not sure that throwing more BSs onto the job market is going to help the problem if companies still refuse to give a job to anyone who doesn’t have the right kind of experience. I don’t particularly blame the companies for that (training someone up and then seeing them move somewhere else is going to get old after a while) but it does seem like Moloch is the reason that you have trouble getting hired and John Schilling has trouble finding new employees.

      • John Schilling says:

        And I only have trouble hiring new employees at the “experienced veteran” level, with most of my recent successes being due to some other company’s self-inflicted misfortunes. When I’m able to fill more junior positions – which we do actually sometimes do around here to build our internal talent pool – there’s no shortage of candidates.

        But most companies can’t just hire fresh BSs and wait for them to mature, even if they can be confident they won’t move on in the meantime. Today’s projects need to be done by people who are qualified today.

        • Deiseach says:

          But most companies can’t just hire fresh BSs and wait for them to mature, even if they can be confident they won’t move on in the meantime. Today’s projects need to be done by people who are qualified today.

          Which then leads to the problem of “the vacancy requires X years’ experience to get hired, but how do you get X years’ experience in the first place if no-one will hire you?”

          I agree it’s a real problem and nobody (well, very very few probably) is deliberately trying to make it harder for new graduates to get a job, it’s just the way the world works, and that’s why companies try to poach and headhunt experienced staff from other companies.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        One approach I commonly see in the government is to wait until enough required skills collect for a given project, put them all on an offer, wait for an applicant who meets as little as 30% of them, and assume that that person can maybe pick up some of the others while they work as a generalist. They never get a perfect fit this way; they’re content with “close enough”.

    • I used to do C before switching to web development nine years ago….I very much got the impression that the C market was shrinking, the only people employers want have MSc’s or PhD’s.

  15. > I want to emphasize how proud I am of (some parts of) America right now.

    So how about the Comey sacking?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Yeah, that sentence I found to be incredibly credulous. Not approving something for Exxon can be a pretty cheap signal given everything else that’s going on with Russia.

    • Brad says:

      I’m torn on that. The Deputy AG memo says all the right things. Those are the reasons I thought Obama should have fired Comey before he left office. But it strains all credulity to believe that the reason Trump is firing Comey is because Comey didn’t treat the Clinton investigation with the circumspection he ought to have.

      • keranih says:

        Well, I’m not asking you to trust Trump, but I think that a case can be made linking Flynn and Comey – both gave inaccurate testimony to Congress. Even though Trump seems to be comfortable jumping off at the mouth, he might have different standards for his staff.

      • gbdub says:

        Comey seemed to be disliked by a bipartisan coalition, and not really trusted by anyone. I don’t think this was a unilateral Trump decision.

        The timing of this is the main thing that seems off, but one theory I’ve heard is that they may have been waiting for Deputy AG Rosenstein (who the FBI director reports to directly) to get confirmed – he’s only officially been on the job for 2 weeks.

        • albatross11 says:

          Sometimes, you need to make a decision that’s the right decision, but it looks a little sketchy–there’s the potential for a conflict of interest there, or you could plausibly have bad motives for making the decision, or whatever. And then, the decision depends on two things:

          a. How well you present good reasons for your decision to the public (so they can see why it was a good decision).

          b. How much people trust your integrity.

          As far as preparing the ground with PR, Trump’s PR as president is really inept. Which is weird, because during the campaign, he pretty-much owned the media, forcing people who despised him to give him unlimited airtime. But with a couple weeks of his PR people preparing the ground for this decision, it would have gone down a lot easier. I assume this has to do with worrying about leaks, or not trusting his staff, or not having enough impulse control to wait for decisions.

          As far as integrity, Trump has no reputation for integrity even among his supporters. He’s on the record contradicting himself and saying stuff that’s easily-checked and is false. He has a lot of sketchy-looking conflicts of interest going on. (As far as I can tell, because he didn’t plan out how to deal with those issues when he was running for president, though that would have been an obvious and sensible thing to start working on at least when he got the Republican nomination!)

          So he’s trying to do this thing that maybe makes sense (there were good reasons to fire Comey), but that also looks like it might have been done for some bad reasons (to exert control over the investigation into his campaign coordinating with Russian hacking of DNC emails). And he didn’t make a coherent case to the public for the good reasons (instead, there are multiple incompatible reasons plus leaks contradicting them). And he can’t fall back on his reputation as a straight-shooter who avoids conflicts of interest, because he hasn’t got one.

          • Iain says:

            So he’s trying to do this thing that maybe makes sense (there were good reasons to fire Comey), but that also looks like it might have been done for some bad reasons (to exert control over the investigation into his campaign coordinating with Russian hacking of DNC emails).

            His comments to Lester Holt (“And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won'”) make it hard to believe that he was motivated by any of the good reasons to fire Comey.

            The Rosenstein memo justifies Comey’s firing on the grounds that he violated precedent by giving his press conference about Clinton in July. To the extent that Trump ever objected to Comey’s actions before now, he did so because he did not think Comey went far enough — indeed, the week before Comey’s firing, Trump was tweeting “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!” Those are diametrically opposed positions.

            In short: analyzing Donald Trump’s actions here as if he really did fire Comey on the basis of the arguments in the Rosenstein memo is foolish. As much as I agree with the contents of the memo, as far as Trump is concerned it is obviously a mere pretext.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            A lot of politicians are lawyers because they are taught to be aware of and trained in the need articulate things in a defensible way.

            Trump is going so far in the other direction that he may actually benefit from it, since he is so bad at making defensible statements that it can be argued that his actions are effectively irrational.

      • shakeddown says:

        Timing is way off – this was a big thing, not something they’d need the assistant AG’s input for. And Trump’s comment about Comey reassuring him he’s not under investigation is a red flag.

    • Deiseach says:

      The Comey sacking really surprised me. On the one hand, I’m tempted to jeer at the Democrats/Democratic supporters who are shocked and horrified by it because weren’t you guys calling for his head on a plate and his immediate sacking just a few short months ago? On the other hand, they do have a point that sacking the guy in charge of investigating the allegations of Russian skullduggery when you are one of the people being investigated is not really a good thing to be doing because it looks dictatorial at worst and very suspicious at best.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        “Let’s not create even the appearance of impropriety” has never been a Trump virtue (which is a shame).

        • Deiseach says:

          Will this finally put the last nail in the coffin of “Comey was in the tank for the Republicans, that’s why he made a big deal out of Hillary’s emails”? I’d love to think so, but I doubt it – I imagine that there is every chance people will continue to believe both that Comey was pro-helping get Trump elected when it came to Hillary’s emails and should have been fired for that, and that this is Trump getting rid of a threat because Comey is doing his job too well and honestly and finding the dirt on Trump re: Russia.

  16. Muad'Dib says:

    The Amber A’Lee Frost piece is a couple of years old. I read a response to that a few months after the piece appeared. It’s from a (left-)anarchist. The piece is too complicated to summarize, but roughly the argument is the following. I state it without endorsing it, because I just don’t know enough to have some kind of intelligent opinion.

    Frost actually didn’t attend the conference, and relied on second-hand accounts. The piece is really about status-signaling that she is “too sane” to be associated with nutjobs. Left Forum’s policy is that no panel submission will be rejected: if she thinks that some panels are batshit, why not just leave them alone? The post, then, is a call to purge Left Forum of the “shitshow of nerds and rejects”, which, naturally raises the hackles of anarchists. But, in the opinion of the author, the same people do not shun the Democrats or other liberals, even though they complain about them all the time. Therefore they are unprincipled social climbers. I think here’s the couple of paragraphs which are sort of the punchline of the post:

    I would never say that Frost is entirely wrong about what she sees. Left politics generally seems to attract a lot of what the world we want to change would call losers, which is understandable because most winners are quite happy with things as they are. No doubt there are people who glom onto the left that talk too long, too loud, out of turn or incoherently and contribute very little else. However, clearly the day-to-day organizational challenges the disruptively awkward pose is not the real problem for Frost; otherwise why resurrect a panel from last year to spew bile at “meek and prissy” tankies [tankies are Stalinists]?

    The issue is politics, and what makes all the extremely disparate targets of Frost’s ridicule into an undifferentiated, obstructive ball of yuck, is insufficient faith in authority — the authority of the mob, convention, high status and perhaps especially, the authority and essential benevolence of the state. But true left politics has never been about adherence to convention or deference to authority. Frost and pals are status conscious social democrats and liberals, who mistakenly regard themselves as radicals and therefore feel qualified to redefine dissent on their own terms. But fuck me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Barbara Boxer? Go have your own conference and your own “left.” Make whatever rules you want.

    • Eli says:

      Unprincipled social climbers? That kind of charge comes from someone who doesn’t want the Left to win. This isn’t a fucking treehouse for people who feel rejected. You can’t build a treehouse for that, because our collections of pulp-scifi novels are too heavy for a treehouse. This is a political movement aiming to build power, change public policy, and alter the political ground.

      • Muad'Dib says:

        It depends on what you mean by “This”. The complaint in the post is about policing the boundaries of what can be discussed fruitfully. There’s a difference between a panel on Left Forum, and an organization like a political party; don’t you think? The former is a parallel medium: one can go to whatever panel one wants and nobody is forced to go to a tankie or animal liberationist panel. Perhaps, outside of their pet causes, the people might even be pleasant, rational or competent people.

        Many people have weird views on some issues. The example which comes to my mind is that of Mahatma Gandhi, who was deeply cultish and irrational, but he knew how to fund and manage a mass organization like the Congress Party.

        • CatCube says:

          From a right-wing perspective, you might want to consider this: I am absolutely going to make hay from the fact that literal Stalinists are getting a forum to speak, which is as monstrous as if a right-wing conference had a panel by self-avowed Hitlerists. Policing those guys a little more carefully might make the politics outside of the left-wing bubble a little easier.

          • Muad'Dib says:

            I am skeptical of this kind of thing. Hillary Clinton was about as bland a centrist politician one can imagine, was she attacked less as a result? I don’t know.

            I have often heard about William F. Buckley’s purge of the far-right from the conservative movement’s ranks. I always wonder, to what extent it is true (I don’t know anything about the topic, so comments are welcome). But take someone like Phyllis Schlafly.

            If you read “A Choice not an Echo”, it’s filled with apocalpytic warnings about World Communism (which I gather was a chief occupation of the John Birch society as well). She stated in the mid 1950s that if communism advanced as fast as it had in the past decade, the US would be communist by 1970. Grassroots anti-communism (often with all sorts of kooky conspiracy theories about the UN), was very widespread at the time.

            In one of the earlier chapters, she refers to State Department publication 7277 which envisioned a world without war, where there were no national armies, and everything would be managed by the UN. As far as I can determine the document itself is real, but I can’t find any evidence that it was anything other than some sort of utopian declaration, much less it being operationalized in any way. If you search for “Freedom for War 7277”, you’ll find all sorts of Alex Jones-style results right to the present, saying stuff like the UN is coming to take our guns.

            It is inevitable that a person trying to organize a mass constituency would be at least somewhat influenced by this kind of thing. Is the correct response to purge this thinking altogether? I don’t know.

          • cassander says:

            @Muad’Dib

            Hillary is a bad example not because of her policies, which are indeed bland, but her personality and history, which are not. A better example would be, e.g. Mitt Romney, who’s pretty much a casting call for “Generic republican”.

          • CatCube says:

            See, this is why us right-wingers think that a substantial fraction of the left is completely full of shit when pounding on about dog whistles on the right for fascism. I bring up the fact that you don’t exile Stalinists from your ranks and you warble about anticommunism in the ’50s. (I absolutely agree that McCarthy was wrong, but he was wrong in his methods, not his enemies. Communist parties, supported by the USSR really were trying to undermine Western governments and really did work to insert spies into critical positions.)

            I am saying that morally there is no daylight, none, zero, between Stalinists and swastika-flag-waving Nazis. The Constitution provides Nazis the right to assemble; however, I will not support any right-wing group that provides them a forum–they can set up their own marches and conventions. If you don’t believe that the groups you associate with should exile Stalinists, then you are a monster.

            I actually think that all support for Communists of all stripes falls well on the far side of the “monstrous” line and that a hammer and sickle or a Che Guevara T-shirt should be treated the same as a swastika, but I generally avoid making this statement absolutely, giving some charity to the wibbling that “well, we don’t believe in the mass murder parts” (even though those aren’t actually avoidable). There is no charity given or acceptable when it comes to Stalinism, though. Even Khrushchev was willing to state he was a monster. Failing to throw them out means that you don’t actually care about mass murder, and only care about the crimes of fascists and Nazis as a club to use against political enemies.

          • Muad'Dib says:

            Dude, you don’t know anything about me. You don’t know my nationality, my political views or anything else. Why are you extrapolating from what I say to an unspecified “substantial fraction of the left”? I am just Dick from the Internet.

            I am interested in populist or grassroots movements and how they develop. I am not interested in proving that leftists are better than rightists or Stalinists are better than fascists or the merits of dog whistle-ism.

            I said Gandhi was deeply cultish and irrational. I trust you accept this. I mentioned Phyllis Schlafly because she was a successful grassroots organizer. (I mentioned Gandhi for the same reason.)

            Now, I read “A Choice Not an Echo”. Let’s try to taboo “left-wing” and “right-wing” and focus on the positions. I will not be able to taboo them totally, but here’s the best I could do. Here are some of the things in it:

            (a) The major theme is that a small and secret group of “New York kingmakers” have subverted every American election since 1936. Who are these kingmakers? There is a chapter on the Bilderburg group.
            (b) I mentioned earlier the reference to the declaration about disarmament and the UN and communism and so on.
            (c) There is a chapter attacking Gallup polling which she deems as favoring “liberal me-too” Republicans. She misunderstands statistical sampling.
            (d) There are lots of attacks on the media.
            (e) She states that Roosevelt “invited” the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Republicans (namely Thomas Dewey) suppressed the issue. She quotes an allegedly incriminating sentence from Henry Stimson’s diary. See here for a discussion of the alleged quote.
            (f) She states that Democrats and Republicans often agree to put foreign policy outside the bounds of debate, and decries “bipartisanship”.
            (g) Every Republican nominee from 1936 to 1964 is attacked as “me-too liberal”. She is relatively benign towards Eisenhower, saying that he simply doesn’t know politics and was chosen by other kingmakers. She bitterly attacks Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign and his Presidency as having an “America Last” foreign policy.
            (h) She says the “solution” to the Cuba problem is to reinstate the Monroe Doctrine. It’s not clear what this means, but she criticizes an alleged US commitment to not invade Cuba after the Bay of Pigs stuff.
            (i) There is criticism of cronyism and corruption in the Lyndon Johnson administration.
            (j) She criticizes the tendency of moderating the position after the primaries for the general election.

            Now, I can steelman many of these things. I can even agree (with or without steelmanning) with some of these things. I am, on the whole, not even sure that she’s more wrong than right (the book is very well-written, and Schafly was charismatic and tireless in her work). But the image that kept jumping to my mind was “Alex Jones” or perhaps “Trump”. Perhaps I am unfair; you can read it and see for yourself.

            Schlafly was not a fringe Stalinist haranguing a Left Forum panel. The book sold millions of copies, and from all accounts was wildly popular with the conservative base (and even politicians). I simply wonder what can be learnt from this example, for other populist/grassroots movements.

          • But the image that kept jumping to my mind was “Alex Jones” or perhaps “Trump”. Perhaps I am unfair; you can read it and see for yourself.

            Having met Schlafly, I think you are in fact unfair. She did not come across at all like Trump–who I haven’t met but have, like the rest of us, had a good deal of exposure to by now. Intelligent, polite, and, on the subject we discussed, which was encryption, well informed.

            For anyone who is curious, A Choice not an Echo is webbed. Interesting as a snapshot of conservative views c. 1964.

            On your point e, she arguably understated the case, since she probably did not know, as we now do, that the Flying Tigers were a government operation pretending to be a private operation. The only reason Japan succeeded in an undeclared attack on the U.S. navy before the U.S. succeeded in an undeclared attack on the Japanese army was that it took longer to get the Flying Tigers into operation in China than planned.

            Your link doesn’t provide a rebuttal to the basic argument, which may well be correct–that Roosevelt was trying to provoke a Japanese attack, probably as a way of getting the U.S. into the war against Germany. The U.S. oil embargo put the Japanese in a situation where unless they seized a source, which meant the Dutch East Indies, they would become unable to fight a naval war for lack of fuel.

            You refer to an “alleged quote.” Your link confirms that the quote was from Stimson, which is what Schlafly claims.

            Reading your comment got me curious about the Bilderberg group, so I did a web search. As best I can tell they really existed (and exist), have meetings of important people, and are secretive, judging by the self description on their web page. What part of Schlafly’s description, aside from her belief that they played a major role in determining who the Republicans nominated, do you disagree with?

          • Muad'Dib says:

            First, I can say I really liked The Machinery of Freedom.

            Regarding Schlafly’s book, I do not deny that the Bilderberg group exists, or the State Department document 7277 exists, or the quote from Henry Stimson exists. But Schlafly, in my opinion, blows these things way out of proportion.

            She does not just state that the Bilderberg group of liberal internationalists were influential. Which they were, of course; they were rich and powerful. She states that the Republican nominees were “selected” by them, and “dictated” by them and the American people had no real choice. She has an evocative analogy of Paris dressmakers deciding the length of American women’s skirts. She even uses the word “sheep” to describe the latter (and by implication the former), which sounds to me like an unintentional pre-internet parody of “wake up, sheeple!“. I don’t know how familiar you are with the work of Alex Jones (you are lucky if you haven’t heard of him), but the Bilderberg Group is one of his favourite obsessions.

            Similarly, the State Department 7277 document is real, but can one say, fairly, that complete disarmament, and disbanding of the national armies of the world was a serious US policy? As I said, you can find references to that document in even modern day conspiracy theories that the “UN is out to take our guns”.

            As for the Stimson quote, I do not make any strong judgement since Thomas Dewey himself believed strongly that FDR had likely foreknowledge of Pearl Harbour.

            As I said, I think one can steelman many of the things into propositions which can perhaps be defended or at least argued about. But the overall impression I had was of sweeping conclusions drawn from fragmentary evidence.

            One could also make the point that she criticized several past Republican campaigns as inept, but Goldwater lost even more badly than Wendell Wilkie. The Goldwater campaign, however, did change the Republican party in fundamental ways (or so I hear); and that is what I am primarily interested in. I do not aim to bash Schlafly, but to understand the conservative popular movement.

          • suntzuanime says:

            One of my least favorite forms of argument in the world is “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you sound like a person who is low status in this community”. Can’t we be above that sort of rhetorical play?

          • The Nybbler says:

            You’ve pattern-matched Schlafly’s writing to lots of things which are often derided, but you haven’t actually shown those things are wrong (and certainly haven’t shown they’re both wrong and ridiculous).

            She stated in the mid 1950s that if communism advanced as fast as it had in the past decade, the US would be communist by 1970.

            This seems likely to be true; Communism advanced quite a bit in the post-WWII timeframe. It didn’t continue at that pace.

            Referring to complacent people as “sheep” is far older than the Internet. It’s probably even older than Schlafly. (the Bible makes the same analogy but with a positive sense)

            Alex Jones was born in 1974. A Choice Not an Echo was published in 1964. I think Schlafly can be excused for mentioning things that Jones later mentioned; she couldn’t know that would result in you later pattern-matching them to conspiracy theory.

          • cassander says:

            @Muad’Dib

            (a) The major theme is that a small and secret group of “New York kingmakers” have subverted every American election since 1936. Who are these kingmakers?

            I haven’t read the book, but if she’s talking about the new deal clique, she’s not exactly wrong. They’re heavily NY and certainly played major roles in american politics long after after FDR was dead.

            (b) I mentioned earlier the reference to the declaration about disarmament and the UN and communism and so on.

            you mean the institution literally set up by a communist spy?

            (c) There is a chapter attacking Gallup polling which she deems as favoring “liberal me-too” Republicans. She misunderstands statistical sampling.

            alright, she’s bad at math.

            (d) There are lots of attacks on the media.

            I wonder why?

            (e) She states that Roosevelt “invited” the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Republicans (namely Thomas Dewey) suppressed the issue. She quotes an allegedly incriminating sentence from Henry Stimson’s diary. See here for a discussion of the alleged quote.

            On pearl harbor, definitely not. But that Roosevelt welcomed a japanese attack on the US (which everyone assumed would hit the philippines) is not a controversial statement.

            (g) Every Republican nominee from 1936 to 1964 is attacked as “me-too liberal”. She is relatively benign towards Eisenhower, saying that he simply doesn’t know politics and was chosen by other kingmakers. She bitterly attacks Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign and his Presidency as having an “America Last” foreign policy.

            On domestic policy, given that none of those republicans ever tried to undo the roosevelt program, this hardly seems unusual, especially since the republicans she liked got the nod. On foreign policy, excepting 68, in every election from 48-72, the president who more convincingly promises to stick it to the commies wins. Truman calls dewey an isolationist (which wasn’t exactly wrong). Ike explicitly campaigns on rollback. Kennedy blasts Nixon/Ike for a missile gap too little conventional military spending. Nixon wins on peace with honor.

            Despite this, every single one of those presidents is more accommodating of the USSR than their predecessor. Now, there are good reasons for these changes that are not conspiratorial, but if you’re looking at it at the time, it’s bewildering.

            (i) There is criticism of cronyism and corruption in the Lyndon Johnson administration.

            Well no shit, the guy was incredibly crooked.

            I think you’re suffering from a failure of imagination. Try to put yourself in her shoes. There is a literal totalitarian nightmare out there trying to destroy the US. The media are functioning as literal organs of propaganda for this nightmare, and and increasing numbers of people are buying it. Despite this, the good people of the US keep voting for anti-communist policies, but policy keeps getting less anti-communist. Imagine if, in the US over the last 30 years, every single presidential election was run by the candidate that was more loudly anti-gun, that proving your anti-gun credentials was very important for all presidential candidates, that it was universally agreed that guns were terrible and something had to be done about them, and that the gun issue was universally acknowledged as one of the most important issues for presidents to address.

            Now, if despite that, the US got exactly the same gun policies it currently has, how insane would that look? If you were a passionate anti-gunner, you’d almost have to start looking for conspiracies, because how else could you possibly explain this? That’s what it felt like to be an anti-communist in the 60s, I think.

          • rlms says:

            @The Nybbler
            Attacking pattern-matching is fair enough if you can prove that the things being matched aren’t actually similar. But you need to do that. You can also defend Schlafly on the basis that it is perfectly reasonable to think the Bilderbergs control everything and that the US State department had nefarious plans for a One World Government. If you actually are doing that, then fair play. I’ll update my priors about what beliefs SSC commenters hold.

          • I do not deny that … the quote from Henry Stimson exists.

            Then why did you refer to “the alleged quote”?

            She does not just state that the Bilderberg group of liberal internationalists were influential. Which they were, of course; they were rich and powerful. She states that the Republican nominees were “selected” by them, and “dictated” by them and the American people had no real choice.

            That was probably a considerable exaggeration. But given that they were secretive she couldn’t know how much of it was true.

            What she knew was that the Republican party had repeatedly nominated what she regarded as the wrong candidates, in terms of both electability and policy, and she offered an explanation. I would have to go over the text more carefully than I have to judge whether she thought she had more evidence than that.

            Putting aside the specific Bilderburg claim, what she was saying wasn’t that different from what a fair number of people said about Hilary’s nomination–that an elite within the party had pushed a candidate of their choice who wasn’t the best candidate.

            A fair number of intelligent people in 1964 thought Goldwater could win, with the help of the supposed silent majority. I didn’t, but I knew some who did.

            But the overall impression I had was of sweeping conclusions drawn from fragmentary evidence.

            Probably fair.

            But the context was a political faction which reasonably believed that the academic and media elite were mostly hostile and so were reluctant to trust what they were being told and had to make sense of what they saw as best they could.

            If you know you are right and things keep going wrong, it’s tempting to figure there is some sort of explicit or implicit conspiracy against you.

          • Muad'Dib says:

            [I posted this twice, but the system somehow ate them (after showing them briefly to tease me), so I’m trying it again with some links removed. You can Google for them.]

            Thanks for the comments. I’ll make some general remarks, then respond to some specific points.

            The extent of my knowledge about Schlafly is nothing great. I have read the book, together with some commentaries by various people. The latter includes some articles by Donald Critchlow, who wrote a rather sympathetic biography of Schlafly. From the opposite viewpoint, I read this (negative) book review of Critchlow in The New Republic by Alan Wolfe. I also read some excerpts of a book on Goldwater by left-liberal historian Rick Perlstein. I read William F. Buckley’s article in Commentary about Goldwater and the John Birch Society.

            Here is what I got from the various writings, broadly speaking:
            (a) Schlafly’s thinking was anti-communist (obviously), against globalism, the UN and rich Northeastern elites. Critchlow says that her endorsement of Trump was not a surprise at all, and I agree.
            (b) Schlafly believed some weird things about US foreign and domestic policy. cassander and The Nybbler try to steelman what she wrote, and as I myself said, some steelmanned version of her theories are arguable. (See also the Rick Perlstein excerpt which is in much the same vein as Cassander’s post). However, the second chapter (titled “Who’s looney now?”), to me at least, does not support a moderate reading.
            (c) As an example, she gives a summary (“summed up”) of US policy in the second chapter. She mentions three points. The first point is the State Department document 7277 I gave above. The third point cites the Phoenix Report which she quotes as advancing the serious consideration of “unification” of the US and the USSR. Now, these documents are real (I haven’t checked the second one), but can someone say fairly that the thrust of US policy in the 1960s was towards unification with the USSR, or aimed to disband the national army?
            (d) Schlafly was close to the John Birch Society, but, according to Critchlow, broke with them because, in her opinion, they underestimated the Soviet Union’s military threat. I do not know anything deep about the John Birch Society, but from their Wikipedia page, their positions look very similar to the ones in Schlafly’s chapter. There were some extreme things which Schlafly didn’t share: the John Birch Society believed Eisenhower was a communist, for example. Schlafly had the highest respect for Eisenhower’s personal integrity, but severely criticized the people around him.
            (e) Several of Schlafly’s attacks were on real targets. The disconnect between the elite and the popular opinions, the influence of Northeastern liberal internationalist moneyed interests on the Republican party, and so on. I agree with David Friedman that some of the criticism (suitably reformulated) is not fundamentally different from the criticisms against Hillary Clinton (both from the left, and to a much stronger extent the right, especially Trump).
            (f) I am ultimately not interested in playing gotcha with Schlafly: “are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the John Birch Society”. I am interested in the social milieu (which as both Critchlow and Perlstein attest, was very widespread) in which these kinds of things were believed. My feeling (I cannot prove it) is that the general population believed even weirder things about many of these issues. Goldwater, for instance, complained to Buckley that he cannot disavow the John Birch Society because half the people in Phoenix, Arizona were members. Given that such a situation existed, how to organize the population and what can one learn from Schlafly?

            ————————————

            Some specific comments:
            @suntzuanime: I don’t understand your comment, but assuming that was directed at me, I can only state that my comment was not intended to put down David Friedman in any way. I do like The Machinery of Freedom (and the separate analysis of medieval Iceland).

            @DavidFriedman: I phrased the Stimson point poorly. The importance of the quote from Stimson’s diary is because Stimson attributed the position to FDR. The link I gave finds this rather dubious; it’s likely that Stimson had a meeting with FDR and then wrote in his diary based on his recollection. This is what I meant by “alleged” quote. As I stated above, I do not make any strong judgement about Schlafly on this point.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Attacking pattern-matching is fair enough if you can prove that the things being matched aren’t actually similar.

          That’s shifting the burden of proof.

          But you need to do that. You can also defend Schlafly on the basis that it is perfectly reasonable to think the Bilderbergs control everything and that the US State department had nefarious plans for a One World Government.

          I don’t see much evidence she believes this. It’s

          1) There are conspiracy theories around the Bilderbergs

          2) Schlafly has a chapter about the Bilderbergs in her book

          3) Therefore Schlafly believes those conspiracy theories.

          This is just pattern matching gone wild; it’s not valid logic at all.

          • rlms says:

            “That’s shifting the burden of proof.”
            Pattern-matching involves having a prior that an indicator (in this case, complaining about the Bilderberg group) is invariably linked to something (being a wacky conspiracist), noticing the indicator in some case, and concluding that the indicated thing is also true there. If you agree with the prior, but disagree with the pattern matching in a specific case, then the burden of proof is on you to show why that case is an exception. If you disagree with the prior and think that complaints about the Bilderbergs are generally reasonable, I present the fifth result from googling “Bilderberg”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m saying the pattern is being far too loosely applied to be useful. There are a ton of conspiracy theories about black helicopters; this does not mean it’s valid to say anyone who claims to have seen a black helicopter is a conspiracy theorist. Pattern-matching to the non-conspiracy elements of a conspiracy theory will get you a ton of false positives.

            Bayes would have it that

            P(is conspiracy theorist | mentions Bilderbergs) = P(mentions Bilderbergs | is conspiracy theorist) * P(is conspiracy theorist) / P(mentions Bilberbergs)

            The prior here is P(is conspiracy theorist). The quantity you note, which is P(X is conspiracy theorist | mentions Bilderbergs) doesn’t actually figure into it; using it is statistical pattern matching, not Baysian inference.

  17. Steve Sailer says:

    “A certain population in Bosnia is found to be the tallest in the world, likely for genetic reasons”

    I’m actually surprised by how much nurture-driven change there has been in relative height over my lifetime.

    For example, I don’t recall any stereotypes about the Dutch being exceptionally tall when I was a child. They just kept getting taller in the later 20th Century. I spent a few days in the Netherlands at age 6 in 1965 but don’t recall bringing home any height related memories.

    On the other hand, I did start noticing that Yugoslavians were good at basketball at least 45 years ago when 6′-11″ Kresmir Cosic of BYU battled 6′-11″ Bill Walton of UCLA in the NCAA tourney. Actually, my stereotype of Yugoslavs as tall may date to 1968 when I watched the US Olympic team beat the Yugoslav team for the gold medal. Then they won the Silver in 1976 and the Gold in the boycott year of 1980.

    But the Dutch don’t play much basketball, so it’s harder for an American to notice they’ve gotten very tall over the last couple of generations.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      It’s interesting how many comments there are on race-and-IQ and how few on race-and-height.

      Personally, I’m very interested in race-and-height. Here’s some data on changes in height within countries over the last century:

      http://www.unz.com/isteve/the-flynn-effect-for-height/

      • keranih says:

        …has anyone tried to compare height changes with changes in non-violent death rates? Or life expectancy?

        I’d be interested in finding out if increased height lagged decreases in death rate, and if so, by how much.

      • Aapje says:

        @Sailer

        It’s interesting how many comments there are on race-and-IQ and how few on race-and-height.

        Especially since many women seem to select on height and finding a partner is a pretty big issue for most people.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Yes, height is extremely visible and it’s relevant to mating, career, and sports.

          Nurture has had over the last century a big impact on relative height among nationalities. For example, Koreans used to be even shorter than Japanese, but they’ve shot up past them.

          Nature, though, still plays a role. The Japanese, for example, have been well nourished for some time, but seem to be destined to be relatively short compared to other nations.

          So why don’t liberals pay a lot of attention to height, where Nurture clearly plays a massive role?

          Well, probably, one reason is African-American domination of basketball makes it hard to make a case for black Americans being all that materially deprived in terms of basic nutrition and health care when they regularly produce physical specimens such as LeBron James.

  18. Anon256 says:

    As noted in this article, Chicago City (community) Colleges automatically accept all Chicago high school graduates, so Mayor Emanuel’s proposed new graduation requirement reduces to making everyone fill out an application form. This may be pointless but does not seem like “tulip subsidies” in any sense. (Also it may not be pointless, if there are students who would benefit from community college who don’t go because of this trivial inconvenience.)

  19. Rebecca Friedman says:

    Responding to the editor’s comments on Cost Disease –

    I am currently sitting at my computer. In a tab behind the one in which I am currently typing a comment is a free online program that does, if not as good a job of teaching language as a full college course, at least a surprisingly good approximation – at a much, much lower cost. If supplemented with a small amount of teacher time to answer questions and grade essays, it would probably be very, very close to as good. (Duolingo, for anyone not familiar with it.)

    One of the items the editor suggests as explaining cost disease is that the personnel are irreplaceable. I think my above example – not to mention a number of educational computer games I played in my youth (Jump Start 4th Grade, for anyone looking for those, was amazing; Leap Ahead Math was fun, very basic but not bad for training intuition at that level) – provides significant evidence that, at least in teaching, they are in point of fact not.

    • Anon256 says:

      In my experience Duolingo is godawful and I have previously used it as evidence that the cost disease problem in education is not just because of government provision, unclear/difficult-to-measure goals, or decisions not made by the intended beneficiaries. (Edutainment software aimed at children is also pretty bad but it at least has the latter two excuses.)

      • Rebecca Friedman says:

        Different people respond differently to different language-teaching methods; also for Duolingo specifically the languages may vary in quality. In my experience, speaking as someone who has taken college language classes, hates pseudo-immersion-based design with a passion (see: Rosetta Stone, which has worked very well for very many people, and which convinced me as a child that I was useless at languages and would be for all eternity), and loves learning languages if she learns them grammar-first, Duolingo is okay. You have to actually read the grammar sections, which are non-obviously stowed under the lessons, and occasionally supplement a bit, but there’s enough free stuff online for most languages that you can supplement just fine, and I’ve been able to restore and improve my Portuguese (one year-in-a-quarter class in college) and am getting back a lot of my French (one year in college, followed by almost every other romance language under the sun but especially Italian, fogging it beyond recall) by using it. I’ve only done so much experimenting with learning a language de novo, and any potential data is kind of confounded by Hebrew being non-Indo-European and therefore hard, but so far it does seem to be working better than I expected for that purpose. And the gamification taps my natural competitiveness and makes me keep practicing, which I find hard without a deadline otherwise.

        I did do normal language classes before Duolingo, and it’s possible that taught me language-learning skills that I would be sunk without. That said, I’ve talked to a lot of people about languages, and there are quite a range of learning styles – including people who will pick it up just fine from listening to the language but be driven nuts by a class. (My opposite.) So I’m gonna guess that it’s just that Duolingo works for some but not all learning styles. At least take my testimony as evidence that Duolingo isn’t godawful for everyone?

        (Also, speaking as a child, I loved some of my edutainment games and played them endlessly – a good bit more than Diablo, which I also had. Others were junky, and I didn’t play them. >.> You are welcome to take this as evidence that I had awful taste as a child, but, uh, I was pretty close to the intended market – homeschooled kid of approximately the right age – and I loved them, so.)

        I agree decisions not made by the intended beneficiaries can be a major problem, mind. It probably explains why half the games were junky. Just, the other half existed.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I tried duolingo for a bit, but found it kind of annoying. I’m currently studying Portuguese and Dutch (as you could have predicted from other conversations upthread) using LingQ (thanks Onyomi for the recommendation, if I hadn’t mentioned that previously) … but that really is an immersion-heavy, grammar-light system, so probably not one you’d enjoy.

        • TK-421 says:

          Interesting. I tried using Duolingo a while back, first for German and then Polish, and I quickly got frustrated with it because (at least as far as I could see) there was little or no grammar explicitly presented, and I had to infer everything from context. Maybe that was just how the lessons for those languages were designed, or maybe it’s gotten better overall since then.

          • Anonymous says:

            Interestingly, what I’ve found with language learning is that while I have a preference for having the grammar explicitly presented, I actually learn better without having it there by just spaced repetition. I’m pretty STEM-y so it’s very uncomfortable not to have the rules available, but whenever I try to learn language by rules I end up speaking/reading/writing it by rules, which just isn’t fast/internalised enough that I can do that in real time *and* think about what the conversation.

            Obviously that’s just anecdotal and I’m sure it’s different for people, but Duolingo works fairly well for me in that regard. (although I do occasionally click the “Discuss this question” button when I get something wrong, which usually has someone explaining why that particular verb form or whatever is used, if it’s unusual). So, +1 to Duolingo from me.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        +1 anecdote in Duolingo’s favor, I like it.

    • goddamnjohnjay says:

      Was that the version of Jumpstart that was set on the haunted island? They actually discontinued that one for being too creepy.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I have experimented with Duolingo for a couple of languages, and both times was soon utterly bored because the main focus of the vocab exercises were on training my skills as a tourist with interest in spoons and forks. I want to read newspapers, so I reverted back to using dictionaries word by word (you can understand surprisingly much this way) and using Google translate when totally stuck. Unfortunately this does not improve my grammar and text production.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        What drove me nuts about Duolingo was that so many of the words they throw at you early on are cognates. I daresay they’ve got their reasons, but it makes it hard to feel like you’re learning anything.

  20. Well... says:

    civil forfeiture, which definitely isn’t a niche problem and is a really important issue.

    And yet Joe Biden doesn’t get slammed hardly at all for it.

  21. teageegeepea says:

    Thanks for the Edge link. One of the contributors, Bruce Hood, seems to share your view on mental disorders being so highly correlated as to seem less like distinct diseases and more like correlated symptoms.

  22. Progressive Reformation says:

    From the Dreher article: [Dreher’s critics] agree with Patrick Gilger, a Jesuit priest who, in a review of “The Benedict Option,” complained that Dreher’s “reading of pluralism as a problem prevents him from seeing it as a gift.”

    This line baffles me. Let’s give it a different setting: “My roommate’s dislike of eggplants prevents him from tasting their deliciousness”. It sounds utterly moronic, doesn’t it? Eggplants are delicious so if my roommate doesn’t like them, it’s just that he’s too focused on not liking them to like them. It’s such ridiculously broken logic that just thinking about it makes my head spin.

    Dreher objects to modern pluralism. We can debate the merits of pluralism all the live long day, but Gilger’s take (that pluralism is objectively a gift and therefore Dreher’s ‘reading’ is simply deficient rather than a disagreement of values) is absurd because it pretends that the debate doesn’t even exist. To rephrase that, Dreher’s disagreement with pluralism prevents him from seeing its true form, i.e. the way Gilger sees it. That the article calls this a “deeper criticism” of Dreher is just icing on the cake.

    • johnmcg says:

      Well, I think it’s more like that if I was served bad eggplant as a child, and decided then and there that I hated eggplant, and would never again try it, then I have cut myself off from the experience of good eggplant.

      Or, like saying that someone hates the Celtics so much that they can’t appreciate Isaiah Thomas’s brilliant play.

      So what Fr. Giger is saying is that Dreher allowed himself to be soured on pluralism by some early bad experience, and disposed himself such that he could not appreciate the good it has to offer.

      I think this is a phenomenon we’ve likely observed in ourselves as well as others. It is probably a bit presumptuous for a book critic to assign that to an author unless that is supported by the text or some other experience. But it’s not absurd.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Since he was a little kid, my brother has never liked squash. The rest of us insist it’s delicious. So each Thanksgiving or Christmas, we have squash, and we put a little bit on my brother’s plate and we sing a song. “Once a year, every year, there is that special day, when [name redacted] tries squash!” And my brother tries the squash. Dude’s 45 years old now, and still doesn’t like squash.

        Some people just don’t like squash.

  23. qwints says:

    From the left forum piece:

    taking over the army in order to wipe out the police would probably be the most feasible short-term strategy

    It makes me incredibly happy that there are people capable of this kind of thinking walking around without any fear of arrest in this country.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Only because they’re powerless. I wonder what would happen to him if 15% of the country supported him?

      Also his idea is dumb. Soldiers are not robots. Good luck “telling” the army to go execute the NYPD.

    • Incurian says:

      Just lol

  24. jhertzlinger says:

    About temperature…

    The fact that something might be measurable does not mean any specific measurement technique makes sense. Much of today’s social science is like trying to measure the hotness of mustard by sticking a thermometer into it.

    • shakeddown says:

      I read it more as “The measurability of many things is surprisingly non-obvious” than “people in olden times sure were dumb”.

  25. gbdub says:

    Does the “Overcoming Bias on the role of jargon and mythology” article undermine the finding of “As level of expertise in climate science grew, so too did the level of agreement on anthropogenic causation” from the “methods for determining scientific consensus” article (and to other claims re: scientific consensus)?

    On the one hand, you would hope scientific experts are the ones most likely to see any flaws in the science, and be open to refutation via the scientific method, such that true experts in a well-researched field probably will tend to agree. On the other, they are still human, and certainly if the sunk cost effects of learning all the jargon and mythology of their field apply to anyone, it’s them.

  26. ildánach says:

    I’d just like to point out the Rootclaim page’s prediction of a 88% probability that the Sheikhoun sarin attack was an opposition/false flag attack is largely due to the decision to weight the prior at 78%. This was calculated based on the supposed likelihood of a single prior incident, the Ghouta sarin attack, being a false flag. Ignoring the fact that the UN has come down firmly in opposition to that position, basing the prior on the probability from a single previous incident seems unreliable to me. They also rate the reliability of the information given to SANA by the Syrian Government at 99%!

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      This was calculated based on the supposed likelihood of a single prior incident, the Ghouta sarin attack, being a false flag.

      Also they cite “Rootclaim’s own analysis” for this prior but the link leads not to another Rootclaim page but a very brief Youtube uploaded by Rootclaim (in April of this year, after the Khan Sheikhoun attack) which basically just lists four tendentious “facts” about the Ghouta incident without proving them, putting them in context, or considering the “facts” on the other side.

      They also say:

      Munition remains found in a crater that is probably the sarin’s source are likely to have come from a surface to surface projectile shot from the north or (much less likely) an IED, both of which are much more likely if this was an opposition attack.

      But no proof or reasoning is provided for any element of this claim. I can go to an OSINT site like Bellingcat and get photos of the crater, geolocation of the surrounding area, archived tweets and videos contemporary to the attack, etc. They have a long way to go if they want to reach this standard.

      • sconzey says:

        They do provide a link to their analysis of the Ghouta attack but you have to dig for it.

        I salute the goals of the website, but I remain skeptical about the implementation.

        • ildánach says:

          That one is even worse! The second point, that Opposition forces had access to Sarin, uses the (circular) reasoning that it is a necessary precondition for them to have carried out the attack, while presenting no actual evidence. Furthermore, the prior is again weighted in heavily favour of an opposition attack based on “existing statistics, prior examples and data” despite the fact we have prior examples of government forces using Sarin, such as the Khan al-Assal attack.

          As there is a grand total of 2 contributors, I suspect some serious motivated reasoning is going on.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Yes, this is pretty much garbage-in-garbage-out, not much of a demonstration of anything useful the tool can do.

      • Progressive Reformation says:

        It seems like an excellent tool for confirming people’s biases for them. /s

    • benf says:

      Also, the most relevant probability I would consider is the probability that the Syrian government would not blame opposition forces for a chemical attack that was indeed carried out by the opposition, which I assign a probability of 0%.

      • Stezinec says:

        Yeah, why would the Russians also come up with the story that government forces hit a “chemical weapons workshop” of the opposition? Putin and Lavrov also suggested it could be a false flag.

        If they really believed that the opposition was responsible for the attack, why would they come up with these implausible explanations? They would just blame the opposition outright.

  27. Progressive Reformation says:

    The $400,000 speaking fee is really damning. Obama is a great orator (though he owes more than a little to Jon Favreau and others) and has a unique perspective on healthcare and all, but really, $400,000.

    Scott Adams had what I think is a pretty good take on this, that it’s a form of “pre-bribing” — signaling to future presidents that if they’re nice to you they too could make half a million bucks giving speeches to you in the future. I think it also goes further than that — Obama probably retains a great deal of influence within the Party in an informal way, and can pull a few strings.

    If we ignore these explanations and assume that they’re really paying for the speech, it simply makes no sense. For example, was $400,000 really the price Obama charges for speaking? I doubt it — any sane person would leap at the chance to give a speech for a tenth of that money. So if they were only paying for a speech, the price tag wound up ludicrously over-inflated for no good reason — after all, a $400,000 Obama speech isn’t going to be significantly different from a $50,000 one. But if they’re pre-bribing, paying more for the speech is better because it is a more lucrative pre-bribe; if they’re buying influence, surely $400,000 buys a lot more influence than $100,000; etc.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Obama charged what the market would bear.

      Sure, I’ll probably do just as good a job at the office for X instead of X+10, but I’m taking X+10 if I can get it.

      • Progressive Reformation says:

        I don’t buy this at all. The firm has a price X which it’s willing to pay for the speech; Obama has a price Y for which he is willing to speak; so they can in theory agree to have the speech for any price Z where Y < Z < X.

        But where will Z fall? Depends on the negotiations, of course, but in this case the advantage falls squarely on the side of the firm. If Obama doesn't speak, they can find someone else to do it, but he can't go speak at a different conference. If the negotiations fail, they fall back to their second choice; he has no second choice. So if they'd offered him $100,000 or even $50,000, take-it-or-leave-it (for a single speech, remember) do you really think he would have refused? If not, why didn't they do so?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Depends on how much you need the money. If we’re still going to do the whole “expensive presidential speeches are acceptable” thing then taking $50,000 your first time out would be stupid. Nobody would pay $400k after knowing you already did one for $50k.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            On the contrary, there is a lot of variation in the cost of speeches. It is widely reported that half of Bill Clinton’s speeches are free, at least in his first first year out of office. The other hundred averaged $100k.

          • Aapje says:

            You need to have a clear and logical policy then, though.

            Doing a free speech for a good cause and a $400k for a bank doesn’t hurt your fees. Doing one for one bank for $50k and one for $400k for another bank makes the second bank look like fools.

    • gbdub says:

      Yeah I’m conflicted for, I think, much the same reason you are. I don’t begrudge Obama the cash, but how exactly does random Wall Street firm get $400k of benefit from having Obama give a talk if it’s not a bribe / attempt to buy influence with the Democrats?

      • Brad says:

        The same reason Wall Street firms have very expensive luxury boxes at Yankee stadium and regularly springs for $50k worth of bottle service at closing parties. It’s corruption, but not in the way you think. They are corrupting fiduciaries that have the power to steer huge amounts of their principals’ money.

        A friend of mine at a bank went to an event where Mike Krzyzewski was speaking. He apparently charges $50-100k to speak. No one has any reason to want to bribe him.

    • ChetC3 says:

      $400K “speaking fees” and the like are why America doesn’t have to worry about military coups. Seems like a good deal to me.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Care to expand on that a little? As in without a generous retirement-package-analogue the Commander-in-Chief would order their puppet generals to keep them in power past their term limit?

    • Anon256 says:

      The pre-bribing model has an obvious free-rider problem. Obama might have suspected that finance companies would pay him speaking fees, but it would be extremely difficult to foresee that Cantor Fitzgerald in particular would pay him a speaking fee, so he wouldn’t be able to support regulation advantaging them over other finance companies. And if the speaking fees are just paying him for sympathetic regulation of the finance industry in general, then each individual finance company is best off letting the other finance companies pay for it.

      The correct way to view the $400k speaking fee is not as a bribe, but as an advertising expense. Cantor Fitzgerald wants to associate themselves with Obama (and show off that they are the kind of company that can hire Obama) in the hopes that this will make rich people more likely to invest with them. “Important people like to deal with important people. Are you one?”

      Also the speech is specifically in the context of a conference they are holding where they will get together a bunch of health care company executives/representatives and a bunch of investors together, in the hopes that they will do deals that Cantor Fitzgerald can take a cut of; having Obama speaking makes the invited potential clients much more likely to actually show up.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        People really, really like to be in the same room as a famous person. I can remember being one of several thousand people crowding into a huge convention center room with a flat floor to hear Larry Ellison give a boring speech on challenges facing the IT industry or something. But Larry is famous for being rich, so that made it worthwhile. I can tell people I was in the same room as Larry Ellison.

        Conversely, I was given a tour of Larry’s office once when he wasn’t there. I don’t think that’s as cool as being in the same room as him, though.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        But if Obama had pursued a program of, say, locking up Wall Street malefactors, would Wall Street firms now be paying him $400,000 per speech? Or would he be stuck addressing union conventions for $40,000 per speech?

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Having acceptable centrist views makes a huge difference in earning power on the speaking circuit.

          Compare, say, Charles Murray and Malcolm Gladwell, for example. I presume Murray does okay addressing discreet, high level conferences (he’s been to at least a couple of Bilderberg conferences, for instance, while Gladwell has not, so far as I can tell, been to Bilderberg), but Gladwell makes a fortune addressing corporate sales conventions and the like.

          Why? For one reason, he’s “contrarian” yet he’s remarkably non-controversial. If somebody suggested to the head of HR that they should hire Charles Murray to speak at the next conference rather than Malcolm Gladwell, because Murray is smarter and much cheaper, the head of HR is going to explain that nobody ever tried to punch Malcolm in the head during a speech.

          Obama is the ne plus ultra of Acceptable Speakers: a black President of slightly left of center views but who was definitely pro-Big Money.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          My guess is that Wall Street is only paying twice as much as the next guy.

          If Obama had locked up Wall Street guys, would the sales conference have cared?

          Bill Clinton makes 100 paid speeches a year. If 10 of them are Wall Street, 10x as much as the next 90, then Wall Street has doubled his salary. Whereas, if Obama only makes 10 speeches, going all Wall Street multiplies his money by 10. (In fact, I believe Wall Street is only paying 2x as much as the next guy, barely noticeable to Clinton. But what is Wall Street, a unique interest vs a bellwether for all the other lucrative gigs? And Clinton probably cares a lot more about having friends on Wall Street lend him their jets than the cash.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Part of the problem is that Clinton and now Obama are still very much involved with the Democratic Party in the all-important behind the scenes power-mongering.

            Paying Obama a high fee to deliver a speech to your roomful of Wall Street interests also gives them continuing access to them; “Oh hello sir, I don’t know if you recall but we met at the dinner for Beazely’s Ethical Investment gala?” Contacts are made and cultivated, your firm invites him to give a speech at their upcoming bunfight, networking goes on.

            Obama is expected to be fundraising in the autumn for the Democratic Party, so plainly he’s going to be talking to potential big donors on that topic, the kind of donors he will meet at these after-dinner speaking gigs.

            And the uproar about the DNC chairman, despite many saying that the DNC is irrelevant and powerless, shows that there is still influence and power to be used and lost within the machinery of running the party and selecting candidates who will set policies.

            Obama’s influence and backing will be sought by such candidates, and it does certainly raise the question: will someone who won’t rock the boat when it comes to Big Business which is now the paymaster of the former President be more likely to get that favour on their behalf? Favour which helps position them as the candidate for that senate seat and beyond? Election candidate with party backing and support to get them elected? And once elected, able to vote for or against measures on tax, etc. as they apply to big corporations?

            Tony Blair is the cautionary tale here, the allegations of conflicts of interest between his post-political life business deals and ties in the Middle East and his role as Middle East Peace Envoy, from which he then resigned in 2015, and which still involves him in controversy.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            There’s a pretty good movie about Tony Blair’s post PM life called “The Ghostwriter” with Ewan McGregor trying to churn out a Blair-like ex-PM’s memoir for which the politician was being paid $10 million by an American corporation.

            Blair’s American ex-President style big money ex-PMship was pretty new to Britain. When I met Margaret Thatcher in 1999, she was traveling with one secretary and one bodyguard. My wife noticed that Mrs. Thatcher’s dress had been mended by hand.

          • keranih says:

            Ghostwriter is a very well done movie, but I wish I had realized that it had been directed by Roman Polansky before I had gone to see it.

            (I also wish that I had known the nice upscale progressives sitting three rows back of me were going to start loudly booing and cursing when the Connie Rice-expy came on screen, but that’s just because I really don’t like open displays of racism like that.)

        • Anon256 says:

          Finance companies probably won’t hire a speaker who has previously made a point of demagoguing against bankers at every opportunity (though it’s not impossible, since remember the audience here is health care company investors, not the finance company itself). But there’s plenty of room at the margin to regulate finance companies more strictly without publicly declaring them your eternal enemy; I don’t think the difference between Obama’s policies and say Gordon Brown’s has much effect on how likely they are to be invited for speeches, and I’d expect Dodd & Frank are if anything more likely to get such gigs than those who opposed the tightening of financial regulation they authored. I think Obama could have encouraged Bharara to find a way to lock up a few Wall Street scapegoats without jeopardising his future speaking fees much.

  28. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Me, I was with the Mayor Emmanuel until the end where he claimed that we need to increase minimum wage. If these people’s labor isn’t worth $20/hour in the modern economy, it’s as silly to send them to architecture school as it is to demand employers pay them $20/hour anyhows. Yes, the people who are capable of producing $20/hour of value will enjoy it, but we are forcing more and more people down into the black market economy.

  29. Snailprincess says:

    Okay, I was totally with this article: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/04/rahm-emanuels-college-proposal-is-everything-wrong-with-democratic-education-policy, until they claimed the democratic establishment loves charter schools. Really? The democrats by and large seem to lose their minds in their hatred of charter schools. It’s almost bizarre to watch. Having a claim that seemed so fundamentally wrong kind of called into question the rest of the article.

    • Jiro says:

      Charter schools are loved when they’re sold as ways of implementing desegregation. They are hated when they are treated as ways to help intelligent people.

    • BBA says:

      There’s actually a deep fracture within the Democratic Party over charter schools, with Obama’s education department strongly in favor and the AFT/NEA strongly opposed. Outgroup homogeneity bias strikes again!

      Rahm Emanuel is very much in the pro-charter camp. He’s also very unpopular among Democrats outside Chicago, and even in Chicago his support is much weaker than his predecessors atop the machine.

      • Incurian says:

        There’s actually a deep fracture within the Democratic Party over charter schools, with Obama’s education department strongly in favor and the AFT/NEA strongly opposed. Outgroup homogeneity bias strikes again!

        I had no idea, thanks!

        • poipoipoi says:

          Yup.

          Education Realist actually did a pretty good summary a while back. Here

          Charter Schools are beloved of parents who can’t control their parents peer group by running away and conservative types who hate teacher’s unions.

          So that’s why you see them a lot in NYC, but not so much in the South (weak unions) or the NorthEast(Happy parents)

  30. Christopher Hazell says:

    This sort of thing drives me berserk; everyone can talk about between-populations genetic variation in height as if it’s so obvious it doesn’t even need defending, and then as soon as someone mentions between-populations genetic variation in cognitive abilities, it’s “Haven’t you heard? Scientists proved race is a social construct!” People should either be frantically trying to debunk all of these height-related claims, or else shrugging and saying “yeah, that’s a plausible minor extension of the existing literature” when they read cognition-related claims.

    For somebody who wrote an article called “Yes, we have noticed the skulls” you sure don’t seem to have noticed the mountains of corpses littering this particular field.

    Like I said before, one of the (seemingly) more sophisticated arguments for slavery essentially went “As a population, black people don’t have the intelligence of white people, so slavery is what allows us, the white people, to give black people as many benefits of civilization as they can handle, without the risk of overburdening them with rights like voting that they clearly could not be expected to understand, and, at the same time, allows us to uplift them, freeing them from the darkness of savagery.”

    In practice, of course, it didn’t work that way; whenever a black guy said “Actually, personally I really like to read and also you sold my wife to a man living in another state which doesn’t seem super civilized” then it was time to get out the whips and hot irons.

    As a country, as a species, we have been really enamored over at least the last several centuries with Procrustean social programs. We build a bed for the “average” black man or woman or poor person or whatever less intelligent population, and then if somebody doesn’t fit we chop of their legs and when they bleed to death we go, “Well, if you think about it they brought it on themselves, after all, we were really careful about researching the dimensions of that bed.”

    Your dismissive attitude kind of reminds me of a lot of reactions I saw after the deepwater horizon spill, which essentially went, “Yeah, but we shouldn’t let one little mistake stop us from drilling in the gulf, obviously.”

    Which seemed nuts to me. It seemed like a disaster of that magnitude should, in fact, cause us to really rethink our policies to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    And, in the same way, the number of astoundingly massive moral disasters that have stemmed from letting the supposedly most intelligent populations make decisions for all the other populations ought to give us pause when we look at research about which groups are the most intelligent.

    Think of it like AI risk. It’s not that intelligence research is inherently bad, it’s that it has proven, demonstrable risks. And when somebody’s response to those risks is a shrug of the shoulders and a blank stare, that’s quite alarming.

    • suntzuanime says:

      “Yes, we have noticed the skulls” was a commitment to do better after learning from past mistakes, not a commitment to avoid the whole topic. Think of it like AI risk: when people deny reality and say that AI is impossible, Scott shoots down their arguments, even though he’s aware that AI is risky. Danger is not an excuse to turn your eyes from the truth.

      I am a little surprised to see him take this stance, though, even as I support it. It seems inconsistent with his earlier stated policy of surrendering to violent race denialists? I dunno if he thinks being mild-mannered about it will help, it didn’t help Charles Murray.

      • Progressive Reformation says:

        I think being mild-mannered helps a great deal – not by placating the extremists e.g. Middlebury students, but by making it manifestly clear to others that the extremists are, well, extremists.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Right, but his point was specifically that he didn’t want to be set upon by a violent mob, not that he wanted to be viewed as a martyr when he was.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            Good point. Given that Scott seems incapable of intellectual dishonesty, I’m sure we’ll hear calls for his head on a plate at some point, regardless of what he tries. I wonder what the actual impact of the Middlebury incident was on Murray? He might have gotten invited to Harvard for the Free Speech Initiative thing because of that, and I bought his books after having forgotten their existence (I’m sure I’m not the only one). Maybe getting set upon by a mob can be a good thing for your reputation?

            Actually, I think I’ve figured it out! Scott’s secret plan is to be all mild-mannered but whip up the mob anyways — then, when they go all witch-hunt on him, he gets free publicity up the wazoo and he comes off as a sympathetic figure to the poor deluded masses! It’s genius! /s

      • . Danger is not an excuse to turn your eyes from the truth.

        it may be a justification to keep certain truths esoteric.

        • Anonymous says:

          But if you substitute the opposite view (Human Neurological Uniformity), that’s not an improvement. In fact, the pile of skulls associated with that is even bigger. Best you can do is probably trying to suppress both kinds of knowledge, and that’s somewhat difficult, given that people have eyes to see and ears to hear.

          • But if you substitute the opposite view (Human Neurological Uniformity), that’s not an improvement. In fact, the pile of skulls associated with that is even bigger.

            How literal is that mean to be?

    • lvlln says:

      This argument about the dangers of studying between-populations genetic variation in cognitive abilities due to historical horrors committed due to it comes up all the time, but I wonder if it’s actually accurate? I’m not a historian or particularly educated in history, so I honestly don’t know, but it seems to me that in the past, white people started with the assumption that they were better than non-white people, then used any and all ad hoc excuses to justify it, including the excuse of different cognitive abilities. As such, the historical horrors don’t reflect a downstream effect of studying between-populations genetic variation in cognitive abilities – rather, such studying was tacked on afterward to justify those horrors.

      Looking today, it seems to me that we have a powerful social norm that all individuals of all populations have equal worth in any moral sense. Admittedly, that norm has been damaged greatly in the past 5 or so years by various forces on the left and right, but I don’t think that damage is irreversible or that destruction is inevitable. I feel like this norm didn’t exist during the times of those historical horrors, and I get the sense that when studies of between-populations genetic variation in cognitive abilities is done in a world with that norm intact, it would be a powerful force for preventing those horrors from repeating.

      But, again, I’m not a history buff, so maybe I’m just missing something. Certainly, I recognize that the norm is more fragile than I had thought just 5 years ago – I still think it’s a very strong one, just not invincible.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        I’m not a historian or particularly educated in history, so I honestly don’t know, but it seems to me that in the past, white people started with the assumption that they were better than non-white people, then used any and all ad hoc excuses to justify it, including the excuse of different cognitive abilities. As such, the historical horrors don’t reflect a downstream effect of studying between-populations genetic variation in cognitive abilities – rather, such studying was tacked on afterward to justify those horrors.

        There is no real bright line between the racialist scholarship of yesteryear and the racialist scholarship of today. At no point did everyone throw everything out and start from scratch. Most of the key citations in The Bell Curve (1994) come from research funded by an organization founded in the 1930s to promulgate Nazi-style eugenics laws. That by itself doesn’t make the research wrong. But it does mean that we can’t just assume it’s free from the same motivations that steered the earlier science.

        • cassander says:

          “blah blah blah, heredity is important, and therefore we should exterminate the lesser races.

          It’s that last clause that’s the issue, not the first one, and the line between the two seems pretty clear to me.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            It seems clear because you’re eliminating several intermediate positions between “heredity is important” and “literally the Holocaust.”

          • cassander says:

            There are lots of ways to exterminate a race besides gassing them. The point is you can argue heredity is important without advocating any sort of coercive eugenics.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            The point is you can argue heredity is important without advocating any sort of coercive eugenics.

            I’ve never said you couldn’t and I’m not sure where you got that from my post. I’m referring to the existence of racial animus as a motivation for research, not for advocating any particular specific policy.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            @ Anonymous Bosch

            I don’t understand what you’re saying. From what I’m reading, you’re pretty much saying that there’s no clear line between Berkeley and Fremont because there are “intermediate places”, like Oakland, between them.

        • Aapje says:

          @Anonymous Bosch

          We also still benefit from the medical science obtained by Nazi experiments on Jews. The doctors that are taking advantage of that aren’t themselves doing similar experiments. They understand the difference between what scientifically can be done (more experiments like that) and what ethically can be done (much more limited experiments on consenting patients).

          Similarly, scientific result from eugenics research can be used for good and for evil.

        • lvlln says:

          There is no real bright line between the racialist scholarship of yesteryear and the racialist scholarship of today. At no point did everyone throw everything out and start from scratch. Most of the key citations in The Bell Curve (1994) come from research funded by an organization founded in the 1930s to promulgate Nazi-style eugenics laws. That by itself doesn’t make the research wrong. But it does mean that we can’t just assume it’s free from the same motivations that steered the earlier science.

          This seems like a non-sequitur. So what if The Bell Curve cited research from an organization motivated by promulgating eugenics laws? Either that research that was cited was good and trustworthy, or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t good, then it can be criticized and deconstructed on those grounds, not on the originating motivations.

          Also, so what if we can’t just assume it’s free from the same motivations that steered the earlier science? No, we should most certainly never assume that any given research is free of nefarious motivations, especially in this field. We should also not automatically assume that just because research is within this field, that it does have nefarious motivations. Again, the science either holds up or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, it can be criticized on those – and only on those – grounds. And if it does hold up, we have a strong social norm saying, “Average differences in cognitive ability imply ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT MORAL WORTH OF INDIVIDUALS WHATSOEVER,” something which, from what I can tell, was an important missing piece in the past.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Also, so what if we can’t just assume it’s free from the same motivations that steered the earlier science

            The “so what” is that it refutes the paragraph I quoted. Now if I understand the “so what” correctly you are discarding this argument entirely and your position is now that even if the motivation is to back-fill existing racial animus we’re fine anyway because the science can be judged on its own merits and social norms against applying average differences to individuals will protect us.

            As it happens I think most of the Pioneer Fund research fails on its merits and I also don’t really think such norms exist on a societal level (if they do, they’re not nearly as strong as you seem to think). But I’m also extremely loath to get too deep into the weeds now because the ease with which you abandoned the first position inclines me to believe you’re treating arguments as footsoldiers.

          • Christopher Hazell says:

            “Average differences in cognitive ability imply ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT MORAL WORTH OF INDIVIDUALS WHATSOEVER,”

            With all due respect, this is the kind of statement that drives me berserk. Whether or not Charles Murray is saying anything at all about the moral worth of black people is irrelevant to my argument.

            Much of 19th century racist practice, including, as a stated above, chattel slavery, was NOT about morally condemning the lesser races, or at least, not wholly about that.

            People argued, and still argue to this day, that chattel slavery was essentially a program of uplift for black people. Let me break down for you what a slavery advocate might say:

            We whites don’t keep them as slaves out of hate! The differences in status between master and slave imply ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT THE MORAL WORTH OF INDIVIDUALS WHATSOEVER!

            We don’t keep blacks as slaves out of hate, but out of love. Looking into darkest Africa, we saw the state of abject savagery into which they descend when left to their own devices, and so we decided to lift them out of it, by inducting them into our civilized society. Now, obviously, science tells us that blacks can’t be entrusted with the higher things in civilization, any more than a child can be trusted with a gun. So, of course, we only give them the work and the privileges which their primitive brains can understand.

            Certainly, some may complain, but it’s the complaint of a child; it would be folly, it would be immoral, to let a child have a gun just because he stamps his feet and cries, just like it would be folly to let a black person learn to read or not sell his child out from under him.

            It is not at all a moral failing that blacks are suited only to slavery and manual labor; it is simply a scientific fact, and really it would be absurd to ignore science, which simply leads where it leads.

            Read the Rudyard Kipling poem “The White Man’s Burden”.

            Hatred or moral condemnation aren’t the only avenues through which racism can flow. Black people, in particular, have been infantilized again and again in the US imagination. It is very easy for us to believe that a population with a low intelligence needs to be governed, or even utterly controlled by those populations with a high intelligence.

            A lot of this was implicit, or even explicit, in comments on the “Ferguson Effect”. Obviously, if the police just acted in accordance with the wishes of the communities they police than the murder rate would skyrocket. So instead, they have to do what’s best, even if the dummies they are serving don’t like it.

            Look back at that Kipling poem again: he’s saying the same thing.

            We had, at one point, a norm in which it was considered both dangerous and immoral to allow low-intelligence populations to govern themselves; instead, they had to be governed by high-intelligence communities, and those high-intelligence communities almost have a moral duty to ignore the low-intelligence communities, because they are, obviously, incapable of forming their own goals or accurately assessing their own interests.

            That kind of Brave New World, “We’ll just make sure the gammas know how great it is to be a gamma!” attitude doesn’t seem to have gone away. A lot of people can’t even understand what’s wrong with it, or even notice it.

            I don’t believe we actually have any strong norms about allowing people to govern themselves. EDIT: And absent those norms, it is worrying to make so much hay out of which populations have low intelligence and which have high.

            Again, I never said that Charles Murray should be beaten up or that any research into differences in intelligence should be abandoned (Although I’m genuinely not sure what use such research has outside of sorting and ranking people into ruling and subordinate classes.), but it is not heartening when people seem to have no earthly idea WHY people are skeptical.

            Like, AI risk doesn’t mean you stop all research into AI (Or should it?) but if you ask questions about the risk and the only response you get is a blank stare, that’s incredibly disconcerting.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Chris Hazell

            That argument was trotted out by defenders of slavery and to justify discrimination because it is a direct-line update of the arguments that Aristocracy was naturally over the common herd by dint of superior qualities. Of course, back then the claim was that their superior education, knowledge, skill, intelligence, and character was the grant of God rather than genetic inheritance, but it’s the same argument.

            Nor has the argument gone away. There are plenty of left wing AND right wing wonks who have taken time out of their schedules to bemoan that if only the Elites (which set of elites varying with the speaker and who was in power at the moment) could just, temporarily of course, ignore the will of the people and just do what they KNOW is best for the idiots, everything would work out fine.

          • lvlln says:

            The “so what” is that it refutes the paragraph I quoted. Now if I understand the “so what” correctly you are discarding this argument entirely and your position is now that even if the motivation is to back-fill existing racial animus we’re fine anyway because the science can be judged on its own merits and social norms against applying average differences to individuals will protect us.

            No, it doesn’t, and no, I didn’t discard it. I didn’t address it because it doesn’t refute the paragraph. Even if The Bell Curve cited research from an organization motivated by promulgating eugenics laws, this doesn’t imply that The Bell Curve itself was written with the motivation to back-fill existing racial animus. It’s perfectly possible to cite and to use research that was done for nefarious reasons without advocating those nefarious reasons, if that research was good on its own grounds. I thought this distinction was obvious, so I didn’t see the need to address it, but I guess I was wrong.

            It’s true that we can’t just assume that Murray’s research is free from such nefarious motivations, in the same way that we can’t assume that any random research is free from nefarious motivations. But just even if his research cites previous research that had been done for nefarious motivations, that doesn’t somehow magically transfer those nefarious motivations to him. That’s a completely unwarranted leap in logic.

            As it happens I think most of the Pioneer Fund research fails on its merits and I also don’t really think such norms exist on a societal level (if they do, they’re not nearly as strong as you seem to think).

            If you think I’m overestimating the extent to which social norms for moral equality exist, then it seems to me it’s entirely reasonable for you to believe in the dangers of studying population differences. Again, I’m not a historian, and I’m also not a sociologist, so I have low confidence in my own perception on this. It seems to me that it would behoove those who would insist on the dangers of research into population differences in cognitive abilities due to historical horrors to outline clearly why our social norms of moral equality isn’t strong enough to prevent such research from being used to back-fill racial animus. This is the completely non-obvious point to me, which I see so many people take for granted all the time.

          • lvlln says:

            @Christopher Hazell

            “Moral worth of individuals” isn’t just some abstract concept – I reject outright the idea that one can enslave another person and still credibly claim that they consider the moral worth of that person to be equal to their own. I think this is the consensus opinion in the Western world.

            The dangers of infantilizing a population based on their average population cognitive abilities does seem reasonable to me. This seems to be a great reason to be very very careful when looking into this research. But I see a couple reasons why it still seems the danger just isn’t high enough for people to treat the research as toxic.

            1 is that, as best as I can see, people who do this research consistently loudly announce that their research shows that within-population differences far outstrip between-population differences, and that therefore treating any given individual of a given population differently from another individual of another population based on those average population differences is irrational and unsupported by their research. Given that, it seems to me that by looking into this research honestly, we can also strengthen protections against the research being used to infantilize certain populations. Protections that I’m actually afraid we might not be able to sufficiently strengthen if we push people into looking into this research subversively.

            2 is that I’m not convinced that we don’t actually have any strong norms about allowing people to govern themselves. Maybe my perception on this is skewed, but at least in the USA, it seems to me that every citizen having the right to vote (within the following 18 years, at least) is as close to a universal belief as you can get. Exceptions exist like felons, but these seem to be fairly strict, at least far, far more strict than the idea of “this person belongs in a sub-population whose mean IQ is lower than the total population mean IQ, but whose IQ distribution has such significant overlap with the total distribution that we can’t make any reasonable estimation about their individual IQ, therefore this person doesn’t deserve to vote (or some other political activity).” That seems like a huge leap to me.

            Again, it just seems to me that we as a society today has very strong protections against this research being used to justify future horrors in the same way it had been used in the past to excuse existing horrors. And I see this protection only being strengthened by the researchers doing this research. Running into bears in the past was very dangerous to us in the past, but when they’re presented in a cage in the zoo, I’m OK with visiting it. I’m just confused by people who insist that the cage is actually made of cardboard. I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that it really is made of cardboard, but it’s so rare that I see that argument actually being made.

            As for why do this research at all, for me, I’d support it purely for reasons of knowing more true things. But I know that’s not a terminal value for most people. For why it’d be useful, I can see that, at the very least, it would allow us to better calibrate expected population breakdowns of certain areas of society. For instance, if Asians have higher mean income than Whites, we shouldn’t automatically presume that Whites are being discriminated against by employers or that Asians are being handed some sort of bonus by employers, either of which need correcting. Rather, we’d see that the solution is to decouple income from IQ at a societal level (or perhaps decouple income from the pleasures/satisfaction one can get in life, though that may be tougher), so that lower IQ populations get access to as much of what they want in life as higher IQ populations.

          • IrishDude says:

            @lvlln

            Rather, we’d see that the solution is to decouple income from IQ at a societal level

            Can you expand on that?

          • Incurian says:

            …people, in particular, have been infantilized again and again in the US imagination. It is very easy for us to believe that a population … needs to be governed, or even utterly controlled …

            This is tragic, indeed.

          • Read the Rudyard Kipling poem “The White Man’s Burden”.

            You might want to read it more carefully. It isn’t about racial differences but about civilizational differences. As is obvious to anyone who has read Kim, Kipling didn’t think that Europeans were generally abler than non-Europeans. The Lama is a convincing portrait of a saint, several other non-Europeans (Mahbub Ali, the Babu) are competent, the first generation English in India largely blunderers.

            You might also consider that in two of Kipling’s stories, the colonized people are the English (colonized by the Romans).

            The poem’s message is inconsistent with the story you are telling, since it’s not about keeping the more backward population under rule by the more advanced but about bringing them up to the point where they are no longer backwards. That, not ruling them, is the burden which he is asking the U.S. to take up in the Philippines.

            Your idea that members of the inferior race shouldn’t be allowed to read is very nearly the opposite of what Kipling is arguing for.

          • Again, I never said that Charles Murray should be beaten up or that any research into differences in intelligence should be abandoned (Although I’m genuinely not sure what use such research has outside of sorting and ranking people into ruling and subordinate classes.)

            It is routinely claimed that differences in outcomes, by race or gender, are proof of discrimination and would go away if the discrimination were removed. Whether that claim is true or false matters, since policies based on a false perception of the facts are likely to work badly. If there are substantial between group differences in characteristics relevant to outcomes, the proof is bogus.

            That didn’t even occur to you as a reason to want to know whether such differences exist? You didn’t notice that, from the other side of the argument, your position is routinely interpreted as “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts?” A particularly ugly version, since it is reinforced with “and anyone who insists on offering facts that contradict what I want people to believe is a racist.”

            Differences in the distribution of intelligence or other characteristics in different population groups are not useful for “sorting and ranking people into ruling and subordinate classes” unless the characteristics are so hard to measure directly that group membership is the best proxy available. That is not likely. Reading Thomas Sowell’s books tells you more about his IQ than looking at the color of his skin.

          • 2 is that I’m not convinced that we don’t actually have any strong norms about allowing people to govern themselves. Maybe my perception on this is skewed, but at least in the USA, it seems to me that every citizen having the right to vote (within the following 18 years, at least) is as close to a universal belief as you can get.

            At a tangent to the main argument, the position you are implying here strikes me as not only wrong but horribly wrong. You are confusing freedom and democracy, which are two quite different things. Getting one vote out of two hundred million on what I will be compelled to do isn’t governing myself. Governing myself means that I get to make decisions for myself.

            Consider the relevance here. Suppose that in a population of several hundred million there is a minority group of ten million which everyone else believes to be intellectually inferior. The society is a democracy, so the ten million get to vote just like everyone else. But since they are massively outvoted, they get all sorts of constraints put on them, based on their purported inferiority. Perhaps they are even enslaved. The principle that people get to govern themselves still holds–by your definition.

            Not by mine.

          • johnmcg says:

            It is routinely claimed that differences in outcomes, by race or gender, are proof of discrimination and would go away if the discrimination were removed. Whether that claim is true or false matters, since policies based on a false perception of the facts are likely to work badly. If there are substantial between group differences in characteristics relevant to outcomes, the proof is bogus.

            That didn’t even occur to you as a reason to want to know whether such differences exist? You didn’t notice that, from the other side of the argument, your position is routinely interpreted as “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts?” A particularly ugly version, since it is reinforced with “and anyone who insists on offering facts that contradict what I want people to believe is a racist.”

            This helps me put my finger on another reason I find the attention given to this question disproportionate.

            I think Hillary Clinton and the Democrats lost the election mainly due to self-inflicted errors.

            I also think that there was some interference from Russia that is worth investigating and seeing what we can do in the future. I also think that the Comey letter played a part in the outcome.

            But the Democrats need to reckon with their self-inflicted problems regardless of those facts. Neither Russian interference nor the Comey letter change that. And pointing to “Russia! Comey’s letter!” distracts from work that needs to be done.

            And I guess that’s how I feel about genetic differences in racial intelligence. Whatever that impact is, it seems much less salient than the history of chattel slavery, institutional segregation, and continued racism, and does not change the moral imperative to alleviate the impact of those.

            If we get to a point where the differences in outcome are within shouting distance, and people are claiming it would be racist not to make those equal to zero, then maybe this research should receive more attention. But my judgment is that, right now, that’s not where we are.

            You can dismiss that as not letting facts get in the way of my feels. I consider it more like proritizing relevant, actionable facts.

          • lvlln says:

            @IrishDude

            I think our society is in a state such that individuals with higher IQ have a tremendous advantage for getting income, and that having higher income is highly advantageous for pursuing pleasures/satisfaction/comfort/etc. in life. If it is the case that an individual’s IQ is determined by forces entirely outside of that individual’s control, that this has such high impact in one’s lot in life seems like a huge injustice to me, one that we should be working to correct.

            So in that case, I think it’d make sense to make concrete steps so that the connection between IQ and life satisfaction is broken. One obvious way would be to just equalize everyone’s wages by government decree, enforced by people with guns and tanks and nukes, but I think history shows pretty well that that is likely to have incredibly negative consequences, even worse by some accounts than the consequences of using population differences in cognitive abilities to justify treating certain people as having less worth. I also think it’s a political non-starter.

            So I’m honestly not sure how this decoupling would be achieved, but I think the obvious answer is that we shouldn’t try anything radical, but rather pursue a decoupling little by little, being careful that we don’t cause even more harm than we’re preventing in the process. One idea that I know Charles Murray supports is a universal basic income or guaranteed minimum income so that there’s a lower limit to income regardless of IQ – I think this makes sense. On the other end, I think it might be a good idea to add some new tax brackets with higher rates in order to reduce the amount of rewards that can be gained from having higher IQ. Culturally, I think we need to make someone’s intelligence something not to be proud of, in the same way that being born rich is nothing to be proud of. I’m not sure how to do this, and I doubt it’d ever be perfect, given how people have tried this with things like beauty or height, and those things till have great effect on status and success. But I think we could push a little more in that direction; certainly, it seems liking someone for their intelligence isn’t overtly looked down upon by society the same way liking someone for their beauty is.

            I do recognize that these sorts of actions would reduce incentive for the people with the highest IQs to be the most productive, which ends up hurting progress overall in a lot of ways. I think, right now, it’s worth sacrificing some of that productivity so that those with low IQ through no fault of their own get a better lot in life than they do now, as long as we do it carefully and conscious of this very real trade-off we’re making in order to uplift the IQ-unlucky.

          • Incurian says:

            And I guess that’s how I feel about genetic differences in racial intelligence. Whatever that impact is, it seems much less salient than the history of chattel slavery, institutional segregation, and continued racism…

            There might be an objective, measurable magnitude of that impact.

            …and does not change the moral imperative to alleviate the impact of those.

            And one’s moral imperative would presumable be proportional to that impact.

            If you’re correct, that the impact is small, and (for the sake of argument) I have some moral obligation to right wrongs that I had nothing to do with (whether or not I personally benefited from them), then ok. But it’s possible you’re not correct, and it’s not obvious that you are correct.

            Edited to add:

            If it is the case that an individual’s IQ is determined by forces entirely outside of that individual’s control, that this has such high impact in one’s lot in life seems like a huge injustice to me, one that we should be working to correct.

            This is not consistent with everyone’s definition of justice.

          • lupis42 says:

            And I guess that’s how I feel about genetic differences in racial intelligence. Whatever that impact is, it seems much less salient than the history of chattel slavery, institutional segregation, and continued racism, and does not change the moral imperative to alleviate the impact of those.

            You can dismiss that as not letting facts get in the way of my feels. I consider it more like proritizing relevant, actionable facts.

            Emphasis added.

            I strongly disagree that most of that history is actionable. While I think history is vital, and an understanding of what choices were made and why in the past is a good way to make better choices in the present, the question for the present is “how can we make things better now”, not “what did we do wrong in the past”.
            There is no way to erase the horrors of slavery, or Jim Crow, no way to change the world so that it is as if they hadn’t happened. We can, and need to work to end continuing racism. We need to stop making the mistakes we’re still actively making. But while it’s important not to forget the mistakes of the past, we need to stop pretending that we can make amends for them, as if there’s some blood price that can be paid such that the guilt will be eliminated.

          • johnmcg says:

            How would your recommended actions change if research were freed from its restrictions and demonstrated that blacks had higher average IQ than whites?

          • Incurian says:

            Continue to treat people with respect, as individuals.

          • How would your recommended actions change if research were freed from its restrictions and demonstrated that blacks had higher average IQ than whites?

            I would conclude that the worse average outcomes of blacks occurred in spite of their superior average intelligence, and try to figure out what was responsible and what could be done about it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “People’s incomes are based on IQ which is significantly genetic so we should tax them highly” would be the most moral argument for a very progressive income tax ever.

          • IrishDude says:

            @lvlln

            If it is the case that an individual’s IQ is determined by forces entirely outside of that individual’s control, that this has such high impact in one’s lot in life seems like a huge injustice to me, one that we should be working to correct.

            I don’t necessarily agree about this being an injustice. Athleticism has a strong genetic component, I don’t have those genes, but I don’t find it unjust that I can’t play in the NFL. I don’t find it unjust that some people are born beautiful and get more attention. My definition of justice involves people acting rightly/wrongly, and I don’t think people born with genetic advantages doing better in life are acting wrongly, as long as they aren’t harming others in the process. If you think people with higher IQs doing better in life is unjust, who is acting unjustly? Nature? Those with the high IQs? Those who are willing to pay those with a high IQ more money?

            That said, I feel compelled to help people who struggle through circumstances outside their control. I think a lot of other people do too. And I support all voluntary efforts to help those struggling. As a voluntaryist, I don’t support using physical coercion against others who have done no wrong, to take from them to help those who are struggling (barring extreme circumstances), as I find that coercion to be an injustice itself.

            If Bob struggles financially compared to his neighbor Anne who is smarter than him, I think it would be unjust for Bob to physically coerce Anne to give a portion of her income to him. It’s not Bob’s fault that his lower IQ is (partly) responsible for his lower income, but it’s also not Anne’s fault for Bob’s circumstances and not Anne’s fault that she was born with a higher IQ.

            You talked about decoupling IQ from income, but your response indicates rather some sort of partial decoupling. Basic income and higher marginal tax rates might compress the income distribution some, but that leaves a lot of remaining income inequality. Is your goal to raise the poor up? Bring the rich down? Equalize everyone’s incomes? Compress the income scale partially? For people that want to reduce but not eliminate unequal incomes, I always wonder what non-equal distribution they find morally acceptable and how they determine this in some non-arbitrary way.

            Last, I’ll note that factors besides IQ also influence income, like work ethic, creativity, social skills, risk taking, etc. Do you have problems with those traits leading to variable income? Does it matter if they have a genetic correlation or not? And, how do you decouple IQ and income without decoupling income from the non-IQ traits?

            I think, right now, it’s worth sacrificing some of that productivity so that those with low IQ through no fault of their own get a better lot in life than they do now

            How do you determine which people are doing poorly due to low IQ, and which people are doing poorly due to non-IQ reasons? Do you think we should try to make this differentiation?

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            If Bob struggles financially compared to his neighbor Anne who is smarter than him, I think it would be unjust for Bob to physically coerce Anne to give a portion of her income to him. It’s not Bob’s fault that his lower IQ is (partly) responsible for his lower income, but it’s also not Anne’s fault for Bob’s circumstances and not Anne’s fault that she was born with a higher IQ.

            The argument in favor of redistribution is not that those who are well-off are too blame, it’s that a major part of their success was luck.

            From a utilitarian point of view, it is important to scale the rewards that people get with their hard work, so they are incentivized to work hard. However, since luck cannot be (significantly) chosen, it is fair to equalize/redistribute the rewards that people get purely due to luck. People won’t choose to get more lucky if you let all the rewards accrue to the lucky.

            This is so obvious that a lot of people voluntarily choose to redistribute. Insurance is a voluntary redistribution scheme to equalize the impact of bad luck. Bitcoin mining pools are voluntary redistribution schemes to equalize the impact of good luck.

            You can’t insure for pre-existing conditions such as being born with a low IQ, so that’s where progressive taxation and the welfare state comes in as a solution.

          • lupis42 says:

            How would your recommended actions change if research were freed from its restrictions and demonstrated that blacks had higher average IQ than whites?

            It would suggest that everything that’s being done now is (cumulatively) substantially worse than doing nothing, and so *just stop messing with them* would become an imperative.

            From a utilitarian point of view, it is important to scale the rewards that people get with their hard work, so they are incentivized to work hard. However, since luck cannot be (significantly) chosen, it is fair to equalize/redistribute the rewards that people get purely due to luck. People won’t choose to get more lucky if you let all the rewards accrue to the lucky.

            Luck isn’t chosen, but level of exposure to luck is definitely chosen, in both positive and negative ways – with insurance being a great example. Absent mandates, people frequently choose less insurance in various ways (higher deductibles, self-insuring, etc), or go into more or less risky professions for their skill set based on whether they are more interested in minimizing downside or maximizing upside.

          • Aapje says:

            @lupis42

            Luck isn’t chosen, but level of exposure to luck is definitely chosen, in both positive and negative ways

            That is true for some exposure to luck, but not for others.

            It is a valid argument for not trying to redistribute away all differences caused by luck, but certainly not for not doing it at all.

          • onyomi says:

            Isn’t any attempt to determine how much of a person’s success or failure is due to “luck” inevitably an attempt to answer highly contentious philosophical questions about free will?

            For example, we would colloquially say that someone crushed by a falling piano while walking down the street was “unlucky,” while someone who died of lung cancer after decades of heavy smoking was unwise. But are we even sure there’s any sense in which the smoker, given his genes and environment, could have made different choices any more than the person crushed by the piano could have not been at the wrong place at the wrong time?

          • lupis42 says:

            @Aapje

            I don’t disagree, but I think we have too much rhetoric that treats luck/risk as “undeserved” and “outside of people’s control” when there’s rich people who look like they could spare us a cut of their pie, but when it comes to acknowledging that for most of the world, we westerners are the ones who are rich by virtue of having been lucky enough to be born western, the issue is dropped.

            I think that reducing the impact of the birth lottery on where people are allowed to live and work, and for whom, is the most important and best justified form of the redistribution that you’re talking about, and advocating for more redistribution to reduce the impact of luck makes no sense if it’s redistribution between a group that is already among the luckiest people alive.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            The argument in favor of redistribution is not that those who are well-off are too blame, it’s that a major part of their success was luck.

            There is no ‘the’ argument for redistribution, there are many. One I’ve seen is that rich people are to blame for the poor, by not giving workers higher incomes/profit sharing that they deserve through their laboring, and instead greedily keeping more business income to themselves without putting in any effort. Perhaps instead of ‘The argument’ you mean ‘lvlln’s argument’, though.

            As to the argument that luck justifies redistribution, I don’t buy it. First, if I go to the casino and risk my money by playing craps and win big by getting lucky with the dice, I don’t see how any other people in or outside of that casino can justifiably claim ownership of a portion of my winnings. I got lucky, but I was the one to take the risks and the one with something to lose. Second, the type of redistribution being justified by lvlln and you is one that involves using violence and threats thereof to take from the lucky to give the unlucky. Again, I don’t see how my neighbor Anne getting lucky and doing well justifies me using violence or threats against her to even my situation with hers. Again, I do support the type of redistribution that happens voluntarily.

            However, since luck cannot be (significantly) chosen, it is fair to equalize/redistribute the rewards that people get purely due to luck.

            I read an article on survivorship bias recently that has something interesting to say here:
            “Wiseman speculated that what we call luck is actually a pattern of behaviors that coincide with a style of understanding and interacting with the events and people you encounter throughout life. Unlucky people are narrowly focused, he observed. They crave security and tend to be more anxious, and instead of wading into the sea of random chance open to what may come, they remain fixated on controlling the situation, on seeking a specific goal. As a result, they miss out on the thousands of opportunities that may float by. Lucky people tend to constantly change routines and seek out new experiences. Wiseman saw that the people who considered themselves lucky, and who then did actually demonstrate luck was on their side over the course of a decade, tended to place themselves into situations where anything could happen more often and thus exposed themselves to more random chance than did unlucky people. The lucky try more things, and fail more often, but when they fail they shrug it off and try something else. Occasionally, things work out.”

            Lucky people don’t randomly become successful, they expose themselves to more situations with the potential for high upside, and have a better ability to tolerate failure. It’s not clear to me there shouldn’t be incentives for this.

            Also, I don’t know how you tease out how much reward individuals got due to luck and how much they got due to other factors. Do you want to parse out Bill Gates wealth into what percentage is due to luck and what percentage due to other factors?

            EDIT: Looks like some of my points have already been made. I need to refresh more often before responding!

          • IrishDude says:

            @lupis42

            I think that reducing the impact of the birth lottery on where people are allowed to live and work, and for whom, is the most important and best justified form of the redistribution that you’re talking about, and advocating for more redistribution to reduce the impact of luck makes no sense if it’s redistribution between a group that is already among the luckiest people alive.

            +1

          • lupis42 says:

            @IrishDude

            Lucky people don’t randomly become successful, they expose themselves to more situations with the potential for high upside, and have a better ability to tolerate failure. It’s not clear to me there shouldn’t be incentives for this.

            Seconded – the incentives needed to get people to take risks and adapt are probably even higher than the incentives needed for mere effort.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think that reducing the impact of the birth lottery on where people are allowed to live and work, and for whom, is the most important and best justified form of the redistribution that you’re talking about,

            OK, but approximately nobody really cares about the latitude and longitude of someone’s home and/or workplace. What they care about is basically the set of institutions that will govern and support someone’s home and/or workplace.

            And on the one hand, maybe that shouldn’t be subject to random chance. On the other hand, maybe the reason high-quality institutions exist in at least some places is that the people who build and maintain them are highly motivated by, “…and when you’re done with them, these institutions will support your beloved children, not some generic Pakistani bricklayer”.

          • lupis42 says:

            @John Schilling

            That’s a compelling argument for no redistribution at all, because everything that’s “luck” today was just incentives for people in the past.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not everything, and certainly not everything equally.

            E.g., random birth defects. I doubt any great amount of human productivity was motivated by, “I will do this great work for the benefit of my children, and my grandchildren yet unborn, but not any of them that might be born with Down’s Syndrome, if it’s going to any of those freaks I might as well just spend it on hookers and blow”. So disability benefits, at least before they became socially camouflaged welfare, were never very controversial or socially destructive.

            Likewise e.g. the luck of who did or did not get a limb blown off by artillery fire while partaking of the glorious character-building Manly Art of War (now 87% less glorious since the invention of artillery).

            But the luck of parentage? I don’t think it is terribly controversial that ensuring the well-being of one’s own kin and clan is among the strongest, maybe absolutely the strongest, of human motivations. The more closely a reward or privilege is tied to that, the greater the long-term danger in turning it over to the levelers.

          • lvlln says:

            @IrishDude

            I don’t necessarily agree about this being an injustice. Athleticism has a strong genetic component, I don’t have those genes, but I don’t find it unjust that I can’t play in the NFL. I don’t find it unjust that some people are born beautiful and get more attention. My definition of justice involves people acting rightly/wrongly, and I don’t think people born with genetic advantages doing better in life are acting wrongly, as long as they aren’t harming others in the process. If you think people with higher IQs doing better in life is unjust, who is acting unjustly? Nature? Those with the high IQs? Those who are willing to pay those with a high IQ more money?

            I don’t think it’s unjust that you can’t play in the NFL or get as much attention as someone more beautiful. I do think it’s unjust that your life outcomes are likely less nice in some concrete way compared to someone who can and does play in the NFL or someone who is more beautiful. I think in this case, “nature” can be said to be causing this injustice. I don’t think those with higher IQs can be said to be acting unjustly; they didn’t choose their higher IQs any more than others chose lower IQs, and they didn’t choose to be born to a society that tends to give more rewards to people with higher IQs.

            I do think you and I may have just a fundamental disagreement in what constitutes “justice.” I think injustice doesn’t require any conscious actor behaving in a way that we deem unjust – you seem to think otherwise. This disagreement seems reminiscent of what causes the left and right to be so much at each other’s throats so much, I think. I admit that I don’t have all the answers with regards to the downstream effects of my position, and that my belief about injustice may be entirely unworkable in real life.

            You talked about decoupling IQ from income, but your response indicates rather some sort of partial decoupling. Basic income and higher marginal tax rates might compress the income distribution some, but that leaves a lot of remaining income inequality. Is your goal to raise the poor up? Bring the rich down? Equalize everyone’s incomes? Compress the income scale partially? For people that want to reduce but not eliminate unequal incomes, I always wonder what non-equal distribution they find morally acceptable and how they determine this in some non-arbitrary way.

            Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not an economist or philosopher. Like I said above, the ideal “just” state seems to be equalizing everyone’s income (or perhaps decoupling income from life outcomes, but that might be even crazier), but history shows that getting there is likely to cause far more injustices than it prevents, and I also personally doubt that would be a stable state anyway. That’s why any concrete plans that I would suggest are only “partial decouplings,” not wholesale ones. I don’t have some perfect final state, no exact level “non-equal distribution” that I think would be truly “just” or at least “least unjust.” I think that differing life outcomes purely due to unearned luck is an injustice, and I think it would be good to correct it, and I think the proper way to correct it would be incrementally trying lots of things while also paying very close attention to the state at every step, lest those “solutions” actually cause more injustices than they’re meant to prevent. Maybe I’m being naive, and that’s just asking for another holodomor, but I don’t think that’s the case.

            Last, I’ll note that factors besides IQ also influence income, like work ethic, creativity, social skills, risk taking, etc. Do you have problems with those traits leading to variable income? Does it matter if they have a genetic correlation or not? And, how do you decouple IQ and income without decoupling income from the non-IQ traits?

            You’re right, those traits are just as out of one’s control as IQ. I do think it’s unjust that those lead to variable outcome. If you get right down to it, even what we call free will comes down to the physics of the atoms that make up our brains. I think a strong causative relationship between those and life outcomes is unjust. I also think trying to fully decouple those from life outcomes in our current society is likely to cause far worse injustices. I consider this a Very Hard Problem, and like I said, I have a few ideas that I think are worth a shot. But mostly, I think the correct next step is to get lots of people with varying viewpoints to discuss this in an honest and open manner.

          • Christopher Hazell says:

            @lvlln

            A lot of interesting discussion happening here that I need to think more about, but I want to clarify something:

            My initial reaction wasn’t to the current state of group intelligence research, it was to this:

            People should either be frantically trying to debunk all of these height-related claims, or else shrugging and saying “yeah, that’s a plausible minor extension of the existing literature” when they read cognition-related claims.

            I think it is astonishingly glib to act as though “cognition-related claims” are as simple to confirm and as apolitical as height-related claims.

            And I find that particular claim particularly, bizarrely short-sighted from somebody who goes on about AI risk so much. The idea that it is easy for our host to imagine a rogue AI doing tremendous damage but difficult for him to imagine that institutions could use cognition based claims to bolster morally objectionable practices is a little crazy, considering that as far as we know only one of those things actually has happened in real life.

            One of the things that makes me very, very suspicious of a lot of people who talk about the cognition or intelligence of groups is that many of them seem incapable of honestly responding to the question of danger or the actual historical circumstances in which the research takes place.

            People tend to start with “This stuff is just pure science, it is no different than studying any trivial, irrelevant question” and then when you say, “Uh, actually I think it is, for this and this reason” they respond with, “Oh, so every researcher who works on this is a racist and we should ignore science that conflicts with your politics?”

            As though the only two possible positions are a pollyanna-ish “How could anything ever go wrong?” or utter destructive luddism.

            I’ve been accused of just that luddism several times in this discussion, and it keeps happening no matter how many times I explain that I don’t oppose all such research or believe that it is illegitimate. I simply believe that it is more fraught and complex than height research, and that there are solid reasons for not completely ignoring that fraughtness.

            The inability on the part of many otherwise intelligent, caring people to even acknowledge that fraughtness is very worrisome to me.

            EDIT: Or, more concisely, I want people to acknowledge the skulls, that’s all. Some people do, and that’s great, but a lot of people have a tendency to go “What skulls? The only reason you think there’s skulls here must be because you hate science! Stop hating science!”

            That latter response is common enough to make me quite skeptical.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Christopher Hazell

            It seems that at least some people in this thread are making the claim, “These aren’t the skulls you’re looking for” by which they mean, this research was not the impetus that resulted in the creation of a skull, rather a post hoc rationalization/justification of skull creation, and the counterfactual where it doesn’t happen/produces different results, etc, would have little or no impact on the actual atrocities committed. I don’t know enough history to know how valid this point is, but you seem to be ignoring/talking past it.

          • “People’s incomes are based on IQ which is significantly genetic so we should tax them highly” would be the most moral argument for a very progressive income tax ever.

            The alternative approach is to tax IQ directly. That, like the single tax on land, has no excess burden, at least in the first generation. And it avoids the unfairness of taxing someone whose high income is due to working very hard or at a very unpleasant job.

          • Aapje says:

            @lupis42

            I don’t disagree, but I think we have too much rhetoric that treats luck/risk as “undeserved” and “outside of people’s control” when there’s rich people who look like they could spare us a cut of their pie, but when it comes to acknowledging that for most of the world, we westerners are the ones who are rich by virtue of having been lucky enough to be born western, the issue is dropped.

            That is a good point and my argument would be that I do support a certain amount of redistribution to non-westerners, however, I also believe that there is strong evidence that these efforts are far less effective when westerners try to do this for non-westerners than if they do this for their countrymen.

            IMO, an optimal package to improve agency, well-being and social mobility involves a combination of legislation, culture and redistribution. Charities can’t really change the former and have limited ability to change the second and in so much that it can, it can only be changed slowly. Redistributing huge amounts of money from the west to other nations would probably have very bad results if the legislation and culture is not up to par.

            Due to nationalism, ingroup bias, etc; there is a fundamental difference in the perception of interventions by outsiders vs intervention by insiders, which greatly increases the resistance to the former. So we simply can’t do everything across ingroup/outgroup barriers that we can do within the ingroup.

            I believe that non-western countries benefit a lot from ‘trickle’ down technology and technology developed in the west for non-westerners. For example, quality HIV medicine is available in Africa because rich westerners wanted that medicine. Agricultural improvements developed in the west help Africa. Cutting western wealth would probably cut down severely on western R&D, without a huge increase in non-western R&D to (more than) compensate for that.

            So my conclusion is that the optimal level of redistribution within western nations is higher than the optimal level between the west and the non-west. Furthermore, a major role of western nations should be to be role models and improve in that role, enticing other nations/ethnic groups to mimic this (like China is doing).

          • People tend to start with “This stuff is just pure science, it is no different than studying any trivial, irrelevant question” and then when you say, “Uh, actually I think it is, for this and this reason” they respond with, “Oh, so every researcher who works on this is a racist and we should ignore science that conflicts with your politics?”

            I noticed that.

            It seems that at least some people in this thread are making the claim, “These aren’t the skulls you’re looking for” by which they mean, this research was not the impetus that resulted in the creation of a skull, rather a post hoc rationalization/justification of skull creation, and the counterfactual where it doesn’t happen/produces different results, etc, would have little or no impact on the actual atrocities committed.

            I noticved that. It’s a weak arguemnt, because you can argue for the potential dangers of TLA research in other ways, for instance by referring to the kind of soceity some TLA enthusiasts want.

          • lupis42 says:

            @John Schilling

            But the luck of parentage? I don’t think it is terribly controversial that ensuring the well-being of one’s own kin and clan is among the strongest, maybe absolutely the strongest, of human motivations. The more closely a reward or privilege is tied to that, the greater the long-term danger in turning it over to the levelers.

            I don’t think we disagree much, so I’m not going to make a long response, but I did like this:

            Likewise e.g. the luck of who did or did not get a limb blown off by artillery fire while partaking of the glorious character-building Manly Art of War (now 87% less glorious since the invention of artillery).

            Wasn’t one of the major reasons for the development of the various European welfare states partly about dealing with the entire generations of people were conscripted into the Great War and then injured/maimed, rendering them unable to just go to work afterwards?

            @Aapje

            That is a good point and my argument would be that I do support a certain amount of redistribution to non-westerners, however, I also believe that there is strong evidence that these efforts are far less effective when westerners try to do this for non-westerners than if they do this for their countrymen.

            Why the focus on redistribution? Allowing non-westerners to become westerners if they so choose would solve the moral problem quite effectively.

            IMO, an optimal package to improve agency, well-being and social mobility involves a combination of legislation, culture and redistribution. Charities can’t really change the former and have limited ability to change the second and in so much that it can, it can only be changed slowly. Redistributing huge amounts of money from the west to other nations would probably have very bad results if the legislation and culture is not up to par.

            I think you’re correct on all points here.

            IDue to nationalism, ingroup bias, etc; there is a fundamental difference in the perception of interventions by outsiders vs intervention by insiders, which greatly increases the resistance to the former. So we simply can’t do everything across ingroup/outgroup barriers that we can do within the ingroup.

            Agreed, but we can allow people to move between the ingroup and the outgrout. The moral imperative for helping the outgroup is stronger by several orders of magnitude, and while I agree that their practical limits to what we can do for the outgroup, we could still address the moral problem by allowing people who want to join the ingroup to do so.

            I believe that non-western countries benefit a lot from ‘trickle’ down technology and technology developed in the west for non-westerners. For example, quality HIV medicine is available in Africa because rich westerners wanted that medicine. Agricultural improvements developed in the west help Africa. Cutting western wealth would probably cut down severely on western R&D, without a huge increase in non-western R&D to (more than) compensate for that.

            Agree on all points here too.

            So my conclusion is that the optimal level of redistribution within western nations is higher than the optimal level between the west and the non-west. Furthermore, a major role of western nations should be to be role models and improve in that role, enticing other nations/ethnic groups to mimic this (like China is doing).

            I think your reasoning about reasons the optimal level of redistribution between the west and the non-west is lower are spot on, but I don’t see why that’s an argument for more redistribution within the western countries. THe fact that helping the truly poor is hard, complicated, and not totally solvable doesn’t make redistribution between the rich a useful thing to do.

          • John Schilling says:

            Wasn’t one of the major reasons for the development of the various European welfare states partly about dealing with the entire generations of people were conscripted into the Great War and then injured/maimed, rendering them unable to just go to work afterwards?

            I believe that was a big part of it, yes, and that is the sort of thing that makes the moral-hazard arguments about redistribution seem quite a bit less hazardous and the redistribution more urgently pressing even to the affluent.

          • Aapje says:

            @lupis42

            Allowing non-westerners to become westerners if they so choose would solve the moral problem quite effectively.

            One problem is that this just braindrains the non-western countries, so they will never make it on their own or even get worse.

            Another problem is that this will require destruction of welfare for westerners, so you are just turning part of the west into the non-west; as well as creating strong inequality within western society. Research shows that inequality and lack of homogenity of the ingroup causes unhappiness and thus unrest. The stability of western nations is very important.

            Cultural clashes are also a major issue if you let in large groups of migrants and you import foreign conflicts as well (in my country, Turkish people are fighting each other now over a conflict that exists in Turkey and that really has nothing to do with my country).

            And a personal one: I live in a country that is quite overpopulated already. It’s not really viable to let a lot more people in without turning my country into a dystopian asphalt jungle.

            Agreed, but we can allow people to move between the ingroup and the outgrout. The moral imperative for helping the outgroup is stronger by several orders of magnitude

            Only if you believe in the White Men’s Burden and infinite responsibility of every person; as well as the capability of man to undertake such an enormous project and that it is good to destroy the outgroup, rather than let them evolve and find their own path. History gives plenty of cause for modesty, rather than such hubris.

            America can’t even turn their black citizens into the ingroup proper and the same is true for another outgroup in my country. So why not get started on some proper social science so we find a solution for that, rather than just move to a much harder problem without solving the easier problem first? The latter is a recipe for failure.

            I think your reasoning about reasons the optimal level of redistribution between the west and the non-west is lower are spot on, but I don’t see why that’s an argument for more redistribution within the western countries.

            I was being challenged on why I didn’t favor a very large redistribution to non-western nations. I answered that question and not the question why we need more redistribution within the west. I am verbose enough as it is when I just answer the questions that I am asked, not the questions which are unasked.

            The fact that helping the truly poor is hard, complicated, and not totally solvable doesn’t make redistribution between the rich a useful thing to do.

            Yet earlier you were arguing that doing so across cultural boundaries by means of open borders would be viable. Advocating the harder problem and dismissing the easier problem as too hard, does not convince me.

          • lupis42 says:

            @Aapje,
            Sorry if taking these out of order makes it confusing, but I’m trying to focus on what I view as the core relevant disagreement. If you feel I’m misrepresenting your argument, let me know.

            I was being challenged on why I didn’t favor a very large redistribution to non-western nations. I answered that question and not the question why we need more redistribution within the west. I am verbose enough as it is when I just answer the questions that I am asked, not the questions which are unasked.

            Remember where we started. You made the following assertion:

            You can’t insure for pre-existing conditions such as being born with a low IQ, so that’s where progressive taxation and the welfare state comes in as a solution.

            My response is that claiming that as the moral imperative for the welfare state proves way too much. Insofar as there is moral value in attempting to mitigate the impact of the circumstances of birth for someone, the first and most important thing thus justified is some flavor Open Borders – because birth citizenship is the single biggest issue affecting life outcomes. Arguing for redistribution within western nations on that basis is like arguing that some of Bill Gates wealth should be redistributed among the rest of the Fortune 500 CEOs.

            Yet earlier you were arguing that doing so across cultural boundaries by means of open borders would be viable. Advocating the harder problem and dismissing the easier problem as too hard, does not convince me.

            I disagree that this is an easier version of the hard problem at all – my whole point is that redistribution between people in rich countries mostly doesn’t have anything to do with ‘insurance against circumstances of birth’. If that was the objective, other things would be more important and effective.

            Another problem is that this will require destruction of welfare for westerners,

            It’s not my goal, but I think it’s instructive of the point: if doing something serious to reduce the impact of the birth lottery on people’s lives requires the end of the welfare state, than the justification for the welfare state must be something else.

            Only if you believe in the White Men’s Burden and infinite responsibility of every person;

            On the contrary – unlike most forms of ‘social insurance’, open borders doesn’t impose responsibility on anyone – it’s the willingess of people to hire, rent to, and employ immigrates who take un the burdens. It’s progressive taxation, redistribution, etc. that impose responsibility beyone what people are willing to accept.

            as well as the capability of man to undertake such an enormous project and that it is good to destroy the outgroup, rather than let them evolve and find their own path.

            The goal is not to destroy the outgroup, and that effect would be very unlikely. Instead, while groups could evolve seperately, people would be able to choose their groups instead of being stuck where they were born.

            America can’t even turn their black citizens into the ingroup proper and the same is true for another outgroup in my country. So why not get started on some proper social science so we find a solution for that, rather than just move to a much harder problem without solving the easier problem first? The latter is a recipe for failure.

            America’s had no problem with any of the large groups of immigrants who came here voluntarily over the course of the last two hundred years. Our problem with the black population has a lot to do with the history of slavery and oppression, and our subsequent unwillingness to stop doing large scale social experiments on them. The hard problem is pretty well solved in America, though different cultures *will* have differing results.

            History gives plenty of cause for modesty, rather than such hubris.

            I couldn’t agree with this more, and I wanted to emphasize it.

          • Aapje says:

            @lupis42

            Insofar as there is moral value in attempting to mitigate the impact of the circumstances of birth for someone, the first and most important thing thus justified is some flavor Open Borders – because birth citizenship is the single biggest issue affecting life outcomes.

            If you merely seek to minimize the luck factor of being born into particular circumstances, you are correct that your answer does this more than mine, at least in the short term (before the backlash). However, you can do even better on that one-dimensional metric by killing every newborn. So optimizing a simplistic metric is wrong. You need a multivariate approach.

            Furthermore, I disagree with the fundamental premise of your one-dimensional metric: that the only relevant luck factor is the circumstances people are born into, not the genetic luck factor. I explicitly said that I consider this an important factor: “You can’t insure for pre-existing conditions such as being born with a low IQ.” However, your entire argument is based around the assumption that it is just if outcomes match people’s g factor.

            Of course, you are entitled to your own moral compass, but if our disagreement hinges on this, you won’t convince me by arguing that your solution works better within your moral compass, even if it doesn’t in mine.

            The goal is not to destroy the outgroup, and that effect would be very unlikely. Instead, while groups could evolve seperately, people would be able to choose their groups instead of being stuck where they were born.

            I meant destroy in the sense that the separate evolution would be horrible for the outgroup. Taking the most capable people out of a group has consequences. It’s not really a choice if your other choice is ISIS.

            Improvements to a group generally requires that people who are more capable than the group average pull them up.

          • lupis42 says:

            @Aapje

            I think you’re missing my point completly, and I’m not sure where to go from here. Perhaps you could try to summarize what you think my position in a way that you think I might recognize?

            I’m not trying to defend a specific proposition or moral compass here, I’m pointing out that the position you are taking doesn’t follow from the premises you suggest it does.
            To reiterate:

            You can’t insure for pre-existing conditions such as being born with a low IQ, so that’s where progressive taxation and the welfare state comes in as a solution.

            This was your assertion: that difference in outcomes that results from ‘pre-existing conditions’ at birth are fundamentally unjust, and so there is a moral argument for redistribution or similar to correct them.

            If you merely seek to minimize the luck factor of being born into particular circumstances, you are correct that your answer does this more than mine, at least in the short term (before the backlash). However, you can do even better on that one-dimensional metric by killing every newborn. So optimizing a simplistic metric is wrong. You need a multivariate approach.

            Unwarranted accusations of support for infanticide aside, this is what makes me think that you aren’t really arguing my point at all. You’re not even arguing with a strawman version of my claim. What do you think I’m asserting here?

            Furthermore, I disagree with the fundamental premise of your one-dimensional metric: that the only relevant luck factor is the circumstances people are born into, not the genetic luck factor. I explicitly said that I consider this an important factor: “You can’t insure for pre-existing conditions such as being born with a low IQ.” However, your entire argument is based around the assumption that it is just if outcomes match people’s g factor.

            My point is that circumstances of birth dominate G factor in determining outcomes. A Swiss citizen with an IQ of 80 is better off than a Congoese with an IQ of 120, and by a considerably greater degree than the difference in outcomes between either two Swiss people 60 IQ points apart, or two Congoese people 60 IQ points apart. I’m not making the claim that outgomes matching G factor is just, or unjust. G-factor only becomes relevant to normalaziing outcomes within a country, which is just assuming away the dominant factor.

            I meant destroy in the sense that the separate evolution would be horrible for the outgroup. Taking the most capable people out of a group has consequences. It’s not really a choice if your other choice is ISIS.
            Improvements to a group generally requires that people who are more capable than the group average pull them up.

            I disagree entirely, but we’re now getting into a seperate debate about the probobale implications of various variants of open borders, which is really not the point, any more than the shortcomings of any particular redistribution scheme.

            To sum up: “Reduce the impact of luck of birth” is not a justification for a redistributive welfare state. That doesn’t mean that there are no other coherent arguments for welfare states, you’ve alluded to a concern about the potential impact of inequality on stability just in this thread.

          • Aapje says:

            @lupis42

            Unwarranted accusations of support for infanticide aside

            In logic, you can disprove a premise by assuming that it is true and then following it to its logical conclusion. Then if you end up with a logical contradiction, you can conclude that the premise is false.

            I did something similar here, by pointing out that merely optimizing the goal that you declared would logically lead to support for open borders, would make an even better case for an immoral policy. My implicit assumption was that you reject infanticide and thus would see a contradiction. The conclusion I intended for you to draw is not that you secretly support infanticide, but that you have additional goals that you are optimizing for, but which you didn’t state.

            Basically, your argument was that open borders is the best way to mitigate the impact of the circumstances of birth. This is objectively false, since killing every child will mitigate the impact of the circumstances of birth even more. So when you are advocating open borders, you are not merely basing that on a desire to mitigate the impact of the circumstances of birth, but you are including additional goals which you do not make explicit. My aim in pointing this out is to make you aware that the argument you made was dependent on the acceptance of those other goals.

            I explained to you that just like you, I have additional goals. My goals conflict with the outcomes of the (extreme) open border solution. Your goals may not conflict with that solution. In itself that is fine, but our conflict would be clearer if you were to articulate some of your additional goals, as I have done.

            To sum up: “Reduce the impact of luck of birth” is not a justification for a redistributive welfare state.

            No, it is. It is just not the optimal way to do so if that was the only goal.

            Imagine that I say that my justification for playing soccer is to get fit. You may counter that this is false, since there are objectively more efficient ways to get fit (like running, which doesn’t require you to get a team together, travel to the soccer field, etc). However, at that point you have not demonstrated that getting fit is not my goal, but rather, that getting fit is not my sole goal.

            It is perfectly valid to declare that any policy that reduces the impact of luck of birth is justified by having that reduction as a* goal, no matter if other policies may achieve that better. As long as those other policies have consequences that may conflict with other potential goals, a person can reject those other policies due to having additional, conflicting goals.

            My claim is a welfare state does reduce the gap in outcome between the richer Swedes** and the poorer Congoese. My claim is that an extreme open borders policy has consequences that I consider worse than the benefits, given the entirety of my goals. You may claim that I am incorrect about any of this, but that doesn’t negate the fact that within my beliefs, reducing the impact of luck of birth is a valid justification for a (partially) redistributive welfare state.

            * Not ‘the’
            ** Sweden is much more of a welfare state than Switzerland

          • lupis42 says:

            @Aapje

            I explained to you that just like you, I have additional goals. My goals conflict with the outcomes of the (extreme) open border solution. Your goals may not conflict with that solution. In itself that is fine, but our conflict would be clearer if you were to articulate some of your additional goals, as I have done.

            My goal in this conversation is to try to figure out what chain of reasoning you’re using to get from “Mitigate the downsides of being born with a poor hand to play” (all the things that impact life outcomes but are completely outside the ability of a person to exert any control over) to “Redistribution within rich countries”, a policy which dramatically increases the downsides of that birth lottery in a number of ways.
            I think it plausible that you will convince me there is a valid path, or that I will convince you there is not, which is why we’re having this conversation.

            No, it is. It is just not the optimal way to do so if that was the only goal.

            This is probably the core of our disagreement. Redistribution within rich countries *increases* the overall impact of the circumstances of birth. It slightly lowers the impact of some genetic advantages, but dramatically increases the impact of being a native in a western country, which was already the dominant factor in almost all cases. It is transferring wealth from the top percentile to (approximately) the top decile, thus widening the gap between the bottom of the top decile and the lower deciles.
            It makes migration, traditionally one of the most effective safety valves for people born in war torn countries with bad institutions, problematic – because while it is theoretically possible some western countries to accommodate large numbers of migrants by settling them in urban enclaves or underdeveloped land, it is politically untenable to bring in a bunch of foreigners and immediately give them a claim on the states resources, but it is also unsustainable to bring them in as second-class citizens and deny them benefits.
            By increasing nationalist sentiment, it reduces international trade, thus reducing one of the major avenues by which poorer countries normally get resources from richer countries, and one of the strongest forces that pushes countries with poor institutions to improve their institutions (which allows them to trade more, and benefit more), and it reduces the degree to which talented and ambitious people come to the wealthier countries, learn and improve their personal circumstances, and send some of their increased resources home, via remittances (which are greater by a signifcant margin than all foreign aid from the US).

            Imagine that I say that my justification for playing soccer is to get fit. You may counter that this is false, since there are objectively more efficient ways to get fit (like running, which doesn’t require you to get a team together, travel to the soccer field, etc). However, at that point you have not demonstrated that getting fit is not my goal, but rather, that getting fit is not my sole goal.

            My analogy would be more like this: you have stated that your goal is to lose weight, but you are focusing your gym time on weightlifting. Weightlifting, even if it works as you intend, will not reduce your weight. It will do many other things, but it will not lead to you being lighter. You may actually get heavier. This doesn’t mean that weightlifting is a bad activity choice for you, but it means that you are either confused about the effects of weightlifting, or have other reasons for pursuing weightlifting in spite of it’s lack of utility for weight-loss.

            It is perfectly valid to declare that any policy that reduces the impact of luck of birth is justified by having that reduction as a* goal, no matter if other policies may achieve that better. As long as those other policies have consequences that may conflict with other potential goals, a person can reject those other policies due to having additional, conflicting goals.

            Sure, to a point. But if a preferred policy a) seems to do very little towards a given goal, relative to many other policies, and b) has a lot of other effects that are much more significant than its impact on the stated goal, it’s reasonable to claim that the policy is not being supported for that goal at all, but for the other effects, and the stated goal is primarily justification.

            My claim is a welfare state does reduce the gap in outcome between the richer Swedes (Sweden is much more of a welfare state than Switzerland) and the poorer Congoese.

            It’s also increased the gap between the poorer Swedes and the poorer Congoese. Any effect on net would come from it’s having prevented the Swedish economy from growing as fast since introduction. FYI, I specifically chose Switzerland because of it’s position near the top of the richness list, and the relative difficulty of immigration.

            My claim is that an extreme open borders policy has consequences that I consider worse than the benefits, given the entirety of my goals.

            Fair and eminently plausible.

            You may claim that I am incorrect about any of this, but that doesn’t negate the fact that within my beliefs, reducing the impact of luck of birth is a valid justification for a (partially) redistributive welfare state.

            I think you’re incorrect about the impact of redistribution within rich countries on the impact of luck of birth, for the reasons I’ve outlined above. That suggests we’re ultimately at a mostly factual disagreement, though I think it may be an area with too much causal density for either of us to find compelling evidence.

          • Aapje says:

            @lupis42

            Redistribution within rich countries *increases* the overall impact of the circumstances of birth.

            In countries with wealth distribution, the median welfare is more equal. In principle, every citizen in my country gets a base package of the most useful health care. In America, substantial groups go without.

            It is transferring wealth from the top percentile to (approximately) the top decile, thus widening the gap between the bottom of the top decile and the lower deciles.

            This is completely irrelevant to the welfare of the lower deciles though. Imagine 1 scenario with wealth redistribution in the West:
            – top percentile has an average income of $250k
            – top decile has an average income of $50k
            – bottom decile has an average income of $1000

            Now imagine a scenario without wealth redistribution in the West:
            – top percentile has an average income of $10M
            – top decile has an average income of $10k
            – bottom decile has an average income of $1000

            The only group that is better off in the last situation is the top percentile, not the bottom decile, who have exactly the same income. You are correct that in the latter scenario, there are fewer truly rich people, so from this perspective the impact of birth is smaller. However, from a different perspective, it is far bigger, because those who do get lucky by being born in the top percentile, get lucky much more.

            Your argument seems to be that the median income in the West for the second scenario is lower, so the gap between the median Westerner and the median person in the bottom deciles is smaller. While this is true, I don’t see how this benefits the bottom deciles. My argument is that greater equality in the West has many beneficial effects, for instance, by allowing many more Westerners to reach their potential, as well as creating a big market where advanced new technology can take hold despite high prices for that new technology, before the prices go down and it becomes affordable for the 2nd and 3rd world. For example, solar panels have immense potential for Africa, yet their price is driven down primarily by the Western market for solar panels, who are/were able and willing to pay fairly high prices. I expect major economic benefits to Africa as solar power will become common in Africa.

            It makes migration, traditionally one of the most effective safety valves for people born in war torn countries with bad institutions, problematic

            Migration is becoming less and less viable as a solution simply because of overpopulation. The US had 5 million people in 1800, 100 million in 1920 and 300 million in 2010. There were major increases in most other nations as well. It’s far less viable to see migration as a solution when far more people need to migrate into already far more densely populated regions, for it to make a difference.

            By increasing nationalist sentiment, it reduces international trade, thus reducing one of the major avenues by which poorer countries normally get resources from richer countries

            1. It’s a fact that our political systems and the international world order in general are designed around nation states. Globalists generally advocate policies which harm democracy.
            2. It is false to equate opposition to open borders with opposition to free trade. You can be in favor of the one and not the other. Furthermore, a lot of what is presented as free trade nowadays, is actually something else. For example, TTIP is projected to result in a tiny increase in trade (if we are to believe the estimates, as estimates by economists have generally proven to be overly optimistic), yet a major feature is a special court system for multinationals, which creates unfairness between them and other businesses which can’t take advantage of such things & which undermines democracy.

            But if a preferred policy a) seems to do very little towards a given goal, relative to many other policies […], it’s reasonable to claim that the policy is not being supported for that goal at all, but for the other effects, and the stated goal is primarily justification.

            Currently the Western nations have fairly closed borders, yet the bottom deciles are seeing large increases in income.

            From my perspective, the elephant graph shows one segment who are losing out and logically, that segment is getting upset. If you want to keep the lower deciles profiting as they have, you have to preserve the world order, which in turn means that you have to ensure that the increase in policies that harm the Western lower and middle class needs to be stopped and the Western upper classes have to share the wealth.

            I think it may be an area with too much causal density for either of us to find compelling evidence.

            This is definitely a topic where so many causal effects play a role that evidence exists for both our points of view and where the correctness depends on how you judge the effects of each of the many mechanisms.

          • Aapje says:

            @lupis42

            BTW. Note that I’m not in favor of closed borders, but merely opposed to completely open borders, so some of the benefits of open borders, like people sending back money or cross-pollination of knowledge/culture/etc would still happen to some extent.

        • albatross11 says:

          Anonymous Bosch:

          Most of the key citations in The Bell Curve (1994) come from research funded by an organization founded in the 1930s to promulgate Nazi-style eugenics laws.

          Is this actually true? It’s been some years since I read The Bell Curve, but I’ll note that:

          a. It has a huge bibliography, and cites a whole lot of works. I believe these are overwhelmingly very mainstream sources.

          b. The actual analysis in TBC is based on the NLSY79 dataset, which I think was collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (some part of the US government, anyway) and doesn’t have anything at all to do with eugenics.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Everybody knows that the Nazis were motivated by IQ testing showing that they were cognitively superior to the Jews.

        Or at least everybody talks like everybody knows that.

        When you stop and think about it, it’s a wacky idea, of course but it’s a really common assumption because who stops and thinks about it?

        Crimethinkers, that’s who!

        • Christopher Hazell says:

          Everybody knows that the Nazis were motivated by IQ testing showing that they were cognitively superior to the Jews.

          Or at least everybody talks like everybody knows that.

          When you stop and think about it, it’s a wacky idea, of course but it’s a really common assumption because who stops and thinks about it?

          Crimethinkers, that’s who!

          Wow, that was a really cutting and concise attack on a claim that, as far as I can tell, not one single person in this thread has actually made.

          I certainly never made any such claim about the Nazis.

          But you certainly showed somebody, somewhere, I assume.

        • Enkidum says:

          I run in pretty left wing intellectual circles, and the Nazis come up a fair bit in conversation, and I can categorically state that I have never in my entire life heard or read anything about Nazis being motivated by tests showing superior performance to Jews on IQ tests.

        • Incurian says:

          While Steve is being a bit smug here, I think you know what he means.

          • In case he doesn’t, let me fill out the steps in the argument:

            Claim: Using IQ tests to measure differences in the average intelligence of different races is a terrible idea because, in the past, it led to horrors such as the Holocaust. So we shouldn’t do it.

            This depends on the Nazis having based their antisemitism on IQ tests showing Jews to be less intelligent than Germans.

            But the Nazis did not base their antisemitism on IQ tests showing Jews to be less intelligent than Germans.

          • Enkidum says:

            Ah, actually I didn’t notice it at all. But more to the point, we also know very well that justifications for slavery have been based on precisely those type of arguments for thousands of years, as OP was arguing. So… what’s the point? The Nazis didn’t do it, so it’s ok?

          • Incurian says:

            As is covered in other parts of the thread quite well, justifications for slavery have not been based on precisely those type of arguments for thousands of years.

            Where it was, it was just used as more confirmation in support of the status quo, but the status quo didn’t arise because of it or depend on it. That is to say, there is probably not a slave-owning society in history that would, when presented with iron-clad evidence of zero intelligence differences between races, seriously reconsider their way of thinking. Nor would it have prevented the society from beginning to own slaves in the first place. I read his comment as using the Nazis as a synecdoche.

            Edited for clarity.

          • Enkidum says:

            I’ve been hunting up and down the thread, but I’m failing to find the part where anyone refutes that both Aristotle and southern US slaveowners justified slavery on the basis of intellectual differences between races. Because we all know they did. So… justifications for slavery have been based on this argument for thousands of years.

            Agreed that this is a post-hoc justification. As various people have pointed out, white American colonists didn’t become slaveowners because they were racist, they became racist because they were slaveowners.

            Nevertheless, I think that we have reason to be very wary about these kinds of claims for precisely the reason that they are used as such justifications, post hoc or not.

          • Incurian says:

            Nevertheless, I think that we have reason to be very wary about these kinds of claims for precisely the reason that they are used as such justifications, post hoc or not.

            Let’s meet in the middle and say that it’s good to be wary of racism. Perhaps the discovery of information which could potentially [irrationally] justify negative behavior could be treated as an early warning sign, but not as a negative thing in itself that must be stopped.

            To put it in terms that I’m better suited to talk about… if your neighbor country starts conducting military exercises near your border, that in and of itself is not justification for a war, but it’s an indicator they maybe might sometime in the future plan to do you harm. You’d be justified in perhaps conducting your own exercises, or some diplomatic outreach to clarify that country’s intentions, but absent other indicators it would be extremely, umm, rude to conduct a preemptive attack on your neighbor under those circumstances.

          • Christopher Hazell says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You know what frustrates me about this conversation?

            Earlier in this thread, you said,

            You didn’t notice that, from the other side of the argument, your position is routinely interpreted as “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts?” A particularly ugly version, since it is reinforced with “and anyone who insists on offering facts that contradict what I want people to believe is a racist.”

            Apparently, if you don’t interpret me charitably, if you attribute to me beliefs that I don’t have, that is my fault for not making myself more clear and taking a large amount of time to be incredibly precise.

            On the other hand, if I don’t interpret Mr. Sailer’s comments about Nazis as actually being about non-Nazi slave owning societies, that also is my fault for not employing more interpretive charity.

            Why, exactly, is the burden of being charitable and careful entirely on my side of the argument?

            EDIT: Or, to put it another way, if you interpret me as saying things I never said, that’s my fault for not being clearer. If I interpret a comment about Nazis as being a comment about Nazis, that’s my fault for not being more imaginative.

            I find it difficult to converse under conditions like that.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            @Enkidum

            Nevertheless, I think that we have reason to be very wary about these kinds of claims for precisely the reason that they are used as such justifications, post hoc or not.

            It depends entirely on what you mean by “wary”. Checking that the research is methodologically sound? Making honest replication attempts? Vigorously discussing the conclusions to ensure that people don’t draw incorrect assumptions from it? All good things.

            Scaring people away from discussing the results by labeling them racist? Refusing to investigate the question because of hypothetical problems if the answer turns out a way you don’t like? Not acceptable.

            Given that there is a large political movement pushing policy (and derogatory propaganda) based on the assumption of no innate differences in capability, it seems mighty convenient that actually investigating said assumption is too dangerous for society to risk (according to the adherents of said political movement)…

          • Enkidum says:

            Let’s meet in the middle and say that it’s good to be wary of racism. Perhaps the discovery of information which could potentially [irrationally] justify negative behavior could be treated as an early warning sign, but not as a negative thing in itself that must be stopped.

            I guess it depends what you mean by “negative behaviour”. Is denying people full freedom of choice negative? Children and people with Down’s Syndrome (or other comparable intellectual deficits) do not have complete legal autonomy, and I think most of us agree that this is justified. I don’t think we need to go all the way down Aristotle’s path to slavery, but I also think it’s just false to say that intellect has nothing to do with moral worth. There’s nothing irrational about relating societal privileges to intellect, in one way or another, indeed I think it is almost inevitable (though it need not be coded into law).

            Which is why we’d better be really, really fucking careful about where we’re going here.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        In reality, around the world, you mostly see pogroms by less bright populations against more commercially adept groups. A few years ago, for example, on Guadalcanal Island, the natives burned down the stores of Chinese merchants. The next day the hungry locals were wandering in the ashes asking, “Where are we going to buy food now?”

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Romans would pay more for Greek slaves because they were reputed to be cleverer than Romans on average.

        Interestingly, Jewish slaves did not have a reputation for above average intelligence during Roman times.

        • Creutzer says:

          Interestingly, Jewish slaves did not have a reputation for above average intelligence during Roman times.

          That’s not surprising, though. The +1SD in average IQ is a feature of Ashkenazi and possibly Sephardic jews not shared by Middle Eastern jews, so it probably developed later. That leaves you only with whatever cultural bookishness already existed at the time, and that I’m sure was strongly linked to religion, which the Romans wouldn’t see much of because the jews just kind of did their own thing.

          • Creutzer says:

            One argument that has been raised against the paper that this article is referring to, though, is that it makes predictions for Ashkenazi jews in particular, because it’s about a mutation that Sephardic jews don’t have (they separated much earlier). Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have clear data on the IQ of Sephardic jews, but they appear to be similarly intellectually achieving and are supposed to have been subject to generally similar selection pressures. I wonder why we don’t have the proper data on Sephardic jews. Maybe they’re hard to get hold of in significant numbers, but they still make up the majority of French jews, if I’m not misinformed, so it can’t be that difficult.

          • Blue Tribe Dissident says:

            I’ve often wondered about Sephardic intelligence. Cochran and Harpending make a very straightforward case regarding the origins of high IQ among Ashkenazim. Did the same political conditions leading to the same selective pressures happen to also apply where the Sephardim lived?

            Anecdotally, my impression is that there are a lot of high-functioning Sephardic Jews, not just Ashkenazim.

          • Brad says:

            I have no idea what the data says, but by way of background what Sephardic means exactly can be complicated.

            One definition is those Jews descended from people expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella but another, more common definition, include the descendants of the preexisting Jewish community in the places these refugees ended up. And of course there was lots of intermarriage as well as cultural blending.

          • David Ricardo was Sephardic.

            Next question?

      • Loquat says:

        in the past, white people started with the assumption that they were better than non-white people

        Fun fact: for much of human history, slavery was not race-based. It was much more a question of bad luck – if your country was conquered, your ship was captured by pirates, or your family went broke, you could end up on the auction block regardless of color. If you went to a Roman slave market in the year 2 AD, you’d have a good chance of seeing black Africans, blond Germans, and native-born Italians all up for sale. Romans were likely to consider themselves better than non-Romans, to be sure, but not on grounds of whiteness per se – they certainly didn’t exempt the white Germans and Celts from the category of “barbarian”.

        Moving ahead several centuries to the beginnings of slavery in the New World, as others in this thread have implied the “peculiar institution” didn’t get started because white people thought black people were inferior, it got started because white people who owned plantations thought staffing said plantations with slaves was their most profitable option. (Enslaving specifically blacks because whites were more or less free in Europe, so instituting slavery for whites would have been a much harder sell, and Indians were much more vulnerable to Old World diseases, and also relatively successful at escaping since they knew the territory.) And then, of course, once your income depends on a terrible crime, you start searching around for some argument to justify it, but the post hoc apologetics are just what slaveholders use to make themselves feel better, they’re not the reason slavery got started.

        • Aapje says:

          @Loquat

          A major reason why blacks were enslaved was that Africa already had a substantial slave market. So the slave traders didn’t have to capture slaves themselves. There was already a culture where one African (group of) tribe(s) would enslave and sell people of other tribes.

          It presumably would have been much harder to change (for example) Apache culture to start enslaving and selling other tribes or for the colonists to have done all the enslaving themselves.

          • INH5 says:

            It presumably would have been much harder to change (for example) Apache culture to start enslaving and selling other tribes.

            That may have been the case for Apaches specifically (I don’t know enough about them to say), but there absolutely were Native American tribes who captured members of other tribes and sold them as slaves to white people. The main reason why black slaves become predominant instead of Native American slaves is because, like Loquat says, Native Americans kept dying of disease and they were also more likely to escape.

          • Incurian says:

            I’m quite sure the Apache in particular did take slaves.

        • Deiseach says:

          Moving ahead several centuries to the beginnings of slavery in the New World, as others in this thread have implied the “peculiar institution” didn’t get started because white people thought black people were inferior, it got started because white people who owned plantations thought staffing said plantations with slaves was their most profitable option.

          From local history of the aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685, where death sentences for the convicted rebels were changed to sentences of transporation as labour in the Colonies:

          The judges began their work in Somerset on September 17 at Taunton, in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle, and completed their work in two days. About 500 men were brought to trial and almost all were sentenced to death, but by now it was clear that transportation was to be the fate of the majority, especially as each man transported would be worth more than £12, a source of considerable profit for the Crown

          There weren’t enough white criminals and rebels available as a steady labour supply, so using slaves imported from Africa made better economic sense. And then, of course, you have to justify why you have the right to keep humans as slaves, and the rationalisation sets in.

          As for “slave-owners have always used the claim that their slaves are less intelligent to justify slavery”, that is not the case. Euripides “The Trojan Women” deals with the immediate aftermath of the sack of Troy, when the women of Troy are being parceled out amongst the victorious Greeks as booty. Some will be concubines (to put the nicest word on it), most will be slaves. Including Hecuba, queen of Troy. And Euripides has the god Poseidon, surveying the aftermath, saying that Helen herself is awaiting her fate, and she is no better than any of the captive women.

          The background to when Euripides wrote his tragedy was:

          For some time before the _Troaedes_ was produced, Athens, now entirely in the hands of the War Party, had been engaged in an enterprise which, though on military grounds defensible, was bitterly resented by the more humane minority, and has been selected by Thucydides as the great crucial crime of the war. She had succeeded in compelling the neutral Dorian island of Melos to take up arms against her, and after a long siege had conquered the quiet and immemorially ancient town, massacred the men and sold the women and children into slavery. Melos fell in the autumn of 416 B.C. The _Troaedes_ was produced in the following spring.

          And while the gods of the prologue were prophesying destruction at sea for the sackers of Troy, the fleet of the sackers of Melos, flushed with conquest and marked by a slight but unforgettable taint of sacrilege, was actually preparing to set sail for its fatal enterprise against Sicily.

          The Greeks never argued that the Melosians (or the Trojans) were stupider than they were, which is why their women and children were enslaved; it was “this is the right of the victor over the vanquished”.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Right, Greek slaves tended to go for a premium in slave auctions because of the ancient stereotype that Greeks were more clever than other races.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      Modern ideas of helping disadvantaged communities seem pretty Procrustean to me. “Oh, your community is failing, crime and drug use are at epidemic levels, families are falling apart, and gangs rule the streets? Here, have a boost to your SAT score, and we’ll make sure all the white kids in your college will know what big racist jerks they are.” Unless you’re criticizing these modern ideas? But that doesn’t work well with the rest of your post, because criticizing the modern take on racial issues fits nicely with Scott’s “dismissive attitude”.

      I also can’t help but admire the bleak irony when you say “the number of astoundingly massive moral disasters that have stemmed from letting the supposedly most intelligent populations make decisions for all the other populations ought to give us pause when we look at research about which groups are the most intelligent”. Changes in social policy and norms for the past 50 years (since the Sexual Revolution, more or less) have largely been driven by academics and student activists – that is, “the supposedly most intelligent population” in a very direct way. Have there been any “astoundingly massive moral disasters“?

      • Christopher Hazell says:

        Modern ideas of helping disadvantaged communities seem pretty Procrustean to me.

        Me too! Glad we agree.

        I also can’t help but admire the bleak irony…

        Ain’t no irony, bro, I never said putting academics and college activists in charge of everything was a good idea.

        EDIT: Actually, let me be less sarcastically dismissive.

        I suspect that putting small groups of distant bureaucrats in charge of everyone, and giving them big incentives to change those peoples’ living situation, combined with disincentives to listen to the experiences of the people whose lives they are changing, will probably not create happy results, whether those bureaucrats are on the “left” or “right.”

        One of the earliest criticisms I ever read of Charles Murray’s work was from people asking “What is the point of measuring the difference in intelligence between races? What does it allow us to accomplish?”

        If we aren’t sorting them into groups of high-intelligence groups who will make decisions for the low-intelligence groups, what ARE we doing?

        • Aapje says:

          If we aren’t sorting them into groups of high-intelligence groups who will make decisions for the low-intelligence groups, what ARE we doing?

          Understanding reality? Improving our ability to make predictions? Allowing us to oppose people who want to enforce equal outcomes on the group level, even if that is highly unfair to individuals?

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          Apologies for dogpiling, but I’m always amazed when I see an individual from this community non-ironically put forward the argument that if we can’t see an immediate (good) application for scientific inquiry that’s reason to abandon said scientific inquiry. It’s so screamingly in the face of the one value I think everyone here shares.

          Stand on the sidelines and shout non-stop about the the moral bankruptcy of racism, sure. Never stop pointing toward historical injustices and warning they might repeat themselves, sure. I’ll join you for all of that. Use any of it as an argument against even investigating? That’s madness.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            There might be an unwritten assumption that you’re overlooking here. In many cases, people assume that resources spent researching one question could instead have been spent researching another. If “does intelligence vary with genetics?” yields nothing actionable within the next 20 years, and “how do we get low-cost LEO?” yields something actionable within 10, then we are using our resources inefficiently.

            So the argument goes. It’s not ironclad, but I wouldn’t call it mad, either.

          • johnmcg says:

            I wouldn’t say we should stop all inquiry, but the fixation on this issue (e.g. this thread on a general “links” post that touched on number of interesting topics suggests something other than a fearless commitment to truth and scientific inquiry.

            Murray included his conclusions in one part of a book he wrote 20 years ago, and has since moved on to other things.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            So the argument goes. It’s not ironclad, but I wouldn’t call it mad, either.

            I’d be much more comfortable if someone were to lead with that unstated assumption. I can respect it, even if I’d still disagree (people are interested in researching what their interested in researching, making the allocation of resources argument weaker than it first appears).

            The shared ethos I was referring to was the accumulation of knowledge for the sake of the accumulation of knowledge. In that framework it’s unfair to even ask someone what use their research is. Leave it to later minds to find good applications. Couple this with the current environment where an inability to name good applications will be taken as tacit support for the negative applications (and thus justification to other you), and it becomes downright sinister.

          • John Schilling says:

            So the argument goes. It’s not ironclad, but I wouldn’t call it mad, either.

            Low-hanging fruit and diminishing marginal returns are definitely a thing. If you’ve got people protesting two guys writing one book on the subject, or even the people who did the primary research Murray and Herrnstein drew from, I don’t think “…but these guys could have been the ones to cure cancer” is really credible.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’d be much more comfortable if someone were to lead with that unstated assumption.

            I can sympathize. Unfortunately, you’re fighting uphill here. That assumption goes unstated because it follows from the very well understood economic concept of opportunity cost, which means people speaking at that level are going to omit it and other understood tenets, to keep their discussions from filling twenty pages.

            I can respect it, even if I’d still disagree (people are interested in researching what their interested in researching, making the allocation of resources argument weaker than it first appears).

            Even this is limited. Interest in a topic certainly has utility – there exist cases where people take a pay cut in order to research something that fascinates them – but even Charles Murray has to put food on the table. Moreover, $Researcher will ordinarily find multiple topics interesting, and so the topic with the shortest-term application may often be the tiebreaker.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If you’ve got people protesting two guys writing one book on the subject, or even the people who did the primary research Murray and Herrnstein drew from, I don’t think “…but these guys could have been the ones to cure cancer” is really credible.

            Agreed. Although I think it’s usually not that stark. More plausibly, I expect the argument to go more like “why didn’t that guy research some other facet of ethno-genetics, such as congenital defects?”. Or, much more commonly: “why did my tax dollars go to that guy, instead of the ones working on cancer?”. (Which, FAIK, totally doesn’t apply to Murray’s source; maybe he was privately funded.)

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            I can sympathize. Unfortunately, you’re fighting uphill here. That assumption goes unstated because it follows from the very well understood economic concept of opportunity cost, which means people speaking at that level are going to omit it and other understood tenets, to keep their discussions from filling twenty pages.

            It doesn’t take 20 pages to state that you don’t find anything wrong with this kind of intelligence research in principle, but you’d rather (everything else being equal) that resources be allocated to research you think more important (like low cost LEO).

            That’s never, ever the form I see these conversations take though (including here).

          • In many cases, people assume that resources spent researching one question could instead have been spent researching another.

            This is the same error that, in my view, is responsible for a lot of the conflict within political movements. If I think the best way of spreading libertarian ideas is running LP candidates and you, disagreeing, want to spend your time promoting libertarian ideas online, and if we are both drawing from a common pool of libertarian resources, then from my standpoint you are wasting resources that should be spent campaigning for LP candidates. From your standpoint I am wasting resources that … . So I have to somehow push you around to my view or, failing that, drive you out of the movement so you won’t influence others to your false ideas, and you similarly with regard to me.

            It’s an error for reasons that should be obvious in both cases. If you like arguing with people online and have no interest in political campaigns then persuading you of my position doesn’t mean your resources go to my strategy, it means that you spend your time playing WoW or arguing online about battleship design instead. Similarly, it is not likely that the people interested in researching facts about population differences are almost equally interested in the design of launch vehicles, and will switch their efforts to the latter project if blocked in the former.

          • the fixation on this issue (e.g. this thread on a general “links” post that touched on number of interesting topics suggests something other than a fearless commitment to truth and scientific inquiry.

            Murray included his conclusions in one part of a book he wrote 20 years ago, and has since moved on to other things.

            And he is still being attacked for those conclusions. Which suggests which side of the debate it is that is fixated on this issue and motivated by something other than a fearless commitment to truth and scientific inquiry.

            Larry Summers mentioned differences in the distribution of abilities m/f as one of three possible explanations of observed differences in outcomes in a not particularly prominent speech. It was his attackers that saw that as an issue of enormous importance.

          • bean says:

            Similarly, it is not likely that the people interested in researching facts about population differences are almost equally interested in the design of launch vehicles, and will switch their efforts to the latter project if blocked in the former.

            To some extent, this isn’t even a matter of interest so much as capabilities. If you want more people designing launch vehicles, most are going to have to come from other aerospace projects. I’m starting to wonder if the big drop in US airplane design in the 60s is the result of Apollo. (Actually, it’s more likely that Apollo was made possible by the cuts in new airplane design.)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @DavidFriedman

            [Assuming political resources are completely fungible is] an error for reasons that should be obvious in both cases. If you like arguing with people online and have no interest in political campaigns then persuading you of my position doesn’t mean your resources go to my strategy, it means that you spend your time playing WoW or arguing online about battleship design instead. Similarly, it is not likely that the people interested in researching facts about population differences are almost equally interested in the design of launch vehicles, and will switch their efforts to the latter project if blocked in the former.

            I think I see your point. And I probably should factor it in more frequently. To wit: given that Murray is(was) funded, his time is(was) best spent doing exactly what he did.

            But even if the researchers (or libertarians) aren’t (as) fungible, what if the money is? What if there was some other project complete with a motivated lead and ten excited interns, needing only the seed money to buy their supplies and then do their thing? Sure, Charles Murray might be left to go say “well, fiddlesticks, guess I’ll go fire up my death knight”, but either way, isn’t someone going to be sitting in the instance queue?

          • Steve Sailer says:

            The research time spent on “The Bell Curve” was largely paid for by the book selling 400,000 copies, a remarkable number for an American social science volume full of graphs.

            The expenses of creating TBC largely consisted of 4 years of work by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, plus their research assistants, along with experts who helped out by reading the manuscript very closely.

            There was a lot of not previously published data in the book, but it wasn’t collected for the book. It came from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 79 study was already collected by the Department of Labor. The Pentagon had paid in 1980 to have its g-loaded AFQT enlistment test given to the DoL’s NLSY79’s sample of over 12,000 young people due to the military’s disastrous “misnorming” problem of 1976-1979 that had caused the military to accept recruits with IQs so low they were banned by act of Congress.

            This data was given to Herrnstein and Murray around 1990 by the head of psychometrics of one of the major branches of the military. When I interviewed this expert in 1994, he said the only thing wrong with The Bell Curve was that it was too understated and cautious.

        • keranih says:

          “What is the point of measuring the difference in intelligence between races? What does it allow us to accomplish?”

          If we aren’t sorting them into groups of high-intelligence groups who will make decisions for the low-intelligence groups, what ARE we doing?

          …identifying those who will struggle more (all else being equal) in an intellect-driven society than those with higher intelligence, so that we can identify when “all else” isn’t equal, so we make equal what is malluable? In order to improve the lives of those who are struggling?

          It really frustrates me when I realize that some people – good hearted, well meaning people – don’t understand that the *intent* of an intervention doesn’t matter nearly as much as the *result*, and that we (smarter “white” people in power) have been attempting interventions on/for them, the (dumber “colored” powerless people) for decades, if not centuries, and we are *still* in the current mess.

          I think there are a lot of reasons for being in the current mess, and actual ethical accurate experiments on humans are hard to frame. But if we-as-society are going to go on attempting to make improvements by intervention, IMO we are required to determine which interventions work and which ones don’t. And in order to do so, we have to be able to account for confounders.

          It would be a really big deal for assessing interventions if we *knew* that there were no differences in intellect between the races, because then we could clearly see where something huge was going wrong, consistently over the decades, regardless of what interventions were chosen.

          But that’s not what we know.

          Knowing – and accepting – that we can not use “ratio of success in measure-X-that-is-linked-to-intelligence by race” as a rough estimate of the use of a particular intervention means that we have to go to some other measure to see if a given intervention (school integration, legislating protected classes, equal opportunity classes, etc, etc) is actually helping a lower-achieving group or not.

          Ignoring the differences between the groups means, in most cases, that we go on wanting our interventions to help, while the interventions go on not helping. That’s a bad thing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It would be a really big deal for assessing interventions if we *knew* that there were no differences in intellect between the races, because then we could clearly see where something huge was going wrong

            But we knew that something huge was going wrong in judging the moral worth of black people for centuries. That still didn’t allow for correcting it, as people simply switched to judging their intellectual worth (at least in public).

          • keranih says:

            That still didn’t allow for correcting it, as people simply switched to judging their intellectual worth (at least in public).

            Umm. We-in-America have made *no* changes, no corrections to the assessment of Africans as humans over the last few centuries?

            None over the last few decades?

            None over the last ten years?

            I suggest that we have indeed attempted interventions of an unprecedented scale, growing in scope and effort annually, and that our results still suck, and they have been stuck at a fairly steady level of suck for the last forty years (or more.)

            At the same time – other groups have not had the same level of intervention, and yet have had far better results.

            I propose that our interventions have been aimed at things that mattered far less than we think they did. And there is nothing that can be said – in public or private – that will change our results until we change our interventions.

            And refusing to accurately measure the results – because a particular confounder makes some people feel bad or guilty or whatever – is crap science, and we should not stand for it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            No, that’s not what I’m saying and I don’t that is a charitable interpretation of what I wrote.

            I’m saying that the switch from “We don’t need to treat black people as equals because they have less moral worth” to “Blacks have unequal outcomes because they are less intelligent” happened extremely quickly. In fact near instantaneously. Really, it was present coincident with the moral worth assessments.

            In other words, there never has, at any point, been universal acceptance in the US that we have a huge problem that needs to be solved. It’s been a constant fight to get some people to accept the problem.

            By the time you get everyone to accept that “back then we definitely had a huge problem (judging the moral worth of black people)” the “back then” part is used as a means to avoid the conclusion that we still have not successfully addressed the issues caused by all the harms done back then.

            And by no means am I saying it’s any easy problem with obvious fixes. But I don’t trust that the majority of hereditary IQ camp really is arguing in good faith on this, even while admitting that there certainly exist some people who are arguing in good faith.

            I mean, low-IQ is a probably bigger problem for whites than blacks, simply by virtue of relative population sizes.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            In other words, there never has, at any point, been universal acceptance in the US that we have a huge problem that needs to be solved. It’s been a constant fight to get some people to accept the problem.

            How is this relevant? No law or policy has ever been based on universal acceptance that it was a problem. By your standard, we can judge no law or policy, ever.

            The only question that matters is whether there is/was sufficient support to make substantial interventions. I would argue that there was, for example, affirmative action is/was an actual policy that actually happened/is happening.

            If people are only willing to accept responsibility if they get absolute power, then those people are extremely dangerous.

          • …identifying those who will struggle more (all else being equal) in an intellect-driven society than those with higher intelligence, so that we can identify when “all else” isn’t equal, so we make equal what is malluable? In order to improve the lives of those who are struggling?

            if you have universal education, which you do, then you already have that information. The question is what value is added by IQ testing individuals, or using race as a proxy for IQ?

          • Aapje says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            Universal education doesn’t necessarily provide optimal outcomes at all levels of IQ or for all groups. Doing IQ tests and correlating them to outcomes can suggest that certain groups are under-served by the education system.

          • I mean that education allows you to spot the problems. Of course IQ tests have limited role in educational psychology, but they have done for a long time …that doesn’t justify the level of fuss made by TLA advocates.

          • keranih says:

            @ HBC –

            As Adjape says, I strongly disagree with your assessment that our interventions against racism & oppression have been trivial, or even that there has not been sufficient agreement about the problem in order to force quite significant interventions. I think that you have no grounds for trying to claim that we-as-a-nation haven’t bloody well tried.

            I will agree that we don’t have the results we yet want. I strongly suggest that this is because we haven’t been fixing the main issues. Rather than assuming that racism/oppression/etc are the main issue, and that the lack of improvement is a sign that there has been no change in racism/oppression/etc, I suggest that there is *something else at play* and that we should figure out what that something is.

            As for your lack of trust in “Horrible Banned Communication” and those who are promoting it – I suggest you step away from the assumption that people who identify differences between two or more things are doing so out of contempt for one of those things. Either the differences are there, or they are not. You are free to assign your own feelings about those differences, and to promote your perspective to others. You’re not free to claim that only people of bad heart would even see those differences – not and remain intellectually sound.

            @ TheAncientGreek –

            if you have universal education, which you do, then you already have that information. The question is what value is added by IQ testing individuals, or using race as a proxy for IQ?

            We have not had, nor do we have now, nor do I think we will have in my lifetime “universal education” in the USA.

            Furthermore, one of the reasons we don’t have this is because people have used different racial averages on the larger (but still not universal) education sets as means of identifying racist discrimination and incompetence in teaching the lower-scoring students.

        • InferentialDistance says:

          If we aren’t sorting them into groups of high-intelligence groups who will make decisions for the low-intelligence groups, what ARE we doing?

          Calibrating the prior in order to accurately detect bias/discrimination. I’ll let you guess why I’d want a properly calibrated discrimination detector.

    • shakeddown says:

      I think murder-Gandhi is relevant. A 1% more murderous Gandhi isn’t going to go on a killing spree, but will be more agreeable to taking another 1%. And I’ve found that being convinced by the abstract arguments in the Bell Curve has made me a bit more predisposed to be judgmental of black people, even in ways not backed by the evidence. And I’m not directly threatened by black people in any way, and live in a society where racism is super-taboo – it’s entirely possible that if both of those changed, I would have become openly racist, in a way unsupported by the evidence.
      I can’t just unconvince myself of things I believe there’s good evidence for, but the virtue of silence might be worth practicing on some racial genetic differences.

      • Incurian says:

        And I’ve found that being convinced by the abstract arguments in the Bell Curve has made me a bit more predisposed to be judgmental of black people, even in ways not backed by the evidence.

        If we’re worried about people drawing irrational (and potentially dangerous) conclusions from correct information, is any topic safe?

        • InferentialDistance says:

          It’ll be fine once we’ve spent a few generations sterilizing everyone who draws irrational conclusions from correct information.[/snark]

        • shakeddown says:

          I think it’s worth practicing the virtue of silence on things with strong history of terrible effects (which still exist in some ways). I don’t think it’s okay to go middlebury or censor people because of this.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Except the “history of terrible effects” is an unsubstantiated assertion. Horrible racists do a lot of things. Like breathing air.

          • Incurian says:

            That seems reasonable, and on a personal level, even obvious. What about conducting research into such topics?

          • I don’t think it is clear that the belief that different population have different distributions of heritable intellectual traits has a strong history of terrible effects. Lots of groups have managed to mistreat other groups without any such excuse. Much antisemitism, although not all of it, was based on the idea that the Jews were talented but loyal to each other, not everyone else–that, as I recall, was the tone of the bit of Ford’s writing I read. Aristotle didn’t have any modern knowledge of genetics to go on, but he still argued that some people were natural slaves. And his contemporaries had no problem with enslaving fellow Greeks when one city state defeated another.

            The clearest example that occurs to me of mistreatment due to eugenic ideas was in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century and not primarily racial–the famous “three generations of imbeciles are enough” was based on a (probably false) belief about the particular person and her parents and grandparents, not about her race.

            The attitude that my people are better than your people has been common among ethnic groups for much longer than there has been serious study of racial differences. It mostly reinforces the still more fundamental belief that I should be loyal to my people not to others, a generalization of the universal pattern of people caring more about their close kin than about others.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      When the truth is outlawed only outlaws will have truth. I cannot read the scientific evidence and come to any conclusion other than the hereditary nature of intelligence and existence of between-group differences.

      If the left won’t say this then the only people loudly screaming our best approximation of the truth is the extreme right. The exact people you don’t want to have power. And truth is a powerful weapon.

    • Wrong Species says:

      This is all assuming that there are no costs to denying genetic differences in populations.

    • Allisus says:

      To me, the whole IQ question is almost a non-issue. Even if there are differences, how much of a role does it really play in peoples lives. Obviously it affects the outliers at either end of the spectrum a great deal. For the mast majority of us, however, that hover within the same parameters, I believe there are a ton of other factors that are far more important. Focus, self-discipline, grit, support, concentration…..etc.
      Is there research out there measuring the actual importance of IQ in success? Aside from the trap of quantifying the definition of success, how is it even possible to determine the role that IQ plays in it.
      ie research measuring how may people of high IQ wind up in positions of status (highly regarded in their field, wealth, health, etc..) as opposed to how many people of status have high IQ, which in my mind are two different things.
      I’ve known people with high IQ that wind up highly successful and I’ve known just as many that wind up with drug problems, mental health problems, etc..

      • Is there research out there measuring the actual importance of IQ in success?

        Yes. That was what The Bell Curve was partly about. The authors offered evidence that IQ correlated with lots of important outcome variables.

      • shakeddown says:

        Yeah, Murray shows pretty convincing evidence that IQ is the best known predictor for everything from income and job competence to marriage and divorce, becoming a single mother, going on welfare, voting (and other social behavior), and crime. And this isn’t just at the edges – gaining ten IQ points gives you about the same level of increase whether it’s from 95 to 105 or from 140 to 150.

        A lot of racial disparities disappear (or reverse) once you adjust for IQ – the black/white income gap disappears entirely, and the black/white college graduation gap reverses. However, some don’t – the gap in single mothers doesn’t move too much, for example.

        One sense in which you are right is that IQ is a bell curve, so most people are pretty close to the middle (83% of people are between 85 and 115 IQ). But that’s still a fairly wide range.

        • Yeah, Murray shows pretty convincing evidence that IQ is the best known predictor for everything from income and job competence to marriage and divorce,

          A statement that needs, but never gets, a lot of qualifcation. The best predictor of job competence is previous performance. IQ is only of use if you don;t know much about the individual, or they don’t have much of a track record,.

        • SamChevre says:

          I would note, though, that there’s a proposed confounder to Murray’s “IQ predicts everything” thesis. That’s Kevin Drum’s lead-crime hypothesis, which seems plausible to me. That says, basically, that lead exposure has two effects–one reducing intelligence, and one reducing inhibition–and that the effect of IQ on petty crime, substance abuse, and so on is primarily an effect of the higher impulsivity, with the IQ serving as a marker.

          • keranih says:

            @ theAncientGeek – Murray actually says that from the begining – that knowing an individual’s IQ is of rather low predicitive value, but knowing the average IQ of a group allows for some things to be said with much more surety.

            @ Sam –

            This – non-inherited IQ level – might sound like a rebuttal of sorts, but actually reading the book shows that the authors spend very little time debating about whether it matters *how* a person became smarter or less smart – they care about the link between the level of intelligence and life outcomes. Doesn’t matter if the low intelligence is due to oxygen deprivation following trauma, Down’s syndrome, a bad draw of genes, early nutrition, or FAS.

          • Nornagest says:

            Lead exposure could be doing lots of stuff. In higher doses, it gives you a laundry list of symptoms including hallucinations, personality changes, seizures, and delirium.

          • SamChevre says:

            @keranih

            It’s not the non-inherited aspect that I find interesting about the lead crime hypothesis–as you note, that’s right there in The Bell Curve. It’s the intelligence/impulsivity combination, which struck me as a bit odd 20 years ago.

            I may be extending Kevin Drum’s hypothesis, but here’s what I understand it to propose. For the issues predicted by low IQ that are most problematic (crime, unintended pregnancy), the low IQ is not a cause, but a marker of the impulse-control problems caused by lead exposure. What I would expect this to mean is that as the cause of low IQ shifts away from lead exposure (which enhances impulsivity) and toward genetics (which doesn’t), a lot of the pathologies associated with low IQ will lose their association with IQ.

          • theAncientGeek – Murray actually says that from the begining – that knowing an individual’s IQ is of rather low predicitive value, but knowing the average IQ of a group allows for some things to be said with much more surety

            i didn’t think the problem was with Murray, but with the way he is summarised.

          • keranih says:

            Ah, I think I see what you’re saying – that low IQ’s bad effects could be confused with the bad effects of low impulse control from lead toxicity.

            I would need to read more but…1) Drum’s talking about inner-city lead, for the most part, and Murray, etc’s data was much broader and 2) the data would have to be a great deal finer in order to measure low impulse control and compare it to other issues.

            Finally – we are assuming a disparate impact of lead large enough to look like a disparate IQ difference. I am…not convinced of the math, here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            Kevin Drum is definitely not only concerned with dense urban environments.

            For example, see here and here.

            One of the most persuasive arguments, to my mind, is the following:

            Not only does recorded crime fit the predictions of the theory—both in timing and slope—but it does so in many different countries. What other theory would predict a gradual drop in violent crime between 1991-2010 in the US and a sharp decline in violent crime between 2006-10 in Britain? Especially considering that the US and Britain have entirely different policing, poverty rates, race issues, etc.?

          • albatross11 says:

            If the low IQ/crime correlation is really driven by lead exposure (which both lowers IQ and increases likelihood of committing a crime), then I think this should be visible in current data, because lead has been almost entirely removed from gasoline for like 30 years now. Where would we look for data on this?

            Now, another possibility is that there are a lot of bad things that screw up your brain development, damaging both intelligence and impulse control. Lead poisoning might be only one, with lots of others–childhood illness, poverty, abuse, early drug use, head trauma, pollution, various kinds of bad genetics, whatever. But then we’d expect the correlation between low IQ and criminality to continue to exist.

          • Enkidum says:

            @Albatross – well one place you’d look is at crime rates, which have been declining for many decades now. And IQ, which has been rising (although it’s been rising for a century or more, so leaded gas probably isn’t the culprit to blame there).

            But there’s apparently fairly good evidence in terms of state-by-state drops in crime following shortly after lead was removed from gasoline. Still purely correlational, but I think it’s taken seriously by most experts.

          • albatross11 says:

            Enkidium: Right, we all agree that lead affects both IQ and impulse control. The question is, is the link between IQ and impulse control due primarily to lead?

            There’s an observed correlation between low IQ and being in prison, and also between low IQ and unwed births, and various other things that plausibly reflect bad decisions and poor impulse control. The question is, are these two things inherently linked, or is that being confounded by lead exposure–where lead exposure causes both lower IQ and less impulse control?

            If the correlation between low IQ and low impulse control is mainly from lead exposure, then we should see a lower correlation in current 20-year-olds than in people who turned 20 in 1990.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            From Kevin Drum today:

            One other interesting aspect of this paper is that it tests the effect of lead on non-cognitive traits, which is useful since the effect of lead on cognitive traits like IQ is already about as settled as the law of gravity at this point.

            Lead poisoning affects three out of four of the measured traits all the way down to extremely low levels. This helps explain the effect of lead on crime

  31. johnmcg says:

    Developer at one of the companies that likely visited Purdue here.

    I would summarize the situation as follows:

    * We are restricted by a shortage of engineering labor.
    * This would not be remedied by increased marginal STEM majors.


    I’m going to drop into first person plural here, since it might make things read better, but I’m mostly describing my own impressions, not speaking for my employer or the industry in general.

    Freddie is right — we want top 10% graduates of major engineering schools. We can’t limit ourselves to just looking there, but that is where the type of people we need are concentrated.

    In general, the type of person coming out of a for-profit technology program, or someone who chooses to major in STEM because of its improved job prospects is not going to be useful to us. They would struggle to understand the work the other engineers are doing, and alter the culture. Such a person would be a fraction of productive as the top engineers, and, unlike something like the NBA, it would generally not be feasible to compensate them only a fraction of what the stars make, and eventually this would lead to resentment from the star engineers.

    Again, I’m speaking generally. There are some diamonds in the rough that we can go out and find. But the skills we’re looking for are generally concentrated in populations like the Top 50 engineering graduates at Purdue.

    So what we really want is larger pool of star engineers. Both so we can get stuff done, and (less charitably) so we don’t have to treat them like stars, both in compensation and more generally.

    So we signal that there is a “STEM shortage.” The effects we are looking for are:

    * Loosening H1-B restrictions and other regulations that limit the market for labor.
    * People that might otherwise become lawyers or investment bankers or MBAs pursue tech careers instead.

    But the negative part is:

    * Marginal employees receive this signal, pursue STEM programs, online certifications, for-profit degrees, etc., and come out facing worse job prospects than what they believe they were promised.

    I’m not sure there are any villains here, or people who are lying (other than perhaps the for-profit colleges and certification programs). We really do have a shortage of engineers. But that doesn’t mean that someone who would be otherwise unemployable will find employment with a little STEM training.

    • johnmcg says:

      One difference between tech and other industries that have star cultures like sports and entertainment is that almost every entity needs to be minimally competent at tech, but don’t need to field sports teams or put on movies.

      So, if, for example, the federal government rolls out universal health care, they need to provide a web page that people can use to enroll in it. And that web page is going to sit on the same internet as web pages developed by the superstar developers at Silicon Valley companies, and served to the same user base that has grown accustomed to websites developed at that level. So if it’s not as good, as the first iteration of healthcare.gov wasn’t, people will notice. Then, governments, insurance companies, banks, school districts, churches, etc. find out what the going rate is for developers to bring their websites up to that standard, and declare there’s a tech shortage.

      The closest parallel I can come up with is law, where there is a real drop-off between superstar and competent lawyers, and the government needs to compete with the superstars, at least occasionally. Here, we invest the DA’s office with prestige, seeing it as a stepping stone to a larger political career. A government IT job, well, isn’t.

      • Incurian says:

        On the subject of government and technology… it doesn’t help that they hire the usual suspects (whose main qualification is that they’re good at navigating the government contracting process) regardless of whether the project is in their bailiwick.

    • I appreciate the candor of your response. But I would like to ask some follow-up questions:

      1. Why do you think it would be impossible to hire marginal STEM employees for a fraction of what you pay your rock-star employees? After all, much of the allure of a job is the chance to learn on the job so that one day you might actually become more competent, if you are starting out with no experience from a marginal university program. And I think you under-estimate how desperate these marginal workers are. For example, adjunct teachers at my anonymous midwestern community college (whether STEM or non-STEM) make about $730 per credit hour per semester that they teach. Due to the ACA, the college limits course load per adjunct to 9 credit hours (usually 3 courses) per semester so that estimated hours/week don’t go above the magical limit where the college would have to offer health insurance. So, do the math. It adds up to $13,140 (pre-tax) per year. If you are lucky, you might get a summer course, putting you at $15,330/year. If you are unlucky, you might only get 1 or 2 courses some semesters. People who work these jobs are either retired or have some other gig on the side (like me). It is impossible to make a living from these jobs alone. And mind you that these jobs require a master’s degree. Are you telling me that you can’t get $25,000/year in value out of a marginal STEM student? Because, if you can, and if you offered that, I predict that you would still have a flood of applicants.

      2. Do you think that any of these marginal STEM workers could become more competent with on-the-job training? Why not pay a marginal STEM employee $20,000 and consider the hours you “waste” bringing them up to speed a type of alternative compensation? Because I see that as a win-win. Work experience and on-the-job learning is worth its weight in gold to marginal graduates who are having a tough time getting their foot in the door. Why are companies allergic to on-the-job training? To me, it seems inevitable the more specialized occupations become. There is never going to be any degree program anywhere that perfectly trains someone for a particular company’s needs.

      3. Is this not a case of simply wanting to “have your cake and eat it too,” as in, we want more employees (whether foreign or American) who have better skills (without having to do on-the-job training) who will work for the same salary or less as currently. Well, yeah, that’s what everybody would like. What makes STEM especially deserving of these employees vs., as you said, law firms, investment banks, or other places that want these workers too?

      • cassander says:

        >2. Do you think that any of these marginal STEM workers could become more competent with on-the-job training? Why not pay a marginal STEM employee $20,000 and consider the hours you “waste” bringing them up to speed a type of alternative compensation?

        Because anyone you do this with will immediately start looking for a better job and leave as soon as they find one.

        I this as someone currently working for a relatively small company trying to hire more people with specialized knowledge. We can hire research assistants for 1/3 or less the cost of a full time employee, and dozens of people will line up every time we post a job opening. And we do hire a few, but we’re trying to reduce our need for them, not add more. Why? because they don’t stick around. We spend months training them up and then as soon as they start getting good they transition to something else. If we’re going to invest time and energy into training someone, we want to invest it in someone that is going to stick around, and that means we have to pay them enough that they don’t bolt.

        And I don’t blame them for doing it or hold it against them. In their shoes, I would do the same. But it’s the unpleasant reality of the situation.

        • I find this puzzling. If their own the job training is in working in your company with its particular needs and constraints, don’t they end up worth more to you than to other employers? If once they are trained they are worth $80,000 to someone else, can’t you offer them $85,000 to stay with you?

          Are you assuming that the cost of the training is supposed to be made up not by the low wage during training but by low wages later, when they are worth more?

          • cassander says:

            >I find this puzzling. If their own the job training is in working in your company with its particular needs and constraints, don’t they end up worth more to you than to other employers? If once they are trained they are worth $80,000 to someone else, can’t you offer them $85,000 to stay with you

            First, my boss would happily do that. But his boss is getting similar requests from several other people all of whom want more money and there’s only so much to go around. We actually lost lost someone recently (let’s call him Bill) because my boss spent the better part of a year trying, and failing, to get him an extra 10 grand. When he didn’t get it, started looking around, and got an offer for an extra 30 grand which our higher ups declined to match.

            We’ve hired a replacement (Ted), and he’s pretty good, but I’m having to teach him to do all the things Bill used to do. And while I’d definitely prefer to have Bill, I’m honestly not sure that decision was wrong. Our product won’t be quite as good, but that cost will mostly be born in the form of using the time we would have used to add or improve things to train Ted, not a diminishment of what is already there. It’s hard to measure the value of those incremental improvements, though, and it would be very hard to make the case that we’ll get 30k less revenue with Ted on staff instead of Bill.

            Second, while it’s true that our specific training makes these people more valuable to us than to others, simply getting experience makes them look more valuable, builds up the resume. But frankly, it isn’t even about that. If you’re an unemployed grad student, the bidding for your labor starts at zero. If you’re already making 80k, the bidding starts there. Within normal parameters, any salary level you give people inflates their perceived value to near that level, and makes it easier for them to jump to the next level up.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But that seems like your main problem is just that you aren’t willing to pay the market wage for the skills you need? Sure, the experience someone gets makes them more valuable to the market, but that is also value to you.

            So really it seems like a complaint not about availability of skills, but the wage that skill commands.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I’ve noticed before that a lot of employers seem to have a belief that certain types of jobs should have a certain amount of pay, independent of market conditions, value to the company or such.

            A lot of whining about lack of available employees seems to be an unwillingness to increase wages. This is not even that grating in IT, as the jobs still tend to pay a decent wage, but it also happens in low wage jobs where skilled and capable people leave for better wages elsewhere.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            That is endemic everywhere, Aapje. I’ve gone blue in the face arguing for a $1 raise for our current employees and new hires to improve the quality of applicants, and that’s at the bottom level of the customer service sector.

          • Brad says:

            Sometimes there’s no room for higher pay. It’s all well and good to say that markets clear, but sometimes they clear with a much smaller industry.

            Consider fruits and farm labor. There is a claim out there that of course Americans would do the job if only farmers kept on raising the offered salary. But demand for cantaloupe isn’t exactly inelastic — a farmer could find himself with American picked fruits that no one wants to buy because they are too expensive.

            Who benefits in that scenario vs the status quo? Not the American consumer, they now can’t eat cantaloupe. Not the American worker, the good paying jobs that were promised never came into existence. Not the farmers, who are now out of business. Not the migrant workers that have been kicked out of a job and the country. Who?

          • lupis42 says:

            Aapje, HBC,

            Depends on perspective partly. I’ll cite what I do as an example, though it’s a bit problematic. We have a real need for more people, and a willingness to pay quite well. It’s a new, sexy computational area where lots of people want to work. The problem is that lots of companies want those people, and we’re already paying top dollar for the people we have. So if we try to raise wages, we’d have to pay $(dumptrucks of money) (e.g. 20% more to new hires + 20% more to existing staff) to significantly increase the number of qualified applicants, or risk the existing staff getting pissed and going elsewhere. (and if everyone did that, than a bunch of companies would start hurting for money long before the supply of qualified workers caught up) That would be a lot more than the marginal headcount would be worth.
            In the long run, supply will take care of that (lots of people will develop the skillset that companies like us need) but that takes a few years. In the meantime, the market is clearing – when we say there’s a shortage, what we mean is that we can’t find enough qualified people fast enough, despite paying high wages.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, but cassander does not seem to be saying they will be unprofitable at a higher rate, but that the net loss to revenue is less than training the next guy.

            And he is also not saying the rate is too high, but the skill set is simply not available (or that was the original argument).

            If the market rate for the skills is 110K, and they have someone with the skills and won’t pay them, then they aren’t willing to pay, even though the skill set is available.

          • But that seems like your main problem is just that you aren’t willing to pay the market wage for the skills you need?

            An alternative interpretation is that the value to them of the employee in the initial period is negative, or at least less than they can get him for. So their strategy is to lose money on him for the first year, make it back during the next few, when they pay him more than initially but less than he is worth to them.

            That doesn’t work in the simple case where he is equally valuable to other employers, because if they don’t pay him what he is worth in the second year, he leaves. It might work if the human capital he has acquired is sufficiently firm specific.

            A third interpretation is that it’s a problem within the firm. The middle level person who realizes they should offer this guy more money also has an incentive to try to get more money for other of his employees who are not worth it, so the higher level person he makes the request to doesn’t know if he should agree and doesn’t. That’s part of the general problem of centralized control within a firm vs market control outside it. Within a firm it’s hard to make everyone’s reward match his productivity, which might mean that overpaying another employee makes the middle level person better off while making the firm worse off.

            For the classic discussion of the firm vs market issue, see Coase, “The Nature of the Firm.”

          • cassander says:

            @HBC

            But that seems like your main problem is just that you aren’t willing to pay the market wage for the skills you need? Sure, the experience someone gets makes them more valuable to the market, but that is also value to you.

            I’m responding to the question “why don’t you hire a lot of low skill people for cheap and then train them”. We actually have decided on trying a strategy of getting fewer people and paying them more.

            Yeah, but cassander does not seem to be saying they will be unprofitable at a higher rate, but that the net loss to revenue is less than training the next guy.

            I’m saying it’s hard to measure that, which means it’s hard to justify the higher salary to the people who control the purse strings. The costs of the higher salary are highly visible, the costs of training are concealed.

        • Deiseach says:

          We spend months training them up and then as soon as they start getting good they transition to something else. If we’re going to invest time and energy into training someone, we want to invest it in someone that is going to stick around, and that means we have to pay them enough that they don’t bolt.

          Stupid question: is this partly the result of the idea I’ve seen around that “only losers are still working in the same job after a couple of years”? That is, you should be looking to either be promoted or, if not, leave that job and get a better job elsewhere after a few years, because if you’re still doing the same job then plainly your bosses will know you’re not high quality and you end up getting paid less and will probably be the first one laid off if times are tough.

          Is there any way you can say to new hires “Honestly, we want people to stick around for longer than a couple of years! and we won’t think you’re a drone and a loser if you’re doing the same job after three years! and we can guarantee if you stick around you’ll get paid what you’re worth and you will get pay rises and promotions!” Or would that be shot down because nowadays, the “job for life, stay with the same company for twenty or thirty years and retire from them” is gone out with the Ark?

          • John Schilling says:

            Or would that be shot down because nowadays, the “job for life, stay with the same company for twenty or thirty years and retire from them” is gone out with the Ark?

            We’ve got plenty of twenty- and thirty-year men around here, and also plenty of “serial monogamists” to borrow the term. The bit where there is a strong preference for the latter is another of those things that I think is unique to Tech and not to STEM generally.

          • cassander says:

            Stupid question: is this partly the result of the idea I’ve seen around that “only losers are still working in the same job after a couple of years”? That is, you should be looking to either be promoted or, if not, leave that job and get a better job elsewhere after a few years, because if you’re still doing the same job then plainly your bosses will know you’re not high quality and you end up getting paid less and will probably be the first one laid off if times are tough.

            I wouldn’t say it’s a result of that idea so much as it is driven by the same forces as that idea. Since coming to work here I’ve gotten a big promotion about every year. If that stops, well, I could stick around,but now I have this resume with all these rapid promotions on it and all this experience, I can go interview for jobs that pay more and see if I get them.

            Is there any way you can say to new hires “Honestly, we want people to stick around for longer than a couple of years! and we won’t think you’re a drone and a loser if you’re doing the same job after three years!

            You can tell them that, but it doesn’t do any good if they want to advance.

            and we can guarantee if you stick around you’ll get paid what you’re worth and you will get pay rises and promotions!” Or would that be shot down because nowadays, the “job for life, stay with the same company for twenty or thirty years and retire from them” is gone out with the Ark?

            But can you make that guarantee?
            We do have people that have been around here for 20 or 30 years. I have no idea how much they’re paid though, but there aren’t a lot of management slots. I was able to get those promotions because I’m good at what I do and, far more importantly, because our unit is expanding. If it stops expanding, then I stop getting promotions, and if I stop getting promotions, I’ll probably stop getting big raises unless I can coerce them by threatening to leave.

          • Spookykou says:

            I work for UPS, the corporate culture here seems to be, never fire anyone ever ever no not ever*, and because we have that first rule, we should also probably develop in house talent, and more recently, stop hassling people who insist that they don’t want their talent developed any more and leave them alone.

            The impression I get is that they really do honestly want people to work at UPS for 30 years(although I am not sure why(maybe because they have basically no formal in house mechanism for training new employees, the HR department is already over burdened with our massive seasonal hires?)). They also seem to be trying to fight the “only losers” stigma to some extent/it is already weak in UPS, life time supervisors with no intention of getting a promotion are common.

            *Meaning incompetence/attitude problems, obviously we fire drivers who abandon their trucks, and such.

      • johnmcg says:

        cassander’s comment about people leaving is correct (though it occurs to me that it seems that a company could do this training is such a way that wins loyalty).

        Another reason is that the success rate for this coaching may be pretty low. Some of the skill can be taught, but some of it is talent that people either have or they don’t (or at least that’s what we tell ourselves to justify our own positions).

        One more consideration is that these companies believe they are in a race to get to market. If your plan is to hire marginal IT workers and coach them up, then someone needs to do that coaching. And that someone is probably the “star” engineers you already have on staff. And because of this success rate, your are probably going to have to try to coach up some multiple of what you expect to be successful. So, the way these company’s see it, it’s not worth it. They’d rather overpay for the stars.

        They could be wrong. Maybe some company will discover a market inefficiency and find a new source of talent. Or the tools will become standardized and simple enough that it’s nto as rare a skill. But I think that’s where we are now.

        • cassander says:

          Loyalty helps a little, but not enough that people are going to turn double their salary, and if you’re hiring RAs at 20-30 grand a year with no benefits, doubling their salary isn’t all that much.

          Even if they do stay, knowing they can get that much more is going to eventually breed resentment, no matter how loyal they are. And as a manager, you feel bad about not being able to pay people what they’re worth and don’t want to stand in the way of their careers.

      • lycotic says:

        1. Why do you think it would be impossible to hire marginal STEM employees for a fraction of what you pay your rock-star employees?

        Coordination costs. Coordination, for some reason, especially hard in this (or maybe we all suck at it). But it’s much easier and safer to hire a programmer that can crank out something in time x, than a programmer that can produce it in time 10x (because the output variance is higher), or, even worse, ten such programmers, who will almost certainly fail to produce anything at all.

        2. Do you think that any of these marginal STEM workers could become more competent with on-the-job training?

        Some will. Most won’t. The resulting attrition and apartheid would be deadly for morale. It may be ultimately unfair, but it’s much easier to hire people who are quite likely to succeed, and leave the others behind, unseen, than to give more people a chance and then deal with the effects when they fail.

        FWIW, the whole “on the job training” thing seems odd to me, when the gap in skills is so obvious. Do people expect insurance companies to hire actuaries who can’t do math? Construction firms to have gyms so people can learn to lift enough weight?

        Sure, plenty of companies have on-the job training for the specific technologies involved, especially the big firms who have their own stacks and thus can’t possibly expect people to have experience in them. But a basic, transferrable, skill set is expected.

  32. suntzuanime says:

    Kind of weird to read someone describing something disparagingly as “Comic Con for Marxists” and realizing that they think the disparaging bit there is supposed to be “Comic Con” and not “Marxists”.

  33. Ialdabaoth says:

    “A flexible, living, bendable law will always tend to be bent in the direction of the powerful.”

    Yes, and a rigid, constructionist law will always end up favoring those who can most afford to exploit its loopholes and idiosyncrasies (i.e., the powerful).

    • hlynkacg says:

      I don’t think that follows. Sure there are cases where it might be true, but it seems more like it would favor the clever/knowledgeable over the “powerful”. In any case vectors for abuse and corruption are obviously more limited and egalitarian than they would be in the “bendable” approach.

      • shakeddown says:

        I think there are enough exploits either way for those both corrupt and powerful to get away with roughly the same amount of stuff. The difference is that rigid constructionism also has the disadvantage of being pointlessly obstructive a lot of the time.

      • Christopher Hazell says:

        hlynkacg

        That might be true if we had a small body of law that most or all citizens were capable of memorizing.

        But we don’t. Most people don’t come up with their own loopholes and legal idiosyncracies, and, in fact, a lot of people who think they have come up with some clever legal loophole are very wrong.

        No, we hire lawyers to find our loopholes for us. As you become more powerful, it becomes less burdensome to hire a lawyer, and the caliber of legal advice you can easily access gets bigger and bigger.

        • cassander says:

          And the most flexible your standard of interpretation, the most room there is for maneuver and the more your high powered lawyers can accomplish.

        • hlynkacg says:

          As you become more powerful, it becomes less burdensome to hire a lawyer, and the caliber of legal advice you can easily access gets bigger and bigger.

          Right, but this would be the case regardless of legal approach. The difference is that under a “strict constructionist” approach to the law legal exploits are available to anyone who puts the work in, or find someone willing to do it for them. Under a more “bendable” framework these legal exploits are available only to the powerful/popular. Seeing as how the explicit purpose of the western common law tradition is to place limits on the powerful, this is a serious flaw.

          I think it’s a shame this question even has to be asked but; Would you really want your case to go before a judge who did not feel constrained by the letter of the law?

          • Guy in TN says:

            It seems that question is framed as “given a neutral set a laws, is it better for the application of the law to be rigid or flexible?” But this isn’t the context that most people approach this question. I suspect that most people have a strong opinion on whether the actually existing law favors the powerful vs. the weak, and their opinion on the flexibility question is dependent on whether they think the law is “on their side” or not.

            For example, if you are a common guy in hypothetical dystopian system with a law that says “anyone who is brought before the court shall be instantly sentenced to death”, do you prefer a flexible or rigid interpretation of the law by the judge?

            And since we are talking about Gorsuch after all, the question of “would a rigid interpretation of actually existing U.S. laws lead to an increase of power for the little guy?” seems to be central to the point. Thinking about a hypothetical neutral law seems academic to me.

            “I think it’s a shame this question even has to be asked but; Would you really want your case to go before a judge who did not feel constrained by the letter of the law?”

            Definitely. I would trust the moral compass of someone who has looked me in the face and seen my humanity over the cold application of laws handed down from Washington. Also, I think U.S. law plainly favors the powerful over the weak. So in general, the less the law is applied, the better.

          • rahien.din says:

            Would you really want your case to go before a judge who did not feel constrained by the letter of the law?

            Of course it is bad for a judge to completely disregard the text of the statutes they interpret. But it is similarly bad for a judge to be completely and slavishly devoted to the mere letter of the law. Why? Gorsuch himself gave a compelling counterargument to strict constructionism in TransAm v. ARB :

            The fact is that statutes are products of compromise, the sort of compromise necessary to overcome the hurdles of bicameralism and presentment.

            [Regarding the deficiency of the law in this case…] Maybe Congress found it easier to agree that an employee has a right to sit still in response to his employer’s order to operate an unsafe vehicle rather than try to agree on a code detailing when and how an employee can operate a vehicle in a way he thinks safe and appropriate but his employer does not. Maybe Congress would not have been able to agree to the latter sort of code at all. Or maybe it just found the problem too time consuming and other matters more pressing. Or maybe it just didn’t think about the problem at all.

            IE, necessary political maneuverings are likely to cause laws to be constructed poorly. If a poorly-constructed law impedes justice, then yes, I want the judge presiding over the case to defy the letter of the law in order that it be modified, struck down, or reinterpreted.

            Unfortunately that is not the case with Gorsuch.

            In TransAm v. ARB, he effectively asserts “Our process of lawmaking produces laws that are poorly-constructed due to political maneuverings and gross oversights” and in the very next breath, “As a judge, I am powerless to appraise the construction of any given law with respect to justice, or to defy that construction so that justice is served.” These claims are incoherent.

            Moreover, his stated obligation is “to enforce the terms of that compromise as expressed in the law itself.” IE, his role as a judge is to give force to the political compromises and gross oversights inherent in passed bills. This is merely to become the explicit instrument of political forces and misadventures, such that the pursuit of justice is entirely deferred to a political body that he describes as inadequate to the task.

            These are extremely disturbing attitudes in a Supreme Court justice. I am tempted to brand him an outright coward.

            Edit: typo and else

          • hlynkacg says:

            In regards to whether interpretation of the law should be rigid or flexible I’m going to quote Deiseach, as she’s already put this more succinctly than I’m likely to.

            If you and I disagree on many principles, but we both agree to go to law as an independent arbitrator, and it so happens the judge is one of your party and I lose my case on a point of law, I can respect you and them. I cannot respect or believe you if your judge judges the case on how they personally feel regarding who is the moral superior, rather than what the law is.

            The obvious historical example would be the Jim Crow era south. If you’re a black man being sued by a white man in 1950s Alabama, do you really want the judge deciding your case on anything other than the strict letter of the law?

            In regards to the TransAm case;

            Gorsuch rightly points out in his dissent that the question before the court was not weather or not the TransAm dispatcher acted appropriately. The question was whether or not TransAm had the right to discipline Maddin for abandoning his load on the side of the highway. He goes on to assert (contra the majority) that the text of the SSTA implies that TransAm does indeed have that right.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @rahien.din

            You are taking Gorsuch out of context in the most absurd way possible. Everything else in that paragraph supports the opposite claim you are making.

            Even supposing all this is true, though, when the statute is plain it simply isn’t our business to appeal to legislative intentions. Gemsco, Inc. v. Walling, 324 U.S. 244, 260 (1945) (“The plain words and meaning of a statute cannot be overcome by legislative history which, through strained processes of deduction from events of wholly ambiguous significance, may furnish dubious bases for inference in every direction.”). And it is a well-documented mistake, too, to
            assume that a statute pursues its putative (or even announced) purposes to their absolute and seemingly logical ends. See, e.g.
            , Hydro Res., Inc. v. EP, 608 F.3d 1131, 1158 (10th Cir. 2010) (en banc); Barnhart v. Sigmon Coal Co.
            , 534 U.S. 438, 460-62 (2002). Especially to ends as ephemeral and generic as “health and safety.” After all, what under the sun, at least at some level of generality, doesn’t relate to “health and safety”? The fact is that statutes are products of compromise, the sort of compromise necessary to overcome the hurdles of bicameralism and presentment. And it is our obligation to enforce the terms of that compromise as expressed in the law itself, not to use the law as a sort of springboard to combat all perceived evils lurking in the neighborhood. Maybe Congress found it easier to agree that an employee has a right to sit still in
            response to his employer’s order to operate an unsafe vehicle rather than try to agree on a code detailing when and how an employee can operate a vehicle in a way he thinks safe and appropriate but his employer does not. Maybe Congress would not have been able to agree to the latter sort of code at all. Or maybe it just found the problem too time consuming and other matters more pressing. Or
            maybe it just didn’t think about the problem at all. Whatever the case, it is our job and work enough for the day to apply the law Congress did pass, not to imagine and enforce one it might have but didn’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            I would trust the moral compass of someone who has looked me in the face and seen my humanity over the cold application of laws handed down from Washington.

            And if the letter of the law, coldly applied, won your case or kept you from prison, but the judge (having looked in your face) decided he didn’t like the look of you and it would be better for society to lock you away? What then? The popular reputation of Judge Jeffreys (whatever about the actual legal standing of his decisions) is not an enviable one.

            There can be bad law and laws that shouldn’t have been passed in the first law. But if you reduce the passing of judgement to the judge having a burning in the bosom about the defendant being a saint/rogue, then you don’t have bad law, you have no law. Did the judge get up on the right side of bed that morning, it’s a pleasant sunny day, and their digestion is working right? That too affects their decision when looking you in the face and deciding if you look honest or not.

          • Brad says:

            Sometimes a law, implicitly or explicitly, vests discretion in judges. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes there’s a disagreement about which category a certain law falls into.

            Reasonable people can disagree about the contours of the lines between categories without needing to jump to “judges should do whatever they want” or “judges should apply the letter of the law even in the case of scrivener’s errors”.

          • johnmcg says:

            Definitely. I would trust the moral compass of someone who has looked me in the face and seen my humanity over the cold application of laws handed down from Washington. Also, I think U.S. law plainly favors the powerful over the weak. So in general, the less the law is applied, the better.

            This is exactly backwards from my impression of how things are supposed to be.

            The legislatures are the ones who are supposed to be in touch with their constiutuents and directly answerable to them at the ballot box. The first remedy for a bad law is to vote out the people who supported it.

            The judges are supposed to determine how that law applies to facts of the case. And, in fact, especially in the higher courts where someone like Grosuch was, there is very little “looking into the eyes” and seeing humanity as poring over briefs and technical minutiae.

            Now, I understand that reality does not match this ideal for a number of reasons. But I think an attitude from us citizens of , “Let the legislatures pass what laws they will, and the judges will throw out the bad ones” isn’t healthy for a number of reasons (some of which have led to President Trump).

            I’d rather give power to legislatures I can vote out than judges I am stuck with for life.

          • IrishDude says:

            I’ve posted this link on the Myth of the Rule of Law before, but it seems appropriate again here. Law is always rule by man, as it’s full of rules and precedents that are contradictory, allowing judges with different political persuasions to lean on some rules or precedents over others to reach their preferred judgment. I highly recommend reading the whole essay, but here are some select quotes:

            “The law is an amalgam of contradictory rules and counter-rules expressed in inherently vague language that can yield a legitimate legal argument for any desired conclusion.”

            “I have been arguing that the law is not a body of determinate rules that can be objectively and impersonally applied by judges; that what the law prescribes is necessarily determined by the normative predispositions of the one who is interpreting it. In short, I have been arguing that law is inherently political.”

            “It is certainly true that one of the purposes of law is to ensure a stable social environment, to provide order. But not just any order will suffice. Another purpose of the law must be to do justice. The goal of the law is to provide a social environment which is both orderly and just. Unfortunately, these two purposes are always in tension. For the more definite and rigidly- determined the rules of law become, the less the legal system is able to do justice to the individual. Thus, if the law were fully determinate, it would have no ability to consider the equities of the particular case. This is why even if we could reform the law to make it wholly definite and consistent, we should not.”

            “What is the significance of these observations? Are we condemned to a continual political struggle for control of the legal system? Well, yes; as long as the law remains a state monopoly, we are.”

            “What if law is not a unique product that must be supplied on a one-size-fits-all basis by the state, but one which could be adequately supplied by the ordinary play of market forces?”

            “Free markets supply human wants better than state monopolies precisely because they allow an unlimited number of suppliers to attempt to do so. By patronizing those who most effectively meet their particular needs and causing those who do not to fail, consumers determine the optimal method of supply. If it were possible to specify in advance what the outcome of this process of selection would be, there would be no need for the process itself.”

          • cassander says:

            IrishDude says:
            May 10, 2017 at 4:07 pm ~new~

            I’ve posted this link on the Myth of the Rule of Law before, but it seems appropriate again here. Law is always rule by man, as it’s full of rules and precedents that are contradictory, allowing judges with different political persuasions to lean on some rules or precedents over others to reach their preferred judgment. I highly recommend reading the whole essay, but here are some select quotes:

            I agree. You can’t eliminate the problem, but It’s a question of minimizing it. Binding people as strictly as possible to the text is a way to reduce the problem by giving judges less discretion.

          • rahien.din says:

            hlynkacg,

            [A non-strict-constructionist judge] judges the case on how they personally feel regarding who is the moral superior, rather than what the law is.

            Straw argument.

            The obvious historical example would be the Jim Crow era south. If you’re a black man being sued by a white man in 1950s Alabama, do you really want the judge deciding your case on anything other than the strict letter of the law?

            Interesting choice of era. How would a strict constructionist judge have applied Jim Crow laws?

            Wrong Species,

            I read that critical section as “There are myriad reasons why Congress sometimes makes bad laws, but once the text of the law is written and passed, I as a judge have no power other than to affirm the explicit meaning of the text, even if that runs counter to justice and/or good sense.” Do you disagree, or find that I take him out of context, or find that to be substantially different from what I wrote above? If so, explain.

            If Gorsuch claims that Congress passes objectively bad laws, and that as a judge he can offer exactly zero correction, then by his slavish devotion to a sequence of letters, he has made himself the faithful instrument of legislative incompetence.

          • rahien.din says:

            The first remedy for a bad law is to vote out the people who supported it.

            Er… how exactly does that remedy a bad law?

          • IrishDude says:

            @cassander

            I agree. You can’t eliminate the problem, but It’s a question of minimizing it. Binding people as strictly as possible to the text is a way to reduce the problem by giving judges less discretion.

            I’ll post section VII of the link as a counter-argument:

            “Let us assume that I have failed to convince you of the impossibility of reforming the law into a body of definite, consistent rules that produces determinate results. Even if the law could be reformed in this way, it clearly should not be

            It is certainly true that one of the purposes of law is to ensure a stable social environment, to provide order. But not just any order will suffice. Another purpose of the law must be to do justice. The goal of the law is to provide a social environment which is both orderly and just. Unfortunately, these two purposes are always in tension. For the more definite and rigidly- determined the rules of law become, the less the legal system is able to do justice to the individual. Thus, if the law were fully determinate, it would have no ability to consider the equities of the particular case. This is why even if we could reform the law to make it wholly definite and consistent, we should not.

            Consider one of the favorite proposals of those who disagree. Those who believe that the law can and should be rendered fully determinate usually propose that contracts be rigorously enforced. Thus, they advocate a rule of law stating that in the absence of physical compulsion or explicit fraud, parties should be absolutely bound to keep their agreements. They believe that as long as no rules inconsistent with this definite, clearly-drawn provision are allowed to enter the law, politics may be eliminated from contract law and commercial transactions greatly facilitated.

            Let us assume, contrary to fact, that the terms “fraud” and “physical compulsion” have a plain meaning not subject to interpretation. The question then becomes what should be done about Agnes Syester. (25) Agnes was “a lonely and elderly widow who fell for the blandishments and flattery of those who” ran an Arthur Murray Dance Studio in DesMoines, Iowa. (26) This studio used some highly innovative sales techniques to sell this 68-year-old woman 4,057 hours of dance instruction, including three life memberships and a course in Gold Star dancing, which was “the type of dancing done by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair only about twice as difficult,” (27) for a total cost of $33,497 in 1960 dollars. Of course, Agnes did voluntarily agree to purchase that number of hours. Now, in a case such as this, one might be tempted to “interpret” the overreaching and unfair sales practices of the studio as fraudulent (28) and allow Agnes to recover her money. However, this is precisely the sort of solution that our reformed, determinate contract law is designed to outlaw. Therefore, it would seem that since Agnes has voluntarily contracted for the dance lessons, she is liable to pay the full amount for them. This might seem to be a harsh result for Agnes, but from now on, vulnerable little old ladies will be on notice to be more careful in their dealings.

            Or consider a proposal that is often advanced by those who wish to render probate law more determinate. They advocate a rule of law declaring a handwritten will that is signed before two witnesses to be absolutely binding. They believe that by depriving the court of the ability to “interpret” the state of mind of the testator, the judges’ personal moral opinions may be eliminated from the law and most probate matters brought to a timely conclusion. Of course, the problem then becomes what to do with Elmer Palmer, a young man who murdered his grandfather to gain the inheritance due him under the old man’s will a bit earlier than might otherwise have been the case. (29) In a case such as this, one might be tempted to deny Elmer the fruits of his nefarious labor despite the fact that the will was validly drawn, by appealing to the legal principle that no one should profit from his or her own wrong. (30) However, this is precisely the sort of vaguely-expressed counter-rule that our reformers seek to purge from the legal system in order to ensure that the law remains consistent. Therefore, it would seem that although Elmer may spend a considerable amount of time behind bars, he will do so as a wealthy man. This may send a bad message to other young men of Elmer’s temperament, but from now on the probate process will be considerably streamlined.

            The proposed reforms certainly render the law more determinate. However, they do so by eliminating the law’s ability to consider the equities of the individual case. This observation raises the following interesting question: If this is what a determinate legal system is like, who would want to live under one? The fact is that the greater the degree of certainty we build into the law, the less able the law becomes to do justice. For this reason, a monopolistic legal system composed entirely of clear, consistent rules could not function in a manner acceptable to the general public. It could not serve as a system of justice.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            Interesting choice of era. How would a strict constructionist judge have applied Jim Crow laws?

            The choice of era was intentional, and I would have thought the reasoning behind that choice was obvious.

            If the Warren Court had based their decision on Stare Decisis and popular opinion at the time, rather than a strict reading of the 14th Amendment, Plessy vs Ferguson would not have been overturned in 1954 and “separate but equal” would’ve remained the law of the land.

            Note: I’ve edited this reply to be less inflammatory but still find myself wondering what (if anything) you kids are being taught civics class these days?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @rahien.din

            You said that Gorsuch’s provided an argument against strict constructionism and quoted part of his dissent in support of that claim. But the context makes it clear that he did no such thing.

          • IrishDude says:

            @cassander
            My above post addresses whether we ought to to make the law more determinate, say by taking your suggestion of binding judges to the text of laws. For whether it’s possible to make the law determinate, I suggest reading the whole link. Barring that, I suggest taking the quiz at the top of the link and then reading section VI.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If you pick examples where in regards to justice, the law is superior to popular opinion, then sure, in those cases I’d like the judges to rule based on the law.

            But one could just as easily pick cases where the law is unjust compared to popular opinion. For example, instead of 1950, we could look at at 1850, where slavery was legal but increasingly unpopular. In this era, who would argue that it would be best if northern judges applied the full force of the law against runaway slaves?

            I would argue that due to the power of legal authority to amplify and enrich itself, the law is on average less just than the opinions of the common man. And if one has the viewpoint (a viewpoint I agree with) that the average public opinion has become increasingly more just throughout recent time, then reliance on the law for justice is again an inferior choice, due to the lag-time of law keeping with evolving popular opinion.

          • rahien.din says:

            hlynkacg,

            The Warren Court had based their decision on a strict reading of the 14th Amendment, and overturned Plessy vs Ferguson.

            We agree that this was the correct decision.

            But that decision was not based on or informed by not strict constructionism : Strict construction requires a judge to apply the text only as it is written. Once the court has a clear meaning of the text, no further investigation is required. Judges—in this view—should avoid drawing inferences from a statute or constitution and focus only on the text itself.”

            A strict constructionist judge would have applied Jim Crow laws in accordance with the mere text of the laws, without reference to any other statute or constitution. IE, strict constructionism would have perpetuated separate-but-equal because that’s what the words in the text of the law said.

            Wrong Species,

            Given his philosophy, not only do I have license to interpret Gorsuch’s writings in a strict constructionist fashion (without referring to context, intent, or spirit), I believe that’s exactly how he intends his words to be interpreted.

            Thus, your (somewhat ironic) invocation of context is not relevant.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            A strict constructionist judge would have applied Jim Crow laws in accordance with the mere text of the laws, without reference to any other statute or constitution. IE, strict constructionism would have perpetuated separate-but-equal because that’s what the words in the text of the law said.

            You’ve misunderstood the article. “A statute or constitution” refers to the piece of legislation under dispute, not to other statutes or parts of the constitution which are relevant to the case. There’s nothing inconsistent with strict constructionism in saying “This law, plainly interpreted, contradicts the Constitution, plainly interpreted; since the Constitution has greater authority than regular laws, it follows that this law is invalid.”

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Guy in TN

            If you pick examples where in regards to justice, the law is superior to popular opinion, then sure, in those cases I’d like the judges to rule based on the law.

            You can’t have it both ways.

            Obviously, I would like a judge who always ruled according to my personal preference regardless of what the law says, just as you would like a judge who always rules according your personal preference of what the law says, but we wouldn’t be going to court if there weren’t some sort of dispute would we?

            If the law is not a neutral arbitrator “Justice” will always be on the side of whom ever can pull the most influence with the judge. Which brings us right back to Deiseach’s objection.

            @ rahien.din
            You’re conflating constitution, an established body or principle, with The Constitution, the legal document from which the US Federal Government derives it’s authority*. As Mr.X says above…

            There’s nothing inconsistent with strict constructionism in saying “This law, plainly interpreted, contradicts the Constitution, plainly interpreted; since the Constitution has greater authority than regular laws, it follows that this law is invalid.”

            …and this is precisely the argument that Brown et al. presented to the court because established precedent, and public sentiment were both largely in favor segregation at the time.

            *not to be confused with the sailing vessel of the same name from which the US Government also once derived some authority.

          • cassander says:

            @Irishdude

            It is certainly true that one of the purposes of law is to ensure a stable social environment, to provide order. But not just any order will suffice. Another purpose of the law must be to do justice. The goal of the law is to provide a social environment which is both orderly and just. Unfortunately, these two purposes are always in tension.

            Disagree strongly. They are sometimes in tension, but by no means always.

            For the more definite and rigidly- determined the rules of law become, the less the legal system is able to do justice to the individual. Thus, if the law were fully determinate, it would have no ability to consider the equities of the particular case. This is why even if we could reform the law to make it wholly definite and consistent, we should not.

            This seems to assume that law cannot be written that takes account of the equities of the case. I grant you it cannot do so for every single possible equity, but if it can do so for 99%, that’s still pretty good.

            >Now, in a case such as this, one might be tempted to “interpret” the overreaching and unfair sales practices of the studio as fraudulent (28) and allow Agnes to recover her money.

            Why can we not write fraud statues that include this sort of behavior? Ditto for the example of wills. Textualism only rules out nuance if you implicitly argue that law is eternal and unchanging. Textualists don’t believe that the law should never change, only that to should only be changed by the formal procedure of legislation.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @hlynkacg

            I don’t understand Deiseach’s objection, to be honest. It is simply a restatement of the belief that the law is more just than the judges opinion. Since I don’t agree with that, I can’t sympathize with “respecting” an outcome based on the strict application of the law.

            Of course, if you start with the assumption that the law is neutral in regards to benefiting those with power, you’d want it to be applied rigidly, otherwise influential people could bend it. But if the law is already written in favor of the powerful , then those with less power being able to “work” the judge with via their humanity is a plus for the little guy.

            I want judges that rule in a way that creates the most just outcome. And since I see popular opinion as closer to justice than what the law currently is, I want judges who are not afraid to ignore the law. Of course one could highlight examples (e.g. Plessy vs Ferguson) where the law was more just than popular opinion, but these seem to be rare compared to the very commonplace examples of the law being more unjust.

            Once again, surely in a system with dystopian laws, you wouldn’t want judges to rule based on the law, right? If that is so, then any defense of rigid application of U.S. laws must rely on the assumption that U.S. laws are just, on average.

          • johnmcg says:

            Yes, the ideal system would be perfectly virtuous (and omniscient) judges who were unconstrained by laws and could always deliver judgments that were perfectly just. The most efficient and just form of government would be a perfectly benevolent dictator.

            But I don’t think one has to be a complete cynic and crank to note that most real-world judges fall short of that ideal. So, what kind of system can come closest to delivering justice given that it will be implemented by imperfect human beings?

            The best answer we’ve come up with has been to enact laws though some democratic/representative process, and then judges implement those laws with some discretion, but also with respect to the laws that were passed.

            Yes, this has come short of delivering perfect justice, and likely will continue to do so. But benevolent dictatorship has delivered worse results. Maybe we can find a system that will come closer to justice. But history has demonstrated that letting individuals freelance has not done so for very long.

          • johnmcg says:

            Once again, surely in a system with dystopian laws, you wouldn’t want judges to rule based on the law, right? If that is so, then any defense of rigid application of U.S. laws must rely on the assumption that U.S. laws are just, on average.

            No, all such a position requires is that the current process of producing laws is likely to be more just than a typical judge’s conception of justice.

            The ideal solution for dystopian laws is that the democratic process is used to remove those laws.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @johnmcg

            The best answer we’ve come up with has been to enact laws though some democratic/representative process, and then judges implement those laws with some discretion, but also with respect to the laws that were passed.

            Yes, this has come short of delivering perfect justice, and likely will continue to do so. But benevolent dictatorship has delivered worse results.

            By “dictatorship”, I assume you are referring to judges of the judicial-activist type here. If that is the case, then the question of “worse results” depends largely on what sort of results you are hoping to achieve. If you are on the Left, has the texturalism of Thomas and Scalia produced good results? And has the activism of William O. Douglas or Breyer produced bad results? The historical “lesson” one learns about freelancing judges is very different depending on what side of the political spectrum you are on.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t understand Deiseach’s objection, to be honest. It is simply a restatement of the belief that the law is more just than the judges opinion.

            No it isn’t. There is no objective quality called “Justice”, and the judges opinion is no more justthan any one else’s. Deiseach point is that individuals’ concept of what is “just” can (and often do) come in to conflict. One man’s “innocent victim” is another’s “asshole had it coming”. The court’s role is to act as arbiter between the two.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But if the law is already written in favor of the powerful , then those with less power being able to “work” the judge with via their humanity is a plus for the little guy.

            In the real world, meanwhile, judges are human like everyone else, and like everyone else they’re biased towards sympathising with people who are like them over people who aren’t. Since judges tend to come from the wealthy and educated — that is, powerful — sections of society, they’re therefore more likely to feel sympathetic towards other powerful people than towards “the little guy”.

            Another consideration which nobody seems to have brought up yet is the importance of being able to predict the consequences of your actions, and more specifically whether something is illegal or not. In a society where the laws are clearly set out and closely followed, you can do this; in a society where judges get to decide cases based on what they personally feel like, it’s impossible to tell whether a given action will land you in jail or not, because everything depends on who you happen to get judging your case.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @hlynkacg

            If Deiseach’s argument isn’t based on the idea that the law is more “just” than a judge’s opinion, then I don’t see any persuasive element to it. Why should I be satisfied with a ruling simply because it followed a certain legal procedure? Is the argument saying that the law isn’t necessarily “just”, but the judicial procedure that strictly applies it is? That is quite unpersuasive.

            It’s uncontroversial that different people have different conceptions of justice. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to support judges who enforce my personal sense of justice. I’m not ambivalent about achieving my preferred outcomes, after all. If the Deiseach’s of the world dislike that this upsets their preferred legal procedures, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

            Of course, I could be on the losing end of the mob as well. But when your available options are:
            1. Normal legal interpretation> lose
            2. Judge’s opinion against you> lose
            3. Judge’s opinion on your side> win

            then a rejection of texturalism is the only way that makes sense.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Since judges tend to come from the wealthy and educated — that is, powerful — sections of society, they’re therefore more likely to feel sympathetic towards other powerful people than towards “the little guy”.

            I agree with this. But what about the congressmen who write the law? They too come from powerful section of society, and are likely to write laws that benefit the powerful. So a judge strictly applying the law isn’t applying something that is neutral. A judge strictly applying the law is applying the wishes of some of the most powerful people in society. Given the choice between being subjected to a wealthy powerful person in the legislature, vs. a wealthy powerful person who has to look at me, I think it is best to choose the latter.

            The idea of a constant and predictable law is appealing, but only so in a society who’s laws were on average just. In a society with unjust laws, unpredictability in enforcement would be a good thing.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Guy in TN
            You’re still not getting it. The rule of law is a compromise position between Protestants who want to kill Catholics, Catholics who want to kill Protestants, and a general populace who’d like to avoid being burned at the stake in the public square for heresy.

            Now let’s say that because everyone agrees that they do not what to get burned, they pass a law that says “no burning people for heresy”. However, if Catholic judges always acquit when victim is Protestant and Protestant judges always acquit when the victim is Catholic, people will keep getting burned at the stake. If you actually want end to the burnings you need to get the judges, on both sides to enforce the law regardless of the victim’s religion. Hence rule of law.

            Now this is arguably “less just” from the perspective of either side, but it is the price we pay for not having to worry about getting burned at the stake for a bad joke, or lynched for wandering down the wrong street.

            Take this from someone who’s seen the alternatives up close and personal, the rule of law is vastly preferable to “justice”.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If the rule of law is intended to be a compromise, then I, and activist judges, think its a bad deal. This is because I view the law as against my favor, so agreeing to abide by it as “compromise” is really just surrendering to defeat. When the results of cooperate/cooperate and being defected against are essentially the same, the smart move is to defect every time.

            For every hypothetical situation a person could come up with where the lack of rule of law results in disaster, I could come up with a hypothetical where the rule of law results in disaster. Sometimes the rule of law isn’t the thing keeping you from being burned at the stake, but instead is the reason you are being burned at the stake.

            But I don’t have to stick to hypotheticals. From my perspective, judicial activism has on average produced outcomes I like, while judicial texturalism has produced outcomes I don’t. So any argument that says “actually, judicial activism will be bad for you” has to overcome evidence from the last half century of supreme court rulings. This was one of the things that bugged me about Scott’s blurb. It argued that judicial activism would always produce negative outcomes for the “little guy”, but fails to mention that a half century of judicial activism that has done anything but.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Guy in TN
            I’m not talking about hypotheticals here, I’m talking about history, recent history at that. Furthermore, your response suggests to me that you’ve s never been (never expect to be) on the wrong side of an angry mob.

            The way I see it, you’re looking out at the relatively peaceful (assuming you actually are in Tennessee) society around you and concluding that, because there are no lynch mobs visible, the norms against extrajudicial “justice” can be safely discarded as relics of a bygone era. Were you a Black Guy in TN circa 1960 I suspect that you’d feel a bit differently.

            “Rule of law” is the Cooperate/Cooperate option. Both sides agree to use the letter of the law as a neutral arbiter and nobody gets burned at the stake or strung up from a lamp post. Once you’ve announced your intention to defect, how do you think your opposition will respond?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But what about the congressmen who write the law? They too come from powerful section of society, and are likely to write laws that benefit the powerful. So a judge strictly applying the law isn’t applying something that is neutral. A judge strictly applying the law is applying the wishes of some of the most powerful people in society.

            Then at least the poor know what to look out for and can modify their behaviour accordingly. On the other hand, it’s impossible to plan for the caprices of some unknown person who might end up judging a case you’re involved in, so it’s impossible to reliably stay out of trouble in a society where arbitrary rulings are common.

            Given the choice between being subjected to a wealthy powerful person in the legislature, vs. a wealthy powerful person who has to look at me, I think it is best to choose the latter.

            Historically speaking, some of the biggest proponents of applying the law as written have been poor, powerless or oppressed people living in societies where judges routinely bent or ignored the laws. The fact that people who actually had to live under the sort of legal system you’re proposing generally hated it says quite a lot, surely?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Basically, whilst you do sometimes get cases of “You’re dragged up before the court charged with stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family, but the presiding judge takes one look at your poor pitiful face and lets you off,” experience suggests that they’re far outweighed by cases of “You complain before the judge that the local lord’s been molesting your daughter, and the judge declares that the local lord — who, incidentally, is a drinking buddy of his, and whom he’s known ever since they were at Oxford together — would never do such a thing, has the case thrown out without hearing it, and orders you to be summarily whipped for trying to drag the lord’s good name through the mud.”

          • rahien.din says:

            All,

            I understand your points better now. Still don’t think I agree. You may be right.

            My impression is that, by focusing on the procedural aspects of law and withholding any judgment regarding its ability to preserve justice, strict constructionism is merely Pretending to Be Wise. IE :

            There’s a difference between:

            – Passing neutral judgment
            – Declining to invest marginal resources
            – Pretending that either of the above is a mark of deep wisdom, maturity, or a superior vantage point

            Someone above remarked “You can’t have it both ways!” but this is precisely what we demand of our judiciary : to neither be slavishly beholden to the text of the law, nor to be the utter servant of mere feelings. A judge is not a mere embodied algorithm. They must exercise both faculties in the service of justice. That’s what makes them a judge and not a very good clerk. That’s why being a judge is hard.

            I make the comparison with my own practice. Evidence-based medicine is the bedrock of all that I do, but there are instances in which it produces wrong or inadequate treatment strategies. One of the better doctors I trained under was fond of saying, “EBM is great, but don’t ever let it keep you from treating your patient.”

            A judge who whines “Sure, this law is bad, probably because Congress sucks at their job, but who am I to try and correct that?” is abrogating their most important duty. Simply and plainly, they suck at being a judge. They don’t have what it takes.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’ve been skimming these comments about rule of law with interest.

            I’m generally in favor of rule of law, with allowance for the particulars of individual cases; for instance, the law probably ought to set forth upper and lower bounds for punishment, with the local magistrate or jury setting the actual punishment, on the premise that they personally know the defendant (acknowledging that this is a garden path scenario).

            That in mind, hlynkacg’s point about Protestants and Catholics stood out. It implies to me that rule of law emerges as a useful compromise only when the two major sides are comparable enough in size, or more accurately, in ability to damage the other. (There’s 100 of you and 100 of me, so we resort to law. There’s 100 of you and only 10 of me, but I’ve got all the guns, so we resort to law.)

            What if the sides aren’t comparable? Then one side’s simply going to absorb the other, either culturally or by force, and that’s that. Seems rather unfair to me at first glance. However, this doesn’t apply to many oppressed minority cases; the minority often gains allies in the majority, making the sides much more comparable. Elements of the majority might choose this for various reasons; fear that they’ll be a future minority seems a popular one right now. In general, there seems to be an incentive for people on the winning side to defect to the losers in order to bargain for something, so rule of law seems fairly stable.

            So much for why it can be stable. Is it actually better? hlynkacg and others have presented the case of the mercurial mob or judge. Guy in TN makes a bold claim: for every good case, a bad one exists. But is this really true? What’s your construction method for these, Guy? And will it produce a bad instance for every good one, beyond merely a bad hypothetical for every good?

          • johnmcg says:

            From my perspective, judicial activism has on average produced outcomes I like,

            Does this set of outcomes include an incompetent vulgar president with impulse control issues being elected because, for a significant number of voters, the type of judges he would appoint was the most critical issue, overriding all others?

          • Guy in TN says:

            From my perspective, the question isn’t so much “does judicial activism lead to bad results?”, it’s more “why hasn’t judicial activism lead to bad results?” I hear all of your reasons why judicial activism should be a disaster, and your logic is sound. But it doesn’t square with what is going on in the current system, as I view it.

            @hlynkacg

            Once you’ve announced your intention to defect, how do you think your opposition will respond?

            You question is interesting. I’m not enough of a historian to know when judicial activism began, but Justice William Douglas seems like the first, most uncontroversial example of it. And Breyer’s advocacy of “pragmatism” over texturalism is as close as I’ve seen of a modern justice outright supporting activism. So, how has their opposition responded? If the Right has defected to judicial activism, they are playing it pretty close to the chest. I think this may be a case where, due to the Right attracting people of a certain value system (or at least relying on the value of lawfulness for its internal logic), it is more difficult for the right to defect in this way. It is difficult to imagine how a “law and order” conservative such as Thomas could outright reject the rule of law, and remain conservative.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            From my perspective, the question isn’t so much “does judicial activism lead to bad results?”, it’s more “why hasn’t judicial activism lead to bad results?” I hear all of your reasons why judicial activism should be a disaster, and your logic is sound. But it doesn’t square with what is going on in the current system, as I view it.

            Well, judicial activism in the antebellum period was a contributing factor to the US Civil War (Dred Scott etc.). Judicial activism now has led to America becoming more divided than at any time in living memory. Do either of these count as “bad results”?

          • Guy in TN says:

            Since slavery was legal in 1857, pointing to the Dred Scott case as an example of activism gone amok is unusual. Had the case been decided differently, and the supreme court “discovered” that the Constitution had actually prohibited slavery all along (despite this plainly running contrary to the original founder’s intentions), that would have been a textbook example of judicial activism, no?

            Few activist judges go full-William Douglas and just rule however they like, most try to base their rulings on “discovering” in the Constitution hidden intentions that happen to coincide with their sense of justice.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            From a pragmatic standpoint, it makes more sense to view the justices as a third house of congress. They are partisan, and they have the power to change (er, I mean “interpret”) the law. So of course I am going to want to support justices who vote (I mean, “rule”) in a way that corresponds with my value system. The prisoner’s dilemma doesn’t really apply to this situation, since one side is hobbled from defecting for ideological reasons.

          • since one side is hobbled from defecting for ideological reasons.

            Before being too confident of that, you might want to look at the case of Justice Field, who I once described as Earl Warren in a white hat.

  34. Brad says:

    I unfortunately don’t see civil forfeiture going anywhere. The precedents in favor of its constitutionality are too long standing. You’d have to cobble together some kind of strange cross ideological coalition to make it happen. I can see how they’d get to three: Thomas (see denial of cert in Leonard v Texas), Kennedy (dissent in Bennis v. Michigan), and Sotomayor (Krimstock v. Kelly 2nd circuit). Who know about Gorsuch, but I highly doubt they’d get Roberts, Alito, Ginsberg, or Breyer (the latter two voted with the majority in Bennis v. Michigan).

    Even if you managed to peel off Gorsuch and Breyer and got to five votes, it would end up being one of these 2-2-1 plaurity situations that are barely precedental.

    • gbdub says:

      Which sucks, because civil forfeiture seems like one of those low-hanging fruits that a pretty big bipartisan swath of people would like to see fixed, once they learn anything about it.

      • Brad says:

        You’d think the bipartisan coalition would make for a political solution rather than a constitutional one. But apparently this is one of those “deep state” things where the institutional interests of government cannot be overcome even by strong majorities of voters.

        • gbdub says:

          Or just the standard “special interest group cares enough to lobby, majority stays silent” issue? A lot of civil forfeiture funds local police departments, and it’s hard to win local elections if you piss off the sheriff / police union.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Plus Thomas was the lone dissenter on the very Colorado case linked so clearly his views aren’t necessarily as clear-cut as those who hopefully read his Leonard dissent would like them to be

      • Brad says:

        And it wasn’t just a dissent, it was a doozy of a dissent. It’s hard to see how it can be squared with the view that the due process clause forbids civil forfeiture, especially in light of footnote 1. But I have confidence that Thomas would somehow make that happen. Probably by claiming that it wasn’t raised by the parties or something like that.

    • Sandy says:

      Gorsuch once lavished praise on Thomas’s dissent in Kelo, so I suspect he may be aligned with Thomas on the civil forfeiture issue as well.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Yeah, that one is pretty weird to me. You’d think that a country in which so many people are ready to defend their 2nd Amendment rights to not have the government arbitrarily take their firearms away (rights which don’t really exist in many other democracies, at least to the same extent), there’d also be a massive amount of people ready to defend their 4th amendment rights to not have the government arbitrarily take their stuff-that-isn’t-firearms away (rights which generally do exist in most comparable societies I think – though I could be mistaken). And yet, the response seems to be a few people are outraged, a lot just shrug, and a non-trivial fraction are basically going ‘that’s fine, as long as they are inconveniencing drug dealers, the police should be able to take what they want from whom they want’.

      But I am not an American – am I missing something obvious?

      • gbdub says:

        Heck, a lot of times firearms are seized in civil forfeiture.

      • Incurian says:

        But I am not an American – am I missing something obvious?

        I am hoping it’s just an issue of education – they only hear the part about stopping drug dealers and not the part about how it doesn’t require a conviction and the incentives that lead it to be so easily abused.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I think it’s dangerous to be too quick to blame things on classism/racism, but it seems likely that’s a major component here. Police have a lot of leeway as to what they use forfeiture on, meaning they can restrict themselves to unsympathetic targets. Compare this to, say, a gun ban, which hits sympathetic law-abiding citizens the hardest, as criminals can get guns on the black market. If cops are robbing drug dealers, hey, I’m not a drug dealer, and fuck anybody who is. If cops are taking guns from gun owners, hey, I’m a gun owner, or maybe I’m not but my buddy I buy fresh venison from is, and he’s a good person who doesn’t deserve to have his rights violated.

        To some extent the growing concern over forfeiture is because the cops have gotten carried away and started robbing people real people care about, people who can give a good interview to the media. People that people care about can read these interviews and say “hey, that could be me, or somebody I care about”, and so the impetus for change can start rippling through society.

        • shenanigans24 says:

          There’s also that a lot more people have guns than have assets seized. In a real way one issue affects a lot of people, and the other does not.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        Unfortunately, a lot of the gun owners are some of the most blindly supportive of police, except in the most egregious police abuse cases, when their victims are obviously innocent of any crime. I suspect this is partially a “law and order” mentality and partially a result of decades of declaring over and over in the strongest possible terms that they don’t support criminals getting their hands on guns in order to appease gun control advocates.

        • Incurian says:

          a lot of the gun owners are some of the most blindly supportive of police

          I’m working on it!

      • JayT says:

        I think the average American probably hasn’t heard of civil forfeiture. As bad a thing it is, it still affects a relatively small part of the population. Most people don’t have any personal experience with it, and even if they’ve heard about it, it’s just as likely that they would have heard about it in a positive light as a negative one.

        On the other hand, pretty much everybody has an opinion on guns.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        No one who isn’t a dedicated reader of political opinion pieces or has actually been a target of it has heard of it.

        Remember when the ATF issued decorative gear with the slogan “Always Think Forfeiture”?

        I just did a few google and google news searches to check for coverage and the only national level results I got were Reason and one Forbes article.

        Expand that to blogs, and you get Hot Air, JFPO (speaking of gun groups), BoingBoing, FreeRepublic…and actually quite a FEW firearms blogs, forums, and websites discussing it in negative terms, contra Alex.

        • Incurian says:

          and actually quite a FEW firearms blogs, forums, and websites discussing it in negative terms, contra Alex.

          It may be that “gun nuts” (I mean that in a positive way) lean libertarian, while the general population of pro-gun republicans are, well, republicans.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Another possibility worth noting since one of the other sites that showed up high on search results was frickin’ -Stormfront- is that for a lot of Americans, arguments about how unaccountable Government Stormtroopers and Jack-Booted Thugs are out to Violate Your Rights and Take Everything You Have pattern match to “Extremist Whacko”.

          So nice people don’t hate BATFE, DEA, FBI, and the police. After all, what are you, some sort of right wing anti-government militia nut? Throw in whatever -ists you feel add spice, but you take my point.

          Maybe libertarians and anti-government right wing types should be friendlier to BLM activists for having mainstreamed at least -one- possible criticism of American law enforcement, making it clear that you can hate bad conduct on the part of law enforcement without being a skinhead in a compound out west.

          • Incurian says:

            Maybe libertarians and anti-government right wing types should be friendlier to BLM activists for having mainstreamed at least -one- possible criticism of American law enforcement?

            Or unhappy that they flubbed it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, when people tried to extend it to non-black victims of police brutality and got called racist for thinking that white lives could possibly matter, that sort of reinforced the “nice people don’t hate BATFE, DEA, FBI, and the police” from the other direction.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I spent several weeks in 2010 investigating a law enforcement killing in my neighborhood of an 18-year-old viola player. I happened to run into the bereaved mother at the scene also looking for clues and I told her the cops’ story sounded fishy to me and she should consider a lawsuit.

            This case got very little media coverage until 3 year later when the L.A. Times headlined on its front page that the family had been awarded $3 million by a judge.

            I’ve always thought this case would have made a good illustration for reformers that the police kill too many people and they need reforms such as better training and more accountability.

            But there was so little media interest in this killing because the dead kid was white.

          • CatCube says:

            This perception about only extremist wackos call the FBI/BATF jackbooted thugs is not new. In the 90s, several BATF and FBI operations (Waco, Ruby Ridge) resulted in innocent deaths and a(n unwarranted) reaction in the Oklahoma City bombing. When the head of the NRA used the exact phrase “jackbooted thugs” to refer to federal agents, George Bush Sr. publicly resigned his NRA membership.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Catcube

            Yeah, the original version of my reply included references to Ruby Ridge and G. Gordon Liddy, but I deleted them. Half because I start to believe a lot of people don’t even remember the whole 90s “Right Wing Militia” panic and half because I didn’t want to get dismissively pattern-matched the same way.

            When I build -my- compound in the woods, all races and creeds will be welcome 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            In this era, who would argue that it would be best if northern judges applied the full force of the law against runaway slaves?

            And of course the opposite applied if a southern judge was making the ruling? Stick to the letter of the law even if you think a free person of colour hasn’t the same legal standing as a white man? Bad law is bad regardless of whether our case is being heard north or south.

            And I note the end result of the solution to slavery was not “we’ll keep the laws but our morally improved and more socially discriminating judges will re-interpret them in the light of an ongoing, evolving, personal moral judgement” but “these laws are no longer law”.

      • shenanigans24 says:

        From my observations few people really know what it is, and people on the right have a vague support of law enforcement.

  35. vaniver says:

    Curious what all of the tech workers here think.

    For software/statistics/analysis, there appears to be a significant difference in tech worker quality; there’s no shortage of bad workers and a massive shortage of good workers. (If I had had twenty-five clones, my previous company would have hired all of us at once. Seriously.) Like other commenters mention, in other fields there’s a bunch of specialized expertise that makes mismatch very easy; if the semiconductor fab hires a mechanical engineer, it’ll be a year or two until they know what they’re doing, and then if they try to get a job in automotive, they’ll be starting from the ground floor again, almost (they’ll know some about engineering practice, but also won’t be as much of a fresh-faced youth ready to put in the hours to learn).

  36. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Basic argument: as long as corporations can offer politicians lucrative deals after they retire, they can reward pro-corporate decisions with plausible deniability, which incentivizes politicians to be pro-corporate. If you’re anti-corporate, this is directly bad; if you’re pro-corporate, this makes it impossible to convince people that you’re really making well-considered decisions in their best interests and not just being corrupt.

    That’s basically the argument I made in real life, and I’m glad I’m not the only one. Reading the article, I’m also glad I’m not the only one who noticed that the Clintons have made over 100 million dollars over a few decades in “public service.”

    Current Affairs on the back-stabbing, infighting, and comical errors of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Although of course if a handful of Rust Belters had voted differently, we’d be praising every one of these people as geniuses right now.

    Much of this article reminds me of the phrase “win-more” which I learned from the Magic: The Gathering community and which refers to cards that are only good when you already are winning. Such cards are generally considered bad, since they do not help in close games or when you are behind. Some other commenter here speculated that Clinton was gambling on a “crush Trump” strategy, thinking they had to completely dominate the election in order to thoroughly repudiate the “danger” that Trump represented, but this article makes it seem like they just didn’t understand this basic concept.

    Between these articles and another I read about Chelsea Clinton being boring a not doing anything meaningful, I think I have to conclude that the Clintons are the reverse D’Anconias: the result of a long optimization process that was optimizing for vaguely left-leaning power-hungry American politicians.

    • Iain says:

      Win-more makes sense as a concept in games because winning or losing is a binary outcome: either you win the game, or you don’t. In the context of an election, expanding your map can (in theory) help carry along the House or the Senate on your coattails. There is a big difference between holding the presidency and the Senate vs just holding the presidency. Winning more is valuable.

      (Of course, before you start pouring resources into winning more, you should probably make sure that you are actually winning.)

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        Good point. But, in this case, the “win-more” wasn’t even picking up more states (which would have been mostly equivalent to just picking up the swing states she should have been focusing on), it was mostly appealing to people in states like New York and California which are already blue. See the +3 million vote difference in CA for Clinton.

        (Of course, before you start pouring resources into winning more, you should probably make sure that you are actually winning.)

        And that, of course, is the other major mistake.

        • Iain says:

          No, there were definitely aspects of Clinton’s campaign where she tried to run up the score in traditionally Republican states. This article, for example, mentions Georgia, Utah, and Arizona.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            My point was not that Clinton literally didn’t campaign at all outside of NY and CA, but Clinton focusing on Georgia and Utah (like Texas) seems to me like a long-shot attempt to crush Trump on the assumption that she was already winning, rather than an actual strategy to increase her probability of winning a close race.

            edit–and in fact, the wording of the article seems to back up my interpretation.

          • Iain says:

            seems to me like a long-shot attempt to crush Trump on the assumption that she was already winning, rather than an actual strategy to increase her probability of winning a close race.

            In other words: she mistakenly thought she was already winning, and attempted to win more?

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            In other words: she mistakenly thought she was already winning, and attempted to win more?

            As far as I can tell, yes.

          • Adam Berman says:

            I read that article and, my god, the sick feeling in my stomach is overwhelming.

            “The idea of a fair election — of a peaceful transition of power — is not a Democratic value. It’s not a Republican value. It, literally, is an American value. I volunteered with 7th and 8th graders a couple of months ago and we talked about the peaceful transition of power, and those kids understood it,” said Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “It’s crazy to me that a candidate for President of the United States doesn’t. So the only way we can stamp this out is to have incredible turnout, and let it die in a corner.”

            “The larger the margin, the less relevant Trump and the Trump philosophy will be post-election,” added former South Carolina governor Jim Hodges, a Clinton ally.

          • Deiseach says:

            That article is interesting in what it says about early voting:

            Internally, the Clinton team is closely watching — and cheering — early voting and registration figures in strategically imperative battlegrounds.

            In Nevada, they’re pointing to huge Democratic turnout, including in Las Vegas’ Clark County, over the first two days of early voting, compared to anemic performance among Republicans. In Arizona, a 20,000 vote deficit for Democrats at this point in 2012 has turned into a 1,000 vote lead now. In Colorado, the number of registered Democrats recently overtook the number of registered Republicans for the first time ever. And in Florida, Republicans entered the week only ahead of Democrats by 1.7 percent, compared to a 5.3 percent lead at this point four years ago. That’s largely on the back of a 99 percent increase in Latino voting compared to this time in 2012.

            I wonder if this helped contribute to the eventual loss? First that the campaign took the good lead in early voting too much as a sign that they’d retain the same kind of lead in the rest of the voting, and secondly that if undecided/unenthused potential voters were seeing results like this that “Clinton is killing Trump in early voting”, they’d think she pretty much had it won and so no point in voting themselves?

            It also sounds a bit like she made a big push at the end of the race, in order to get the crushing victory she (and nearly everyone else) expected, and that if she’d done this earlier or even steadily through the campaign, things might have turned out differently. But “what-ifs” and “might have beens” are easy to speculate about.

            Okay, I’m an awful person, but I read a linked article written at the same time as that one, about Hillary’s campaign being so positive they had it won that she then went on to try and pull other Democrats over the winning line with her, and then I compared the results of the elections, and I can’t help laughing:

            “As we’re traveling in these last 17 days we’re going to be emphasizing the importance of electing Democrats down the ballot,” Clinton told reporters aboard her campaign plane.

            It was the surest declaration of confidence yet from a candidate and a campaign that enters the home stretch in so commanding a position that they are redirecting cash and manpower to traditionally red states, including Arizona, Missouri, Indiana and Georgia.

            Clinton delivered a preview of her coming rhetorical focus at a rally in Pittsburgh, as she excoriated Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for standing with Trump and sought to saddle Toomey with some of Trump’s most incendiary remarks.

            …It amounted to one of her sharpest and longest attacks on a sitting Republican senator of the campaign. And aides forecast more such barbs in the days to come, as she heads to North Carolina on Sunday, where Democrats are targeting Sen. Richard Burr, who faces a surprisingly stiff late challenge, and to Florida on Tuesday, where Sen. Marco Rubio is on the ballot.

            Election results? Toomey – won by just under 2% against the hoped-for first female Democratic senator for Pennsylvania. Burr – won by 6% over female Democrat opponent. Rubio – won by 8% over his Democrat opponent.

            What’s the opposite of the Midas Touch, where everything you touch turns to lead? Classical Greek playwrights made entire careers of writing about hubris of this sort.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh, man: reading the Politico articles of the time and how absolutely assured they were that Hillary had it done and dusted, it’s amazing to compare their sure’n’certain forecasts with the actual results:

          In June, POLITICO identified 11 key battleground states — totaling 146 electoral votes — that would effectively decide the presidential election in November. A new examination of polling data and strategic campaign ad buys indicates that six of those 11 are now comfortably in Hillary Clinton’s column.

          Clinton leads Donald Trump by 5 points or greater in POLITICO’s Battleground States polling average in Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. If the Democratic nominee won those six states, plus all the other reliably Democratic states President Barack Obama captured in both 2008 and 2012, she would eclipse the 270-electoral-vote threshold and win the presidency.

          Even if Trump ran the table in the remaining battleground states — Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio — he would fall short of the White House if he cannot flip another state where Clinton currently leads in the polls.

          According to Politico – Hillary has Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
          According to results – won Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia, lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

          According to Politico – even if Trump wins Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio, he is still going to need to flip one of Hillary’s six states (and that ain’t gonna happen)
          According to results – Trump won Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio, lost Nevada, but succeeded in flipping three of Hillary’s six: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

          If the Democrats take anything away as a lesson from this campaign loss, it should be “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” and definitely “don’t believe the media rah-rah about how you have this bagged, stuffed and mounted above your mantelpiece”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            In retrospect, the fact that Trump was pretty clearly winning Ohio should have set off a lot more warning bells all around.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            I actually commented before the election about the fact that Ohio was not a swing state probably presaged the end of what I will now call “union blue” states.

  37. TK-421 says:

    The Left Forum article was particularly interesting (and darkly hilarious). This section in particular caught my interest:

    No, the worst part of Left Forum is the crackpots, the paranoiacs, the hysterics, and all the other truly dysfunctional personalities attracted by the conference’s most infamous policy: no panel submission will be rejected.

    That’s right: If you pay your registration fee and fill out the proper forms, you get a room and a table and a spot on the schedule. So in addition to all those experienced and intelligent rabble-rousers, Left Forum is a home for 9/11 Truthers, those who would save us from the terrors of “mandatory fluoridation,” and the generally batshit and/or pathologically anti-social.

    On the one hand, I really like the idea of there being a convention where you can just show up, plunk down a nominal fee, and get to speak your peace. Sure, most of them would be terrible, because Sturgeon’s Law, but every once in a while you’d get something really interesting. On the other hand, if I was at a convention for something I actually cared about and saw this kind of thing going on, I would probably be pretty annoyed, so maybe it’s just the emotional distance from it that makes the idea sound so appealing.

    But on the gripping hand… what’s the alternative? A convention dedicated solely to panels that couldn’t get hosted at other conventions would end up as the same sort of crackpot brigade that Frost describes, only a thousand times worse—and probably at each others’ throats before the end of the first day if they came from drastically different political backgrounds. At least when it’s hosted somewhere which purports to have some coherent content as well, there might be some attendees who aren’t already on the fringe that could separate the wheat from the chaff.

    • Aapje says:

      Isn’t that why they invented parks?

      Show up, put down your box, get on it and proselytize away.

      • TK-421 says:

        Rather a different audience, though. At a convention, people are there specifically to go to panels and hear people give presentations, and someone giving a talk is a Convention Speaker, however weird the topic may be. In the park most people are there for other reasons, and someone giving a talk there is just some dude on a box yelling about chemtrails.

  38. Urstoff says:

    “Before thermometers, people mocked the idea of temperature ever being measurable, with all its nuance, complexity, and subjectivity.”

    While the author seems to be taking the standard “dumb anti-science rubes/philosophers” tack, it seems to me that the skeptics were and still are correct. The concept of temperature before the widespread use of thermometers was probably something quite complex and multifaceted. The concept of temperature post-thermometer adoption is much simpler, with all those nuances, complexities, and subjectivities discussed as additional factors, some of which were also eventually operationalized (e.g., humidity). Before thermometers, I imagine temperature was spoken in various terms of “warm”, “balmy”, “frigid”, “crisp”, etc., which are terms whose range of applicability are not wholly determined by the number on the thermometer. The use of the thermometer as core tool of the measure of temperature, and the subsequent circumscription of the concept of temperature because of that adoption, was the adoption of a new concept that is more precise than the older concept but also contained less information. I would guess (but only guess) that this is largely true for the explicit quantitative measurement of any previously qualitative concept, and it doesn’t seem helpful to frame this (in temperature, intelligence, or any other area) as a “rubes vs. enlightened scientist” struggle.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Temperature has a pretty specific definition (proportional to the average energy of the molecules) which is intentionally supposed to ignore factors like wind, humidity, etc. that would effect how a person feels in air of a given temperature, and which generalizes to pretty much any form of matter.

      Temperature turned out to be completely measurable, and the other factors that affect how you feel are measurable as well, though not everyone will feel a particular combination of factors the same way, so a model that incorporates all of that will have some subjective term.

      • Urstoff says:

        It has that definition after the invention and widespread use of thermometers and subsequent development of theory. My point is that pre-theoretic concepts are often fairly complex, and while the operationalize and conquer method of science is obviously productive, don’t try to equate the post-theoretic concept with the pre-theoretic concept. They will both be enriched and impoverished in various ways compared to each other.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          I mean, to a certain extent they sort of refer to different concepts, since the physics definition does not take into account facts of biology, but I think it pretty much captures what you would naively expect it to capture. But then, maybe my intuition for thermodynamical concepts is already too engrained with modern physics knowledge.

          • smocc says:

            I suspect that it is.

            The first intuition that of a concept like temperature probably comes from “is the weather hot or cold” or “does this thing feel hot or cold when I touch it”. While the modern concept of temperature is a big factor in the questions, there are other significant confounding concepts. Humidity and wind chill can make two different locales feel very different despite technically having the same temperature. Two materials with different conductance coefficients feel very different to the touch even at the same technical temperature.

            But before you have thermometers and barometers and calorimeters you don’t even know that there are multiple variables to be confounded.

            The next hints towards temperature you’d probably consider would come from cooking processes. You have to put a water over a flame for a certain amount of time before it will boil, and it will feel warmer and warmer as it gets closer to boiling, linking the two intuitive concepts. But again, there are confounding variables. The boiling point of water depends on both pressure and temperature (and relative humidity?) This was the initial problem with defining temperature scales — the boiling temperature of water appeared to vary day to day until people figured out how to control for pressure, which of course required inventing another measurement device.

            And conversely, the rigorous definition of temperature is not sufficient for describing the phenomena above. If you want to know when water will boil you need temperature plus pressure. If you want to know how it feels outside you need temperature plus relative humidity.

    • suntzuanime says:

      It seems to me less like a morality tale of rubes vs. scientists and more like an instructive parable for theorists, about the need to look past surface distractions to try to narrow in on more fundamental essences that may be simpler and more tractable. It’s not like there was a sharp distinction between philosophers and scientists back then. It’s not “scientists rule philosophers drool”, it’s more “once upon a time a scientist claimed a thing was impossible to measure because people’s perceptions of it differed, and then he was eaten by a bear. don’t be like this scientist”.

  39. Deiseach says:

    Although of course if a handful of Rust Belters had voted differently, we’d be praising every one of these people as geniuses right now

    If “a handful of Rust Belters had voted differently”, those would be the people in the current administration. Oh yeah: Anthony Weiner (as part of the job-lot with Huma, who is very close to Hillary and would have got some plum position as reward) with access to the corridors of power and all those pretty young things working as White House interns. Like Monica Lewinsky did during That Time We Don’t Talk About. What could possibly go wrong there? And all that back-stabbing and jockeying for power and doing down one another and sabotaging each other – well, that is exactly what you want in all the unelected special advisers attached to Secretaries of Departments and other posts dispensed as favours for the loyal campaign leaders, isn’t it?

    If what is recounted in Shattered is any way true at all, maybe the result was really for the best!

    Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook comes across very badly indeed, and appears to have been the wrong man for the job.

    Nominative determinism strikes again!

    • BBA says:

      I daresay they wouldn’t be considered geniuses, because how moronic do you have to be to lose to an absolute shitshow like Donald Fucking Trump?

      Well, now we know how moronic.

      (Granted, Bernie would’ve done even worse – the Yoopers he’d win over are more than offset by the Detroiters he’d alienate. Clinton was both a terrible candidate and the best candidate the Democrats had.)

      • cassander says:

        Success is its own justification, always has been.

        Put it to you this way, of all the prominent successful campaigns of the last few decades, can you remember a single one where the after action consensus was “yeah, it was a shit show, good thing for them X happened”? Or a losing campaign where it was “they fought the better fight top to bottom, but couldn’t overcome Y ”

        I can’t think of one. Now it could be that better run campaigns always win, but that strikes me as less likely than that our sense of “better run” is excessively conflated with “victorious”.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Bill Clinton’s first campaign might fit this bill?

          • cassander says:

            Before my time. Was that the opinion afterwards? All I have are vague cultural memories of someone called sister souljah and saxophone playing.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          “they fought the better fight top to bottom, but couldn’t overcome Y” arguably describes the popular perception of the Sanders campaign.

          • cassander says:

            my perception is that this thinking is more on the lines of of “we fought the morally better fight/we had better ideas”, not “our campaign was better organized and had a better strategy.”

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, I’m not a Sandersista, but it seems to me that Sanders did have better organization and strategy. He out-fundraised her, after all, which is not easy to do from the position he started in. And I’m still seeing Bernie bumper stickers, whereas I only saw Clinton bumper stickers after the election.

            But Clinton had way better connections and name recognition, and those are nearly unbeatable in politics. Her gender probably helped a bit, too, but I think it would have played out similarly if it had been Bill rather than Hillary (leaving aside all the charisma that Bill has and Hillary doesn’t).

          • Deiseach says:

            I think it would have played out similarly if it had been Bill rather than Hillary (leaving aside all the charisma that Bill has and Hillary doesn’t)

            If the term limit on the American presidency was done away with, I’d be willing to fight a campaign with Bill as the candidate (yes, even after all the scandals and the tarnishing of the image) any day rather than Hillary. Indeed, given some of the names floated very vaguely for 2020, with Bill rather than whatever plastic candidate is spat out by the selection algorithms. Besides the charisma which is really invaluable, he has a talent for politics and being on the hustings that Hillary just does not.

          • engleberg says:

            @’they fought the better fight top to bottom, but couldn’t overcome Y’ arguably describes the popular perception of the Sanders campaign’

            Yes, for values of Y= Clinton stole the primary. Clinton is an establishment D party True Believer- she doesn’t talk to the darkness and wind outside the D party. When she demanded that Trump say he’d accept the election results, she wasn’t talking to Trump. She was demanding Berniebros accept the stolen primary and vote for her. Not enough did.

    • poipoipoi says:

      Is that book 3 stars because politics or because it’s actually garbage?

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      Nominative determinism strikes again!

      Another top Clinton advisor (the one who really didn’t want to concede the election) is Minyon Moore. Nothing is ever a coincidence, I guess.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      If preventing sexual harassment is your primary concern in selecting executive government, things may still not have worked out optimally.

      But of course we’d need to look at the estranged spouses of Trump administration appointees to really get a comparative sense of how the oval office would have changed, genital-grabbing-wise. That’s where the real action is, apparently.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Anthony Weiner (as part of the job-lot with Huma, who is very close to Hillary and would have got some plum position as reward) with access to the corridors of power and all those pretty young things working as White House interns.

      I have a suspicion that the amount of workplace affairs between the middle-aged / or older persons in position in power and pretty young interns is a stable constant, and the only thing special about Anthony Weiner is his ability to make his escapades a public scandal.

  40. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Otium’s summary at the end says that developmental stages mostly don’t hold up, but I was surprised at how well they do. Kohlberg’s stages pass all the tests with flying colors, and Kegan’s basically pass every test they’ve been given, though they need to be tested more.

    The post points out that Kohlberg’s stages characterize verbal arguments, but not necessarily actual motivations. But they occur reliably in sequence, which is very striking. If they were just regurgitated arguments, you’d expect people to skip stages. I conclude that they do represent increasingly sophisticated, though perhaps sophistic, reasoning.

    I expected these would all get shot down by the first hint of empiricism. I’m updating in favor of David Chapman right now.

  41. Deiseach says:

    Okay, having read that “why can’t construction companies in Dallas find enough workers?” article, I then out of curiosity Googled for “construction jobs in Dallas” and out of about four sites, here’s a representative link or two.

    There are very few “turn up with your shovel” jobs on there, a lot of them are foreman (at least) and higher level, and most of them are skilled labour. If the idea is “construction work is unskilled work, so therefore why can’t these jobs be filled by those without college education?” then it is a mistaken idea. Companies are not looking for “turn up to work on site, shovel provided by us, all you need to do is stick it in the ground, no previous experience necessary”, they’re looking for guys who can read blueprints, operate CNC lathes, and ideally have a couple of years’ experience to boot.

    • wintermute92 says:

      I had a suspicion this would be the case, just by analogy to the STEM debate. The easiest way to produce results like “high unemployment while lots of lucrative jobs are unfilled” is if the job requirements and the worker training don’t actually match. In STEM, that often means “Google wants AI PhDs, but someone with an IT associate’s degree is unemployed. What a conflict!” It looks like a pretty similar result here: “People willing to work with their hands are unemployed, but there’s a shortage of licensed welders and experienced CAD workers! Bizarre!”

      And of course, this tends to be intentionally made worse by efforts to train people in what’s cheap rather than what’s employable. I’m not sure about construction, but in STEM I see a lot of people gesturing to Google salaries to justify totally unrelated training.

  42. John Schilling says:

    [Freddie deBoer says] there is no shortage of qualified STEM workers … Curious what all of the tech workers here think.

    I think we need to be careful equating “STEM” with “tech”. “Tech”, in contemporary usage, seems to be specifically consumer electronics and software, which is a very unique corner of the STEM landscape with a distinct culture that you don’t see in e.g. engineering. And yes, this causes problems when e.g. Elon Musk decides apply a tech-style approach to building rockets.

    On the engineering side, there is an absolute shortage of veteran engineers with certain sorts of specific expertise. And a surplus of veteran engineers with other sorts of specific expertise that unfortunately isn’t in demand. But the last time I posted a single opening for a job that only required a college degree (MS, or a BS and a few years’ relevant experience), I got over two hundred resumes that had the required credentials and at least twenty that were worth talking to.

    There have been articles bemoaning the (usually impending) shortage of aerospace engineers; reading between the lines I see these as a mix of people who really need specific expertise and don’t have time to develop it in-house because of the way government contracting works, and people who just don’t want to pay the market rate for engineering talent and/or credentials.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “And yes, this causes problems when e.g. Elon Musk decides apply a tech-style approach to building rockets.”

      Can you explain this? Elon Musk’s rocket-building approach hasn’t seemed problematic to me.

      • bean says:

        SpaceX consistently takes twice as long to do anything as Musk says it will, and they’re notorious for burning out engineers.

      • John Schilling says:

        1. SpaceX has blown up two out of thirty-four Falcon 9 rockets. One of them in a pad test that didn’t need to have the customer’s very expensive payload on top but did because it would have saved SpaceX two whole days (IIRC) on rolling out the deliverable. There are very few industries in which a 5% catastrophic failure rate is acceptable in a commercial product; “tech” can sometimes get away with it because their failures are never truly catastrophic (well, almost never).

        SpaceX’s main domestic competitor, ULA, has launched one hundred six of its Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles without losing a payload. Most of my company’s business is in providing technical oversight to people launching satellites for the government to minimize the probability of catastrophic failure; when we show up at SpaceX, the response is usually along the lines of “we appreciate your technical expertise, but you’re cramping our style with all these rules and procedures”.

        2. SpaceX is burning through talent almost as fast as it burns through rockets. Expecting people to work sixty to eighty hours a week every week for modest pay plus stock options, is not sustainable. It can work in an industry where anyone over forty is either a millionaire entrepreneur who hires people to do the technical work, or a geriatric has-been who needs to go away and stop embarrassing everyone with his presence. In the rest of the STEM world, it’s the forty-year-olds who have the experience you need to keep your rockets from exploding 5% of the time.

        The smart ones, escape from SpaceX while they are still in their twenties and early thirties, and come to work for someone like, well, me. The ones who stick with SpaceX until true burnout, aren’t going to be much good to anyone.

        3. It may be that there is a path from where SpaceX is, to a reliable low-cost space transportation service. That path is almost certainly going to require largely abandoning the tech ideal of caffeinated youthful enthusiasm Just Doing It, and a much larger dose of engineering discipline.

        • Incurian says:

          SpaceX has blown up two out of thirty-four Falcon 9 rockets.

          SpaceX’s main domestic competitor, ULA, has launched one hundred six of its Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles without losing a payload.

          Is this a fair comparison? New rockets engineered in-house versus decades old proven technology?

          • John Schilling says:

            ULA’s first thirty-four Atlas V rockets had zero explosions and their first thirty-four Delta IV rockets had zero explosions. And, notwithstanding the roman numerals in their names, these were substantially new designs by a new manufacturing consortium. But they were new designs implemented with engineering best practices that SpaceX knows about and chooses not to adopt.

            Pre-ULA Boeing did use the Delta III to beta-test what would become the Delta IV upper stage; that did have two explosions, but IIRC was explicitly advertised as a developmental vehicle with payload space offered at a discount due to the added risk.

          • gbdub says:

            Two explosions also leaves out a 3rd lost payload due to an engine failure during boost (it was a secondary payload stranded in a low orbit that re-entered soon after launch), plus the failure of the first 3 Falcon 1s (and I think another that they crumpled in a defueling test?).

            It’s not crazy to lose a couple rockets early on, but I think the SpaceX style contributed to a lot of them – the Falcon 1 failures all seemed like things that could have been prevented with more industry knowledge / cooperation / best practices (instead of telling John Schilling types to buzz off, old timer). The first Falcon 9 explosion was due to insufficient testing / quality control of parts that probably would have gotten more scrutiny in a traditional manufacturer. The second lost an expensive payload that, as John notes, was only there to save a couple days, and additionally the whole superchilled propellant concept (particularly gambling it all on submerged COPVs) seems like it could have used more testing before going straight to implementation.

            Another thing is that they have been constantly tweaking the vehicle, which leads to faster innovation but adds risk and makes it harder to certify reliability (since they haven’t actually flown “the same rocket” all that many times). Air Force / NASA customers are not as excited to fly on an experiment.

          • John Schilling says:

            To be fair, secondary payloads are generally launched on a “we usually have enough fuel left over after delivering the primary…” basis. And I believe Elon has admitted the Falcon I was basically a developmental vehicle, aimed at building his team’s expertise and credibility at minimum cost per explosion, which is a reasonable approach.

            This, however:

            Another thing is that they have been constantly tweaking the vehicle, which leads to faster innovation but adds risk and makes it harder to certify reliability (since they haven’t actually flown “the same rocket” all that many times).

            is dead on, and bears repetition. In any sort of engineering where failures are not to be tolerated (i.e. just about any sort of engineering except commercial software), you have to freeze the design before going into production. After that, all the clever ideas about how to do it better are put on hold until the next version. This slows the development cycle, but greatly reduces the number of explosions due to incompatible cleverness.

            If you want a parallel program where you do incremental upgrades to an experimental prototype that you can afford to have explode, great, but that’s not what SpaceX is doing. It’s also not what ULA is doing, and maybe they should be, but that’s another criticism.

          • bean says:

            In any sort of engineering where failures are not to be tolerated (i.e. just about any sort of engineering except commercial software), you have to freeze the design before going into production. After that, all the clever ideas about how to do it better are put on hold until the next version. This slows the development cycle, but greatly reduces the number of explosions due to incompatible cleverness.

            Or, for stuff that doesn’t really have versions (rockets and airplanes) you have to throw absurd amounts of effort at making sure that the cleverness is compatible. And you can’t really afford versions in that environment because the build lag is so long.

          • Incurian says:

            And, notwithstanding the roman numerals in their names, these were substantially new designs by a new manufacturing consortium.

            Thank you, I stand corrected!

          • John Schilling says:

            Or, for stuff that doesn’t really have versions (rockets and airplanes) you have to throw absurd amounts of effort at making sure that the cleverness is compatible.

            The less black-and-white way to frame this is that there is an axis defined by how hard it is to recover from failure, and this defines the culture for doing a class of thing. Within STEM, “Tech” is way out on one end of that axis where, in development, the last stable build is only a few keystrokes away and, in the market, the customer will accept ridiculously buggy software so long as known bugs get patched before too long. So the overworked caffeinated youngsters trying everything until they get a combination that works, may be the fastest path to success.

            Civil engineering may mark the other extreme. Bridges, dams, etc, those really really need to work the first time, and there may be no going back if they don’t. Aerospace is pretty close; there’s some tolerance for crashing experimental airplanes and blowing up rockets, but those are very expensive failures and it may take years to recover.

            But then there’s the entire world outside of STEM, which at least has unambiguous definitions of failure. If an artist makes a painting that everybody thinks is ugly, but offers a sufficiently eloquent defense of its Deeper Meaning and/or has sufficient status within the artistic community, praise and large cash payments will be forthcoming. There’s no degree of eloquence or status that can explain away a collapsed bridge, or code that won’t compile.

        • IrishDude says:

          @John Schilling

          SpaceX has blown up two out of thirty-four Falcon 9 rockets.

          SpaceX’s main domestic competitor, ULA, has launched one hundred six of its Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles without losing a payload.

          Do you happen to know the pricing difference between ULA and SpaceX? I’d guess SpaceX is much cheaper and the customers of the lower cost option might be willing to tolerate more risk. Otherwise, it seems everyone that wants something in space should use ULA given its reliability.

          • bean says:

            The cost differential is exactly why SpaceX has any business at all. That said, I’m pretty sure it’s possible to do a better job than SpaceX has in learning the lessons of the past without bogging down entirely in the traditional aerospace procedure of ‘think everything through until everyone is so tired of it they’re willing to sign off’.
            (If I was in charge of a large order of satellite launches, SpaceX’s loss rate would probably be acceptable. Build an extra bird out of the savings from the lower launch costs. But that’s not really acceptable if I only have one payload.)

          • John Schilling says:

            SpaceX quotes $62 million for a baseline Falcon 9 launch for commercial customers; their price for government customers is about 50% higher in large part because those contracts involve e.g. letting my colleagues wander around their shop telling their people they are doing things wrong and generally making a nuisance of ourselves in the name of making sure the rockets don’t blow up (we hope).

            ULA markets almost exclusively to the government, in bulk contracts that average $225 million per launch but that includes some number of Delta IV Heavies (really three Falcon-class rockets strapped together) and Delta IV or Atlas V models with multiple solid rocket boosters attached. And a bulk-buy discount. I’ve seen estimates of $100-160 million for the effective cost of a single bare Delta IV or Atlas V of roughly equivalent capability to a Falcon 9. The Aerospace Corporation mission assurance team is already solidly integrated into ULA’s operations, so that doesn’t cost extra.

            It is very rare for ULA to sell to commercial clients; when it does happen the terms are not publicly released, and it is probably the case that the commercial client’s business plan really, really cannot withstand “sorry we blew up your satellite, here’s your insurance check”.

            Most western commercial satellites are I believe launched on the European Ariane V, which represents an intermediate case – $160 million per launch but can carry two satellites at a time, and blows up roughly 2% of the time. That’s been typical of the industry’s performance the past few decades, though they did let the cost creep up a bit before SpaceX came along.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I think we need to be careful equating “STEM” with “tech”. “Tech”, in contemporary usage, seems to be specifically consumer electronics and software, which is a very unique corner of the STEM landscape with a distinct culture that you don’t see in e.g. engineering. And yes, this causes problems when e.g. Elon Musk decides apply a tech-style approach to building rockets.

      Absolutely. I’m technically a “STEM” guy in the sense that a technical degree is required to be a patent attorney but even my peripheral connection to the market makes it very clear that they aren’t all created equal. In particular there’s a huge glut in the life sciences; someone with a bachelor’s in biology or biochemistry is only marginally more employable than a liberal arts graduate and even when you add a JD to the mix, most patent attorney job postings the EE/CE/CS positions will require only a BSc while the plant and pharm positions will ask for a PhD.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Yes, Elon Musk presently is hiring across a broad spectrum of STEAM-professions, however he is seeking to hire solely that creative minority of STEM-workers who — in Bill GASARCH’s vernacular phrase — “understand rather than memorize“. No one presently knows how to pedagogically inculcate — with any very notable efficiency and universality, at any rate — this prized creative cognitive capacity.

      And yes, “memorizing”-class STEAM-workers placed in “understanding”-class work-environments will become demoralized and/or burn out pretty quickly … this being a harsh reality of all of the creative STEAM-professions.

    • wintermute92 says:

      I think we need to be careful equating “STEM” with “tech”. “Tech”, in contemporary usage, seems to be specifically consumer electronics and software, which is a very unique corner of the STEM landscape with a distinct culture…

      This is a key issue that’s frequently ignored. There are lots of things to be said about the “STEM shortage” and “STEM surplus”, but the simplest point is that STEM is a nebulous term that means totally different things in different studies. Some standards count a BS in Biology as a “STEM grad”, some limit to very hard sciences, CS, and engineering. If that Biology BS goes on to work as a nurse or doctor, some standards will call that “working in STEM”, many won’t. Some people call a math major with a finance job a STEM worker, some don’t.

      If one person is including all of medicine in their STEM, and another is only including physics/math/CS/engineering, it’s not a surprise that their numbers differ. And making it worse, a lot of people say STEM when they basically just mean computing, or software dev. So some people are including psychologists and other people are excluding IT, and then they’re surprised to disagree with each other.

    • The Nybbler says:

      On the engineering side, there is an absolute shortage of veteran engineers with certain sorts of specific expertise.

      I have heard that much of that is because the fields in question got smaller. So the companies stopped hiring many inexperienced engineers, instead keeping their veterans and not replacing them as they left due to attrition. Now those veterans are retiring… and the next generation doesn’t exist.

  43. daniel says:

    Is accepting a speaking fee sending any signal? If a corporation offers lucrative deals to presidents in a way future candidates hear about them it should suffice to create the same problem regardless of anyone taking them up on the offer.
    It would take many presidents refusing to make it seem pointless and even then the corporation in question loses nothing by making the offer.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree it would take many presidents, but it does seem like one could make a cultural norm against this sort of thing which is so strong that nobody needs to consider it.

    • IrishDude says:

      It would take many presidents refusing to make it seem pointless

      A president precedent.

  44. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Am I the only one who found The American Interest editor’s commentary to be economically incoherent? I have no idea what cost-pull progress is supposed to be–is the idea that the hype around the innovation does irrational overconsumption? His Baumol idea–that number of workers, rather than wages, had increased–invalidates the mechanism by which the original effect operates, and he doesn’t seem to realize it. And saying that companies are too big is all very well, but without even speculating as to why, it’s not that interesting.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      Yeah, speaking as an economist, it wasn’t great. “Perhaps it’s just that more teachers are being used to teach the same number of students to the same level” is really just rephrasing the question.

      And as for “there might be a new thing, and everyone wants it! But they can’t all get it, because… reasons, and then price goes up!” felt like something which wouldn’t have survived someone sitting the author down with a supply and demand diagram.

      There might be something to internal transaction costs, though, again, that’s really just re-specifying the thing you’re trying to explain. If big organisations are less productive, why are more things being produced by big organisations? And then you’re back to a lot of Scott’s points.

  45. ConnGator says:

    As a seasoned software developer I get emails every week saying there are 30,000 open development position in the greater Raleigh area. Either there is a shortage of tech workers or the Internet is not telling me the truth.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I get ads all the time saying there are lots of sexy singles in my area desperate for sex. Maybe we should send them all to Raleigh to work in software.

      • Deiseach says:

        I get ads all the time telling me how I can make $100,000 a year working from home, and I wouldn’t even have to move to Raleigh!

      • Janet says:

        I get ads all the time offering to enhance organs that I don’t even have. Maybe we could clarify that biology does, indeed, fall within the bounds of STEM education? And then send them all to Raleigh, once we’re sure they’ll know what to do with it when they get there? (I’m having a horrible mental image about what answer they’d give to the “FizzBuzz” test, right now.)

    • Zodiac says:

      Are you saying you get 30.000 emails of open positions or is this from some job portals that tell they have that many notices?
      At least in Germany it has become common practice to leave job offers out constantly and just ignore applications that come in.

      • ConnGator says:

        Actual LinkedIn jobs. I’m sure they have an incentive to overstate the number of jobs, but in talking to other tech folks it does seem that local employers are all hiring.

        But, relevant to other posts on this, most seem to have pretty specific skill requirements. The average recent college grad would not be qualified for 95% of them.

        • Jiro says:

          “Pretty specific skill requirements” is often some combination of:
          — The employer wants to hire a particular H1-B candidate at a lower salary, but is required to prove he tried to hire Americans first, so he deliberately adds requirements so as to prevent that, and
          — some employers and/or human resources people are clueless about tech jobs and write down more requirements than they actually need, or than may even be possible (3 years experience in each of 10 fields, 5 years experience with a product that hasn’t been on the market for 5 years, etc.)

          • John Schilling says:

            This may be true in Tech; it is definitely not true in Aerospace and Defense. H1-B candidates aren’t a big deal because too many programs are for US citizens only and even if you’re hiring for e.g. commercial airliner development today, your first choice is going to be someone you can have designing a bomber tomorrow if need be. And there isn’t a short list of buzzwords and shiny new tools that an HR person can imagine they understand well enough to write specifications for. The technical managers with the job that needs filling write that part. Also, almost everything we do in this business is done with technologies that are at least a decade old, because those are the only ones we can trust to work every time, so no “five years experience with a product that hasn’t been on the market for five years” crap.

            And since, in A&D, we genuinely do have trouble finding US citizens with high-level expertise in the well-established technologies that we really are interested, I suspect that this may be true in Tech as well.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Defense, at least the software end, still has the problem of “Job requirements written to exactly the technology we use”, though. “Oh, you have 5 years experience programming on Solaris? That’s too bad, we’re looking for AIX people”.

        • ConnGator says:

          Ok, I looked more carefully at the next LinkedIn email I got and it was 31k jobs total in the Raleigh area. The number of actual software developer jobs is under 300, but total STEM jobs looks to be over 3k. So I think I was somewhat correct about lots of tech jobs being available, but quite wrong about the actual number.

    • Besserwisser says:

      I regularly get emails on my university account about job offers because I took a CS course. This isn’t the case for any other course I took, though admittedly most of those are also STEM related. My professor in geoinformatics also told me they had trouble finding people to do a Master degree because most students left to find jobs with BSc and were very happy with that. No other professors were that adamant about our job perspectives being awesome.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I am sure that somewhere, there is a database where if you ran a query which appeared to find open software postings in Raleigh, it would give a number over 30,000. I would not put a number on how many of those postings were erroneous, phony, duplicates (hint: most of them), or otherwise invalid. Or how many of the rest were offering a ridiculously low salary for the job, or specified an impossible set of requirements (of the “10 years of experience in Windows 10” variety). Or, maybe there isn’t.

  46. John Schilling says:

    …a flexible, living, bendable law will always tend to be bent in the direction of the powerful

    “I am altering the Constitution. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

  47. loki-zen says:

    Some past studies that I took somewhat seriously suggested that antidepressant use during the first trimester pregnancy could slightly raise autism risk. The latest very large study fails to replicate this result and finds only a slightly increased risk of preterm birth.

    But doesn’t preterm birth raise autism risk? So could this just be the mechanism by which it raises autism risk?

  48. bean says:

    I looked pretty carefully into the STEM surplus thing a while ago, and am pretty certain that it’s at the very least vastly overstated. Yes, 50% of STEM degree-holders have non-STEM jobs, but that depends very heavily on the classification of STEM jobs. For instance, something like a third of math majors are in teaching, and I’m pretty sure that most of them planned that from the start, instead of going there when they couldn’t get a job with the NSA or as an actuary. But teaching is classified as ‘non-STEM’, so they’re part of that 50%. A similar proportion of science majors are in healthcare, also non-STEM, and I again will posit that most of them are there by choice, and not due to inability to get jobs in STEM-classified fields. The largest non-STEM category for engineering majors is management. I won’t claim that this is intended in quite the same way that teaching and healthcare are, but it also doesn’t seem quite like a category people are likely to be forced into due to inability to get a job in a STEM field.
    (All of this ignores the fact that STEM workers aren’t totally fungible. The unemployment rate among aerospace engineers was probably very high in the 70s, but the people in question couldn’t suddenly become biologists.)
    Numbers are here.

    • Besserwisser says:

      How rigid are the categorizations? Health informatics is an actual field and I wouldn’t consider a CS graduate who mostly works infront of the computer while dealing with patient data as having an inadequate job for his qualifications.

    • bean says:

      I found an interesting article from BLS that provides data for there being a crisis in certain areas (most notably in areas that require US citizenship), while there is massive oversupply in others.

      • Jiro says:

        That sounds like a corollary of “hiring foreigners is cheaper, and the real problem with the “shortage” is that employers don’t want to pay what people are worth.”

        • bean says:

          Not exactly. The US citizenship requirements have to do with defense-related projects, and a lot of our PhDs are foreign-born. (I should have stated that, but forgot that most people don’t marinate in the defense world). It’s not a matter of competition so much as supply, particularly as some fraction of US citizen STEM people have moral qualms about defense work. (I don’t know what this fraction is, but I’ve had a couple of friends tell me that they wouldn’t be willing to do it.)

  49. JulieK says:

    “It turned out that the author [of “Notes on Cost Disease”] is not, as many of his blogosphere followers assumed, an economist or a social scientist of another flavor, but a psychiatrist practicing “somewhere in the Midwest.””

    Who knew? Good thing the editor enlightened us!

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I’m pretty sure we represent a tiny fraction of Scott’s “blogosphere” followers.

  50. Deiseach says:

    From that A’Lee Frost piece:

    The SSC grew into the largest, most prominent leftist summit in the United States

    Coincidence? But nothing is ever a coincidence! 🙂

    So according to Overcoming Bias, people are only interested in religion because it gives them a chance to show off? Ah yes, of course, that is why I liked mythology as a child – so I could show off to the approximately zero (0) people in my family and amongst my schoolmates who were interested in my weird interests. About the only “showing off” about how much I know about religion I got to do was six years ago, explaining the Rosary to a blog of interested (I hope) Protestants.

  51. j1000000 says:

    Re: Sumner, not sure what the definition of “unskilled” is, but I assure you that no one in Dallas is just begging someone to grab a shovel and dig for $100k a year. Plus, Sumner now has a brief update hidden within his post that basically admits his numbers are wrong. Commenters on the article suggest the real wage might be more like $45k.

    It’s not exclusively an issue of hard work. A lot of people in this generation don’t even know the very basics of construction — tools, problem solving, etc. — and that makes it hard to even start your way up the ladder when no one wants to teach you on the job anymore. Part of the problem might be that products over the past 30 years aren’t built to be repaired, they’re built to be replaced, but maybe I’m making excuses.

    • Deiseach says:

      Or, more accurately, this generation doesn’t know the hundreds of small, peripheral things that pop up when you do construction: how to use tools other than a hammer, how to improvise solutions with tools at hand, etc.

      Which is why apprenticeships are necessary, and why “unskilled” labour isn’t really; it’s only “unskilled” if you mean “how hard can it be to handle a shovel?” Very hard, if you don’t know the first thing about it. Formerly, “unskilled” manual workers would have some basic knowledge picked up from learning from their fathers and doing odd jobs around home and for neighbours and could quickly pick up the rest on the job. Now that background knowledge is missing.

      There has been discussion on here before about credentialism and how silly it is to require someone to have a certificate before they can start hairbraiding, but there really is a need for proof of a basic qualification that you know how to do the tasks because the practical knowledge can no longer be taken for granted. (At work, we’ve had tiles come off the bathroom wall because the person tiling didn’t put the adhesive on correctly).

      • j1000000 says:

        (Sorry, I had already rephrased the part you quoted because I decided my comment was too long.)

    • sohois says:

      Do you think that such skills are somehow exclusive to certain generations though? Presumably all those little things that construction workers know how to do are built up by years of experience and training rather than just being imbued into young 1960s job seekers. There is presumably an argument that the construction seeking youth of earlier ages had already built up some skill through parental guidance or doing things in their home life, but how long would it really take to train that into a young worker today? Is it an impossible barrier?

      The issue does not appear to be with the quality of the applicants in any case. It appears that they simply cannot attract sufficient applicants in the first place, not that the applicants just aren’t good enough.

      I would posit 2 additional explanations that Sumner does not raise: 1) that the lack of ‘millenial’ applicants arises from a fairly rational long term evaluation of prospects working construction. Yes, construction work pays good wages initially and there is the possibility of quite high wages with advancement, but increases in pay are not the only thing that motivates people to move up. In a more typical office based career, the nature of the role will change a lot as well. As you move up into management, the commonly held view is that everything gets easier, as you dump your more boring or time consuming tasks onto subordinates whilst you sit in a comfortable corner office. Contrast that with a senior builder, who will probably still be busting their arse for 40 hours a week even with heavy seniority. Not only that, but on the pay scale as well, office work will appear considerably more unbounded; you can always imagine yourself rising to a C-level exec with high 6 figure salaries.

      Secondly, and related to the point about the ease of the role, even low level office positions of today appear to have far, far higher hourly rates than would they would seem at first glance, and far more “leisure” time. Any construction worker will be guaranteed to work 40 hours or more every week. If you slack off on a construction site, messing around on facebook, people are going to see and call you out on it. On the other hand, in my current, fairly low level role, I am actually working at best ten hours a week out of 40 hours at work. The rest of the time can be spent reading, or posting on SSC, or doing some other time waster on the internet or phone. It’s not perfectly free time but it’s a far sight better than filling it with physical labour. I could probably be making a lot more money right now if I had joined an apprenticeship out of high school instead of university, and I was at the time well aware of the hefty salaries being reported for plumbers or electricians, but per hour of actual work I think I’m doing a hell of a lot better in my current position.

      • Deiseach says:

        a fairly rational long term evaluation of prospects working construction

        Oh yeah. When there’s a boom, it’s a great job and you can make serious money. When there’s a slump, you’re in trouble. Our Celtic Tiger years had a huge property bubble, and the boost that gave to the construction industry drove part of our economic prosperity. When the bubble burst, all those jobs went with it, and several property developers and construction firms went bust, and people either went back home to Poland (we had immigration during the good times! people were coming to Ireland to work on the building sites!) or the natives tried going to Australia and Canada for work there just like the old days before the Tiger.

    • AnthonyC says:

      A lot of people in this generation don’t even know the very basics of construction — tools, problem solving, etc. — and that makes it hard to even start your way up the ladder when no one wants to teach you on the job anymore.

      I’m in that group. No one would ever want to see me on a construction site for exactly that reason.

      I also wonder how important the point about regional labor shortages is, because I’ve never really seen it explored before. If you’re married/in a long term relationship, you’re likely dealing with two earners, and it’s really hard to move to a new state, or even a new town. You have to find two jobs, in the same area, at the same time, in fields both partners are willing and able to enter. Maybe Dallas is hot right now, and five years from now SF will change zoning laws and need lots of new housing, and 5 years after that there’s a boom in Chicago or something. If you’re married to a school teacher whose pay is tied to seniority at a single institution, you’re not chasing those booms.

  52. Brad says:

    Matthew Yglesias changes my mind and convinces me that Obama accepting a $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee is bad. Basic argument: as long as corporations can offer politicians lucrative deals after they retire, they can reward pro-corporate decisions with plausible deniability, which incentivizes politicians to be pro-corporate. If you’re anti-corporate, this is directly bad; if you’re pro-corporate, this makes it impossible to convince people that you’re really making well-considered decisions in their best interests and not just being corrupt.

    If we are going to elect people in their 40s to be President, what do we expect them to do with the rest of lives?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If people can’t think of anything to do after age 40 other than give speeches to Wall Street for money, I support euthanizing the elderly.

      Presidents get a nice pension. They make hundreds of millions off book deals. I’m okay with them taking it easy for the rest of their lives, building philanthropic foundations, engaging in activism, or whatever.

      Heck, George W Bush is having fun painting nice pictures of the people whose deaths he’s responsible for, maybe we should make it a rule that everyone has to do that.

      • Brad says:

        If we take the foundation suggestion specifically, is it okay if they solicit Wall Street banks and bankers for donations to it?

      • meh says:

        That is just as bad, presidents will get rewarded for pro-publishing decisions with plausible deniability.

        President gets $203,700 a year pension (from wikipedia) which is of course a lot of money, yet still probably the smallest income of anyone in his/her circle. This president is also staying in the district, which has the 3rd highest cost of living of US cities.

        • Jiro says:

          Corruption in the publishing business is a lot more innocuous than corruption in all industries.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It’s easy enough to launder corruption in any given industry through a non-corrupt one. That’s the beauty of money.

          • meh says:

            I think I was joking. It’s just easy to say there is a problem, but hard to find a solution. And this doesn’t help

            “If people can’t think of anything to do after age 40 other than give speeches to Wall Street for money, I support euthanizing the elderly.”

      • cassander says:

        Just pointing out, Bill Clinton got 15 million to do his biography, which at the time was the largest advance in history. I have no idea how much he made in total, but the book sold around million copies, so at 30 bucks each the book only made 60 million. 15 million is a fortune, but after taxes and buying a house, it’s not all that much money when you spend all day hobnobbing with the elite of the elite.

        The point of this is not to nitpick, but to point out something important, the problem of wealth/status mismatch. I’m not defending the practice of taking outrageous speaking fees, but it’s an entirely predictable thing to do when your status vastly exceeds your wealth. We should pay our leaders more, not because they deserve it, they manifestly do not, but because if we pay them more they’ll be more expensive to bribe. We should shower them with money while in office, then heavily restrict how much they can take in after they leave office.

        • hls2003 says:

          It’s also important not to be fooled by the “$200K pension” claims. Sure, that’s chump change in the circles where ex-Presidents are expected to move. But let’s not pretend that the $200K is the only direct benefit to Bill Clinton et al. For example, what does it cost to have round-the-clock Secret Service protection? How rich do you have to be to be able to legally move, inconvenience, or detain people with your bodyguards if they look vaguely threatening? How much money would it take to buy a rich non-entity a free lifetime pass to any event they wanted, and a private experience of it if they prefer? In that sense, we pay him $200K in money but millions in services, prestige, and status.

          • cassander says:

            This is true, but because it’s not fungible it’s the worst of both wolds. We get stuck with a huge bill for protection, but it doesn’t leave the protected person feeling that much richer. It effectively is just more status, and the problem is status/wealth mismatch. I’d rather we gave them as much money as the protection costs then let them do them buy as much security as they wanted.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’d rather presidential decisionmaking not be affected by fear of assassination as much as possible. The nation has a selfish interest in providing security to ex-presidents, it’s not a pure perk-in-lieu-of-cash.

          • hls2003 says:

            @cassander: The security is just one example. I guess my point is that, to some extent, the millions in speaking fees and all the monetary foundation /library / whatever donations are almost (maybe not quite) preferable because they’re at least trackable. But it seems many of the real benefits are release from most anxieties that drive the average person. No college will ever turn down your daughters (at least for a Democratic ex-President). Your kids will never have trouble finding a job. You can do whatever interests you and someone will be happy to have you on board. I mean, if I were an ex-President, I might want to work with cheetah conservation efforts where I could work with the animals; my wife would probably want to find a bear sanctuary where she could feed them whipped cream. Or if you like science, and you want to get super into a field, you’ll get priority. Or if you want to travel, you’ll get free trips to conferences and events worldwide. Any golf course will beg you to play. Whatever it may be – work, kids, hobbies, interests – you have carte blanche. That sort of status and prestige is much tougher to value and to track than a simple count of how many dollars the latest Wall Street firm wired to your account.

          • cassander says:

            @suntzuanime

            I’m not sure there’s a measurable effect there, but if you give them money, they can buy all the security they want. And who assassinates and ex-president anyway?

            @hls2003

            I agree that being president gives you immense status. That’s unavoidable. What I want is to make sure it also gives you immense wealth, then make it illegal for anyone else to try to rent your status for money.

          • suntzuanime says:

            We’re talking post-presidential security here, not in office security.

            Yes, but if you claim that one’s presidential decisionmaking may be swayed by the prospect of a post-presidential bribe, surely also you must concede that one’s presidential decisionmaking may be swayed by the prospect of a post-presidential assassination.

            EDIT: The above post was edited to change the argument made after I had already posted a response. I will note that Saddam Hussein attempted to assassinate Bush after he had left office, so it can in fact happen.

          • cassander says:

            @suntzuanime says:

            Yes, but if you claim that one’s presidential decisionmaking may be swayed by the prospect of a post-presidential bribe, surely also you must concede that one’s presidential decisionmaking may be swayed by the prospect of a post-presidential assassination.

            the post presidential bribe is very certain to happen, assassination very unlikely. People respond at least as much to the likelihood of reward/punishment as the magnitude.

            EDIT: The above post was edited to change the argument made after I had already posted a response. I will note that Saddam Hussein attempted to assassinate Bush after he had left office, so it can in fact happen.

            Apologies for that, I misread your comment and changed my initial answer almost immediately.

          • Or if you want to travel, you’ll get free trips to conferences and events worldwide.

            You can get that with a lot less status than being an ex-president. I pretty routinely get invitations to go somewhere and give a talk at someone else’s expense. So do a lot of other people.

            The rest of your list, on the other hand …

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Isn’t that what Singapore does?

        • Ratte says:

          My Life actually sold around 2.25 million copies, but IIRC the publisher only gets ~30% of the sale price of a book, the rest going to the retailer and distribution chain, printing, royalties, etc. – and that’s setting aside discounts, promo copies, and suchlike. It’s very possible that Knopf lost money on the Clinton books, or at least made marginal returns.

          This wouldn’t really be unexpected, either. I know Reagan’s books didn’t even cover the advance from S&S.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Sent to Presidents’ Island, obviously.

  53. ss4johnny says:

    From the CDC paper:
    “Although the reasons for the gap in life expectancy at birth between the United States and comparable countries are complex, a substantial portion of this gap reflects just 3 causes of injury.”
    These seems consistent with the other paper…

  54. episcience says:

    I just wanted to say that the The American Interest piece on cost disease was really well-done. I liked it more than the original blog piece; it was punchier and pulled out more points of contemporary relevance.

    How did you like working with an editor? Did the piece feel better to you after the editing process?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I thought the editor made everything worse and I tried to roll back as many of their changes as possible (which was less than 100%).

      It’s nice to know other people liked it better, makes me think that maybe editors exist for a reason, and helps me recalibrate my thought processes here.

      • sketerpot says:

        Not so fast! My reaction was that almost all of the editor’s changes made it slightly worse, and the subreddit’s reaction could not be called enthusiastic, so we’re probably not the only two people who felt that way.

      • RLM says:

        I wanted to give a detailed comparison of why I think the American Interest article is much worse than the original blog post, so that you don’t recalibrate your thought processes too hard! These are my own personal impressions from reading the article:

        The intro

        Your blog post starts in right away and gets me interested in some mysterious, secret force that’s making everything cost more, and which people aren’t really talking about / know the true extent of. It feels exciting, like you’re about to delve with us into something very important and general, and the chart is perfectly timed to quickly reveal that something is very wrong with education — with the promise that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

        The AI article starts off, first, by informing me that this article is behind a paywall, although they will deign to give me ONE free article a month. Then it proceeds into a meandering discussion about some sort of “paradox” that’s “hard-to-measure”, immediately transitioning into a weird jargon-filled discussion about “the Baumol effect” which I don’t care about or have any context for, and which it dismisses anyway in the next sentence. Then it spends three paragraphs giving a sort of “abstract” for the article. Paragraph 1 focuses mostly on the fact that we won’t be talking about military weapon systems, paragraph 2 brings up the (already dismissed and still jargon) “Baumol effect” and then dismisses the effect again while pointing out that this article will not offer any better alternatives, and paragraph 3 says that we will also briefly talk about politics. Reading the intro does NOT get me excited at all. I imagine I’m about to read some boring treatise about the “Baumol effect” (whatever that is), and then learn about some hard-to-measure (and therefore probably small and unimportant) paradoxes in a few sectors like healthcare. The “Baumol effect” I’m about to learn about will turn out to be unrelated to the paradox I’m about to learn about, and then the article will finish by offering no real explanation followed by a cursory bit about politics. This is a VERY bad intro! It fails to get me excited, wastes time with jargon, and worst of all, it fails to accurately convey the tone and content of the article!

        Primary Education

        Your blog post provides more info in the chart along with lots of hyperlinks to investigate the claim at both a high-level (politifact) and a low-level (the Cato institute’s actual numbers). Buried in paragraph 3 you point out the bit about the 20% improvement in minorities, and it’s clear to me that even though the graph looks pretty darn flat, I could confirm this for myself by checking the numbers.

        The AI article (which has already not done a very good job of signposting), just shows the graph and says in the caption “Source: Cato Institute”. It decides to START with the contradictory bit about the 20% improvement in minority education, whereupon I get very confused because I can’t find anything that looks like a 20% improvement in the graph, and the graph doesn’t seem to even be split by any sort of minority/white distinction. I start to seriously consider one of the following:

        – I am making such an extreme error in comprehending the graph that this article is probably above my head and I should stop reading. (but the graph seems simple enough!)

        – I’m looking at the wrong graph and there’s another education related graph split by race with a 20% improvement somewhere (there isn’t, this also requires a forward scan to the next graph in the article to confirm and is jarring)

        – The author is trying to hide something from me / doesn’t understand their own graph / accidentally picked the wrong graph to show.

        – The graph is an aggregate and doesn’t show any dips because the minority scores get averaged in. (but then why are the minority scores so important that it’s the first thing that’s brought up in the discussion)

        All of these conclusions are confusing and annoying and none of them bode well for the rest of the article! There are no hyperlinks for me to easily follow to resolve my confusion, and the only thing I can do is just shove the whole thing aside and hope it will make sense later.

        The last sentence of the paragraph is “As far as cost disease is concerned, the key point is that most of the increase in school spending per capita took place after 1985, and demonstrably helped neither whites nor minorities.” This is confusing to me because I thought we were talking about some economic paradox and not things having to do with race. The blog post properly treats this as just a bit of minutiae, which you can follow-up on if you want to, while at this point in the AI article I’ve got three concepts bouncing around in my head: some economic paradox which is too small to measure well, the “Baumol effect” which I still don’t know anything about other than that it’s probably irrelevant to the discussion, and now something about how it’s very important that minorities had a 20% improvement while whites did not, although the graph seems to contradict the statement. At this point I would normally abandon reading the article unless there was a very compelling reason to continue reading.

        In the blog post, this graph was a glorious harbinger of dread, revealing the first symptoms of the mysterious “cost disease” and leading us to understand that we’re paying a lot more for education and getting nothing in return! I’m led to feeling personally cheated, wondering what’s going on, and dreading that this problem might not just be limited to education…

        The last paragraph of the education section in the AI article starts “In that light, imagine a choice set before a poor person—white, black, or any other demographic. Would you prefer to send your child to a 2016 school, or to send them to a 1975 school and get a check for $5,000 every year?”

        The blog entry reads : “So, imagine you’re a poor person. White, minority, whatever. Which would you prefer? Sending your child to a 2016 school? Or sending your child to a 1975 school, and getting a check for $5,000 every year?”

        The AI article uses distancing language, talking about “a choice set before a poor person”. And it still starts out focusing on race like that’s somehow important! In contrast, the blog entry really puts us in the shoes of someone having to make this decision. When I read it, it feels like I’m the one who just got cheated out of a $5000 check for no reason, and gets me to actually think about the injustice of such a profound missed opportunity.

      • RLM says:

        College education

        Again, the AI article strips out the excellent hyperlink references, leaving me powerless to confirm any of the numbers. The other changes in this part include changing from:

        “I don’t know if there’s an equivalent of “test scores” measuring how well colleges perform, so just use your best judgment.”

        which is a great rhetorical device to get me thinking about how I personally judge the monetary value of college, to:

        “There is no equivalent of “test scores” to measure how well colleges perform, despite some recent efforts to create reliable metrics.”

        which just asserts to me that I can’t really judge how colleges perform. The blog post gets me in the right frame of mind to start thinking about the actual value I should be getting from extra money spent on college, the AI article just makes me want to pedantically argue against the assertion that there’s no way to measure college successes, and brings me away from the flow of the argument.

        The blog post finishes this section with a delightful first person perspective that you share comparing your college experience with your parents. I get the warm feeling of imagining your parents talking to you about their college hi-jinks “back in their day” and sharing their stories with you. Then, you reflect on your own experience, thinking “wait a minute, I think I just got taken for a ride for my $72,000!” This makes the argument personal, relatable, and makes me sympathize with you and think the same things myself.

        The AI article, in contrast, keeps the first person perspective but looses the charm. “As far you can see” your parents had a similar experience in college as yourself. I don’t imagine you actually talking with your parents in this case, I imagine you just bringing them up as a rhetorical prop for the article. The addition of “standard-issue angst” to the list of college experiences and the shallowness of the reference to your parents subtly alter the interpretation of the final line in my mind: instead of sympathizing with you, my first reaction is to think, “this guy is just complaining and probably doesn’t even actually know how college really was back in the day, he’s just guessing.”

        Health Care

        Again the lack of hyperlinks and other in-line references in the AI article is annoying. At this point the simplicity of the charts is starting to make me wonder if they’re really trustworthy or not. They feel like they could have been crudely mocked up in MS Paint to illustrate some non-rigorous data from the sources. It’s not easy for me to get at the sources, so who knows? In contrast, the blog has very engaging graphs, including the life-expectancy graph, which adds a bit of morbid humor to the train of discussion, breaking up what could otherwise be a tedious continuation of the last two sections. The AI article has no such humor, and I find myself scrolling through the health care section, still wondering what the point is and whether we’ll ever get to the “Baumol effect” I heard so much about in the intro.

        In the blog post, I felt that this health care section had the most punch out of all the sections, because I could tell that you personally live through these effects since you’re a doctor. In the AI article, I don’t get the impression that you’re a medical doctor who has personally seen his friends / himself suffer through some of these cost increases, because many of the grounding references have been stripped away. For example, when I first read your blog article, the single most powerful visual I took away from it was when you described how “…even when I was young in the ’80s my father would still go to the houses of difficult patients who were too sick to come to his office”. With just this one sentence, you lay bare the core human tragedy that cost disease really is: even with all of our supposedly time-saving technology, the son cannot carry on his father’s tradition of making house calls. We laugh at the idea of house calls today, but then think, “wait, why can’t Scott do house calls just like his father?”. And then it hits us that this highly relatable personal tragedy, in aggregate, is an economic cancer that is eating away our entire society’s ability to take care of itself, and no one knows why. In the AI article, we get: “Doctors used to make house calls.”

        When you talk about ACE inhibitors in your final game of “choose between our modern system / the old system and a large check,” it’s with a sense of authority, and it allows me to really clearly visualize the idea of a 60’s-80’s flavored hospital with modern drugs and vastly reduced prices. The typesetting is great too: you introduce the choice with an indented list which offers a sharp binary choice, and the choice feels like an indictment of the world we’ve somehow built vs the one we could have if we could only solve this cost disease problem. The AI article introduces this same choice in-line with: “That said, we can ask the standard-form question we have used before… “. Weak!

        Conclusion

        I’m not going to treat the other sections in too much detail. The general problems with in-line hyperlinks / graphs continue, and discussion of the “Baumol effect” is buried in a single paragraph and then dismissed. The language continues to be stilted, talking about things like “prestige dampers” while the blog article used more relatable language.

        In the blog you clearly paint a picture of what we could have, by describing Keynes’ 15 hour work week, your own personal ideal of a hospital like the one your father worked at, and affordable college like your parents had. You bring up the option of “having things be as efficient as they were a few decades ago” and point out that it would be the single greatest poverty elimination program in American history, and it really hits that something is going very wrong here! The AI article is missing these references and generally does a poor job of getting us to visualize just how much better the world would be if cost disease could be cured, and how much we’re getting screwed now.

        Every article starts with a promise for what it’s going to teach you, and should be judged on how well it delivers. In the blog, you open by implicitly promising to show us something scary and concerning, and then you immediately deliver over and over again, sprinkling personal anecdotes and humor and ending with a fourth-wall-breaking, rhetorically brilliant appeal to your readership stating that you’re scared and really want to know what’s going on. I left thinking that I had received a very valuable picture of a powerful economic enemy, as well as a new way to conceptualize left/right economic disagreements. The bold, all-caps statement that “ALL THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS COST TEN TIMES AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO FOR NO REASON, PLUS THEY SEEM TO BE GOING DOWN IN QUALITY, AND NOBODY KNOWS WHY”, really drives home the point that there’s a more compelling dimension than the tired old left/right divide. Basically, you promised something compelling and then delivered very effectively and then some.

        The AI article, in contrast, starts off talking about jargon, devalues its own later political discussion at the end, and describes the core problem we’re going to talk about as a “difficult-to-measure paradox”. It meanders for a while with neither humor nor personal connection, and then peters out at the end with endless qualifications like “The same is true to greater or lesser degrees”, “Not everybody understands all of this”, and refusing to refer to the left or right but instead only using weak terms like “Some get upset about teachers’ unions” and “Some promote free universal college education”. It ends saying that the “future of American politics may not get much better from here”, offering no real solutions, sense of urgency, or calls to action.

        I’m writing this as a counterbalance to the idea that editors always make things better; I consider the original blog post to be a masterful piece of rhetoric which I’m happy to share with my friends, but I would generally not share the AI article with anyone because of its many flaws.

      • Ralf says:

        I want to back up sketerpot and RLM (excellent) post. The subreddit was also rather irritated about the tone of the followup:

        https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/67j0j3/notes_on_notes_on_cost_disease/dgqxzf7/

        I guess you two just didn’t mesh together.

  55. Tatu Ahponen says:

    It’s not like March for Science made a collective decision for everyone to bring witty signs and wear funny costumes. It’s individuals who have come to the protest who did that – and of course there’s a lot of pictures of witty signs, because they tend to get readers and Facebook likes.

    Arguably the sort of people who go to March for Science are also the sort of people who are ready to crack witticisms even about things that they believe in quite seriously, compared to other sorts of protests, because that’s just their preferred mode of communication.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      This x 100. See (e.g.) PhD Comics and/or xkcd and/or The Far Side and/or Calvin and Hobbes.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Also: I wonder how much of it is just a proportion of locals. Anecdotally, I saw a lot of people who traveled to go to the Women’s March on my social media, while the March for Science was mostly people who lived and worked in the DC area–which in turn makes sense, there’s a lot science jobs in that area between the government, the military, and all the various contractors.

      If a protest is a day trip for you, it makes sense that you’d be a little less grim about the whole thing, and I can’t see anything wrong with that at all.

      • J Mann says:

        True story: I covered the march against Iraq War I for the school paper, and ended up marching near the border between a gay anti-war group and a group of anarchists. They spent several minutes chanting “We’re Here! We’re Queer! We’re Going to Smash the State!”

    • J Mann says:

      I would say the March for Science is:

      (1) less urgent than a march to prevent Rwandan genocide or abortion. America’s an intensely technocratic and scientific country, either under a Trump administration or an Obama administration, although both have their scientific failings

      (2) but still important. The marchers are arguing for more scientific funding, a more scientific approach to problems, etc. That’s an important value to them that they want to share, but it’s not too serious for jokes.

      Those two factors create more room for wit than trying to save lives.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        less urgent than a march to prevent Rwandan genocide or abortion.

        Not that I want to start a flamewar, but you are at least aware how ‘arson, murder and jaywalking’-ish that sounds to a lot of people?

        • herbert herberson says:

          Does it? People disagree on whether or not abortion should be legal, but I’d say there’s a pretty wide consensus that it’s a very important question either way.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Well, people also disagree on whether jaywalking should be illegal, but there isn’t (to my knowledge) a large contingent who think that it should be treated in the same ballpark of seriousness as arson or murder. J Mann wasn’t just saying that the issue of abortion was important to come to some sort of consensus on (with a lot of people arguing that it shouldn’t be illegal at all); they were saying something that kind of implies that it is uncontroversial that abortion should be prevented with the same sort of urgency that genocide should be prevented, which, to someone someone on the mainstream other side of that dispute, sounds very much like ‘conflating very serious crimes with (should-be) non-crimes’

          • J Mann says:

            ETA: I meant “less urgent to the marchers”, but left that implied instead of stated clearly. On reflection, my post was capable of being interpreted both as I intended and as Winter Shaker read it. I apologize for the imprecision.

            I answered below – I think if you review what I said, I never said that the issues were uncontroversial among non-marchers, only that they marchers believed in their cause with a particular level of intensity.

            For myself, I think that any group that worships Bill Nye either does not actually know much about either science, Bill Nye, or both, or doesn’t care about the conflict, but that isn’t relevant to the intensity of the marchers.

            Although now that I think about it, the presence of Nye does suggest that the whole thing is a lark.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is there a Mad Libs template for these posts somewhere, or something? I could swear I’ve read this before.

          • CatCube says:

            As far as I can tell, he keeps trying to invoke an object destructor.

          • Nornagest says:

            Okay, now I’m sure you’re trolling.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            The Onion nails it:

            Nation’s Climatologists Exhibiting Strange Behavior

            “Well, I hate to see them [climatologists] all agitated, but these old professors sure do look funny waving their skinny little weak arms and pushing their glasses back up! And what is that chattering noise they’re making?”

            What are the objective and substantive differences (if any) between The Onion’s skillful parodies of willfully ignorant, abusively personalizing, consistently anti-scientific, denialist cognition, and the alt.SSCs exemplars of it — for example the above reflexively alt.paradigmatic Bill Nye/the Science Guy alt.mockery?

          • J Mann says:

            Maybe we can start a discussion on one of the open threads about Bill Nye mockery, which I think is easily defensible. Short version:

            – My Facebook feed is full of friends who gleefully repost stuff about how much they Fucking Love Science, including all kinds of Bill Nye for president garbage. If your idea of a scientific hero is a stand up comedian who has the word “science” in his show name, you’re well on the way to being a cargo cultist.

            – I’m mostly mad at Nye because of his intervention into deflategate, which made everyone who takes him seriously a little bit dumber. If he thinks science needs a mascot, he should hire a couple decent scientists to tell him what to say on an issue before he opines.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            Hmmmm … perhaps alt.SSC comments should include disclaimers? For example:

            “The following comment is not rationally relevant to any scientific evidence or concern, but rather expresses alt.SSC irritation in respect to Bill Nye’s personage.”

            This would be helpful! 🙂

          • J Mann says:

            @Marshayne Lonehand

            If I say Bill Nye annoys me, I’m not sure why I have to disclaim a position on climate science. That’s baggage you brought to the discussion. The fact that Nye is a carbon rationing advocate doesn’t mean that I’m not entitled to find him annoying.

            Besides, I specifically referenced Deflategate, which is (1) a scientific criticism, and (2) not climate, and therefore a clue of one of the things I find annoying about the guy.

            He’s not good at science, he just wears a lab coat. If Kerry Alexander or William Connolley were the spokesman for climate change, I’d be a lot happier.

        • J Mann says:

          ETA: I meant “less urgent to the marchers”, but left that implied instead of stated clearly. On reflection, my post was capable of being interpreted both as I intended and as Winter Shaker read it. I apologize for the imprecision.

          are at least aware how ‘arson, murder and jaywalking’-ish that sounds to a lot of people?

          I was trying to convey that those were issues that the marchers viewed with a particular level of intensity, and that my perception was that the March for Science marchers who held funny signs probably didn’t see the issue as intensely as anti-Rwandan genocide marchers and anti-abortion marchers see their issues, at least as a matter of revealed preference.

          As to your specific question, I hadn’t specifically thought about whether people who don’t march for at least one of those cause might think they are different, since it wasn’t relevant to my point, but if asked, I know that they obviously do. Are you implying that you think it was offensive to include the two issues in the same set notwithstanding that they share relevant properties?

          Specifically I think everyone except some genocide apologists (if any) are opposed to the Rwandan genocide, while only some people are strongly opposed to abortion, but as I said, that isn’t directly relevant to a discussion of marcher intensity.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Don’t worry, I’m not trying claim it was offensive, just that it was amusing to see what looked looked like an unintentional real-life equivalent of ‘arson, murder, jaywalking’ in the wild. Your wording made it sound like you personally rated abortion and genocide as obviously universally-recognised-as-comparable evils, that’s all.

  56. Mark Paskowitz says:

    I’m a bit surprised that you don’t see any reason to be concerned with the partisanship of the March for Science. I see a lot of parallels between it and the growing partisanship of free speech, in that one side of the political divide IS worse but neither is pure, and actively exacerbating the conflict, even if you’re in the right, is counterproductive.

    Of course, I don’t have to tell you this. You made exactly this point in your Sacred Principles as Exhaustible Resources post.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      “one side of the political divide IS worse but neither is pure, and actively exacerbating the conflict, even if you’re in the right, is counterproductive.”

      I don’t see why “exacerbating the conflict” is necessarily counterproductive. Surely it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi exacerbated their conflicts, and I don’t think it was counterproductive in either case. On the other hand, these guys are also exacerbating their chosen conflict, and I do think it’s counterproductive.

      I think the difference is simply whether you have an effective solution to the problem in mind. Exacerbating the conflict often leads to your preferred solution being implemented (assuming you have sympathizers in powerful places, as King did, you can motivate them to act). If the solution is effective, bang, done. If not, then the problem worsens and you exacerbate the conflict more, etc. until either you fizzle out or something drastic and probably tragic happens. Sadly, this rules out quick-and-easy ways to evaluate political movements, but hey, what can you do.

      • Mark Paskowitz says:

        Sure, it isn’t necessarily counterproductive. I didn’t mean to imply that this was a general rule, merely that I think it applies to the March for Science and the free speech campus movement (2017 version). It seems we agree on the broad principle that sometimes it can be productive, other times not.

        As for the specifics, we may or may not agree. I was just pointing out that Scott himself had raised this concern parenthetically in an earlier post, so I was surprised he was a bit dismissive of it here. To that, I can add introspection (n=1). I’m a pretty scientifically inclined person, but I find myself more and more skeptical that loud claims of “science” reflect actual underlying science.

  57. Freddie deBoer says:

    The sign thing rings so true to me. And I have to say that it’s part of this bigger overall trend on the left towards a therapeutic mode of engagement rather than a political one. “Hey, we can’t change anything, so let’s have a good time while we go down.” It’s very aggravating to me.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Eh.

      Consider:

      “Don’t be angry because you will just be confused for hating us, as an outgroup, and we won’t pay attention. You should be welcoming and friendly so we might listen to you.”

      “You aren’t angry? You must not care.”

      • entobat says:

        +1

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think the left has just misunderstood the persuasive power of marches/demonstrations and marching has become a cargo cult. No one came around to Dr. King’s way of thinking because they saw Dr. King and friends marching, they came around to Dr. King’s way of thinking because respectable-looking people got set on by dogs and fire hoses for merely marching. It’s rather difficult to make a case that you’re being horribly oppressed when you’re well fed, well clothed, and freely speaking your mind in public unmolested.

        Marching and protests probably have good tribal bonding utility but very little if any persuasive power when you’re not getting beaten.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      I don’t think the left is “go[ing] down”. As Moldbug says, “Cthulhu swims left”.

      We have a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican President. Our Supreme Court now leans (slightly) conservative. And yet there has been practically no effort whatsoever to reverse, say, marriage equality – something that happened only two years ago and used to be a key issue for conservatives. So even with certain electoral reversals, I don’t think the left is on its way out or “can’t change anything”.

      [It shocks me that marriage equality is basically ironclad now, when barely ten years ago the country was seriously considering the Federal Marriage Amendment, i.e. illegalizing gay marriage through the freaking Constitution (though I’m quite happy about this particular development)]

      • suntzuanime says:

        The reason they tried to make it illegal through the freaking Constitution is that they realized if they didn’t, this would happen. They failed, and so this happened. It’s similar to how people tried and indeed even succeeded at pushing alcohol prohibition into the Constitution, because they knew that the Supreme Court was unlikely to find a penumbral right to be prevented from drinking alcohol on its own.

        • wintermute92 says:

          Yeah, that. The push to use the Constitution wasn’t because the position was so bulletproof it was to be a fundamental trait of the country, it was because there was no other way to make it happen. If you want to massively restrict people’s personal freedoms by law, you pretty much have to use an Amendment or it’ll fall in court immediately. Which was pretty much the point of the system, so I tend to file the attempt-and-failure of the FMA under “system working as intended”.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        We have a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican President. Our Supreme Court now leans (slightly) conservative. And yet there has been practically no effort whatsoever to reverse, say, marriage equality – something that happened only two years ago and used to be a key issue for conservatives. So even with certain electoral reversals, I don’t think the left is on its way out or “can’t change anything”.

        There’s definitely been a rightward shift on immigration. Even if you assume Trump won’t get Congress to fund his wall you’re already seeing what is essentially Romney’s “self-deportation” strategy on steroids. Plus the second travel ban will likely survive SCOTUS.

        • cassander says:

          >There’s definitely been a rightward shift on immigration.

          Immigration policy hasn’t changed at all. Maybe it will in the future, but until then, at most, it’s rhetoric, not reality.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But you would agree immigration enforcement has shifted rightward, correct? So Anonymous Bosch’s observation that “there’s definitely been a rightward shift on immigration” is accurate.

          • cassander says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’m not sure what you mean by enforcement as distinct from policy. I mean, I’m sure there are more border patrol agents than there were a decade ago, but that’s really just bureaucratic growth. Other than that, how has enforcement changed?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @cassander

            Deportations are up, DACA recipients are also being deported, attempted border crossings are down 70%, Texas passed a law against sanctuary cities and is already acting, the DoJ is attempting to go after others…

          • cassander says:

            >Deportations are up,

            That’s a complicated question that I don’t know enough to argue cogently, but know enough to know that simply quoting headline figures doesn’t give you the full picture.

            attempted border crossings are down 70%,

            That seems likely to be the result of a change in the attitude of immigrants, not US policy. Immigrant attitude might very well respond to changes in policy, but it can also change in response to other things.

            Texas passed a law against sanctuary cities and is already acting, the DoJ is attempting to go after others…

            And cities in other states have declared themselves sanctuaries. I’m going to call that a wash.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That seems likely to be the result of a change in the attitude of immigrants, not US policy. Immigrant attitude might very well respond to changes in policy, but it can also change in response to other things.

            When the guy who characterizes a not-insignificant portion of illegal Mexican immigrants as rapists (and some good people too, I guess), who talks about the “bad hombres” who “have to go back,” when the media blares for two years that this guy is hyper-racist against mexicans, when this man is elected President and then his attorney general (also billed by the media as a hateful white supremacist) announces “The most important thing for us is to send a message to the world that the border is not open. Please don’t come. You will be apprehended if you do come, and you will be deported promptly. And if you’re a criminal, you’ll be prosecuted. And if you assault our officers, we’re going to come at you with a ton of bricks” and then border crossings go way down…I don’t know, man. I think William of Ockham would like a word with you.

          • cassander says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’m not disputing that trump’s rhetoric might have had a chilling effect on potential immigrants. I’m certain it did, but rhetoric is not a shift in policy. If trump doesn’t match his rhetoric with actual policy, then the chilling effect will fade.

    • shakeddown says:

      I think there’s a tendency to assume that people who joke about something don’t genuinely care about it, and that it’s wrong. For a trivial example, Jews (especially Israeli Jews) make way more holocaust jokes than anyone else.

  58. Alejandro says:

    I had always thought of Rod Dreher as some sort of crotchety conservative blogger who was deeply concerned about The Gays. Apparently he is actually a tragic figure resembling an Old Testament prophet come to life.

    The joke here, of course, is that Old Testament prohets were just the 600-700s BCE version of crotchety conservative bloggers deeply concerned about The Gays (replacing “The Gays” with “The Foreign Gods Worshippers”).

  59. rlms says:

    Nice to see someone else making a sonnet-writing program. I didn’t use deep learning, but I think my results were pretty similar. Since they did things properly, their poems are better in terms of scanning and sentence structure, but the differences are fairly marginal. For both projects, the main thing that stops the poems being convincing is that they simply don’t make much sense semantically. It’s cool that they’ve managed to invent a way of finding related words. I chose words based on their (frequency in poetry)/(frequency in general) ratio. This illustrates an important point about AI: deep learning stuff might be able to do things with natural language that looks impressive, but we aren’t really any nearer to writing programs that can actually *understand*.

    One of my program’s poems:

    incessantly inhabited the kite
    the dumb mumbles remembered thereabouts
    furtively fell the flammable delight
    i lopped the unimaginable shouts
    the goddess is like the northeastern pan
    the wildest eucalyptus caved afloat
    they bounded the unfathomable clan
    the yellowish despair is like the goat
    the jagged window diminished anymore
    and infinitely overwhelmed and bowed
    fitfully scattered the obsessive drawer
    he camped the unimaginable crowd
    the squeaky filament is like the rain
    as discontented as the meaty reign

    • James says:

      Yes, I was impressed by how smoothly (some of the lines of) the examples read in the paper. Yours is good too. Where did you get your poetry corpus?

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Yes. It’s remarkable that these systems produce either poetry, humor that’s fun because it’s nonsensical, or texts of very rigid or repetitive structure / format.

      This illustrates an important point about AI: deep learning stuff might be able to do things with natural language that looks impressive, but we aren’t really any nearer to writing programs that can actually *understand*.

      Or the way I like to put it after playing with similar language generators a little bit: a program that is able to produce texts that appear to demonstrate true understanding of semantics would be a mighty step closer to an AGI (initiative is another), and probably one necessary cognitive tool to create some we’d call a human level intelligence.

      This brings me to one reason why the largeness parody paper did not convince me. It just assumes that human level intelligence is a thing alike to sizeness of mountains, and then makes fun of applying that to arguments made from the assumption that it isn’t. When creating an “intelligence” from more or less scratch, it could very well turn out that the “semantics block” is a distinct ability to the “rational capacity” as measured by e.g. Raven’s matrices. Maybe even orthogonal one, instead of mere distinct.

      Who says that the semantic “understanding” ability scales with computing time or memory as well as, say, ability to process logical problems in a more restricted domain? Greater “semantic understanding” and “intelligence as measured by Ravens matrices” (and bunch of others) coincide in humans, but this is because our brains and minds are a product of evolutionary process.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        A separate tangent.

        Yes. It’s remarkable that these systems produce either poetry, humor that’s fun because it’s nonsensical, or texts of very rigid or repetitive structure / format.

        Just after clicking “post”, I thought adding this: I’d guess chatbots that manage ritualistic conversations (as per a half-remembered quote from Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy, where someone remarks to the protagonist that in certain kind of cultures, one can spend a day talking to other people according to societal niceties and customs and polite reactions and other empty phrases, without really saying anything.). We even might be there already, I haven’t looked recently.

  60. James says:

    Are the people in Kernel mostly UK-based, or does it include a significant contingent of people from the US (the bay area!?)? I only ask because of how they’re talking about it as an alternative to existing “hubs”.

    And where did the group come from? Is it a rationalist tumblr thing? I see the facebook group is fairly sizeable.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think mostly UK-based, and I know rationalist Tumblr was involved but I’m not sure if it was the starting point.

    • magicalbendini says:

      The Kernel is mostly Europe-based, with a large contingent currently living in the UK.

      The group membership itself comes from facebook mostly but has quite a few people from tumblr, the rest are an assortment from discord/slack/meatspace.

      The starting point was a branch from an existing project a couple months ago, although the main project it came from is no longer exists. This provided the initial group but it is now a small percentage of the total.

      As the person running the group I am happy to take questions here or on Facebook.

      • James says:

        Thanks. I’m vaguely interested. I live in Bristol at the moment but have been considering moving to Manchester for a long time. (Also, my brother lives there.) I’m not really in a position to move right now, so I won’t be one of the early adopters, but I will pay attention and continue to consider it as an option. I might drop you a line by email so we’re in touch that way.

        • magicalbendini says:

          Email is more than welcome.

          The current count for people considering moving (including those who are certain) is at 26, not including today’s group, who I haven’t surveyed yet.

          The SSC meetups survey had 19 Cambridge respondents, for reference.

  61. AlphaGamma says:

    On Taser/Axon and body cameras:

    There have been complaints about where and how the footage from these body cameras is stored.

  62. Peter Gerdes says:

    As for the question of “Are we dating or just friends who have sex” I don’t think it is even a meaningful distinction for most poly relationships. I mean there is a real sense in which my wife and I are just friends who live together and have sexual relations. Ultimately, I think the only distinction which this question tracks is whether or not your partner is interested in a `serious’ relationship, i.e. , one which might lead to marriage or at least involves giving up other sexual partners and advertising your relationship in a way that cuts off other sexual opportunities. If you are in a poly relationship that you already know isn’t headed for marriage I’m not sure there is any fact still at issue in this regard.

    • leoboiko says:

      Me and my torrid intellectual affair’s preferred expression these days is “torrid intellectual affair”. It seems to describe how we feel about each other (something stronger than “having casual sex with a friend”) while still avoiding the cultural baggage of words like “boyfriend”, “dating” or “marriage”.

    • blacktrance says:

      I think the distinction between dating and friends who have sex (and marriage vs long-term friendship with sex, living together, etc) is whether romantic attraction is present. Romantic interest, as a quale, is more than just the overlap between sexual interest and friendship.

    • Brad says:

      I assume everyone recognizes that the article (and it appears the whole site) is satirical and is just using the title as a jumping off point?

  63. leoboiko says:

    I’m delighted that someone managed to sneak a glyph variant like the multiocular O into Unicode. You can see some N-ocular manuscript sources in the proposal (p. 46).

    For an angelic mark, it looks positively Lovecraftian. (ꙮ_ꙮ)

    It’s also an early codepoint in the BMP, so by now most computers should have a font to display it.

    • MawBTS says:

      It’s like an insectile node of eyes. Very disturbing. We should have left it in the Middle Ages.

      I like looking at foreign language letters and ascribing aesthetic content to them. I always thought Georgian script was particularly horrific. The letters look like torture equipment.

      The English alphabet is dull. Though maybe I just think that because I was raised with it.

      Question for people who were raised with an alphabet other than the English one: do you find English letters boring, or interesting?

      • leoboiko says:

        What English letters? There’s no such thing. There’s only the Roman alphabet, which was spread equally to Britannia and Germania and Hispania and Africa and all the provinces. It’s not English no more than Frank or Gothic or any other barbarian’s.

        What’s my opinion of it? The Roman alphabet fills me with awe, to be frank. The Empire is long gone, but its mark has reached so far. I look at an uppercase screed in a dirty bathroom in Brazil and think of the Trajan column, and wow it still looks pretty much the same. Five hundred years ago this was a jungle rich in biodiversity and freedom and now that the hand of Progress worked its magic, it’s brick and pollution and Rome. And it’s such a great, rational writing system. I mean sure, the alphabetic principle is due the Greeks, but that’s the point; the Empire takes; the Empire is not a petty, weak little thing like the Nation, it doesn’t want homogeneity or purity, but on the contrary it wants the Other within its borders, paying tribute, submitting; once the Greek were made to bent the knee, the entirety of Greek culture belonged to the Empire, even the Greek Gods belonged to the Empire (as did the Zoroastrian Gods, the Egyptian Gods et cetera). And, in spirit at least, Rome still conquers; most undocumented languages, when documented, are now given a notation in Roman writing. The more languages use it, the more incentive is there to adopt it for even more languages. imperium sine fine dedi. Urbi et orbi. SPQR.

        (Italic letters make me think of Chancery and the Renaissance and high humanism; I can all but feel it written by hand by some genius polymath solving all the mysteries of the world.)

        (Ok, ok, there is such a thing as English letters, and I do think it’s a shame no one ever uses them anymore. I find your quaint, barbaric writing to be quite picturesque; the shapes are rustic yet warm, kind of like an Enya limited edition release of Nordic runes. I of course understand why you had to submit yourselves to the glory of Roman writing, but part of me wishes you still kept using English letters, if nothing else for your tribal ceremonies and such. Would add a pleasant local color to Britannia and other related provinces.)

        • Winter Shaker says:

          part of me wishes you still kept using English letters, if nothing else for your tribal ceremonies and such.

          Apparently there is a movement, though how successful I don’t know, to revive the Old Hungarian Alphabet. Runic enough for you?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      For an angelic mark, it looks positively Lovecraftian.

      Eh, doesn’t seem contradictory to me anymore. One of the things I’ve noticed about Lovecraft’s tales is that the nebbish bookworm narrators never gain knowledge that cosmic nihilism is true. Like in At the Mountains of Madness, the narrator gains knowledge that plate tectonics is true (!), about the relationship between the Old Ones, shoggoths, and Earth animals, but nothing about materialism being true, the non-existence of superhuman intelligences that care about men, etc. In The Call of Cthulhu, the narrator gets an earful of Nietzscheanism from the cultist Old Castro, but very little knowledge aside from “an octopus-headed humanoid dragon exists, and can be temporarily damaged by a speeding yacht”. When he ghostwrote The Mound, the Spanish Catholic narrator interprets Cthulhu not as an Overman, but a pagan “spirit of universal harmony” (!).

      These narrators have, in-universe, a load of cognitive bias. That’s what I’m trying to say. =)
      So the idea of Seraphim having a Lovecraftian appearance that makes modern non-Christian bookworms run shrieking in existential horror doesn’t seem incongruous or heretical.

  64. Jack V says:

    Coming from a UK background I’ve two views on forced attendance.
    One is, this seems patronising and stifling.
    The other is, when asked to schedule their own time, everyone screws it up at first. Better to get that learning experience out of the way at university if you haven’t already, than bomb your first job. (Better still even earlier)

  65. Sniffnoy says:

    So (just going by your own link 😛 ) the Pope John story is more interesting than what you wrote. Due to a misreading of an old list of popes, people mistakenly got the idea that there had been an earlier error in pope numbering, that there had been two different popes who had been known as Pope John XIV — that one of these (“Pope John XIV II”) should have been Pope John XV, and Pope John XV should have been called “Pope John XVI”, and so on. Pope John XXI, the first Pope John after people came to believe there was such an error, deliberately skipped 20 in order to correct for the perceived error, so that at least all the popes from then on would be numbered correctly. But in fact there was no error; there was only ever one Pope John XIV after all. And so in fact rather than correcting an error he introduced one, which has continued to be carried forward. (The original text that was misread as listing two Popes John XIV was in fact listing first the duration of Pope John XIV’s reign, and then the length of his imprisonment at the hands of Antipope Boniface VII; this was interpreted as listing the durations of the reigns of two different Popes John XIV.)

  66. onyomi says:

    Re. “hereditarian left”‘s first three points:

    1. The idea that some people are inferior to other people is abhorrent.
    2. The mainstream scientific consensus is that genetic differences between people (within ancestrally homogeneous populations) do predict individual differences in traits and outcomes (e.g., abstract reasoning, conscientiousness, academic achievement, job performance) that are highly valued in our post-industrial, capitalist society. (my emphasis)
    3. Acknowledging the evidence for #2 is perfectly compatible with belief #1.

    I agree with all three of these, but the problem is, when someone says “no, no I’m not saying Hispanic people are inferior; I’m just saying they have, on average, fewer of the skills which make you a valuable member of 21st century society!” I can understand how a pundit or journalist makes the leap to “so, you think Hispanic people are inferior…”

    Yes, in theory, almost everyone in the Western world will tell you that everyone is created equal on some metaphysical, ethical level they have a hard time putting into words (or “before the law” might be a more tangible criterion), but in practice, everyone mourns the death of Princess Diana and, well, Prince, a lot more than they mourn the death of a homeless, unknown, old guy.

    The other problem, of course, is that most people have internalized some form of mind-body dualism. They see physical features like height and hair color as not part of the “core” of a person’s being, whatever that means. Your height is just a “feature,” but your mind is you, in some sense. Add to that the fact that most other features, like height, are not a simple good-bad binary (one can imagine someone saying “well, I’d like my son to be tall, but not >7 feet tall,” but it’s hard to imagine someone saying “I’d like my son to be smart, but not too smart.”), and it’s also easy to see why people do a mental calculation which goes “genetically smarter, on average”–>”better.”

    I’m not saying people should think that way. I also wish people knew what the hell it meant to say “on average,” but they don’t seem to get that either.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think I recall a Moldbug post, somewhere on Medium, on this topic. If you implicitly ascribe value to people based on their intelligence – such as when you see lefties bashing righties over the fact that righties tend to be on average less smart – then you’re up against a little bit of a cognitive dissonance if you try to square your political beliefs and values with intelligence being highly heritable.

      One way to resolve this is to deny the genetic basis for intelligence. It’s not true, but it’s consistent with your prior political beliefs.

      Another way is to deny that intelligence has any impact on the valuation of a human being as a human being – this is what Moldbug does.

      • leoboiko says:

        Even if intelligence is not even a bit heritable, it would still be a betrayal of the Left’s values to bash right-wingers for being unintelligent (or virgin, or fat, or rednecks, etc.).

        Yes, a lot of people do that, but they only bring shame to our cause.

      • Dabbler says:

        If you’re going to deny intelligence has value you have a serious problem. Namely- what makes humans more valuable than animals, if not intelligence? There is no quality you can use for which there are no differences between people. Even consciousness- some people would have stronger and “deeper” emotions and others would have shallower ones that could never be as deep.

        • Anonymous says:

          Belonging to our species?

          Being sophonts at all?

          Having souls?

          Imago Dei?

        • Kevin C. says:

          Namely- what makes humans more valuable than animals, if not intelligence?

          “Humanity”? Inherent possession of “inalienable human rights”? Immortal souls? It seems to me plenty of human societies throughout history have had no problems drawing sharp value lines between human and non-human on grounds other than “intelligence”. (Whether or not one might agree with the validity of any particular justification of the line.)

          Even consciousness- some people would have stronger and “deeper” emotions and others would have shallower ones that could never be as deep.

          How do you know? It’s not like there’s any good way to compare such subjective experiences “inside people’s heads”. How can we know if “consciousness” varies between people, or if it is binary (an entity is either “conscious” or not)?

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            I don’t have 100% proof of course, but in my own experience I’m quite sure that I experience different levels of consciousness, and that it’s not binary.

            For example, when I was a teenager I needed a 3 teeth pulled (for some reason, my jaw decided I needed 3 copies of a particular tooth, but not the 4th because screw symmetry) and they gave me Nitrous Oxide. I only remember snippets of this experience, but I certainly wasn’t unconscious, and I don’t think I was ‘conscious’ in the same sense as I am now.

            In any case, it seems fairly clear to me that if different chemical levels in the same brain can produce different states of ‘consciousness’, then different brain structures could easily do the same. Whether or not (normal) variance in human brain structures is sufficient to produce really different baseline-consciousness states is of course not answered by this.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Humanity”? Inherent possession of “inalienable human rights”? Immortal souls? It seems to me plenty of human societies throughout history have had no problems drawing sharp value lines between human and non-human on grounds other than “intelligence”.

            Yeah, no kidding. Though it’s questionable how many pre-Christian societies treated physically or mentally disabled humans as having value. Remember Spartan eugenics, or how other the Greek polities thought leaving less desirable babies to die was a parent’s right?

            I think y’all should read Augustine’s City of God XVI.8, where he talks about how people who have deformed hands or feet, are intersex, or conjoined twins are equal parts of the omniscient God’s plan, and how anyone who ranks them by physical abilities (or mental) is ignorant of the whole.

    • leoboiko says:

      My doubts are more in the line of:

      a) How much averaged, between-group genetic differences matter, compared to intra-group variance?

      b) How much genetic tendencies matter, when compared to environmental and social factors? What are the relative effect sizes of each?

      c) How sure are we of any of that, given the reliability crisis and the strong personal incentives to believe in both genetic determinism and tabula rasa-ism?

      • Anonymous says:

        a) How much averaged, between-group genetic differences matter, compared to intra-group variance?

        I’d say, a lot.

        b) How much genetic tendencies matter, when compared to environmental and social factors? What are the relative effect sizes of each?

        Well, according to the stuff I’ve seen, like Clark’s research into heritability, the breakdown is something like:
        – 70% genetic
        – 0% environmental
        – 30% we don’t know

        c) How sure are we of any of that, given the reliability crisis and the strong personal incentives to believe in both genetic determinism and tabula rasa-ism?

        Research into IQ has been going on for a long, long time. Per Scott’s recent post on the self-correcting nature of science, I would definitely expect it to right itself by now if it were substantially wrong.