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Open Thread 75.25

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

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797 Responses to Open Thread 75.25

  1. onyomi says:

    Listening to opposing political viewpoints more unpleasant than getting a tooth pulled, respondents say (though people also supposedly fear public speaking more than death).

    Reason bills it: “you can’t even pay people to read opinions they disagree with.” I find this part of the study, like the above, vague question, to be pretty weak in that I imagine “a chance to win $10” instead of “a chance to win $7” are pretty weak motivators, though it would seem to indicate that, given the choice, people at least mildly prefer to read things they agree with. This, by itself, seems very unsurprising to me; I periodically make an effort to read opposing political viewpoints but find it very hard to engage with them seriously and at length.

    I would be very interested to see how much they would have to up the motivation for reading the article expressing an opposing viewpoint before they would reach parity. I think they could further improve it by making people read, say, the first paragraph of both articles before they decide so that they’ll have a taste of what they’re in for*, rather than just knowing, in the abstract, to expect an argument against a position they hold.

    *Related to this, I notice a pattern where many writers, Scott, and probably myself included, feel a need to signal tribal loyalties early on in any given essay, especially if they are dealing with a subject which might cause the readership to question it. If the opening paragraph of an essay having nothing to do with Ron Paul uses the phrase “Ron Paul’s anti-black screeds,” for example, I know it’s not for me and will be hard pressed to read on, but it signals Blue Tribe bonafides to the intended readership. I strongly understand the impulse, but would like to see less of this (Scott, however, is still too nice to scare away right wing readers, try as he may).

    • lvlln says:

      This study seems to fit my intuition as well as my personal experience; I do feel an aversion to reading arguments for positions with which I disagree, and I’ve observed many others who seem to be actively hostile to reading arguments for positions with which they disagree. But the fact that a chance to win $10 isn’t all that much better than a chance to win $7 also stood out to me. It seems like a really weak result, and it would be far more interesting to see how high that difference could go, by changing around the difference, the absolute level, and making the prize guaranteed.

      But that clickbait-ey Reason headline is really annoying. It’d be nice if publications didn’t write anything more confident than “study found X, which sounds interesting and is worth further study, but also might be completely false” based on 1 study. Like, replication by at least 2 other independent parties should be a bare minimum before we consider a study’s findings as having any validity worth telling the public about.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      I dislike many political/culture war articles because pandery trash is what sells, so pandery trash is what gets published. To find authors with the writing and philosophical and statistical chops and goodwill to actually engage with issues in constructive ways, one generally needs to find independent niche blogs like this one. (A year ago I would have given The Economist a shoutout, but their election coverage was hot garbage like everyone else’s)

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I would be very interested to see how much they would have to up the motivation for reading the article expressing an opposing viewpoint before they would reach parity.

      Are you asking how much readers would have to be paid to read such opinions?

      I wonder how much SSC readers would have to be paid before agreeing to do it.

      I understand disliking it, but in my case, it depends on how long it takes for me to Spot the Fallacy. I genuinely like reading opposing arguments if they’re written well, don’t talk down to the opponent, and provide a new insight. If an argument’s first sentence is an unshared premise, for example, the entire rest of the piece will feel like a waste of time. Occasionally, I even feel sorry for the writer, having put so much effort into it for nothing.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I guess the confounding factor for me is determining how much of my unwillingness to read opposing viewpoints is really unwillingness to engage with opposing viewpoints and how much is my unwillingness to get through the packaging, which often includes partisan barbs, bland statements that seem like obvious errors from my perspective, and so on (not saying my people don’t include partisan barbs and unexamined assumptions in their writing, just that I’m less likely to be bothered by them). Ideally, everyone would be a super engaging, concise, careful, charitable writer, but that eliminates 99% of all writers of any political persuasion.

        I do also enjoy reading ideas which challenge me in some way; I am especially interested in reading novel arguments about topics where I feel relatively ambivalent (including, for me, topics like abortion, immigration, animal rights); however, I think I am probably less interested in reading arguments which, if true, will force me to rethink major aspects of my world view.

        For example, if Piketty is right that some fundamental law of economics demands huge government redistribution to avoid vast wealth inequality, then that puts me in a pretty big bind, ethically speaking, since I find forced redistribution to be immoral, but am also not a big fan of vast, persistent wealth inequality. People predisposed to like redistribution, of course, are going to be excited when Piketty’s new idea comes out and treat it very charitably; I, on the other hand, am going to read all my favorite libertarian commentators on why he’s wrong before even attempting to read the original (which, in fairness, is really long in this case). As Haidt, I think, succinctly puts it: when offered evidence for something which conflicts with our worldview, we ask “must I believe this?” but when offered evidence supporting our worldview, we ask “may I believe this?”

    • I occasionally read a book that I know I will highly disagree with, because I want to understand where the other side is coming from. But it is very hard to get through, because there are invariably comment after comment that I find completely untrue, and this gets frustrating. It is worst when build a crescendo of untruths — that is, they “prove” their first comment, then use that evidence to prove that the next one is true, and so on.

      Very occasionally I will find some writing that is diametrically opposed to my point of view, but actually makes sense. Yes, those are fascinating to read, and may change my point of view. They will definitely change my method of argumentation. But such happens rarely.

      • onyomi says:

        I share this experience, and, to some extent, it may be unavoidable. After all, we can’t expect every book or article to thoroughly prove all its premises from first principles to the satisfaction of the toughest critic.

        However, most writers could also probably do a lot better, assuming, of course, they are actually interested in changing minds more than preaching to the choir (preaching to the choir is also okay, sometimes, though).

  2. Brad says:

    It’s a little late in the open thread for this, but since the next one is no culture war, I wonder what the free speech advocates here think of this story:
    https://www.wnyc.org/story/frelinghuysen-targets-activsts-letter-boss/

    To summarize a Republican Congressmen, Rodney Frelinghuysen, sent a routine fundraising letter to a bank board member that had previously donated to his campaign. One of the lines of the letter talked about how there were “organized forces” at work to stop the agenda of limited government and apple pie. Next to that was a handwritten * and an annotation that said “P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!” Included in the mailer was an article that quoted an SVP and assistant general counsel at the bank, Saily Avelenda, who is active in NJ 11th for Change a left wing political organization. The SVP was confronted by her boss with the letter and the article, forced to write a letter of explanation to the CEO and ultimately resigned.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Hey is this shit that y’all complain about those Big Mean Lefties doing still bad when Big Mean Righties do it?

      Yes, yes it is.

      Reprehensible behavior from Congresscritter Frelinghuysen. The dipshits in charge of the bank provide further evidence that political affiliation/beliefs should be a protected class when it comes to employment rules. (With similar exemptions as apply for religion for explicitly political orgs, yadda yadda yadda)

      • Brad says:

        Here’s y’all’s chance for a Skokie moment. If that happens I’ll be forced to eat my words. Godspeed.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Frelinghuysen is an ass for doing so (he’s my congressman, but because of the way his district is gerrymandered, he considers my part of it an inconvenient appendage). The bank board member was also an ass for putting the pressure on the CEO. And the CEO is also an ass for confronting the “offending” SVP. An employer should not control employees’ political activity; this ain’t supposed to be feudalism.

      Can’t say I’m not enjoying some schadenfreude, though.

    • Deiseach says:

      Completely out of line. Suppose Ms AVelenda had been the Democratic candidate running against him and worked at this bank, he would have no goddamn business trying to get her rebuked, silenced or fired. Same thing applies if she’s working as part of a political organisation in her free time. If she’s not using her position at the bank to stump for votes or badmouth this guy, it’s none of his business.

      I understand why the board member pulled this crap, it’s the uncomfortable truth about fund-raising and business ties and all the rest of it when it comes to cosy little arrangements of using influence. But that still doesn’t make it right. The bank cannot require its employees to all vote for their preferred candidate and it can’t require them to not be active in other organisations, from the religious to the political, outside of work unless it directly affects their work and the good name of the bank.

      Right, Left or any points inbetween, this is trying to use undue influence to get political opposition silenced.

    • Kevin C. says:

      This looks like another example of the Molochian dilemma between “two wrongs don’t make a right” and “unilateral disarmament is a recipe for defeat”. If one side in a conflict consistently uses an effective weapon, technique, or strategy and the other side consistently refuses to stoop to such “dishonorable” means, then the “dishonorable” side generally ends up winning. But what if in defeating your enemy, you become as bad as him? He who hunts monsters and all that.

      I’ll admit, my immediate, emotional reaction is to cheer on Frelinghuysen, with a hearty dose of “it’s about damn time”. If folks on the left are going to keep doxing people, keep up stuff like racistsgettingfired.tumblr.com, and purging us deplorables from the institutions they control or influence, why shouldn’t we do the same with ours? The Red Tribe’s unwillingness to purge Blues from our territories the way Blues purge us Reds from theirs is one of the big reasons we continue slowly bleeding institutional and cultural territory to them and their entryism, and it’s about time we started returning the favor. If nothing else, it will help delineate which territory belongs to whom, sharpen up the tribal borders, and clarify the existential conflict.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        why shouldn’t we do the same with ours?

        Because arms races benefit nobody (except the profiteers)? If there’s one thing that the past election season has taught us, it’s that descending to the level of one’s opponents is the fastest way for everyone to race down the toilet.

        If nothing else, it will help delineate which territory belongs to whom, sharpen up the tribal borders, and clarify the existential conflict.

        That’s the opposite of what we should want for society. I for one would vastly prefer to see the Diversity Conquers All mantra extended to Ideologies.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Because arms races benefit nobody (except the profiteers)?

          How about the nuclear arms race leading to MAD? It seems to me in the alternate history where America maintains the monopoly on the usage of nuclear weapons, there almost certainly end up being more people and places nuked than in real history.

          And who does unilateral disarmament benefit? I still don’t hear an answer in this of how to escape the Molochian trap. If side A is consistently winning over side B using “immoral/dishonorable” weapon/tactic/technique X, and it’s “to no one’s benefit”, or otherwise unacceptable, for B to take up using X back, then what is B to do instead, except lie down and accept defeat? How do you counter the advantage X gives A?

          If there’s one thing that the past election season has taught us, it’s that descending to the level of one’s opponents is the fastest way for everyone to race down the toilet.

          We seem to have very different perspectives on the past election. To quote notable feminist legal scholar Joan C. Williams, when asked what Trump has delivered to the WWC:

          Dignity! He delivered the biggest FU to my crowd that they have seen in decades.

          What you call a “race down the toilet”, I call me and mine finally doing something more than just sitting there and taking it. Sure, Trump can’t produce any meaningful material gains, and the net effect of this “FU” is going to be us suffering more “Nazi-punching” in retaliation/punishment. But there’s something to be said for the emotional satisfaction of finally punching back at a bigger, stronger bully, even if doing so means that he’s going to totally kick your ass for it.

          That’s the opposite of what we should want for society.

          So we should want for society that the Red Tribe lay down and slowly, quietly fade into extinction, rather than fight back? I’ve been repeatedly informed that my Red Tribe membership prohibits me from agreeing with this position, on penalty of being labelled a perfidious, cowardly enemy. Thus, I must disagree and argue that my side should fight back openly in our existential conflict, rather than letting it continue to be slowly engaged, one-sidedly, in grounds of cultural and demographic pressure which favor our enemy.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            So we should want for society that the Red Tribe lay down and slowly, quietly fade into extinction, rather than fight back?

            No. Both sides need to stop treating “compromise” as a 4-letter word and actually honor their promises.

            It’s not the 1800s anymore: there is no Mason-Dixon line to cleanly divide the Tribes into their own countries, so we need to all learn remember how to get along.

          • The Nybbler says:

            No. Both sides need to stop treating “compromise” as a 4-letter word and actually honor their promises.

            I imagine personifications of each side would answer that with “you first”.

            Co-operating in a game with defectbot just makes you a chump.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Gobbobobble

            What part of “existential conflict” is unclear? This planet, let alone this country, simply isn’t “big enough for the both of us”. Like Harry Potter and Voldemort, “neither can live while the other survives.” It’s now guaranteed inevitable that at least one of the two tribes will, as a culture, go extinct. The only question is whether it happens slowly, via assimilation driven by cultural and economic pressure and slow demographic displacement/replacement, or quickly, via more open conflict. Either way, the Blue Tribe is, by their fundamental, inherent nature, incapable of “letting us be”, and simply cannot and will not tolerate the Red Tribe’s continued existence indefinitely. Thus, if we, the Red Tribe, don’t destroy them, the Blue Tribe, they will, slowly or quickly, culturally or physically, one way or another, destroy us. The war for survival has already been “on” for at least my entire life, and there is simply no stopping it now until one side has been forever relegated to “the ash-heap of History”.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Unless the quote in the article was along the lines of ‘ “And everyone knows Banks are a bunch of colluding criminals, which is why I support [policy]. I mean, believe me, -I- should know” said Avelenda, who works at a bank in New York’ or something similar, I’m with Gobbobobble: reprehensible on the part of both the political campaign and especially the business.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Yeah, I could see getting fired/pressured to resign over publicly badmouthing one’s employer (w/ various whistleblower caveats), but that still wouldn’t excuse Frelinghuysen getting involved.

    • Aapje says:

      I think that Rodney Frelinghuysen should go to prison for that. I can’t see how this is anything less than an attempt to get someone fired, by abusing a power relationship.

      • John Schilling says:

        “Attempting to get someone fired”, for whatever reason, is not to the best of my knowledge a criminal offense in any of the United States. It may in some case be grounds for a lawsuit, but I don’t think even that would apply here. Frelinghuysen may deserve mockery and denunciation, but unfortunately that probably won’t make him go away.

        • Aapje says:

          I wasn’t arguing that it is realistic, but rather, how I feel about it.

          There was no legitimate reason to do that, it was purely malicious.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Any thoughts about malware campaigns choice of targets? It seems to me that if they just wanted to get a lot of money safely, they should have targeted small and medium-sized organizations.

    Would a taste for drama/boasting rights be enough to explain why they went after large powerful organizations?

    • Brad says:

      I think most of these worm style campaigns hit every vulnerable computer they can find. The pattern of victims we see have to do with the pattern of IT practices rather than calculation on the part of the perpetrators.

      In this case those that were hit especially hard were: 1) countries that are pervasive users of unauthorized copies of windows (e.g. Russia) and 2) giant lumbering enterprises that can’t roll out an update in less than years (e.g. NHS).

      Small and medium businesses are far more likely to have windows update left on and so have patches applied automatically.

  4. Deiseach says:

    I took another try at reading Peter Watts’ Blindsight but I made the error of reading the author’s “Notes and References” first and I’ve concluded I’m just too old for this book to work for me 🙂

    This part, for instance, made me go “The saccadal glitch? Really? That one is so old, it has whiskers on it!”

    For example, the invisibility trick of that young, dumb scrambler— the one who restricted its movement to the gaps in Human vision — occured to me while reading about something called inattentional blindness. A Russian guy called Yarbus was the first to figure out the whole saccadal glitch in Human vision, back in the nineteen sixties.

    Oh, even before the 1960s, honey! G.K. Chesterton has a pop at it in a Father Brown story, “The Miracle Of Moon Crescent”, in a collection published in 1926:

    ‘Recent experiments,’ went on the professor, quietly, ‘have suggested that our consciousness is not continuous, but is a succession of very rapid impressions like a cinema; it is possible that somebody or something may, so to speak, slip in or out between the scenes. It acts only in the instant while the curtain is down. Probably the patter of conjurors and all forms of sleight of hand depend on what we may call these black flashes of blindness between the flashes of sight. Now this priest and preacher of transcendental notions had filled you with a transcendental imagery; the image of the Celt like a Titan shaking the tower with his curse. Probably he accompanied it with some slight but compelling gesture, pointing your eyes and minds in the direction of the unknown destroyer below. Or perhaps something else happened, or somebody else passed by.’

    ‘Wilson, the servant,’ grunted Alboin, ‘went down the hallway to wait on the bench, but I guess he didn’t distract us much.’

    ‘You never know how much,’ replied Vair; ‘it might have been that or more likely your eyes following some gesture of the priest as he told his tale of magic. It was in one of those black flashes that Mr Warren Wynd slipped out of his door and went to his death. That is the most probable explanation. It is an illustration of the new discovery. The mind is not a continuous line, but rather a dotted line.’

    …’According to you, a whole procession of Irishmen carrying blunderbusses may have walked through this room while we were talking, so long as they took care to tread on the blind spots in our minds. Miracles of the monkish sort, like materializing a crocodile or hanging a cloak on a sunbeam, seem quite sane compared to you.’

    ‘Oh, well,’ said Professor Vair, rather curtly, ‘if you are resolved to believe in your priest and his miraculous Irishman I can say no more. I’m afraid you have not had an opportunity of studying psychology.’

    ‘No,’ said Fenner dryly; ‘but I’ve had an opportunity of studying psychologists.’

    • Deiseach says:

      Okay, I succumbed and read the thing and it left me distinctly “meh”. The society on Earth was a lot more interesting than what was happening on this space mission which is not the way this should go, and the ending was kind of pointless.

      They stopped the Scramblers. Or they didn’t. Who can tell? But it probably doesn’t matter anyway since the Vampires (who really, on this reading, should be called Ghouls or even Zombies, not Vampires) seem to be taking over again as the dominant species, so if the Scramblers make it to Earth, they’ll be fighting it out with the Vampires who are the same kind of intelligent-non conscious beings as they are, so they’ll be tougher opposition than Humans.

      Perhaps. Or perhaps they’ll all join up together. Maybe there are no Humans left, which is stupid of the Vampires because they will have consumed all their prey and driven them to extinction and, unless they can find new sources of prey, will become extinct themselves.

      Anyway, everybody was plotting against everybody else and it was all useless because the plotters back home on Earth have now been out-plotted themselves by the Vampires, so the last surviving Human crew member returning home to tell the tale is completely pointless, the situation will have changed so radically when he gets back home.

      I didn’t find the characters on the ship as objectionable as I thought I would, but for post-Human whatsits they were strangely unmemorable and didn’t stand out for me once Watts had described their One Weird Trick that defined them.

      As I said, maybe I’m too old for this book. I can well imagine if you’re nineteen and this is the first time you are encountering any of these ideas, tropes or concepts, it might blow you away but as I said – Chesterton back in the late 20s was using the saccadal glitch as a throwaway mention in a murder mystery plot, so I encountered it years ago 🙂

      • rlms says:

        Which other books have used the SPOILER ALERT non-conscious intelligent beings plot device (in a similar kind of way)? I thought that was the really interesting part of Blindsight. Also, please read Too Like The Lightning!

  5. Urstoff says:

    Why is the book binding of books bound in the UK so different from that of those bound in the US? Half-Price books, a US used book store chain, gets lots of books cast off from the British market, and all of the trade paperbacks have really stiff spines (for example, Gollancz sf books, although this seems to be true across all publishers and genres); so much so that I never buy them because they’re uncomfortable to read. In the US, trade paperbacks are generally much more flexible (the paper also seems to be of better [or, at least, different] quality, but that’s not nearly so obvious to me as the issue with the spines), which may make them prone to breaking after prolonged use but are much more comfortable to read.

    Is this a conscious choice based on the consumer preferences of American and British consumers, or is this just one of those historical contingencies (say, the book binding glue available for sale in the UK is a different compound than in the US)?

    • bean says:

      I haven’t noticed it, although to be fair, most of the books I’ve gotten from the UK are hardbacks. I do have one paperback, but it’s loaned out right now, and I don’t remember any particular differences with it.

    • As a British person I can attest that I’ve always been mildly frustrated by paperback books’ inflexible spines, though I’ve never had the opportunity to read an American paperback and notice the difference; until I read your comment I assumed paperback spines would be just as inflexible anywhere else in the world.

      • As an American, I’ve always been frustrated by paperback books inflexible spines, so I am a bit skeptical of the difference. I rarely read trade paperbacks (I’m a cheapskate), but as I recall, they do have slightly more flexible spines than other paperbacks. But I’ve always attributed that to being larger books.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I can’t say I’ve ever noticed any difference.

  6. IrishDude says:

    Interesting blog post from Microsoft on the recent global ransomware attack, where they call out governments:

    “Finally, this attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem. This is an emerging pattern in 2017. We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen. And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today – nation-state action and organized criminal action.

    The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call. They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world. We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits. This is one reason we called in February for a new “Digital Geneva Convention” to govern these issues, including a new requirement for governments to report vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them.

    • Brad says:

      They aren’t engaging with the trade-offs. Unless you think nations shouldn’t engage in espionage, you need to account for the benefits as well as the costs of stockpiling vulnerabilities for the use in espionage.

      • IrishDude says:

        The high costs were pretty visible recently. How can Microsoft engage with the benefits given they’re likely deliberately kept hidden?

        • Brad says:

          Given that it’s hidden they can’t weigh the costs and benefits, but they could at least acknowledge the benefits exist. These vulnerabilities exist in the first place because Microsoft screwed up. They are asking governments and the public to do their job for them, for free. A little bit of humility is in order.

          • IrishDude says:

            I suppose they could acknowledge benefits exist, but the purpose of the post is to provide lessons from the attack on how to reduce such attacks in the future. They take first responsibility, then they note the responsibility of customers to update their systems when patches are available, and lastly they ask for governments to help them plug known vulnerabilities instead of weaponizing them. In trying to discuss how to prevent future cyberattacks, it would be weird for Microsoft to talk about the benefits of cyberattacks.

    • rlms says:

      I think this is a bad example to illustrate the point. Microsoft is just trying to shift their share of the blame onto security agencies. Security agencies do deserve blame for letting vulnerabilities leak, but in this case Microsoft was already aware of problems and in fact had released patches. See here (including comments) for more details.

      • IrishDude says:

        I think this is a bad example to illustrate the point.

        From wikipedia: “WannaCry is believed to use the EternalBlue exploit, which was developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)[18][19] to attack computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems”

        Putting some blame on government in the aftermath of WannaCry, when it seems government developed the exploit and hackers got access to it, doesn’t seem like a bad example to me of the government’s share of responsibility for cyberattacks, and their potential to help mitigate such attacks in the future.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Mmmm, isn’t this nearly the same thing “white hat” hackers do?

          They develop the exploit and then publicize it. Patches are made available. People who don’t patch are vulnerable to the exploit.

          • Iain says:

            The standard practice in security research, upon discovering a vulnerability, is to privately contact the developer of the vulnerable product with the details and a warning that you will be going public in X days (for example, Google’s Project Zero gives 90 days), whether or not the bug has been fixed.

            It’s a balance. You want to give the vendor time to develop and deploy the patch; on the other hand, if white-hat hackers have found an exploit, then there’s a reasonable chance that black-hat hackers have found the same bug. The longer you wait before disclosing, the more likely it is that the bug will be exploited independently.

            It is also frequently the case that the bug is limited to a particular configuration of the vulnerable software. If users can secure their systems by making a small change, then disclosure can be valuable even without a patch. (For example, this latest ransomware can apparently be protected against by blocking port 445.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            But patches had been developed and deployed for this exploit, so the timing aspect isn’t really germane, is it?

            IOW there isn’t anything much to separate this exploit than others that happened to result in mass infection. Mostly it’s illegal and un-maintained OS installs that has been infected. It’s not some super-exploit that is killing systems that are well maintained.

          • Iain says:

            My bad. I had the timeline backwards in my head; I thought that the NSA leak predated the patch.

        • rlms says:

          Sure, the NSA definitely deserve blame for having bad security and letting their exploit leak. But (in this particular case) I don’t think they deserve blame for not warning people of the existence of their exploit. As I understand it, Microsoft released patches that prevented the exploit in March*, so most of the computers affected were those purposefully running outdated software/with bad security practices. So there probably wouldn’t have been significantly fewer infections if the NSA had notified the public/Microsoft, since the only people who would’ve been better off are those who didn’t install “important security patch” but would’ve installed “important security patch seriously someone could hack you”.

          *they released a free patch for various operating systems, but notably not XP on 14th March. XP is no longer supported, so they only released a free patch for that the day after the attack (they had released patches to people paying for XP support previously). You could argue that they might have released that earlier if the NSA had told them about their exploit, but I think most of the blame for this part lies with Microsoft and users who insisted on using an outdated operating system but not paying Microsoft to support it (cough, the NHS).

          • Iain says:

            You could argue that they might have released that earlier if the NSA had told them about their exploit, but I think most of the blame for this part lies with Microsoft and users who insisted on using an outdated operating system but not paying Microsoft to support it (cough, the NHS).

            It depends. I can’t find any information about how long the NSA was sitting on this exploit without disclosing it, but given that Windows XP is vulnerable, it could easily go back several years. If the NSA had informed Microsoft about this bug when they had discovered it, then things might look very different: not only would newer versions of Windows not include the bug at all, but older versions of Windows running on occasionally updated systems would also have been protected.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            But that counter-factual doesn’t really work, because the NSA wouldn’t be looking for the exploit in the first place if that is what they were going to do with it.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            But if the NSA hadn’t developed the exploit, then the risk of it being used would also be less. When the NSA uses an exploit, that always has a risk of the exploit becoming known to evil hackers.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Not really.

            Again, by the time the Shadow Brokers dump happened, the exploits had already been patched. There isn’t really much of a difference between what happened with the Shadow Brokers hack and what happens with “white hat” hackers. In addition, there are plenty of “gray” hackers who simply sell whatever exploit they have to the highest bidder.

            Exploits are exploits. The are going to be found and exploited.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            When the NSA uses an exploit, that always has a risk of the exploit becoming known to evil hackers.

            Aapge is right on this point, even assuming the NSA can stop their leaks.

            When anyone, even the NSA, uses an exploit in the real world, they are generally giving the weapon to the victim to re-use. After the first use, the value drops tremendously, and the person you used it against (presumably a significant enemy if it was worth using this) can now use the same attack.

            It’s not so much a “risk” that this happens as more of a “near guarantee” that this happens.

  7. Tekhno says:

    What’s your ideal voting system (if you could wave a magical wand)?

    If I could control who was allowed the privilege of voting, I would set it up this way:
    1: No one who earns over $50-100,000 (can’t decide how far I want to go with this) a year (income or gains/otherwise) is allowed to vote. Or maybe a net wealth cap would be better. Not sure yet.
    2: No one over 50 or younger than 25 is allowed to vote.
    3: If you are self-employed, or own a small business your vote power is doubled.
    4: A political knowledge test would be included before voting, and if you score lower than 50% your vote power is halfed (the system can accomodate fractional votes)
    5: It would all run according to a proportional representation system of single-transferable vote.
    6: The vote system itself can’t be changed democratically except by some ridiculous supermajority qualification. A new constitution will be drafted (after ze revolution) with military defense of the voting system emphasized.

    (I want to zero in on the smart not too young not too senile petite bourgeois but not too rich demographic. By empowering them a social liberal (free markets plus programs) type economy would be more stably aligned to the class interests of striving entrepreneurs, while the wealth disqualification would make sure that the very richest who don’t know what it’s like to be poor would not be allowed to vote and influence the vote in a more conservative direction. The exclusion of the oldest set of potential voters also serves this purpose, as they lean conservative in pretty much every Western country.)

    Requirements for running for President:
    1: Some kind of income cap or net wealth cap as before.
    2: The age brackets for voting but shifted up by 10 years. 60 is the limit. No one senile and decrepit will be allowed to run.
    3: The applicant must complete multiple officiated IQ tests coming up with an average of over 130.
    4: Must not suffer from any personality disorders such as bipolar disorder, and must get a clean bill of health from their doctor.

    • The Nybbler says:

      My system? Simple. One man, one vote: I’m the Man, and I get the vote, Discworld style.

      Your 1 and 3 together mean that unsuccessful business owners are a powerful bloc. Further, if you set the income limit at $50K, you get immediate bread-and-circuses. If you set it at $100K, it’ll take a little longer.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Who oversees and enforces this?

      • Tekhno says:

        Who oversees and enforces the current version of democracy?

        • 1soru1 says:

          The FBI, mostly.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The current form of democracy in the US gives the vote to way more people. “Citizen who doesn’t get to vote” is limited to people under 18 and (some? all? most?) felons.

          With your proposed system, how do you deal with people committing tax avoidance, evasion, etc in order to secure the right to vote despite making more than x amount? How do you deal with people attempting various schemes to count as self-employed or as small business owners when they aren’t, really? How do you deal with whoever is in charge of these two things trying to game the system for their favoured candidate by falsely accusing people of these things? Who designs and administers the political knowledge test?

    • Wow, do you really want to limit voting only to the middle and lower class? That is a terrible idea. The voters already pick governments that give them freebies, perhaps not understanding that someone has to pay for them. A restriction such as this would make voting like this a rational choice, and would probably destroy the free market system. I can see restricting votes to those who pay taxes to the jurisdiction they vote for — kind of a representation with taxation approach, but I don’t understand why anyone would take the opposite approach.

      I kind of like the idea of passing a political test, except that it would be greatly gamed. Maybe if the questions were put directly into the constitution. Questions like “Who are your current Senators and Representatives?” You’d probably filter out a whole lot of low interest voters right there, which would be a good thing. I’ve never understood why it seems to be considered an unalloyed good to have a higher percentage of citizens voting. I suppose it is a good thing if most folks are paying some attention, but voting doesn’t mean they are paying attention, it just means someone guilted them to go to the polls. It is a good thing if those with little knowledge or interest do not vote.

      • Tekhno says:

        Wow, do you really want to limit voting only to the middle and lower class? That is a terrible idea. The voters already pick governments that give them freebies, perhaps not understanding that someone has to pay for them. A restriction such as this would make voting like this a rational choice, and would probably destroy the free market system. I can see restricting votes to those who pay taxes to the jurisdiction they vote for — kind of a representation with taxation approach, but I don’t understand why anyone would take the opposite approach.

        I want to offset that by giving entrepreneurs more voting power. I want to try and zone in in such a way that the voting power of the established super-wealthy can be killed, but the voting power of the petite bourgeoisie can be maginified at the same time. Small business owners and the self-employed understand that very large amounts of free stuff would mean higher taxes on their own class, so they’d probably vote the same way they do now, only you’d weaken relatively the effect of the working vote and the welfare vote by making each entrpreneur vote count for twice as much, while cutting off the vote completely from the rich.

        I’m expecting that you’d end up with a moderate sort of welfare liberalism. You’d magnify the segment of the Republican voter base that are small business owners, but completely chop off the big business types who want total austerity, potentially allowing for a better regulatory environment but expanding the social safety net from the proceeds. The middle class feel both pressures so they should be empowered in the vote as the most balanced class.

        I’ve never understood why it seems to be considered an unalloyed good to have a higher percentage of citizens voting. I suppose it is a good thing if most folks are paying some attention, but voting doesn’t mean they are paying attention, it just means someone guilted them to go to the polls. It is a good thing if those with little knowledge or interest do not vote.

        Australia has mandatory voting IIRC. This sort of idea is popular among certain progressive groups because older voters are more motivated to vote than the young and minorities and also vote more social conservative.

        • onyomi says:

          I want to offset that by giving entrepreneurs more voting power. I want to try and zone in in such a way that the voting power of the established super-wealthy can be killed

          Well then, you’re setting your proposed caps way, way too low. 50-100K year will not just exclude wealthy CEOs, it will exclude most successful small business owners.

          Also, practically speaking, “no taxation without representation” is a catchy slogan for a reason: forcing people who pay taxes, especially the people who currently pay the most taxes, to give up all political representation is transparently unjust and will also incentivize the wealthy to flee the jurisdiction.

          In any case, taking away the vote from the 1% doesn’t even address the problem. The 1% are only 1% of eligible voters. When people complain about the wealthy skewing the system in their favor, it’s usually through political donations, lobbying, funding of think tanks, etc. etc. If you want to restrict the political power of the wealthy, taking away their franchise is the last place to look, because it’s symbolically very important and practically very unimportant.

          Your “no personality disorders” thing probably excludes a huge number of very talented people and will select for people with undiagnosed personality disorders.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I want to try and zone in in such a way that the voting power of the established super-wealthy can be killed, but the voting power of the petite bourgeoisie can be maginified at the same time.

          The voting power of the superwealth comes from advertising and perhaps influence on such things as gerrymandering, not from their own ability to vote. They’d just increase their advertising to people who can vote.

          I’m almost 64. Should I bother with replying to you?

      • I kind of like the idea of passing a political test, except that it would be greatly gamed

        Also, shouldn’t you give like ten votes to someone with a political science PhD?

    • onyomi says:

      If I must have democracy (instead of pure voluntarism), I think the following rules would be more just and produce better incentives than we have now:

      1. No one who currently works directly for the government can vote. (conflict of interest)
      2. If you received more money from the government in grants, subsidies, contracts, welfare payments, social security, scholarships, etc. last year than you paid in taxes, you can’t vote this year.
      3. You have to pass a test showing understanding of very basic economic and political concepts, as well as a very basic understanding of how our particular political system works. If we want to try to exclude the really senile and out-of-touch, make people pass the test every ten years and include some current event questions.
      4. Must be 21 (either that, or lower the drinking age; if you’re not responsible enough to order a beer, you’re not responsible enough to choose the leader of the free world).

      • cassander says:

        2. If you received more money from the government in grants, subsidies, contracts, welfare payments, social security, scholarships, etc. last year than you paid in taxes, you can’t vote this year.

        Eminently sensible, but impossible to enforce. if you work for boeing, do you get apportioned a share of boeing contracts? what if you work for boeing commercial, not defense and space? What if you work in the payroll department? what if you’re a subcontractor? I don’t see how the whole thing doesn’t drown in paperwork, fraud, or both.

        • onyomi says:

          The fact that the details of implementation are open to many possible interpretations doesn’t, to my mind, impeach the principle. Yes, an inherently arbitrary line would have to be drawn somewhere (does just the management of Boeing lose the franchise, or every janitor who works at a Boeing plant?). Where, exactly, isn’t as important as acknowledging the principle of avoiding transparent conflict of interest to the extent possible.

          Anyway, even if it is just a trivial inconvenience, for e.g. someone who works for Boeing to prove that they don’t benefit enough directly from Boeing’s government contracts to be disqualified, well, we all know how powerful are trivial inconveniences: the people motivated enough to deal with the paperwork will disproportionately be people more informed about the issues.

          Also, if it punishes people for getting involved with companies which survive on the strength of government contracts, and, by extension, those companies themselves (they will have to pay people more to compensate them for their loss of the franchise), then more to the good, in my view.

          Apparently the NSA et al. are having more trouble hiring people nowadays because millennials view what they do as immoral. I think that’s a great sign of moral progress.

          • Jiro says:

            Why is that considered a conflict of interest but, for instance, reading books that a politician would like to censor isn’t considered a conflict of interest? What if you benefit from police protection or schools? If you just pay taxes, why is voting for someone who might reduce taxes not a conflict of interest?

          • random832 says:

            Also the whole point of democracy is to involve people in decisions about government policies that affect them, a right that they should have because they affect them.. Making, more or less, “being affected by a government policy” a conflict of interest is so hostile to that concept that you might as well just invent an explicit oligarchy.

            You are talking about abolishing rule of the people by the people for no other reason than because you don’t want it to be for the people.

          • onyomi says:

            @random832

            Everyone has some potential interest in how a government is run, even non-citizens. Should non-US citizens be allowed to vote in US elections? Arguably the choice of US president has more effect on the lives of many in the Middle East and North Korea than it does on most Americans.

            @Jiro

            People who are net taxpayers are essentially engaging in a kind of forced charity; I don’t think it passes the common sense test to say that the charity giver has just as much a conflict of interest in choosing how much he’d like to contribute as does the charity recipient in determining how much he needs.

          • IrishDude says:

            Also the whole point of democracy is to involve people in decisions about government policies that affect them

            …by giving individuals less than a one in a million chance of affecting whether one or two politicians out of hundreds gets elected once every few years.

            More cynically, democracy makes political authority easier to sustain by giving the appearance of legitimacy to the rules dictated by the political class.

          • Iain says:

            @Irish Dude:

            …by giving individuals less than a one in a million chance of affecting whether one or two politicians out of hundreds gets elected once every few years.

            Each individual vote carries very little weight by itself, but the fact that a group of people is allowed to vote carries a great deal of weight. You can’t analyze each person independently and say that taking their vote away doesn’t matter; the important thing is that an entire class of people no longer have any electoral power, and there is no longer an incentive for politicians to consider their interests.

            (This is especially true when discussing less wealthy demographics who are unlikely to be large campaign contributors.)

        • bean says:

          if you work for boeing, do you get apportioned a share of boeing contracts? what if you work for boeing commercial, not defense and space?

          Oh, please. Don’t stop there. Boeing defense is manufacturing airliner parts to make better use of company-wide capacity. Do the people involved lose their votes? What about people involved in the P-8 program on the commercial side? What about someone supporting the 737 who occasionally does stuff on the P-8 as well? How much P-8 stuff do you have to do before you don’t get to vote? What if you’re doing systems integration for the Indian P-8 order, as they want different systems from the USN? The Indians wouldn’t have P-8s if not for the USN, but your salary is presumably coming out of the their order.
          onyomi, this system will make the tax code look simple. I’ve outlined some of the problems that will crop up with one program in one company. Now, multiply this across more programs and more companies. Seriously, all you’re doing is making jobs for lawyers.

          • bean says:

            Actually, even I didn’t go far enough on this. What if I’m a government/Boeing employee, and my wife stays at home with the kids? If she works, how much does she have to make to be free of conflicts of interest? What if she’s an executive with (say) a cosmetics company, and makes 10 times what I do, and I only work because I like my job? In that case, should I be allowed to vote, too? What if I’m the owner of the nearest bar to a major military base? What if I run a store in Los Alamos, NM, a town supported entirely by the national lab?

      • bean says:

        2. If you received more money from the government in grants, subsidies, contracts, welfare payments, social security, scholarships, etc. last year than you paid in taxes, you can’t vote this year.

        Replace with ‘transfer payments’ (benefits granted because you’re alive and poor/old, not because you’re engaging in trade with the government) and I’m entirely in favor, and this tops my list of ‘government reforms I’d make if I were king’. The second thing on that list is that all bills should be read in full out loud in Congress before they can be voted on.

        • Jiro says:

          Is receiving police protection a transfer payment? Is receiving a public education? What if you don’t have school age children but you “benefit from having an educated populace”? What if the government’s transfer payment is something you’d rather not have (police enforcement of drug laws for instance, or propagandistic education, which the government insists it spends on you for your benefit)?

          • bean says:

            Police protection is not a transfer payment. I don’t see any money directly, and it’s basically impossible to price indirectly. Public education is a good question, and one that I don’t have an answer to right now. The parents aren’t the people actually using the service, but they would presumably be paying out of pocket to get a similar service if the government didn’t provide it.
            On the other hand, precisely because the parents aren’t the consumers, it’s hard to see the same sort of feedback loops that you can get with social security and welfare.

        • Matt C says:

          > The second thing on that list is that all bills should be read in full out loud in Congress before they can be voted on.

          Hey, you’ve got my vote.

          • onyomi says:

            My very strong impulse is to also endorse this, though I wonder whether, in practice, it wouldn’t just result in more power for unelected bureaucrats (though that might be a good thing, insofar as I think democracy is dumb and the unelected bureaucrats may be more selected for competence; problem is, that assumes I want them to be effective, which, given that their appointed tasks are decided by politicians, I may not…), since the legislators might replace all the details of every bill with “in a manner to be determined by relevant authorities.”

      • Zodiac says:

        3. You have to pass a test showing understanding of very basic economic and political concepts, as well as a very basic understanding of how our particular political system works.

        I am very sceptical of this. The crux about “very basic economic concepts” is that they don’t really apply to reality. My go-to example for this is deflation. If the theory as I learned it in school (which I consider “very basic” in this case) was correct nobody would have bought PCs.

        • random832 says:

          What do PCs have to do with deflation as you learned it in school?

          • Zodiac says:

            PCs have become cheaper and cheaper over the years, which is deflation. The theory (again as I learned it) states that if deflation happens people will hold off on buying a product because they come to expect cheaper prizes. Because nobody buys the suppliers will lower prizes even more in order to sell, which results in a cycle that ends in economic apocalypse.
            There are plenty of other examples of that to the point where you can’t justify these as the exceptions.

          • Urstoff says:

            ceteris paribus, perhaps, but the increasing demands of software require a new PC to be purchased at some point.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The deflationary spiral only holds if the price decreases faster than the time value of the utility provided does. That is, if getting a PC now costs $1000 and getting a PC in 6 months costs $1, but I will make an additional $2000 by getting the PC now, it makes sense to buy it now.

          • PCs have become cheaper and cheaper over the years, which is deflation. The theory (again as I learned it) states that if deflation happens people will hold off on buying a product because they come to expect cheaper prizes. Because nobody buys the suppliers will lower prizes even more in order to sell, which results in a cycle that ends in economic apocalypse.

            What you are demonstrating is not that basic economic theory is wrong but that what is taught in school as basic economic theory quite often isn’t.

            Which is, however, an argument against the proposal you were arguing against, just a different one. Someone is writing the test that determines whether you know enough economics to be allowed to vote. Why would you expect him to get it right?

            It isn’t limited to economics. I still remember being told, in a very good high school, that a head on collision between two cars each going fifty miles an hour was equivalent for each of them to running into a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour.

          • random832 says:

            @Zodiac

            PCs have become cheaper and cheaper over the years, which is deflation.

            No, deflation is when the real value of the currency goes up, which requires that prices are going down for, if not all, at least most goods and services, not just one particular type. The “economic apocalypse” doesn’t work if prices aren’t going down across all sectors of the economy, because people will just buy the other things. And in particular it doesn’t work if prices aren’t going down in the sector they work in and driving their wages down, because otherwise the price of the one thing that is becoming cheaper will eventually be low enough to buy on an impulse without regard to “it will become cheaper later”.

            @David Friedman

            It isn’t limited to economics. I still remember being told, in a very good high school, that a head on collision between two cars each going fifty miles an hour was equivalent for each of them to running into a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour.

            Well, to be fair, it is equivalent to hitting a stationary car at, or being hit by a car going, 100 miles an hour. As I recall the main point that they were trying to make is that a head-on collision at 30 miles per hour is roughly as dangerous to the occupants of the car as being run over a car going 60 as a pedestrian.

            And a brick wall (and the planet attached to it) can, perhaps, be modeled as a very big, very heavy car.

          • Zodiac says:

            Well, I somewhat expected that there was more to it than I was taught. Thanks for the explanations.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            As I recall the main point that they were trying to make is that a head-on collision at 30 miles per hour is roughly as dangerous to the occupants of the car as being run over a car going 60 as a pedestrian.

            No way that is true.

            If you are strapped to the front of the car, sure. But modern cars have a safety cell with crumple zones around it, so much of the impact doesn’t go to the passenger, but to deform the metalwork.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @random832:

            Well, to be fair, it is equivalent to hitting a stationary car at, or being hit by a car going, 100 miles an hour.

            That is not true. In fact, it’s the exact mistake David is complaining about. (Which I also recall being taught, and objecting to, in school.)

            If a car going 50 mph has a perfect head-on collision with another car going 50 mph, the experience to each driver is equivalent to if their car were to hit an immovable brick wall while traveling at…50 mph. Not 100.

            Imagine if the wall had a mirror on it and you as the driver see a mirror of yourself approaching as you crash – that mirror image pushes back exactly as much as an actual car would, no?

            To help with the intuition a bit more: Yes, there is twice as much energy in the collision between two cars, but that energy is divided over twice as much mass. In the two-car collision TWO drivers are instantly being slowed from 50mph to 0; in the one-car collision ONE driver is instantly being slowed from 50mph to 0. Same effect on the drivers.

        • onyomi says:

          I think your idea of “basic economics” is more advanced than what I mean. I mean things like “what is an interest rate” or the basic idea of supply and demand.

          • Zodiac says:

            Okay, but when you set the bar so low what are you trying to screen for?
            I thought you want voters that know how the government and other political actors affect the economy. Interest rates don’t seem to be very helpful for that, supply and demand more so, if you include knowledge about subsidies and taxation.

          • I really think my idea of a very simple (and very objective) test like knowing one’s representatives will filter out the worst of the voters who don’t have any knowledge to speak of. Trying make it more complicated than that would cause more harm than good, because it would give politicians a partisan weapon to keep out the other side by including test questions that follow their ideology. I think the questions themselves need to be in the constitution itself, so they can’t be gamed by politicians.

    • Zorgon says:

      The 1% currently control only 1% of the vote by default. Your prescribed system does nothing to affect the actual mechanisms by which the 1% currently maintain oligarchic control over democracy, and therefore will perpetuate the exact same oligarchy, except the oligarchs will get to pretend to be disenfrancised.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Agreed. Getting money out of politics is the Very Hard Problem I’d be very interested in seeing potential solutions to. I want to believe it’s not impossible…

        • The problem isn’t just money. Even without money, some people’s interests get weighted much more heavily than others, due to the public good problem on the political market.

          If some law benefits a small number of people and hurts a large number, it pays the small number to organize to support it, doesn’t pay the large number to organize to oppose it, even if the benefit is substantially lower than the cost.

      • John Schilling says:

        …except the oligarchs will get to pretend to be disenfrancised.

        And the very rich people who don’t think of themselves as oligarchs, who don’t conspire with their fellow rich people to impoverish and disenfranchise the masses, who are in many cases busy devoting themselves to figuring out how to give all that money away in some effectively altruistic manner before they die, will get a brick thrown in their face with the message, “You are Not One Of Us; you are The Enemy, and you exist by our sufferance!”

        As always, incentives matter.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          busy devoting themselves to figuring out how to give all that money away in some effectively altruistic manner before they die

          I thought dogma was that markets would more efficiently solve such problems?[/snark]

      • Tekhno says:

        @Zorgon

        The 1% currently control only 1% of the vote by default. Your prescribed system does nothing to affect the actual mechanisms by which the 1% currently maintain oligarchic control over democracy, and therefore will perpetuate the exact same oligarchy, except the oligarchs will get to pretend to be disenfrancised.

        Is this actually true though? How much does money really directly sway the vote, vs a large % of richer voters swaying the vote towards the interests of the 1% that they have in common. If you had publicly controlled financing for example, this wouldn’t stop the top 20% of voters having class interests in common with the top 1% and swaying the vote in their direction (that’s why I didn’t set the income cap that high). You don’t need to spend a lot to get people to know which side you are on, so public financing of elections, for example, would only help so much.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I’d go in the opposite direction to you, and weight the franchise in favour of those who pay more taxes, since it is just for those who contribute more to the country to have a bigger say in how the country is run. Maybe something similar to the Prussian thirds system. Maybe also limit the franchise to people who are in either the regular armed forces or the reserves (as well as those who used to be but are now too old), like they did in ancient Greece and Rome. Also, although it’s not strictly about voting systems, I’d give more powers (back) to the Monarch and the House of Lords, to give Britain a proper mixed constitution.

      • Jiro says:

        Heinlein popularized this whole idea and I think it’s stupid. One of the reasons people want to controll the government is that the government controls their lives. The government doesn’t stop controlling their lives because they receive more than they pay in taxes. Assuming citizenship and competency, if you can be arrested, or if you can be required to go to the government monopoly for some things (a gay person can’t find a private entity to force his gay marriage to be treated like a marriage), that should be enough to vote.

        Not to mention that sometimes government payments are worse than nothing. It’s perverse to deny someone the vote by counting expenditures by the government on drug war enforcement as transfer payments.

        • The original Mr X:
          Maybe also limit the franchise to people who are in either the regular armed forces or the reserves (as well as those who used to be but are now too old)

          Jiro replies:
          Heinlein popularized this whole idea and I think it’s stupid.

          That s not correct. Heinlein explicitly rejected that idea.

          His proposal, in Starship Troopers, was that only people who had been in the armed forces or equivalent, some job where volunteering for it meant accepting a significant risk to you for the public benefit, could vote. People currently in the armed forces couldn’t.

          The idea was that he wanted the voters to be people who cared about the society as a whole. I’m not sure that particular version works, but the underlying idea, that the franchise isn’t a matter of who has a moral right to control things but of what rules for controlling things give the best outcome, is right.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The idea was that he wanted the voters to be people who cared about the society as a whole.

            I’m not sure that’s it. In the book, it’s also said that vets aren’t better voters, it’s that limiting the franchise to vets guarantees that the people who are capable of effective revolt won’t revolt. (from memory)

            It says in the book that non-vets/non-voters aren’t mistreated, but I don’t trust that this would be so.

            I’m not sure that Heinlein especially liked the idea of limited franchise– the political systems presented as working well enough in his books are so varied that I think he made up what was needed for the story, somewhat shaded by his beliefs at the time.

            I believe ST is his only novel with limited franchise, though (again from memory) an essay floats the idea of limiting the franchise to women who are above a certain age and have children. Funny how I haven’t heard any enthusiasm for that one.

            Anyone care to take a crack at beliefs that Heinlein held throughout his career? I’ve got anti-slavery, pro-nudism, pro-cats.

          • LHN says:

            That essay has a number of possible limited franchise systems. Another IIRC was requiring the voter to solve a quadratic equation.

            He also claimed in that essay (again IIRC) that most ST veterans weren’t really military but more the equivalent of Civil Service jobs, though that isn’t really consistent with the way it’s portrayed in the book. (Where it’s repeatedly stated that any job that can be done with a civilian is, that Federal Service is military or a very unreasonable facsimile thereof, etc.)

            But Heinlein liked playing with ideas, and was clearly good at making them convincing even when he didn’t fully believe them himself. E.g., Prof’s “rational anarchism” in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress isn’t seriously challenged in that book. But in one of his letters to (I think) Campbell he attributes the underlying idea in less than complimentary terms to a local crank.

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure that’s it. In the book, it’s also said that vets aren’t better voters, it’s that limiting the franchise to vets guarantees that the people who are capable of effective revolt won’t revolt. (from memory)

            I think you may be confusing it with the movie version. The actual point was that vets are people who chose voluntarily to put themselves in harm’s way for society. Not that they’re smarter or something, but that they’ve shown that they care enough about the society as a whole to put their lives on the line for it. It has nothing to do with getting rid of incentive to revolt.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I didn’t see the movie.

          • bean says:

            Neither have I, but it seems like the sort of thing the movie version may have argued. In any case, it’s definitely not the position argued in the book.

          • LHN says:

            Both are touted as features of the system. Rico’s class is told that their voters’ “average performance is enormously better than that of any other class of rulers in history”, with the explanation:

            Superficially, our system is only slightly different; we have democracy unlimited by race, color, creed, birth, wealth, sex, or conviction, and anyone may win sovereign power by a usually short and not too arduous term of service — nothing more than a light workout to our cave-man ancestors. But that slight difference is one between a system that works, since it is constructed to match the facts, and one that is inherently unstable. Since sovereign franchise is the ultimate in human authority, we insure that all who wield it accept the ultimate in social responsibility — we require each person who wishes to exert control over the state to wager his own life — and lose it, if need be — to save the life of the state.

            But another feature of the system given in the same exchange is that revolution is stated to be impossible “[b]ecause revolution — armed uprising — requires not only dissatisfaction but aggressiveness. A revolutionist has to be willing to fight and die — or he’s just a parlor pink. If you separate out the aggressive ones and make them the sheep dogs, the sheep will never give you trouble.”

            (Given the history of coups and revolts involving active military and veterans, to say I’m skeptical about this is putting it lightly.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Neither have I, but it seems like the sort of thing the movie version may have argued.

            The movie version was very light on any kind of argument. It’s a parody, but that’s mainly clear from tone and set dressing rather than content: propaganda newsreels between acts, Nazi uniforms for everybody, etc. It’s far from clear if the movie’s society even resembled the book’s more than superficially: they both had the service-guarantees-citizenship thing, but that’s about all I noticed.

            In terms of the style of warfare shown, the two couldn’t be any more different.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I didn’t see Starship Troopers, but the trailers looked to me like they were cribbing John Steakley’s Armor.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve heard that the movie spent its early development as a generic sci-fi bug-hunt film, and the Starship Troopers IP was acquired late and the script was doctored to match. Not sure how seriously to take that, though; spending half the film on basic training and the other half in actual warfare does match the book, but it also matches war movies from Full Metal Jacket to Jarhead.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            He also claimed in that essay (again IIRC) that most ST veterans weren’t really military but more the equivalent of Civil Service jobs, though that isn’t really consistent with the way it’s portrayed in the book. (Where it’s repeatedly stated that any job that can be done with a civilian is, that Federal Service is military or a very unreasonable facsimile thereof, etc.)

            The claim was that the bulk of enfranchized citizens were not military veterans, but had completed a civilian form of Federal Service. The problem that everyone seems to have is conflating “civilian government service” with “desk job”.

            I’ve always thought that given the timeframe when it was written and when RAH was around, the real world parallel is blindlingly obvious to anyone, especially given the way the non-military portions are described as being whatever make-work the government can come up with that is sufficiently unpleasant, tedious, and/or dangerous to qualify.

            I’ve heard that the movie spent its early development as a generic sci-fi bug-hunt film, and the Starship Troopers IP was acquired late and the script was doctored to match.

            This is correct, the script was called Bug Hunt At Outpost 9.

          • LHN says:

            He claims in the essay that “95% of voters are what we call today ‘former members of federal civil service'” and gives as an example “veteran school teacher”. He also says that if the candidate is “young, male and healthy, he may wind up as cannon fodder. But there are long chances against it.”

            I don’t think that’s remotely reconcilable with the book where, e.g., the doctor at the recruiting station is a civilian employee. The book has hazardous nonmilitary roles (scientist on distant outposts, terraforming Venus), but not things that would be considered ordinary civil service jobs.

            (It’s repeatedly noted in the book that if a civilian can do the job, they get a civilian for it. That describes the overwhelming majority of federal civil service.)

          • I’m not sure that’s it. In the book, it’s also said that vets aren’t better voters, it’s that limiting the franchise to vets guarantees that the people who are capable of effective revolt won’t revolt. (from memory)

            Not my memory, but I haven’t checked the text. The people currently in the military are the ones most capable of effective revolt, and they don’t get to vote.

            And the franchise included non-military volunteers for other hazardous activities, which fits my memory and not yours. But one of us should check the text, and I have a bunch of papers to grade.

          • But in one of his letters to (I think) Campbell he attributes the underlying idea in less than complimentary terms to a local crank.

            Probably to Robert LeFevre, who Prof was partly based on. He was a friend of Heinlein’s, so I think “crank” exaggerates it. But not a very reliable source of information.

            For what it’s worth, I think he was largely responsible for bringing the Kochs into the libertarian movement.

          • LHN says:

            I found the letter– it was to Theodore Sturgeon, not Campbell, in 1955:

            What are the minimum, indispensable functions of government? What functions are present in all human societies? Is it possible to name anything which obtains in one society which is not differently just the reverse in another? Or not done at all? Has there ever been a truly anarchistic society? The Eskimos, perhaps? We have an anarchist running a newspaper in this town, who is opposed to public roads, public schools, public anything—he maintains that it is not ethical for a majority to do anything collectively which each individual did not already have the right to do as an individual. This is an explosive notion; a corollary is that all taxation is wrong, all zoning laws are wrong, all compulsory education is wrong, all punishment by courts is wrong. In the mean time he lives in a well-policed society, his own considerable wealth protected by all these things he deplores.

            http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/10/help-from-heinlein.html

            Wikipedia says LeFevre wrote editorials for the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph around that time, which may be close enough to “running a newspaper” or not. You would know better than I do. Likewise, “crank” may be too strong, but Heinlein isn’t presenting his anarchism positively, albeit in a context of trying himself to determine just how far the min in minarchism can practically go.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @LHN

            There’s no contradiction between saying that most voters are non-military “Federal Service” veterans and noting that non-combat jobs adjacent to the military are NOT “Federal Service” positions.

            You’re working on the assumption that the contemporary definition of “Civil Service” must overlap with the Federation’s “Federal Service”.

            As I pointed out, a better comparison would be something like the Civilian Conservation Corps, WPA, etc. A bunch of people in shitty camps out doing manual labor under some level of discipline. You can add things to that like terraforming and slash and burn agriculture on colony worlds, etc, etc, or even administrative work for the same assuming conditions are severe enough.

          • LHN says:

            It’s not an assumption. Heinlein refers to “what we call today ‘former members of federal civil service’”. [emphasis added]

            Heinlein did a Civilian Construction Corps in space story (“Misfit”). But no one then or now considered the CCC federal civil service members, let alone central examples of the class. They entered government service by a different route, operated under different rules, etc.

            [Correction: for the last couple of years of the program, the officers (but not the workers) of the CCC were transferred from the military to the Civil Service before it was disbanded entirely. I don’t think that really helps explain what 95% of the Federal Service in ST were supposed to be doing, but YMMV.]

            I’m skeptical that ST is consistent with 95% of the enlistees not being military, caterpillar hair counters and Venus pressure suit test dummies notwithstanding. The book draws a deliberate contrast between its society and that of twentieth century militaries greater administrative overhead and smaller tooth-to-tail ratios, where 95% would mean the Federation had a truly tiny T3R (especially since even there not all of the formal military are combatants).

            But it certainly doesn’t jibe with their being members of the civil service, which had pretty much the same broadly understood meaning in 1959, 1980 and now.

          • Jiro says:

            the underlying idea, that the franchise isn’t a matter of who has a moral right to control things but of what rules for controlling things give the best outcome, is right.

            First of all, most people aren’t utilitarians. Second, even assuming utilitarians, that statement can be true for purely trivial reasons–what is a “best outcome” depends on how you define “best outcome.” Tiling the universe with paperclips is the best outcome, by certain standards.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz:

            Anyone care to take a crack at beliefs that Heinlein held throughout his career? I’ve got anti-slavery, pro-nudism, pro-cats.

            My favorite goofy idea of his was a passing suggestion by the Professor in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: government should have two houses of congress, one whose only job is to pass laws and the other whose only job is to repeal laws.

        • cassander says:

          >the government doesn’t stop controlling their lives because they receive more than they pay in taxes.

          If you care that much, you can give half the money the government gave you back, and then you can vote again.

          • Jiro says:

            How in the world am I going to give drug law enforcement back? Am I supposed to sell the drug law enforcement for cash and give the cash back?

            And even for direct payments, I don’t want to live in a world where if you’re starving you can get food from the government but if you take the food, you no longer get to be free from false arrest and you can’t marry who you want.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          “Similarly, Starship Troopers— though as pure narrative it is an exciting piece of blood and thunder– is heavily burdened with an attempt to demonstrate that the military veteran is of all adults the most responsible man politically, in flat defiance of the historical evidence; it also makes a brief pitch for Dr. Edward Teller’s contention that a little fall-out is good for you. This one is also extraneously interesting for the light shed on it by Glory Road, whose hero is a combat veteran with about as much political responsibility as a mink.” — James Blish

    • episcience says:

      Universal suffrage. Kinda weird that I’m the first one to support this.

      • bean says:

        What about felons? Or toddlers?

        • Jiro says:

          I don’t have a problem with felons voting, and it might help stop some government abuses. Toddlers voting is a special case of not allowing people to vote who are incompetent in a broad way. There are many rights which we don’t give to toddlers, not just voting; it’s asking why we don’t allow free speech to toddlers, and using that to call into question the concept of free speech.

          • rlms says:

            Do we disallow toddlers’ free speech? I think that any 3-year-old with the ability to publish an article would be allowed to. Their right to incoherently wail in public is sometimes restricted, but that also goes for adults.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that any 3-year-old with the ability to publish an article would be allowed to.

            I don’t think that the ability to publish an article indicates sufficient intelligence. Just look at [insert the news website that you hate most].

        • episcience says:

          Felons should certainly be allowed to vote. I don’t know of a principled argument why they shouldn’t be.

          Toddlers shouldn’t be allowed to vote until they reach some age of mental capacity, though I would be happy for this to be significantly less than 18. Perhaps it could be the same as the age of consent?

          • onyomi says:

            Felons should certainly be allowed to vote. I don’t know of a principled argument why they shouldn’t be.

            I don’t know a principled argument why anyone should be allowed to vote. By which I mean, I think the burden of proof is on those claiming to be qualified to rule and/or select rulers.

          • random832 says:

            I think the burden of proof is on those claiming to be qualified to rule and/or select rulers.

            And whom must this be proven to, if not the whole population by letting everyone vote?

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I think the the USA is an outlier in having (some States that have a) permaban on voting once you get out of jail. As far as I’m aware, most other places have a ‘you’ve served your time, you get integrated back into the community and are allowed to vote again’ policy.

          There was a bit of a spat a few years ago between the EU and the UK over prisoners’ voting rights while actually still in jail, and even then, I’m broadly in favour, if only because history is littered with examples of people being sent to jail or worse for things that no sane observer in full possession of the facts could think justified the involvement of the criminal law at all, that I would want people who were in jail under a manifestly unjust law to be able to vote for someone promising to challenge that law, even if that meant extending voting rights to genuinely dangerous prisoners as well.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that felons can have certain bad experiences that they ought to be able to vote to get fixed, like prison rape.

            Furthermore, if there are so many felons that vote that restricting it has a real effect, the country is sending too many people to jail and the effort should go to fix that.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Aapje

            the country is sending too many people to jail and the effort should go to fix that.

            What if the reason for the “too high” imprisonment rates is due to, and proportionate to, higher crime rates; that is to say, what if the imprisonment/crime ratio is the same as most other developed nations, and the numerator is so much higher only because the denominator is so much higher?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Kevin C

            Then presumably there would also be a commensurate increase in the voting populace (the denominator), such that the Felon Vote remains proportionally irrelevant?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Gobbobobble

            You seem to have misunderstood me. The fraction I’m talking about is the ratio of people in prison to crime committed. The denominator is the crime rate, not the population/electorate. I’m saying that perhaps what Aapje calls “too many people being jailed” in a country is actually the right amount of people being jailed given the crime rates, and that the real problem, then, is too many criminals.

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            My argument is not necessarily that people who commit crimes should not be sent to jail*, if there are too many, but that either the laws or the pressures on people should then change (and/or mental health treatment should improve).

            IMO, the evidence strongly suggests that a well designed society will have fairly low levels of crime.

            There is also no evidence that removing voting rights for prisoners has any positive effect on society. For example, The Netherlands rarely does this. Even a person who killed a politician kept his voting rights. Yet IMO The Netherlands seems to have substantially better government than the US (which is reflected in most metrics that reflect the well-being of citizens).

            * Although there is a lot of evidence that jail increases recidivism compared to ‘softer’ convictions, like fines and community work.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think taking the vote away from felons is too easily gamed– anything can be declared a felony, and false convictions aren’t all that rare.

          As for toddlers, I think I’m willing to take the risk of incompetent voting to get high schools to start later in the morning.

    • Deiseach says:

      2: No one over 50 or younger than 25 is allowed to vote.

      That’s right, throw me on the scrapheap! *sob, sniffle* 😉

      If you want to restrict the political power of the wealthy, taking away their franchise is the last place to look, because it’s symbolically very important and practically very unimportant.

      I very much agree with this. The super-wealthy will do what they are currently doing, which is donate to the campaign funds of the 130 IQ presidential wannabes and if you don’t think that makes them beholden to their backers, good luck with that, because one thing the rich do not do is waste money, and giving money for nothing is wasting it as far as they are concerned – if they donate to back a political candidate, it’s because they think that candidate will represent their interests or make the environment better for them.

      60 is the limit. No one senile and decrepit will be allowed to run.
      I’m almost 64. Should I bother with replying to you?

      So, Nancy, what’s it like to be senile and decrepit? 🙂

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        So, Nancy, what’s it like to be senile and decrepit?

        Bad-tempered. Some poor fellow tries to explain a general idea, and horrible people insist on taking it personally.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ah, these young whipper-snappers, wait till they run up a few miles on the clock, then they’ll change their minds 🙂

      • random832 says:

        and if you don’t think that makes them beholden to their backers, good luck with that […] if they donate to back a political candidate, it’s because they think that candidate will represent their interests or make the environment better for them.

        The counterargument I typically see made is that they are giving money to politicians who are already inclined to vote for their interests (and the money increases their chances of being elected, rather than changing their positions or making them “beholden”).

        Of course, this theory doesn’t account for individuals who donate to both sides.

    • Urstoff says:

      I don’t think there’s remotely enough evidence to justify any type of ideal system, particularly one that restricts voting according to demographics. I’d rather just move all elections to something like range voting or any of the other voting systems that are better than first-past-the-post voting and then see what happens.

    • dodrian says:

      Voting: Any citizen aged 16 or over who hasn’t been ruled mentally incapable (unable to be held responsible for their actions).

      Running for office: Federal representatives must have been a citizen of at least four years and resident in their state for at least four of the previous six years before running. The President should be a citizen of at least 12 years should have lived in the US at least 12 of the past 16 years. Serving in the military overseas is counted as being resident in their last address before deploying.

      Election days are public holidays and workers can’t be forced to take a shift that lasts more than 50% of the time period the polls are open.

      I’m very much in favor of using a single transferable vote – I think that would eliminate a lot more of the problems that plague the current system than attempting to control who can vote. Any system which is designed, however well intentioned, to restrict voting to a certain class of people will inevitably be abused, and will be much less resilient than universal suffrage. One’s right to participate in government shouldn’t be restricted because another group perceives that person as being “stupid”, “uninformed”, etc.

    • rlms says:

      I too would like voting to be restricted to the kinds of people who generally agree with me!

      Less snarkily: proportional representation, universal suffrage excluding people without the legal capacity to make contracts. I would like some sort of half-measures for minors aged between 7 and 18 to match their partial ability to contract. The main problem here is avoiding 10-year-olds just voting with their parents, effectively multiplying the votes of people with many children (although I’m sure some would regard this as a feature!). If anonymity were not a problem, allowing children to vote for anyone except people either parent voted for might be interesting. Fractional votes are also a possibility.

      I also like the system that the Humanists have in Ada Palmer’s book Too Like The Lightning. Anyone can stand for government, and if they get a significant proportion of the vote then they get a seat in parliament. But the overall structure of the government is decided by giving extra powers to people with high proportions of the vote. So if one person gets 90% of the vote, they have close to absolute power, but if no-one gets more than 1% then power is divided equally between hundreds of people.

      • That sounds like my proposal.

        Anyone can offer to be a representative. He has a list of the people who choose him to represent them, any of whom can switch to another representative anytime he wants to. Each representative casts a number of votes equal to the number of people he is representing.

        With modern technology, we could give each representative a seat in a virtual congress. With traditional technology, anyone representing at least half a million people gets a seat. Any group of representatives who together represent at least half a million get one seat, and take turns sitting in it in any way they can all agree on.

        I don’t know if it would work better than the current system, but it’s much more elegant.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Given how “instant communication with everyone with internet connection” turned out for politics news and discussion (terribly bad), I’m not excited about trying the same with processes of democracy.

          I like the idea of representatives who really represent someone in principle tough, but unfortunately is incompatible with the secret ballot.

          Also, half a million sounds amazingly large threshold. At that point you are going to need election campaign with large sums of money, so the most of the problems in current representative democracies remain. Any fixed number also is going to be terrible if population drastically changes.

          I’d like to see if some country experimented with sortition. Everyone who can get, say, n signatures, is a candidate: the representatives are chosen randomly from the list of the candidates. (Uniform distribution over all eligible: extra signatures do not help.) I think the n should be low enough that most people who vouch for any candidate knows someone who knows that the candidate is a trustworthy person. So it would be possible to get chosen by the virtue by being known in your social circles.

          The act of vouching for someone should be grandiose. You’d actually have to go in person to the election official and sign their name a large book or something, possible additionally recant an oath that sounds profound. (Not necessarily anything about flags or death, rather “I swear I cast my vote freely and without any profit motive, blah blah”.)

          The sortition systems are accused of the problem that the representatives will be controlled by the civil service and lobbyists (even more so than today) because there are no professional lawmakers. I’ve been thinking about how to solve this: The lower chamber is chosen by lot from willing candidates (as described above). However, once per election cycle, some amount of members of the lower chamber are chosen to the permanent second chamber.

          I’m slightly unclear exactly how, though. Maybe citizens can cast “affirmative” votes for members the lower chamber once per cycle, and they would be ranked by their popularity. Or maybe the members of senate are chosen by a lot again, lifetime in prison if the selected members declines, membership compulsory until retirement. The pay would be amazing both during the tenure and after retiring.

    • BBA says:

      I’d like to try a system based on explicit power-sharing arrangements, like how in Northern Ireland if the First Minister is Protestant then the deputy First Minister must be Catholic and vice versa, and “major decisions” require the approval of both. Northern Ireland may not have the fairest or most efficient or, hell, even a remotely good system of government, but at least they aren’t killing each other in the streets of Belfast anymore.

      Of course, the devil is in the details. I have no idea how you adapt it to America. But we do have two roughly-equal factions that hate each other and I want to avoid giving one total control over the other.

      • In the original U.S. system, the vice president was the person who came in second for president.

        In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President.

        • LHN says:

          On the other hand, the Vice President had almost no formal power in the system (with the exception of breaking Senate ties). There was pretty clearly no power sharing effect– even Adams, who wasn’t an opponent of his President, found it a fairly meaningless office. And even so the reality of having a political opponent as number two in the executive branch was inconvenient enough that it was amended away.

          I can imagine ways in which the system might have forced a more coalitional style. E.g., give the Vice President a veto, so that only laws that can get past both executives or command a supermajority in Congress are enacted. Though whether that results in less adversarial government or simple paralysis may be contingent on what norms develop.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Probably a terrible idea in several ways, but maybe someone can run with it in a not-terrible way. Jus’ brainstormin’:
      (I personally would prefer a More Federalism solution, but setting that aside…) Maybe to cut back on pork, gerrymandering, and the “Congress sucks but my guy is just fine” problem, maybe we could get rid of Federal House districts and make it a national free-for-all: the top 435 names from across the country go to Washington. The Senate can stay the same to fight for the states’ interests since that’s basically what it was made to do.

      • random832 says:

        If everyone votes for 435 or more names they personally want: That sounds like both parties will put forward a slate of 435 names, and whichever one wins will control the whole house. If the vote is close, you might have a few defections of the form “moderate or third party candidate who is popular in their state even among opposition voters gets over the line”.

        If everyone votes for some large number less than 435: Same, except you’ve got basically a guaranteed majority and guaranteed minority of fixed size.

        If everyone votes for exactly one person, it’s going to be dominated by name recognition, and I’m not sure there would be as many as 435 clear winners.

        What might be interesting would be to have a “transfer runoff” element: No more than N/435 voters can vote for a particular candidate – If any of them do, a randomly selected (or maybe it’s done evenly, with fractions, to prevent randomness from being involved) portion of those ballots whose second choice did not cross that threshold have their votes switched to their second choice. Such a system might be a way to allow for proportional representation without formally recognizing political parties as part of the system.

    • Kevin C. says:

      As a moderate aside to this discussion on narrowed franchise proposals, is anyone aware of a historical case where a polity has successfully narrowed the franchise — without eliminating voting entirely — and not suffered from replacement/takeover/collapse of the government? Because I’m aware of several historical attempts (mostly in France), and they all seem to have ended badly.

      • LHN says:

        New Jersey allowed women who met its property qualification to vote in 1790, then narrowed the franchise to men in 1807.

        (There’s also the sharp narrowing of the franchise granted African-Americans by the 15th Amendment as Jim Crow solidified, but arguably that was a replacement/takeover of the Reconstruction-era state governments.)

        • Kevin C. says:

          I’ll admit limited familiarity with the New Jersey case, but didn’t it at the same time expand the property requirements to (adult white male) taxpaying citizens? Given the gendered nature of “head of household” and property ownership rules at the time — coverture and all that — it seems likely that the number of women who met the property requirements pre-1807 was small, much smaller than the number of men enfranchised by the relaxation from “freeholder” to “taxpayer”. So, I suppose you can get away with narrowing the franchise in one direction so long as you expand enough in another direction. But once you’re at or near universal adult suffrage, that’s not really applicable, is it?

          (Plus there is, indeed, the complication of the nature of American state governments vis-a-vis federalism and the national government.)

          In short, trying to narrow the franchise — again, without eliminating it entirely — still looks pretty unachievable in any modern polity. It looks like a binary choice between universal adult suffrage democracy, or no democracy at all.

      • cassander says:

        What LNH says of new jersey actually happened a lot of places in the 19th century, property qualifications were phased out in favor of universal manhood suffrage, which often resulted in the loss of the vote to women, minorities, etc.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Voting: A Condorcet method, preferably Schulze, for both legislative and executive branch elections.

      Districting: Until I can come up with a sufficiently corruption-resistant “independent panel” system, some sort of procedural district generation algorithm seems safest. “Here’s a density map. Split this geographic region into X contiguous sub-units of roughly (+/- 5 or 10%) population. No Enclaves allowed. Go.”

      Franchise: There isn’t a method to limit the franchise that I can think of that doesn’t open the door to abuse and societal rifts. In the absence of an alternative, better to prevent excessive democracy/populism by increasing the %-ages required to pass laws and (especially) constitutional/founding document edits.

    • Loquat says:

      Rule #1 seems very tricky to enforce. I can easily imagine scenarios where a rich guy sets up his adult children or other trusted individuals with a comfortable 1% life structured in such a way that they appear to have income/wealth less than your cap. He could even do it so they appear to be small business owners, with the consequent doubled voting power!

      IOW, your proposed system would encourage a hell of a lot of financial chicanery and fake small businesses.

    • richest who don’t know what it’s like to be poor would not be allowed to vote and influence the vote in a more conservative direction

      Except through campaign contributions and the like.

  8. Deiseach says:

    News from Eurovision; last night, when getting the Israeli vote, the announcer said that this was probably the last time we’d ever be hearing from their TV station. I thought this meant just that they wouldn’t be carrying the Eurovision broadcast anymore, but no – see below from my Tumblr dashboard:

    The truly sad thing about this year’s Eurovision is that it was (most likely) Israel’s last participation. You may have heard the Israeli announcer saying it after giving Israel’s points. Israel’s 1st channel had ended its activity immediately after the Eurovision ended.

    Our government has closed the public broadcasting network. They are supposed to be replaced by another one, but the government is trying to close the new one as well.

    It means no more Eurovision for us, no more Olympics, no more World Cup, no international news. Without a public broadcasting network, our government will decide what news we hear, and what we learn about the things that happen in the country and the world.

    I hope the fight to operate the new public broadcasting network will work. I hope we won’t become isolated from the world.

    So does anybody know anything about what is going on or how the media works in Israel? If it’s a public station, are there not commercial stations broadcasting as well? Can the government control the content of non-publicly funded TV and radio stations (this is a perennial worry with RTÉ and the BBC as they are public broadcasting stations funded by the national licence fee and under the control, ultimately, of the government – the Executive Board of RTÉ is selected by the government of the day, and the BBC since its inception has had to tread a fine line dealing with the government).

    News stories make it sound like an unmerciful mess, as several radio and TV channels are shut down and the replacement service is being pulled in all directions by interested parties trying to get their fingers in the pie.

    Imagine if Trump tried shutting down CNN! This is looking like Erdogan-style control of the media, or am I libelling Netanyahu?

    Netanyahu, who was until recently also acting communications minister, oversaw passage of the 2014 law to establish the new corporation but has long been leading an effort to abort it before it goes on the air, complaining of a lack of government control of the corporation’s editorial line, which may be critical of his government.

    • BBA says:

      There are commercial broadcasters in Israel. How “independent” they are is a matter of debate. I’ve heard the Israeli economy described as an oligarchy, and I don’t have enough familiarity to judge, but there is a lot of overlap between the ownership of media companies and other large businesses there.

      It’s odd to compare the American media landscape to foreign countries because we don’t have an equivalent to BBC/RTE/the now-defunct IBA/the not-yet-operating IBC. There’s PBS and NPR, sure, but they’re massively decentralized and the flows of government funding are relatively opaque. They also get enough non-governmental funding, through corporate sponsorship and pledge drives, such that I think they’d be able to survive in some form if the much-threatened funding cutoff actually happens. (Many of the local affiliates in smaller markets would be forced to close, though.)

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Given how wildly distorted reporting on Israel usually is, including from the Israeli left, I’d certainly want some impartial secondary sources to weigh in on the issue before making any judgments.

      That said, if there are plenty of non-governmental alternatives already, people are free to start more whenever they want, and those alternatives are free to broadcast what they please, I don’t see why any government is obligated to operate a public broadcasting channel itself — and, if they are going to do so, why they can’t exert arbitrary control over its content. It also doesn’t help when this seems to be one of those “only the United States and Israel have to abide by this rule” sort of situations; you don’t see people insisting that, say, Sweden fund some right-wing TV to act as a counterweight to left-wing governance. It only ever works the other way around.

      With regards to Eurovision in particular, is it the case that your nation must have a public broadcasting channel to participate? That seems like a weird restriction, but if that’s how it is, that’s how it is. Can’t enter the Oscars if you don’t make a movie.

      • LHN says:

        It was only in the context of the announced closure that I learned that the state channel 1 had been the only TV station in Israel as late as 1993. And that it was so stereotypically an exemplar of stolid gray socialism that it took it literally: it reportedly kept broadcasting in black and white after their equipment could support color, while denying it was possible. Until the jig was up after someone accidentally broadcast a few minutes of a movie without suppressing the chroma signal.

        (Comedies were largely limited to the Arabic broadcasting times, presumably on the grounds that Arabic-speakers weren’t the primary target of improving broadcasts and could be permitted some frivolity. And let us not even speak of rock and/or roll.)

        One result was that ordinary people were driven to desperately seek out “Three’s Company” and cartoons on Jordanian TV. Which at least probably helped further support bilingualism in English.

        (At least I assume those were mostly in English with Arabic subtitles. If they were dubbed, then maybe it helped that generation pick up some Arabic instead.)

        http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/371680/death-of-channel-1-closed-tv-network-that-once-unified-israel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Main

        • cassander says:

          It was only in the context of the announced closure that I learned that the state channel 1 had been the only TV station in Israel as late as 1993. And that it was so stereotypically an exemplar of stolid gray socialism that it took it literally: it reportedly kept broadcasting in black and white after their equipment could support color, while denying it was possible. Until the jig was up after someone accidentally broadcast a few minutes of a movie without suppressing the chroma signal.

          This is hilarious, I have to know why! There had to be some justification for this…

          • BBA says:

            The stated justification was that color TVs were luxury goods, and introducing color broadcasting would foment inequality and class unrest between those who could afford color TVs and those who could only afford B&W.

            Not the Israeli Labor Party’s finest moment, that.

      • Deiseach says:

        With regards to Eurovision in particular, is it the case that your nation must have a public broadcasting channel to participate?

        I don’t think so, but it’s the case that the European Broadcasting Union broadcasts Eurovision and the membership is made up mostly of public service broadcasters, they don’t have to be public service (I think) by the definition here:

        Membership is for broadcasting organisations whose countries are within the European Broadcasting Area, as defined by the International Telecommunication Union, or are members of the Council of Europe.

        Members guide the EBU’s direction in a number of ways. They are entitled to vote at the EBU’s General Assembly and in EBU elections. They are encouraged to participate in EBU Committees and Assemblies and nominate candidates for EBU bodies such as the Sports Committee, News Committee, Legal & Policy Committee, Television Committee, Radio Committee and Technical Committee. Members also enjoy all the benefits of EBU membership including participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, access to know-how, networking, training from the Eurovision Academy, and participation as a Eurovision member if they contribute to the Eurovision News Exchange and Eurovision sports acquisition.

        I think it just happens to be the way things shook out here that most national TV and radio stations originally were public service or taken under the wing of the government from origins as a private company (like the BBC), unlike the USA. Channel 4 in Britain is much the same; it’s semi-commercial and semi-public service.

  9. waltonmath says:

    We’re having another SSC meetup in Portland on Saturday, June 10th at 12:30. Email me (nwalton125 at gmail dot com) if you would like to come and want to know the address.

  10. Well... says:

    Two questions about autism–by which I’m referring to all autism spectrum disorders–for anyone who is reasonably knowledgeable about the subject (I’m not):

    Question 1 of 2: I doubt I’m the first person who’s thought autism seems more prevalent now than it used to be. Without doing any research at all, I’d guess two common explanations are basically “autism is about as common ever, but now we are better at defining it and diagnosing it–it just happens to be that lots of people have some kind of autism,” and “for various reasons autism is presently getting a lot of signal amplification.”

    Is my understanding basically on target?

    Question 2 of 2: Is autism defined well enough that there are certain traits/symptoms which, if present or not present in a child, absolutely suggest a diagnosis of autism or of not having autism?

    For example, I’ve heard that rocking back and forth when upset or anxious is strongly associated with autism. How strongly? Don’t tons of 4 year-olds do this, including ones without autism? Also, I’ve heard that avoiding eye contact and not talking much is strongly associated with autism. If a child often makes eye contact and is perfectly comfortable talking at length to both strangers people he knows, how strongly does it suggest the child is not autistic?

    • US says:

      A1: Here’s a relevant quote on these topics from this text:

      “Recent studies and reports from the Centers for Disease Control […] have shown an increase in the prevalence of children diagnosed with an ASD […] The reported increase is thought to be attributable to several factors. First, there have been changes in diagnostic practices […] Second, there is greater public awareness of ASD and more case-finding […] Finally, there has been a tendency to diagnose many children with intellectual disability as PDD [Pervasive Developmental Disorder – PDD-NOS (-Not Otherwise Specified) was previously considered a diagnostic autism subtype]. […] no evidence currently exists to support any association between ASD and a specific environmental exposure.”

      As diagnostic practices change, so do the people included in the autism category. One relevant change over time which might be important is that the proportion of people diagnosed belonging to the milder end of the spectrum is probably higher now than it was some decades ago, but the change at ‘the other end’ of the spectrum, with low-IQ, poor-outcome groups being clustered as autistics rather than intellectually disabled is likely also relevant. One should definitely keep such aspects in mind when interpreting stuff like the time-evolution of outcomes in the context of outcome studies. To which extent the increase in the number of diagnoses reflects actual ‘true’ changes in the prevalence is not clear, as far as I know, and the answer you get will thus likely depend upon whom you ask.

      A2. Autism spectrum disorders are at this point in time probably best conceptualized as a somewhat heterogeneous group of neurodevelopmental disorders with some common features. The current version of the DSM includes both categories of specific symptoms/behavioural patterns which have to be present for a diagnosis to be made, and categories of symptoms where some, but not all, of the symptoms/behaviours should be present. Here’s a link. The problem (I don’t actually think this is a problem…) is that diagnostic criteria tend to be ‘high-level’ categories, so a specific behaviour which might exemplify what a specific criterion is intending to measure/indicate will never on its own be sufficient to indicate with certainty that a diagnosis should be made; for example when you’re evaluating an individual you don’t really care about whether or not the individual sustains eye contact because that’s not what you’re trying to measure – what you’re actually interested in in that context is rather whether the individual has significant trouble with social communication. Troubles with social communication (which is not the only variable of interest) can be manifested through or present itself via multiple different behavioural pathways, none of which will presumably be present in all autistics, but all of which will be present in some of them. Communication is universally affected in individuals with ASD, but how social communication is affected will vary, as will the severity of the impairment; some are non-verbal, others have trouble with nonverbal communication aspects of social interactions.

      “I’ve heard that avoiding eye contact and not talking much is strongly associated with autism. If a child often makes eye contact and is perfectly comfortable talking at length to both strangers people he knows, how strongly does it suggest the child is not autistic?”

      I think it’s important to remember always when addressing diagnostic aspects that one of the ideas behind having an autism category in the first place is that you use it as a placeholder for the identification of individuals who might have issues and need help. Diagnosis depends not on phenotype but on a phenotype-environment interaction: “Symptoms [must] cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.” This was always a requirement, also in the DSM-IV. If an individual deals well with his or her environment, the individual should not be considered autistic if the diagnostic guidelines are followed, regardless of the neurological makeup of said individual.

  11. Sandi says:

    Someone on LessWrong mentioned Caldini’s work being on shaky ground post the replication crisis, citing an alleged comment by Scott. This is inconvenient, as I’m just now finishing Caldini. I’ve been jarred by the replication crisis going in, so I was extra skeptical of anything he said. But, for each supposed effect, he cites a few studies, which is a far cry from a metastudy, but still pretty convincing. I tried to look for replications of some more outlandish claims, I’ve even tried googling “Caldini replication crisis”, all fruitless. Evaluating scientific work is really hard. I’ve decided to ask here instead, since Scott seems to have made a claim: Is Caldini trustworthy? Should I stop reading and forget everything?

  12. rlms says:

    Just saw the post here. There is now a rationalist forum! Interesting!

  13. grendelkhan says:

    On the theme of Vox perhaps not always deserving our eternal scorn forever, two recent articles about drug pricing by Julia Belluz at least make mention of competition among generics being a vital part of reducing drug costs, which Scott had previously taken them to task for missing.

    “Insulin price hikes tell us a lot about what’s wrong with drug pricing in America”, burying the lede at the very end of the article:

    One clear solution to the problem would be to bring a generic version of insulin to the market. There are currently no generic options available — in part because companies have made those incremental improvements to insulin products, which has allowed them to keep their formulations under patent, and because older insulin formulations have fallen out of fashion.

    But history has shown that when cheaper generic options are introduced to the market, overall drug prices come down. “There are no generic competitors for any of Eli Lilly’s insulin,” Luo said. A century after insulin was discovered, it’s about time we had one.

    “If Trump wants to lower drug prices, he’s going about it all wrong”, leaving out any suggestion of specifics, but at least naming the problem:

    When brand name alternatives — such as various types of hepatitis C treatments or even different insulin therapies — come on to the market, drug prices don’t drop dramatically. When competition from interchangeable generic products increases, they do.

  14. Deiseach says:

    Just popping in very quickly to say Eurovision Grand Final will be starting in about fifteen minutes, both Israel and Australia have made it through the semi-finals to the final, Ireland has not, the UK hasn’t a hope this year either (again) and I’ll let you all know the vitally important result when it’s over and we have a winner 🙂

    Relevant comic

    • smocc says:

      As a dedicated Eurovision fan from America, I am still angry about Australia participating. I watch Eurovision because it is the one time of year that Europe lets its guard down and reveals its true tacky cultural weirdness. Australia is a fun country in its own way, but the pop entries it brings are just too American and too polished and don’t detract from the goofy spirit I want from the competition. (Other trends do this too, but Australia is easy to fix: just stop inviting them.)

      On the other hand, Ireland, give us more Jedward, less Mumford and Sons copycat of the month. 🙂

      • BBA says:

        Even Mumford & Sons aren’t Mumford & Sons soundalikes anymore. I saw them perform a piece on SNL from their most recent album, and it was a Coldplay knockoff instead. They said they were tired of being “the banjo guys” and moved to more conventional rock instrumentation… I say, if we wanted to listen to Coldplay, we’d listen to Coldplay.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        Australia was also represented not only by their official entry, but also by a mooning striker!

        (Or so everybody thought when it happened. He apparently was an Ukrainian wearing Australian flag because reasons.)

        I was told the Portugal was a favorite, and sure it was the kind of ballad that I anticipated getting lots of votes from juries. But I was flabbergasted that it also wrote the televote: I had no idea that regular people would like it that much.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think there may be some political sentiment floating around the Portuguese win, as I really didn’t think it could be a winner, but that’s Eurovision!

          Given the recent French election and the candidacy of Marine Le Pen, as well as Brexit, and Trump’s election victory, this may be an instance of signalling support for anti-racism etc.

          But the traditional rows over “we voted for you and you didn’t vote for us” got a look-in (at least, as far as Irish-British relations go). We didn’t make it through to the final so the UK couldn’t vote for us, but apparently some of them expected us to give them our 12 points from the national jury in the spirit of “Greece votes 12 to Cyprus, Cyprus votes 12 to Greece, the Baltic nations all vote for each other and so do the Scandinavians” 🙂

  15. Deiseach says:

    I realise that this is of interest to approximately nobody on here, but I have to rant somewhere or burst a blood vessel through apopolexy, and you lucky people get to be the recipients of my breathless indignation (mainly because I can rant about this on here and there is the chance of intelligent discussion or understanding).

    Skip this if you want to, you’re not losing anything by not reading this.

    Okay. I check my news feeds today and this pops up. I have to read the entire thing because I can’t believe the opening paragraph is something a professional religious affairs correspondent wrote, but there we go. I believe I mentioned before that the Irish Times was the newspaper of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland in former days, and still retains an opinion of itself as enlightening the natives?

    This is one of the stupidest stories I have ever read about coverage of Catholicism, and that’s saying something. All I can understand for the reason it’s written like this is that there is a narrative in the media about Good Pope Francis versus Bad Pope Benedict, and that Francis is good because he likes the gays (a complete misunderstanding of a quote taken from this in-flight conversation with journalists) and because he is seen as liberal and easy-going and likely to do away with all that old-fashioned “sin” stuff.

    Add to that a local twist, something described by an Australian poet as the cultural cringe amongst the English-speaking colonies towards England – something still alive and well in Ireland to this day also – and you get this opening paragraph:

    It should not happen in Ireland and certainly not in a year which commemorates the beginnings of the Reformation 500 years ago, when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety five Theses to the door of All Saint’s church in Wittenberg.

    What is this thing that should not happen? An Irish priest is being beatified. He was a convert from the Church of Ireland to Catholicism, became a Jesuit priest, and is now on the road to canonisation (if that ever happens, it’s not necessarily guaranteed).

    Why shouldn’t it be happening? Because Bad Old Pope Benedict said, back in the days when he was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

    Anglican and Protestant churches as not churches “in the proper sense.” Rather they were, it said, “ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate (their bishops are not real bishops) and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery (their Communion is not real Communion).

    But huzzah and hurray, now we have Good Pope Francis who, by beatifying this Irish convert, is plainly recognising the full stature of Protestant (and in this context you can take it that the writer is concerned mainly and only with the Church of England and its daughter churches like the Church of Ireland) as real churches and fully equal and their priests (if they call them priests) are so priests, even the women ones, and their bishops are so bishops, and their version of the Eucharist (whether they call it the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Communion, the Sacrament or whatever) is indeed exactly in all degrees the same as the Catholic Eucharist.

    This is a mistaken view of the matter. Firstly, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger was not expressing any novel opinion or an opinion of his own; see Pope Leo XIII’s decision on the validity of Anglican orders (they ain’t). As to the nature of the Eucharist, even the Anglicans can’t decide on one definition that holds for everybody. You can have someone who believes it is merely symbolic receiving it beside someone who is the loftiest of Anglo-Catholics and holds the Doctrine of the Real Presence. In some Anglican churches, you can receive the Eucharist even if you’re not an Anglican, so long as you are a baptised Christian (“open communion”). Some individual parishes or dioceses of churches in the Anglican Communion go even further; anyone can receive if they want to go up to the altar – Jewish, atheist, it doesn’t matter, all are welcome!

    Secondly, this is not the pope beatifying a Protestant clergyman or layman; this is the pope beatifying a Catholic. If it is Super Amazing Astounding that a convert should be beatified, our professional religious affairs correspondent hasn’t been paying attention to St Josephine Bakhita and a long list of others. The pope is beatifying a convert, someone who left the Church of Ireland and his social status, and became one of the Irish Catholics regarded by the Irish Times of that day (and it would seem, since) as pope-ridden backwards superstitious peasant know-nothings.

    I wish to God we could get over our parochialism in this country, and the worst form of parochialism is not the squinting windows of the little village, it’s the parochialism of the wanna-be cosmopolite constantly looking over their shoulder at London or New York to make sure they are aping their betters, and going into paroxysms of delight if they can, by any shift, make something appear to be “we are getting like them! we are copying them in what they think and do and say! we are becoming so modern!”

    *end of rant*

    • NIP says:

      Specifically because you didn’t expect a reply, I just wanted to say that I understand your frustration, sister. Whenever an Anglican (or Episcopalian on this side of the Atlantic) tries to ruffle my feathers, I just link them this. Remember, Our Lord trolled to save people’s souls. Now you can, too!

      God bless.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, with the name “Patsy McGarry”, I am going to venture that the Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times may be from peasant Catholic stock himself, but it’s not the first time Irish people have tried to rise above their embarrassing roots and show how progressive they are by approvingly contrasting Nice Modern Times with Bad Old Days, especially when it comes to the Church.

        Ah, well, I shouldn’t expect anything different (but I do, from a newspaper that at least pretends to be quality journalism and not down-market sensationalist populist headline-grabbers like the Irish Independent or the red-tops).

    • dodrian says:

      Firstly I have to confess to being one of those dirty Church-of-England types (the best description I’ve heard of the Anglican Communion is “A Church united around being not entirely sure what it believes”).

      But I too am astounded at the number of articles I’ve seen where the headline could be re-written “Pope Affirms Catholic Doctrine.” “Church will not approve gay marriage.” “Church will not ordain women priests.” Etc, etc.

      In other news, bear scat discovered in Yellowstone forests.

      • Deiseach says:

        Sorry, didn’t mean to be nasty to the Anglicans 🙂 It’s my own lot that I want to slap around the head a few times, when they fall over themselves trying to show how the Catholic Church is at long last getting with the spirit of the times and loosening up, especially in Ireland when they always want it to start imitating the Church of England (the poor old Church of Ireland has its own problems, it’s liberal in some ways but that does not mean it’s “let it all hang out, baby” either).

        But when it came to “Pope is beatifying Irish Protestant – this demonstrates ecumenism in action and could only have happened under Good Pope Francis!” I want to say “Have you never heard of John Henry Newman?”

        • dodrian says:

          Oh no, I didn’t read your post as being nasty to Anglicans at all. I just feel a personal need to apologize for my Church whenever I’m in the presence of Catholics. It’s probably something related to my jealousy of the Catholic ability to take a firm doctrinal stance on everything, in contrast to our inability to believe anything firmly at all ;-).

  16. Mark says:

    The government recruits eighteen-year olds and sends them to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Stopping people of the same age, past the legal age of majority, from being able to access cannabis because of mental health concerns would be some of the most ridiculous hypocrisy possible in government policy, on top of undermining the central liberal motivation of legalisation, that adults should be able to make these kinds of choices for themselves.

    Is there anyone else in the world who feels that most of the decisions they make aren’t made by themselves?
    Most of the things I do are the things that the people around me do. And people in Saudi Arabia do the same things as other people in Saudi Arabia.

    I understand that the aim of liberal policy is for decision making to take place on the level of the individual, but surely that will take a bit more work than just reducing legal restrictions? A reduction of legal restrictions doesn’t so much empower the individual as allow for a greater diversity of cultures.

    I feel as if your average liberal tends towards simply ignoring the fact of society (“no such thing as society!”).

    If we were serious about individual choice, the first thing we would need is an incredibly secure people who were not vulnerable to the rejection of others. It is likely we would need some specific culture/meta-culture to achieve this = legal restrictions.

    • Mark says:

      https://www.bowgroup.org/sites/bowgroup.uat.pleasetest.co.uk/files/David%20Sergeant%20-%20Cannabis%20paper%20evidence_0.pdf

      The aggressive commercialisation of cannabis has already begun, with ‘big tobacco’ companies investing considerable funding in their next project for the betterment of humanity. Similarly, Microsoft have unashamedly announced their partnership with ‘Kind financial,’ a business that ‘logistically supports’ cannabis growers. (Becker, 2016, para. 1) By definition, the purpose of dope companies within legal markets is to sell as much cannabis to as many people as possible and crucial to this pursuit is persuading new users to try their product. In the US there is growing concern these companies have already begun to target a young, impressionable audience with their advertisement.

      Which slogan/idea is going to be the “Torches of Freedom” for cannabis?

      • Deiseach says:

        Goodness me, you mean that legalising cannabis for recreational and not just medicinal use means that (a) people see this as a business opportunity (b) big concerns see this as a business opportunity (especially when it comes to the increasing disapproval of tobacco) and want to establish a share of the market, branding, and grabbing new consumers which means ‘get ’em young and you keep ’em for life’?

        How surprised I am! Who could possibly have forecast this turn of events! But of course, we can rest assured that BAT and the like will not do with cannabis what they did with tobacco, no sir!

        I do remember, back when I was younger and less cynical, being mildly shocked when I saw Joe Camel advertising that was very plainly aimed at teenagers and heavily sold the idea of coolness, popularity (especially with the opposite sex), and fun and enjoyable pastimes as associated with smoking Camel cigarettes. Not the kind of thing permitted for European/British and Irish advertisers, and probably no longer permitted for Americans either, but indicative of the mindset: get your consumers as early as possible, make them loyal to your brand, and keep them for life.

  17. Mark says:

    British election.

    Labour are campaigning on a policy of renationalising the railways. Does the fact that, in Britain, many of the railway franchises are ultimately owned by other countries’ nationalised railway companies make this policy more sensible?

  18. bean says:

    Political correctness in war is older than I thought. I’m reading Curtis LeMay’s autobiography, and he’s talking about nose art:
    “And some which caused at least one visiting Congressman to raise shocked eyebrows when he went around and looked at our B-17s. He demanded that those obscene names and caricatures be covered up, so they wouldn’t offend the Germans.”

    • Well... says:

      Kurtz in Apocalypse Now:

      “We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because: it’s obscene!”

      • Creutzer says:

        What’s political about that?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Objection to the vulgar and obscene is generally a right-wing position (Tipper Gore notwithstanding). Objection to war is generally a left-wing position. So Kurtz’s remark combines support for the anti-war left and disdain for the pro-war anti-censorship right.

          • Creutzer says:

            It’s still absurd to classify a prohibition on saying “fuck” as political correctness. That’s just old-school prudery.

      • bean says:

        I’m not sure it’s quite the same. “Please take it down, it’s obscene” would have been unremarkable (and I’m surprised that it didn’t happen more often in WW2). “Please take it down so we don’t offend the enemy” is a very unexpected sentiment.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Please take it down so we don’t offend the enemy” is a very unexpected sentiment.

          I took that part to be LeMay’s sarcastic addition. Are you saying he was serious?

          • cassander says:

            My favorite Lemay story. Possibly apocryphal, but I chose to believe. He’s standing by a B-52 watching some private refuel it, and smoking a cigar. the airman very nervously asks him to put it out because the cigar might ignite the fuel fumes, he just says “It wouldn’t dare.”

          • bean says:

            @Nybbler I’m not 100% sure. He doesn’t come across as particularly sarcastic, but you never know.

            @cassander
            I’ve always heard that it was at the controls of a B-29. Haven’t gotten to either place yet, as Mission with LeMay is not a small book.

  19. Paul Zrimsek says:

    I’d like to understand what are some of the biggest current issues in this sector.

    I saw what you did there.

  20. Anon. says:

    Opinions on Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Harari?

  21. News reports announce a massive world-wide ransomware attack.

    Ransomware is malware that gets control of a computer system, encrypts the data, and demands a money ransom to unlock it. The ransom is demanded through Bitcoin or other untraceable methods. Tremendous amounts of money are collected.

    But there is no honor among thieves, right? So, if the ransom is paid, why would the ransomers bother to unlock the data? I mean, they have the victim’s money, so there’s zero need to respond.

    I suppose in theory they could be motivated to protect the reputation of ransomware in general, but that certainly doesn’t sound like something a crook would ever go out of his way to do. Any kind of communication from the attacker only increases his vulnerability to detection. The rule for such situations is always “take the money and run.”

    The Wikipedia article on ransomware coyly says the unlock “may or may not actually occur”.

    Let’s be clear: if ransomware takes over your computer, your data is gone, and if you pay the money, your money is gone, too. Have there ever been any counterexamples?

    So why are news organizations treating this as if paying the ransom is a genuine option?

    • LHN says:

      My impression had been that a fair fraction of ransomware purveyors are “honest” to that extent, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the defection rate went up as ransomware spread. A ZDNet piece claims that “of those companies which paid a ransom to hackers, one in five never got their data back”– which suggests that 80% of them did.

    • Timothy says:

      My understanding was that generally they are “honest crooks”.

      Here’s the first example I found, of a community college consortium paying $28k on the advice of outside security consultants, and getting their decrypt.

      I think you overestimate the danger of communication.

    • Rob K says:

      My wife’s work got hit several times (which, yes, speaks quite poorly about their IT people). I believe that once they paid the ransom and did in fact get their files back, although the fact that they got hit again suggests that maybe the attackers left themselves a way back in.

      They did, at least once, accept losing a week’s work of work and go back to their last clean backup.

    • Wander says:

      I think the general idea is that if people know that paying doesn’t get your data back, then they don’t pay. The ransomers don’t actually want your data, they just want your money, so it makes sense that they’d act in the way that maximises the amount of money that they would get.

      • John Schilling says:

        Tragedy of the malevolent commons. Whether or not they get paid, depends on the reputation of ransomers in general, to which the behavior of the particular ransomer contributes a tiny fraction. Whether or not they get thrown in jail, depends roughly on the number of interactions they have with a victim, to which the addition of a “return data” step is a substantial increase. Unless there’s a particular consortium or cabal of ransomers that is responsible for a significant fraction of all data-ransom incidents, the smart move may be to take the money and run, while bemoaning all the other selfish bastards who make it hard on everyone by taking the money and running.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Unless there’s a particular consortium or cabal of ransomers that is responsible for a significant fraction of all data-ransom incidents

          I think that’s a large part of it; there are cabals of ransomers. Also, any individual ransomer is probably making a business of this. Taking the money and running is the rational answer for a one-shot, but if you’re going to keep doing it (probably even hitting the same victim multiple times, because they never learn), you don’t want to poison your “customer” base.

          • John Schilling says:

            How many cabals, and/or are they branded in some way? Because yes, that seems like it might profitably incentivize returning the data and collecting the ransom, but it also seems like it would greatly increase the odds of getting caught and imprisoned.

            We may now find out. I’ll get the popcorn.

        • beleester says:

          I would think that, since the release of ransomed data is automated, just like the distribution, it’s not as risky or difficult as you say for the ransomer. Customer sends bitcoins to an address you control, your software confirms the transfer and generates the decryption key. They don’t have to personally interact with the victim, so there’s no increased risk of capture from sending them their encryption key versus not.

          Also, since your software will behave the same way each time, it will quickly become clear to the victims whether or not your strain of ransomware is an honest dealer or not.

  22. Comments above have mentioned a defining feature of Gray Tribe as being “conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs.”

    After fading in recent years, with major de-escalation under Obama, it appears that the Trump Administration is reviving it:

    * Welcome to the ‘War On Drugs,’ Redux: Punishing low-level drug offenders is back in style.

    * Sessions Takes First Big Step Toward Bringing Back the War on Drugs

    * Jeff Sessions might bring back the war on drugs with harsher sentences for low-level offenders

    I’m not going to talk about my own reaction. Rather, my point is about the cognitive dissonance among those who (1) opposed the War on Drugs, and (2) voted for Trump.

    My theory is that this will work exactly like the abortion issue.

    As the parties polarized on social issues, there used to be many dire/gleeful predictions that Republicans coming out strongly in favor of outlawing abortion would drive pro-choice Republicans out of the party, while Democrats coming out strongly in favor of abortion rights would drive pro-life Democrats out of the party.

    Probably there was a little of that. But overwhelmingly, people forced to choose between party identity and abortion views put party first, and adjusted their views to match their partisanship.

    We’re still in the early stages of this new transformation, but I don’t expect the administration to back off on anti-drug policy. As we get into the 2018 election cycle, and more drug users are arrested and imprisoned, the advisability and extent of the crackdown will become an even more partisan issue, something Democrats will attack and Republicans will defend. People will line up in predictable ways.

    I predict we will see a lot of new support for cracking down on drug users, from Trump supporters who formerly espoused libertarian views on the subject. Meanwhile, Democrats who used to be drug warriors will oppose it.

    None of these views, either before or after 2016, were insincere. It’s just that political polarization is a powerful force.

    • Well... says:

      Meanwhile, Democrats who used to be drug warriors

      You mean like Joe Biden?

      • BBA says:

        Like every prominent Democrat before 2004 or thereabouts. I remember in ’09 how Obama, certainly the most “dovish” president on the drug war since it became a thing, treated a question about marijuana legalization as a joke. It’s incredible how quickly public opinion has moved on this.

        Or maybe it’s incredible how public opinion hasn’t moved on abortion. Polling has been basically unchanged since before Roe, despite the massive swings in policy.

        • Well... says:

          Joe Biden has exceptionally bloody hands from the war on drugs, at least for a politician of his prominence.

          Leftist progressives started and quietly perpetuated the war on drugs; I am certain it will be people fundamentally very ideologically different from them who end it.

          • Incurian says:

            Leftist progressives started and quietly perpetuated the war on drugs; I am certain it will be people fundamentally very ideologically different from them who end it.

            Why? If it seems like a right-wing issue now, it’s a good way to score points regardless of who started it.

        • cassander says:

          I assume you’re referring to Roe as the massive swing in policy? because there haven’t been any massive swings since.

    • BBA says:

      I suspect this is true, but what happens in deeply Republican Alaska? Do they reverse course on marijuana, or does the drug war bifurcate into “marijuana can be legal in some states, everything else gets life imprisonment for possession”?

    • Nornagest says:

      Time will tell. I’m kinda skeptical that this will shake out to anything in the long run, both for demographic reasons — the favorables for marijuana are pretty clearly headed upward — and because these days I assume by default that anything reported about Trump is at least two orders of magnitude less sinister than the reporting makes it out to be.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I don’t think the states will get on board, so this will be end up being a very pale imitation of the Reagan War on Drugs. There’s a lot of muttering from the press (some of it preceding the election) about the opoid epidemic, so some amount of Doing Something was probably inevitable. Not sure what the Democratic version would have looked like, but likely not like this.

      Although, the last bit of drug-related muttering from the press took away the only effective decongestant we have, thank you Daily Oregonian for many days of a stuffed-up nose and sinus headaches. So it could do some serious damage.

    • Deiseach says:

      I wouldn’t see cracking down on drug users (if that means the dealers who use as well as deal) as necessarily a bad thing, because I’ve already seen one instance of drift (I won’t call it slippery slope because of all the times people have appeared out of the woodwork to insist that there is no such thing as a slippery slope) on the topic; someone was complaining about “and so people who only have two charges of dealing heroin or meth have their lives ruined” (or something to that effect) about tough laws sending dealers to prison. My opinion, from seeing the effects of heroin use, is “Good, send the bastards to jail for ten years!”

      You see? Already we’ve moved on from “it’s ridiculous that people who deal small amounts of harmless drugs like weed are sent to jail like hardened criminals” and “it’s wrong that a one-time dealing charge is treated this way”. We’re on to harder drugs like meth and heroin, and people who’ve already got one chance and blew it by dealing a second (or more) times.

      So yeah, I do think decriminalisation and legalisation campaigns are the camel’s nose under the tent; give in on soft drugs, then you have to give in on multiple charges of dealing, then you have to give in on hard drugs because it was only a one-off, then…

      I agree it will be like abortion: only in the case of immediate risk to the physical life of the mother, only in rare cases, then in cases of rape or incest, then in cases of foetal abnormality where there would be a stillbirth or death soon after delivery, then things like Down’s Syndrome were included, then ‘threat to the life of the mother’ became ‘to the health’, and that included mental health, then that expanded to “why ruin a young woman’s life by forcing her to drop out of education”, term limits were set, those got over-ridden by “the necessity for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality that is only diagnosed at a later stage” and now it’s heading for “at any time for any or no reason so long as the woman decides she does not wish to continue the pregnancy”.

      • You take it for granted that fully legalizing drugs would be a bad thing. Do you feel similarly about alcohol? Prohibition in the U.S. is the obvious previous round of the same issues, we abolished it and no catastrophe followed.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_policy_of_Portugal

        “The drug policy of Portugal was put in place in 2001, and was legally effective from July 2001. The new law maintained the status of illegality for using or possessing any drug for personal use without authorization. However, the offense was changed from a criminal one, with prison a possible punishment, to an administrative one if the amount possessed was no more than a ten-day supply of that substance.[1]

        “In April 2009, the Cato Institute published a comprehensive case study of the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal.[2] Empirical data from that report indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates. However, drug-related pathologies – such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage – have decreased dramatically.[2][3][4] In 1999, Portugal had the highest rate of HIV amongst injecting drug users in the European Union. The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases among drug users has decreased to 13.4 cases per million in 2009 but that is still high above the European average of 2.85 cases per million.[1] There were 2000 new cases a year, in a country of 10 million people. 45% of HI reported AIDS cases recorded in 1997 originated among IV drug users,[5] so targeting drug use was seen as an effective avenue of HIV prevention. The number of heroin users was estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000 at the end of the 1990s.[6] This led to the adoption of The National Strategy for the Fight Against Drugs in 1999. A vast expansion of harm reduction efforts, doubling the investment of public funds in drug treatment and drug prevention services, and changing the legal framework dealing with minor drug offenses were the main elements of the policy thrust.”

  23. Tekhno says:

    Are there any sci-fi stories set in IC 1101?

    • andrewflicker says:

      None that I know of. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxies_in_fiction

      I’m guessing you’re interested in the fictional opportunities offered by a particularly large galaxy?

    • Tekhno says:

      Yeah.

    • John Schilling says:

      Is there a fiction writer anywhere who has made full use of even an average galaxy? Most SF of “galactic scope” would be unchanged if the galaxy in question were four or five orders of magnitude smaller than the Milky Way, and indeed would hold up better to the sort of analysis writers would prefer fans not get up to.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        I usually count myself lucky if an SF author manages to describe an individual planet in a way that makes it sound at all planet-sized.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          +1. (Not counting Earth itself.)

          Although I suppose Robinson’s Mars Trilogy does fairly well at this.

      • sflicht says:

        I feel like there are some Drake Equation assumptions hidden in this critique. Like, to take Star Wars as an example, the fact that only O(10) systems are plot-relevant (and only O(10^4?) systems seem to be represented in the Galactic Senate) is probably consistent with known constraints on Drake factors. (So little is known, it’s hard not to be consistent.) Maybe you also need some standard assumptions about Pareto distribution of planetary resources, and perhaps certain assumptions about interstellar economics, in order for the rarity of Coruscants to be sensible.

      • Sfoil says:

        The Count to a Trillion books at least make a sincere attempt to describe galactic-scale civilizations/organisms/intellects in a manner that properly conveys their scale. I think they’re great but I don’t like talking them up too much as they won’t appeal to everyone.

        • John Schilling says:

          I think the first one was the most annoying libertarian nerd wish fulfillment fantasy this side of L. Neil Smith, and he’s tried to keep that element alive even as the book departs from any domain in which merely human politics or neurotypicality could be plausibly relevant. But you’re right that he does Grand Cosmic Scope like almost no one else in the business, and for that alone I’ll keep reading.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think the first one was the most annoying libertarian nerd wish fulfillment fantasy this side of L. Neil Smith

            If you’re still talking about the “Count to the Eschaton” series, the books I found most annoying in that regard were the Golden Oecumene trilogy as I don’t find those politics palatable, but the Cosmic Scope and Big Dumb Objects and Sensawunda were enough to keep me reading (also Atkins! Who does not love Atkins?)

            I don’t mind the same in Count to a Trillion et al. because Menelaus is such an idiot, it’s enjoyable 🙂 (Also, I am hoping so hard for a redemption arc for del Azarchel, even though he keeps doing his damnedest to blow any such chances out of the water).

            The bit in “The Judge of Ages” where Menelaus and del Azarchel are gearing up for their huge final climatic (yet again) battle when the wind is taken out of their sails by the new successor civilisation that says “We’re fed up of you two running and ruining everything, we’re in charge now and you don’t get to have your big fight” is fantastic.

            People I have fallen hopelessly in love with in the Count to the Eschaton series: Sir Guiden, Mickey the Witch

            People I find myself liking despite everything and not wanting to like them one bit because they are dyed-in-the-wool villains: Ximen “Blackie” del Azarchel, Reyes y Pastor (if he hadn’t died a martyr’s death, I would have blamed him for everything)

            People who are such thundering idiots I can’t help but like them even as I despair of them: Menelaus Montrose, Our Hero 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            the new successor civilisation that says “We’re fed up of you two running and ruining everything, we’re in charge now and you don’t get to have your big fight” is fantastic.

            That was indeed fantastic. I’m hoping for an even better version when Princess Rania gets back and finds out what her suitors have been up to for the past eighty thousand years.

  24. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/13

    Choice, will power, obedience, self extended through time, etc.

    I know someone who stopped smoking by deciding he was going to stop on a significant date about six months from when he made the decision.

  25. Anonymous says:

    If you baked a multivitamin pill in 180 C, how much of its vitaminous properties would be lost? Would it become poisonous?

  26. lycotic says:

    This is apropos of the thread on the Silicon Valley post that migrated into the perfidy of banks during the financial crisis.

    Wells Fargo. Why is it still a going concern? Why do people leave their money there?

    Why was the board only *almost* replaced?

    • keranih says:

      Why was the board only *almost* replaced?

      Because the people doing the replacing aren’t any better (and probably worse) at getting money out of “Wells Fargo” than the people already on the board.

      Investors don’t want your stuff or your job, they want the money that you can make from your stuff at your job. Turning stuff into money is a non-universal skill.

      • lycotic says:

        Fair enough, I shouldn’t have bothered with the last question, because it was implied by the previous two.

        The upshot is that the market signal that pushes banks toward good practices is extremely weak (although not nonexistent in this case, as WF did experience *some* loss of deposits). Part of that is low expectations (“no more perfidious than the rest of the industry”).

        As long as bad behavior is met with the equivalent of a shrug, we probably can’t expect much to change from market signals.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Why Wells Fargo, specifically? As far as I know they didn’t lose depositors’ money, and seem no more perfidious than the rest of the industry. I use Wells Fargo now, as a result of the Wachovia purchase; the alternative for Wachovia at the time was Citigroup, which doesn’t seem better.

      If you mean the fake account scandal, that was mostly perpetrated _on_ Wells Fargo corporate by its employees; they created for themselves a whopper of a principal/agent problem and got bit.

    • My bank accounts are with Wells Fargo. Why would I change? The whole scandal didn’t affect me at all. It’s hard for me to judge if the whole thing was even significant, or simply overblown like journalists and activists normally do. Every large company is surely doing some immoral things if you dig deeply enough, simply because there are so many employees.

  27. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Speaking of the Juicero thread that just went up, there doesn’t seem to be a kitchen gadget which carmelizes onions. It doesn’t seem like it would be technically complex. Have I missed something?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Here is a kitchen gadget for caramelizing onions safely. (Other people say that a different gadget works better. But I understand the theory behind the first.)

      • Eric Rall says:

        I bake them inside a cast iron dutch oven ($20-50, depending on size and style). Any oven temperature between 275 and 400 will work, with the lower temperatures taking longer but the higher temperatures requiring regular checking and stirring (about every 15 minutes) to make sure they don’t burn. I usually do around 300 or 325, and I usually add a little bit of baking soda (about 1/4 tsp per pound of onions) to speed up the caramelization.

        In general, a dutch oven can do anything a crock pot can do with about the same amount of work and a moderate amount of additional knowledge, with the advantage of giving you more options for temperature and they let you sear your food before the slow-cook without getting a second pan dirty.

    • CatCube says:

      If there’s something relatively cheap, I might give it a try. I tried to carmelize onions for the first time on Tuesday, and they came out awful. I’m not sure what I did wrong.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        In what way were they awful? The answer should supply some clues.

        Here’s the cheap way to do it. Put chopped onions and butter and/or olive oil in a pan at a very low heat.

        You don’t need to stir them constantly, but you do need to stir them every minute or two. Stop when they are brown and sweet.

        This is cheap but time-consuming.

        • CatCube says:

          Your cheap way is exactly what I did. (I was trying to follow the directions from here.)

          I used a 12″ stainless steel pan with a little olive oil in the bottom, put it on medium heat, and put a chopped onion in and sprinkled a little sugar on it. I stirred it with a metal spatula, scraping the bottom, every few minutes at first, then every 7-8 minutes later on.

          I was expecting the times found there to be roughly accurate, but it “felt” like it was cooking a lot faster. I kept turning the heat down, until it was practically at the point where I simmer sauces, and still called it at about 40 minutes. I don’t think it tasted burned, but it was just generally bad (I was having it with a steak and a baked potato. I’ve been sauteeing an onion with that meal and wanted to try something different. I ended up trying two forkfuls and throwing the rest away.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Differences which may have made a difference.

            I used more than a little oil. I started at a low heat and stayed there. It seemes unlikely to have mattered, but I used a cast iron pan.

            I have no idea what could have gone wrong which led to such a bad outcome. What sort of bad was the onion?

          • CatCube says:

            It was just a regular yellow onion. Like I said, normally I’d sauté it instead, and it always came out fine; these were from the same package.

            There’s two things that I can think of. One is that I really overcooked it to the point of drying it out; a lot of comments on recipes tended to be “you need like an hour to carmelize an onion” so I was pretty anchored to the longer time, and ignored signs that it was done earlier.

            The other is that my stove seems to really tend towards hot. Packaged food with instructions to use “medium heat” will burn easily if I actually put the dial in the middle.

          • Iain says:

            If your caramelized onions are drying out, your pan is probably too hot.

    • Eric Rall says:

      The Juicero-level option is a Thermomix. It’s a food processor with a heating element and setting to use the food processor motor to stir stuff while it’s being heated, which is pretty much perfect for caramelizing onions (as well as doing a variety of other cooking things that normally require labor-intensive combinations of heating, chopping, and stirring). I hear it’s really good at doing what it does, but for onions it strikes me as “shooting down mosquitos with an anti-aircraft gun” level of overkill.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        More entertaining introduction here (NSFW: language).

      • bean says:

        I hear it’s really good at doing what it does, but for onions it strikes me as “shooting down mosquitos with an anti-aircraft gun” level of overkill.

        Why does google not know about the effects of explosions/shockwaves on mosquitos? I really want to find out how well this would work.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Finally found a reason to revive battleships, eh?

          • LHN says:

            Or at least do some testing using Iowa’s guns.

          • bean says:

            The problem is that there aren’t that many mosquitoes in SoCal, and the authorities here have all sorts of weird taboos against the use of live rounds. The last time we asked about just firing HE from the 5″ guns, they told us no. Something about not blowing away the Queen Mary. We were very reasonable, and didn’t even ask about the 16″ guns.
            To get enough mosquitoes, we’d probably have to go to Alabama or North Carolina. I expect the authorities there to be less rigid about the use of explosives, too.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I suggest a really big can of Doolittle Raid.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Now you got me curious, and after some reference-chasing, I found a study on the relationship between body mass and LD50 blast overpressure. Their experimental data points were all mammals, not insects, but that’s at least a starting point.

          Plugging in a mosquito’s typical mass (2.5 mg) to their “short duration reflected pressure” regression equation (caption of Figure 7: log (LD50 PSI) = 1.7055 + 0.2502 * log (mass in KG)) gives an overpressure of 2.01 PSI to kill half the mosquitos in the radius. Eyeballing Figure 4 indicates that LD99 is pretty uniformly about 10 PSI more than LD50.

          Bean has a better idea how to track down reliable figures for the explosive charge in various AAA shells than I do, but I think I found a number for the 40 mm guns on the USS Iowa as having 92g of Hexolite, which seems to be equivilent to about 120g of TNT. And if I’m correctly plugging numbers into the Sadovsky formula for blast wave from TNT explosion, then that will create the LD50 overpressure for mosquitos at a radius of just under 1 meter, and will hit the LD99 overpressure at about 47 cm.

          I’m a bit out of my depth here, so I probably made several mistakes. Double check my work before using it for anything important.

          Other references:
          Shell info
          TNT equivalents (I assumed Hexolite was the same thing as HBX, based on various descriptions I found)
          Blast effect calculations

          • bean says:

            We don’t have even a single 40 mm gun today, sad to say, so I can’t use that. (On the other hand, Alabama has a lot, so it might work for them.) Working from the canonical reference the typical shell has 7.25 lb of Composition A, with a relative effectiveness of 1.6. Equivalent to 5.16 kg of TNT.
            Doing the math using the same system, it looks like you’d get an LD50 radius of 15 m and an LD99 radius of 5.25 m. I’m rather suspicious of all of the numbers involved, but it does make me wonder why soldiers in the South Pacific never tried it. The mosquitoes there were terrible.
            Actually, let’s see what the most efficient way to remove mosquitoes would be. A typical ROF for the 40 mm gun would be 120 rpm per barrel. So a quad 40 would have an LD 99 volume of 208.75 m3/min and an LD 50 volume of 2010.62 m3/min. A 5″/38 mount would have a typical ROF of 15 rpm per gun, while 22 was high. I’ll split the difference and call it 18. That gives an LD99 volume of 21820.7 m3/min, and an LD50 volume of 508938 m3/min. A single quad 40 weighs about 10.75 tons. Iowa’s 5″ mounts weigh 77 tons each. (Other twin 5″ mounts were lighter.) So the 5″ is definitely the way to go for killing mosquitoes, and could probably be improved with modern ammo over my numbers here.
            Or is it? While they’re not technically AA guns, there was an AA fire-control table produced for the 16″ guns. So I’m going to see what their HC shells can do. The burster is 69.7 kg. It looks like they also used Composition A, so the 1.6 ratio holds. LD99r comes to 14.6 m and LD50r is 42 m. A typical rate is 2 rpg, and the turret as a whole weighs 1730 tons. (All tons are metric, if anyone tries to check my math.) So we have 78216.5 m3/min LD 99 and 1862030 m3/min LD50. By weight, the 5″ wins.
            (As a side note, the WW2-era 40 mm shells were 68g TNT. They’ve apparently come a long ways since then.)

          • Loquat says:

            I have almost no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to military-grade heavy weaponry, but how would you actually hit the mosquitoes? Just start bombing a given mosquito-infested area, or what?

          • bean says:

            @Loquat
            You couldn’t target individual mosquitoes. They’re way too small. They’re even too small for the proximity fuse to work. (Although some WW2 models were sensitive enough to be set off by seagulls.)
            It’s proving surprisingly hard to find data on mosquito swarm density (although I’m sure someone will find a paper I should have found in a few seconds), but it looks like a high mosquito rate might run into 100 insects per cubic meter or so. Which means a single 16″ shell could theoretically kill 16.8 million mosquitoes. (That’s rather absurdly high, but it’s a nice number.)

            Oh, why am I now seeing ‘the world’s deadliest animal vs the world’s deadliest ship’ as the trailer for the movie Battleship vs Mosquito?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Hmmm, in that case enough overlapping 2+psi overpressure wavefronts should get the job done relatively well without damage to the humans from the pressure itself.

            Unfortunately that’ll still shatter windows and toss debris around, so once you add in any fragments from the bursting shells I still can’t sell this as a more entertaining way of keeping my pool parties mosquito free this summer.

            Hmmm…maybe if I pass out complimentary flak vests and K-pots….

          • bean says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            That sounds much more fun than a normal pool party. That might actually get me to one. I can see it now:
            “The mosquitoes are getting bad. Everyone to the bunker!”

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What does everyone make of the story that went viral the other day, about Czech Girl Scout Lucie Myslikova arguing with a skinhead who says “We have to stop immigration or they’ill rape you” and she says “If they rape me, I’ll get over it”?

    • Mark says:

      It’s hard to think of an ideology to which her statement isn’t a betrayal.

      I suppose what she is saying is, really, that a rape would be an unfortunate and unlikely occurrence, not really related to immigration. So, STFU.

      But it’s a really unfortunate way of expressing that sentiment. If she’s 16 years old, the fault isn’t with her, but with whoever is lionising the statement.

      I mean, I’m quite stupid now, but when I was 16, I was far worse. Such is life.

      [Having done a quick search, I couldn’t find any reference to the “I’ll get over it”, so I guess it’s the Guardian taking advantage of the photo opportunity, and then the Nazis responding by saying – “hey, look, the 16 year old said something dumb”
      Liberal women don’t want to get raped by Muslims, they just don’t think that immigration is going to increase rape.
      ]

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        It’s not a betrayal to anyone to get over horrible experiences. It may be an unrealistic self-assessment, and I get that people can take it to mean “people who can’t get over a horrible experience are bad, weak people.”

        But we should also be careful not to suggest, imply, or speak-carelessly-making-it-easy-to-infer that:

        a. Nobody can ever get over rape.
        b. Women who do get over rape are betraying women in general or other rape survivors in particular.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I think the interpreted implication of “I’ll get over it” here is “No big deal”

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I think that’s an uncharitable interpretation, but sure. And, again, I see how that can easily be turned into an insult to people who have been raped and to whom it is of course a big deal.

        • Mark says:

          Come on.

          This is one of those things, isn’t it. Where what you’re saying is completely true, and completely right, but you’re making a truthful statement in application to a completely unrelated discussion.

          OK. example.

          “There is a group of people going around stabbing people.”
          “I’ll heal.”

          Person A – That’s an awful way to make that argument

          Person B – Hang on a minute, are you saying that people can’t heal? Come on, dude, that’s medically speaking inaccurate, and probably discourages people from healing. So… I’d just like to make it clear to everyone that people can heal. (Person A, you fiend.)

          [Yes, if someone is saying that rapefugee immigration (as the Nazis understand it) isn’t a problem because women will get over rape, if they truly believe that, (she doesn’t) then I have a hard time understanding their ideology.]

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            So there are these actions that have historically been seen as less-harmful than they objectively are. Rape is one of them. Bullying is a good example of another. Stabbing is not one of them.

            And there have been (good! positive!) recent campaigns to recognize how harmful those actions are.

            But I notice that the negative side of those campaigns is that they make it so that anyone who talks about healing, getting over the trauma, or otherwise not being defined by the crime now starts to get suspicious stares and accusations of trivializing the crime.

            Clearly, Myslikova did not make her argument in the way that was most sensitive to the victims of rape. But in my set, at least (no idea what the situation is in the Czech Republic), I don’t really need to worry that my peers are going to think that rape is no big deal. I do think that I need to worry at least a little that people will feel ashamed to get over their traumas because they feel like they’re betraying others who haven’t (yet?) healed.

            None of that dynamic applies to stabbings.

          • Mark says:

            So, what’s your point?

            Are you saying that she was making a valuable contribution by reminding us that it should’t be shameful to recover from rape?

            Honestly, I know nothing of your culture, but to me the fact that someone might recover from rape seems as normal as the fact that they might recover from a stabbing, and the opposite also.

            So, perhaps this is just a culture difference.

            New statement:
            Given the political circumstances, this probably wasn’t the best opportunity for the school girl to make her entirely true and helpful comments about rape survival.

            [To make my point clear:
            Her statement will be read as “I would rather be raped than restrict immigration”. That statement is an abomination. She should have made her statement in another way, but she is very young so she really can’t be blamed at all, and really, it shouldn’t be an issue.]

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            My point is:

            a. She’s being insensitive to rape victims.

            but

            b. People who react like you are being overly dramatic about the amount of harm she’s causing.

            and

            c. People who react like you are also doing some measurable harm to rape victims.

            and also

            d. In the circles I run in, there is an overwhelmingly large consensus that rape is an incredibly damaging, horribly traumatizing crime. I don’t think that that consensus is going to be heavily challenged by the thoughtless comments of one 16 year old. It behoves people who are thoughtful and trying to be kind to make their (correct) arguments about rape being incredibly damaging, horribly traumatizing without adding to the burden of victims of rape by making them feel guilty about whatever measure of healing and closure they manage to attain (whether it’s minimal or as-complete-as-human-experience-can-manage). In the event that the pendulum starts to swing in the other direction, I’d be more harsh on Myslikova’s comment.

          • Mark says:

            I now feel as if it is a bit rude to say or think anything about this issue.

            And, by “issue”, I mean my own opinion.

            So, if this is in bad taste, please stop reading.

            Any mention of rape will cause harm to some rape survivors, which is why it’s good practice to have trigger warnings, to make sure statements aren’t too severe, etc.

            So, I’ve probably failed in that respect.

            On the other hand, I stand by my opinion. And if that opinion upsets rape survivors more than any other opinion, with the best will in the world, I will still hold that opinion until they give me good reason to think otherwise.

            I mean, I could just not say anything, and 9 times out of 10, when it comes to rape that is exactly what I’d do. But, I guess there has to be somewhere we can voice our opinions about these issues?

            I mean, I really get the feeling that this is more about “tone policing” than anything else.

            Anyway, on a personal level, I don’t think she has caused harm. It’s the whole media-clicky-rage thing that causes the harm. But, if we leave the girl out of it and look at the statement – yes, this is absolutely the kind of statement that will drive Nazis crazy. And, for *years* this will be grist to their mill as they revel in telling us how liberal women want to be raped by immigrants.
            They only need a little encouragement.
            I mean, as long as you stay off the internet, it probably doesn’t matter, but some of us feel a weird compulsion to read that shit.

            So, that’s why I felt the need to comment.

            [But thank you for letting me know how you interpreted my statement, it was kind of out of left field for me, and felt like an attack, but I’ll assume it was in good faith and try to bear that perspective in mind in future.]

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I only JUST NOW got that your objection to Myslikova’s comment is that you think it will add ammunition to the ability of people to make the case for bad policies and/or harass people, rather than thinking that Myslikova’s comment itself harassed people.

            I don’t think that Myslikova’s comment at all suggests that she wants to be raped. I also don’t think that Myslikova’s comment at all suggests that she stipulates that immigrants are disproportionately likely to be racists.

            I do think that:

            a. A plain reading of her remark somewhat trivializes the distress that rape victims experience.
            b. An uncharitable reading of her remark suggests that rape is no big deal.
            c. A frankly mendacious reading of her remark suggests that she believes that there are going to be lots of rapes of native women by immigrants.
            d. A sufficiently motivated reader could imagine in their dumb, sick brains that the thought process behind her remark is evidence in favor of their worldview that liberal women want to be raped.

            (I do not think that you are someone who believes b, c, or d).

            I guess that I think that to the extent that her remark is going to be weaponized by, whoever, Nazis or harassers or trolls, it’s not going to be particularly effective ammunition, and that given how much of a contortion you have to go through to believe c or d, someone who believes c or d could find dozens of other statements that provide as much ammunition as Myslikova did.

          • Mark says:

            Hmmmm… I don’t know. I think if you look at the context of the remark,
            “Immigrants will rape you”
            “I’ll get over it”

            (c) and (d) are kind of in there, right?

            Aren’t they? I mean, do you really find that reading so obscure?

            Googling “Lucie Myslikova “I’ll get over it” returns

            A girl wearing a Scout uniform willingly acknowledged that she could be raped by an immigrant, something that is happening to women across Europe in record numbers. Then, she essentially reasoned, I’ll get over it, and the Western world lifts her up as a hero. She justified rape in the name of political discourse. A Girl Scout opened herself up to sexual assault for the sake of her political beliefs.

            Honestly, it took (a little) work for me to think of an alternative reading. (Hence comment)

            [I’m against open Med borders – probably why I’m in tune with the Nazis here. I object to her comment because I think it’s a bad and inflammatory way of putting what is probably (even in its best form) an incorrect argument. ]

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Nope, I don’t see that as a plausible reading. The natural reading to me was something like this:

            “You’re trying to shock me into fear, and you’re trying to define me as a fearful, scared little girl, and further to make my identity one of either ‘rape victim’ or ‘potential rape victim.’ I’m not afraid of your ridiculous counterfactuals, my identity is not ‘potential rape victim,’ and in the unlikely event that I am a victim of rape, my identity will still not be ‘rape victim,’ I’ll just get over it.”

            Now, did she state all that explicitly? Clearly not. Did she create a carefully defensible answer like an expert politician which can survive hostile quoting? Clearly not. Was she perhaps overly blithe about her ability to deal with rape? Yes. But I don’t think it’s at all a natural reading to imagine that she’s conceding that she’s likely to be raped by an immigrant.

          • Mark says:

            OK, i find that quite annoying.

            Is it fair to say that the idea that the Nazi’s statement is a “ridiculous counterfactual” is doing a lot of work here?

            Like if he said,
            “Mow the lawn, or the grass will rape you.”

            Any normal person would read the response “I’ll get over it” as a partially sarcastic response?

            So, if you consider things from the perspective of the Nazi, or if you consider that the counterfactual might not be so ridiculous, would the alternative interpretation make more sense?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            No.

            Look, I’m not here to get into an argument about whether the scenario really is a ridiculous counterfactual. I mean, you can guess my opinion, but I’ll leave that at agree to disagree.

            What I’m saying is that this exchange, as reported, strikes me as one in which the motivations and subtext of what Myslikova said are fairly clear, and that if she considered the whole scenario of “Immigrants will come and rape you” to be a non-ridiculous counterfactual, she would have responded differently. The reading of her regarding it as a ridiculous counterfactual appeal to emotion is a very natural one. The reading of her regarding it as a totally plausible scenario but that’s cool because she secretly longs to be raped by the demonized other is bonkers crazy.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, you’re probably right.
            I guess the real issue (for sane people) would be that people object to her regarding it as an absurd counterfactual.

            I’ve probably been reading too much insane stuff recently.

          • lvlln says:

            FWIW, Mark, I think you’re right specifically about the point that the girl’s reaction has a built-in concession to the skinhead that they do have a point about immigrants raping her. I personally find absurd the idea that immigrants are likely to rape her or that the likelihood is sufficiently high compared to the base rate that this is something she should be concerned about. Slightly less absurd than the idea that not mowing the grass would lead the grass to rape her, but only slightly. But responding to such an absurd assertion, “I’ll get over it,” the natural charitable reading is that she’s conceding this completely absurd point by refusing to challenge it and moving on to a different part that she does deem defensible. That’s not to say that she’s making a statement of agreement, either; that would be an unwarranted reading.

            But, like you said, she’s a kid, and also this is one exchange. Even if she weren’t a kid, such a careless concession in one brief exchange doesn’t deserve blame. People in conversation say accidentally all sorts of things all the time that do a poor job of conveying their actual inner beliefs. Heck, look at the flubbed line “Small step for man, giant leap for mankind.” If the media is trying to make this go viral in order to make the point “See, even pro-immigration people concede that they’ll be raped!” then they are dishonest. I think people who see this and carefully think about it will recognize the dishonesty and not pay much attention, but I’m also a little skeptical that a very high proportion of people who see this will carefully think about it.

        • Wrong Species says:

          A BLM activist goes up to a black person and says “we have to stop systematic racism in this country. The police could beat you up.”

          What is the appropriate reaction to that?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I have no idea, and don’t understand the point you’re making. I think that there are all kinds of appropriate reactions to your hypothetical.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I think you have an idea of the point I’m making. But if you really don’t, if the situation I laid out happened and a black guy blithely replied that they’ll get over it, you would be at least a little disgusted at the guy and his willingness to throw his own self under the bus to protect the police. But since Islam is supposed to protected at all costs, you have to go through these mental gymnastics to reconcile your contradictory beliefs.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Ah, I see. You imagined that I agreed with you and created a parallel that does not exist.

            See, I believe that it is factually true that the police are disproportionately likely to beat up black people. I do not believe that it is factually true that immigrants are likely to rape women.

            So I don’t interpret Myslikova’s comment as meaning that she’s willing to throw herself under the bus in order to protect immigrants, I interpret her as saying, “Shit happens, nobody is perfectly safe, I’m a survivor.” (She’s a teenager, she probably thinks she’s more invincible than she is).

            That said, if a black person told me any of the following:

            a. He did not agree that systematic racism existed and that he was no more likely to be beaten up by the police than I was.

            b. He agreed that he was more likely to be beaten up by the police than I was, but that he thought that the BLM movement was weakening the police in ways that were ultimately worse for him or the country than was worth the benefit of decreased chance of being beaten up.

            c. That he just wasn’t personally all that invested in this particular problem and that it wasn’t worth his time to try to change things, and he’d take the risk.

            Then I’d, in case a: disagree with him on the facts, but not consider him disgusting or a traitor or anything. Maybe kind of naïve. In case b: I don’t know much about BLM, if he had a reasoned argument, I think I’m convinceable. If he didn’t convince me, I wouldn’t think he was disgusting or a traitor. In case c: Presumptively he knows better than I do about what’s worth his time. I don’t have any right to even an argument with him unless we’re close buddies.

          • Mark says:

            Um… what if he said, “I’ll get over it” ?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            The girl’s “I’d get over it” feels like it has a clearer meaning in the context of a showdown with a neo-nazi than a black guy’s “I’d get over it” has in the context of a BLM activist trying to engage him in a cause. But, if you’re asking me, would I be offended if a black guy said that? No. Perhaps in some cases puzzled. If I had to totally guess without further elaboration what the guy meant when he said “I’d get over it” in your hypothetical, I’d guess he meant “I’m not not interested in engaging this whole thing, I think it’s a waste of my time,” in which case, fair enough.

    • rlms says:

      I don’t think that was the story that went viral. As far as I can tell, no-one said the things you mention. According Pamela Gellar, “When the Neo-Nazi asserted the teen would be ‘violated by those she defends,’ Myslikova replied, ‘Even if something happened to me, the physical wounds always end up healing.’.”. I don’t really trust her to accurately translate the French. Even if she did, and we accept that that the Scout interpreted the skinhead as saying a migrant would rape her (rather than e.g. mishearing/misinterpreting it as a violent threat from him), it seems vastly more likely to be the kind of instinctive reaction people make in shouty arguments without thinking if it makes sense, rather than indicative of anything.

    • keranih says:

      David Friedman can probably place the reference better than I can, but there was a castle under siege, defended by troops commanded not by the lord/duke/whatever, (out of town at the time) but his lady wife.

      The army outside had caught the son of the duke, and brought him up (under guard) and sent a message to the castle defenders that if they didn’t surrender, they were gonna cut the boy’s throat then and there. They call for the mother (looking down on them from the wall) to surrender or they will really do it.

      The duke’s wife hikes up her skirt, points at her crotch and says “I can make more sons, you cowardly gits” (note: not an exact quote). IIRC, the besiegers eventually went away, and the boy lived.

      I get much the same impression here – part bluster, part real refusal to surrender, part refusal to accept responsibility for the (bad) actions of others.

      It’s not the Scout’s support for open borders/progressiveness/racial equality/whatever that leads to her being raped, it’s the criminal actions of the rapist. You could argue that it’s not reasonable for her to fail to take precautions like supporting limiting immigration, but that still doesn’t make her the criminal assaulter here.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s not the Scout’s support for open borders/progressiveness/racial equality/whatever that leads to her being raped, it’s the criminal actions of the rapist. You could argue that it’s not reasonable for her to fail to take precautions like supporting limiting immigration, but that still doesn’t make her the criminal assaulter here.

        Of course not. She’s not part of the government (which invites and fosters migrants) in any reasonable way, and therefore not responsible for protecting the citizens (like herself). If she’s 16, like people mentioned above, she isn’t even voting (yet). Her supporting anything is pretty meaningless. And being imprudent is not a crime.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        That’s actually most likely a myth; its about Caterina Sfroza.

      • psmith says:

        The version I’m familiar with is as follows:

        When King Stephen besieged Newbury Castle in 1152, according to William’s biographer, he used the young William as a hostage to ensure that John kept his promise to surrender the castle. John, however, used the time allotted to reinforce the castle and alert Matilda’s forces. When Stephen ordered John to surrender immediately or William would be hanged, John replied that he should go ahead saying, “I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!” Subsequently, there was a bluff made to launch William from a pierrière, a type of trebuchet towards the castle. Fortunately for the child, Stephen could not bring himself to harm young William.[5] William remained a crown hostage for many months, only being released following the peace that resulted from the terms agreed at Winchester on 6 November 1153 that ended the civil war.

      • @Karanih:

        I don’t recognize your incident. It might be the story from when William Marshal, as a child, was a hostage to Stephen, distorted in transmission to change, among other things, the gender of the person commanding the castle, or it might be a similar incident I don’t know about.

        • Deiseach says:

          There is also a version of this about the Knight of Glin, which I remember learning (in the bowdlerised version) in primary school history; Wikipedia has the account more or less the same:

          According to another legend, in the early 16th century under Elizabeth I, England set about enforcing loyalty in the western parts of Ireland. When one of her ships came up to the Knight of Glin’s castle on the Shannon Estuary, a fierce battle ensued. The ship’s captain managed to capture one of the Knight’s sons and sent the Knight a message that he should surrender or else the son would be put in one of the ship’s cannons and fired against the castle wall. He replied that as he was virile and his wife was strong, it would be easy to produce another son.

          …The garrison of the castle, according to tradition, was divided into two sections, one of which was commanded by Donall na Searrach Culhane and the other by Tadhg Dore. Before the siege began, Carew[Sir George Carew, President of Munster], who had the knight’s child as hostage, sent an order to the knight to surrender the castle at once or else he would blow the child out of the mouth of the cannon. The knight’s answer was remembered but can only be rendered here by algebraic symbols: Gread leat. Ta X go meidhreach fos agus Y go briomhar. Is fuiriste leanbh eile do gheiniuint.

          The Irish translates as “Be off with you! X (presumably a reference to the lady’s parts) is lively (lit. merry, playful) yet and Y (his parts) strong/vigorous. It is easy to procreate another child”.

          This seems like one of those stories that may be based on an actual incident but which is so good, it gets passed down and attached to various events distant in time and space, rather like those quotations that are attributed to anyone and everyone who is a Famous Historical/Literary Figure.

          • This seems like one of those stories that may be based on an actual incident but which is so good, it gets passed down and attached to various events distant in time and space

            The William Marshall version appears in the History of William Marshall, written shortly after his death, so about sixty years after the events described.

      • LHN says:

        axiomsofdominion is right that the story was told about Caterina Sforza, e.g., in Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy (Book 3, Chapter 6):

        Some conspirators of Furli killed the Count Girolamo, their lord, and took his wife and children, who were of tender age, prisoners. Believing, however, that they could not be secure if they did not obtain possession of the castle, which the castellan refused to surrender, the Lady Catharine, as the Countess was called, promised to the conspirators to procure its surrender if they would allow her to enter it, leaving them her children as hostages. Upon this pledge the conspirators consented to let her enter the castle; but no sooner was she within than she reproached them for the murder of the Count, and threatened them with every kind of vengeance. And to prove to them that she cared not for her children, she pointed to her sexual parts, calling out to them that she had wherewith to have more children. Thus the conspirators discovered their error too late, and suffered the penalty of their imprudence in perpetual exile.

        (Though it’s interesting that in both this and the William Marshal case, contra what one would expect in something by George R.R. Martin, the hostage children were spared.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds a lot like #inteerkvinna.

  29. dodrian says:

    Saw this project on Kickstarter today: “Solar Gaps.”

    Essentially it’s solar panels in the form factor of window blinds. But reading through the campaign and it seems highly suspect.

    The video implies that you plug it into a power outlet and it generates power for you. Reading carefully through the campaign and FAQ it looks like they prefer you to connect it to a home-battery (eg. Tesla Powerwall) or hook it up to a green energy thingy given by your power company (that lets you sell power back to the grid).

    I wouldn’t buy it in any case (cost, lack of suitable windows, etc etc), but I’m curious as to what y’all think. Viable product? Vaporware that gives exciting updates but disappears after a year or two? Would plugging a solar panel directly into a regular power outlet even work?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      There’s no way that you get cost-efficiency out of vertically-oriented solar panels that also have to function as blinds (ie, be collapsible or whatever).

    • John Schilling says:

      When I open my solar blinds, do I at least get to look out on the solar road in front of my house?

      The proper place for solar panels is on the roof. Even the most inconveniently-oriented roof is likely to be better positioned than a window for this purpose. And bigger. And fixed in place, the better to attach wiring that won’t work its way loose over time.

      For solar power on a scale or in a place where the roof isn’t big enough, the proper place is a big vacant plot of land, of which there are many within reasonable power-transmission distance of most any market.

      So long as most roofs and most vacant plots aren’t covered in solar panels, anyone selling a scheme to put solar panels someplace that sounds really cool, is selling hype.

      Oh you can plug alternate power sources (converted to 110VAC or whatever and no more than the rated amperage of the circuit) into your power outlet and it will work just fine in most circumstances. But if there is a power outage because e.g. a tree fell on the line connecting you to the grid, the lineman sent to repair it may turn off the circuit at the transformer and then get himself electrocuted because the line is still getting full voltage from the other side. So that sort of thing is I believe illegal in most jurisdictions; you have to have a licensed electrician do the installation and verify that there are properly-functioning automatic cutoff switches.

      • Aapje says:

        My solar inverters are grid-tie inverters, which match phase with the utility-supplied sine wave. They shut down automatically upon loss of utility supply, for safety reasons.

        The downside is that I don’t have any power during a power outage, but those are very rare in my neck of the woods.

        • random832 says:

          My solar inverters are grid-tie inverters, which match phase with the utility-supplied sine wave. They shut down automatically upon loss of utility supply, for safety reasons.

          Is there any reason this is better than disconnecting from the grid (but staying connected to your house)?

          • AnarchyDice says:

            Generally it is best to shut down solar panel systems upon loss of grid power unless your solar system is sized large enough to supply all your power needs. Otherwise, it can be bad for your electrical equipment to suffer through not having enough power, as it will likely drop the voltage below their intended range, go out of phase, or change frequency.

            Alternatively, it is for safety so that you can be certain that there is no power coming in during an outage so that no one gets shocked assuming that power is disconnected during a utility outage. This is the same reason many utilities require alternative power systems to have a clearly marked disconnect switch controlling the power source outside the building for them to shut off should they need to work on your local transformer or wiring.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            A power outage is called a blackout, but a partial loss of power is called a brownout. As AnarchyDice argued, this can do bad stuff to electrical equipment.

            I would only want to use my solar power during a power grid outage if I had a big battery. Something like Tesla’s Powerwall would do, but it would turn my solar installation from break-even in 7 years to making a permanent loss. My solar installation is an actual investment where I expect more ROI than putting my money in a bank/stocks, so that would be bad.

            The average power outage per house per year in my country is about 21 minutes. So the quality of life improvement for spending 7000 euro on a Powerwall is 21 minutes of Internet/TV, if I’m not at work (in which case, a power outage means I get to sleep behind my desk).

            If we are talking about dealing with disasters, then there are many, many more cost-effective investments I could do to increase my chance of survival.

  30. Vermillion says:

    Hey Atlanta SSCers we’ll be having another meetup this Sunday, over by GT this time.
    We’d love to see you there, especially if I couldn’t read your email address from the first meetup.

    Sunday 5/14 7-10PM
    Octane
    1009 Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

    Topic of conversation will probably include Unsong, but I still haven’t read it and probably won’t before Sunday so as an alternate I’m gonna take a page from one of my favorite podcasts No Such Thing As A Fish, and ask everyone to bring your favorite fact of the week and we’ll discuss em.

    My fact will be about comparative neuroanatomy, everyone loves facts about that right?

  31. Mark says:

    Historical question.

    Was there any major difference in the lives and rights of peasants (or the equivalent) across different cultures? Were there any countries in which peasants had a better time of it? Or is it pretty much terrible oppression and horrible conditions across the board, until the 17th/18th century?

    I started thinking about this after watching ‘Silence’ the other day, which I actually thought was a really good movie to watch on the computer, taking breaks. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed watching it at the cinema, though.
    I mean, there was the Shimabara rebellion, but it seems particularly awful that these people would have, in general, been forced to submit to the violent treatment of their friends and family with no response.
    I suppose submission has probably been the norm for most of history.

    • keranih says:

      Yes, there were a great deal of differences across cultures. The following are my impressions from what I remember of a comparative seminar in world history decades back.

      The Scandinavians had a very loose system of ‘lordship’ – as much as because there wasn’t much wealth to get from peasant farmers. Their attitude was shared with the early Russians, where the nobles were more armed warriors keeping the villages safe. This changed after the Mongols came through – the 1800’s Russians were among the most miserable, esp compared to the West, which was less centralized in power.

      Japanese culture from the Endo period on was far more stratified, but the people of a particular region seemed to identify quite a bit with their own nobility. However, they were probably more physically abused, and Japan was always a bit poorer, than mainland Asia. Chinese culture became (at least in theory) a meritocracy faster than many, and the constant churn of peace-famine-warlords-revolt-newemperor-peace cycle kept things from getting out of hand.

      India was a bloody mess, but the stratification of the castes also meant that unless you were a gravedigger/untouchable, there was always someone else to look down on.

      I don’t know enough of the pre-Columbian Aztecs to say, except that everyone and their freaking brother was so damn happy when Cortez, et al, showed up and drug down the Aztecs that they must have been pretty miserable bosses.

      (Again, take with a grain of salt.)

      • Hircum Saeculorum says:

        I can’t say much about Scandinavia, India, etc., but I do think the point about the Aztecs should be clarified – people often claim that Aztec society was uniquely oppressive, violent, and brutal, and isn’t particularly true.

        It is true that, when the Spanish showed up, they found plentiful allies – but that isn’t because a world-historically unique level of oppression was intrinsic to Aztec culture, it was because they were an empire, and they had subjects and rivals with their own political goals and aspirations. Remember to that Europe didn’t exactly want for rebellions in the sixteenth-century.

        It is true that Aztec culture was heavily stratified and legalistic; human sacrifice certainly did happen; they were absolutely warmongers. But you could say the same about numerous other cultures, if you swap out “human sacrifice” for “brutal, state-sanctioned death”. Is heart-removal really worse than crucifixion? Hanging, drawing, and quartering? Burning at the stake?

        And it would also be remiss to neglect the positive achievements of Aztec culture. Leaving out “high culture” stuff (art, botanical gardens, etc.), and focusing on innovations and systems that impacted the life of the average peasant or city-dweller, there’s a lot to praise – good sanitation, a rigorous (if harsh) legal system, efficient agriculture.

        As far as extraction goes, I can’t find anything to suggest that it was more miserable than the Roman system, or those of Early Modern Europe. Service to the state seems to have been primarily in the form of military service (fairly routine Europe at the time), corvee, and land and commerce taxes. Fairly ordinary stuff. There’s a good paper on it here – the conclusion is fairly succinct.

        Outlying regions would have sent goods to the core and supplied the army on the frontiers; again, nothing usually cruel, though rebellion would be treated harshly (as it would in the Old World – see anything from the Pilgrimage of Grace, to the Muster Rebellion, to the Reign of Terror).

        Human sacrifice was generally performed on prisoners of war, albeit on an unusual scale relative to other Mexican cultures.

        Basically, the Aztecs weren’t all that exceptional in their cruelty, I don’t think it’s clear that your average Joe Schmo had a particularly terrible life relative to any peasant in Europe or China; if they did, it certainly wasn’t that that motivated the uprisings during the empire’s dying days.

        Edit: in terms of general social structure, I found a fairly good “money quote” in a paper called “Demystification, Enriddlement, and Aztec Cannibalism: A Materialist Rejoinder to Harner” (I know it sounds a bit wooley, and there is some fluff at the beginning, but there’s quite a lot on crunch from page 2 on):

        Social stratification in sixteenth century Central Mexico comprised an upper class, which consisted of a local or supralocal ruling house, and a landed nobility, which formed an officer corps for the army and probably contributed to the upper echelons of the (celibate) priesthood. An incipient “middle class” of professional traders and craftsmen in sumptuary goods may have begun to put some pressure on the existing order, perhaps through increasing capital formation in this sector, perhaps for other reasons. Such strains would have been more important in some polities, where these groups were most heavily represented, than in others. At the bottom of the social pyramid, a large rural peasantry constituted primary producers. Of these, some were “free,” holding land as members of calpulli groups (themselves internally stratified); others serflike, bound to the landed estates of the nobility, of civil offices and the ecclesiastical establishment, and of the
        royal houses. While the nobility was hereditary, an institution comparable to the life peerage also existed, wherein the king could ennoble ommoners who had achieved (usually military) distinct

        Sounds quite analogous to Europe – nobility, a variety of landholding arrangements for peasants, and an artisan class.

        • Is heart-removal really worse than crucifixion? Hanging, drawing, and quartering? Burning at the stake?

          Not obviously.

          Those other things were all punishments for crime. Human sacrifice isn’t.

          • Hircum Saeculorum says:

            Those other things were all punishments for crime. Human sacrifice isn’t.

            Sometimes, nominally. Remember, though, that the crimes to which those punishments were applied were often crimes of ideology – religious or political dissent, real or imagined – or for relatively petty crimes which we wouldn’t consider worthy of execution.

            They could also be visited upon civilian populations – see the crucifixion of the inhabitants of Tyre by Alexander the Great, or the horrors that accompanied the capture of any pre-modern city. They could be performed to keep servile populations in line – see the execution of 400 slaves for the murder of a single Roman citizen during the reign of Nero.

            Also, the victims of Aztec sacrifice were most often high-status prisoners of war – not that that makes it morally better, but it does mean that the fear of being chosen for sacrifice didn’t necessarily pertain to the average Joe most of the time.

            That isn’t to say that human sacrifice is morally OK – that would be insane – but that it was another exhibit in the menagerie of human cruelty, not a totally exceptional phenomenon.

        • Deiseach says:

          It is true that Aztec culture was heavily stratified and legalistic; human sacrifice certainly did happen; they were absolutely warmongers. But you could say the same about numerous other cultures, if you swap out “human sacrifice” for “brutal, state-sanctioned death”. Is heart-removal really worse than crucifixion? Hanging, drawing, and quartering? Burning at the stake?

          They were indeed a developed civilisation and culture. At the same time, flower wars are not necessarily much better than the ordinary wars of conquest that the Aztecs also engaged in, and it is undeniable that (a) they did engage in this semi-ritualistic warfare frequently and at least partly to keep the gods satisfied by the deaths in battle (b) for several reasons, when the Conquistadores showed up, local tribes were very glad to see the Aztecs getting pounded. Maybe the constant risk of having your elite whittled down by the Aztecs in a ‘flower war’ so that you were always a weakened opponent that could never throw off their yoke or have a realistic chance of winning such battles wore their neighbours/client cities down to such a state, seeing the Aztecs overthrown looked like a good deal to them.

    • Eric Rall says:

      It varied a lot by country, by culture, and by time period. Two big trends I’m familiar with:

      1. A relatively balanced rivalry between local nobles and the central government (usually a King in the time period we’re talking about) tended to be good for commoners, since the nobles and the King would compete for their loyalty of the commoners and each could serve as a check on arbitrary excesses by the other.

      2. Peasants in particular (a large subset of commoners, but not the whole set by any means) tended to be better off when the population was low relative to the carrying capacity of the land. This is due to declining marginal returns on labor: more peasants on the same land gets you more food total (through more labor-intensive farming techniques), but less per peasant. When the peasants-to-farmland ratio was unusually low (after a war or plague wipes out a big chunk of the population, or in newly-settled frontier country, or after a technological shock like the introduction of potatoes and other New World crops around 1500 AD radically increases the amount of food a certain combination of labor and land can produce), peasant labor was relatively more valuable and land was relatively less valuable, so peasants tended to get a better deal from their landlords, both in terms of material conditions and in terms of treatment.

    • Rob K says:

      I keep meaning to recommend this book here; “The Brenner Debate”, a historical discussion over the relative power of the peasantry in various European cultures in the early modern era and how it influenced the rise (or not) of capitalism is really interesting reading.

      (Short summary – the more powerful the peasants, the less workforce there was available for early industrial enterprises, since people preferred to remain on the land. Traditions around property rights also mattered. England ended up on the extreme of those two measures.)

  32. Le Maistre Chat says:

    An odd thought: does mass media PC apply to white ethnic groups?
    The question occurred to me after watching the Rifftrax (Mystery Science Theater 3000 without the puppet skits) of the 1967 “comedy” Hillbillys in a Haunted House, with its anemic premise that it would be funny if Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr.. and John Carradine made a haunted house as a Scooby Doo-esque front and got foiled by bumbling hillbillies. This sort of ethnic humor seems to have flourished until, I dunno, the cancellation of The Dukes of Hazzard.
    On the other hand, there’s stand-up comedian Jeff Foxworthy, but surely that’s akin to black comics being allowed to make fun of African-American culture.
    Likewise, it used to be acceptable for the mass media to use being Italian, etc. as a source of humor.

    Thoughts?

    • Urstoff says:

      it depends on what you mean by “mass media PC”. It still seems okay to make ethnic-based comedy (for example) as long as it’s done well and done from a place of affection. Sitcoms like “Blackish” and “Fresh off the Boat”, while PC in various ways, are also non-PC in various ways as well. Similar sitcoms about rural life or the South crop up now and again.

      The shift I’ve seen in recent years has been from viewing “rednecks” as a target of scorn by white progressives to viewing them in a more anthropological light (see the pilgrimages journalists have made over the last year to Trump country to see “what went wrong”; some journalists are better at this than others). I’m not sure if this is an improvement, but it’s more pleasant than the constant ridicule of poor whites from places like Peopleofwalmart.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Town mouse/country mouse is a very old trope.

      But, I think some of the flourishing of that particular brand of humor that your describing (Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, etc.) might come out of the the advancement of the highway system. You had the ability of people get exposure to the difference between the urban and country cultures, but not enough of an ability to normalize the cultures. I’m sort-of pulling that take from my nether regions, but that kind of comedy depends on being able to reduce certain aspects of a person or culture to a caricature.

      Whereas the proliferation of media availability makes exposure to all sort of people, from all sorts of walks of life much more available. Think of “Dirty Jobs”. It’s not treated as exposure to the exotic, but rather the everyday.

      Of course you still have all sorts of media where people are reduced to caricatures, but it’s less prevalent and more easy to overcome. For an example of the latter, she of “Cash Me Outside” fame.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not a lot of comedy about white ethnic groups nowadays, but some seriously harsh drama. I’m not sure you could make something like “Winter’s Bone” or “Breaking Bad” about black criminal subcultures. But drama is still freer in general; “Breaking Bad” was not particularly kind to Hispanic drug subcultures either. Is there anything which treats Islamic terrorist subcultures that unsympathetically?

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Not in depth and at length, but I can think of plenty of movies where they are unambiguously the bad guys, though the first two that sprang to mind (The Kingdom and Act Of Valor) both received criticism on that ground (among various other criticisms, especially Act of Valor which isn’t that deep and has the vices of its virtue of using actual SF personnel as its main stars) and neither were well received by critics.

        • keranih says:

          I think The Kingdom deserves a second look by anyone who gave it a pass on grounds of negative portrayal of Muslims/terrorists/whatever the first time around. I found it to be far more nuanced than the bad press implied.

          (Think, oh, Red Dawn being sold as a movie for jingoistic rednecks who just want to kill commies.)

          (Yes, the first one. Not the second one where they completely wasted Jeffery Dean Morgan’s character.)

      • Fahundo says:

        I’m not sure you could make something like “Winter’s Bone” or “Breaking Bad” about black criminal subcultures.

        Is the Wire too old to count or too different from those examples?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I didn’t watch _The Wire_ (though I did watch the older _Homicide: Life on the Street_). I thought it was told from the perspective of the law enforcement; if that’s so it’s too different. If it isn’t so, it may be a counterexample.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            The Wire has viewpoint protagonists who are cops and viewpoint protagonists who are drug dealers.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Depends on whether they’re the butt of the joke or not. Them Duke boys were modern folk heroes beloved by southerners.

  33. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m currently reading Unsong in the hopes of finishing this Sunday with the last chapter.

    This means basically not reading the comments, but I’ve noticed that a very high proportion (more than half) of the chapters so far (I’m at chapter 46) seem to have about 150 comments. Any thoughts about why there’s a strong trend?

    Since I’m just eyeballing it, it’s possible that the trend isn’t as strong as I think.

    • beleester says:

      If there’s a dedicated group of fans following a story, and it hasn’t changed much in size since the story started, then you’d expect all the chapters to have a similar number of comments, right?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I would expect more variation in how much people think is worth saying about different chapters, though perhaps having chapters come out on a regular schedule means that the conversation moves on. There are a few(?) chapters with 300 comments.

        There may be another high point at around 75 comments.

  34. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    In case you want more fiction with rich wordplay, check out Moonwise by Greer Gilman. Note: the hardcover has an introduction by Michael Swanwick. The paperback doesn’t.

    Moonwise goes direct to the overlapping meanings of words (including some obscure ones) rather than routing through kabbalah. Did you know that cloud and law both mean hill?

    A Cloudish Word-Hoard, a glossary by Michael Swanwick

    I did a close reading of the first few chapters.

  35. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Type 2 diabetes is correlated with exposure to serious discrimination for being fat

    I don’t have access to the whole paper, but at least it’s a large study, isn’t about people hypothesizing how they’d react, and is on humans rather than mice.

    “Everyday discrimination was not associated with incident diabetes. In conclusion, major experiences of discrimination were associated with increased risk of incident diabetes, independent of obesity or behavioral and psychosocial factors.”

    • Jiro says:

      If everyday discrimination was associated with diabetes and major experiences were not, or if both were, I’d expect to see similar articles. And they specifically said that the study was meant to test the hypothesis that both forms are associated with diabetes. They also evaluated discrimination based on ethnicity separately. In other words, this sounds like obvious P-hacking.

  36. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    What’s the relationship between the blue/grey tribe split and the Cinton-democrat vs. Sanders-socialist split? They don’t seem to map 1:1.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      To the extent that gray tribe members are Sanders supporters, they would seem to be really confused?

      • Urstoff says:

        I’m still not clear on what the “gray tribe” is. My stereotype is libertarianish tech bros, but that doesn’t seem like a large enough population to be granted tribe status.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s larger than most entities described as “tribes”, it wields disproportionate influence in contemporary US culture and economy, and is nominally represented in politics by a party with permanent ballot access in most of the United States. It’s certainly not the equal of Blue and Red, but it is I think worthy of specific recognition.

          The fault with Scott’s chromatic tribal classification is not that it includes the Grays, but that it doesn’t include the Browns, the Blacks, the Greens, and probably several others of similar stature.

        • random832 says:

          It sounds to me like a big-tent “internet people” thing, which includes libertarians, bernie supporters (and ron paul supporters from the last election, and howard dean supporters from the one before that), people who support trump ‘ironically’, atheists, ants, death eaters, and all sorts of other miscellanea.

          Smart people and people who think they’re smart.

          • rlms says:

            I’ve always interpreted it as being a very specific reference to Scott’s rationalist ingroup (IIRC, when he introduced the terms with examples of things each tribe likes, MealSquares were mentioned in connection with the Greys).

          • John Schilling says:

            “There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk”
            – Scott Alexander, I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup

            No mention of Mealsquares, but presumably Soylent is close enough. All three definitions, taken literally, involve too many brand names or other specifics to be worth considering literally; they are templates for typical Red/Blue/Grey tribe members, nothing more.

            So, people who don’t travel by SUV, Prius, or Uber can still be members of one of the canonical tribes, characterized by whether their preferred mode of transportation is more like an SUV, Prius, or Uber. And then averaged over all the other qualifiers, so a libertarian atheist paleo-Soylent eating, blogreading, filking, non-sports-fan who drives a pickup truck is still Gray Tribe even if a pickup truck is more like a Red-tribe SUV.

            Which is a longwinded way of saying, no, Gray Tribe isn’t just Scott’s friends in Bay Area rationalism.

          • random832 says:

            Paleo and Soylent seem almost directly opposed, so it doesn’t seem to be a particularly literal thing, more that both of these things are examples of people who think that they’re more clever about what they eat than everyone else.

          • Brad says:

            So, people who don’t travel by SUV, Prius, or Uber can still be members of one of the canonical tribes, characterized by whether their preferred mode of transportation is more like an SUV, Prius, or Uber. And then averaged over all the other qualifiers, so a libertarian atheist paleo-Soylent eating, blogreading, filking, non-sports-fan who drives a pickup truck is still Gray Tribe even if a pickup truck is more like a Red-tribe SUV.

            But on the other hand, the simplification that says Libertarian -> Gray Tribe or even worse ‘I’m a Republican but I like to call myself a libertarian even though my positions are barely distinguishable from huge swaths of the Republican party’ -> Gray Tribe is indefensible.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The original description of Gray Tribe is

          (There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

          But what’s happened in the meantime is the Blue Tribe proper has been taken over by the Social Justice group. This has lead to a split in Blue Tribe at a completely different fission point, and people sometimes talk about Gray Tribe as being everything on the non-SJ side of _that_ split. The original Gray Tribe remains fairly insignificant, but they can no longer reasonably be considered to be part of Blue Tribe.

          (note both Scott and I have been inconsistent about “Grey” vs “Gray”)

          • John Schilling says:

            But what’s happened in the meantime is the Blue Tribe proper has been taken over by the Social Justice group.

            A small fraction of blue tribe. It happens to be the fraction that Scott, and many of us, are closest to, but it’s still only a part of the mostly-not-SJ-dominated whole. Just like the Bay Area techies aren’t the whole of the (fairly well established by 2014) Gray Tribe, but they are the part that the SSC/Rationalist community sees most often.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A small fraction of blue tribe. It happens to be the fraction that Scott, and many of us, are closest to, but it’s still only a part of the mostly-not-SJ-dominated whole.

            I disagree. Hollywood, (non-right-wing) journalism, much of academia, all SJ-dominated. They may not be the bulk of the old Blue Tribe, but they are its representatives and leaders. Aside from the (very large) issues of politics, this can be seen by the “cultural appropriation” meme being current.

          • Urstoff says:

            But what’s happened in the meantime is the Blue Tribe proper has been taken over by the Social Justice group.

            Again, culture wars seem to exert an outsize influence on SSC commenters. The Blue Tribe in no way has been taken over by the Social Justice movement. If that were true, Clinton and Sanders would not have been the two major candidates for the Democratic nomination. Neither are remotely SJ types; Clinton occasionally pays lip service to it while Sanders seem to think it’s nonsense distracting from class issues. The policy of Democratic politicians doesn’t seem to reflect a SJ core, either. If the Blue Tribe were dominated by SJ types, shouldn’t that be reflected in who actually holds power at the behest of Blue Tribe voters?

          • The Nybbler says:

            If the Blue Tribe were dominated by SJ types, shouldn’t that be reflected in who actually holds power at the behest of Blue Tribe voters?

            That’s a lagging indicator. And note when I say “dominated”, I do not mean “predominates”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Urstoff

            I think that what Nybbler means is that you may not be against SJ in the blue tribe. Clinton and Sanders clearly didn’t dare to speak out against SJ.

          • random832 says:

            @The Nybbler

            I disagree. Hollywood, (non-right-wing) journalism, much of academia, all SJ-dominated. They may not be the bulk of the old Blue Tribe, but they are its representatives and leaders. Aside from the (very large) issues of politics, this can be seen by the “cultural appropriation” meme being current.

            Current, but not very effective. The making of movies that can be accused of cultural appropriation, whitewashing, or otherwise ‘problematic’ hasn’t exactly stopped.

          • John Schilling says:

            The part of Hollywood that e.g. runs the Academy Awards, may have been captured by the Dread and Terrible Forces of Social Justice(tm). The part of Hollywood that e.g. produces, distributes, and markets movies, has not. If I’m the supreme commander of the Forces of Good(tm) in the Culture Wars, I’ll count that as a win, and a win in solidly Blue territory.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @random832:

            Current, but not very effective. The making of movies that can be accused of cultural appropriation, whitewashing, or otherwise ‘problematic’ hasn’t exactly stopped.

            Is it possible for the making of such movies to stop? Your phrasing suggests that whether movies can be accused of such things is limited by the nature of the movies, whereas I suspect it’s only limited by the creativity of the accusers. Is there any reason to think the set of issues deemed ‘problematic’ won’t keep arbitrarily expanding?

        • Reasoner says:

          For what it’s worth, I don’t think “tech bros” are really a thing except in journalist’s fantasies. Having worked in technology and also seen something of other industries, people working in technology strike me as less “bro-ish” if anything.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that there is a misconception that lack of social skills = bro.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The common stereotype of “bro” doesn’t seem to have much to do with lack of social skills. Lack of social graces, maybe.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            My impression of “tech bros” is basically Aly and Jason from Silicon Valley. Males, in their element, to the point of feeling entitled to swagger about it without being physically violent or bullying.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        So would you say the model is that Clinton/Sanders was an intra-blue split?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Yes, plus an attempt by Green’s and other far-leftists to co-opt the Blues, depending on how large or small you want to expand Blue Tribe.

          I’m just saying that Sanders is not exactly a fan of the free market or other libertarian thought, which seems like a marker of Gray Tribe (assuming Gray tribe even exists).

  37. US says:

    I was debating for a while whether to share this link in a post like this one and to some extent I’m still debating it, but I put some time and effort into it, some people might find it interesting, and aside from the link drawing attention to my blog I could think of few reasons not to share it. The post is a very long post about health economics which took me most of a day to write (…I guess? I wrote it over multiple days, so it’s hard to estimate, but it took quite a bit of time to write). Topics covered in the post include various issues pertaining to the topic of preventable diseases, the level of complexity that is present in the health care sector, and stuff related to health care cost growth.

  38. random832 says:

    I happened to read Book Review: Singer on Marx recently and some of the comments stuck out at me.

    In one in particular, @memeticengineer wrote:

    But it doesn’t seem that likely. On the level of the whole economy, owners also decide what firms exist (through entrepreneurship, mergers and acquisitions, liquidation, etc).

    And this is following a general theme of pointing out that the valuable function that ‘capitalists’* provide is coordination. But they are, almost by definition, not really coordinated at all. What coordination they provide is, more or less, the ability of the system to efficiently channel Moloch. Would a centrally planned economy of any kind have built Vegas? Should the things listed in that article be considered part of capitalism’s ‘pile of skulls’?

    P.S. I really wanted to work in something about revealed preferences being the only kind of preference Moloch has, but didn’t have anywhere good to put it. I don’t want to not say it, so I’ll just leave it here.

    * It is unfortunate that “capitalist” both refers to “someone who holds capitalism as an ideology” and “someone who owns capital”.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It’s not so much that capitalists coordinate deliberately, it’s that they react relatively quiclkly to changes in their environment.

      • random832 says:

        Sure, but reacting quickly is a negative if the process is optimizing for something undesirable (i.e. see the Moloch post).

  39. Thegnskald says:

    On a related note to the previous comment, but along a different line, given that government is responsible for preventing interpersonal crime, is any interpersonal crime that occurs the result of government negligence? Should government be responsible for paying out claims against, for example, theft?

    • Anonymous says:

      That seems rather patently abusable to obtain reimbursement from the public coffers (meaning: other people’s pockets, indirectly) fraudulently.

      Just imagine how much the copyright enforcement crowd would demand from the government, and how much the government would demand from us in turn.

    • Loquat says:

      If government is to prevent interpersonal crime, government must have the ability to reliably detect and intercept interpersonal crimes in progress. This basically means universal surveillance (even in private homes, because we need to prevent domestic abuse too) and cops everywhere so they can always get to you quickly. I don’t know about you, but I really wouldn’t want to live in a society like that.

      • Urstoff says:

        Tangentially, this makes me wonder if retributive punishment, while morally indefensible on the level of the individual punishment, is still important for maintaining bonds of trust among individuals in society and between those individuals and the state.

    • JayT says:

      I don’t think any random crime would be negligence. They can’t be expected to give you a 24 hour security detail. However, I wouldn’t be surprised that, if the government completely ignored a community, there would be the possibility to sue them for negligence if there was a history of ignoring an issue.

  40. Thegnskald says:

    Without delving into contentious cases, is random chance opposed in some fundamental way to justice?

    Is it unjust for somebody to have to pay to repair their car that, say, strong winds blow a tree branch into while driving down the road?

    Separate from this, should society seek to rectify the harms of random chance? Should insurance against this sort of random harm be mandatory or provided by government/taxation? (Or, assuming you are libertarian, would it be ideal for everybody to buy into such insurance, provided an ideal universe where risk is correctly allocated?)

    • Aapje says:

      I would argue that society should ensure that everyone can insure themselves for certain kinds of risks, primarily those related to basic human rights/needs.

      I would argue that it might be beneficial if the government is responsible for compensating people for risks where the government is the primary party that can reduce (or increase) that risk. For example, rebuilding after floodings or making good on deposit guarantees on savings. Although arguably, the government should then insure, rather than merely be on the hook once problems happen, to prevent them sticking their hand in the sand. If they are forced to insure, a well functioning market would push the government to making investments in risk reduction that are worthwhile. I also forces the government to choose to what level to insure, so you have precommitment to a certain level of compensation, so citizens know what to expect.

      I would argue that respect for agency dictates that people ought to be allowed to risk disparate impacts and face the consequences. If Bob and Alice play the lottery and Alice wins, Bob doesn’t need to be compensated for not winning. If we make the government too responsible, this creates huge incentives for society to ban things that are risky, creating bubble-wrap society.

      • I would argue that it might be beneficial if the government is responsible for compensating people for risks where the government is the primary party that can reduce (or increase) that risk. For example, rebuilding after floodings

        Bad example. One way, arguably the most practical, of avoiding damage due to floods is not to build expensive things in flood zones. The government provides subsidized insurance, which reduces people’s incentive to do so.

        • CatCube says:

          One way, arguably the most practical, of avoiding damage due to floods is not to build expensive things in flood zones.

          I dunno. Water transport is the cheapest and most efficient transport mode, and that’s tough to use if you don’t build on the water.

          • That’s a reason to build ports on the coast. It’s not a reason to build vacation housing there.

            I have no objection to people who like the seaside building there, but they shouldn’t be subsidized by having someone else pay for one of the costs of their choice.

        • Aapje says:

          @DavidFriedman

          One way, arguably the most practical, of avoiding damage due to floods is not to build expensive things in flood zones.

          Much of my country is a flood zone. Not going to happen.

          Although I agree that people who build in particularly bad spots can be held responsible for that.

    • Brad says:

      Random chance is rarely truly random. Who owns the land that tree was sitting on? Was it totally unforeseeable that a branch would blow off of it onto a car?

      The law and economics spin on the common law rule is that the least cost avoider should pay. If it would be cheaper for the trees to be trimmed than the landholder has to trim the trees, if he doesn’t he owes the car owners new windshields. But if it is cheaper to just repair the windshields when one is hit then the car owners have to pay.

      • random832 says:

        It’s almost certainly cheaper to trim one tree than to replace a windshield. Should this scale to the number of trees that they own? Only to the extent that the risk scales? Trees closer to the road probably present a greater risk to cars, but should that mean that the car owner has to pay if by some happenstance it happens with a tree more than X feet from the road, on the grounds that it’s inefficient to expect the land owner to trim all his trees?

        Should whoever built the road have been responsible for paying, on an eternal basis, the adjacent land owners to trim or remove the trees within X feet of the road, or for acquiring the right (and responsibility) to do it themselves?

        What if no-one owns the land?

        What if someone can be blamed for the wind? (nearby skyscrapers changing wind patterns)

        But if it is cheaper to just repair the windshields when one is hit then the car owners have to pay.

        Repairing the windshields doesn’t avoid (and trimming the trees doesn’t avoid the cost of trimming the trees). What if it would have cost the car owner more to drive a different way that doesn’t pass by the tree than for the landowner to trim the trees? What if it’s more expensive to repair the windshield than to trim the trees, but less expensive to avoid driving by them – does the driver have a responsibility to do so? What if there are trees along the other road too? Then the landowner is victim of the random chance that this driver chose to drive by their land instead of someone else’s.

        What if it would have cost less for the owner of a nearby toll road that doesn’t go past these trees to have lowered their rates such that the driver would have chosen to drive that way instead?

        —-

        If someone parks across the line of a parking space and I key their car, should they have to pay for repainting their car because they could have avoided it cheaply by parking better or choosing not to care about how their car looks? What of the cost to the parking lot owner of an arrangement of parking spaces that could have made it easier to park correctly? What about the other people in the market who care about how cars look and reduce the resale value of a car whose paint has been scratched?

        What if their car has already been scratched many times, and therefore there is no measurable impact on the car’s resale value – and the car owner clearly doesn’t actually care (or maybe simply can’t afford the repair) until they found someone they can extract payment from – but I’m the only one who gets caught in the act?

        Does it make a difference if it’s an accidental (or ‘accidental’ – suppose I parked the best I could, but couldn’t quite fit through the door as far as I could open it) door ding rather than a deliberate key-scratch? What about the damage to my car in that case?

        I started this scenario with having deliberately keyed someone’s car because it seems obvious to blame the person who deliberately acted… but they deliberately left their car improperly parked.

        • beleester says:

          I think you could even more easily avoid the damage by not keying their car, since you can avoid it by simply doing nothing.

          IANAL, but I’m pretty sure there’s no “He started it!” legal doctrine. If you’ve been damaged by the guy parking in your parking spot, then you can seek to get those damages restored (such as getting the guy’s car towed, so the spot is open again). You don’t get to inflict additional damages of your own.

        • Brad says:

          I know it is lazy and I’m sorry but I’m going to point you to Calabresi – The Cost of Accidents and Posner – Economic Analysis of Law.

          • Friedman, Law’s Order, is more readable than Posner. And shorter. And can be read for free online. Either with or without the layout of the print copy and the virtual footnoes.

          • Brad says:

            Or that ^^

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I don’t doubt all this is true, but I can’t help but feel it’s kind of bad form to recommend your own book.

          • Why?

            I’m not proposing that people buy it–the full text is webbed, and I linked to it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It not being “I’ve just updated the course text I wrote so the page numbers in the syllabus are different from the past version PS it’s 200 bucks” is already better than 95% of profs assigning their own stuff.

    • J Mann says:

      In theory, mostly yes.

      1) It’s possible that people are risk loving in some areas. It might be that people prefer a system that produces a few lottery winning millionaires to a system that produces no millionaires.

      2) It’s difficult to separate out the random chance from the effects of decisions. From an efficiency standpoint, the common law typically placed the loss on the person best able to avoid the risk. In your example, if we pay for falling tree damage to cars, we may reduce the incentive to examine a parking spot for safety.

      3) There’s a tremendous amount of random chance, such that we can’t ameliorate all of it.

      4) The cost of sorting out the random chance from effects of decision-making, then compensating for it, would be tremendous.

      5) By definition, random chance is random. For affordable losses where it’s hard to separate out chance from effects of decisions, we generally hope that things break fairly evenly. Hopefully, everyone will have reasonably close to the same amount of random minor effects over the course of a lifetime thanks to the law of large numbers.

      Another interesting question is whether we should capture beneficial random chance events for the public good. Greg Mankiw had a pretty good proposal for a height tax – we know people who are taller make more money; generally tall people don’t have much influence on how tall they are; and it wouldn’t discourage much production, assuming tall people aren’t actually more productive economically.

    • Jiro says:

      One problem is that pretty much anything can be argued to be “random chance”. It’s random chance that one person is smarter than another (a previous thread already seriously argued that we should redistribute gains attributable to high IQ, because it’s random chance). It’s random chance that one person is prettier than another. It’s random chance that one person is more conscientious than another. It may be random chance that someone is a bank robber, if a person with that brain structure, that upbringing, and those circumstances would inevitably end up robbing a bank.

  41. dodrian says:

    Do you use a password manager?

    I realise that I reuse passwords much too often, and with more and more companies targeted (and demonstrating bad security) I’m starting to think that I need to take identity/account theft more seriously.

    I do most of my internet surfing on my home desktop (Linux Mint) or Android phone, but do occasionally find myself needing to log in to a web service on another machine. I like the idea of having it in ‘the cloud’, but I’m not sure what companies I’d trust to do that. I’d be willing to pay for a service if I was convinced it was security and privacy conscious.

    If you use a password manager, would you recommend it? What works and what’s annoying about it?

    • dodrian says:

      Immediately after posting I run across this article, demonstrating one of the problems with using an online service (though that’s more of an inconvenience rather than a serious problem).

    • Alex says:

      KeePass with strong passphrase on USB attached to my (physical) keyring. Never would trust the cloud on this. Make backups in case you loose your keys.

      • random832 says:

        The file is encrypted – that’s what the passphrase is for – so you don’t have to trust the cloud or worry about losing your keys from a security perspective.

        Unless by “trust the cloud” you meant using an online application for the password management itself.

    • J Mann says:

      I use KeePass with the data file in Dropbox, mostly so I can update and use it from either my PC or my phone, and so that I don’t need to have a backup strategy.

      The most annoying thing is that I lost my entire password database twice when I couldn’t remember my password. I think I’ve now got one that I can remember without writing anything down but that couldn’t be reverse engineered.

      Otherwise, I love it.

      • Alex says:

        I don’t use dropbox but if you do anyway, this is a good solution.

        • dodrian says:

          This does seem to tick the boxes for most of what I need. Going by this I would need to memorize unique passwords to log into my home desktop, KeePass, and Dropbox.

          Going up a notch technically – does it work with ssh keys? My ssh knowledge is pretty bad – but am I right in thinking that a private key for logging in isn’t directly tied to a specific computer?

          • Alex says:

            Not sure if I understand the question. To open/decrypt a KeePass file you can use a passphrase, a password file or tie it to a windows account or any combination thereof. Maybe Versions for other OSes allow using that OS’s account scheme. I only use a passphrase which is independent of being on a specific machine – like I said, I carry KeePass around with me on USB – and if you use one of the other options I stongly suggest to also use a passphrase in addition.

            Encryption of the password database AFAIK is symmetrical, I vaguely remember that it is AES. The biggest risk is that KeePass screwed the implementation. It is open source for whatever that is worth. I have not personally checked the sourcecode.

            I do not see an obvious connection to ssh. The program simply stores an encrypted file with your passwords in it, nothing more. But maybe I answered your question anyway.

          • random832 says:

            I think the question is if there is a password manager that can act as a ssh-agent (storing private keys in addition to passwords) and therefore you can only log in using your ssh key while your password database is unlocked. Apparently there is a plugin called KeeAgent that does exactly this.

          • J Mann says:

            The weak points are that I lose if:

            (1) There’s an exploitable flaw in KeePass;

            (2) Someone installs a keystroke logger in my phone or PC and captures my password or gets it by surveillance;

            (3) Someone captures me and tortures me for my password.

            #1 is the only systematic one, where a bot-net could capture my password as part of a systematic hack.

          • random832 says:

            A password manager also mitigates the risk of keyloggers – a hardware keylogger can’t capture your actual passwords (only the password manager passphrase. It is different, right?), and can’t capture the password database file.

            (Of course, if they can install a hardware keylogger they have physical access and can capture your unlock password to return and copy the file along with installing any software they want to.)

    • Anonymous says:

      I use two-factor auth for everything critical; since there aren’t many accounts, I can actually remember the passwords for these. For most everything else of any import, I’ve got a physical notebook – it makes the interface more human-shaped. If I lose the notebook, I know I must change the passwords, just like when I lose the key to my home.

    • J Mann says:

      How often does KeePass ask users to buy the developer a beer? I’ve bought two for him already – either time is passing faster than I think or it’s more than once a year.

    • GlenWill says:

      I’ve been using Lastpass for 4 years, and I’ve been happy with it. I started because I was reusing too many passwords, and had a sudden reason to think that one of my common passwords was compromised. Once I setup Lastpass, and started saving my passwords with it, I started having it generate different complex passwords for all my websites.

      It has the ability to one-click change passwords for many common websites, where it will open a new tab, change your password to a randomly generated one, and update your database with the new password. They will also notify you if you have a password on a site that has a known hack occur, and suggest you change your password for that site.

      It encrypts your password store on your computer, and only stores the encrypted version in the cloud. If you have multiple devices, passwords added or changed sync to other devices within a few minutes.

      My wife uses Lastpass too, and for accounts we share access to, I can create it in Lastpass, and then share it with her. She gets a copy she can accept into her store. If one of us changes the password, the other gets notified and updated.

      They actively pay a bounty for security bugs found, so there is an active community finding bugs and reporting them. They are very quick with fixing them as well.

      That link for the UK outage doesn’t overly worry me, as your encrypted database is cached locally, and as they indicated you can switch to offline mode and keep going. You just can’t share updates across devices while offline.

      The Android app is decent. Sometimes it doesn’t detect a field to autofill password, and I have to go to the Lasspass app and copy the password, then switch back to the app I am trying to login in to.

    • Nornagest says:

      I use PasswordSafe, which is less a password manager in the LastPass sense and more a password generator and repository. You need to unlock your repo to get passwords out of it (though it stays unlocked on your device for a configurable amount of time), but the data’s stored encrypted, and if you host it on a cloud service (I do, through iCloud), that service doesn’t have the key. This makes it a lot more inherently secure: you don’t need to trust the storage service, you just need to trust the local encryption.

    • Reasoner says:

      I realise that I reuse passwords much too often, and with more and more companies targeted (and demonstrating bad security) I’m starting to think that I need to take identity/account theft more seriously.

      If the company’s app was designed by someone who knows what they’re doing, your password will be hashed using bcrypt or something like that so that even if the site gets hacked, your password won’t have been compromised.

      • Nornagest says:

        You would be astonished how many people don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to security, even those that should know better. Especially those that should know better.

  42. onyomi says:

    This short video is the best take I’ve yet seen on a question which has long perplexed me: why do people hate communism less than Nazism (relevant question: many people on my Facebook still seem to insist that fascism as an ideology is so bad that physically attacking people who supposedly espouse it is ethically justified; I’ve never seen anyone claim that physically attacking a fellow American for espousing communism (or something arguably akin to it, which is the relevant point of comparison, since the “fascists” Antifa attacks rarely self-identify with that term) would be justified).

    Among the reasons he cites, one is one I had long noticed, though I still don’t have a great explanation for it: namely people are more horrified by the slaughter of outsiders than of one’s own countrymen. This is kind of surprising, given that most ethical systems seem to reserve a special place in hell for traitors.

    The best explanation I can think of is one he does mention here, which is that fellow countrymen-slaughterers have a high overlap with national founders and/or “great leaders”: Lenin, Stalin, Mao. The Germans have thoroughly repudiated Hitler and Nazism, but the Russians and Chinese have not done so for Lenin, Mao, or even Stalin. In the Chinese case, especially, the ruling party, as much as it has diverged from Mao’s original vision, derives some degree of legitimacy from the revolution Mao led, and so cannot easily denounce him without hurting their own legitimacy.

    It would be interesting to imagine an alternate history in which the Nazi party retained nominal power under different leadership after WWII, and whether or not in such a case they would still have so thoroughly repudiated Hitler and his philosophy. However, such scenarios seem not often to take place because few parties/ruling ideologies can survive massive military defeat at the hands of outsiders. Put another way, a regime can seemingly kill huge numbers of its own citizens and maintain an air of legitimacy so long as it isn’t perceived as responsible for the sort of “national weakness” which leads to a military defeat at the hands of outsiders.

    Another factor which strikes me as accurate, but also a little inexplicable, is how the American war to defeat Nazism is widely, and especially on the left, perceived as the last “good” American war. American wars to defeat Korean and Vietnamese communism, on the other hand, are widely viewed as mistakes, especially in the latter case (though maybe that would be less the case today if Vietnam had turned out more like North Korea).

    I have always tended to share this general perception, especially of Vietnam (unlike most Americans, however, I also think our involvement in WWI was ill-advised), though I’m not sure this is a very consistent position for me to take. In retrospect, the government of Vietnam has not turned out to be as bad as Nazi Germany, but the government of the DPRK arguably has. Assuming we share the general perception that Vietnam was a mistake, how were we to have known, at that time, that Vietnam wouldn’t turn out like Stalinist Russia, East Germany, or the DPRK? Also ironic, it seems like a lot of the opposition to Vietnam resulted from our attempt to fight the war in a manner that would be broadly more acceptable to the left (defensively), whereas we fought WWII in a way which seems more broadly right-wing (offensively). At the end of the day, is it possible that the left hated Vietnam but loved WWII really just boils down to WWII being a war against what was perceived as a right-wing threat, while Vietnam was a war against a left-wing threat?

    • shakeddown says:

      Theory: People used to hate communism more, but then people on the right used it to attack people on the left as communist sympathizers, and it got to the point where someone expressing distaste for communism was probably just signalling his hatred of the American left.

      • onyomi says:

        This also seems right to me, though I’m not sure whether “communist” as a slur against the American left has lost its sting due to overuse, or due to the end of the Cold War. I lean more toward the latter, but if that is the case, it doesn’t well explain why fascism is today more toxic than communism, since WWII is also over.

        I guess Antifa would say that the risk of America becoming fascist is today higher than the risk of America becoming communist; maybe, but I think Hitler has been perceived as more evil than Mao for a long time, though that may also be about Westerners caring more about the slaughter of fellow Westerners, whereas mostly only third-world agrarian nations have previously become Communist (Russia, of course, having always existed somewhat on the periphery).

        • shakeddown says:

          If Antifa catches on long-term, I suspect fascist will lose some of its meaning.

          There is also an element of westerners caring about fellow westerners, but it’s not just an abstract fellow westerners thing – a lot of people in the west personally know/knew holocaust survivors/WW2 veterans, while few people in America know survivors of Mao or Stalin’s oppression (and even fewer who talk about it), so it’s a lot more distant and far-mode.

          • J Mann says:

            IMHO, the left has already played out “fascist” – these days, I hear most people escalating behavior they don’t like all the way to “nazi.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            a lot of people in the west personally know/knew holocaust survivors/WW2 veterans, while few people in America know survivors of Mao or Stalin’s oppression (and even fewer who talk about it)

            Do you think that’s a PR issue? There’s a lot of effort that goes into Holocaust remembrance, but not so much Holodomor/gulag remembrance. There is no National Holodomor Museum. Any time someone on reddit says something nice about communism somebody will angrily respond that they grew up under soviet communism and launch into horror stories of their youth. I think they’re out there, just nobody’s putting a camera in their faces.

            I’d like that to happen more because I really don’t like the results of Communism. Everybody knows how awful Nazism is, but they seem to treat Communism like it just had some implementation details wrong. I see people wearing hammer & sickle t-shirts like it’s nothing, but that gives me the same chill as if I saw someone wearing a swastika.

            This is why I like capitalism. We capitalists still kill you, sure, but it’s slowly, via heart disease from too many cheap hamburgers.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It’s not just the acceptance of communist symbolism, it’s the folks (and not a few of them) who say “smash capitalism” as though it’s an obviously good idea.

          • Civilis says:

            a lot of people in the west personally know/knew holocaust survivors/WW2 veterans, while few people in America know survivors of Mao or Stalin’s oppression (and even fewer who talk about it), so it’s a lot more distant and far-mode.

            A lot of people in the West know veterans of Vietnam or Korea or refugees from Vietnam or Cuba, though. (see also http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/23/gop-state-senator-a-vietnamese-refugee-removed-from-california-senate-floor-after-criticizing-late-senator/)

            The biggest issue is that there’s no way to isolate the political ideologies from their unique histories.

          • Deiseach says:

            If Antifa catches on long-term, I suspect fascist will lose some of its meaning.

            “Fascist” already has lost a lot of its meaning; now it’s a boo-word to signify “You hold conservative/right-wing ideas I don’t agree with and don’t like and I think you are a horrible person”, as shorthand for “this is an evil person, do not interact with them, do not engage with their arguments”. It’s the slightly milder form of “Nazi” which means simply “horrible and horribly evil person, punch on sight”.

            Same as “racist” has morphed from, while still retaining the unfavourable connotations of, “person prejudiced against another human on the grounds of skin colour or ethnic origin; typified by slave owners” to “person who benefits from ‘structural racism’ even if they personally are of a lower socio-economic class or status in society than the person of colour pointing out their racism to them”, hence why there is no such thing as ‘reverse racism’ and POC can never be racist – because ‘structural racism’ and holding power, and invisible knapsacks of privilege, you see.

      • DrBeat says:

        Counterpoint: America during the 1960s and 1970s, when basically everyone on the entire Left was in a race to crawl inside Communism’s asshole.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It gets on my nerves that capitalism is blamed for people being poor, while communism, which has done a great deal more to impoverish people, doesn’t get blamed.

      Perhaps it’s partly that preventing value from being created just isn’t as visible as not distributing wealth, though I think the “nice words” theory from the video also has a lot going for it.

      I keep saying that if people are willing to risk death to go from one place to another, and especially if this keeps happeninig for decades, then it’s reasonable to assume that the place people are leaving is worse than the place they’re going to. I’m not sure that this argument has convinced anyone.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Anyone who remained convinced of the superiority of Communism in the latter years of the Soviet Union is probably beyond convincing. Anyone who remained convinced of the superiority of Communism after the fall of the Soviet Union played out is almost certainly beyond convincing.

        Those convinced of the superiority of Communism who weren’t around for the fall of the Soviet Union… well, they were probably taught by those in the groups I mention above.

    • Aapje says:

      @onyomi

      Communism (at least theoretically) killed people for their beliefs. Using violence to suppress the belief in an ideology which used violence against people to suppress their beliefs is hypocritical.

      Nazism killed people for reasons unconnected to their beliefs. A Jew who believed in national-socialism was not safe. Using violence to suppress the belief in an ideology which used violence against people to eradicate a race is not hypocritical.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t think it’s hypocritical; where I see the double standard is that I think if you’re going to argue it’s okay to attack people physically for professing belief in an ideology, then communism, on its historical record, is at least as punch-worthy as fascism. I don’t think attacking people physically for professing any particular belief is ethically justifiable, however.

        I do think you’re right though that Nazism especially and, to a lesser-extent, fascism in general, uniquely pattern matches to “absolute evil” within our current identity-focused civic religion.

        In theory, at least, capitalists and other class enemies could have chosen not to be capitalists; Jews and Gypsies couldn’t have chosen not to be Jews or Gypsies.

        That said, I’m not sure I agree that killing people for who they are is inherently worse than killing people for what they do.

        Consider the following two cases:
        1. I meet a black person and shoot him because I don’t like black people and I know there’s no way he could have “remedied” his blackness.
        2. I meet a pianist and say to him “I hate piano music, so I’m going to break all your fingers so you can never play the piano again; submit or die!” He refuses and I kill him.

        Is 2 better than 1 because I gave the pianist a “choice”?

      • Anonymous says:

        A Jew who believed in national-socialism was not safe.

        Neither is anyone who believed in Communism safe from Communists. So far as I know, being a Nazi Jew in the Third Reich was actually marginally safer than being a Communist of any notability in Soviet Russia.

        The Soviets could and did purge anyone they disliked, including especially themselves, and put a charge of heresy as a justification either pre- or post-facto.

        “Give me a man and I will find the crime.”

        • Aapje says:

          Neither is anyone who believed in Communism safe from Communists.

          Yeah, but that’s because they were very invested in ideological purity. It was still about beliefs.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe I’m cynical, but that’s doubtful. I suspect a great many died because they were inconvenient, not because they were in any objective way ideologically impure.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not sure which is more existentially horrifying, being murdered for your race or your thoughts. I suppose at least if they’re murdering you for your race you know where you stand a priori and can try to leave. They’re more likely to correctly identify your race, too. Living day to day knowing the state is trying to read your mind and torture and murder you if they don’t like what they think they find is horrifying.

            Can we just agree it’s all incredibly evil and not do any of those things?

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            Weren’t they inconvenient because of their beliefs?

          • Anonymous says:

            Some, certainly. But those would be lower priority targets than people whose crime is existing and holding some kind of material or immaterial resource that the purgers would like redistributed to someone else (like themselves). And that’s not even mentioning the obvious scapegoats.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Communists were the first group of people the Nazis violently repressed.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      A) The biggest thing is simply that Nazi is a term that is far more bounded. Nazi’s existed in Germany for a period of less than 20 years in Germany. Note that Nazi is far more generally used than fascist. Hitler is far more referenced than Mussolini or Franco.
      B) To the victor go the spoils. The Nazi’s were decisively defeated militarily.
      C) The combination of A and B means that the record of the holocaust (which was uniquely evil, as he says) was documented in a way that any given Communist atrocity was not.
      D) The combination of A and B means we have all sorts of examples of non-uniquely-evil communism. You might not like Cuba, but it wasn’t Nazi Germany. Ditto lots of other Communist countries.
      E) The unique evil on top is always going to be over-referenced.
      F) That video is not an explanation of anything. It’s a piece of propaganda to stoke hate of some amorphous left composed of the outgroup.

      • onyomi says:

        I think your F is overly uncharitable. The video suggested some possibilities I hadn’t thought of and at least aimed for a fairly reasonable tone.

        Re. C, I’m not sure I agree with you or the video. What made the Holocaust uniquely evil as compared to e.g. Holodomor, Great Leap Forward, or the Khmer Rouge killing fields?

        • John Schilling says:

          The Holocaust probably represents the largest number of people killed as the result of a single explicit decision to kill a bunch of people for the sake of making them dead. Other incidents with similar or greater body counts had goals that didn’t specifically require megadeaths, but turned out that way due to poor implementation, e.g. Mao would have been happy to have the entire pre-famine population of China come out the far side of the process as happy, industrialized, ideologically purified socialists. And the other incidents that were deliberately murderous, e.g. the Cambodian genocide, have substantially lower body counts.

          Most people are not utilitarians or consequentialists, and so believe that intent matters. “Most deaths due to explicitly premeditated murder” is by definition a unique classification, one that matters to most people, and one that the Holocaust presently occupies.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’ve always felt that you don’t even have to be a utilitarian to dismiss “it wasn’t deliberate” as a mitigating factor. I might be willing to grant that the various sorts of “negligent manslaughter”s aren’t as bad as pre-meditated murders, but quantity has a quality all its own. Add in that in both the Soviet and Chinese cases they knew their policies were killing people quite a long time before they decided to moderate or amend said policies…

          • JayT says:

            The Nazi’s originally intended to just exile the Jews, so you could make the argument that the Holocaust was also due to poor implementation of a plan.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think I’m with John here. Whatever the Nazis’ original intent, it’s fairly clear that the Holocaust did come out of a decision-making process the sum of which was “fuck it, let’s kill them all”.

            Comparable decisions were made on a smaller scale by the major Communist powers: dekulakization, the Great Purge. But those killed hundreds of thousands of people each, not the better part of ten million.

          • sflicht says:

            Genghis Khan’s conquest of Eurasia might be a contender.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It’s easily recognizable as propaganda.

          “until the left [does something] we will continue to live in a morally confused world”

          As to uniquely evil, I meant “with lots of particular idiosyncrasies” (and said idiosynracies being particularly evocative). It’s like saying Jordan was a uniquely gifted basketball player. You can make arguments that he was “the most gifted” but it’s a different argument.

    • Jugemu says:

      Some of it is probably due to the relatively large number of Jews in Hollywood and the subsequent large amount of films and documentaries depicting the Holocaust in emotionally powerful ways, as compared to Communist atrocities.

      • BBA says:

        From the Jewish perspective, Communism really wasn’t that much worse than Czarism. Nazism, on the other hand, was worse than anything before or since. So that framing makes sense to me as a Jew, the question then being why do so many non-Jews seem to buy it? It can’t just be Hollywood.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It can’t just be Hollywood.

          See: “Communist-friendly ideologies, academic and cultural instruments, domination of”, a frequent topic of discussion here.

          • BBA says:

            But I’m not talking about Communist domination, I’m talking about Jewish domination, which unless I’m very confused about my own beliefs isn’t the same thing at all.

    • episcience says:

      I think the key reason is that “communism” doesn’t mean “the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics” (or any particular communist regime you care to name); i.e. that many leftists think that (a) identifying with communism doesn’t mean endorsing gulags or repression and (b) there is room for communist ideologies that don’t align with Stalinism or Maoism. See also the comments by Hannah Arendt on totalitarianism and by leftists generally on what they called Red Fascism.

      “Fascism”, by contrast, is seen as inherently violent or warlike. You cannot support fascism without supporting militarist-dictatorial control of the state and hawkish and violent views against outsiders or particular outgroups, since that is part of the definition of fascism.

      • onyomi says:

        I mean, there are communist regimes with horrifying records and communist regimes with merely awful records; there are fascist regimes with horrifying records and fascist regimes with merely awful records.

        The most salient difference, it seems to me is that communist regimes commit atrocities on their own citizens (class enemies), while fascists commit atrocities against foreigners or those perceived to be outsiders. This seems strange because killing your own people seems, if anything, worse than killing “others,” especially from a historic, tribal perspective (if we were to guess behind a veil of ignorance, based on evolutionary biology, which sort of moral system humans would evolve, I imagine it would be one which much more strongly condemns killing your own tribe, even unintentionally, than killing outsiders, even intentionally).

        This does however give me a new thought that might help explain things: communist atrocities seem to target the strong, while fascist atrocities target the weak. While fascists seek to eliminate the foreigners, the outsiders, the “perverts,” etc., communists eliminate your rich landlord who threatened to evict you last year.

        Humans do have a strong tendency to revile attacking the weak (note how even murderers apparently look down on pedophiles), so, insofar as communism is seen as attacking the strong, but fascism attacking the weak, I can see, maybe, why the latter causes more instinctive moral revulsion in many.

        • episcience says:

          I think you’ve ignored my point: communists today don’t feel that their ideology inexorably leads to violence or repression; people believe that fascism does.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          So do fascists today. They make a point of pointing out peaceful ways of achieving their ends, following the same “Well, THIS time we’ll…” pattern as the communists explaining how they’ll avoid falling into the totalitarian/authoritarian patterns of the past.

          So again, both ideological adherents make that claim, and neither side has good historical support (communist governments have, without exception, been violent and repressive. The ones which have subsequently moderated their violence and repression have done so precisely to the degree that they abandoned their commitment to communist ideology in favor of pragmatic commitment to economic growth, like China and Vietnam).

          And yet on average communists making the claim that their preferred political ideology can be enacted peacefully and without repression are given far more charity than fascists doing the same.

          Your point doesn’t address that.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Letting governments have a relatively free hand in killing their “own” citizens is parallel to tolerating domestic abuse. It’s a lot of work to do anything about it.

          On the killing people outside your territory side, why is Napolean generally viewed as kind of cool rather than being seen as a mass murderer? Or is this more of an American thing, since he wasn’t our problem?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Distant past. Everyone and everything was more violent back then. Same reason people share that statistic about ~2% or whatever of people alive today being descended from Genghis Khan as if it reflects impressively on Genghis. Time + distance makes being all-time world champion of rape somehow worthy of jokes instead of horror.

            Bill & Ted picked up both Napolean and Genghis Khan for a wacky adventure at the San Dimas mall. Not Hitler and Stalin though.

          • Protagoras says:

            I think it’s also partially an American thing; I get the impression Napoleon had a considerably worse reputation in Europe until considerably more recently, though the passage of time is also certainly a huge factor.

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t see how Napoleon was a mass murderer in the same sense as Stalin or Hitler. Napoleon was very prone to go to war and his wars caused deaths, of course. However, Napoleon didn’t seem to go out of his way to cause more deaths than necessary to achieve his military aims.

            When The Netherlands was under Napoleonic rule, we got some very useful reforms, including modernized law. On the other hand, Napoleon wanted to treat The Netherlands as a colony to be exploited for the benefit of France (this caused a conflict with Louis Bonaparte, who was made King of The Netherlands by Napoleon, but who wanted to be a good ruler for the Dutch people, so Napoleon deposed him). Napoleon was defeated before he got his way, but even if he had done his worst, it seems that he at most would have been regarded as ‘bad ruler,’ not as a giant mass murderer.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            War gets a lot of moral latitude, apparently even expansionist wars of choice– though that may only apply to wars before a certain date. I’m not sure how much Napoleon’s wars were defensive in the sense that he had a rational fear of being conquered if he didn’t attack first.

            As for good policies, he did have some.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_and_the_Jews

            His record about Jews is mixed.

            He lifted a lot of restrictions on Jews– and then imposed some very severe restrictions for three years.

        • Spookykou says:

          It seems reasonable to me that Americans(for example) would be more upset with Germans killing non-Germans*(a group Americans are in) than with Russians killing Russians.

          As for the people in the country in question not being upset about it, two possible explanations jump out at me. First, all other people in their country might not be their in-group/tribe, so if their out-group is dying, that is probably even better than their far group dying. Second, most of the communist countries in question have had gradual changes in government such that they are reluctant to be overly hard on ‘themselves’.

          *They also killed Germans.

          • onyomi says:

            Fascism for me, communism for thee?

            It makes a certain amount of sense, and is in keeping with my idea that fascism is outward-looking (explains Episcience’s perception that it is inherently bellicose, which I didn’t see as a central feature of fascism), while communism is inward-looking.

            That said, as an American, I’d be more afraid of the American government attempting to nationalize all industries than of the American government attempting to aggressively take over Mexico. I’m not saying one is objectively worse, just that the former is a bigger threat to me and people I know.

            That also said, I really do think the more recent upsurge in “Antifa” notoriety really mostly boils down to a calculation which goes: Nazis=Fascists, Nazis=Racists, Fascists=Racists, Trump=Racist (the Clinton campaign told me so), Trump=Fascist.*

            *Also note that I wouldn’t deny the Trump administration has some fascist features, but so, too, have all US administrations since our first fascist president, FDR.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @onyomi

            Is racism central to fascism? Obviously in antifa’s thought process it is, but I’m talking about reality here. I seem to recall Mussolini didn’t really understand what Hitler was getting all upset about the Jews over.

          • I seem to recall Mussolini didn’t really understand what Hitler was getting all upset about the Jews over.

            My understanding of Italian anti-semitic restrictions is that they didn’t apply to Jews who had a record as patriotic Italians, most obviously ones who had fought in WWI.

            I think a lot of people in Europe saw Jews as not entirely part of the nations they lived in. Chesterton discusses that in one essay. It’s an attitude I encountered traveling in Europe c. 1970–from European Jews.

            From that standpoint, anti-semitism ends up more nationalist than racist. Which fits the Italian pattern.

        • cassander says:

          >I mean, there are communist regimes with horrifying records and communist regimes with merely awful records; there are fascist regimes with horrifying records and fascist regimes with merely awful records.

          The ratios matter. the only communist regime that didn’t rack up a 6 digit death toll was cuba, and they had 5 digits. There were a few fascist regimes that didn’t get more than 5, and that out of a much smaller pool of countries. Communism was uniquely awful, even more so than fascism.

          >communist atrocities seem to target the strong, while fascist atrocities target the weak.

          Nuns in Spain? kulaks in russia? These were the strong? This is just rehashed “don’t punch down” nonsense. Everyone targets the weak, if you try to target the strong they’ll target you back.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m talking about perception and theory, not reality.

            In theory, fascism is about eliminating the weak, disorderly, heterodox elements from the national “body.” In theory, communism is Robin Hood.

          • Jiro says:

            the only communist regime that didn’t rack up a 6 digit death toll was cuba, and they had 5 digits.

            The Republic of San Marino had the Communist party as the main group in a coalition from 1945 to 1957. Admittedly they tried a coup at the end, but they didn’t kill five figures. Of course, San Marino’s population is only in the five figures anyway.

        • I think you may be missing the obvious explanation for the pattern. People map ideologies onto a simple left/right pattern. Communists are left, fascists are right, and the academy and media are dominated by people who identify left.

          I observe a similar pattern in myself. Le Pen is identified as right. Libertarians, such as me, are identified as right. So my emotional instinct is to think well of her despite the fact that most of her key policies are ones I strongly disagree with.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, he mentions that possibility in the video. Communism is left, academy is left. What I’m wondering about is the degree to which that also might explain vastly differing perceptions of the Vietnam War (though probably the manner of our prosecution of the war, along with its ultimate failure are bigger factors).

            I agree with you about Le Pen. I’m inclined to like her because I always side with decentralization. But, from an American perspective, her domestic and economic policies look atrocious. I’m not sure how much of that is differences in what constitutes a “right-wing” economic policy in France versus the US. From what I understand, Macron would really be more congenial to most libertarians on that front.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Whenever I see one of those political compasses with parties/political figures marked, Hitler and the Nazi party are in the center on the left/right divide and all the way up on the authority/liberty axis.

            Hitler wanted “nationalism without capitalism, and socialism without internationalism.” He nationalized industries and instituted free healthcare, free education, public works projects, etc. These are not right wing policy goals.

          • onyomi says:

            “nationalism without capitalism, and socialism without internationalism.” He nationalized industries and instituted free healthcare, free education, public works projects, etc. These are not right wing policy goals.

            It’s very common for libertarians to argue that fascists are really just liberals/socialists/leftists in disguise because they still want socialism, deny individualism, etc.

            They sort of have a point, but what I think I, and other libertarians have to recognize, is the sad fact that most of the world doesn’t carve political views along the lines we think they should. Right=/=freedom and individualism.

            For practical purposes, both right and left as they exist in most places and at most times imply some level of collectivism (after all, in some sense, politics is, by definition, a collective endeavor; as an ancap, I’m not so much in favor of “individualist politics” as I am anti-politics), just of different kinds.

            For practical purposes there is no “liberty and individualism” end to the traditional political spectrum. The far left (communism) means collectivism with an internationalist, utopian, egalitarian bent and the far right (fascism) means collectivism with a nationalist, traditionalist, hierarchical bent.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @onyomi

            Individualism is great, but unless everyone else is an individualist the individualists will be out competed by anyone adopting a collectivist strategy.

          • onyomi says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Individualism is great, but unless everyone else is an individualist the individualists will be out competed by anyone adopting a collectivist strategy.

            Adopting an individualist approach to political organization doesn’t necessitate an individualist approach to anything else (production, defense…).

            In fact, I’d say that, in most cases, an equal number of individuals voluntarily cooperating to accomplish x will be more effective than the same number working under compulsory political organization. The individualists have the problem of individuals being able to chose to “defect” from contributing to some common good, but, as David Friedman often points out, situations where individual rationality doesn’t lead to group rationality are the exception on the private market, but the rule on the political market.

          • cassander says:

            @onyomi says:

            In fact, I’d say that, in most cases, an equal number of individuals voluntarily cooperating to accomplish x will be more effective than the same number working under compulsory political organization.

            Depends on your definition of “more effective” and “voluntarily cooperating”. In general, yes, decentralized methods will arrive at more optimal solutions given unlimited time and resources. But sometime an a worse solution tomorrow produces a better result than a more optimal solution in year, with war being the classic example.

          • onyomi says:

            @Cassander

            In asserting that government solutions will be faster, if not always better, I don’t think you’re comparing apples to apples.

            If you compare an existing government with e.g. a standing army and a ministry of defense to a mass of heretofore unorganized individuals, then yes, the government will be able to respond to a military threat much faster.

            But that’s clearly stacking the deck in government’s favor. If you start with two unorganized groups of individuals and one is allowed to coercively force people to do things to respond to a threat and the other has to respond to the threat by means of voluntary cooperation, it seems far from obvious to me that the former method will be faster, given that the former group, like the latter group, still has to work out a mechanism for determining who will give orders and make decisions–voting, appointing a king, etc.

          • cassander says:

            @onyomi says:

            In asserting that government solutions will be faster, if not always better, I don’t think you’re comparing apples to apples.

            It’s more that in a certain set of circumstances, faster IS better to such a degree that the advantages of coercion outweigh the usual disadvantages.

            But that’s clearly stacking the deck in government’s favor. If you start with two unorganized groups of individuals and one is allowed to coercively force people to do things to respond to a threat and the other has to respond to the threat by means of voluntary cooperation, it seems far from obvious to me that the former method will be faster, given that the former group, like the latter group, still has to work out a mechanism for determining who will give orders and make decisions–voting, appointing a king, etc.

            for your non-coercive system to be viable though, it has to be able to be able to respond to threats organized by coercive actors, however they arise. this to me is the achilles heel of anarchism, it creates a massive prisoner’s dilemma where everyone is only better off as long as no one defects (starts coercing) but someone always will.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @onyomi:

            In fact, I’d say that, in most cases, an equal number of individuals voluntarily cooperating to accomplish x will be more effective than the same number working under compulsory political organization.

            What part of “adopt a collectivist strategy” implies “compulsory political organization?”

            If you have 10 people competing in an every man for himself system, the two who team up will beat the other 8.

            Alternatively, if libertarianism is so strong, why are there so few libertarians and why does libertarianism have essentially no political success?

          • onyomi says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Okay, if by “adopt a collectivist strategy” you merely mean “cooperate,” then sure, the people working together will do better than the same number of people, each working on their own.

            But I am not comparing a collectivist approach to e.g. defense to an “every man for himself” approach. I am comparing an individualist approach to politics (“anti-politics”) to a collectivist, compulsory form of politics as the meta-level mode of human organization for achieving other goals, like defense.

            The question isn’t “is working together better than working alone?” It’s “is organizing people under threat of violence/coercion more effective than organizing people voluntarily?” I think the answer is “usually not.”

            Re. Cassander’s contention that a group of people who won’t use coercion will be outcompeted by those who “defect” and do use coercion, I also don’t think it follows, because coercion is a tool without its own costs. Government solutions crowd out and often explicitly ban competing private solutions. You’re not going to get an equally strong voluntarily-funded, volunteer army alongside your tax-funded, drafted army as you would if the drafted army didn’t exist.

            Re. why if, libertarianism’s so great, it hasn’t had much success, several points:
            1. Libertarianism, as I said, is, in some sense, a kind of “anti-politics” as opposed to a competing theory of political organization.

            2. If it isn’t that successful electorally it doesn’t necessarily reflect on its overall desirability because democratic elections produce diffuse costs and concentrated benefits while libertarianism is generally offering the opposite.

            3. As a political philosophy libertarianism is really very new and actually has enjoyed a fair amount of success if you consider that e.g. Reagan might never have won if not for the groundwork by people like Goldwater, Friedman, Rand, et al.

            4. Even if libertarianism as an explicit political philosophy known by that name hasn’t yet enjoyed a lot of success, there is a sense in which it has already enjoyed tremendous success–indeed, may be responsible for our incredible wealth today compared to pre-industrial revolution. The ideas of Locke, for example, highly influential among the US founders, were a good deal more libertarian than most earlier political thought (though see also School of Salamanca).

            The success of libertarianism, then, is not best measured by the number of libertarian politicians who get elected, or the number of libertarian laws which get past, but by the extent to which people succeed in keeping things out of the purview of coercive collective action. The Bill of Rights, for example, is arguably a very libertarian document, as it’s all about what the government may not do in the name of the collective, as opposed to most laws, which are about what the individual citizens may not do.

          • cassander says:

            @onyomi

            Re. Cassander’s contention that a group of people who won’t use coercion will be outcompeted by those who “defect” and do use coercion, I also don’t think it follows, because coercion is a tool without its own costs. Government solutions crowd out and often explicitly ban competing private solutions. You’re not going to get an equally strong voluntarily-funded, volunteer army alongside your tax-funded, drafted army as you would if the drafted army didn’t exist.

            My point is that the defectors don’t have to be as strong in the abstract or long run. they just have to be locally stronger for as much time as it takes them to beat you up and take your wallet.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But it’s just as impossible to implement communism without violence. It’s called “seizing the means of production,” not “having the means of production freely given to you without coercion.”

    • herbert herberson says:

      I’m not really interested in debating this point further, and I know most people here will disagree with me, (and are welcome to do so at length in the replies without my participation) but I offer it up nonetheless because it’s a relevant component of the full answer and I’m not sure anyone else will supply it: the crimes of communism are far less incontrovertible than those of Nazism. Neither Mao nor Stalin launched invasions of entire continents apropos of nothing. Neither of them ran full-blown death camps (prison and labor camps, sure, but no gas chambers). The vast majority of deaths attributed to both of them are from famines, and famines were not unheard of in either of their countries prior to their rule (although they were after!). The calculation of numbers for those famines is much shakier and more variable. In Mao’s case, there is no question that the famines were unintentional, and in Stalin’s case the level of intention is an open question. It is possible to argue that both of them left their countries better off than when they started.

      Even if one looks at all those ambiguities and sorts them out and decides that all the accusations against communism are true, that fact remains that you have to do some work to get there. That’s simply not true of Nazism’s crimes, which are simple, stark, and obvious.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Unlike the Nazis, many Communist regimes attempted to obfuscate the nature of their camps. For example, the Gulag system killed vast numbers of Russians, but since they died of combination of exposure, starvation, and overwork it was possible to administratively “release” them just before or just after their deaths, keeping the numbers down.
        Interestingly while this was common knowledge among Russian critics of the Soviet system, and is still remarked on today by a few scholars, it appears to have vanished out of general education on the subject in favor of the narrative “Everyone SAYS the Gulag system was awful, but really it was just bad jail! Why, just look at these official Soviet statistics.

        Or there are the re-education camps of Vietnam:

        A common form of punishment is confinement to the CONEX boxes—air-freight containers that were left behind by the United States in 1975. The boxes vary in size; some are made of wood and others of metal. In a CONEX box 4 feet high and 4 feet wide, for example, several prisoners would be confined with their feet shackled, and allowed only one bowl of rice and water a day. “It reminded me of the pictures I saw of Nazi camp inmates after World War II,” said a physician we interviewed who witnessed the release of four prisoners who had been confined to a CONEX box for one month. None of them survived.

        I will grant that the Nazis killed more Western Europeans in a shorter -timespan- than any of the various Communist regimes, and unlike the Communists made very little effort to conceal what they were doing (if I remember correctly under the assumption that there would be plenty of time to destroy records after the fact if need be, once they won).

        However, that just means that we have been willing to overlook or undervalue deaths of people geographically and culturally more distant to us, not that those deaths were any less severe. Add to that that for the past 25-30 years there has been a sharp decrease of interest in pursuing scholarship on these issues, and prior to that information was both limited due to the cold war and you had active elements within academia going to bat as apologists for communist regimes.

        • Aapje says:

          Unlike the Nazis, many Communist regimes attempted to obfuscate the nature of their camps.

          What?

          The Nazis worked very hard to keep it a secret, including razing camps at the end of the war.

          They just failed more than the communists, probably because they lost, while Stalin & Mao remained in power and thus could hide the evidence more effectively.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            It’s entirely possible I’m underinformed, but my impression was that the attempts to raze the camps and the majority of coverup efforts weren’t undertaken until very late in the war when it finally became impossible to ignore that they were losing, and that as such they were very slapdash, last-minute improvisations.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Sonderaktion 1005 began at a point when the Germans still looked like they were winning in the East – the crisis of the previous winter had passed, and again they were making significant advances. The sense that the Germans were losing only really started in mid-to-late 1943, after the disaster at Stalingrad over the winter, and after the abortive offensive at Kursk failed to succeed as Barbarossa and Blue had.

            EDIT: Additionally, the concentration camps were not kept secret, not remotely. The death camps, and the existence of facilities for killing at concentration camps and dual-purpose camps (eg Auschwitz was a concentration camp with an attached death camp; those deemed capable of work were sent to the concentration camp and worked to death, while those not were gassed upon arrival). But the existence of concentration camps was well-known, and was used as a threat towards malcontents, etc.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Hmm, thanks for the information. I was under the impression that the Nazis didn’t really do much if anything to attempt to conceal their activities (at least from posterity/the world) until mid-to-late ’43.

          • Aapje says:

            The concealment efforts happened at all stages of the Holocaust. A major reason why the death camps were far away in Eastern Europe (and even there in wooded rural areas, away from population centers) was to keep it secret from Westerners/Germans.

            The programs themselves were described with lies that hid what actually happened. Aktion T4 (involuntary euthanasia) was described as “mercy death” for patients “deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination.” Parents were told that their children were being sent to special sections for children, where they would receive improved treatment. The children sent to these centres were kept for “assessment” for a few weeks and then killed by injection of toxic chemicals, typically phenol; their deaths were recorded as pneumonia.

            The organization that ran Aktion T4 was called the “Charitable Foundation for Cure and Institutional Care.” Of course, they didn’t give any care or cure anyone.

            The extermination of Jews was referred to as the ‘final solution.’

            When reports about the death camps began to emerge at the end of 1943, the Nazis decided to present Theresienstadt to an investigative commission of the International Red Cross. In preparation for the commission’s visit more deportations to Auschwitz were carried out in order to reduce the overcrowding in the ghetto. Fake stores, a coffee house, bank, school, kindergartens and the like were opened and flower gardens were planted throughout the ghetto. The commission arrived in the ghetto on June 23, 1944. Their meetings with prisoners were meticulously planned beforehand. After the visit the Nazis produced a propaganda film about the new life of the Jews under the auspices of the Third Reich. After finishing filming, most of the actors in the film, including almost all of the independent leadership and most of the children in the ghetto, were sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

    • J Mann says:

      When I talk to people who defend communism relative to fascism, they seem to be particularly motivated by:

      1) the belief that communists typically mean well – that reducing inequality and oppression is a worthwhile goal, even if it often ends in horror and misery.

      2) the belief that horror and misery are not either a (a) necessary or (b) inevitable feature of communism. The idea here is that fascism’s essential aspects (which are poorly defined, but probably cluster around nationalism, militarism, and a cult of personality) are themselves bad, but communism’s essential aspects (sharing, albeit forced sharing) are arguably good.

      I’d also add that fascism since almost no one in the US identifies as fascist, so there’s no one in my circle inclined to defend it. Fascism is associated with mid-20th century German, Italian and possibly Soviet nationalism, so if you’re an American nationalist, you probably just say “I’m not fascist” rather than “Fascism has some good things, although those specific fascist states were indefensible,” the way a communist apologist might.

      • the belief that communists typically mean well – that reducing inequality and oppression is a worthwhile goal, even if it often ends in horror and misery.

        At a considerable tangent …

        Various people, discussing the question of racial differences in the distribution of characteristics, argue that the reason not to look at them is that belief in such things has done enormous damage in the past. Nobody seems to argue that belief in the desirability of policies to eliminate inequality should be shunned because it has done enormous damage in the past. But the connection of such beliefs to deaths from the French Revolution on, most obviously under 20th century Communism, looks a lot closer than the connection of beliefs in racial differences to the history of slavery.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Well, it actually boils down to looking at the actual details of the proposals, what the policies are and how they are supposed to be implemented.

          First thing you notice, that after the collapse of Soviet block, the traditional branch of leftism that called itself communism and advocated for introducing a Soviet-style system with Soviet-style “revolutions” guided by the vanguard party … for decades it has been practically in the graveyard mostly about everywhere and especially in the West.

          The parties that called themselves “Communist Party of Syldavia” (or local equivalent) have either dissolved or changed their brand, name, and much of the stated ideology on how the socialist utopia should pursued (often the new name is some vague-sounding variation of “The Left”). Usually in a way that you never ever hear anyone using the word “communism”. At least here, the younger generations of my age generally simply have no idea that certain older politicians would have been card-carrying communists / pro-East Germany in past. Even social democrats don’t talk that much about socialism.

          Heck, outside the certain area of Republican Spain anarcho-socialists until the 1930s, anarchosocialists used to be fairly obscure, and they probably are fairly obscure today (because nobody who does not involve themselves in extreme leftist activism, i.e. majority of mainstream, actually cares about the colors of the flags and which way the red and black areas are divided the anarchists might wave if they were not throwing rocks), and still my guess is that they are more numerous that the Communist Party of Syldavia style communists today.

          (Venezuela might be your weird example of special circumstances, but I believe even their stated ideology is a weird amalgamation of “Chavez likes this but not that”. Other small countries with civil wars and such might apply.)

          [Additional point. Back in Europe: if one looks at how the various leftists complain about globalization and EU’s free trade and free movement and what those things will do to workers’ jobs …. or race to bottom regarding various taxes and controls of finance markets are going to do how the global capitalism manifests on national scale, and how they complained when those changes happened ~25 – 15 years ago despite their protests … it’s fairly clear that they also have not been successful at making anybody to listen to their ideas. And then for some very weird reasons you have populist right becoming popular making those exact same points. ]

          Then we look at the policy proposals intertwined with any kind of “taking genetic racial differences into account”. The milder form I’d imagine is “arguing for less of affirmative action and deducing there’s structural racism every time academic department does not have enough PoC people”. But that can be often said without actually making too much fuss, if you are very careful about how and what you say. And then someone will com to point how IQ has been highly volatile over the last century, and the discussion might have change playing like it does here on SSC. But if you make your main point sound like it’s of utmost importance to remember how there’s categorical differences between qualities between races. In the sense, that’s the summary and punchline people remember.

          Weeeeeell. That really does not scream “slavery tomorrow”, but that does sound quite a bit like how apartheid and similar systems were justified by their proponents. That all kinds of separation is just natural because the differences are hard and natural, too, and easily inferable from stuff like skin color and shape of eyes.

    • Civilis says:

      As much as I despise Communism, I think the single biggest reason Communism isn’t treated the same as Naziism or even Fascism is that the Communists were the ‘good guys’ in the Second World War, whereas Nazis, Fascists, and even small-f fascists (nationalist Spain) have never been real US allies.

      I think the best example I can give is the following poster: http://www.fortmissoulamuseum.org/WWII/detail.php?id=514 Think about it; we’ll come back to it.

      The more I read about the Second World War, the more respect I can give to the Soviet military of the time. Yes, they did field the most troops and experience the most losses of the war. Depictions of the Soviets throwing men away tend to at least annoy me. On the other hand, World War II in Europe started in part because the Soviets divided up Poland with the Nazis, behaved equally aggressively and monstrously before and after the war, and a lot of the hardships the Soviets experienced were as a direct result of the horrors caused by the Soviet regime before the war; purging competent generals and starving peasants. Almost all of the American and European communists of the pre-war period were at best unwitting dupes of the Soviets.

      Part of the US war effort was the propaganda campaign dedicated to depicting our cause as a noble one, and that meant papering over the bad parts of Soviet Communism because they were on our side. And the Soviets were at least partially willing to play along with that depiction, as long as we were on the same side.

      “This man is your Friend” is, to a degree true, but saying of the ‘Russian’ soldier “He fights for Freedom” is a lie. Ultimately, we’ve never been able to undo the lingering effects of that propaganda campaign and the good publicity the Soviets received for their part in bringing down Hitler. Those legitimatized the early Communists and made stigmatizing them for the later actions of the Communists nearly impossible.

    • dndnrsn says:

      So, this is a reason why fascism is worse than communism that goes a ways beyond what most people think about (I doubt people follow this train of thought; it’s mostly emotional for most people): the bad shit that fascists did is basically part of the system, whereas a decent chunk of communism’s dead is due to a combination of the vanguard party idea being a really bad one, and misfortune/bad handling of misfortune/incompetence.

      The fascists in Italy made their commitment to building the empire they felt Italy had been denied pretty clear, and then tried to do that. However, most of the really bad stuff is the Nazis (the Italians in Africa did not behave much worse than any other colonial power did, and if it hadn’t been for the Nazis starting WWII and Mussolini deciding to get into it, Mussolini would likely never have been more than a standard-issue right-wing authoritarian dictator; compare Mussolini to Franco to see what I mean), and the bad stuff the Nazis did is both unprecedented in intensity (eg, they did most of their murdering and starvation in a very short period of time; the vast majority of their victims died in the less than 4 year period between Barbarossa and the fall of Berlin; Communism killed more people than National Socialism but it did so over a longer time scale) and was basically inevitable from the start.

      One of the central parts of Nazi ideology was to conquer eastwards to claim agricultural land for Germany and reducing the natives to helot status, more or less. The Germans made a pretty major attempt at eliminating the Polish intelligentsia, and their own calculations concluded that doing what they wanted in the east following the predicted fall of the USSR would result in the deaths of about 30 million people. They made close to zero attempt to feed Red Army POWs (of whom millions died) and close to zero attempts to feed civilians in the east not considered important to the war effort. And this is even before you get to the extermination of the Jews: while the most convincing historical explanation is that the original intent had been to deport the Jews to somewhere like Madagascar (made impossible by war conditions) or east of the Urals following the USSR’s defeat (ditto), and it was only after Barbarossa did not result in the defeat of the USSR before the fall that the einsatzgruppen began shooting civilians en masse regardless of sex or age, and death camps were built to eliminate Polish (and then Western European and other Eastern European) Jews – even if the USSR had collapsed as predicted, shipping millions of people east of the Urals would have resulted in a huge number of deaths. Hitler’s eight-figure body count (I believe Snyder puts it at 12 million, but you could probably expand that by a few million) was largely intentional.

      Meanwhile, the death toll of communism (leaving aside the Khmer Rouge, who in my opinion are as bad as the Nazis) is due to repressive actions by a vanguard who were supposed to hand over power to the people at some point rather predictably deciding they’d rather not, and due to a potent combination of misfortune and incompetence. Snyder’s estimates of Stalin’s death toll is something like 9 million (a low estimate, and you could expand that without having to use high estimates) but those 9 million are far more the result of intentional or semi-intentional famines, famines due to incompetence or bad conditions compounded by incompetence, etc. The Great Leap Forward, by sources sympathetic to Mao (as in, promulgated by actual Maoists), caused the death of 15 million people – but was largely due to extremely bad decision-making. (I don’t believe the ~100 million death toll one sees bandied about for communism – it is probably closer to 30 or 40). A far lower % of the communist death toll is by intentional murder.

      I can see a possibility for communism where a leadership elite does not become repressive to hold on to power, and where incompetence does not lead to piles of corpses. I can’t see fascism, let alone national socialism, an ideology built on “let’s go knock over other people and take their stuff and let them starve” and getting worse from there, producing anything good.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I agree with all this, but I still think it ignores the fact that the Allies militarily defeated the Nazis. The Nazis no longer existed (essentially) to retcon their own history, and the Allies have many incentives to investigate and promulgate a full exploration of their crimes.

        Are there examples of Communist countries that look map well to defeated Germany?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          One heartening thing is that there’s been some fading of fondness for communist governments. I’m too young to remember when the USSR became a great disappointment, but Tiannamen Square caused a lot of leftists to like China much less.

          I look forward to enough changing in Cuba that more records of how bad it was come out. I’m not expecting a huge number of concealed murders, but the amount of political prisoners and poverty might have some effect. There’s more to life than vintage cars, good hurrican preparation, and (disputed) good medical care.

          • multiheaded says:

            You do realize that many of the Tiannamen protesters were far-left and critical of the capitalist reforms, right?

        • dndnrsn says:

          The West during the Cold War had an incentive to make the Soviets and Chinese look as bad as possible, didn’t they?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:
            Well, sure, and vice-versa. But that ends up in a two-sided conflict of flung accusations, not a one-sided litany of crimes.

            We also didn’t put an occupying force into their countries while the deaths were on-going. Film of concentration camps shot by allies and immediately available became part of the narrative for why we fought the war and how good and wonderful we were to do so. Even when the Soviet Union broke up, it was primarily defeated internally.

          • dndnrsn says:

            True. Probably the most Nazi-like, both in terms of crimes and how they were uncovered, was the Khmer Rouge? After all, they more or less got run out of town by the Vietnamese.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Right. The Khmer-Rouge were defeated … by another Communist country!

            Hard to get a narrative of the intrinsic horrors of Communism from that.

            Come to think of it, isn’t Vietnam a good counter-example to “Communist countries are horrible”? (Yes, I don’t think there are really Communist anymore, but that isn’t really the point. Neither is Yemen or Syria or Iraq or …)

          • dndnrsn says:

            They were defeated enough that what they’d done came to light pretty clearly, and even the apologists shut up pretty quickly.

            I have no doubt you’re right and had the Germans won in the East in late 1942 or 1943 (so after they started murdering civilians in large numbers), presumably causing the Western Allies to sue for peace, things would be seen differently.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:

            They were defeated enough that what they’d done came to light pretty clearly, and even the apologists shut up pretty quickly.

            Sure, but the narrative from the victorious Vietnamese won’t be “see how awful Communism is?”” That’s all I meant.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Ah, yeah, in that case you’re right. But they did publicize what the Khmer Rouge had done more than anyone has publicized their own atrocities – not to say communism is bad, but to point out that they were the good guys in this situation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:
            Exactly.

            As a thought exercise, had the Khmer Rouge been capitalists (say fascist capitalists), I think Vietnam would have attributed their evil to capitalism (not fascism).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @HBC

            Hundreds of thousands of civilians worked to death in reeducation camps, systematic extermination of refugee civilians during and immediately after after re-unification, ethnic cleansing….

            …yeah, no, Vietnam is NOT a good counter-example to “Communist countries are horrible”. That they only killed hundreds of thousands (lowball) to 1-2 million (high estimate) is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Not to detract from your main point, but re: Poland – The Soviets very much did this too and arguably willfully abetted the Nazis.

        This doesn’t contest that the Nazis had a higher death toll overall, but let’s not forget that the whole Molotov-Ribbentrop scheme and its aftermath was a complete spitroast with both parties deliberately doing absolutely abominable things to the Polish people.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          But people DID forget that, because the USSR was never defeated and occupied. The USSR was able to retcon all atrocities against the Polish people as Nazi atrocities until the Union collapsed and Yeltsin’s Russia opened the archives.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The way the Soviets behaved, which was essentially like any imperial power, is not inherent in communism as a theory in the way the way Nazi Germany behaved is inherent in national socialist “theory”, insofar as it has a theory (which, compared to communism, it doesn’t).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Sure. As I said, not arguing your points. Just sayin’ it’s rather remiss to not at least include a “(the Soviets did this too, but it’s not the same [for all those reasons you just mentioned])” when discussing “pretty major attempt[s] at eliminating the Polish intelligentsia”. Like LMC said, the Soviets were able to hide their crimes, deliberate crimes, due to being on the winning team. It’s important that that record be corrected.

          • dndnrsn says:

            OK, that’s a legitimate point.

          • cassander says:

            >The way the Soviets behaved, which was essentially like any imperial power, is not inherent in communism as a theory in the way the way Nazi Germany behaved is inherent in national socialist “theory”, insofar as it has a theory (which, compared to communism, it doesn’t).

            Nazi theory required the murder of tens of millions of slav and jews in order to build a glorious german utopia

            Communist theory required the murder of tens of millions of bourgeoisie and capitalists in order to build a glorious communist utopia.

            Murder is equally inherent to both systems, they just chose different targets.

            As for the assertion that all great powers murder, this is true. But some murder more than others, communist run states are invariably on the high end of the scale. Degree matters.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander:

            Communist theory required the murder of tens of millions of bourgeoisie and capitalists in order to build a glorious communist utopia.

            Source? Most modern communists say this is not necessary, and few communists were saying it prior to taking power. That’s how it ended up (perhaps murder of millions instead of tens of millions, though) but practice is not theory.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander:

            Does that establish tens of millions, or even millions of deaths? The most reasonable precedent Marx and Engels would have been thinking of was the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France, which killed considerably fewer than a million people. What the Soviets did was a novelty.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            They don’t provide a list, but the terror, by definition, is mass killing on a large scale of suspect groups and sympathizers. As you say, they are explicitly invoking the french revolution. The target, as near as can be ascertained, is “the bourgeoisie” and their supporters, which is most definitely tens of millions. The proportion of the population that was an aristocrat in 1789 was far smaller both in absolute terms and as a share of the total population. They aren’t calling for just another french revolution, but a french revolution turned up to 11.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            But even in the USSR, the bourgeois were not the bulk of the dead. Those who died in the millions died because they were seen as a potential fifth column (Ukrainians) or because they were in the way of collective farming and so forth (kulaks). The chances of a white-collar person with an education living out Stalin’s rule are probably better than some farmer with a bit of land and a couple cows.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            But even in the USSR, the bourgeois were not the bulk of the dead. Those who died in the millions died because they were seen as a potential fifth column (Ukrainians) or because they were in the way of collective farming and so forth (kulaks). The chances of a white-collar person with an education living out Stalin’s rule are probably better than some farmer with a bit of land and a couple cows.

            No, there weren’t enough of them to make good enemies, so kulaks were attacked instead. But they fit in a similar economic location relative to the society that actually existed in russia at the time. Rich enough to have something to lose if the revolution and to earn the envy of their neighbors.

          • The chances of a white-collar person with an education living out Stalin’s rule are probably better than some farmer with a bit of land and a couple cows.

            I’m not at all sure that is correct.

            I don’t have data, but I have read Conspiracy of Silence, which is an account of the Great Purge by someone who went through it and survived. My impression from that was that the victims were largely educated, middle class sorts. Since such people must have been a fairly small fraction of the population, my guess is that quite a large fraction of them got arrested and either executed or sent to prison camps.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            The kulaks as enemies wouldn’t be predicted by Marxist theory, though, would it? They were deemed enemies entirely because they were inconvenient. I’m not sure if “rich enough to inspire envy” is a good definition of the bourgeois’ role. Plus, the kulaks didn’t lose from the revolution – they lost from the push to collective farming, which didn’t happen until some time after the revolution.

            @DavidFriedman

            I don’t have data, but I have read Conspiracy of Silence, which is an account of the Great Purge by someone who went through it and survived. My impression from that was that the victims were largely educated, middle class sorts. Since such people must have been a fairly small fraction of the population, my guess is that quite a large fraction of them got arrested and either executed or sent to prison camps.

            By the 1930s, the parts of the USSR where most of the dying happened were more educated and industrialized than is sometimes thought. The majority of the dead were in the countryside (or Ukraine) due to (sometimes intentional) starvation.

      • Civilis says:

        Franco’s Spain, basically regarded as the third ‘Fascist’ power, didn’t have an ideology built on “let’s go knock over other people and take their stuff and let them starve”. Gobbobobble already pointed out the example of the Soviet seizure of Eastern Poland; let’s not forget the Baltic States or Finland (although that one didn’t go quite to plan).

        The fact that basically every communist revolution ends in the original vanguard holding on to power rather than handing it over to the people suggests that there’s something in the whole approach that strongly favors that end. I think it’s an element of the sunk cost fallacy; when you had to have a violent revolution to seize power to bring about your utopia and your utopia doesn’t appear, a few more years of tyranny won’t make you that much worse. Where as if you give up, all those deaths were for nothing.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Franco was a garden-variety right-wing authoritarian dictator. It’s debatable whether he was properly fascist.

          As for the vanguard party, it’s proven to be an idea that doesn’t work.

          • Civilis says:

            Ok, the dictionary definition of fascism is “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization“. I’m willing to accept an alternate definition, but I certainly consider it highly reasonable that the Antifa referred to in the OP for this thread would consider Franco fascist. If your only example of Naziism is Nazi Germany and your only example of proper Fascism is Fascist Italy, it’s hard to talk about generic fascism, especially in the context of today’s politics.

          • cassander says:

            It’s the reverse. Hitler’s murder fetish is the outlier among fascists. Franco’s fascism is much more in keeping with doctrinal fascism than Hitlerism. And I say hitlerism not Nazism because there were more doctrinaire fascist nazis, they just got killed.

          • Nornagest says:

            Conversations like this never go anywhere, because you can basically define the word as whatever you want. The whole world was riding a wave of authoritarian nationalism in the Thirties, and the trappings of fascism were widely adopted; Mussolini’s Italy just gets a lot of academic attention because (a) it came first, and (b) it probably developed the “theory of fascism” more than anywhere else (though that isn’t saying much).

            Nazism might be a little closer to Italian fascism than to Imperial Japan or Falangist Spain, but all those systems are really united more by aesthetics than by structure. And even the US under Roosevelt took on a lot of those aesthetics.

      • cassander says:

        a combination of the vanguard party idea being a really bad one,

        A vanguard party is inherent to communist theory. And yes, I know that Lenin invented the term, but marx spends his entire life trying to build up a a vanguard party, he just never calls it that.

        and misfortune/bad handling of misfortune/incompetence.

        Communism was universally terrible to an extreme degree. if it is just incompetence, then communism as an ideology attracts only the incompetent, in which case it’s just as bad as if it was malevolent.

        Communism killed more people than National Socialism but it did so over a longer time scale)

        Stalin’s death toll from 28-40 definitely exceeds that of Hitler’s from 33-45. And if you want to complain that most of Hitler’s killing was from 42-45, that’s true, but he couldn’t have gotten there without the previous 10 years, just like Stalin needed a few years for his killing to get going.

        and their own calculations concluded that doing what they wanted in the east following the predicted fall of the USSR would result in the deaths of about 30 million people. They made close to zero attempt to feed Red Army POWs (of whom millions died) and close to zero attempts to feed civilians in the east not considered important to the war effort.

        Their calculations changed repeatedly over the course of the war, it’s hardly fair to judge them by the worst of them and the soviets by the best.

        Meanwhile, the death toll of communism (leaving aside the Khmer Rouge, who in my opinion are as bad as the Nazis) is due to repressive actions by a vanguard who were supposed to hand over power to the people at some point rather predictably deciding they’d rather not, and due to a potent combination of misfortune and incompetence. Snyder’s estimates of Stalin’s death toll is something like 9 million (a low estimate, and you could expand that without having to use high estimates) ,

        9 million is insultingly low. 9 million is only a slightly high figure for the just holdomor, to say nothing of stalin’s other crimes.

        >but those 9 million are far more the result of intentional or semi-intentional famines

        How is Stalin starving people to death less morally problematic than Hitler starving people to death? In both cases, exactly the same calculation was made. People that could have been fed were denied food in pursuit of other goals.

        I don’t believe the ~100 million death toll one sees bandied about for communism – it is probably closer to 30 or 40).

        Again, this is far, far too low.

        I can’t see fascism, let alone national socialism, an ideology built on “let’s go knock over other people and take their stuff and let them starve” and getting worse from there, producing anything good.

        One, there are plenty of fascisms that did exactly that. Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Argentina. There are zero communists that didn’t commit mass murder against “counter revolutionaries”. Please consider the possibility that this “seeing” is not a result of empirical evidence, but ideological sympathy.

        • One issue here is what defines fascism. “an ideology built on “let’s go knock over other people and take their stuff and let them starve” doesn’t seem to me to describe any fascist regime, even Hitler’s–that was part of the program, but it wasn’t what the ideology was built on.

          Someone else offered “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization,“ which leaves open what “right wing” means and doesn’t require invading other countries.

          I think of the standard economic definition as “a system in which the means of production are nominally owned privately but are controlled by the state.” I don’t know if any fascist regimes fully fit that, but my impression is that most of them involved shifts in that direction–as did, of course, the first New Deal.

          Anyone have a good definition that explains what regimes are viewed as fascist, beyond “any regime that said it was”?

          • cassander says:

            One issue here is what defines fascism. “an ideology built on “let’s go knock over other people and take their stuff and let them starve” doesn’t seem to me to describe any fascist regime, even Hitler’s–that was part of the program, but it wasn’t what the ideology was built on.

            Eh, for hitler I think you can make the case that knocking over the slavs and taking the better parts of russia was pretty core to the ideology. Not so much any of the other fascists though.

            I think of the standard economic definition as “a system in which the means of production are nominally owned privately but are controlled by the state.” I don’t know if any fascist regimes fully fit that, but my impression is that most of them involved shifts in that direction–as did, of course, the first New Deal.

            The trouble with that definition is that it arguably includes every developed country government, which, even if accurate, renders the term largely meaningless.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Well if you ask the fascists themselves, namely Mussolini, Franco, and to a lesser extent and Peron. The defining trait of fascism is the conceptualization of society/culture itself as a sort of “super-organism”. Individual lives don’t matter so long as the society prospers. Hitler may have “strayed from the pack” by taking this concept in an explicitly racial direction but the Nazis as a whole certainly embraced this model.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m with hlynkacg here, I always thought that fascism nominally involves a militaristic view of the states where all individuals are ideally required to sacrifice for the good of the state and its glory. The individual should be subsumed in service to the state.

            Sure, in practice all authoritarian autocracies tend to look alike, but the difference between fascist ideology and Communist ideology is that the individual is theoretically supposed to be served by the Communist state.

          • I think of the standard economic definition as “a system in which the means of production are nominally owned privately but are controlled by the state.” I don’t know if any fascist regimes fully fit that, but my impression is that most of them involved shifts in that direction–as did, of course, the first New Deal.

            The trouble with that definition is that it arguably includes every developed country government, which, even if accurate, renders the term largely meaningless.

            That’s a result of trying to use terms such as “fascist” or “socialist” as binary categories, which they aren’t. The American public school system is a socialist institution–government ownership and control of the means of production. The U.S. is more socialist than it would be if everything else was the same but schooling was private, less socialist than it would be if agriculture was government run as well.

            Similarly, the first New Deal was a program that made the U.S. more fascist, in the economic sense.

            Both terms describe continuous variables, not things that a country either is or isn’t.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The way I’d always heard it was that a fascist state promoted the vision of the state as a single body, with the people as cells; the working class and military, its limbs; the trades, its organs; the government, its brain. Everyone working together as an entity of one mind. The premise being that the government, of course, had the body’s best interests as its own, though it recognized the need to slough off a few dead cells or sacrifice parts that the rest might live. This was necessary in a harsh world where resources were limited, enemies were many, and absolute cooperation was vital.

            Some communisms have behaved this way, but the essential bit was that philosophy of a single whole eclipsing whatever individual needs might be said to exist. What was good for the state was good for its individuals; it was more proper to stop thinking of individuals at all. Worrying about individuals was a waste of time, like thinking about every one of your cells.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @cassander

          A vanguard party is inherent to communist theory. And yes, I know that Lenin invented the term, but marx spends his entire life trying to build up a a vanguard party, he just never calls it that.

          There are communists who don’t theorize a vanguard party. They’re unrealistic, probably. You’re unlikely to get communism without a vanguard, and you’re unlikely to ever see the vanguard hand over power to the people. So, I’m not a communist.

          Communism was universally terrible to an extreme degree. if it is just incompetence, then communism as an ideology attracts only the incompetent, in which case it’s just as bad as if it was malevolent.

          You’ll notice I’m not arguing in favour of communism. It’s a system that’s resulted in a great deal of human suffering.

          Stalin’s death toll from 28-40 definitely exceeds that of Hitler’s from 33-45. And if you want to complain that most of Hitler’s killing was from 42-45, that’s true, but he couldn’t have gotten there without the previous 10 years, just like Stalin needed a few years for his killing to get going.

          Sources? I’m going by Snyder’s figures, and he’s hardly pro-Stalin. I believe the official commie line these days is that Snyder is the catspaw of Ukrainian nazis or something.

          Their calculations changed repeatedly over the course of the war, it’s hardly fair to judge them by the worst of them and the soviets by the best.

          OK, so, what’s the low estimate the Germans had for GPO? 20 million, something like that?

          9 million is insultingly low. 9 million is only a slightly high figure for the just holdomor, to say nothing of stalin’s other crimes.

          It’s Snyder’s figures. Feel free to provide your own. 12 million is low for Hitler, too, because you can blame the European war dead on him to a significant extent. And double the Ukrainians’ own numbers is not “slightly high”.

          How is Stalin starving people to death less morally problematic than Hitler starving people to death? In both cases, exactly the same calculation was made. People that could have been fed were denied food in pursuit of other goals.

          What % of the Soviet dead were starved to death, vs what % of the Nazi dead?

          One, there are plenty of fascisms that did exactly that. Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Argentina. There are zero communists that didn’t commit mass murder against “counter revolutionaries”. Please consider the possibility that this “seeing” is not a result of empirical evidence, but ideological sympathy.

          That’s a pretty wide net for “fascism”. Take Franco, for instance: it’s debatable whether he was a fascist, or an authoritarian conservative who found fascist support useful. I also find it an odd suggestion that I’m ideologically sympathetic to communism.

          • cassander says:

            Sources? I’m going by Snyder’s figures, and he’s hardly pro-Stalin. I believe the official commie line these days is that Snyder is the catspaw of Ukrainian nazis or something.

            Snyder’s figure is geographically and temporally constrained. It does not include the totality of Stalin’s crimes, to say nothing of the USSR as whole.

            OK, so, what’s the low estimate the Germans had for GPO? 20 million, something like that?

            It’s Snyder’s figures. Feel free to provide your own. 12 million is low for Hitler, too, because you can blame the European war dead on him to a significant extent. And double the Ukrainians’ own numbers is not “slightly high”.

            WW2 started when Stalin and Hitler decided to invade Poland mostly simultaneously. If you’re going to start counting war dead, it doesn’t all go on Hitler.

            What % of the Soviet dead were starved to death, vs what % of the Nazi dead?

            The Soviet figure was probably higher in percentage terms, but I fail to see how that matters. Dead is dead.

            That’s a pretty wide net for “fascism”. Take Franco, for instance: it’s debatable whether he was a fascist, or an authoritarian conservative who found fascist support useful. I also find it an odd suggestion that I’m ideologically sympathetic to communism.

            He called himself a fascist, he used explicitly fascist rhetoric, imagery,
            and political arguments
            , was called a fascists both by his ideological enemies (means relatively little) and other fascists (means a lot more). Ditto Peron, who said “Mussolini was the greatest man of our century, but he committed certain disastrous errors. I, who have the advantage of his precedent before me, shall follow in his footsteps but also avoid his errors.” It’s hard to get any more fascist than that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Snyder’s figure is geographically and temporally constrained. It does not include the totality of Stalin’s crimes, to say nothing of the USSR as whole.

            I’m not taking the number from Bloodlands, but from Snyder in the NYRB.

            WW2 started when Stalin and Hitler decided to invade Poland mostly simultaneously. If you’re going to start counting war dead, it doesn’t all go on Hitler.

            Granted. It’s impossible to split up the blame accurately. I’m not sure if Snyder counts Red Army POWs, though.

            The Soviet figure was probably higher in percentage terms, but I fail to see how that matters. Dead is dead.

            In a court of law, there are different degrees of murder, negligent manslaughter, etc.

            He called himself a fascist, he used explicitly fascist rhetoric, imagery,
            and political arguments, was called a fascists both by his ideological enemies (means relatively little) and other fascists (means a lot more). Ditto Peron, who said “Mussolini was the greatest man of our century, but he committed certain disastrous errors. I, who have the advantage of his precedent before me, shall follow in his footsteps but also avoid his errors.” It’s hard to get any more fascist than that.

            And yet you have scholars who debate whether he was a fascist. He’s certainly a noncentral example.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            In a court of law, there are different degrees of murder, negligent manslaughter, etc.

            There are, but in no court is locking someone up and deliberately not feeding them anything but first degree murder. Stalin took all the food out of the ukraine, then shot anyone who tried to leave. his culpability was identical to that of the German for Russian POWs.

            And yet you have scholars who debate whether he was a fascist.

            Such as?

            He’s certainly a noncentral example.

            That says much more about people’s perceptions than it does the reality or Franco’s ideology.

          • He’s certainly a noncentral example.

            (about Franco)

            Doesn’t that leave you with only two examples of what is supposed to be an ideology, and two very different ones?

          • Brad says:

            Doesn’t that leave you with only two examples of what is supposed to be an ideology, and two very different ones?

            What about people like Marinetti and De Ambris? Why are dictators the only choices?

          • Anon. says:

            Marinetti I’d say is a highly non-central example. While he was a “small-f fascist”, his relationship with the actual Fascist regime was not very warm at all. He was more of a pie in the sky avant garde type, and in terms of real-world policy completely irrelevant.

            In any case, he’s a fun writer.

            The oldest among us are not yet thirty years old: we have therefore at least ten years to accomplish our task. When we are forty let younger and stronger men than we throw us in the waste paper basket like useless manuscripts! They will come against us from afar, leaping on the light cadence of their first poems, clutching the air with their predatory fingers and sniffing at the gates of the academies the good scent of our decaying spirits, already promised to the catacombs of the libraries.

            But we shall not be there. They will find us at last one winter’s night in the depths of the country in a sad hangar echoing with the notes of the monotonous rain, crouched near our trembling aeroplanes, warming our hands at the wretched fire which our books of today will make when they flame gaily beneath the glittering flight of their pictures.

            They will crowd around us, panting with anguish and disappointment, and exasperated by our proud indefatigable courage, will hurl themselves forward to kill us, with all the more hatred as their hearts will be drunk with love and admiration for us. And strong healthy Injustice will shine radiantly from their eyes. For art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice.

            The oldest among us are not yet thirty, and yet we have already wasted treasures, treasures of strength, love, courage and keen will, hastily, deliriously, without thinking, with all our might, till we are out of breath.

            Look at us! We are not out of breath, our hearts are not in the least tired. For they are nourished by fire, hatred and speed! Does this surprise you? it is because you do not even remember being alive! Standing on the world’s summit, we launch once more our challenge to the stars!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cassander

            There are, but in no court is locking someone up and deliberately not feeding them anything but first degree murder. Stalin took all the food out of the ukraine, then shot anyone who tried to leave. his culpability was identical to that of the German for Russian POWs.

            Snyder notes that the Ukrainian famine was intentional. But take, say, the Great Leap Forward – Mao wasn’t trying to kill 15 million plus. It was a badly botched attempt to transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy.

            Such as?

            That says much more about people’s perceptions than it does the reality or Franco’s ideology.

            Wikipedia has some references; my knowledge is Nazis>Italy>Spain. Franco was a conservative and a monarchist. He was not a fascist going into the whole thing in the same way that Mussolini was or that Hitler was a national socialist.

            @DavidFriedman

            Doesn’t that leave you with only two examples of what is supposed to be an ideology, and two very different ones?

            Yeah, we have fewer examples of fascism than we do of communism, because they lost the war. Had they managed to knock out the USSR or do whatever to get the Brits/Brits and Americans to sue for peace, all those third-world resistance movements that were communists to get Soviet/Chinese funding and weapons would have been fascist to get German/ITalian funding and weapons.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says

            Snyder notes that the Ukrainian famine was intentional. But take, say, the Great Leap Forward – Mao wasn’t trying to kill 15 million plus. It was a badly botched attempt to transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy.

            No, but he did take their food, and then didn’t feed them. That he wasn’t trying to kill them is irrelevant to the discussion of intentionality. he took actions that would inevitably lead to them starving. and not just staving, many froze to death after he requisitioned their coats so he could export the cotton.

            Wikipedia has some references; my knowledge is Nazis>Italy>Spain. Franco was a conservative and a monarchist. He was not a fascist going into the whole thing in the same way that Mussolini was or that Hitler was a national socialist.

            that is inaccurate. he had an entire ideological system that was explicitly fascist and corporatist. He was, in many ways, a better fascist than hitler.

          • But take, say, the Great Leap Forward – Mao wasn’t trying to kill 15 million plus.

            I think that’s correct. But he continued with the policies after it became clear that people were dying, and, if I remember correctly, he purged members of the leadership who reported the famine.

            At a slight tangent … . One interesting difference between Stalin and Mao was that when Mao purged people, he didn’t kill them, he sent them off to be peasants or factory workers–with the result that they were available to be unpurged later if he needed them. I think Deng got purged twice, and survived to become the central figure of the post-Mao party.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            No, but he did take their food, and then didn’t feed them. That he wasn’t trying to kill them is irrelevant to the discussion of intentionality. he took actions that would inevitably lead to them starving. and not just staving, many froze to death after he requisitioned their coats so he could export the cotton.

            I suppose the question is whether he had fooled himself into thinking it would work.

            that is inaccurate. he had an entire ideological system that was explicitly fascist and corporatist. He was, in many ways, a better fascist than hitler.

            The article in the first paragraph states “Under the leadership of Francisco Franco, many of the radical elements of Falangism considered to be fascist were diluted and it largely became an authoritarian, conservative ideology connected with Francoist Spain.”

            @DavidFriedman

            At a slight tangent … . One interesting difference between Stalin and Mao was that when Mao purged people, he didn’t kill them, he sent them off to be peasants or factory workers–with the result that they were available to be unpurged later if he needed them. I think Deng got purged twice, and survived to become the central figure of the post-Mao party.

            Not strictly true – there were figures who got purged under Stalin who weren’t killed. Rokossovsky is a good example – he was tortured and imprisoned, then pulled out of prison and put back in command, rising quite high afterwards.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            I suppose the question is whether he had fooled himself into thinking it would work.

            Again, he didn’t ask them to give them the food, and then they did, and then everyone died. HE forcibly took all the food then hoped by magic they’d grow more. “Yes officer, I shot him several times, in cold blood. But I figured he’d be able to crawl to a hospital, so it wasn’t murder” is not a defense.

          • My understanding of the famine in the Great Leap Forward is that Mao had convinced himself that, by trying very hard, peasants could greatly increase yields. People lower down didn’t want to tell him they couldn’t do it so they lied about crop yield, with the result that the figures going to him showed about twice the actual harvest. So from his standpoint, he wasn’t taking all of their food away, just some of it.

            It’s only at the point when starvation is actually happening that the situation becomes clear, various people at the level below him try to persuade him to reverse course, and for a fair while he doesn’t.

          • onyomi says:

            The problem with intentionality, or lack thereof, as a mitigating factor, is that it can, at best, only partially exonerate individuals, not ideologies.

            For example, more people died as a result of the Great Leap Forward than the Holocaust. But Hitler ordered people to be killed in the case of the Holocaust, whereas Mao merely enacted policies which he should have realized, but didn’t, would result in mass starvation. This may be a good reason to say that Hitler, the individual, is more morally evil than Mao, the individual, but it says nothing about the good or evil of promoting fascism or communism in the future, once the reality of these tragedies has come out.

            The question then becomes, which of these two actions was more “central” to the respective ideologies? Are concentration camps and gas chambers a central feature of fascism? I don’t think Mussolini would have said so? It certainly seems possible to imagine and/or point to historical examples of fascism without genocide. Is collectivized farming a central feature of communism? Absolutely. Arguably the central feature.

            Thus, we may simultaneously say that Hitler was a more evil person than Mao, but communism is a more evil ideology than fascism, especially now that the record of attempting to implement it is well known.

          • Loquat says:

            To expand on David Friedman’s comment, Mao’s China had the problem that an idea’s political correctness was often more important than its actual correctness. People came up with stupid ideas, like that planting crops way more densely than usual would improve yields, and they’d get a few influential backers, and suddenly this is the new dogma and if you don’t believe it your loyalty is suspect. I recall reading an account of that time that claimed dishonest party hacks looking for promotions had basically assembled a few Potemkin fields to “demonstrate” super-dense planting in action by transplanting a bunch of healthy rice plants into the field shortly before the inspection, knowing they’d die but not until after the higher-ups had left.

          • Aapje says:

            @Loquat

            The paranoia underlying the communist ideology and resulting bad faith assumptions about those who fail at implementing communism surely plays a big role in pushing that kind of lying. I’ve seen pretty deceptive practices in business where the penalty for failure is substantially less than being sent to the Gulags.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I think that most of your responses are radically overthinking it. Communism doesn’t have the same bad name that Nazism does because Communism had a large number of domestic adherents that worked to raise its status, in a way that Nazism didn’t post-WWII.

      • JayT says:

        I think this is the closest to the truth. Also, it’s not just a matter of after WWII, even before and during the war there were plenty of high profile communist sympathizers, but very few fascists in America.

    • Nornagest says:

      It might be a little pat, but we kicked the Nazis’ asses. And as part of kicking their asses, we sent people to places like Dachau and Auschwitz and Belsen, who came back and told us what they’d seen. I can hardly think of a better way to prove to ourselves that we were in the right and they were in the wrong.

      We didn’t kick the Communists’ asses; we just fought a few inconclusive brushfire wars and then the ideology choked to death on its contradictions. The gulags were never liberated; they did what they were meant to do, and by the time Russian communism fell, the memories of their worst years were fifty years old and mostly belonged to former guards. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is almost solely responsible for what reputation they do have.) The Chinese situation is about the same. Sure, the mountains of skulls were even bigger, but there’s really only one genocide in the Communist bloc that got the kind of quick and thorough exposure the Holocaust did: the Cambodian. And that was exposed mostly through other communist states.

    • cassander says:

      Also ironic, it seems like a lot of the opposition to Vietnam resulted from our attempt to fight the war in a manner that would be broadly more acceptable to the left (defensively), whereas we fought WWII in a way which seems more broadly right-wing (offensively).

      Vietnam was fought the way it was to (A) prevent another korean style chinese intervention, (B) prevent the russians, who only acquired a serious nuclear arsenal at about when vietnam was starting, from getting spooked, and (C) to avoid the expense of a Korea style mobilization out of fear it would be politically difficult/make LBJ’s great society impossible to implement.

      >At the end of the day, is it possible that the left hated Vietnam but loved WWII really just boils down to WWII being a war against what was perceived as a right-wing threat, while Vietnam was a war against a left-wing threat?

      there is something to this, but there’s more to it that just this. When nixon comes into office, vietnam had gone on for about as as long and had about as many casualties as the Korean war had when Eisenhower got into office, but the US domestic political response could hardly have been more different.

      • onyomi says:

        the US domestic political response could hardly have been more different

        Yes, but why is this? Just flower power, etc?

        • cassander says:

          Don’t really have a good theory, too many things that are plausible contributors, not enough that seem decisive on their own.

      • Nornagest says:

        who only acquired a serious nuclear arsenal at about when vietnam was starting

        This is misleading, at best. The Vietnam War existed in one form or another from about 1955, which is about when the Soviet nuclear arsenal was finding its legs, and could reasonably be seen as an extension of the First Indochina War that started in 1946.

        But the story of American involvement really only gets going in August 1964, with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. That’s two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and seven years after the so-called “missile gap”.

        • cassander says:

          But the story of American involvement really only gets going in August 1964, with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. That’s two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and seven years after the so-called “missile gap”.

          the missile gap was a lie. It wasn’t real, and kennedy knew that, but it was good politics. And the cuban missile crisis was resolved the way it was because the USSR did NOT have a credible nuclear arsenal capable of striking the US, and wouldn’t for a couple more years.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, but that wasn’t the question. The question was whether the Soviets had a credible nuclear arsenal then, and if the missile gap wasn’t laughed off the stage in 1957, it was clearly credible at that point. There was no gap, the reports were wrong, but you didn’t ask for a superior nuclear arsenal.

            Missile range is beside the point; everyone’s missiles sucked then, ICBMs existed (R-7, R-16, Atlas) but they were a pain in the ass and not widely deployed, and the air component of the nuclear triad was by far the most important one. As you note, that would change over the next few years.

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest says:

            Yeah, but that wasn’t the question. The question was whether the Soviets had a credible nuclear arsenal then, and if the missile gap wasn’t laughed off the stage in 1957, it was clearly credible at that point. There was no gap, the reports were wrong, but you didn’t ask for a superior nuclear arsenal.

            I think you’re confusing what policy makers thought was credible and what the US population thought was credible.

            Policy makers on both sides knew that that, as you say, the missiles the Russians had at the time were largely useless. There’s even a typically bombastic quote from Khrushchev about the missiles in Cuba to the effect of “Now those damned Yankees will know what it’s like to be constantly threatened!” The soviets couldn’t directly threaten the US except with whatever was on Cuba, and both sides knew this. They also knew that US had enough bombers to threaten the Russians. Opinions differed about how many might get through, but they were a real threat. Because of this asymmetry, US policy makers could make an incredibly aggressive and uncompromising stance in order to force them to back down, and they did.

            The US population, however, did not know the missile gap was a lie. And they definitely didn’t know that missiles in Cuba would be strategically irrelevant in a couple years when the first real ICBMs started coming online in meaningful numbers.

        • bean says:

          It may have been 7 years after the reports that the missile gap was based on, but those reports were simply wrong, and the way the intelligence assessments were done sort of hid that. By 1960, we knew they were wrong, but Kennedy refused to drop it as a campaign issue. The Soviets didn’t overtake us in nuclear weapons until the late 60s/early 70s, after nearly a decade of McNamara doing everything he could to wreck the US military.

  43. sketerpot says:

    Why do we seem alone in the universe? Where are all the alien civilizations we would expect to have arisen before us? My new favorite hypothesis is that the universe only looks empty because the Old Ones haven’t yet emerged from their sleep of aeons.

    If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the “aestivation hypothesis”: the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.

    That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi’s paradox.

    • shakeddown says:

      This is basically a version of the “pass into transcendence” theory, if I’n reading it right. Which still leaves the question, why are there no civilizations that rose between us and the last cleansing?

      (For the record, my theory is that interstellar space exploration is not technically feasible).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        How common do you believe extraterrestrial intelligences are, and why don’t we see more stars that only radiate in the infrared or appear partially, uh, Dyson-ized?

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Stipulating that interstellar space exploration is not technically feasible, there might easily be several thousand currently extant highly technological species in the Milky way, doing things that would be immediately obvious if we closely examined their stars, and we just haven’t noticed because we’ve never looked closely at one of the few thousand stars that they’re on.

      • sketerpot says:

        Check out section 7, “Interactions with other civilizations”. Starts on page 16.

      • andrewflicker says:

        I still haven’t heard a compelling excuse for why traditional slow unmanned probes aren’t all over the place, even if more “exciting” interstellar travel is impossible.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          How about “because why”? If traditional slow unmanned probes are possible, but yield results centuries later with no prospects of those results leading to anything other than fairly mild astronomical observations, well, maybe a given highly technological civ might send a few to a few nearby star systems just for kicks. But who sends a million of the things given those returns?

          • John Schilling says:

            A post-singularity civilization for whom sending a Daedalus probe is the rough equivalent of a middle school science project?

            Yes, yes, the One True Path for post-singularity civilizations is to condense into a heavily protected fist-sized lump of computronium inside of which a trillion sentiences contemplate their navels with minimum latency. It’s always a weakness to Fermi-Paradox explanations when one has to assert that every single advanced civilization will behave in one particular way.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            There are no middle-school projects that have a time-scale of centuries (or millennia. Or hundreds of millennia).

            Like, I just don’t buy that “we could pretty much afford this” means “we will do it to the nth degree no matter how little it benefits us.”

            (By the way: the assumption that of course I think that there are post-singularity societies that are in a fist-sized lump of computronium speaks to the kind of weird culture here. You have not correctly identified the direction of my disagreements.)

          • andrewflicker says:

            Mostly the idea is that you build a self-replicating probe, to make it easier to explore nearby star systems where the results will still matter to your grandkids (or whatnot), and then those can easily expand throughout the galaxy. I think these are often called Von Neumann probes, and seem to only be a handful of decades away from our own capabilities (arguably we might be able to do it with current tech if you had enough governments willing to devote an absurd amount of money and engineering resources to it).

            And yes, the extension of this argument is that even if the first “wave” of probes has no benefit to even the great-grandkids of the launchers, it eventually gets cheap enough that some people/governments/civs do it anyway because of an attention to matters beyond their lifespan (after all, many people on Earth are environmentalists that care about the state of the Earth hundreds of years from now!).

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Those aren’t traditional slow unmanned probes, they’re “space colonization.”

            So, look, here are the facts on the ground. One or both of these things are very likely true:

            a. It is practically impossible for technology to advance so far that you can create a machine intelligence that can go for hundreds of years to someplace and then create an entire technological infrastructure out of found materials and a very small probe.

            and/or

            b. We are the only intelligence which has ever evolved in the Milky Way because something between “planets in the habitable zone” and “able to build computers” is incredibly unlikely.

            All the other answers to the Fermi Paradox are, like, “WELL, what if the universe were set up incredibly conveniently for the purposes of my sci-fi dreams.”

        • Thegnskald says:

          The Industrial Revolution required that organisms evolved cellulose eons before an organism evolved the capacity to digest it. Among many other smaller things.

          Maybe most intelligent life just don’t have the hydrocarbons to get out of orbit.

          • Nornagest says:

            The early Industrial Revolution was wood-powered, and if you really need the energy density it’s not hard to make charcoal, wood gas or biodiesel. I think fossil fuels are overrated as a limiting factor; we might have had a slower takeoff, but it seems quite plausible to me that we could have limped along with wood and hydro until we got to solar and wind.

    • roystgnr says:

      “We want to save most of our negentropy for when it will be 30 orders of magnitude more efficient” sounds like a brilliant idea, except:

      A) I think assumptions 4 and 6 in that paper may be incompatible. If your civilization is letting all the stars you control spill useful energy into space at enormous indistinguishable-from-natural rates, you may not be able to defend those stars from another civilization who isn’t so limited.

      B) Even without competitors, isn’t there an unstated assumption here, that aestivating civilizations are happy to let most of their stars’ output go to waste? Why would that be the case? If you’re patient enough to wait a few hundred billion years and spend your energy in a cooler universe, why not gather more energy to spend while you’re at it?

  44. Atlas says:

    Does anyone have any thoughts they’d care to share about Neal Stephenson’s novel the Diamond Age? (I read it recently and thought it was wonderful.)

    • Incurian says:

      It was pretty good and you should keep reading Stephenson because they’re all good. Also, you should read The Culture series by Ian M Banks. The individual novels are of variable quality, but on the whole it’s pretty amazing. Actually, the quality of the writing is uniformly good, but I enjoy some stories much more than others.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Like a lot of books from Stephenson’s middle period, great ideas, middling execution, terrible ending. I’m a much bigger fan of his very early stuff (The Big U, Zodiac, Cobweb) and his most recent stuff (well, I enjoyed Reamde, anyway, and really need to make another attempt at Anathem sometime.)

      Edit – I think a commonality about the Stephenson books I like is that they’re set in the modern day. He’s really, really good at painting pictures of the modern world and filling them with unique details. It’s harder for me to get on board with his fantastical or historical worlds.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I liked the historical parts of Cryptomonicon much more than I liked the modern bits. The modern bits were one-note satire and I got tired of it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I liked Cryptonomicon well enough as I read it, but by the end I was so unsatisfied with the thing as a whole, that I haven’t tried any other Stephenson book.

          For some reason, the protagonist standing on a rock in the middle of a river of molten gold was the last straw for me. Can’t quite put my finger on why.

          • John Schilling says:

            Stephenson is notoriously bad at endings, and my biggest problem of Cryptonomicon is that the major conflict of the plot remained unresolved, and near as I can tell the major adversary was not only undefeated but clearly positioned to claim the river of gold for his own faction. But, yes, fun while it lasted, and that can be good enough.

            Hmm, which of Stephenson’s works have satisfactory endings?

            The Baroque Cycle I think, absolutely, but with 2500 words he damn well better have found room for an ending.

            Diamond Age is perhaps jarringly abrupt at the end, but we can see how the main plot is going to finish playing out, so OK.

            Seveneves, the near-future section ends reasonably well and the second part serves as an extended epilogue, but introduces new characters and new plotting that deserve a better ending than they get.

          • Rob K says:

            @John Schilling I think my biggest problem with Stevenson’s endings is that he so often promises (or at least gestures at) a much grander scale than the ending eventually operates on.

            So, in Cryptonomicon, we get these forays into novel ideas of how currencies could function, etc, which makes the eventual outcome of “some guys we like get a bunch of gold” seem “smaller”, so to speak, than it otherwise would.

            Seveneves, although I agree about the oddness of the short far-future section, at least offers endings to both sections that play on the scale that the setup promises.

          • Incurian says:

            Agree the that the Baroque Cycle had an excellent ending, but yeah it was like a whole book. Reamde wrapped up nicely too, though.

            So, in Cryptonomicon, we get these forays into novel ideas of how currencies could function, etc, which makes the eventual outcome of “some guys we like get a bunch of gold” seem “smaller”, so to speak, than it otherwise would.

            The eventual outcome is Snow Crash and Diamond Age!

          • Well... says:

            Hmm, which of Stephenson’s works have satisfactory endings?

            Books I’ve read by him, ranked by how good I found the endings (meaning the non-dramatic stuff that happens after the final climax):

            1. Snow Crash
            2. Diamond Age
            3. Zodiac
            4. Reamde
            5. Anathem
            6. Seveneves*

            *Though, the ending to the near-future part was very good (if I’m remembering it right), and had that been the end of the book I’d put Seveneves at 1 or 2.

          • Vermillion says:

            I thought Seveneves was 2/3rds of a great book and then blurghglhlylghllglgy. And then I learned it was originally going to be the backstory of a MMORPG and that made a lot of sense but it didn’t make me like it anymore than before I had learned it.

          • Well... says:

            I still really liked the second part of Seveneves. Its crappy ending only took up a few pages at the end, which I’m happy to forgive Mr. Stephenson.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Vermillion, what do you mean by “learned”? Did you encounter some outside evidence? Or did you just consider the hypothesis and think it correct?

    • Well... says:

      In some respects (though not in others) this is my favorite of the 6 or 7 novels I’ve read by him. I thought it contained some of his very best writing (though the proofreading evidently wasn’t as good as his other books–maybe it was rushed?), the concepts were compelling and fascinating, the imagery was incredible (if it were a movie, James Cameron would have to really stretch to even begin to do it justice), and it had a surprisingly hard-hitting emotional impact (for me anyway; I have a daughter who is just like young Nell–though not abused or neglected!). Unlike most of the other Stephenson novels it also had a non-corny ending.

      On the downside, I wanted to know how some of the other plot lines resolved. E.g. we just stop hearing about Judge Fang after a while; what happened with him? What role did he play in the revolution of the Fists, or was he not part of it? Etc. And, some parts of the book felt rushed.

      This book actually changed the way I approach parenting a bit. Results aren’t in yet but so far things look good.

      • Brad says:

        Straining my memory a bit here, but as I recall there were two characters with legit development arcs. The little girl was pretty much standard wish fulfillment. She grew older, stronger, wiser, and better but the mid-level engineer arc was less hackneyed. Did any of the books have a better character development arc than that second one? Maybe some character in the Quicksilver series?

        • John Schilling says:

          All three primary characters in the Baroque Cycle get strong arcs. Jack Shaftoe from two-bit con artist to pirate captain, Daniel Waterhouse from second-rate scientist to player in the Great Game, Eliza of the unpronounceable surname from harem slave to genius financier, and all three of them to decent human being by the end (though Waterhouse perhaps started out there).

          Also, Stephenson deserves a nod for demoting Johnny Depp’s amusing but overrated character to only the third-greatest fictional pirate to go by the name of “Captain Jack”.

          • Well... says:

            This is a tangent, and I live under a rock so maybe my perception of his reception is off, but why have so few people noticed that Johnny Depp is not a great actor?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Johnny Depp was an absolutely amazing actor.

          • Aapje says:

            It regularly seems to happen that actors just start phoning it in/hamming it up* when they are famous, probably because loads of people are content just to see a famous actor and can’t suspend disbelief when recognizing the person anyway.

            This makes it extra painful when someone like Seymour Hoffman dies, because he stayed at a high level.

            * See De Niro and Pacino

          • Well... says:

            When was Johnny Depp an amazing actor? The one role I thought he was perfect for was Edward Scissorhands, in which he basically played an animated mannequin. (I.e. any actor who could follow his blocking could have done just as well.)

            His two most expressive roles–Hunter Thompson and Jack Sparrow–were both basically decent impersonations of people who are, for whatever reason, very easy to impersonate well (Hunter Thompson and Keith Richards).

      • Nornagest says:

        IIRC, there’s a throwaway line somewhere towards the middle of the book saying that Judge Fang disappeared into the Middle Kingdom. It may be inferred that he didn’t play an active part in the revolution, though he might have been behind the scenes somewhere.

        I’d like to have seen more of him, but Stephenson was clearly straining to write even as much as we see of the Confucian side.

        • Well... says:

          Still, I missed him. He and his posse were entertaining and interesting, plus their bits were nice tonal breaks from the rest of the book.

    • Jugemu says:

      I really liked it overall, though there was some gratuitous weirdness. I also think the ending is fine, albeit abrupt.

    • J Mann says:

      I loved it – I think it’s more accessible and tighter than his later works, but serves as a good canvas for his creativity.

      If you want to check out a little more plot/action-oriented nanotech book, I liked Walter Jon Williams’ Aristoi quite a bit.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Aristoi is entertaining, but oh God it leaves out the amount of administration you’d need to manage nanotech in order to have a fantasy of really cool person in charge.

        • John Schilling says:

          I give it credit for acknowledging the management structure needs to exist, and showing us glimpses of it in action. Specifically, the meritocratic small-a aristocracy that is privileged to develop nanotech but has to run their final designs past the RCPiC for approval before the fabs will process the build.

          Hard to see how you could do much more in a plot/action-oriented book.

    • Nornagest says:

      Diamond Age is probably my second favorite Stephenson book, after Cryptonomicon. It’s in an awkward place between early- and middle-period Stephenson, though; it’s an enormously ambitious concept and probably needed a book the size of Cryptonomicon or REAMDE to really do it justice. Instead, the second half feels inadequately explored, even accounting for the fact that everything’s going to hell in-universe and the characters feel just as lost and rushed as we do. This is mitigated somewhat on rereading but it’s still a problem.

  45. Jaskologist says:

    Mulling over the Getting High post, my main response to “why don’t facts work anymore?” is “because you guys keep telling us things which aren’t so.”

    How could we quantify this? I feel like I see one of these at least every fortnight now, and I’m not even actively looking. Is there some metric we could set up to measure how often the media reports to us “facts” that turn out not to be, and which side those “facts” favor? Anybody up for this project?

    • Aapje says:

      You first need to define what counts as a falsehood for your metric. Lots of articles have mistakes, where the seriousness ranges from to an insignificant factoid to the evidence being presented a little stronger than is warranted to one piece of evidence being made up to the central claim being false. Where do you draw the line? If you count different cases of different severity, do you give more weight to the more severe cases?

      How do you deal with bayesian mistakes? If the claim is ‘X is most likely true’ and the evidence suggests that ‘X has 50% chance of being true,’ do you count this the same as a situation where the claim is: ‘X is true,’ while the truth is ‘X is 80% certain to be false?’

      • Anonymous says:

        You first need to define what counts as a falsehood for your metric.

        Crucially: Does reporting about true events that confirm a preconceived conclusion and suppressing true events that deny that same conclusion count as falsehood? Because AFAIK, that’s how newspapers such as the NYT work.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      It sounds like you want PolitiFact fact-checker for news, NewsFact. This inevitably results in the same bias PolitiFact has. Take a speech where the candidate you don’t like makes 95 statements of true fact and 5 statements of questionable validity. Ignore the 95 true statements and take the least charitable interpretation possible of the other 5 and declare her a HUGE LIAR. For the candidate you do like, ignore their 5 questionable statements and “fact check” 5 of their true statements. Declare him PARAGON OF VIRTUE.

      The other reason facts don’t matter is because the facts support lots of different narratives. If on the same day a white cop shoots an unarmed black kid and an illegal immigrant rapes a white college girl, Breitbart devotes 99% of its coverage to the rape and 1% of its coverage to the shooting and CNN does just the opposite, no one’s lying. And if you’re super mad about cop shootings, well the facts are on your side. And if you’re super mad about illegal immigrant crime, well the facts are on your side. And it’s that stupid, fact-hating Other Tribe that just won’t listen to the facts! The problem isn’t the facts. The problem is that different people legitimately care about wildly different (but still true) sets of facts.

      I think the actual way forward is to recognize that bias is an inherent part of individual humans and organizations, take everything you hear with a grain of salt, and use a variety of sources so you know what facts the other side cares about. Read Breitbart, read Current Affairs and Mother Jones, and only watch CNN when you want to know what they’re lying about this time.

      • Jaskologist says:

        To clarify, what I’m really hoping for is that some of the left-leaners around here will join in and we can all pre-commit to a metric to try out for the next few months. I realize the problem space may be way too complex for that.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think the problem space is too complex. Even ignoring the (much bigger I think) problem of lies of omission,

          1) What is the granularity of a “fact?”

          2) The egregious lies are provably false, but most narrative-driving facts are of the form “sources inside the White House say…” followed by something entirely unverifiable and immediately contradicted by other sources inside the White House.

          3) Semantic arguments, strategic equivocation, isolated demands for rigor make determining the truth value of facts very difficult. “Black Lives Matter” but “Race doesn’t exist.”

          Ultimately I think the problem is people thinking we’re arguing about facts when really we’re arguing about values and the facts are merely a proxy war. We can completely agree on the facts and have 180 degree opposite ideas of what to do about them.

          I don’t think impartiality is possible, I don’t think it’s possible to be unbiased. I would rather have an adversarial media system with clear, stated partisanship rather than anyone trying to claim impartiality. CNN, ABC, CBS, etc, are flying flags of neutrality while smuggling contraband.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s also a shit ton of work, if you want to do it well and in a relatively objective way (not just fact checking the stories that stand out).

            I doubt anyone wants to commit the time.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Lots of work, but you could at least explore the terrain together and acquire a shared understanding of the challenges.

          I used to work in semantic modeling for several years. Some of the challenges were mentioned above. There are others.

          (1) Establish what counts as a fact, as Conrad Honcho says. More formally, you want what philosophers would probably call a proposition. Propositions are the primary truth bearers. “1 + 1 = 2” and “1 + 1 = 6” are both propositions. (Ignore semiotics here.)

          (2) Decide whether you want to try to handle this manually or programmatically. If the former, accept that this will be an extremely academic exercise in which you go through maybe one or two articles as case studies; you won’t have the energy for more. Otherwise, continue.

          (3) Establish a canonical representation of propositions. This has several sub-problems.

          (3a) Basic stuff that looks like propositional calculus. “Haley visited the UN” might translate to “visit(Haley,UN)” where the tokens are appropriately specified (see below). W3C’s OWL 2 is as yet insufficient, so if you use it, be prepared to build at least another layer on top of it.

          (3b) Establish what your entities are allowed to be. In other words, ontology. You’ll probably have people, organizations, locations, and several dozen subtypes of each for your first article. These types will populate a heterarchy – acyclic subsumption with multiple ancestors permitted. (I.e. you need to be able to say Haley is an official and female.) Your relations between entities will also populate a heterarchy.

          (3c) Temporal representation and event calculus. You’ll need a way to say “Haley visited the UN on Thursday” in a way that lets a checker (human or program) say this happened before anything Haley did on Friday, or at the same time as anything anyone did on Thursday or May 11, 2017. Your logic must therefore tolerate time zones. (I suggest translating everything to UTC internally.) Your entity and relationship heterarchies must accommodate temporal logic, too: you will need to be able to say that people are not always officials, but that officials are always people, etc. Note that temporal logic by itself will require you to use a reasoning engine mathematically more powerful than any relational database.

          (3d) Modal logic: you will need to be able to reason over instances of propositions. For example, Sean Spicer said that Haley visited the UN on Thursday, or that according to Gallup, 35% of those surveyed answered “foo” to question “bar”, or that Gary Johnson didn’t know where Aleppo was, or that the fact that Uruguay has orbital mind control rays is classified.

          (4) Establish a mapping from propositions as presented in news to propositions as presented by whatever canonical system you settle on. In other words, you will need to solve the parsing half of the NLU problem.

          (5) Establish a deductive system for concluding new propositions from older ones. If you’re doing this manually, this will probably be how you run out of energy after one article.

          (6) First-order and second-order logic rules that keep you from concluding silly things like Haley being at both the UN and Raleigh-Durham at the same time, or that Trump signed a bill after it became a law, or that Uruguay has orbital mind control rays.

          Addressing these challenges should be enough to get you started.

  46. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I keep seeing in discussions of the US corporate tax that it’s high, but that doesn’t matter because corporations don’t pay the high rate.

    Do they have to go to significant amounts of cost and/or trouble to avoid the high rate?

    • Brad says:

      Companies that are mostly domestic have to expend a lot of effort to get their rate down really low. Multinationals that have significant sales abroad can defer taxes indefinitely of their foreign fairly easily. If at any point in the future there’s a repatriation holiday they can turn that deferral into avoidance.

      • bean says:

        I think that you’re sort of missing the point. Yes, multinationals can keep their international profits overseas, but it’s pretty rare to see a US multinational without extensive US operations. The ones that didn’t have them moved to Ireland. So Google or whoever still has to pay US taxes on their US profits.

        • Brad says:

          No, I acknowledge that. But if you take an overall corporate rate you get a weighted average of the effective US rate for domestic sales and a much lower weight (or zero) for foreign sales. Any significant sales abroad is going to bring that overall number down below 35% (leaving aside the domestic loopholes like games with deprecation and R&D which is the trickier part to pull off).

          • bean says:

            So? The point is that the tax rate for the US portions of the business is 35%, and if they want to use any of the money from overseas at home (which I know includes investment, and probably also includes things like dividends) they have to pay 35% on that, too. Yes, if we take total taxes/total earnings, it’s lower than 35%, but that’s not necessarily the metric that we want to optimize for.

          • I agree with Brad and don’t understand your point, Bean. I think Nancy’s initial point was that even though US corporations have a high tax rate, it appears that they don’t pay that high a tax rate. Brad answered that by saying that it is multi-nationals that have a lower rate, and that is because they are subject to other countries’ taxes as well as the US, so it averages lower than the US rate. I think Brad is correct.

            When I was tax manager of a medium sized firm in the ’90’s (without significant international operations), I was proud of the fact that I was able to get about a 32% effective tax rate for several years in a row. The main areas that brought down the rate of my firm was the R&D Credit and the FSC export benefit. FSC is now gone, but there is similar credit today for domestic manufacturing. By the way, depreciation has no effect on these rates, because it only affects timing, and not permanent differences. Effective tax rates refer to the tax on the P&L statement, which ignores timing differences.

            Nowadays one sees many effective tax rates in the ‘20%’s or below. That is because of the much lower tax rates outside the US, and it is only multi-nationals that now achieve such low rates.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It is widely claimed that the effective tax rate on domestic corporations in America is the same as in Germany, the more deductions canceling the double rate.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Mark V Anderson

            My point was to check on whether corporations have costs related to lowering their effective tax rate– they might be better off if the US tax rate was closer to the world average.

            Also, it’s reasonable to assume that whatever corporations pay to lower their taxes is a dead loss– it does no actual good to anyone.

        • massivefocusedinaction says:

          If your firm does any trade with itself across borders, it can usually recognize any profits it wishes in whichever domicile it chooses, even profits that would otherwise be recognized from US operations. The common way is via intellectual property licensing.

    • episcience says:

      Tax lawyer here (though not a US lawyer, so I might be slightly broad-brush in places). The short answer is that it’s not hard to move profits offshore if you’re a multinational company, especially in the US, but it’s becoming harder.

      First, the US is unusual in having a full exemption for foreign profits earned by US companies. Most countries tax the global earnings of companies tax resident in their jurisdiction. But the US provides an exemption if funds are “indefinitely reinvested” offshore. Given the globalised market, it’s not difficult to make good use of that cash without ever paying US tax on it.

      Second, there are a lot of common strategies companies use to decrease taxable profits. The most prevalent is debt. Companies get tax deductions for interest they pay, and it’s easy to reallocate funds within a multinational group. The result of these two facts is that companies push a lot of debt into higher-tax jurisdictions and have the interest payments being made to a company resident in a lower-tax jurisdiction.

      Similar tricks can be used with royalty payments for intellectual property such as trademarks or “know-how” (which is what Starbucks did/does), and with pricing goods and services between companies in your group. Again, by placing expense in a high-tax country and the corresponding income in a low-tax country, the global tax bill is reduced. This strategy is generally called “transfer pricing”.

      Third, a lot of “American companies” are not headquartered in the US, or have their parent company registered in a different jurisdiction. Strategies covered well in the media (like the “double Irish”, or corporate inversions) are used to make sure profit that otherwise would have arisen in a US tax-resident company arises somewhere else.

      So it’s not hard, as long as you have (a) enough money to hire one of the big four accounting firms to do the work for you and (b) enough global scope that it’s relatively convenient to create a few new companies in various jurisdictions.

      • Hi, I’m a tax accountant in the US. Please explain your comment about the US being unusual in receiving a full exemption for foreign profits. IT is my understanding that almost all countries outside the US use the territorial system, which means that these countries tax only those earnings that are earned in that country. All global earnings are taxable to any US individual or entity. The only way to avoid taxes on these earnings is to have a foreign entity (owned by the US parent) earn the income in a foreign country. I certainly don’t understand income taxes outside the US as well as US taxes, so please let me know if I am misunderstanding these other systems. It seems to me that the US always taxes MORE income than countries with territorial systems.

        • episcience says:

          Most countries outside the US have a “dual basis” system, so they tax (a) worldwide income of residents, and (b) local income of non-residents. I’m not aware of many countries that are explicitly territorial outside of low-tax jurisdictions like Hong Kong.

          The US foreign profit exemption I was thinking of is exception from the CFC rules (“controlled foreign company” rules, for non-tax people reading). Most OECD members will tax CFC profits on an accruals basis, the US (as far as I’m aware at least) doesn’t tax CFC profits as they accrue if they’re being reinvested offshore.

          • Anonymous says:

            Most countries outside the US have a “dual basis” system, so they tax (a) worldwide income of residents, and (b) local income of non-residents. I’m not aware of many countries that are explicitly territorial outside of low-tax jurisdictions like Hong Kong.

            Some make due with just (a).

          • Most countries outside the US have a “dual basis” system, so they tax (a) worldwide income of residents, and (b) local income of non-residents. I’m not aware of many countries that are explicitly territorial outside of low-tax jurisdictions like Hong Kong.

            This is certainly different from my understanding. That sounds essentially like the US system — since the US only charges tax on income earned in the US on non-US persons. That’s why inversions.

            I don’t know what accruals basis means. Most accounting is done on an accrual system, so it sounds like you are saying that if a France company has a 100% owned CFC in the US, that all of the the CFC’s profits are taxable in France?

            I need to educate myself somehow on corporate income taxes outside the US. I am depending too much on what I hear from random journalists or commenters — which is quite often too partisan to be trusted.

          • Strange, it didn’t give me the option to edit after my posting. I wanted to say that it just occurred to me that episcience could be considered a random commenter, but my posting was not aimed at him. It somehow seems that SSC is more trustworthy, and also episcience doesn’t appear to have any partisan agenda.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @Mark V Anderson:

          I’m a tax accountant in the US.

          Hey, maybe you can help me on this. I heard/read a claim that Apple’s thirst for unconventional materials in the Apple Stores and Apple Park started as a tax avoidance strategy. The claim is that Apple has lots of profit trapped outside the US which effectively makes it cheaper to spend money outside the US than inside the US. So if they can somehow use Apple’s outside-the-US profits in Europe to buy expensive European materials which get shipped to the US to make fancy buildings, this is a way to repatriate earnings in physical form. A specific example is the architectural use of giant sheets of glass SO big and special they can ONLY be made at a particular factory in Germany.

          I don’t know where I got this claim from, and I’m not sure the math works. Care to comment?

          (If it did work, this strategy would be a bit like the way Brits in the 98% income tax bracket used to buy Rolls Royces. Their choice was either (1) put money in a bank account and earn a piddling insignificant amount of post-tax income, or (2) buy a Rolls and it probably depreciates…but you get the use value of owning a Rolls, which is worth more than the foregone income stream.)

          • Nornagest says:

            heir choice was either (1) put marginal earnings in a bank account and earn a piddling insignificant amount of post-tax income, or (2) buy a Rolls and it probably depreciates…but you get the use value of owning a Rolls

            I don’t understand. Is this pre-tax money?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Nornagest

            [about the Rolls Royce story] I don’t understand. Is this pre-tax money?

            I just tweaked the wording to be less confusing. I’m actually talking about what to do with post-tax savings of a high earner. Suppose you are in the 98% marginal tax bracket. Maybe you’re a pop star, or a banker. You’re already making so much income from your regular job that any extra income you make will get taxed at 98%. (this was pre-Thatcher; it’s not like this now).

            Imagine you have $100,000 sitting around in savings. How should you invest it? Let’s generously imagine your investments are paying 10% risk-free interest, so you could keep that money in the bank and earn $10,000/year in interest…but then after taxes all you get to keep of it is $200/year. Thus, the income stream you get by investing $100,000 is $200/year.

            If you use the same money to buy a $100,000 automobile, the opportunity cost of owning that car to you is $200/year. Thus, rich people blow their money on things like ludicrously expensive cars that they can at least get some use value out of, since they get almost no use value from saving it.

          • Nornagest says:

            That makes sense, thank you.

          • Hey, maybe you can help me on this. I heard/read a claim that Apple’s thirst for unconventional materials in the Apple Stores and Apple Park started as a tax avoidance strategy. The claim is that Apple has lots of profit trapped outside the US which effectively makes it cheaper to spend money outside the US than inside the US. So if they can somehow use Apple’s outside-the-US profits in Europe to buy expensive European materials which get shipped to the US to make fancy buildings, this is a way to repatriate earnings in physical form. A specific example is the architectural use of giant sheets of glass SO big and special they can ONLY be made at a particular factory in Germany.

            If I am understanding this right, it would not work. Are you saying an outside US (OUS) affiliate of Apple would invest in some fancy German product to be used in the US? It sounds to me that the OUS affiliate would still own the product. There is a rule that when an OUS CFC (affiliate) invests anything in the US, that is considered subpart F income to the extent that CFC has US untaxed profits. Subpart F income is fully taxable in the US.

            They need to have this rule to avoid the OUS CFC’s from lending money to the US company, which has the same cash effect of a dividend back to the US.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Do they have to go to significant amounts of cost and/or trouble to avoid the high rate?

      Most of the crazy accounting tricks in the news have been to avoid _EU_ taxes. US corporate tax is another thing entirely, and there’s no One Weird Trick (like the now-banned Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich) to cut it, though there are more ordinary shelters.

      What multinationals tend to do is realize profit overseas and then keep the money there (if they repatriate, they get taxed, though they can deduct the overseas taxes at that point also). They also do things which appear to be silly, like borrowing money at interest while sitting on a load of cash, to avoid having to repatriate. In a sense they’re still using the money as they wouldn’t get as favorable terms if they weren’t. Some companies (like Apple) are sitting on really enormous overseas cash reserves; I think, therefore, it’s very likely the tax matters a great deal. Note also that keeping money overseas doesn’t help companies which make the lion’s share of their money here, so companies serving the US market are at a disadvantage.

      • Aapje says:

        The EU tax evasion schemes can be used to avoid US taxes:
        1. Ensure that the subsidiary that makes the profit is in a tax haven country
        2. Ensure that the profit is made in a way that is taxed minimally by the tax haven

        Step 1 can be done by making the US company pay to use the patents or other IP of the subsidiary, at a cost that is suspiciously close to the profit. If the subsidiary is in the EU, the profit is now by a EU instead of US company.

        • random832 says:

          Are royalties on US patents not taxable if the owner is a non-US company? Seems like an obvious loophole.

          • Are royalties on US patents not taxable if the owner is a non-US company?

            Royalties are taxable in the country where the patents are located, regardless of who owns them. Being an intangible, the location of patents may be an issue. I don’t know what constitutes the location myself. But if the R&D to create the patents are done in the US, then the patents are in the US. These patents can be be moved outside the US after that point, but the US does have a rule that that tax is then due based on the fair market value of the patents.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            The issue is that IP can be created for the express purpose of tax evasion and valued at a level that is optimal for that purpose.

            For example, let’s say that I own a coffee shop company called Pequod. I can create a new design for my cups in the US, send the file to The Netherlands, have someone in the IP subsidiary wave their hands over it and now make Pequod pay 100 million to the IP subsidiary to use that design on their cups.

            The design really has no market value without the link to Pequod, so it has no liquidity. This means that the value is merely in the price that Pequod is willing to pay to the IP subsidiary. Of course, since they are both owned by the same people, the price is set by collusion.

          • @Aapje. Maybe you can do that, but only if you hoodwink the US tax authorities. There are laws against it.

            When you send the new design to the Netherlands, you have to pay US taxes on the fair market value of the design. Later, when Pequod pays its Netherlands subsidiary royalties, these royalties too must be based on fair market value. This will probably be the initial fair market value of the design divided by the expected numbers of units sold over the life of the design, adjusted by a discount rate to account for the time value of money. Actually the original fair market value of the design is probably calculated using this same method. Companies selling to themselves across international borders definitely do NOT have a free hand in setting the prices they charge.

            So if the tax authority is doing its job, the royalty deductions of Pequod/US over the life of the design is exactly equal to the income they originally declared when they sent the design to NL. As I’ve said before, the large multi-nationals may still come out ahead just because they can afford smarter lawyers and economists than the IRS (US tax authority), so they probably can hoodwink them to some extent. But the US laws themselves theoretically don’t allow the gaming you suggest.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Imagine that Pequod would use a ‘beauty contest’ to let designers from across the world make a new design for them. A thousand companies create a design. The value of these designs are very small until one is chosen by Pequod, at which point that one design becomes very valuable and the value of the other 999 goes to zero dollars. So having a design chosen by Pequod greatly increases the value.

            It seems to me that this same mechanism can be used in my scenario. The design that is sent to the Dutch subsidiary can be valued at a rather minimal value (say $100k), yet when ‘chosen’ by Pequod, it becomes valued at $100M.

            I would argue that the only way for the US to penalize this, is if they have evidence that the design had already been chosen at the time of the IP transfer. Of course, the US could argue that since only one design was transferred, this is evidence that the game was rigged. But then Pequod could evade this by having a ‘beauty contest’ where other companies then their IP subsidiary can submit designs (although those will never be picked, of course).

            However strict the US may be, you can pretty much always just add levels of obfuscation so Pequod is safe.

          • random832 says:

            These patents can be be moved outside the US after that point

            How? They can’t cease to have been issued by the US Patent Office. Being owned by a non-US entity shouldn’t mean that the patent is not a US patent.

            That’d be like saying that property tax should not be due on land owned by foreign (or out-of-state, since property taxes are mostly state taxes) entities. It makes no more sense to be able to move a patent than to be able to move a piece of land.

          • episcience says:

            How? They can’t cease to have been issued by the US Patent Office. Being owned by a non-US entity shouldn’t mean that the patent is not a US patent.

            The patent is sold to a non-US company. Then the new patent-holder licenses the patent to another group company in return for royalties. The licensee receives tax deductions in the country where it is tax resident, which might be a non-US country. If it is, then the patent-holder is a foreign company which has made its profit from the use of that patent outside the US, so the US doesn’t tax that income (despite it still being a US patent granted by the USPO). Even if the licensee is resident in the US and uses the patent in the US, tax treaties will usually mean the US doesn’t get to tax that income.

          • @Aapje. Okay now you are theorizing a situation where the development of the patent does not take place in the US. I think the value of the patent occurs in NL, as you say, and thus royalties should be paid out of NL. Your supposition isn’t about gaming the system — it just brings up a very unusual case where the taxes work out well for the company. In most cases, the value of IP belongs in the country where it is developed. Thus the deductions of creating the IP is in the same country that ultimately earns the royalties. It is symmetric and not particularly tax beneficial. They can sell or transfer the IP to another country, but the US at least has laws that cover that situation.

            @random

            These patents can be be moved outside the US after that point

            How? They can’t cease to have been issued by the US Patent Office. Being owned by a non-US entity shouldn’t mean that the patent is not a US patent.

            You seem to imply that the location of the patent is in the US because that is where it is valid. That actually makes sense now that I think about it, but I don’t think that’s how it works. A company invents a new product in country A. The company then gets patents in every country where they think it is worth doing so, which might be 30 different countries. All those patents are based in country A because that is where it was developed, not in the 30 countries in which it is licensed. The company can then sell or transfer the patents to any other country as desired, but they have to follow the resulting tax rules of country A and the recipient country.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Okay now you are theorizing a situation where the development of the patent does not take place in the US.

            I explicitly described a situation where the IP was developed in the US, but became worth more after being sold to a Dutch subsidiary. Such changes in value are exploitable.

            In my scenario, the IP is used specifically to ensure that the profit is made in a different country, in a way that is taxed minimally by that country. You can keep claiming that this is not true, but it is a fact that what I̵