"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

OT76: Extropenism

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

1. San Diego meetup still planned for today, Irvine meetup still planned for next weekend. Details here.

2. In Silicon Valley: A Reality Check, I included Vox in a list of publications that were overly harsh on Silicon Valley because of the Juicero incident. Vox requests a correction that their article, although somewhat harsh at points, also did note that there was lots of good research and development going on too, and doesn’t deserve to be pilloried in the same way as the others. You can read their article here and judge for yourself.

3. There were a lot of complaints about Polyamory Is Not Polygyny, so let me clarify. The articles I cited were generally criticizing polyamory as it actually exists, ie in a few weird communities. I presented data from one weird community showing that it didn’t look like their criticisms were true. Some other people in the comments presented data from other weird communities showing the same thing. I don’t claim this is necessarily an accurate representation of what a future hypothetical worldwide polyamorous society would be like. For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.

4. Mingyuan has been doing a lot of work aggregating data and comments from all of the SSC meetups that have been going on lately. See her writeup here. She’s also got a frequently-updated list of where and when the next SSC meetup close to you is here. I’m going to add that somewhere more prominent when I get around to it.

5. My serial novel Unsong is now complete. If you were waiting to read it until it was finished, now’s the time.

6. The Report Comments button is broken and seems to have been so for a while. If you posted something terrible in the past few months, you’re probably off the hook. My normal tech support has given up on this one, but if you want to try fixing it, let me know.

7. Cafe Chesscourt has agreed to serve as an unofficial (official?) SSC forum, so if you prefer bulletin boards to all the other methods of communication we’ve got around here, head on over.

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1,136 Responses to OT76: Extropenism

  1. bean says:

    The pre-dreadnought began with the Royal Sovereign, which ushered in a period of relative stability in battleship design lasting from 1889 until 1905, when Dreadnought arrived on the scene. These combined all of the ongoing developments: barbette mounts, high freeboard, QF secondary batteries, the first steel armor, and improved machinery. The result was a ship of 14,000 tons, with 2 twin 13.5 in barbettes (open at the top, a feature rectified in the following class) and 10 6” QF guns in casemates, 18” belts, and a speed of 18 knots. The high freeboard was the most important advance. Turrets had to be mounted low down to avoid excessive topweight, which limited the ability of turrets to be fought in heavy seas. Even previous barbette ships, like the Admiral-class, had had relatively low freeboard, and had mounted their barbettes well above the deck. William White, the designer of the Royal Sovereigns, extended the deck up to the top of the barbettes. The ends of the hull were unarmored, except for the protective deck, but they were sufficient to vastly improve seakeeping.

    As important as the technological revolution embodied in the class was the fiscal revolution that occurred at the same time. Instead of doling out money on a year-to-year basis, which had stretched out the completion of many ships to the better part of a decade, the British passed the Naval Defense Act of 1889, which paid for the seven Royal Sovereigns, HMS Hood, and two second-class battleships over the next four years. In practice, all of the Royal Sovereigns were completed within 5 years of the act’s passage, and rapid construction became the norm. It also marked the formal adoption of the Royal Navy’s Two-Power Standard, where they aimed to have a fleet equal to the next two most powerful navies combined.

    HMS Hood was the result of naval politics. Certain members of the Admiralty still favored the turret, and forced the eighth first-class battleship to be built with turrets. Hood had a freeboard of 11’3”, as opposed to 19’6” of the Royal Sovereigns, and was quickly discovered to be a failure. The use of turrets was not repeated.

    The follow-on class, the Majestics, introduced the last features which defined the pre-dreadnoughts, the 12” gun using smokeless powder, and the gun shield for the barbettes. Previous classes had open barbettes, but the arrival of QF and machine guns made this too hazardous. (The guns retracted somewhat to load, so most of the crew had at least some protection.) Instead an armored shield was placed over the top, which on first inspection resembles a turret. (Yes, this is confusing). The 12” gun of the Majestics was capable of 720 m/s muzzle velocity, as opposed to 615 m/s for the 13.5” gun of the Royal Sovereigns. William White, their designer, also added two more 6” guns, and a total of 9 ships were built, the most of any class of battleship. Their 12” mountings were improved in later units, adding all-around loading and increasing the rate of fire, and they were fitted with Harvey armor, and improved steel armor which allowed larger areas to be protected.

    They were followed by the Canopus class, which were designed to serve on foreign stations, and whose draft was limited by the necessity to transit the Suez Canal and serve on Chinese rivers. They saw further improvements in armor with the Krup process. Over the years between the Royal Sovereign and the Canopus, main belt armor had seen a 40-50% improvement in resistance to penetration for a given thickness. This was important because the rise of rapid-fire guns forced designers to put medium protection over more and more of the ship’s side.

    The follow-on London/Formidable class was based on the Majestics, but with Krupp belts. The Duncans, built alongside them, were slightly smaller, faster, and less heavily armored. They also introduced the 3” anti-torpedo boat gun, which was the ancestor of modern battleship secondary armament.

    The rest of the world wasn’t sitting around doing nothing during this period. The USN had begun to rebuild in the mid-1880s, beginning with the USS Texas and USS Maine, which were broadly equivalent to the Admiral-class battleships. They were both obsolete by the time they were completed in 1895, and the change in American naval policy brought about by the Harrison administration.

    The first result of this change were the three units of the Indiana-class. These were low-freeboard ships with turrets, although this may not have been a huge problem in their designed role as coastal-defense battleships. They pioneered the concept of the intermediate battery, with 8 8” guns in addition to the 13” guns and the 6” guns. This was because the US lacked the industrial capability to build QF guns (even of 6” caliber), and the 8” of the time could fire significantly faster than the 13”. They were badly overloaded, and not particularly successful. At normal displacements, their belts were entirely submerged, a fact made worse by unbalanced turrets, which pushed the belt down further when trained on a target. They were followed by the USS Iowa, which was designed for improved seagoing performance, but was armed with 12” guns and 4” QF guns instead of the 6” BLs of the Indianas.

    They were followed by the Kearsage-class (the only US battleship not named after a state), which were a major departure. The US had a 5” QF gun in production, and to gain the space to mount it, the 8” guns had to be fitted on the centerline, where they could fire on either broadside. It was decided that instead of adopting a superfiring arrangement, they would be mounted directly on top of the 13” turrets, and fixed to them. In theory, this was a very good idea, as it kept the 8” gun free of the blast from the 13” gun, and the 8” fired two or three times as fast. In practice, it didn’t work brilliantly, as you might expect. The two sets of guns interfered with one another.

    The following Illinois and Maine classes were conventional pre-dreadnoughts, with the introduction of the US 6” QF. However, the following Virginia-class saw the return of the superimposed turret. This was a result of the Spanish-American war, which was fought by the Indianas and the Iowa. During the Battle of Santiago, the 8” gun put in a good showing, and was restored to the next class of ship. Unfortunately, technological advances since 1890 meant that the 8” gun was not a good choice of weapons, particularly as the 12” gun could now fire almost as rapidly, which removed the advantages of the superimposed turret due to the concussion of the firing.

    The Virginia-class could be seen as the predecessor of the semi-dreadnoughts, ships with guns bigger than 6” mounted as their secondary armaments. This was driven by improved armor which made the 6” gun less effective, improved power-loading gear increasing the rate of fire of bigger guns, and improved fire control reducing the effectiveness of the 6” guns at long range. British answered them with the King Edward VII-class, which carried four 9.2” guns in single wing turrets in addition to the 10 6” QFs. Eight of these were built, then followed by the two units of the Lord Nelson-class. The Lord Nelsons had 4 12” guns and 10 9.2” guns, getting rid of the 6” battery altogether. They were delayed by the diversion of their mountings to Dreadnought, and were counted as battleships under the two-power standard until just before WWI.

    The US abandoned the superimposed turret for the Connecticut-class which followed the Virginias, and adopted a 7” gun in place of the 6”. While it may seem odd to have a 7” and an 8” on the same ship, there was a significant gap between the two in practical terms. The 7” was at the time the largest weapon that one man could handle the shells for, putting it in the same position as the 6” of WW2, with twice the rate of fire of the 8”. The Mississippi-class which followed the Connecticut, was smaller due to Congressional pressure, and both units were sold to Greece in 1914, allowing the US to build a third unit of the later Mississippi-class dreadnoughts. They were followed by the South Carolina-class dreadnoughts, which were ordered before the US learned of Dreadnought. Between 1907 and 1909, many of these US ships circumnavigated the globe as part of the Great White Fleet, demonstrating that the US was a naval power to be reckoned with, and improving the design of later generations of US dreadnoughts. Interestingly, only one more US battleship would conduct a circumnavigation, the USS Missouri in 1986.

    I’ve not talked about countries outside the US and UK, due to sources and narrative. I may come back to them later, including looking at the Russo-Japanese war. Next time will probably be Survivability Part 2, as I didn’t say as much as I wanted. It’s also possible that I’ll move to a weekly schedule, as I’m getting a little bit burned out doing this at the rate I have been. Or do something different on the quarter-threads. I’m not going to make any promises.

    • bean says:

      I’m a volunteer tour guide at the USS Iowa in Los Angeles, and I enjoy explaining battleships so much that I’ve been doing it here for quite a while. This is my index of the current posts, updated so that I don’t have to ask Scott to put up a link when the previous index gets locked down. Please don’t post a reply to this index comment so I can keep it updated as new ones get published and the new posts are easy to find.

      History:
      General History of Battleships, Part 1 and Part 2
      The Early Ironclads
      Pre-Dreadnoughts
      US Battleships in WW2
      Rest-of-world Battleships in WW2
      Battlecruisers
      Battleships after WW2
      The Destroyer that accidentally attacked a President
      The South American Dreadnought Race
      Dreadnoughts of the minor powers

      Technical:
      Fire Control
      History of Fire Control
      Armor, Part 1 and Part 2
      Propulsion
      Armament Part 1 and Part 2
      Underwater protection
      Secondary Armament, Part 1 and Part 2
      Survivability and Damage Control Part 1

      Misc:
      Bibliography
      Thoughts on tour guiding
      Questions I get as a tour guide

    • Wikipedia is not super clear on this and your post here seems to assume a bit of knowledge; can you say more on the difference between barbettes and turrets / how one evolved into the other? (Also, I’d love more details on freeboard and how it matters.)

      • bean says:

        Details are in Armor Part 2:
        “Turrets began to appear on warships, using an armor scheme similar to the central battery ships. The problem was that turrets were very heavy, and had to be mounted low in the ship. This lead to an alternative mounting for guns, the barbette. It was essentially an armored tube, which lead from a low-mounted armored deck up to the main deck. The gun was mounted within it, and retracted into the barbette for loading. It was then raised out and fired, with only the aimers coming above deck, where they were protected by armored hoods. However, the rise of the pre-dreadnought with quick-firing guns made this less tenable, and an armored hood was placed over the whole gun installation, which quickly (and confusingly) became known as a turret.”

        • gbdub says:

          I think some of the confusion is that most readers (myself included) are much more familiar with the more modern Dreadnought turret, which you imply is not a true turret, leaving a full description of the older “turret ship” style turret unwritten (i.e. your description seems to assume we know what a turret is, and need an explanation for why they are calling these newfangled barbette hoods “turrets”, instead of the other way around).

          If I understand it correctly, the Dreadnought turret is basically an armored, rotating box for the gun and crew, mounted atop a barbette (armored tube) that extends down to the armor deck / “citadel” of the battleship containing the magazines and machine spaces.

          Whereas the classic turret was a fully enclosed, rotating, armored cylinder for the gun (and all it’s machinery?) mounted directly atop or within the armored space of the ship?

          So the modern turret solved the weight problem by allowing the armored citadel to be relatively deep inside the ship for stability, elevating only the gun itself and its armor up to a reasonable firing position by perching it atop a barbette, the barbette providing a well protected path to the magazine and machinery.

          Is that close to right?

          • bean says:

            I haven’t given a full description of the old-style turret because I’m not certain enough of the details to do so. But that’s pretty much it, as I understand it.
            (As an example of how confusing this can be, I can’t figure out what the US was doing even based on Friedman. We seem to have skipped the open-top barbette, but I’m not sure if it was in favor of turrets or barbettes with hoods. The French, for instance, apparently kept the turret up until the dreadnought era.)

          • bean says:

            I started to look more into this, and am even more confused than when I started out. Looking at plans, there’s not an obvious saving on armor on the Royal Sovereign arrangement vs Hood, and the numbers I have seem to bear this out. I’ve tried contemporary naval architecture manuals, which were unhelpful. Every book I’ve tried has said the same thing about the weight savings, but hasn’t explained why it happened. It looks like the turret on barbette is simply smaller and (initially) thinner than the previous turret.

          • Nornagest says:

            Could it be an ammunition storage issue? The pictures I’ve seen of early turrets have them as very large relative to the guns they mount; I don’t know for sure what the extra space was used for, but ammunition seems like a fair bet. If there was a move from keeping large quantities of ammunition in the turret itself (as, for example, tanks do), to small turrets communicating with a magazine below the waterline via an armored tube, that would be both lighter and safer.

          • gbdub says:

            Could some of it be the switch from iron to increasingly advanced steels? E.g. HMS Thunderer had 14″ of iron turret armor in two plates, separated by a similar thickness of teak. Combine that with the mostly-iron guns, and that’s an immensely heavy turret compared to the size and firepower of its guns (compared to Dreadnought with maximum 11″ of steel armor on its turrets, on a ship twice the displacement).

            Here’s a diagram of the Thunderer turrets. One thing interesting to me is it appears the whole thing is mounted on the armored deck below it, requiring a sufficiently strong deck to carry it. Whereas a barbette can transfer the load lower in the ship, putting more of the weight down low?

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest
            That’s a good idea, but it’s not it. First, I’d be amazed if half a dozen different reference books had failed to mention it. Second, some turrets were definitely loaded externally. I have details on the turrets of Inflexible and Colossus, and both had fixed-angle loading with the rammer kept outside the turret.

            @gbdub
            I’m starting to come to the conclusion that this wole issue might be a red herring. Improved armor meant you had less weight to move about for reasonable protection, and improved machinery meant it was easier to move. So you can now mount the turret high enough to be clear of most sea effects. Barbette and turret were converging in the time period under discussion, and only the British didn’t realize this.
            As for carrying the structure deeper into the ship, early barbettes, such as those on the Admirals, actually ended above the armored deck, with just an ammunition trunk down to the magazines below. This created an obvious vulnerability, and was fixed on the Royal Sovereigns.

          • bean says:

            My best reference on weapons and mountings was at home earlier, but I’ve looked it over, and despite its claims that the French and Russians kept the turret instead of using the barbette, I’m becoming more convinced that there was no practical difference by 1900, and quite possibly not by 1895. For one thing, there’s no visible difference between the French and Russian ships and British ships, at least so far as the turrets go. (Before you go looking, be advised that French ships of the time were kept afloat by ugliness, not watertightness.) For another, the idea that armor got thinner allowing it to be carried higher just makes too much sense. Looking over Hood vs the Royal Sovereigns, you have the same amount of armor at the same height, with the guns in a different place. The weight figures I have, though not directly comparable, don’t seem to leave a lot of room for this to be wrong, either.

          • gbdub says:

            Thanks for looking into it bean. Not having the books you do and just poking around Wikipedia, I did find it interesting that Iowa (BB-4) and the Russian Petropavlovsk class (both 1890s designs) are described as having “barbette” mounts for their main guns, despite having lighter than Hood but hardly trivial armor for their main gun houses (which externally are visually indistinguishable from cylindrical “turrets”. Seems the two had converged by then – really the only difference looks like whether or not the bottom of “turret” was elevated above the main armor belt and deck.

            Thanks for the warning on the French ships. Really I find everything from the end of the age of sail to the late pre-dreads pretty ugly, especially anything with a secondary armament “casemate”, but that Charles Martel pseudo-class is a special kind of hideous.

          • bean says:

            @gbdub
            Well, that makes things even more confusing, as I would have pegged both of those ships as pure turret ships under conventional terminology. I’m becoming increasingly sure that there was no distinction by 1895 at the latest, except possibly in some minor layout details that are of absolutely no relevance to anyone who isn’t studying turret design itself. In fact, I’d almost go farther, and say that the turret was the ultimate victor, and the barbette mount a brief aberration.
            A full recounting of my research is likely to be tomorrow’s post, mostly because I don’t feel like writing in full, and because I want to get this all down before I forget.
            Edit:
            Hodges (The Big Gun) claims that the difference between the French and other systems was that more of the machinery was in the rotating part of the turret, and carried the guns much higher. The ammunition hoist tube, though was apparently smaller and lighter. This is the most sensible explanation yet, but it still seems like unnecessary pedantism to call what we have today ‘not really a turret’ because of it. The US, as I’ve pointed out, didn’t go through open barbettes on its guns, and moving the operating machinery down seems like a pretty obvious step.

          • gbdub says:

            If this armor diagram of Poltova is accurate, I’d say she has pretty distinct barbettes, in the dreadnought sense, for both the main and secondary gun turrets.

            Heck, if we’re going to call a barbette “a non-rotating vertical cylinder of armor supporting and protecting a gun emplacement” I’d say even the Indiana class battleships have them, especially for the secondary battery, despite being low-freeboard “turret ships”. I’d need better drawings, but it definitely looks like you’ve got turrets atop armored cylinders that extend above the armor belt.

            Looking at Hood vs. the other Royal Sovereigns I think you have a point when you say it’s the same armor at the same height. Move the guns from the middle of Hood’s turrets and plop them on top, make the turret armor non rotating, and build up your unarmored freeboard now that the guns don’t have to shoot through it, and you’re back to the Royal Sovereign!

      • bean says:

        Freeboard is important for seakeeping, and, when undamaged, for stability. When you have water coming on deck, it becomes much more difficult for people to work there. The faster you’re going, the more water comes on deck. Obviously, making the deck higher reduces this problem. But it takes weight, and particularly when the design standards say that all freeboard should be armored, you can’t have much of it.

    • Longtimelurker says:

      Is ship design essentially a case of high freeboard, Good firepower, Good protection pick 2? Or is their something I don’t understand.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Pretty much. It’s basically the classic Firepower vs Protection vs Mobility engineering triangle. Good firepower and good protection are both heavy which leads to the ship having a deeper draft or lower freeboard, limiting it’s mobility/sea-worthiness.

      • bean says:

        Sort of. Freeboard forward is a direct driver of how much speed you can carry in rough seas. When water starts coming on deck, it makes the ship hard to run. One solution, adopted later, was to keep the forward section unarmored except for the protective deck. Yes, holes forward slow you down, but they’re fairly rare. High freeboard leads to better ability to use the guns you have. Some of the ships in question were ridiculously low-lying, and that means the gunners are dealing with spray. If you insist on armoring all of your freeboard, then it directly trades against everything.

    • Ian Bruene says:

      First things first: this has been a fascinating series of posts. Thank you for making them.

      I have a question about battleship tactics, brought on by a contradiction between the traditional concepts, and recommended practice in the game World of Warships. Obviously the game is not going to be a perfect simulation of real life, but I don’t know how far it diverges.

      As I understand it the Holy Grail for an Admiral was to cross the T, because it meant that all of his ships could bring all of their main guns to bear on the enemy fleet, while the enemy could only make use of their forward turrets. By contrast in WoW turning your ship broadside on to an enemy battleship is asking for your ship to receive citadel penetrations. You generally want to avoid doing that if possible, and that is before getting to ships like the Dunkerque which has weak armor but excels at bouncing shots from the front.

      The possible solutions to this that I can see:

      1. World of Warships is simply an inaccurate model. After reading your posts I am somewhat less inclined to jump to this as an explanation because they confirm that the relevant details of the game’s model are reflections of reality (the ability for battleship armor to bounce battleship shells when angled is one example).

      2. Crossing the T is fleet tactics; everyone is in lockstep formation. World of Warships has every player doing their own thing and only sometimes coordinating. Somehow these different situations swing the balance far enough to change what the correct tactics are, though I do not know how.

      3. Crossing the T is a bad idea, but never got tested in combat enough for the flaws to be revealed.

      4. Armor vs. Guns were balanced in such a way that it really was more important to get as many guns firing into the enemy as possible, even if it meant a far higher chance of your own ships going to the bottom.

      Now, ignoring WoW, it seems to me that the basis of Crossing the T is flawed: many battleships could point their rear turrets pretty far forward. Far enough that unless the enemy line was very short they should be able to bring all or most of their turrets to bear on something in the enemy line. In doing this they would also be showing a far smaller cross section to the enemy fleet, resulting in far more misses and bounced shots.

      • gbdub says:

        It’s mostly 2 – crossing the T as a fleet basically lets your whole line of ships concentrate fire on a single enemy vessel as they come into range, before the following ships can return fire.

        It did matter for single ship actions in age of sail broadside ships, where crossing the enemy’s stern meant you could pummel them with a full broadside with relative impunity, since those ships mounted only a couple guns fore and aft, and often smaller than their broadside guns.

        With Dreadnought battleships, approaching head on would mask your rear turret, but it probably makes up for it by presenting a much smaller target. Additionally, incoming shells are more likely to strike the thick turret armor, before reading the armored deck whereas from broadside the whole center of the ship between the turrets can be struck more easily by plunging fire.

      • bean says:

        I don’t play WoWs, mostly because I’m afraid it will fall victim to the same factors that overpower the Soviets in WoT, but without the grounding in reality that the Soviet tanks have. I suspect it may be a combination of ‘all of the above’.
        1. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had given guns somewhat better penetration and accuracy than is historically accurate (wargame players want things to blow up) or limited engagement range for whatever reason.
        2. This makes some level of sense. ‘Follow me’ is easy to do, and that was really important before modern radio.
        3. This is a distinct possibility. The flip side, though, is that because you’re dealing with a fleet, you have to keep in mind that your course also determines where you’re going. (Tautological, I know, but tactics is more than ‘how do I get the most guns firing right now with the greatest resistance to damage?’)
        4. Given the low number of ships lost to gunfire, I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Some people did think so, most notably Beatty.

        Training the rear turrets forward has some issues. Firing over the deck is annoying, and it also means you’re closing with the enemy in most cases. This can be a very bad thing if you don’t want to do so. High change of range rates means your fire control may not work well (WWI and earlier).

        • dndnrsn says:

          What reasons are Soviet tanks overpowered? Never played the game, but I’m always interested in “history vs game balance” type issues.

          • bean says:

            They have a large base of Russian players, and seem to be pandering to them. Or at least that’s the common theory. A lot of the favoritism is fairly subtle, like the fairly low cap on engagement range.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            WoT Russian tanks tend to be noticeably better in at least two of armor, alpha damage and camouflage relative to most other nations’ tanks, and armor and alpha damage are two of the easier stats to exploit. As you move up the tech tree on any particular tank line, other nations will have okay tanks and bad tanks mixed in with maybe one or two good tanks. Russian tech trees are generally lots of good tanks with the occasional okay tank. Other nations’ tanks might have a higher skill ceiling, but Russian vehicles are noticeably more easy and fun to play all the way up the tech tree.

            WoWs is actually a lot better at balance than WoT, mostly because the ship classes themselves are much better differentiated and balanced than the tank classes in WoT. As Bean guessed, though, they’ve artificially shortened the engagement ranges and fooled with the penetration values such that the experience probably does a very poor job as a simulator.

      • cassander says:

        As I recall, ranges in WOW are very small compared to historical fights, and ships are a lot bigger and tougher than they should be.

    • callmebrotherg says:

      Thank you (1) for doing this and (2) for providing this index so that I wouldn’t be wondering forever if I’d managed to track them all down. I’m definitely saving this for later fact-binging.

  2. knownastron says:

    I’m visiting Hong Kong with a friend who also frequents SSC between June 1st and June 6th.

    We were hoping to be able to meet some fellow SSCers on the other side of the world. If anyone in the area is interested, drop me an email here: bingygraham@gmail.com

  3. AnonYEmous says:

    ok its time for politics SSC edition

    thoughts on Trump’s Saudi Arabia speech? I accept all comers, please try to limit disagreement replies to replies to this thread to like one or two per person.

    • Levantine says:

      You mean the one covered here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F148Pez1x8?
      It struck me as dumb … and I’m a Trump fan.

      The juxtaposition with Putin’s recent speech in China https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcLNCJDBWpU …. is rather telling.

    • knockoffnikolai says:

      Forgive me if this level of analysis is superficial relative to the SSC norm. On a first pass read—without being particularly critical or reading commentary on it—I liked the speech. As a piece of rhetoric, it hit all the right notes (that I knew to look for). Some things that jumped out to me:

      – Founding an anti-extremism cultural center in an attempt to beat the terrorists with culture war is exactly the kind of solution vector I get excited about despite having no data on its effectiveness. I dearly hope they’re trying this for real and it’s not just a token effort.

      – Nobody’s going to want to be pro-terrorist, so Trump’s speechwriter gets to rope them all in for the fight against terrorism. The main way to wriggle out of that (that I know of) is to focus on how the terrorists are only reacting to American aggression, but he’s covering that base by saying “We can’t make this call for you; our job here is just to sell you weapons to get the job done.”

      – The speechwriter emphasizes that point by highlighting ways in which Middle Eastern nations have been contributing to the security effort. I have no context for these examples, not having done the research, but it sure sounds like everyone’s one big terrorist-hunting family.

      – Lot of appeal to religion; my liberal side is screaming “colonial appropriation!” at the white guy flying over to the Middle East and lecturing about their religion, but maybe his audience interpreted it differently.

      > “Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them.”
      – How confident should we be that achieving these conditions A) is possible and B) would result in the elimination of terrorism?

      – Does anyone know what happens if America flies out to the Middle East and calls out Iran in the middle of a summit of Middle Eastern leaders? We’re a salient threat, especially if Saudi Arabia is signing arms deals with us, but I can’t imagine everyone’s just going to turn on Iran either.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Got a kick out of the post-irony spectacle of attacking Iran for terrorism while praising Saudi royals in pretty-much-literally the next breath (and after talking about how the vast majority of terrorism victims are “Muslim” to boot).

      • stucchio says:

        I was similarly entertained when watching Reagan praising Thatcher while simultaneously criticizing the IRA. Well actually I wasn’t – not that old – but the analogy illustrates the same fallacy.

        Sure, the IRA and Thatcher are all UK citizens and live on the British isles. They favor the NHS, drink Guinness rather than Coors, and have chips instead of french fries. But that doesn’t mean it’s “ironic” or somehow contradictory to support one and oppose the other.

        Al Queda and the Saudi Royal Family are both crazy, Islamic, non-western cultures. But in reality multiple factions exist in the space of “crazy, Islamic, non-western”. Not all out-group members are the same.

        See also: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/05/trump-administration-looksism-yes-saudis.html

        • psmith says:

          Presumably the irony lies in the fact that Saudi royals are leading sponsors of Salafist terrorist movements worldwide, including Al Qaeda.

        • vV_Vv says:

          But in that passage he didn’t criticize al Queda, but Iran, which is Shia Muslim, while the majority of Islamic terrorists are Sunni Muslims.

        • herbert herberson says:

          What psmith and vV_Vv said, plus: It is entirely true that a overwhelming majority of terrorism victims are Muslims. However, a large portion of those victims are Shia Muslims killed by Sunni Muslims, which nearly none of the opposite (unless you count Assad, which you shouldn’t, since he’s a state actor fighting an insurrection). Furthermore, when people say Iran “exports terrorism” they’re mostly talking about support for Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militia, and, lately, Houthi Yemeni. Right now, Hezbollah is spending all its time fighting Islamists in Syria, Iraqi Shia are mostly supporting the Iraqi state and its fight against ISIS, and the Houthi Yemeni are mostly just getting bombed into famine by Saudi (there is al Qaeda in Yemen, and I’m sure they’d be as delighted to kill Yemeni Shia as they are all other Shia, but geography has limited al Qaeda-Houthi conflict).

          Pretending Iran is a source of “terrorism” in the way 99% of Americans understand the term has always been dishonest, but it’s been particularly dishonest in the last couple years.

          • stucchio says:

            Iran – the state actor rather than individual citizens dedicated to overthrowing it – tends to support Hezbollah and others characterized as terrorists.

            In contrast, Saudi Arabia – the state actor rather than individual citizens dedicated to overthrowing it – mostly supports only it’s own security forces these days.

            My only points are a) that it’s not ironic to support state actors that oppose terrorists while opposing state actors that support them and b) it’s nonsensical to conflate a government with some citizens who are dedicated to overthrowing that government.

            I’m not a big fan of the Putin government, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair for me to criticize the Russian govt because of what Chechen separatists do. That’s true even if some rich Russians support them.

          • herbert herberson says:

            A.) The irony I’m talking about isn’t contradicted by either of your points. Whether or not the Saudi state “supports terrorism,” it is well-known to be the primary source for the theology that every terrorist enemy of America of the last 25 years has enspouced. It is equally well-known that the theology of Iran has no such association, and, to the contrary, that those who follow Twelver Shia are routinely targeted by those who follow militant Salafism/Wahhabism.

            B.) The Saudis have been arming al Qaeda groups in Syria for years, and I’m sure there’s plenty more in that vein.

            C.)

            I’m not a big fan of the Putin government, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair for me to criticize the Russian govt because of what Chechen separatists do. That’s true even if some rich Russians support them.

            Sure, but I’m not laughing at a failure to criticize the Saudi government. I’m laughing because he went to Russia to talk about how homosexuals and Pussy Riot are the biggest threats to Ukrainian sovereignty in the world–which is funny whether or not you think the Russian government is supporting Donbass seperatists.

          • watsonbladd says:

            The Saudis have sponsored Sunni extremism by funding preachers for decades, and Trump seems uninclined to stop it.

          • @watsonbladd:

            Are you defining “sunni extremism” as advocating terrorism, or as advocating a particular version of Sunni Islam?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @David Friedman
            I believe Wahhabism/Salafism is what’s being referred to. Which has been getting a ton of funding from the Saudis, and from wiki

            The majority of mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims worldwide strongly disagree with the interpretation of Wahhabism, and many Muslims would denounce them as a faction or a “vile sect”.[8]

            So yes, one can denounce Saudi-branded Islam without impugning all of Sunni Islam (though the Saudis are trying their damnedest to make them one in the same worldwide). Just because a bunch of people do doesn’t mean Wahhabists aren’t seriously fucked up.

            See also this gem:

            Sexual intercourse out of wedlock may be punished with beheading[227] although sex out of wedlock is permissible with a slave women[sic]

          • See also this gem:

            Sexual intercourse out of wedlock may be punished with beheading[227] although sex out of wedlock is permissible with a slave women[sic]

            That’s pretty close to orthodox Sunni doctrine. Execution is supposed to be by stoning, not beheading, and the exception is a concubine, which was generally a slave but not any slave woman–a sort of semi-wife category. Intercourse with another man’s concubine would still be the crime of zina.

            My point was not that Salafi doctrine was or wasn’t a special subset of Sunni doctrine, it was that what the Saudi’s encourage is Salafi Islam, which isn’t the same thing as terrorism, whether or not one prefers it to other variants of Islam.

          • rlms says:

            What do you mean by “orthodox Sunni doctrine”? How many Sunni adulterers are actually stoned to death?

        • rlms says:

          I think you’re being sarcastic in the first two paragraphs, but I’m sure many people would agree that criticising the IRA but not the British government at the time is hypocritical. I personally don’t, but it’s not a particularly unreasonable thing.

          As other people have said, the irony is that the Saudis support the Sunni faction of “crazy Islamic culture”, and Iran support the Shia faction. Neither side looks great in the current conflicts, but the terrorists who threaten Western interests (ISIS is the most prominent one at the moment) are Sunni. Osama Bin Laden didn’t come from a wealthy Iranian family.

          The whole thing is an interesting geopolitical tension that has basically come about through historical accident. The US supports the Saudis/Sunnis and opposes Iran/Shia as part of its enmity towards Russia (since that’s the side it inherited from the Cold War), but the actual terrorists that Americans care about are all Sunni/Saudi-backed. An interesting consequence of the tension is that it limits the amount Trump can cozy up to Russia (as he seems to want) and the Saudis (as is classic neo* policy) simultaneously without really shaking things up.

          • stucchio says:

            Consider the possibility that the divisions you are drawing (sunni vs shia) are not the relevant divisions.

            By this I mean, there is no sunni or shia command and control hierarchy. There are various coherent groups that have these labels attached to them, and they don’t generally agree with each other. Al Qaeda and ISIS are at war with each other. Al Qaeda is at war with Saudi Barbaria.

            Most of the Sunnis I know care more about laws against eating beef than any of this stuff (yes, Indian local issues). And the Sunnis in Thailand seem to care more about local determination of the Pattani area than anything else.

            In much the same way, “Anglo” vs “Continental” was not a particularly relevant way to think about the IRA/Britain conflict.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, certainly not all (or even many) Sunnis or Shia are aggressively political along that axis. I’m using Sunni/Shia in the same way people refer to the Protestant/Catholic sides in the Northern Ireland conflict. Just as it makes sense to talk about a coherent “Catholic side” despite there being multiple IRAs, it makes sense to talk about a “Sunni side” that encompasses multiple groups with a large amount of sharing of ideology, membership and resources, even if they sometimes fight each other.

          • stucchio says:

            My contention is that Shia vs Sunni is a lot closer to Anglo vs Continental than it is to Catholic vs Protestant.

            There were multiple IRAs. But there were no “dear British please stay and rule Northern Ireland” factions of the IRA. Insofar as you might describe there being a catholic ideology in that conflict, “British stay here” was never part of that ideology.

            My specific claim is that conflating the House of Saud and the various Sunni Islamic groups is like conflating the British government and the IRA simply because both purport to believe in Jesus.

          • rlms says:

            Sunni vs Shia is much large in scale than Catholic vs Protestant, so one would expect more difference within each group. There were instances of infighting in each faction in the Troubles, but I think the categories are still very useful. Likewise with Sunni vs Shia. It doesn’t tell you everything, but it pretty reliably gives you the correct answer to questions like “there is a civil war in Yemen/Syria/wherever, which side are Saudis giving money to?”.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I think everyone is over-interpreting what was bog-standard diplomatic patter and an arms deal that was substantively completed before the election (Obama took away a small piece at the last minute, which Trump re-added). I think this will continue throughout his trip; I’m already seeing Trump get credited for the easing of Palestinian construction in Area C which Bibi’s cabinet agreed on in October. Unless he throws up on someone this trip will probably be held up as proof of the long-sought pivot until the next shoe drops domestically.

  4. AnteriorMotive says:

    Something I wonder whenever I see criticism of the modern world, is, how feasible is it to opt out of modern, technological society?

    can a person ship some yaks to the canadian shield and become a pastoralist?
    could one reclaim the formerly agricultural land on the east coast?

    Do the Amish only pull it off because they acquired their land a long time ago before it was in high demand, or is it inherently hypocritical to claim that modern society has made life worse?

    • hnau says:

      I wouldn’t say “inherently hypocritical.” Possibly untestable, though.

      Here’s one plausible proxy question we could ask: Do people in rural U.S. areas feel like life is “better” for having smartphones and Internet? (My instinct is that it’s better to ask rural than city folks because city life is more fundamentally shaped by current technology.)

      The way you’ve presented the question, I’d suggest being careful to distinguish “with rational actors it’s unavoidable that things end up this way” from “other things being equal, everybody actually wants things to be this way.” Tragedy of the commons is the classic example of where the two notions don’t line up. There’s a plausible case to be made that many aspects of “the modern world”– e.g. everyone’s adoption of smartphones and Internet, or the conversion of mostly self-sufficient farms to factory farms and built-up areas– have a tragedy-of-the-commons aspect to them.

      • Nornagest says:

        Rural people’s ability to use smartphones and the Internet was limited until very recently. My dad lives in a semi-rural area, and I only started getting acceptable cell reception at his place three or four years ago; he still uses slow, flaky microwave broadband, although cable’s been coming to his area Real Soon Now for at least ten years.

    • The Amish population doubles about every twenty years, so land acquired a few generations back doesn’t explain their success. They have been planting colonies, Amish settlements in parts of the country where land is less expensive than in the existing settlements. Also, of course, many of them do things other than farming.

      • herbert herberson says:

        I wish I could begin to understand how this is possible. I am all too aware of how hard it is to make mechanized farming profitable; when I see them out there making hay by hand (and hoof, I guess) while knowing they’re still expanding and buying up new parcels it absolutely boggles my mind.

        • bbartlog says:

          Most of them are poor or at any rate live very poor by US standards. In Pennsylvania there are plenty of them that work in non-agricultural jobs; I knew some that operated a small lumber mill, one that ran a local hay-and-livestock auction, and others that cut and sold firewood. I would be curious to know whether their historical prohibition against taking any government assistance still holds, or whether many of them get SNAP benefits these days.

        • cbv says:

          I think they are very, very frugal, have lots of freeish labor, and probably spend less on inputs that English farmers. I think many English farmers are constantly in debt, which the Amish aren’t. It’s not uncommon to borrow to buy fertilizer and then pay it off when the crop comes in.

          It’s still sort of confusing and impressive.

        • Jiro says:

          … and they have such a restrictive social structure that the children are pretty much forced to stay in a limited set of low education occupations, which sucks for them but is great for keeping the meme complex alive.

        • psmith says:

          which sucks for them

          That’s a mighty bold assertion.

        • rlms says:

          It’s time for another round of the SSC comments section argument about whether being Amish is nice! Someone should keep track of the periods of these and similar. My gut says that there are 2 or 3 open threads before the next discussion of selling cakes for gay marriage, and 5 or 6 before someone links those blog posts about Galileo.

        • To begin with, the Amish aren’t all that non-mechanized, depending on the particular affiliation. Some permit tractors as long as they have steel wheels, making them unsuitable for road use. Some permit powered equipment, such as bailers, on horse drawn wagons.

          In some areas a lot of them do construction work. Elsewhere a good deal of small businesses, sometimes in support of Amish agriculture. They can use power tools as long as they are not driven by electric motors.

          I like to quote McCloskey’s figure, that real per capita income in the developed world is about twenty to thirty times higher than it was through most of history. That leaves a lot of room between average incomes and grinding poverty.

          • onyomi says:

            I like to quote McCloskey’s figure, that real per capita income in the developed world is about twenty to thirty times higher than it was through most of history. That leaves a lot of room between average incomes and grinding poverty.

            I often compare the problem of never feeling like one has enough money to that of never feeling like one has a fast computer: computers are always improving in computational power at a rapid rate, but software companies are always making their OSs and software fancier (often in superficial, unnecessary ways) at a roughly equivalent rate, so you always need a newish computer to run the latest programs satisfactorily and you never quite feel you have a lightning fast computer.

            On this analogy, the Amish are people who decided to run, e.g. Windows 95 on a cheap 2017 PC.

    • onyomi says:

      To my mind, the greatest mystery for us is not the forest primeval, but the premodern city. In the country you can live at any level of technological advancement you chose: you can live like a medieval European, like a hunter-gatherer, etc. You can even see people living like medieval farmers in rural India, or as hunter-gatherers in remote parts of e.g. the Amazon. But you can’t directly experience what e.g. life in Elizabethan London was like. That environment is just gone because third world cities are not like first-world cities a few centuries or millennia ago; they are a mishsmash of cell phones, diesel engines, etc.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        In the country you can live at any level of technological advancement you chose: you can live like a medieval European, like a hunter-gatherer, etc. You can even see people living like medieval farmers in rural India, or as hunter-gatherers in remote parts of e.g. the Amazon.

        In technological terms they might be similar, but the culture of, e.g., medieval England was very different to that of modern India, so anybody hoping to get the authentic medieval peasant experience by moving to rural Asia is still going to be disappointed.

    • biblicalsausage says:

      DavidFriedman is right about Amish land acquisition. When you double every twenty years, most of your land is recently purchased. Here’s an alternate theory.

      Let’s say you are an Amish family that has twelve children — not really a very unusual family size. Your kids only attend school to the 8th grade (most old-order Amish communities do that). Then they work for you, full time, for about four or five years, and any money they produce is yours.

      Say that you can get your kids doing work that is the productive equivalent of a $10/hour Taco Bell job. Now, if you break down worker wages verses the profit a company gets, the owner of the company usually gets about $5/hour off a $10/hour worker. So the real productivity is $15/hour. Add some carpentry skills or something, and making $15/hour off your high schoolers is a reasonable assumption. Now, work your twelve kids four years per kid, fifty weeks per year, six days per week, nine hours per day. 12*4*50*6*9*15 = $1,944,000 dollars worth of labor.

      Add that one top of the fact that Dad is working well beyond full-time — the Amish crew my Dad drove around worked on their home farms for a couple hours before going out to their ten-hour-a-day construction jobs. The wives lead similarly demanding lives, but are less likely to be employed formally. You don’t pay rent because you buy your land almost in cash, or you have a mortgage so you’re building equity. You don’t live in town. You don’t need to buy a nice house because you can build stuff or renovate run down country homes, and if you can’t build by yourself your neighbors will pitch in. You eat some farm food, but most of your calorie intake comes from, say ALDI.

      No need to save for retirement, and they don’t pay social security or medicaid. When Amish people get old, they live with one of their children. Any old-age expenses can be divided between your twelve kids and forty grandchildren. Got Alzheimer’s? One of your 15-year-old high school dropout grandkids will babysit you 24/7 those last few years. No nursing homes. No electric bill. No cell phone bill. No cell phone. No cable bill. No college expenses. No school tuition. No piano lessons. Everyone wears uniforms, so very low clothing costs. At least in Indiana, even deoderant hasn’t caught on. Waste of money.

      As long as you have a zero percent divorce rate, work at least sixty hours a week, work all your high schoolers sixty hours a week, eat cheap groceries, have a close-nit community that self-insures against disaster, and live in a very modest house, you can buy as much land as you can farm.

      My Dad was a “yoder toter” for six months — one of those guys Amish guys hire to drive them to worksites. He drove a crew of twelve brothers. One was mildly intellectually disabled. No matter. They all got paid $15 an hour, and the more skilled ones basically subsidized the less skilled ones.

      • biblicalsausage says:

        This will run up against limits eventually, though. If there’s about 57,000,000 square miles of land on earth, and maintaining a comfortable Amish lifestyle requires at least 10 square feet of land per person, and if the Amish population doubles every twenty years, then by 2668 AD the Amish will run out of land. At that point they can start building dykes or something, but the handwriting will be on the wall.

        • Longtimelurker says:

          I would point out that the Amish are essentially a parasite society. Without the protection of Uncle Sam, and other services, (i.e. Emergency Rooms, Yoder Toters), the Amish life would be very different.

          Edit: I mean that they rely on larger society that they cannot produce. The Amish can only exist as a small subculture. Parasite is not meant to be insulting, merely observational.

          • Anonymous says:

            Symbiote, not parasite. The Amish produce goods, taxes and useful population (both defectors are new Amish), and receive protection in turn. If you want parasites, I invite you to look at populations which take lots of welfare and don’t produce much except crime.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            In the future, if you’re not trying to insult a group, I’m sure you could find a way to describe them without using “parasite society” to describe them. But your point is taken.

            In one sense, we are all parasitic, in that we all “outsource” a large number of tasks from outside society. I’m not in the military, nor am I a police officer, for example.

            One thing some people misunderstand about the Amish, and this might seem like a subtle point, is that the Amish, generally, don’t believe technology is sinful in and of itself. For the most part, they believe that their religious beliefs mandate cultural separation from the non-Amish world, and the anti-tech rules are just one very effective tool for accomplishing that. But each community sets its own regulations (Ordnung). So, for example, many Amish, if they need a medical device that runs on electricity, are allowed to run said device from a diesel generator, but not to hook into the electric grid.

            When it comes to emergency rooms, Amish pay cash for that service. They either dig into family funds, or the local Amish congregation covers the medical bill. Many Amish communities have an actual medical insurance bill they pay to their local church which covers unexpected medical bills, while other communities pitch in informally. So while they are relying on non-Amish labor, they aren’t freeloading medically.

            But you’re right. Pacifist semi-socialist rule-based communes can only exist at a certain level. When land gets too expensive, like in Europe, the Amish disappear. The last Amish congregation in Europe merged away into a more Mennonite community all the way back in 1937. They need cheap land, and they need to be exempt from public schooling to keep existing.

            Perhaps the greatest service the outside world offers the Amish is that we offer a pressure valve. Technically, one doesn’t become Amish till adulthood, and one has a choice. If one chooses to join the Amish faith as an adult, leaving the church results in shunning. But if one chooses not to join in the first place, one can still have a relationship with one’s parents. About 80-90% of Amish youth decide to become Amish, and 10-20% decide not too. If the Amish couldn’t offload the least enthusiastic 10-20% of their children to the outside world in a relatively painless way, maintaining the strict Amish discipline would probably be harder. Many Amish believe that salvation is also available in (less perfect, but still heaven-worthy) non-Amish churches, especially conservative Mennonite churches. So you’re not even necessarily hellbound if you opt out.

            Small-scale socially repressive movements like the Amish can work because those who can’t fit in can leave. Try it on a whole country like Russia, and things can get nasty fast, because people only go away if you kill them.

          • Jiro says:

            Yes, all you have to do is overcome your Amish upbringing and Amish education while still barely past being a child, with limited preparation for living in the outside world, in a narrow time window that is given to you so that the Amish can claim that people are “allowed to leave”.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            Jiro,

            I definitely didn’t mean to imply that Amish teens are exercising informed consent to the Amish lifestyle or anything like that. I’m sure people feel all sorts of coercion, and not getting the kids a high school diploma already means they’re likely to have trouble leaving.

            I wasn’t trying to endorse the level of choice as adequate. I’m just saying that letting the 10-20% most dissatisfied people leave might be part of what keeps the Amish culture from facing internal rebellions.

            I was trying to think out loud about how their leaving policies, limited though they are, might help the Amish continue to exist. I didn’t lose my religion till I was 22. Had I been Amish, it’s possible I would have joined up at 18 or 21, and then realized slightly later that I had to choose between playing along in a nearly unbearable environment (for an atheist) or never speaking to my family again. It’s a terrible thing that those are the options they give people. Understandable, but terrible. Apologies if I got too enthusiastic-sounding there for a minute.

          • I definitely didn’t mean to imply that Amish teens are exercising informed consent to the Amish lifestyle or anything like that.

            There is a sense in which that’s true of all of us. I remember my sister commenting, when I was in high school, that although I liked writing poetry, becoming a Greenwich village poet just wasn’t one of the options I would consider, because my family background was academic.

            Amish youth have imperfect information about the English world, but the same is true in the other direction. It’s possible to convert into the Amish community, but it almost never happens, at least in part because all of us are strongly socialized into patterns inconsistent with that life.

            I don’t think the argument that Amish have limited options because they haven’t gone to high school holds up very well. Lots of Amish who haven’t gone to high school are successful as small scale entrepreneurs, have jobs in construction, do other successful middle level things. My guess is that, for many, perhaps most, jobs, growing up helping to run a farm or a big household is at least as good training as four years in an average high school.

            You might consider, for instance, that almost all Amish are fluently bilingual.

            A higher barrier would be the strangeness of English life to someone who has grown up Amish. I don’t know what the evidence is on how well the ones who leave do. Of course, they have the option of joining a Mennonite congregation, making it a smaller break with the familiar.

          • I agree on symbiote rather than parasite. And the same is true of all of us. I almost never grind my own flour, never grow my own wheat, so even if we bake our own bread, which we mostly do, we are dependent on the high level of division of labor in a modern society. I couldn’t make the computer this is being typed on.

            The Amish get protection against foreign states from the U.S. government. I don’t think they get much protection against crime, given their usual unwillingness to participate in the criminal legal process. But most of what they get is simply the benefit of being able to trade what they produce for things other people made, many of which use technologies they are unwilling to use.

          • JulieK says:

            Small-scale socially repressive movements like the Amish can work because those who can’t fit in can leave. Try it on a whole country like Russia, and things can get nasty fast, because people only go away if you kill them.

            Interestingly, I had a very similar thought when reading Scott’s comment above (“I presented data from one weird community showing that it didn’t look like their criticisms were true. Some other people in the comments presented data from other weird communities showing the same thing. I don’t claim this is necessarily an accurate representation of what a future hypothetical worldwide polyamorous society would be like. For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.”)

            Having “tried something in real life” on a very small scale doesn’t necessarily tell us how it works on a large scale.

          • Jiro says:

            There is a sense in which that’s true of all of us.

            A lot of things are a matter of degrees. There are careers and social structures which are denied me because of my background, but fewer than for the Amish.

            Furthermore, there’s a difference between being limited by circumstances and being limited on purpose. If a poor child can’t get medical attention because of poverty, that sucks, but you don’t blame his parents for being poor. If a child can’t get medical attention because his parents don’t believe in doctors, then you do blame his parents.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Since it seems like we’re in Round 2 of the “Amish Engineer” debate, does anyone have anything new to say since last time?

          • Matt M says:

            I agree on symbiote rather than parasite. And the same is true of all of us. I almost never grind my own flour, never grow my own wheat, so even if we bake our own bread, which we mostly do, we are dependent on the high level of division of labor in a modern society. I couldn’t make the computer this is being typed on.

            An excellent point.

            Not only are the Amish hardly the only people to benefit from the division of labor, they’d probably do a much much better job of dealing with the effects of any significant harm to it than most of us would.

            Would the Amish be screwed without someone else willing to be soldiers on their behalf? Maybe. But not as screwed as computer programmers would be without someone else willing to mine coal on their behalf… Does that make the programmer a parasite?

          • Jiro says:

            If computer programmers made their children take oaths not to become coal miners and shunned those who became coal miners after oath-taking age, but still depended on coal miners for their existence, I might consider them to be parasites on coal miners.

          • @Jiro:

            I don’t follow that. You might think doing that was unfair to the children, but why does it make the parents parasites on the coal miners?

            If anything, it’s the other way around. Agreeing not to compete with coal miners is a benefit to the coal miners, a cost to everyone else.

          • Matt M says:

            I stand by my thought experiment.

            If the division of labor were to disappear tomorrow, the Amish would be a whole lot less fucked than most people would. It’d take some time for some warlord to gather enough strength and stability and motivation to conquer them. Whereas, everyone who didn’t know how to farm or build things would probably find themselves dead or enslaved to a warlord almost immediately.

          • Jiro says:

            You might think doing that was unfair to the children, but why does it make the parents parasites on the coal miners?

            Because they are using extreme measures to make sure their society doesn’t produce any coal miners, while still depending on the existence of coal miners.

          • Vojtas says:

            You might think doing that was unfair to the children, but why does it make the parents parasites on the coal miners?

            Building on what Jiro said, this has parallels to necessary but historically very low status caste occupations like tanners and butchers in Buddhist countries, or corpse-handlers in India. The Amish are dependent on the host country for defense, but must, to say the least, look down on the very mode of social organization that makes this defense possible. This isn’t galling only because they have very little wealth, power, or extra-communal status.

            That said, I do think the relationship is more fairly characterized as mutualistic or at least commensal rather than parasitic.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          if the Amish population doubles every twenty years, then by 2668 AD the Amish will run out of land

          And by the year 3408 AD, they will run out of galaxy. #amishIntelligenceThreat

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Maybe David Friedman can answer this:

            How do the Amish feel about paperclips?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      As other people have mentioned, the Amish and other Plain People sects are doing quite well for themselves. Their present way of life clearly isn’t sustainable but that shouldn’t come as a surprise since you can’t sustain exponential growth forever.

      But the reason the Amish are interesting here is that the Amish are a good counterpoint to an assumption you make: that a technological society must be a modern society. The Amish actually use a fair bit of modern technology, there are even Amish machine shops and factories, but take a great deal of care over which technologies they use so as not to disrupt their way of life. They’ve avoided the societal decay of Modernity while still enjoying many of its more useful technological fruits.

      Of course there’s a problem. Modern slave morality is built on a foundation of resentiment and nothing inspires envy like seeing someone living a better life. I have no doubt that once the Amish population becomes too large to ignore we will see a movement to pull them back down into the crab bucket with the rest of us. And since they’re totally unarmed they have no way to effectively resist.

      • Saint Fiasco says:

        Are there many Amish inventors? If the technology they choose to use was mostly created by outsiders, then it’s not that amazing that they avoided the societal decay of Modernity.

        That social decay is the price we pay not for using technology, but for being able to create it.

        • biblicalsausage says:

          I don’t know about Amish inventors, but Mennonites (pacifists) invented the rifle.

          • I don’t think that is correct. Mennonite gunsmiths seem to have been involved in the production of early longrifles, but those were not the first rifles.

            That’s going by a quick google–do you have sources to support your stronger claim?

            And there is nothing very odd about pacifists making rifles, since the main purpose of rifles was hunting, not warfare.

      • Wency says:

        But they swore if we gave them our weapons the wars of the tribes would cease!

        One thing the Amish have going for their survival is that most of them appear not to vote (I see numbers like 15%). This is wise — if the Amish were enough to, say, tip Ohio or PA towards being reliably Republican in Presidential elections, they’d probably be targeted sooner.

        The Amish population of OH today is similar to the 2016 margin between Trump and Hillary. They’ll still need a while to equal the margin between Obama and Romney — since 2000, OH has added 30,000 people, of which 20,000 are Amish.

        Still, I suspect you’re right that their community will be destroyed in the end. Perhaps they will be punished for unsanctioned hate speech (i.e., literal belief in the Bible) and troubling lack of diversity, or perhaps some crueler society will simply consider them an easy target.

        Had the Amish settled in South Africa, I imagine they’d be just about extinct by now, receiving some multiple of the farm murders that Afrikaners do. Had they been in Rhodesia, there’d be nothing left of them.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Still, I suspect you’re right that their community will be destroyed in the end. Perhaps they will be punished for unsanctioned hate speech (i.e., literal belief in the Bible) and troubling lack of diversity, or perhaps some crueler society will simply consider them an easy target.

          I’ve repeatedly wondered how much the tolerance for the Amish (and similar “para-Amish” groups) is “grandfathered in”. Specifically, I wonder what would happen if a religious community outside the Amish-Hutterite-Mennonite branch of “Anabaptist” tradition tried to form a similar community with an “Ordnung”, with equally “regressive” social norms and practices, would it be “tolerated” as much or as readily as the Amish? Why or why not?

          This question comes to mind frequently at least partially because a common criticism I see levelled at the more Christian reactionaries is that since the core of what they’re asking for, society-wise, is already present for the Amish, why don’t they just become Amish? Besides missing the diffficulty (and rareness) of people actually successfully converting to Amish and integrating into the community, it misses the point that these are people for whom theolody and points of doctrine are things that matter; that, say, infant baptism versus adult baptism, have eternal consequences. Thus, the question of whether one can have, say, “Catholic Amish” — an Amish-style lifestyle with a Catholic church? Or Eastern Orthodox with a “poryádok”?

          Also along those lines, I’d point out that one does not often hear of the Amish making efforts trying to convert the “English”. And there’s significant strains in American Protestantism that heavily emphasize the “Great Commission”, who consequently reject Amish insularity as failing to meet Christ’s command; “in the world, but not of it”, and all that. Rod Dreher with his “Benedict Option” repeatedly keeps correcting his major critics that he’s not talking about “heading for the hills” and “becoming Amish”, nor for political passivity (despite some other critics arguing that this is what it would actually take to protect the Faith from the corrosive forces of Modernity like he seeks), and even that level of “measured retreat” is condemned by hosts of other right-wing Christians as a cowardly and unacceptable retreat from the Christ-given duty to spread the “Good News” and save as many souls as possible.

          As an aside on the inevitable end of tolerance for — and subsequent destruction of — the Amish, I think a big warning sign would be the overturning of Wisconsin v. Yoder, which many, citing newer precidents, have called ripe for being reversed.

          • You might want to look at the case of the Romany. I like to say that the biggest difference between them and the Amish is that the Amish have much better PR.

            One the one hand, I think Romany system is dissolving. But it isn’t, so far as I can tell, due to the sort of outside pressure you describe. More the corrosive effect of a host society sufficiently tolerant to substantially reduce the barriers between Romany and Gadje society. The Romany seem to have done pretty well at keeping their kids out of school, at least from the description I have of the situation c. 1970–I’m not sure if things have changed since.

            The Romany come a good deal closer to the “parasite” description, since although part of the way they live off the gadje is work for pay, part of it is gaming the welfare system, con games, and the like. But that doesn’t seem to have been the problem for maintaining their system.

            The Romany are also much lower profile, less visible than the Amish. Most Americans hardly know they are here, and those who do know little about them.

            There are some advantages to that approach. The Nazis tried to eliminate both the Jews and the Romany, but they seem to have been much less successful with the Romany–at very rough estimate, killing about a quarter of them.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Wikipedia estimates 150% death toll.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I’m not sure how the Romany are illustrative, as they look to be equally “grandfathered in”. Whatever tolerance is extended to the traditional Romany lifestyle (which you note is dissolving), could others get the same? If a bunch of previously “white-bread Americans” started behaving like the Romany, complete with similar attitudes toward the “Gadje” and the exploitation of them, would they receive the same tolerance?

            And you note that in their case, it’s less pressure and more the “draw” of the “host” society that drives the “defections” and assimilation. So pressure is unneeded in their case. But the Amish seem to have much better retention rates, better mechanisms agaist the “corrosive effect” of modernity. Which is why I expect that for them, that since the “carrot” is not working so well, the “stick” will come out. And schooling looks like the wedge. Note the hostility shown toward Amish child-rearing practices and attitudes to schooling by some in this very discussion thread.

            And this leads back around to my question from a different angle. We note that the Amish have better resistance to “corrosive Modernity” than the Romany, which presumably has some underlying mechanism, possibly in different cultural practices. So this brings two questions:
            1. What are the sort of practices a group could — must — engage in so as to resist, and persist and grow in the face of, an attractive, “corrosive” host society?
            2. How much, to what degreee, would a group, not “grandfathered in” by having practiced such cultural forms for centuries, be allowed by the host society to practice such forms? Again, would a group of non-Amish truly be allowed to “go Amish” (that is, adopting Amish-style life modes or social mores without literally joining the existing Amish)?

          • If a bunch of previously “white-bread Americans” started behaving like the Romany, complete with similar attitudes toward the “Gadje” and the exploitation of them, would they receive the same tolerance?

            I don’t think the Romany are grandfathered in in any useful sense. Most of America knows much less about them, and most of them are much more recent immigrants.

            If another group started behaving that way and had all the same social institutions, norms, their own language, and the like, I don’t see that they would get any less tolerance than the Romany. The Romany managed not by getting any special favorable treatment but by not, in the U.S., getting special unfavorable treatment, or at least not nearly as much as in other places in the past.

          • John Schilling says:

            The bit where the Amish get to opt out of Social Security on the grounds that they really, really promise to take care of their old folks, pretty much has to be grandfathered in.

            The rest, judging by the performance of other religious cults / separatist movements, I’m pretty sure you can get away with so long as you don’t have the church elders sleeping with multiple teenage girls or amassing an arsenal of tacticool weaponry. And if you get away with it for a generation or so, you get to be a real religion.

          • biblicalsausage says:

            When it comes to the Great Commission, there was a split between old-order Amish and what are now known as Beachy people a couple generations ago. I’ve known some Beachy from Holmes County, and they occupy a sort of intermediate zone between Amish and Mennonite. They can’t even agree on whether calling them Amish or not is accurate. But they are evangelistic in a way that regular Amish aren’t.

            The Wikipedia article, as far as I can tell from personal experience, treats them as less Amish than they really are. Based on some younger ones I’ve talked to, I’d guess they’re heading towards mainstream evangelical American culture.

    • Matt M says:

      Is Amish land really particularly valuable? I don’t know a ton about real estate, but it seems to me that there is plenty of agriculturally-viable land out there for purchase for relatively reasonable prices. The issue seems to be the classic real estate concern of location, location, location. The cheap land won’t be near any major cities or maybe not even major roads. It won’t have broadband, it might not even have electricity. If you are Amish (or someone who wants to live like the Amish) this won’t bother you – if you are literally anyone else, it will.

      Water is also probably a major issue that’s a lot more difficult to resolve. Water rights are highly contentious and the state is involved in a major way. Not sure exactly how the Amish overcome this one, but that would be my major concern.

      • biblicalsausage says:

        In Indiana, they either just get a regular municipal water hook-up, or they use gas-powered machinery to pull water out of a well.

        • Matt M says:

          But if you want REALLY cheap land, it won’t have those features. It won’t be within range of a municipal water supply, and it might not even have enough groundwater to support wells.

          (Perhaps this varies from place to place, but where I grew up in Oregon it was actually a big deal, particularly with smaller plots of land during the summer)

          • biblicalsausage says:

            We don’t think about those things in my neck of the woods. We have sump pumps so our basements don’t overflow every time it rains. I guess I knew in theory that you might not be able to just dig a well and get water anywhere, but I hadn’t really thought through the logistics.

    • Brad says:

      You need some startup capital and a fair bit of skill, but you can go to Montana or Idaho or Alaska and just disappear if you want to. Don’t practice ‘celestial marriage’ with 15 year old girls, build your own machine guns, put out pamphlets that say no one needs to pay taxes because flags have a yellow fringe on them, stick to your own land or that of your friends, mostly barter rather than sell for cash, and probably pay your local property taxes if nothing else and you should be left alone.

      At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten from some people that have seriously considered doing so. Can’t say I know anyone that’s actually done it.

    • vV_Vv says:

      can a person ship some yaks to the canadian shield and become a pastoralist?
      could one reclaim the formerly agricultural land on the east coast?

      All the good land is probably already taken by plant and animal farmers that use modern methods, a traditional farmer or pastoralist would not be able to compete with them to bid for these lands, hence he or she would have to settle for low-value marginal lands.

      Do the Amish only pull it off

      They don’t. They use an idiosyncratic mix of modern and pre-modern technology.

  5. lycotic says:

    So… maybe all that money I spent on organic produce because it wasn’t worth arguing with my family was worth it.

    Word comes out that, despite overwhelming rodent evidence and reasonable human evidence of chronic toxicity at low doses, the pesticide chlorpyrifos will continue to be used. The EPA notes that there are “considerable areas of uncertainty” about it. So… yeah, that makes me terribly comfortable.

    I can understand (even if I don’t agree), the rationale of the new regulators who are looking for a lighter touch. But it means I can’t trust them to keep me safe.

    The upshot is that I guess it’s best to buy organic, even though it cuts out some safe pesticides, in order to avoid it. This is not the ideal solution, but I’m pretty sure we’re never going to see “no organophosphates” on a label.

    And I get to eat crow for jibing people about it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I find this article about it in CNN.

      The article quotes a bunch of activists talking about how the science is clear and settled and obviously this stuff is harmful as having your fetus smoke two packs a day with a whiskey chaser.

      It also reports on some of the science directly, claiming the chemical was found in “picogram” (doesn’t say picogram-per-what) concentrations in some children when it was legal for residential use, and that these children had increased odds of some symptoms. It says it was not found at all after the residential ban.

      This does not strike me as a strong argument for banning its agricultural use.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Do you have numbers? How low is this “low dose”? My understanding is that chlorpyrifos has recently been determined to be 10x as toxic as previously believed. But EPA standards are always built on a 1000x safety margin, so that’s not a big deal. Maybe they should now lower the legal limits by a matching 10x, but they shouldn’t ban it.

  6. hnau says:

    Flagging for the next links post: rampant nominative determinism.

    … Joe Quirk and Patri Friedman’s new book Seasteading: How Floating Nations will Restore the Environment, Enrich the Poor, Cure the Sick, and Liberate Humanity from Politicians.

    As reviewed here.

    • Tibor says:

      For me the main point is that there are no people already living in the ocean. It might be difficult for the US Libertarians to move 20 thousand people to New Hampshire (they seem to have moved about 10% with another 13% who had already been living in NH). However, they need those 20 thousand in order to have a strong enough voting base. If you start from a blank slate, any number of people high enough to sustain the community is enough. The problem in NH is that individual and group rationality are not in alignment. If I move today and nobody else does, it incurs costs on me (provided that I didn’t want to move to NH anyway of course) but brings no benefits. If I stay and everyone else (or a critical number of them) does, they will pass the reforms I care about anyway and I might as well stay where I am until that happens.

      With the seastead, you don’t have these issues. As for trailer parks, well, they still occupy the land owned by a government, so I don’t think that’s a good comparison. In an ideal world, this would of course be easier to do on land, but there’s no more land left (maybe Antarctica in the future?).

      I don’t quite see countries claiming the middle of the ocean, mostly because there are many of them who would like to claim it and no clear way to decide who should get it.

      What could indeed be an issue is that not very many people actually might want to live in the middle of the ocean. Also, there are a lot of differences in freedom of various countries and they do not necessarily inspire others. Switzerland is more free than any EU country and there for everyone to see but their system is not going to be adapted by any other country anytime soon. Singapore is not quite free in all respects but it still probably beats Malaysia or Indonesia in personal (if not political) freedom and it is a huge economic success. Still, those neighbours don’t seem to be adapting its policies. The problem might partly be that both Singapore and Switzerland are fairly small and even if they had free immigration (which they don’t) they would not be a serious competitors for other countries in terms of attracting citizens. But oceans are huge and there is a plenty space for people as long as they are interested. And they will be interested as long as living there is not significantly more expensive or less comfortable than living on land, I think.

      • Murphy says:

        depends on your definition.

        there’s already huge chinese owned factory ships off the coasts of the US and EU.

        http://www.futureworld.org/PublicZone/MindBullets/MindBulletsDetails.aspx?MindBulletID=324

        Seasteading enthusiasts seem to believe that there’s a big pile of potential efficiency to be picked up from seasteading that would allow them to compete better and maintain their lifestyles with the excess wealth generated while also allowing them all this freedom to choose their own government.

        In practice groups who are better at coordinating than them have already built sea-factories where people live for many months at a time. They’re already absorbing the potential profits from operating where labor laws don’t really apply, workplace safety laws don’t apply, where no government can easily make them dispose of industrial waste safely rather than letting it contaminate the local water and in such a manner that they can move to where demand is.

        By the time the Seasteaders sort themselves out they’re going to arrive to find that government backed entities from nations with low standards have already taken the best spots, claimed them for themselves and are already running tighter operations than the Seasteaders are ever going to be able to get going.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          Likely, but I believe I just read the linked scenario is fictional.

          • Murphy says:

            Euck. Sorry about that. I was trying to find articles on the subject and missed that that was a fictional prediction from a few years back.

            A small company owner I met in spain makes replacement jet aircraft parts to order, the sort of setup where they courier parts out in <24hours. Very precise, very strict tolerances.

            He was bemoaning a chinese factory ship which had taken up residence off the coast. (pretty much exactly as the fictional article described) They were cutting into his business and were undercutting him because while he had to pay for things like disposal of hazardous chemicals, labor laws or compensation if workers were injured the chinese boat did not since there was nobody to prevent them from just dumping waste over the side.

            He noted that their work wasn't crap: it was extremely high quality.

            Annoyingly I can't find articles about said barge/ship, it's swamped by things like articles about china setting things up in the south china sea.

        • random832 says:

          where no government can easily make them dispose of industrial waste safely rather than letting it contaminate the local water and in such a manner that they can move to where demand is.

          Sending a destroyer to escort it out of the country’s EEZ (waste dumping counts as economic usage, doesn’t it?) doesn’t seem particularly difficult on a technical level. Capture or sink any repeat offenders and they’ll quickly decide it’s not worth the risk.

        • JulieK says:

          I don’t see the “efficiency” in moving to a place where you need to create or import your own terra firma, and drinking water, and pretty much everything else, rather than starting where those things are in ample supply.

      • kauffj says:

        The problem in NH is that individual and group rationality are not in alignment. If I move today and nobody else does, it incurs costs on me (provided that I didn’t want to move to NH anyway of course) but brings no benefits. If I stay and everyone else (or a critical number of them) does, they will pass the reforms I care about anyway and I might as well stay where I am until that happens.

        1. There is increased status inside of the community for moving early. Both for having the courage to move first and because these people end up welcoming and connecting others.
        2. Should the project be successful, early moving is an incredibly strong signal. Early movers can be trusted to have moved on principle and be true believers, later movers are more likely to be opportunistic.

        This sets aside what I think is the largest immediate value for libertarians, which is finally living with a community where other people share your values. Sure there are only 5,000 people in NH, but that’s already 1 in 200. And more than that ratio if you pick the right city. Just going to the super market or walking downtown, you’ll run into others or see a bumper sticker on a car, etc. If you’ve spent your whole life feeling like others don’t share your values, it’s psychologically lifting to a degree I didn’t anticipate.

        (I moved to NH < 2 years ago.)

        • onyomi says:

          If you’ve spent your whole life feeling like others don’t share your values, it’s psychologically lifting to a degree I didn’t anticipate.

          Having found a pretty good-sized libertarian group in my last place of residence, I can definitely understand that feeling. Sadly, I moved again, and not to NH. 🙁

          • A very long time ago there was a libertarian get together on Santa Catalina island, I think organized by Robert Lefevre. En route, I spent, I think, a couple of days visiting with people in the L.A. libertarian community. It was a non-geographical village, spread over perhaps an area perhaps fifty miles across. I remember both that and the conference as occasions when I had the same sort of feeling others have just described.

            I remember at one point putting out a bowl of potato chips with a price label on it, possibly five cents a chip. The point was not that I wanted people to pay money but that I was celebrating being in a culture where charging money for things was not seen as sinful, even in a social context.

          • Tibor says:

            I haven’t been to any libertarian meetings or anything like that, so I can’t really say. But I am not sure. I think I would enjoy company of open minded people (which is why I frequent this forum, it’s not ideal but it is pretty good), even those who disagree with me, but who do it in an interesting way. I know some libertarians whom I definitely do not like, because they’re ideologues who are immediately done with everything because they see anything libertarian as an obvious good and anything else as obvious evil. I would not want to spend time with people like those.

            That said, I would probably enjoy if liberal/libertarian opinions were held by more people, say 20% as opposed to 5-10% of the population. One reason for that is that that would make non-liberals more aware of good arguments for liberalism. Most people, even most educated people, hold a very caricatured view of liberalism, basically they see liberals as people who like big business and weed (sometimes just the big business) or something like that. It is sometimes fun making smart and curious people aware of actual liberal/libertarian arguments, but it is tiresome to read a lot of nonsense on that matter in the media…Although lately, I’m considering stopping reading the media altogether, even the BBC sometimes shows outright tabloid-like “news” nowadays, for example yesterday one of the things on the front page (just below the main story) was how Justin Trudeau photo-bombed someone’s photo while jogging. That’s not news. What I haven’t figured out however, is how to get any news at all if I do that, sometimes they still report about something important enough that I want to read about it.

          • kauffj says:

            Onyomi, if you’d ever like to visit, I’d happily host you. I’ve much enjoyed your contributions in past open threads.

            Tibor, I agree, and if I had a complaint about the community it’d probably be that there are plenty of ideologues, just of a different stripe. Nonetheless, I find it preferable to be surrounded by people who share my beliefs for flawed reasons than to be around people with do not share my beliefs, but also hold these beliefs for flawed reasons. Open-mindedness decreases in utility as intelligence decreases, so a community where everyone is open-minded is never likely to exist.

          • onyomi says:

            I remember at one point putting out a bowl of potato chips with a price label on it, possibly five cents a chip. The point was not that I wanted people to pay money but that I was celebrating being in a culture where charging money for things was not seen as sinful, even in a social context.

            I’d also bet that you could leave the chips on a table and return to find a sum of money roughly equivalent to the number of chips taken.

            Also, lest any non-libertarians reading this have the impression that a bunch of libertarians living together would turn into some sort of ruthless, Nietzschean dystopia, the libertarian groups I’ve met, as the above kind offer would indicate, tend to be extremely generous and not at all about making everything quid-pro-quo (though whether this would hold true in case of a much larger, still libertarian-inclined population, I don’t know; I think most libertarians have some sense that part and parcel of arguing against government welfare is being open to the idea of private charity).

          • onyomi says:

            @Kauffj

            Thanks! I’ll send a shoutout on SSC if I’m ever in the area. Have thought about going to Porcfest a few times but not got around to it yet. Some day…

          • baconbacon says:

            Also, lest any non-libertarians reading this have the impression that a bunch of libertarians living together would turn into some sort of ruthless, Nietzschean dystopia, the libertarian groups I’ve met, as the above kind offer would indicate, tend to be extremely generous and not at all about making everything quid-pro-quo (though whether this would hold true in case of a much larger, still libertarian-inclined population, I don’t know; I think most libertarians have some sense that part and parcel of arguing against government welfare is being open to the idea of private charity).

            I think that it takes a lot of trust in random people to commit to being a libertarian.

          • I think that it takes a lot of trust in random people to commit to being a libertarian.

            Not random people.

            But in my experience, random people are mostly pretty honest. If you leave your wallet where any passer by can steal it, it may well get stolen. If you leave it where one person can steal it, say in a shop where you were looking at things, it will probably still be there when you return.

            At least, that was my experience in Teheran a very long time ago.

          • baconbacon says:

            Not random people.

            I think I know what you mean, but life does revolve around interactions with random people, and if you are scared of their behavior absent a large and powerful government/god life is stressful. If you think that the only reason someone has one beer at the bar and drives home instead of 10 is the law against DUI then you will push for lower and lower acceptable alcohol levels. If you trust people as a general rule you are more likely to be OK with them knowing their own limit.

            I think a lot of people become crusaders after a personal tragedy because their trust in the broader world has been shattered.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think that it takes a lot of trust in random people to commit to being a libertarian.

            To elaborate on David’s response: every economic system beyond a commune will require trust in random people.

            One advantage I see in libertarianism is that it’s more fault tolerant – your worst payoff for trusting the wrong person is better that your worst payoff for trusting the wrong person in a collectivist society. Case in point:

            If you think that the only reason someone has one beer at the bar and drives home instead of 10 is the law against DUI then you will push for lower and lower acceptable alcohol levels. If you trust people as a general rule you are more likely to be OK with them knowing their own limit.

            I think you left out an important detail here, that many people leave out: that we’re all trusting some other group of people to faithfully enforce those lower alcohol levels. All we do here is replace one trust group with another. Moreover, we put even more authority in that latter group; they’re not just enforcing sobriety, but also general traffic safety, civil safety, speedy investigation of crime, securing justice… and we’re forcing that now pervasive network of implementors on everyone. What happens if that network is perceived as a source of injustice in places?

          • baconbacon says:

            I think you left out an important detail here, that many people leave out: that we’re all trusting some other group of people to faithfully enforce those lower alcohol levels

            Statists generally want to trust a small group of non random people to enforce the behavior. They want experts to write the rules and career professionals to enforce them, as a general rule they mentally categorize government officials differently from an average citizen.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I get the same sense as you do, that statists do that. The questions I’m left with, then, is whether we’re correct, or if there’s something we’re missing. I have to believe statists include at least a few people who recognize that this system is going to contain effectively random people at ground level. How do they reconcile that? If they conclude that it won’t work, then that’s where I believe a lot of left-libertarians come from.

          • Viliam says:

            My guess is that most people are nice, but there is a small fraction of psychopaths and similar, who can make the average human interaction quite unpleasant anyway.

            Some traditional advice for interacting with people — prefer those who were recommended to you by a trustworthy person; very slowly increase the stakes at mutual interaction — seems designed to reduce the damage done by these human black swans.

            Unfortunately, this sometimes gets in conflict with the ideal of treating people equally.

      • baconbacon says:

        The trouble with the Free State Project is that they chose New Hampshire. They could have picked anywhere and they choose a place that simply doesn’t appeal to broad swaths of the population. Rather than attempting to find a state they could influence, they could have build a community anywhere and had it run on a local level according to their ideals. Then it could have been duplicated and spread if it had been successful (and could have been duplicated nearby if they chose their site well, which eventually means county level influence, and then plausibly state level).

        • onyomi says:

          What would have been a better location?

          • Tibor says:

            Ticino (a canton in Switzerland)? That’s what a similar European project suggests… But they are a lot less organized and it is less easy to move to and become a citizen of Switzerland than to move about the US. Still, if I could simply choose between the two, the almost subtropical (but with close mountains for skiing also) Ticino sounds a lot better than New Hampshire 🙂 plus I would finally get a motivation to learn Italian 🙂 on a more serious note, I guess that size is the number one thing, the smaller the state (in terms of population), the better. I guess there are even smaller states in the US than NH, so those might make more sense. But also you want them to be attractive regardless of politics. If there are no jobs, few people will move, if the state is in the middle of a desert or a tundra, it won’t be very attractive either.

          • baconbacon says:

            Virtually any place with or near high population density areas.

          • The southeastern corner of New Hampshire is within commuting range of the Boston area.

            New Hampshire has a low population, relatively inexpensive real estate, and parts of it are in easy range of a major metropolitan area.

          • baconbacon says:

            The southeastern corner of New Hampshire is within commuting range of the Boston area.

            Its within a long commute of a single metropolitan area and has some brutal winters (by most people’s standards) which makes the commute significantly worse fairly often. There are a good number of places that are within 1.5 hour commutes of 2 or 3 major metropolitan areas in the US.

            are in easy range

            It is exactly this sort of thinking that is the problem. ‘Easy’ is not a universal definition, my wife had a 45 min commute for a year, we have basically agreed that length of a commute is a deal breaker for the lifestyle we want to lead (barring extreme circumstances of some kind).

            New Hampshire has a low population,

            What matters is their population:the number of libertarians you can get to move there. The US has 320+ million people, give or take ~3% identify as libertarian, you have 10 million libertarians running around and the FSP has been able to attract ~0.2% of them to promise to move, and ~0.02% of them to actually move in 15 years. By selecting NH you are picking from two groups of people. 1. Libertarians who also want to live in an area like NH, and 2. People for whom living near other libertarians is an overwhelming priority. This is going to restrict you to a tiny portion of the population which explains the results.

            As a personal anecdote, my wife and I discussed signing on 5-6 years ago, it lasted about 10 mins before the realization that a long commute, a minimum of 6-7 hours from any immediate family member by car (the closest extended family being a 1st cousin of my wife’s 2 hours from SE NH), limited long terms career change options, and bad weather for our shared hobbies.

          • kauffj says:

            Uncharitable response:

            “Dad, why didn’t you fight for freedom when so many others did?”

            “I wanted to, son, but it was just too cold”

            Charitable response:

            If you thoroughly consider the possibilities, I think NH was the strongest choice.

            Population does matter. The vast majority of people will not upend their lives, regardless of what state you pick.

            In addition to a low population, NH _is_ close to a major metropolitan area. I commute to Boston on a regular basis and the southern most parts of NH are only 40-45 minutes away.

            Additionally, NH has a native population already inclined to lean libertarian, increasing the ability to persuade existing residents. Additionally, it has a state legislature structure that is incredibly conducive to success. 15 Free State Project representatives currently serve in the house.

          • baconbacon says:

            Uncharitable response:

            Why didn’t you join the FSP dad?

            Because in one of the richest and freest countries in the history of the world, the founders couldn’t come up with a better solution than to hide in a uninhabited corner of the country and give up trying to change people’s minds.

            Population does matter. The vast majority of people will not upend their lives, regardless of what state you pick.

            So? There is a huge difference between 95% not being willing to up end their lives, 99%, and 99.9% (Which is effectively what the FSP has currently achieved).

            In addition to a low population, NH _is_ close to a major metropolitan area. I commute to Boston on a regular basis and the southern most parts of NH are only 40-45 minutes away.

            It really stuns me when libertarians make statements that are, in effect, saying “its good enough for me”. A 45 min commute instead of a 15 min commute is seven thousand five hundred hours worth of extra commuting time over 30 years. That is adding almost 4 years of full time, unpaid and unhealthy work to your life. For a 20 year old planning to retire at 65 its almost 6 years. People have a vast array of preferences, the choice of a state that a tiny fraction of the country is willing to live in is indicative of not thinking about how people choose where to live.

            Its not “its cold”, its “its cold with few (if any) redeeming features for most people”. I lived with Cleveland weather for 10 years by choice because my entire family lived there. I would live with Colorado winters for the enjoyment of the state in general, and I don’t exactly live in Cancun right now.

          • Matt M says:

            A 45 min commute instead of a 15 min commute is seven thousand five hundred hours worth of extra commuting time over 30 years.

            You keep acting like the relevant comparison is NH vs Manhattan. It isn’t. The relevant comparison is NH vs Wyoming. In which case all of your arguments collapse. They had to have a small state somewhat sympathetic to their ideals. That doesn’t leave many options. And it rules out virtually anything that would pass YOUR personal criteria.

          • baconbacon says:

            You keep acting like the relevant comparison is NH vs Manhattan. It isn’t. The relevant comparison is NH vs Wyoming.

            Why is it Wyoming? Why isn’t it Rhode Island or Delaware?

          • Matt M says:

            Because those are places that

            a) Are not already sympathetic towards libertarian ideas

            b) Are not places libertarians might like to live (largely as a result of A)

            There are a LOT of variables in play here, but you can’t seem to get past “it’s cold” and/or “it isn’t within 20 minutes of a Top 5 city”

          • baconbacon says:

            What would have been a better location?

            To give this a better, but not full, answer, you need to choose a place where people can move without having to completely change their lives if you want a mass migration to happen. Lets look at a big state and see how it compares, Pennsylvania is the 6th largest state by population and about 9x as large as NH, so you might be tempted to conclude that you couldn’t make it work. However Pennsylvania is surrounded by highly populated areas. To the West is Ohio with ~ 12 million people, you can live a similar lifestyle in Pittsburgh as you can Cleveland or Columbus, or you can move from rural Ohio to Rural pa without much culture or weather shock, and without being a full day trip from your family (if you previously lived close). South of PA is WV, Maryland and Delaware, combined population of ~8 million. Baltimore and Philadelphia aren’t worlds apart, and again the rural sections aren’t crazily different either. Same with large parts of New Jersey (9 million people), and portions of NY (20 million). If a 45 min commute is reasonable to you you can commute from PA to multiple major metropolitan areas like Baltimore, Cleveland, and if you are willing to go further even DC and NYC, plus it has its own major cities.

            Between Ohio/WV/MD/NY/NJ/DE some 45-50 million people have chosen to live in a place similar to a portion of Pennsylvania. Between the hardcore free staters who would move regardless of the destination, the much larger pool of people who would be likely willing to cross the border and below average voter turnout you could probably draw about the right number of people to start effecting change if 10-20k would do it in NH, but with added benefits of the national spotlight during election years on a swing state to help spread influence.

          • onyomi says:

            @Baconbacon

            I think this relates somewhat to a recent thread where I argued that it’s hard for Reddish Gray tribe members to live the kind of lifestyle their stated values would seem to imply they could/should because doing so tends to involve giving up the Blueish cultural accoutrements they usually enjoy.

            In the case of the FSP, it would obviously be useless if they didn’t pick a low-population area. Low-population areas tend to be culturally boring compared to big cities and inherently have fewer career options. Get much closer than 45 mins’ driving range and you’re effectively in a suburb, and influenced by the politics and population patterns of the city–and city politics is almost always more anti-libertarian, besides. In other words, for the type of person who tends to be a libertarian, moving to someplace where their presence is likely to have maximum political impact is almost inherently going to be a sacrifice for most.

            As for climate, NH is a little cold for me–would prefer somewhere like North Carolina, but then you’re not in driving range of Boston. Put it in NM (home of Barry Goldwater and another place more libertarianish than average) and people will say it’s way too hot. And so on. Climate-wise preferences range pretty widely.

            My only negative thought about NH as a choice is that my vague impression is Southerners are more libertarian than Northerners to begin with. If you’re from LA, MS, AL, GA, FL, SC, TN, etc. you’re probably going to be a lot more comfortable moving to say, Virginia than New Hampshire.

            Now that I think of it, West Virginia might have been an interesting choice. It has a reputation as an extremely poor backwater, of course, but also has great natural beauty, and a small, very “Don’t Tread on Me” populous. Definitely seems an appropriate place for a “Mt. Liang Marsh” of sorts.

            *Edit to add: your point about NH’s non-central geographic location is a good one, though I’m not sure PA is a good example, since, what with Philly and Pittsburgh, you’re going to need millions more libertarians to move there before you can significantly influence the politics.

          • baconbacon says:

            There are a LOT of variables in play here, but you can’t seem to get past “it’s cold” and/or “it isn’t within 20 minutes of a Top 5 city”

            You are being obtuse, seemingly intentionally. This isn’t about if I would move there, it is about the fact that almost no one in the US wants to move there.

          • baconbacon says:

            Edit to add: your point about NH’s non-central geographic location is a good one, though I’m not sure PA is a good example, since, what with Philly and Pittsburgh, you’re going to need millions more libertarians to move there before you can significantly influence the politics.

            Did you know Ron Paul finished with 16% of PAs primary vote in 2008 vs 8% in NH, and 13% in 2012? PA already has a solid libertarian bent, lower voter turnout which is easier to influence and lower registered voters.

          • baconbacon says:

            Either way I didn’t choose PA to say “clearly PA is the correct choice”, only to highlight how you should approach trying to convince people to move.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @baconbacon

            couldn’t come up with a better solution than to hide in a uninhabited corner of the country and give up trying to change people’s minds.

            In answer:

            Argument has refined our principles, and academic research has enlarged our understanding, but they have gotten us no closer to an actual libertarian state. Our debating springs not from calculated strategy, but from an intuitive “folk activism”: an instinct to seek political change through personal interaction, born in our hunter-gatherer days when all politics was personal. In the modern world, however, bad policies are the result of human action, not human design. To change them we must understand how they emerge from human interaction, and then alter the web of incentives that drives behavior. Attempts to directly influence people or ideas without changing incentives, such as the U.S. Libertarian Party, the Ron Paul campaign, and academic research, are thus useless for achieving real-world liberty.

            —from “Beyond Folk Activism“, by Patri Friedman.

            Now, I have my own objection to the whole ‘go out there and “change people’s minds” over to your side’ response. Namely, that as pretty much every strategist since old Sun Tzu has noted, you generally don’t attack the enemy where they’re strongest. So, what do you do when you’re fighting against an ideology/system/culture/tribe/et cetera whose greatest strength is persuasiveness? Whose ideas are simply more persuasive than yours to the vast majority of people, no matter what you do, no matter how well you “sell” your positions?

            Because “persuasive” and “factual” are not synonymous. The “marketplace of ideas” doesn’t select for truth, it selects for virulence. Back in “How the West was Won“, Scott was willing to countenance a comparison to heroin. One might have truth on one’s side, but when one is up against falsehoods more attractive, more persuasive than truth, against “cognitive crack”, trying to match propaganda for propaganda looks like a strategic error. What can one do against a highly-virulent “mind virus”, better able to hijack the bulk of your society’s brains than anything you could ever hope to present?

            It seems to me that practically every alternative strategy proposed involves the formation of some manner of “enclaves”/”parallel societies”. Creating a space, geographic, political, or cultural, where one can “go one’s own way”.

            First, via “exit”/geographical separation, as in seasteading. I have a whole litany of reasons for which I think seasteading and it’s ilk won’t work, but the final one is pretty much “what do you do when the US Navy brings a ship alongside your seastead and tells you How Things Are Going To Be, Or Else?” The world is too small and too connected for meaningful geographic “exit” like that anymore; there is no more frontier to flee to.

            The second is to obtain control of a political subdivision of an existing polity, whether by being explicitly ceeded, as with “charter cities”, or by takeover via concentration of the local democracy, as with the Free State Project. In both cases, you’re limited by how much independence the host polity will allow you — how much “federalism” there actually is in the present US, for the NH case. Plus, plenty of people on this thread have done the job of showing how the numbers don’t work out for NH. And suppose it did work? Consider then the example set. How much of the disconnect in recent presidential elections between popular vote and Electoral College results is due to concentration of Democrat voters in “hyper-blue” places like California or NYC? A left-wing supermajority in CA wins no more EC votes than 50.1% does. So with the “Free State” example, what if some die-hard California lefties moved to some barely-Red states, enough to flip them blue, and spread out that “popular vote” majority until it becomes an EC majority as well. Or “anti-libertarians”, left and right, moving into NH to “flip” it back and undo the “Free State” gains?

            The third model is to create cultural rather than political boundaries, the Amish/Benedict Option mode, whereby one develops practices of memetic hygiene, creating a cordon sanitaire against the mind virus.

            One problem all of these have in common is that they depend on the willingness of the “host” societies to leave such people be. And I just don’t have that much faith in the “tolerance” of “liberal Modernity” toward those who actively reject it, particulary that those exceptions whereby “illiberal cultures” are tolerated will last forever.

            And even if you get your enclave/ghetto, what’s the long-term model? To simply remain a tiny cultural island “parasitic” upon a greater “outsider” host culture (if only in terms of national defense), eking out a limited, insular existence, generation by generation, until either the Sword of Damocles falls and the host culture switches from “tolerance” to “pogroms”, or the Day of Judgement arrives? Or is the idea that your superior views, more in tune with reality than the attractive falsehoods of cognitive heroin, lead to greater success, whether it’s Libertarian seasteads (or NH) proving more profitable and prosperous due to the reduced quantities of obstructive, harmful regulation, or the Dreheresque model of ‘a life well-lived in proper accordance with true Christian values will serve as such a shining example to the world — particularly when compared to the anomie and wreckage in the wake of liberal individualism — that no further proselytization is needed”, and that the attractiveness of one’s visible results will overcome the “persuasion gap.” Or one might posit that since the “mind virus” reduces the Darwinian fitness of its host, if one can maintain “quarantine”, and maintain “tolerance” from the “infected”, one can, in the long run, outbreed them (see also here). Or then there’s the idea that one fortifies one’s ghetto in hopes that when the “pretty lies” bring their inevitable fruit and the Gods of the Copybook Headings return, that one might somehow “ride out” the world-scourging, civilization-ending-beyond-any-possibility-of-returning, mass-genocide-of-entire-races, “fire and slaughter”, to take over as the only people in your area with a clue as to a workable system (the model of “Moldbuggian passivism”). If you can’t tell, I’m pretty skeptical as to the viability of all of these.

            (Pretty much the only other alternative I know of, the only “non-enclave” solution, involves those resistant to/opposing the “mind virus” to team up and coordinate clandestinely, and carefully, covertly concentrate themselves not in any particular geographic or political space, but in institutions like the armed forces and police, until we have enough control over these bodies to overcome the “persuasion gap” with superiority in a very different form of “persuasion”, and then go all Arnaud Amalric.)

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Put it in NM (home of Barry Goldwater and another place more libertarianish than average) and people will say it’s way too hot.

            As much as I love New Mexico, it’s problem is less that it’s too hot (in the summer) than that it’s too dry (year round).

            Also, Goldwater was from Arizona. Gary Johnson is from New Mexico, and was even governor there, but my impression over the past 10-15 years is that the state is sliding blue in a major way.

          • onyomi says:

            Also, Goldwater was from Arizona. Gary Johnson is from New Mexico, and was even governor there

            Oh yeah, I was thinking of Arizona politics more than NM politics (thought not at all a McCain fan… his “maverick” reputation notwithstanding), but got mixed up due to next door, and yeah, Gary Johnson.

            I actually really like Arizona, but much of it does have something of the quality of an alien landscape to my mind. The dry can be a refreshing change of pace from most of the places I’ve spent my life, but would probably get old after a while.

        • Matt M says:

          They could have picked anywhere and they choose a place that simply doesn’t appeal to broad swaths of the population.

          This was definitely a major consideration when they were determining the place. Locations such as Wyoming were ultimately rejected because nobody would be willing to move there. NH is reasonably appealing as it’s somewhat close to a major metropolitan area (Boston), includes some decent schools, etc.

          • baconbacon says:

            This was definitely a major consideration when they were determining the place. Locations such as Wyoming were ultimately rejected because nobody would be willing to move there. NH is reasonably appealing as it’s somewhat close to a major metropolitan area (Boston), includes some decent schools, etc.

            New Hampshire, its better than Wyoming! Not exactly a great marketing campaign. ~1.3 million people live in NH. The entire NE outside of a pair of major metropolitan areas (Maine, Vermont, NH specifically have a combine population of ~3.5 million after a few centuries worth of development). The parts of NH (and VT and ME) that have been developed are the ones close to Boston, so living there inhibits the “lets impact politics at the local level first” idea that is going on.

            The issue was they looked at low population states to try to have an impact, but they are low population for a reason.

            Ideally they would have picked a fast growing state, and you get the double effect of drawing like minded people in, and also exposing people to these idea (future neighbors).

          • Matt M says:

            I believe Texas did make the Top 5 or so for those reasons exactly.

            Of course the other point is that they don’t really want just anyone to move. They want principled libertarians leading the charge. Even with the NH situation there’s already tons of more “hardcore” libertarians who moved out there and then splintered off because the FSP is considered to be filled with a bunch of progressive …. LINOs?

          • John Schilling says:

            Of course the other point is that they don’t really want just anyone to move.

            OK, they’re doomed, cue ridicule and laughter.

            Libertarians in America are too small a minority to be at all picky; whenever they do the “you are insufficiently pure to associate with us true libertarians” bit, which they do often, they condemn themselves to political irrelevance.

            The idea that enough geographically mobile libertarians might settle in one place to shift a small state Gray on the electoral map was always a long shot; adding any sort of purity test puts it so far out of reach that even the ones who would pass the purity test, if they also pass an IQ test, will walk away from the whole hopeless endeavor. To make this work (or to get 5% of the popular vote in a presidential election or any of the other long-shot libertarian goals), you need to not merely accept but positively court every marginal LINO who might be willing to join in.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Libertarians in America are too small a minority to be at all picky; whenever they do the “you are insufficiently pure to associate with us true libertarians” bit, which they do often, they condemn themselves to political irrelevance.

            Point taken, but this might not be a bad idea, depending on how the “purity test” is aimed. For example, if you want your cause to succeed, one of the worst things you could do would be to organize a move that ends up only getting the people who are libertarian for the free weed.

            To be a little less strawmanly: you’re going to want another city on a hill, full of people who both succeed at quality of life and also exemplify libertarianism. Again, if your vanguard group includes people who weren’t going to rank very high in GDP anyway, then you’re going to have a hard time attracting more.

            Then again, if this truly is their approach, then I’d argue this is wrong, too. Libertarianism really is touted as a philosophy for everyone; it should accept all comers, including the slackers, and show that it works about as well as anyone might expect for them, too. An FSP that puts nothing but weedheads in a town is doing the philosophy a disservice, but so is one that puts nothing but Heinleins and Galts there, prospers wildly, then the masses flood in, fail to get the same benefits, cue pitchforks.

            The true strategy might be the patient one. Move 20000 there, maintain the approach, and just hold the line a generation or two and see if they’re really doing well economically. If all they’re looking for is libertarians willing to pull their own weight, then I’d expect the political influence to come in due course.

          • Evan Þ says:

            On the other hand, the Early Adopters who’ve moved to New Hampshire have probably helped push the state in a more libertarian-ish direction than otherwise. Trash pickup and a lot of other services are privately-run there, and back during Bush’s second term, one state legislator even proposed a de facto ordinance of secession over the federal regulatory burden.

          • baconbacon says:

            Point taken, but this might not be a bad idea, depending on how the “purity test” is aimed. For example, if you want your cause to succeed, one of the worst things you could do would be to organize a move that ends up only getting the people who are libertarian for the free weed.

            Once you are asking people to sacrifice even a little you will be dropping the halfhearted anyway. People choose where they live, even if just through inertia, don’t make it even harder by picking a place that ~1% of the population is willing to live in.

            And you know what? There are a lot of “legal weed libertarians” in Colorado, and you know what they got? Legal(ish) weed! They actually, mostly through just associating with generally like minded people, got what they wanted.

            Which is what boggles my mind. Libertarians generally have a strong free market streak, but when they get together they so often forget some of the basic principles when they plan.

          • Matt M says:

            People choose where they live, even if just through inertia, don’t make it even harder by picking a place that ~1% of the population is willing to live in.

            “Most people don’t want to live there” is sort of like, required, for the goal of being able to take over the body politic through ideologically-driven migration.

            Going farther back, there’s a reason that the Puritans established a colony in Massachusetts rather than a few miles outside of London, and it ain’t because the New World was considered an Earthly paradise that would be super easy and convenient to transform into something wonderful.

          • baconbacon says:

            Going farther back, there’s a reason that the Puritans established a colony in Massachusetts rather than a few miles outside of London, and it ain’t because the New World was considered an Earthly paradise that would be super easy and convenient to transform into something wonderful.

            This would be the analogy for sea-steading, not the FSP. Come build a paradise isn’t the same as “move to NH, we know it cold and a long way from anywhere, but hey in 50-60 years it should be more libertarian-ish”.

            As I said before the only ratio that matters is the current population:the number of people you can get to move there (+how easy converts would be). The fact that it took 15+ years to get 20,000 just to promise to move speaks to how poor the choice was.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s a third part of your ratio missing, which is “# of people necessary to have a meaningful impact on state politics”

            Would it have been easier to get 20,000 people to move to Texas? Yeah, probably. Would that make them a relevant force in Texas politics? lolno

            And of course, Texas is also really hot and far away from a lot of places a lot of people want to live.

            Your basic complaint seems to be “this destination is not perfect in every possible way therefore it sucks”

          • baconbacon says:

            Your basic complaint seems to be “this destination is not perfect in every possible way therefore it sucks”

            This isn’t even remotely close to my position. My position is that if 1% of the population has chosen to live in areas like this (total population of Maine, NH and Vermont is ~3 million) then you are asking a lot for people to move there.

            There’s a third part of your ratio missing, which is “# of people necessary to have a meaningful impact on state politics”

            This would be entirely encapsulated by population vs total willing to move there. It isn’t missing at all, but since you bring it up NH is actually a poor choice because it has high voter turnout (4th in the country in voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election), so your 20,000 extra votes doesn’t go as far as it would in a similar sized, but lower turnout. If we use the 2012 presidential election as a proxy for overall engagement then your 20,000 votes in NH (70% TO) gets you almost traction in West Virginia (53% TO) despite the extra half a million people living in WV, or Idaho (61% TO). If you want to maximize the impact of your 20k then Rhode Island (25% fewer people, 64% TO), Delaware (30% fewer, 66% TO) or even Vermont (half the population, 65% TO rate).

            If your response is “well people won’t move to x, y or z”, well that is the problem with picking NH, very few people want to live there.

            And of course, Texas is also really hot and far away from a lot of places a lot of people want to live.

            I wouldn’t choose Texas either, but at least 25-30 million people want to live there.

          • Matt M says:

            What WOULD you choose?

            You’ve plenty of criticism of the choice they did make, as well as many of the top alternatives. Would would your Top 5 destinations be?

            Edit: And you ignored the “already sympathetic” part. It’s not JUST population/turnout. It’s also “likelihood to be persuaded.” The LSP doesn’t plan on importing a majority (or even an effective minority). They plan on gaining a foothold and then winning over the locals. NH locals are closer to being won over than RI locals.

          • baconbacon says:

            And you ignored the “already sympathetic” part. It’s not JUST population/turnout. It’s also “likelihood to be persuaded.” The LSP doesn’t plan on importing a majority (or even an effective minority). They plan on gaining a foothold and then winning over the locals. NH locals are closer to being won over than RI locals.

            “Closer to being won over” is a difficult thing to quantify, but in politics the general rule is that undecideds, or those with no affiliation, are easier to convert than those with a history with a party. NH has a strong voting record in terms of participation. If you go in and strike up a conversation with a registered voter and point out how similar your views are to theirs in some areas their reaction is much more likely to be “let me convert him to my political view” than “let me convert to his”.

          • It’s worth noting that NH has relatively low property prices, even within commuting distance of Boston, which is a significant advantage. I could buy a pretty impressive estate for the price of a San Jose house.

          • random832 says:

            @baconbacon

            I wouldn’t choose Texas either, but at least 25-30 million people want to live there.

            Yeah, but it’s a bigger state. New Hampshire (and only NH; Maine and Vermont aren’t as high) has about 50% higher overall population density than Texas.

            We can cherry pick statistics all day, but probably the most important thing was picking a state (and one with a reasonably small total population so that whatever number they can scrape together can have a real influence on state-level politics) as a Schelling point. And they certainly can’t change it now anyway.

          • baconbacon says:

            We can cherry pick statistics all day

            Who is cherry picking? You are. The core of my argument is that what matters is not absolute population, but the relative ease/difficulty of convincing people to move there. The absolute population of all states that are geographically similar to NH is very low, despite their early founding. Unless one of the options was so close to carrying capacity (be it due to natural or artificial constraints) that adding the extra housing necessary would be prohibitively expensive, population density is pretty meaningless.

            It still boggles my mind that a movement which is supposedly tied to respecting individual choices failed to look at how individuals actually make choices or the choices that have actually been made when launching, and that 15+ years later people will still defend the choice of choosing that area after people’s choices continue to show that it was poorly considered.

            and one with a reasonably small total population so that whatever number they can scrape together can have a real influence on state-level politics

            Seriously, why is it so hard to accept the concept that their choice of destination effected the numbers that they can scrape together?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It still boggles my mind that a movement which is supposedly tied to respecting individual choices failed to look at how individuals actually make choices or the choices that have actually been made when launching

            Several people have pointed out, repeatedly, that one of the incentives was to move to a place where individuals would have the most significant effect on local politics. They even acknowledge that that’s a tradeoff against that location’s desirability along other lines. I have yet to see you address this; you seem to keep insisting that this place is non-optimal in so many ways – except for the above. Why won’t you address that?

            […] and that 15+ years later people will still defend the choice of choosing that area after people’s choices continue to show that it was poorly considered.

            Except that it wasn’t.

          • Matt M says:

            but the relative ease/difficulty of convincing people to move there.

            You are looking at this way too simply. They aren’t trying to convince just any “people”, they are trying to convince committed libertarians (which makes NH, a libertarian-leaning state, already inherently more desirable than Rhode Island, which is not). And they aren’t trying to convince people to move there for any old regular bucket of reasons, they are trying to convince people to move there for the purposes of influencing state and local politics (which makes NH, a low-population state, more desirable than Ohio, which is not).

            It’s not about “ease of convincing people to move there” it’s about “ease of convincing libertarians to move there” which involves two major considerations: How much does it already approximate a place I would like to live AND How difficult will it be to move it further in the direction I would like. You are not accounting for the first factor at all, and only making token attempts to consider the second.

          • baconbacon says:

            Several people have pointed out, repeatedly, that one of the incentives was to move to a place where individuals would have the most significant effect on local politics.

            They didn’t use that as one of the incentives, they attempted to make it the primary incentive and then said “well you can commute 45 mins to Boston, its not so bad”. The overwhelming majority of people do not organize their lives this way, and it was only ever going to appeal to people who are willing to make spreading libertariansim their life’s work (or for people who coincidentally want to live in a place like NH and are libertarian). Unsurprisingly these two groups are a minuscule fragment of the population.

            It is very simple, you cannot effect local politics if you choose a place no one will move to, and the best way to figure out what types of areas people will move to is to look at where they actually move.

            I have yet to see you address this; you seem to keep insisting that this place is non-optimal in so many ways – except for the above. Why won’t you address that?

            I have addressed this from the first post. The consideration that the effect on local politics is going to be the size (and political activity) of the current population relative to the size (and activity) of the population you get to move there. Absolute population size is meaningless on its own.

            Or to put it another way, the incentive they offered for uprooting your family, practically guaranteeing a long commute and living in an area where few people (through revealed preferences) like the weather and living a long way (for most people) from family was that over the course of multiple decades local political outcomes would become steadily more libertarian, while having slightly more libertarian neighbors than other places.

            Be a part of something big is a great slogan for a protest march or petition signing. It is not so great for attracting people for lifetime commitments with little recompense.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think baconbacon’s point can be simplistically formulated as “Not enough people have committed to and actually moved NH to make a significant difference in NH, therefore the choice of NH can be assumed to be sub-optimal”.

            There are attacks that can be made on this, but I think they have to take the form of either “There are no good states to choose. NH was the best of a bad lot.” or “Free NH can only be failed and cannot fail (i.e. someday Free NH will happen)”. Maybe I am overlooking alternatives though.

          • Matt M says:

            “There are no good states to choose. NH was the best of a bad lot.”

            This is basically my position. Note that bacon has refused my request to give me his Top 5 states (instead engaging in a long narrative about a few possible better LOCATIONS)

          • baconbacon says:

            It’s not about “ease of convincing people to move there” it’s about “ease of convincing libertarians to move there” which involves two major considerations: How much does it already approximate a place I would like to live AND How difficult will it be to move it further in the direction I would like. You are not accounting for the first factor at all, and only making token attempts to consider the second.

            I will try this tack, and if doesn’t get through I am done.

            1% of the country has chosen to live in NH and states similar to NH. Roughly 3% of the US identifies as the type of libertarian that would vote the way the FSP wants. That leaves you with a pool of roughly 100,000 people who are libertarians that want to live in a place like NH, meaning you have to convince 20% of potential candidates to move. Even if you double it* and say that libertarians are 2x as likely as the general population your pool is ~200,000 people, of which you need to draw 10% to hit your basic mass.

            To go back to the Pennsylvania comparison ~ 20% of people in the US live in areas similar to a portion of PA (actually a low ball estimate in more ways than a high ball, but we will use it). That leaves a pool of ~2,000,000 people to draw from. So even though PA has 9x as many people as NH, it has a pool roughly 20x as large as NH to draw from, so while you need a larger raw number, you only actually need 10% of that pool, rather than the 20% for the same per population impact.

            Most of the other factors also point away from NH favor (as I mentioned voter TO is way higher in NH than most states, including PA which is below average, and PA is a swing state so an effective FSP is more likely to have national ramifications)

            *this is unrealistic as if your population 2x as likely to want to live in NH as an average person then many would already live there.

          • baconbacon says:

            Note that bacon has refused my request to give me his Top 5 states (instead engaging in a long narrative about a few possible better LOCATIONS)

            I describe the manner in which you need to approach such problems, which is far more valuable than an opinion. If I gave 5 states then you just retreat to “X isn’t as libertarian as NH, can’t be, I said so, doesn’t work”. Why would I concede to a request when you can’t even state my position correctly.

          • Skivverus says:

            I will try this tack, and if doesn’t get through I am done.

            Well, for what it’s worth, it’s convinced me.

          • John Schilling says:

            That leaves you with a pool of roughly 100,000 people who are libertarians that want to live in a place like NH, meaning you have to convince 20% of potential candidates to move.

            What if you add the people who want to live in cities like Boston but are willing to settle for a state like New Hampshire if it is full of libertarians and within reasonable commuting distance? Roughly 6% of the US population lives in Boston, the Bay Area, Seattle, Austin, or Raleigh-Durham, so if even half of them aren’t bound to the city and its immediate environs that gives you a fourfold improvement over just the ones who like small rural states.

            As others have noted, New Hampshire to Boston isn’t exactly a reliably tolerable commute. Maybe if someone were to convince Elon to reroute the Hyperloop…

          • random832 says:

            @baconbacon

            Who is cherry picking? You are. The core of my argument is that what matters is not absolute population, but the relative ease/difficulty of convincing people to move there. The absolute population of all states that are geographically similar to NH is very low, despite their early founding.

            It’s a cherry-picked definition of “geographically similar”, clearly intended to make their share of the ‘absolute population’ small out of proportion to their land area. Why else is it that Maine and Vermont are sufficiently “geographically similar”, but Massachussetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and some eastern portion of New York are not?

        • BBA says:

          At one point a Free County Project tried to turn Loving County, TX (whose population was in the double digits) into a libertopia. The locals didn’t care much for this idea and the FCPers were run out of town in short order.

          • Tibor says:

            That makes me think, why not a new town altogether? There seems to be a plenty of empty land in the US. Of course this requires a lot more initial investment and organization than moving somewhere where there are people already. And even if you become a new county, that’s probably hardly worth it, since counties probably don’t have much autonomy.

            On quite the opposite side of the spectrum, I wonder how well would for example a global libertarian initiative to move, say, to the New Zealand, Chile or Switzerland go. All of these are at least economically quite liberal countries (ore than I almost all others) already and all have a relatively low population (well chile is already borderline with 17 million). The Swiss don’t have very free immigration, particularly if you want to become a citizen you’re looking for something like 15 years in Switzerland first and you have to show you’ve become Swiss enough to be granted citizenship. But Chile and NZ might have more relaxed immigration policies. NZ also speaks English (the most wisely spoken language on the planet) and has a very small population of 4 million. Its main problem is that it’s in the middle of nowhere.

          • It’s worth noting that under U.S. law states are legally independent–have some rights vis a vis the federal government. Cities and counties are creations of the state and legally subservient to it.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m concerned about actual freedom on ships.

        Not only is it likely that you won’t have a choice about cooperating with the people in charge (ships are prone to more risks than life on land), but it’s easier to keep people trapped on a ship.

        The Art of Not Being Governed convinced me that freedom has a lot to do with being able to leave, even though many modern societies put some real limits on how badly governments treat people. (Please take your cynicism off automatic– a notable feature of the modern world vs. early empires is a lot of people trying to get into the better-governed regions rather than empires desperately trying to keep people from escaping to ungoverned regions.)

      • vV_Vv says:

        With the seastead, you don’t have these issues. As for trailer parks, well, they still occupy the land owned by a government, so I don’t think that’s a good comparison.

        What is the difference? Ships in territorial waters are subjects to the jurisdiction of the local government, while ships in international waters are subjects to the jurisdiction of their flag country government, plus some inter-governamental jurisdiction depending on international treaties.

        In fact, the government jurisdiction is even stronger in the sea, because while you can own land, which gives you property rights that most governments will be usually unwilling to disregard, you can’t own a parcel of ocean.

        I don’t see how the seasteaders’ claims of independence would be treated any different than those of the “sovereign citizen” nutjobs.

        In an ideal world, this would of course be easier to do on land, but there’s no more land left (maybe Antarctica in the future?).

        Why in the future? You are already free to go there and try to establish your homestead, if you want. You can draw some inferences from the fact that nobody does it.

        Similarly, you can draw some inferences from the fact that the “seasteaders” are in the business of selling books about seasteading while they comfortably live on land, instead of being in the business of buying cruise ships or offshore platforms and converting them to actual seasteads.

        • Tibor says:

          In the future assuming the permafrost melts enough and the climate warms up enough to make it habitable. The reason people don’t live there permanently is that you pretty much cannot live there. If it becomes more like at least southern Greenland then I’d expect people to start moving in.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Why in the future? You are already free to go there and try to establish your homestead, if you want.

          A fair point, but is it actually true? My impression was that the Antarctic Treaty designates the whole continent a scientific preserve. I would expect that if you tried to homestead it, you would be at the very least strongly discouraged.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I suppose you could manage to sell it as a scientific experiment of some sort (deconstructing the decolonization of white patriarchal glaciers? 🙂 )

          • Tibor says:

            AFAIK, all of antarctica is still covered by permafrost, it is uninhabitable in the long term. Assuming that the permafrost melts eventually, that might change but now it is simply not possible to live there permanently, at least not in any meaningful way and without being 100% dependent on resources from outside of Antarctica.

          • Aapje says:

            There actually are 7 countries with territorial claims on Antarctica. Marie Byrd Land is officially unclaimed, although the US has weakly made claims in the past and may start going after it if the ice disappears.

          • Protagoras says:

            But no part of Marie Byrd Land is north of around 73 degrees, which is probably a factor in why it’s unclaimed (the claimed areas nearly all include land at or north of 70 degrees). Even a bunch of global warming probably isn’t going to get any of it out from under the glaciers.

      • I think it’s worth noting that there are at least two different potential seasteading models–I don’t know if the recent book puts it that way or not.

        One model is to locate inside a nation’s territorial waters with permission from that nation, taking advantage of the fact that if anyone offers you a better deal you can move. The other is to locate outside of territorial waters with no tie to any nation but at some potential risk from raiders, private or governmental.

        • Tibor says:

          From what I gather, the first model is supposed to be the starting model and if everything works well and all the technical problems are solved (the ocean is less forgiving than coastal waters) they might try it completely independently in the ocean.

          Also the difference between the trailer park and the sea is that your presence might be profitable to the protector country. You might have to pay them for the protection on exchange for autonomy. And you go where the deal is the best. Trailer parks aren’t particularly attractive economically… Although it is an interesting point – couldn’t you make platforms that move on land and are capable of forming a fully functional city? Supertrailers of sorts (one problem might be the lack of suitable roads)

      • publiusvarinius says:

        If I move today and nobody else does, it incurs costs on me (provided that I didn’t want to move to NH anyway of course) but brings no benefits. If I stay and everyone else (or a critical number of them) does, they will pass the reforms I care about anyway and I might as well stay where I am until that happens.

        This coordination issue cannot be the real obstacle, simply because it is too easy to solve.

        For example, one could create a fund where people pledge to move to NH if enough people make the pledge within a fixed time interval.

        If critical mass is not reached, you get your money back*. if critical mass is reached, you move to NH or forfeit the money.

        * You lose a bit to opportunity costs and inflation. But rich people who would benefit greatly from a libertarian utopia would offer to make up the difference for the rest of us – it’s still a better investment than seasteading!

        • Jiro says:

          Even if you and a lot of other people move, it has high costs because moving far away inherently has a high cost. Moving to a seastead even more so.

          So you’ll only get people who so value the libertarian nature of the seastead so much that the value overcomes that cost, which means extreme idealists and fanatics, people just unable to assess costs, and the like. This will make the whole project fail.

        • Matt M says:

          This is exactly how the FSP works, except with no monetary commitment.

          You “pledge” to move IF they reach the critical mass of people (which has not yet been reached and likely never will). Everyone who has moved so far is an “enthusiastic early-adopter”

          • Douglas Knight says:

            FSP reached its pledge goal about a year ago.
            Assurance contracts with unlimited time horizons may be a bad idea, though. If you discount people since 2010, it is only at half.

          • onyomi says:

            So you mean, after reaching the goal, only half of those who pledged to move have thus far moved? That still sounds pretty good for a year?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            No, I mean that the 10k people who pledged before 2010 have probably made other commitments or even just forgotten about it and we shouldn’t count them. So we should probably treat it as if 10k people have pledged to move.

            The pledge is to move within 5 years of the target being reached. 2k people moved before hitting the target. Some sources say that more people are moving since hitting the target, but I’m skeptical.

  7. Levantine says:

    Scott Alexander’s mention of socialism (we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life) provoked me to think it might be a good idea to post this ten-page text:

    https://archive.org/details/BrankoHorvatWhatIsSocialism1989

    The author BH is kind of rationalistic, so it could be interesting to see the reactions of people on SSC. Perhaps they will be something else than an avalanche of derision.

    It’s a selected translation I did a few years ago. Now, I’m without emotional investment in the topic. Both then and now, it was primarily a matter of getting intellectual stimulus rather than peddling some view of things.

    • leoboiko says:

      I’m brushing up on socialism/anarchism/communism, so thank you. I’m open to more recommendations.

    • onyomi says:

      It seems a more honest approach than most (concedes that political exploitation can be as bad, or worse, than economic exploitation, addresses the question of how the state is supposed to dissolve, etc.), but fails to explain (so far as I can tell from a quick read) why the proposed majority-rules democratic decision-making process will be any different from existing democracies. If the people who vote against the resolution are forced to abide by the decision of the majority then it’s not non-coercive; if they aren’t, then the decision making process becomes effectively nothing more than a suggestion.

      Also kind of interesting to me that the first couple pages seem to actually bring him most of the way to anarchocapitalism, but he shies away because he can’t accept unequal economic power. Ancap equalizes political power (by devolving it to the individual level), but that inevitably creates the potential for unequal economic outcomes. You can equalize economic power somewhat through coercive political power, but once you start to do this, there’s no way to avoid differentials of political power. And I’m not sure there’s any way to avoid differentials of cultural power/influence due to the nature of charisma, etc. except maybe the Harrison Bergeron route or something.

      Somewhat tangential, but oh, socialists and their fetish for meetings. “Meetings, meetings, meetings, every day meetings” is how one older Chinese lady described the Cultural Revolution to me.

      • Nornagest says:

        “Meetings, meetings, meetings, every day meetings”

        If I wasn’t stridently opposed to socialism before, I am now. There are things I like less than meetings, but they tend to involve racks and pliers and red-hot irons.

    • baconbacon says:

      Perhaps they will be something else than an avalanche of derision.

      Perhaps I fall into this category but this looks to be a pretty standard exercise in applying your own specific definitions to allow you to draw the conclusions you want. For example

      A socialist society of persons that are free, equal and united in solidarity is
      obviously incompatible with any political hierarchy or social stratification.

      Socialism is a society in which the class stratification is gradually abolished, and,
      by that, socialism differs from capitalism and statism.

      The question, as always is abolished by whom (who? honestly grammar rules trip me up a lot)? He posits a world without class, but skips the entire process by which you could have a class society broken apart and reorganized in this way. There are two possibilities as are generally described by socialists.

      1. People voluntarily share their assets and build communities of like minded people. This is literally just a sub set of capitalism in that nothing (outside of the state) prevents people from treating their property this way, and that it is their individual preferences that prevent it.

      2. People harness the power of the state and implement rules that break down the class distinctions. Then, somehow the state also disappears but either the rules remain, or society is now in some perpetual motion of being socialist where the rules are followed without enforcement.

      The author follows with

      The abolition of stratification and exploitation demands a break up of the
      concentration of power.

      This is incomplete, it requires the break up of the concentration of power and the prevention of a different concentration of power arising. This second portion is ignored for the rest of the piece as far as I can tell, he writes about how labor cannot (should not) be exploited by others and that income should be derived from ‘work’

      In the economic sense, social ownership implies distribution according to the
      work. In other words, the incomes from the ownership (various rents) belong to
      the society, while the producer can take as his own only the income from work.

      What occurs when two people’s ‘work’ is unequal? Well their incomes must differ, which results in different purchasing power, and eventually the separation of economic classes and the end of socialism (as he defines it). In the end you either need some power structure (which looks suspiciously like the state with all its requisite inequality between governed and governors) or you get the steady break up of the ideal once people start demonstrating their individuality.

      • LHN says:

        The question, as always is abolished by whom (who? honestly grammar rules trip me up a lot)?

        “Whom” is on the verge of obsolete. (This doesn’t make me especially happy, but it’s dropping out of even relatively formal writing.) However, if you want to use it and aren’t sure whether to use “who” or “whom”, try substituting “he” or “him” and see which sounds right.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Or, for more detailed explanation, including why you should use ‘whom’, as well as how, see this Oatmeal.

    • cassander says:

      This is nonsense, basically. It’s well written erudite nonsense, but it’s still nonsense.

      “A socialist society [consists of] people who are free, equal, and united in solidarity”. Well gee, how can that possibly be bad?

      He is presupposing the results of socialism then defining socialism as those results, not actually defining what socialism consists of doing. This is handy as it allows any failure of a socialist project to be cast as a failure to achieve socialism, not a failure of socialism. This is as absurd as saying that is capitalism when “everyone is free to get rich, and does”, implicitly declaring that any society where that doesn’t happen isn’t real capitalism.

  8. Luke Perrin says:

    Within the last few days the Betfair odds of Trump winning the next election have gone up from around 21% to their current value of 28.6%. They’re not usually very volatile so I would expect a sudden rise like this to be in reaction to some particular piece of information. But I didn’t notice any particularly pro-Trump news three days ago. Does anyone know what this was?

    EDIT: There was a 3.5% increase in the probability of him making it to the end of his term, a 5.6% increase in the probability of him being nominated given that he made it that far, and a 10% increase in the probability of him winning given that he was nominated. So the boost to his popularity was across the board, not just in one of these factors.

    • sohois says:

      Could it be that 21% was a short term dip brought about by overestimating the effect of certain negatives, and that the rise reflects a correction of that?

    • baconbacon says:

      It is dangerous to look for narratives in complex events.

    • bbartlog says:

      Maybe his Saudi deal convinced people that he would have the support of various US factions/actors, like arms manufacturers and Middle East hawks. Not that I would have bet against that previously either but there seems to be less uncertainty now.

    • Cheese says:

      Bear in mind betting odds aren’t solely probabilities. It depends on how much money the company has received in either direction. If they’re getting a flood of money on Trump they will reduce the price.

      • Matt M says:

        But the relevant question then becomes: WHY are they getting a flood of money on Trump?

        Trump betting on himself to improve his press for a bit?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It could be market manipulation. Although, is “BetFair moving towards Trump” really going to be a reported storyline?

          The prior on a sitting president winning the next election is pretty damn high. It could simply be market correction. That doesn’t need a significant explanation other than a small nudge, I would think.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          I put some of my money into those markets because the odds that had just been mentioned in SSC comments seemed like a real bargain. Maybe everybody else here did too!

  9. leoboiko says:

    This survey of common secrets seems relevant to discussions on poliamory and relationships.

  10. manwhoisthursday says:

    Someone in a previous thread suggested that you can’t have good art based around Social Justice, and someone else said you could. I think the latter is right, though, obviously, the work can’t be too propagandistic. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to come up with a list of such works. My starting suggestions:

    Bertolt Brecht, various poems and plays
    James Baldwin, Essays
    Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
    Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
    Tony Kushner, Angels in America

    The work can be in any media, but it must be actually good and contain actual SJ content, not just be a good work of art by someone calling himself a Marxist or feminist or whatever. Otherwise I thought we should keep things pretty loose.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t know how you want to bound the category, but some of the Harlem Renaissance poets were pretty great. Maybe even more of a stretch, so were a lot of the early union songs.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Given my druthers, I’d bound the category by only having works from after SJ solidified as an ideology.

        This being said, Donald and the riot from Stand on Zanzibar (1968) is a very modern-looking presentation of privilege. Donald is a well-off man who decides to expand his experiences by going out on the street at night. Things go wrong which wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been there. Two people die. He disclaims all responsiblity because he didn’t know better.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Been a long time since I read _Stand on Zanzibar_, but you don’t have to be SJ to write about privilege in its ordinary sense. Or about religious dictatorships with a penchant for rape; Heinlein wrote about both. (“Logic of Empire” and “If This Goes On….”)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Logic of Empire” is definitely about privilege. It starts with a man arguing in favor of indentured servitude who finds out he knows much less about it than he thinks.

            I would say that pre-SJW, there was relatively little about privilege.

            Farnham’s Freehold is rather good about microagressions.

        • manwhoisthursday says:

          Given my druthers, I’d bound the category by only having works from after SJ solidified as an ideology.

          While I appreciate the point, the resulting list would be extremely short. I have my doubts that the extreme identity politics of the moment are going to produce anything of artistic value.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You don’t think “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” or “The Rain That Falls On You From Nowhere” or any of Frank Wu’s _Analog_ stories are going to be listed among the great stories of SF?

            Yeah. Probably not.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I’ve argued in a previous thread that the movie Ex Machina is both extremely good and based entirely on SOTA feminist ideas. Others disagree, seeing it as a story about AI boxing, though.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Rain That Falls On You From Nowhere could be an excellent SF story, if it got (a) rigorous editing from an experienced editor willing to hold the writer’s nose to the grindstone on whether he wanted this to be a science fiction or a fantasy tale or hey, split the difference, science fantasy and (b) said rigorous editing involved forcing the writer to give Boyfriend an actual characterisation, more time to the parents, stop being so pissy about his sister, and take an axe to some of the self-indulgent prose including the “pretty writing for the sake of pretty writing” and (c) not willing to let him skate on “hey I’m a gay Chinese man writing about a gay Chinese man, what more does this story need?” That’s just the appeals to exoticism wrapped up in a modern “diversity and representation” disguise .

            There’s the bones of a good story there, at least. Nothing can be done with If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love, not even soaking it in petrol and setting it alight, for it is too drippy to catch fire even with those measures.

      • manwhoisthursday says:

        – I say we keep the category pretty loose.

        – Scott reminds me that a lot of folk music might apply. Maybe Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger for starters.

        – Some “Civil Rights Anthem” songs might fall into this. Sam Cooke’s A Change Gonna Come and Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready.

        – Nina Simone

        – Some socially conscious rap, particularly before the ascendency of gangster rap. Though arguably a good deal of political rap, like Public Enemy, is actually far right.

        – I might have added Latin American poets like Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo and Aime Cesaire, but their good stuff is mostly just general sympathy with the poor or a celebration of their own culture. (Even a right winger like Robert Frost can do sympathy for the poor well.) Their more explicitly political stuff is pretty awful.

        – A lot of the writers and artists I’ve mentioned would be pretty unhappy with how Social Justice politics have taken for the censorious. Certainly Atwood has taken some stances which have gone against the grain of carceral feminism. See here.

        – Even though there are good works in this category, I’d have to say that the Social Justice aspect is a bit of a blight on many of them.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          What about Dickens? That seems to not simply be sympathy for the poor and go to fundamental ideas about fairness and privilege. Although I may be misremembering Dickens.

        • wintermute92 says:

          Nothing wrong with keeping the category broad, but I think I object to counting most folk music. A common explanation of social justice is to specifically contrast it with older class/economics progressivism, which tended to be less conscious of issues like race and gender. Folk has generally been mostly economic, dealing with race some but gender hardly at all. And I have a general sense that it’s hard to let in folk without also embracing a lot of communist art, which feels like a clearly different category from social justice.

          More specifically, I think my complaint is that a lot of really great folk was about groups like Harlan County coal miners, who are at this point cast generally cast as villains. For that matter the environmentalist stuff is largely on the outs – Big Yellow Taxi doesn’t really mesh with the environmental justice framework.

          (I’d be quicker to argue for songs like Southern Man than most folk – some protest rock might well count.)

    • The musical RENT. Truly fantastic music sung by (and about) truly terrible people with a terrible message.

      • the anonymouse says:

        Ah, that post-teenage moment in a Rent fan’s life when he starts sympathizing with Benny….

      • Deiseach says:

        I thought Rent was a rip-off – or reworking, if you prefer – of La Bohème? That being so, shouldn’t we be giving the credit to Puccini?

        • rlms says:

          It’s a pretty loose adaptation, and I don’t think Puccini was much of an SJW (based on his Wikipedia page). But in any case, La Bohème is itself an adaptation, so we should really be crediting Henri Murger.

        • Izaak says:

          Story wise, sure, but the Andrew seems to be crediting the music as the good art, which isn’t based on 19th century Italian Opera.

          • Deiseach says:

            Belting out the big show-stopping aria musical number isn’t based on 19th century Italian opera? 😉

    • Ralf says:

      Where there any reasons given why it couldn’t produce good art?

      As devils advocate I would argue that for example Handmaid’s Tale is “not based around SJ”, but really around dystopian totalitarism. Analogy “Star Wars”: It may be the goal of hour heroes to bring peace to the Galaxy, but what we really want is big space battles (even though we all are peace-loving pacifists).

      • Civilis says:

        Where there any reasons given why it couldn’t produce good art?

        As someone on the right, opposed to ‘social justice’, and that may have been involved in the original thread (I can recall at least two on the subject):

        It’s very hard to balance the needs of political messaging and the needs of artistic creativity. I think in order to be great, art needs to be able to touch something common to just about everyone. Given their popularity, just about anyone can listen to one of Beethoven’s symphonies or look at one of Hokusai’s prints or read one of Shakespeare’s plays and know it’s a work of art. The fact that just about everyone can read 1984 and identify someone with many of the aspects of Big Brother is a testament to how well written the work was. And this is not despite but because everyone disagrees with just who is comparable to Big Brother.

        This applies to observers as well as creators. I don’t trust someone that is tied up in the message of the work to give an honest appreciation of the artistic merits of the work. If the work has a message that isn’t universally applicable, the true test is to find people that disagree with the work’s message and still appreciate it, or to find people that find a message in it at odds with the creator’s intent.

        I can look at some of the Socialist Realism propaganda paintings and appreciate the use of form and design to send a message despite disagreeing with the political opinions they were designed to support. However, you won’t find many on the right that think The Handmaid’s Tale was an enjoyable book.

        One way to know whether a work is good is: can you quote any of the lines and expect people to recognize them? Sing a few lines, if it’s a song? Would you recognize the art if someone made a homage to it? I’m willing to accept that Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster is a work of Social Justice art, just because so many people have copied the style.

        To answer the original question, it’s not impossible to produce good Social Justice art, but the failure of progressive advocates of social justice to understand their opponents and the needs of the message makes it very difficult to produce something that is both on message and universal enough to appeal to almost everyone. And, to be fair, I think most political movements these days have the same problems.

        • Chalid says:

          It’s very hard to balance the needs of political messaging and the needs of artistic creativity.

          Is it though? No work of social justice art is as heavy-handed in its messaging as, say, a cathedral is about Christian messaging (which was for most of history also political messaging). But cathedrals are great art and appreciated by Christians and non-Christians alike. And the cathedral architects were not particularly consulting people who disagreed with the works’ message.

          • Civilis says:

            No work of social justice art is as heavy-handed in its messaging as, say, a cathedral is about Christian messaging (which was for most of history also political messaging).

            How much of that is because we’ve come to associate the stone structure of the cathedral with Christianity? When we think of cathedrals, we picture something like Notre Dame or Chartres, old buildings that are very big and very ornate (or modern reproductions in the same style), which would make them attractive art no matter what they were. Compared to that, the overt religious symbolism or religious messaging is nothing. Take a look at St. Basil’s in Moscow, which is now more a symbol of Russia than of Orthodox Christianity, or the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

            These days, ‘old’ and ‘big’ or ‘old’ and ‘ornate’ is enough for a tourist attraction, and would probably qualify as art no matter what it was. The Parthenon in Athens and the Pyramids in Egypt are both religious structures that have survived in culture long after the message of the religions they were built to spread… which is what makes them recognizable as art.

            The cathedral builders made art, and if they intended a message it was a universally understandable ‘I have artistic talent and am using it to make something grand that will last’.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Four letters: DEVO! 🙂

      Seconded: Tony Kushner’s Angels in America

      Alt.banned: Sherman Alexie. Sherman Alexie’s works, in particular, illustrate how the best SJ works can explode-in-the-mind decades after being read.

      Unsurprisingly, America’s alt.Boeotian political movements persistently seek to ban hundreds of SJ-positive titles aimed at young adults. It is striking too, that pretty much every GoodReads genre-class awards high ratings to SJ-positive literary works … including the aforementioned banned SJ-positive works.

      How is it that the GoodReads community, encompassing persons of every age, class, race, religion, nationality, education-level, political persuasion, and gender, whose sole shared trait is a pronounced love for books and reading, has evolved to be so strikingly SJ-positive, the world wonders?

      • Bugmaster says:

        I watched Angels in America, but wasn’t impressed. It had its good moments, but overall it came off as cheesy and oftentimes preachy. I have to give them points for trying, though; it’s obvious that their goal was to make a decent movie/miniseries, as opposed to pushing as much propaganda as possible. They didn’t quite succeed, but this is still better than most ideologically motivated art.

        • Marshayne Lonehand says:

          Angels in America came out at a time when our well-liked system administrator was completing a long process of dying of AIDS (which for years had been horrifically untreatable).

          Angels spoke, on many levels, to all who knew and respected this man … who almost lived long enough to benefit from the advent of highly effective anti-retroviral drug regimens.

          This was (for me and many of my generation) a paradigmatic example in which the force of art was diminished by advances in science. Long may such advances continue.

        • manwhoisthursday says:

          I’d read the play. The character of Roy Cohn carries the whole thing and elevates it about being just an AIDS piece.

      • manwhoisthursday says:

        Any recommendations for specific Alexie works?

        • Marshayne Lonehand says:

          Personally, more than any single Alexie work, attending a Sherman Alexie live-reading made a big impression on me (Alexie talked about what books and libraries meant to him as an adolescent). This man has presence.

          Alternative suggestion: get ahold of one of Alexie’s short-story/poem collections, and find a story/poem that works for you … such choices being deeply personal.

          At home we have the collection First Indian on the Moon (1993) and the novel Reservation Blues (1995) (which is pretty episodic, come to think). Both are recommended; first-time Alexie readers likely will find the collection easier to get started with.

        • wintermute92 says:

          The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is top-notch, at least to my mind. Lots of style variations, and I think something there will work for a lot of people.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I wouldn’t say SJ can’t produce good art. While SJW artists feel the need to sacrifice some measure of their art to the message, the overall result can still be good.

      I’m currently watching the Handmaid’s Tale with my girlfriend, who read the original book, and it’s certainly well made in technical terms even if the setting and characterization are extremely weak. It’s not as strong as it could have been if the scriptwriters had ever cracked open a Bible in their lives or spoken to a human being face to face. But the resulting dissonance injects an element of humor into it which lightens the mood.

      • herbert herberson says:

        I still think the shallowness and inaccuracy of the “Christianity” in Handmaid’s Tail is a feature, not a bug.

        I mean, would Christians be happier if the authoritarian theocracy that seems to be founded in large part on systematic, ritualistic rape actually did seem to have elements of genuine Christianity? I’m a lifelong atheist and I can say that I’d be really turned off if the jackbooted thugs were praising Jesus and quoting chapter and verse instead of just manipulating rhetoric and imagery for their own secular ends (not the least because, to Christianity’s credit, it would become completely contradictory)

        • herbert herberson says:

          Side-note: While I think it’s important to the theme and the plot that Gilead be Christian-in-Name-Only, I’m far from sure the creators of the show and even the book did. They might have, and I hope they did, but it’s entirely possible they just toned down the similarities to contemporary Christianity to avoid offending contemporary Christians, or at least to give themselves a bailey to retreat to in the event it did.

          In that case, we can start a list of “artistic works that were improved by authoral efforts to avoid offending outsiders” and put Handmaid’s Tale at the top. Anyone else know of any other entries there?

          • I’m not sure it counts as an artistic work, but two days ago I heard a commencement address by Leon Panetta. It wasn’t a very good talk but, to his credit, he managed to talk about political problems without saying anything that would seriously offend a Trump supporter, of whom there were surely some in the audience.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Depending on your criteria for “outsiders,” Casablanca was improved because the moral guardians refused to let Ilsa abandon her husband and stay with Rick – as it is, it’s much more poignant and memorable. I’m sure there were other films that went through the same sort of trials.

          • LHN says:

            I’m very skeptical of the story that the ending was ever in doubt. There’s no way “wife leaves her resistance hero husband to be with her true love” would get past the Hays Code.

            (Even without the Code, I’m skeptical that that would fly even today without giving Lazlo a fatal flaw greater than a lack of romantic passion- or just killing him off.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Ilsa left with with her husband in the original play. There is no evidence that the filmmakers ever considered changing that.

            They made a number of changes both before and after talking to the censors. The most important is that they made Ilsa (in Paris) think that her husband was dead.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Christians are going to be offended regardless, because the very explicit message is “don’t let these monsters ever get into power or this will happen to you personally for real!” They beat that point home in episode one when Aunt Lydia was looking right into the camera saying how this! will! become! normal!

          A more nuanced Gilead-ist theology would have added a bit of depth to the world and explained why so many normal people were gung-ho to sign up with them. They did a good job of showing the world falling apart due to collapsing fertility but totally squandered the chance to show how those desperate people decided on this particular solution. It was as if someone had sown the ground with dragon’s teeth and a fascist militia burst fully formed out of the Massachusetts soil.

          One-dimensional villains aren’t nearly as compelling, because they might as well just be evil robots or demons. An adversary with some kind of internal logic to their motivation would have greatly improved the series.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Agreed that it would be nice to see a little bit more of the groundwork laid. I haven’t finished the show and am hoping there is more of that, because I firmly believe one of the most important things to understand about authoritarianism is that just because it isn’t a democracy doesn’t mean you don’t need a constituency, and all the representatives of the potential core constituencies of Gilead (the commander, the driver) seem ambivalent. Ann Dowd is basically the only character who is an enthusiastic supporter of the regime, and I don’t think you can really build a fascist state on old-maid resentment.

        • Jiro says:

          I still think the shallowness and inaccuracy of the “Christianity” in Handmaid’s Tail is a feature, not a bug.

          If you’re using it to comment on actual Christianity, and it’s not similar to actual Christianity, it’s a strawman. That counts as a bug.

          It’s true that people still won’t like it if you made it similar to actual Christianity, but it may be that someone who understood Christianity enough to write it properly would not make Christianity a villain in the first place.

          • Matt M says:

            If you’re using it to comment on actual Christianity, and it’s not similar to actual Christianity, it’s a strawman. That counts as a bug.

            Not if your audience wants a strawman and would object to an accurate portrayal.

          • herbert herberson says:

            My point is that I don’t think its trying to comment on Christianity. It’s trying to comment on patriarchy, and making the reasonable assumption that if you built a state in North America structured specifically and explicitly around the exploitation of women, its ideology would be a de-Jesusfied bastardization of Christianity. And, really, if you take the initial goal of a dystopian Western patriarchy for granted, what else would it look like? A Matrix rip-off? American Soumission?

          • manwhoisthursday says:

            It always seemed to me that Atwood is trying to have it both ways on whether the religion of THT is representative of Christianity.

          • Deiseach says:

            And, really, if you take the initial goal of a dystopian Western patriarchy for granted, what else would it look like?

            Then it’s not just us Christians, it’s all men who should be offended, because what it is saying is “If you let men have what they really want and give them the power to get it, what they want is to enslave and degrade and control women so they can get as much free pussy as they please”.

            If Christianity is only set-dressing to sell the new regime to the rubes, then the core of the message is: this is what men are really like, unless we are very, very careful.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            There are many stories that spin out a failure mode of a particular way of thinking. They aren’t dependent on the failure mode being inevitable.

            You are always so eager to take offense.

          • herbert herberson says:

            That’s like saying anyone who has ever been involved in politics (or, at least, any politics to the left of Murray Rothbard) ought to be offended by 1984.

          • Nornagest says:

            And, really, if you take the initial goal of a dystopian Western patriarchy for granted, what else would it look like?

            Nazis? Neo-Confederates? Neo-feudals? Neo-Victorians? Neo-most things? Absolute monarchy? Weird apocalyptic cults? Hypermasculine raider tribes, Mad Max style? Jack Chick anti-Catholicism? Practically anything in the cyberpunk genre?

          • BurnerAccount says:

            @herbert herberson – ” And, really, if you take the initial goal of a dystopian Western patriarchy for granted, what else would it look like? A Matrix rip-off? American Soumission?”

            It’s not like it’s any secret – we have to hire 52% women and we need to hit the racial numbers, but that still gives us a lot of freedom to choose what we like. And what we like, in our women, is hot bodies, pretty faces, average intelligence, and a record of doing what you were told in School. You can cry me a river if you think it’s wrong. The ones the Company doesn’t hire… yeah, enjoy your career in the Municipals, or Services. Life at the poverty line sucks, baby, and so does a seven day workweek. You want to be here.

            And our interviewees are eager to prove how much they want to be here. Skirts are short during interview week – and stay short for the female employees who want to move up, or the ones who get in trouble. There’s not too much trouble, though. Every once in a while some too-clever bitch works out that this place is sexist, or some damn thing… and takes a complaint to Human Resources. Much hilarity ensues. A word to the Police, and said Miss Too Clever is suddenly arrested with proof-positive of illegal drugs in her apartment, the stuff that we don’t manufacture and you have no legal right to own. Enjoy your five years in the Prisons and then a job in Services, if they have openings, because the Company sure isn’t taking you back… yeah, we’re not about forgiveness here.

            ‘If you don’t take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits’

          • herbert herberson says:

            Ha, but that one’s not fair. The twin currents of neoliberalism and sex-positive feminism were still infants when Atwood was writing; hardly a knock against her that she couldn’t anticipate their absurd and grotesque natural conclusions.

          • BurnerAccount says:

            “Ha, but that one’s not fair. The twin currents of neoliberalism and sex-positive feminism were still infants when Atwood was writing; hardly a knock against her that she couldn’t anticipate their absurd and grotesque natural conclusions.”

            Gibson had all the relevant insight by Burning Chrome in ’82 (Lewis had them in ’43 with Abolition of Man, but outgroup of course).

            Molly as a meat-puppet, waking up halfway through a snuff scene. And extrapolation is the whole point of skiffy. Christian Theocracy is the boring safe version, while at the same time a dig at the outgroup. It’s as bold and daring as Stephen King’s Mrs. Carmoody types.

        • Deiseach says:

          Handmaid’s Tail

          Freudian slip? Or the porn version? Which would be much more entertaining, I imagine 🙂

          I mean, would Christians be happier if the authoritarian theocracy that seems to be founded in large part on systematic, ritualistic rape actually did seem to have elements of genuine Christianity?

          But the trouble is that for Atwood (whatever about the TV writers and producers) and a good section of the critical and reading public who swooned and swoon over the book, this is what they think “genuine Christianity” is all about. Atwood may make mention in interviews of ‘this is not my Christianity, my Christianity is nice liberal [Universal Unitarianism]’ but the “actually back in the day when Christianity was starting out it was completely egalitarian until Constantine and the Patriarchy and the suppression of women and gays and so forth for two thousand years” Lost Golden Age version of ‘real Christianity’ she and others approve of is the equivalent of the Lost Golden Age of Matriarchy and Moon Goddess Priestesses many 70s feminists lost their marbles over – it has everything to do with wish-fulfillment and nothing to do with reality.

          In that case, ‘real Christianity’ is going to be the safe ideal version that does not exist and the actual Christianity that is out there is going to be the convenient scapegoat for all the bad things (e.g. “Christianity is anti-gay!” “Not my Christianity, this is the fault of the bad guys who took over and grabbed power, as my speculative novel describes”).

          “I don’t consider these people to be Christians because they do not have at the core of their behavior and ideologies what I, in my feeble Canadian way, would consider to be the core of Christianity,” Atwood said. “ … and that would be not only love your neighbors but love your enemies. That would also be ‘I was sick and you visited me not’ and such and such … But they don’t do that either. Neither do a lot of the people who fly under the Christian flag today. And that would include also concern for the environment, because you can’t love your neighbor or even your enemy, unless you love your neighbor’s oxygen, food, and water. You can’t love your neighbor or your enemy if you’re presuming policies that are going to cause those people to die.”

          You see? She gets to eat her cake and have it: use the dangers of a theocratic USA and have people applauding her foresight and trying to identify which members of the Moral Majority or Trump’s current administration would love to set up such a dictatorship, at the same time she gets to judge global and historic Christianity as “it’s not really Christian if it’s not my Christianity which is liberal and non-dogmatic and all about Christianity As Social Work”. So, you know, by that yardstick Pope Benedict was Not A Real Christian, but Pope Francis might be 🙂

          Imagine a writer opining “I don’t consider the Orthodox to be Jews because they refuse to permit women to be rabbis and they do not have at the core of their behaviour and ideologies what I, in my feeble Canadian way, would consider to be the core of Judaism which is ‘do justly, love mercy and walk humbly’ “. Whatever your opinion on women’s rights and ordination of women, I don’t think anyone getting up on their hind legs and declaring an entire section of the Jewish population to be “not real Jews” based on sexual politics would fly.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Ha, yeah, I have a weird habit of typoing homonyms.

            I’ve been in a couple Handmaid’s Tale threads lately, and have made and corrected that mistake more than once. Apparently it was only a matter of time before one made it through.

          • herbert herberson says:

            As for the edited in part–still seems incoherent. You’re simultaneously complaining that the religion depicted is too Christian and not Christian enough. Whatever Atwood’s thoughts are re: definitions of Christianity and how different contemporary denominations live up to it, the fact remains that Gilead doesn’t resemble any contemporary denomination. Nobody puts the Hagar story at the center of their beliefs. Nobody excises Jesus to that degree–not just neglecting the message, but never even using the damn name. At least as far as I’ve gotten in the show and remember from the book, we don’t even see churches, services, or clergy. Just “commanders” (not patriarchs, or Fathers-with-a-capital-F) and “Eyes” (not inquisitors).

            I’ve never been an angry atheist, but I been a regular atheist for as long as I can remember (these two facts are probably related) and I can tell you that if I were going to paint a fever dream from my deepest and most biased fears of the Religious Right, it wouldn’t look anything like Gilead.

          • Jiro says:

            You’re simultaneously complaining that the religion depicted is too Christian and not Christian enough.

            It can be too Christian in the sense of “the author is presenting it as Christian” while being not Christian enough in the sense of “actually resembling Christianity”.

          • l33tminion says:

            Handmaid’s Tail

            Freudian slip?

            Amusingly, Atwood herself touches on that in the epilogue:

            The superscription “The Handmaid’s Tale” was appended to it by Professor Wade, partly in homage to the great Geoffrey Chaucer; but those of you who know Professor Wade informally, as I do, will understand when I say that I am sure all puns were intentional, particularly that having to do with the archaic vulgar signification of the word tail; that being, to some extent, the bone, as it were, of contention, in that phase of Gileadean society of which our saga treats.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          There’s a strong, strong subtheme, throughout the entire book, that Gilead is not particularly Christian. I mean, parts of the book are basically Atwood flailing her hands and screaming THIS IS NOT ACTUAL CHRISTIANITY! THIS IS A CYNICAL ATTEMPT TO CONSTRUCT TOTALITARIAN MISOGYNISTIC REGIME WITH CHRISTIAN TRAPPINGS – I seriously fail to see how some people don’t catch this, but I guess the thought of Handmaid’s Tale as an anti-Christian book in some sense is so strong it prevents this. Let’s recap:

          – most of times when we hear someone actually opposing the Gilead regime, they’re Christians. News reports tell of Baptists fighting Gilead in the mountains, the state executes renegade Catholics and forces undercover nuns to be handmaids, Quakers try to help June and her husband escape to Canada etc. (The book also makes it clear that the pre-Gilead Christians June’s feminist group worked with were not necessarily particularly liberal on all issues)

          – Gilead is explicitly shown tampering with the Bible – inserting “From each according to her ability, to each according to his need” etc.

          – Gilead freely borrows practices from other religion, such as automatic prayer scrolls etc. – the epilogue also refers to the scholars studying similarities between Hindu practices and Gilead

          – The epilogues also compares the regime to theocratic Iran

          – The epilogue also extensively discusses how Gilead’s founding fathers crafted Gilead’s ideology in the think tank on the basis of Waterford’s marketing background etc. and how they borrowed freely elements even from pre-Christian religions to build a functional totalitarian state

          Really, this theme is really not even particularly hidden.

          • ChetC3 says:

            Sounds like you’ve made the mistake of actually reading the book being discussed. Ideally you shouldn’t know anything about it except what you’ve heard from fellow culture warriors. Anything more will mark you as someone who can’t be trusted – you might be one of them.

          • Jiro says:

            As other commentators have pointed out, there can be elements of “my side are the True Christians, the other side calls themselves Christian but aren’t True Christians”. It is perfectly consistent with this to have textual evidence that the other side isn’t really Christian.

            The series, and by implication the book, are seen as being anti-those-Christians (and anti-Republican) by the people who praise it. And I don’t think this comes out of nowhere. The series pattern-matches to common left-wing accusations about outgroup Christians, even as it fails to match actual outgroup Christians

          • LHN says:

            Damn it, now I’m tempted to read the book and do a compare and contrast with Heinlein’s “If This Goes On–“, which does the same thing. The religion of the Prophet Incarnate clearly draws from both Bible Belt revival meeting Christianity and the LDS (hard to avoid the latter given an American Prophet with a new revelation, and Heinlein was clearly kind of fascinated by the trappings), but Heinlein is careful to show the actual Mormons and Baptists as active allies to the (Masonic-based) rebel Cabal, along with Catholics and Jews,

          • herbert herberson says:

            I happen to have a e-text version of Handmaid’s Tale, and I just did a control-F for “Christian.” The word actually only appears twice in the entire book, and in neither case are they coming from the regime or its proponents. So, technically, the author never even had her antagonists “call themselves Christian.”

            (edit: also, every use of the word “Jesus” and “Christ” is part of an expletive-esque outburst, unless you count a couple similes involving Christmas trees and cards and the aforementioned instances of “Christian.” Two instances of priest, both referring to people hanged by the regime. No pastors, parsons, or clergy. Several instances of “church,” but they’re all either idioms or references to a church converted into a museum by the regime. Admittedly, lots and lots of “Bibles”–but the overall text repeatedly contrasts the “Bible” used by Gilead to the real one)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Heinlein literally doesn’t use the word Christian or any specifically Christian iconography in If This Goes On__”, it just seems obvious that it’s Christian. The leader is the Prophet, and I think the Temple Guards are Angels.

            It might be interesting that this early book is about a revolution that happens because regime is tyrannical, while his later Red Planet and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistriss are revolts against people in charge whose policies would make life literally impossible.

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy You’re right. It’s clearly Abrahamic and follows Christian-derived customs (e.g., church on Sunday), and the culture uses biblical names and imagery from both testaments, but Heinlein is careful not to actually confirm that it’s Christian.

            (And while the Mormons are referred to as heretics, so are the Pariahs (Jews), so clearly they’re using a broad definition of heresy.)

          • Jiro says:

            Lack of Christian elements among the straw Christians is quite possible. The question is how much the villains resemble anti-Christian caricatures, not how much they resemble actual Christians, and they can resemble the former without any reference to the Bible.

            A book about evil bankers who poison the wells and use babies’ blood to make their ritual bread would be an attack on Jews, even if they never uttered the words “synagogue” or “Passover”, and even if the book showed Black Hebrews or Jews-for-Jesus as honorable people who did none of those things.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            If Atwood’s task was to write a book trying to portray how an average woman (with feminist sympathies) would attempt to cope in a dystopian, misogynistic totalitarian society, and the story is set in the US, it makes sense that the misogynistic totalitarian society would contain elements derived from Christianity. Despite this, Atwood went above and beyond the call of duty in including elements that set the regime apart from Christianity.

            Of course there are those who praise the book due to seeing it as anti-Christian. This may have been considerably affected by all the attacks made against the book by people who might not even had read it but still wanted to ban it from schools etc. for being a supposed attack against Christianity.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Lack of Christian elements among the straw Christians is quite possible. The question is how much the villains resemble anti-Christian caricatures, not how much they resemble actual Christians, and they can resemble the former without any reference to the Bible.

            But I dispute that it resembles anti-Christian caricatures. If it did, everyone would speak with southern accents, they would regularly attend megachurches and watch televangelists, and the Commander would be a closeted gay.

          • Deiseach says:

            But the point still remains that when Atwood is considering a dystopian USA, her attitude is that the most natural form is a theocracy. Why not a brutally pragmatic secular state that counters the demographic threat posed by the fertility crisis by applying eugenics in a breeding programme where the remaining fertile women are assigned to be broodmares for the males with the “best” genes? That would work just as easily.

            Crafting the ideology and borrowing elements from all religions and none need not end up with a ‘Christian-lite’ version to presumably make the medicine go down easier; why not substitute in Gaea’s will for God’s will while you’re think-tanking your marketing strategy? Or run the Handmaids not as “Scarlet Letter” Hester Prynne knockoffs but as sacred prostitution, freely and joyfully sharing the bounties of sexual love and fertility? Priestesses of Astarte? The hieros gamos?

            You could very easily write a theocratic dystopia that exploits and controls women by the avenue of training them to be doves of Venus and dropping all their hang-ups about free love and promiscuity, every bit as much as you can write one with repressive quasi-Biblical ‘handmaidens’. But that might be a little uncomfortable for Margaret Atwood to contemplate and would certainly alienate those praising her for showing up the hypocrisy of Christianity’s puritanical and repressive attitudes to sex.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Crafting the ideology and borrowing elements from all religions and none need not end up with a ‘Christian-lite’ version to presumably make the medicine go down easier; why not substitute in Gaea’s will for God’s will while you’re think-tanking your marketing strategy? Or run the Handmaids not as “Scarlet Letter” Hester Prynne knockoffs but as sacred prostitution, freely and joyfully sharing the bounties of sexual love and fertility? Priestesses of Astarte? The hieros gamos?

            None of those things has any historical relevance in America. Maybe a very, very skilled writer could make the rise of a fascist state built on a Sumerian fertility cult in modern America sound plausible, but I don’t think either of us think Atwood is anywhere close to that skilled (this is her only book that I was impressed by, myself)

            (honestly, even Giliad isn’t plausible under the standards I usually apply to SF–I just find it to be just really well realized and to work as broad allegory)

          • John Schilling says:

            Heinlein literally doesn’t use the word Christian or any specifically Christian iconography in If This Goes On__”, it just seems obvious that it’s Christian. The leader is the Prophet, and I think the Temple Guards are Angels.

            And for that matter, the television series “Touched by an Angel” never mentioned Jesus Christ until the final episode. Even unambiguously positive presentations of Christianity, when aimed in part at a secular audience, often play coy about exactly which conservative theistic religion they are talking about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            You certainly have a point, but the word “angel” in that context is pretty specific nod to Judeo-Christianity.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Now I want an sf novel with several different sorts of mysogynist tyranny, just to be annoying.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A postapocalyptic dystopian novel written entirely in Redpill jargon!

          • John Schilling says:

            …but the word “angel” in that context is pretty specific nod to Judeo-Christianity.

            The word “angel” narrows it down to all three Abrahamic faiths, Zoroastrianism, and some brands of Wicca or Neopaganism. The context that further narrows it to Christian with maybe a bit of Judeo-, would do so even if the word “angel” hadn’t been used at all.

            Similarly, both Heinlein’s and Atwood’s context points to the cyncial interpretation of Generic American Christianity, Protestant-ish without being tied to a specific denomination.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Because I’m happy someone brought it to my attention:

            If This Goes On…

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      For something recent, how about Ruthanna Emerys’ “The Litany of Earth”?`

      It might not count as pure SJ. Most of it is an SJish account of Lovecraft’s Deep Ones being a harmless persecuted minority. Ubjrire, vg raqf hc jvgu rayvtugrazrag inyhrf cebivqvat n fbyhgvba.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I want to thank you for the unintentional (?) humor of a block of rot13 coming after a mention of the Old Ones. I chuckled.

        Anyway I’ve heard that book is good, might try picking it up. I can read anything as long as it’s not too preachy.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Thanks for the recommendation — I’ve read the Litany of Earth and I liked it. I think it’s written quite well, but I’m not sure if it would count as “SJ literature”. It is set in the past, shortly after Innsmouth was destroyed, and most SJ literature is set in the present (or close to it), for the purposes of drawing attention to the current social injustices.

        I’m well aware of concepts such as “historical parallels”, “allegory”, and “subtlety”, but most ideologically motivated literature — including SJ literature — is a bit more… direct… than that. It is designed to address specific grievances, as opposed to drawing attention to man’s inhumanity to man (or other sapient being) in the abstract.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          My impression is that historical SJ fiction isn’t all that rare. Offhand, Six Gun Snow White, Karen Memory, and the American Fairy Trilogy.

          The point seems to be to show that there was a lot of oppression. My favorite of the bunch is the American Fairy Trilogy.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I haven’t heard of any of those — thanks ! I’ll check them out when I have time.

        • beleester says:

          You can’t limit the class of SJ literature to “Only the SJ literature that beats you over the head with its themes,” and then complain that SJ literature is bad because it beats you over the head with its themes.

          It seems like it’s pretty obviously an allegory – the narrator directly discusses the Japanese-American internment camps as a parallel to the camps for the Aeonists. She discusses how most Muslims Aeonists are good people and a few fanatical sects gave them a bad reputation. And she meets a cult that uses her rituals in a way that can only be called “cultural appropriation.” It’s clearly using themes applicable to the present even if it’s a historical setting.

          • Bugmaster says:

            All literature has some sort of themes (otherwise it wouldn’t be literature). Persecution and alienation are some of the themes that are quite emotionally impactful, and thus they are used quite often. But I don’t think it would be fair to say that any literature that deals with such themes is automatically “SJ literature”. True, the SJWs have pretty much grabbed onto persecution as their defining characteristic, but they are not unique in this regard; other people, such as conservative Christians, or maybe gamers, often have a bit of a persecution complex.

            As far as I can tell, the key points of the SJ narrative are: 1). the focus on a persecuted group, as opposed to any given individual; 2). clear demarcation of demographic/social groups into the persecuted ones (the good), the oppressors (the bad), and the ugly (allies, for now); and 3). direct opposition to any moral ambiguity, and, lately, a call to violent struggle. And, despite involving some common SJ topics, Litany of Earth is pretty much the opposite of all of those.

            It focuses on the protagonist in a personal way; she is important not because she fits into the “Innsmouth” demographic category, but because she happens to think and feel certain things. The book even goes out of its way to contrast her with her brother, who belongs to the same category but is, in some ways, her polar opposite.

            True, the protagonist does feel safest with when she is among the members of a persecuted minority; however, the book once again goes out of its way to point out that the conflict is not entirely between “Innsmouth folk vs. humans”, or “Racial minorities vs. U.S. Government” (though there is some of that); but rather, between Aphra’s own preconceptions (however justified they may be) and reality. Some humans are bad; some are good; others are just stupid. They are not presented as a monolithic block.

            And, of course, what makes the story so interesting is the fact that Aphra herself isn’t entirely sure if what she did was right (at least, not at first). The reader is invited to make his own judgement, which means that some people would make the “wrong” one (from the SJ point of view, that is). And, of course, Aphra abhors violence, though I suppose you could make the case that she does so out of fear, not principle.

            Incidentally, these are also the reasons why I don’t consider Steven Universe to be a SJ cartoon. While it’s true that they have embraced it, its themes (interpersonal love and acceptance) run counter to the SJ narrative (hatred of the outgroup and struggle).

    • dndnrsn says:

      What is “social justice” for the purpose of this question? I’ve almost always seen it used to describe a certain sort of recent left-wing, sorta-leftist, thinking which is heavier on identity politics and lighter on class than leftism was in the past, focuses heavily on language and entertainment media, etc. Does Bertolt Brecht really fit into that?

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        What is “social justice”

        A phrase badly in need of taboo here (and everywhere)

        • aNeopuritan says:

          You could save it for talking about actual social justice, the way everyone outside a handful of USians does.

      • manwhoisthursday says:

        I’ve intentionally kept it pretty broad, for the sake of promoting discussion. But you are right that a lot of the works listed above arguably don’t fit the identity politics obsessed thinking we’ve seen lately. Even someone like Atwood isn’t really a full on SJW.

        • Marshayne Lonehand says:

          Gosh … perhaps the community of folks who care about social justice issues doesn’t much resemble alt.SSC caricatures of that community? Can such things be? 🙂

          • manwhoisthursday says:

            SJWs may not be representative of left liberals in general, but they are in control of the agenda right now. So, frankly I don’t give a shit that most people who favour gay rights or whatever are pretty reasonable people who would be happy to compromise and find pragmatic solutions.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Can such things be?

            No.

          • caethan says:

            Suppose you are an adult who earns no income in your family. This means that your efforts are irrelevant to the status and worth of your family.

            That’s a…novel interpretation of things.

          • Marshayne Lonehand says:

            From the link Nybbler supplied:

            Adriana Salerno says: 

            This post is much more subtle than that. By writing a provoking post, you make people engage with the subject.

            I’m glad you are engaging. Now please try to think about why we would post this, from a point of view that gives us the benefit of the doubt, not one that dismisses us immediately.

            Please read it again.

            Here any psychiatrist will appreciate that (mathematician) Adriana Salerno is patiently attempting to engage her group-audience in a DBT skills-exercise. She requests a “benefit of the doubt” response, for example, along the lines of “the themes of this essay reminded me of Ursula LeGuin’s SJ-positive novel The Dispossessed (1974)

            “You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them. By refusing to think, refusing to change.”

            Being relatively young, and lacking formal therapy-training, Dr. Salerno did not appreciate the tough psychiatric reality that open enrollment group therapies fail utterly — open enrollment fails for the common-sense reason that a substantial proportion of Cluster B personalities reject therapeutic practices so adamantly as to do all they can to sabotage, not only their own therapies, but the therapy of the entire group.

            No therapist experienced with alt.Boeotian cognition would be surprised that Dr. Salerno had to close down her blog’s comment section, in consequence of a flood of comments containing “profanity, insults, personal attacks, or suggestions of violence.”

            More broadly, abusively antisocial Cluster B behaviors are very commonly seen, too, in families, romantic relationships, small businesses, theatre groups, research groups, athletic teams, etc.

            How to deal, in practice, with alt.Boeotian, intractably antisocial, Cluster B behaviors? Throughout human history, that has been a mighty tough question, hasn’t it?

        • Jiro says:

          Atwood predates SJWs, but the Handmaid’s Tale is in the news again because of the Hulu series, which doesn’t, and which constantly gets associated with Trump.

    • Deiseach says:

      Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

      That right there would be one of my “you can’t have good art based around Social Justice” examples, were I going to argue that 🙂 Brecht is not exactly Social Justice, more a mish-mash of anarchism, Dadaism, socialism and a flavouring of Marxism, Kushner’s Angels In America is sentimental tosh, Lessing had a lot more going on than SJ even in the older sense of the word, and Baldwin is a damn good writer on his own merits.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Can you describe why you dislike The Handmaid’s Tale so much ? Personally, I absolutely hate the epilogue; I think it completely ruins what otherwise would’ve been a great book. It should’ve ended when the main story ends — jvgu gur cebgntbavfg trggvat vagb gur haznexrq pne, ubcvat ntnvafg ubcr gung vg yrnqf gb fnyingvba naq abg qrfgehpgvba. Erzbivat gung nzovthvgl ruins the impact of that scene, I think.

        But the rest of the book is IMO quite good, assuming you read it as a dystopian alternate future novel, which is how I approached it.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think I have a lack of sympathy with Atwood’s style. I’ve read a couple of her books and avoided others (The Blind Assassin, for instance, is a book that should have been catnip to me, but I have never read it because it’s by Margaret Atwood). I know I’m being unfair, but it’s the perceived whininess of tone; when she mentions, or it is mentioned, in newspaper interviews that she’s Canadian, I can well believe it 🙂 Not to be unfair to all Canadians, I mean the types who pat themselves on the back that “We have Justin Trudeau and they have Trump!”, for example (though I know Trudeau is not without his critics).

          It’s that air of writing about nice, liberal, educated, middle-class women (like herself) who were happily going around being nice and liberal and progressive when all of a sudden out of nowhere all these horrible illiberal people (men/conservatives/religious/religious conservative men) appeared and ruined everything. Offred, for example, is one of this class; I don’t know if Atwood can or would imagine writing a working-class or other woman as a heroine.

        • JulieK says:

          It isn’t a terrible book, but the details of the society don’t make much sense.
          Why dress everyone in color-coded uniforms? Okay, the handmaids are subjugated and you can tell them what to wear, but why did upper-class women agree to get rid of their wardrobes and wear the same thing every day?
          Why are handmaids the solution to infertility, rather than voluntary mail-order brides, or surrogate mothers living in some other location? (What modern woman would want a rival right there in her home?)

          • Bugmaster says:

            but why did upper-class women agree to get rid of their wardrobes and wear the same thing every day?

            As far as I understand from reading the book, all of this stuff happened because a semi-fringe religious faction seized power by capitalizing on the political and social instability. People were afraid and confused, and this religion promised a return to order and safety. Upper-class women, such as Fred’s wife, went along with it — either out of honest faith, or out of some calculated political expediency, whatever.

            As it turns out, though, when you back a religious cult you end up riding the tiger. In this case, the Gilead Church used their newfound power to implement all of the policies that they wanted to implement anyway: subjugation of women, uniforms, holy wars, etc. Basically, it’s what could happen in our world if someone like the Westborough Baptist Church — or ISIS, for that matter — suddenly came to power.

          • episcience says:

            If you look at the rise of Wahhabbism and radical Islam generally, many Muslim women, upper-class and not, have ended up effectively in uniforms, in some cases with mandated colours.

          • Null42 says:

            Douthat did a nice job in the NYT explaining (I thought) how the book grows out of the anxieties of women in Atwood’s position in the 1980s.

            https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/opinion/handmaids-tale-and-ours.html

            There’s a saying (and I’m sure someone here knows by who) that science fiction is really about the present, not the past. It’s hard to blame Atwood for not being able to write for people 30 years in the future. IMHO the Christian Right has lost the culture wars and the new right-wing dystopia is going to be doing ethnic segregation using genome sequencing. But, hey, go back to when it was written and the book’s a nice piece of dystopia fiction. Even 1984 doesn’t really make sense anymore.

          • Aapje says:

            the new right-wing dystopia is going to be doing ethnic segregation

            The new left-wing dystopia too.

            Strange times.

    • lvlln says:

      Would TV shows like Orange is the New Black, Jessica Jones, or Luke Cage count? None of them are all that preachy, but all take lots of inspiration from modern Social Justice issues, often displaying generally accepted good Social Justice opinions in a good light, even if not necessarily advocating them. I think all of them are very good shows for reasons unrelated to the virtuousness of the SJ content they have.

      • manwhoisthursday says:

        Yes, I think those would be good examples.

      • Matt M says:

        I feel like a lot of these shows are good IN SPITE of SJ influence, not because of it

        • beleester says:

          The more I read this thread, the more I feel it’s just a giant no-true-Scotsman party.

          “Yes, it’s a good work with SJ themes, but it was written before modern social justice became influential!”
          “Yes, it’s a good work with SJ themes, but it’s historical fiction and SJ deals with modern issues. And allegory isn’t a thing.”
          “Yes, it’s a good work with SJ themes, but it doesn’t matter because bad SJ authors control the agenda!”
          “Yes, it’s a good work with SJ themes, but it’s good in spite of its themes, not because of it!”

          Yes, if you narrow the definition whenever someone suggests a good SJ work, then obviously no SJ work is good. Very clever.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If the question is whether you can have good art based around modern Social Justice, it seems a fair objection that the art was created before modern Social Justice.

            As for the rest of it, I suspect it is at least possible to make good work with SJ themes (though as with any message fiction, it will be difficult for the author to avoid dropping anvils on the reader). However, I don’t think it’s possible to make good work with SJ themes while obeying SJ strictures about what fiction is allowable to make.

          • John Schilling says:

            If Social Justice is new enough that you wouldn’t expect it to have a strong artistic tradition yet, then good art coming out of a range of ideologies or mobements similar to modern Social Justice is a good proxy for predicting whether we will eventually see a tradition of good Social Justice art.

            I think the artistic record of Social Justice’s ideological ancestors is weak – there’s not much of note from 1990s Political Correctness, for example – but it is hardly a null set nor an irrelevant one.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The Nybbler, what do you think are the SJ strictures about allowable fiction?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Nybbler, what do you think are the SJ strictures about allowable fiction?

            You’re not allowed to write about marginalized people when you’re not a member of that particular marginalized group. You’re also not allowed to have too many privileged people, nor are the marginalized people allowed to be portrayed in a negative light nor having any flaws. Also you can’t kill them off or otherwise have bad things happen to them.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Those all seem like way more hard-and-fast rules than my actual observations of SJ-types’ take on fiction, which tends to be more like this:

            a. You aren’t allowed to put a great focus on the internal experience of being a member of a marginalized group if you’re not a member of said group.

            b. You must have a pretty substantial representation of marginalized groups.

            c. Depicting flawed or unadmirable marginalized characters is inversely problematic to how many people of that group exist in your story and how close you the author are to that group. So if you just have one homosexual character and that character is a big stupid evil jerkface, and you are not homosexual, you’ll be tagged as highly problematic. If you have twenty homosexual characters, are yourself homosexual, and one of those character is a big stupid evil jerkface and many more of those characters have flaws in various ways, you’ll probably be fine.

            Not that I particularly agree that those are wonderful authorial constraints, but I don’t think that they are such great authorial constraints that good art is impossible within them.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nybbler that’s a pretty massive failure to model social justice art criticism. It reads like a parody.

            Note how Moonlight, probably the most social-justice-acclaimed film in the last year, flagrantly violates every single one of your so-called strictures. This should be an opportunity for self-reflection.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It reads like a parody.

            Social Justice is often a self-parody. Certainly my description is a weak-man version while sandoratthezoo is presenting a steelman, but I think the weak men(/women/nonbinaries) of Social Justice are rather more common.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nybbler

            Well, so much for the self-reflection.

            Just to repeat:
            Moonlight:
            A film about gay characters made by a straight man.
            Marginalized characters full of flaws, including a drug addict who shakes down her child for drug money, and all manner of moral cowardice.
            Characters from these marginalized groups mostly suffer throughout the entire film. Some die.

            This was the social justice-approved film event of the year. It’s a bit hard to express how wrong you are about this.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Philosophisticat

            It does not particularly surprise me that they’re willing to accept violations of strictures they’ve claimed as hard and fast rules in other circumstances.

          • albatross11 says:

            The Nybbler:

            Just as with weakmanning the other side’s arguments, it’s easy to weakman a movement’s ideas w.r.t. art, science, etc., and thus convince yourself that those people you’ve always disliked are indeed unlikeable, unscientific, unartistic, etc.

            I suspect it would be possible to draw a nice one-to-one mapping between your take on why SJWs can’t do good art, and some liberal weakman’s take on why conservatives can’t understand or accept science.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I’d object to characterizing my description as a “steelman.” I could’ve been considerably more generous to them. I intended it as a dispassionate description of how people into social justice seem like they practically judge works.

          • BBA says:

            I think we’re talking different people here. There are some who are just looking for problematic things to complain about, and since everything is problematic they’ll never be satisfied with anything. There are others who are willing to be more nuanced, and care about things like treating the subjects with respect and approaching the issues in good faith. If you get on enough of the second group’s good side, the first group won’t make as much of an impact on the dialogue.

          • tscharf says:

            If we take what a hypothetical ban on “depicting Muslims as terrorists” as an example, what has been accomplished? Is the thinking that people are so deluded as to not be able to tell the difference between fiction and reality? I don’t see this in the movies or fiction so it certainly isn’t happening in reality.

            We don’t want to further a stereotype. That stereotype exists not because of the movies, but because of reality. 99% of people assumed the recent bombing was by Islamists and it wasn’t because of the movies.

            If you want to have a conniption because Eskimos are being routinely depicted as terrorists when in fact they aren’t, that seems valid. If you want an alternate universe set of rules where a terrorist must be anyone but Muslim, or must be a white male, that seems invalid.

            It seems the accurate depiction is that while many terrorists may be Muslims in this time, the vast majority are not. One can depict that reality accurately without blanket bans on so called protected classes.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The actual issue isn’t so much Muslims being depicted as terrorists as very little depiction of Muslims who aren’t terrorists.

            Speaking of SJ fiction, Nnedi Okorafor is both good and mostly SJ. (She’s gotten some flack for portraying FGM as bad in Who Fears Death).

            In The Shadow Speaker, a character who was definitely Muslim but had it as a medium-sized part of her life (the way a lot of Americans approach religion) was a revelation to me.

          • Urstoff says:

            She’s gotten some flack for portraying FGM as bad in Who Fears Death

            what

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Cultural practice. People will argue about *anything*.

          • tscharf says:

            People tend to favor fiction that relates to them. My guess is lack of “normal” Muslims is mostly a marketing, sales, and culture issue. If the fact they are Muslim is incidental to the story then it probably doesn’t matter. If it is about the oppressed Muslim experience then you are likely to have a more limited audience for reasons unrelated to the ‘ism’s.

            Bear Town has a leading character who is a Muslim that happens to be a great hockey player in Sweden, mother is an immigrant. The mother and son were portrayed as flawless characters amid rape culture, sexism, Islamophobia, overt worship of sports, classism, the evils of capitalism, homophobia, and a few other SJ check boxes. Everyone (all white people) is fatally flawed in various ways except the Muslims.

            His previous book A Man Called Ove had I believe an Indian main character that came off as truly incidental. Bear Town came off as darkly culturally moralizing in the only socially acceptable way allowed. It was still a good book, but it was intentionally blind to a host of flaws in Islamic culture (the white people are the sexists and homophobes in this story?).

            That is what I would expect from any new fiction as it relates to Islam. A binary representation of monster terrorists or shining beacons on the hill amid Morlocks, with most of if the latter.

        • Jiro says:

          If I doubted that a good person can be a murderer, and you offered examples of people you think are good murderers, it would be entirely appropriate to look at your examples and say “well, he did commit a murder, so that disqualifies him from being good”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Jiro:

            I think this is one of those places where English language introduces some ambiguity.

            You could assert that SJW beliefs make good literature impossible, based on some definition. And we could discuss that definition, arguing about either how we define good literature or how we define SJW ideas. But note that here, we’re arguing about definitions, not making any kind of prediction or observation. And there, it’s certainly possible to make arguments that, say, some universally-accepted work of genius that is also widely seen as SJW is somehow not a contradiction to your argument, because it is somehow disqualified from being SJW or being good art by some aspect of your definition. But it’s hard for me to see why that would be a very interesting discussion. Also, this is exactly the situation in which no-true-Scottsman usually seems to come into play.

            You could also be trying to ask: Has the modern SJW movement produced good art? Can we expect good art out of that movement in the future? For that, you probably want to spend less time precisely arguing definitions and more time checking to see if there’s good art that’s been produced from broadly within that movement.

          • Jiro says:

            Being a SJW means promoting a specific belief system in particularly strident and biased ways. Being a good work requires nuance. These are pretty much mutually exclusive; I would expect that examples either don’t count as social justice or aren’t nuanced enough to be good.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            Note that you are switching back and forth between SJW and SJ to make your argument.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Maybe for Luke Cage, probably for OITNB, but no way for Jessica Jones. Kilgrave is plucked directly from fears and hatreds of contemporary pop-feminism. Compare, for example, the part of the final episode from which it gets its title with this. Given that he’s arguably the best MCU villain ever, I think it’s fair to suggest that this unique influence was not a negative one in this case. Certainly, he was the best part of that particular show–every scene with him and JJ was gripping and chilling while the most of the stuff with the subplots (JJ’s guilty feelings towards Luke Cage, Trish Walker and her new cop boyfriend, most of the neighbor stuff) was pretty average.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Kilgrave is plucked directly from fears and hatreds of contemporary pop-feminism.

          I could be wrong, but aren’t the original comics older than modern pop-feminism ? I haven’t read them, so I’m not sure…

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            2001-2004.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yeah, the Purple Man isn’t actually a very old character.

            Also, reading the relevant wiki, I’m getting the impression that “Kilgrave as the ultimate abusive SO/Nice Guy”–as someone who genuinely believes he loves JJ but whose conception of what love means is twisted both by experience and temperament–wasn’t really the original framing and is probably an innovation by the TV show.

          • Jiro says:

            The Purple Man himself is an older character dating from 1964. However, his depiction in Jessica Jones is based on the Alias series, which is from 2001-2004.

        • ChetC3 says:

          Maybe for Luke Cage, probably for OITNB, but no way for Jessica Jones. Kilgrave is plucked directly from fears and hatreds of contemporary pop-feminism.

          Even the left-leaning commenters here managed to miss the feminism of Fury Road, which was even more brick-to-the-eyes unsubtle.

          • Nornagest says:

            Fair enough. I don’t know if Fury Road was actually meant to be a Social Justice Film — allegedly it’s been planned for some absurdly long time — but it was released in the social justice era, has some pretty overt social justice themes, and it was a really good movie.

            Its villains are far cooler than its heroes (as factions, at least; Imperator Furiosa’s plenty cool, but how many people quote or cosplay the War Boys vs. the Vuvulini?), but that’s true for lots of media without its politics.

        • lvlln says:

          Maybe for Luke Cage, probably for OITNB, but no way for Jessica Jones. Kilgrave is plucked directly from fears and hatreds of contemporary pop-feminism. Compare, for example, the part of the final episode from which it gets its title with this. Given that he’s arguably the best MCU villain ever, I think it’s fair to suggest that this unique influence was not a negative one in this case.

          I’m not sure I follow – the 1st sentence seems to disagree with me that Jessica Jones is an example of a Social Justice based work of art that is also a good work of art, but the rest of the post seems to provide evidence that agrees with me. Could you clarify what you mean by the “no way?”

          I’m not much a fan of MCU, but from what I’ve seen, I’d agree that Kilgrave is the best villain of the bunch, and in a large part thanks to how well he embodied the Social Justice boogeyman of rape culture and patriarchy. What I think especially worked well for the show was that it didn’t try to bash the viewers’ heads with the message that this was a metaphor for reality. Rather, his effectiveness as a villain was the result of him personifying a boogeyman, and that’s scary regardless of whether or not this boogeyman actually exists in real life. This is a major reason why I think Jessica Jones is a good Social Justice based work of art – it uses tropes discussed by the SJ crowd, but it doesn’t ever demand that the viewer buy into them as at all reflective of reality in order to enjoy them to the fullest extent.

          Similar for why I thought Luke Cage fit, with respect to issues generally associated with Black Lives Matter. It never preaches to you about how poorly black people are treated by the police or demands that you take it as a premise about how reality works, while still effectively using it as a major theme to the series.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think Get Out is both Social Justice and an excellent horror movie.

          • Iain says:

            @lvlln: I’m pretty sure that herbert herberson’s “no way for Jessica Jones” was responding to Matt M’s sibling post (“I feel like a lot of these shows are good IN SPITE of SJ influence, not because of it”), rather than your post directly. It was more obvious before a bunch of people replied to Matt M.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yeah, Ian is correct. I agree entirely with your take on JJ–it is good because of the themes it pulls from pop feminism, not despite them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I only watched a little of JJ. Would anyone care to weigh in on whether her problems were part of a larger system of oppression vs. whether they were the result of being targeted by a stalker who had superpowers that no one had heard of?

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy A little from column A, a little from column B. Much more the superpowered opponent, but he represents various real-world concepts (as the show’s creators perceive them) in a heightened manner, the way superhero stories often address social issues by analogy rather than directly.

            Just as, e.g., it’s not unknown for Storm of the X-Men to face standard American racism. But she’s much more likely to be in a story in which the underlying issues are represented by anti-mutant prejudice, a violent militant mutant organization emerging in response to it, etc.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Not really. Like, Kilgrave’s sense of entitlement and objectification of JJ parallels (almost certainly purposefully so) rape-culture-type critiques of how society passes down and facilitates misogyny and patriarchy through the generations. People’s reluctance to believe his victims also provides a comparable metaphorical parallel. But, the actual plot-mechanics of why Kilgrave is the way he is is more of a direct result of how powers like that would fuck up any child’s sense of boundaries and morality, no assistance from the wider culture required; nor is it treated as all that surprising or blameworthy that people are skeptical re: the existence of a mind-controlling supervillain.

          • LHN says:

            I’m pretty confident Kilgrave’s power is supposed to work both on the object level and as “male privilege, but supercharged and turned up to eleven”.

      • Jiro says:

        Supergirl is doing a lot of social justice (which has created a lot of terrible moments). The most recent episode has a character give an inspiring speech about how we should fight against the invading aliens who want to make the world great again. (They’re invaders, and at no point said they wanted to make the world great for Earthlings). Also a speech about how strong women are important. And the president of the United States is secretly an alien, which is apparently supposed to be a good thing (space aliens have been standins for mundane aliens in this series).

        • LHN says:

          To be fair, the speech about how “we’re all strong women not hindered by the need to engage in patriarchal competitiveness, surely we can work together and find a solution!” was punctuated by the villain blowing Air Force One out of the sky with the speaker and President aboard. But yeah, the themes are frequently heavy-handed and run counter to what’s actually going on on the screen.

          And I don’t know what they even think they’re doing with making the President into Clinton-as-Birther-Nightmare, especially after the whole J’onn J’onzz thing. (“Hidden aliens are secretly infiltrating the top levels of government, repeatedly. Isn’t it great?!?”) Superman and Supergirl are already the perfect poster children for the traditional pro-immigration narrative. Given the show’s political orientation, why would the show go out of its way to justify the paranoia of its villains?

          All of which doesn’t stop me from liking the show, but it does sometimes require making allowances.

          • Jiro says:

            Given the show’s political orientation, why would the show go out of its way to justify the paranoia of its villains?

            Because the narrative of the show is “illegal aliens are here and it’s great.” The president being one isn’t something you’re supposed to be paranoid about, it’s something you’re supposed to celebrate. Birtherism was bad in the same way that insulting someone by calling him gay is bad, it accuses him of lying, but the thing he’s supposed to be lying about shouldn’t be thought of as shameful.

            Also, Superman and Supergirl are a lot more like refugees than like economic migrants.

          • LHN says:

            But if it’s a good thing, why is it a secret? Why not be out and proud?

            (Especially given that they’re making Supergirl’s own secret identity increasingly vestigial.)

          • Matt M says:

            But if it’s a good thing, why is it a secret? Why not be out and proud?

            Because the dumb right-wing bigots that comprise society would never accept it.

            See also: Left-wing theories that Obama is a secret atheist, because he’s obviously too smart to ACTUALLY be a Christian, but he knows that the American public is so stupid they’d never vote for an Atheist so he has to pretend not to be one in order to get elected.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I only watched the first two seasons, but with the exception of Laverne Cox’s character, I didn’t see a lot of social justice in Orange is The New Black. Piper is sent to a prison, where everyone’s guilty, it’s effectively segregated by color, age, and culture, and she quickly accepts this as normal.

        • lvlln says:

          Orange is the New Black is definitely more of a stretch than the other 2. I’d say segregation by color/age/culture is something that modern SJ advocates as a good thing, but I don’t think the show had any particular commentary about it besides just presenting it as a reality in prisons. It does have the terribleness of the private prison system and the heartless corporate & government stooges that run it as an on-going theme (as well as the not-so-heartless and very well-meaning ones who still end up causing harm to others). But I’m mainly thinking of in season 3, one pretty major plot point was an overt reference to Eric Garner’s death and Black Lives Matter.

    • Nornagest says:

      I haven’t read most of those, but while The Handmaid’s Tale is certainly popular among SJ and consonant with its values, it is not a product of capital-S capital-J Social Justice, which didn’t exist when it was written.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I know that Ursual Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness is practically cliche at this point, but I still think it’s a good example. In fact, it works especially well when contrasted with some of Le Guin’s other works, where she completely failed to restrain herself from yelling SJ propaganda at the reader for 200 pages straight. It’s amazing how the same author can succeed so well in one case, and fail so badly in the other.

      I’ve got to admit, though, that part of my enjoyment of the book probably stems a bit from my own personal history. If I heard about a country where rirelbar vf havgrq gbtrgure sbe pbzzba havgl naq cebterff, jbexvat ba gbgnyyl ibyhagnel pbzzhany snezf sbe gur orggrezrag bs gur pbzzba tbbq, zl svefg ernpgvba jbhyq or, “bu fuvg, EHA !”. Ohg gur obbx’f cebgntbavfg pbzrf sebz na npghnyyl rayvtugrarq fcnprsnevat phygher, naq uvf ernpgvba vf, “bu, svanyyl, gung fbhaqf fb avpr”. The dramatic irony is delicious.

      • Evan Þ says:

        FWIW, I read Left Hand of Darkness last month, along with my left-leaning book club. We all hated it because the plot didn’t get moving for half the book and then went at a snail’s pace, and we didn’t get understand or sympathize with any of the characters till near the end of the book. Also, we all agreed, society had outpaced LeGuin’s gender theories to the point where her protagonist seems hopelessly old-fashioned when he keeps trying to categorize the Winter-ites into one or the other gender box.

        (For a gender issues sci-fi book done much better, I recommended David Brin’s Glory Season. I definitely wouldn’t call it an SJ book, though.)

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Also, we all agreed, society had outpaced LeGuin’s gender theories to the point where her protagonist seems hopelessly old-fashioned when he keeps trying to categorize the Winter-ites into one or the other gender box.

          Uh, as I said, I have difficulty of recognizing the book from your descriptions. Would you care to elaborate what did you think were the LeGuin’s outdated gender theories?

          I remember it as a book that explores a Planet of Curious Almost (but Not Exactly) Utopian Planet, and the author’s theories of gender surfaced mostly when the protagonist explicitly notes the various ways how the Winter’s culture and technological development had took a different route than more regular human civilization. (Now most of those presented implications I disagreed with, I thought the proposed concept was too simplistic / utopian. But still, worthwhile thought experiment about weird genetically engineered humans for the purposes of one science fiction novel.)

          Also, I don’t think the society is yet so progressive that planet of people of Winter with their peculiar biology wouldn’t still be very confusing to any human of Earth, no matter how genderqueer.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I agree; I couldn’t say that the protagonist “struggles” with gender perceptions; rather, he is fascinated with the native biology, and its effect on their society. What he definitely does struggle with are the intricacies of a society which, under the veneer of social politeness, is much more brutal and cunning than his own. It’s this struggle that makes the book interesting, IMO — especially since Winter is (obviously) much closer to us than the Ecumen.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        I also (re-)read the Left Hand of Darkness not too long ago, and I appear to have read a completely different book than you and Evan.

        I somehow missed that part of the protagonist’s reaction. Wasn’t he mostly puzzled by the peculiar culture of the both nations of Winter he visited?

        Which one you’d consider the worst offender? I have hard time coming up with a book of hers that would be exactly “yellling rampant SJW propaganda” (I grant I have not read them all and some of them many years ago), not just quite regular left-aligned ethics.

        • pharmst says:

          I guess you could read The Dispossessed that way if you only focused on the depiction of the capitalist planet?

          It’s not exactly positive about the anarchist society either, but I guess I could see a reader with a deep attachment to libertarianism/capitalism missing that part entirely. We feel the attacks on ideas we identify with more deeply than those that we don’t & all that.

          • I thought LeGuin played fair on the anarchist moon, showing it with its problems. But the capitalist planet read to me like a picture of the U.S. written by a loyal communist who had never been outside of the Soviet Union.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I agree with David.

        • Bugmaster says:

          As far as I recall, the protagonist was definitely “puzzled” by the peculiar native culture, yeah. Puzzled to the point where it almost ends up killing him him several times. He makes mistake after basic mistake, due to his mistaken implicit assumption that every alien culture is basically kind of like his native Ecumen, only maybe less polished, or something. Watching his actions is kind of like watching a bunny walk into a meat grinder. That said, watching as the protagonist finally discards his naive cultural assumptions one by one, and begins actually listening to people, is what makes the book so fascinating, IMO.

      • Wander says:

        I always find discussion of Le Guin’s work rather amusing, because in my mind I associate her with The Wizard of Earthsea over everything else. The last few in that series start to show signs of her ideology, but otherwise they’re so very different from the Left Hand of Darkness.

    • Jaskologist says:

      It sure seems like there is a negative correlation between preachiness and fiction quality. On the other hand, the best part of any Dostoevsky book is when some character goes off on a 10-page rant/sermon.

      • Urstoff says:

        Right; you can be preachy, but you also have to be interesting. Although I don’t think we should fault preachy literature for being uninteresting because it’s preachy, as most literature is uninteresting.

      • dndnrsn says:

        There’s a reason “show, don’t tell” is such a good idea.

      • Protagoras says:

        I wonder how much of a factor it is that Dostoevsky characters who rant and sermonize are rarely saying things Dostoevsky himself believed. Though I suppose most authors do that badly as well, creating straw men; Dostoevsky was amazing for how well he portrayed characters whose views he disagreed with.

      • Null42 says:

        He’s Dostoevsky. He can do things other writers can’t.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      I’m not gonna claim it’s a win for “great art” by any means, but in terms of having a powerful, compelling message to people all over the political spectrum, various iterations of the X-Men and Star Trek have managed to do so while being extremely bleeding heart social justicey at the core

      • Spookykou says:

        Star Trek is egalitarian and very socialist, but working from my understanding of SJ , which is that they are primarily concerned with identity politics, and, if not actually against socialism, see it as a distraction from the real issues(I am not very clear on all this, I have only the SSC comments to go on?) Star Trek does not seem very ‘social justicey’.

        In particular, Star Trek is race blind, I am not sure to what extent that is compatible with the future* the identitarian left wants.

        *I have no idea what they want, but in general they seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

        • Matt M says:

          In particular, Star Trek is race blind, I am not sure to what extent that is compatible with the future* the identitarian left wants.

          Eh, Sisko has his moments every once in awhile, including entire episodes devoted to random flashbacks designed to show how horrible discrimination against black sci-fi writers was…

          • The Nybbler says:

            how horrible discrimination against black sci-fi writers was…

            Doesn’t Sam Delany complain about it a lot, when he’s not lovingly stroking his various Hugo and Nebula awards dating back to the 1960s?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think it’s possible to for there to be discrimination that only lets the very best through, while eliminating opportunities for the merely pretty good.

          • Spookykou says:

            I should have mentioned Sisko, I placed his flash backs in the same category as a normal episode dealing with discrimination in some ‘alien culture’ but you are right, the important part is that he still sees himself as being of a particular race and that his identity as such influences how he interacts with the world.

            In general though, DS9 ruins everything about Star Trek, and so I try to redact it from my headcanon.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I think it’s possible to for there to be discrimination that only lets the very best through, while eliminating opportunities for the merely pretty good.

            Yes, the pattern here would be: Group is underrepresented in the total population, but overrepresented in top performers. I believe that was true of women in college several decades ago.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not JUST the flashbacks though. There’s also the whole “he won’t go to Vic’s because he feels like he would be betraying the legacy of his great-great-great-grandparents who were discriminated against in 1940s America (and lectures Jake on it as well)” thing.

            Which honestly struck me as brutally depressing. The idea that even centuries later, black people will STILL feel personally wronged by Jim Crow is not very utopian at all…

          • Odovacer says:

            @SpookyLou

            What do you mean by DS9 ruins everything about Star Trek? I’m curious.

          • Anonymous says:

            In general though, DS9 ruins everything about Star Trek, and so I try to redact it from my headcanon.

            DS9 is by far the BEST Star Trek.

          • Spookykou says:

            Well, DS9 has two of my favorite characters, Garak and Quark, and I have watched the whole series a few times, so I am not saying it is a horrible TV show or anything.

            However, I do feel like it fundamentally breaks some of the most important themes of the Star Trek series in irreconcilable ways.

            IMO, one of the most important, and great aspects of Star Trek, is similar to an idea Scott talks about, the Federation is like Elua.

            Elua is the god of flowers and free love and he is terrifying.

            The Federation is good, and honest, and exactly as advertised. They fight against slavers and the obsidian order and military dictatorships who will do anything and everything to win. Yet at the end of the day, these peace loving democratic socialists who actually follow their own rules, WIN. They are going to take over the galaxy, and whats worse, you are going to like it.

            Oh wait, section 31 an evil black ops organization has been operating since the foundation of the Federation and it is only by the actions of evil men who will do anything to win, that the Federation actually wins.

            Thanks DS9.

          • Matt M says:

            Let’s not also forget the amount of supernatural mumbo-jumbo that becomes critical to the overall plot of DS9, up to and including “the Bajoran Gods help Sisko win the war because they like him”

        • Iain says:

          @Spookykou:

          I advise you not to put that much weight on SSC’s characterization of social justice. Concluding that social justice people must hate Star Trek based on SSC comments is like deciding based on the writings of Richard Dawkins that Catholics must hate the Lord of the Rings. You can probably find an example if you look really hard, but it’s far from the norm.

          Stuff like this (“Gene Roddenberry: The Original Social Justice Warrior”) is more representative of the kinds of things I see social justice-y people say about Star Trek.

          • BBA says:

            I saw a tweetstorm a few weeks ago about how Roddenberry was a sexist pig (and worse) and how his awfulness taints the entire Star Trek franchise, and therefore no decent person should be able to stand watching it. It contained one grave accusation against him, which on further reading turned out to be unsubstantiated (which, to be overly charitable, doesn’t mean it was false). Without it, Roddenberry just comes off as skeezy, but within the typical range of skeeziness of the ’60s entertainment industry.

            I lost the link, and have no interest in tracking down a possibly slanderous rant from somebody of unknown standing in the SJ movement. But suffice it to say, the views in your link aren’t the consensus.

          • Iain says:

            I didn’t say anything about that link being the consensus. Indeed, I was pretty clear that there wasn’t a consensus. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a far more common position.

            Put it this way: if we (or rather, two different people who cared enough to bother) went shot-for-shot pulling out examples of social justice people who like vs hate Star Trek, I am pretty confident that the “SJs hate Star Trek” side would run out of examples first. Do you disagree?

          • BBA says:

            Fair enough. As long as the SJ people who like it acknowledge how deeply problematic it is, otherwise I question their SJ bona fides. 😛

          • Spookykou says:

            @Iain

            I imagine you are correct here, both in that lots of people like Star Trek, and SJ is a large group of people who hardly have consensus on every issue.

            All I was really driving at is that, in Star Trek(excluding DS9), race basically doesn’t exist. It is possible that the people who currently pursue identity politics actually want a future where identity is ignored, but it isn’t obviously to me. I am a big fan of the Star Trek Utopia*, it seems like a great one to me, but is it their Utopia?

            *I like The Culture a good deal more, no Deathism, but that is neither here nor there.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Spookykou:
            The original Star Trek, among other things, featured the first inter-racial kiss on American network TV.

            Literally the whole show is about different groups of humanoids, with different features, learning to understand each other and embrace their differences while striving for a common morality.

            In Next Gen, even the Klingons become allies.

            I think it’s a real mistake to say “Star Trek posits that racial disharmony has ended on earth, therefore it doesn’t deal with social justice”.

          • Spookykou says:

            @HBC

            That was not what I was trying to say, but I am not a very succinct writer.

            I am trying to ask the very particular question, do identitarians want the future as it is presented in star trek, where racial identity is(mostly) not a thing, or do they see some other(equally good?) future where identity is still important.

            I agree the show had a very liberal agenda, but I was not trying to talk about the general themes of the show, rather the details of the future Earth as they present them, and how those relate to modern social justice.

            *I am focusing on identity politics because it seems like the most noticeable shift in ideology from the liberalism that Star Trek was born from. I certainly don’t refute the idea that it was liberal for it’s time.

          • Matt M says:

            Spooky,

            I get your overall point, but I don’t think Trek was as racially blind as you think. Chekov still claims Russia invented everything. Sulu still can randomly use a ninja sword. Scotty still has a ridiculous accent and is prone to brawling over slights to his pride. O’Brien still indulges every Irish stereotype in the book thereabouts. We’ve already covered Sisko.
            And EVERY alien race (many of which are clearly inspired by 20th century races, nations, or ideologies) has their own universal identity-based stereotypes that never really go away.

            In terms of being “colorblind” I’d say that the difference between today and 100 years ago is far greater than the difference between today and Trek.

          • Creutzer says:

            I don’t think that’s actually in contradiction with the contention that Star Trek espouses an ideal of colour blindness. These differences are all minor individual quirks that add a touch of colour and serve as a source of amusement, while they have little overall import as they don’t threaten how all these people are part of the same universal culture. This doesn’t mean that everybody is the same, it just means that these differences have no impact whatsoever on the characters’ membership in the universal culture. They are merely touches of colour and sources of amusement.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Occasional lapses aside, original series Star Trek explicitly taught an earlier version of feminism, one which the SJ faction rejects. Consider episode 15, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”. One alien race is black on the right side, white on the left, the other has that reversed, and they are at war over this difference. The point of making the racial difference so arbitrary is to hammer home that these kind of differences are meaningless and should be ignored, not celebrated and protected. Nobody would argue that the “white on the lefts” have a unique culture and way of doing things that needs to be nurtured and protected from oppression by the Rightriarchy with safe Left-only spaces and Left-studies departments in the universities and affirmative action to ensure 50% Left representation and decrying of “cultural appropriation” when one group copies the other. Nope. the two groups are the same, the difference in appearance is trivial and they should just Get Over It.

            I don’t think that attitude would fly today. When Colbert claimed “not to see race” that was a joke – today it’s taken for granted that people who claim “not to see race” must be bigots who totally do see race.

          • Matt M says:

            As a follow-up: Let’s also keep in mind that in most Trek series, we’re looking at a fairly elite level of one of the most prestigious armed forces in the galaxy.

            Like, even today, there probably isn’t a whole lot of casual racism on display during working hours on the bridge of the USS Ronald Reagan. Just because the top levels of the military appear colorblind during working hours does not necessarily imply “there is no longer any racism in society”

          • The Nybbler says:

            Occasional lapses aside, original series Star Trek explicitly taught an earlier version of feminism, one which the SJ faction rejects. Consider episode 15, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”.

            Not feminism; while modern SJ combines feminism with racial issues, they were largely separate then. In fact, I would argue that SJ is mostly derived from feminism and is not really the successor of the (racial) civil rights movement.

            “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” drops the anvil to beat all anvils, but the advantage of that is you certainly can’t say it’s not clear as to what it’s saying.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My contact with SJ started with RaceFail (sf, both fannish and professional, with a lot of it happening on LiveJournal) in 09. At that point, it seemed to be mostly about race (it was called anti-racism), and then a similar style was brought to issues affecting women.

            I *think* it started out as mostly about what was published, and then started including what was going on at conventions.

            Just while I’m doing history, one big change was that it started with “Educate yourself!” It took a while for the current large amount of material explaining the issues to be easily available.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @spookykou:

            I am trying to ask the very particular question, do identitarians want the future as it is presented in star trek, where racial identity is(mostly) not a thing

            Vulcans, Klingons, Ferengi, and any number of other humanoid alien “races” are presented as having individual cultures that impact their identities. These cultures are presented as having a great deal of worth, while also presenting specific problems. The zeitgeist of the show is not “we are all one universal culture with no differences” it is rather “each individual culture has worth and can contribute to the betterment of the whole, but individual cultures must also adapt and change for the betterment of the whole”.

            One of the most enduring and frequently referenced relationships in the original series is that of “Bones” and Spock. That relationship is built on the clash of cultures between the two individuals. Arguably the Spock role gets split between Data and Worf in NextGen.

            But where this really plays out is in the contacts with the various alien races. And we can most especially see this is the formulation (and re-formulation) of The Prime Directive.

            As stated originally (my emphasis):

            No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations.

          • random832 says:

            @Matt M

            Sulu still can randomly use a ninja sword.

            The use of a European fencing sword for that one scene in the original TV show was in fact a deliberate choice (by Takei, who was given a choice between that and a katana) to not do that sort of thing.

          • LHN says:

            Yes– in contrast to e.g., Scotty, I can’t think of anything Sulu ever did onscreen in the original series or the original cast movies that was stereotypically Japanese or specifically Asian. (IIRC, the character’s supposed to be from San Francisco.) The katana in the 2009 Trek film was a break from that.

          • Spookykou says:

            @HBC

            You are making some good points, I would say that the only real point of confusion for me is,

            each individual culture has worth and can contribute to the betterment of the whole, but individual cultures must also adapt and change for the betterment of the whole

            which strikes me as a pretty accurate description of Star Trek ideals.

            However I was not sure to what extent the bold section was an acceptable position within the identity politics frame work. If you think that it is, I will accept it as such, I am confident you have a better understanding of these issues.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @spookykou:
            Let’s take some real world examples, FGM and the prevention of education of females. The bog standard SJ position on both of these is that these social practices need to change, despite being rooted in distinct cultures.

            You can always find someone who will argue just about any position, so obviously you can find someone who espouses SJ with a different opinion on these issues, but they won’t be central examples.

          • Jiro says:

            I’ve often thought that Spock was a stand-in for the clever but inscrutable Oriental. (Remember that Asian stereotypes were a little different back in the 60’s.) They even used yellowish face paint to depict him.

          • Jaskologist says:

            All I was really driving at is that, in Star Trek(excluding DS9), race basically doesn’t exist.

            One thing that amused me about Sisko: he only dated black women. Sometimes the woman was an alien, but she still had to be a black alien.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            I think it’s fair to say that Star Trek drew on common tropes in creating it’s universe.

            But I think the actual trope is much older than what you are pointing at. Outsider comes into our culture, finds it odd, curious, etc. (and is, in turn, perceived as odd and curious by the locals) and needs it explained seems like a common mechanic for writers, simply because it so useful and allowing for exposition (as well as creating certain kinds of dramatic tension).

          • LHN says:

            Trying to think how that compares with other captains.

            Kirk: mostly white women, plus one green. The one woman he married was an American Indian (at least culturally and phenotypically).

            (His famous kiss with Uhura was psychically forced, with no romantic relationship.)

            I think Picard’s few romantic interests were all white.

            Janeway’s look to be as well, though I didn’t watch Voyager all the way through. Ditto Archer.

            (Interesting if the only Trek captain with any diversity along that axis is the one imagined in the 1960s.)

        • John Schilling says:

          Star Trek is by this point completely incoherent(*), to the point where diametrically opposed ideologies can often find support from within what passes for canon. But if we try to narrow it down to “What Gene Roddenberry intended before the network made him tone it down”, as seen in parts of TOS and most of early TNG, I think the politics comes down to Democratic Socialism plus trying to do the right thing on race and gender from a 1960s perspective.

          And at the other extreme, I don’t think modern Social Justice has given up on a racially blind and maybe genderblind society as an ideal to be achieved by the 23rd century. So there’s certainly room for SJWs to adopt much of Star Trek as their own if they want.

          And I’m perfectly happy to let them have the Space Hippies, and all of DS9 and Voyager if they want.

          * Insert obligatory SJ joke here

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think modern Social Justice has given up on a racially blind and maybe genderblind society

            Um, they are actively fighting against it TODAY. If you suggest one should be color/genderblind, most SJs will promptly point to that as proof of your racism/sexism. I suppose you could entertain the theory that “persons of color need their own white-free safe spaces” is just a temporary measure until racism has been sufficiently abolished among evil whites and THEN we can fully integrate and have the genderblind society. But uh… count me as NOT believing that one!

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            To be fair, I’ve seen some who claim that they do want racially blind society someday in the future, but believe that the overwhelming majority of appeals to “not caring about race” are made in bad faith, as a cop-out by guilty whites who just don’t want to acknowledge the changes they have to make in order to achieve what a “real” color-blind society would look like.

            To what extent the modern social justice movement is comprised of people whose views on racial identity is:

            1) “an ideal future is one where everyone takes great pride in their traditional ethnic/racial heritage and is loyal to Their People…except for whites who have abused that pride with centuries of bad behavior and thus lost the right to it”

            vs.

            2) “an ideal future is one where everyone sees value and worth in aspects from all cultures and traditions, but no one over-invests in them because we all share identities that go beyond the old and dated tribal characteristics of ethnonationalism and socially-constructed fictions like ‘race’.”

            Is a good question, but I have to say that in my experience View 1 is the dominant one of the past 17 years or so and is the one espoused by the majority of young (<30) proponents of Social Justice, while View 2 is the dominant one from the 1960s-90s, and is still espoused by the older and more "established" adherents of Social Justice as a philosophy/movement.

            I'm not going to try to make a claim about which is "really" representative of SJ, but I am profoundly skeptical of claims that View 1 represents an internet-only (or even college students -only) Vanguard/Lunatic Fringe minority.

            Mmm, has anyone tried to sit down and map out a coherent history of Social Justice philosophy and activism in the way that academics have for modern feminism? First Wave/Second Wave/etc?

          • tscharf says:

            guilty whites who just don’t want to acknowledge the changes they have to make

            Color me as one who can’t figure out what these changes are supposed to be. Is there an actual policy goal here, or is there one that is understood by everyone except me?

            A parody of the conversation goes something like this:

            SJ> We want more respect and equality

            NGW (not guilty white)> I respect you and think you should be equal.

            SJ> No you don’t.

            NGW> Yes I do.

            SJ> What about (insert injustice of a protected class)?

            NGW> Well….

            SJ> …Check your privilege first!

            NGW> Huh, what?

            SJ> You can’t speak on this subject unless you are oppressed

            NGW> Didn’t you just ask me about this?

            SJ> Check.your.privelege.

            NGW> I don’t even know what that means.

            SJ> Accept my answer, you have no standing here.

            NGW> I’m confused, you haven’t even told me your answer.

            SJ> Racist!

            NGW> Ummmmm….OK. I’m leaving now.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @tscharf

            It’s guilt; it’s a blank check. Once you’re in the appropriate guilty state of mind, any demand can be made and there is no defense against it because after all, you’re guilty and if the demand looks punitive you deserve it.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Have you tried rewatching TNG recently? It’s extremely cringe-worthy in the early seasons, pretty much in exact proportion to how hard Roddenberry was pushing his particular vision of the future. Later on they got away from that, and DS9 pretty much discarded it altogether, with a corresponding raise in quality.

        Part of the problem was that they never really did the world-building needed to back up things like “there’s no money anymore,” “humans have evolved past greed,” which probably would have resulted in a much too foreign society for good tv anyway.

        • random832 says:

          Star Trek had some weird ideas about evolution even in episodes that didn’t mention the money/greed thing (prime directive episodes were another big category of offender), I wouldn’t be surprised if “evolved past greed” were meant literally.

        • Spookykou says:

          This is so strange to me, the only interesting thing about Star Trek for me is that, especially in TNG and the original series, the crew are not just modern Americans in space. Which is exactly what they become in DS9, and which I found deeply disappointing.

          • LHN says:

            I think TOS was, if anything, more (idealized, Cold War liberal) Americans than anything in the TNG era was.

            DS9 certainly gave more attention to the idea that the Federation had a specifically post-capitalist philosophy (even if that was frequently in the context of demonstrating why there was a niche for Ferengi trading knowhow or Cardassian realpolitik), where TOS frequently featured supporting human characters with economic motivations (miners going to dangerous places for high wages, itinerant traders and scam artists, etc.) or the need to make pragmatic, unsatisfying compromises (e.g., supplying a long-term proxy war with the Klingons) without needing the advice of a friendly tailor to put the idea in their heads.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I find the TOS and TNG worldviews very different. Kirk solved problems by punching them in face (or seducing the ladies (or both)). Picard solves them by giving a speech.

            Mostly, I don’t find the claims TNG makes about their society believable (in the context of the show). They’re too much like modern Americans for all of those changes to have actually taken place. What does it really mean for the society to not have money anymore? They sure don’t seem very post-scarce. The question is never really explored beyond the occasional statement that there’s no hunger/money/greed anymore.

            I think a lot of Roddenberry’s ideas about how enlightened humans would behave would have removed most of the opportunities for drama, so the writers ignored them as much as possible.

          • Spookykou says:

            This I guess again falls back on my seemingly idiosyncratic taste given how popular DS9, and in particular the Dominion war, is. I am very happy that the characters in DS9 are, at first, presented as different from the Ferengi and the Cardassians, because the theme in Star Trek that I like, that sets it apart from any generic sci fi show, is that an honest open friendly socialist democracy that is inclusive and alliance building, is better than these other models(although I hate that they strawman the other models, it would be much more interesting if the Ferengi were actually hyper capitalist and not just greedy little trolls). That everyone constantly tells them, no, the universe is scary and horrible and you have to be scary and horrible to survive, and they reject that idea, and they win.

            DS9 is a complete reversal, they embrace the idea that the ends justify the means, and in the process become no better than ticking time bomb Jack Bauer. This is what I meant by ‘modern Americans’ I should have said ‘generic TV people’.

            Edit: TNG at least has an air of ‘If we must stoop to this in order to win, we do not deserve to win.’ which you just Never see in TV or Movies. We are the good guys they are the bad guys, and us winning is good, has more than enough media coverage, Star trek, at least for a time, offered up something different.

          • ChetC3 says:

            @Spookykou:

            It’s almost as though they’d rather have been writing for a new Battlestar Galactica series instead…

          • Matt M says:

            This I guess again falls back on my seemingly idiosyncratic taste given how popular DS9, and in particular the Dominion war, is.

            I think a whole lot of this is simply preference for long story arcs generally, which hadn’t really been a thing in Trek prior to the Dominion War. I’m kind of neutral on DS9. IMO the Dominion War was cool, not really as a plotline in and of itself (it included tons of stupid, unrealistic things) – but merely for the fact that it was a long-running over-arching arc to keep you hooked from episode to episode.

            Even consider that within TNG, the good seasons (4-7) were distinguished, in part, by having the occasional mini-arc run across them (Borg arc, Klingon arc, Romulan arc, Cardassian arc, etc.). It’s a way to reward fans for repetitive viewing by making them feel like they understand things better than the casual viewer who tunes in for a random one-off episode.

            DS9 did a much better job of tightening up this structure, even when it kept going back to dumb things like the parallel universe (ugh, one of these episodes would have been enough, instead we get 5???).

    • noname says:

      Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth is maybe a good candidate. It deals with a lot of SJ-related themes (especially post-colonial experience) and was published in 2000, so it’s not awfully anachronistic to refer to SJ influence. I read it in college, it’s pretty good. Funny & well-written.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      District 9.

      • psmith says:

        On the other hand.

        What little enterprise is found in the alien township is generated by humans: cannibalistic, voodoo-practicing Nigerian gangsters who barter cans of (apparently addictive) cat food for the high-tech alien weaponry that the prawns are too directionless to use effectively. Salon interviewer Andrew O’Hehir was less clueless that most Americans in his interview with Blomkamp:

        O’Hehir: You know, these images are pretty uncomfortable, especially for Americans who tend to be so careful in public discussions of race: Here’s a white guy from South Africa making a movie with scary, murderous black African villains.

        Blomkamp: Sure, I’m totally aware of that. … Unfortunately, that’s the reality of it, and it doesn’t matter how politically correct or politically incorrect you are. The bottom line is that there are huge Nigerian crime syndicates in Johannesburg. I wanted the film to feel real, to feel grounded, and I was going to incorporate as much of contemporary South Africa as I wanted to, and that’s just how it is.

  11. HD42 says:

    I was thinking about the Al risk topic. As a almost 30-ish person who’d very much like to ideally check out before things turning into a cliche’d dystopic sci fi film, how worried should I be about this? Like do I need to start planning now to off myself in X number of years to avoid this? and how many years can I safely allocate before I need to kick the bucket?

    • sohois says:

      That’s a complicated question; there isn’t a set date for an intelligence explosion or even a predicated date. Bostrom’s 2013(?) survey had a median prediction of 2082 for human level AI with 90% confidence, but there are a number of additional factors to consider beyond that. First, human level is considered a danger if there is a hard takeoff scenario where it bootstraps to superintelligence in a short period. It is far from certain that this will occur, and human level AI in and of itself is unlikely to pose an existential danger. Second, there are a range of outcomes from superintelligence, many of which do not contain sci fi dystopias. Some futures will have friendly AI. A large proportion would likely be simple extinction. Actual dystopias like I have no mouth and I must scream probably form a very small percentage of possible futures.

      And that’s not the only area of uncertainty, we also have to consider your own life expectancy. I don’t have access to mortality tables so I don’t know exactly what your current LE is, though I’d guess that living to your 90s is still a long shot. You’d probably want to look at the ages that your ancestors survived to, and if you have a family history of any kind of disease. It might be that you are quite unlikely to live to the 2080s anyway, though you would need to balance this against possible advances in medical science, and possible earlier singularities.

      In short, all that uncertainty adds up to a lot. I’d say that the chance of a superintelligence being not merely unfriendly but actively evil, is so unlikely that worrying about would qualify as Pascal’s mugging, even aside from all the other conditionals.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Don’t worry about it. Your life will become a hellish dystopian cliche without any kind of Singularity-grade AI (which I’m not convinced is in any way likely to even exist). And, barring unforeseen events such as meteorite strikes, it will happen so very gradually that you won’t even notice. Human politics is much more dangerous than any AI.

  12. Amy says:

    When we made democracy and modern governments we were so worried about national control falling in the hands of the wrong human, that we made sure that it would be managed by a non-human system. But do we worry enough about it being managed by the wrong non-human system? Nobody can fix things if the system spirals out of sanity in the Moloch/Great Depression way or becomes unfriendly in the 1984 way. After all a single human changing the system is exactly what the system was meant to prevent. We care about things like a stupid President or the wrong representative more than first-past-the-post voting systems or gerrymandering or perverse incentives. How scary is this?

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds sorta like anacyclosis.

      • Amy says:

        I didn’t make any predictions about what happens when some democratic systems fail though. Anacyclosis does. If I had to predict, some systems may work with varying degrees of human value alignment, some may collapse like a badly programmed robot, some may even work and be unfriendly, such as in 1984 – a self sustaining, non-overthrowable system that works to hurt people and would be far worse than no system at all. I don’t see why a working and well-aligned system would collapse into anarchy, which anacyclosis says always happens. It might evolve into a different system, but not necessarily collapse.

        • LHN says:

          Nit: while O’Brien and propaganda within Nineteen Eighty-Four (e.g., Goldstein’s book) claim that the system is permanent and can’t be overthrown, the linguistic appendix is written from the perspective of a post-Ingsoc world.

          (“Newspeak was the official language of Oceania” “It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050.” “It was intended” that Newspeak make political heresy unthinkable”. Etc.)

          That suggests the boot didn’t actually stamp on human faces forever– however little good that did Winston or Julia.

          I suspect that in practice no system is actually going to be self-sustaining and permanently non-overthrowable, though: a) That’s hard to falsify (albeit in much the same way that it’s hard to prove that any given living person isn’t actually immortal without killing them; sure, lots of people have died, but on the other hand there are eight billion who haven’t). b) As with Winston, the fact that the system may (or even certainly will) end at some indeterminate but distant day, and may be replaced with something better on an equally indeterminate and even more distant one can be pretty cold comfort. A system can certainly outlast a human life, the more so if it’s actively engaged in ending human lives.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Orwell wrote Animal Farm about how a totalitarian state is established, 1984 about what one looks like instantiated, and intended to write a novel about how one collapses but died before he could do it. He never intended it to be un-overthrowable.

          • Wander says:

            I was always under the impression that 1984 was written to be as hopeless as possible, a warning that once it gets to a critical point it can never be undone. Where is this other novel mentioned?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Wander:

            Good question. I can’t find reference to it. I read it in a biographical essay of Orwell at some point but I can’t find it now.

    • Longtimelurker says:

      At the risk of being overly terse: Very. Say what you want about a dictator, but at least he is mortal. Whereas a system without death can survive the deaths of any of it members. Furthermore, there is a limit to how insane and evil one human can be before he is nonfunctional, whereas a system can be infinitely crazy.

      • Kevin C. says:

        At the risk of being overly terse: Very. Say what you want about a dictator, but at least he is mortal.

        Indeed. In how many movies do you have plucky rebels standing up and saying something to the effect of “you can kill us, but you can’t kill an idea”? And my response to this “positive” message is that it also applies to bad ideas. Like John Quiggin’s whole book, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us.

        And yes, a bad dictator, king, or emperor, may be deposed. But what do you do about a bad electorate?

        • Soy Lecithin says:

          But what do you do about a bad electorate?

          Your question reminds me of the Book of Mormon’s rationale for democracy. Basically, a good king can do a lot of good, but a bad king can do a lot of bad. So because there is no guarantee your kings will always be good people, democracy’s better. And if ever the people themselves are bad? Well then, they’re ripe for destruction by the hand of God as it is, and no king could change that.

          So the answer to your question is that said electorate will be smitten by God.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Probably that should be written as “God will smite the electorate”.

            Smitten by God is a funny typo though.

          • Anonymous says:

            Is it a typo? According to the dictionary, “smitten” is perfectly cromulent to mean what he plausibly intended:

            smitten [smit-n]
            adjective
            1. struck, as with a hard blow.
            2. grievously or disastrously stricken or afflicted.
            3. very much in love.
            verb
            4. a past participle of smite.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My usage of “typo” is probably incorrect.

            I don’t think I have ever seen it written to refer to anything other than meaning 3 (which is likely derived from the original meaning).

            “May I be struck down by God” scans near as well as “May God strike me down”.

            “May I be smitten by God” doesn’t scan at all, compared to “May God smite me”.

          • Creutzer says:

            But meaning 3 demands the preposition with, not by. An electorate smitten by God will find itself decidedly not smitted with God.

          • John Schilling says:

            So the answer to your question is that said electorate will be smitten by God.

            Wouldn’t it be easier for God to just smite the bad kings, before they can lead the people astray?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anonymous:
            Sure. But it doesn’t scan correctly as written. At most it suggest that they entered the state of being smitten, with God as the cause. Maybe God just said “everybody get together and try to love one another right now.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @John Schilling

            Generally the stuff God wants you to do are pro-social. When God smites “the people” as a whole, it’s more like “the society collapses or is easily overtaken by outsiders because people were doing corrupt things that weakened the society instead of the fruitful things that strengthen the society.”

    • onyomi says:

      My impression is that the only thing that ever really matters is social conventions. Writing things down can help fill in details of implementation and, more importantly, add an aura of immutability to conventions, but it’s ultimately the conventions which matter. Otherwise, a third world nation could simply adopt the Constitution of the US and have an equally functional political system (such as it is).

  13. pelebro says:

    Here is an eff article about the repeal of privacy rules, to serve as counterweight to the claim in the previous open link thread, “they repealed a less-than-one-year-old regulation that hadn’t come into effect yet, changing literally nothing”.
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/05/congress-repealing-our-internet-privacy-rights-meant-congress-repealed-internet
    I found it to be helpful context.

  14. bzium says:

    Anybody here who’s practicing meditation based on the methods described in “The Mind Illuminated”?

    It’s a fairly recent (published less than two years ago) book of the practical meditation instructions with minimal religious baggage variety. It’s very good and it’s level of clarity and precision are quite beyond anything I’ve read before in that space. It also describes the entire process of getting from complete beginner level to very deep states of concentration (divided into ten stages).

    I meditated in the past but stopped when I felt like I plateaued and wasn’t convinced that the benefits were worth the time investment. I read TMI a bit over two months and it cleared up a lot of confusion I had about meditation and got me intetested in meditating again. So far, I’ve been growing more convinced, based on my experiences, that the stuff in the book is real, including the kind of crazy stuff that’s supposed to be happening at the later stages.

    So, anybody who’s read the book and maybe has something interesting to share?

    • blame says:

      I have not read the book but I have been looking for one like this every now and then, so thanks for the recommendation.

      I feel like I’m in a similar situation you were a few months ago (plateaued, not convinced if the benefits were worth more time investment) and from your text I assume you made some progress since then. Would you say the book helped you significantly to leave your plateau? Did you advance any stages and was it worth the time investment?

      • bzium says:

        Yes, to both questions. The book addresses a lot of subtleties and warns about mistakes that it’s very easy to get confused about on your own. I definitely advanced past the skill level I had before.

        I also consider the time innvestment worth it. My original motivation for meditating was stress reduction and maybe improved concentration and I’m seeing benefits here. Plus, meditation used to be intrinsically interesting when I first tried it, and now it feels intrinsically imteresting again. The quality of experience is changing, new stuff is happening and this keeps me motivated. YMMV, obviously.

        If you’re interested in the book, there’s an olderr document that outlines its contents:
        http://dharmatreasure.org/wp-content/uploads/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf

  15. Dabbler says:

    Sorry for the brevity here, but does anyone here have any views on Pope Francis? Despite being an atheist, I’ve been consistently astonished at his level of lack of intellectual consistency, as well as the sheer lack of consistency with what came before him and traditional Catholic doctrine.

    • Murphy says:

      I’ve noticed he’s unusually liberal for a pope. Of course if you’re head of one of the worlds most conservative organizations and obliged to not outright reject their positions any level of liberalness is going to look inconsistent. At least he seems more appealing to younger people and seems to have slowed the previous freefall of the churches reputation/popularity. Sometimes it’s good for the church to change it’s position.

      It’s not a bad thing when the roman catholic church occasionally moves with the times sometimes does things like say “actually we’ve changed our minds and we now think it’s ok for a paraplegic to get married”

      • Anonymous says:

        At least he seems more appealing to younger people and seems to have slowed the previous freefall of the churches reputation/popularity. Sometimes it’s good for the church to change it’s position.

        No. Appeasing the progressives is not a good strategy. It will lose members in the long run, in addition to defiling tradition.

        It’s not a bad thing when the roman catholic church occasionally moves with the times sometimes does things like say “actually we’ve changed our minds and we now think it’s ok for a paraplegic to get married”

        It’s only good if the Church has actually been wrong on the specific matter.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          No. Appeasing the progressives is not a good strategy. It will lose members in the long run, in addition to defiling tradition.

          It would be interesting to see how many non-Catholic Francis fans have joined or are seriously considering joining the Church as a result of his Papacy. My guess is that the number is going to be very small.

          • Murphy says:

            Don’t forget to account for people who would have left the church were it not for him.

            Which will be figures hard to come by because, for example, in ireland so many were officially defecting from the church that the church abolished defection from canon law (oh wait, isn’t it supposed to be bad to change ancient laws and traditions as a knee-jerk response to current conditions) and just started pretending that those people had never left. Like a demented teacher talking to an empty room refusing to accept everyone has walked out in disgust.

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

            A surprising number of older people simply up and walked out of mass after some of the crap that was read from the pulpit prior to irelands vote on gay marriage.

            It was already reeling from decades of uncovering of sex-abuse, mass graves, financial fuckery and various other scandals.

            With the current popes slightly softer, slightly less odious/hateful positions on some matters the church might see less people simply walking away.

            Catholicism typically hasn’t been big on evangelizing and gaining converts, it’s basically a rounding error. On the other hand if existing Catholics and the children of Catholics walk away in disgust then that hits the church hard.

          • rlms says:

            There also is the possibility of him making existing Catholics more so, for instance increasing the chance of people raising their children as Catholics.

          • Dabbler says:

            Murphy- Going by your own link it was made in 1983. Hardly an ancient tradition.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Don’t forget to account for people who would have left the church were it not for him.

            And how many of those are there? Given that conservative denominations generally have an easier time retaining members than liberal ones, I’d be very surprised if making the Catholic Church more liberal would result in fewer people leaving, but maybe you have evidence to the contrary.

        • Murphy says:

          How do you decide when the Church has actually been wrong on the specific matter?

          If the pope came out with an official statement that god had called him up and told him in his official capacity as pope that god really doesn’t have a problem with gay people, that god considers it to be in the same catagory as shellfish,loan interest and mixed fabrics then would that mean that the church had actually been wrong or would it be one of those other times?

          • Anonymous says:

            How do you decide when the Church has actually been wrong on the specific matter?

            That’s for the Church to decide, not me, but generally it concerns matters of fact, replicable by experiment, such as the arrangement of the solar system.

            If the pope came out with an official statement that god had called him up and told him in his official capacity as pope that god really doesn’t have a problem with gay people, that god considers it to be in the same catagory as shellfish,loan interest and mixed fabrics then would that mean that the church had actually been wrong or would it be one of those other times?

            AFAIK, he can’t do that. The Pope can change canon law at will, but he can’t make sweeping changes to doctrine without summoning an Ecumenical Council, and can’t change dogma at all, because that’s set by God*. Homosexuality is one of the things covered by the Ten Commandments, which are immutable. Shellfish, mixed fabrics and even charging interest aren’t so protected versus editing.

            * Apologies for any legalistic or terminological failures. I am not a canon law scholar. I present my best understanding of the mutability of various levels of law in the Church.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Homosexuality is one of the things covered by the Ten Commandments, which are immutable.

            Well that’s a new one to me.

            I assume you might be referencing “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” simply because it mentions the word wife, but I don’t know how you get a condemnation of homosexuality from that.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s actually the 6th, not the 9th, that’s in question. Specific heading here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            A) That heading refers to tradition, rather than an intrinsic grounding in the commandment itself.

            tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

            B) It puts homosexuality in the same category as lust and masturbation (and fornication, pornography, prostitution and rape).

            Are you saying that Church teachings on lust and masturbation are just as immutable?

          • Anonymous says:

            A) That heading refers to tradition, rather than an intrinsic grounding in the commandment itself.

            That doesn’t mean it doesn’t implicitly follow from the rest of the core of Christian sexual morality.

            B) It puts homosexuality in the same category as lust and masturbation (and fornication, pornography, prostitution and rape).

            Are you saying that Church teachings on lust and masturbation are just as immutable?

            I should hope so, but I can’t say for certain if they haven’t been tweaked a little, given new wording, etc. (Almost certain they did, but don’t have access to the old catechisms here.)

            Supposing that some group of heretics would seize control of the visible Church’s hierarchy and enforce their homosexual agenda, they could change things around to accept homosexual acts and homosexual marriage. But in order for that to be consistent with everything else, they would have to throw out the requirement that marriage needs to be at least remotely capable of resulting in children from the union of the partners, change the definition of a proper sex act, and the teachings against contraception and masturbation would need to go, too.

          • Deiseach says:

            Are you saying that Church teachings on lust and masturbation are just as immutable?

            Yes, which is why (for instance) IVF etc. is forbidden, even if it’s a married couple wanting to use the husband’s sperm.

            That’s part of the whole “to the outsider it looks completely insane but it does at least hold together with logical consistency, even if it takes it to the reductio ad absurdum” 🙂

          • J Milne says:

            AFAIK, he can’t do that. The Pope can change canon law at will, but he can’t make sweeping changes to doctrine without summoning an Ecumenical Council, and can’t change dogma at all, because that’s set by God*. Homosexuality is one of the things covered by the Ten Commandments, which are immutable. Shellfish, mixed fabrics and even charging interest aren’t so protected versus editing.

            The current teaching on homosexuality would fall under ‘doctrine’, and it’s entirely possible for doctrine to ‘develop’ in any direction the church wants it to.

          • Anonymous says:

            The current teaching on homosexuality would fall under ‘doctrine’, and it’s entirely possible for doctrine to ‘develop’ in any direction the church wants it to.

            Like I said, I really doubt that there’s much wiggle room here without throwing out either logical consistency, or smashing existing sexual morality. FWIW, homosexuals are offered the same deal by the Church as the rest of us, including asexuals and attack helicopters: be chaste, and you’re fine; if you’re capable of reproductive intercourse with the opposite sex, you may marry as well.

          • J Milne says:

            Like I said, I really doubt that there’s much wiggle room here without throwing out either logical consistency, or smashing existing sexual morality.

            There’s as much wiggle room as the Church wants there to be. Divorce used to be impossible, now you just need to go to a tribunal where a wand gets waved and everyone declares that the marriage never actually happened. Of course, the idea that people could be mistaken in thinking that they were married without actually being married got all the scrupulous folk anxious, so the church declared that up until the point that the tribunal finds that there was no marriage, there is a marriage, and only afterwards was there never a marriage. Magic!

            The idea that the Catholic church is some bastion of ‘logical consistency’ is laughable.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s as much wiggle room as the Church wants there to be.

            Not if the Church wants to continue existing there isn’t.

            Divorce used to be impossible, now you just need to go to a tribunal where a wand gets waved and everyone declares that the marriage never actually happened.

            Divorce has, AFAIK, always been possible in the Church, via the Petrine and Pauline privileges. Not to mention that annulments were available at least from the 10 century onwards, and the Church has strived successfully to reduce divorces and put marriage under its jurisdiction before then.

            Of course, the idea that people could be mistaken in thinking that they were married without actually being married got all the scrupulous folk anxious, so the church declared that up until the point that the tribunal finds that there was no marriage, there is a marriage, and only afterwards was there never a marriage. Magic!

            Not magic, sacraments. If you pour water over someone’s head and say the appropriate rite, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve performed a valid baptism. So too in case of sacramental marriage, which has requirements that need to be fulfilled at the time of marriage, or else the sacrament fails silently.

            The idea that the Catholic church is some bastion of ‘logical consistency’ is laughable.

            The idea that you can tell one way or the other is dubious.

          • J Milne says:

            Not if the Church wants to continue existing there isn’t.

            I agree that public opinion plays a large role in what the church decides.

            Not to mention that annulments were available at least from the 10 century onwards,

            Do you think the proportion of marriages that have turned out to not actually exist has changed? Do you think whether someone in the past got an annulment or not might have depended on their position on society?

            Not magic, sacraments

            Sacraments are pretty magical, but I’m referring to the particular bit of time travel that takes place in the annulment procedure. If the Church has sufficient wiggle room for that, I think it can handle some non-PIV intercourse.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My parents were married for 20 years (and had two children 12 and 18 years old at the time), then divorced for another 20 years, with one of them remarried for 17 years or so, the other remarried for 2 years, before they finally filed for annulment. (Because my mom wanted to be remarried in the Catholic Church).

            So, yeah.

            Actually, come to think of it, I never did get really solid on what that made me in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I’m pretty sure I was still only just as damned as before, never having been confirmed (and would have been totally fine if I was confirmed and active in the church). But I still kind of wonder what the official position on it is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, the idea that people could be mistaken in thinking that they were married without actually being married got all the scrupulous folk anxious, so the church declared that up until the point that the tribunal finds that there was no marriage, there is a marriage, and only afterwards was there never a marriage. Magic!

            It’s no more magic than the principle of “guilty until proven innocent” is. A guilty person is still guilty even before he’s convicted, after all.

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree that public opinion plays a large role in what the church decides.

            What I meant is that if the Church starts officially sanctioning logically inconsistent policies, its own hierarchs will revolt and leave. The Pope running his mouth occasionally is bad enough.

            Do you think the proportion of marriages that have turned out to not actually exist has changed?

            Yup. If you look at, say, the rates annulment in the US and Europe, you’ll see that there’s a wide gulf. And some of that is justified, given how often American Catholics are heretics more like Protestant Americans than like non-American Catholics. And the other side is that some of the clergy is borderline heretical as well, and willing to bend canon law into a pretzel to get the resolutions it wants. This, however, is corruption, not how things ought to work, and work elsewhere.

            Do you think whether someone in the past got an annulment or not might have depended on their position on society?

            Totally. Welcome to fallible human nature. The clergy are not free from sin.

            Sacraments are pretty magical, but I’m referring to the particular bit of time travel that takes place in the annulment procedure.

            You’re equivocating. The sacrament truly taking place or not is not time travel. An annulment merely recognizes that it did not take place, given new information about the past. An annulment does not undo the de-facto, non-sacramental marriage that did occur in between then and now. The parties in question would have had the same kind of relationship as informal cohabitators (which is sometimes considered a “common law” marriage), or people who just married civilly (with the state as the regulating organ, not the Church).

            If the Church has sufficient wiggle room for that, I think it can handle some non-PIV intercourse.

            Formalizing corruption and evil is not the way here.

          • J Milne says:

            It’s no more magic than the principle of “guilty until proven innocent” is. A guilty person is still guilty even before he’s convicted, after all.

            The church holds that something supernatural happens when two people are married. And that up until the point of an annulment, that thing really has happened, until the annulment finds that it hasn’t, in which case it’s not invalidated, but rather it’s suddenly the case that it never did happen. Similarly, see radical sanation.

          • Anonymous says:

            Actually, come to think of it, I never did get really solid on what that made me in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I’m pretty sure I was still only just as damned as before, never having been confirmed (and would have been totally fine if I was confirmed and active in the church). But I still kind of wonder what the official position on it is.

            AFAIK, bastardy is currently unregulated in the Church.

          • J Milne says:

            An annulment merely recognizes that it did not take place, given new information about the past.

            It does more than this, because the church holds that up until the annulment the marriage really has taken place. Not just that you should assume that it has, but that it really has. Until the point where it’s determined that it hasn’t. In which case it never took place.

            What I meant is that if the Church starts officially sanctioning logically inconsistent policies, its own hierarchs will revolt and leave.

            I guess I’ll have to ask what logically inconsistent means. Certainly changing doctrine seems fine, again pointing to the example of charging interest. And if you mean in the sense that both A and not-A hold, well this annulment business seems to stray into that territory.

          • Anonymous says:

            The church holds that something supernatural happens when two people are married. And that up until the point of an annulment, that thing really has happened, until the annulment finds that it hasn’t, in which case it’s not invalidated, but rather it’s suddenly the case that it never did happen. Similarly, see radical sanation.

            The bolded part is wrong. We don’t actually ever know, because of the unknowable elements involved. Some people may get “married” in the Church, but in fact the sacrament failed, and was never recognized as such. The Church’s opinion does not matter regarding whether the sacrament happened or not. It merely recognizes our best understanding of whether it did or not.

          • J Milne says:

            The bolded part is wrong. We don’t actually ever know, because of the unknowable elements involved. Some people may get “married” in the Church, but in fact the sacrament failed, and was never recognized as such. The Church’s opinion does not matter regarding whether the sacrament happened or not. It merely recognizes our best understanding of whether it did or not.

            The church really does have the power to acknowledge the sacrament into existence under this nifty ‘binding and loosing’ business. Here’s another example of retroactively declaring things into existence: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P47.HTM

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think that necessarily contradicts what I said, but I’d have to consult a canon law scholar to be sure. Thanks for the link, though.

          • Murphy says:

            I’m getting the distinct impression that the people talking about how “logical” the churches positions are working of a radically different concept of what constitutes logic. Normally for popular philisopical positions it’s easy enough to find the logic, there’s a differing set of precepts and assumptions but the implications fall out using genuine logic (like with pro choice and pro-life positions. )

            but this… this looks more like someone slapping lipstick on a bulldog and declaring that it’s the most beautiful human woman in history.

            People have written a great deal but there’s no apparently coherent thread of logic.

            Anonymous talks about “logical consistency” and all the things that would be thrown out if the church threw out the “reproductive intercourse” criteria for marriage while ignoring that the parent comment talks about the church having already thrown out that criteria for some people like paraplegics. Such logic should have already triggered. But I’m sure they’ll insist that the “logic” still holds. Somehow.

            Bonus: Anyone who calls bullshit is labelled a heretic and must henceforth be ignored.

            Shouting that there is “logic” and “consistency” in a position doesn’t make it so, especially if you use examples which have already had any possible consistency dissolved from under them.

            In a logical system of precepts any false statement that is allowed to be slipped in can be used to “prove” anything else regardless of truth value. That’s remarkably important to remember, one false precept and you’re fucked. unfortunately they’ve not defended their precepts terribly well and they weren’t particularly big on strong filtering in the first place.

            The church has had thousands of years to end up riddled with false statements in it’s central precepts that have little more behind them in reality than “eeeeewwww that’s yucky” combined with inventive motivated reasoning and an already doomed system of deduction. So it’s not terribly surprising that the …. “logic”…. is so obviously no such thing at this point.

            Since doctrine already contains plenty of utter bollox it would be trivial for the church to to the same kind of heel-turn they did for infertile people: simply classify homosexual couples similarly to infertile couples. The church even has the ceremonies for blessing gay couples in it’s archives. Unfortunately a few centuries back it seems the church abandoned tradition in the face of changing public sentiment and allowed it’s ancient traditions to be shelved in favor of anti-homosexual crap.

            http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/when-marriage-between-gays-was-by-rite-1.181956

          • Dabbler says:

            Murphy- I can’t think of any objections to your claims on the Church changing it’s rules (don’t know enough), but you haven’t given reasons why a system can’t be wrong and yet entirely internally consistent, especially when it comes to false factual premises, e.g. about the will of God.

          • Murphy says:

            @Dabbler

            Once a system of formal logic becomes inconsistent it can be used to prove practicality anything.

            The traditional example is someone using the flawed/false precept “2+2=5” and using it to prove the statement “I am the pope”.

          • J Milne says:

            In a logical system of precepts any false statement that is allowed to be slipped in can be used to “prove” anything else regardless of truth value. That’s remarkably important to remember, one false precept and you’re fucked.

            Sure, when you’ve got a formal system and you’re moving symbols around according to certain rules of inference, but this sort of thing doesn’t apply to real world reasoning. (This is essentially the content of Hume’s fork that I mentioned above)

            The traditional example is someone using the flawed/false precept “2+2=5” and using it to prove the statement “I am the pope”.

            Do go on.

          • Anonymous says:

            Anonymous talks about “logical consistency” and all the things that would be thrown out if the church threw out the “reproductive intercourse” criteria for marriage while ignoring that the parent comment talks about the church having already thrown out that criteria for some people like paraplegics. Such logic should have already triggered. But I’m sure they’ll insist that the “logic” still holds. Somehow.

            I’m ignoring it because I cannot find any confirmation that this is actual policy, rather than an isolated instance of corruption or failure of judgment. (Or even what specific case this refers to.) Canon law still requires both ability to consummate and consummation to occur for a marriage to be valid. Some paraplegic cases can get through this, naturally. You don’t necessarily need to have full command of your lower body in order to have sex.

            From the wiki, via Canon law citation:

            Physical capacity for consummation lacking.[14] Per Canon 1084 §3 “Without prejudice to the provisions of Canon 1098, sterility neither forbids nor invalidates a marriage.” Both parties, however, must be physically capable of completed vaginal intercourse, wherein the man ejaculates “true semen” into the woman’s vagina. (See [2] for details.) To invalidate a marriage, the impotence must be perpetual (i.e., incurable) and antecedent to the marriage. The impotence can either be absolute or relative. This impediment is generally considered to derive from divine natural law, and so cannot be dispensed.[15] The reason behind this impediment is explained in the Summa Theologica:[16] “In marriage there is a contract whereby one is bound to pay the other the marital debt: wherefore just as in other contracts, the bond is unfitting if a person bind himself to what he cannot give or do, so the marriage contract is unfitting, if it be made by one who cannot pay the marital debt.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Since doctrine already contains plenty of utter bollox it would be trivial for the church to to the same kind of heel-turn they did for infertile people: simply classify homosexual couples similarly to infertile couples. The church even has the ceremonies for blessing gay couples in it’s archives. Unfortunately a few centuries back it seems the church abandoned tradition in the face of changing public sentiment and allowed it’s ancient traditions to be shelved in favor of anti-homosexual crap.
            http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/when-marriage-between-gays-was-by-rite-1.181956

            The ceremony of adelophopoiesis described in that article was, as the name (adelphopoiesis means “brother-making”) suggests, not actually sexual, and not seen as equivalent to marriage.

          • Murphy says:

            “real world reasoning.”

            If the chain of reasoning doesn’t have an equivalent (even theoretically ) expressible in any formal consistent system then you still run into the same problem only you no longer even have to meet the criteria of having incorrect precepts to reach incorrect (aka bullshit) conclusions.

            In that case the bullshit can flow freely with no reference to truth ,consistency or reality and you’re basically free of constraints.

            “real world reasoning.” doesn’t get a free pass when it comes to consistency. If anything it’s a few tiers down and utterly crippled from the get go if your goal is consistency.

          • Murphy says:

            @The original Mr. X

            That does seem to be the position taken by people utterly desperate to believe.

            From the linked article:

            affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions, who then could raise family, hold property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

            Certainly sounds nothing at all like marriage. Nothing!

            When I looked for people talking about it on catholic forums I saw a lot of facile screeching about heretics but what it mostly reminded me of was this

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/13/debunked-and-well-refuted/

            people willing to call anything that anyone wrote arguing against the position to be a “debunking” despite…. well… reality decency and common sense .

            They call gut feelings “logic” (that apparently is so transcendental that it can’t be expressed in any formal system of logic) and disgust “natural law”.

            you can put a pig in a dress and call it a supermodel but you can’t stop it oinking.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions, who then could raise family, hold property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

            An interesting quotation. Let’s look at it in slightly greater length:

            Allan Tulchin, “Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement”[13] in the Journal of Modern History: September 2007, argued that the ceremony of affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions, who then could raise family, hold property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records. These were not, however, contiguous with the earlier Eastern tradition, and not described in sexual terms in parallel to modern concepts of sexual identity.

            So, not only did you cut out the first half of the first sentence, thereby making it seem like this view of affrerement is the historical consensus as opposed to just one scholar’s opinion, you also ignored the part of the article which quite clearly undermines your attempted equivalence between adelophopoiesis and modern same-sex marriage. Somehow I get the impression that you’re not entirely arguing in good faith here.

          • Iain says:

            Do go on.

            The traditional route from “2+2=5” to “I am the pope” is variously assigned to Bertrand Russell and GH Hardy and goes:
            2+2=5
            4=5
            4-3=5-3
            1=2
            The set containing me and the Pope has 2 members.
            Therefore the set containing me and the Pope has 1 member.
            Therefore I am the pope.

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think the 2+2=5 thing is what Dabbler was talking about. Presuming for the sake of argument that God doesn’t exist, then “God exists” is a false premise, but in a different way from “2+2=5”. In the latter case, the ability to deduce anything comes from assuming a statement “2+2=5” and its negation. You can prove any proposition `x` from this by saying “One of `x` or 2+2 = 5 must be true (since we know 2+2=5). We also know 2+2 != 5, therefore `x` must be true.”. But Catholicism doesn’t assume the negation of “God exists”. If you believe “all swans are white” and “this is a black swan”, you can derive anything, but believing the (false) former statement alone doesn’t let you do that.

          • Dabbler says:

            THANK YOU. That is exactly what I meant! A system can be false but intellectually rigorous if it has false premises but has a set of beliefs that are entirely consistent within themselves. The “God exists” example illustrates that point nicely.

          • J Milne says:

            The traditional route from “2+2=5” to “I am the pope” is variously assigned to Bertrand Russell and GH Hardy and goes:
            2+2=5
            4=5
            4-3=5-3
            1=2
            The set containing me and the Pope has 2 members.
            Therefore the set containing me and the Pope has 1 member.
            Therefore I am the pope.

            And Hume would say this is an argument about sets, and has nothing to do with the pope.

          • J Milne says:

            If the chain of reasoning doesn’t have an equivalent (even theoretically ) expressible in any formal consistent system

            You can’t express reasoning about the world we live in in a formal system, by definition.

          • Murphy says:

            @J Milne

            Sure, because the magic of existence is just too full of magic I’m sure.

            Stop calling it “logic” when would be more accurately described as “someone made statements based on their feelings and called them self evident features of the universe”

          • Deiseach says:

            Actually, come to think of it, I never did get really solid on what that made me in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I’m pretty sure I was still only just as damned as before, never having been confirmed (and would have been totally fine if I was confirmed and active in the church). But I still kind of wonder what the official position on it is.

            If you’re talking about damnation, the salvation of your soul is not reliant on the status of your parents’ marriage.

            If you’re talking about illegitimacy, that depends. Assuming there was genuine cause for annulment of the marriage (and it wasn’t the American church ‘divorce mill’ ruling), then you are not considered a bastard. The idea is that the innocent should not be held guilty for the faults of others; it is not just to stigmatise children who could not affect the marriage or have any influence on it (not being born yet) as born outside of wedlock. Given that annulment is that at least one of the parties believed they were licitly married, and had the intention to marry, and did not intend knowingly to have children by fornication outside of wedlock, then the children of an annulled marriage are not illegitimate.

            As to “magic wands making and unmaking marriages”, there are rules as to what pertains to a sacramental marriage: among them are intent to marry, knowledge of what a marriage entails, free consent, and other matters. So if someone goes into the marriage with, at the back of their mind, “ah well if this doesn’t work out I can always get a divorce”, that’s not an intention to marry. If someone is mentally incapable – too immature, has a mental illness, some other reason – of understanding what is involved in marriage, that is not full consent and intention to marry. Someone being forced by their parents to marry Jack because he’s rich – that is not free consent.

            Take, for example, the case in a Sherlock Holmes story where there is a forced marriage. The plot revolves on making a woman marry a man whether she wants to or not; if he can trick her into marrying him because she falls in love with him, great; otherwise they plan to carry out a forced marriage.

            Even though the women absolutely does not consent and is being forced at gunpoint, literally gagged, to ‘marry’ the villain, the gang say that she really is married in the eyes of the law (until Holmes puts a spoke in their wheel by pointing out some overlooked points).

            So are we to say that this is a magic wand undoing a real marriage? That Violet Smith was married up until Holmes announced she wasn’t? Plainly, by any understanding, we all say “No, of course she wasn’t married, never mind if there was a clergyman officiating and a marriage licence procured”.

            Same with a judgement on annulment. Same with civil annulment, if it comes to that.

          • LHN says:

            The idea is that the innocent should not be held guilty for the faults of others; it is not just to stigmatise children who could not affect the marriage or have any influence on it (not being born yet) as born outside of wedlock. Given that annulment is that at least one of the parties believed they were licitly married, and had the intention to marry, and did not intend knowingly to have children by fornication outside of wedlock, then the children of an annulled marriage are not illegitimate.

            Given the first clause about stigmatizing the innocent, how do the parents’ beliefs and intentions enter into it? If illegitimacy exists as a status at all, it can only apply to people with no control over the circumstances of their conception.

          • Brad says:

            Are there any religious implication to being a bastard in Catholicism? In Judaism, certain kinds of bastards (mamzer) and all of their descendants forever are forbidden from marrying non-mamzer Jews (with certain exceptions and loopholes).

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Brad, during the Middle Ages, bastards couldn’t be ordained as priests. AFAIK, there aren’t any implications anymore.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It was Vatican 2 that allowed the ordination of bastards.

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          The Catholic Church has stopped growing pretty much everywhere except Latin America and Africa. I don’t know about Africa, but Latin America is getting more progressive over time.

      • Dabbler says:

        Despite believing Catholicism to be objectively false, I don’t like what he is doing for a combination of reasons.

        1- Catholicism’s level of intellectual coherence is declining rapidly thanks to vague statements, all-new contradictions, criticism “rigid” Catholics etc. Encouraging intellectual coherence is a good thing, and the principle you should follow your own laws (rather than playing them down and encouraging doctrinal anarchy) isn’t.
        2- I am skeptical (because of the Anglican Church, for instance) that Pope Francis is even reversing popularity at all.

        In all organisations, I believe it better that they stick to positions that are intellectually coherent because intellectual coherence is an essential virtue for creating true positions. Pope Francis’s Catholicism is not intellectually coherent any more- it lacks clarity (see vague response to the Dubia), it lacks internal logic (Amoris Letitia is not very compatible with what has come before it), and decentralization of authority is philosophically very incompatible with Catholic views e.g. on going to hell for heresy.

        Worse still, I don’t think Pope Francis even realizes any of this.

      • Matt M says:

        “unusually liberal” is one way of putting it

        “barely disguised communist” might be another

        • Murphy says:

          “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.”

          Confirmed commie.

          • moscanarius says:

            Calling him a communist may be too much, but I think we have some evidence of the current pope’s sympathy for communism. He talks quite often against imperialism, consumerism, the excesses of capitalism, and how money and the US are to blame when things go wrong. These topics are not exactly literal quotations of Das Kapital, but are quite close to the kind of rethoric we get from communist sympathizers in the West. He is also a Jesuit from Argentina, which kinda garantees that he was influenced by that weird Theology of Liberation which sweeped Latin American clergy inthe 70s/80s/early 90s.

            He also tends to adopt quite a soft stance when dealing with communist(-inspired) rulers of Latin America. For example, when he visited Bolivia in 2015, Evo Morales gave him an image of Christ crucified on a hammer and sickle; though a bit embarassed at first, Francis accepted the gift and was quick at making apologies for the controversial imagery.

          • Matt M says:

            Who else other than communists actually believes that one of the major threats to society today is that the education systems are being over-run by dangerous libertarian ideals?

            “I cannot fail to speak of the grave risks associated with the invasion of the positions of libertarian individualism at high strata of culture and in school and university education,”

          • Nornagest says:

            I have a feeling that the “libertarian” in “libertarian individualism” isn’t actually doing any work, and that the phrase should just be read as “individualism”. Education and culture in the US right now isn’t remotely libertarian, but it isn’t very collectivist either.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Who else other than communists actually believes that one of the major threats to society today is that the education systems are being over-run by dangerous libertarian ideals?”

            This is more about your overview than about Francis. Individualism being “a bad thing” is an idea in Catholicism that predates Marx by centuries.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      Francis’ Pontifical Academy gets the planetary science mainly right (as a strong consensus of the world’s scientists thinks, anyway).

      Francis himself gets the planetary morality mainly right (as many folks think, both inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church).

    • J Milne says:

      This tweet is a good example of what I like about Francis: https://twitter.com/antoniospadaro/status/817144723093733377?lang=en

      I think there’s far too much emphasis on the ‘intellectual’ aspect of the Catholic church. Scholasticism used to be another word for sophistry, and while it’s suddenly popular in niche communities of online lay people reading Feser and Dr. Taylor Marshall (PhD), it hasn’t really responded to the past 200 years of philosophy and doesn’t seem to have as much currency with the actual clergy.

      • Dabbler says:

        I think we can both agree that 2 + 2 in philosophy can never, literally or metaphorically, make 5. Why should theology be different, if it is to even be a theory of truth at all?

        • J Milne says:

          I read it as a rejection of the voodoo metaphysics that permeates Catholic thought, and an acceptance of Hume’s fork.

          I don’t think “2 + 2 in philosophy” is a meaningful statement in any way, and I don’t think theologians should be describing their field as ‘a theory of truth’.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Given that Hume’s fork is notoriously self-refuting, I don’t think it obvious that accepting it counts as a good thing.

          • J Milne says:

            But it’s not, and that’s a great example of Feser being a bad philosopher.

            Hume isn’t claiming to be making a metaphysical statement (obviously), but if you’re going to insist that he is, I’d love if you’d give me some criteria for when a sequence of characters constitutes such a thing.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So which is Hume’s fork, then, a “relation of ideas” or a “matter of fact”?

          • J Milne says:

            A matter of fact.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Since, for Hume, “matters of fact” refers to “experimental reasoning”, what experiments can you produce in favour of Hume’s fork? Hume himself, as far as I can see, doesn’t provide any.

          • J Milne says:

            He uses ‘matters of fact’ to catch whatever doesn’t fall under ‘relations of ideas’. He would happily place “We should vote for the liberal party” in the former pile, for instance.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            He uses ‘matters of fact’ to catch whatever doesn’t fall under ‘relations of ideas’.

            No he doesn’t:

            If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

            So, maybe we should try using this test on Hume’s fork itself. Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matters of fact and existence? No. I guess that makes it nothing but sophistry and illusion, then, and we should get rid of it. It’s what Hume would have wanted us to do.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, if we do suppose that “matters of fact” is simply a catch-all term for “whatever doesn’t fall under ‘relations of ideas’”, then Hume’s fork becomes tautological and uninteresting. “All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Things That Aren’t Relations of Ideas.” Thanks for the insight, David, but I think I could have worked that one out on my own.

          • J Milne says:

            of divinity or school metaphysics

          • The original Mr. X says:

            of divinity or school metaphysics

            So what, it’s somehow unfair to use the principles Hume uses to judge other philosophers to judge his own work?

          • J Milne says:

            So what, it’s somehow unfair to use the principles Hume uses to judge other philosophers to judge his own work?

            He’s giving principles by which to judge tracts of abstract reasoning.

            Suppose there’s a meaningless intellectual activity called Blorf that people engage in. If I come along and say ‘All these Blorf statements are meaningless’ that isn’t “self-refuting” even if the Blorf-equivalent of Ed Feser says that I’ve just made a Blorf statement.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            He’s giving principles by which to judge pieces of abstract reasoning.

            That’s not what Hume himself says: “All the objects of human reason or enquiry” is clearly a much broader category than “Pieces of abstract reasoning”, and Hume’s fork explicitly refers to the former, rather than the latter.

            Suppose there’s a meaningless intellectual activity called Blorf that people engage in. If I come along and say ‘All these Blorf statements are meaningless’ that isn’t “self-refuting” even if the Blorf-equivalent of Ed Feser says that I’ve just made a Blorf statement.

            It is self-refuting if your reasoning is “Blorf statements are neither mathematical nor derived from experimentation, and every meaningful statement has to be one or the other.”

          • J Milne says:

            That’s not what Hume himself says: “All the objects of human reason or enquiry” is clearly a much broader category than “Pieces of abstract reasoning”, and Hume’s fork explicitly refers to the former, rather than the latter.

            Right, and his advice on when to burn things applies to that which falls under the ‘relations of ideas’ heading.

            It is self-refuting if your reasoning is “Blorf statements are neither mathematical nor derived from experimentation, and every meaningful statement has to be one or the other.”

            Hume uses ‘experimentation’ to refer to anything discovered from observation or experience, and would describe his fork as an observation about how certain groups of people reason.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Right, and his advice on when to burn things applies to that which falls under the ‘relations of ideas’ heading.

            Huh? Hume quite clearly denies that the books he wants to burn contain “relations of ideas”, which for him seems to basically consist of maths.

            Hume uses ‘experimentation’ to refer to anything discovered from observation or experience, and would describe his fork as an observation about how certain groups of people reason.

            Actually, Hume doesn’t, as far as I can see, cite any observations to back up his fork, at least not in the Enquiry. Also, it’s clearly not just an observation about “how certain groups of people reason”, but a claim about reason in general: “All the objects of human reason or enquiry.”

          • Protagoras says:

            Sorry I’m coming late to this, but Hume’s Fork is certainly a relation of ideas (or to put it in the terminology that has become more common since Kant, it is analytic).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sorry I’m coming late to this, but Hume’s Fork is certainly a relation of ideas (or to put it in the terminology that has become more common since Kant, it is analytic).

            So I guess, following the rest of Hume’s philosophy, Hume’s fork can’t actually tell us anything about the real world?

          • Protagoras says:

            @The original Mr. X, Yes, in the same sense in which that is true of mathematics. But that doesn’t prevent it from telling us about metaphysics, since that doesn’t concern the real world.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            metaphysics… doesn’t concern the real world.

            Citation very much needed.

          • Protagoras says:

            @The original Mr. X, OK, a citation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            For the realm of metaphysics (including any science or philosophy of values or norms) the logical analysis leads to a negative result, that the ostensible propositions of this realm are complete nonsense.

            Well, that’s just plain false: I’ve come across plenty of metaphysical propositions which were perfectly intelligible.

    • eccdogg says:

      My wife refers to me as a practicing non-Catholic (as opposed to the more common non-practicing Catholic). I attend mass about every Sunday with my family.

      I am not a fan of Francis. My main beef is that he tends to speak about areas that he is ill informed on (Economics, Libertarianism are two) and does not seem to have put any effort into actually becoming informed before speaking. And consequently sometimes reaches wrong and potentially harmful conclusions (to his own goals).

      ETA: As someone with an open mind towards joining the Catholic church (but with an admittedly low likelihood) his statements have nudged my personal probability of joining lower. But I am probably not his target audience.

    • Deiseach says:

      That rueful laughter you hear is me.

      Um. I should start off by saying Benedict was my pope, in a way that John Paul II wasn’t (but Paul VI before him was, even though I was barely aware of him by the time I was old enough to be aware of the world around me and he was at the end of his reign then). So I’m prejudiced here, because I had great sympathy for what Benedict was trying to do, whereas Francis doesn’t get that from me.

      He is a Jesuit, so “lack of intellectual consistency” is probably not as much as it looks to be on the surface. He is much more pastoral than Benedict who was a scholar, so there is that. The theme of his pontificate to date seems to be Mercy, particularly the mercy of God. He has made very much of this, and if you take that as the motivating force behind his thought and actions, it may help tie things together better for you.

      He doesn’t care about the rules qua rules so much, he is very big on being pastoral and going out to seek the lost sheep. On the other hand, he has been quoted out of context by the media a lot, who love the (perceived) contrast between Big Bad Rottweiler Enforcer Did You Know He Was Head Of The Inquisition Benedict and Kind Liberal Spirit of Vatican II At Long Last Gay Rights And Women Priests Francis.

      Gay rights women priests is… not gonna happen, despite the hopes of the Spirit of Vatican II lot. Francis, for instance, is not simply all “God is merciful and wishes to forgive”, he does insist that people need to go to confession and repent their sins. He favours a lot of the old devotions and religion of the laity that the post-Vatican II reform-minded wanted to sweep away as superstition and not sufficiently consciousness-raising as we liberate society from the ills of capitalism.

      He has ruffled a lot of feathers. The big one so far is Amoris laetitia, which he is sticking fast on and is being very hardline about, despite all the requests for clarification (he refused to answer dubia put to him by four cardinals, which is a really big deal).

      He has a vision for the Church, and he’s ploughing on with it. The big resistance is not so much outraged conservatives, it’s the institutional inertia of the Vatican bureaucracy (the Barque of Peter has the turning circle of a supertanker) which prefers to operate on a calendar timescale of decades or even centuries. Francis is trying to reform all this, but most of the comfortably bedded in officials who have their little power-bases will rely on the traditional Italian tactics (if that’s not being culturally insensitive) of smiling, saying “yes of course”, then going back to their offices and dicasteries and doing nothing while producing excuse after excuse, in the hope of running out the clock and then when he’s gone there will be a new guy and they’ll still be in their comfortable position.

      I can’t say I really have a read on what or who exactly Francis is. I don’t have the frame of mind sympathetic to his. But you know, filial obedience 🙂 He’s the pope, and that’s that (unless he’s an anti-pope as some fervently believe, but I don’t think so).

      • J Milne says:

        Gay rights women priests is… not gonna happen, despite the hopes of the Spirit of Vatican II lot.

        I don’t see why, considering how the church has done turn-arounds before.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          What precedent is there for the Catholic Church reversing its stance on specifically doctrinal matters?

          • Bugmaster says:

            I could be wrong, but didn’t they recently (historically speaking) reverse their stance on evolution ? That used to be a pretty heavy doctrinal issue; in some Protestant circles in the US, it still is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I could be wrong, but didn’t they recently (historically speaking) reverse their stance on evolution ?

            No. The Catholic Church has never been officially opposed to the theory of evolution.

          • J Milne says:

            Charging interest, the swearing of oaths.

          • Dabbler says:

            Not that I don’t think you’re right there J Milne, but do you have sources? They would be very useful to set the argument in stone.

          • J Milne says:

            The church (understandably) tends not to maintain a changelog of its positions, but here’s a source that runs through the history on charging interest: http://canonlawmadeeasy.com/2014/09/04/what-does-the-church-say-about-usury/

            It gives the standard church argument that the church’s teaching *hasn’t* actually changed, rather the church’s understanding of the way money behaves has, but of course you can run this sort of argument to justify literally anything. The usual formula is to assert that doctrine can’t change but can ‘develop’, where ‘develop’ means whatever you wish.

            Regarding oaths, here’s far more than you want to know: http://awaywiththeatheists.blogspot.ie/

        • Deiseach says:

          There are three elements: (a) dogma (b) doctrine (c) discipline.

          So, for instance, clerical celibacy is a matter of discipline. There previously were married priests (St Peter for one), Orthodox churches continue to have married clergy (but not bishops) and there are rites within the Catholic Church which traditionally also have married clergy. Changing to a celibate clergy was a matter of discipline, as would be relaxing the requirement.

          Doctrine is the development of dogma, and so can develop as our knowledge and understanding develop, and as circumstances require (look, Cardinal Newman has done the heavy lifting here). Things like “is lying a sin?” Yes. So you have early Church Fathers saying that if a persecutor knocks at the door and asks”are there any Christians hiding here?” you must answer truthfully, even if you know he will take them (and you) away to be killed. You can see the problem here, as in the example people like to use – “are you obliged to tell the truth if a Nazi knocks at the door and asks if you are hiding Jews here?” Most people would say not just no but hell no, and moreover that it is not a lie to tell him “Nope, no Jews here, all pure-blooded Aryans!”

          So doctrine about “when is it and when isn’t it a lie?” developed over time.

          Dogma is the most important one and can’t be changed (e.g. Jesus as Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity, Virgin Birth, True God and True Man, etc.) without that becoming heresy or simply not Christianity. There’s a strain of modern progressive Christianity which likes to go “Well, plainly nobody can – in our scientific modern age – take seriously the idea that a woman can get pregnant without sex and while being a virgin, so what really happened was…” and then we get stories like “She was raped by a Roman soldier and became pregnant, and people referred to her as ‘Mary the virgin who was raped’ and that’s why the Gospels called her the Virgin Mary” things. Or ice-floe skating Jesus.

          Or people who somehow seem to imagine this is the first time anyone has ever pondered the question, and apparently are unaware that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary was argued and discussed in the early centuries of Christianity:

          Luke and Matthew stress that Jesus’ conception by a virgin through the Holy Spirit outshines all other miraculous conceptions in the Bible. By placing their wonderful infancy narratives at the beginning, Matthew and Luke intended to intimate to their gentile audience that Jesus was not only the Messiah, but also God’s son, not just figuratively in the Jewish sense, but really by nature. As for the role of Mary in worship, believers who are happy to base their faith on unwritten traditions can easily accommodate Marian cult with the rest of their Christianity. Indeed, the idea of a loving maternal hand suitably counterbalances for them the intimidating image of the severe male heavenly judge.

          • J Milne says:

            you must answer truthfully

            Rather you must not lie, and you’re free to not answer if you wish.

            So doctrine about “when is it and when isn’t it a lie?” developed over time.

            How so? As far as I’m aware the stance is still no lies of any sort, though no one seems to make much of a fuss of things like Santa.

      • Dabbler says:

        Deisach- May I ask your opinion in particular on the dubia question? I know this sounds very odd coming from an atheist, but I see it as an appalling act of failure to establish intellectual consistency.

        • Deiseach says:

          This is only my own personal view, but the refusal to address the dubia is, ironically, much more in the style of the old monarchical popes (e.g. the popular notion of the Renaissance popes) and less in Francis’ spirit of collegiality. It really looks like “I’m the pope, the buck stops here, no questions” and is a departure from the model of working with the cardinals/bishops to reach judgement as a whole.

          Again, personally, I think that Francis does badly need to set out clear directions as to what, exactly, “the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of
          what the Lord demands of us” means in practice and most especially when mediating between the dogma and the pastoral application. I think Francis does believe quite strongly in what he says in the introduction:

          Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.

          That’s great! Except, you know, there has been some local cultural sensitivity that has led to complaints that, for example, in the USA the annulment procedure has been turned into ‘divorce by another name’ and that there was pretty much an annulment mill going, whereas in Europe it would take years for a case to be heard. Or cases like the Church in Germany, where there is a mix of the worst of both worlds: hierarchy living like the prince-archbishops of old and content to agree with the State church tax, and very reluctant to let people formally defect because of the loss of same, at the same time as they are very liberal and liberalising in doctrine.

          So the questions the traditionalist cardinals are raising are very pertinent: okay, mercy, pastoral sensitivity, but when it comes down to it – what are the teachings on divorce, remarriage, irregular unions, having children outside of marriage, all the rest of it? What are you changing or not changing? The big question is, of course, readmission to the sacraments.

          I think Francis’ refusal to answer stems from (a) he believes these questions are dealt with adequately in the text of the Apostolic Exhortation itself (b) that there is some kind of trap here, or at least that there is not sincerity in the dubia and those posing them because they are on the traditional side and could be seen (certainly Cardinal Burke has been portrayed in the media in this fashion*) as attempting to lead a movement to push back against Francis’ reforms (c) this is an Apostolic Exhortation, not an Encyclical, much less an Apostolic Constitution (the “papal bull”) so it is not making any claims to be formal teaching or statement of docrtrine binding on the faithful, so they are looking for things that are not there (i.e. he is not changing or contradicting any past teaching with this).

          I wish Francis had replied and it is (uncharacteristically?) dictatorial of him to adopt this “take it or leave it but you can’t leave it ‘cos I’m the pope” attitude, but there are probably deep waters here.

          *Remember when Steve Bannon was still part of Trump’s inner circle? And his meeting with Cardinal Burke? And how some conspiracy theorising took off into the wild blue yonder about Burke getting machinations under way with Trump against Francis? And yes, mainstream media outlets, I am looking at you about this.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Catholic here, and not a fan of Francis, mainly because he keeps sticking his nose into temporal politics instead of focusing on the spiritual world. He’s just as much a materialist as the greediest capitalist, except he’s focused on riding himself of the world rather than acquiring it.

      Amoris laetitia aside, he has not changed much of anything in Catholic doctrine. Mostly you’re probably just noticing the extremely poor job the media does reporting on religious news. Religious reporting is the only thing they do worse than science reporting.

      People who are Catholic and still Catholic in this age of secularism do not want progressive politics or cultural norms. We want MOAR CATHOLICISM. The atheists I know say to me, “I sure do like this Francis guy, he’s just want the Church needs these days!” and I ask, “Oh, great, are you planning on joining now?” Oddly enough they always answer in the negative.

    • moscanarius says:

      I am sure other people here are more capable of pointing theological reasons for opposing or supporting the current Pope, so I will stick to the lower matters that shape most of my opinions on Francis: politics.

      Which befits him well, since my main problem with Francis is that he has trouble separating his religious duties from his political views.

      Here is what I think of him: he is a Pope with a flair for mediatic actions (which may or may not be good in the long run) and an inclination to Latin American populism, who has trouble separating his pastoral concerns for the spiritual well-being of his flock from his personal ideas as to how his flock should be managed by their secular governments.

      Calling him a Communist, or even a Liberal in the American sense of the word, is a bit misguided; like almost everyone in the Church hierarchy, he opposes gay marriage, does not want the ordenation of women, opposes contraception and abortion, and (of course) rejects atheism and a godless society. The media has been keen on portraiting him as tolerant and liberal (which is fair, though a bit overblown), but he is still in touch with Catholic traditon.

      But the problem is that he is just as much in touch with Peronist tradition and the broader Latin American Left Populism that developed in the 70s and rose to power everywhere in the continent in the late 80s (and is now starting to crumble). Though sometimes at odds with individual leaders, ideologically he has been mostly at their side – see his eagerness to forgive and forget Cristina Kirchner’s enmity and receive her with honors in the Vatican. This hospitality was not extended to Kirchner’s foe Mauricio Macri (who leans more to the right) when he became President.

      Another example: Francis had a very good relationship with former (Left-wing) Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last year; he is much colder towards Michel Temer, her sucessor, who leans a bit more to the right. Recently, Temer invited him to thecelebration of the 300 years of the Apparition of Our Lady Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil; Francis refused to come, saying his schedule is busy for 12 October while also criticizing (in the same letter!) the austerity measures adopted by the President. See the issue? Not only the Pope could not find a way to come to the 300 years feast of the patron saint of the largest catholic country in the world, but he also did not miss the opportunity to harangue his opinions on matters of internal national policy.

      He is a man of the Church, but he is clearly not only a man of the Church – perhaps not even primarily so. He is the Pope, but he is also a Left leaning politician.

  16. Longtimelurker says:

    Between Unsong (which is now finished) and The Good Student (which is on a very slow burn), I am short a good wed serial. What do the people here think about The Good Student.

    Side note, if anyone here wants to take the survey, it can be found here (Its painless, I promise)

    • Murphy says:

      I’ve read up to the current point in Good Student, very very readable but no real payoff yet in terms of plot. I’m honestly surprised it was holding the #1 slot on topwebfiction when it has yet to grow much meat on its bones.

    • barcodeIlIl says:

      The guy who writes The Good Student is also writing two other serials on topwebfiction.

      I enjoy How To Avoid Death On A Daily Basis, but, uh, content warning for the protagonist being prone to antisocial and misogynistic rants.

      The other active web serials I read are Dungeon Keeper Ami and Mother Of Learning.

      I agree with you that TGS doesn’t have much payoff yet.

    • platanenallee says:

      I too was surprised to find The Good Student so high up on topwebfiction. How to Avoid Death on a Daily Basis, also by Mooderino, is much better imo: laugh-out-loud jokes, unexpected plot twists, character development, memes, – AND it updates five days a week! – everything you could wish for in a web serial.

      You might want to check out /r/rational, that’s where I usually get my fic recommendations. Do you read fanfiction or original fiction only?

    • RoseCMallow says:

      I read How to avoid death on a daily basis for a while, by the same author, and it was okay. It irritated me in how the main character was portrayed as being great and right about everything all the time, while also being terrible.

      I’m currently reading The Fifth Defiance, which is good fun. It’s a superhero thing with a rather unique setting and the characters are all very distinct and interesting. I’d suggest giving it a try if you need more things to read.
      Link

  17. Art Vandelay says:

    For all I know maybe it would be exactly the opposite, the same way we expect a future hypothetical worldwide socialist society to have the exact opposite results as every time socialism has ever been tried in real life.

    So you expect a world-wide socialist government to take away public health care, schooling, bring in tax breaks for the rich, etc. ?

    Seems a pretty weird assumption.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It depends on what you mean by socialism. The nordic capitalist society with a strong safety net looks fairly sustainable to me.

      If you’re talking about a centralized (government-controlled) economy, then there’s a risk of the society not being able to afford the safety net, or even failing to produce ordinary necessities, with Venezuela as a prime example.

      • Urstoff says:

        How much stronger is the safety net in Scandinavian countries than in the US? It seems like welfare capitalism is the dominant, perhaps only, economic system in first-world countries, with the differences being the various amounts of regulation and barriers to market entry. Labor market regulation seems to vary pretty widely too, but not so widely as the basic employer-employee dynamic isn’t the norm around the world.

        • Art Vandelay says:

          I guess welfare capitalism is the dominant form because the powers that be tend to be pretty favourable towards capitalism–for obvious reasons–but clearly capitalism in its pure form doesn’t work and so they have to implement some socialist policies to make the system sustainable.

          • Urstoff says:

            What do you mean “doesn’t work”? And since when are regulations and welfare measures exclusively “socialist”?

          • Art Vandelay says:

            By “doesn’t work” I mean that attempts to implement something close to a pure free-market, strong forms of laissez-faire, are unstable and always lead to the necessary reintroduction of measures to counteract this.

            See e.g. the history of the development of industrial capitalism in Britain, Russia in the 90s, Pinochet’s Chile.

          • cassander says:

            >the history of the development of industrial capitalism in Britain

            you mean the first time in history a country dragged itself out of the misery of agrarian economics?

            >, Russia in the 90s,

            You mean one of the least capitalistic places on earth?

            >Pinochet’s Chile.

            the most economically successful country in latin america, by a wide margin?

            Your evidence doesn’t prove what you seem to think it proves.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            Chile is slightly poorer than Uruguay by GDP per capita, slightly richer when PPP adjusted, and close to Argentina in both cases. There isn’t a wide margin between its level of economic success and the other top three countries (and it isn’t even that far from Venezuela in non-PPP adjusted GDP/capita). But I think Art Vandelay’s point is that a couple of years after the junta introduced laissez-faire policies there was an economic crisis which resulted in banks being regulated and in some cases nationalised.

            Regarding Russia, the point is that they tried drastic libertarian reforms in the 90s, but still ended up in a pretty horrible state.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            @Cassander

            Rims has dealt with some of your points more substantively but for my part I will just point out that nothing you’ve said contradicts anything I’ve said and yet for some strange reason you’ve presented it as if it does.

          • cassander says:

            @RLMS

            Chile is slightly poorer than Uruguay by GDP per capita, slightly richer when PPP adjusted, and close to Argentina in both cases.

            Argentina’s figures are lies.

            There isn’t a wide margin between its level of economic success and the other top three countries (and it isn’t even that far from Venezuela in non-PPP adjusted GDP/capita).

            Chile has 50% more per capita GDP than the LA average, and while Uruguay has been richer than average for LA for a long time, chile has not. absolute level of wealth today is not the only measure of success. growth matters.

            But I think Art Vandelay’s point is that a couple of years after the junta introduced laissez-faire policies there was an economic crisis which resulted in banks being regulated and in some cases nationalised.

            chile remaisn hte economically freest country in latin america, again by a wide margin. Pointing to one contrary policy episode does not disprove that.

            Regarding Russia, the point is that they tried drastic libertarian reforms in the 90s, but still ended up in a pretty horrible state.

            No, they didn’t. They started to, but abandoned the effort after a couple of months before it really got started. Russia did not undergo shock therapy, Poland and Czechoslovakia did.

    • Matt M says:

      Yes. That is exactly what I assume.

      See: Venezuela

      • Art Vandelay says:

        Pray tell me, which Venezuelan president was it who brought in tax breaks for the rich, Chavez or Maduro?

        • Matt M says:

          “tax breaks” is a very opaque way of looking at things

          But if you think that there aren’t an elite and protected class of people in Venezuela who have been largely kept from suffering the brunt of the negative impacts of socialism (disease, famine, repression) you haven’t been paying attention.

          Willing to bet Maduro’s lifestyle as compared to the average poor Venezuelan makes corporate write-downs of depreciation seem like pretty tame stuff…

        • Douglas Knight says:

          bring in tax breaks for the rich

          Chavez. He introduced currency controls in 2003. In the short term this taxed “the rich” and gave tax breaks to the politically connected. But it quickly became taxing the poor and giving tax breaks to the rich.

      • biblicalsausage says:

        Venezuela’s a fairly low-tax country. Their highest marginal income tax rate is lower than the one in the US (34% vs. 39.6%). Their total central government tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is significantly lower (something like 13% vs. the US’s 20%).

        Normal welfare capitalism takes some money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Scandinavian “socialism” does the same. Venezuelan socialism simply decrees that meat costs $1/lb now, and then wonders why nobody will sell meat in Venezuela anymore.

    • I think he’s using socialism to mean the Stalinist thing, not the Swedish thing.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        Ahh I see, the tired, old, capitalist meme of “socialism = Stalinism”. I guess it’s a hell of a lot easier than actually engaging with opposing ideas.

        • LHN says:

          If “socialism” is now ambiguous between “state ownership of the means of production” and “capitalism, but with a strong regulatory and welfare state”, is there a commonly accepted term that encompasses only the former?

          • Art Vandelay says:

            I don’t think you will find many people advocating total state control of the means of production. If you do, you can ask them how they identify politically. Stalinist perhaps?

            There are socialist parties throughout the world that support things like state-owned energy, transport, health service, etc. but do not want to nationalise every company in the country.

            My personal experience is that socialists who want to go further and have all industry collectively owned tend to emphasise worker-owned and managed factories, which is quite a different proposition from state-ownership.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Marxist-Leninist would be the most reliable self-applied designation, but I’d suggest that anyone calling themselves “communist” while still advocating a system that allowed for some privately owned capital is being dishonest.

            (although the fact that there are forms of ownership other than “by the state” and “by private capitalists” muddies the water a little bit, as Art notes in his last paragraph)

          • cassander says:

            >I don’t think you will find many people advocating total state control of the means of production. If you do, you can ask them how they identify politically. Stalinist perhaps?

            Yes you do, all the time. Single payer healthcare, nationalization of credit, national financing and control of education, national systems of retirement, the modern left desires to control more than half of the economy outright, and regulate almost every aspect of the rest. Nationalizations isn’t dead, it just operates under new names, and goes after a different set of commanding heights.

            >state-owned energy, transport, health service, etc. but do not want to nationalise every company in the country.

            No, just the important ones, exactly the same plan old school socialists had.

        • Urstoff says:

          I think it’s more along the lines of: socialism = collectively owned means of production = state owned means of production = authoritarian state

          I don’t know if modern socialist try to block the second or third step.

          • LHN says:

            AFAIK, no first world countries with nominally socialist governments have a majority of the means of production either collectively or state owned, so the question of whether that leads to an authoritarian state doesn’t arise. (My impression is that Norway’s oil sector is big, but not that big.) Or am I missing some?

          • Urstoff says:

            Right, hence the confusion over the term “socialist”. If Norway is socialist, then I don’t see why the US wouldn’t be considered socialist too.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Collectively owned means of production is the marxist definition of socialism.

            Socialism at it’s core is the opposite of individualism. It views humans as a social animal that cannot be understood, exist, or be abstracted out of the context of the group. Science shows this is true. On the other hand individualism is a system of belief that sprang from the dualism of christianity: people are just equal monads existing independently of each other that have a magical thing called “free will”. From this comes the view that society is merely the sum of “rational” economic monads whose only goal is to maximize their own interest. Equal opportunity instead of equal outcome. Multiculturalism, or the belief that you can lump together people of different cultural backgrounds and they will coexist peacefully through commerce. Laicism, or the belief that you can do the same with people of different religious backgrounds. Freedom of religion instead of freedom from religion. Socialism is not the left. The left is liberalism, an ideology of merchants, bankers that requires individualism as an assumption. They opposed monarchy because it limited their freedom to engage in economic trickery (rent, speculation, hoarding) to maximize their own interest. They sat on the left wing of parliaments. Socialists didn’t give a shit about parliaments and opposed both reactionaries wanting to roll back society to monarchy and liberals. Neither Proudhon or Karl Marx never said they were on the left. There are two forms of socialism, hierarchical and anti-hierarchical (anarchism). Soviet-style communism is a variant of hierarchical socialism. Because of anthropological reasons (individuals with more psychopathic traits rise at the top of hierarchies) it always fails at creating a society that is fair for all. Soon it’s ruling class realizes that roman-inspired methods of slave-management used in liberal regimes are a better way to control the masses.

          • Vojtas says:

            Socialism at it’s core is the opposite of individualism. It views humans as a social animal that cannot be understood, exist, or be abstracted out of the context of the group.

            Was Aristotle a socialist, then? I’m genuinely interested in hearing about the Roman-inspired methods of slave-management.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Were Roman slave owners the first management theorists?

            https://aeon.co/essays/were-roman-slave-owners-the-first-management-theorists

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The general pattern when people try to implement Marxism, that we’ve seen from the Spanish and Russian revolutions to Venezuela, is of doubling down on failure. Which is both why those who claim that “socialism has never been tried” are worrying ​and why the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties aren’t.

      Socialists begin with an plan, often a very clever one like in Allende’s Chile. And then when the plan turns​ out like this either the regime is overthrown, as Allende’s was, or the leadership doubles down on the failing policies and starts hunting for wreckers. Which can get very bloody and leaves the underlying issue unsolved.

      The Chinese Communist Party​ under Deng represented a rare third option, of socialists who learned their lesson and went with pragmatism over a dogmatic adherence to ideology. It doesn’t look much like socialism but you won’t hear many Chinese complaining over it.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        How exactly does one implement a critique of capitalist political economy? You surely realise that Marx intentionally left no prescription for what should come after capitalism and according to his theories none of the places you mention were ready for a transition to socialism?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Marx himself would seem to disagree, since advocated for revolution within his own lifetime.

          But I’d rather not get into the weeds of socialist apologism.

          Let’s say you’re right and that the world wasn’t and isn’t ready for true socialism. Why advocate for it now then? If global revolution really is inevitable due to historical-material forces then waiting it out in relative comfort, as the CCP are, would seem like a much better way to spend your time than trying to bring about a change before its time.

          That has the side benefit that, if you’re wrong, you haven’t killed tens or hundreds of millions of Innocents for nothing.

        • SchwarzeKatze says:

          No mention as well of the U.S. foreign policy of the “threat of the good example” every time any alternative society that forbids U.S. corporations to rob and exploit it is implemented somewhere and looks like it could be successful, the U.S. oligarchy immediately proceeds to destroy it by any means. The U.S. has been doing all it can to undermine Venezuela, because extreme poverty has receeded there since Chavez.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @ SchwarzeKatze:

            The U.S. has been doing all it can to undermine Venezuela, because extreme poverty has receeded there since Chavez.

            How old are the numbers you’re looking at? Venezuala’s recent regular poverty rate is over 75% and its “extreme poverty” rate is similarly, well, extreme. (If you’re looking at Wikipedia, the relevant charts there cheat by cutting off the data at 2013, right before the wheels fell of the bus).

            It’s true that effective poverty had gradually declined somewhat over time in Venezuela (as it had in much of the rest of the world) but in retrospect it looks like they postponed disaster by eating the seed corn rather than with sustainable economic development. It’s a real mess now, one that needs no help from the US to look bad.

          • cassander says:

            >he U.S. has been doing all it can to undermine Venezuela, because extreme poverty has receded there since Chavez.

            what has the US done to Venezuela since, say, 2010, that has caused mass hunger and even starvation. Please be specific.

          • bean says:

            @SchwarzeKatze
            Are you seriously giving us links to a news organization that’s sponsored by the governments of every leftist Latin American state and expecting us to just believe it? Even if they’re telling the truth, US Army uniforms can be acquired surplus, and frankly we aren’t incompetent enough to get caught with such a simple mistake. And the NSA spying on everyone isn’t exactly news, nor is it proof of sabotage.

          • Matt M says:

            “Communism only failed because at least one person in the world wasn’t properly communist so this is clearly the fault of capitalism!”

          • cassander says:

            @SchwarzeKatze

            You’re literally and sincerely blaming hoarders and wreckers for the failure of socialism? Words fail me.

          • SchwarzeKatze says:

            Are you seriously giving us links to a news organization that’s sponsored by the governments of every leftist Latin American state and expecting us to just believe it?

            Are you seriously expecting me to believe news organizations that are owned by the rich who have an interest in making the venezuelan government look bad and making sure every attempt at an alternative to capitalism fails?

            This isn’t anything new. This has been a longstanding practice of the U.S. There’s documented evidence that the U.S. funded and had the U.S. military train contras in Nicaragua so the sandinistas would be forced to divert their resources to fight them instead of working on social programs which they had been doing successfully. The U.S. also recently sent back Lybia to the stone age which had the highest standard of living in Africa using pretexts that as usual were entirely false. And that’s just two examples. There are many others. So why would it be any different in Venezuela?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @SchwarzeKatze

            Even if the US had been doing the reprehensible things that Venezuelan propaganda attributed to it, that still can’t alone cause hyperinflation and shortages. That’s not how economics works.

            Let’s imagine that we could prove that the problems of Venezuela were caused by its own government. Just curious, how would that affect your beliefs?

        • moscanarius says:

          How exactly does one implement a critique of capitalist political economy?

          This is a thing I expected Socialism symphatizers would tell us, since they are the ones who want to implement Socialism. Preferentially, they should sort this out before trying to actually make the revolution.

          It shouldn’t be expected that Socialism skeptics should do all the work.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            That’s an interesting response, are you from the USA by any chance?

            It seems that you were unable to grasp the point I was making. Marx didn’t set anything like a plan for his version of socialism. If you define Marxism as what Marx wrote–which would seem like the most sensible definition–then it’s hard to see how you would implement it. If we define Marxism as the ideology and policies of people who say that they are Marxist then the term covers such disparate views as to become meaningless.

          • moscanarius says:

            Not from the US.

            It seems that you were unable to grasp the point I was making.

            I am afraid I was. The point is that we cannot say Socialism didn’t work/won’t ever work from its previous attempts of implementation because there was no clear plan for implementation from the start, and Marx himself saw many possible problems.

            The point is, on its virtuous side, either a demand for extreme rigor in dealing with induction; or an argument to the definition of Socialism. On the vicious side where it can possibly go (and in my experience often does), it can become either an isolated demand for rigor or a denial of true Scotishness.

            Reading this with good will, I do concede that there is no way of being absolutely sure, 100% sure, that no attempt of Socialism will ever work based on previous experiences. But I am also fully aware that every attempt at implanting a Socialist regime has been a miserable failure, and even the relatively wealthy and powerful Soviet Union crumbled in three generations. When I see things failing repeatedly, that is a compelling argument for said thing not being able to succeed. Ever. I cannot reach 100% certainty, but I can get close to 95%.

            Of course you could argue that, according to Marx, none of these countries were ripe for Socialism, but… isn’t it weird that no country was ever ready for the regime?

            Meanwhile, you say that according to Marx none of these failed places were ready for Socialism. Having not read Marx, I cannot tell whether these observations are fair or if they are ad hoc interpretations. I mean, if Russia, Spain, Venezuela, and China (the countries Nabil mentions) were not ready, what would a “ready” country look like? Could you tell beforehand that these four places would flunk under Socialism? And which of the existing countries in today’s world would be Socialism-ready?

            Marx didn’t set anything like a plan for his version of socialism

            cassander posted two links above that seems to contradict your claim.

            If you define Marxism as what Marx wrote–which would seem like the most sensible definition

            Here I disagree. Marxism is not just what Marx wrote, in the same sense that Darwinism is not just Darwin’s works and Christianity is not only what Jesus said in the Gospels. These terms cover not only their supposed founder’s view, but also the developments of disciples and followers. The current versions of each of these intelectual movements are distinct from the original views first layed down, which is expected with the passage of time and the development of the principles established in the initial phase.

            If we define Marxism as the ideology and policies of people who say that they are Marxist then the term covers such disparate views as to become meaningless.

            But if we define Marxism as strictly as you want, then the term also becomes meaningless for lack of Marxists. With a super broad definiton of Marxism we would be attacking Strawmen Marxists (which you rightfully criticize), but with a super strict one we get no Scotsmen left to attack. This is also bad, as it puts Marx’s idea above any criticism: every wrong turn can be dismissed as unorthodox, and hence the orthdoxy is spared from the attacks. Every wrong Camarade is not an actual Marxist, and so on.

            I am not against excluding Kim Jong Un and the Chinese Communist Dinasty from the definition of Marxist, but we cannot take this as far as to excluded the likes of Chavez and Maduro.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            cassander posted two links above that seems to contradict your claim.

            No they don’t.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Oh, well, that settles that then, I guess.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            @ Chevalier

            The onus is on the person posting the links to explain why they believe they contradict my point.

            Two people in this thread have claimed these links contradicts me without putting forth any explanation or citing any passages. If either of them wants to actually wants to make their case I will be happy to respond to them. But as it is, they have posted links which do not support their claims so I am going to assume, for now, that they haven’t actually read these links properly.

          • moscanarius says:

            No they don’t.

            For me that’s fine, since my point does not depend on that. I was just being lazy in link-hunting. But since this was the only thing you cared to answer in my comment, let me try again. The claim I was answering to was

            Marx didn’t set anything like a plan for his version of socialism

            But he did. From the Communist Manifesto:

            In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

            We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

            He calls himself a Communist, and summarizes what he believes must be done. But there’s more: he also proposes a series of measures that would lead to the implementation of the goals of Communism:

            These measures will, of course, be different in different countries. Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

            1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

            2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

            3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

            4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

            5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

            6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

            7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

            8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

            9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

            10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc.

            This looks a lot like a plan to me.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Sorry, I don’t think I expressed myself very clearly on the planning point. I wasn’t saying Marx never speculated about what he thought the proletariat would do once they seized power or make suggestions about what socialist/communist society would be like, but that he never laid down a clear or at all detailed plan to be implemented.

            Note also, he is here, in the passage you quote, talking about proletarians, not an elite vanguard party of middle-class intellectuals. He is predicting that the proletariat will seize power and they will institute policies like this, not that a small group of committed Marxists should seize control of the state and institute these policies.

            The quote you’ve picked out also strengthens my point that Marx believed this should take place initially in the more advanced capitalist countries.

            The same was true with link that Cassander posted that was actually written by Marx (Cassander didn’t seem to realise that the other one was written by Engels). He’s talking about the possibility of sections of the Russian peasantry moving towards socialism without passing through capitalism and he stresses several times that this must happen very gradually, how resistant the peasantry are to sudden changes or having much of their what they have produced taking away and that they can only develop towards socialism spontaneously i.e. he is not suggesting that a small group of middle-class Russians seize control of the state, violently force all the peasants onto collective farms and appropriate all their grain.

            So yes, he did perhaps offer a plan of some sort, my opinion is that it is nowhere even close to being detailed or consistent enough to be able to talk simply about “implementing” Marxism. A key point here is that he was actually actively opposed to intellectuals trying to plan out the future society as he believed this was mere utopianism (he wasn’t keen on the utopian socialist tradition). But as the writings you and Cassander yourselves have supplied make abundantly clear, the plan, to the extent that it did exist, was opposed on many key points to what the Bolsheviks and their counterparts elsewhere actually did.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          If you’ve no idea what’s involved in the transition to socialism, how do you decide that any place isn’t ready for it?

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          This sounds a bit like a prescription for what would come after capitalism. A description of “communism”, if you will.

          “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity…society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, herdsman or critic.”

          I don’t think that’s an isolated example.

          Overall, “Marx just had some thought on capitalism, how can we judge him for what happened when people did the things he advocated their doing?” strikes me as an extraordinarily desperate gambit, and one which tends to confirm that communism is entirely indefensible.

          • engleberg says:

            ‘communism is entirely indefensible.’

            No, you can say Marx meant ‘State of Seige’ as an awful warning and an exposure of tyranny, then say that Ludendorf’s War Communism, Ludendorf’s protege Hitler, and Ludendorf’s ally Lenin all took it as a blueprint. Ludendorf really was that much of a creep.

            This would mean a communism that abandons Marxist-Leninism. I’d call that a feature, not a bug, but an awful lot of socialists would disagree.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            That description is evidently not a clear policy that one could implement. The fact that you think “Marxist” regimes ‘did the things he advocated their doing’ demonstrates the paucity of your knowledge.

            This is the general problem here. There are many people holding forth on a topic that they clearly have an extremely poor understanding of.

          • moscanarius says:

            That description is evidently not a clear policy that one could implement.

            Indeed, but these excerpta from the Communist Manifesto are:

            These measures will, of course, be different in different countries. Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
            1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
            2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
            3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
            4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
            5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
            6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
            7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
            8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
            9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
            10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

            There you have them: these are policies one could implement, which Marx and Engels believed would lead to the implantation of Communism. That is his version of how things should be done.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            That description is evidently not a clear policy that one could implement.

            Art, this looks like an ongoing and, frankly, fairly weak attempt to shift the goalposts from what you wrote originally, which was:

            You surely realise that Marx intentionally left no prescription for what should come after capitalism

            So, yes, Marx’s description of what communism would look like is impracticable and ridiculous (it’s not clear to me why you think that represents a defence of your position), but he certainly had such a vision, not just a critique of capitalism.

            So I think the tone you’ve adopted across your posts here is completely unearned and unhelpful – no one is buying your “superior knowledge” shtick.

            You seem to be unaware of, or wilfully blind to, whole tracts of Marx’s work. You should embrace the opportunity for someone to make up for the apparently significant gaps in your knowledge of a topic in which you seem very interested.

            Engelberg, I think you’ve truncated that quote so much that it doesn’t bear much relation to what I was arguing, which means your response doesn’t either.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            @pdbarnlsey

            As I point out above, Marx was opposed to trying to plan the future society in any detail. I was perhaps not clear in earlier posts about the “in any detail” part. Yes he did make vague speculations or predictions, but he did not leave behind a plan to implement which was the initial point.

            I’m not an expert on Marx by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I have any particular desire to be, but it is abundantly clear to me that I have a far better understanding of his work than the people who are disagreeing with me in this thread. Whether you “buy” it or not is of no concern to me.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Art, “under communism we will all be completely free to just wander around between different tasks as we see fit” is an extremely complete description of an economic system.

            It’s brief, yes, but only because it doesn’t require any additional conditions or explanations. The communism, apparently, will see to all of that in the background.

            So he had a very clear prescription for the end point, contra your initial claim.

            Now, did he also create a detailed plan for getting there? Well, it depends what we mean by “detailed”. To you it seems to mean “more detailed than any plan with which I am presented, updated as and when my previous claims are contradicted”.

            That just seems like a (silly) word game, rather than a magisterial demonstration of superior knowledge.

            I think your overall point seems to be “no attempt to implement Marxism can be see as actually existing Marxism, because Marx didn’t leave enough instructions to follow”. If we grant that, then it sounds like Marx didn’t leave us with anything practically usable, just some fairy tales about taking care of cows when we feel like it, and that those who attempt to follow him are, at best, misguided.

            I’m fine with that, but I don’t imagine you really are.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Art, “under communism we will all be completely free to just wander around between different tasks as we see fit” is an extremely complete description of an economic system.

            I’m going to assume that your claim here is some odd joke that you’re making because I can’t really see any way to interpret it as a serious statement. You vacillate between calling this an extremely complete plan for how to run a nations economy and calling it a fairy tale about cows.

            I think your overall point seems to be “no attempt to implement Marxism can be see as actually existing Marxism, because Marx didn’t leave enough instructions to follow”. If we grant that, then it sounds like Marx didn’t leave us with anything practically usable, just some fairy tales about taking care of cows when we feel like it, and that those who attempt to follow him are, at best, misguided.

            What I have repeatedly said is that Marxism is not a plan you can implement and this is because Marx intentionally did not leave proper instructions. What Marx left was a large body of writing on philosophy, economics and history, in particular a critique of the mainstream economics of his day and a theory of history and the development of societies. This was his aim, not leaving a plan for how to organise a communist society (and just to repeat it once more because it doesn’t seem to be hitting home, he intentionally did not leave a plan). What he left, and what most people read him for, are his ideas on these topics. I do, however, agree that people around today who try to “follow” Marx are generally misguided, but they’re rather few in number (in the UK at least) and you probably don’t need to worry about them all that much.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      One of the problems in this discussion is that you have two definitions for “trying socialism”:

      1. Implementing (a certain version of) socialism by force as state policy without a possibility for implementing an alternative (Soviet Union, Cuba etc.)

      2. Participating in a strong socialist movement in a mixed-economy capitalist state so, that the socialist movement in question has a real effect on labor policy, economy etc. (such as what happened in the Nordic countries)

      I should hasten to add that what I mean by section 2. is *not* building a mixed economy in itself but rather the existence of the socialist movements (including parties, labor unions, other organizations) in themselves. In many ways, social democracy means simultaneously accepting the existence of capitalism (at least for the time being) and urgently believing that since the capitalists are going to advance their own interests, they need a strong counterweight with clearly set ideals and effective means of getting things done. This also led to good results in many countries – and now, as the socialist movements and labor unions are less strong, those gains have been partially dismantled.

      One of the problems with these discussions is that they’re being had only from the perspective of state policy as a deliberate choice made by the policymakers themselves (“Should we implement socialism? Or capitalism? Or something else?”), not from the point of view of movements and their interplay in a society.

  18. Richard says:

    Is there an e-book version of Unsong available?

  19. postgenetic says:

    Argument abstract of sorts:
    “The most fundamental phenomenon of the universe is relationship.” Jonas SalkAnatomy of Reality
    Religion, democracy and capitalism are essentially coding structures / apps for relationship interface.
    Genetic code, the same.
    The dominant phenomenon of our era is exponentially accelerating complexity.
    Add 5.9 billion people since 1900. Add exponentially accruing knowledge. (Human knowledge doubles roughly every 13 months according to Ray Kurzweil, and that may be dated.) Give many of the ~7.5 billion people exponentially more powerful tech.
    These additions have generated new, unprecedented and far more complex environs / relationships in-and-across geo eco bio cultural & tech networks.
    Re CODE
    Code is physics efficacious relationship infrastructure in bio, cultural & tech networks: genetic, language, math, moral, religious, legal, monetary, etiquette, software, etc.
    Survival Interface with Complexity — from the biological network:
    “The rule of thumb is that the complexity of the organism has to match the complexity of the environment at all scales in order to increase the likelihood of survival.” Physicist, complexity scientist Yaneer Bar-YamMaking Things Work
    Currently, our species isn’t adequately coded — biologically, culturally or technologically — to pass natural selection tests in environs undergoing exponentially accelerating complexity for X number of years.
    Year X approaches.
    Culture, Complexity and Code2: link text

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      ATTENTION SCOTT!

      I propose a new moderation rule, the Sidles Rule, that anybody whose writing style cannot be distinguished from Time Cube is banned until they learn to communicate clearly. It mostly worked with John, he’s way more lucid these days, and it will greatly increase the quality of discourse.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        It mostly worked with John, he’s way more lucid these days

        Alternative explanation: We’re all way crazier.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          I know I’m way crazier: I have this persistent delusion that Donald Trump is president.