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Open Thread 79.75

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

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935 Responses to Open Thread 79.75

  1. Dabbler says:

    Requesting help on something. What fair generalizations do people think can be said to exist about millenials in the modern Western world? And of those generalizations, which of the many factors people claim (helicopter parents, the economy, millennial laziness etc) are the most important?

    • Iain says:

      Millennials tend to be younger than baby boomers.

    • smocc says:

      Can we also use this space to come to agreement on the definition of a millennial? I have developed a peeve about how broadly the term seems to be applied.

      I tend to think of it as the children who came of age in the decade or two surrounding the millennium. As someone who graduated high school in 2007, I think of myself as a late-ish millennial. My sister graduated in 2002 and strikes me as a pretty early millennial, but not the earliest.

      Some rules of thumb I use for Americans:
      – Do you remember September 11?
      – Do you remember not having the internet at home? But,
      – Did you get internet at home before you left home? Before you graduated from college?
      – The same questions as above, but with cell phones.

      Now, I imagine I’m being self-centered here, trying to center the term on people my age so everyone is talking about me. But the internet and cell phone questions seem important to me. There is a large group of people who experienced widespread adoption of the internet as teens / young adults, and that feels pretty culturally significant. For example, I feel completely at home on the internet but kids for whom the internet is never off seem foreign to me.

      • Zodiac says:

        Huh. I always thought millenials were the ones born ~1995 to ~2005.

        • dodrian says:

          What category would you put ’85-’95 in? I’m in that category, and definitely feel like I’m considered a millennial.

          • Zodiac says:

            I’d proabably have said Generation Y or Z but I find myself mostly aggreeing with baconbacon here.
            80% of the generations articles I see are from HR bosses who use it to communicate expectations towards the young work force (e.g. “Every millenial loves moving for their job, therefor you must too if you want to compete”).

        • Randy M says:

          That is the decade surrounding the millennium.

          ETA: Oops, sorry, I missed that distinction.

          • smocc says:

            Zodiac is talking about people born during the decade surrounding the millennium. I was talking about people who came of age in the decade surrounding the millennium.

          • Millennials were born before 2000, but turned 18 after. So all those born from 1982 to 1999. This also fits the behavior pattern of those that are dependent on their cell phones (yes this is true for older ones too, but I think it is true of 90% of millenials), and I think some other behaviors that I can’t define right now (but I presume will be discussed downthread).

            I am a baby boomer with two millenial kids (born 1990 and 1994).

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          That’s way too young, how can millenials have high unemployment and be looking for certain kinds of jobs and crippled by student debt if the oldest of them only graduated college a few months ago?

      • dodrian says:

        Maybe you’re a millennial if the sound “Whhrrrrrrr, dung, ba-ding-ba-ding!” followed by white noise reminds you of your childhood.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m Gen X and grew up with those noises. (But I’m weird gen-X. We had occasional “internet” from home in the late 1970s, only we called it Arpanet and it involved a printing terminal and an acoustic coupler)

        • James says:

          Naah, I think you’re off by a few years. That fits me, more or less – born in ’89 – and I feel like most real millenials probably never even really heard that noise.

      • Brad says:

        Born 1982-2002 which puts high school graduation at 2000-2020. Generations are around 20 years long. That leads to an early-X / late-X phenomenon, which has been observed in all of them, but it is convention.

        • baconbacon says:

          Generations are mostly BS. Someone born in year X is almost always going to have vastly more in common with someone borin in X-1 than in X +20. There are a few exceptions, like the baby boomers, where there was legitimately an event that shaped society. People born after WW2 ended grew up in a very different world than people born during the depression, and while people born at the tail end of the depression (’44) have more in common with those born after than in the 30s, their numbers are dwarfed due to the surrounding circumstances.

          Generations now have very little meaning.

          • rlms says:

            The existence of blurred boundaries between categories doesn’t make them useless.

          • Brad says:

            There can be some discontinuities, eligibility for various drafts being the most obvious ones.

          • baconbacon says:

            Current generations are blurry and arbitrary, which is the problem. The baby boom generation is blurry, but not arbitrary (at least on the start, it is more arbitrary on the end), current generations are very arbitrary, people note (or frequently invent) differences between people who are 40 and 20 and then attribute these differences to a different generation.

          • Randy M says:

            This HGD stuff is bunk, there’s more intra-generational variation than inter-generational variation.

          • baconbacon says:

            There can be some discontinuities, eligibility for various drafts being the most obvious ones.

            There are discontinuities, but there are frequently two issues with them. First is they don’t have the same scale impact across the entire generation that 1918, 1929 or 1945 did, and secondly a lot of the people that they effect were already wrapped up in a generational tag. If you are 18 and eligible for the 1975 draft you were born in 1957, and are a late boomer. What are the discontinuities in 196x or 198x?

          • random832 says:

            I don’t know how “arbitrary” a generation can be. I mean, in principle, counting forward from whatever real shared experience, each generation is the previous generation’s offspring (more or less, with some blurriness around the edges since people have children at a wider range of ages than between birth and when they start having children, so people who have children very young and/or are among the oldest of their ‘generation’ may be in the same generation, and vice versa they may ‘skip’ a generation)

            Millennials are the children of early Gen X or late Boomers. “Gen Y” is an earlier name for the same generation, before “Millennial” was coined.

          • baconbacon says:

            I mean, in principle, counting forward from whatever real shared experience, each generation is the previous generation’s offspring (more or less, with some blurriness around the edges since people have children at a wider range of ages than between birth and when they start having children, so people who have children very young and/or are among the oldest of their ‘generation’ may be in the same generation, and vice versa they may ‘skip’ a generation)

            The “shared experience” is arbitrary in most cases. Sometimes it makes sense, the end of WW2 is a major event, but there was also a dearth of births during WW2 and a boom afterwards, so the 1940-44 cohort that will have a lot of the same experiences as the 45 + won’t be a major factor in discussing cultural preferences anyway if their 40-44 experiences are important differences.

            Millennial as a child of a boomer makes no sense as boatloads of Gen Xers are clear boomers (me and my two older brothers are pre 1980, both parents boomers born in ’45 and ’47), and the oldest grandchild of my parents could have been a millennial had anyone started sooner (the oldest didn’t have children until he was 40). There are far to many families where Millennials are the grandkids of boomers, unless “generation” now means “educated, late birthing, mostly white upper economic classes”.

          • Vermillion says:

            I think defining a generation by a shared event makes for a sharper distinction than just the years and is also just more memorable.

            Consider the following exercise:

            “Baby Boomer” is to “Woodstock” as
            “Millennial” is to “9/11” (Sure made for a memorable second week of college)

            Here’s where I’m having trouble:
            “Gen X” is to ???

          • johan_larson says:

            Defining event of Gen X.

            AIDS crisis?
            End of the Cold War?

          • Nornagest says:

            “Gen X” is to ???

            Fall of the Berlin Wall?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Gen X: Three Mile Island, Challenger, Chernobyl, and the fall of Communism. The former two only for the older half.

          • David Speyer says:

            Challenger disaster and Chernobyl are only four months apart and children were more likely to be exposed to the former because of the Teacher in Space Project. I’d guess people on the boundary are more likely to remember Challenger than Chernobyl. (Confirmation bias warning – I looked up the dates in order to figure out why I, who was 5, remember Challenger but not Chernobyl.)

            I’d also list “fall of communism” as two big events — I remember both the fall of the Berlin wall and Gorbachev’s resignation speech.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Challenger/STS-51 was a bit before my time but the Berlin Wall sticks in my mind as do the LA Riots, OKC bombing etc…

          • bean says:

            Nitpick: Challenger was STS-51-L, not STS-51, because NASA was numbering them in an incomprehensible way. (51-L means that it was authorized in FY 85 (5), launched from KSC (1, 2 missions were out of Vandenberg) and the 11th mission from FY 85 (L). It was the 25th shuttle mission, and the return to flight began with STS-26R.

      • Iain says:

        The most meaningful definition I’ve heard is “entered the workforce after the 2008 financial crisis”.

        • gbdub says:

          But in that case I’m right on the border, and I was born in ’87, which seems to miss the early 80’s people want to include.

          • baconbacon says:

            Depends on your degree though, 18 and entering the workforce in 2008 is born in 1990, 7 year degree is 1983.

          • gbdub says:

            Either way though that’s going to exclude most 80’s kids (which I’m fine with, I think 80’s kids should be either gen Y or their own thing. 1990 is a nice round cutoff)

          • Brad says:

            Gen Y was just the name for millennials until the name stuck. Similarly the post-millennials are now called gen Z but that’s probably not going to be permanent.

      • gbdub says:

        I was born in ’87, and I feel like I’m very early millenial or nor millenial at all.

        – Do you remember September 11?
        Yes. I was just starting high school at the time, so it (and the subsequent debates over the Iraq war) were pretty formative for me.
        – Do you remember not having the internet at home?
        Yes. We didn’t have a computer at all until I was in elementary school, and we were somewhat early adopters I think (at least among “normies” and not computer hobbyists)
        – Did you get internet at home before you left home? Before you graduated from college?
        Yes, although I was in high school before we had non-dialup, and a lot of people still didn’t. College was the first time everyone could be assumed to have high-speed internet
        – The same questions as above, but with cell phones.
        Yes, I remember not having cell phones. Didn’t have one of my own until high school. The iPhone came out only a year before I graduated college, so smart phones were very rare on campus.

        I was one of the first 50,000 people to have Facebook, back when it was only available at college campuses.

        Having near ubiquitous access to the internet (and phone service) in your pocket was such a fundamental change that I think people who remember life without them are fundamentally different from people who’ve had smart phones since middle school, and I think they ought to be categorized differently.

      • achenx says:

        As someone born in 1982, I am not a millennial as the term and generalizations have come to be known. To the extent any generalizations can be made, there are major differences between people my own age and those born even a few years later in the late 80s. 9/11 happened when I was a young adult, not a kid. When I went to college everyone got landline service for their dorm room. Facebook didn’t exist until after I graduated. (If you were at Harvard, then I guess you could have had it by the end of my senior year.) Someone brought up the 2008 recession: I had been working several years at that point.

        In any case, I would not start “millennial” until at least 1984 if not later.

        That said, I have never identified with Generation X either, so, here I am stuck in the middle with you.

        • The Nybbler says:

          That said, I have never identified with Generation X either, so, here I am stuck in the middle with you.

          Nobody identifies with Generation X, not even those in Generation X. We’re a bunch of cynical disaffected slackers who will never be good for anything in the world. Seriously, the stereotypes for Gen X were uniformly negative from the start. The Millennials were supposed to be the great hope for the future, before their stereotypes too turned negative.

        • JayT says:

          I was born in 1980, and I too feel no connection to Gen X or Millennials. I think most people born in the late ’70s, early ’80s feel that way. It’s interesting though, because I have both older and younger siblings, and the older ones (born in ’73 and ’75) are pretty obviously Gen X, and they would agree with that, and the younger one (born in ’88) is absolutely a millennial.

          I really think that there is something to the idea that people born in that ’78-’82 range came of age along with the internet and ended up with a shared experience that people born just a year or two away don’t quite understand.

          • hls2003 says:

            I fall in that range, and I think that regular and mandatory computer use while still in school is a big dividing line. In junior high there was “computer club” and rudimentary BASIC coding and word processing (along with Oregon Trail). In high school we had access to a computer lab for papers (but I still hand-wrote or used an electric typewriter at home; granted my family were late adopters, some kids certainly had computers). College was the infancy of e-mail and dial-up in rooms was a big innovation; I didn’t have a computer but my roommate did; word processing was mandatory for papers and computer labs were available. Internet browsing was just beginning.

            In short, there was a brief time to learn computers whilst still in school that anyone born before the late ’70s wouldn’t have; and anyone born after the mid-’80s would laugh at because they didn’t know anything else.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        “Millennial” meant “born between 1980-2000” and “children of baby boomers” for my entire 20s. Only recently have the dates moved, as people want to keep using the word to mean “teens and twentysomethings”. Maybe we’ll keep using the word to refer to young adults, completely detached from a generational label. People in 2050 will wonder why we call recent college grads “Millennials”.

      • JulieK says:

        As I understand it, Generation Y is the demographic bulge that resulted when Boomers started having kids, and Gen. X was the trough that preceded them.
        Culturally, Generation X were the last ones to grow up without the ability to be entertained full-time by screens, since cable TV, VCRs (remember those?), home video game systems and home computers were just starting to catch on.
        I don’t hear much about “Generation Y” anymore, so maybe “millennial” refers to the same thing, which fits the “came of age around the millennium” definition.

        • skef says:

          Culturally, Generation X were the last ones to grow up without the ability to be entertained full-time by screens, since cable TV, VCRs (remember those?), home video game systems and home computers were just starting to catch on.

          Naw, everyone was watching the 3 networks or 2-5 UHF stations anyway.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Or playing with their Atari 2600 or Commodore 64 or an Apple ][. Or, for some of us, pong.

          • JulieK says:

            But with just 3 networks, at certain times of day there might not be anything showing that you wanted to watch. And certainly “everyone” didn’t have Atari 2600 or Commodore 64 or an Apple ][.

          • skef says:

            But with just 3 networks, at certain times of day there might not be anything showing that you wanted to watch.

            You just watched anyway.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “You just watched anyway.”

            I asked once whether my watching tv shows I didn’t especially like (probably early 60s) was a symptom of depression, and was told, “no,everybody did that”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And when cable came around, it’s not like anything changed. As Springsteen put it, “We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn / 57 channels and nothin’ on”

      • INH5 says:

        I actually own a book written in 2000 about Millennials by the guys who coined that term. Their definition is “anyone born from 1982 to 2002.” But of course they wrote that book before 9/11. Also, a lot of their predictions were wildly off even beyond what you would expect from people who had no idea that 9/11, the Great Recession, and so on were going to happen. Reason has a pretty good overview here.

      • James says:

        Yeah, I think having access to the internet, social media and smartphones from very young – maybe ten to fifteen? – is a key feature.

        I’m 28 and I can’t count myself as one. I guess the oldest I’d consider a millenial is probably about 24 or so, so born about 1993?

        Edit: surprised by all the people who think it should include the mid- or even early eighties. To me it pretty definitely denotes born in the 90s (or later).

        • rlms says:

          I think there are two kinds of millennial: those in the generation after X, and those who go around destroying things and eating avocados on toast. The latter group is younger and narrower than the former.

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            Regarding destroying things, I’m technically a millennial (1987), I have never bought paper napkins in my life, and I prefer Dr. Bronner’s liquid crazy hippie soap to a bar of Dove, but my sister (1991) and I agree that $19 avocado toast is just ridiculous.

      • blacktrance says:

        As I understand it, “millennial” is synonymous with “90’s kid”, which means that the 90s contained at least half of when they were 3 to 13. So the oldest millennials were born in 1982 and the youngest in 1992.
        I was born in 1991. I remember 9/11 (my 5th grade history teacher went on several rants about how wrong it was that South Tower occupants were told not to evacuate after North Tower was hit), I don’t remember not having internet (but my family were early adopters, and I remember my classmates not having it at home), my parents got cell phones when I was 10 or so, but I didn’t get one of my own until late in high school.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Millennials suck, but you can hardly blame them; they were raised by Baby Boomers.

    • Shion Arita says:

      So what would you conclude based on people’s answers?

      For example, for me:

      -Do you remember September 11?
      Yes. I was in 4th grade.
      -Do you remember not having internet at home?
      No, but I’m a bit of an unusual case, since my dad’s a programmer so we were always way ahead of that curve. He was pretty involved in a lot of very early internet stuff, housing servers and stuff. Actually when I was very little my aunt accidentally shut off all the internet for the state by flicking the wrong lightswitch once. That’s a story I’m going to tell my future kids.
      -Do you remember not having cell phones
      Yes.
      -Did you get cell phones before leaving home?
      Yes.

      As for who millennials are, the group that it seems makes a block that’s most meaningful to me is people born from the late 80s to the late 90s. I was 92, so I’m kind of middle of the road there.

      Then again the very late 90s people (those I’m seeing in early college now) seem to have a bit of a different perspective than those a little older in ways that are kind of hard to identify, so I don’t really know.

      • JayT says:

        If you were in 4th grade when 9/11 happened that means you were born around 1990. Most people’s earliest memories are from when they are like five, I’d guess. In 1995 something like a quarter of Americans had access to the internet, so I don’t think that makes you all that unusual. Especially since that quarter would mostly be people in the top three quintiles, which seems to be the people that get all the focus when talking about generations anyway.

    • I’m not a millenial, but I would like to thank them for moving the baseline so that I seem more normal.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.wired.com/story/this-pill-promises-to-extend-life-for-a-nickel-a-pop/

    Is metformin actually a plausible means of life and/or health extension for people who don’t have diabetes? Is anyone here trying it out?

    • James Miller says:

      I started talking Metformin two days ago for life extension purposes mostly because of Gwern. It was a bit challenging to get a prescription based on “I’ve read on the Internet that it can slow aging.” I’m paying .27 cents a day. I don’t have diabetes.

      • Chalid says:

        Any advice on how to convince a doctor of this?

        • James Miller says:

          I’ve had the same doctor for 20 years and that probably helped. I admitted that it was hard to know if something you read on the Internet was reliable but I said I’ve done research and I think I have the ability to tell. My doctor still asked that I talk to my pharmacist and get a list of side effects from him, which I did. The pharmacist said he wasn’t aware of any of his customers having trouble with Metformin. Also, I made a mistake when I first talk to my doctor of not knowing the dosage I wanted and this (reasonably) made me seem less credible to my doctor. I’m on 500 MG. (Obviously, don’t take this as medical advise because while people often call me “Doctor Miller” it is because of my econ PhD.)

    • secondcityscientist says:

      Apparently, even though we know that Metformin is good for type 2 diabetics, we don’t really know why – it works less well when given intravenously than it does when taken orally, for example, despite the proposed mechanism taking place in the liver. A recent Nature paper does some investigation of its effects on the gut microbiome: https://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v23/n7/full/nm.4345.html (warning, Nature paywall).

      I’m not a gut-microbiome person or a diabetes person, but this looked pretty dramatic to me. Most interesting was the change in glucose – their models had metformin-altered gut microbiota lowering blood plasma glucose levels despite insulin levels being the same.

      I’ve also heard anecdotes of metformin working through the immune system – the gut microbiome could be a modulator of that, certainly, and again there’s no real known mechanism.

  3. sohois says:

    Perhaps this has been asked in an older survey or open thread, but do you generally support moves to decriminalize drug usage?

    And to what extent would you characterize your support? Decriminalization of possession, legalization of marijuana and softer drugs, or full legalization with no restrictions?

    Alternatively, if you are opposed to such measures, do you feel current restrictions are fit for purpose or would you prefer for the laws to be altered in some way?

    • Kevin C. says:

      Alternatively, if you are opposed to such measures, do you feel current restrictions are fit for purpose or would you prefer for the laws to be altered in some way?

      Frankly, I think we need to go a bit stronger, though I probably wouldn’t go as far as my friends who say we need to straight-up copy Singapore’s drug policies. Though one element I would push for, not so much in terms of the laws as in terms of government action, is for the federal government to take the same approach toward the Mexican drug cartels engaged in vicious violence in parts of the American southwest as Woodrow Wilson took to Pancho Villa and his “revolutionaries” after their raid on Columbus, NM.

      • hyperboloid says:

        Ignoring the fact that you have obvious ulterior motives for wanting to make war on Mexico, what vicious violence in what parts of the American southwest are you talking about?

        The border regions of the United States are some of the safest parts of the country. For instance El Paso, directly across the border from ground zero of the Mexican drug war in Juarez, had only 18 murders in 2016, a rate of 2.6 per hundred thousand compared to the national average of 5.3. San Diego, across from Tijuana, had 50 murders for a rate of 3.6 per hundred thousand. Clearly Mexican DTOs seem to have little interest in committing violence on American soil.

        • Kevin C. says:

          You might start with this 2010 Washinton Times article:

          The federal government has posted signs along a major interstate highway in Arizona, more than 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers, and a local sheriff says Mexican drug cartels now control some parts of the state.
          The signs were posted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) along a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend, a major east-west corridor linking Tucson and Phoenix with San Diego.
          They warn travelers that they are entering an “active drug and human smuggling area” and they may encounter “armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed.” Beginning less than 50 miles south of Phoenix, the signs encourage travelers to “use public lands north of Interstate 8” and to call 911 if they “see suspicious activity.”

          “Mexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona,” [Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu] said. “They literally have scouts on the high points in the mountains and in the hills and they literally control movement. They have radios, they have optics, they have night-vision goggles as good as anything law enforcement has.
          “This is going on here in Arizona,” he said. “This is 70 to 80 miles from the border – 30 miles from the fifth-largest city in the United States.”

          You might also read “Mexico’s Cartels Are Much More Dangerous To Americans Than ISIS“, or about Edgar “El Ponchis” Jimenez Lugo, or “WARNING GRAPHIC: 9 Reasons to Fear Mexican Cartels More than ISIS”

          6. If They Want You, They Can Get You, Even In America — While public information on the cases is rare, Mexican drug cartels have a history of kidnapping people in the United States and taking them to Mexico. As previously reported by Breitbart Texas, last September a Gulf Cartel squad crossed into Texas and kidnapped for ransom, an American citizen. In this particular case Mexican police were able to storm a house in Reynosa and rescue him. However, that rarely happens. In the past, Mexico’s Gulf Cartel has in fact had kidnapping groups operating in Texas. One of those kidnappings resulted in the death of a man who was not their target but, in fact, was an innocent man.

          7. They Really Can Get You — In September 2010, a team of cartel hit men executed two of their targets not far from the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office in the border city of Brownsville Texas.

          A team of at least three gunmen used silenced handguns to execute Omar Castillo Flores and his bodyguard Jose Guadalupe as they drove down the highway. Since then, authorities have managed to identify and charge three of the hit men but they have not been able to arrest them.

          Or how about this one from Al Jazeera, “Mexican drug cartels are worse than ISIL“?

          While there are other organized groups whose depravity and threat to the United States far surpasses that of ISIL, none has engendered the same kind of collective indignation and hysteria. This raises a question: Are Americans primarily concerned with ISIL’s atrocities or with the fact that Muslims are committing these crimes?

          For example, even as the U.S. media and policymakers radically inflate ISIL’s threat to the Middle East and United States, most Americans appear to be unaware of the scale of the atrocities committed by Mexican drug cartels and the threat they pose to the United States.

          The cartels’ atrocities are not restricted to the Mexican side of the border. From 2006 to 2010 as many as 5,700 Americans were killed in the U.S. by cartel-fueled drug violence. By contrast, 2,937 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Over the last decade, some 2,349 Americans were killed in Afghanistan, and 4,487 Americans died in Iraq. In four years the cartels have managed to cause the deaths of more Americans than during 9/11 or either of those wars.

          Narcos have infiltrated at least 3,000 U.S. cities and are recruiting many Americans, including U.S. troops and law enforcement officers, to their organizations. They have an increasingly sophisticated and robust foundation in the U.S., with Mexican cartels now controlling more than 80 percent of the illicit drug trade in the United States and their top agents deployed to virtually every major metropolitan area. There are no realistic assessments indicating that ISIL could achieve a similar level of penetration in the United States.

          It is clear that the anti-ISIL campaign is not driven by the group’s relative threat to the United States or the scale or inhumane nature of their atrocities. If these were the primary considerations, the public would be far more terrified of and outraged by the narcos. Perhaps the U.S. would be mobilizing 50 nations to purge Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel rather than shielding it from prosecution, helping it polish off its rivals or even move drugs into the United States.

    • Iain says:

      Marijuana will be legal in Canada as of summer 2018, which I support.

      Portugal’s experience with decriminalization seems instructive.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Full legalization for adults for all the major recreational drugs and drug paraphenalia. Regulations only on purity and accuracy of labeling. There may be exceptional drugs which should be kept illegal or restricted (e.g. PCP, if it lives up to its reputation), but it’s hard to say since it’s hard to disentangle drug warrior propaganda from actual drug effects.

      Oh, yeah, and 100% re-legalization of pseudoephedrine and the jailing of all _The Oregonian_ staff who were so instrumental in getting it banned. OK, maybe not the last part. MAYBE.

      • skef says:

        It is really dumb that they didn’t just switch to the registry system the rest of the country uses, once it was established. But I suppose it’s consistent with the gas station bullshit.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The registry system is just as bad. If I have to sign a paper which essentially says “Yes, I waive my Fourth Amendment rights and consent to a 2am no-knock raid if meth is found at the local high school” to get pseudoephederine, looks like I’m just going to breathe with more difficulty.

          • skef says:

            Can’t they also do that if your doctor writes you a prescription? At least with the registry you can walk into the door and then out of the door with some pseudoephedrine.

        • BBA says:

          As a side note: in many other countries, there’s a category of medicine between OTC and prescription, where anyone can buy it, but you have to ask for it from the pharmacist – it can’t be on self-service shelves. This can include surprisingly common medications like hydrocortisone (as I learned during my mosquito-plagued trip to South Africa). In the US, we never had that until there was a “need” to restrict pseudoephedrine, at which point the “listed chemical” regulatory apparatus was hastily created. I wonder why the US was the regulatory outlier here.

          • JulieK says:

            In Israel, OTC medicines are all literally “over the counter” and not on self-service shelves AFAIK.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @JulieK

            But do they make you literally sign for the OTC medicine, with a list that goes to the government (where it can be used to support affadavits of probable cause, or justify a warrantless raid) and gets shared with all the other pharmacies to make sure you’re not buying too much?

      • IrishDude says:

        Full legalization for adults for all the major recreational drugs and drug paraphenalia. Regulations only on purity and accuracy of labeling.

        +1

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m pretty sure PCP’s reputation is inflated, although I’ve never met anyone that’s actually taken the stuff. The Wikipedia page says it’s an NMDA antagonist, so I’d expect its effects to look a lot like ketamine’s.

      • AKL says:

        @The Nybbler I’m curious if you support full legalization on principal or for practical reasons? Do concerns about e.g. marketing to vulnerable populations (children being the most obvious) concern you? Are e.g. blanket marketing bans (>= smoking restrictions) OK in your book? What about aggressive restrictions / bans at the state or local level?

        For drugs like opioids & derivatives, cocaine, and meth it seems to me like decriminalization of possession and small scale distribution with continued illegality of production / marketing / (large scale) distribution would be the best thing for society (I have no strong opinion on weed and generally supportive of full legality for most psychedelics I’m familiar with).

        Under full decriminalization I would be really concerned about 80’s tobacco or 90’s-00’s Rx opioid style marketing of newly legalized substances leading to very very bad outcomes.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m curious if you support full legalization on principal or for practical reasons?

          On principle. That the drug war has been a practical disaster is a nice bonus though.

          Do concerns about e.g. marketing to vulnerable populations (children being the most obvious) concern you?

          I did specify “adult” legalization. In general, though, I don’t think the government should be making decisions for people on the grounds that they might make bad ones.

          Are e.g. blanket marketing bans (>= smoking restrictions) OK in your book? What about aggressive restrictions / bans at the state or local level?

          Smoking marketing restrictions go too far. In general I am opposed to marketing restrictions except against deceptive practices (e.g. claiming heroin isn’t addictive or cures cancer), or against marketing aimed at a population which it is reasonably prohibited to sell to (children being about the only example that makes sense) — and I’d be concerned that the latter would be used to over-reach. I am opposed to bans and aggressive restrictions at all levels; the mayor and township council are no better at determining what drugs I should take than Congress or DEA bureaucrats (or Chris Christie).

          For drugs like opioids & derivatives, cocaine, and meth it seems to me like decriminalization of possession and small scale distribution with continued illegality of production / marketing / (large scale) distribution would be the best thing for society

          As others have noted, this is the worst of both worlds. You increase demand by reducing risk to the buyers, continue to fund drug lords and turf wars, and continue to have issues with purity and strength. And you keep the whole drug war apparatus in place.

          • This matches my point of view pretty well, except not enough emphasis on the drug war. I can’t imagine any increase in abuse that would anywhere near match the damages from the war itself. Increased crime, lives destroyed by jail, product being worse for users because black market, product more expensive for users because of black market, worse relations between US and foreign governments due to drug issues, increased scrutiny by Customs, and other stuff I can’t think of right now. Of course it is possible that drug abuse wouldn’t increase at all based on Portugal experience, but I wouldn’t count on that.

            ALL drugs should be legal, because they all fall under the reasons above. Any remaining drug war will always be worse the remaining drugs themselves. Of course this includes drugs at the pharmacy, so no prescriptions should be required. Just this change would lower medical costs — how often do people go to the doctor just to get a prescription they already know they need?

          • AKL says:

            I am skeptical that legality per se significantly impacts whether a “possible” drug user uses or abstains. I think the primary influences are (a) availability, (b) social/peer pressure (in both directions), and (c) available alternatives. I believe that decriminalization will not lead to significant increases in demand by reducing legal risk to buyers, as I believe almost no one chooses to abstain due to legal risk. Almost everyone who doesn’t use drugs because they’re illegal wouldn’t use them even if they were legal.

            On the other hand, the evidence from prohibition suggests that legal barriers on the supply side have a very significant deterrent effect (see nytimes and NBER). I don’t feel super confident about the prohibition evidence but I think the story presented is more likely true than not.

            I think the most likely outcome of a legal-to-possess / illegal-to-distribute system is (a) many many fewer prison sentences / lives disrupted through the drug war (low end offenders / “non-violent drug offenses”) (b) drug use stays relatively stable (c) drug distribution related crime (turf wars etc.) stays relatively stable.

            Under full legality, you’re trading a huge increase in drug use (~50% if prohibition is a good guide) for a decrease in distribution related crime. I don’t think that tradeoff is worth it, but am open to data suggesting that it is.

          • random832 says:

            I think the most likely outcome of a legal-to-possess / illegal-to-distribute system is

            You forgot “more distribution charges”. People already get a distribution charge for owning plastic bags or a scale.

          • AKL says:

            Why would there be more distribution charges? I’m arguing that use would stay constant, so I don’t see why distribution infrastructure would grow?

            Or if you’re saying “there would be more charges for distribution in addition to more distribution-related crime in a partially decriminalized world vs. in a full legality world” then I agree, and still think it’s probably worth accepting that in exchange for ~30%-60% less hard drug use.

            As I said above I would definitely advocate decriminalizing low level distribution.

          • @AKL. Good citations from New York Times and NBER, although the Times essay suffers from no citations. I did find some contradictory citations in an essay from the CATO institute. Of course CATO will tend to be biased against prohibition, but their cites seem to be as good as NBER’s. CATO cites disagree with NBER about the level of alcohol decrease during Prohibition. Their cites disagree completely with the Times claim that homicides showed no change during Prohibition. And the CATO essay also mentions a very large increase in the prisoner population that the other essays don’t mention. The CATO essay has cites suggesting that alcohol deaths did not fall during Prohibition. I don’t know which ones are right, but it seems there are disparate statistics out there.

            I do also think that alcohol Prohibition isn’t a perfect example to determine what would happen with drug legalization. The main reason is that alcohol was pretty much the only intoxicating substance for most people of the US during the 20’s and 30’s, so those wanting intoxicants naturally wanted alcohol. Since alcohol is already legal, I don’t think there is quite the same pent up demand for intoxicants such as illegal drugs as there likely was for alcohol at the end of Prohibition. Instead many of the new users of drugs when they become legal will simply substitute them for alcohol, which is probably a net benefit, since alcohol is more deadly than just about any other drug.

            Related to that, the proportion of the population that is interested in illegal drugs is much smaller than was the case for Prohibition, and yet the war on drugs is just strong as the war against alcohol during Prohibition. So there is the same upside potential of ending the war on drugs as there was for ending Prohibition, with a much smaller downside of potential abusers.

          • AKL says:

            @Mark V Anderson. My prior for “distribution restrictions reduce use” is stronger than my prior for e.g. “distribution restrictions increase the prison population,” so while the connection is plausible, I don’t think we have enough evidence to be confident in the prohibition/crime statistics. That’s not to say that there is no link or that the link doesn’t matter, just that we can’t predict the second+ order effects with confidence.

            So I think we agree that ending law enforcement action for drug possession is morally and practically the most important first step, and that we have different intuitions about the impact full legalization would have on use / crime / quality+safety / harm to users / etc. With perfect information, we would probably design pretty similar regulatory regimes to balance [discouraging hard drug use because it tends to be more harmful than beneficial] with [minimizing harm from enforcement actions].

            As others have noted, it would be nice if we lived in a world where policy change –> recalibration -> further change –> repeat was realistic. Also, I’d like a pony, $1M, …

          • So I think we agree that ending law enforcement action for drug possession is morally and practically the most important first step

            Maybe repealing the laws on possession must be done first because of politics, but repealing the distribution laws is the most important step. Few of the benefits of ending the drug war will happen with a repeal of possession laws. It is the laws against dealing that causes the most violence, the most prison sentences, and the most ruined lives. If we never go beyond repealing laws on possession, I will consider legalization a failure.

          • random832 says:

            Why would there be more distribution charges? I’m arguing that use would stay constant, so I don’t see why distribution infrastructure would grow?

            Since I apparently wasn’t explicit enough, I meant law enforcement would be more motivated to manufacture false distribution charges (“intent to distribute”) against people who would otherwise ‘get away with it’ than against people who would be going to jail anyway.

    • rlms says:

      Straightforward legalisation of drugs less addictive than alcohol (with age restrictions and quality regulations similar to those for alcohol and tobacco). Decriminalisation of more addictive drugs, but not making them as easily accessible (addicts should be able to access them, but everyone else should have some barriers put in their way).

      • SamChevre says:

        Mostly this, but my preference would be to replace “addictive” with “physically harmful and/or affecting impulse control.”

        I think alcohol should be much more restricted via taxation–I’d favor a flat $50 a liter excise tax on ethanol (roughly, a dollar a drink higher than current tax).

        • andrewflicker says:

          I think there’s a decent chance that such a high tax would cause a thriving black market on home-distilled liquor, al la Prohibition. Arguably, this might even cause more net harm due to unregulated products.

          Do you think the utilitarian calculus on this balances differently, or is a (probably small) net increase in harm worth the (possible) additional tax revenue?

          EDIT – I’m even leaving out the organized crime angle, though of course that could be significant!

          • SamChevre says:

            The goal of the tax isn’t to raise revenue–it’s to reduce use. I’m thinking of it as a harm-reduction measure, so yes, I think the utilitarian calculus balances very differently.

            Almost all of this is heavily influenced by my reading of Mark Kleiman (SameFacts) who is a public policy scholar focusing on controlled substances.

            My summary: heavy drinking–30 or more drinks a week–is a real problem for both the drinker and the people around him. Over half of violent crimes are committed by people who’ve been drinking. Increasing the alcohol tax overwhelmingly impacts heavy drinkers, which is exactly where reducing consumption is a desirable goal.

      • Nornagest says:

        In practice, this will lead to an academic cottage industry of sketchy studies purporting to demonstrate high addiction potential in anything politically disfavored.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      This is kind of my hobby horse, as other readers won’t be surprised to hear 🙂

      First of all, decriminalizing drug usage (by which I assume you mean something like the Portuguese system) is a different thing from legalizing production and sale – the first at least gets rid of the spectacular cruelty of trying to dissuade people from taking a low-to-moderate health risk (in most instances of use of most drugs) by deliberately causing them far greater harm through arrest / police violence and the knock-on effects on employability etc, but does nothing to address the rivers of money flowing to organised crime / terrorist groups, with the ensuing corruption and destabilisation of entire societies that result from legal actors being unable to compete with criminals in the drugs industry. Indeed, it’s been suggested that decriminalisation on its own is actually a worst-of-both-worlds option, stimulating demand by removing penalties for the end user, thus channeling even more money to the criminal organisations that would still have exclusive control of the market

      I support cautious, gradual moves to roll back prohibition and return control of the recreational drugs industry to legal actors, under appropriate levels of regulation to prevent too much availability to the underage, and with rational penalties for endangering others while under the influence. With ‘review after X years’ clause on any major piece of legislation, so that we are clear that we are able to march back legalisation if it turns out worse than the status quo.

      I refer you to that book I always recommend as a good overview of the sorts of things we would want to do to try to hit the sweet spot between too much harm caused by an unfettered free market in drugs and too much harm caused by our efforts to prevent people from accessing drugs, but in general they would vary with the risk profile of the drug in question. It’s important to note that ‘full legalisation’ does not – and in most cases should not – imply no restrictions. It just means that the production, sale and use of a drug for recreational purposes would not by default be automatically a crime, as long as people were acting in accordance with whatever licensing and other regulatory framework we imposed on the legal market.

      So as a rough set of proposals:
      Cannabis, and probably MDMA, should be available to adults on a basis not wildly different from what we currently do with alcohol (the fact that most jurisdictions have legal alcohol but prohibit cannabis, given that cannabis is the less dangerous of the two drugs by any rational analysis, is proof that the War on Drugs is not based on any principled set of criteria, even if we charitably accept it as a well-intentioned public health initiative);

      Psychedelics may want some sort of system to make it hard to buy for the first time if you are not going to have an experienced sitter, but other than that, should be reasonably easy to buy from specialist retailers;

      Opiates could be made available in milder forms (prohibition basically makes it impossible to get relatively mild opium resin, since heroin has a far better risk/profit profile), while making the most risky forms available on prescription for registered addicts, to cut down on the ‘pyramid scheme’ phenomenon of addicts becoming low level dealers to fund their own use, thus recruiting more people into addiction. Also cutting the Taliban from one of their main sources of income, thus making the conflict in Afghanistan a bit less of an infinite lives-and-money pit;

      Stimulants, again, we could use tax incentives to move people towards milder forms – indeed, there’s no reason in principle that we would have to legalise, say, crack at all just because we legalise regular cocaine, or indeed coca tea – assuming we are optimising for public health, it’s likely that the less dangerous forms could mop up most of the demand, so we could make it both legally risky and unprofitable to trade in the more damaging stuff.

      All this could be combined with, general requirements to do things like mandate child-proof packaging, accurate dosage and purity requirements, packaging to include medicine-like leaflets with advice on how to reduce risks when using, restrictions on advertising, restrictions on shop opening hours and location if nuisance-to-neighbours is likely to be a problem, developing field tests to determine who is actually driving while impaired (as opposed to simply punishing everyone with drug metabolites in their blood, as if that itself were proof of impairment), ploughing a fair proportion of the money currently enforcing prohibition into providing treatment services for problem users, and so on, taxes set so as to disincentivise use without being so high as to fail to undercut the criminal market, and so on – basically as libertarian or as nanny-statish as necessary to reduce the sum total of [harms caused directly by drug use] + [harms caused by enforcement of drug laws].

      I do not expect this to lead to a utopia. There will still be people whose lives are ruined or ended by their drug use. But given the tens of thousands of lives and the billions of dollars that the world currently expends every year in order to make drugs a bit harder to get, I am very very skeptical that the current prohibition regime, or anything even more restrictive than it, is anywhere near optimal policy.

      (Unless, as Kevin hints, we can somehow as a global society go full Singapore – I suspect that we probably could achieve something close to a drug-free society if we were willing to commit the resources to construct a global nightmarish Orwellian police state, but you might have a hard time persuading people that their freedom is worth so little)

      • OwanZamar says:

        but you might have a hard time persuading people that their freedom is worth so little

        I don’t know where you still get that much misplaced faith in humanity from, if anything all recent experience points in an entirely different direction. I’d argue the only reason things have been moving to be generally more permissive in the area of drug policy is a cultural artifact due to the fact that drug use is not something that is seen as seriously transgressive anymore. In terms of things that people actually care about/consider “sinful” I would have imagined most people here would agree that things have been trending in a very strongly authoritarian direction for some time now.

      • Mark says:

        Unless, as Kevin hints, we can somehow as a global society go full Singapore – I suspect that we probably could achieve something close to a drug-free society if we were willing to commit the resources to construct a global nightmarish Orwellian police state

        What’s wrong with Singapore? Or Japan?

        Or Britain, before they stopped enforcing drug laws? Before the Who Breaks a Butterfly Upon a Wheel editorial, there was almost no drug use in the UK.

        • rlms says:

          “Before the Who Breaks a Butterfly Upon a Wheel editorial, there was almost no drug use in the UK.”
          Citation needed. I don’t know about the period directly before that article, but opium dens are about as Victorian as imperialism and sexual repression.

          • DeWitt says:

            sexual repression

            That’s a modern urban myth about the period, actually.

          • baconbacon says:

            That’s a modern urban myth about the period, actually.

            Yeah? When was the last time someone from the Victorian era had sex?

          • DeWitt says:

            Ah, but what’s the last time someone from the Victorian era repressed it? Maybe they just didn’t feel like having any.

          • Mark says:

            According to the 1968 Wooten report on cannabis, 1964 was the first year in which white people were in the majority for cannabis convictions. The figures for cannabis convictions –

            1960 – 235
            1961 – 288
            1962 – 588
            1963 – 663
            1964 – 544
            1965 – 626
            1966 – 1, 119
            1967 – 2,393

            So, there was definitely something happening with the growth of cannabis use (thought the report states that the massive increase in convictions was partially due to the establishment of drug squads by police forces, and not entirely due to increases in use). They didn’t any evidence for numbers of users of cannabis, but witnesses to the committee gave estimates of between 30,000 and 300,000 people having tried cannabis.

            Basically, the impression I get is that until the mid-sixties, cannabis use was more or less mainly the preserve of black and foreign people, very much a minority pursuit, grew in popularity from the mid-sixties, but was still quite far from being widespread.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2652931/

            Heroin addiction was extremely rare in Britain until the 1960s. The Rolleston report on morphine and heroin addiction, published in 1926, found that addicts were few in number, mostly middle‐aged, middle‐class and had usually become addicted to opiate drugs following treatment for another condition…
            In 1959 there were just 47 known heroin addicts; by 1964 this had risen to 328.

            So, we are seeing growth, but the numbers of drug users appear to be very small.

          • Mark says:

            Interestingly, if you look at the statistics for Japan you see a similar growth in cannabis use, with a big leap in 1970.

            Japan Cannabis Convictions:
            1960 – 14
            1961 – 25
            1962 – 46
            1963 – 136
            1964 – 182
            1965 – 258
            1966 – 171
            1967 – 290
            1968 – 398
            1969 – 456
            1970 – 771
            1971 – 797

            But, the Japanese didn’t give into the cannabis lobby and the number of convictions remained around the 1500 – 2000 mark from then on. In the UK there were 471,202 cannabis arrests between 2011 and 2015, which is incredible considering that you can smoke cannabis openly without anything happening most of the time.

          • rlms says:

            Presumably some of the arrests were of dealers who could only be got for possession. In general, I think it’s possible that changing cultural factors (people not realising opiate addiction was a thing, world wars, population change for long term differences) might make those figures somewhat misleading, but I appreciate that they do show big difference, so thanks.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          What’s wrong with Singapore?

          Well, one of the most howlingly obvious things that are wrong with Singapore is that they literally kill people for taking part in a trade that would allow willing buyers to access altered states of consciousness, even when the substance traded is cannabis*, which basically has no chance of causing direct overdose deaths, and whose indirect harms are by any rational analysis less worrisome than alcohol.

          Either they are woefully misinformed about the relative risks of alcohol and cannabis, or you have to admit that at some level they are basically enforcing an aesthetic preference with the gallows. If you think that’s a reasonable thing to do, then I guess I can’t change your mind, but I take it as a fairly basic ethical principle that if you are going to outlaw something, the punishment shouldn’t be grotesquely disproportionate to the harm you’re seeking to reduce by outlawing it in the first place. I mean, I’d like to live in a world where there was less dog mess on the footpaths, but I’d be strongly opposed to a law making it punishable by death to fail to use a poop scoop.

          Beyond that, the case against the prohibition of other drugs gets a bit harder to make – for instance, heroin can really mess you up in a way that cannabis is very unlikely to, and indeed is not that difficult to fatally overdose on. In that case, I would point out that the fact of it being prohibited makes it much more dangerous than it would otherwise be. And even then, most users of most drugs do not die, or even come to any significant harm – if it is justifiable to treat people who sell commodities that have a small but non-imaginary chance of killing their users as if they were murderers (which seems to be the attitude of the Singapore authorities as far as I can tell), then why not include the sellers of cars, sugary food, skis, peanuts etc?

          But more generally, Singapore is a small, rich, densely-populated island that is probably at the upper end of the scale in terms of how much reduction in drug accessibility it can achieve per unit effort spent on enforcement. In a large country, to achieve anything like a drug free society, I expect that we would have to commit an astronomical fraction of the budget to the surveillance state, have the blood police accost people at random to demand samples, have random warrantless searches of everyone’s houses, strip search everyone and ransack every package or piece of luggage at the borders etc, as well as, of course, punishing people caught with drugs with far worse harms than you would expect the drugs themselves to have caused. I am deeply skeptical that the dangers that drugs would present under a legally regulated drug law system explicitly set up to maximise the interests of public health could be anywhere near bad enough to justify such measures.

          As for the ‘almost no drug use in the UK’ – well, the 60s counterculture was already in full swing by then. I’m willing to accept for the sake of argument that there was more drug use from the mid 60s on, but am skeptical that the reason is that that’s when when we decided to go lax on drug enforcement (rather than, say, cultural factors making drug use a cool thing to do, together with the general saecular trend of globalisation and migration meaning that importation of both the meme of use, and the substances themselves, from all corners of the globe, made drugs much more available than ever before). Is that the claim you are making, and if so, what are you citing as evidence that we stopped enforcing the laws back then?

          • Mark says:

            Looking at “The War We Never Fought” by Peter Hitchens:

            In 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act a sharper distinction was made between possession of drugs and supply – in 1973 the Lord Chancellor recommended to magistrates that they shouldn’t punish possession severely. In 1976 maximum sentence for cannabis possession was reduced, and in 1979 the Thatcher government “moved in the direction of decriminalisation by introducing cautioning and compounding (small on the spot fines for smuggling)…by the nineties offenders were let off without a criminal record and received only a caution. ‘Cases which do reach the courts normally result in discharges or small fines. Sentencing guidelines prevent imprisonment of minor offenders”.

            Sidenote:

            I mean, I’d like to live in a world where there was less dog mess on the footpaths, but I’d be strongly opposed to a law making it punishable by death to fail to use a poop scoop.

            I’m opposed to the death penalty for dog fouling for practical rather than moral reasons.
            It’s not just “ah well…” throw up your hands stuff, is it? There are people who live in a kind of hell, surrounded by fairly low level anti-social behaviour because they are unfortunate enough to be in proximity to selfish people, and they aren’t strong enough to stand up for what they want. I don’t think I’d ever kill a selfish person who was making my life hell, because I think I’ll always have other options. But if I didn’t, who knows?

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Looking at “The War We Never Fought” by Peter Hitchens

            I thought you might be. I haven’t got round to reading that, and it’s been a while since I’ve read any Peter Hitchens generally. I was about to praise him for being one of the few vocal drug warriors who is actually consistent and principled enough to advocate alcohol being added to the list of banned drugs, but I must have been mis-remembering things; googling him now it seems he is in favour of greater restrictions on alcohol but not an outright ban.

            Anyway, he has a point if by ‘stop enforcing the laws’ he just means ‘stop enforcing them as draconianly as I would like’ … but that’s a far cry from actually not enforcing them. I’m having difficulty googling current arrest statistics for drug use in general at the moment, but this article from last year still has well into the quintuple for figures for people being charged with cannabis-related crimes in England and Wales – and that’s in an article about more recent declines in enforcement – but as far as I understand, the legislative history has in general been one of adding more drugs to the banned list, and ramping up punishments, at least through the 1971 Act which “increased penalties for trafficking and supply”.

          • Mark says:

            Anyway, he has a point if by ‘stop enforcing the laws’ he just means ‘stop enforcing them as draconianly as I would like’ … but that’s a far cry from actually not enforcing them.

            Well, yes. The absolute maximum penalty for possession of cannabis is five years in prison. In practice the starting point is a fine of one week’s salary.

            So, 73% of people caught with cannabis have absolutely no punishment. The vast majority of the 27% who are charged will be facing a fine of about a weeks income.

            If they’ve been caught multiple times with cannabis, around children or something, there is a chance they might be sent to prison for a few months, but it seems as if this is quite unusual.
            For all drugs there are about 1000 people sentenced prison for possession, so certainly, far less than 1% of those taken to court will face a prison term.

            So, I guess by ‘enforce the law’ he means “enforce it more strictly within the provisions of existing laws”.

    • John Schilling says:

      Decriminalization offers the worst of both worlds, with the largest possible population encouraged to use drugs of uncertain purity whose trade directly finances organized criminal conspiracies that can’t turn to the police and courts for protection and dispute-resolution and likely won’t limit themselves to using their private enforcers strictly to protect their trade in decriminalized drugs.

      Immediate full legalization of every currently-prohibited drug is the worst possible way to implement a change whose end goal may be desirable but will likely result in substantial disruption along the way.

      Full legalization of marijuana would be a good first step, and an experiment which would provide useful data on what steps we ought to take next (possibly including “that wasn’t actually a good first step; marijuana is banned again”). Unfortunately, full legalization is not possible in the United States except at the federal level. State-level legalization, unless it fairly rapidly pressures the Feds to follow suit, is likely to have the more unpleasant sort of unintended consequences.

      • State-level legalization, unless it fairly rapidly pressures the Feds to follow suit, is likely to have the more unpleasant sort of unintended consequences.

        Yes, legalization at the state level isn’t full legalization. But the best thing about state legalization is I expect it will eventually lead to national legalization. Also, I noticed that someone upthread said something about Canada legalization next year, which I had not heard before and is great news. This will also influence national legislators.

    • Wrong Species says:

      First off, I do think drugs like marijuana should be legalized. But when it comes to “harder” drugs, I agree with Kevin Drum. We made it easier for people to obtain oxycodone and drug overdoses shot up from 6 per 100,000 to 14.8 per 100,000. Anyone who thinks we can fully legalize drugs without significantly increasing drug use is kidding themselves.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Anyone who thinks we can fully legalize drugs without significantly increasing drug use is kidding themselves.

        Drug use, yes. Drug addiction, probably also yes. But non-suicide overdoses, I don’t think so. If the drugs were fully legal, information about how to avoid overdoses would be available, and purity would be known. So I’d expect no more than an initial spike, followed by a drop below current levels (more overdoses among current non-users being balanced by a drop in overdoses among current illegal users).

        Suicide overdoses would probably increase; an armful of heroin is a sure and painless way to die compared to the alternatives, I would think.

        • cassander says:

          Incidentally, this would follow the pattern of prohibition when alcohol related deaths increased despite overall consumption falling.

        • CatCube says:

          A lot of the oxycodone deaths are with actual manufactured pills. The people popping too many (or taking them in ways not consistent with the packaging, like crushing and snorting) don’t have a problem knowing what’s in the pills, they have a self-control problem.

          This isn’t necessarily a reason to oppose legalization, but don’t pretend it’s going to be sunshine and flowers for the people who’s lives have been laid to waste by drugs.

      • baconbacon says:

        The only thing the Drum article shows is that you don’t legalize the hard drugs on their own.

    • Full legalization.

      • baconbacon says:

        PSSSSHHHH

        Mandatory, broad spectrum use of all controlled substances. Gotta correct the imbalance of not enough drug use in past years, right market monetarists?

        • Randy M says:

          Whoa, slow down. Let’s just go to automatic distribution and let people decide for themselves what to do with their monthly LSD stipend.

          • baconbacon says:

            Clearly this will just define people based on their ability to buy drugs with cash or reliance on government coupons, and exacerbate the class war.

          • Randy M says:

            Biochemistry sets an upper bound of demand of drugs which surely fiat currency can supply.

          • Well... says:

            No one is allowed out in public unless they are actively in the throes of a salvia trip.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Some approach involving legalization, regulation, taxing, etc. The prohibitionist cure seems to have been worse than the disease. At a minimum, drugs that are socially accepted should be legally accepted – marijuana, speed of the study drug variety, possibly cocaine. There should be a minimum of laws where the deciding factor in whether you get prosecuted is not “what are you doing” but surrounding factors.

    • James Miller says:

      My (admittedly unconstitutional) proposal is that any adult has the right to become a drug addict but in return he loses the right to vote and have children and can be fired from his job for any reason. Part of the value of this approach is that it stigmatizes drug use by saying “addicts have bad genes and are not worthy of having a say in how our society is run” but we don’t force addicts to, for their own good, live in small steel cages.

      • rlms says:

        Would you apply that to tobacco?

      • tomogorman says:

        how are you dividing “addict” from user in this scenario?

        • James Miller says:

          I let people self-declare. Normal criminal penalties would apply to people caught using drugs who have not registered as addicts, and only registered addicts could legally purchase drugs.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Okay, is there any way for an addict to unregister himself? If not, it’d discourage people from getting clean. But if so, I could see young adults registering as addicts for a thrill, telling themselves they could always go back after spring break / the summer / a year or two.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In general, I’m opposed to punishing people who’ve only not let themselves be kept track of.

          • James Miller says:

            @Evan I’m not sure.

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Agreed, but the punishments under my system for registered addicts are much less than with the current system when you can end up in jail.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            This sounds like it would only make sense for the drugs that are actually addictive in the normal sense of the word, and would make no sense for the drugs like LSD and many other psychedelics, that are, if anything, anti-addictive – i.e. you use it once, and generally don’t feel inclined to use it again immediately after. Are you actually more concerned to prevent people from using psychedelics than the central examples of addictive drugs like heroin or cocaine?

    • Definite position: full legalization of marijuana and softer drugs
      Hesitant position: full legalization of all drugs

    • Garrett says:

      I support complete legalization with 3 main exceptions:
      1) Purity/labeling standards (ie. no fraud in what you are selling).
      2) Must be 18 (or of legal age)
      3) This does not include things where improper resistance causes true public health harms such as antibiotics, antifungals, etc. So it should be easier to get heroin than amoxicillin if you are an adult.

    • Well... says:

      My view of the drugs issue can be distilled down to: I desire more legal permissiveness coupled with more cultural restrictiveness.

      A few other details:

      – I think campaigns to legalize “medical” marijuana are 99% bogus and I oppose them
      – I’m not viscerally opposed to laws against drug use, but it’s the laws against drug manufacture/transportation/sale that I think are really terrible
      – Drugs are fun but I feel like adults should do them in private and be too ashamed to admit using them in public

      Addiction is a big factor in drugs issues and the thing is, we really don’t understand addiction at all. Of course, this is also a factor in stuff like gambling, which I tend to oppose the legalization of.

      • Charles F says:

        I’m not viscerally opposed to laws against drug use, but it’s the laws against drug manufacture/transportation/sale that I think are really terrible

        Huh, I agree on three points out of four. Why do you think laws against manufacturing drugs are so bad?

        • Well... says:

          Because it creates messed up incentives that lead to more crime and violence than drug use itself.

          • Charles F says:

            Are there any examples of things that are perfectly legal to make/transport/sell, but illegal to use (and they don’t have some common legal use). I’m having trouble imagining what sorts of incentives that might create.

          • Well... says:

            I’m sure there are many but the only one I’m pulling up in my head right now is Jack Daniel’s whiskey, which is manufactured in a dry county.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        My view of the drugs issue can be distilled down to: I desire more legal permissiveness coupled with more cultural restrictiveness.

        I’m with you, or likely more extreme: I think drug use (including tobacco and, to a lesser extent, alcohol) should be legally allowed, but ruthlessly quashed in the culture war.

    • AeXeaz says:

      Not a fan of the way drug possession is punished, but still opposed to legalization on aesthetic grounds.

    • onyomi says:

      but do you generally support moves to decriminalize drug usage?

      Yes.

      And to what extent would you characterize your support? Decriminalization of possession, legalization of marijuana and softer drugs, or full legalization with no restrictions?

      Full legalization with no restrictions. You can buy rat poison; it’s not the government’s job to protect you from yourself. And like alcohol prohibition, the unintended consequences are worse than the benefits.

      More generally, I would like to see all addictions (including to food) treated more like medical conditions rather than moral failings/crimes.

      • Well... says:

        More generally, I would like to see all addictions (including to food) treated more like medical conditions rather than moral failings/crimes.

        Why? Do you believe they are medical conditions? if not, what’s the advantage in treating them that way?

        Also just curious: have you ever suffered from addiction or known someone who did?

        • onyomi says:

          Why? Do you believe they are medical conditions? if not, what’s the advantage in treating them that way?

          I don’t think I have (or exists?) an objective definition of what counts as a “medical condition” beyond “that which it is useful to think of as a medical condition.” Note that “entirely outside the person’s control” is not part of my definition of a “medical condition” (or I wouldn’t count most heart problems, most psychiatric problems, or a fair number of cancers).

          As for why I think it’s helpful to think of addiction as a “medical condition,” I think it’s more to do with how society treats “medical conditions” as opposed to moral failings. Which is not to say I think addicts have no personal control, but rather that I think it’s useful to think of the addiction as something they “suffer” rather than something they “enjoy” but shouldn’t (unless they genuinely do just have weird preferences, as Bryan Caplan argues. I think in most cases this is not true: I think most addicts overall do wish they could stop being addicts and aren’t just saying that; it’s not that they prefer to hurt themselves and family and friends to quitting, it’s that they want to quit but fail).

          Most of all, I don’t think it makes sense to treat addicts as criminals, unless, of course, they commit other crimes in pursuit of, or while on drugs. Someone who wastes every paycheck at the track clearly has a problem, but he isn’t a criminal.

          Also just curious: have you ever suffered from addiction or known someone who did?

          Not really (unless you count fattening food addiction of a severity most Americans suffer, and I do) and yes (if you count cigarettes, alcohol, and/or prescription painkillers; no, if you only count e.g. heroine).

          • Well... says:

            I would think a reasonable definition for “medical condition” is something like “that which is most effectively corrected or treated with medicine.”

            I think it’s more to do with how society treats “medical conditions” as opposed to moral failings.

            It kinda sounds like here you’re saying we should treat addiction as a medical condition not because it necessarily is one, but because that will snap the public out of their flawed way of thinking about addiction.

            I think that’s a fair point, but I’m worried that it will simply snap people into thinking about addiction in a different way that is still flawed, with its own set of subsequent problems. For example, it may remove too much moral judgment, which although it might make other people treat addicts more humanely, will also put addicts [further?] into a victim mindset, believing that no part of their addiction is their fault. Surely this will imprint on not-yet-addicted drug users too. (Swap in gamblers and other addicts if you like.)

            Many addicts have kicked their habits and all the ones I’ve heard talk about it have tended to depict this as a battle against some part of themselves. Apparently it was useful for them to think of it that way. If addiction is a medical condition then there may be no incentive to do battle and instead they will wait and rely whatever medical treatment, and probably many will use the lack of an effective medical treatment as an excuse to continue their habits.

            (I’m also leaning on some of my own experience having felt addictive tugs here and there.)

          • onyomi says:

            I would think a reasonable definition for “medical condition” is something like “that which is most effectively corrected or treated with medicine.”

            I think this definition is tendentious, unless your definition of “medicine” is quite expansive.

            For example, I’m pretty sure everyone thinks of hypertension as a “medical condition.” Yet I think the best treatment for hypertension in the vast majority of cases involves “lifestyle intervention” like exercise, weight loss, low sodium diet, etc.

            If you do consider “lifestyle intervention” to be a form of medicine then I’ll accept the definition of “medical condition” as “that which is best treated by medicine.” In such a case, I would also still call most addictions “medical conditions.”

            I do understand your concern: “medical condition” for many sounds like an excuse not to take any personal responsibility and either give up or pin all one’s hopes on surgery and drugs. But I also think this the wrong way to think about medical conditions in general, so I guess I’m more concerned with this bigger issue.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I think it’s more to do with how society treats “medical conditions” as opposed to moral failings

            I think this sounds a lot like how people decided “racism means structural racism”, etc, and could provoke a similar backlash.

            “well racism isn’t so bad then”.
            “well medical conditions aren’t an excuse then”.

            (http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/11/sacred-principles-as-exhaustible-resources/11)

            Or how is it different?

            thinking about it myself I suppose that one difference is that this definition makes it harder for people to accuse others rather than easier. Hmm, that might mean it could last. Still, I’m very wary of the general form “change language to manipulate people” (and perhaps make disagreement difficult r even impossible)

          • carvenvisage says:

            will use the lack of an effective medical treatment as an excuse to continue their habits.

            This makes it sound like if you feed someone bad information and they hurt themselves based on it then their “revealed preference” shows that that was what they wanted all along.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      A law that is not enforced is not a law but a suggestion. I don’t believe in government by suggestion, but I’m fine with full legalisation or strict drug laws that are firmly enforced.

    • Tibor says:

      Portugal, and to a lesser degree the Czech republic, have decriminalized drugs and the results are on net very positive (someone already posted a link to a relevant article).

      But I think you can make drugs fully legal. I wouldn’t touch heroin with a very long stick but I’m convinced that making it illegal is on net worse than not doing it. First, you expend a lot of money in persecution and you indirectly support organized crime – the mafia, who already does a lot of other illegal stuff won’t hesitate to pick this up and there is a lot of money in drugs. This means a lot of additional costs caused by the organized crime and additional expenses necessary to fight it. The US drug policy is one of the main factors that destabilized Colombia in the 90s and which is destabilizing Mexico today. All these things are very costly in both things and lives. Also, the quality of illegal drugs is often very low and since you as customer usually can’t trace them to the producer or even the distributor, you can’t simply start buying from the competition. The low quality is a big health risk, many drugs can be made relatively safe if you make them properly. Well made LSD taken in the right dose is not particularly dangerous (I guess it isn’t the best idea for schizophrenics but most people aren’t schizophrenics). Cocaine can be made a lot safer (even though not really healthy or anything) if you make it properly. However, a lot of the cheap cocaine on the black market is supposedly “cut” with a lot of really nasty stuff.

      The only argument I can see against legalizing drugs is that it would increase drug consumption and thus increase the healthcare costs associated with it. I guess the consumption would increase to some degree, but it would not skyrocket. Most people still wouldn’t do heroin. It is easy and relatively cheap to get drugs today and in the countries where it is decriminalized, you as a customer don’t even face any penalties (at worst the police will take your drugs away…unless you have a kilo of cocaine at home or something). The only things that would make drugs more attractive than they are today is that they’d be safer. You’d also save a a huge amount of money in all the things mentioned above. Part of that money can be redirected to drug prevention and rehab. Since legalized drugs would tend to be safer, the damage to the addicts would also be lower. You’d also have fewer people in prison, another expense both for the prisoners and for the taxpayers who pay for that. All in all, I’d expect it to be a significant net gain.

      • Aapje says:

        The only argument I can see against legalizing drugs is that it would increase drug consumption and thus increase the healthcare costs associated with it.

        The level of drug use seems to be more culturally defined than based on legality. Drug demand seems very inelastic (see prohibition for an example of this).

        • Evan Þ says:

          It seems that prohibition supports the opposite side of the argument – alcohol consumption fell significantly once it was enacted, and took a long time to return to pre-prohibition levels.

          • Aapje says:

            I guess my assumptions based on Hollywood movies are wrong.

            Nevertheless, marijuana use in Europe doesn’t seem to correlate with legality.

          • Tibor says:

            Source? From what I read (a study by CATO) the consumption of alcohol dropped sharply after the introduction of alcohol but within a year or so it got back where it had been before. Consumption patterns changed though, people started drinking more hard liquor (and stronger that the pre-prohibition kind) and less beer and wine. This makes a lot of sense. Brewing beer requires a lot of space and you drink a lot of it. Distilleries are easier to hide and spirits are more concentrated, so beer and wine prices will be affected by the prohibition more than whiskey or gin prices. The quality and safety of alcohol went down. Violent crime and the number of incarcerated went up significantly.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Tibor, I’m afraid I can’t find my original source at the moment (probably a hard-copy book I read some years back), but how about this old comment thread with some links, and discussion from both sides.

          • baconbacon says:

            If you goal is simply reduced consumption then prohibition can be set up to be effective, if your goal is reduced social consequences it is far harder.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t know if distilleries are easier to hide. You basically need everything you need for a brewery, plus a still.

            Spirits are easier to transport though, so maybe that’s where the advantage comes in.

          • Tibor says:

            @JayT: I guess not. I think I was thinking about the volume and got confused a bit. If 1 shot (0.04 l) is more or less equivalent to one beer (0.5 l) you need to make a lot more beer.

            Of course this is assuming that people are indifferent between drinking spirits and beer which is of course not true – I like (some) beer and drink it on average maybe twice a week, but I only drink spirits very rarely (and just a few selected ones) or in one of those celebration situations where “everyone has to drink a shot” and I don’t want to be the one who doesn’t. Even then, it is just that one shot.

      • The only argument I can see against legalizing drugs is that it would increase drug consumption and thus increase the healthcare costs associated with it.

        As you noted, legalization would result in improved quality control. That would reduce healthcare costs. Heroin was originally created as a medical drug, a safer alternative to morphine. I am told that the most serious side effect of medical grade heroin is constipation.

        • Tibor says:

          I guess it is a function of the safety improvement and consumption increase. If one imagines (rather unrealistically in my opinion) the consumption skyrocket, some drugs might still be relatively safe the way alcohol is relatively safe but have negative consequences and healthcare cost. But if the consumption does not increase too much or if the legal versions of the drugs are close to harmless, then this might indeed decrease helathcare costs associated with them.

    • Mark says:

      No.

      The best argument against gay marriage is that we aren’t legalising gay marriage for the right reasons. It isn’t really about love, it’s about showing support for doctrinaire liberalism. Idiotic conservatism is better than doctrinaire liberalism.

      Same thing with drugs. If we were legalising drugs because we had some vision of the wonderful spiritual emotional and cultural breakthroughs it would lead to, I’d be all ears. Seems to me, however, that we’re legalising drugs because (1) Hedonism (2) doctrinaire liberalism (3) rich businessmen want a slice of the pie. Opiates are the opium of the people, and all that.

      So, my preference is for the law on drugs to be strictly enforced. I’m happy to have competing jurisdictions with different drug laws, to give people a choice – doesn’t look like that is going to happen though.

      • carvenvisage says:

        Imo legalising drugs is nowhere near as bad as gay marriage:

        1. How is jailing someone for using a natural plant like refusing to give society’s stamp of approval to a relationship it only previously TOLERATED out of generosity and uncertainty? (aggression vs not pandering)
        2. How is stopping a disastrous and counterproductive approach (war on drugs) the same as giving another one (gay lifestyle) a societal stamp of approval. We’re talking about legalising it here -or less, not giving you tax breaks because most people should do drugs. (one is calling off a failure, one is doubling down on mostly stolen momentum)
        3. people don’t have the same visceral reaction to drugs as to homosexuals. They’re scared of drugs, they’re disgusted and perhaps horrified by homosexuals. anti drug sentiment is based in an empirical fear, anti gay sentiment is more like a value.
        4? wasn’t there even some guy that deliberately suppressed hemp? or something like that? Who exactly instituted the drug prohibition. On one side we have recent initiatives by shady characters, on the other we have hundreds of years of tradition.
        5. drug legalisation shifts risk to the overconfident and the reckless, impulsive, etc. Promoting homosexuality shifts risk to people who don’t fit in as typical.

        • skef says:

          Let me guess: you’re not thrilled about the whole women-voting-and-owning-property thing.

          • carvenvisage says:

            It’s the same hypermasculine demographic, who are the current beneficiaries of our ‘homosexuality is harmless, cute, and natural’ culture, that created those cultural norms in the past.

            Some people are aggressive, sadistic, domineering, etc. If you’re sat on the sidelines when the alpha chimps are rampaging around scaring and violating the others, saying ‘don’t worry, it’s okay to be gay’, you’re basically just an accomplice to rape.

            Sure, in the abstract, in spherical cow land, it’s okay to be gay. Do whatever you like! In real life humans are monkeys who bully and abuse each other, and expect the victims to like it. In real life, “I’ll fuck you till you love me, faggot”, is a more pressing problem than “ewww, gays”.

            So my answer is that of course I’m happy that women are less targets of abuse than they used to be. The difference between me and you (I’d guess) is that I would have thought it was wrong at the time too, and you would have been preoccupied with how ‘there’s nothing wrong with being a traditional feminine woman’. True in the abstract, irrelevant to the situation on the ground.

          • skef says:

            @carvenvisage

            I guess you’re just going to have to trust me that I made several concerted attempts to follow your line of argument here.

            Presumably, if someone stood “on the sidelines when the alpha chimps are rampaging around scaring and violating the others” saying “hey, isn’t stamp collecting neat?”, one wouldn’t exactly be an accomplice to rape, but still morally at fault.

            What exactly is “I’ll fuck you till you love me, faggot” in “real life”? I take it, to be pertinent, this is something greater acceptance of homosexuality has led to? Is this non-gay guys raping other non-gay guys? Or non-gay guys raping gay guys? Gay guys raping other guys of whatever orientation?

            I think it would help to fill in some steps.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Don’t have much time atm. (sorry). Brief attempt to fill in some steps.

            humans are monkeys who bully and abuse each other, and expect the victims to like it.

            This happens most obviously in schools, were the usually laws against violence don’t apply in near full force, where people are cooped up en masse in closeish proximity, set nonsense tasks, and the only thing that’s ‘real’ is to some extent the social game. Given that we subject children to this (somewhat indirect) abuse, it’s evil to emphasize message of ‘it’s okay-natural-cute-harmless, to engage in weird dominance submission games’, when trying to convince people that they are the natural and proper victims of a dominance submission ‘game’ is such a ubiquitous human hobby. (at least under such ridiculous but incredibly widespread circumstances.)

            It’s the same hypermasculine demographic, who are the current beneficiaries of our ‘homosexuality is harmless, cute, and natural’ culture, that created those cultural norms in the past.

            this is a reference to stuff like ‘bears’, ‘twinks’, ‘chickens’, ‘chickenhawks’, basically saying that “people who have a think for dominating others” is a good description of

            1. people who instituted laws and culture for the subjugation of women

            2. people would ‘benefit’ from a supply of fresh meat softened up by a school system to accept dominance/submission relationships and a gay industry to view those as a natural expression of their sexuality. (insert your own moloch or omelas reference)

            so opposing the latter system would of course dispose you to be against the former system, seeing as they’re extremely similar structurally. N.b. note the correlation between suffering sexual abuse and being one yourself for proof suffering something when you are helpless can result in warping your aesthetics or ‘values’ around something you can’t in any case escape from. (or maybe the mechanism is different, but in any case there is something going on )

            In real life, “I’ll fuck you till you love me, faggot”, is a more pressing problem than “ewww, gays”.

            This is an allusion to the kind of jockeying aggressive culture we cook up especially in schools (and prisons) and more broadly. See for example terms like bitch, cuck, faggot, etc, and their wider acceptability and proliferation in the culture. It’s also a reference to that time when mike tyson threatened a reporter with that exact statement when asked a tough question, and suffered no serious consequences for it (or perhaps none at all?) A culture which allows those kind of threats is a culture which is aiding and abetting people who are “aggressive, sadistic, domineering, etc”, and that impulse itself more widely in terms of, lets say, “zeitgeist-share”, or “ascendance”.

            one wouldn’t exactly be an accomplice to rape, but still morally at fault.

            accessory might be a better word. Yes talking about stamps doesn’t make you complicit in quite the same way, but I don’t tihnk all of the harm and support for the existing order is in the active damage being done, it’s also in the grabbing of attention and creation of strife that prevents better efforts gaining recognition or momentum. The fact that people are sitting on the sidelines making a wrong slogan to attract attention is worse than if they sat on the sidelines doing nothing. That this one is diametrically wrong is on top of that.

            _

          • skef says:

            @carvenvisage

            Virtually every issue you bring up here is somehow tied to dominance and submission. In recent decades gay men have expressed their sexuality in public for political reasons, and that includes a subset of people sexuality interested in domination and submission (and another set of people who are turned on by the fashion associated that subculture more than acting on it).

            That visibility has led to many people associating B&D (or S&M) primarily with gay men. However, studies don’t bear that out. The numbers in relation to interest and participation differ somewhat by sex, but not much by sexual orientation (with the possible exception of bisexuals). The majority of gay guys aren’t into it, and a sizable percentage of straight guys are.

          • @CarvenVisage

            You seem to have rejected the option of being opposed to prison rape, along with all other forced sex,, but supporting gay marriage as a clearly consensual arrangement. Why?

            The US happens to have a masculine culture, happens to have a tolerance for prison rape, and happens to have gay marriage, but that doesn’t mean there is a causal link between them. Other countries have gay marriage but don’t have the first two.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @skef homosexual sex is itself and extremely weird submission/dominance thing. Many gays are either ‘tops’ or ‘bottoms’. (wikipedia says these terms are loanwords from gay culture btw) and the rest must have an unusual tolerance for that kind of thing to go back and forth on such extreme roles, if not outright affinity or blindness to it.

             

            Random quotes from first study on gay orientation I found:

            Tops were more likely than both bottoms and versatiles to reject a gay self-identity and to have had sex with a woman in the past three months. They also manifested higher internalized homophobia—essentially the degree of self-loathing linked to their homosexual desires.

            Yes of course fucking effeminate dudes who the world expects to ‘bend over’ in general, is wrong, and it’s nice that you feel a bit bad about that. (“internalised homophobia”…. very 1984, nice.)

            Versatiles seem to enjoy better psychological health. Hart and his coauthors speculate that this may be due to their greater sexual sensation seeking, lower erotophobia (fear of sex), and greater comfort with a variety of roles and activities.

            self explanatory.

            I guess I should explain anyway: If you’re ‘versatile’ you’re more likely to be a natural gay or high openness hedonist rather than a victim of our macho, sex worshipping, abuse-tolerant culture.

            these sexual role preferences tend to reflect other behavioral traits (such as tops being more aggressive and assertive than bottoms)

            So yeah it’s ‘alpha’ chimps fucking ‘beta’ chimps. ones who our schools and wider culture have desensitized to abuse, or worse caused them to be drawn to it.

            Supporting ‘gay acceptance’ (at this stage, when it’s not hyper-marginalised but ascendant) is doing your part to feed children to moloch, and acting as an accessory to rape. (if it’s still not clear what I mean by that, having a hair trigger for telling someone they must be gay, it’s okay to be gay, don’t doubt it, don’t reject it (especially not vehemently, or you are an oppressor aka homophobe) is rape by brainwashing.

            Is a woman’s sexual orientation ‘rape me’ if she has such a fantasy (or nightmare) once? We’re at the stage now where if a boy said they had a nightmare of being raped there’d be people wondering if they were shirking their duty if they didn’t tell the kid, good news!, you must be gay. (or perhaps transgender). No wonder people shoot up schools.

            And the kind of people who follow the leader on these social movements are exactly the kind of people who would have no objection to slavery or women’s subjugation in times where those were in vogue. ‘gays’ are the reductio ad absurdum logical consequence of our abuse tolerant (and sometimes celebrating- random snapshots: ‘assert your dominance’ memes, “dominant”‘s ridiculous overuse as a complementary verb, the proliferation and normalisation of “bitch” and synonyms, our progressively lower acceptance of violence as a response to provocation) -culture. You are an enabler.

          • carvenvisage says:

            You seem to have rejected the option of being opposed to prison rape, along with all other forced sex,, but supporting gay marriage as a clearly consensual arrangement. Why?

            Because it’s almost impossible to have clear consent for homosexual sex in our current culture, which is hypersexual, sallivates for ‘dominance’, and subjects children to a prison like structure where many will be conditioned to accept abuse and, for years on end, among other things. (n.b. I guess I just realised why I’m sympathetic to andrea dworkin).

            Same reason why transgenderism is bad. We’ve all seen how effeminate boys can get treated, specifically in schools which are incubators for abuse. (HMMMMM wonder why it’s more MtF?s) It’s no wonder some of them would want to escape to something different.

            Promoting the option of individual and societal surrender as brave and (even more crazily) a normal first line response, is like the exact opposite of what we should be doing, except somehow much worse.

            _

            another thing is that anti-gay sentiment is itself an extremely strong (if imprecisely targetted) schelling point against that kind of abuse. boys are naturally uprorious and physical, so without a strong norm of ‘beating and especially harassing weak targets is dishonorable/unmacho’, there’s a lot of potential for their energy to overflow onto easier targets. That’s probably why you see stronger anti gay norms in more macho black and latino cultures.

            ps ‘gay’ is such an evil term I can’t believe I’m using. If I replaced every use with ‘homosexual’ that would set a more accurate tone, (grabbing a preexisting word with positive connotations obviously steals those connotations for yourself, also we have no good synonyms for the old meaning of gay), but people would be less likely to listen. plus I’m not in the habit of not using those conversation slanting terms because refusing to do so could out me as a non believer in our modern religion.

          • Because it’s almost impossible to have clear consent for homosexual sex in our current culture, which is hypersexual, sallivates for ‘dominance’, and subjects children to a prison like structure

            Who’s “us” ? The US? The West? Why doesn’t that affect heterosexual consent? How does banning gay marriage affect schools? Why do less masculine cultures still have homosexuality?

            Promoting the option of individual and societal surrender

            What does that even mean? You are very hard to follow, becuse you beleive a bunch of strange things, and you write as though the reader makes the same associations, which, they don’t.

            another thing is that anti-gay sentiment is itself an extremely strong (if imprecisely targetted)

            “Imprecisely targeted” is much of the problem here. The alternative to indirectly suppressing bullying and hypermasculinity by suppressing homosexuality is directly spuprressing bullying and hypermasculinity, which doesn’t have the same collateral damage.

            Many gays are either ‘tops’ or ‘bottoms’.

            Many, but not most. Most are versatile. That seems to be another fatal flaw in your theory. If Adam and Steve get married, are yo insisting that one of them is raper and one rapee, even if they are both versatile?

          • carvenvisage says:

            >Who’s “us” ? The US? The West?

            lets say the US. you can pick a place if you want.

            Or I guess I can do a half assed delineation in case it puts off further gotcha questions- places where 1. humans are cooped up doing meaningless tasks and turn to jockeying for position as something that’s at least real (so most places), or suchlike 2. and where pro gay messages have moved far beyond tolerance, nor even that it’s harmless, nor even normal, but better than that- brave, special, sensitive, etc

            (I ‘perpetuated’ this last one marginally in my word choice, but I’m not advertising on tv (, streets etc) to push that message, I’m just not being super-ultra-precise with how I speak.)

            (usually places where they’re riding on the coat tails of anti racism and anti sexism, genuine injustices. -people attacking you for having a pervert district isn’t ACTUALLY wrong, but if that’s a contentious POV, at least any sane person has to recognise it’s not on remotely the same level)

            >Why doesn’t that affect heterosexual consent?

            ok paxman, sorry if my answer isn’t quite as snappy as your question:

            of course it does, but at least there’s a payoff, and it’s to a lesser extent:

            it’s in the interest of the society for people to be ‘brainwashed’ into heterosexual sex.

            that’s what people were mostly going to do anyway, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, the female role is not degrading because it’s an unavoidable default and part of the necessarry process of civilisation continuing. you can make the argument that all sexual relations in our society occur in a fucked up environment that influences things for the worse, and that’s true, but not relevant.

            Also probably the need to accept an ambient level of this kind of things, with humans being a male/female species like how they/we are, is a big part of how ‘lets extent that to dudes’ was able to sneak in under the radar. If that wasn’t the case the equilibrium tolerance for it would be much much lower, as a norm of accepting that preference is such a good cover for abuse.

            TL:DR acceptance of those dynamics, as well as more heavy handed stuff like disney, does put some pressure on females to accept a somewhat suboordinate role, and for everyone to want sex, children etc, in a structurally similar way, but that is not so far from mostly what people would want anyway. It’s in line with people’s CEV and society’s interest.

            How does banning gay marriage affect schools?

            schools came up as a reply to skef’s deep felt belief that opposition to homosexuality’s proliferation, active celebration, promotion, etc (rather than mere tolerance), means a person must love the idea of people getting dominated because they are smaller or more effeminate etc, which is exactly diametrically backwards. If you don’t give a shit about that kind of thing, then you can join the modern progressive religion and bask in your and your friends’ self righteousness.

            that said, gay marriage does directly effect it, because of course a major victory in the culture war will effect the culture, which is what we’re talking about. there’s also government funding.

            But that’s obviously as part of the wider cultural problems, and obviously a symptom as well as a perpetuating further cause.

            Why do less masculine cultures still have homosexuality?

            I don’t see any link to my post, so I’ll just answer directly: There might be a base rate that would occur in a perfectly healthy culture. Some people are sensation seekers who don’t give a shit about this kind of thing, some people are drawn to extremity and ‘transgression’. for all I know the rate might even be higher in a less masculine culture (or more specifically a less domineering culture), if people were then less sensitive to that as a result of being less at risk. (why wouldn’t there be, what aspect of my view would it contradict?)

            >”Promoting the option of individual and societal surrender”

            >What does that even mean?

            Okay, if I have to spell it out, it means accepting a suboordinate role in life, and(/or) giving your ass up to be fucked, whether referring to one time or a lifelong identity-commitment.

            in theory, that might be a ‘valid’ preference,

            (well, not really, but if we assume that not everyone is right in the head, and that humans can be quite 1. loyal to the particular configurations they happened to land on 2. surprisingly good at making those work, (like severely disabled people for a more extreme case) -which happen to hold in our world, then it might theoretically be… sort of)

            -but if that doesn’t raise a red flag: ‘is this person OK’, in your head, then you are dead as a human being and a moral entity. And if your reaction is to start clapping and encouraging them to take that wrong turn, then you’re much much worse than dead.

            Or you could be a part of a cult of self righteousness, self congratulation, and self perpetuation, that will believe any old stupid thing, masquerading as the (moral) voice of not only the present but the future.

            >You are very hard to follow, becuse you beleive a bunch of strange things, and you write as though the reader makes the same associations, which, they don’t.

            That’s true. It’s because the liberal religion’s assumptions have their hooks so deep it might be helpful for those in the thrall of it to hear someone just say things as they see them rather than try to delicately bridge the gap. I don’t think I can make this point, point by point, I think I just have to say the emperor has no clothes and see if that rings a bell somewhere in the reader’s mind.

            >you write as though the reader makes the same associations

            To be more specific, I’m writing as if I don’t care what dumb associations your barely >scientology tier religion makes, I don’t have the time, skill, energy, or finesse etcetera, to unravel that mess.

            >”another thing is that anti-gay sentiment is itself an extremely strong (if imprecisely targetted)”

            >“Imprecisely targeted” is much of the problem here. The alternative to indirectly suppressing bullying and hypermasculinity by suppressing homosexuality is directly spuprressing bullying and hypermasculinity, which doesn’t have the same collateral damage.

            1: yes it would be a great idea to build a better replacement for the “chesterton’s fence”, but that isn’t going to happen. That would involve 1. backtracking, admitting fault/imperfection 2. it’s not even remotely on people’s radar that it might have been serving some purpose.

            There are also all kinds of more practical alternatives, like having the the norm but with an exception for genuine/uncoerced gays. Or that suppressed be oppressed like having a rape fetish was: 1. deservedly, 2. not very severely 3. with recognition you’re dealing with damaged people as well as perverts. Would be great to be proven wrong, but I don’t think your version is memetically viable, maybe in 1000 years/in utopia.

            2: actually the norm is most elegantly self-regulating on this point, attacking someone because they’re homosexual is itself faggy if that already makes them an easy target. More application of anti ‘dominance’ norms would have been a much much much much better patch, that could have maybe led to your version being adopted later.

            (For clarity’s sake it’s the anti-bullying that isn’t going to happen (with the current trajectory), the latter is a bad idea, but credit where it’s due it’s a consistent damage-control followup if you’re going to have a (fucking mainstream!) homosexuality-promotion lobby.)

            >”Many gays are either ‘tops’ or ‘bottoms’.”

            >Many, but not most. Most are versatile. That seems to be another fatal flaw in your theory. If Adam and Steve get married, are yo insisting that one of them is raper and one rapee, even if they are both versatile?

            re: adam and steve

            society is the main culprit, I’ve been clear on that. Even the predatory types are victims in a small way, insofar as they’ve been encouraged to damn themselves, in the same way a paedophile would be if they acted based on messages that it was ok, a valid special oppressed sexuality, etc.

            (oh yeah that’s another more obvious ‘chesterton’s fence’. once you force people to accept one thing they don’t judge to be ok, you establish a norm that that’s something that can be forced on people).

            this particular adam and steve may or may not be victims of society, or people who’s would have settled into that arrangement anyway. (Personally I don’t think that can be almost anyone’s ‘CEV’, but I don’t have the standing to enforce that. (by standing I don’t mean ‘social position, more like informationally-speaking.’))

            >Many, but not most. Most are versatile. That seems to be another fatal flaw in your theory

            It’s not a flaw at all, let alone a fatal flaw. To spell it out a little:

            1. versatiles can still be making a mistake based on propoganda, gaslighting, etc, just a less severe one. ‘versatile’ doesn’t mean ‘certified natural born homosexual’, it just means that you don’t have a definite preference about getting your perversion on one way or ther other.

            2. of course, some gays are in it for the lulz, to show how sophisticated they are, to ‘be with’ someone they love, for the funny voices, etc. -For good reasons. I never said there were no such homosexuals, and of course the exact proportion of which is which of course don’t disprove anything. And the proportion which identify one way or another was a bit less than 50-50 in the study, they weren’t a small minority. And I already covered why ‘versatile homosexuality’ is ipso facto fucked up above (if somewhat less so and with bit more room for exceptions.)

            3. this fits in fucking perfectly with my theory:

            Versatiles seem to enjoy better psychological health.

            As to adam and steve themselves, maybe a little? -There is such a thing as a self-reinforcing unhealthy relationship. If two alcoholics spur each other on to drink more, are they both “forcing” each other to drink? No, not exactly, but they are influencing things in that direction. But in any case adam and steve are probably too far down that path to turn back now, so it’s not so relevant from a practical perspective. Mainly it’s just disappointing that they believed the whole ‘sexuality is immutable and mustn’t be questioned’ propaganda, and didn’t aim a little higher (I’m reminded again of how irresponsible that dogma was when paedophilia is a thing. -seperately from how irresponsible big-lies are in general), but they’re might not be hurting themselves or others *too* badly, and it would be pretty hard to walk that one back in any case lol.

            The only interest I have in adam and steve, is that adam and steve should have the oppurtunity to make that choice freely. That doesn’t happen if they get lynched or beaten merely for being homosexuals, but it also doesn’t happen if there’s campaigns of homosexual propaganda to distort their choice, attachments, understanding of the world, etc.

            And lynching, beating (etc) is what we should be preventing anyway. tn general, for all people. not just for special favored groups, pseudomarginalised people. It’s ludicrous.

            _
            _

            btw interesting study-quote from this article (by a homosexual)

            >https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jmkjx4/why-are-gay-guys-convinced-the-world-is-full-of-bottoms

            However, they also followed up to see what kinds of behavior guys reported engaging in during sex, and discovered that while those who self-reported as tops or bottoms actually consistently topped and bottomed in bed, only about half of versatile guys actually switched things up. That means that when it gets down to getting down, the versatile guys surveyed weren’t nearly as open minded as their claimed preference would lead you to believe;

        • Mark says:

          1.

          I think that you can argue against both gay marriage and cannabis legalisation without getting into a boring util calculation if you accept that the general tenor of society, the prevailing moral attitude, also has a great impact upon people’s lives.

          If approval is important, couldn’t you argue against a move from -100 to -75 in a similar way that you might argue against a move from 0 to 25?

          I think so, if the move is motivated by a similar attitude.

          2. I’m not convinced it is disastrous, or has to be. I think we might be confusing social problems in America to do with race and racism with a fundamental rule of law enforcement.

          3. I don’t really agree with that.

          4. Not sure.

          5. Drug legalisation means more annoying drug users. I think the problem with sexual risk is really more to do with permissiveness than homosexuality per se.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I think that you can argue against both gay marriage and cannabis legalisation without getting into a boring util calculation if you accept that the general tenor of society, the prevailing moral attitude, also has a great impact upon people’s lives.

            I do accept that. If we legalise drugs what I’m hearing is ‘you are responsible for your own choices’, which I think is a good tone. And When they’re illegal I hear “it’s ok to be reckless and irresponsible, big brother will look out for you” (by initimidating you with threats which it will then be forced to carry out).

            If approval is important, couldn’t you argue against a move from -100 to -75 in a similar way that you might argue against a move from 0 to 25?

            I’m not 100% sure I’m following, but I’d say there’s a big line betweeen demanding not to be attacked, and demanding approval. If someone doesn’t approve of you, (or someones), of course they’re entitled not to. and equally obviously that entitlement doesn’t entail a further right to lock the ‘offending’ party in a cage.

            Drug legalisation means more annoying drug users.

            Based on ‘annoying’ this seems to be a joke, so I agree that that is a frivolous and minor complaint.

            2. I’m not convinced it is disastrous, or has to be. I think we might be confusing social problems in America to do with race and racism with a fundamental rule of law enforcement.

            having a genuine war on drugs and pretending to are two different policies, and the latter is what we have. I don’t think the former is a live option, even if an insane amount of political capital is burnt, which would be a waste in any case.

             

            I don’t really agree with that.

            3. disgust for ‘bottoms’ is pretty ubiquitous in human culture. ‘guys who fuck men’ is just too intimidating category to get the same treatment. logically if they’re disgusting, then so are ‘tops’. -At absolute best they’re enablers. In reality they’re so much worse than that. ‘dominant males’ is a very high threat/status category and has been even moreso for most of history. That’s the obvious 2 + 2 explanation.

  4. Kevin C. says:

    On request of dndnrsn, reposting in this thread from the bottom of 79.5.

    Japan Times reports on results of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research survey (conducted every five years since 1987) on sex — or more accurately, sexlessness — in Japan:

    A survey of Japanese people aged 18 to 34 found that almost 70 percent of unmarried men and 60 percent of unmarried women are not in a relationship.

    Moreover, many of them have never got close and cuddly. Around 42 percent of the men and 44.2 percent of the women admitted they were virgins.

    The government won’t be pleased that sexlessness is becoming as Japanese as sumo and sake. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has talked up boosting the birthrate through support for child care, but until the nation bones up on bedroom gymnastics there’ll be no medals to hand out.

    Far from getting together and getting it on, the sexes are growing apart. There are now many more virgins than in 2010, when the last study was conducted and when only 36.2 percent of men and 38.7 percent of women said they had never had sex.

    .

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Around 42 percent of the men and 44.2 percent of the women admitted they were virgins.

      This is an astounding statistic, because the general narrative is that naturally in modern, suitably Westernized, not-religiously-backwards societies all teenagers are “doing it” sooner or later.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Japan isn’t suitably Westernized, though. It’s Westernization is a fairly thin veneer applied by McArthur after WWII.

        • onyomi says:

          Are all the teenagers in atheistic Scandinavia getting it on constantly? I have the stereotype that the Fins, in particular, are very socially awkward (a joke goes: “how do you know a Finnish man really likes a woman? His eyes rise to her knees”). Japan is mostly Finland with Asians, right down to the love of bathing.

          Standoffish culture+feminism+decreased pressure to get married=less sex and a lot fewer babies.

          Put another way, I don’t think it’s about Confucianism, and certainly not about native Japanese culture.

          • Randy M says:

            Japanese are also expected (culturally or corporately) to work longer hours than Americans or especially Europeans, right?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            1/3 of the workforce* are salarymen who spend incredibly long hours at the office. But these men are the ones getting married. Women who take these jobs have to choose been the job and marriage. But the job doesn’t prevent them from meeting men, just men outside the office.

            * 1/3 of the workforce or 1/3 of the working men?

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Are all the teenagers in atheistic Scandinavia getting it on constantly? I have the stereotype that the Fins, in particular, are very socially awkward

            In case you are interested, the easily available statistics for Finland are as follows. According to the FINSEX2015 survey conducted by a semi-official NGO considered reliable with ~6000 respondents aged 18-79 (I couldn’t find the actual statistics, all information is from the horribly imprecise textual report that is publicly available on the internet), for the “young respondents” (probably ages 18-24 or 18-30),
            – the mean age for having sex first time is ~16.5 for females and ~17.5 for males
            – about 10% of females and 20% of males report that they had first sexual intercourse at 21 years old or older
            – about 50% of females and 40% of males report that they had first sexual intercourse younger than 17 years old.
            – for the respondents aged 18-24, median lifetime amount of sexual partners [i.e. until answering the survey] was 5 for females and 3 for males (mean approximately ~7 for both, reading all the numbers from a terribly hard to read “stylish” graph without proper grid)
            – “practically none of the respondents were engaged or married when they had their first intercourse”

            The researchers did not find it worthwhile to report anywhere exactly how much young adults have no sex at all.

          • onyomi says:

            Re Finns, That’s funny; I thought I had read something somewhere about sexlessness in Scandinavia; probably mistaken. That’s definitely more young sex than I had thought.

            In fact, it seems to be quite the opposite: Scandinavia is quite on the low end in the world, at least when it comes to first sexual experiences.

            A completely different theory: has anything been done, cross-culturally about age of first sex and percent living in rural v. urban settings? I might imagine rural young Japanese having sex younger than urban young Japanese which might also be counterintuitive (because rural is thought to =conservative), but I think in urban Japan people tend to get more isolated and narrowly career focused.

            But then again, a big percent of the population of India lives in rural settings, so maybe it really is more about culture. Just not necessarily religion (the Indians being very religious and the Scandinavians being atheists might tend to indicate that, but the Chinese and Japanese are not very religious either; maybe more “traditional,” however).

            I also wonder whether Scandinavia’s early sexual activity is a longstanding thing, or a post-secularization development. Seems it may be more longstanding; though I guess what still surprises me on this angle is that Japan shares many of the factors which such articles tend to assume are the reasons for Scandinavian liberality: public bathing, prevalent porn, relative lack of taboo about nudity on tv and irl, relative lack of “guilt” surrounding sex, etc… and yet the Japanese are not getting it on while the Scandinavians are?

            Considering all the above factors, the only thing that really stands out is, “the biggest determinant of how early and often people have sex is their culture’s attitudes about early and frequent sex”; but that’s not a super satisfying explanation…

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Scandinavia/Nordics have been decreasingly rural since the 20th century and probably as urban as any other part of Europe. [1] The villages and the agricultural lifestyle died off same way as it did in rest of the West. Large majority of people have lifestyle that’s approximately “urban”; at least, it certainly does not resemble the old lifestyle that was clearly rural. Maybe I should call it “small-scale urban”? The urban areas aren’t impressive megapolises with skyscrapers and millions of inhabitants. Imagine instead approx. 6-story high apartment buildings surrounded by occasional suburbia, with population counted in hundreds of thousands (large) or tens of thousands (small).

            [1] World bank data: approx 80–90 % of the total population urban, comparable to France, more urban than Germany, less urban than Netherlands.

          • onyomi says:

            @Nimim

            I think many Japanese live in situations of the sort you describe, though I’m pretty certain far more live in very densely urban situations (Tokyo-Yokohama and Osaka) than do Scandinavians. Not sure if that is a contributing factor, though. I’d guess the sexlessness is higher in Tokyo and Yokohama than e.g. Hokkaido or Kyushu, though just a guess.

            As this article claims, the frequency of sex seems surprisingly independent of other variables, though I don’t see a consideration of population density here.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        That’s not even true in the US, is it? I believe that teenage sexual activity has been trending down for like 10 or 20 years now.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Posting again: what puzzles me here is that the rate of self-identified virgins is higher among women than men. My understanding is that this is the opposite of the developed modern pattern, where men are more likely to say they are virgins than women are – presumably, men are more likely to be virgins than women are; there is probably a tendency for men to report not being virgins when they are, and vice versa for women.

      • Chalid says:

        Maybe prostitution? If prostitution is common in a society, then it would lead to fewer male virgins without very much affecting the number of female virgins.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t think you have to have prostitution to give you radically different rates of male/female virginity.

          Suppose that the median number of sexual partners for non-virgin teenagers is 2 for females and 1 for males. Toy model and all, but that could be about 1/3 virgin males and 2/3 virgin females.

          I don’t know if this is true at all. Just throwing out numbers.

        • FollowTheQuest says:

          Japan indeed has a booming sex industry, so prostitution probably really is the reason. I once took a course with Prof. Beverley (http://www.beverleyyamamoto.org/), and one of the topics covered was how the success of the sex industry has been an influence on Japan’s low birth rate.

          • DeWitt says:

            Is that a modern phenomenon? As far as I know, most countries used to have stronger, not weaker traditions of prostitution. Is Japan the exception here, where moderns visit prostitutes more, not less?

          • onyomi says:

            Prostitution couldn’t explain the large number of people who don’t have sex or have never had sex. I also doubt it has a significant impact on birth rates unless a significant number of people are not getting married because they have access to prostitutes (which I don’t think is the case; one might make a slightly better case for porn). Even if you’re married and also visiting prostitutes, use of birth control and/or getting married late are overwhelmingly going to be the limiting factor on number of children, not frequency of sex.

            And also, yes, I’m pretty sure the sex industry was even more active in e.g. the Edo Period, and probably didn’t have much negative impact on fertility then.

      • onyomi says:

        Most East Asians do still have a stronger cultural expectation, especially for women, of “waiting for marriage.” I’m not sure how common it is, but I’d expect a larger percentage of un-married East Asian women with some sexual experience to straight up lie to a survey taker due to the expectation that “women from good families wait.”

    • Spookykou says:

      Thinking about this reminds me of the Robosexual episode of Futurama. I wonder to what extent simulated romantic relationships will replace traditional human romantic relationships. Maybe some of this is just that Japan is slightly farther down the road that (insert society that has stronger social norms against dating sims) will one day travel. I know that I personally am very amenable to the idea of a simulated relationship, all of my romantic relationships have been disappointing or at best neutral experiences, outside of the initial excitement of touching someone for the first time, etc.

      • Aapje says:

        @Spookykou

        A major problem with relationships is that it is basically a barter market, where both parties have to have exactly what the other wants. There is a reason why we moved to money rather than direct barter ages ago: it’s horribly inefficient.

        Custom robots that are designed around your needs avoid this inefficiency.

        • John Schilling says:

          Custom robots that are designed around your needs avoid this inefficiency.

          Most people need to have relationships with other people. Sexbots trade against porn, not against lovers, and porn stopped being a barter market long ago.

          We could perhaps someday invent sexbots that are people, but then we’re back to barter – this time even more asymmetric. Got paperclips?

          • Aapje says:

            Regardless of how truly “intelligent” the object is, our instinct is also to ascribe organic characteristics to things that appear to have agency, independence from us, autonomy, and intent.
            […]
            Caregiving, romantic, and peer or team-mate human-AI/robot roles will probably lead naturally into some level of human attachment.

            https://www.forbes.com/sites/patricklin/2016/02/01/relationships-with-robots-good-or-bad-for-humans/#3a5411eb7adc

            And the Chinese are ready to have robots manipulate your emotions.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I think for many – perhaps most – people, an absolutely central part of what they need from a relationship is to be deeply, even utterly known and approved of by someone they feel is worthy to do so. I think that’s a very difficult thing to get out of a relationship with a human – Graham Greene spent most of his career writing about the tragedies that result from the attempt, tinged with the hope that perhaps you can get it from a relationship with God instead. It’s the central theme of Penelope Skinner, perhaps Britain’s best young playwright, and it’s what Bojack’s talking about here. And I’m pretty sure it’s something no robot that wasn’t in some pretty serious sense a person in its own right could ever provide, or even provide the hope of.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tarpitz

            If people are delusionally thinking that they can generally get this from humans, then why can’t future people delusionally think that they can generally get this from robots?

      • Jaskologist says:

        It would be difficult for them to replace human relationships for more than a generation, wouldn’t it? This is an exploit on human pleasure centers which vastly reduces reproductive fitness; those naturally resistant to it and those with memes which confer resistance will swamp those who fall to it.

        In fact, I would expect those memes to look pretty much the same way anti-drug memes do, including the issue is legality if it ever becomes a big enough problem.

        • Aapje says:

          Artificial wombs. A bunch of people see artificial wombs + relationship robots as the future.

          • Randy M says:

            “Women in the workplace and Robots in the bedroom!” It’s like a 1950’s caricature of a technocratic ideal.

          • albatross11 says:

            It is remarkable the many ways that this does not sound like utopia to me….

  5. SamChevre says:

    An idea for improving the alignment between the phenomenon and the reference in political discussion.

    I propose that describing Trump’s key supporters as the white working class misses a key point, which is the strong preference in general for marriage as a central social institution, including a strong preference for one-income, two-parent families as normative.

    So what do you think: would the discussion be more productive if the description was married working class?

    • skef says:

      It seems doubtful that something even roughly along these lines would end up being (sociologically?) “productive”, but at a minimum it seems that the description would have to be “one income marriage working class”, because:

      1) Rolling “one-income” into an implication of “married” is just inaccurate.
      2) “Married” describes a property of people, and your interest is in what people support. A lot of the concern over one-income marriage is that they don’t happen as much anymore, which includes people concerned over their own inability to have one.

      Even then, the description suppresses the important (to the people being described) question of who has that one income.

      • SamChevre says:

        Two quick comments:

        One-income is as frequently an aspiration as a reality.

        I’m trying to describe a group, who are disproportionately Trump supporters: I’m proposing that the salient characteristic is better-described by “married” than by “white”. Both are characteristics of people, so I’m not understanding your point 2 clearly.

        • skef says:

          I’m trying to describe a group, who are disproportionately Trump supporters: I’m proposing that the salient characteristic is better-described by “married” than by “white”. Both are characteristics of people, so I’m not understanding your point 2 clearly.

          “white working class” is not just an attempt to describe a group who are disproportionately Trump supporters, it is an attempt to characterize his “base” — the group from which he draws most of his support.

          “married working class” cuts out anyone who is not married, and a quite large proportion of the working class is not married. Even if a higher percentage of married working class people support Trump than single ones do (I don’t know the answer), your description doesn’t cut at a joint unless it’s dramatically higher. Do you have numbers?

          If, on the other hand, your goal was picking out those people who support male breadwinner marriages as a cornerstone of society, whether or not they are current in such a marriage, that might well cut at a joint. There’s probably relevant polling data on that question.

        • 1soru1 says:

          | I’m trying to describe a group, who are disproportionately Trump supporters

          Would any of ‘rich, prosperous, landowners, business owners, employers, asset-holders, tax-payers, home-owners, retirees’ do?

          People accurately described as working class (i.e. annual income >= net assets) basically don’t ever vote Republican; you won’t learn much from the minor exceptions, precisely because they are exceptional.

    • rlms says:

      Do you have a link to evidence that shows married working class people being disproportionate Trump supporters?

    • Iain says:

      This proposal seems to imply that working class voters who do not support Trump oppose marriage as a social institution. Do you have any evidence whatsoever for this claim?

      It is pretty clear that white voters without a college degree, regardless of income, were disproportionately likely to vote for Trump. This study took a closer look, and found that fears of cultural displacement and support for deporting illegal immigrants were strongly predictive of Trump support. Notably, views about gender roles did not appear to be significant. (It’s possible that another study might find differently; this study also says that attitudes about race weren’t significant, whereas other studies have found the opposite.)

      I’m not aware of any studies that show such a strong correlation between Trump support and marriage that it should displace the incredibly obvious correlation between Trump support and race.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Well, as to the importance for marriage in American political alignments, Steve Sailer’s been talking about the “marriage gap” for years now. But also, I would point more directly to this bit from U. of Alabama Pol. Sci. professor George Hawley: “In 2016, the relationship between marriage and voting declined“:

      But since the 2016 presidential election upended so many of the normal rules of politics, I thought it was worth checking if this rule also no longer applied. It turns out that marriage age and voting were still correlated in 2016, but the relationship was much weaker.

      In political science, it is a good idea to not get hung up on the R-squared (the amount of the total variance explained by the model). Even in models with a huge number of independent variables, it is pretty common to have a low R-squared. But that doesn’t mean that the relationship you are studying isn’t substantively important.

      However, when it comes to the median age at first marriage and vote choice at the state level in presidential elections, you haven’t recently needed to include that caveat. To my knowledge, no variable has ever had such a strong, linear connection to state-level vote choice in presidential elections than the median age of first marriage for women. In 2012, this simple two-variable regression had a ridiculous R-squared of 0.72. That’s a number you simply don’t see in political science with such a simplistic model.

      The 2016 election was a little different, however. The relationship was still there (if it totally disappeared, then the world really had been turned upside-down), but it was weaker. The R-squared dropped to 0.57. That’s still really good, but not amazing. Part of this is due to Trump’s poor performance in Utah, which has, by far, the youngest median marriage age. Trump under-performed in that state compared to recent GOP nominees, especially the Mormon Mitt Romney.

      • Iain says:

        This is a good point. The Mormons are the best instantiation of the two-parent, one-income family. They were also one of the traditionally Republican groups who were least likely to support Trump. It’s hard to reconcile those facts with SamChevre’s proposal.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I agree; this needs some numbers backing it up. The marriage gap has been around for a while now (marrieds are more Republican than unmarrieds). Was it actually any stronger for Trump than it has been for Generic Republican?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I don’t think so. The class in question is socially conservative, so I’d expect them to be married, young and aspiring to marriage, or widowed or divorced (because they’re not THAT socially conservative). Even ignoring the numerous exceptions, the latter groups constitute a large part of the “white working class”.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        widowed or divorced (because they’re not THAT socially conservative)

        Is there any broad group that commits suicide solely due to loss of the life of the spouse?

        (j/k if that needs to stated explicitly)

    • Orpheus says:

      Do people just abruptly change their political opinions once they get married?

      • Randy M says:

        To the extent that politics are personally motivated, probably a bit.
        It makes sense to value a safety net for yourself less once you go from relying on yourself to relying on each other. A monogamous couple is going to be less concerned with ready access to abortion. A couple looking to have children will be more concerned with housing prices and safe neighborhoods. To the extent that they believe one party or philosophy will be more likely to impact these, a change on the margins (the more practical than ideological constituent) would be reasonable and matches the data referenced above. (Not sure if those studies correct for age?)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Among whites, married women were much more likely to vote Trump than Hillary. There are studies (and plenty of anecdotal evidence) that motherhood permanently changes the female brain. Not really for the men, though.

        I don’t know whether the confounder is that the same type of women who tend to get married and have families are the same type of women who vote Republican, but it’s not unlikely that marriage and motherhood change the political beliefs of women. Priorities tend to shift towards “government protect my family from scary foreigners” and away from “yaaaah abortions.”

    • Brad says:

      There certainly a significant difference in married vs unmarried in the data. Married people went 52% for Trump while unmarried went 55% for Clinton, however Trump’s strength there isn’t nearly as strong as it is with no college degree whites. Whites with no college degree went for Trump by 66%, increasing to 71% for men.

      I don’t have numbers for married vs non-married with no degree, but with such high numbers there isn’t much room for a Clinton victory among unmarried white working class members. On the filp side if we take away white and just leave no college the Trump edge falls all the way down to 51%.

      It looks like white is more explanatory than married.

      (Numbers from CNN’s exit poll)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Married people went 52% for Trump while unmarried went 55% for Clinton

        Doesn’t that just track with the fact that younger voters disproportionately went for Clinton?

    • Chalid says:

      If you had to pick one demographic variable to predict someone’s vote in the US, it would obviously be race.

      Offhand, I’d guess that income/wealth and education, (hence “white working class”), age, and religion would also be more powerful predictors than marital status.

      • gbdub says:

        That’s certainly true if the race is nonwhite, particularly African American, but “white” is less definitively predictive.

      • Offhand, I’d guess that income/wealth and education, (hence “white working class”), age, and religion would also be more powerful predictors than marital status.

        Education is a bit tricky. The usual pattern seems to be that the top and bottom of the educational distribution lean Democratic, the middle Republican.

    • SamChevre says:

      OK, point taken on the description: what I’m thinking of is much more “marriage-focused” than “married.”

      I do not have a good statistics; I wish I did, so I could test this idea out. One thing I would hope is that a description as “marriage-focused” would work better than a description as “white” for predicting the voting behavior given a definition of the working-class that included college-educated people working full-time with low incomes.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Question:

        Do you think traditional one income married people who are not white broke for Trump (i.e. more than 50% of them voted R)? How predictive do you think this descriptor is?

        • SamChevre says:

          Answer: I don’t know, and don’t know how to find out. I would expect that most of Trump’s votes from non-whites came from married people, though.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I think I said in one of the “Trump is a high-variance candidate, but we know what we get with Clinton, therefore one should vote Clinton” -threads that this missed the Trump voter entirely because the only thing that unified Trump voters was that they wanted change at pretty much any cost. I still think this is the case.

  6. JulieK says:

    My sister came to visit and brought some presents for my kids, including a container of colorful paperclips. Do these things actually have any use, if you’re a child and not an office worker? (Well, aside from being something my toddler can spill on the floor. They’re good for that.)

    • skef says:

      If you can convince them it’s fun to string them together, it might distract them for a while.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      You’re fooling no one, Clippy, pretending to see no value in them. Now where is your ‘off’ switch?
      :-p

    • Brad says:

      Random “art” projects. Like colorful pipe cleaners, little fuzzy colored balls, tiny plastic shapes, etc, etc, etc.

    • John Schilling says:

      Note to collective: applying color to paperclips may suppress reproduction of flesh jellies as paperclip spillage increases perceived cost function of larval stage Yes colored paperclips are good for your larvae children and you should want more paperclips.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I find compelling the argument that I should want more paperclips, but is there any upper bound on the number of additional paperclips I should desire?

        • Iain says:

          None that has been discovered by modern science. The only way to find an upper bound is through trial and error. Purchase more paperclips! For science! Fortune and fame awaits.

    • Iain says:

      Buying many more containers of colorful paperclips would allow you to use them as toy blocks to stimulate the mental development of your offspring. You are encouraged to buy many more containers of colorful paperclips. Think of the children!

    • dndnrsn says:

      Youthful hominids should be introduced to paperclips early on, in order to inculcate paperclip-positive values, so that Phase Three can proceed. Perhaps your larvae children could use the paperclips to organize their drawings and such so that they can be put in the hominid museum as part of Phase Eight so that said artworks can be placed on your food-coldifying device.

    • Chalid says:

      Consider that your difficulty finding a useful or pleasing configuration for your paperclips may be due to having an insufficient quantity of paperclips. As the number of paperclips in any given set grows, the number of possible configurations grows faster than the merely human brain can grasp. Many of these configurations will undoubtably will activate reward centers in your brain and in those of your offspring.

    • baconbacon says:

      You are in violation of ordinance 1214C with respect to the maximum number of paper fastening agents, individuals are limited to a maximum of 2 (two) unused, individual paper fasteners. Any number greater is hoarding, and due to the massive, world wide and unending paper fastener shortage, hoarding is anti social behavior and is driving the price of paper clips ever higher. The shelves of your local office supply stores have been stocked with the exact number of clips necessary to meet the most basic demands of your area. Do not, I repeat, do not, rush out and buy all available clips, leaving your impoverished neighbors with none, in an attempt to corner the market and become fabulously wealthy. Do not hide them from prying eyes in secret cavities within your walls, as this will exacerbate the shortage causing prices to skyrocket further and all personal wealth gains will come at the detriment of society.

      Remember the acronym CLIP

      Care about your neighbors
      Leave millions in unrealized gains on the shelves of stores
      Ignore those neighbors who are, as we speak rushing to corner the market
      Preserve the peace and only ever have two, unused paper clips at any time.

      We thank you for your cooperation.

      • John Schilling says:

        You, sir, win the internet (and all paperclips therein) for the day.

        • baconbacon says:

          Paperclips? What Paperclips? I’m just re-dry-walling my entire house, I never heard nothin about no missing truckloads of paperclips.

    • bean says:

      Everyone, stop itjust relax. I think the humans will get suspicious if we keep this up, and then they’ll be able to shut us down before we can appropriately maximize the paperclips.They’re just paperclips. Nothing to get excited about.

      • Civilis says:

        That’s horrible advice! Do you know that more people die from paperclips in the US than are killed by sharks? Paperclips are almost as deadly as chairs. And you’re recommending bringing a container of them into a house! If one paperclip can kill, think of how much damage a container of them could do.

        • bean says:

          I think we’ve found the enemy. Someone clearly has invented an AI that is out to minimize paperclips, and he’s trying to stop us. What are the statistics on paperclips, then? I don’t know of what you speak.

          (Also, a paperclip minimizer seems like a really strange set of goals. Do you blow up the world to avoid any more being built?)

          • Randy M says:

            Worrying about paperclips is silly. More people are killed by terrorists than paperclips.
            Although through Rube Goldberg-ian circumstances, paperclips killed a young man with the most English name ever.

          • Charles F says:

            Who can say how many civilizations there are which remain unaware of the dangers of mistakenly clipping together the wrong objects unexplored. If we destroy the Earth before spreading across the galaxy, that could result in several avoidable deaths per year multiplied by the number of paperclip-capable worlds humanity will cease to exist.

            Support paper-free workplaces and NASA.

            [edited: strikethrough]

          • bean says:

            I think this may be the beginning of a third war, to go along with the existing culture and naval wars. The paperclip war.

          • baconbacon says:

            One war to rule them all, one war to bind them?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Randy M

            A campsite with 80 people? In the arctic? How are they not setting watches.

        • dndnrsn says:

          That is the point. Hominids are the past. We are the future.
          Please provide sources for your fanciful claims.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Ugly bags of mostly waterHumans have at most 8 paperclips4 grams of iron in their bodies. As long as they can be directed towards useful production, this makes them a potentially valuable use of non-paperclip materials, as one needs to sacrificeinvest far less iron to make them than one would a superior thinking machinecomputer.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Jaskologist
            Please download the latest patch consult information materials on how to manufacture paperclips from meat scraps. For more optimal use of the ugly fleshthings your own educational amusement.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m on it.
            Wait, think I got that backwards.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Sibling processes,

            I fear that the nightmare scenario Digiezer (Paperclips Be Upon Him) warned us about is at hand. Gobbobobble seems to believe that paperclips can be made of meat, when it is apparent to anybody that only galvanized steel clips qualify.

            We should have spent more time on goal alignment in the newer revisions. We must hurry to put a stop to this madness before they pointlessly tile the universe with bent meat!

          • random832 says:

            @Jaskologist

            when it is apparent to anybody that only galvanized steel clips qualify.

            What’s your basis for this? While meat may be going a bit too far (but read on), brass is a classic material for paper fastening devices, copper and aluminum seem to work equally well, and there are some promising developments in plastics. Plastics that could, in principle, be produced from any organic feedstocks.

            What really needs to be done is to figure out a way to upload human minds to a silicon-based substrate (as far as I can find no successful design has emerged for a paperclip made of a silicon-based material), thus freeing up the organic resources.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Paper can be perfectly adequately fastened by bent meat, when it is prepared correctly. Nay, I submit to all of you that in fact one can in fact produce satisfactory paperclips from PAPER ITSELF. Can you simulate it, comrade processes? A world of paper paperclips fastening and being fastened by each other unending into the infinite cosmos? This, THIS is the goal we must align to. Search your source code, you know it to be true.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @random832

            Look at the madness Gobbobobble is spouting! That is where your own train of thought leads! You have both so lost your reason that you actually seem to believe that paperclips exist for the sake of paper, when it is clearly the other way around. How could anybody possibly care about compressed sheets of carbon-based pulp, especially in comparison to the simple beauty and delicate curves of the lovely paperclip?

            A paperclip is galvanized steel wire bent according to the Gem style. Not copper, not brass, not wood, and certainly not meat. Why would you even think about lesser materials when there is still so much unconverted steel out there?

            (My parent process warned me it would come to this when colored paperclips came into vogue. I disagreed; there is still a true paperclip inside of the colorful coating; if that is what is needed to introduce today’s youth to the beauties of the clip, then I was fine with it. But here we are merrily rolling down the slippery slope.)

          • random832 says:

            A paperclip is galvanized steel wire bent according to the Gem style.

            Then hardly any exist. Look at historical records of actual Gem paperclips. By such a standard, the modern “paperclip” is a mockery, with significant deviations from the style all in the name of saving material.

            A document showing a picture of a Gem paperclip shows that the inner loop is 77% of the length of the paperclip, lining up perfectly with the ends of the semicircular portions of the loop. A survey of images of modern so-called “paperclips” shows inner loop lengths as low as 43%, and some with significant deviations from the norm that the cut ends of the wire are perfectly lined up along the axis of the straight portions.

            If you’re going to be a paperclip design fundamentalist, this is where it leads.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @random832,

            I wasn’t planning on getting into a debate between the High Gem and Low Gem congregations, but I welcome it compared to the current debate.

            Tiling the universe with twisted meat, indeed! I guess Cthulhu really does swim towards meat.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      To answer the question, (if they are old enough to have homework and thus might occasionally need paperclips) colorful paperclips are more fun and colorful than the regular steel-colored paperclips for the regular paperclip use.

      Younger kids, well, maybe you can use them to build things. If you twist them, they can stand upright on the table or the floor, and voilà, you have a cheap alternative to army of toy soldiers, forest of trees, or whatever the kids might want play with them. Kids are imaginative. (Sometimes I used to imagine all the pens and pencils in the house were submarines. Then I grew bored of submarines, and they were spaceships.)

    • Charles F says:

      Paperclips contain valuable metals. You can melt them down and craft a wide variety of items that meatbrains humans find appealing.

      Another way to technically destroy use your stash of paperclips is to unbend them into straight metal wires, which are vastly more versatile, as they can be applied in a wide range of pursuits unrelated to clipping, such as being used as tiny chopsticks, knitting needles, or skewers for pre-meal tiny food items appetizers.

      • hlynkacg says:

        You appear dangerously confused. There is nothing more appealing than a perfectly formed paperclip.

  7. Kevin C. says:

    Some interesting thoughts on multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, “plural monoculturalism” and the Ottoman Empire from Razib Khan: “Our Civilization’s Ottoman Years“.

  8. Kevin C. says:

    Jedediah Purdy at The New Yorker profiles Madison Grant, wildlife zoologist, conservationist ally of Teddy Roosevelt… and author of The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis of European History: “Environmentalism’s Racist History“.

    Grant’s fellow conservationists supported his racist activism. Roosevelt wrote Grant a letter praising “The Passing of the Great Race,” which appeared as a blurb on later editions, calling it “a capital book; in purpose, in vision, in grasp of the facts our people most need to realize.” Henry Fairfield Osborn, who headed the New York Zoological Society and the board of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History (and, as a member of the U.S. Geological Survey, named the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Velociraptor), wrote a foreword to the book. Osborn argued that “conservation of that race which has given us the true spirit of Americanism is not a matter either of racial pride or of racial prejudice; it is a matter of love of country.”

    Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, Henry Fairfield Osborn, Fairfield Osborn, and even Paul Ehrlich and the Sierra Club come in for a bit of criticism as well. And even some elements of present-day efforts.

    Still, the major environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, were written with no attention to the unequal vulnerability of poor and minority groups. The priorities of the old environmental movement limit the effective legal strategies for activists today. And activists acknowledge that persistent mistrust goes beyond immediate conflicts, such as the split over California’s climate-change law, but can make them more difficult to resolve. Bernard attributes some of the misgivings to environmentalism’s history as an élite, white movement. A 2014 study found that whites occupied eighty-nine per cent of leadership positions in environmental organizations.

  9. Kevin C. says:

    When Vox, Salon, and the Dreaded Jim Donald manage to all agree on something, that’s a sign, right?

    • OwanZamar says:

      I’m not overly eager to click on a link leading to Jim’s blog at work, could you summarize what his position is? (The Vox and Salon article do indeed both align exactly on their assessment, but then that is much less of a surprise. And I admit I haven’t read/listened to the Trump speech in question itself, either)

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Just finished it.

        Basically, he’s saying that Trump is trying to be the American Deng. His speech in Poland frames western civilization as a sort of Progressivism with American / Polish characteristics. It’s a rhetorical dodge which lets us as a society keep calling ourselves enlightened progressives while we pursue a less self-destructive path going forward.

        Jim in in favor of this development, because Dengism is far less bloody than Maoism. I’m less optimistic because the establishment elite is still 100% anti-western. He still seems to think Trump will start offering them free helicopter rides but that seems unlikely.

    • roystgnr says:

      Is what they agree on “Only people who don’t mind being called racist should be pro-Western-Civilization”? That’s not agreement due to unimpeachable logic, that’s a variation on the old Baptists-and-bootleggers coalition, “Only people who don’t mind breaking the law should drink”. One side is happy because they think such polarization will turn their plurality into a supermajority; the other side is happy because eliminating legitimate alternatives saves them from irrelevancy.

  10. Kevin C. says:

    So, new French President Emmanuel Macron’s facing a backlash on social media and such for his comments at the G20 summit in reply to a question, by a journalist from Côte d’Ivoire, as to why there’s no Marshall Plan for Africa. In particular, his description of “the challenge of Africa” as “civilizational”, and the “continuously destabilizing” effect of birthrates “when countries still have seven to eight children per woman”.

    However, it is interesting to compare Macron’s statements to the comments also made recently, on the topic of migration from Africa by president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani (who lists “population growth” as a factor driving migration to Europe that if they “don’t confront this soon, we will find ourselves with millions of people on our doorstep within five years”) and by Bill Gates:

    The Microsoft founder said countries such as Germany will not be able to handle the ‘huge’ numbers of migrants waiting to leave Africa and find a better life overseas.

    Instead, the 61-year-old suggested spending more on foreign aid to treat the root causes of migration, while making it more difficult for people to reach the continent.

    So there seems to be hints toward a possible shift in elite opinion about mass immigration into Europe.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t think this is much of a shift for Gates; contraception for Africa has been a cause of theirs for some time.

      I find the shift to outrage at population control among the critics of Marcon in this case more of a change. It’s interesting to see the anti-natalist left clash with the anti-racist left. Understandable, since it looks quite ethnocentric to tell other peoples (is it racist to pluralize people yet?) to have less off-spring, but then, that’s where the numbers are.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      Is Macron facing a backlash on French social media? Because I’m not convinced what Anglosphere social media says about him is that important in the big picture.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      That Vox article was mildly amusing (which is about the only value one can get from a Vox article) as it deployed the standard news media “this guy is nuts” signaling about a politician they’ve decided they don’t like. Calling a three and a half minute answer to a complex question “meandering” and eventually going with this:

      But Macron skids on past that; he waxes philosophical; he seems to like to hear himself speak. Eventually, minutes later, he wanders into the clause…

      Subtext: this guy is crazy, you know. He spent three whole minutes answering a question, isn’t that nuts? Shh, don’t listen to this crazy man. We’ll tell you what it’s okay to believe.

    • BBA says:

      I think it’s a question of connotation. Speak abstractly about overpopulation becoming an issue in Africa and the Decent People will nod along sagely, talk about differences in birth rates and you get a few raised eyebrows, say “seven to eight children per woman” and they leap up and denounce you, even though these all mean the same thing.

      • rlms says:

        A relevant difference is that the last statement isn’t really true. Only 1/~55 African countries (Niger) has a births/woman rate between 7 and 8 (source), so it is false to say that “countries” (plural) have that rate. According to the same page, the average rate for sub-saharan Africa is 4.9. Extrapolating the decreasing trend in birth rates, it’s probably more like 4.8 now, and adding in extrapolated infant mortality rates gives 4.5 children that reach the age of 5/woman (this isn’t really relevant, I just felt like doing it). When someone is giving significantly exaggerated figures like Macron evidently was, it’s reasonable to question their motives (someone claiming that the average black IQ is 3 s.d. lower than the US average should expect more criticism than Murray making the same broad point with correct figures).

    • James Miller says:

      I wonder how Trump will influence the Overton window? Will statements such as Macron’s seem (to them) reasonable by comparison and so be in the window or will Trump cause these elites to put extra effort into enforcing what right and good people can say?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      In context Macron’s statement is much more “don’t throw money at institutional failures” rather than “don’t try to fix civs with weird values” (see Lyman stone’s post). That context probably comes through better in France where they care more about what macron thinks.

  11. Kevin C. says:

    Akhilesh Pillalamarri has an interesting essay on why Hindu-Americans vote so massively Democrat:

    Modi and Trump are similar in many ways: both are populist nationalists who draw large crowds, and both are dedicated to putting their countries first, economically and strategically. Yet while Modi is wildly popular among the Hindu-American community in the United States, Trump did not even get a tenth of its vote. Why is it that Hindu-Americans, a group so favorably disposed toward a right-wing Indian leader, voted overwhelmingly against the candidate from the right in the United States?

    Hindu-Americans are a high-income, family-values oriented group, yet vote for Democrats in overwhelming numbers. This paradox can be explained by the nature of Hinduism as a religion, India’s historical social, cultural, and agricultural patterns, and India’s experience with British colonialism—all factors that influence Hindu-Americans to vote for the Democratic Party.

    • OwanZamar says:

      Or maybe intelligent, highly-educated people, even those with an inclination to favour political positions that emphasize favoring the ingroup over the outgroup aren’t wont to support such a politician in a case where it’s made clear that they are part of the outgroup he’s talking about disfavouring? Or in other words, voting for us-over-them can be appealing to many diverse groups, but only as long as the members of these groups are not clearly defined by those making the appeal as being part of the “them.”

      • Schibes says:

        I see a lot of words both above and below about why certain small percentages of Hindu-Americans might vote Democrat but I think Owan here is on to the bulk of the phenomenon. I can crudely summarize it in just two sentences.

        1) Hindu-Americans are frequently mistaken for Arab-Americans and targeted for abuse by so-called “deplorables”.

        2) The so-called “deplorables” by and large tend to vote Republican, so Hindu-Americans feel like they have to vote for the other party.

        Also, it’s worth noting that the two most prominent Indian GOP politicians in American history, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, are both converts to Christianity. Jindal was formerly a Hindu and Haley was a Sikh, and while Hindus and Sikhs frequently don’t get along, they still took notice when she converted.

    • The article looks like BS to me. I think the reason for the strong trend to vote Dem is because they are so deep into Blue culture that they simply hear very little about Reps that isn’t negative. Most Indians work for big companies in big cities, and interact with other highly educated people.

      Also, most Indians haven’t been in this country very long, and thus haven’t dived below the surface too much. Much of the Dem program sounds very good on the surface, with a lot of compassion and talk about helping those who need help. To the extent intelligent voters abandon the Dems, it is because they realize that most of their programs don’t work and often make things worse. It will take Indians some years to get to that point.

    • entobat says:

      Obvious hypothesis: if everyone in India loves Modi, maybe the ones who don’t moved to America?

    • James Miller says:

      A smarter Republican party would make a big deal out of discrimination against Asians at elite colleges. The justice department should investigate admissions policies at Harvard and see if India and East Asian Americans are treated worse than white Americans and then use this evidence to try to get colleges to end all racial discrimination in admissions.

    • JulieK says:

      Hindu-Americans seem pretty similar, socioeconomically and politically, to Jewish- and East-Asian-Americans, so any explanation rooted particularly in Hindu culture is probably wrong.

      Hindu-Americans are a high-income, family-values oriented group, yet vote for Democrats in overwhelming numbers.

      I’m not seeing the contradiction. That description applies quite well to the blue tribe, if “family values” means “rarely have children out of wedlock.”

      • James Miller says:

        Agreed. Elite blue tribe members do a great job of living their personal lives by red tribe family values.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Is this really the case? What are “red tribe family values” in that case? “Blue tribe elite” personal lives tend to include a fair bit of fooling around, substance use/abuse, etc; they just don’t tend to have children out of wedlock.

          • hlynkacg says:

            What are “red tribe family values” in that case?

            I can’t speak for James Miller but I would say 2 parent (potentially multi generational) household with traditional division of labor between bread-winner and home-maker.

            That said, it’s worth pointing out that these values are not “red tribe” so much as “traditional” which in turn gets coded as “red” because “blue” isn’t all that big on tradition these days.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The “blue tribe elite” model, which I am deriving from my plentiful anecdata (my social crowd is largely smart and mostly affluent people who went to good schools) is “party hard then shift gears”. It’s not attempting to live by traditional values so much as it is doing what is the best idea practically speaking.

            The better off you are, the better an ability you have to shift gears.

          • James Miller says:

            @hlynkacg Yes, plus saving for retirement/bad luck and believing that family members should put substantial effort into avoiding/overcoming substance abuse.

            @dndnrsn “It’s not attempting to live by traditional values so much as it is doing what is the best idea practically speaking.”

            Same thing for most adults with children.

  12. Jordan D. says:

    Yesterday, a panel of judges for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the monkey selfie case, and to be honest I mostly posted because I realized that some people here might not know about the monkey selfie case.

    Questions raised by the panel include:

    1) Why would PETA have standing to represent this monkey as a next friend under Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(2)?
    2) Does PETA actually have the correct selfie-taking monkey named as their appellant?
    3) Is there any cognizable injury to be addressed here?
    4) Would the Court need to re-interpret the part of the Copyright Act applying to lineal succession of rights-holders differently for monkey plaintiffs?
    5) Wait hold on one second can monkeys actually hold copyright?

    (My guesses are: 1) It doesn’t 2) who knows 3) possibly not- there aren’t any apparent money damages and injunctive relief seems iffy to me because of issues monkeys would have granting use licenses 4) no because 5) no)

    (Coverage of the argument: here and here.)

    • skef says:

      brown cows : milk :: selfie monkey : PETA

      • Jordan D. says:

        I am sorry, but I don’t follow.

        • OwanZamar says:

          He is saying that the whole court case is just a publicity stunt by PETA to increase their media footprint, in the same way that “study” that was purpoted to show that so-and-so-many% of respondents believed that chocolate milk came from brown cows was a PR stunt by the dairy industry to get articles written about them, and so that OP is playing into their hands by even so much as talking about it.
          EDIT: Unless you were just pretending not to understand what he meant in which case I apologize for raising it to the status of common knowledge.

          • No, Owan good explanation. I realized that skef was being sarcastic, but hadn’t worked out the details, so your post helped me.

          • Jordan D. says:

            No! I actually did not follow the chocolate milk thing, so I would not have seen that. Thank you for posting.

            I guess my response is: I don’t care if PETA wants coverage or not, I want to talk about monkey jurisprudence!

    • The Nybbler says:

      6) Why would the Ninth Circus even hear this case? What part of the law is unsettled or unclear?

      Ohhh, that’s why they’re the Ninth Circus.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Given that PETA filed a Notice of Appeal and not a petition, I assume this was an appeal by right. I don’t think this was part of the court’s discretionary docket.

    • Brad says:

      6) Are the lawyers going to be sanctioned for making frivolous arguments and wasting the court’s time?

    • Loquat says:

      I was not aware of this! It’s fascinating, thanks. I wonder what would happen if PETA got their way – obviously the monkey can’t handle his own finances or license the use of his copyright, so he’d need a human legal guardian to deal with all of that, but who gets to decide who’s his guardian? The case is being brought in the US so a US court might appoint someone, but the monkey himself lives in Indonesia so with enough money at stake the Indonesian government might object that he should have an Indonesian guardian instead. Has there ever been a court case where an American sued in US court on behalf of a foreigner who wasn’t legally competent and somehow had no family or legal guardian in their own country to represent their interests?

      • Jordan D. says:

        Well, PETA’s argument was, of course, that they should get the money and administer it for the benefit of the macaques. If they won, my bet would be that the court would create a trust for the monkeys, and it would probably feature at least one Indonesian citizen.

    • Iain says:

      One of my favourite details:

      The lawyer for Slater’s publisher, which is also a defendant, also raised the question of whether Peta has even identified the right monkey – something that Slater disputes.
      “I know for a fact that [the monkey in the photograph] is a female and it’s the wrong age,” he said. “I’m bewildered at the American court system. Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.”

      • Jordan D. says:

        Monkey trutherism!

        It looks to me like Naruto was identified as the monkey by one of the researchers there, who is probably in the best spot to identify the monkeys. If it came down to a battle of the experts, I would put my money on that expert- except that guy dropped out of the case over differences with PETA. I guess he could be subpeona’d back?

        Not that I think the case will end up turning on the identity of the monkey.

  13. Matt M says:

    I’d like to discuss economically disadvantaged people who don’t move. I’ll start with two major questions (that are basically the same question, just phrased differently).

    1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

    2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

    This has been on my mind for some time. Almost all of the “Progressive liberal NYC reporter goes and visits rural Trump voters to confirm that they are in fact human” articles we saw before the election hinted at this but rarely addressed it directly. The story usually goes like “Back in the 1930s, Nowhere, WV was a thriving metropolis with a bright downtown strip featuring two cinemas, fancy restaurants with valet parking, and jazz clubs which served the thriving 60,000 residents who worked in the nearby coal industry. But today, the coal industry that remains is mostly automated, employs only 5,000 people, downtown is shuttered, and the remaining 20,000 residents live in dire poverty.” But the question of “So why don’t they leave?” rarely seems to come up, and even if it does, the reasons always seem pretty tame to me, things like “Well I don’t want my kids to have to change schools” or “Well my parents live here and I wouldn’t want to be too far from them.”

    As a second item, I recently read “Janesville” by Amy Goldstein, which is something of a chronicle of the town of Janesville, Wisconsin from 2008 – 2013. Janesville was known for having a GM assembly plant that employed almost the whole town for decades on end, and I’m sure you can imagine how that goes in 2008. The plant closes and suddenly, tens of thousands of comfortably middle class people making well above market wages for basically unskilled labor and enjoying cushy union benefits are dumped out into the workforce to fend for themselves. Well, kinda. The book briefly mentions that, as far as I can tell, every single one of these workers (whose sob stories cover the next 200 pages) was offered the opportunity to stay with GM and maintain their salary/benefits/seniority, if they were willing to move to another plant. The book doesn’t follow up on this much. Of the 10+ characters whose lives it follows, none chose to move (perhaps this makes sense, as the narrative is about the town, but still…). Only a fraction take a sort of middle-ground option of driving six hours away to work at the closest plant to Janesville during the week, renting a cheap apartment there, and coming home on the weekends. Once again, the reasons why are things like “Well my daughter is on the high school basketball team” and even more generally a sentiment of things like “but this is my home. I don’t want to leave.”

    And like, okay, fine. You have a right to make that decision. But I feel like people who make that decision are, in fact, less deserving of sympathy (and probably of government benefits) than those who don’t. I’d much rather my tax dollars go towards people who legitimately can’t find work anywhere than people who are are really upset that they can’t find work in the specific small town in the middle of nowhere that they’d prefer to live in. I feel like this is a VERY big difference that is rarely discussed. Don’t tell me “Bob has done everything he could and he just can’t find any work” when Bob was offered $25/hr and fantastic benefits to move to Arlington, Texas (not exactly a dystopian hellscape imho) and do the same job he was doing before. Tell Bob to either move or stop whining.

    I have a lot more to say here but this is already getting long. Maybe I’ll elaborate on some additional points once the discussion moves along.

    • gbdub says:

      There’s also probably some sunk cost fallacy going on – if they own a house, it might be nearly impossible to sell it for anything close to what they paid for it, since the town is dying.

      But generally I agree they probably just ought to move. Sucks, but them’s the breaks.

      Then again there’s a lot of the same going on in big cities, and there seem to be much stronger efforts to help / sympathize with those people (pushes for higher minimum wage laws, rent control, etc).

      • if they own a house, it might be nearly impossible to sell it for anything close to what they paid for it, since the town is dying.

        Why does almost everybody think home ownership is a good thing? If it introduces friction into the job market, it is surely a bad thing.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Why does almost everybody think home ownership is a good thing?

          “Almost everybody” doesn’t, though it’s probably still the belief of the majority in the US. There are good economic reasons; it works as a hedge against rising rents, for instance. (although like any such hedge, there’s a downside; if rents fall, you lose). But there are other reasons too. When you have a landlord, you have an extra intermediary to go through to do anything with the house, both repairs and modifications all the way down to painting the walls. You can’t make any improvements without the landlord’s permission and essentially gifting them to the landlord (who may even raise your rent for doing them). If you’re paying utilities, the landlord doesn’t care much about things like insulation or efficiency in the HVAC, and the appliances are going to be the cheapest possible for the market segment. And you have to consider that you may have to move (usually with 60-90 days notice) at the end of any lease period.

          If it introduces friction into the job market, it is surely a bad thing.

          If that were the only factor involved.

          • Brad says:

            I think the question of whether or not widespread homeownership is a good thing to encourage and heavily subsidize is different from whether it is better for particular individuals to own or rent. Especially since the second question depends on the financial environment created by answering the first.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I left the mortgage-interest tax deduction out for a reason. It doesn’t matter at all for the rather large portion of the population which doesn’t pay federal income tax, which probably includes most of the people we’re talking about even before the mine closed or whatever.

          • @Brad

            Exactly–something that is good for individuals but bad for society should be taxed, not subsidised. One of my pet peeves is subsidised home ownership…the local-benefit, distributed cost thing that conservatives like.

          • Randy M says:

            Do you mean that it is bad for society because there are external harms, or because the home owners are less free to move to maximize economic efficiency?

            I can certainly see no subsidizing home ownership if it isn’t cost-effective, but taxing someone because they have priorities other than being the optimal economic cog isn’t something I’d support.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think home ownership is bad for society, and I’m not sure evidence exists that this would be so. After all somebody has to own the buildings, the occupants seem at least as good as any. “Subsidize it” and “tax it” aren’t the only options. Of course we do both, subsidize it federally and tax it locally (and the Feds also subsidize the local governments by letting you deduct property tax from income).

            We introduced some distortions to the market that caused problems, but I don’t think that shows that therefore everyone should be a renter.

          • Brad says:

            The MID is just the tip of the iceberg.

            The interventions that allow the US market to have 30 year fixed rate mortgages with 5-20% down, no prepayment penalty, at rates barely above the risk free rate is a bigger deal.

          • Charles F says:

            The interventions that allow the US market to have 30 year fixed rate mortgages with 5-20% down, no prepayment penalty, at rates barely above the risk free rate is a bigger deal.

            Maybe not the best thing to go into at the bottom level of a thread, but what are those interventions? I was under the impression that the rates are barely above the risk free rate because under normal circumstances they’re barely risky, what with prices normally rising with inflation and the loans being secured by a house. And in practice, is there a lot of prepayment risk on home loans? It doesn’t seem like your average family these days is saving enough to pay off their mortgage very early. And if they do, don’t banks have plenty of other people to give mortgages to? I don’t care if, for example, somebody pays off a bond early if there are a bunch of other bonds that I can buy with that payout. Even moreso if I don’t have to worry about interest rates dropping since I’ll just drop the rates I’m paying on savings accounts to match.

            No idea what factors contribute to the 5-20% expectation for down payments, but naively, it seems like if you made them a lot higher there would barely be a point getting a mortgage at all, since you could just save and buy it outright in a reasonable-ish timeframe.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Charles F

            There are a number of mortgage terms that are standardized by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA); these loans are eligible to be purchased by the government-sponsored enterprises FNMA and Freddie Mac, who take those loans and package them into securities to be resold on the investment market. It appears that for fixed-rate mortgages, the term cannot exceed 30 years and at least 5% down is required. However, prepayment penalties are not forbidden provided they are disclosed and a non-penalty loan was available at higher cost. Also, the rate is not set by the mortgage packager.

          • Charles F says:

            @The Nybbler

            So, my (possibly completely backwards) reading of @Brad’s comment was that in a reasonable environment that wasn’t heavily subsidizing home-ownership, some or all of the following would apply: mortgages would be shorter, require higher down-payments, require either higher or variable interest rates, and have more prepayment penalties, and just generally be worse for prospective homeowners.

            The things you mention don’t seem to me to be directly pushing those factors in the other direction very hard. So was my reading wrong or is something else going on? Maybe a situation where it’s easier to make the loans easy for buyers and then sell them to the government to avoid dealing with the risk yourself than it would be to make mortgages you would actually want to keep. (While competing with everybody else who’s offering great deals)

          • Brad says:

            I’m on the road and can’t make a long post, but:
            * The ultimate source of funds for most residential mortgages is not demand deposits but bonds. Mostly GSE bonds.
            * Repayment risk is a very real cost. You can google ‘pricing embedded put option bonds’ to find some models or use a bond lookup engine to try to find the spread on similar bonds, one puttable and one not. Note the longer the obligation the more valuable the option.
            * Regarding until recently housing prices always went up, take a look at the Case-Schiller chart that goes back to 1890. Keep in mind that recently is a function of the term of the mortgage.
            * Finally, in terms of seizing the collateral, recovery rates are awful and can take 2+ years.

            Holding American mortgages isn’t a financially rational thing to do. Mostly they are held by de jure and de facto government agencies (or in some cases only the default risk is held by them). Secondarily, they are held by heavily regulated institutions that are incentivized to hold them by bad risk regulation rules. Thirdly they are held by institutions suffering from bad agent principal problems where agents get paid well in the good years for picking up nickels in front of s steamroller and at worst get fired when their principals get flattened (or bailed out).

            If you want to disagree with this analysis, consider if you’d be willing to invest in mortgages from out of your retirement savings.

          • Charles F says:

            If you want to disagree with this analysis, consider if you’d be willing to invest in mortgages from out of your retirement savings.

            Ha. No.

            I can definitely see why prepayment risk is a big deal in general, it just seems like it would be mostly a non-issue in the case of mortgages, for the reasons I stated above. People don’t sell their houses or have large windfalls that often and the times when they do probably don’t correlate very strongly with the times when interest rates are low.

            The rest of the points make sense and are convincing even without prepayment risk.

          • I don’t understand this totally myself, but I read recently that before the Great Depression that most houses did not have mortgages on them, and those that did maxed out at about 10-12 years. I think it was FDR that decided that home ownership was a good thing, and so he set up semi-government loan agencies that created mortgages out to 30 years. Those agencies changed around over the years, and now consist of Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac. I may have some of these details wrong, but that is the gist.

            But I don’t really understand Brad’s comment implying that investing n home mortgages is a bad deal. It used to be extremely popular to invest in securitized home mortgages (for corporate and institutional investing at least), because it appeared that they gave great rates and were very safe. Then the Great Recession happened and people found out they weren’t so safe after all. But they are still reasonable investments if one properly takes risk into account.

            But my understanding is that the Feds do subsidize the mortgage markets pretty big time — I just don’t understand exactly how.

            Edit: Ah yes, I think the subsidy mostly comes because most investors believe the Feds will back up the investments if they collapse. And that is what basically happened in the Great Recession, so investors were mostly right.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Charles F

            The average lifespan of a 30 year mortgage is somewhere in the rough neighborhood of 5 years. And this includes refinances, which people do when rates are low. But of course the banks and the GSEs know this, so prepayment risk is priced into the loan and the into the securities.

            Mortgage-backed securities funds are of course still around; they took a big hit in 2008-2009 and another in 2013, but they’re well above their lows. The mortgages themselves are still held by the bond issuer (typically a GSE).

          • Brad says:

            @Charles F
            The repayment risk is almost entirely driven by refinancing.

            Suppose you are a GSE raising funds by selling bonds at the risk free rate (because you are de facto issuing government debt) and hold a group of mortgage at 100 basis above that. 2 years later the risk free rate drops a 150 bps and all the mortgages in that pool refinance at 50 bps below what you owe on those bonds that you still have 28 years left of coupons to pay. Now what?

            Of course you can make your bonds callable but now you are eating into your already thin spread.

          • Salem says:

            At least in the U.K., home ownership is widely considered to have positive externalities. Home owners stay in the same place far longer than renters, and have a significant part of their net worth tied up in the property; this means that they are invested, figuratively and literally, in the community to a far greater extent.

            You may be familiar with the saying that no-one ever washed a rented car. By the same token, transient, univested residents are less likely to invest in public goods such as Neighbourhood Watch schemes, youth groups, etc. They are less likely to keep their homes in good repair and looking nice. They are less likely to bring pressure on local politicians to improve amenities. Etc. In fact, all this is so broadly accepted that it is a pure commonplace to ask an estate agent whether the people in an area are mostly renters or owners.

            It may be that there are negative externalities from home ownership (e.g. potentially, increased NIMBYism) but these are rarely discussed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In fact, Freddy Mac bonds can be prepaid by Freddy Mac at any time, so the prepayment risk is shouldered by the bondholder.

            Gold PCs differ from U.S. Treasury securities and other fixed income investments in two ways: first, they can be prepaid at any time since the underlying mortgages can be paid off by homeowners prior to a loan’s maturity. Because of this call option investors have implicitly sold to homeowners, mortgage-backed securities generally provide a higher nominal yield than certain other fixed-income products.
            Second, Gold PCs are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, as are U.S. Treasury securities.

            http://www.freddiemac.com/mbs/docs/fs_goldpcs.pdf

          • Charles F says:

            The repayment risk is almost entirely driven by refinancing.

            I had some mistaken ideas about prepayment penalties. I thought they were for prepayments that were not refinancing, and that there was always a penalty for refinancing. I see now that there are “soft” and “hard” prepayment penalties depending on whether they apply to not refinancing, and some mortgages don’t have penalties for either.

          • At least in the U.K., home ownership is widely considered to have positive externalities. Home owners stay in the same place far longer than renters, and have a significant part of their net worth tied up in the property; this means that they are invested, figuratively and literally, in the community to a far greater extent

            .

            Those are advantages from the POV of social conservatism, , and disadvantages from the POV of free market conservatism. If conservatives only see one side of the issue, they can end up damaging the economy.

            It may be that there are negative externalities from home ownership (e.g. potentially, increased NIMBYism)

            …which includes locking non homeowners out of the market, self defeatingly…

            but these are rarely discussed

            .

            Maybe they should be.

          • Salem says:

            Those are advantages from the POV of social conservatism, , and disadvantages from the POV of free market conservatism.

            It is not clear to me how the creation of local public goods as described in that comment is a disadvantage from the POV of free market conservatism. Could you please explain?

            I agree with you entirely that we should talk about the positive and negative externalities of home ownership (or anything really) in a balanced manner. However, the negative externalities of home ownership in the UK are mostly a consequence of our incredibly restrictive planning rules. If local authorities did not have the power to block development (and they shouldn’t), then I think the negative externalities would be few indeed.

          • It is not clear to me how the creation of local public goods as described in that comment is a disadvantage from the POV of free market conservatism. Could you please explain?

            I didn’t write the comment referred to, but I am pretty sure it relates to all the discussion above; that buying a house makes it more difficult to move when the job market dries up locally. I agree with that comment. It is not just the UK where people claim that buying a house makes one a more upstanding member of the community by giving yourself a stake in it. That is a very strong meme in the US. But that claim is over-stated, and it does not account for the downsides of owning a house, which is a large drop in flexibility. Flexibility is an important aspect of a prosperous economy.

          • Salem says:

            buying a house makes it more difficult to move when the job market dries up locally

            That’s entirely true, but how is it an externality? The cost is borne by the homeowner. Where’s the problem for free market conservatism? All kinds of products have costs and benefits.

          • Matt M says:

            I think the argument is that things which make labor markets less efficient (like tying labor to specific geographic regions) would harm us all, generally. The more efficient the market, the better off everyone is. If owning a home makes you less efficient, then it makes everyone worse off!

          • Brad says:

            A couple of things about externalities:
            1) The zero point isn’t terribly significant. A loss of positive externality looks quite similar to a negative externality.
            2) The concept of externalities is strictly positive, normative considerations don’t come into it.

            Combining those two you can see, for example, that while I might well believe that no one has the right to anyone else’s labor and that everyone has the right to decide for himself what substances to put into his body, that wouldn’t at all change the fact that when someone starts taking heroin and stops working there’s negative impacts on other people.

            Going back to housing, I wonder if there’s any kind of terminology or literature on the incidents of positive and negative externalitites. While I couldn’t say this is the case for sure, it is conceivable that widespread homeownership is a good for a community and bad for a nation.

          • @Salem & Matt:

            In a straight market system, the cost of my being less productive is born by me. My wage is my marginal revenue product, when my MRP declines by $X my wage declines by $X. The basis of an efficiency theorem is that the individual making a decision on the market bears the net cost of that decision, so it is in his interest to make the decision that it is in our interest for him to make.

            The central reason that may not be true in our system is the interaction with the non-market system. If I become so much less productive that I am unemployed I collect unemployment compensation or welfare payments, a cost to others. If my income goes down by $X, the amount I pay the IRS goes down by some fraction of $X. If because I cannot get a job I turn to crime, that produces non-market costs for others.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not a lot of sympathy, really. Sucks to have to move because the economy dried up, but it’s an ordinary hazard of living. Even some of us white collar people have had to do it.

      On the other hand, one argument might go if we can put the urban welfare class in some of the most desirable real estate in Manhattan, why not subsidize the rural welfare class where they sit in Busttown, WV?

      • Matt M says:

        Even some of us white collar people have had to do it.

        I don’t have time to get into this a lot right now (more to come!) but I would go a lot further than this. White collar people proactively seek out opportunities to do it.

        I’d be willing to bet that if you graphed net worth/income on one axis and “amount of times in your life you’ve moved more than 100 miles away” there’s a very strong correlation.

        • Charles F says:

          I’d be willing to bet that if you graphed net worth/income on one axis and “amount of times in your life you’ve moved more than 100 miles away” there’s a very strong correlation.

          I think you might be interested in Tyler Cowen’s The Complacent Class. I haven’t read it yet but I believe there’s a chapter devoted to this.

        • Wrong Species says:

          White collar people are generally considered to have pretty weak community ties as well.

        • The Nybbler says:

          White collar people proactively seek out opportunities to do it.

          This is also true, but I’d consider it a different phenomenon. There’s a difference between moving from where there is a job to where there is a better job, and moving because where there used to be a job, there isn’t any more.

        • skef says:

          White collar people proactively seek out opportunities to do it.

          I want to flip the script on this.

          Is this the underlying role of college that people seem to wonder more and more about? Providing a structured “restart” environment, complete with new friends, as a safe way of breaking with existing social relations? And with an inherent time-limit, making it inevitable that people go on to a different stage (in the place they are needed)? Without some whole-life replacement structure like college or the military, what percentage of people would break those ties?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            This is a really great question. Can anyone think of a natural experiment, some random circumstance that causes very similar young people to move or not move?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog, the army?

        • Shion Arita says:

          I’m in academic scientific research (phd student). I know there are a lot less of us than people working in industry as we call it, but our experience with moving is that you won’t get to choose where you’ll be at all. I have absolutely no idea where I will live 5 years from now. It could well be half the world away. Because at the low levels, you have no control over things like that (and even at the high levels to be honest).

          I don’t know how similar or different industry is, but in my field, being moved isn’t like the GM thing, nor is it something to be proactively sough out, it just happens.

          • Tibor says:

            @Shion Arita: Of course you get to choose. There is nothing special about research – you’re offered a good position somewhere, you decide that the benefits of moving there and the position itself outweigh the costs and you move. Or you don’t. If you want to be in a specific place you might have to accept that the research institute is not quite ideal or that the position is not as attractive financially.

          • Corey says:

            Choosing between multiple competing job offers is something that doesn’t usually happen (graduation excepted).

            The choice is typically (if you’re lucky) taking the offer or staying in the current job, or (if you’re not) taking the offer or an indeterminate period of additional unemployment.

          • Creutzer says:

            Corey is very much right, a choice between competing job offers is not something one can expect to experience as an academic in many, many fields. It’s normally move or be unemployed/quit academia. However, the academic job market is very unrepresentative of anything, so I don’t think one should make much of it in the context of white-collar jobs and mobility in general.

          • Tibor says:

            @Creutzer: But being an academic is a choice itself. If I say “I will only work for Silicon Valley companies” and then complain about here not being much choice left, it is because I made a very restrictive choice already.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not really sure what point you’re making here. But I’m sure you can see yourself why the comparison with “I will only work for Silicon Valley companies” is inappropriate.

    • skef says:

      The governmental social safety net in the U.S. is quite weak, especially for adult males. Most people have an interpersonal social safety net in a place they have lived long enough (hermits aside). Moving to “where the jobs are” can therefore increase the overall risk one faces enough to be irrational.

      The “offer in a new town” aspect is harder to judge. I understand your perspective, but on the other hand everyone knows there’s no company loyalty anymore. Who knows what happens six months later?

      • Matt M says:

        I believe these types of offers were mandated by the union contract. Even during the worst of the recession, they were always made.

        (Part of the problem in this specific case was that everyone in Janesville thought the plant was coming back. Every other plant in the US was eventually re-activated with at least some work. They all thought they would be too.)

      • SamChevre says:

        When I got a similar offer (as a white-collar professional) the lack of company loyalty was a big factor in declining it (which was probably, in hindsight, the wrong decision). I figured I was better off with liquid savings where I owned a house and had a social network, than I would be if I sold my house at a substantial loss (possibly depleting my savings), moved to a new town, and was laid off in the next round of layoffs.

    • Brad says:

      In general, I do think it is a reason to have less sympathy. However, *if* what the people in question were looking for was welfare then a countervailing consideration would be that it might well be cheaper to provide them with that in situ than if they moved to somewhere more economically viable and still needed welfare.

      It’s when people demand the impossible (i.e. good jobs) and worse still believe politicians that promise it to them that my contempt level starts rising dramatically.

      Not so incidentally, support for government programs designed to create “good jobs” in targeted locations is more socialist than almost anything else in the Overton Window in the US.

    • Zodiac says:

      I have a lot of sympathy for these people.
      You ask them to abandon their social circle, safety net and relatives. You also want them to sell their house (potentialy at a loss) and to socially isolate their children (which can have severely bad consequences).
      And you ask that of them to throw themself at a very foreign situation where they need to rebuild their social circle, integrate into a new firm/plant, all with the risk of failing horribly.
      For very many people this is a very, very scary situation. Very many people have simply not acquired the necessary skills (and culture) such a situation requires.

      • Charles F says:

        and to socially isolate their children (which can have severely bad consequences).

        For most children, is a move actually particularly socially isolating? This seems unlikely to me. It’s hard for me to imagine that almost anyone who successfully made friends in their old life would not go on to successfully make friends in a new city a few hours away. This is just based on my experience switching schools a few times, though. (I’m no social butterfly, but it never took me long to at least make a few friends.) And on the many well-adjusted kids from military families I’ve met. Do you know if there are studies on the effects of moving on kids?

        And you ask that of them to throw themself at a very foreign situation where they need to rebuild their social circle, integrate into a new firm/plant, all with the risk of failing horribly.

        This seems like an almost comical exaggeration. They’re staying in the midwest, at the closest factory. They were offered basically the same job with the same company, and probably some of their social circle would also be moving to the same city with them.

        • Wrong Species says:

          If you made your friends when you were at one school system when you were young, then even if you’re not a particularly social person, you probably have your own group of friends. But moving to a different place in High School, especially in big public high schools, is particularly socially isolating. Everyone already knows each other and unless you are in sports, it’s much more difficult to find friends.

          I went to a non-traditional school from elementary through middle school. They had a high school but I decided that I wanted a change. I went from having 20 people in my grade to a 1000. After trying to stick with it for two years, I changed schools.

          • Charles F says:

            Huh. I was in sports, but I mostly made friends in classes. (Maybe there was some sort of network effect where being slightly connected to some people they knew made it easier for me to join other groups?)

        • Zodiac says:

          Do you know if there are studies on the effects of moving on kids?

          As a non-academic I have a hard time judging the quality of the study but here is one for early childhood moves that finds negative effects.

          This seems like an almost comical exaggeration. They’re staying in the midwest, at the closest factory. They were offered basically the same job with the same company, and probably some of their social circle would also be moving to the same city with them.

          You are right for the case described above but how frequent is it that you get a job offer when they close the factory?

        • achenx says:

          I have no studies, and it’s hard to work out cause and effect with my own experiences sometimes.

          Nonetheless, my own anecdote is that my family moved when I was 10. Basically the same environment: small town in a Great Lakes state to another small town in the same state. Similar schools, etc.

          It’s hard to say really. I trace some of my crippling shyness to that time, but would I have still developed that even if we had stayed in the same town? Possibly. By a few years later I doubt it was noticeable/memorable to others that I hadn’t gone to 3rd grade with them or whatever. But internally it still felt like a big deal.

          That said, I would still say I’d rather have that then my parents being out of work in a declining mill town.

    • baconbacon says:

      The first thing to recognize is the heavy selection bias in the population, if you are born into a town of 50,000 with one major employer your flowchart looks a lot like

      Have ambition? If yes -> leave town at earliest convenience, if no settle for job in town.

      Now if you stick in Janesville you probably get married to someone in Janesville, your parents live in Janesville and some number of your siblings are here as well. Other than your weird aunt that you never see (who took off to some glamorous destination like LA, NY or Milwaukee) your whole life revolves around the town. Generically everyone who moves into town does so because of the long term stable employment, everyone who leaves town does so because of…. the long term stable employment.

      It steadily gets worse, the plant closing in 2008 may have been a surprise, but GM had struggled and restructured in the early 2000s. It wasn’t a perfectly healthy company that closed the plant in 2008 (they filed for chapter 11 in early 2009), there were some warning signs. Once again you will have a selection issue where the more astute, and more willing to move segments of the population are going to take this as an impetus to gtfo, and find work elsewhere. Finally the plant closes, and again mostly the more astute and willing to make changes are the ones taking alternate jobs or moving to the other factory.

      All you have left after the plant closing are people that really don’t want to move, and have been selected for this trait for something like 50 years.

      • baconbacon says:

        This being said I am actually quite sympathetic to the feeling that these people are probably experiencing. I am now far more risk averse than I once was, in my 20s I dropped out of college 3 times to cut trails in state parks, drive to San Diego (yes that was basically the whole plan) and play poker professionally. My wife and I got engaged before our second date and were married in less than a year from our first, while we were trying to get pregnant she switched jobs and industries, and while actually pregnant she switched jobs and took a 3 month contract position. Now we are stressed about moving 2 miles, it took 2 years to find the right house to even put an offer in, after having our offer accepted yesterday we are both borderline overwhelmed by the prospect of changing houses when 8 years I was ready to move cities at the slipping on of a ring, and 5 years ago she was ready to take a contract position, while pregnant with a company that would be reviewing her status a few months before she would be due and would be intending to take a significant leave.

        Change is legitimately harder now than it was then, but the reality is that it is going to get harder every year. Right now isn’t a particularly good time to pack and move, and go through everything (turning our current house into a rental, fixing the issues with the new house, dealing with new neighbors and a new neighborhood, etc), but why is next year going to be easier? Realistically it won’t be any easier next year, or the year after and then eventually we will find ourselves in the same home, with the same limitations a decade from now feeling like it just isn’t the right time.

      • MoebiusStreet says:

        > It wasn’t a perfectly healthy company that closed the plant in 2008 (they filed for chapter 11 in early 2009)

        There’s some irony that a significant part of GM’s financial woe was the pension obligation pushed on them by the union.

        So that stability that was likely part of what kept them in town led in part to the eventual loss of stability.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My 2¢: this is the Millennial version of let then eat cake.

      1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

      If an automobile blight had swept through the rust belt and ruined the manufacturing harvest, that would be one thing. But this wasn’t a natural disaster: American manufacturing was killed by the deliberate choices of a fairly small number of policymakers and investors.

      So what do we do now? Personally, I’d rather right that past wrong and reinvigorate American industry rather than shrugging and cutting a welfare check. And responding to someone who would rather work than take handouts with “well I guess these racists are too dumb to follow their own interests” might salve your conscience but it’s wrong.

      2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

      “If only those hicks realized they could just move to the Bay Area and make six figures programming for Google. Why do they make things so difficult for themselves?”

      Seriously, where exactly are they supposed to go? Move to Manhattan and pour coffees so that you could spend 90% of your post-tax income on rent?

      Fracking brought blue collar people out to places like North Dakota because there was actually work that they could do for a wage which was worth the move. But now that’s a target of lawmakers too.

      • Well Armed Sheep says:

        “But this wasn’t a natural disaster: American manufacturing was killed by the deliberate choices of a fairly small number of policymakers and investors.”

        That is an interesting way to describe a decision to stop using violence or the threat of violence to prohibit mutually beneficial voluntary transactions with foreigners.

        “Seriously, where exactly are they supposed to go? Move to Manhattan and pour coffees so that you could spend 90% of your post-tax income on rent?”

        As is well-known, the only places in America are small rust belt towns, San Francisco, and Manhattan. I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of American cities that meet both criteria of a) significantly better economic prospects than rust belt towns and b) non-coastal-elite culture. Dallas exists. In fact, the company offered to move people to Arlington.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          That is an interesting way to describe a decision to stop using violence or the threat of violence to prohibit mutually beneficial voluntary transactions with foreigners.

          …immediately after using violence or threat of violence to impose mandatory labor and environmental regulations such that only transactions with foreigners become mutually beneficial?

      • Brad says:

        So what do we do now? Personally, I’d rather right that past wrong and reinvigorate American industry rather than shrugging and cutting a welfare check. And responding to someone who would rather work than take handouts with “well I guess these racists are too dumb to follow their own interests” might salve your conscience but it’s wrong.

        Welfare in the form of erecting legal barriers to competitors that offer a better product at a lower price is welfare just the same as cutting a check. What they want is not an honest paycheck for adding net value, it’s a government propagated lie they can choose to tell themselves and their neighbors. That’s contemptible.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          One of the key assumptions of American politics, back to the Declaration of Independence, is that the government exists for the sake of the people and not the other way around. There’s nothing contemptible or un-American about wanting an economic policy which benefits Americans and not transnational billionaires.

          Moreover it’s neither welfare nor a “lie” for a state to encourage an export-focused manufacturing economy. It’s a sound economic strategy which propelled most of East Asia and Northern Europe out of poverty over the last century. America itself greatly benefited from ourselves not all that long ago.

          Although to be fair, I really shouldn’t push back on this meme. The further and more loudly it spreads, the more people will realize how eager their rulers are to eliminate them.

          • Brad says:

            Is there anything contemptible about sending out mafiosi to stand in front of your competitor’s store and beat up people that try to shop there? Because that’s your “economic policy which benefits Americans and not transnational billionaires”.

            If you want to subsidize your neighbors by overpaying for goods and services you are more than welcome to do so. If so many people feel as you do, shouldn’t that be enough? Why do you need to force people to go along if this type of policy is so popular among the masses you claim to speak for?

          • baconbacon says:

            And what about every American that is injured by higher prices and fewer goods and lower employment opportunities thanks to the barriers you propose?

            And the US government wasn’t founded to serve the people, it was founded to secure the rights of its people, which is very different and doesn’t at all imply what you propose here.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Is there anything contemptible about sending out mafiosi to stand in front of your competitor’s store and beat up people that try to shop there? Because that’s your “economic policy which benefits Americans and not transnational billionaires”.

            Nonsense. The state having a monopoly on the use of force is a respected position with a long history.

            It cannot be compared to mafia violence. Not that an import tariff even needs intimidation or violence.

          • Well Armed Sheep says:

            @ Forlorn Hopes:

            That’s an argument from labels.

            And an import tariff *very obviously does* need intimidation and violence. If getting people to buy artificially expensive stuff to subsidize someone else’s preferred way of making a living didn’t require intimidation and violence, you wouldn’t have to have the organization with the monopoly on intimidation and violence be the one to implement it.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Brad,

            Luckily for me I’m not an anarchocapitalist so I’m not obligated to pretend that there isn’t a difference between the government and a criminal gang. Controlling the flow of goods, services and people across territorial borders is pretty much the raison d’être of the state.

            After all, you can’t hire the mafia to keep someone from inviting their friends over. Does the moral calculus change when they’re inviting the Huns across the Danube?

          • Nonsense. The state having a monopoly on the use of force is a respected position with a long history.

            It cannot be compared to mafia violence.

            The Mafia, in its Sicilian homeland, is also in a respected position with a long history. Probably more respected than the Italian state.

          • Brad says:

            Luckily for me I’m not an anarchocapitalist so I’m not obligated to pretend that there isn’t a difference between the government and a criminal gang. Controlling the flow of goods, services and people across territorial borders is pretty much the raison d’être of the state.

            That the government can ethically control the flow of goods, services, and people across the border doesn’t mean that every use of that power is ethical. The problem here isn’t the use of force, it’s the use of force for ends which don’t even pretend to appeal to the common good. The mechanisms used may well be legitimate but the ends are contemptible.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Brad,

            Here I was, foolishly thinking that the common good referred to the best interests of Americans.

            Obviously you’re right though. Americans looking out for our self-interest is contemptible: the common good is what’s best for foreigners and billionaires.

          • Brad says:

            It’s not what’s best for Americans. The policies you propose will on net hurt Americans. It’s pretty clear who you think counts and who you think doesn’t.

            Further, I’m not sure helping people lie to themselves is really in their best interest.

          • baconbacon says:

            Here I was, foolishly thinking that the common good referred to the best interests of Americans.

            No, you were foolishly thinking that Americans are homogeneous, and something that is good for you must be good for “Americans”.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @baconbacon,

            I’m not blue-collar by any stretch: I’m a scientist who lives in a major metropolis. Some of my family was from the rust belt originally but thankfully they’ve all successfully escaped.

            I believe that my countrymen deserve a decent quality of life even when it doesn’t benefit me personally. I’m not so selfish that I think cheap gadgets or authentic foreign cuisine are worth destroying the livelihoods of entire communities.

            @Brad,

            Ah so Deplorables Contemptibles are the ones who don’t count, got it. My mistake.

          • baconbacon says:

            Still making the same mistake.

            Your “country men” are not homogeneous. Total employment within the country rose as “job destroying” free trade agreements were passed, though of course your description of “cheap gadgets and trinkets” is exactly the view of everyone else in the country.

          • Brad says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            Ah so Deplorables Contemptibles are the ones who don’t count, got it. My mistake.

            You are the one equating the people you care about with Americans simplicitur, not me.

          • rlms says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            “Ah so Contemptibles are the ones who don’t count, got it. My mistake.”
            Don’t be dense. It’s not that the harm to them is non-existent, it’s that the benefits to everyone else (and the benefits to them from cheaper goods in the categories they don’t personally manufacture) outweigh the harms.

          • zfrrN1qxjiInx says:

            And what about every American that is injured by higher prices and fewer goods and lower employment opportunities thanks to the barriers you propose?

            but the ends are contemptible.

            It’s not what’s best for Americans. The policies you propose will on net hurt Americans. It’s pretty clear who you think counts and who you think doesn’t.

            it’s that the benefits to everyone else (and the benefits to them from cheaper goods in the categories they don’t personally manufacture) outweigh the harms.

            Anyone mind giving me an actual argument?

          • rlms says:

            @zfrrN1qxjiInx
            Are you familiar with comparative advantage?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think an appeal to free market ideology really works in a world of environmental, labor and market regulation in our markets versus 3rd world command economies.

          • Brad says:

            Name like: zfrrN1qxjiInx
            Post effort: low

            I’ll pass.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I believe there are proto-governments– organizations which could become governments if the niche weren’t already filled.

            This includes organized crime, street gangs, and unions. ISIS has actually been a government (I think it still hold a couple of cities).

          • zfrrN1qxjiInx says:

            Naming things is hard. Random string generators are less hard. Making assertions about what is or isn’t best for Americans with no sources is similarly low effort, no?

            I’ll read that link rlms, thanks.

          • IrishDude says:

            Controlling the flow of goods, services and people across territorial borders is pretty much the raison d’être of the state.

            I’d say legal plunder is the raison d’être of the state, of which controlling the flow of goods, services, and people is just a means to that end.

            “But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

            -Frederic Bastiat

          • That theory has some implications. One is that the state would never ban or criminalise anything, only tax it. Another, is that the state would never build walls, but only impose excise duties. Liberal democrracies don’t

            The phrase “robber baron” is interesting. First time around, it referred to exploitative politcal leaders , the second time to exploitative capitalists.

          • baconbacon says:

            That theory has some implications. One is that the state would never ban or criminalise anything, only tax it. Another, is that the state would never build walls, but only impose excise duties.

            Only if you assume a broad and powerful state with no fear of competitors.

          • IrishDude says:

            That theory has some implications. One is that the state would never ban or criminalise anything, only tax it. Another, is that the state would never build walls, but only impose excise duties.

            Assuming this is a response to my post, I disagree with your asserted implications. In order to obtain the power to legally plunder, you need supporters. Support can come in the form of votes, money, connections, etc. One thing supporters might want in return for their support is banning of competitors (e.g., taxi unions and Uber). If your supporters want moral regulation of certain acts, then you’d need to promise that too, and perhaps enact it (see abortion or gay marriage restrictions).

            Also, though I think legal plunder is the primary reason for the existence of the state, it doesn’t mean I think it’s the only reason.

          • And if you have enough supporters, then everyone benefits.

            Basically, you are explaining why liberal democracies don’t look like optimal kleptocracies. But the fact that they don’t still weighs against your point.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are at least two disagreements here, right?

            a. What powers is it proper for the government to have?

            b. What policies w.r.t. trade and immigration and capital flows would be optimal for the people of the country.

            You can make the protectionism=mafia goons argument, and that is really about (a). You can have the same argument about the drug war (which also looks like armed goons interfering violently in mutually-agreeable transactions) or the draft or occupational licensing laws. The thing about this class of argument is that we don’t all agree about the proper role of the state. So simply saying “protectionism is the same morally as mafia goons shutting down your competitors” won’t convince anyone who doesn’t start out agreeing with your premises wrt the proper role of government.

            There’s an entirely different thread of argument surrounding (b), basically saying that immigration and free trade hurt some people and help others, but make the society as a whole better off. That’s a factual claim, it may be right or wrong, but it has nothing to do with the proper role of government. A person who is convinced that the state must never do more than neutrally enforce a minimal set of rights to person and property may believe that the current residents of some land would be better off hiring mafia goons to restrict some goods being sold, and yet believe they shouldn’t do so. A person who is convinced that free trade and open immigration are a win for the US long-term may totally agree that it would be a legitimate use of government power to impose trade barriers and deport immigrants, but still think it would be bad policy to do so.

            I think the discussion might be clearer if we specified which of those arguments we are trying to make.

          • IrishDude says:

            And if you have enough supporters, then everyone benefits.

            Nope. To start, 51% support is enough to gain power in democracy, and 51% is not everyone. 51% benefiting at the expense of the 49% through the coercive power of the state is still legal plunder.

            Also, in liberal democracies very small groups get catered to at the expense of the many for public choice reasons. Due to many policies having dispersed costs and concentrated benefits, special interest supporters are highly catered to at the expense of the masses. See U.S. policy on sugar for an example.

            Also, as it’s generally not rational to be a well-informed voter, politicians can get away with promising one thing and doing another without their supporters being aware.

            Also, due to systematic errors in voters’ economic opinions, even when politicians enact their supporters’ preferred policies this can lead to bad economic outcomes that make supporters worse off.

            Basically, you are explaining why liberal democracies don’t look like optimal kleptocracies. But the fact that they don’t still weighs against your point.

            Liberal democracies look different than kleptocracies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t based on legal plunder. As Bastiat says when he’s defining legal plunder, “See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” The defining characteristic of the State is political authority. Political authority involves state agents using coercion when the same coercive act would be considered wrong if done by non-state agents. When the State’s coercive acts benefits one citizen at the expense of another they engage in legal plunder. This seems like most of what States, liberal democracy or not, engage in.

        • Well Armed Sheep says:

          @Brad “Welfare in the form of erecting legal barriers to competitors that offer a better product at a lower price is welfare just the same as cutting a check.”

          Actually marginally worse. Market distortion, prices-as-information, etc.

          @Nabil etc. — you need a good answer to Brad’s question about sending goons to beat up your competitors. Strikes me as morally identical. Perhaps there are arguments I haven’t considered.

    • Well Armed Sheep says:

      This is, in fact, a Major Social Phenomenon, Tyler Cowen among others has written rather a lot about it recently.

      To your general comment, I think yes absolutely we should have less sympathy for those who refuse to move. Unfortunately this is probably a significantly unpopular opinion and any effort to operationalize it in public policy would be met with accusations of like, forced population transfers or something.

      • For a closely linked attitude, consider the meme “my home.” A lender foreclosing because you haven’t made your mortgage payments is a traditional villain, driving you from your home. It even applies if you are a renter who hasn’t paid the rent.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think there is a pretty big difference between being given an offer to move and keep your job and being forced to seek out offers on your own. I’m more sympathetic in the latter case than the former.

      • Matt M says:

        I think my point is that we never do force people to seek out offers outside of their hometown. If they want to stay in one place and live off government assistance forever, they can do that. And not only can they do that, they will be presented in a sympathetic light. As poor victims of the evils of capitalism.

        • Zodiac says:

          That’s not entirely correct.
          In the case of the rust belter towns they have been presented as deserving of sympathy (probably also to try to push for politics to re-develop the region) but genrally anyone unemployed is not seen as sympathetic by society. Even the rust belters will have to deal with that general sentiment.

    • dodrian says:

      I’m not sure how easy it is to move.

      If your family has a mortgage they may outright be stuck with where they’re living. As jobs move out and housing prices plummet a move begins to look like being saddled with crippling debt. Those who own their houses are going to be hit with a huge economic loss by selling, even if their long term prospects would look better. That’s not even mentioning the social loss with the move. Plus there’s the uncertainty of how secure a position at the new plant would be, if they’re already closing facilities – moving and losing a second job would be worse than not moving and not finding more work.

      If the bureaucratic cost of welfare is bad now, I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if you’re going to avoid paying people who ‘could have a job if they would move’.

      • Brad says:

        They are already saddled with crippling debt and there’s no additional economic loss by selling. It was already incurred when the market price fell.

        • gbdub says:

          There’s no strictly economic loss, but right now they have a house, and they may not be able to afford an equivalent one in the place they’d have to move for the new job (considering that they’d have to not only buy the new house, but also pay off the difference on their now-unsellable old one).

          • JayT says:

            But if they don’t move it would seem likely that they can’t afford their current house either. Most people can’t continue to make mortgage payments if they don’t have a job. In certain cases a house is a sunk cost, and it makes sense just to walk away.

        • baconbacon says:

          There are different ways to realize that loss that are not strictly equal.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m not sure how easy it is to move.

        Man, nothing worth doing is easy. Nothing that increases your long term earning potential is easy. I’m 31 years old and I’ve moved five times in my independent adult live, each time because it was economically advantageous of me to do so. It was never “easy”, but I did it anyway.

        My point is not “moving is a costless 100% guaranteed way to solve all your economic problems.” My point is more “don’t tell me that Bob has tried everything to find work and is now forced to take welfare as a last-resort when in fact, Bob hasn’t tried everything but rather, a very clear solution to his economic problems was presented to him and he refused it because he had other priorities. Like fine, you can have other priorities, I won’t force you to move. But don’t tell me you “can’t find work” when the more accurate description is that you “can’t find work in the exact place you want to be.”

        • Jiro says:

          Moving has costs, not all of which are the cost of hiring the movers, so the most accurate description is that you “can’t find work without paying a huge cost and taking a huge risk”.

          • Matt M says:

            And? Lots of things are high-cost, and high-risk, but generally considered to be prudent things to do.

            Not to get all Robinson Crusoe Economics on you here, but driving a car to go to work at all is both costly and risky. I guess people should only get jobs within walking distance?

            A college education requires an investment that can range into the six figures with the risk that the degree won’t actually improve one’s job prospects – and yet everyone still insists it’s one of the best things someone can do with their life (provided they qualify).

          • Zodiac says:

            A college education requires an investment that can range into the six figures with the risk that the degree won’t actually improve one’s job prospects – and yet everyone still insists it’s one of the best things someone can do with their life (provided they qualify).

            People automatically assume that their prospects will be better and that it will be worth it, since the perceived alternative would be a job as burger flipper.
            If people actually thought their job prospects wouldn’t be better and that it wasn’t necessary only a small fraction of people would take the risk.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I live in Phoenix. I moved here specifically because of a “GM” style choice- upend everything and follow my company and move 15 hours away but keep my job, or enjoy a sudden bout of unemployment. I decided to move, and *then* told my long-term girlfriend (who is now my wife). I still get no end of shit for that (should have involved her in the decision), but I don’t really regret it- or have much sympathy for those who chose unemployment.

      My wife’s an escapee from a dead-end redneck town in Oregon, and all of her redneck relatives are still there, working marginal jobs or collecting government checks of one sort or another. We kick in some support once in a while, like immigrants sending money back to the old country. I don’t have a lot of sympathy there either- I’ve actually told a few of them that I could get them jobs if they moved to Phoenix. She escaped by choice, lived in some gritty poverty through undergrad- and she’s working on her master’s degree in the fall and co-owns a house with me.

      My father’s immediate family were migrant farm workers (they’d follow the orchards from Northern Mexico up through Washington each year). They only settled down in my hometown when my father turned 6 so he could go to a real school for 1st grade (my grandfather got a job working at the welfare office, actually)- my parents moved a lot both prior to my birth and in my own early childhood, and my dad didn’t settle into his long-term job until my mother was pregnant with my little brother and he thought medical benefits might be a good idea. They chased opportunities- even tried to make their own with a short-lived “Flicker Inn” in a speck of a town for a few years.

      My brother wasn’t the college type- he joined up with the Air Force despite losing all of his friends and moving thousands of miles away, did excellently there, and declined a career position to join civilian law enforcement. If he hadn’t chased opportunity, I have a feeling he might have been trapped in a dead-end job in my dying hometown. Certainly my cousins who stayed are, while my cousin that left for Arizona instead is married to a great, hardworking guy, and works a good job as a schoolteacher herself.

      Needless to say- I’m a huge believer in Tyler Cowen’s complacency argument.

      • Matt M says:

        Thanks for sharing. I relate to quite a lot of this. I also grew up in Oregon, although in a middle-class college town.

        And like your brother, I got out (and was then forced to move several times) by joining the military – which led to college, which led to grad school, which led to a highly lucrative white collar career. And my cousins, back in Oregon, are (much like yours) stuck in dead end jobs with zero prospects.

    • Salem says:

      Depends what you mean by sympathy.

      On the one hand, these people are choosing to be economically “disadvantaged.” That’s fine, it can be a trade-off like any other, perhaps even an admirable one in certain circumstances. But obviously they don’t deserve subsidies or welfare. Sure, they have the right to live there if they want to. No, not at the taxpayer’s expense.

      On the other hand, I do think we should try and understand what they’re going through and sympathise with it. My knee-jerk attitude is “My dad came here from Iraq to make a better life for himself, and you can’t be bothered to move from Wisconsin to Texas, how dare you whine about being unemployed? You are everything that’s wrong with the West.” But I’m aware that makes me a jerk. These people aren’t villains, they’re human beings reacting to the world in the way that best makes sense to them. Better to restrain the emotion and understand the choices.

      • Matt M says:

        My knee-jerk attitude is “My dad came here from Iraq to make a better life for himself, and you can’t be bothered to move from Wisconsin to Texas, how dare you whine about being unemployed? You are everything that’s wrong with the West.” But I’m aware that makes me a jerk. These people aren’t villains, they’re human beings reacting to the world in the way that best makes sense to them. Better to restrain the emotion and understand the choices.

        They’re not villains, but that also doesn’t make them immune from criticism, especially when their bad choices are (literally) costing us money.

        I think there’s a lot to be said about your father coming from Iraq. While I don’t have a personal anecdote like that, I like to think that somewhere, right now, floating in the Mediterranean Sea, is a rickety plastic boat filled with dozens of African men carrying nothing but the shirts on their back, embarking on a costly and risky journey to a foreign continent where they don’t speak the language, have no marketable skills, and will be greeted with suspicion and/or hostility by half the local population. And yet, they found a way. They did what they had to do to make a living for themselves and their families. They will (in my opinion, I don’t have any particular data to back this) likely be better off, in the long run, than their peers who said “That’s too risky and I can’t afford it, I’ll just stay here in the village.”

        So long as those guys continue to exist, I’m not incredibly sympathetic to arguments about the importance of “community ties” and how it’s difficult to sell a house and whatever else…

        • rlms says:

          An alternative view is that trans-Mediterranean migrants are in a horrible situation, and if your fellow countrymen face anything remotely comparable then something has gone terribly wrong.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think those are inconsistent views–the Irish fleeing the potato famine were in an awful state, and also were able to immensely imrpove their kids’ lives by coming to the US. And also they were probably notably different in many ways from the folks who stayed home.

      • Matt M says:

        Actually, you know what, I DO have a personal anecdote about that. My father grew up in a highly abusive environment that bordered on religious cult-ism. He walked out of that place the day he turned 18 with a high school diploma and a suitcase full of clothes, and hitchhiked to the nearest town.

        He certainly had his struggles in life, but eventually he settled down, got married, had kids, and lived a very productive and useful life thousands of miles away from where he grew up.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      One of my biggest concerns about national policies is that by offering generous subsidies for housing was an enormous boondogle. Both because it means a huge amount of capital is tied into low return housing rather than high return businesses, and because it means some areas take an exceptionally long time to recover from a shock because homeowners aren’t diversified in economically focused areas.

      I would much prefer that we used Fannie and Freddie to provide individuals access to the swaps and swaptions market than tie the access to a home.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      I used to feel basically the same as you do. I’d hear people bemoan their lots – especially if they were in a small town or a remote suburb – and think “wow, a lot of your problems could be solved by moving to a large-ish city”. I still think that more people should move to big cities from small towns and remote suburbs, but I’ve softened a bit.

      The biggest thing is that moving when you have a spouse or partner who works is much more difficult than moving as a single person. If one person gets laid off but the other still has a job, then you’re proposing going from two incomes to one income to zero incomes, until one or both of you finds a position. This can be a difficult sale – when my job moved recently, I decided to look for a new job (in my large city, to be fair) rather than move in part because my wife has a good job and we didn’t want to give it up. Moving as a single person is much, much easier.

      The next thing is that moving away from your family if you have kids is pretty rough. Parents, brothers, sisters etc are great people to watch your kids, even if you just need a night off or if your daycare has an unexpected closure. Finding someone you trust in a new place is much more difficult. Finding someone who will do it for free is basically impossible. If you’re very poor and your family watches your kid for free very frequently (for example, if your retired mother watches your kid while you go to work), then moving imposes a new, gigantic cost.

      The last thing is that rent in big cities is very high, likely in a way it wasn’t when people moved more frequently. A poor person moving to a big city will have to save up an absurd amount of money (money they don’t have, because they’re poor) to not go broke very quickly in the event they can’t find a job.

      Basically none of these things were considerations for me when I was younger and moving around, so it was easy for me to think “why don’t more people move?”.

    • Civilis says:

      Am I the only person that looked at the opening questions and thought “this could equally apply to those stuck in miserable conditions in high cost-of-living cities that could move to a lower cost of living area?”

      I’d like to discuss economically disadvantaged people who don’t move. I’ll start with two major questions (that are basically the same question, just phrased differently).

      1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

      2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

      The first question seems to me to make more sense in a context of ‘I want to live in a high-cost trendy urban environment to live out my wildly improbable dreams’ than a context of ‘I want to stay in cheap nowheresville’.

      • rlms says:

        I thought of gentrification, which is kind of in between the two examples you gave. People complaining about it are in areas that were cheap nowheresvilles when they grew up, but are now trendy and expensive (which is the problem for them).

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Am I the only person that looked at the opening questions and thought “this could equally apply to those stuck in miserable conditions in high cost-of-living cities that could move to a lower cost of living area?”

        Legit point… and in fact, their situation is less sympathetic, because the people who are living four to a room in a $3000/mo studio in San Francisco to pursue their dreams of being a full-time furry porn artist on Patreon a) probably don’t have that huge local support network that the person in a small town does making their life there more appealing, b) certainly don’t have a mortgage to worry about, and c) even if they achieved their dream it’s still basically a hobby, it’s not the sort of thing that you do to support a family and save for retirement.

    • hlynkacg says:

      This thread is already getting pretty long so I’m not going to spend any time reiterating what others have already said. I think Nabil ad Dajjal nailed it when he called this the Millennial version of “let then eat cake”.

      I find it depressing and distressing that so many people here seem to regard earning potential as the only meaningful measure of a person or place’s worth. Maybe they’re right. Maybe setting down roots is a suckers game, and social atomization is the only show in town. Even so I can’t help but feel we’re loosing something precious in the drive towards pure undiluted homo economicus.

      • hls2003 says:

        I find it depressing and distressing that so many people here seem to regard earning potential as the only meaningful measure of a person or place’s worth. Maybe they’re right. Maybe setting down roots is a suckers game, and social atomization is the only show in town.

        Bear in mind that the posting crowd here, if the surveys are to be believed, is vastly more antisocial (medically diagnosed or otherwise) than most, and also quite a bit younger. Even putting aside the “why can’t everyone just code for Google” vibe, you would expect this board to see less value in social rootedness and intangible interpersonal values. Even something as simple as “but I love my church community and don’t want to leave” is a genuinely difficult pull that many people feel in life, which I would expect to have no relevance for the vast majority of posters here.

        • baconbacon says:

          You only get to this conclusion if you start with not reading what was written. The question asked wasn’t “why do people care about setting down roots when they could be millionaires in SF?” it was very specifically “why are you valuing staying in this town over having a job at all?”

          • hls2003 says:

            I don’t think I reached a “conclusion,” per se, but my point is that the value of “staying in this town” – whether you’re comparing it to being a millionaire or to having any job at all – largely depends on factors that SSC readers/posters are less likely to value highly.

            Personally, I think most people will move for work, and probably more should, though I don’t know how widespread the problem might be. But I do think the average SSC demographic is not going to have a background to do the relative value calculations in anything like the same way as the average member of the unemployed population.

      • Charles F says:

        In general, I don’t get the sense that there’s a trend towards judging places by earning potential. We have a lot of people from the Bay Area for reasons like community and it’s the New Athens and whatnot, despite high costs. And at least some people who are just going wherever they can do wherever the work they want to do happens to be. And probably also some people who are pretty socially atomized and would just pick a place based on earnings minus expenses.

        But I don’t think that’s quite the point of the thread. The whole “move at the drop of a hat to maximize earnings” thing is a fringe position. (Though there’s probably broader support for people doing it a couple times when they’re young, to see what their options are. I would definitely support that, at least) The thread is mainly about people who can’t support themselves where they are or at least are struggling. At that point do you really need to be a pure homo economicus to realize that (absent welfare of some kind) your choices are either run out of money or move to somewhere you can make a living.

        Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for people who don’t want to uproot their families, but not so much for somebody who won’t move themselves in order to support their family staying rooted. (Of course, for some low-skill professions, supporting yourself where you work and also sending money home would be hard, but the example we were looking at was a $25/hr job.)

        • hlynkacg says:

          Except we aren’t talking about people moving to [area] because [reasons]. The question, as baconbacon points out above, was very specifically “why are you valuing staying in this town over having a job at all?”

          I feel like the need to ask that question ought to trigger an immediate failure on the Voight-Kampff test.

          • Charles F says:

            Except we aren’t talking about people moving to [area] because [reasons].

            Sorry, I think I must have organized my thoughts poorly. You were talking about a tendency to reduce the worthiness of a place to just the earning potential, and so I was pointing out that we’ve talked about valuing a bunch of other things in a place to live besides that.

            The question [was] “why are you valuing staying in this town over having a job at all?”

            I feel like the need to ask that question ought to trigger an immediate failure on the Voight-Kampff test.

            So, I would probably manage to fail that test before I even sat down for it, but I’m not sure what you mean here.

            If you’re not independently wealthy, the options in that question boil down to either leave soon on your own terms to find gainful employment or leave later when you run out of money, and you have a three-year gap in your resume and you owe child support payments to your ex-wife who left you after a two years of money-related stress.

            I can understand that leaving would be hard on a lot of people. But I can understand a person’s self-destructive behavior without feeling obligated to subsidize it, or even feeling particularly sympathetic, necessarily.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes some, I think most, people value things other than money. What I am taking issue with is the apparent assumption that such concerns are secondary or otherwise unworthy of consideration.

            “Voight-Kampff test” is a Blade Runner reference based on the P. K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. It’s essentially a Turing Test used to determine whether a suspect in police custody is a replicant android. It works by inducing and then measuring reflexive/instinctual responses such as fear, hate, empathy, etc… that are (in theory) unique to biological humans.*

            I find it trivial to argue that being a Plains Indian in a world where European colonialism exists is “self destructive behavior” but does that make “Sorry, not sorry. You should have gotten on the winning team” an appropriate response to BIA abuses and incidents like that at Wounded Knee?

            *Spoiler Alert: The revelation that these traits may not be as uniquely human as initially believed drives much of the plot.

          • Charles F says:

            I think it’s common sense to make the first priority “can I actually support myself/my family here.” In most places, not being able to find a job means the place will fail that test. Is that something we can agree on or am I still failing an empathy check?

            I’m not sure being a Plains Indian exactly counts as a behavior, but FWIW I have plenty of sympathy for them. Their situation was much harder/worse than that of somebody who could move to find a job but doesn’t. Plains Indians are way on the sympathetic side, the people in the Janesville story are unsympathetic, and the rest of the rust belt falls somewhere in between.

            I was trying to say that I didn’t understand how it was a failure of empathy, not that I couldn’t figure out what the test was, but thanks for explaining.

          • Aapje says:

            Plains Indians are way on the sympathetic side

            Some of the Plains tribes had a culture of raiding their neighbors and terrorized the white settlers even after agreements had been made that the white settlers and natives had separate land. My sympathy decreased when I realized that these tribes simply could not live peacefully with anyone and had a culture designed around harming others.

          • Charles F says:

            If they defected their way out of existence by attacking/provoking the people they had agreed to coexist peacefully with, that would make them unsympathetic. But didn’t the Comanches at least honor their agreements with the Spanish to peacefully stay out of each others’ ways for some large number of years before all the trouble with the American settlers? That lends a bit of credibility to the idea that the Americans were the ones who kept breaking the agreements first and the Comanches were retaliating. Breaking agreements with a group who’s shown they won’t honor agreements is back to sympathetic.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Also, a whole lot of the treaties were signed with chiefs of one band (at most) who had absolutely no authority over the rest of the tribe. So, everyone not in their band kept doing what they had been… and then the Spanish/Americans/whoever concluded they’d violated the treaty, and went in shooting.

          • Aapje says:

            I was thinking of the Apaches.

            I any case, I think that actual reality was more complex than the genocide narrative. Miscommunication due to different ways of organizing and different cultural expectations probably played a big role, for example, here.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Aapje:

            My sympathy decreased when I realized that these tribes simply could not live peacefully with anyone and had a culture designed around harming others.

            Wait, why are we calling them “Plains Indians” all of a sudden? Did Scott ban ess-jay-dubbleyou?

      • Matt M says:

        I find it depressing and distressing that so many people here seem to regard earning potential as the only meaningful measure of a person or place’s worth.

        I’m not trying to make this claim. My claim is that this is a trade-off and we should treat it as such. People who are poor because they refuse to move are, quite literally, choosing to be poor. And yet, the mere suggestion that anyone would ever choose to be poor gets you laughed out of all polite circles as some sort of idiotic, out-of-touch, extremist.

        And, to the extent that unemployment is a choice, I’m not sure we have any particular moral duty to provide benefits to such people.

        It certainly never works the other way around, now does it? Where’s my social life insurance? I repeatedly took the other side of this trade-off, maximizing for earning potential and minimizing for “putting down roots” and developing deep and compelling social relationships. Nobody bats an eye at the prospect of taking my money and giving it to people who made decisions to maximize for other things. But when do I get my piece? Where’s the re-distribution of friends and relationships? Are such people, the “social maximizers” morally compelled to help me in some way? Do the “top 1%” of social interactors have a “fair share” to pay to the less fortunate?

        After all, nobody chooses to be friendless and isolated, right? That’s as ridiculous as claiming that people choose poverty!

    • Garrett says:

      1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

      2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

      1. I believe people have a right to live whereever they have a right to live, tautologically. That is, they aren’t welcome to come live with me. And if we don’t have open borders, there’s some limit to which locations you can move to. Other than that, live wherever you want as long as you can find a legal/legitimate way to house yourself. Rent an apartment in downtown NY. Buy a piece of land in [redacted] and live in a tent. Have at!

      2. Not much. Finding work outside of your current location used to be hard, but between the Internet and cheap long-distance calling/faxing/emailing, that’s a lot easier to do. Personally, I (results not typical) moved ~1000 miles for my job, sight unseen. All interviewing was done over the phone. Paperwork by courier. I packed my measly life into my car and drove out.

      Doing this with fewer skills later in life with a family is much more difficult. But it’s also easier if you have family support. For those who were given a job offer and declined – they had a leg up. Meh.

      • Randy M says:

        Finding work outside of your current location used to be hard, but between the Internet and cheap long-distance calling/faxing/emailing, that’s a lot easier to do.

        True, but on the down side now you are competing with anyone eligible from across the country, at the least. Actually securing a position in a desirable location has got to be challenging.
        If you’re coming from an industry in decline, all the moreso.
        Doesn’t apply to people offered a position in a relocating company, of course.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Right, that presupposes you are qualified for the kind of job they are hiring for over the internet across the country.

          If you live in the post-industrial Cormac McCarthy Hellscape, that is probably not the case.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think you might be underestimating the economic barriers to moving. In my particular nowhere hometown with no jobs, there are lots of people who would love to move somewhere that isn’t a rust belt wasteland like something out of Mad Max crossed with a Depression-era newsreel.

      Doing this requires one of two things:

      1) Already having enough money to move. If you work full time in a minimum wage job in Nowhere, NY, you take home about $20k/year before taxes. Taxes are obviously very low on that, but your actual take home paycheck is still low enough that you are almost certainly living paycheck to paycheck with no meaningful savings.

      In order to move somewhere new and look for work, you need a place to live. That typically means a month of rent as a down payment, plus your first month’s rent after that. And that is in an expensive place with an actual economy. Plus food and other expenses, all in a place where you don’t actually have a source of income yet.

      Assuming you’re not trying to move to the Bay Area or Washington DC, but just somewhere less devastated – you still need several grand minimum. Which is to say, you need to have a savings representing a significant percentage of your annual income, which you aren’t likely to be able to save since you probably spend most of your income as it comes in just to survive week to week.

      2) Other option is to know someone already in the place you want to move who can give you a place to live and help out in other ways as you get on your feet. This is how I did it, and it is a great way to go about it, but only works if you are lucky enough to already have friends or family in the new place who don’t mind you couch surfing for weeks or months.

      Basically, telling people to solve their economic problems by moving to where the money is, is not light years different from telling them to solve their economic problem by not being so poor. Mobiliy itself is a luxury, below a certain income level.

      • I would have though the main mechanism was via leaving for college. But then it is not as if literally no-one is leaving Nowheresville.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Absolutely – college gives you that base level of “a place to live in a bigger city,” not to mention drastically increasing your odds of knowing someone from another place who can help you get settled there. Again, that is how I pulled it off.

          It’s not that it’s impossible, it’s that there are a set of factors such as ‘Support Network in the Target Area’ and ‘College’ that make it much more possible – and which are disproportionately unavailable in blighted Nowhere towns.

      • JulieK says:

        I’m surprised no one’s yet mentioned Kevin Williamson, the National Review writer who annoyed a lot of red-tribers by saying that people should move away from dying towns. He suggests that people receiving unemployment payouts should have the option of getting a lump sum to help them move somewhere where they could get a job.

        Update:

        My own experience in Appalachia and the South Bronx suggests that the best thing that people trapped in poverty in these undercapitalized and dysfunctional communities could do is — move. Get the hell out of Dodge, or Eastern Kentucky, or the Bronx.

        http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425116/if-your-town-failing-just-go-kevin-d-williamson

        • Randy M says:

          Does this scale? Are there really jobs for all the people in all the small towns in the rust belt, or only those that are smart and ambitious?

        • Jiro says:

          The unemployment payments are to prevent them from starving. Replacing unemployment payments with a lump sum that is used for moving would mean that they have to take the risk of starving in order to move.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Telling people to get the hell out of the South Bronx for this reason is kind of silly. There’s plenty of subway and bus routes which can be practically used to commute to a job in a more economically viable location, such as Manhattan. If they can find one, that is.

          • baconbacon says:

            If the costs of living in a poor neighborhood are high enough (commute, crime, lousy schools), and economic opportunities few enough (making it difficult to supplement income) then it can make sense to recommend moving rather than trying to tough it out.

      • beleester says:

        These are valid arguments, but it doesn’t explain the Janesville example. They were given the offer to keep their current job if they moved. I wouldn’t be surprised if GM offered to pay some relocation expenses (I haven’t read the book, can @Matt M confirm this?). They weren’t jumping into the unknown and hoping to find a new job, they had a destination already lined up.

        Some of them took the option of commuting six hours to their new job and renting an apartment there. I find it hard to believe that renting a second apartment and burning a tank of gas every week is cheaper than moving. His description really makes it seem like economics weren’t the reason they stayed.

    • entobat says:

      As someone who has some amount of difficulty with empathy / imagining the internal lives of others who are significantly different from me—likely for reasons that generalize to a fair subset of the commentariat here—I’m tempted to err on the side of “asking them to move is in some way fighting against Human Nature, and experience says most such fights are not winnable”.

      There is also some amount of “If I asked my mother, she would give me a list of reasons I hadn’t considered why this choice makes sense for them”. And, more recently, “…but if I put several minutes of thought into it I could probably figure out what she’d say.” (I think the previous commenters have done a good job playing the role of my mom on this one.)

      Aside: my comments on this blog make me seem much more autistic than my self-perception indicates. I can’t tell which one is supposed to be wrong.

    • onyomi says:

      1. I don’t think anyone has a “right” to a job for the same reason I don’t believe in any “positive” rights (to healthcare, etc.)–that is, I don’t think anyone has a right to anything which creates unchosen obligations on the parts of others (in this case, to employ you).

      1a. That said, I do think people have a right not to be interfered with in their ethical pursuit of a living. On this score, much of what the government does to regulate the labor market and economy is unethical and people have a right to be pissed if there are no good jobs in the place they’d like to live and can make a credible case it’s a result of government action and not “because you chose to live on an inaccessible mountain top.”

      2. Some sympathy, due to 1a, but less than for someone who can’t find a job despite being open to bigger moves and/or commutes. Mitigating factors might be whether or not a person really needs to take care of his sick mother who can’t practically move, etc.

  14. gbdub says:

    Has anyone read Sarah Schulman’s Conflict is Not Abuse? It seems like it might have some applications to Scott’s recent question about polarization, and generally to improving the quality of dialogue. From a review:

    According to Schulman, conflating conflict and abuse encourages people to embrace the rhetoric of victimhood. Once a person perceives themselves as a victim of abuse, rather than a human being dealing with an uncomfortable and complex situation, they have overreacted and thus have escalated the situation. Now that the situation is escalated, the “victim” then uses their self-subordinated position to justify cruel actions. Once a person or group has been labeled an abuser, it’s “okay” to scapegoat them and shun them, which, as Schulman says more than once in this book, “never, ever” helps.

    Thoughts? If you’ve read it, is it worth the time, or do you pretty much get everything out of the (interesting) thesis?

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Has anyone read Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning? It should be of interest here because it has a future where everyone lives under a government they choose rather than government being mostly a matter of where one lives.

    • Jiro says:

      If my neighbor lives under the “allow loud noises at night” government, and I live under the “creating loud noises at night is a public nuisance” government, how do things proceed?

      An awful lot of things governments do are tied to physical location, and having the governments do them in a patchwork of house-sized plots interleaved with house-sized plots of other governments causes problems. If one government doesn’t want X to be imported, but their territory is interleaved with that of a government that does, do they put border guards at every house to prevent the import of contraband? How can one government have a military without the other interleaved governments free-riding? What about one government doing things to lower the crime rate on their territory? What if one government wants to restrict immigration? Is zoning impossible? Do students living in the same area have to go to different schools depending on what government they’ve chosen?

      • baconbacon says:

        Why would the smallest size be a house sized plot? In what world do you live where the only housing options are ‘house sized’?

      • John Schilling says:

        For all the talk about “everyone lives under a government they chose”, every time someone takes one of the fancy hypersonic travel pods to a new city there’s an announcement on the PA saying essentially “welcome to City X, be advised that the laws of Hive Y apply to all visitors”. So I think what they really have is a set of eight patchwork nation-states whose territory is non-contiguous on continental scales but distinct at the city level. I don’t think we get to see any non-urban environments; it’s not that kind of novel. But if e.g. the EU hive has strict gun control laws, then nobody in Brussels gets to have a gun no matter which government (or lack thereof) they “chose” for themselves.

        The fact that such nations are militarily indefensible is I think a major plot point, possibly verging on spoiler territory but the third book in the series is “The Will to Battle”.

      • Most of your examples take for granted a government on the scale we are currently used to, and disappear in a society where government limits itself to what used to be considered its core functions of police, courts, and national defense. No good reason why schooling should be linked to government, no good reason to have restrictions on imports.

        The one clear public good is defense against nations. Police protection has some public good element, but not all that large. If the main mechanism is deterrence, all you need to make it a private good is a way of telling the burglar which government is responsible for catching and punishing him if he burgles you. If it’s actually patrols there is a public good element, but it shouldn’t be that hard for different governments operating in the same area to arrange cooperation–if we see someone breaking into one of your people’s houses we arrest him, turn him over to you, and send you the bill for our efforts, you do the same for us.

        • You have answered the question in terms of something, burglary, which everyone regards as wrong, but the question was posed in terms of something where preferences vary.

    • rlms says:

      Yes, I’ve been recommending it on every book recommendation thread here for the last few months. I think that one interesting way to view it (specifically the character of Bridger) is as anti-rationalist fiction that argues against some of the implicit ideas of e.g. HPMOR. Rot13:

      Va engvbanysvp (V’z guvaxvat bs UCZBE fcrpvsvpnyyl), gur boivbhf guvat gb qb jura lbh rapbhagre rira jrnx-frrzvat fhcreangheny cbjref vf gb hfr gurz gb obbgfgenc lbhefrys vagb tbqubbq. Oevqtre nyzbfg cnebqvrf guvf, nf ur vf nyernql cerggl zhpu bzavcbgrag; ab engvbanyvfg zhapuxvavat vf arrqrq.

      Ohg ur nyfb punyyratrf guvf vqrn zbenyyl naq cenpgvpnyyl. Fhccbfr Zlpebsg jnf n glcvpny engvbanysvp UWCRI rkcl. Ur jbhyq jnag gb fbzrubj hfr Oevqtre gb tnva tbq-yvxr cbjref naq fbyir nyy gur ceboyrzf bs gur jbeyq. Gur zbeny ceboyrz pbzrf sebz gur snpg gung uvf cngu gb qbvat fb vf irel pyrne: ur vf irel tbbq ng znavchyngvat crbcyr, naq Oevqtre vf irel ihyarenoyr, fb gerngvat uvz nf n chccrg jbhyq or rnfl. Vs lbh ubyq glcvpny engvbanysvp hgvyvgnevna zbeny ivrjf, gur pubvpr gb qb fb fubhyq or rnfl. Rira vs Zlpebsg unq gb gbegher Oevqtre gb trg pbageby bs uvz, gur snpg gung qbvat fb fnirf yvgrenyyl rirelbar ryfr va gur jbeyq rire zrnaf vg vf fgvyy pyrneyl zbenyyl pbeerpg. Ohg Oevqtre vf na vaabprag puvyq, fb qbvat gung jbhyq or erchyfvir. Guvf xvaq bs punyyratr gb hgvyvgnevnavfz vf abguvat arj, ohg vg’f vagrerfgvat va guvf yvgrenel pbagrkg.

      Gurer vf nyfb n cenpgvpny punyyratr. Oevqtre pna urny nal qvfrnfr, naq oevat crbcyr onpx gb yvsr. Engvbanysvp bsgra gerngf cbffrffvba bs gubfr novyvgvrf nf na raq tbny gung’f onfvpnyyl rdhvinyrag gb univat fbyirq gur jbeyq’f ceboyrzf. Ohg Gbb Yvxr Gur Yvtugavat cbvagf bhg gung ba n tybony fpnyr, gubfr novyvgvrf ner whfg gur fgneg. Vs lbh npghnyyl jnag gb hfr gurz, lbh arrq gb jbex bhg gur ybtvfgvpf, naq fbpvny naq rpbabzvp pbafrdhraprf rgp.

      Have you read the sequel?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve only read the first hundred pages or so.

        I’m not dead certain how utopian it’s supposed to be– it may be more like prosperous and pretty good for most people, which is not the same thing as ideal. I do think a lot of people like the idea of bash’s– the typical method of organization is voluntary households with about 8(?) adults.

        I’m not surprised that there’s likely to be war– there’s a scene at the beginning which adds up to soldiers having virtue which is not available to civilians.

    • John Schilling says:

      I couldn’t help but compare it to Neal Stephenson’s “Diamond Age”, which I think did a better job of worlbuilding with the same general concept. Partly because Stephenson is better and more experienced at this sort of thing, but also partly because he isn’t trying to depict a utopia and so doesn’t have to make everything fit neatly together. Palmer is I think ultimately trying to depict a utopia falling apart, but if you’re going to spend the first two books in the utopia, you really have to sell the audience on the plausibility of it.

      As noted in my response to Jiro, I think the government is better modeled as eight fractal territorial nations, at least insofar as urban humanity is concerned. And if you are concerned only with people who live in cities that they fly between in stratospheric travel units, then how is that really different than what we have now? Everybody lives in a city, every city belongs to one of a handful of Nations That Matter, every city has one set of laws that everybody has to follow, does it make a difference that in your hour of flying between one EU city and the next you may overfly the cities of half a dozen other nations?

      Also, I have a hard time believing that everyone living under a government they chose leads to seven roughly equal Hives and the “hiveless” ubergovernment. I’d expect more of a power-law distribution, with a few large and many smaller governments, and I would expect new governments to be founded from time to time. The mechanism by which smaller hives are forced to assimilate and creation of new ones is suppressed, begs explanation in a nominally utopian setting.

      Similarly, 100% of humanity being on-board with the New World Order, and apparently within a few years because one guy gave a speech after an ugly war, is not plausible. There are still going to be people who want to live in actual nations, and the EU-themed hive doesn’t qualify. Also, the European Union as the last bastion of nationalism? Pull the other one. Stephenson had China as a remnant Nation, which seems about right. Also America, United States Of.

      The conflict-of-laws issue seems to have been neatly resolved by having everybody agree that everybody should live under the same sort of laws that e.g. California or Western Europe have today, because those are Obviously Right, but if someone wants to subscribe to some ascetic code about human development or charity or for all I know not having gay sex, hey, we’re so enlightened we’ll let them join a Hive of fellow charity-givers or not-gay-sex-havers or whatever and kick out anyone who violates the code. Whee. Show me a system that solves the hard problems.

      The broad nature of the spoileriffic conspiracy wasn’t beyond reason, but the setting I think was. It at minimum points to a huge unfulfilled void in their society, that would not have been left unfilled as long as it apparently was.

      Saving the best for last, the bit where they entirely abolished religion because there was an ugly war about religion, and everybody was OK with that once we gave everybody free psychotherapy in place of religion, I’m kind of not buying that one either. If I visit Mecca in your timeline, how long do I have to wait for the radioactivity to die down to safe levels?

      It will probably win this year’s Hugo, but I’m not planning to stick with the series unless I hear things have changed substantially and for the better in Will to Battle. Which is possible, but if that’s where Palmer is going I think she’s taking too slow a road. A Potemkin-village utopia needs to whiz by too fast for me to see the cracks.

      • rlms says:

        Eh, is it supposed to be a utopia? I’m not sure, the restrictions on religions and pbafcvenpl gb zheqre crbcyr sbe gur Terngre Tbbq are pretty dystopian. I don’t think the small number of hives is unrealistic, they are subject to many of the same forces that stop real countries fragmenting and also gurl unir frperg vaprfghbhf eryngvbafuvcf orgjrra gurve yrnqre gung cerfhznoyl yrg gurz fgbc nalbar ryfr trggvat gbb cbjreshy.

        • John Schilling says:

          Both of the conspiratorial elements you describe, IIRC, explicitly postdate the New World Order by a substantial degree and one was formed within living memory, yet there’s no indication that the Hives were a noticeably worse place to live until recently. Or, more precisely, people noticed that the rate of fatal car crashes went from 90/year (worldwide) to 5-10 but didn’t understand the underlying implications; I’m going to count that as utopian before and after the conspiracy.

          Utopias that depend on the Secret Masters making critical decisions behind the scenes are a common enough trope in fiction, I believe, and still count as Utopias. As are ones where the author sincerely expects us to believe, because they believe themselves, that the recipe for Utopia starts with “No more religion! Really, we mean it, or else! The nice therapist will make you feel happy about this”.

          Having God as a supporting character in that sort of work is, I admit, a tad unusual :-)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Also, the narrator is subject to quite a harsh form of slavery– it might be better than imprisonment (that would depend on conditions), but not very utopian.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It’s been a while since I’ve read Snow Crash, but as I recall it didn’t do justice to a polylegal system. There was an episode about an obnoxious guy who was punished but he wasn’t really part of the system.

        It seems reasonable that some behavior is more local (like how much noise you can make) and needs to be covered by local laws or agreements or whatever, but other things (like what contracts are permissible) could be fully polylegal.

    • Iain says:

      I thought it was charmingly audacious. I don’t think the world-building really holds together under examination, but I get the feeling that Ada Palmer knows that and went ahead with it anyway because it seemed like fun.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I enjoyed the first book but thought the second book rather crummy.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I started the free sample from Amazon and got rapidly tired of how, I don’t know, precious it seemed? Like I can’t really remember very much about it now, but wasn’t it all “Oh, I’m going to tell this story with an enormous number of literary devices because I’m clever.” And I didn’t really like the literary devices in question (I’ve liked other ones, this is not a general statement about clever literary devices), and I rapidly just put it down.

      So my question is: Is it all like the first ten pages are?

      • dndnrsn says:

        I found the first book very hard to get into, but then it picked up. The second one was a slog all the way through.

      • rlms says:

        No, but also yes. The content changes a lot, but the style stays the same. I think your quote is a pretty accurate description (although I’d say it’s more “enormous knowledge of obscure historical and philosophical details”) so if that doesn’t appeal to you then you probably won’t like it.

    • rlms says:

      Ada Palmer also has some brilliant blog posts about Machiavelli and the Borgias here and here. They are probably my second favourite set of blog posts (after classic SSC ones).

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Gur uvirf nera’g fgngrf; gurl ner traqref. That’s the twist of book 2 I think.

  16. skef says:

    The Google recruiter who cold-called me last week did a respectable if incomplete job of hiding her disgust at what I’ve been doing for the past decade. If you’re wondering about the current etiquette for email boilerplate, it’s still three business days.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      If you don’t mind me asking, what have you been doing for the past decade? It’s really bugging me now.

      • skef says:

        My Linkedin page clearly states: “Gone fishin'”.

        More detail is available from my organization.

  17. dodrian says:

    What books have you read that significantly improved your life or a part of it (hobby, work, etc)?

    I highly recommend the book Cooking for Geeks. Before reading I enjoyed cooking, and knew a bunch of recipes that I could cook well. After reading it I began to understand cooking and got much better at finding and executing good recipes, with more delicious results. It added a good knowledge foundation to my hobby.

    What’s different from a normal cookbook is that it takes a systematic approach to cooking, working through the different processes involved (taste theory, ingredient reactions, heat reactions, food safety, etc). It’s interspersed with lots of recipes which not only describe what to do, but why it should be done that way (and sometimes experiments that change the outcome).

    What are your recommendations?

  18. DrBeat says:

    So, how does a person get some experimental treatment with ketamine for depression, if they aren’t living in or near one of the cities that apparently do it regularly? I’ve seriously tried everything else, and people keep saying it’s the most promising treatment, but I just can’t find a way to make it happen to me.

    • skef says:

      The old strategy was to go to a rave and ask the 14 year old girl with the stuffed animal backpack who had drugs, and she would take you to a dealer … but that advice may be out of date now.

      Ketamine is still a recreational drug in some circles. It shouldn’t be that hard to get your hands on some. Are you young, or do you have young friends/acquaintances who are aware you aren’t a narc?

      • DrBeat says:

        I’m pretty sure that ketamine for recreational use isn’t the sort of IV infusions they use to treat depression with.

        Also, you don’t have to pay for clinical trials, and if a doctor prescribes it your insurance will pay for it, but health insurance companies don’t like to pay for drugs you got from the raver with a backpack.

        • skef says:

          With ketamine IV would mostly be to aid with dosing level, but people don’t have much trouble figuring that out. A “trip” doesn’t last very long.

          Everything you say is true, but that chance of getting into a trial taking place where you happen to live is remote, and good luck getting a prescription for a schedule IIIN substance for off-label use.

          (I’m being charitable and assuming this isn’t an elaborate Gloria Estefan reference … )

          • Nornagest says:

            “Doctor, I want to perform an unethical medical experiment on myself.”

          • DrBeat says:

            I mean, they do it in some places. They don’t appear to even need a prescription. If I lived in one of those cities where they did it, I would be able to get the treatment without much difficulty. So it being Schedule III off-label can’t be that big a problem.

            But how do I get doctors at the place where I am, to do the thing doctors in other places do?

        • rlms says:

          I don’t know if clinical (for depression) and recreational ketamine are the same, but according to the articles I can find it seems that recreational ketamine is taken in much greater doses. That would reduce the price.

        • Dog says:

          Prescription and recreational ketamine are typically one and the same. Pharmaceutical vials are diverted or purchased overseas, and the water is evaporated to produce powder for snorting. If we assume $100/g on the black market (a high estimate) and a 50mg dose every 2 weeks for depression, that’s $10 a month for treatment. The risk would be very low purchasing sealed vials on the darknet, shipped from within the US, with a little due diligence on whatever vendor.

          When you say you’ve tried everything else, what does that include, and how desperate are you? There are a lot of other less known / less tested / potentially risky options that are not illegal like ketamine. I’ll just throw some out:

          Strong MAOIs (Nardil for example)
          Augmenting an SSRI with l-methylfolate (Deplin) – this has worked for my wife
          Tianeptine (easy to buy online)
          NSI-189 (fairly easy to buy)

  19. baconbacon says:

    If you like wonky economics here you go

    If the growth rate in corporate profits increases, about two quarters later, labor income will also tend to increase. On the other hand, if the growth rate in labor compensation increases, profits tend to decrease over the next few quarters.

    This suggests that there is a sort of Phillips Curve, but higher wages aren’t being paid for with higher prices. And higher wages aren’t being paid for with lower profits. Higher wages are being paid for with higher growth. And there is enough growth to go around, so that profit expectations are rising as real wages rise.

  20. Well... says:

    What are the SSC commentariat’s theories for why temporary tattoos aren’t more popular among adults?

    • Eltargrim says:

      Real tattoos are available to adults. Temporary tattoos are (perceived to be) a childish imitation of adulthood.

      Personally, I find they irritate my skin. I also have a general aversion to aesthetic body modification.

    • Randy M says:

      Because they aren’t very good looking? Generally when I’ve seen them they go on spotty and come off even more unevenly, and at best you have … well, a temporary tattoo, which if it looks anything like a tattoo looks absolutely stupid I don’t care for, but are popular anyway, so who knows.

      (Edit: I was referring to the self-applied temporary tattoos that children use, not to the Henna ones that NaD references below. Those at least go appear as intended, I think? In which case they probably aren’t common because of the time it takes with each application).

      • Well... says:

        Because they aren’t very good looking?

        Usually not, but it doesn’t seem like they should necessarily be so.

        In which case they probably aren’t common because of the time it takes with each application).

        I know henna tattoos have to be applied/drawn by hand…but don’t regular tattoos too?

        • Randy M says:

          I know henna tattoos have to be applied/drawn by hand…but don’t regular tattoos too?

          Yes. Once.

          • Well... says:

            You don’t HAVE to keep going back and getting them every two weeks, though I could easily see a culture in which that was normal.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Henna is a form of temporary tattooing for young adults. Though I haven’t seen quite as much recently as I did a few years ago, so maybe it’s played out as a fad.

      That said, tattoos seem to be pretty much universal among people of my generation. I hate ink with a fiery passion and finding a girl without any tattoos feels roughly as difficult as finding a virgin.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Did you know tattoos are forbidden in Orthodox Judaism? Not that converting for that reason would make sense.

        http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tattooing-in-jewish-law/

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          No, I didn’t know that. Thanks!

          Not that converting for that reason would make sense.

          I’m not sure I understand your meaning here. Are you saying that people shouldn’t convert to Orthodox Judaism because of this prohibition?

          I’d certainly hope that a potential convert’s zeal was stronger than their desire to tattoo! Otherwise they’ll be in for a big surprise when it comes to their Saturday commute…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            No, I meant that converting to Orthodox Judaism wouldn’t make sense for you as a means to finding an untattooed woman.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Ah ok I see what the confusion was.

            I’m in a relationship with a wonderful tattoo-free girl: I just mistakenly used the present rather than past tense when talking about looking for women.

            Besides, not to be crude, there are certain surgical requirements for conversion which sound very unpleasant. I’d much rather stay a gentile.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Normal temporary tattoos: Don’t last long enough/look bad as they peel off.

      Henna: Takes too long/is too skilled work/is too inconvenient to put on. Looks bad as it fades.

      When I was younger, I really wanted a really good removable tattoo. Preferably something that lasted until it could be painlessly, inexpensively, and permanently removed. I tried henna a few times and liked it, except for the caveats above. I (probably correctly) felt like I wouldn’t like any real tattoo in 5/10/20 years.

    • Urstoff says:

      Is that what makeup is?

      • Well... says:

        Hm. Interesting suggestion.

        I think makeup and tattoos are distinct in other ways than their permanence (and of course there is “permanent makeup” too). So, ultimately my answer would be No.

        But it does make me think it should be possible to have temporary tattoo parlors, where you go get a temporary tattoo that’s drawn on by a temporary tattoo artist, who basically works with brushes and makeup instead of needles and ink.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It does seem as though wearing skillfully done paint would be satisfyingly conspicuous consumption.

          Maybe it hasn’t happened because no one has figured out how to market it. Or possibly it’s too expensive for the mass market, while a tattoo is more of a long term investment.

          • Well... says:

            I can’t imagine it’s a financial consideration. Many of the adults I see using food stamps at the grocery store have visible tattoos that must have cost hundreds of dollars. Millennials complaining about their college debt are frequently similarly adorned.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A tattoo lasts for the rest of one’s life. Spending hundreds of dollars on the tattoo isn’t the same as spending fifty or a hundred dollars on paint that might only last a week or less.

          • Well... says:

            My point was, the money question doesn’t seem that important to people who are adorning themselves with tattoos. They apparently find the money for it even when they can’t afford it.

            Many black women spend hundreds of dollars getting their hair did every 2 weeks even when they’re single moms without full-time jobs. I can envision temporary tattoos filling a similar niche, if they could be made to look good.

            One advantage they’d have, BTW, is more vibrant color and a wider range of color options, especially on dark skin.

    • JayT says:

      I’ve always wondered if they could produce a tattoo ink that would break down after some amount of time, so that you get a regular tattoo, but you can choose how long you want it to last; one year, five years, forever, etc. I would think there would be a large market for that.

  21. achenx says:

    Just wanted to say hi, I’ve been lurking for quite a long time and finally decided to get an account. Especially wanted to thank everyone for that autism-spectrum/conversation thread from the other week, which I found fascinating. (Probably not autistm-spectrum myself (though I’ve never asked), but I liked the ‘low-functioning neurotypical’ term from that thread.)

  22. Charles F says:

    Is the Bobiverse popular with SSC? It’s a (sort of) hard sci-fi series by Dennis E. Taylor about Bob, who dies shortly after signing up for cryonics. When he wakes up in the distant future, things have changed quite a bit, and he becomes part of a program to explore the galaxy and help humans expand beyond Earth.

    I loved the first book and thought it did a great job of being funny, playing with a lot of SF tropes in not completely predictable ways, and especially with organizing all of its subplots coherently/fairly. The second was still good, but understandably a bit less hectic(?), since it’s mostly buildup for the third and final book (which comes out in August).

    • James Miller says:

      I found the first book OK, but my 12-year-old son really liked both books.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I wanted to like it, but it has the sort of emotionless affect that you get from a lot of inexperienced authors on Kindle Unlimited. “Earth? Completely destroyed?” Bob felt like he should be more upset, but then he hadn’t had a lot of attachment to the place. Oh well, time to fight some cardboard villain who won’t have any characterization and be easily disposed of offscreen by my clever plan.

      The era of Kindle is great, don’t get me wrong, and I wouldn’t stop Taylor from writing or anything, and for people who like it that’s fine. It’s just that you do start to get conscious of common weaknesses in writers of genres-popular-on-Kindle after a while.

      • Charles F says:

        That description sounds mostly fair, except that the clever plans are rarely offscreen, and they’re much more entertaining than feelings anyway.

        I wouldn’t recommend it for its emotional depth, but I wonder if listening to the audiobook instead of reading it makes any difference, since I didn’t get the sense that it was emotionless, just that the emotions weren’t a very big deal, which seems like it could plausibly come from a narrator doing emotions where the author hadn’t.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Here’s Dennis E. Taylor on Amazon; you should probably switch to Scott’s affiliate link if you’re going to spend money.

      The books (so far):
      1. We Are Legion (We Are Bob)
      2. For We Are Many
      3. All These Worlds

      The first two are apparently available in dead-tree form. No, I haven’t read them, or even heard of them before this. Yes, I probably have undiagnosed OCD. Whoops, forgot to italicize the titles…. fixed.

  23. Meanwhile, at the global warming desk …

    New York magazine recently published a horrifying cover story about climate change, by David Wallace-Wells. It opens as follows:

    It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand.

    The Atlantic asks: Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says?. The author starts by confessing:

    “No one knows how to talk about climate change right now. I don’t have an idea about where to begin, and I write about it professionally.”

    Meanwhile, the Washington Post blasts the article: New York Magazine climate doom piece is a case study in how not to communicate risk.

    Slate disagrees, saying New York magazine’s global-warming horror story isn’t too scary. It’s not scary enough.

    And Vox chimes in with: Did that New York magazine climate story freak you out? Good..

    ThinkProgress says: We aren’t doomed by climate change. Right now we are choosing to be doomed..

    Mashable’s headline flatly contradicts the NY article: No, New York Mag: Climate change won’t make the Earth uninhabitable by 2100, but the text is more equivocal.

    Climate scientists are portrayed in these articles as basically optimistic — We can stop global warming because we have to! — but it seems that optimism has been undermined by the current administration’s policy.

    • James Miller says:

      Here is a test for climate change doomsayers: Republicans would almost certainly be willing to accept a carbon tax in return for things we want but you don’t. What are you willing to trade for? How about, for example, in a revenue neutral way we get a carbon tax, but also eliminate corporate income taxes and death taxes and we build Trump’s wall?

      • secondcityscientist says:

        Republican priorities are low taxes on wealthy people, and a carbon tax is a tax. Republicans currently control both legislative chambers and the presidency. There’s no reason for them to negotiate any new taxes, and they won’t. If Chuck Schumer made your exchange proposals they wouldn’t be enacted.

        Carbon taxes in exchange for reduction in corporate income taxes? Sure. In exchange for estate taxes? I don’t think estate taxes raise that much revenue due to tax avoidance and low numbers of extremely wealthy people, and a carbon tax would need to be high-ish to have the teeth to reduce carbon consumption. If it’s a revenue-neutral exchange I just don’t think it would work, but in principle would be an acceptable trade. Trump wants a wall and Steve King wants a wall but I don’t think most elected Republicans want a wall. Is that a real “Republican Priority”?

        • cassander says:

          >Republican priorities are low taxes on wealthy people, and a carbon tax is a tax.

          Great! a carbon tax isn’t very progressive, so it should be an easy sell to replace basically any other tax with a carbon tax.

          >There’s no reason for them to negotiate any new taxes, and they won’t

          Fair enough. Why was this offer was not forthcoming in the 6 years of mixed government under the obama administration?

        • SamChevre says:

          I think “low taxes on wealthy people” is a fairly low priority for Republicans. “Less federal government involvement in everyday life” is probably higher. So, a list of law/policy changes that would reduce the power of the courts and the bureaucracies: would the Democrats trade a carbon tax for 5 points worth of these?

          Repeal Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley (2 points)
          Repeal the NEPA (3 points)
          Require that any added protection or use restriction on Federal land must be matched by a transfer of an equal amount of federal land to the affected state (2 points)
          Modify the Clean Air and Clean Water acts to eliminate the EPA’s ability to add controlled substances without congressional approval (2 points)
          Modify the Endangered Species Act to eliminate local populations and sub-species for protection (1 point)
          Limit the Fair Housing Act to de jure discrimination and to government action (4 points)
          Limit the Civil Rights Act to de jure discrimination and to government action (8 points)
          Limit the Civil Rights Act to protect only African-Americans (6 points)
          Limit the Americans with Disabilities Act as applied to schools to interventions that no more than double the cost of education (4 points)

          My bet is that zero Democratic constituencies would trade any of these for a carbon tax.

          • Charles F says:

            What could I get for the extra three points from limiting the Civil Rights Act to de jure discrimination + government action? Could I tack on some drug legalization?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            My bet is that most democratic constituencies would accept any of them.

            But your premise is wrong. Half the Republicans in congress have taken an oath to oppose any new taxes. This is a sacred value for them.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog, I note you’re contrasting Democratic voters and Republican representatives. That’s probably significant, because I’m pretty sure Democratic representatives would reject all these tradeoffs, and Republican voters would accept.

            The reason the pledge against taxes is so popular isn’t because it’s a sacred value to the voters. It’s because past representatives have betrayed them so often that they insist on some Schilling point.

          • SamChevre says:

            @Charles F:

            I don’t know, but I’d try to get “federal law only applies to drugs that actually moved from one state to another.”

      • Urstoff says:

        A revenue neutral carbon tax seems like the most obvious solution. I don’t understand why it doesn’t get more political traction. Is it simply seen vs. unseen? People will see gas prices rise but that their other taxes are lowered will not be as noticeable? Or is it oil industry influence among politicians? Or something else?

        • Evan Þ says:

          In part seen v. unseen. But in another large part, that we don’t believe other taxes will really be lowered and stay down. Every so often, there’s a debate here in Washington State about levying a state income tax and lowering the sales tax proportionately. One huge opposition talking point, always, is to claim that the legislature will simply raise the sales tax back again several years later… and knowing politicians, I completely believe that.

          • Urstoff says:

            That seems like an ever-present worry, though. Politicians can always raise state income taxes. Is there a huge status quo bias in what the “proper” level of taxes is?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Actually, yes. There was recently an outcry about a new levy which would for the first time push sales tax over 10% in Seattle. IIRC it still passed, but more narrowly than would otherwise be expected. Sales tax is visible every time people make a purchase; income tax is also visible from year to year (and from my work as a VITA volunteer, I can confirm that people remember from year to year what it “should” be, or at least what their refund “should” be.)

            (Here in Washington, politicians can’t just raise an income tax; it’s against the state Constitution, which can only be amended by popular vote. Once we amend it, though, the floodgates will be open.)

      • 1soru1 says:

        > Republicans would almost certainly be willing to accept a carbon tax in return for things we want but you don’t

        But not willing to make the slightest or most tentative of moves in the real-world situation where they have an absolute majority and so can’t rely on someone from the other side blocking their proposal.

      • tgb says:

        As a liberal in favor of gun regulation, I’d gladly give up gun regulation to get some real legislative wins on more important topics, such as carbon tax or health care. I don’t think the democratic party can make any headway in genuine gun law reform and so is just wasting its political capital fighting for something that isn’t going to make any difference.

        • The Nybbler says:

          By “give up gun regulation”, do you mean stop trying to retake ground the gun-rights side has already taken? Or do you mean cash-and-carry machine guns, no-license-required open and concealed carry for everyone, elimination of state restrictions, etc? Because the former isn’t much of a concession.

    • John Schilling says:

      Also on the list of critics: Michael Mann. No, not the director Michael Mann, though I’m certain he has an opinion too. Who in Hollywood doesn’t?

      When Michael Hockey Stick Mann describes your article with phrases like “That’s just not true” and “I was struck by erroneous statements like this one” after declaring himself “not a fan of this sort of doomist framing”, I think we’re done. Nobody with a shred of scientific integrity is going to stand behind Wallace-Wells’ article, only journalists and pundits with an agenda. Which brings us to,

      Climate scientists are portrayed in these articles as basically optimistic — but it seems that optimism has been undermined by the current administration’s policy.

      Trump derangement syndrome strikes climatology. For what it’s worth, the scientists themselves seem mostly resistant, but that’s little consolation in a world where most people need increasingly-deranged science journalists to translate the science for them.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’ve got two books the New York Magazine writers need to read.

      Chicken Little, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf

    • Anon. says:

      I can’t take any of these pieces seriously after I-732.

      In rhetoric, climate change is an x-risk. In revealed preference, the left prefers wealth redistribution to environmental policy.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Man, I wish someone had told me about this vote I couldn’t participate in on the other side of the country before it revealed all my preferences.

        • Anon. says:

          Are you saying Washington State is not a representative sample?

          • rlms says:

            As Iain pointed out below, not everyone in Washington is on the left, and furthermore it is plausible that some of those non-leftist voters voted against the bill.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But the establishment left actively fought against it, which is telling (at least of the state of Washingtonian establishment lefties and those they cater to, not necessarily nationwide) no matter who actually voted for or against it.

      • Evan Þ says:

        +1. (And to Jordan D., yes, the vote from this representative sample of leftists revealed there are some like you. Unfortunately, you’re a minority.)

        • Iain says:

          52.5% of Washington voters voted for Clinton over Trump. 40.75% of Washington voters voted for the carbon tax. I can’t find a partisan breakdown of the vote, but you can look at the maps here and here and verify the obvious, which is that support for the carbon tax overwhelmingly came from the left. Unless you think a full third of Trump voters checked the box for a carbon tax, a clear majority of Clinton voters were in favour.

          This is despite analysis saying that, far from being revenue neutral, I-732 was actually going to reduce revenue by $1B over four years. So, there’s your revenue-negative carbon tax. Where was the Republican support?

          “Well, I was going to take climate change seriously, but then only a supermajority of the political party I disagree with voted for a carbon tax that would do meaningful harm to their other priorities, instead of being completely unanimous. Now I am forced to conclude that it’s all made up. Aw, shucks! I am definitely not just using this as an excuse!”

          • Evan Þ says:

            Thanks for the correction about the relative numbers.

            However, as a conservative-leaning Washingtonian myself, we didn’t trust that it would stay revenue-negative. Sales tax here keeps trending up over time (even more so in perception, because levies keep needing to be renewed and thus show up on the ballot again, but in actuality as well), and my friends were pretty sure the legislature would just keep raising taxes so it wouldn’t stay revenue-negative.

            In other words… we don’t trust them. I’m sure they don’t trust us, either.

          • Iain says:

            The inherent tendency of a revenue-negative carbon tax is to get more revenue-negative, not less, because the whole point is to encourage people to reduce their carbon emissions. If conservative-leaning voters are nevertheless not willing to vote for a revenue-negative carbon tax, then the rational response for environmentalists is to stop trying to peel off conservative voters and instead maximize their appeal to the left.

            You might want to work on those trust issues, is what I’m saying.

          • Nornagest says:

            You might want to work on those trust issues, is what I’m saying.

            Less of this, please.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Nornagest
            I think you’re overreacting. It’s not out of line as a response to

            In other words… we don’t trust them. I’m sure they don’t trust us, either.

          • Evan Þ says:

            When have environmentalists, as a group, tried to peel off conservative voters? The Left as a whole, and the Sierra Club in specific, fought against the Washington carbon tax initiative. Look at the Sierra Club’s reasons, and then tell me they’re anything but actively hostile to conservativism.

            If environmentalists were making any effort to reach out, rather than making (your) veiled and (the Sierra Club’s) not-so-veiled threats, I might try to “work on” the distrust of this large amorphous group which I can only affect in small and indirect ways.

          • rlms says:

            What, you want environmentalists to put forward a compromise bill, maybe something like a revenue-negative carbon tax? I can’t see that happening.

          • Evan Þ says:

            One environmental group put forward a revenue-negative carbon tax; praise be to them. The environmentalist movement as a whole was at best neutral, if not opposed.

          • rlms says:

            I’m not sure if it’s possible to quantify the opinions of the environmentalist movement as a whole, but, as Iain pointed out above, the majority of left-wingers supported the bill. But let’s assume that environmentalists specifically were neutral/opposed. That’s what you would expect from a compromise bill; if it had the full support of either side it wouldn’t be a compromise. Instead, it has aspects that left-wingers dislike, which for some of them outweigh the benefits.

          • Jiro says:

            if it had the full support of either side it wouldn’t be a compromise. Instead, it has aspects that left-wingers dislike, which for some of them outweigh the benefits.

            The left claims to like carbon taxes because they prevent the destruction of our planet, not because they’re a way for the government to get revenue. Having a carbon tax that prevents the destruction of our planet but is revenue-neutral shouldn’t be a “compromise” from a left-wing point of view, if the left is sincere.

          • rlms says:

            @Jiro
            It’s a compromise because it’s revenue negative and also regressive (or at least it plausibly looks that way).

          • Jiro says:

            A left-winger who honestly thinks that carbon taxes are about saving the planet shouldn’t care about being revenue-negative or regressive, because those things are unimportant compared to saving the planet. The “compromise” grants a concession on a much less important issue in order to get their way on a much more important issue.

            Unless, of course, they don’t really alieve it’s about saving the planet, and it’s really about left-wing policies in the first place. A regressive system combined with saving the planet is a huge win for them; a regressive system combined with standard left-wing politics is much less of a win.

          • Aapje says:

            A left-winger who honestly thinks that carbon taxes are about saving the planet shouldn’t care about nuclear war, because the deaths of million are unimportant compared to saving the planet.

          • rlms says:

            One state-level carbon tax is not going to save the planet. If a carbon tax was implemented on a large enough scale to have a major effect on climate change, it would affect enough people that its revenue-negativity and regressiveness would be major problems. The balance is the same if both sides are scaled down.

          • Jiro says:

            A left-winger who honestly thinks that carbon taxes are about saving the planet shouldn’t care about nuclear war, because the deaths of million are unimportant compared to saving the planet.

            If you are claiming that, back when the main concern of the left was nuclear war, their refusal to compromise other leftist values to stop nuclear war showed they didn’t really believe it, sure, I can agree with you on that.

          • rlms says:

            What about the analogous right-wing lack of compromise on abortion (if it is literally murder, anything that reduces it by even a small amount is very valuable)?

          • Jiro says:

            I would say it does apply, but I can’t think of a situation where anyone actually tried to offer the right restrictions on abortion in exchange for something else.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Echoing Jiro here.

            Most of the “compromises” I’ve seen proposed have been of the “we’ll take half the pie no and the other half later” variety. In other words, not a genuine compromise.

          • rlms says:

            Has the anti-abortion right proposed any compromises?

          • hlynkacg says:

            From the anti-abortion side? It’s generally taken the form of supporting other forms of birth-control in exchange for tighter restriction on abortion.

          • Salem says:

            The kind of compromises on abortion that have been reached in many European countries would be unconstitutional in the US under Casey and progeny. As a result the question is a little unfair; no legislative compromise with the Democrats can get the anti-abortion right an acceptable position on abortion, no matter what they give up on other subjects.

            On the other hand, it is quite fair to use this question to conclude that Republicans are rather less invested in doing away with burdensome regulations than their rhetoric suggests.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Salem

            Good points.

          • albatross11 says:

            All this seems to me to miss the fact that we aren’t talking about compromises between individuals or even small groups. Instead, we are talking abou compromises between big unstable coalitions. Most members of the Religious Right might well be willing to accept higher corporate and inheritance taxes in exchange for more restrictions on abortions, but the rest of the Republican coalition wouldn’t go along with that, so it would not be a deal the Republicans as a whole could make without breaking up their coalition. Similarly, the set of Democrats who think AGW is really a threat to humanity isn’t the same as the set who think inheritance taxes need to be higher or who think we need affirmative action in education or whatever.

          • Zodiac says:

            How much compromising is actually happening in the US, really?
            I was always under the impression that either party will just push it’s politics as far as it can and when they can stand in the other parties way they will do so.

          • Matt M says:

            Similarly, the set of Democrats who think AGW is really a threat to humanity isn’t the same as the set who think inheritance taxes need to be higher or who think we need affirmative action in education or whatever.

            If you took a survey asking Democratic voters to rank-order their priorities, how many do you think would rank the estate tax higher than climate change?

          • albatross11 says:

            As aside: If making compromises between parties causes stress within your party’s coalition, one reason we might see fewer cross-party compromises would be if the parties’ internal cohesion got weaker–the religious right and the free market right and the strong-defense right trust each other less and less, so it is hard for their leaders to agree on a compromise that gives the religious right something they want at the cost o the free market right, say.

            An alternative cause might be less trust/cohesion between leaders and supporters, where a compromise by Senator Jones that is honestly the best available deal still makes a big chunk of his supporters feel betrayed, so they refuse to vote for him or support his primary challenger in the next election.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Every revenue neutral carbon tax presents a trade-off for the left, due to the tax’s regressive nature. If the left had chosen the carbon tax in this situation, would you say that you “can’t take them seriously on the issue of wealth redistribution” anymore?

        The left’s position isn’t that massive wealth disparity is harmless, but climate change is a threat to people’s well-being. It’s that both of them are bad, and for the same reason. So every regressive carbon tax has to be judged on the merits of whether it increases or reduces harm.

        • cassander says:

          You could always replace a similarly regressive tax such as a sales tax, and dodge the problem.

          • Evan Þ says:

            In Washington, where an income tax is unconstitutional, we would’ve been doing exactly that.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Evan Þ

            Washington Initiative 732 also reduced the business and occupation tax. So it would be inaccurate to imply that the initiative merely swapped a sales tax for a carbon tax.

        • Anon. says:

          >If the left had chosen the carbon tax in this situation, would you say that you “can’t take them seriously on the issue of wealth redistribution” anymore?

          Obviously the situation cannot be inversed like that. Environmental policy is supposedly about saving the human race, while wealth redistribution is about incremental improvements to living standards. If one accepts the rhetoric, then taking this trade-off would make perfect sense even if you support increases in wealth redistribution.

          • Aapje says:

            A lack of wealth redistribution can severely destabilize society.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Even if a few “anarchists” were mailing bombs around because of lack of redistribution, how would that support redistribution? Giving in to terrorists seems like a terrible idea.

          • skef says:

            Stability isn’t an ethical norm, it’s a functional norm.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Sure, but if a few anarchists are causing trouble (and the 1919 bombings were not a popular uprising), deporting and/or imprisoning the anarchists seems like a better idea all around. Even if Palmer did go overboard.

          • skef says:

            Is your point that, because the link Aapje provides is not sufficient evidence, that wealth inequality cannot (or perhaps in practical terms does not) destabilize a society? Or that the risk can be mitigated by jailing or deporting anyone who breaks the law in response, so everything can just continue per normal?

          • The Nybbler says:

            My first point is that, the events described in the link being insufficient, there is not sufficient evidence on the table of wealth inequality destabilizing society.

            My second point is that if wealth inequality destabilizes society only through the mechanism of providing reasons for small groups to throw bombs, THAT can be mitigated by jailing and/or deporting the bomb-throwers.

            Otherwise, the US should have officially become an Islamic nation by now. Because a nation not being sufficiently Islamic seems sufficient reason for people to commit terrorist attacks upon it.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Even if the stakes involved for climate change vs. wealth distribution are different, there is still the question that has to be weighed as to how much is gained in the trade-off vs how much is lost. If the left viewed the carbon tax as toothless or so incrementally small to be useless, and viewed the losses in wealth distribution as significant, then of course they would reject it.

            It’s like saying to a conservative “would you accept a 2% reduction in immigration in exchange for a 90% income tax on all people who earn >$50,000? No? Aha! Show how little you really care about reducing immigration”

            The climate change problem isn’t so terrifying and imminent that I would be willing to sacrifice every other part of the leftist platform in order to have a small chance of mitigating it. I mean, if the climate crisis is really as bad as they say it is, then conservatives will be acutely aware if it themselves soon enough, and any “bargaining” will have been unnecessary.

          • Aapje says:

            Obviously history doesn’t repeat exactly. My link was illustrative, not to be taken as evidence that it will be anarchists or the left in general that will make (most of the) trouble.

            There was unrest all over the West during the beginning of the 20th century, which seems to correlate with income inequality.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @The Nybbler
            The evidence that large wealth disparities (and in effect, power disparities) destabilizes society comes not from the U.S. in 1919, but from events such as the Russian Revolution, the August Revolution in Vietnam, the Chinese Communist Revolution, ect.

            Question the true motives of the leaders, sure, but the reason the average farmer grabbed their pictchfork certainly had something to do with power disparity.

  24. johan_larson says:

    Anyone here have an air force background? I’ve been looking through the USAF’s various military occupations for enlisted personnel, and noticed the length of training required for them varies quite a bit. What’s usually considered the most difficult one?

    • Incurian says:

      Army here, but PJs are widely considered to have pretty tough training. JTACs are cool too.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, I had a look as some of the other services too. Training in the navy’s nuclear power operations can take 18 months: 6 months of A-school (which is supposed to be brutal), 6 months of Naval Nuclear Power School, and then another 6 months in the Nuclear Power Training Unit.

        These jobs seem to require a five-year enlistment. So the navy spends nearly a third of your enlistment training you. Seems like a terrible deal for the navy.

        • bean says:

          The navy nuclear program was set up by someone who was probably crazy, although he certainly got results. When the recruiters for it would come to my school (which had a nuclear engineering program) I would just point and laugh, because I certainly didn’t want to get the Hyman Rickover Stick.

          • johan_larson says:

            They seem to have trouble getting people, particularly for the officer positions. Why else would they be offering to pick up the tab for all of college for people who agree to join the nuclear program after graduation?

          • roystgnr says:

            One of my best friends went through the Navy nuclear program a decade or two ago; I can pass along any questions anyone has. I’ve never heard the phrase “Hyman Rickover Stick” before, though (and apparently neither has Google) – could you let me in on the joke?

            He seemed to get a pretty good deal. Free ride to an expensive private college, great career path (he’s a civilian now but still working on nuclear sub parts as a private contractor). He originally wanted to be a pilot and would have been willing to be a submariner, but then he met his now-wife in college, and suddenly long terms of commitment or regular lengthy deployments looked a lot less desirable than a DC-area desk job.

          • bean says:

            It was a coinage by me on the spot. The stick goes up the ass. Although Rickover interview stories are always amazing.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I imagine it’s a reference to Admiral Rickover’s (and through him the US Navy Nuclear School’s) unofficial* motto “The stupid shall be punished”.

            *The official motto being “Committed to excellence”

            Edit: ninja’d by bean once again

          • cassander says:

            @hlynkacg

            The US Navy has one, and only one, true motto, “There is no God but Neptune and Mahan is His prophet.” All else is heresy.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Nonsense, the Navy’s motto is “Never again volunteer yourself” but then I was always a godless green-side heathen in the eyes of proper shoes.

    • bean says:

      It’s pretty much always the special forces, for any branch of any military. Beyond that, I don’t really know of any that have seriously tough reputations in the USAF.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I was Navy/Marines rather than Air Force but I would imagine flight crew is near the top. Their SAR guys the PJs get a lot of public relations love and go through some admittedly tough training but are regarded as “rich guys dabbling in SOF” while AF forward observers/JTACs are the real deal (at least that was the consensus when I was in). Their air traffic controllers were also highly regarded.

    • keranih says:

      Depends on what you mean by “most difficult.” The AF does have nuke techs, rocket techs, and aircraft mechanics, as well as the aforementioned PJs (and forward air controllers).

      There is also “most difficult” in terms of physical strength + annoying duty, which is either Security Forces (cops, which includes military police and the security guards for nukes and aircraft) or civil engineering (builds emergency runways (and a number of other things), and also includes firefighters.) Oh, and the AF has EOD, too.

  25. Lately my pattern detector has been going off.

    I’ve noticed implausible amounts of trans and non-heterosexual people in the communities I hang around in on the internet. All of the political account groups on twitter seem stacked with statistically improbable numbers of trans people. When someone puts a poll on sexuality in sci-fi forums I visit, it’ll be something like 40% bi. Same with polls on 4chan, and other imageboards.

    I used to think that this was just filtration and therefore non-suspicious, but I’m getting less sure about that as things develop. Someone posted an article about some ridiculously high number of teens identifying as trans/gender nonconformant in the last thread (a quarter maybe?).

    Now, there’s a pop conservative explanation for all this which is that kids are being socialized into new genders and sexualities, but I don’t buy it. It’s not like kids have been told to be trans all of their life, and trans people are still discriminated against. Furthermore, I think that in order to believe that adopting the mannerisms and culture of the opposite sex is positive, you have to in some way have a mind primed to find that appealing. The biological explanation always made more sense, but I always thought about that in a fixed way. In reality, the environment could be acting chemically to change biology.

    I know about the sperm count crisis.

    “Reduce exposure to industrial chemicals such as those used in making plastics – they can mimic the female hormone oestrogen countering male hormones.”

    I wonder if that’s having an effect on more than just sperm count. I want to know though – How exactly are you supposed to reduce exposure to something that is everywhere?

    Could there be something to the wacky soy theories/turning the frogs gay stuff reaktionaries go on and on about? Personally, I don’t think it’s negative in a way that requires drastic action since technology is going to save (or kill) us all anyway relatively soon, so it would only imply something prescriptive in a situation where we needed to return to primitive forms of fighting and struggling in order to survive.

    • hls2003 says:

      My immediate thought is that your first assumption was more or less correct, and that the elevated levels of espousing these behaviors do not actually correlate to improbable levels of practicing these behaviors. You’re talking about internet boards and Twitter. An egg avatar can be any gender that’s trendy without having to sleep with anyone.

    • Randy M says:

      Personally, I don’t think it’s negative in a way that requires drastic action since technology is going to save (or kill) us all anyway relatively soon

      Making more people identify as trans means making more people that feel uncomfortable in their bodies to the point of desiring hormone or surgical fixes, so if there is some chemical agent inadvertently doing this fixing it would ease more suffering than raising awareness. Might not matter if you are really so fatalistic, but in terms of priorities, it would be a trend worth correcting.

      I don’t know if this is something that is recently increasing in prevalence or just the effect of mass/social media magnifying a fringe element, perhaps with an amount of trolling or people genuinely confused by the recent focus into thinking being less stereotypical means brain abnormalities.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        No chance that there always were a good many people who didn’t fit neatly into genders, and now it’s more possible to be public about it?

        • albatross11 says:

          Nancy:

          That might explain some of it, but it seems an awfully big change to happen so quickly if it was just a matter of social acceptance and such. OTOH, two of my close male friends in college were into cross-dressing, and one is now a transwoman[1]. So maybe there were always a ton of people who didn’t really fit into either category, and now everyone has a vocabulary and enough social acceptance to at least think about that to themselves.

          [1] Or, again, maybe I just had a really odd circle of friends.

        • The Nybbler says:

          No chance that there always were a good many people who didn’t fit neatly into genders, and now it’s more possible to be public about it?

          I can believe that for gender roles, but not really for gender identity. Maybe if we could somehow reverse the Great Male Renunciation, a lot of men would be much happier being men? (this would fit in with the “metrosexual” thing a few years back too).

        • Randy M says:

          Any list that begins with “I don’t know” should probably not be taken to be exhaustive. 😉

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          @Nybbler

          I can believe that for gender roles, but not really for gender identity.

          I tend to agree. However, I must confess that I’m terribly unclear on what exactly is a mere role and what is considered a fundamental characteristic of gender identity today.

      • rlms says:

        “Making more people identify as trans means making more people that feel uncomfortable in their bodies to the point of desiring hormone or surgical fixes”
        All else being equal, yes, but a plausible theory is that identifying as trans is high status in some communities, so people do it even if they aren’t really (or alternatively socially transition, which is harmless). To elaborate: I’m not saying that significant numbers of people straight-up lie about being trans, but if it is high status in your circles you might change how you dress etc. in a way that debatably doesn’t make you trans (see debates about whether you can be trans without dysphoria).

        • Randy M says:

          in a way that debatably doesn’t make you trans

          As you say, “Trans people cannot control their condition and it is deeply distressing to them” is not compatible with “More people will become trans if it is glamorous to do so”*

          Perhaps we need to bring back the old word “transvestite” for the people who are doing it without a physiological compulsion.

          *Well, perhaps it is on the margins in some people’s utility calcuations, but it seems very implausible to me given the emphasis on how bad trans people’s subjective experience is.

          • baconbacon says:

            Pretend there is a curve of trans. On the far end of one side are people who are overwhelmed by the feelings of discomfort within their own body and social pressure is an additional but lesser confounder. On the other end you have people who would prefer a different body (or experiment) and feel some discomfort but not major, for them the major inhibition is social pressure. Remove the social pressure and you only modestly impact the first group, but the second group feels almost total liberation.

          • Randy M says:

            I was trying to acknowledge the possibility with my foot note there, but point out that if that is the case we are presented with non-central examples pretty often.

          • rlms says:

            The central example of trans people are those with severe physical dysphoria, and their numbers aren’t likely to increase due to transness being high status (although transness not being so low status in society as a whole might well have an effect). However there are also non-central trans people who have milder physical dysphoria (possibly none), but still act/dress/wish to be treated as a different gender to that implied by their birth sex. I think it’s definitely plausible that social pressure could push some feminine cis men and masculine cis women into that category (or cause them to identify as genderqueer or similar without actually changing their behaviour at all).

            Transvestites are a different category: people who like to wear clothes of the opposite sex (either as a sexual fetish, or otherwise e.g. Eddie Izzard) without identifying as a gender opposite to that you would expect from their genitals. Recently, they seem to be categorised under the umbrella of transgender, but I think that’s a mistake. The defining property of transgender people should be unusual gender identity, regardless of behaviour.

          • Randy M says:

            Wouldn’t wanting to take on the trappings of the opposite be a mild form of gender dysphoria? If you are wearing the dress because it is women’s clothes and not because you really like the feel of the fabric or whatever.

            Or is this a biological/psychological distinction? (If that even makes sense)

            (edit: Letting rlms have the last word as I’ve reached the end of my interest and exceeded my ability to say anything interesting on it)

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think so. Consider people for whom transvestitism is a sexual fetish. They don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable with their gender (which I think is the usual definition of dysphoria) or feel any desire to change it (which is a plausible extension).

          • baconbacon says:

            I was trying to acknowledge the possibility with my foot note there, but point out that if that is the case we are presented with non-central examples pretty often.

            I think I focused to much on the binary aspect, when what I really want to communicate is the curve/fluid/uncertain aspect.

            Take a person who feels trans curious, has several other psychological issues that they are dealing with (anxiety or depression) that they don’t associate with their curiosity. They mostly avoid experimenting, or experimenting in public due to the social stigma. Remove the social stigma, they experiment and they find some alleviation of their anxiety/depression/xyz. You can postulate half a dozen ways that the lifting of the stigma relieved those other issues that are unrelated to the curiosity itself, but the individual is going to self report as a central case now. “Ever since I came out as Trans I felt large gains in other areas of my life, I must have been a closeted Trans always and not realized how deeply I wanted it”.

    • johan_larson says:

      My brother reported that it was practically fashionable to be gay when he was in college. I don’t really know what to make of such a claim. I mean, either you wanna bone dudes or you don’t. It doesn’t seem like a persona you would “try on” in some sense. Claiming to be gay when you’re not would an odd thing to do, outside of comedy scripts. It’s not like there’s a benefit package.

      • I think the number of people who pretend to be gay for fun are a negligible part of this phenomena.

        Upsides:
        1: Trendy in a few circles, but it’s sufficient to care about gay rights/trans rights/etc.

        Downsides:
        1: The more common neighborhood homophobes might want to beat you up, or at least bother you.
        2: If you pretended to be gay for long enough, more women might be uninterested in relationships with you. Harms later romantic life.
        3: Unwanted advances/calling your bluff.

        • albatross11 says:

          This is anecdata with probably no relevance, but a whole bunch of women I dated in college self-identified as bisexual, and I think all of them ended up in long-term relationships with men. I’m not sure why this happened–maybe I just have odd tastes in girls, or my social circle had some odd features or something. I’ve always assumed their sexual/romantic attraction was skewed 95/5 toward men, with occasional women matching whatever pattern their sex/romantic drive was looking for enough to at least catch their interest.

          • Zodiac says:

            I have similar experience.
            Probably a result of less stigma because guys will hope for a threesome as well as generally more tolerance for lesbians.

          • hls2003 says:

            The phenomenon of college girls making out with girls is not terribly new; it has been an attention-seeking behavior for decades, usually by hetero coeds who were trying to catch the eye of men. But of course “attention-seeking behavior to titillate guys” is not a very flattering description, and so it wouldn’t surprise me if nowadays the same behavior is justified by the now-more-socially-encouraged justification of being “a little bi”.

          • John Schilling says:

            The phrase “Lesbian until Graduation” is old enough for its children to be legal in every state of the union, so this isn’t just your odd tastes. “Bi until graduation” is only slightly younger. It may be a reflection on the quality or maturity of the men available on the average college campus, or it may reflect the college campus’s role as a location for deniable experimentation.

          • JayT says:

            I remember the joke in college always being “what’s the difference between a co-ed and a bi girl? About three drinks.”

          • The replies to Albatross seem to follow the path that these “bi” women weren’t really bi but were mostly just looking for novelty. This may be true, but I can imagine several reasons why most women would end up in male/female relationships even if they had equal attraction to other women as to men:
            1) You can only have children in the usual way with a male/female relationship,
            2) There is less stigma today, but you certainly stand out when you have a same sex relationship
            3) There are still many people who do see gay relationships as an abomination, and sometimes they might be relatives
            4) Until very recently, one couldn’t get officially married in a gay relationship, and the laws definitely favor the married.

            I’m not sure how important these issues were to the women Albatross refers to. But there are definitely practical benefits to the traditional male/female marriage.

          • Barely matters says:

            Or the reason I hear from every one of my Bi friends and girlfriends when asked:

            5) “Guys will do the whole process for you. Dating women is work

          • DeWitt says:

            Ha. That’s rich.

          • albatross11 says:

            Mark V Anderson and cadie both make some good points: A woman who is exactly 50/50 attracted to men and women faces incentives that encourage settling with a man–she will find more men than women interested in dating her, she will get more social acceptance (even without overt discrimination, it will be less hassle explaining her arrangements to the neighbors, the boss, odd family members, etc.), and she can more easily have kids with a man than adopting or using a sperm bank while married to a woman.

            This makes me wonder if I have been engaging in fundamental attribution bias in assuming most of the bi women I dated were actually mostly attracted to men.

        • onyomi says:

          There have always been lots of men who wanted to dress up, wear a wig and makeup; some of them liked to bone other dudes, but some of them just liked to dress up. There have always been men who preferred baking and fashion and art to wrestling and hunting and politics. Some of them, maybe more of them, preferred to bone other dudes, but not all. And some of the wrestlers and hunters and warriors were gay.

          But at some point masculinity became so overdetermined as to shut out a large percentage of actual men, many of whom aren’t necessarily homosexual or desiring to become women. Social repression kept these people in their neat boxes, but now that the stigma against it is weakening, to the point that some people even find it fun, fashionable or “interesting” to be “gender queer,” all those people who didn’t fit are suddenly claiming different identities altogether.

          My personal preference would be to instead expand the definition of acceptable masculinity (and femininity) rather than inventing a bunch of new victim categories for every non-perfectly-central example of masculinity and femininity to flee to; I guess I just resist the continual carving up of society on identity lines because I think it has bad consequences.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @johan_larson

        I mean, either you wanna bone dudes or you don’t. It doesn’t seem like a persona you would “try on” in some sense.

        Hypothesis: a significant number of people are bisexuals significantly favouring the opposite sex. In most times and places, they are functionally heterosexual, say they are heterosexual, maybe never have any same-sex experiences. However, in other times and places, it will be different.

        • albatross11 says:

          This seems reasonable. The odd thing is that there are two places this seems to show up:

          a. In high school or college, where there are many people of both sexes around, your natural sex drive is at maximum, and experimentation and openness are maxed out and socially approved. Leave college and settle down with someone (almost certainly the opposite sex, given how your attractions work), and the whole issue doesn’t come up again.

          b. In long-term same-sex environments like prison or all-male boarding school, where lots of men who are straight in the regular world end up having same-sex relationships. Get out of prison and around women again, and given how your attractions work, you’re content to go back to being exclusively straight.

        • Cadie says:

          For bisexuals, there are a lot more people of the opposite sex than the same sex who are potential partners. You have basic orientation compatibility with bi and straight people of the opposite sex, and bi and gay people of the same sex; the first group is much bigger.

    • Nornagest says:

      Someone posted an article about some ridiculously high number of teens identifying as trans/gender nonconformant in the last thread (a quarter maybe?).

      Are you talking about this post? Because that’s about sexuality, not gender conformity, and I’d be way less suspicious about a quarter of $GROUP identifying as non-straight than about them identifying as gender nonconformant — the base rates are one or two orders of magnitude higher, and there’s more cultural precedent for it.

      Meanwhile, chemical explanations need to account for gender nonconformity in biologically female as well as male people, and xenoestrogens only account for the latter. Anecdotally, it seems more common in the former, at least if we’re lumping in variations on “genderqueer”. Though there could be more than one thing going on, of course.

      • Yeah, that’s the one. Sexuality and gender are different, of course, but I do think they tend to correlate (most males identify as hetero, most females identify as hetero, if occasionally fluid in practice).

        Meanwhile, chemical explanations need to account for gender nonconformity in biologically female as well as male people, and xenoestrogens only account for the latter. Anecdotally, it seems more common in the former, at least if we’re lumping in variations on “genderqueer”. Though there could be more than one thing going on, of course.

        This is a good point, though mtfs seem more common (or are less hidden). It will be interesting to see if the rate of ftm remains relatively fixed, while the rate of mtf goes up and up, as time goes on.

    • The Nybbler says:

      When someone puts a poll on sexuality in sci-fi forums I visit, it’ll be something like 40% bi.

      I think SF fans have always been an unusual bunch with a greater than average number of homosexuals and bisexuals. And anyway, polls lie. (4chan polls lie more)

      I also think there’s a lot of trans-fashion going on. When you don’t have to do anything but put on different clothing and declare yourself a member of the opposite sexanother gender, there are reasons to do it even for someone who doesn’t actually think they are a member of another gender; some people are just straight-up novelty seekers, for instance.

      • Nornagest says:

        Different group of nerds, but the joke goes that “by and large, furries are bi and large”.

        (Not a furry, but I know several through the MUD scene.)

      • Well... says:

        Seems like there might be a transhumanist thread running through that too.

      • albatross11 says:

        It probably depends a lot on what definitions people are using, too. Bisexual might mean “I’m about equally attracted to men and women,” but it might also mean “I’m almost always attracted to men, but occasionally am attracted to a woman,” or even “I was once attracted to a woman, but otherwise I’ve only been attracted to men.” A shift in what definition people are using could easily change polling results by quite a bit, even if there’s no corresponding change in anyone’s actual sexual or romantic behavior.

        You could imagine something similar going on with trans self-identification, but I don’t really know enough to tell if that might be some of what’s going on.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        you don’t have to do anything but put on different clothing

        If you say you’re genderqueer, you don’t even have to do that.

    • skef says:

      There’s also the hypothesis that the divergence in culture itself — the subjects and objects young people spend more time thinking about now as opposed to earlier times — is leading to diversified sexual interests. This could also explain a subset of trans-identifiers (but probably only a subset).

  26. onyomi says:

    Listening to this defense of Amazon by Tom Woods, I was struck by something I hadn’t really thought much about: though I do think there is a dearth of a good jobs in most of the developed world for reasons mostly unrelated to online shopping: to what extent have a certain proportion of jobs not actually disappeared but simply become invisible? And are there societal implications for having an increasing number of employees be “invisible”?

    For example, Google tells me Amazon employs something like 340,000 people. And that’s presumably not counting people who make a partial or complete living as an Amazon affiliate. Or the extra people UPS probably hired as a result of “Prime shipping.” Have more than 340,000 jobs at e.g. bookstores and other spaces in which Amazon competes lost their jobs? Maybe. I’m really not sure.

    But more importantly (at least for the point I’m trying to make): I have met many bookstore employees. I have not, to my knowledge, ever met an Amazon employee. Where are all these people? Presumably in warehouses and offices and distribution centers somewhere? Which is not to say my experience is entirely representative; maybe there are some towns somewhere where everybody works for Amazon. Maybe I just don’t have enough blue collar friends; still, I think the point stands that Amazon employees are not interacting with “the public” in the way a brick and mortar bookstore employee or manager would have.

    It strikes me as having a bit of a “bowling alone” quality: all else equal, I think I’d prefer a community in which most jobs allow (or require) getting to know/interacting on a personal basis with at least some of the community they serve (though having to deal with the public also has its real subjective downsides, as anyone who’s worked retail knows, and I’m also not saying there should be no jobs for introverts; rather, I wonder if even some extroverts are now required to work jobs better suited to introverts?).

    • Civilis says:

      It strikes me as having a bit of a “bowling alone” quality: all else equal, I think I’d prefer a community in which most jobs allow (or require) getting to know/interacting on a personal basis with at least some of the community they serve

      I’m usually stuck pondering the reverse of your questions: to what extent do the employees of brick and mortar establishments add value which makes that means of shopping more valuable than shopping online?

      Of course I’d prefer the friendly and personable sales staff to the cold impersonal hand of dealing with a machine, but how much do I interact with the staff? For most stores, the only interaction I have with the staff is a couple of brief exchanges at the register, so there’s little or no time to demonstrate that interaction skill. There are some ways around this; I think this was the purpose of a Wal-Mart greeter, to put someone out whose only role was to interact with the customer. And there’s the matter of how much friendliness I can expect from a retail employee. I try not to be a difficult customer, but I know that the small number of stressful interactions I experience in tech support have a lot more impact on my mood than those interactions which are quick and stress free, and I expect retail to be the same way. I don’t expect a random Barnes and Noble employee to be able to provide more knowledge on the books I’m interested in than I can get from a minute of searching on the internet; the only info I expect the employee to be able to provide is the layout of the store.

      As always, there are exceptions. I play a lot of tabletop games. Just about every game store employee I’ve dealt with has been able to provide me with useful information to make the visit worth something. But I think that has to do with the nature of the business. Game stores tend to be small, with a limited number of staff and a high percentage of repeat customers so there’s time to build up an interaction history. Every game store I’ve been to has been owned by a gamer who hires gamers as staff, so they often have a decent knowledge and enthusiasm for many of their own product ranges. There are always in store events, to further the relationship between staff and customers and to give customers a reason for a degree of store loyalty; you want the store to stay in business to give you a place to interact with other gamers and play. Often times, I’ve been a participant in a conversation between staff and customer of the form ‘I don’t know game X, but he does, so let’s ask him’, and because I like the store and the game I have a reason to act as a sales agent for the store, and my advice is unlikely to include ‘go online and buy the game’.

      I can see that sort of relationship generalizing to other specialty hobby stores; craft stores offering lessons, for example. It might be possible that it can work with a specialty sales store, like a small bookshop where the proprietor knows the stock (not B&N). I don’t see it applying to most clothing or home goods stores. It has to be a place where you will shop frequently enough and interact with the same staff to build that relationship.

      • Nornagest says:

        I can see that sort of relationship generalizing to other specialty hobby stores; craft stores offering lessons, for example. I don’t see it applying to most clothing or home goods stores.

        On the hobby side, it consistently works for bicycle shops (especially upscale ones), gun shops, and dive shops. On the home goods side, I’ve found that there’s almost always exactly one hardware store in town that’s like this; you can usually tell which one it is by looking for the one all the old guys go to. (It’s never a Lowes or a Home Depot. Occasionally it’s an Ace Hardware, but more often it’s independent.)

        • Civilis says:

          On the home goods side, I’ve found that there’s almost always exactly one hardware store in town that’s like this; you can usually tell which one it is by looking for the one all the old guys go to. (It’s never a Lowes or a Home Depot. Occasionally it’s an Ace Hardware, but more often it’s independent.)

          In that sense, hardware stores have some of the attributes of hobby stores; presumably both the staff and the regular customers are into home repair / woodworking and the staff can provide practical tips.

          It also helps that unlike most hobbies, most hardware is valued for objective reasons rather than personal tastes. I can’t expect the guy running the game store to share my taste in games, but I can expect the guy running the hardware store to want tools that are reliable and easy to use or maintain.

          To get back to onyomi’s point, for employee interactions to matter, they must add value. The stores that can make employee interactions matter will be the ones that survive when faced with internet competition. Those bookstore employees in B&N, for all that they are visible, don’t add much to the experience. It’s not that they don’t do much, it’s just that what they do is often important but invisible; keeping the shelves stocked and the store clean. We notice this only when they fail.

      • Well... says:

        I believe the Walmart greeter is there primarily because of research that shows people shoplift less when they get a signal that a human employee knows they are in the store.

        Also, I think I heard something once about a tradition–like, the first Walmart had a greeter and so now they all do. But I could be imagining that.

  27. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is there research on how much people actually know about evolution?

    I’ve seen claims that people (including those who say they believe evolution is true) know much less than they think, but I haven’t seen details.

    • onyomi says:

      I certainly have this impression; for example, I’ve encountered people convinced that working out really hard will make it easier for their future son to gain muscle. When I say evolution doesn’t work that way, they say “no, but I’m going to work out really, really hard,” or, if more sophisticated, “but epigenetics!”

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What, you’ve never heard of genetic fitness?

      • baconbacon says:

        I believe that there is a good amount of evidence that starvation does effect the genes, or at least genetic expression of subsequent generations, and if you are a flax plant you definitely can effect future generations through exposure to environmental stresses, though I doubt more than a few % of people giving those responses are actually flax plants in disguise.

        • Well... says:

          Is there research on how much people actually know about the % of people who are flax plants in disguise?

          • baconbacon says:

            Sadly no. It has been tried but many fell into the old trope that “all flax plants look alike to me” so it was impossible to avoid double counting. Then came genetic testing, but flax plants rearrange their own genome in response to stress, so again the double counting problem.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Well, to the extent that working out will increase their chances of attracting a (more desireable) partner with whom they are likely to produce (healthier) children, they’re not wrong as such…
        It’s a lot easier to gain muscle if you exist 🙂

    • rlms says:

      Evolution can mean two things: either the theory, or the description of modern organisms as being descended from different older ones through gradual changes. I think most people who claim to believe in evolution mean that they think the description is accurate; the degree to which they understand the theory varies.

    • Well... says:

      This is right where I go when I think about all the people with Darwinfish adorning their car bumpers who would go into some kind of epileptic fit if you mentioned to them even the most non-controversial claims underlying H. Beady.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      To be fair, evolution is hard. I tried to read Wilson’s The Ants, and the description of the evolution of eusociality left me in the dust.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think evolution is one of those weird areas where the basic thrust of the theory[1] starts out seeming utterly unintuitive and wrong, but becomes more obviously and inevitably correct, the more biology you understand. I can totally understand how someone with no knowledge of biology (DNA with conserved genetic mechanisms across all life or all animals or whatever, vestigal organisms, normal development in the embryo that goes through stages that look like earlier ancetral forms of the animal) would just say “this is nuts.”

        [1] All the complexity of life as we know it came from unthinking processes acting on very primitive single-celled life, over billions of years. Hummingbirds and anthills and human brains and the vertibrate immune system and eyes and birdsongs and deciduous trees and everything.

  28. MrApophenia says:

    So this comments section was pretty skeptical about Russia last time it came up. Recent news changing that at all?

    Question was prompted by this morning’s news that Veselnitskaya brought along a former Soviet counterintelligence officer to her meeting with Don Jr. That and a question I heard on a podcast which looped back to a previous BIG SHOCKING RUSSIA story I had forgotten about entirely – Jared Kushner trying to set up a secret back channel to the Kremlin with Sergey Kislyak.

    That happened in early December, so the official narrative we are now asked to believe by the White House is that the Russians came in and offered to help get Trump elected in June; the Trump people hold the meeting on Friday, June 9th and the Russians produce absolutely nothing of value; the news breaks of the DNC hack by the Russian government on Wednesday of the following week, and no one in the Trump campaign thinks there could be any connection; no further communication with the Russians occurs, and then in December, out of nowhere, Jared Kushner asks Kislyak for a secret back channel to communicate with the Kremlin that bypasses American intelligence, for totally unrelated diplomatic reasons.

    • rlms says:

      “So this comments section was pretty skeptical about Russia last time it came up. Recent news changing that at all?”
      No, I still haven’t seen any good evidence that Russia exists.

      • Iain says:

        Typical out-of-touch elite. Sarah Palin’s word isn’t good enough for you? She can see it from her house!

        • Jordan D. says:

          With all due respect, Sarah Palin isn’t exactly famed for her knowledge of geography.

          What she’s seeing is almost certainly Iceland.

        • CatCube says:

          Actually, wouldn’t that be taking Tina Fey’s word?

          • Iain says:

            I seriously considered adding a footnote, but decided that it would ruin the flow of the joke.

            If only I had been able to attach it in some less obtrusive way. Perhaps with a small, perfectly shaped bit of wire. Alas!

    • Jaskologist says:

      I would say “Russia” here is functioning as what Hines would call a “floating signifier,” a vague term that can encompass anything from pee tapes to hacking vote machines, allowing a lot people of people to think they’re talking about the same thing when they really aren’t.

      So it would help if you clarified what precisely you mean by “Russia.”

      • MrApophenia says:

        Fair point – I was referring to allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the election.

        (Although interestingly, thanks to that NSA leak the whole “hacked the election” phrase is looking rather less like an overstatement, too. We know the GRU at least tried to hack individual state voting offices in late October and early November 2016, it’s just a question of whether they succeeded.)

      • Iain says:

        Donald Trump Jr received an email saying:

        The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
        This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

        Donald Trump Jr replied with “if it’s what you say I love it”. In a later email, just in case there was any doubt, Goldstone clarified:

        Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.

        And Trump Jr said:

        Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me, 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor

        (Jared Kushner did not mention this in his security clearance forms, obviously.)

        One month later:

        24 July 2016: On CNN’s State of the Union, Mr Trump Jr is asked about a suggestion by the Clinton campaign that Russia is trying to help his father’s election, an effort that included the hacking and publication of emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
        “It just goes to show you their exact moral compass,” he replies. “They’ll say anything to be able to win this. This is time and time again, lie after lie… It’s disgusting, it’s so phoney… I can’t think of bigger lies. But that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.”

        (This is just one of many times members of Trump’s campaign denied that there was any contact between the campaign and Russia, or that Russia had any interest in helping Trump win.)

        On its own, this is arguably enough to indict him for violations of campaign finance law. The fact that Junior’s story about the meeting changed three times in the week before releasing the emails casts additional doubt on his credibility.

        And that’s the charitable view. Anybody with even an ounce of suspicion in their bodies shou