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Links 8/17: On The Site Of The Angels

Benjamin Lay was a four-foot-tall Quaker abolitionist who, among other unusual forms of activism, kidnapped a slaveowner’s child to give them a taste of what slaves had to go through.

ProPublica: The Myth Of Drug Expiration Dates. Most drugs (strong exception for tetracyclines) are neither dangerous nor ineffective once expired. The idea of “drug expiration dates” is just bureaucratic boilerplate. It also costs health systems billions of dollars per year. And key quote: “ProPublica has been researching why the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world. One answer, broadly, is waste — some of it buried in practices that the medical establishment and the rest of us take for granted. We’ve documented how hospitals often discard pricey new supplies, how nursing homes trash valuable medications after patients pass away or move out, and how drug companies create expensive combinations of cheap drugs. Experts estimate such squandering eats up about $765 billion a year — as much as a quarter of all the country’s health care spending.”

xhxhxhxh: the research on what leads to intrastate conflict and rebellion. No effect for traditional worries like income inequality or ethnic polarization, etc. Mostly just bad economy and slow growth.

Vice: Everyone Hates Neoliberals, So We Talked To Some. What do self-described neoliberals identify as the core of their philosophy? Key quote from Samuel Hammond: “We are free market globalists, and evangelists of the amazing power of trade liberalization to create wealth, eliminate disease, lift hundreds of millions of people from poverty, and end the pre-conditions for war. At the same time, we are more pragmatic and consequentialist than our utopian and deontological libertarian counterparts… We believe free markets and commercial capitalism are the tools of social justice, rather than the enemy.”

Tengrism, the religion of Genghis Khan and other steppe nomads, is making a comeback in Central Asian republics looking for a suitably nationalist alternative to Islam.

Study: “Across four samples (including a nationally representative sample), we find that stronger obsessive-compulsive symptoms are associated with more right-wing ideological preferences, particularly for social issues.” This should probably be considered in context of Haidt’s work on the Purity foundation, and the Germ Theory Of Democracy.

How Class In China Became Politically Incorrect. Key quote: “Research by the University of Sydney’s David Goodman has found that around 84% of today’s elite are direct descendants of the elite from pre-1949. This suggests that six decades of Communism may not have a dramatic impact upon the elites”. Seen on Twitter with the commentary “Darwin beats Marx every time”.

From Rationalist Tumblr: those claims that medical error is the third-leading cause of death, kills 200,000 people every year, etc? Totally exaggerated. And most people interpret it as ‘number of stupid mistakes by doctors’ when it really means more like “the number of bad health outcomes that could be prevented with perfect god-like-omniscient understanding of all patents’ health situation”.

Andrew Gelman takes on James Heckman; read the comments for some good debate around Perry-Preschool-style interventions.

2016 election margin by district by population. Make sure to spin it around to get the full 3-D effect. This is the first graph I’ve seen that manages to combine two dimensions of space plus two extra variables in a really good instantly-readable way.

72 top researchers and statisticians (SSC readers might recognize Ioannidis, Wagenmakers, Nyhan, & Vazire) sign their names to a paper recommending the threshold for statistical significance be raised from p = 0.05 to p = 0.005 to decrease false positives and improve replicability. Some pushback from other statisticians involved in the replicability movement including Timothy Bates and (preemptively) Daniel Lakens. Both groups agree that it’s a hackish solution that ignores all the important subtleties around the question, but disagree on whether having something easy is at least better than nothing.

US Court Grants Journals Millions Of Dollars In Damages From Sci-Hub. It sure would be a shame if this caused a Streisand Effect where many more people became aware of the existence of Sci-Hub, a free and easy-to-use source for almost all otherwise-paywalled scientific papers, which by the way depends on reader donations to stay online.

Related study: Sci-Hub Provides Access To Nearly All Scholarly Literature. “As of March 2017, we find that Sci-Hub’s database contains 68.9% of all 81.6 million scholarly articles, which rises to 85.2% for those published in closed access journals….we estimate that over a six-month period in 2015–2016, Sci-Hub provided access for 99.3% of valid incoming requests. Hence, the scope of this resource suggests the subscription publishing model is becoming unsustainable.”

The Intercept: US Lawmakers Seek To Criminally Outlaw Support For Boycott Campaign Against Israel vs. Volokh Conspiracy: Israel Anti-Boycott Does Not Violate Free Speech. Some people on Rationalist Tumblr explained this to me: the bill says that Americans can’t join foreign anti-Israel boycotts, but doesn’t prevent them from starting their own, including ones that are exactly like the foreign ones and can’t be distinguished from them in any way. The bill’s proponents say that the only thing it does is prevent foreign countries from demanding American companies boycott Israel as a precondition to doing business there. I think the opposing argument is mostly that laws often get overapplied, and this one seems more overapplicable than most.

Machine Learning Applied To Initial Romantic Attraction: “Crucially [machine learning techniques] were unable to predict relationship variance using any combination of traits and preferences reported beforehand.” See also my previous post on this topic.

Study by Amir Sariaslan and others: after adjusting for unobserved familial risk factors, no link between poverty and crime.

Edge conversation on various things with Rory Sutherland. Starts with why art prices are so much more responsive to fame than architecture prices (a Picasso might cost a thousand times more than a less painter’s work; a Frank Lloyd Wright house costs 1-3% more than a house built by a nobody) and only gets better from there.

Hypermagical Ultraomnipotence: Why the tradeoffs constraining human cognition do not limit artificial superintelligences.

I was really excited about an upcoming depression treatment called NSI-189 that seemed to do everything right and had the potential to revolutionize the field. Well, it just failed its clinical trial.

First genetically-engineered human embryos in the US. Found it was possible to safely correct a defective gene without damaging the rest of the genome (and here’s the paper). The embryos were destroyed and not carried to term.

Freddie deBoer: Bernie Sanders Is A Socialist In Name Only. I really like this piece, and I was going to write it if nobody else did. Most of the policies being mooted by the supposedly socialist left today – Medicare-for-all, better social safety nets, et cetera – are well within the bounds of neoliberalism – ie private property and capitalist economies should exist, but the state should help poor people. “Socialism” should be reserved for systems that end private property and nationalize practically everything. I’m worried that people will use the success of neoliberal systems in eg Sweden to justify socialism, and then, socialism having been justified, promote actual-dictionary-definition socialism. To a first approximation, Sweden is an example of capitalists proving socialism isn’t necessary; Maoist China is an example of socialism actually happening.

Did you know: the first recorded evidence of Sanskrit comes from Syria, not India.

American Runners Are Getting Slower. Definitely see the r/slatestarcodex comment thread. A good example of ruling out a lot of possible confounding factors for a seemingly bizarre result – but I find the argument that the best athletes are moving into other sports more convincing than the article’s own nutritional theory.

Retailer apologizes after accidentally selling product saying “MY FAVORITE COLOR IS HITLER”.

Remember how everyone thought that, if we legalized euthanasia, it would be used as a tool to kill marginalized and oppressed people who couldn’t say no to it? Data after a year of California’s right-to-die law finds it’s disproportionately used by college-educated white men and concludes that Death Is A Social Privilege.

What jobs have the highest and lowest divorce rates? (conditional on being married in the first place). Key finding: everything math- and computer-related has much lower divorce rates than everything else.

Widespread Selection Of Positive Selection In Common Risk Alleles Associated With Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is pretty complicated, but I think what it’s saying is that in general, having autism risk genes increases your intelligence up until the point when you actually have autism, when you become vulnerable to all of the normal autism-related-cognitive-deficits. But this is probably very heterogenous across risk genes and other risk factors.

Israel working to shut down Al-Jazeera out of concerns about “encouraging terrorism”; pretty good example of how anything less than free-speech-absolutism can be circumvented by a sufficiently urgent-sounding plea. [EDIT: But see here]

Facebook shuts down an experimental language AI project, and the media goes crazy.Everyone on every side of the AI risk debate, from Eliezer Yudkowsky to Yann LeCun, wants to make it clear they think this is stupid and it has nothing to do with the position of any reasonable person.

An academic study into horseshoe theory? Authoritarianism and Affective Polarization: A New View on the Origins of Partisan Extremism finds that “strong Republicans and Democrats are psychologically similar, at least with respect to authoritarianism…these findings support a view of mass polarization as nonsubstantive and group-centric, not driven by competing ideological values or clashing psychological worldviews.” Okay, but you still need some explanation of how people choose which group to be in, right?

Single Dose Testosterone Administration Impairs Cognitive Reflection In Men. Note that “single dose testosterone” is very different from “having lots of testosterone chronically”, “being fetally exposed to testosterone”, “being genetically male”, and five million other things it would be easy to confuse this with.

The Hyderabad office of India’s Department of Fisheries.

British Medical Journal Global Health: new data available after the US invasion of Iraq conclusively determines that the claim that US sanctions starved thousands of Iraqi children was a lie deliberately spread by Saddam Hussein.

Congress passes “right to try” bill allowing terminally ill people to access not-yet-FDA-approved medications. Someone in the comments noted that there’s already a procedure for terminally ill individuals to appeal to the FDA to do this, and FDA approves 99% of such requests already. So not only is this mostly a symbolic victory, but one worries that the 1% of requests that aren’t approved might be pretty bad ideas. [EDIT: But see here]

j9461701 on the subreddit posts about the extreme male brain theory of autism, finding it mostly unconvincing. I mostly agree, though it’s important to remember that hormone differences can have varying and seemingly paradoxical effects depending on what level of the various metabolic processes they come in at.

In response to my question about why prediction markets aren’t used more, Daniel Reeves links me to a study of his offering a pretty simple response: yeah, they’re better than other things, but not much better, and they’re a lot more annoying to use.

Paper on empathy (via Rolf Degen): people with born with a condition that makes them unable to feel pain feel like other people are just weaklings who exaggerate their problems. Classify under “metaphors for life”.

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796 Responses to Links 8/17: On The Site Of The Angels

  1. pjiq says:

    Scott:

    Looked over the study linked in your bit-

    “Study by Amir Sariaslan and others: after adjusting for unobserved familial risk factors, no link between poverty and crime.”

    -and found it highly unconvincing. Yes, they looked over 594,127 children- a LOT of children- and did regression analysis. But I am familiar enough with regression analysis to know how easy it is to simply add variables until the thing you want to drop out of statistical significance drops out of statistical significance. This doesn’t count as “proving that there’s no relationship!!” Also, they included things that would almost certainly be correlated with wealth in their models anyways, so they totally cheated.

    Sorry, this is just one of my huge pet peeves. Poor people are obviously gonna be more violent, and no, it’s not just because of their silly family traditions and whatnot. It’s because brutality breeds brutality, and poverty IS brutality (of the socially sanctioned sort to).

    Anyways, as always, thanks for all your work-

    pjiq

  2. untimelyreflections says:

    The testosterone effect referred to is usually described in body building circles as “right or wrong, but never in doubt”.

    Due to medical error I was on fairly high testosterone for a few weeks at one time and found a reduction in the subtlety of my thinking, consistent with the effect described. In the study they roughly doubled the men’s testosterone, which was about the range I was in.

    There is a sweet spot however where testosterone is high enough to get the benefits in terms of confidence, energy, motivation, and perseverance while not falling prey to the losses found in the study.

  3. rjmason says:

    “Research by the University of Sydney’s David Goodman has found that around 84% of today’s elite are direct descendants of the elite from pre-1949. This suggests that six decades of Communism may not have a dramatic impact upon the elites”. Seen on Twitter with the commentary “Darwin beats Marx every time”.

    I don’t see how that particularly evokes Darwin. Now, if the research found that 84% of the entire population were direct descendants of elites, then that might suggest Darwinian selection in process…

    Actually, it seems to me that Darwinism poses a challenge to the idea that a long-standing upper class can be genetically advantaged over the general population. If the elites have both genetic advantages and social advantages, presumably their advantageous genes will spread through the population [even if there is a social prohibition against mating with commoners, Darwinism says that some will ignore the prohibition] and the genetic playing field will be leveled again.

    • Kevin C. says:

      presumably their advantageous genes will spread through the population [even if there is a social prohibition against mating with commoners, Darwinism says that some will ignore the prohibition] and the genetic playing field will be leveled again.

      On this, I would like to raise the recent DNA evidence from India that endogamy in “castes” (specifically, the jati), is ~1500 years old(Though they do note that the limited “trickle” of admixture afterwards was “asymmetric” from “upper caste” males to “lower” communities.) You can also see this and this from Razib Khan.

  4. On divorce by occupation:

    Looking at the occupations, it appears to me to be that lower divorce rates correlate very well with higher education. This is very much a confirmation of Murray’s theme in Coming Apart that the elite have much more stable values than say blue collar workers. One could say that the US has a high divorce rate, but one could just as easily say that the working class has a very high divorce rate. I think it is a sad thing that Murray is mostly right that the US is coming apart.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      That’s true, but I think there’s a separate math/science effect. Lots of other highly educated groups seem to have higher divorce rates than those.

      Also, I’m very wary talking about “more stable values”. A lot of the elites I know think divorce is 100% acceptable. They just really like their partners. I’d be interested in seeing a breakdown of to what degree different groups don’t want to divorce, vs. want to but think it’s wrong.

    • Matt M says:

      In general, I feel like high IQ is probably correlated to patience and having a low time preference. The patient are more willing to invest long-term and to research and take calculated risks. The impatient are going to eat both marshmallows today, take a $12/hr job rather than go to college, and make impulsive decisions.

      And there’s no reason that shouldn’t apply to marriage. Impatient people are almost certainly more likely to impulsively rush into a marriage they might not have entered with more time and information, and probably also more likely to impulsively divorce their partners at the first sign of trouble.

      Like Scott says, I don’t think elites “value marriage” more than non-elites. I think they’re just far more careful about entering it, and therefore, they suffer fewer failures of it.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        I’d add that intelligence just allows you to find better solutions. And divorce is usually not one of those.

        Like the negative correlation of crime and IQ: Violence is the solution of people who can’t find better solutions.

      • tscharf says:

        It may also be that they marry emotionally stable people.

        • Aapje says:

          Or simply more similar people, causing less friction. Two similarly emotionally unstable can work very well together.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Have we correlated for income? It’s a lot easier to be happy in marriage with a lot of money than in a marriage with little money.

      • Matt M says:

        I disagree with this hard. Money doesn’t solve marital strife. It’s just that people who make a lot of money are likely people who are also better equipped to handle strife.

        • lvlln says:

          But the question isn’t whether money solves marital strife. It’s, on the margins, does having more money make it more likely that marriages will last longer or be more resilient to storms before they’re ended via divorce? I don’t think the answer is obviously No.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe not obviously, but I think it’s no. Or more specifically, it’s “money correlates with intelligence and patience, and those are the drivers of minimizing divorce”

          • rahien.din says:

            There are dozens of personality-based counterpoints, and each one is basically irrelevant.

            If you have money (to the degree that is relevant here) then :
            – You have a home, food, clothing, medical care, and entertainment. Your essential needs are met. This excises a giant source of stress from life.
            – You can take personal risks without having to wager your house or your health. This allows for a greater degree of self-fulfillment and excitement.
            – You can choose to live in an environment which, on the balance at least, you find to be pleasing. This not only removes the stress of disagreeable environs, it creates a sanctuary whereby you can weather the natural stresses of life. Furthermore, people are less aggressive and more likely to compromise when in environments they find pleasing.

            As long as you have some basic compatibility and respect for each other, and are willing to communicate, it just about doesn’t matter what personality you and/or your spouse has. Having money will make it easier to compromise. In contrast, having no money and thus living in disagreeable environs under constant Maslovian threat with no self-fulfillment or escape from drudgery will magnify any stresses and push any couple to the brink.

        • rahien.din says:

          people who make a lot of money are likely people who are also better equipped to handle strife

          I am aware of many wealthy people who are so wealthy because they are colossal unflinching assholes, or blinkered workaholics, or both. They have failed marriages, and their marriage failures are a direct result of the same things that brought them wealth.

          Furthermore, the persistence of a marriage does not necessarily mean the success of a marriage, or even the successful handling of strife. Divorce is a subset of failed marriages – people may stay in failed marriages for (among others) purely financial reasons.

          • Matt M says:

            Likely =/ guaranteed.

            I’m saying that money correlates with intelligence which correlates with stable marriage.

            But the correlation ain’t 100%

  5. Muad'Dib says:

    An argument I have been mulling about for a while now. The Google stuff just makes it topical. I am sure this is not original and someone, somewhere would have thought about it, probably hundreds of years ago. But still:

    Consider a free-market economy. A company has a contract with an employee. The employee does some act. Nobody notices the act initially. But eventually it becomes public and it causes the company PR problems, and/or internal turmoil. The company makes a cost-benefit calculation (damage from bad PR or internal disruption versus possible contract violation) and fires the employee.

    Now, there are several mechanisms here which are interacting:
    (a) Company’s reputation.
    (b) Employee’s reputation.
    (c) The general zeitgeist or “culture”.

    Depending the on the general zeitgeist, the company’s act might lead to bad publicity/disruption. (For instance, if in some racist town, it was frowned upon to hire black people, a company doing so might get bad publicity, and conversely.) The person who was fired can, of course, sue in court, but the company has great lawyers and had made the contract so that firing the person is legally probably ok.

    Now, we come to the employer reputation aspect. Employees are associated with the employer, so some mechanism like some group of people (A) on Twitter tries to shame the employer by talking about how its employee is a Bad Person and why is the employer hiring this Bad Person. After the employee is fired, other group of people (B) on Twitter try to shame the employer by talking about … what exactly?

    It seems to me that people in group B are implicitly making a “free speech is good in itself” argument. But employees sign away their rights all the time, for instance by signing non-disclosure agreements. For signing away their rights the employee is paid more. Should they be allowed to do so? I return to this point later.

    Now, we come to the general zeitgeist. Group A and group B have vested interests (say for political reasons) to propagate a general zeitgeist. Neither group A nor group B are shareholders in the company, so if they want to influence the company behaviour, they have to use reputational methods, i.e. shaming. They each shame the company for their own reasons, write newspaper articles and blog posts about how this is right and that is wrong.

    —————————

    I propose that this free-market scenario is decently close to the real world for us to draw some conclusions. What are they? Well, one conclusion is that “culture” matters a lot. If some group has “cultural hegemony” then it can exact reputational damage on companies which don’t follow its line. To achieve changes, one has to try to change the culture, because economic levers are not there.

    But who decides the “cultural hegemony”? What is culture anyway? Institutions like churches, schools, colleges, cults and so on try to mold culture in their own way. This culture determines a lot of economic decisions. Can culture really withstand such a pressure brought upon on it, or will it collapse under the assault of viral memes, outrage porn and/or general emotional appeals (like “X is sexist garbage” or “Y is sinful and will be punished by eternal damnation” etc.)?

    I also suggest that many people will find this free-market scenario very weird and will intuitively have moral objections. Do we need other mechanisms within the system which guarantee “rights” which should not be trampled upon? Should the employee be allowed to sign away the rights for higher pay? Should there be unions which force employees to agree for the “greater good” whether they like it or not? Should governments get involved in setting norms and laws which influence culture?

    ——————————-
    In the real world, of course, there is the federal government which is suing the employer (Google) over whether or not it is behaving properly. This (and many other things) are not included in the analysis above.

  6. tscharf says:

    Scott,
    For someone just moving to CA and to quote Darth Vader: “I find your lack of faith disturbing”, Ha ha. If it doesn’t go well, I promise to hire you to mow my lawn (at market rates).

  7. From the linked article on authoritarianism and partisan extreme politics:
    “authoritarianism provides an indicator of underlying needs to belong”

    Related hypothesis:
    1) Feelings of needing to belong drive partisan extreme views (see above), perhaps by encouraging desperate unquestioning signaling/support
    2) Loneliness creates a desperate need to belong to something
    3) Loneliness is increasing (according to some voices anyway) due in part to addictive social media usage and reduction in stable communities.
    4) Therefore social media usage and community breakdown is partly to blame for increased toxic partisan politics in advanced democracies

    Not really sure how I feel very confident about my hypothesis but it kinda jumped out at me as an obvious related consideration from the linked article.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      So, twitter turns you into Hitler or Stalin?

    • 1) Feelings of needing to belong drive partisan extreme views (see above), perhaps by encouraging desperate unquestioning signaling/support
      2) Loneliness creates a desperate need to belong to something

      You could spin that into some amateur sociology about the rationalist community — the starting point is a bunch of fairly lonely people….

      • Humorously true. Although I guess it would be easy enough to replace rationalist community with [insert any online community here]. On the other hand, I’d actually say there’s no shortage of partisanship (admittedly very civilized) in the rationalist community, so if the shoe fits the theory… then uh… wear it…… *cough* … I probably shouldn’t theorize too much late at night.

  8. If masculinity is a combination of traits, then you could have several kinds of extreme masculinity. Another kind could be XYY, teh syndrome where a male has an extra Y chromosome — this causes increased height, bad acne, and (contentiously) behavioural issues.

  9. Atlas says:

    British Medical Journal Global Health: new data available after the US invasion of Iraq conclusively determines that the claim that US sanctions starved thousands of Iraqi children was a lie deliberately spread by Saddam Hussein.

    Wow, I’m really glad that this link was shared. I always heard this claim that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children died because of US sanctions in the 1990s from sources I thought were credible with a left-wing Noam Chomsky/Glenn Greenwald type anti-US foreign policy bent, and accepted it without too much question. But this is some serious evidence against it. It makes me wonder what other credible sounding claims I haven’t bothered to investigate are false.

    • cassander says:

      one must also ask who was more responsible for the deaths, the nations imposed sanctions but allowed Iraq to sell oil outside of them, or the dictator who used the money he got from selling that oil to build palaces and buy french missiles instead of food and medical supplies.

      • Civilis says:

        As someone on the right, I can believe that the UN bureaucracy was inefficient enough that the humanitarian aid was having trouble getting through, but in that case the solution is to fix the bureaucracy not remove the sanctions.

        The question remains, how do you tell the difference between ‘the sanctions are causing a genuine humanitarian problem’ and ‘the sanctions are preventing me from rearming and rebuilding my palaces, so I’m going to claim there’s a humanitarian problem’? Would anyone trust a dictator that said “yeah, I slaughtered hundreds of thousands of my own people to stay in power, then I invaded my neighbor and sparked a war my country lost badly, but I’m truly a changed man and now care about the people of my country and promise not to do anything bad again if you remove the sanctions!”?

        • cassander says:

          >As someone on the right, I can believe that the UN bureaucracy was inefficient enough that the humanitarian aid was having trouble getting through, but in that case the solution is to fix the bureaucracy not remove the sanctions.

          the issue wasn’t the bureaucracy, Saddam got the money. he just didn’t use it to buy food.

          the sanctions are preventing me from rearming and rebuilding my palaces, so I’m going to claim there’s a humanitarian problem’?

          you look at whether or not the palaces are being re-built, I would think. or at the very least. some back of the envelope math about how much oil is being sold,how much food costs, and how big a gap is left between the two figures.

          • Civilis says:

            I agree with you in this specific case, I’m just trying to establish the parameters of the general case. I probably should have phrased it “I can believe that the UN bureaucracy could be inefficient enough that the humanitarian aid might have trouble getting through…”

  10. Atavsionary says:

    Couldn’t write this in your recent gender differences post since you have comments disabled, but I recommend the book “smart and Sexy” by Roderick Kaine for more details on that. It goes through a lot of the psychometric data, which you seem to be knowledgeable about, but also goes into some of the physiological data as well and tries to provide an explanation for the patterns of gender differences that exist. Two categories seem to be important: average differences which lean women towards verbal tasks and men towards visuospatial tasks. This is likely related to hormonal influences. The second category has to do with the larger variation in the male curve. Why are there more genius and retarded males than women? By a very substantial amount? Well, it is almost certainly because to a large (enough) degree intelligence is an X linked trait and so it follows a sex linked pattern of inheritance. The classic example being the white eye mutation in fruit flies.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_(mutation)

    Here is a good overview article from countercurrents:

    https://www.counter-currents.com/2016/11/why-most-high-achievers-are-men/

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve looked into this, and although variation differences are true in a qualitative sense, they’re quantitatively totally inadequate to explain the lack of women in programming etc. Based on the observed size of different variabilities, maybe it could explain 5% of the gap. They probably become more important at the super-far extremes of ability like Putnam contests and stuff.

  11. cassander says:

    The idea that medicare for all can possibly be seen neo-liberal is a frankly disturbing indication of how dead neo-liberalism actually is. Medicare for all amounts to literally gosplan style price setting for the entire medical industry, it would be a catastrophe of epic proportions and cost trillions of dollars. deBoer, frankly, is full of shit.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      The idea that medicare for all can possibly be seen neo-liberal is a frankly disturbing indication of how dead neo-liberalism actually is.

      The Nordic model is a product of neoliberal reforms and features robust public health systems?

      • cassander says:

        “robust public healthcare” and “medicare for all” are not synonyms. in fact, they’re basically antonyms.

    • Does that generalise to all public healthcare?

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      I’m not making an assertion here, just asking a question: are you sure “medicare for all” is really meant to be taken that literally? That is, are people actually proposing “expand the existing medicare system to include everybody, without making any other significant changes” as opposed to “provide, by some means, free secondary and tertiary healthcare to everybody”?

      • cassander says:

        If you want, you can read the medicare for all bill that gets proposed every year. It’s very vague, it’s not a real bill after all, but you are correct that it is technically a new program that doesn’t operate exactly the way medicare currently does. That said, given the way government bureaucracies and legal systems work, any medicare for all program would draw heavily on existing medicare practices. I have no doubt that the “monthly lump sum to cover all operating expenses under a global budget.” the new program will pay to providers will be calculated by process that looks a lot like the existing medicare price calculations, combined with some forecasting of expected demand.

        I have heard other people on the left talk explicitly about expanding existing medicare as it currently exists, either by voluntary buy-in or through taxation.

  12. alchemy29 says:

    Paper on empathy (via Rolf Degen): people with born with a condition that makes them unable to feel pain feel like other people are just weaklings who exaggerate their problems. Classify under “metaphors for life”.

    First link is messed up.

    But that is actually brilliant. Unfortunately the people who would benefit the most from understanding this general problem are the least likely to.

  13. alchemy29 says:

    First genetically-engineered human embryos in the US. Found it was possible to safely correct a defective gene without damaging the rest of the genome (and here’s the paper). The embryos were destroyed and not carried to term. Any kid born with a correctable genetic disorder after today is going to have one heck of a legitimate grievance against our philosophical establishment.

    In addition to what everyone else has said (in particular – it’s a new technique so you cannot possibly expect instant adoption), we can already do IVF and only select the embryos with the genetic profile we want. It’s just really expensive and only works for diseases that we can reasonably screen for. Right now we cannot reasonably screen for every genetic disorder – it would cost way too much and we don’t even know what we’re looking for in some cases. Our “philosophical establishment” isn’t the issue. If this technique beast IVF in terms of cost or breadth of application then I expect it to become available to rich people eventually. Whether society has a responsibility to provide it for everyone … that’s a different question.

  14. bean says:

    I’m confused about the gender balance in STEM thing. Grant’s response to Scott seems to claim that the change in gender ratios is due to men moving, not women. If that’s the case, we’d expect that (women in STEM/all women) would be relatively constant, while (men in STEM/all men) would go up, with obvious caveats about changes in what fields people are going into. But if this is the case, isn’t it a good thing overall? It’s not like there’s only so many seats at the STEM table, with who gets them allotted by random drawing from the pool of applicants. In that case, more men going into STEM would be pushing women out. In a more likely scenario, more men going into STEM doesn’t decrease the number of women going in (or decreases it minimally), and we have more STEM people in total. Obviously, there’s the debate about whether we have too many or not enough of those, but I’m still not really sure how this is hurting women.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Quote in question:

      It’s not that women become more communal or feminine in egalitarian cultures. It’s that men become more disagreeable. Which is consistent with research on precarious manhood, which suggests that in egalitarian countries, men are more likely to feel that their status is threatened—and respond with more dominant “alpha” behaviors.

      I think the actual explanation for this is female hypergamy. Women mate across and up the socioeconomic hierarchy. When women move up, men must make more extreme moves to be considered mateworthy. Feminism has encouraged women to raise their status, but not to lower their standards. There has not been a coordinated propaganda campaign to encourage female doctors to marry garbage men, for instance.

      And I don’t think such a campaign would be successful. Mate selection is deep, deep magick, the product of billions of years of evolution. That is not changing easily.

      And while we’re responding to Grant’s response to Scott,

      I agree that we need to learn much more about why women have systematically been less likely to pursue computer science and engineering than other STEM professions. But the broader point is that when you see the U.S. computer science majors dropping from 37% women in the mid-1980s to below 20% women by 2010, you can’t claim gender differences in interests are biological. Female biology didn’t change in a quarter century.

      No, what changed was the definition of programming. Women dominated “programming” back when “programming” meant the physical action of turning an algorithm written by an engineer or subject matter expert into punch cards to program the machine (some of these engineers and SMEs were women). That makes these essentially data entry jobs. They were replaced by compilers. So, no, female biology didn’t change in a quarter century, but the nature of “programming” changed from laborious data entry to abstract algorithm design. You simply cannot compare the nature of programming in the mid-1980s to the nature of programming in 2010. Having the word “computer” in common is not enough.

      • bean says:

        I think the actually explanation for this is female hypergamy. Women mate across and up the socioeconomic hierarchy. When women move up, men must make more extreme moves to be considered mateworthy. Feminism has encouraged women to raise their status, but not to lower their standards. There has not been a coordinated propaganda campaign to encourage female doctors to marry garbage men, for instance.

        Something feels off about this as an explanation. Women may well have moved from one status ladder to another in the past 100 years, but it isn’t like there wasn’t a status ladder for them a century ago. The woman who now goes to an Ivy-league law school might have been at an elite finishing or women’s liberal arts school in 1917, but I’m not sure her relative status in the mating game has changed that much. And I’m really suspicious of any theory that has men going into computer science as a way to get social status and women. If anything, STEM in general is probably low-status relative to pay.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Of course there was a status ladder, but women mated up and men didn’t care. The male doctor would marry the attractive secretary. If the female secretary couldn’t land the male doctor, she’d settle for the factory worker. The female doctor wants a male doctor or better. She is not settling for the factory worker. The obvious signal is received by men: if you want a woman, get a good job. I think it’s silly to call it “precarious manhood” when women are the ones doing the selection. Men are not so threatened by high status women as women are disdainful of lower status men.

          This is before the hook-up culture separated the marriage market from the sexual market. Now of course everything is hopelessly confused and [DrBeat]all is lost[/DrBeat].

          • bean says:

            But what is to stop the male doctor from marrying his secretary today? What’s changed seems to be that it’s much more acceptable for women not to marry. The woman who was competing with the secretary was the daughter of the town’s older doctor, who in 1910 was getting her MRS degree, and is now an MD herself. I’m not sure status is the correct framework to use to describe the changes we’re seeing. And I really don’t think any theory which suggests men are stampeding into Computer Science to gain status and get better wives is going to hold up well. The fields that are more people-oriented are higher-status than the ones that are thing-oriented, all else (mostly pay) equal.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But what is to stop the male doctor from marrying his secretary today?

            Nothing. He still does that. All the women who went from “not doctors” to “doctors” are the ones not marrying down.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh I’m not sure I’m buying it Conrad. I know two attractive female doctors who married male nurses they worked with. Maybe not factory workers but certainly not “doctors or better.” I know a bank manager who married an unemployed dude with few prospects.

            My blue collar/service industry cousins seem to be able to land attractive girlfriends with some regularity. I work for one of the most elite consulting firms in the world and can’t find a date with anyone under 300 lbs (and the fatties don’t usually call me back). Economics ain’t everything man, charisma and appearance still go a long way.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Matt M

            I was under the impression hypergamy was well supported by the literature. I’ll do more research tonight and report back.

          • Matt M says:

            To clarify, historically I think you’re right, I just think the situation is changing.

            And it may very well be that there’s a time-lag. Women became able to move up the social status ladder first, and then it took some time for them to realize that this also affects their decisionmaking process in terms of whether to date “up” or “down.”

            The male nurses I know who are married to female doctors are very handsome and charismatic men, the likes of which would probably be unavailable to a woman of average appearance and charisma. But now that average looking women can become doctors, they increase their value proposition such that they could marry an average-looking male doctor OR a really handsome male nurse, depending on their particular preferences.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            The place to start might be looking at the same-sex relationship/sex “markets”, etc, considering the (in my view likely) thesis that female-female interactions are what women would behave like if they didn’t have to deal with men, and the inverse for male-male interactions.

            I vaguely remember reading something to the extent that female-female relationships show smaller gaps in educational achievement, income, and age compared to opposite-sex, and male-male show greater gaps, but I looked up the article I thought I saw it in the other day, and did not find that particular point, but could have missed it – I was just skimming.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn

            Study homosexual mating behavior to infer heterosexual mating behavior? I think there might be a whopping confounder there…

          • dndnrsn says:

            Study the behaviour of men to infer the behaviour of men, and the behaviour of women to infer the behaviour of women. If one begins with the premise that lesbians and gay men vary from their heterosexual counterparts, at a basic level, only in the object of their attraction, it’s possible to answer the question “what would men/women be like, sexually/in a relationship, if they didn’t have to deal with women/men?”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But I want to know “what do women want from men in a relationship” and “what men want from women in a relationship.” I don’t think one will find that by studying women who don’t want men at all, or men who don’t want women at all.

            “To find out what flavor of ice cream people like best, I’m going to poll people who don’t like ice cream at all.” This does not strike me as a well designed study.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is there a significant reason to believe that, past wanting a relationship with a man vs wanting a relationship with a woman, women who are solely attracted to men want significantly different things from the relationship than men do?

            The article addresses this, to some extent at least.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Studies consistently find differences in dating preferences between the genders. For example, here is a paper that finds:

            We present empirical results on two dimensions of choice behavior. First, we report the valuation of attributes by men and women. Women put greater weight on intelligence than men do, while men place more value on physical appearance. Also, women put more emphasis on the partner’s race. Consistent with social structure theory [Eagly and Wood 1999], we observe that a man’s demand for intelligence and ambition does not extend to women who are more intelligent or ambitious than he is. In fact, a man is significantly less likely to accept a woman who is more ambitious than he. Finally, women prefer men who grew up in wealthier neighborhoods, while men express no such preference. The second element of dating choices that we study is selectivity. We find that male selectivity is invariant to the number of potential partners, while female selectivity is strongly increasing in it. Surprisingly, female subjects are no more selective than males in small groups; rather, it is the female elasticity of the number of acceptances (i.e., the number of males that a female subject wishes to meet again) with respect to group size that is lower than the male elasticity. This lower elasticity suggests that females have costs that are more convex, or benefits that are more concave, in the number of dates, relative to men.

            And another study:

            The gender differences found in this study were consistent with those secured in previous research (e.g., youth and physical attractiveness were found to be more important for men than for women; earning potential was found to be less important for men than for women) and were quite consistent across age groups and races.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Study the behaviour of men to infer the behaviour of men, and the behaviour of women to infer the behaviour of women. If one begins with the premise that lesbians and gay men vary from their heterosexual counterparts, at a basic level, only in the object of their attraction, it’s possible to answer the question “what would men/women be like, sexually/in a relationship, if they didn’t have to deal with women/men?”

            That works for socialization hypotheses, since gay men will still be socialized as men. But not for biological processes, as whatever causes the brain to have flipped sexual attraction may cause other changes in behavior. And prenatal hormones appear to have some affect on sexual orientation, so…

          • Kevin C. says:

            Let me also point to Sadalla et al‘s 1987 Dominance and Heterosexual Attraction:

            Four experiments examined the relation between behavioral expressions of dominance and the heterosexual attractiveness of males and females. Predictions concerning the relation between dominance and heterosexual attraction were derived from a consideration of sex role norms and from the comparative biological literature. All four experiments indicated an interaction between dominance and sex of target. Dominance behavior increased the attractiveness of males, but had no effect on the attractiveness of females. The third study indicated that the effect did not depend on the sex of the rater or on the sex of those with whom the dominant target interacted. The fourth study showed that the effect was specific to dominance as an independent variable and did not occur for related constructs (aggressive or domineering). This study also found that manipulated dominance enhanced only a male’s sexual attractiveness and not his general likability. The results were discussed in terms of potential biological and cultural causal mechanisms.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Also, women put more emphasis on the partner’s race.

            Huh…meaning women have stronger preferences for particular races?

            This seems at odds with the “women care less about appearance” idea. Though I guess you could say it’s connected to status, if you assume that some races are perceived to have higher social status.

          • Aapje says:

            @Hyzenthlay

            Women are less willing to date different races.

            If you dig into it further, you see that white men are quite open to dating most races, but have one big preference: Asian women. In contrast, white women strongly disprefer Asian men*. Both groups disprefer black partners, but white women less so.

            All the above can be neatly explained by men preferring more feminine women and men preferring more masculine men, since the racial stereotypes about the masculinity of men and femininity of women in these ethnic groups match the preferences; plus a provider preference in women.

            * Note that there seem to be some extremely pissed off children of white dads and Asian mothers. If you like drama, look here and here. Interestingly, Elliot Rodger was also a child of a white dad and Asian mom.

            PS. This is an interesting paper about racial preferences.

      • danarmak says:

        Punch cards were replaced by keyboards (teletypes, and then interactive terminals) in mass use in the early to mid 70s. By the 80s, few fresh programmers would be handling punch card driven systems. If the definition of “programming” changed, it was much earlier.

        That said, Grant was talking about computer science majors. These are the people who expect to write programs – programming in the modern sense – and that wasn’t any different in or before the 1980s. Women in the 60s and 70s didn’t study computer science in order to be the punchcard equivalent of a typist.

        There are indeed claims that the percent of women with compsci majors dropped sharply starting in the 1980s: https://www.codefellows.org/blog/1984-year-women-left-coding/

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Can’t that just be explained by lag? Computing changed in the 70s, degrees changed in the 80s?

          I find it extremely hard to believe that all of a sudden nerds in the 80s said “ew girls get out.”

        • bean says:

          There are indeed claims that the percent of women with compsci majors dropped sharply starting in the 1980s: https://www.codefellows.org/blog/1984-year-women-left-coding/

          Yes, but you’re still missing my point. We don’t have good data on the number of women getting computer science degrees, just the percentage. There was a huge spike in CS enrollment at just about the same time as the percentage of women CS majors crashed. The title of that article is wrong. Women didn’t start coding in 1984. That’s when a disproportionate number of men started coding. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s a very different picture from women being driven out of CS.

      • mid-1980s

        1960s, surely.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I don’t see Grant saying that. Are you talking about his international comparisons?

      Here are American time series, number of CS degrees. total, just women. There were two fads for CS. Men and women rushed in and rushed out. But more men rushed in and more women rushed out. In the 1994 trough, women dropped back to 1981, while total dropped back to 1983. In the 2009 trough, women dropped back to the 1994 trough, while the total reached a new level.

      • bean says:

        Thank you. That’s the data I was looking for. It is rather interesting that the inflection point is different for total and percentage, which reflects what I thought, although my theory is hurt by the drops in participation. But it’s definitely interesting that when female participation doubled 97-03, the percentage stayed flat.
        My new hypothesis is that the drops have to do with risk aversion. Computers are seen as an unusually ‘dangerous’ career in terms of the market, particularly after the dot-com bubble.

  15. Matt M says:

    British Medical Journal Global Health: new data available after the US invasion of Iraq conclusively determines that the claim that US sanctions starved thousands of Iraqi children was a lie deliberately spread by Saddam Hussein.

    As slight pushback on this, the argument made by many libertarians (I know Tom Woods specifically has referenced this on many occasions) is that at the time, the U.S. government did not dispute the statistics. In a famous 60 minutes interview with Madelline Albright, when confronted with a question about this, her response was not “Those numbers are inaccurate lies spread by our enemies,” but rather “Yes, I think the sanctions were worth it.”

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      If you think that the sanctions are worth the casualties, then it’s a much more straightforward answer than start disputing the statistics. If you dispute them and are shown wrong, and then retreat to “well anyway that doesn’t matter since I think the sanctions are worth it anyway”, you don’t look as good as if you’d just stuck to “the sanctions are worth it no matter what the numbers might be”.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        this argument makes a lot of sense in theoretical terms

        but jesus christ, 500,000 kids dead is not something you should be OK with. Can anyone tell me why these sanctions were so important? Was it nuclear weapons?

        • Sandy says:

          It was partly about weapons of mass destruction, partly to force Iraq to pay reparations for invading and annexing Kuwait.

        • Civilis says:

          The sanctions regime was, in theory, written with mechanisms in place to allow Iraq to buy humanitarian aid (per Wikipedia: “in theory allowing foodstuffs, medicines and products for essential civilian needs and barring everything else”), so there should (again, in theory) have been few civilian deaths from the sanctions. If you make it a policy to end sanctions written to allow humanitarian aid because people are still dying, you make sanctions useless against oppressive regimes willing to kill their own people. I’m willing to buy that sanctions with humanitarian exceptions might not be working as intended due to the nature of the international bureaucracy enforcing them, but the burden of proof has to be on the regime claiming hardship.

          If you’re not OK with 500,000 people dying due to sanctions even if most of the fault lies with the regime that the sanctions are imposed on, you’ve made sanctions useless against oppressive regimes willing to let 500,000 people die to end the sanctions, and many oppressive regimes can find 500,000 potential rebels or unpopular ethnic group members they’re willing to let die to stay in power. All this is assuming an accurate estimate of the death rate; we’re not going in to the idea of oppressive regimes deliberately overstating the death rate.

          I’m willing to entertain the idea that there are better options than sanctions for dealing with aggressive, oppressive regimes, but those that come to mind have a similarly likely chance to cause the same level of civilian casualties. Further, whatever alternative has to be worse for the oppressive regime than sanctions, or you push regimes that otherwise wouldn’t be willing to kill their own population into doing so to remain in power. Unless you have another option, saying that those 500,000 were worth it may be accurate because they prevented another million deaths in other regimes trying to ease out of a sanctions regime by claiming humanitarian hardship.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Sanctions work moderately well at accomplishing narrowly targeted aims, but are pretty much shit at at compelling behavior or forcing policy choices. That is, if the goal is “Stop Shitholia from developing technological capability X” you can probably do it as long as you have good multi-lateral buy-in and X isn’t too basic (e.g. trying to use sanctions to stop the production of small arms would be hilariously useless), or at least pushing the timetable back a decade or three. If the goal is “Make Shitholia adopt policy Y/stop pursuing policy Y”, sanctions absolutely will NOT work absent other contributing factors like, say, a sufficiently well-armed, -organized, and -funded insurgency at work in the country.

          To that I’d add that when I say “multi-lateral” I mean that the US, several EU members or the EU collectively, Russia, and China could all pretty much single-handedly make a regime of sanctions meaningless should they so choose, so -truly- effective sanctions require all of those point failure sources to be at least grudgingly on board.

        • cassander says:

          again, Saddam had plenty of money. He used it to buy a police state instead of food. it is unlikely that conditions for the average iraqi would have been much better without the sanctions.

      • Wrong Species says:

        But if you start from “the statistics are wrong” and then you’re right, you get more morality points then if you start from trying to defend dead kids.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. What they’re basically saying is “We would have been willing to kill half a million kids to achieve our geopolitical goals, but it turns out we didn’t have to, so yay us!”

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      This may be too charitable too Albright, but a reasonable position for he to take would have been

      “I support sanctions which lead to studies estimating 500,000 excess child deaths from the types of regimes likely to be subject to sanctions and plausibly vulnerable to high levels of child mortality”

      This exact incident, and many more besides, suggests that, even if you have heard nothing about the study itself, you would be within your rights to impose a significant discount on the expected number of deaths as a function of deaths reported to have been caused by the US/CIA under authoritarian regimes. See the discussion of Pol Pol/US bombing of Cambodia upthread, for example.

      Anyway, this doesn’t seem like a great peg to hang a “wasn’t Madeleine Albright/liberal interventionalists terrible even if the criticisms of them at the time were utter lies?” argument, even if that’s a makeable case for another day.

      The lede for today is still probably: “the people who carried out/propagated this study were credulous/unpleasant people who greatly undermined our ability to analyse the costs of different policy choices”

      • cassander says:

        again, Saddam had plenty of money. He used it to buy a stalinist state instead of food. it is unlikely that conditions for the average iraqi would have been much better without the sanctions.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      FWIW, it’s been obvious for quite few years that the “sanctions are killing millions” figures were deeply suspect, since one of the output of the Lancet deaths study was data showing that pre-war Iraqi mortality rates were noticeably lower than those of neighbouring countries – though these are all-age mortality, I’ve not checked child mortality specifically.

      I had thought I’d read, but can’t now remember where, that the hundreds of thousands of dead children story was predicated on taking improvements in Iraqi health care pre-gulf war and projecting them into the future to predict first-world health outcomes (or better) in the absence of sanctions. This seems like an entirely different story (fabricated child deaths combined with extrapolation from a small sample) though perhaps both techniques were used in getting to five hundred thousand, or perhaps I’m just confused.

  16. Doctor Mist says:

    having autism risk genes increases your intelligence up until the point when you actually have autism

    Interesting. Could it be, then, that the apparent growth in autism statistics is the result of the growth of assortative mating? If two big brains have children and each passes on a higher-than-average load of autism risk genes, that would tend to have a higher probability of producing an autistic kid than if one parent was smart and the other was nice.

    Epistemic status: low. It didn’t try to claim that autism risk genes are the only things that increase intelligence. But there must surely be demographic information about the parents of autistic kids? Are they disproportionately smart?

    • INH5 says:

      I think the evidence is very strong at this point that the increase in autism rates in recent years is primarily due to an increase in diagnosis, not an increase in symptoms. So even if increased assortative mating is happening, it probably isn’t playing a major role.

      Epistemic status: low. It didn’t try to claim that autism risk genes are the only things that increase intelligence. But there must surely be demographic information about the parents of autistic kids? Are they disproportionately smart?

      There have been a few studies that have found that people who work in technical fields are more likely to have children with autism, which isn’t specifically “disproportionately smart,” but is pretty close to it.

  17. Henry Gorman says:

    So, I’m one of those people who identifies as a socialist even though they favor social-democratic (a better descriptor for the Scandinavian/Sanders/FDR viewpoint than “neoliberal”) political goals in the short run. I use the identifier for two reasons:

    1: I favor nationalizing certain industries whose main customers are governments, as well as certain monopolies and oligopolies.

    and

    2: Although the 20th century’s history has repeatedly demonstrated that centralized economic planning is an incredibly difficult problem that’s probably not solvable with our current level of technology, some of the trends that Scott himself has talked about here will make it both necessary and more possible to solve. Advances in automation and artificial intelligence will render more and more of human labor worthless. Unless the few remaining scarce factors of production are placed under common ownership, a few people (or maybe programs!) will hold most of society’s wealth, while the rest of us scramble for crumbs. I think that making sure that technological advances result in prosperity for all will require social and political action as well as technical research. (Indeed, many of the historical technologies that Scott cited in his argument that technology was a more valuable weapon against social projects than social action required a particular set of institutions to properly implement.)

    • Urstoff says:

      Why do you think it’s a better term than “neoliberal”? Social-democratic seems like a purely political label, whereas “neoliberal” and “socialist” are terms of (broadly speaking) political economy. Is the main engine of economic growth and wealth creation the market? Is that wealth used to fund a generous welfare state and social services? Congrats, you’re a neoliberal!

      • rlms says:

        I don’t think it’s useful to use “neoliberal” in that way, because it entails describing basically the whole Overton window with a term that is frequently used as an insult.

        To me, neoliberal has two basic definitions:
        1. Reagan/Thatcher style marketism with elements of “both rich and poor deserve what they get” and moderate social conservatism.
        2. The broad ideological consensus held by May, Cameroon, Merkel, Obama, Clinton, Trudeau etc.: pretty centrist on both axes.

        When used as a pejorative it means definition 1 in phrases like “neoliberal hegemony” or when combined with references to Chile, definition 2 when used by right-wing populists, and a variation on definition 2 — emphasising Clintonish appeals to identity politics that aren’t accompanied by genuinely progressive ideas — in phrases like “peak neoliberalism”. Some leftists also use “liberal” I’m that last sense.

        • Urstoff says:

          Sounds like it’s time to reject a term that is so variously used and confused (ditto for “socialism” these days).

          • rlms says:

            If we ditch neoliberalism, socialism, and equally confused terms like communism, fascism, liberalism, and nationalism, what are we left with? Looks to me like it’s just libertarianism, maybe that was the nefarious plan all along!

          • Urstoff says:

            Checkmate!

      • Aapje says:

        @Urstoff

        The neoliberals are tearing apart the welfare state, actually. Why are blue collar workers abandoning the Democrats and most of the labor parties in Europe? Because they have become neoliberal, rather than social-democrat.

    • m.alex.matt says:

      You haven’t seen a Swedish social democrat complain about how neoliberalism is ruining Sweden, have you?

      Social Democracy is what Sweden tried in the 70’s and 80’s. Neoliberalism is what happened when the whole plan fell apart and they ran as far away as fast as they could in the 1990’s.

      Here’s one to try.

      That’s a pretty good one from an out and out Marxist. He’s hardly going to be trying to claim Sweden for the neo-liberals.

      The whole world abandoned socialism in all its varied forms in the late 20th century because it stopped — or never really did — working very well. Now we’ve got a whole lot of young people very eager to make the same mistakes. Absolutely wonderful, to tell you the truth.

  18. aciddc says:

    “I’m worried that people will use the success of neoliberal systems in eg Sweden to justify socialism, and then, socialism having been justified, promote actual-dictionary-definition socialism. To a first approximation, Sweden is an example of capitalists proving socialism isn’t necessary; Venezuela is an example of socialism actually happening.”

    I don’t think there’s really a case for saying Sweden’s any more neoliberal or less socialist than Venezuela. Sweden’s a mixed economy social democracy with a lot of state owned industries existing alongside a lot of private industry. So is Venezuela. The difference is that Sweden is richer, more competent, and a stable democracy. Incompetent economic management is a possibility and a major problem in any system, and can’t really be transmuted into “Their problem is too much of economic system X!”

    • Michael Watts says:

      I mean, http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking ranks Sweden 19th in “market freedom” and Venezuela 179th. That’s a pretty conventional case for calling Sweden “less socialist” than Venezuela, and I doubt the difference in ranking is artifactual.

      You could argue that the Heritage foundation views “socialists” as the enemy, and I’d say you were correct. But I think they and their enemies broadly agree on most of what is or isn’t “more socialist” vs “less socialist”. (With the exception that I’ve seen someone claim that the Heritage index mixes two concepts, “market freedom” and “good governance”. This could mean that a high score reflects simultaneous good government and socialism, if you wanted to flesh that idea out and look into the rankings on that basis.)

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      Surely Venuzuelan price controls are a significant difference between the two countries? That’s not just a matter of competent vs. incompetent economic management, at least in my opinion; it represents a basic philosophical difference as to what extent and under what circumstances government is entitled to interfere with private business.

  19. Squirrel of Doom says:

    Claims of what’s the “nth-leading cause of death” are all nearly meaningless, since they depend entirely on your death cause classification scheme.

    Real information would be that something causes n deaths per year, which is y% of all deaths.

    • Michael Watts says:

      That would also “depend entirely on your death cause classification scheme”. What objection do you have to the “nth-leading cause of death” claims that doesn’t also apply to the “% share of all deaths” claims?

      • Manya says:

        I’m not Squirrel of Doom, but I imagine the problem is that what “number” a cause of death is depends heavily on how the causes above it are classified. For example, in the graph from the post, if we split ‘cancer’ into lung cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, etc, they would all drop to be below ‘medical error’. Nothing of substance would change, but medical error would now be the 2nd-leading cause of death instead of the 3rd!

        Stating the percent of all deaths avoids this problem.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          How would it avoid? If we split “cancer” into its varieties, and show them as % of deaths, each one would still appear to be tiny, would they not? They might even show up as a smaller % than medical error.

          The abusive scenario is where you keep subdividing specific categories until they tell the tale you want. Death by wannawanga is the #1 cause in America, more than pen-stage leukemia, stage 4.5 liver cancer, and NPPB-23-induced heart disease combined! This ad paid for by the Wannawanga Foundation.

          Which seems to be one of the abuses that article is complaining about. With the added bonus that the category benefiting from high rank doesn’t have a single cause, and hence a single remedy*.

          Another example of this problem involves child mortality. There’s evidence around that US average lifespan is lower than that of other countries at similar tech levels, and evidence that that can be explained in part because stillbirths and fatalities with a few days of birth in the US are counted as someone dying at age 0-10 days, say, while other countries count all of them as pre-birth fatality which doesn’t affect lifespan data at all. Using % of deaths won’t help with this; it’s caused by a difference in definitions among different medical systems.

          *A large part of it might indeed have a single remedy, namely, improved record keeping, specifically one where the semantic model for medical information is sufficiently standardized to prevent errors stemming from misinterpretation. This is a problem my previous company looked into over a decade ago.

  20. HeelBearCub says:

    Scott linked the brouhaha about “The Black Witch” in the “Contra Gender Differences Are Exaggerated” post.

    I think Kevin Drum makes a good point about this, “Twitter is a cesspool”.

    Also note that “The Black Witch” was a) published and b) hit No. 1 in its category on Amazon, with 4.3 out of 5 stars in and generally positive reviews.

    I really, really wish that Scott could let go of his hyperbole on this issue, or at least recognize it. Note how over the top the entirety of section V is. For example:

    Now it’s degenerated into this giant hatefest of everybody writing long screeds calling everyone else Nazis and demanding violence against them. Where if someone disagrees with the consensus, it’s just taken as a matter of course that we need to hunt them down, deny them of the cloak of anonymity, fire them, and blacklist them so they can never get a job again.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      This community tends to exaggerate the influence and size of a few groups of people: namely, people very much like this community and this community’s classic foes the SJWs. A persistent bias here is that the large middle of the world is less big and less significant than it actually is.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        Well, the SJWs are, rather obviously, the community’s outgroup.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s hard to say what the actual influence of the hard-core SJW types is; you would imagine that mostly it’s confined to their own little bubbles where they can have a disproportionate effect on a scapegoat but in the Real World this doesn’t happen.

        And then something like the Google Document comes along and you have a line of people queued up to denounce the author, swear they’ll never work with him, call for him to be fired, and call for any body else within Google who expressed support for the views to be discovered and fired as well. Google is Real World and as a very big employer, particularly in one field where they easily have thousands of programmers or engineers working for them, that’s a Real World consequence affecting your career.

        Mostly, though, I am hoping it’s restrained to the likes of those who are never satisfied no matter what happens; I was (cynically) waiting for the first “But Why?” comment in the wake of the announcement of the new Doctor Who being a woman, and yep, it took about ten minutes before the first “But Why isn’t this a Woman of Colour? There has never been a black character on Doctor Who of any importance!” and take it away with the grumbling from there (the “no important or main black character” is false, by the way). Some people you just can’t please.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          it took about ten minutes before the first “But Why isn’t this a Woman of Colour? There has never been a black character on Doctor Who of any importance!” and take it away with the grumbling from there (the “no important or main black character” is false, by the way).

          Yeah, I’m curious as to how they managed to discount Martha Jones. Had they not seen those episodes, or was she, with only one African parent, not black enough for them?

          • Deiseach says:

            Had they not seen those episodes, or was she, with only one African parent, not black enough for them?

            Oh, they didn’t bother constructing an argument, they just sailed right into the usual “white hegemony” stuff. It particularly stood out given that the last Doctor’s Companion is Bill Potts, not alone black but lesbian.

            If they got a Black Female Doctor, then I’m willing to bet that the complaints would have been “yes, but why is she straight?” and if she wasn’t, then it would be “this is the perfect opportunity to show a trans character as positive representation but of course they avoided that!” and so on and so forth.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          So, look, Google dude: Someone posts a 10 page strong criticism of their own company, that person is not a leader in the company and makes no attempt to get the company to vet the document nor to control the narrative nor to just shield itself from some of the criticism. Guy is fired. News at 11.

          It sucks for that guy, to be sure. But this should not be a surprising outcome for literally anyone. Honestly, the fact that he chose a fairly sensitive topic instead of just charging that all the senior leadership were fat-cat assholes who were more concerned with their personal profit than making the world a better place probably made it more difficult to fire him.

          Everything else you bring up is “Oh my gosh, there are SJWs on the internet and they post mean comments!” Which is certainly true, and definitely I would like them to stop making mean comments. But don’t mistake that for more power than it is.

          “Warrior” types are definitely people who exist. They are people who enjoy arguing, enjoy winning, enjoy causing others pain, and/or enjoy the status it gives them with people on their own side. They’ve always existed, and if SJ goes away, its W’s will find a new cause. But they’re mostly a bunch of internet blowhards. And in fact I bet you’d find that at least 90% of the people who make a big deal of how hard-core pure they are on the internet bend a lot more in real life.

          • Skivverus says:

            Someone posts a 10 page strong criticism of their own company, that person is not a leader in the company and makes no attempt to get the company to vet the document nor to control the narrative nor to just shield itself from some of the criticism. Guy is fired. News at 11.

            That’s not quite my understanding of the issue, though I’ve just been reading the comments here, not looking at firsthand sources; it looks a bit more like this:

            Someone posts internally a 10 page strong criticism of their own company, that person is not a leader in the company and makes no attempt to get the company to vet the document nor to control the narrative nor to just shield itself from some of the criticism. Someone else posts the criticism externally; first guy is fired.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The man who was fired was not the one who posted the document outside the company.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            The originator of the embarrassing document is fired. I mean, I wouldn’t be shocked if the guy who posted it externally also gets fired. But Google is huge. There was no way that this document was not getting to the press.

            Certainly, if one of my employees penned a 10 page criticism of our company and distributed it to the entire office — and we’re an office of only 60 people — I’d have a conversation with him or her about how to handle feedback, the lack of value of confrontational manifestos in terms of driving people to change, and the importance of realizing that when you create a document and distribute it even moderately widely, your control of where that document ends up and what context it’s read in becomes zero. And if that document ended up in the hands of the media and became a PR problem for our company, I’d probably have to fire that person.

            In the case of Google, the odds of it getting into the media were 100% and the odds of the media turning it into a story were 100% and the value of that individual engineer is one of tens of thousands of not-uniquely-accomplished employees. Do the math.

          • lvlln says:

            “Warrior” types are definitely people who exist. They are people who enjoy arguing, enjoy winning, enjoy causing others pain, and/or enjoy the status it gives them with people on their own side. They’ve always existed, and if SJ goes away, its W’s will find a new cause. But they’re mostly a bunch of internet blowhards. And in fact I bet you’d find that at least 90% of the people who make a big deal of how hard-core pure they are on the internet bend a lot more in real life.

            I used to believe something like this for religious extremists, but as I’ve learned more about religion and extremism, I’ve come to realize that ideas do matter. Some people will use whatever ideology they can latch onto to excuse the harm they enjoy causing others anyway, this is true. But ideologies that specifically encourage causing harm to others as a good way by which to achieve virtuous things and also specifically discourage compassion in certain cases will also tend to drive more people into harming others and in more severe ways. And there’s almost no limit to just how intense this can get if constantly reinforced (e.g. ISIS dropping people into acid vats).

            Sure, the SJWs still have at least a couple steps to go before they reach ISIS, and we shouldn’t fear them disproportionately compared to the power they actually have. But when we see floods of cheer leading of them by our most influential and loudest voices and we see even moderate, well-reasoned, empirically supported push back against them be severely punished, it behooves us to be very careful not to let the progression continue.

          • Aapje says:

            that person […] makes no attempt to get the company to vet the document nor to control the narrative nor to just shield itself from some of the criticism.

            Yes, he did. He posted it on the intranet, not to a public website.

            You are ignoring the facts.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            Have you seen the Real Names Considered Harmful open letter or the Focus On The User manifesto posted publicly? Both of these were widely internally distributed at Google, were very critical of senior management, and did not result in leaks of the document… nor firings. I believe both were written by SJWs who have been outspoken against the diversity document, though that’s from memory.

            Given that, I think he had no real reason to believe the document would be leaked externally.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Here’s something that is within the power of the current social justice movement: Make something visible to the larger world.

            So, again, I just see it as naïve to imagine that your manifesto was going to stay private and collegiate. And once it becomes big enough, you are going to get fired. That may be a genuine difference from earlier internal Google controversies. But if the “true names considered harmful” text had gotten wide enough play, and it was similar in tone to the Ideological Echo Chamber document, then the person who wrote it would’ve been fired, too.

          • Matt M says:

            I just see it as naïve to imagine that your manifesto was going to stay private and collegiate

            I guess he was relying on the fact that similar people have published similar thoughts (albeit from the opposite perspective) and were never punished, combined with taking his employer at their word when they say that they value diversity of thought and opinion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            combined with taking his employer at their word

            Oh, lord.

            This is far too simplistic. I’m not sure if you are making this as an actual argument, or what.

            If it’s not in the contract, don’t expect it to protect you. If it is in the contract, remember you are probably going to end up in arbitration if they do something you think breaks the contract.

            Conversely, when you list them as an employer on your resume, expect the employer to give you a neutral reference “Yes this employee worked here with this title from this date to that date” If you need actual references, I hope you had a boss of some sort that liked you, which is universally true and not special.

          • Matt M says:

            If it’s not in the contract, don’t expect it to protect you.

            Willing to bet “We will fire anyone who says anything you disagree with” isn’t in the contract of the SJ employees either.

            … and yet

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It is my understanding that discussions of company culture and policy are tolerated and encouraged. There is nothing unusual about writing a 10 page document addressing problems in the company and offering solutions to chart a better course. The guy was fired not because “10 page screed,” not because “critical of company,” not because “bad PR” or “wasting time,” but because his criticism was of the “less Stalin” rather than the “50 Stalins” variety.

          • Brandon Berg says:

            The problem here is not so much with Google’s management’s decision to fire him, as with the fact that there are enough pseudo-justice warriors at Google, in the media, and in society at large that firing him was clearly the right business decision. That should not have been the case.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Refusing to Empathize with Elliot Rodger: Taking Male Entitlement Seriously

            Tim Chevalier posts the “50 Stalins” criticism here. He writes similar stuff all the time, including inside of Google. This sort of thing is, of course, considered completely acceptable.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Last week, a manifesto written by a Google engineer surfaced; the manifesto resembles those of Rodger’s and Lépine’s,

            At least Chevalier was considerate enough to put this statement near the front of his document, so the rest of us could realise early on just what a deranged idiot he is and save ourselves reading the rest of his little tract.

          • DrBeat says:

            These people have an absolutely awe-inspiring contempt not just for everyone who is weaker than them, but for the very concept of the truth. They genuinely do not understand why we consider it valuable to say true things. To them, words are noises emitted to participate in status games and to punish people for being weaker than them.

            And they are right. They will always win. They will be showered in respect, attention, deference, and utility. It is literally impossible to defeat them. Everyone you ever put your trust in is guaranteed to eventually betray you to serve them, not in exchange for any reward, but because they are so inherently important, so inherently right, so inherently popular.

            All is lost.

          • Nornagest says:

            DrBeat, I’m going to ask you the same thing I asked KevinC back when he was doing this sort of thing, which is this: if all is lost, what do you hope to gain by whining about it? Your own theory predicts that it’ll be read by the people you’re worried about as “please, sir, may I have some more?”

        • John Schilling says:

          So, look, Google dude: Someone posts a 10 page strong criticism of their own company, that person is not a leader in the company and makes no attempt to get the company to vet the document nor to control the narrative nor to just shield itself from some of the criticism. Guy is fired. News at 11.

          If a company explicitly cultivates or at least proclaims a culture of “openness” where employees are allowed to have discussions without vetting every word with HR and legal and where internal discussion forums have been created for just that purpose, and an employee chooses to internally publish a carefully worded, not objectively offensive list of recommendations of ways he thinks the company can do better, then yes, firing him should be considered newsworthy. And hypocritical. And wrong. Even if, especially if, the document is a “criticism”. Any suggestion for how to do things better, is necessarily a criticism of how things are done now.

          • lvlln says:

            I agree with John Schilling on this. I’m reading the memo on http://diversitymemo.com/ now, and describing it as “strong criticism” isn’t even hyperbolic: it’s an outright falsehood. It’s a fairly milquetoast essay that makes a case for making changes to company strategy for increasing its proportion of women based on well-supported science. I don’t know that it would’ve flown in every company, but this is exactly the sort of document that employees in a company that encourages employee feedback would want. To a tee.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Oh for god’s sake, the title is “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” The idea that this is some neutral discussion point is absurd. It seems that way to you because you agree with it.

            And, look, when your intranet has tens of thousands of people on it and is an object of media interest, it’s just naïve to imagine that your long-winded document is going to remain private.

            Now, look, this document reads to me like it was a pretty well-intentioned attempt to convince (though not debate) by someone who radically misunderstands the decorum for posting documents on Google’s intranet, and who radically overestimates the convincing power of explaining his ideas, and who really doesn’t understand how poorly disclaimers work. But, sorry dude. You told the world that the experience of working for Google was:

            “An ideological echo chamber”
            “Extreme and authoritarian”
            “Unfair and divisive”
            “Honest discussion is being silenced”
            “Politically correct monoculture”
            “Extremist and authoritarian policies”
            etc.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think anyone is arguing it was “neutral”. The argument is that (apparently) Google encourages (in a way a lot of companies don’t) non-neutrality and that this sort of thing would be fine if it had taken the opposite position (critical of Google for not being diverse enough). Quashing all critical opinions, or no critical opinions, would be one thing, quashing this one in particular looks like very strongly taking sides in the culture war.

            Also it’s odd of you to point to “Honest discussion is being silenced” as a particularly noteworthy line from the memo. I mean, didn’t they just prove his point?

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Yeah. I worked at Google for several years, and the pervasive atmosphere of progressivism was one of the hardest things to cope with — but even I expected better from Google than to fire the guy over this mild, calm, reasoned, and ultimately essentially liberal essay.

            When I have read people over the past year or two talking about the Cold Civil War allegedly going on now, threatening to turn Hot at any time, I knew what they are talking about, but always considered it fairly hyperbolic. As of today, I am not so sure.

          • Michael Watts says:

            but even I expected better from Google than to fire the guy over this mild, calm, reasoned, and ultimately essentially liberal essay

            The classic advice to lawyers does a good job of explaining such a reaction to a mild, calm, reasoned, and ultimately liberal essay:

            When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law.

            When neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the table.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If a company explicitly cultivates or at least proclaims a culture of “openness” where employees are allowed to have discussions without vetting every word with HR and legal and where internal discussion forums have been created for just that purpose

            Let a hundred browsers bloom.

    • John Schilling says:

      Also note that “The Black Witch” was a) published and b) hit No. 1 in its category on Amazon, with 4.3 out of 5 stars in and generally positive reviews.

      Interestingly, 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon, based on 89 reviews. A random reading indicates almost all of them deal with the literary quality of the work, not the SJ controversy except in passing.

      Goodreads, 3.1 out of five stars based on 2,238 ratings and 730 reviews, mostly divided between 1-star “this book is an offense against Social Justice!” screeds and 4/5-star “STFU SJWs!” screeds.

      So, pretty clearly the people who trashed the book on Goodreads had the numbers to tear it down and/or turn it into an ideological battleground on Amazon as well, but didn’t. Are Amazon reviews not a thing in YA fiction? Does Amazon have some effective way to screen ideological screeds from its reviews and ratings? I don’t follow the issue well enough to have an informed opinion.

      • Brad says:

        It’s worth noting that Goodreads is owned by Amazon.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        One possibility: How easy, or even possible, is it to review the book without having bought in on Amazon?

        Can you review it before it’s published?

        • gbdub says:

          Amazon doesn’t force you to buy the book on Amazon in order to review (though they put a “verified purchaser” badge on your review if you do). They do seem fairly quick to take down irrelevant, fraudulent, or obviously-didn’t-read-it reviews. Quality reviews are a key part of their business and they curate accordingly. I don’t think Goodreads has the same incentives.

        • John Schilling says:

          Well, you can buy it at Barnes & Noble, online or in the store – lists as in stock just about everywhere. Which brings us another data point, B&N customers give it 4.8 stars on 22 reviews, only a few en passant mentions of the controversy.

          There are also 13 used copies on Abebooks; it’s been out for three months now.

          ETA: OK, just got that the question was “Does Amazon allow outside purchasers to post reviews”; answer is yes, and it at least used to be a thing to use Amazon’s review page as a default rating/review site regardless of point of sale, but that may be less common now that Goodreads is a thing.

      • sflicht says:

        Self-respecting progressives would never shop at Amazon, due to the Hachette controversy (or whichever labor conditions / antitrust concerns / … reason you care to mention).

    • DrBeat says:

      “They aren’t that powerful or influential! Never mind that you’re talking about the power and influence they have and how everyone can observe it being used and everyone can observe the effects after it is used, and that process is exactly and explicitly the thing you fear, because shut up you aren’t allowed to notice that. People who wave the banner of my ideological tribe but do harm can never be classified as powerful or influential, no matter how much power and influence they clearly have, because you aren’t allowed to notice that!”

      All is lost.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        All is lost.

        Are you Kevin C.’s alt account?

        • Jaskologist says:

          Nah, it just turns out there’s more than one Eeyore.

          @DrBeat, Speaking of alts, I’m pretty sure I know your tumblr identity. If you want to keep them separate it would pay to not use the same refrain so much.

          • DrBeat says:

            I don’t exactly keep that one a secret.

            Were you trying to threaten me anyway?

          • Jaskologist says:

            I am not trying to threaten or dox you in any way. Just giving you friendly advice in case you did actually want to keep the identities unconnected.

          • DrBeat says:

            Has anyone who has ever said “I’m not threatening you, just giving you friendly advice” ever NOT been threatening the person to whom they were speaking?

          • Montfort says:

            Yes, many times.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes.

            Threat != Warning

          • Jaskologist says:

            Well, I clearly botched this all up, so let me try to be clearer:

            I am not going to tie you to your identities on other sites. I have no desire to dox even the people I don’t like around here.

            But I think if you’re really worried about the popular people coming to devour everything, especially you, you need to practice better online hygiene. Signing off every post with “all is lost, life will never ever be worth living” is a dead tell and will make it easy for the nastier sorts out there to find you if it strikes their fancy. In the current year, I think it is wise to be a bit more protective of one’s anonymity.

          • DrBeat says:

            I am protective of my anonymity.

            But since I interact with some of the same people on this account as that one, there’s no real purpose in maintaining separation between them. I maintain separation between my traceable RL identity and the one that is in these two accounts (and a couple of others that I interact with some of the same people on)

          • DrBeat says:

            And I’m always on the edge of just doxxing myself anyway, on the theory that a major traumatic event happening directly to me and not just witnessed by me will be enough to push me through my own lack of agency and get me to finally kill myself. I don’t do it because if that doesn’t happen, I just made life even more intolerable in exchange for nothing.

      • Nornagest says:

        The argument would be stronger without the gratuitous moaning.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        DrBeat, you are my favorite SSC poster.

        I’m curious about one part of your worldview, though. You continuously describe the SJ situation as “high entropy.” Are you sure it isn’t extremely, extremely low entropy? I mean, it requires massive resources and propaganda to keep up the charade that everyone is equal, men are women and women are men, all modes of thought are the same. And one nerd walking into Google HQ and saying “gee, men and women aren’t the same” and they’re all literally shaking and having to stay home ’cause of the vapors and the CEO has to rush back from another continent to comfort them etc etc. This does not seem like an antifragile ideology. This seems like the sort of ideology a gentle gust of wind will blow over.

        Also, with regards to your entropy analogy, you’re also leaving the part out about “in a closed system” which is rather vital. You can absolutely lower entropy locally by raising entropy elsewhere.

        • DrBeat says:

          That’s like saying “Dropping a cow into a school of piranha must be very dangerous and threatening to the piranha, look at how hard and how quickly they have to work to get rid of it!”

          SJ ideology is pure popularity. Popularity does not interact with facts, it interacts only with popularity. They seek only to punish people because they can be punished; all of their interactions with the world are status-games. They do not shake and stay home and get the vapors because they are weak; they shake and stay home and get the vapors because they are strong, and they can demand concessions and deference and respect and utility from others. Would you say a Mobbed-up construction job is staffed by weaklings because the entire crew stays home sick when the foreman says something that hurts the boss’s feelings? No, they do it because they are strong, they know they can get away with it, their actions create obligations in others to react to them. The CEO has to rush back from another continent to comfort them because they are strong, and if he does not theatrically make a show of bending the knee to them and submitting to their unreasonable demands and exalting their emotions above all else, he will be obliterated, and everyone involved knows that.

          “Every interaction is a status game, everyone is seeking to punish everyone who can be punished” is the high-entropy state of human associations. Things that are taken over by SJ go into the high-entropy state. The stated ideology they use to justify this doesn’t really matter. The stated factual beliefs that excuse their actions don’t matter. You can and have observed these things to not matter. It’s the album cover art for the shrieking song of their popularity, nothing more. The stated “rules” can be and observably are discarded or changed at a moment’s notice in order to justify punishing more people who are weak enough to be punished. They are not expending lots of effort holding back entropy by upholding false beliefs — they are maximizing entropy by annihilating everything that ever prevented them from punishing people who were weak enough to be punished. “Believing things because they are true instead of because they have been shrieked into your mouth by the popular” is a low-entropy state, and one they are destroying.

          Yes, entropy in a closed system cannot be reduced, and in the past, entropy was fought by making smaller systems faster than they could be consumed by entropy. But “all of human civilization” IS a closed system. And the level of entropy in that closed system cannot be reduced, and has now reached the critical point where entropy will consume everything faster than new things can be made.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree that SJWism is an instantiation of popularity. But doesn’t what’s popular constantly change? 30 years ago Bible-banging Christianity was popular, and you could screech “SINNER!!!” at people and bend them to your will. But then that kind of stuff got mocked into far less relevance, the current crop of Christians is those who believe in the “truth” part of it and not the “social control” part of it, and the social controllers have switched over to SJWism so they can screech “RACIST!!!!” at people to bend them to their will.

            Stuff goes in cycles. Kids see adults shrieking about irrelevant things and rebel. When the school marm was banging on about Jesus in the 80s and 90s, the kids drew pentagrams on their notebooks and pretended to worship the devil. Now the school marm bangs on about social justice and the kids are posting swastikas on 4chan and pretending to be nazis.

            I think SJWism peaked in the Current Year (2015) and is on its way out, being mocked into oblivion. Yes, popularity will instantiate in some other way in 10 years, but it won’t be SJWism.

          • DrBeat says:

            SJ is not the only instantiation of entropy. SJ is much worse than Bible-Banging Christianity, and if it is possible for SJ to be overthrown, it will only be overthrown by something worse and more high-entropy than it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No tyranny has lasted forever. The commies fell, the nazis fell, the SJWs will fall. The pendulum swings, and things are usually pretty okay in the middle parts.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I don’t agree with DrBeat’s total despair, but I think the idea that the problem will just self-correct is dangerous as well. We have ample history on just how much worse these things can get before the problem self-corrects. The commies managed to enslave a generation and destroy or corrupt basically every institution in their culture before the pendulum swung back. The Nazis started a world war which devastated the continent, their own country, and did the Holocaust.

            I’d even propose that the extent to which SJW-types are able to inflict damage before they fall apart is related to how many people look at them and assume that the problem will auto-correct because someone else will do something.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s a bit silly to be comparing an obnoxious variety of left-wing activist to murderous totalitarian regimes.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s a bit silly to be comparing an obnoxious variety of left-wing activist to murderous totalitarian regimes.

            Not if the obnoxious activists are holding up murderous totalitarian regimes as their desired end-state.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Are they?

          • Matt M says:

            There are plenty of people in this very thread who seem to rather seriously be advancing the cause of “Hugo Chavez did nothing wrong”

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not sure what that has to do with the claim “a certain sort of left-wing activist sees murderous totalitarianism as a desirable end state.”

          • Matt M says:

            You don’t think there’s much crossover between “There are 50+ genders and anyone who says otherwise is a hateful bigot” and “Stalin did the best he could, capitalism killed more people anyway!”?

            It’s true that in theory these positions have little to do with each other, but I know virtually nobody who believes the second but disagrees with the first.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A decent chunk of Chavez supporters, etc, are people of the sort who got smeared as “brocialists” – insufficiently supportive of the primacy of identity politics over class politics that others want.

            EDIT: Whereas the most obnoxious of the particular variety of left-wing activists in question appear to have decided that class is a secondary or tertiary issue, if that.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            You know people who believe in a finite number of genders that is more than 50? Where did you find them?

          • lvlln says:

            I don’t think there are many people who literally see “murderous totalitarian regimes” as a desired end state.

            I do think plenty of SJWs believe that “murderous totalitarian regimes” might be a required mid state before they reach their desired end state. I also think plenty of SJWs have a desired end state that’s very similar to the desired end state of people who created “murderous totalitarian regimes,” but they believe they won’t repeat those errors, and therefore there’s no real danger of a “murderous totalitarian regimes.”

            I also believe hubris is a really common and dangerous thing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’d even propose that the extent to which SJW-types are able to inflict damage before they fall apart is related to how many people look at them and assume that the problem will auto-correct because someone else will do something.

            I believe the system will auto-correct even if nothing is done because it is a negative feedback loop that punishes competence and rewards self-inflicted blindness. Even without opposition the Soviet Union would have eventually collapsed. The US and her allies helped speed it along, sure, but it’s an unsustainable system.

            And people are doing things. We’re doing the thing right now. Talking. Putting forth arguments. Writing essays. Making videos. Mainly just “living well.”

            Rampant SJWism has only been a thing for a few years and they’re already tearing themselves apart and having to expend more and more energy just to maintain the illusions. As a Catholic I take a long view of history. Do good. Avoid evil. Bear suffering. Wait. It’s worked out well so far.

          • DrBeat says:

            The pendulum swings, and things are usually pretty okay in the middle parts.

            Are you just not reading the words so you can make this about being on Team Anti-SJ instead?

            There isn’t going to be a middle part any more! There never, ever shall be a middle part ever again! We can’t cast off the high-entropy institutions and return to the low-entropy baseline any more, because there is no low-entropy baseline! Your “middle part” was artificially low-entropy and the existence of social media like Twitter, which can never be un-invented, is scourging away all barriers and resistance that allowed a low-entropy state to exist!

            Piranha aren’t threatened by cows, they don’t skeletonize cows out of fear the cow will degrade them, and skeletonizing cows doesn’t weaken them!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Isn’t twitter unprofitable and bleeding users? The pendulum is already swinging away from twitter, which tells me your “twitter consumes all” theory is wrong.

            The cows are just avoiding the piranha infested waters. The piranhas are eating themselves. Seems like an easy victory for Team Cow.

          • Nornagest says:

            social media like Twitter […] can never be un-invented

            Social media dies all the time. Check my Myspace for my AIM screen name, so we can coordinate a time to meet in Second Life! Later we can post about it on LiveJournal.

            Twitter is awful, no doubt about that, but its awfulness is mostly a contingent feature of its architecture and its moderation policies. And those won’t last forever.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            There isn’t going to be a middle part any more! There never, ever shall be a middle part ever again! We can’t cast off the high-entropy institutions and return to the low-entropy baseline any more, because there is no low-entropy baseline! Your “middle part” was artificially low-entropy and the existence of social media like Twitter, which can never be un-invented, is scourging away all barriers and resistance that allowed a low-entropy state to exist!

            Dial it back a notch, dude. It’s impossible for me to read this paragraph without picturing the archetypal homeless, cardboard sign-wearing, scraggly-bearded (medication-lacking) Prophet of the End Times hollering at pedestrians in Times Square.

          • Jiro says:

            “Individual examples of social media die” is not the same as “social media dies”. While Twitter does have some unique features that exacerbate the problem, those are on top of the problems that social media in general already have. Twitter dying isn’t going to help with those other problems (and any replacement is likely to have unique problems of its own.)

          • Jiro says:

            30 years ago Bible-banging Christianity was popular, and you could screech “SINNER!!!” at people and bend them to your will. But then that kind of stuff got mocked into far less relevance, the current crop of Christians is those who believe in the “truth” part of it and not the “social control” part of it, and the social controllers have switched over to SJWism so they can screech “RACIST!!!!” at people to bend them to their will.

            I responded to something similar on the subreddit.

            The same media, activists, and campus intellectuals (or their 30 years later heirs) that told us how dangerous Christians were 30 years ago are supporting social justice today.

            The two situations both involve threats, but they’re very different because one threat was opposed by (and indeed finally defeated by) the same powerful forces that support the other threat.

          • Nornagest says:

            Okay, I agree that social media in general could logically have problems contributing to the state we’re in. But the only one I can think of that’s really endemic to the social media ecosystem as a whole, not just some narrow part of it, is clickbait. Clickbait is a garbage fire for sure, and it’s one we really need to find a long-term solution to, but it seems a little unfair to look at it and then say “social media!”, as if we’re being spoonfed inflammatory half-truths all day every day because we own smartphones.

            Everything else is platform-specific. Pithy kneejerk quips are built into Twitter at an architectural level, and you need to keep arguments going actively or your feed has the attention span of a goldfish. Tumblr flattens public/private distinctions into a promiscuous slurry of confusion. Facebook plays algorithmic games with people’s feeds to maximize engagement, which in practice means “anger”. These all really really suck! But they need to be fixed on a case-by-case basis.

          • Lasagna says:

            I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and it was brought up on this thread: can social media die?

            The general consensus seems to be no, but why not? As someone who isn’t on social media at all – and never has been, not really – I can give a bit of an outsider’s perspective on it. In the years since Facebook and Twitter really took off, I’ve watched people go from happily engaging with their friends and families to absolutely despising the whole mess. I honestly can’t think of anyone who likes it, and everyone I know who is still a regular Facebook user (for example) seems to hate-use it, and stay just because they think they have to.

            I mean, even Freddie DeBoer is going to bail on Twitter someday. He keeps going back, I know, but at some point it’ll stick. I read a post of his recently on that Vulture article on YA fiction. He was sickened by it. Which was the right response; it was a sickening article.

            That recent Atlantic article was seriously alarming. It definitely suggests that social media is almost entirely a negative and harmful experience.

            So increasing numbers of people seem to agree that this is all toxic. Out of the people I know, many of those who are on social media are leaving, and those who aren’t are not joining. At some point, couldn’t it just tip? Even if you love Twitter, if enough people quit it, eventually it becomes pointless, right? Why couldn’t this just pass as what will be remembered as a really disturbing fad?

          • Aapje says:

            @Lasagna

            I think that social media die when something (seemingly) better comes along, not so much due to disgust with what people are using now.

            So at one point someone may come up with Twatter, which will have 280 characters and pictures of kittens, and Twitter will die.

          • Matt M says:

            I honestly can’t think of anyone who likes it

            I love social media!

          • Lasagna says:

            @Aapje

            Maybe. But I realize that you can’t win at Twitter, and that Twitter sucks. YOU realize that you can’t win at Twitter and that Twitter sucks. We both understand that there isn’t anything else to it – it’s just a constant attempt to win an unwinnable game and to eternally dodge lynch mobs until the inevitable moment that they catch you. And we both know that you can opt out with no harm done to you.

            Now there’s no doubt that we’re awesome. But however awesome we are, maybe we aren’t atypical on this – maybe everyone else can figure that out too, eventually. And then creating the “next” Twitter would fail right out of the gate, because nobody wants to go back to that shit, and the first one isn’t making any money anyway.

          • DrBeat says:

            Social media dies all the time. Check my Myspace for my AIM screen name, so we can coordinate a time to meet in Second Life! Later we can post about it on LiveJournal.

            I didn’t say Twitter Inc. or LLC or whatever it is will never go out of business. I said Twitter cannot be un-invented.

            The niche has been torn open, and something must fill it now. If Twitter crumbles to dust, something else will fill it that has the same terrible traits.

          • Nornagest says:

            The niche has been torn open, and something must fill it now. If Twitter crumbles to dust, something else will fill it that has the same terrible traits.

            Wrong. You don’t know if the demand niche it fills has anything to do with the reasons it sucks. It could suck and still be popular because nothing else fills its niche, only to be eaten later by something that doesn’t suck as much when that comes along. The Internet’s history is full of stuff like this.

            Or it could just be a fad! The Tamagotchi was huge, remember that? It hasn’t been uninvented either, but if you’ve seen one in the last ten years, it was in a period piece or a shoebox in someone’s garage. There isn’t even any substantial market for Tamagotchi-like games on better platforms, although it persists as a tiny niche.

          • tscharf says:

            How many small and large discussion forums became toxic waste dumps and were abandoned? Quite a few I think. I bet every single person here has seen it happen several times. Trying to fix it usually makes it even worse.

            Twitter is not immune to this. The idea won’t die, it just may change names. Facebook and Twitter may have started transitioning from the democratization of ideas to the suppression of them. Ultimately everything eventually erodes to middle school social dynamics it seems.

          • Vorkon says:

            Or it could just be a fad! The Tamagotchi was huge, remember that? It hasn’t been uninvented either, but if you’ve seen one in the last ten years, it was in a period piece or a shoebox in someone’s garage. There isn’t even any substantial market for Tamagotchi-like games on better platforms, although it persists as a tiny niche.

            I would argue that Pokémon quickly evolved to fill the niche that Tamagotchi created, did so much better, and is still going strong over 20 years later.

            Similarly, VirtualTweet, or whatever ends up replacing Twitter, will probably look quite a bit different from Twitter, and have quite a few extra features (features which might even make it worthwhile compared to the cesspit that is Twitter; I actually rather like Pokémon) but whatever form it takes, SOMETHING is going to fill that niche.

          • DrBeat says:

            You don’t know if the demand niche it fills has anything to do with the reasons it sucks.

            Yes I do, and so do you.

            Pithy kneejerk quips are built into Twitter at an architectural level

            People like pithy kneejerk quips. They like “dragging” people and “dunking on” them. They like feeling and expressing contempt. Now that we have seen a platform to facilitate that, they know they want it. Anything that replaces Twitter will still have these traits because those traits are what people want.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes I do, and so do you.

            Don’t make me repeat myself. The standard narrative for Twitter’s success is that the 144-character limit forces writers to be succinct. I think that is probably a little too glib, but further analysis is out of scope here.

            Whatever the case, though, Twitter is not getting a substantial proportion of its revenue from witch hunters. The vast majority of its users use it either as a sort of diary or press-release platform or as a platform for conducting inane small talk with strangers. Witch hunts are an epiphenomenon, and a platform catering primarily to them cannot survive because witch hunters, when deprived of witches, turn on each other.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @Vorkon:

            The Sims is probably a closer approximation to Tamagotchi than Pokemon is. Tamagotchi was focused on management of the monster’s needs, where Pokemon is more like a turn-based JRPG with a collection element attached. You occasionally feed your Pokemon stuff, but I’m pretty sure that’s mostly just another way to give stat boosts, rather than the Pokemon starving to death if you don’t.

            Actually, stuff like Farmville might be a more modern take. If I recall correctly, you’re incentivized to log in every day to keep your farm maintained, and you do worse in the game if you don’t. How well are those going now?

          • random832 says:

            @DrBeat

            The niche has been torn open, and something must fill it now. If Twitter crumbles to dust, something else will fill it that has the same terrible traits.

            The niche of LiveJournal is not filled with a LiveJournal clone, it’s filled with… mostly Tumblr, as far as I can tell. Which is worse in some ways, but certainly not identical, and I don’t think it follows that the replacement will always be worse.

            @Nornagest

            There isn’t even any substantial market for Tamagotchi-like games on better platforms, although it persists as a tiny niche.

            There was a story that hit my radar somehow a couple months ago about a SecondLife virtual pet that was shut down due to an intellectual property dispute, that was apparently a multimillion dollar business.

          • DrBeat says:

            @Nornagest:

            Twitter’s architecture fosters witch hunts of a specific kind because of its massive bias toward “witty quips”. It places a massive advantage in the hands of the people whose tactic is “be popular at the problem” and a massive disadvantage for the people whose tactic is “use facts and true statements at the problem”. It leads to witch hunts because nobody wants to stop and read facts and nuance, the platform completely removes the obligation to do so, and it’s easy and satisfying to join in “dragging” someone with short, witty quips about how contemptible they are.

            “Short, witty quips” is why people like Twitter and why Twitter leads to witch-hunts. Anything to fill Twitter’s niche will lead to Twitter-like witch hunts by the same fashion Twitter did.

    • gbdub says:

      While I agree that Scott is overstating the current situation on the ground, consider this. It’s Breitbart, so take it with the appropriate large dose of sodium chloride, but the screenshotted/quoted material is probably legit.

      Basically it shows Google managers openly discussing keeping literal blacklists of people to never hire/work with, even if it hurts company projects based on insufficient support for diversity, or support for people who criticize Google diversity initiatives. The intent to “blacklist them so they can never get a job again” is clearly there, these people just so far lack the power to do that everywhere.

      Google is massive, an industry culture-driver, and arguably a monopolist. If such blacklisting behavior among people with actual management authority is being tacitly tolerated at Google, that’s a big deal. And clearly, Google has now publicly declared that anti-diversity crimespeak is a firing offense (while other political discussion is tolerated).

      On the one hand, we shouldn’t be hyperbolic on the degree to which these cultural WMDs exist. On the other hand, I don’t think we should wait until a bunch of people get nuked before considering whether nuclear proliferation is a good idea.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s Breitbart, so take it with the appropriate large dose of sodium chloride, but the screenshotted/quoted material is probably legit.

        FWIW, I can vouch for the veracity of the 2015 material.

        • gbdub says:

          Is Breitbart leaving out any relevant context that you’re aware of, or is their characterization pretty accurate?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The main thing they are leaving out is whatever the August 2015 controversy was. I believe (but this is possibly-faulty memory, and there were many such tempests) it was probably related to a time someone cross-posted something about the Grace Hopper conference to the internal industryinfo group and to one of the diversity groups. The industryinfo group was for discussions about news articles related to the tech industry, and things posted there tended to get analyzed for flaws. You can guess the result.

          • gbdub says:

            there were many such tempests

            This is what bothers me about “this would have gotten him fired anywhere” responses to the incident. It may be true, but if so it’s largely because anything remotely controversial is likely to be quashed in a relatively viewpoint neutral way. For example, at my office we’ve had people get in trouble for social media posts of the type “as employee of (my company), (our competitor) is terrible”. Also for making a humorous video mocking the company’s snow day policy. We were not allowed to use the word “young” in the name of our company-sponsored group targeted to young professionals.

            Google is disturbing because it seems like this type of non-work ideological discussion among employees is at least tolerated and maybe encouraged – as long as you ascribe to the “right” ideology. That’s much more troublesome than a blanket “no culture war at work” policy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Google is disturbing because it seems like this type of non-work ideological discussion among employees is at least tolerated and maybe encouraged – as long as you ascribe to the “right” ideology.

            And on top of that, it’s not like this was a screed irrelevant to work. It was an intersection of politics and Google policy, with the stated goal of improving Google employment and results.

          • Urstoff says:

            It may be true, but if so it’s largely because anything remotely controversial is likely to be quashed in a relatively viewpoint neutral way.

            HR rules the world.

          • Civilis says:

            This is what bothers me about “this would have gotten him fired anywhere” responses to the incident. It may be true, but if so it’s largely because anything remotely controversial is likely to be quashed in a relatively viewpoint neutral way.

            Various sources on the right are pointing out comments that appear to come from Google insiders suggesting that the commenter or someone the commenter knows would have assaulted the memo’s author or people known to agree with him. If anything should trigger alarm bells in a HR department, those sort of statements should be it. That they aren’t quashed is what suggests to the right that Google isn’t acting in a viewpoint-neutral way.

            I was asked by a HR-adjacent person my opinions on the matter, and I honestly couldn’t give an answer. Google has every right to fire the guy, and if he leaked the memo outside Google himself, probably should have. The problem is that Google’s response and the internal culture it’s revealed have done far more PR damage than the initial memo. Republicans buy sneakers, and the right uses search engines and web browsers too.

          • Brad says:

            Republicans buy sneakers, and the right uses search engines and web browsers too.

            I looked at the chart for desktop browser usage in the United States in 2014 and there’s no significant Eich effect. I’m skeptical that they’ll be a Damore effect among users.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree with Brad that it’s unlikely enough people will divest of google products to make a difference.

            I do think Google will have some serious staff problems. They just burned a witch. Now everybody’s either wondering who the other witches are, or if they’re next.

          • gbdub says:

            @Civilis – To be clear, I agree with you. I think it’s true that Damore would have been fired at most / many other places. But only because most places quash anything like this in a viewpoint neutral way.

            Where Google is stepping in it is by promoting a more permissive culture of internal discussion, but then punishing Damore (but apparently not promoters of Damore-punching) in a way that does not appear viewpoint neutral.

          • Brad says:

            I doubt there’s any employer anywhere that follows viewpoint neutrality. Just because a company opens the door to some political discussion doesn’t obligate them to act in a viewpoint neutral way. This is a selective post hoc claim that a norm exists where it doesn’t and never has.

            If someone got fired for posting a 3300 word long essay to an internal mailing list about the virtues of man boy love or that everyone ought to support ISIS virtually no one would be outraged.

          • Matt M says:

            But only because most places quash anything like this in a viewpoint neutral way.

            I disagree with this.

            I think in the vast majority of companies, a similar post but with “and that’s why we need to have stronger quotas mandating we hire minorities” would be met, not with a pink slip, but with a very serious reply of “we agree, here are the steps we are taking to meet your demands.”

          • Matt M says:

            I doubt there’s any employer anywhere that follows viewpoint neutrality. Just because a company opens the door to some political discussion doesn’t obligate them to act in a viewpoint neutral way.

            What if they publicly claim to follow viewpoint neutrality, and then don’t?

            If Google came out and said “We are a progressive left-wing organization and we expect our employees to behave and communicate accordingly” I would be fine with that. (Well, not FINE, but it would certainly be an upgrade from “We are an ideologically neutral organization that supports and encourages all points of view (but fires anyone who proclaims left-of-center opinions publicly)”

          • Brad says:

            They don’t publicly claim to follow viewpoint neutrality. Hostile readers that either are incapable of understanding nuance and subtext or pretend to be, claim that have on the basis of anodyne corporate-ese.

            No one is obligated to follow your motivated plain statement rule.

          • gbdub says:

            @Brad – so you’re conceding that this was a viewpoint based dismissal, and that, furthermore, Damore’s memo was sufficiently bad to merit equal treatment to a defense of pedophilia.

            Which is fine if that’s your position, but clearly a lot of people are not comfortable with that narrow an Overton window on this issue, don’t like the sort of world that would come from people regularly getting canned for expressing that view, and are therefore criticizing Google’s decision to exercise their right to terminate an at-will employee.

            Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, after all.

          • Brad says:

            No, I’m saying that it is the equivalent to pedophilia. I’m saying when you invoke the concept of “viewpoint neutrality” which comes from actual free speech doctrine, you are invoking something that doesn’t respect any Overton window. Viewpoint neutrality doesn’t mean “as long as it isn’t too extreme”.

            If you are claiming that companies are obligated to follow viewpoint neutrality then you are arguing they are obligated to allow pedophilia advocacy. If you want to argue instead that Damore’s memo was within the bounds of reasonable disagreement then you should have argued that instead of this business about viewpoint neutrality.

            Exaggerating and outright fabricating claims about what norms exist, so you can express outrage over them being broken, doesn’t help your case. All it does is hurt your credibility.

          • lvlln says:

            Presuming the company was just as open as Google was about wanting input from employees about improvement, and presuming it was just as relevant to improving the workings of the company, just as well supported by science, just as well- and respectfully-written as the Google Memo, I absolutely would be outraged if someone who sent something in support of man-boy love or ISIS in their internal company forum were fired. In fact, I find the idea that people wouldn’t or shouldn’t be outraged to be rather appalling and dangerous.

          • random832 says:

            you are invoking something that doesn’t respect any Overton window.

            Nonsense. Viewpoint neutrality means respecting the actual Overton window (which is an attribute of the wider culture, not something a company can choose for itself), and/or a narrower one with the same center. What’s not viewpoint neutral is tolerating one extremity but not the other.

            P.S. There may be an argument that the Bay Area, as a legitimately definable local “wider culture”, has a different Overton window from the country as a whole. I would be worried about what that means for the apparently growing rationalist community there, considering that people who call themselves rationalist and use words like “virtue signaling” are already marked as The Enemy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Brad, I think you’re missing the point that while the memo includes politics, it was really about Google’s policies and ways to improve them. So, your example would need to be something like “how man-boy love can improve company morale” or “why support for ISIS can increase our profitability.”

          • Brad says:

            @random832

            You guys are confusing content based restriction and viewpoint based ones.

            Nonsense. Viewpoint neutrality means respecting the actual Overton window (which is an attribute of the wider culture, not something a company can choose for itself), and/or a narrower one with the same center. What’s not viewpoint neutral is tolerating one extremity but not the other.

            No it doesn’t. I don’t know where you are getting that from. It has a well defined meaning in first amendment law which is where the phrase originates and where it is overwhelmingly used.

            It doesn’t admit any exception for viewpoints that are beyond the pale.

            @Conrad Honcho

            Brad, I think you’re missing the point that while the memo includes politics, it was really about Google’s policies and ways to improve them. So, your example would need to be something like “how man-boy love can improve company morale” or “why support for ISIS can increase our profitability.”

            No I’m not missing the point. You are talking about the distinction between content based restrictions and viewpoint based ones. But companies, unlike the governments, are perfect entitled legally and ethically to engage in both and do all the time.

            If I go to a meeting and talk about how my boss’ boss is a terrible human because he is living in sin that will be treated differently in terms of my future with the company than if I go to a meeting and talk about what a great human being he is because fosters children. That’s viewpoint based discrimination. The subject matter is the same — my boss’ boss’ character on the basis of his home life — but the viewpoint is different.

            If I go to a client pitch meeting and talk about how much I love the client’s product that will be treated differently from if I go to a client pitch meeting and talk about how much I hate the client’s product. Same subject, different viewpoint.

            There’s no anti-viewpoint discrimination norm for companies, ivlln’s horror notwithstanding.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            Pedophilia and helping ISIS is illegal. AFAIK, discriminating against men/whites is not legally required.

          • random832 says:

            No it doesn’t. I don’t know where you are getting that from. It has a well defined meaning in first amendment law which is where the phrase originates and where it is overwhelmingly used.

            I have no idea what well defined legal terms have to do with anything. I am talking about the plain English meaning, as was introduced in this thread as a characterization of how Google presented its policy.

          • gbdub says:

            I think this “viewpoint neutrality” debate got a bit off the rails – I’m not really a viewpoint neutrality absolutist, I just think that if you’re going to allow discussion at all it should have a relatively wide Overton window.

            When I say that most non-Google companies are viewpoint neutral, I meant that they would consider “publicly criticizing the company” equally quash-worthy regardless of content.

            I don’t work at Google, so maybe these are mischaracterizations, but the scuttlebutt from insiders seems to indicate that this form of critical memo and robust internal discussion was not outside the norm.

            Granting that for the moment, it appears that Google’s policy seems to be “robust internal discussion, even if it’s critical of Google, so long as it doesn’t violate certain taboos about criticizing e.g. diversity initiatives”. So Google has effectively taken it up to define an Overton window for internal discussion. By not employing the industry standard “openly criticize us, get disciplined” approach (which is harsh but relatively neutral), Google opens themselves up to criticism in a couple of ways:
            1) If they are effectively employing a tight and left-biased Overton window, they ought to be clear about that upfront with their employees and the public.
            2) They may be allowed to terminate at-will employees for making politically incorrect statements (apparently defined as “questioning left-wing shibboleths, even respectfully). But the rest of us are well within our rights to say, “no Google, that’s bad, expressing these moderate views should not disqualify you for employment at Google”.

            3) (This is a bit snarky, sorry) If employees are not allowed to express the opinion that men and women have different interests, Google probably shouldn’t support and publish tips for demographically targeting ads by gender.

          • tscharf says:

            If Google wants to thought police, which is their right, then I don’t want to hear any propaganda about how they are “open to new and different ideas”.

            How can you tell if this type of stuff is propaganda? Real word test cases. Google Fail.

            It’s disappointing. I like Google. Self inflicted wound, but they were in a no win situation.

          • Matt M says:

            3) (This is a bit snarky, sorry) If employees are not allowed to express the opinion that men and women have different interests, Google probably shouldn’t support and publish tips for demographically targeting ads by gender.

            I saw a woman on Twitter last night insisting that Google adsense thinks she’s a man solely because she regularly searches for tech products.

            Possibly a lie but funny if true?

          • tscharf says:

            It is also necessary to point out that there is a very, very, large space between doing nothing and firing on first offense (if that was the case). He was likely fired because it became a PR nightmare, not because he wrote wrong-think. This will never be admitted.

            Google needs to protect its public image and chose the path it considered to be of least damage. I’m guessing the contents of the memo weren’t likely under very much discussion when the fire / not fire decision was made.

          • tscharf says:

            @Brad,

            I’m not going to stop buying Android phones because of this, but it is a first step towards that happening. If they repeatedly politicize their product then it will affect their business. I doubt very seriously they want to be put in a situation where they must alienate some subset of their customers. If they demonstrate balance in the future then no harm has been done from my viewpoint.

            This has damaged them, but it isn’t really something that was easily avoidable. I’m very much interested in anything further they have to say on the subject. The words “we don’t hate conservative viewpoints” would be helpful.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m very much interested in anything further they have to say on the subject. The words “we don’t hate conservative viewpoints” would be helpful.

            Allow me to predict the exact opposite. Something like “The fact that a Google employee could write something like this shows us that we have a long way to go in promoting our shared values.”

            Everything I’ve seen from them so far suggests they aren’t going to run from this, they’re going to double down on it.

          • Brad says:

            @tscharf
            If you think this has hurt them are you considering shorting their stock?

          • tscharf says:

            @Brad

            Search engine >> SJW witch hunt. It certainly hasn’t helped them would probably be a more agreeable statement. Painting bright lines on controversial subjects not related to your core business is not advisable, but then maybe business school has changed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @tscharf:

            He was likely fired because it became a PR nightmare, not because he wrote wrong-think. This will never be admitted.

            It’s probably not true, though this may have affected how quickly he was fired. They have fired others, for similar but smaller things, which didn’t leak to the public. Breitbart today interviews someone who mentions TGIF question-guy, fired for questioning the existence of the gender spectrum. He’s not the only one either.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m not doing a full boycott of Google, but this made me realize just how hard it would be to un-Google my life, and regardless of other things it’s scary how hard that is.

            What if there were a mob out to have google kill my gmail account? That would really suck.

            We generally have no consumer rights here. If Google deletes my account I have no legal recourse. (I’m not saying that’s good or bad, just that it is.) Switching away from the search engine is trivial. I don’t think switching my phone from Google to Apple really helps anything. Switching my gmail is a giant nightmare, although I have more options there. (I used to run my own mail server a long time ago; it was easier then, and I’m busier now, and the rise of centralization and anti-spam has made it too hard to operate my own “rogue” server.)

          • lvlln says:

            I remember seeing Jordan Peterson temporarily having his Google account deactivated – including losing years of Gmail and deactivating his YouTube account – and coming to the same realization about how tied I am to Google and how virtually impossible it would be for me to extricate myself from them.

            I have no interest in ever boycotting Google – I’d find boycotting them over firing him just as ethically unacceptable as boycotting them over having him as an employee – but certainly it’s disconcerting. I suppose I had long had unwarranted faith that Google would be a company that I would feel comfortable using, and seeing their recent actions made me realize that they’re just as untrustworthy as any other company, and it would behoove me not to let too much of my life be dependent on them, just like with any one company.

          • rlms says:

            @lvlln
            It’s odd to me that you find boycotting them for either reason unacceptable. I find boycotts to be almost always acceptable, and indeed a laudable form of protest.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            A couple of years ago I went to the trouble of figuring out how to download my entire gmail history. At that time, it was actually possible to do this; Google had a team called the Data Liberation Front whose mission was to “keep Google honest” by ensuring that nobody’s data could be held hostage. (That’s not quite the same as the risk that they would just shut down your account before you rescue the data, of course.)

            It was not easy or fast, but it did work, though since it’s just an ASCII dump it’s not terribly easy to make any use of. I wrote a few python scripts to massage it a little — get rid of all the rich representations if there was a plain-text alternative, etc.

            Perhaps it’s time to see if that’s still possible, and update my repository to include the last couple of years.

          • lvlln says:

            @rlms

            It’s odd to me that you find boycotting them for either reason unacceptable. I find boycotts to be almost always acceptable, and indeed a laudable form of protest.

            I don’t. I find boycotts for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the product to be unethical because they’re coercive with respect to actions or opinions the company or agents within the company should be free to do or say. Neither I nor anyone else should have any say in Google’s decision to fire someone or to hire someone or to keep someone hired who has expressed views that I or anyone else finds objectionable.

            I try to think of how I would react in similar but mirrored cases – if a bunch of homophobes got together and boycotted a company that had a policy of tolerating homosexual customers and employees, I would find it objectionable and unethical. Now, I’m really darn sure that my own ethical judgments are more sound than those of homophobes with respect to tolerating homosexuals, but I’m not so sure in this that I’d be comfortable with punishing people with loss of income and livelihood. And I’m highly suspect of anyone who is that sure. In my experience, the more sure someone is that their own moral judgments are better than those of the ones they consider wrong, the more unnecessary harm and suffering they tend to cause.

          • rlms says:

            @lvlln
            I favour boycotts in general in comparison to other political tactics rather than absolutely. If I’m considering an individual boycott, I unsurprisingly do base my opinions on it on which side I prefer; I wouldn’t support your homophobic boycott because I like the tactic. But (to stay with that example) I’d prefer a homophobic boycott to attempts to implement homophobic laws, homophobic “direct action”, or a popular homophobic protest. Obviously it would be nice not to have any of those, but that isn’t on the table in a free society. In comparison to other tactics, I think boycotts have a good level of effectiveness, are more likely to be reasoned and sensible, and interact with the world nicely (if you oppose a boycott, you can buy more from the company, and they aren’t as unwieldy as laws). There are exceptions: I think that boycotts of Israel are probably very ineffective regardless of your goals, and some boycotts of small companies are more like harassment campaigns. But in general I like them.

          • random832 says:

            It was not easy or fast, but it did work, though since it’s just an ASCII dump it’s not terribly easy to make any use of

            It is an “mbox” file, which can be imported into any desktop email client worth anything.

      • Deiseach says:

        If true, and it looks horribly likely, then this is every bit as bad as large construction firms keeping blacklists of workers who joined unions and fought for union representation.

        And the really nasty parts are the threats: managers talk to one another, even outside the company. You don’t know it, but we could be telling the next place you apply for a job not to hire you, and that’s before you even leave here.

        This is wrong, whether it’s right or left doing it for political or economic or social reasons of “these are unAmerican values” or “tolerate everything except intolerance”.

        • Charles F says:

          Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding it. But not that many years ago I read a summary of a developer’s experience posting about unionization (not trying to organize it, but discussing pros and cons, I think) internally at Google, being fired, and being unable to find jobs elsewhere in the area due to either stigma or literal lists.

          So, Google might have been as bad as that for quite a while.

          Fingers crossed that somebody recognizes the post I’m talking about and has done a better job keeping track of what they’ve read.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            You’re probably thinking of Michael Church. But I’ve never read anything with any detail. Maybe it was on his blog, but he deleted it. He says that it was an accident and he doesn’t mind if people poke through the archive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I heard (somewhat thirdhand — from someone who claims he heard the blackballing manager brag about it) that Michael Church was indeed fired from another company due to a Google manager talking to a friend at the company Church went to.

            I doubt discipline about unionization was the reason he left, though.

          • Charles F says:

            @Douglas Knight and Nybbler
            Yes, he was the one. Thank you.

            Looks like the accident has been corrected and his blog is back. The specific post I was thinking of was What I Fought For.

            Unsurprisingly, I had misremembered parts. He left Google (not fired) after discussing unions. But it looks like those discussions ended up public, and there’s not much reason to think his reputation problems came from Google putting him on a list rather than the controversy he was involved in being easy to find from his name.

            So while the industry probably does have some problems with unions. Google doesn’t seem to have been playing the part of the evil union buster.

            Topical quote from the linked article:

            At Google, I’d been [told] that the company was open to internal critique and, since it was my first big-company job, I was naive and took that directive literally

      • Deiseach says:

        On the topic, I saw in some coverage of L’Affaire Google that they’re fighting a case about unequal pay/gender pay gap with the US Department of Labour, so maybe one reason that they were so quick off the mark to fire the guy is to send a big message about “yes we really are diverse and take it seriously no of course this is not a cover for our hypocrisy in not paying women the same!”

      • Viliam says:

        If many people share the blacklist, I hope sooner or later someone will publish it.

    • lvlln says:

      Combining the fact that the book still got published and at least according to Amazon seems to be doing alright with the fact that the reporter could only find 1 person who wasn’t sufficiently spooked to withhold their name from the article, this seems to show that the SJW tactics are the worst of both worlds: they cause lots of pain and suffering to their victims while being also very ineffective at their ostensible goals of keeping problematic/harmful/dangerous fiction from being spread around.

      I wonder if this will lead to a change in tactics or just a redoubling in intensity of the same tactics because the previous ones clearly just weren’t powerful enough.

      • Aapje says:

        They seem to primarily measure their success by the pain they inflict, not whether they actually achieve their goals, so I would expect them to double down.

    • Urstoff says:

      I agree that culture wars have an outsized mindshare of SSC commenters, but it does seem like exactly what you’d expect from inter-tribal warfare. You would hope that a quasi/splinter group of the rationalist community would be more self-aware of their own tribal tendencies.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        How do you know I’m not self-aware of tribalism?

        • Urstoff says:

          You would also hope that a quasi/splinter group of the rationalist community would not openly and knowingly embrace tribalism.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Because tribes and tribalist behavior are advantageous in situations of open conflict. Once someone has drawn the battle lines and declared that “This Is War”, the previously linked essay about “Tolerance is not a moral virtue” (with which I tend to disagree overall) was absolutely correct that your only options are to band together into the strongest fighting force you can in order to destroy the enemy’s will and capacity to wage war, submit to their will, or flee the field of conflict.

          The problem is that the more EITHER side in a disagreement makes the claim that “This Conflict Is About Fundamental, Existential Threats”, the more rational it becomes for BOTH sides to behave accordingly, creating a spiral that can be hard to break.

          We are, thankfully, not at the tipping point yet where the sufficient number of people have been convinced that this really IS a matter of Existential Threat, but the closer you are to believing that this is true, the more logical and rational Tribal behavior becomes.

      • Aapje says:

        It’s not irrational to have more concern for those who are out to get you than those who are out to get others. Especially since the ability to help others is predicated on having power and those who threaten that power threaten your ability to help others.

    • gbdub says:

      So are any of the Damore-firing defenders willing to defend the media characterizations and hot takes of the memo?
      I’ve seen:
      “Anti-diversity manifesto”
      “Hateful and disgusting”
      “Says that women are genetically unfit for computer engineering”
      “Intolerant”
      “Author needs to take time to learn to be a human”
      “Author is clearly uncomfortable being around women in any capacity”

      It is very hard for me to square any of that with a document containing a section on “Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap” that’s all about making the workplace value women’s interests more.

      We can debate the wisdom of passing around such a document at work. We can debate whether Google had much of a choice once the thing blew up. But I would challenge anyone to make an argument as to why something like this memo and its contents should be so far outside the Overton window as to be literally intolerable.

      What is insane to me is that the core premise of the memo, “men and women have different interests, and this may be reflected in their career choices”, is something that I suspect just about everyone actually believes. And yet there’s a very vocal contingent of the media and other seemingly normal people declaring that speaking this belief out loud is “hateful, disgusting” and “intolerable”. That’s some seriously Orwellian crap right there.

      If you think polarization is a bad thing, I think you need to push back against the demonization of Damore, whether or not you agree with him. Otherwise I think this pushes a whole lot more people into the “Fuck it, Trump 2020!” camp.

      • Brad says:

        So are any of the Damore-firing defenders willing to defend the media characterizations and hot takes of the memo?

        No, they seem way over the top. On the other hand, I don’t really have any interest in defending it either. Damore supporters seem to think I’m obligated to spend hundreds of hours diving into the literature and either support or refute the arguments he made. Sorry, no. The subject isn’t interesting to me.

        If you think polarization is a bad thing, I think you need to push back against the demonization of Damore, whether or not you agree with him. Otherwise I think this pushes a whole lot more people into the “Fuck it, Trump 2020!” camp.

        I don’t think I have any such obligation. And threatening me, especially with something that’s happening regardless, doesn’t convince me otherwise.

        If you want to work on reducing polarization at home is the place to start. I see plenty of calls for understanding and being charitable towards Trump voters. Where I can go to find articles or TV segments calling on Trump voters to understand and empathize with people like me?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The word “ability” (or a form of it, its plural) only shows up once in the essay, so I’m amazed at the number of hot takes that are saying the memo is about how women lack the ability to do this work.

      • gbdub says:

        Brad, I don’t think you’re obligated to defend the content, if your arguments aren’t based on the content. But if someone is going to criticize the content, I think they should characterize the content honestly. That doesn’t mean “spend hundreds of hours diving into the literature”, it just means “don’t blatantly lie about what the document says in order to get people outraged at it”.

        I will say that you seem to think the argument should begin and end at “does Google have the right to fire him”, and that, having made that point, the rest of the discussion is just noise. I strongly disagree, because I think “ought they” is ultimately a more critical question. I’d add that, if you think they were not only within their rights but “justified”, based on the PR hit, that should at least be moderated by whether the PR hit was motivated by a sincere evaluation of Damore’s memo or by irrational and dishonest outrage-mongering.

        But the fact that you characterized my statement as “threatening” you seems to indicate you’re not willing to address this charitably anyway, so I’m probably wasting pixels.

        • Brad says:

          But the fact that you characterized my statement as “threatening” you seems to indicate you’re not willing to address this charitably anyway, so I’m probably wasting pixels.

          Maybe threatening isn’t the right word. But ‘this is how you get trump’ as an argument is both annoying and unconvincing in the absence of any kind of proffered evidence.

          I will say that you seem to think the argument should begin and end at “does Google have the right to fire him”, and that, having made that point, the rest of the discussion is just noise. I strongly disagree, because I think “ought they” is ultimately a more critical question. I’d add that, if you think they were not only within their rights but “justified”, based on the PR hit, that should at least be moderated by whether the PR hit was motivated by a sincere evaluation of Damore’s memo or by irrational and dishonest outrage-mongering.

          At-will came up in the .25 thread. Someone came back and said that’s just a legal rule and has nothing to do with ought. I don’t think that’s true. I think there is a significant, though not universal, strain in contemporary American culture that doesn’t think there’s any quasi-property interest in a job. If a company doesn’t think you are worth it anymore they are perfectly entitled (in a moral/ethical sense) to let you go.

          It’s fine enough to be on the other side of that — that there is a quasi-property right in a job and companies act unethically when they fire people without giving that right due weight. Most people outside the US have that norm, and it holds significant sway even in the US.

          But because these two ethical positions both exist to a significant extent in the US I don’t think it is helpful or conducive to understanding to pretend that the at-will one doesn’t exist. In particular, I would expect it to be fairly common among self identified libertarians — especially those of the Ayn Rand school.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not arguing against at-will employment. I’m not arguing that Damore has a “quasi-property” right to his job at Google.

            I’m arguing that canning somebody for calmly expressing a critical but ultimately moderate view is a shitty thing to do and the world would be a better place if we don’t adopt that standard.

            And yeah, “that’s how you get Trump” is trite. But Damore is exactly the sort of moderate voice that needs to be allowed in public discourse if we are going to defuse polarization, because making all the moderates shut up leaves only the extremists with nothing to lose. Note that this criticism is leveled less at Google than at the media freaking the hell out with mischaracterizations of the memo (who aren’t saying so much that “he shouldn’t say that at work” as “the view is inherently disgusting and shouldn’t be acceptable anywhere”)

          • Aapje says:

            We also have a lot of programmers here and they may, like most humans, prioritize their job safety over other concerns. So this may push people to reject those that seem OK with this (those who dominate the Democrat party, most of the media, etc).

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            I’m not sure exactly how you reconcile saying that it is a shitty thing to fire him and the world would be a worse place if that was the standard and at the same time that you aren’t arguing against an at-will employment norm.

            Under that norm google ought to fire him if he is more trouble than he’s worth. And it is pretty clear that he was at the time he was fired. Maybe we can say we hold to the norm in general, but have a few exceptions for extreme cases — like firing someone because he gets cancer or something — but this hardly seems extreme enough to trigger an exception like that.

            It seems to me that if you think google is acting unfairly and it ought not to then you are espousing the kind of non-at-will norm that thinks companies have some moral responsibility to continue employing employees unless they have a sufficient reason to cease doing so.

            From my point of view, Damore either knew he was throwing a bomb or should have known. It ended up exploding in a way that caused harm to his employer and that fact was entirely foreseeable. I don’t think it is particularity relevant that the memo was calm or that it ostensibly was supposed to help google. I don’t think it is relevant whether or not the memo was true. I don’t think it is relevant that it wasn’t written down explicitly anywhere that he could be fired for what he did. I feel for people that can’t figure out implicit rules of behavior but I don’t think the rest of the world has to change to accommodate them.

            In terms of this is how you get Trump, I disagree with your analysis. I mean I’m sure fox news and talk radio are playing this up because why not, but at the end of the day it has to do with the concerns of a small but noisy group of people that are living and working in deeply blue industries and cities but hate that tribe. Call them heretics or rebels or whatever you like, but as much as they sometimes claim to they don’t speak for the red tribe. They don’t have the same problems or concerns. Ameliorating their concerns isn’t going to win Ohio or Florida or North Carolina and no matter how much you piss them off the democrats still aren’t going to lose San Francisco or Manhattan.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Brad
            So that Freylingheusen(sp?) requested firing you linked a while ago: you were on-board with it?

          • Brad says:

            I think that situation is somewhat more problematic because Freylinghausen is a Congressman. But as I said in 81.25 I wasn’t particularly outraged by that case. I brought it up because I was wondering if it was going to be a Skokie moment for the free speech norm movement. Unfortunately it appears not to have been and as far as I know there still hasn’t been one. I have my doubts there ever will.

            Meanwhile the ACLU Virginia chapter sent a letter to Charlottesville’s government threatening to sue over Richard Spencer’s march being moved a worse venue and ACLU national is suing the Washington DC metro system on behalf of among others Milo Worldwide LLC.

          • gbdub says:

            Under that norm google ought to fire him if he is more trouble than he’s worth. And it is pretty clear that he was at the time he was fired.

            I have no problem with firing people who are more trouble than they are worth. I have a problem with a situation where writing what Damore wrote makes you more trouble than you’re worth.

            Google isn’t totally to blame for the misplaced and over-the-top outrage that made him trouble (neither is Damore), but by reacting to it, they encourage future misplaced over-the-top outrage.

            Firing Damore was probably in their immediate short-term interest. But long term I think the only solution to Twitter outrage mobbing is for a few first movers to bite the bullet and weather the mob.

            Google, being a massive near-monopoly with a motto of “don’t be evil”, with a CEO whose response to this very incident included “First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it” – Google was well positioned to be one of those first movers, and I’m disappointed that they chose not to.

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble
            Are you outraged by what’s happening to Kaepernick?

          • Matt M says:

            As a red triber, I will go on record and say that I’m minorly annoyed by the hypocrisy vis-a-vis Kapernick, sure.

            Just as I said I’m disappointed that Google just won’t come out and say “we are a socially left, progressive company and we expect our employees to behave accordingly,” I’m also disappointed that the NFL (and its various teams) won’t admit the obvious, which is to say “We are incredibly pro-military and cannot abide any action that might be construed as disrespectful to veterans, police, whatever” When Kap first started this everyone said all the right things about “he has a right to do it” and “free speech is what makes America great” but now that it comes down to it, he’s absolutely radioactive. That is, indeed, disappointing.

          • Matt M says:

            And I’ll tip my hat to Brad and say that I actually think that’s a pretty solid analogy.

            NFL teams are acting in their own rational self-interest by avoiding Kapernick, and Google is acting in its own rational self-interest by firing this guy. It’s a shame, and my own personal values and opinions do consider one of the things more shameful than the other, but that’s mostly bias talking.

          • cassander says:

            As a red triber, I will go on record and say that I’m minorly annoyed by the hypocrisy vis-a-vis Kapernick, sure.

            I think it’s worth noting that kaepernick, despite generating outrage, wasn’t immediately fired. Damore was. This speaks to me of the relative strength of the two sides.

          • Matt M says:

            True, although the Google guy was also immediately offered a job by other competitors, and Cap now can’t find one* anywhere.

            (Well, in his same career field at least. When this whole thing started, I predicted he was angling for a job as a pundit on MSNBC. I’ll bet that window is still open!)

          • gbdub says:

            I’m also fine with admitting to being a bit disturbed by Kap’s case, if he indeed is being blackballed. Somewhat less so than the Damore case, since Kap is a public facing employee performing public acts of protest in front of customers literally known as fanatics. The QB in particular is often the face of the organization, and seems to be always either the most or least popular guy on the team.

            Kap’s case is also clouded a bit since he’s, well, not that good, yet still probably demanding a premium salary.

            Still, I’m fine saying that Kap’s actions are the sort that to be inside the permissible envelope.

          • tscharf says:

            One can support the firing by Google and of Kaepernick
            simultaneously by stating private companies have a right to set their own standards. It is when you take different positions on these that it gets a bit complicated and cognitive dissonance might have to step in. These are good test cases to expose tribalism.

            The NFL knows who their customers are and disrespecting the US isn’t going to be popular among this crowd. The national anthem and patriotism are woven into football, it’s part of the appeal. If Kaepernick was playing at his previous highest level he would likely overcome this. As it is any owner knows it will not only annoy many fans but also cause him lots of PR headaches. If you hire him, how are you going to fire him without major image damage? Many players believe he may not be focused on winning games and that’s very important here.

            The argument can be made that the NFL is the antithesis of a social justice problem. A 70% black sport based (almost, ha ha) entirely on merit in which free market salaries are very high. Round hole, square peg.

            The NFL is also paid entertainment, fans voluntarily pay a lot of money for these games and they simply don’t want to undergo condescending lectures from pampered millionaires as part of the process. They should have a right to not listen to social justice lectures at football games. Damore wasn’t posting sexist comments on the Google home page.

            I see this as even worse than Hollywood giving political diatribes during awards ceremonies where they abuse their acting talent to beat you over the head with a political opinion they have no particular expertise in, at least they don’t do this in the middle of a movie.

            Kaepernick is different in many aspects (he didn’t get fired, he’s an outward facing paid entertainer, it’s a public protest, etc.) but it is still a good test case to ask about relative to Google. For those that don’t know, he has promised to stand up during games this year if he is hired.

          • gbdub says:

            Actually I think Brad’s question to the pro-Damore side can be flipped:

            How many people would actually de-Google their lives if Damore weren’t fired?

            I suspect the number would still be small. Whereas the right-or-wrong impression of the NFL getting overpoliticized does seem to be driving away measurable numbers of customers.

            This doesn’t reduce my discomfort with political litmus tests for employment, but I think it would potentially show blacklisting Kaepernick to be more bottom-line justifiable than firing Damore.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I don’t follow sports, so I hadn’t been aware of Kaepernick, but if he’s effectively being blacklisted then yes, I think that’s wrong. And again, I draw a hard, bright line between what should be made illegal, and what is ethical or unethical.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Brad
            The latest in Kaepernick was off my radar but, now that you mention it, yeah, that’s not cool. I find it difficult to muster much outrage on behalf of professional sportsballers but, yes, the principle still applies and I’ll call foul on the NFL. …Though I can’t really express that materially since I already don’t give a shit about them.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Unfortunately, I think we’re quickly going to find ourselves with the hot-button issues of “is it okay to fire my black assistant to appease my white racist customers?” or “is it okay to ban burning the Koran because other people will riot?” I say those are both wrong, but evaluating just on the bottom-line says they are right.

            If this was all an exercise to remind us that corporations are soulless things that would kill us in our sleep, as a guy who tends to be pro-corporate: bravo.

          • tscharf says:

            If Kaepernick cares about social justice then the current environment is working out very nicely. Lots of attention for social justice, and the fans also get what they (don’t) want. It’s kind of a desired and intentional Streisand effect. Almost nobody is complaining that Kaepernick is getting attention, it’s just football NIMBY. However if Kaepernick cares about football then he is getting screwed. To the extent that he cares about both it looks like they are somewhat incompatible in the form Kaepernick would have preferred last year.

            I’m a football fan, my position on this is that if Kaepernick made a private pledge to an owner to keep the politics out of the locker room and sidelines then that would be adequate. If not, then he’s not worth it because he simply isn’t good enough to justify the headache.

          • tscharf says:

            is it okay to fire my black assistant to appease my white racist customers?

            That’s not a fair characterization. It is more accurately “Should I hire a marginally talented black assistant who is going to lecture my white male customers on social justice issues that have nothing to do with my company?”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            In regards to the Kapernick situation, I see a signifigant qualitative difference between Damore’s attempt to broach a controversial topic internally, and Kapernick’s very public protest. That said, my impression of Kapernick is that he is sincere but clueless kid who genuinely had no idea how his actions would be read by the wider population and his apparent blacklisting doesn’t sit well with me.

          • Aponymouse says:

            > sincere but clueless kid who genuinely had no idea how his actions would be read by the wider population

            As an aside, after watching a couple of Damore’s interviews, this description feels very much fitting for him as well.

      • tscharf says:

        That’s some seriously Orwellian crap right there.

        To make it even more entertaining, apparently 1984 is a very hot seller this year among the educated class. I still maintain they only buy copies that have the thought police parts redacted.

  21. qwints says:

    Eugene Volokh’s analysis of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act was much better than his fellow Euguene co-blogger. Kontorovich’s citation for the claim ” the law has been upheld against First Amendment challenges in the years after its passage” is laughably bad, although it eventually leads to a useful citation. It’s a link to his own article discussing an entirely different kind of law (withholding state funds from companies participating in the boycott. The one case he cites regarding the federal anti-boycott law is a district court level case that simply states the law is constitutional. Its authority for that proposition, Briggs & Stratton Corp. v. Baldrige, 728 F. 2d 915 (7th Cir. 1984), should have been linked directly. That case stands for the proposition that companies do not have a first amendment right to truthfully communicate to Arab boycott offices whether they do business with Israel or not – which turned entirely on whether it was commercial speech.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t read that blog regularly since it moved to WaPo, but at least when I was reading it Kontorovich was a hack that only ever wrote strained and strident defenses of Isreal and attacks on anyone that ever said anything even mildly uncomplimentary about it. I don’t know why Eugene invited him to blog frankly. Probably not quite as bad as Stewart Baker though.

  22. Murphy says:

    re:“right to try” bill

    Prediction, high confidence, once companies are no longer required to generate safety data for the drugs to actually sell them they’ll promise to do so but never actually do it and doctors will have to work half-blind without proper RCT’s on which to base decisions.

    Though i’m kind of cheating since it’s less a prediction and more what actually happened when specific drugs were given fast track approval conditional on future testing as detailed in Ben Goldacres “Bad Pharma” and “I Think You’ll Find It’s a Bit More Complicated Than That”

    • DrAwkward says:

      That would be correct, except that the bill requires the company to provide the drugs in question at cost (if they choose to provide them). So my prediction is that this bill will have minimal practical effect, as the companies will mostly just decline to provide the drugs. It’s impossible to get people to sign up for a placebo-controlled trial if they can get the same drug just by requesting it from the company.

      Where this could make a difference, and to patients’ benefit, is after the completion of phase III trials but before FDA approval. Then the company could provide the drug to patients at cost until approval. That way the drug company won’t be sabotaging their clinical trial, but helping to build a patient base for after approval.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s impossible to get people to sign up for a placebo-controlled trial if they can get the same drug just by requesting it from the company.

        I’m pretty sure that for life-threatening conditions, trials are not placebo-controlled, but rather the control is the best known current treatment method available. It’s considered unethical to give a placebo to someone dying of cancer.

        • shar says:

          Correct, and not only that, if there’s overwhelming evidence that an experimental drug is working like gangbusters there are provisions to halt the trial early so that all the patients can benefit: example, example.

          • DrAwkward says:

            All true. For “placebo-controlled trial” substitute “standard-of-care-controlled trial” and my statement is still true. And halting a trial early based on overwhelming evidence of benefit, that only happens after the trial is fully (or at least heavily) enrolled. So let’s say this law could get experimental drugs to patients after pivotal trials are enrolled but before drug approval. That can be well over a year, so hypothetically it could be a significant benefit.

  23. Joyously says:

    On Chinese elites:

    I used to work with a girl whose father was a physics graduate student during the Cultural Revolution. He was sent to a labor camp. (She says it happened exactly like the scene in Three Body Problem). His daughter studied engineering, married an engineer, and they both went on to get PhDs in the U.S.

    I would suspect there are different kinds of “elites.” The technical/scientific elite I would suspect is particularly hard to keep down. Alternately, I know a few descendants of slave-owners back in Mississippi. 150 years after the abolition of slavery, they are… not elite. Knowing a bit about the history of the local plantations, most of these families fell from the highest class within 1-2 generations.

  24. Jiro says:

    Any kid born with a correctable genetic disorder after today is going to have one heck of a legitimate grievance against our philosophical establishment.

    Phrased differently, you’re saying “if one person is helped by X, we are irresponsible in not allowing X immediately”.

    That doesn’t follow. It’s possible that that particular kid would have been helped, but the overall process would have hurt some other people, either other kids, or other people by creating bad incentives. Or perhaps there is just some probability that the procedure is safe for everyone and some probability that it is not, and until we know we must treat it as though it has a probability of danger that is the result of weighing those results.

  25. Lasagna says:

    I love link-sharing days. 🙂 Thanks Scott.

    One question, because I’m dumb:

    That 3-D graph is awesome, but what new conclusions can we glean from it? All I see is a dramatic representation of the massive margin of victory for Clinton in the few counties she won, vs. the lower margins of victory for Trump for the massive number of counties HE won. But we already knew that – I work in Manhattan, and the unity of thought here can be frightening. People at my office – including people in charge, who are typically terrified of offending people under them – say truly vile things about Trump supporters in meetings of 20 people, secure that if anyone complained, their career would be destroyed and they’d probably be fired. But I already knew this; what new information does that graph give me?

    • JonathanD says:

      Not conclusions as such, but it illustrates something that the normal 2d map hides. You look at the usual county map and you see a massive sea of red with little islands of blue. You might be justified in thinking the red tribe is ever regnant, and the blue will soon disappear, to be followed in a decade or so by a new split and two new red sub-tribes fighting it out. But tilt the map and put the populations on there and you can see that this is nonsense. Yes, we blues are in the wilderness right now, but we’re not some tiny minority, we just like city life and tend to concentrate there. Again, nothing that everyone doesn’t already know, but the usual graphic is very deceptive, this one more accurately shows the state of the country.

    • shar says:

      Are you certain you’re reading the map correctly? I found it somewhat difficult because the full annotation is hidden behind the “i” button on the upper right, but the heights correspond to the county population (actually, total votes cast). The colors represent the victory margins, and most of the map is maximally red. This accords with my understanding that both Clinton and Trump racked up massive margins in their respective bases.

      As to what more we can learn, your guess is as good as mine. Much like that famous map of Napoleon’s march it’s a tour de force of infographic design, but I didn’t really need it to understand that you don’t invade Russia in the winter.

      • Lasagna says:

        I totally wasn’t reading the map correctly. 🙂 I thought the height was tied to the margin of victory. But you’re right, it’s population.

        NOW it’s kind of blowing my mind. Real Clear Politics ran what I thought was a great analysis of the 2016 election that never seemed to get a lot of attention (you can see the conclusions here, but I think it’s worth reading the whole thing). The analyses basically examines the margin of victory for the last few elections based on mega-city vs. large city vs. small city vs. suburb vs. rural. And you can watch, over the years, as the Democrats gain increasingly huge victories in the mega cities, stay strong in the large ones, and fall off a cliff everywhere else. If I’m remembering correctly.

        But seeing those population differences represented in this map is nuts. There really are almost no counties with huge populations that went for Trump (I guess that one giant red one on the East Coast is Staten Island? Or maybe Suffolk? I wish this thing was labeled), and my god, NOBODY else was interested in her.

        JohnathanD, I feel like if you’re taking solace in looking at this thing, you might be wearing rose-tinted glasses. Besieged islands are not good places to be.

        • Brad says:

          It appears to be Suffolk county. What’s the giant pink pillar in Arizona (I think)?

          • gbdub says:

            Maricopa County (Phoenix). It is the fourth-largest US county by population.

            EDIT: More data – Maricopa hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1948. This was the third lowest vote percentage for the Republican candidate since that time. The R/D/3rd party split went from 54.3 / 43.6 / 2.1 in 2012 to 47.7 / 44.8 / 7.5(!) in 2016.

        • JonathanD says:

          Better than being part of a vanishing tribe. In 2008 my party had the House, the Presidency and sixty senators. 2008 feels very far away right now. Seeing those giant dark blue pillars is a pleasant reminder that those times aren’t so very far away, and might come again.

          And despite being altogether out of power due to rural affirmative action, it’s pleasant to remember that there are more of us.

  26. apollocarmb says:

    I really hate the “Venezuala is an example of socialism failing” nonsense. 70% of the venezualan economy is privately owned. Even if Venezuala was socialist it is still wrong, the crisis is caused by oil prices not government policies.

    The Venezualan economy has more in common with the American economy then it does with the Cuban one

    • Joyously says:

      Oil prices only have the capacity to cause this crisis because of government policy. After nationalizing the oil companies, the government used profits on anti-poverty programs at the expense of properly maintaining oil facilities. They also drove away many of the people who knew how oil processing worked. This caused oil production to drop continually, which meant when prices fell their revenues dropped like a stone. And once they didn’t have that income anymore, the government chose to institute price controls and print huge amounts of money…

      *Edited: They nationalized a GE plant a few months ago. I bet that’s going to come back to haunt them.

      • apollocarmb says:

        Can you provide any evidence for those claims?
        Regardless Venezuala cannot be used as an argument against socialism or nationalisation.

        • gbdub says:

          If government mismanagement of the 30% of the economy they own directly was sufficient to collapse the whole thing, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of giving them the other 70%.

          There’s an apt joke going around Twitter that goes something like “The difference between a Nazi and a Communist is that, when you say how awful Nazis have been, Nazis don’t say ‘that’s only because real Nazism has never been tried'”

          • apollocarmb says:

            At best the crisis in Venezuela is an argument against giving control of the economy to the Venezuelan government not governments in general.

            Well Maduro isn’t a communist, he isn’t even a Marxist. Also communism has never been tried. Communism is a society that abides by Marx’s slogan “From each according to his ability to each according to his need”.

            China, Soviet Union etc aren’t/didn’t abide by that principle, they didn’t even pretend to. No communist says “real communism hasn’t been tried”. A communist says “communism hasn’t been tried”.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            What is the unique failing of the Venezuelan government that you perceive?

          • herbert herberson says:

            I know plenty of real communists who think that communism was tried, and was successful in, e.g., defeating fascism, putting a human being into space, achieving mass literacy, dramatically increasing living standards, etc., etc., etc. They note that the Ukrainian famine occurred during the Great Depression and that the scholarly consensus denies it being purposeful, and that while the famine under Mao was bad, it was also the last one ever (with previous famines in China occurring in 1942, 1936, 1928, 1911, 1896, etc, etc, etc). That the gulags might have had their excesses, but affected far fewer people than the US prison system; that Pol Pot’s regime was a disaster, but was a direct result of US bombing and also was ended by another communist regime.

            Not all communists are trots.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @herbert herbertson

            I’d argue that the major failing of communism as historically experienced was the vanguard party system. When you put a small number of people in charge, they somehow never get around to distributing the power, and the smaller the number of people in charge, the greater the chance of one particularly bad ruler causing major problems – eg, the history of the USSR shows political repression decreasing a great deal after Stalin, and decreasing qualitatively especially (a much lower body count). The majority of credible numbers for the body count of communism can be laid at the door of a small number of rulers, by and large.

            (I’d put this in the open thread but 81.5 is Naval War not Culture War)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Clever as that joke is, it also appears to work if you substitute “capitalist” for “communist”.

          • Aapje says:

            @apollocarmb

            From each according to his ability to each according to his need

            That is a desired end state. If people who claim to be communists keep doing things that don’t result in that, but instead result in suffering and deaths, then perhaps they should come up with a new plan how to achieve their ideal, rather than to keep doing the same thing.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @dndnrsn I’d agree that centralizing authority raises the risks of incompetent or malign leadership; the problem is that (as contemporary fascists are fond of reminding us via their o-so-cute helicopter ride memes) failing to centralize authority raises a risk of your regime being violently overthrown by anti-democratic political enemies.

          • Guy in TN says:

            A lot of oil-rich countries (Russia, for example) have been suffering due to the low price of oil. Too much natural gas and oil shale. Also, the CIA is actively trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government, which I imagine is causing some problems.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @herbert herbertson

            But if the choices are “get overthrown by anti-democratic elements” or “be anti-democratic yourself”…

            I think that historically Lenin and Mao come out looking better than Stalin, considerably so, because they were dealt more difficult hands. Eg, the Ukrainian Famine started out as a crop failure, but government policies made it worse, and then the secret police embarked on a mission to find a Ukrainian conspiracy that didn’t exist, etc etc.

            I guess my personal feeling is that “communism accomplished some great things at great cost” is an accurate statement, but I have run into communists who default to “what cost?”

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            > That the gulags might have had their excesses

            Yeah, “Hitler may have had his excesses, but…”. Astonishing.

            > historically Lenin and Mao come out looking better than Stalin

            I don’t know about Mao, but Lenin surely didn’t. It’s just he had much less time, and because he was pretty much God figure in the USSR, his crimes were less publicized. But if you read how he managed affairs, he was no less bloodthirsty, cruel and murderous than Stalin.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @MostlyCredibleHulk

            A decent chunk of Lenin’s crimes happened during a period of civil war and consolidation of power, while Stalin’s crimes took place after Soviet power had been consolidated. Not a cinnamon roll by any means, and the whole “Lenin was OK; Stalin was a bad guy” thing is ahistorical apologism, but I believe you can rank these things, and Stalin does come out looking worse.

          • Matt M says:

            Sounds like the key to having a positive historical legacy is to ensure your successor is an incompetent tyrant.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            I’d argue that the major failing of communism as historically experienced was the vanguard party system.\

            Then that failure is intrinsic to the nature of communist ideology. Marx didn’t use the phrase vanguard party, but his notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat was functionally identical. Marx explicitly called for mass terror and liquidation of class enemies on a mass scale. Lenin did nothing marx didn’t want done.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Herbert Herberson – “that Pol Pot’s regime was a disaster, but was a direct result of US bombing and also was ended by another communist regime.”

            Which US bombing campaign forced the communists to empty the cities and move everyone to the countryside? Which bombing campaign drove them to kill people for wearing spectacles? Which one drove them to adopt the slogan, “To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss”?

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yeah, “Hitler may have had his excesses, but…”. Astonishing.

            The fact that you think a harsh prison camp system is in any way equivalent to systematic extermination isn’t astonishing, considering the language we’re using, but it is certainly telling. Solzhenitsyn wasn’t liberated by an invading army; he didn’t make a daring escape. He served his 8-year sentence and was released–how many of the Jews in Nazi Germany can make such a claim?

            Which US bombing campaign forced the communists to empty the cities and move everyone to the countryside? Which bombing campaign drove them to kill people for wearing spectacles? Which one drove them to adopt the slogan, “To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss”?

            The ones that killed at least 150 thousand people, and quite possibly more than half a million. When you use 540,000 tons of bombs to send an already-poor country back into the stone age, stone-age thinking in roughly cast in a ideological mold that opposes those who committed the initial atrocity is one of the possible results.

            It’s kind of amazing that a group of people who are preoccupied, above all, with the trauma of social ostracisation, can look at countries like Cambodia and Iraq, places where totally gratuitous U.S. actions resulted in six-figure death tolls–places where practically everyone will know one of the dead, every other person will have lost their home or livelihood, hundreds of thousands will have had a child or parent violently torn from them, entire communities suffering from Present-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder without so much as a single buspirone in sight–and say, as civil society dissolves and sociopaths mouthing whatever is convenient precipitate to the top, “clearly this is the fault of the pernicious ideology of Communism/Islam!”

          • cassander says:

            The ones that killed at least 150 thousand people, and quite possibly more than half a million. When you use 540,000 tons of bombs to send an already-poor country back into the stone age, stone-age thinking in roughly cast in a ideological mold that opposes those who committed the initial atrocity is one of the possible results.

            you are vastly overestimating the efficacy of bombing.

            It’s kind of amazing that a group of people who are preoccupied, above all, with the trauma of social ostracisation, can look at countries like Cambodia and Iraq, places where totally gratuitous U.S. actions resulted in six-figure death tolls–places where practically everyone will know one of the dead, every other person will have lost their home or livelihood, hundreds of thousands will have had a child or parent violently torn from them, entire communities suffering from Present-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder without so much as a single buspirone in sight–and say, as civil society dissolves and sociopaths mouthing whatever is convenient precipitate to the top, “clearly this is the fault of the pernicious ideology of Communism/Islam!”

            Well one, bombing doesn’t cause PTSD. it’s too impersonal. the evidence for this is legion from ww2 and studies of german and british moral.

            And two, what I find amazing is how communism leads to mass killing anywhere and everywhere it’s tried, with zero exceptions, but somehow, every time it was caused by bad luck and outsiders. Literally no other has such a terrible record, even fascism, has a few cases that achieve quasi success, and that don’t lead to tens of thousands of deaths. But communists, man, they just are always doing the best they can in a bad situation.

          • And two, what I find amazing is how communism leads to mass killing anywhere and everywhere it’s tried, with zero exceptions,

            Ditto fascism, ditto capitalism. You are going to have to narrow it down to not killing their own citizens to find a non mass killing system.

          • John Schilling says:

            Solzhenitsyn wasn’t liberated by an invading army; he didn’t make a daring escape. He served his 8-year sentence and was released–how many of the Jews in Nazi Germany can make such a claim?

            Solzhenitsyn was “released” after eight years only insofar as internal exile to a remote village somehow doesn’t count as imprisonment. And denied medical care for cancer and other illnesses contracted during the eight years of actual imprisonment at forced labor and with inadequate food, clothing, and shelter. For which the appropriate herbersonian apology is apparently “hey, at least we didn’t literally execute you, so shut up already!”

            May I assume you would be similarly apologetic if, e.g., Jerry Brown were to reopen Alcatraz for the “rehabilitation” of James Damore and the other techbro thoughtcriminals of Silicon Valley?

          • Chalid says:

            what I find amazing is how communism leads to mass killing anywhere and everywhere it’s tried, with zero exceptions

            I totally agree that communism is terrible, but I have to note that Cuba and much of Eastern Europe are actually exceptions here, subject I suppose to definitional quibbles. Which actually is a large fraction of the communist governments that have existed.

          • Civilis says:

            Ditto fascism, ditto capitalism. You are going to have to narrow it down to not killing their own citizens to find a non mass killing system.

            I certainly don’t remember any cases of the Swiss engaging in anything remotely describable as mass killing. There, an exception. How many more would you like me to find?

            Yes, many Western governments have a history of doing unsavory things, up to and including mass murder. Capitalism only talks about the private, individual ownership and management of the means of production. Other economic systems state it’s the government (or ‘communities’ or ‘workers’ as a collective class and effectively the government) duty to control the means of production for various purposes.

            It makes no sense to blame the Irish potato famine, to take an example of a peacetime famine occurring in a non-socialist Western state, on private ownership and management of the means of production when the famine was caused because of government forced confiscation and redistribution of land and government import restrictions and tariffs on grain. Look at any recent famine in this era when we can import and export food, and you’ll see a government messing something up.

            Mercantilism (“an economic system developing during the decay of feudalism to unify and increase the power and especially the monetary wealth of a nation by a strict governmental regulation of the entire national economy usually through policies designed to secure an accumulation of bullion, a favorable balance of trade, the development of agriculture and manufactures, and the establishment of foreign trading monopolies”) is not capitalism. It’s also not socialism, even if the means sometimes seem very similar.

            When we see a socialist government like Venezuela redistribute the land and put price controls on food, we know that this is going to reduce the amount of food produced, not because we know socialism is bad, but because we know land redistribution and price controls reduce the amount of food produced. The problem isn’t that socialism is inherently bad, the problem is that government controls on economic activity inherently lead to problems like famine, and socialism by nature requires government (or what is effectively a government in practice if not in name) to control the economy, at least for the forseeable future (utopian post-scarcity systems excepted).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            For which the appropriate herbersonian apology is apparently “hey, at least we didn’t literally execute you, so shut up already!”

            May I assume you would be similarly apologetic if, e.g., Jerry Brown were to reopen Alcatraz for the “rehabilitation” of James Damore and the other techbro thoughtcriminals of Silicon Valley?

            Come on man, you’re better than this.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yes, many Western governments have a history of doing unsavory things, up to and including mass murder. Capitalism only talks about the private, individual ownership and management of the means of production.

            Haliburton? Whatever Blackwater’s name is this week? They may not have been directly responsible for the shit in the ME they profited on, but when your business model is “we seek out mass murder to profit off of” then capitalism is not so easily compartmentalized.

            Don’t get me wrong, the communist whataboutism going on is the usual dumb apples vs oranges, but this is not a good pro-capitalism argument.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Yes, many Western governments have a history of doing unsavory things, up to and including mass murder. Capitalism only talks about the private, individual ownership and management of the means of production.

            I see how it is: Communism must be judged by the governments it created, while capitalism can only be judged based on its pure ideology.

            It makes no sense to blame the Irish potato famine, to take an example of a peacetime famine occurring in a non-socialist Western state, on private ownership and management of the means of production when the famine was caused because of government forced confiscation and redistribution of land and government import restrictions and tariffs on grain

            Likewise, it makes no sense to blame the gulags on communism, since they were maintained only by a small group of government elites, and communism is the creation of a classless, stateless society. The gulags were literally not communist, just like the Irish potato famines was literally not capitalist.

            we know land redistribution and price controls reduce the amount of food produced

            From what I’ve read, some of the changing of land ownership in Venezuela was an attempt to turn uncultivated land into cultivated land. This would increase food production.

            The U.S. government once threatened to confiscate my families land to build a water reservoir. I would not of liked this, but it would have been silly to say that the “confiscation of land decreased the government’s water-holding capacities”.

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            Also, the East India Company and similar.

          • Nornagest says:

            Boy, I sure love whataboutism. Did we get linked somewhere? I’m used to seeing this type of argument on Reddit, not here.

          • Civilis says:

            Haliburton? Whatever Blackwater’s name is this week? They may not have been directly responsible for the shit in the ME they profited on, but when your business model is “we seek out mass murder to profit off of” then capitalism is not so easily compartmentalized.

            Don’t get me wrong, the communist whataboutism going on is the usual dumb apples vs oranges, but this is not a good pro-capitalism argument.

            Is “we seek out mass murder to profit off of” a charitable description of either company’s business model? Would you describe countries that contribute to UN peacekeeping forces as ‘profiting off of mass murder’?

            Industrialist Armand Hammer supported the nascent Soviet Union. A lot of German industrialists supported the fascist Nazi party. The Chinese Communist government, the Saudi theocratic monarchy and the Russian oligopoly that spun off from the fall of the Soviet Union have produced a sizable amount of billionaires. Business and capitalism are not interchangable. ‘A business did something bad, therefore capitalism is bad’ is bad logic, as is ‘a government did something bad, therefore socialism is bad’.

            You can say a flaw of capitalism is that it doesn’t concern itself with moral judgements outside the scope of economic policy, which is rational. The problem is that someone is making those non-economic decisions, and that’s where you need to look. Is it right for the US to do business with China or Saudi Arabia? Capitalism doesn’t say. But there’s a big difference between ‘this political and economic system can’t be put into place without bad economic consequences’ and ‘this economic system can coexist with both good and bad political systems, and occasionally those bad political systems cause bad consequences’.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Solzhenitsyn was “released” after eight years only insofar as internal exile to a remote village somehow doesn’t count as imprisonment. And denied medical care for cancer and other illnesses contracted during the eight years of actual imprisonment at forced labor and with inadequate food, clothing, and shelter. For which the appropriate herbersonian apology is apparently “hey, at least we didn’t literally execute you, so shut up already!”

            A. Still better than fucking Auschwitz for chrissake

            B. Harsh treatment notwithstanding, Solzhenitsyn lived a long life, long enough to get his wish; he lived to see the Soviet regime fall to a popular movement eager to open up to the benevolent Westerners they’d been told about. And ever since then, it’s been nothing but prosperity and freedom for those who were formerly cruelly oppressed by the evils of Communism!

          • Guy in TN says:

            “Whataboutism” is the inevitable result of pots not thinking through the accusations they make at kettles. In any other context it would be called “pointing out hypocrisy”. But for some reason, we have invented a word that justifies judging communists by an standard you would never judge capitalists by, and dismisses analyzing both sides as propaganda.

            If I wanted to be obnoxious, I would advocate for communists to adopt the term themselves. Just make accusations that apply equally or more so to yourself, as dismiss any response from capitalists that isn’t remorseful soul-searching as “whataboutism”.

            “This conversation isn’t about our system, it’s about yours, stop trying to change the subject to Taiwan when I accuse capitalists of imperialism”

          • Civilis says:

            Likewise, it makes no sense to blame the gulags on communism, since they were maintained only by a small group of government elites, and communism is the creation of a classless, stateless society. The gulags were literally not communist, just like the Irish potato famines was literally not capitalist.

            While a true communist state would obviously not have a gulag, it seems that creating and filling gulags (or laogai, or re-education camps, or mass graves) are necessary to get rid of the state and achieve true communism.

            You have to have a plan to get to that classless, stateless society. You can’t just wave a magic wand, and suddenly the state has withered away. If the transition from something else to communism inevitably involves a lot of people dying and always ends up stuck with a horribly oppressive, corrupt and bloated state, then there’s no reason to believe that a communist who doesn’t have a magic wand can actually achieve communism. If there is no plan to actually achieve communism, there’s no reason to treat a communist that doesn’t just sit around wishing for a post scarcity economy as anything other than a charlatan. Communists in power are responsible for the eggs they have to break in their latest attempt to get to communism, even if that true communism will somehow be a utopia.

            On the other hand, the transition from a mercantilist economy to a free market economy is nowhere near as dangerous, and states closer along to a free market are noticeably better off than when they were more mercantilist.

            From what I’ve read, some of the changing of land ownership in Venezuela was an attempt to turn uncultivated land into cultivated land. This would increase food production.

            Yes, and it failed, and people told them that it would fail, like the last dozen times it was tried. And rather than try to reset things back to the way it was, they doubled down and set more price controls and confiscated more land.

            The U.S. government once threatened to confiscate my families land to build a water reservoir. I would not of liked this, but it would have been silly to say that the “confiscation of land decreased the government’s water-holding capacities”.

            No, but it would have had other negative economic impacts. You don’t have knowledge of how to produce water, for one thing. The farm issue is that taking farms from people that know how to farm and giving them to people that don’t has a cause and effect relationship with the production of food. Likewise, taking oil field service jobs from trained mechanics and giving them to government cronies lowers oil output.

            The US is odd in that government intervention in food production hasn’t led to hunger, instead it’s led to massive environmental damage and an obesity epidemic, plus a lot of government surplus cheese. That’s because unlike Venezuela, the US president can’t just impose a new legislature when the old one won’t let him get his way, so we just get massive waste rather than starvation. Government control of the economy blocks the normal self-correction mechanisms.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Of course no one actually achieves communism. Like the “free market”, it is an ideology that one would be foolish to actually attempt to create a pure version of. Hence why every nation has some combination of private and public ownership.

            I’m concerned that people are using good and correct criticisms of communism to reach the conclusion of “therefore, pure capitalism is good”. There are certain balances along the spectrum that end in more bloodshed than others. As the Nordics have shown, you can have generous welfare state, extensive labor regulation, and even state owned enterprises, without resulting in gulags.

            The US is odd in that government intervention in food production hasn’t led to hunger, instead it’s led to massive environmental damage and an obesity epidemic, plus a lot of government surplus cheese.

            This is a trade-off I’m happy to make. I’ve never understood the argument of “government intervention in the market is always inefficient”. Economic efficiency is inseparable from normative values. And since one person’s goals may be diametrically opposed to another’s, the idea of something being always inefficient doesn’t make sense from the start. For example, if you want markets to transfer goods to those who are willing to pay the most for them, then markets are efficient. If that isn’t your goal, then markets may be inefficient. I really don’t care what else those landowners planned to do with the land in Venezuela, from my perspective it was good that the land was confiscated and turned into crops. Some trade-offs are worth making.

          • Civilis says:

            If I wanted to be obnoxious, I would advocate for communists to adopt the term themselves. Just make accusations that apply equally or more so to yourself, as dismiss any response from capitalists that isn’t remorseful soul-searching as “whataboutism”.

            Almost every defense of communism on the internet already adopts the tactics you describe. Apollocarmb’s intiial post is a textbook example of ‘but it wasn’t really socialism’ with the addition of blaming it on capitalism, which is why I responded so strongly.

            I want to avoid having millions of people starve to death in the future, which is why I looked at what causes famines in the modern era, and found inevitably it has to do with either conflict or governments doing things like redistributing land and imposing price controls. Sometimes it’s non-socialist governments doing it, and I’ve said it’s a bad thing, but what really matters is looking into why it happened, and if your reasoning stops at ‘well, they weren’t true socialists’ then the problem is never going to resolve itself. Playing gotcha games where you attribute blindly to your enemies everything bad in the world doesn’t solve anything.

            If you’re really a socialist, then you should be spending more time arguing against political parties (such as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela) that are giving socialism a bad name, because for most of the world, that’s what socialism is. You also need to speak up ahead of time when self-identified socialist parties put into place policies that are going to lead to disasters like Venezuela, because that’s how socialism looks to the world. More importantly, it’s how it looks to the people starving to death in Venezuela.

            That these aren’t true socialism to your personal definition doesn’t matter. What matters is that these parties are the face of socialism. There are more of them than there are of you, and they run countries, so their defining themselves as socialist matters, because they’re winners, and they write the books.

            Those of us on the right could see disaster coming, and spoke up about it, and were proven right. That makes us look good. I’d still rather it never have happened. People are going to starve to death in the future, some under socialist governments, some not. What matters is that this is a case where we could have tried to stop it, and socialists didn’t because it would make socialism look bad, and so now people are dying and socialism is rightly or wrongly getting the blame.

          • Civilis says:

            Of course no one actually achieves communism. Like the “free market”, it is an ideology that one would be foolish to actually attempt to create a pure version of. Hence why every nation has some combination of private and public ownership.

            Then why do so many people claim to be communists? If they all know this is a sham, why are they reverently carrying around pictures of literal mass murderers and treating them as saints? If they are fools, why do so many people listen to them?

            I’m concerned that people are using good and correct criticisms of communism to reach the conclusion of “therefore, pure capitalism is good”. There are certain balances along the spectrum that end in more bloodshed than others. As the Nordics have shown, you can have generous welfare state, extensive labor regulation, and even state owned enterprises, without resulting in gulags.

            I and all the socialists in the thread are talking about the state owning the means of production. The initial post in this thread says Venezuela isn’t socialist because the state has only managed to take 30% of the means of production. If you’re saying ‘we should be like the Nordic countries’ I have no problem with you. The problem is in the person at the top of the thread saying ‘Venezuela is capitalism’s fault, it’s not that the government totally screwed up the supply of food in the name of socialism, it’s the 70% the government hasn’t taken’. At one point, the people of Venezuela had enough food. Then the government of Venezuela (under the banner of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela) did something, and now people are starving.

            This is a trade-off I’m happy to make. I’ve never understood the argument of “government intervention in the market is always inefficient”. Economic efficiency is inseparable from normative values. And since one person’s goals may be diametrically opposed to another’s, the idea of something being always inefficient doesn’t make sense from the start. For example, if you want markets to transfer goods to those who are willing to pay the most for them, then markets are efficient. If that isn’t your goal, then markets are inefficient.

            Yes, there are other valid goals for government policy besides efficiency. A rich enough country can even afford a little inefficiency. The problem is that it’s a slippery slope; you don’t know what level of inefficiency will cause a spiral out of control, like Venezuela. I’m sure Chavez didn’t think his little modifications were going to lead to the people starving, but they did. Redistribute and price control, less food, more redistribution and price controls to ‘fix’ the food problem, even less food, and on and on until everyone is on a forced diet.

          • cassander says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z says:

            Ditto fascism, ditto capitalism. You are going to have to narrow it down to not killing their own citizens to find a non mass killing system.

            this demonstrates a basic failure of math. 100% of communist states engaged in mass killing. Some lower percentage of capitalist states. I don’t care to argue over the percentage, as others have pointed out many of the states you’ve called capitalist explicitly rejected capitalism, but the ratio is still far lower. By your logic, playing Russian roulette with 6 bullets in the gun is just as dangerous as with one.

          • I certainly don’t remember any cases of the Swiss engaging in anything remotely describable as mass killing

            Pretty well everybody has fought a war at some time.

          • Civilis says:

            The last war the Swiss fought was a civil war in 1847 (predating their current constitution), which caused less than 100 casualties. There were no mass graves, no death camps, no re-education camps, and no forced labor camps. The last international war the Swiss fought in was the Napoleonic war, and that’s because they were invaded by the French. There was no Swiss Empire and the Swiss never colonized anyone. There is no Swiss Stasi, and the Swiss government doesn’t need to have a policy of deadly force against people that want to leave the country.

            In this thread, we have someone citing Cuba as an example of a ‘communist’ state that didn’t feature mass killing. The Swiss civil war probably killed less people than Che Guevera killed personally during the Cuban revolution.

          • rlms says:

            Historically, the Swiss were famous mercenaries, and therefore extremely good a great example of a group profiting from mass killing (in the context of war). That’s not really relevant here though.

          • Aapje says:

            The papacy still has Swiss Guards.

        • Civilis says:

          Regardless Venezuala cannot be used as an argument against socialism or nationalisation.

          Sure it can! “The example of countries like Venezuela shows that socialism and nationalization can lead to bad end results.”

          Venezuela doesn’t prove socialism is bad; it’s merely a data point, one of many data points. There are a number of conclusions you can draw from those data points, including “people that call themselves socialists or communists that get into political power have a history of horrible failure”.

          That Venezuela only nationalized the oil industry isn’t evidence that it’s not socialism, at least by the commonly used definitions. Here are the first definition from the internet:
          a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
          The Venezuelan redistribution of farmland and imposition of price controls has been going on for more than a decade, and it certainly counts as ‘regulated by the community as a whole’.

          What’s more important is that the results of this governmental control of the economy and the increasing repression were correctly predicted by free market advocates well in advance even while self-described socialists were singing Chavez’s praises.

          Here’s a wonderfully useful article from 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/19/AR2009061903400.html. Some choice quotes:
          Those who take over are promised courses in farming; some are settled in newly built communes. The policy is rooted in a 2001 law and driven by Chávez’s insistence that the land belongs to everyone.
          “The land is for those who work it,” the president said, adding that those who do not produce lose “their right to occupy the land.”
          But production of some of the mainstays of Venezuelan agriculture — beef, rice, sugar cane, milk — has fallen off, economists and food producers say. They attribute the contraction to the chilling effects of the land-confiscation program and government-set price controls.
          She said that in Venezuela, the new farmers are not even given title to the lands they occupy. In some cases, they are grouped into communes and expected to work as a unit, with little stake in their plots.

          And last:
          “That is socialism,” she said. “It did not work before, and it does not work now.”

          • apollocarmb says:

            Venezuela isn’t socialist. 70% of the economy is under private ownership. This is just brute fact.

            Denying it just makes you look like an incompetent fool.

          • Civilis says:

            Denying it just makes you look like an incompetent fool.

            We live in the real world. A socialist that takes executive power in a constitutional democracy in a government with constitutional separation of powers isn’t going to be able to immediately nationalize the entire economy. Instead, he’s going to have to do it piece by piece. Vital industries, such as oil production, are going to be easier to justify taking over than mon-and-pop stores. Bigger farms are going to be easier to find an excuse to seize and redistribute than small farms.

            While Chavez and his successor haven’t yet nationalized 100% of the economy, that they couldn’t immediately do so doesn’t make them non-socialists, and what they have done to Venezuela’s economy with the power they have has been indistinguishable from what a dedicated socialist would be able to do (I can’t look into their heads and see if they are true believers or not). It’s not that Venezuela’s economy is 100% public, it’s that Venezuela’s executive branch of government, which is seizing and redistributing land to the workers and nationalizing the industry, is socialist, or is using the policies and justifications of socialism indistinguishably from a real socialist.

            That the Venezuelan socialists could only nationalize 30% of the economy before the system broke down and the population started starving is evidence of the failure of government control, and hence socialism and nationalization. Venezuela was better off when less of the country was under government ownership; it could feed it’s people. That increased government control was risking a food shortage was obvious in 2009 well before the oil price collapse. 30% government ownership is this bad, why does anyone think 100% ownership will somehow be better?

            I’m sure a lot of the socialists that took power started with good intentions. Some of them, like the Bolsheviks, had more control of their country than others, and in those cases, they nationalized and redistributed quicker and the system became a bigger disaster. All of the countries that have managed 100% government control of the economy have had to walk it back with liberalisation by allowing some private ownership, even (apparently) North Korea.

            The fact that my model seems to much more closely model the real world than yours suggests I’m neither incompetent nor a fool.

        • cassander says:

          >Can you provide any evidence for those claims?

          Of course not. socialism causing complete and utter disaster exactly as was predicted it would has no bearing on anything! After a century of this sort of failure, people starved to death by socialism again, you’re on the level of holocaust deniers.

          • apollocarmb says:

            Please explain to me how an economy which is 70% under private ownership is a socialist economy. Good luck with that.

            Far more people have started to death under capitalism. Why aren’t you denouncing and blaming capitalism? Famines in socialist countries were caused by external forces, not socialism itself.

            Even if you are right, economic problems can be caused by things other than how the economy is run. Do you deny this?

          • cassander says:

            Please explain to me how an economy which is 70% under private ownership is a socialist economy. Good luck with that.

            I didn’t call it socialism, its proponents did. And so did millions around the world who call themselves socialists. You can’t accuse me of mis-representing as socialism something socialists call socialism. THis is a very old and tired argument.

            Far more people have started to death under capitalism. Why aren’t you denouncing and blaming capitalism?

            because that assertion is demonstrably false.

            Famines in socialist countries were caused by external forces, not socialism itself.

            What eternal factors forced Chinese peasants to melt down their farm tools to make steal? What eternal factor forced Stalin to requisition grain from peasants at gun point, then refuse international food aid? What eternal force caused the khmer rouge to execute everyone who wore glasses? These flat denials of historical fact are nothing more than holocaust denial. It’s offensive, please stop it.

          • Civilis says:

            I didn’t call it socialism, its proponents did. And so did millions around the world who call themselves socialists. You can’t accuse me of mis-representing as socialism something socialists call socialism. THis is a very old and tired argument.

            Likewise, the Somali Free Market Party isn’t forcing aid agencies to sell them all the food aid rather than feed people, and the Saudi Capitalist Party isn’t bombing Yemen because the Yemeni government won’t denationalize their industries. Not everything that isn’t socialism is capitalism.

            Part of the problem is the origins of the words ‘capitalist’ and ‘capitalism’. A communist is someone who supports the idea of communism. A socialist is someone who supports the idea of socialism. A capitalist is either ‘someone who owns capital’ or ‘someone who supports the idea of capitalism’. It’s possible to own capital and be a supporter of a system other than capitalism. Armand Hammer was someone who owned capital and supported the idea of communism. He was both a capitalist (first definition) and a communist. Likewise, there are economic systems other than capitalism that allow people to own capital.

          • cassander says:

            Likewise, the Somali Free Market Party isn’t forcing aid agencies to sell them all the food aid rather than feed people, and the Saudi Capitalist Party isn’t bombing Yemen because the Yemeni government won’t denationalize their industries. Not everything that isn’t socialism is capitalism.

            The saudis aren’t out there claiming that they are bombing Yemen for capitalism. Capitalists around the would are not applauding the bombing as capitalism in action. Socialists around the world did applaud Venezuela, and Venezuela does say it is doing what it is doing for socialism.

            You criticize me for calling everything that’s not capitalism socialism, which I’m not doing, then turn around and call everything that’s not socialism capitalism. I am perfectly willing to stipulate that there are evils in the world not caused by socialism. That does not mean, however, that socialism does not produce many evils, and that evils are the only thing socialism consistently manages to produce in abundance.

    • cassander says:

      >the crisis is caused by oil prices not government policies.

      This is flat out completely wrong. The crisis was caused by the decline in oil production that was a direct result of socialist policies. the problem was masked by high oil prices for several years, but chavez has been a disaster from the beginning.

      • apollocarmb says:

        Evidence?

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          @appollocarmb,

          I recall seeing clear evidence that the decline in oil revenue was far, far greater than the decline in oil price in an interview in (pro-Venezuelan leftist publication) Green Left Weekly a few months ago. Since this is now an old thread, before digging it up I’d like to know that you are still listening and that this is a genuine request for evidence, such that finding out that nationalisation had reduced oil revenue would nontrivially alter you opinion of the Venezuelan experiment, whatever we’re calling it today.

          More generally: Venezuela has been, throughout Chavismo, a net exporter of oil. Regardless of the oil price at any given time, this is an advantage which cannot be scaled with the implementation of global socialism. In this sense, to the extent Venezuela represents an attempt to test greater government control of the economy and increased redistribution, it is an attempt with the difficulty set to “very easy” (in the high oil price condition) or “easy” (in the low oil price condition). Without the oil, it would have been worse.

    • Atlas says:

      @herbertherberson

      Comment part 1:

      herbert herberson says:
      August 8, 2017 at 9:36 am
      I know plenty of real communists who think that communism was tried, and was successful in, e.g., defeating fascism, putting a human being into space, achieving mass literacy, dramatically increasing living standards, etc., etc., etc. They note that the Ukrainian famine occurred during the Great Depression and that the scholarly consensus denies it being purposeful, and that while the famine under Mao was bad, it was also the last one ever (with previous famines in China occurring in 1942, 1936, 1928, 1911, 1896, etc, etc, etc). That the gulags might have had their excesses, but affected far fewer people than the US prison system; that Pol Pot’s regime was a disaster, but was a direct result of US bombing and also was ended by another communist regime.

      Not all communists are trots.

      I’m not sure from your comment whether you’re defending or just describing these views, but I think there’s valid ground to strongly object to all of these pro-communist arguments:

      >defeating fascism

      Firstly, you realize that you can just go in circles with this, right? Communists say that the crimes of communism were justified because communism fought fascism…and fascists say that the crimes of fascism were justified because fascism fought communism! Look at, for instance, David Irving or Pat Buchanan’s writings on how the Western democracies should have let the Third Reich and the USSR fight it out, or at the lionization of fascist dictators like Franco or Mussolini as “anti-communist” (the way communists are described as “anti-fascist”) on white nationalist websites like Counter-Currents or the Daily Stormer.

      Secondly, even if one gives total credit to communism for defeating fascism (which you absolutely shouldn’t, as I’ll enumerate below), the fear of violent communist revolution played a key role in the spread of fascism/right-wing nationalism/Nazism in the 1920s and 1930s. This isn’t very well known in America, but in the chaos following the First World War there were attempted violent communist revolutions in multiple German provinces, Hungary, Finland, etc.,the USSR invaded Poland as a stepping stone to Germany, and it certainly seemed plausible at the time that international communism would triumph in Europe, with liberalism weak and monarchism dead. Many people supported fascism as an alternative—the king of Italy conceded power to Mussolini after the March on Rome, even though he could have ordered the fascists quelled, because he didn’t want to strengthen the hand of the communists. The Hungarian dictator Admiral (!) Horthy, who collaborated with the Nazis for most of WW2, came to power by overthrowing a communist revolutionary government which had overthrown a nascent liberal Hungarian democracy. And of course almost every street brawl in the 1920s, state suppression of ciivl liberties in the 1930s and war crime in the 1940s committed by the Nazis was justified by “it’s necessary to fight Bolshevism.” See Robert Gerwarth’s excellent book the Vanquished, Richard J. Evans’ book the Coming of the Third Reich and Mark Mazower’s book Dark Continent for more on this.

      Thirdly, it is definitely not correct in my view to give the USSR/communism pure credit for defeating fascism. The fundamental geopolitical/grand strategic problem Germany faced from unification circa 1870 onward to 1945 was, despite its excellent industrial capacity,large population, highly efficient state and top notch military, it faced a strong “natural” alliance (given geography) between France and Russia. This raised the specter of a two-front war, which Germany would have much more difficulty winning than two one-front wars against France and Russia. This was compounded because, instead of trying to seek an alliance with its “natural” ally Britain, Germany foolishly antagonized the UK by initiating a naval arms race. This created a further problem in that a blockade on imported foodstuffs could seriously impair Germany in a protracted war. So instead of knocking out France in 1914, which the German army came very close to doing, a shortage of troops meant that the initial war of mobility became a war of attrition, which ultimately ground down Germany.

      Compare this to 1939, wherein Stalin did not declare war on Hitler, but signed a treaty of non-aggression and partial alliance with Hitler. The foolish and short-sighted decision of Stalin to sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler, in the hopes that the capitalist countries would knock themselves out fighting each other thus allowing communism to pick up the pieces post bellum, is what allowed Nazi Germany to almost win WW2, which should have been completely hopeless for them from the start. Due to the legacy of the Versailles restrictions, despite covert re-armanent under Weimar and Hitler’s rapid re-armanent, the German army in 1939 was not as relatively well prepared and equipped for war as the German army of 1914 was. (Remember the extreme fear by top German generals in 1938 when it seemed as if a crisis over Czechoslovakia might lead to war with France and Britain.) German tanks at the start of the war were not, if I understand correctly, vastly superior or more numerous, if it all, to French and British tanks, and I don’t think the Soviets were even all that far behind in 1939. As I understand it, the French campaign of 1940 was a much closer run thing than many think/thought: had the Germans gone with the original plan of an invasion centered on a thrust through the Low Countries, rather than von Manstein/Guderian’s suggestion of an attack through the Ardennes, it would have been a much, much more difficult campaign, to say the least. And they almost did go through with such a plan—a random act of fate, the capture of a German plane with war plans, played a big role in the switch, and OKH was unimpressed by the idea, which was adopted because von Manstein managed to personally convince Hitler of its value.

      The point being, that if the “anti-fascist” communist USSR had allied with the Western democracies in 1939, rather than staying neutral/allying with Nazi Germany, Germany would have had to fight a two front war from the start, rather than two one front wars. It would have been nigh impossible for Germany to pull off hugely successful (at least initially) operations like the invasion of France or Operation Barbarossa, because even a weak threat would have necessitated dividing its forces. And this isn’t even mentioning the critical economic aid in terms of foodstuffs and oil that the USSR gave Nazi Germany from 1939-1941 (right up until Barbarossa!), the lack of which would have put a serious strain on the German war effort from the start.

      And this isn’t even considering the fact that the USSR wanted to replace the tyranny of an international fascist empire with the tyranny of an international communist empire. Saying that we should thank for the USSR for defeating fascism is like saying you should thank a mugger who wants to rob you who kills another mugger who would have otherwise robbed you first. (And all of this isn’t even considering the substantial role that the combined effect of air campaigns, the opening of a second front, US aid to the USSR during WW2, etc. played in defeating Germany.)

      >putting a human being into space

      I see your “putting a human being into space” and raise you a “putting a man on the frickin’ moon.” US lunar programs put a man into space, but Soviet lunar programs never put a man on the moon. Take that, communists/America haters/capitalism haters/government haters!

      >achieving mass literacy

      Tons and tons of capitalist countries—the US, the UK, Germany, the Nordic countries, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.—also have mass literacy. So at most I would say this is a wash, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more rigorous research shows that capitalism is better ceteris paribus at raising literacy—-the Human Development Index is highly correlated with GDP per capita up to $10,000, and capitalism is much better at raising GDP per capita than communism (just look at West vs. East Germany, communist China vs. Taiwan and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” China, North vs. South Korea.)

      • Atlas says:

        Comment part 2:

        >They note that the Ukrainian famine occurred during the Great Depression and that the scholarly consensus denies it being purposeful

        Firstly, this would be a marginally more convincing argument if the Great Depression had only happened in the USSR. (Ironically, many leftists were attracted to the USSR in the 1930s precisely because it claimed/seemed to be doing more than the capitalist countries during the depression, something Scott has written about.) The US, Germany, the UK, France, etc. also experienced the Great Depression to varying extents, but for some reason they managed to get through it without *millions of frickin’ people* dying from starvation. Indeed, the US actually had a agricultural *surplus*, in which the FDR administration paid farmers not to plant crops and bought cattle for slaughter!

        So to recap: under oppressive capitalism, in the worst economic crisis in American history food was so abundant that the government wastefully paid farmers to let fields lie fallow and kill farm animals. Under communism at the same time, millions of people needlessly starved to death.

        Secondly, it doesn’t matter whether the famine was the result of intent or negligence, because the astonishing negligence of a government in failing to mitigate a famine killing millions of its own people is still an incredible moral failing. (Note that many Holocaust deniers/revisionists argue that many Jews “only” died as a result of “negligence”—I make comparable arguments against them.) If there was even the slightest possibility of such a famine, the USSR should have requested massive and immediate food aid from other nations—in fact, in the early 1920s, US food aid helped prevent a massive famine in the USSR as a result of the disruptions caused by the Russian Civil War. (In which, incidentally, the Bolsheviks systemically committed horrific war crimes.) Rather than admitting the scale of the disaster, Stalin doubled down on collectivization and liquidation of “kulaks” and “saboteurs”, and forcibly prevented refugees from fleeing the Ukraine to neighboring countries.

        > and that while the famine under Mao was bad, it was also the last one ever (with previous famines in China occurring in 1942, 1936, 1928, 1911, 1896, etc, etc, etc).

        Most of the famines you list occurred during war (WW2, Chinese Civil War, First Sino-Japanese War, etc.), whereas the Great Leap Forward occurred during peacetime. It’s very disingenuous in my view to equate a famine caused largely by extreme war time disruption of food supplies—e.g. Bengal in 1943—with one like the Holodomor or the Great Leap Forward largely caused (even if unintentionally) by government agricultural policy. It was the “last one ever” because Chinese agriculture productivity skyrocketed after decollectivization in the 1970s.

        >the gulags might have had their excesses, but affected far fewer people than the US prison system

        I think it’s dangerously misguided to say that gulags had “excesses”—this implies that they had some good mission which they carried too far and made into a bad mission. The way that drinking some amount of water is good and necessary, but waterboarding and drowning are bad. Whereas in reality the fundamental purpose of the gulags—to incarcerate, torture and intimidate dissidents who oppose a totalitarian regime—is inherently noxious.

        Saying that the gulags “affected far fewer people” than the US prison system is ridiculous: the total number of people incarcerated isn’t the issue thinking observers have with the gulags, it’s the crimes (or “crimes”, i.e. suspected political dissent) and complete lack of due process that led to the said number of people being incarcerated horrendous conditions (in which *at least*, according to the Soviets’ own records, 1 million people died before 1933.) Compare to the US “mass incarceration” system, in which, according to publicly available data, ~70% of state prisoners, who are IIRC around 80% of the combined state/federal prison population, are in for violent or property crimes. (And most of “muh non-violent drug offenders” are in on charges of dealing hard drugs and repeated crimes—not first time marijuana possession.)

        >that Pol Pot’s regime was a disaster, but was a direct result of US bombing and also was ended by another communist regime.

        I agree that US foreign policy in Southeast Asia was horrible and counterproductive, but the fact remains that the Khmer Rouge committed what are proportionately possibly the worst crimes of the 20th century. And the communist Vietnamese government killed at least 100,000 people in “reeducation camps” after the war.

        >Not all communists are trots.

        But even Marxists who don’t actively endorse the worst crimes of actual communist governments have a disturbing tendency to gloss over those crimes and romanticize brutal governments (as with that Jacobin founder guy’s recent editorial on the 1917 Bolshevik coup in the New York Times.) More generally, I think that more moderate minorities are often made to follow the will of more aggressive and well organized radical minorities—e.g. The Mensheviks and SRs no doubt enabled the Bolsheviks, more moderate conservatives and nationalists enabled fascists/Nazis, etc.

        • Wrong Species says:

          +1

          This should be comment of the week.

        • kieranpjobrien@gmail.com says:

          Spectacular work.

        • Enkidum says:

          Preach on, brother/sister.

        • Viliam says:

          Thank you!

        • cassander says:

          This is excellent, but to it must be added that soviet industrial achievement is largely a myth. Stalin did not build up the USSR’s industry to the point where ti could compete with germany. it was only able to compete because it was supplied in vast quantities by the west. 2/3s of its aviation gasoline, half of its aluminium, 1/3 of its copper and explosives, basically all of its trucks and locomotives. Even if you accept soviet production figures at face value (and you shouldn’t, they lied at least as much during the war as before and after), the US and brits supplied something like 1/3 of the soviet war effort.

          Prior to the communists, though, Russia was the fastest industrializing power in europe, a country that held its own fighting on three fronts against german, austria, and turkey, with minimal allied aid. the communists destroyed that country, and replaced it with a horrifying mockery. Stalin’s Russia was to capitalist industrialization what orcs were to elves.

        • bean says:

          Well said.

      • Sandy says:

        at the lionization of fascist dictators like Franco or Mussolini as “anti-communist” (the way communists are described as “anti-fascist”) on white nationalist websites like Counter-Currents or the Daily Stormer.

        Is it really “lionization” in Franco’s case? He quite literally did fight communists; the Spanish Republicans received arms, ammunition, support and funding from the Soviet Union. Stalin sent the NKVD to kill Spanish leftists like Andeu Nin thought to be insufficiently anti-Franco. The same can’t be said for Mussolini.

        • Atlas says:

          Is it really “lionization” in Franco’s case? He quite literally did fight communists; the Spanish Republicans received arms, ammunition, support and funding from the Soviet Union. Stalin sent the NKVD to kill Spanish leftists like Andeu Nin thought to be insufficiently anti-Franco. The same can’t be said for Mussolini.

          He definitely did fight communists, but he also fought genuine republicans and much more moderate leftists, and used very brutal methods in fighting in both. Also I thought that the USSR eventually curtailed its support to anti-Franco forces because it didn’t want to antagonize Germany? I don’t know enough about the Spanish Civil War to say whether or not Franco or the anti-Franco forces should have won, though what I have read has made me more sympathetic to the latter, but even if Franco was the better choice my point would be that it’s a “reluctant lesser of two evils” choice not a “heroic noble crusader pure as the fresh fallen snow fights demon communist hordes from Hell!” choice as white nationalists would describe it. (Something that I think parallels the Syrian Civil War contemporaneously.)

          And there was a lot of labor unrest/communist support in Italy, so one could claim that without Mussolini there would have been a communist revolution, but I think this is rather unlikely. In general I think that in retrospect communism was much less strong after the immediate post-WW1 period than many observers outside the USSR realized.

          • Enkidum says:

            Homage to Catalonia by Orwell is one of the books to read here. (As is… I forget what it’s called, but the second of Arthur Koestler’s autobiographical trilogy of books about his experiences in the 30’s.)

            Stalin didn’t just “curtail support” – he conducted a very active purge of the Republican side – not just more moderate groups, but also the POUM anarchist brigades with which Orwell was fighting. To be fair, the Republicans would have lost anyways without Soviet support, but he made a very deliberate decision to destroy the movement and give Franco Spain.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Are you implying that Hitler didn’t fight Communism? Because fanatical opposition to “Judeo-Boloshvisim” was the raison d’etre of the Nazi regime.

      • herbert herberson says:

        The point being, that if the “anti-fascist” communist USSR had allied with the Western democracies in 1939, rather than staying neutral/allying with Nazi Germany, Germany would have had to fight a two front war from the start, rather than two one front wars. It would have been nigh impossible for Germany to pull off hugely successful (at least initially) operations like the invasion of France or Operation Barbarossa, because even a weak threat would have necessitated dividing its forces. And this isn’t even mentioning the critical economic aid in terms of foodstuffs and oil that the USSR gave Nazi Germany from 1939-1941 (right up until Barbarossa!), the lack of which would have put a serious strain on the German war effort from the start.

        Absolutely true. Which is why it is a tragedy that the Western powers did not respond to Stalin’s entreaties to enter an anti-fascist alliance, made before Molotov-Ribbentrop.

        Compare to the US “mass incarceration” system, in which, according to publicly available data, ~70% of state prisoners, who are IIRC around 80% of the combined state/federal prison population, are in for violent or property crimes. (And most of “muh non-violent drug offenders” are in on charges of dealing hard drugs and repeated crimes—not first time marijuana possession.)

        This is the exact failure mode you’d expect a capitalist state to fall to; the numbers remain accurate. Also, you’re incorrect in characterizing the gulag system as being specifically and exclusively for political oppression; it was nothing more or less than the Soviet prison system, and regular criminals were very much a part of it (indeed, political prisoners were considered regular criminals by that system).

        I can’t argue too much against your characterizations of the famines, although I’ll note that there are massive disputes about the scale of the Ukrainian famine. Certainly, the regime that came up with the Four Pests Campaign deserves criticism. I dispute your characterization of the war industries, but meaninglessly so since I don’t have the time or background to refute it point-by-point.

        • Civilis says:

          Absolutely true. Which is why it is a tragedy that the Western powers did not respond to Stalin’s entreaties to enter an anti-fascist alliance, made before Molotov-Ribbentrop.

          So instead of coming to an uneasy truce with a rising dictator constrained by enemies on both sides, we should have entered into a full partnership with an established dictator with a horrible track record to eliminate his rival and give him an open path to invading?

          This is the exact failure mode you’d expect a capitalist state to fall to; the numbers remain accurate. Also, you’re incorrect in characterizing the gulag system as being specifically and exclusively for political oppression; it was nothing more or less than the Soviet prison system, and regular criminals were very much a part of it (indeed, political prisoners were considered regular criminals by that system).

          Most reports on the Soviet gulag system indicate that common criminals had a higher status in the system than political prisoners.

          It’s also interesting to note that market economic theory correctly predicts what happened in both the US and the Soviet Union. The US restricts the availability of drugs, a black market forms and because it’s outside the law it becomes dominated by criminals. The Soviet Union rationed and otherwise restricted the supply of food and a black market forms and because it’s outside the law it becomes dominated by criminals. The problem in the Soviet Union is that if they had completely cracked down on the black market in food, they would have starved, so they had to let it fester. Then when the Soviet Union collapsed, the criminals in charge of the food supply become part of the new oligopoly.

          • herbert herberson says:

            So instead of coming to an uneasy truce with a rising dictator constrained by enemies on both sides, we should have entered into a full partnership with an established dictator with a horrible track record to eliminate his rival and give him an open path to invading?

            You and Atlas are kind of doing the same thing here, and it boils down to: if you don’t already have reasons to think fascism is worse than communism, then it doesn’t make sense to credit communism for defeating fascism. And ….ok? I guess I’m not talking to you, there?

          • Civilis says:

            I’m still trying to understand your point. So, originally, Britain and France had a choice to promise to defend Polish sovereignty in the event of a German invasion and risk going to war or let the Germans take over Poland. Stalin offers them a third choice…. they can sell out Polish sovereignty to the Soviets and get a guaranteed war, but with the equally nasty Stalin on their side. Keep in mind that at this point, a good portion of Stalin’s victims are in the past, while most of Hitler’s are in the future. With 20/20 hindsight we now know that they’d screw up the war with Germany and end up losing Polish sovereignty to Stalin anyway, but they had no way of predicting that outcome, especially as one of the key reasons for that outcome was Stalin’s later deal with Hitler.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Stalin’s offer didn’t involve any formal abrogation of Poland’s sovereignty (although it certainly would have put it deep in the Soviet sphere of influence).

            At any rate, my main contention here is that it isn’t valid to blame Stalin for not allying with the West before Molotov-Ribbinov. You’re just suggesting it isn’t valid to blame the West for not allying with Stalin, but those two contentions aren’t mutually exclusive.

  27. Andrew Klaassen says:

    Here’s something interesting about the ossification of the Chinese Communist hierarchy: Breaking up that hierarchy and preventing it from solidifying into place was the explicit reason that Mao gave for launching the Cultural Revolution. He failed in that goal, and caused massive chaos and suffering in the process.

    I’m willing to bet that you’d find a similar level of ossification in the post-Revolutionary American elite, at least up to the Civil War and the subsequent Robber Baron era. Until the system was shaken up in a huge, bloody way, Boston Brahmins and Virginia planters and their ilk remained comfortably in control, both politically and economically.

    And that’s the case with the formation of pretty much any new state. Off the top of my head: The circle around David Ben-Gurion in Israel. The circle around Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya. The circle around Lee Kwan Yew in Singapore. The circle around Lenin in the Soviet Union – until it was violently disrupted by Stalin, at which point the circle around Stalin settled into place. The Protestant magnates of Elizabethan England. I don’t know enough about South American state formation, but I’m pretty sure it happened there, too. States are created by a core of elites. Once competing elites are eliminated, everybody else mostly just goes along with it, and elites keep their power and privilege for a long while. In this regard, communist states are nothing special.

  28. anything less than free-speech-absolutism can be circumvented by a sufficiently urgent-sounding plea

    Has anywhere ever had absolute free speech? Would it not have any downsides?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      In this case, “absolutism” should be understood to mean, “The principle that freedom of speech is an essential good, and that exceptions to it should always be looked at with extreme skepticism,” not “Literally everything that might be considered speech is allowed, including criminal conspiracy and fraud.”

      • Maybe we could invent a new word instead of redefining an old one.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I say this as someone who struggles with the same thing, but: cope. Words need to be read in context and with knowledge that they do not have one highly specific denotation. People use figurative language all the time, including for words with very extreme literal meanings. I found my life much less frustrating when I let go of the idea that people needed to come up with ultra-specific definitions for all words.

          Did you really not understand the point that Scott was making? If you did understand the point that Scott was making, what is the value in demanding that he use a different word?

          • Did you really not understand the point that Scott was making?

            In order to know whether absolutism means absolutism or “absolutism”, I have to know whether the writer knows that neither the Us nor anyone else has non-scare-quoted absolutism. But then the only way I have at getting at their knowledge is via their words. See the problem?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I note that you dodged the question.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Maybe “free speech conservatism”? We have some exceptions to free speech right now but people aren’t necessarily worried that they themselves will lead to stronger limits. The problem mostly comes from people who are really trying to break the free speech norm we have now.

  29. Anon. says:

    re: the gene editing paper, don’t get too excited just yet. 4 key reasons Mitalipov paper doesn’t herald safe CRISPR human genetic modification

  30. rahien.din says:

    “Crucially [machine learning techniques] were unable to predict relationship variance using any combination of traits and preferences reported beforehand.”

    Obligatory

  31. Sandy says:

    There is a joke on Twitter that contrasts Al-Jazeera in America to Al-Jazeera in the Arab world, to try and illustrate how different the tone of their coverage is to the two audiences. It goes like:

    Al-Jazeera English: “15 ways to support Black Lives Matter in your city!”
    Al-Jazeera Arabic: “Are gas chambers too kind for Alawites?”

    I have seen a lot of people arguing that AJ Arabic is a hub of extremist propaganda and the criticisms of it in the Middle East are not unwarranted.

    • rlms says:

      Sure, but we don’t (or at least shouldn’t, depending on the value of we) ban Stormfront.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Do we consider Stormfront a news agency, or a propaganda outfit? How about AJ?

        • rlms says:

          Does that matter?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes?

          • rlms says:

            Why? Opinions you disagree with, published with the intent to persuade (otherwise known as propaganda) still receive freedom of speech protections (indeed they are the most common category of speech to require them).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sandy did not seem to advocate for banning AJ, but was pointing out that it is a propaganda outfit. As is Stromfront. Neither of these are banned.

            I’ve written screeds on other SSC threads that all journalism is propaganda. I’m not suggesting banning any of it, whether it’s the propaganda of Stormfront, Al Jazeera, or CNN.

          • rlms says:

            I interpreted them as providing evidence in support of the Israeli policy.

      • Nornagest says:

        Perhaps more to the point, we don’t ban Pravda.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Stormfront is a forum so it is as much a newspaper as Reddit. A better analogy would be Daily Stormer which is actually news analysis.

  32. dbcooper says:

    >Experts estimate such squandering eats up about $765 billion a year — as much as a quarter of all the country’s health care spending.

    This is very sloppy reporting. The total US prescription drug market in 2015 was only about $457B (includes retail plus non-retail prescription drugs)

    https://aspe.hhs.gov/system/files/pdf/187586/Drugspending.pdf

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      The claim was that the wastage extends beyond prescription drugs, though I don’t know that such a broadening can salvage the estimate.

    • youzicha says:

      Someone on hacker news also criticises the $765 billion figure, which apparently is calculated by adding up the sticker prices of all the expired drugs. But typically the sticker prices are much higher than the production cost of the drug, and presumably the market price already factors in the fact that the drug will expire. Further in the same thread they do some back-of-the-envelope calculations and suggest the actual production costs are smaller by about a factor of 1000.

      • Matt M says:

        and presumably the market price already factors in the fact that the drug will expire.

        I’m not exactly sure what you mean by this.

        IF it’s true that expiring doesn’t actually matter, the market price of an expired drug should be the same as the market price for a non-expired drug.

        • Chalid says:

          Did you click through? It’s explained in the second paragraph.

          “in equilibrium pill prices will be affected by the expected rate at which pills expire without being consumed. Even when manufactures have a monopoly, the manufacturer-surplus maximizing price is determined by the demand curve of the consumer which takes into account the expiry rate of pills. (If 10% of pills expire before I consume them, they are worth 10% less to me in expectation.)”

          • Matt M says:

            But my point is, that’s only true because you believe the expired pills to have no value.

            If it’s scientifically true that expired pills are just fine to take, then they should have just as much value as a non-expired pill, so it just becomes a matter of convincing the public to believe this.

      • bean says:

        I had the same thought. For things where production costs make up a substantial proportion of the costs, then too-restrictive expiration dates are bad. For things like on-patent drugs, not so much. If we cut the 10% thrown away due to expiration, then prices will probably rise to keep profit constant.

  33. jddt says:

    “Israel working to shut down Al-Jazeera out of concerns about “encouraging terrorism”; pretty good example of how anything less than free-speech-absolutism can be circumvented by a sufficiently urgent-sounding plea.”

    I worry you are being unfairly dismissive of the reality of Al-Jazeera propaganda — at least I read “urgent-sounding plea” in this way.

    All I can signpost on this topic is to say that Al Jazeera Arabic is not Al Jazeera English and is somewhere closer to Hamas TV.

    Dude, people are *literally* dying because of what outlets like this are saying.

    I’m not saying it has nothing to do with broader attempts to align with Arab countries in isolating Qatar; and I’m not saying it is morally the correct thing to do, or even the most effective thing to do; but dismissing it as a good example of how free speech can be circumvented with an “urgent-sounding plea” is upsetting.

  34. Salem says:

    Yes, of course the FDA approves 99% of compassionate requests:

    [T]his statistic is an illusion, because it ignores how many patients don’t submit compassionate use requests because the approval process is so cumbersome. By the FDA’s own admission, the initial paperwork takes a doctor 100 hours to complete[i]. To administer treatment under this exception, the doctor must abide by burdensome protocols and data-reporting requirements, essentially making him responsible for overseeing a mini clinical trial for that one patient. Then an Institutional Review Board (a separate committee at a medical facility) must weigh the ethical considerations associated with the patient’s use of the treatment – and many meet infrequently. There are other restrictions, too, so that in practice, “compassionate use” is so tangled in red tape that only about 1,200 patients per year are even able to submit compassionate use requests to the FDA – even though over half a million Americans die annually of cancer alone. Razelle Kurzrock, who directs clinical trials at U.C. San Diego says that “it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy for the FDA to say they approve everything, because you don’t even put in the application before you sort of get a verbal approval from the FDA that it’s worth doing.”

    [i] The FDA disputes that it takes 100 hours to fill out the application, even though that estimate is published on the form itself and there is nothing on the form or in the agency’s instructions directing doctors to leave any fields blank.

    Links and footnote in original.

    No, Right To Try is not merely a symbolic victory, and I am surprised at Scott for swallowing wholesale the “99%” statistic pushed by FDA apologists.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks, updated.

    • moonfirestorm says:

      I’m a little confused on whether this is elaborate sarcasm or something.

      The first few of the links I checked seem to say exactly the opposite of what you’d expect them to. For example, the 100 hours “published on the form itself” link goes to a fairly involved explanation of why that 100 hour Paperwork Reduction Act number isn’t actually relevant to how long it takes to complete the form. Similarly, the “1200 patients a year” link goes to an article about how the FDA has no say in the rejection of compassionate-use drugs. Is the implication that this is pro-FDA propaganda?

  35. Besserwisser says:

    The 3D map looks really beautiful. I wanna make something like that now. Also, in relation to the germ theory of democracy and what’s often discussed here, it’s interesting to see how clustered democrats are. You would expect people to emphasize openness and welcoming strangers to be in the middle of big cities.

  36. mondsemmel says:

    @Scott, offtopic but FYI: At the very bottom of the page is a bar called “PART OF AMAZON AFFILIATE PROGRAM” which links to https://slatestarcodex.com/amazon. But that link is dead.

  37. Steve Sailer says:

    “American Runners Are Getting Slower”

    I noticed this in the paper:

    About The Researchers
    The study was lead by Jens Jakob Andersen and assisted by Ivanka Andreeva Nikolova. Andersen is a former competitive runner and statistician from Copenhagen Business School. Nikolova holds a Ph.D. in Mathematical Analysis.

    The kind of people who are most into running tend to have Northern names like this.

    Serious mass running was basically a white Baby Boomer fad of the 1970s that started with Frank Shorter winning the 1972 Olympic Marathon and that is slowly dying out along with white Baby Boomers.

    It’s not all bad that people are less serious about running fast. The Los Angeles marathon these days lets people walk the 26 miles, taking up to 9 hours. The average times are pretty bad by late 20th Century standards, but at least a huge number of people turn out and give it a try.

    • Deiseach says:

      The article says “American runners are getting slower – except the elite top runners”.

      So professional athletes are as fast as ever, it’s just that as more ordinary people take up sports including running, and enter events like marathons (which, even up to the 70s, used to be seen as the killer distance, one for only the toughest and most dedicated runners, and is now something a guy in a furry novelty costume can complete for charity) now average times for mass events are slower. Because they’re not professional athletes or “I used to run track in high school/college, I coulda been a contender” types, they’re, well, ordinary people.

  38. abel says:

    Re: socialism, Bernie Sanders is far from alone in his use of the word, at least on a more global level. In particular, the label is used as well by several mainstream parties in south-western Europe (exhibits 1, 2 and 3).

    Personally, being aware that people use it to mean very different things I just taboo the word out (same with capitalism, for the matter), and engage in more long-winded topic-specific explanations, but that’s not quite the best style for political rallies.

    • herbert herberson says:

      At the very least, it’s unfair and inaccurate to call him a neoliberal. Neoliberalism thinks private enterprise and markets are extremely good and should be implemented whenever possible. Social democrats/far-left liberals like Sanders do not think that at all, even if they’re not always looking to tear down the markets and private enterprises that currently exist (we certainly are in some industries).

      Arguable, he’s really kind of a left-conservative: someone who is a Marxist in his basic worldview, but declines to pursue anything resembling full-blown Communist revolution out of some combination of pragmatism, practicality, and/or risk aversion.

  39. D.O. says:

    About previous post, wassup with math? Seems pretty abstract thing, yet gender balanced more or less. Maybe not in the most abstract parts of math like algebraic geometry or whatnot, but all math is pretty high on abstraction and pretty low on people/community skills.

    • InferentialDistance says:

      Math has the same number of women as CS, both of which have less than half as many women as Engineering. The question is less “why so many women in Math” and more “why so many men in Engineering and CS”.

      • D.O. says:

        You sure? This seem to show that 30% of new math doctorates in US go to women. Which is far from balance, but substantially better (I mean, more balanced) than 15-20% usually quoted for CS. Why the difference?

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Schoolteaching?

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Oooh, that makes a weird amount of sense based on all the female math teacher math majors I know.

          • tmk says:

            This would give credence to the argument that women-friendliness in the workplace affects the number of omen much earlier in the funnel. Women choosing to study math know, wither consciously or through cultural osmosis that the are likely to end up as school teachers, which is a women-friendly career path.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            You get paid more as a public schoolteacher for having advanced degrees, so sometimes math teachers pick up doctorates from local colleges to get that salary bump.

        • InferentialDistance says:

          Absolute numbers, my friend. Absolute numbers.

    • HFARationalist says:

      I wonder whether different fields in math have different percentage of women. I haven’t actually observed topology or differential geometry have that many women compared to algebra or analysis. Higher category theory seems to be very male though.

      My field which is a part of algebra is supposedly pretty male. However there are many women who write really good papers that actually become famous at least within the field.

    • JulieK says:

      I wonder if one factor is stereotypes around fields, rather than people. E.g. “Biology” sounds appealing to women, even though a biologist will probably end up spending more time working with petri dishes than with cute furry animals. Maybe more women would go into tech if they knew that “people skills” are also valuable in tech jobs.

      • Matt M says:

        I think there’s probably something to this. The pop culture representation of “tech” is basically a bunch of geeks with glasses sitting in cubicles and typing away at their code in total isolation for 60+ hours per week. (thanks Scott Adams!)

        It doesn’t shock me that a field portrayed in this manner fails to attract a great deal of female interest.

        And furthermore, this means that the proposed solution of “tell girls they can be good at coding, too!” is completely off-base. You’d have much more success with efforts designed to emphasize that, as you say, “people skills matter a lot in tech just like they do in any other field!” or “a lot of tech jobs require a great deal of teamwork and social interaction” and so on and so forth.

        • Michael Watts says:

          You’d have much more success with efforts designed to emphasize that, as you say, “people skills matter a lot in tech just like they do in any other field!” or “a lot of tech jobs require a great deal of teamwork and social interaction” and so on and so forth.

          If you put all your marketing into that message, though, it could have disastrous effects on your male applicant pool.

          • Matt M says:

            Perhaps the real message is “every industry needs a wide variety of skills across its various functions.”

            Far too many young people seem to focus on industry rather than function. “I want to work in tech” is a dumb thing to say, because it says little about what you actually want to do. If you like working with people, you can be a project manager or something. And literally every industry needs project managers.

            Similarly, I assume InBev and P&G also need coders, if coding is your thing.

          • Aapje says:

            Companies like InBev and P&G often hire tech companies or tech people to do software projects for them, but the people/companies they hire are still in tech.

            A more realistic way to look at things is that companies employ people from different industries. Accountants also don’t suddenly become techies when they do the books for IBM.

      • Brandon Berg says:

        And if you like cute, furry animals, you’re probably better off working with the petri dishes, because biologists working with animals rarely ends well for the animals.

    • rlms says:

      I’m fairly sure that it’s as unbalanced as CS and engineering in the UK.

  40. FacelessCraven says:

    Yonatan Zunger – Tolerance Is Not A Moral Precept

    Tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. Tolerance is a social norm because it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats. It means that we accept that people may be different from us, in their customs, in their behavior, in their dress, in their sex lives, and that if this doesn’t directly affect our lives, it is none of our business. But the model of a peace treaty differs from the model of a moral precept in one simple way: the protection of a peace treaty only extends to those willing to abide by its terms. It is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.

    The model of a peace treaty highlights another challenge which tolerance always faces: peace is not always possible, because sometimes people’s interests are fundamentally incompatible. Setting aside the obvious example of “I think you and your family should be dead!” (even though that example may be far more common than we wish), there are many cases where such fundamental incompatibility can arise despite good faith on all sides… …Many of you are probably reading this and saying that in this case, one side is right and the other is wrong, and the clear resolution is for one side to stop harming fellow members of the community. If one side were doing what it was doing in bad faith, that might be the answer — but the point here is that if both sides were acting in perfect faith, for either side to concede would be a death sentence. In a situation like this, there can be no peace treaty; only war or separation.

    Emphasis mine. This was linked in the subreddit; it’s an essay written by a recently-ex-senior Googler, the author of one of the initial responses to the open letter of recent fame, and is one of the clearest and most cogent analyses of tolerance as a value that I’ve seen.

    • c0rw1n says:

      in this case, one side is right and the other is wrong

      Oh, there certainly are enough cases of both sides being wrong.

    • Brad says:

      Excellent essay, thanks for linking it.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Yes, good link, thanks.

    • qwints says:

      I find that essay and its positive reception terrifying. It also bizarrely omits the obvious reference to Popper and/or Rawls.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Why, what did you think tolerance meant?

        • qwints says:

          I don’t understand the question – the meaning isn’t disputed (It’s roughly “allowing people one dislikes to exist without interference”). As for why it’s terrifying – that’s centered on the use of war of all as a metaphor. Zunger says tolerance is justified because “it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats. ” The worst line is “after a breach, the moral rules which apply are not the rules of peace, but the rules of broken peace, and the rules of war.”

          I fundamentally disagree with the notion that tolerance is not a moral value. Zunger’s framework provides no objection to any person or group strong enough to impose its way of thinking on society without conflict. Fundamentally, I think that society should tolerate people who think “you and your family should be dead” or “everyone must join [us] or else” provided that those groups abide by the principles of tolerance. You should be free to believe and preach that everyone else is damned as much as you want provided that you don’t pose a threat to society’s ability to maintain the principle of tolerance.

          Zunger’s framing is just muddled moral philosophy that says if it a value can’t be absolute, then it can’t be a value at all. I say tolerance is a moral good, and that society should be designed to have as much tolerance for people and their freedom as possible.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @qwints – “I fundamentally disagree with the notion that tolerance is not a moral value.”

            Should I turn to toleration or retaliation if someone kicks my door in and starts knifing my family? It seems obvious to me that toleration is only ever a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

            “Zunger’s framework provides no objection to any person or group strong enough to impose its way of thinking on society without conflict.”

            No, it doesn’t. It is extremely Machiavellian, and contains no real objection to smart, effective hegemony. And again, this appears to be how things really do work in the real world. The strong take what they can, the weak suffer what they must. Moral: don’t be weak.

            Now, maybe maybe certain types of Diversity really do add up to Strength, in which case it’s to your advantage to tolerate them. But that’s a long, long way from toleration for its own sake.

            “I think that society should tolerate people who think “you and your family should be dead” or “everyone must join [us] or else” provided that those groups abide by the principles of tolerance.”

            And what is the “principle of tolerance”? Do no harm? How do we define harm? How much safety is enough safety? What is the scientific unit for suffering or fear or anxiety?
            As with 14th century Europe, there is no final arbiter to judge which casus belli are fair and which are foul, which action is the unprovoked aggression and which is the reasonable self defense. It’s all subjective, and in practice it mainly boils down to straight power concepts.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Okay, thanks for clarifying.

          • qwints says:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_29yvYpf4w

            @Facelass Craven, there’s a couple millennia of moral philosophy post Thucydides, and plenty of societies that have existed without allowing the strong to run roughshod over the weak. Tolerance is probably best spelled out in Mill’s On Liberty, comprising freedom of thought and freedom of action as long as that action does not harm others, but you could also look at Popper’s definition of a free society or Rawls’ liberty principle.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Should I turn to toleration or retaliation if someone kicks my door in and starts knifing my family? It seems obvious to me that toleration is only ever a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

            This is preposterous. Tolerance is not the only value, nor even necessarily the highest value. All values exist in tension and the balance/mixture matters. Dialing something up to 11 doesn’t prove shit about employing it in moderation, otherwise we’d have an excellent argument against drinking water.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Qwints – “@Facelass Craven, there’s a couple millennia of moral philosophy post Thucydides…”

            Which led to Machiavelli noting to great acclaim that nothing had really changed, and then to Realpolitik in our own era.

            “…and plenty of societies that have existed without allowing the strong to run roughshod over the weak.”

            It certainly isn’t Lord Humongous wall to wall, but there’s a reason the popular narrative paints the past as an endless slog through innumerable systems of repression. The Catholic Church sure as hell wasn’t interested in helping people connect their novel interpretations of scripture with a mass market audience.

            “This is preposterous. Tolerance is not the only value, nor even necessarily the highest value. All values exist in tension and the balance/mixture matters.”

            Indeed, and I apologize if my language was needlessly obtuse. My point is that Tolerance is way, way lower on the actual hierarchy than I or most other people thought it was. I grew up being pounded with the message that tolerance was one of the prime values, usually under the credo of “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Subsequent events have shown that attitude to be unsustainable in the long run, and it has now obviously, clearly broken down in much of society. Social Justice advocates are not interested in defending my right to speak, and I find that I am not interested in defending theirs. As Zunger notes:

            The antisocial member of the group, who harms other people in the group on a regular basis, need not be accepted; the purpose of your group’s acceptance is to let people feel that they have a home, and someone who actively tries to thwart this is incompatible with the broader purpose of that acceptance.

            …and of course, agreeing on who is and isn’t antisocial is impossible in the long run. So we get War to remind us why peace is valuable, and then we have peace until we forget again*. It’s not hard to figure out where we are on that timeline in the present. Now let us draw up sides, and see who wins.

            *Alternatively, there’s separation, but it doesn’t happen often and doesn’t have much constituency now.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            And we are comparing “having a political opinion that some affirmative action style policies are counterproductive, and that men and women have different interests” to kicking down someone’s door and knifing their family? Or for that matter comparing firing someone for having those views to kicking down someone’s door and knifing their family?

            That sort of conflation is a big part of this whole problem, and it exists on both sides of the culture war.

            Don’t conflate political disagreements with situations in which the use of lethal force is not only acceptable, but is a positive moral duty. If you do, sooner or later people are going to start taking the comparison literally. As I said before, we’re not there yet, and thankfully we’ll -probably- have to pass through a 60s-70s “Days Of Rage” period before hand that would shock people out of the cycle, butI -do- worry that with current technological and cultural speed we could hit that level of conflict and speed through it in months instead of years.

            I’d rather break out of the escalation spiral before we get there.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko – “And we are comparing “having a political opinion that some affirmative action style policies are counterproductive, and that men and women have different interests” to kicking down someone’s door and knifing their family? Or for that matter comparing firing someone for having those views to kicking down someone’s door and knifing their family?”

            Zunger’s sees opinions and ideas as causing harm, which justifies retaliatory harm. It is not at all uncommon for that retaliatory harm to be called for in the form of physical violence, or for physical violence to actually be used. Some of that violence has gone as far as assault with a deadly weapon, leaving out of course the assassination attempts on political elites. So yes, in short, that is pretty much Zunger’s point.

            Nor is this unusual. As his article notes, disputes over theology have frequently been serious enough to justify bloodshed. Zunger, obviously, believes that those who chose to war over religion were wrong, but he entirely agrees that based on their priors, they are doing the right thing.

            “Don’t conflate political disagreements with situations in which the use of lethal force is not only acceptable, but is a positive moral duty.”

            A large number of Damore’s coworkers publicly threatened him with violence in their response to his letter. To my knowledge, no official action has been taken against any of those coworkers. Zunger himself seems to approve of it in his response.

            “If you do, sooner or later people are going to start taking the comparison literally.”

            Sooner or later? We’ve had numerous incidents of mob violence, two attempted presidential assassinations, and an attempted mass-assassination on the republican members of congress, all in the last six months. I have been relaxing some as the riots died down, but it’s clear that the fundamental problem remains: Blue Tribe does not feel it has any reason to tolerate Red Tribe’s continued participation in society.

            Again, let me quote Zunger:

            If one side were doing what it was doing in bad faith, that might be the answer — but the point here is that if both sides were acting in perfect faith, for either side to concede would be a death sentence. In a situation like this, there can be no peace treaty; only war or separation.

            Zunger is not optimistic about bridging the gap between our national tribes. He knows which side he’s on, he’s convinced his side is right, and he’s confident that his side is powerful enough that war would go well for him, and likely also confident that the other side will knuckle under rather than fight. Under those circumstances, why worry about compromise or reconciliation? It is obvious that a great many within Blue Tribe are on board with this idea, and from his analysis it is hard to understand why they wouldn’t be.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Zunger’s sees opinions and ideas as causing harm

            Well there’s the problem.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Zunger’s sees opinions and ideas as causing harm, which justifies retaliatory harm.

            I know that’s HIS point. My problem is that you seem to be agreeing with/conceding it as true, which strikes me as a problem.

            A large number of Damore’s coworkers publicly threatened him with violence in their response to his letter.

            And if any of those rose to a level of a true threat, Damore should be providing that information to the police for appropriate action. Even if not, If I were Damore I’d certainly make a point of going as armed as local law permitted for the forseeable future. That doesn’t mean that we are at the point where “war” is the correct frame.

            Because while:

            We’ve had numerous incidents of mob violence, two attempted presidential assassinations, and an attempted mass-assassination on the republican members of congress, all in the last six months.

            This does not constitute a sufficient elevation above the baseline level of societal violence to constitute going to a war footing. For calibration purposes:

            An incomplete list of presidential assassination attempts.

            An overview of Weatherman

            I think the recent high-water mark for societal unrest was in the late 60s through mid-70s, and Burroughs’ Days Of Rage is a good look at it. I think there’s certainly cause for concern that we’re headed back into a timeframe like that, and maybe even concern that with the acceleration of cultural change and the acceleration of social trends made possible by social media that we could move from where we are now to and -through- that level of unrest faster than we did in the 60s-70s. But even the 70s there fell well short of even low-intensity conflict.

            And there were people who wanted it. There were absolutely left-wing radicals in the 60s and 70s who dreamed of a violent overthrow of the US Government, police and “counterrevolutionary”/”reactionary” elements lined up against the wall and shot, re-education and forced labor and the whole nine yards. What’s more, for every one who wanted that, there were dozens who passively supported and went along with those goals, providing top cover from more mainstream institutions…

            …and they STILL failed to start that conflict, and instead ended up dead, in jail, fleeing to canada, or quietly slinking back into the bosom of the more mainstream supporters who sheltered them. Why? Because even guerrilla warfare requires a critical mass of supporters. The critical mass is far lower than for conventional warfare, but it was still too high a bar for the left wing causes to clear in the 70s.

            It is not obvious to me that

            a great many within Blue Tribe are on board with this idea,

            precisely because we are still below the previous high-water mark. That said, if you truly believe we’re there, all I can say is that the rational response to believing that you and yours are under imminent threat of organized extra-legal violence that the police cannot and/or will not protect you from is not to be talking about it on the internet.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @FacelessCraven

            Blue Tribe does not feel it has any reason to tolerate Red Tribe’s continued participation in society.

            Why shouldn’t they feel that way? What reason do they have “to tolerate Red Tribe’s continued participation in society”?

            [Zunger is] confident that his side is powerful enough that war would go well for him, and likely also confident that the other side will knuckle under rather than fight. Under those circumstances, why worry about compromise or reconciliation?

            Indeed. Is he wrong? At least about his side being “powerful enough that war would go well” for them?

          • cassander says:

            @Kevin

            Why shouldn’t they feel that way? What reason do they have “to tolerate Red Tribe’s continued participation in society”?

            Given that they uphold tolerance as a cardinal virtue, intellectual consistency if nothing else.

            Indeed. Is he wrong? At least about his side being “powerful enough that war would go well” for them?

            Well it worked out for the last time, but not easily.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Given that they uphold tolerance as a cardinal virtue,

            Did we read the same essay?

          • Matt M says:

            they uphold tolerance as a cardinal virtue

            But Brad has assured us that this is an obvious lie and anyone who believes it deserves what they get

          • Kevin C. says:

            @cassander

            What Trofim_Lysenko and Matt M said.

      • quanta413 says:

        Agreed. The essay is terrifying. To exaggerate a little, he conflates different levels of tolerance: a straw man tolerance that would be better described as “complete and utter pacifism as my enemy stabs me to death” and a more reasonable tolerance of “don’t physically assault people for saying things that aren’t a threat” (i.e. no stabbing people because they disagree over the doctrine of transubstantiation). He talks about separatism in the analogy and just throws it away but doesn’t mention the obvious fact that outside the analogy “separatism” often works out ok (not always but a lot).

        I would argue that he even draws the wrong conclusion from his analogy. When someone breaks a moral precept, it usually isn’t contagious and thus a lot of shit can be allowed to slide. When someone breaks too many parts of a peace treaty, you end up at war. And the amount of damage caused in the prosecution of any war is almost always so immense that there is a serious argument for tolerating a lot of shit in order to avoid war. Which is not to say you tolerate shit forever, but that fixing shit peacefully takes a lot longer than “fixing” things by going to war. But war creates so much extra shit that it’s best avoided even if it might theoretically be quicker (although I suspect it really isn’t quicker).

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @quanta413 – “To exaggerate a little, he conflates different levels of tolerance: a straw man tolerance that would be better described as “complete and utter pacifism as my enemy stabs me to death” and a more reasonable tolerance of “don’t physically assault people for saying things that aren’t a threat””

          I don’t think he’s conflating different levels of tolerance. Rather, at any level of conflict from harsh language to gunfire, tolerance of what you perceive to be harm is only ever chosen as the least-worst option. People who see themselves as wronged and have no compelling reason *not* to retaliate will retaliate an overwhelming majority of the time. Again, this seems obviously true.

          ” He talks about separatism in the analogy and just throws it away but doesn’t mention the obvious fact that outside the analogy “separatism” often works out ok (not always but a lot).”

          I agree that he is not giving separation the attention it deserves, but at the level of the actual culture war it’s not really a practical option anyway.

          “And the amount of damage caused in the prosecution of any war is almost always so immense that there is a serious argument for tolerating a lot of shit in order to avoid war.”

          Not always, no. Some wars are over in days, like the first Gulf War. Some wars do very little damage, because they’re an outright route and the other side surrenders immediately. In terms of conflict, some “wars” result in separation; you can’t get along with your roommates, so you have a bitter argument and then someone moves out. Reading between the lines, Zunger believes that his side in the Culture War is in an overwhelmingly dominant position, that his opponents are causing real harm, and that therefore there is no point to tolerating them. Why negotiate when it gains him nothing? Give them the ultimatum of “conform or be destroyed”, and let them pick whichever they prefer. That’s what people do; look at how society treats criminals, or pedophiles. Not much negotiation with them, is there?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      This looks to me like a strong incentive to greatly exaggerate the monstrousness of your political enemies.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        How so?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          So long as there is real uncertainty about the monster, each side has good reason to view the other as an existential threat.

          Better make sure anybody who questions the certainty about the monster is silenced, marginalized, defamed as a monster-lover or in league with the monsters, etc.

          This seems to me to be what we have going on with the SJ types calling everyone who disagrees with them nazis, and encouraging the punching of nazis, etc, despite there not actually being any nazis around.

          There are no monsters. Just men.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Conrad Honcho – “This seems to me to be what we have going on with the SJ types calling everyone who disagrees with them nazis, and encouraging the punching of nazis, etc, despite there not actually being any nazis around.”

            …Or the way the Anti-SJWs constant harp on how crazy and violent the SJWs are, blow every incident out of proportion, string together random isolated events into a grand narrative of paranoia… It cuts both ways. Humans gonna human.

            In any case, I disagree that the article encourages this behavior. It points out that Toleration is, at best, the least-worst option, never the best one, and that the alternative is war. This is a sobering analysis that should* encourage people to think hard on whether the differences that bother them are really worth fighting over. To the weak, it is a painful truth: toleration is only ever a temporary condition, not a stable state. If you are not capable of defending yourself, you are without defense.

            *but won’t, of course…

          • lvlln says:

            …Or the way the Anti-SJWs constant harp on how crazy and violent the SJWs are, blow every incident out of proportion, string together random isolated events into a grand narrative of paranoia… It cuts both ways. Humans gonna human.

            While SJWs are using the claimed monstrousness of their enemies to justify assaulting them and going on campaigns to get them fired, I think it stretches credulity to claim that the people against SJWs are doing the same or similar. And that’s where the difference in philosophy wrt tolerance comes in, I think. SJWs won’t “tolerate intolerance,” and therefore they’re highly motivated to label anyone they don’t like as “intolerant” and justify literally punching them. The ones who are against SJWs will still tolerate SJWs even if the SJWs are monstrous, and so they won’t support or justify the practice of taking anyone who they label as SJW and punching them or campaigning to get them fired.

            Also, if labeling enemies as monstrous is just humans being human, then it absolutely behooves us to have norms that don’t justify going Total War on them even if you label them as monstrous. Otherwise, every human will label every enemy as monsters immediately in order to justify inflicting whatever harm they want.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            toleration is only ever a temporary condition, not a stable state

            Oh cool so it’s… like literally everything else humans do. How enlightening.

          • qwints says:

            While SJWs are using the claimed monstrousness of their enemies to justify assaulting them and going on campaigns to get them fired, I think it stretches credulity to claim that the people against SJWs are doing the same or similar I think it stretches credulity to claim that the people against SJWs are doing the same or similar.

            There’s plenty of video of “people against SJWs” engaging in street brawls with antifa. I’ll grant that the instances of suckerpunching have all been done by antifa, but there have been a number of instances where the combat was quite mutual. On the other hand, there have been a number of instances of anti-SJW people showing in armed protests in what I would call attempts to intimidate people. (e.g. a mosque, a restaurant .

            It’s much more clear cut that there are explicit attempts to gets SJWs fired by their ideological opponents – e.g. the professor watchlist or SJW list. This goes back at least a decade.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @FacelessCraven

            “Humans gonna human” is not an excuse for awful behavior. Especially when the awful behavior in question is…dehumanization. I.e., the characterization of your opponents as monsters worthy of physical violence. I would really like for that sort of behavior to stop.

            @qwints

            There’s plenty of video of “people against SJWs” engaging in street brawls with antifa.

            Question, are those people showing up at antifa rally/speeches, or are the antifa types showing up at someone else’s rally/speech?

          • Aapje says:

            @qwints

            What exactly is anti-SJW about people who protest against sharia and those in favor of open carry, respectively? I have never seen a SJW person argue for making sharia the law of the land. Restrictive gun laws seem to be more of a general leftist PoV and if anything, something that SJWs talk far less about than others on the left).

            Or are you just calling them anti-SJW because they are not SJWs?

          • Nornagest says:

            What exactly is anti-SJW about people who protest against sharia and those in favor of open carry, respectively?

            The SJ scene is currently the tip of the activist spear for race and immigration issues in the States (of which Islamic issues are considered one, technically incorrectly but kinda reasonably considering the correlates). So anyone involved in that debate sooner or later becomes pro- or anti-SJ pretty much by default.

            I doubt the open carry protest has much to do with SJ either way, though; that’s still more of a mainline Left thing.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Gobbobobble – “Oh cool so it’s… like literally everything else humans do. How enlightening.”

            People chase sex, form family units, generate hierarchy and form government pretty reliably. They generate conflict with different groups in proximity pretty reliably. In contrast, radical tolerance is rare. The US is the only country in the world to carry the concept of free speech as far as we do, for example. That bodes ill for that concept’s continued survival moving forward.

            The point is that we are probably not going to make it back to everyone quoting Voltaire to each other. That wasn’t a norm, that was a weird confluence of random factors. Now it’s gone, and we are not on a trajectory to restore those weird factors again.

            From Scott’s recent Free Speech Post:

            That suggests a heuristic very much like Be Nice, At Least Until You Can Coordinate Meanness again: don’t try to destroy people in order to enforce social norms that only exist in your head. If people violate a real social norm, that the majority of the community agrees upon, and that they should have known – that’s one thing. If you idiosyncratically believe something is wrong, or you’re part of a subculure that believes something is wrong even though there are opposite subcultures that don’t agree – then trying to enforce your idiosyncratic rules by punishing anyone who breaks them is a bad idea.

            The above sounds excellent. Would that it were so! …Unfortunately, neither Scott nor anyone else has managed to convince 51% of the population that the above should be the norm, and the actual norm is to be mean anywhere you can get away from it, as a form of coordination. And so that is the world we have, and the future is more of the same.

            @Conrad Honcho – ““Humans gonna human” is not an excuse for awful behavior.”

            No, it isn’t, but that wasn’t my point. My point was that Social Justice and its detractors can’t agree on what behavior counts as awful. Both are convinced their opponents are the monsters and their allies are saints. I loath Social Justice, they deplore me right back, and there’s no impartial judge for us to take our case to who can actually untangle who’s really in the wrong and enforce a verdict. Instead, we fight.

            “Especially when the awful behavior in question is…dehumanization. I.e., the characterization of your opponents as monsters worthy of physical violence. I would really like for that sort of behavior to stop.”

            Then you are going to have to convince them that such behavior is too costly to engage in. That is the core point of the essay: we don’t leave others in peace unless we have a good reason to. So if you want to be left alone, optimize for making bothering you really, really, really expensive.

          • lvlln says:

            There’s plenty of video of “people against SJWs” engaging in street brawls with antifa. I’ll grant that the instances of suckerpunching have all been done by antifa, but there have been a number of instances where the combat was quite mutual. On the other hand, there have been a number of instances of anti-SJW people showing in armed protests in what I would call attempts to intimidate people. (e.g. a mosque, a restaurant .

            Street brawls and sucker punches are entirely different things. Participation in the former can reasonably be seen as self-defense (though perhaps running away or hiding might be a better course of action than escalating when violence is put on you). Sucker punching or pepper-spraying are naked acts of unprovoked aggressive violence.

            Likewise, armed protests are very different from aggressive violence, as long as they’re peaceful (both articles give the impression that those events were peaceful). Even if they’re intimidating.

            It’s much more clear cut that there are explicit attempts to gets SJWs fired by their ideological opponents – e.g. the professor watchlist or SJW list. This goes back at least a decade.

            First of all, that’s a book by a conservative, not anti-SJW. Second, SJW as we describe it is a phenomenon that didn’t really exist a decade ago. Proto-SJWs existed – I was very much one a decade ago – and much of their behavior was similar, but there wasn’t the numbers and thus the intensity of the behavior wasn’t nearly to the extent that they are now.

            In recent memory, while individuals who try to get blacklists and firing campaigns against SJWs going do exist, as far as I can tell, none of them seem to gain much support or traction. On the other hand, SJWs are basically all in agreement about people needing to be fired for crimes like having donated to anti-gay-marriage causes in the past or writing an essay making arguments based on empirically supported science that they don’t like. In fact, suggesting that not firing such people – even if you disagree with those people just as much as any SJW – is often used as justification for abuse. I’ve experienced this first-hand.

            But, again, regardless of who’s actually worse, if we expect humans to just automatically cast their opponents as monsters, it seems to me to be very important that we have and support norms where even people we deem monsters get treated with tolerance.

          • qwints says:

            @Aapje, the groups involved (Open Carry Tarrant County and BAIR) are vocal opponents of SJWs. Open Carry Tarrant County uses a lot of ‘snowflake’ and ‘liberal’ language to criticize gun control advocates while
            BAIR criticizes and ridicules antifa. I’d classify both as anti-SJW.

            @lvlln, I just don’t think it’s reasonable to claim that anti-SJW’s haven’t engaged in campaigns against SJW’s, nor do I think it’s sound to dismiss counter examples as “not-true anti-SJW’s” or “not getting traction.” I could list quite a few SJW types who had campaigns for firing (Adria Richards, Melissa Click and Alison Rapp to start), but I predict you’ll either try to justify their being fired or say that the people who targeted them aren’t true scotsmen anti-SJWs.

          • tscharf says:

            …blow every incident out of proportion

            If you hand your enemy a gun, the ammo, and a motive, it’s your fault when it gets used.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Adria Richards, Melissa Click and Alison Rapp

            Adria Richards you might have a point, or not, since she was a publicity representative who publicly started shit at what basically amounts to her place of work. Seriously, photographing and shaming people on your twitter? As a PR person?

            Melissa Click got fired for battering a student.

            Alison Rapp got fired for working a second job, which was a breach of contract. The “harassment” to get her fired occurred months earlier and resulted in nothing.

            When anti-SJWs can get someone fired for saying something fairly innocuous but pro-SJ, like perhaps “men discriminate against women to keep them out of high status, good paying jobs”, you’ll have a point. But if your only examples of the power of anti-SJWs to get people fired are if they egregiously fuck up their job, commit a serious crime, or break their work contract, I don’t think you have any legs to stand on. Criticizing HR on the appropriate communication channels (internal networks specifically intended to discuss the company) does not seem to rise to the level of literally attacking a student.

          • qwints says:

            I predict you’ll either try to justify their being fired or say that the people who targeted them aren’t true scotsmen anti-SJWs.

            My claim is “there are explicit attempts to gets SJWs fired by their ideological opponents.” You’re not rebutting that by saying that those people should have been fired.

            If your argument is that SJWs have more power to get people fired or no-platformed than their opponents, that’s a separate issue, and one that I’d agree to in a number of contexts (academia and non-conservative media certainly).

          • InferentialDistance says:

            But there are explicit attempts to get everyone fired by their ideological opponents. There are nutcases and extremists in every walk of life. The difference is, most walks try to keep a lid on them rather than giving them the reins of power. I can’t stop other people opposed to SJ from calling for SJWs to be fired, but I can disagree on the claim that having those views is sufficient grounds to fire someone. And I can make efforts for those people not to be the people in charge of hiring and firing people.

            And you really do have to make exceptions for people who have a good reason to be fired. A campaign to get a professor who physically attacked a student fired is not remotely similar to a campaign to get someone fired for stating a dissenting view. Holding your ideological opponents to standards of civility required of all humans is not the same thing as trying to coerce their political viewpoint. Blaming getting fired for breach of contract on being harassed four months ago over supporting pedophilia just does not compare. A tech salesperson, publicly shaming what basically amounts to her customers, making other customers wary of her, and her company (who she is literally the face of, that was her job) getting fired does not compare. Especially since, as I recall, the demands for firing her only cropped up AFTER the people she shamed on twitter were fired, making it retaliatory tit-for-tat.

            So if your argument boils down to “assholes are everywhere”, yeah I agree. I just don’t see why assholes who don’t have power, and no one seems particularly interested in giving power, should occupy remotely as much of my interest or moral consideration. Yeah, it would be bad if we gave those assholes more power. It’s a good thing we don’t, and the fact that we don’t is why it’s a lesser moral concern. Authority comes with responsibility, I don’t hold powerless people on either side to the same standards I hold the powerful.

            I don’t hold random tumblr users to the same standard as, say, the feminist advisor to the CDC who told them to define rape in such a manner that heterosexual intercourse to which men did not consent is not included.

          • Nornagest says:

            The difference is, most walks try to keep a lid on them rather than giving them the reigns of power.

            [nitpick]Reins. It’s a horsemanship metaphor.[/nitpick]

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Fixed, and also I know it’s a horsemanship metaphor I was just having one of those moments where my brain can’t see the mistake because it’s almost correct and “reign” is related to “power” and it sounds the same and FUCK YOU BRAIN DO BETTER.

            Anyways, thank you.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Like, I feel the need to elaborate on this, anti-SJWs try to get SJWs fired a lot less than the reverse situation. This is exactly because it works much less often than the reverse situation. People follow incentives. The more you cave in to people demanding SJ ideological purity, the more often people will make said demand. The more often you refuse to cave in to anti-SJ ideological purity, the less often people will make that demand.

            Firing people for reasonable reasons incentivizes going after people who are a good idea to fire anyways. Jian Ghomeshi is an example of an SJ-aligned firing that falls into the reasonable category.

    • Muad'Dib says:

      I don’t know what the point of the post is.

      The fact that it starts from a false dichotomy: “tolerance is not a moral absolute; it’s a peace treaty”, is itself bad. A “peace treaty” is a martial metaphor, evoking war, and much of the post is talking these terms.

      This is the most egregious passage, to me:

      After a breach, the moral rules which apply are not the rules of peace, but the rules of broken peace, and the rules of war. We might ask, is the response proportional? Is it necessary? Does it serve the larger purpose of restoring the peace? But we do not take an invaded country to task for defending its borders.

      Take the example of a group silencing another using harassment. Many responses may be appropriate. Returning harassment in turn, for example, is likely to be proportional, although it is rarely effective — harassment usually occurs in a situation where the sides do not have equal power to harm each other in that way. On the other hand, acting to restrict the harassers’ ability to continue in the future — even at the expense of limiting their right to speak — may be both proportional and effective. But lining the aggressors up against a wall and shooting them would not only be disproportionate, it would be unlikely to restore the peace.

      After evoking a war metaphor, it immediately moves to harassment. Harassment is not war, not even close. If you apply silly models, you’ll get silly conclusions. As far as I can see, there are no conclusions in the piece that are not trivially obvious, and not question-begging.

  41. Guy in TN says:

    Re Bernie Sanders and Sweden:

    Both socialists and capitalists are attempting to lay claim to the successful middle ground.

    Your worry is that socialists will lay claim and try to implement dictionary-definition socialism. Yet here you are, attempting to lay a capitalism claim. Should I be concerned of the implementation of dictionary-defining capitalism? I have seen too many conservatives and libertarians attempt to hand wave unfavorable comparisons between the the U.S. and the Nordics by something along the lines of “we are both capitalist nations”, or even more bizarre “they are actually more capitalist than us .” Acting as if there is no daylight between the U.S. and having 1/3 of the population is employed by the government, and state owned enterprises comprise 88% of the value of the value of the GDP. .

    “Socialism” should be reserved for systems that end private property and nationalize practically everything.

    Why? The usage of both “capitalism” and “socialism” typically refer to placement along an ideological spectrum, not adherence to dictionary definitions. The largely-populated democratic socialist parties of Europe (which all essentially advocate for mixed economies) would suggest that usage of socialism for mixed economies is normal and not a-historic. I could make your same claim, and say that capitalism should be reserved for systems that abolish public property and privatize basically everything, therefore all mixed economies are socialist.

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      See also, e.g. the Wikipedia article on the New Zealand labour party. If you wanted to reserve “socialism” for the dictionary definition, I think that ship has sailed.

      (I was actually surprised to check my 1984 New Zealand Pocket Oxford and find that it did in fact provide Scott’s definition. I was 16 at the time, and I’m pretty sure my generation at least was using the word in the “new way” long before then.)

  42. Michael Watts says:

    Did you know: the first recorded Sanskrit inscriptions are in Syria, not India.

    This is one of those cases of the headline lying when the article underneath it is perfectly fine. I don’t think any Mittani documents written in an Indic language exist. Rather, their documents are written in Akkadian, and we can tell they spoke an Indic language because of their names. The article describes this like so: “the first people to leave behind evidence of having spoken Sanskrit aren’t Hindus or Indians – they were Syrians”. Modulo a discussion about what it means to be “the first people to leave behind evidence” of something, this is accurate. “The first recorded Sanskrit inscriptions”, though, would appear to be talking about texts which are written in Sanskrit.

    everything math- and computer-related has much lower divorce rates than everything else

    I could certainly have predicted this as to the male side of the divorce. I do tend to worry about people like the woman who complained to my mother, “my husband is loving, earns a good salary, and is an excellent father. But he’s just not exciting… I want to leave him”.

    A friend of mine, complaining about how her roommate’s boyfriend had dumped her for another girl, asked me once whether any of my friends had engaged in this nefarious behavior. I thought privately to myself how stupid that question was and responded “engineers don’t do that”. She asked why not. I said “because their ability to find a[nother] girlfriend is limited”.

    She responded with the text “Ha ha ha 😀 😀 “. And then followed that up with “Hilarious!”. And then screenshotted the conversation and posted it to wechat for all her friends to enjoy.

    At that point, I kind of felt that the level of agreement was uncharitably excessive. :-/

    • HFAMaximizer says:

      This shows something very wrong with the current culture. A society with its STEM and intelligent population more likely to have less kids for whatever reason tends to have less STEM people and intelligent people in the long run. A society that sexually deprives its brilliant people tends to have its most brilliant sector moving elsewhere.

      That’s deleterious sexual selection at work.

      You mentioned “WeChat” which is a Chinese software. It’s unfortunate that the sexual plague that plagues the West isn’t leaving East Asia alone either. The same degeneracy that made the West anti-intellectual will do the same there as well.

      We can’t restore the patriarchy without seriously harming creativity and productivity. We can’t leave the sexual free market like that either or STEM people risk getting completely outbred and the society risks degenerating. My proposal is that we have to get rid of sexuality through transhumanism.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        “My proposal is that we have to get rid of sexuality through transhumanism.”

        Joe and Rita had three children; the three smartest children in the world. Vice President Frito took eight wives, and had a total of thirty-two kids. Thirty two of the dumbest kids to ever walk the earth.

        • HFARationalist says:

          It seems that I can no longer post with my old account without getting a formal ban or warning.

          I do believe we need to at the very least reform sexuality if not outright remove this feature.

          One idea that can work is to make intelligence and rationality sexy which is probably much more appealing than removing sexuality. At the very least these should not make someone less sexy.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “I do believe we need to at the very least reform sexuality if not outright remove this feature.”

            All I’m saying is that’s going to be a hard sell to the public at large.

            “One idea that can work is to make intelligence and rationality sexy which is probably much more appealing than removing sexuality.”

            Or shut down the IQ shredders.

          • HFARationalist says:

            How to shut down the IQ shredders? Traditionalism doesn’t work, nor does sexual freedom. Do you know any existing sociosexual system that isn’t broken?

            Oh I see. My own ideology is an IQ shredder as well. So are sexbots.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @FacelessCraven We need to somehow not make rationality and knowledge themselves IQ shredders.

            How? To maximize knowledge and rationality we need female autonomy. We can’t simply follow Jim’s reac.tionary ideas.

            We need to reform the sociosexual system.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HFARationalist – “We need to somehow not make rationality and knowledge themselves IQ shredders.”

            Well, traditionalism would be my go-to argument, but you’ve already ruled that out. What are your actual values? Why is reproduction one of them?

            Having kids seems to involve rejecting a form of selfishness and embracing a form of altruism, but that form is not very altruistic by a purely rationalist perspective. I’m not sure that reproduction really makes much sense from a purely rationalist perspective. Maybe just dump all efforts into building a clone factory to start pumping out John Von Nuemanns en masse?

            (Bonus points if the Von Neumann Replicator itself self-replicates, and if the clones spend a significant amount of time optimizing the replicator. Would that make it a Von Neumann Von Neumann Von Neumann?)

          • HFARationalist says:

            @FacelessCraven

            The main problem I have with traditionalism is that it tends to harm creativity, rationality and STEM. Basically I want to destroy almost all forms of social consensus on non-facts other than some minimal amount of values that have to exist such as “do not harm others”. In my dream world people do not harm others, do not obey others and do not care about others. Everyone lives forever because of transhumanism and minds their own business. The only stuff people always have to unconditionally obey are written laws, not desires of other people. There shouldvbe nobody pressuring others to conform to anything, be it feminism, MRA, White Nationalism, Black Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, liberalism, conservativism, whatever. All views need to be respected as long as they do not contradict facts.

            I don’t like sexuality or kids at all. I’m against the current status quo not because I want to reproduce but because I want the more rational people to be better than the less rational ones evolutionarily so that rationality will be preserved
            .

            As for your clone factory this is a good idea. We do need to diversify who we produce though. For example we may need a thousand Paul Erdoses to do math. However we may need a million Teslas for engineering.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @HFARationalist

            But what if I’d rather live in a society of people than a hyperbalkanized shadow-verse of robots?

          • Nornagest says:

            Then it’s the recycling vats for you, Citizen.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Gobbobobble Then you can leave us alone while we leave you alone.

            Is there a way to perfect rationality without leading to paperclipism? I personally believe that when knowledge and rationality are the only focuses we will eventually head to paperclipism because robots will be able to have all the knowledge, rationality, etc humanity needs and humanity itself will have to be phased out as something inefficient and archaic.

            Maybe we should try to do something else as well such as…space colonization?

      • Gobbobobble says:

        My proposal is that we have to get rid of sexuality through transhumanism.

        Alternatively, encourage intelligent couples to have more kids.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The Mitanni article is pretty bad. The Mitanni were a real group who did use Sanskrit, but the data is presented really poorly (and in that smug way that shows just how very proud the author is to not be in the Prime Minister’s tribe).

      So here’s the deal: the Mitanni appear in history after the sack of Babylon, which may or may not have happened in 1595 BC, by the Hittites, who actually called themselves Nesili and spoke a language in the most divergent branch of Indo-European. They were unable to incorporate any part of Mesopotamia into their empire, and the power vacuum in Syria and Assyria was filled by a dynasty of chariot warriors from parts unknown. They ruled a people called the Hurrians and speakers of extinct Semitic languages and left no tablets in their original language. But we do know it was Sanskrit, based on their names and a horse-training manual that uses Sanskrit words for numbers and for horse.

      Despite a certain ideological fixation on saying the oldest hymns of the Rig Veda to 1500 BC, we have no evidence that Sanskrit was first spoken in India that late. The script of the first Indian cities is undeciphered, and rock-cut inscriptions are only known from, like, 300 BC on.
      On the other hand, we have a huge body of literature that was written in perishable materials or even oral, which makes it harder to date. A popular guess, originating with the German philologist Max Muller, is that the grammarian Panini fixed the forn of Sanskrit around 500 BC and each of the five chronolects of the Vedas was spoken for 200 years. But even if the Rig Veda started being composed in 1500 BC, it must have taken time for the Aryan invaders to move from outside India to a territory that included the Yamuna river east of Panjab and then completely forget that they came from another place.

      • Machine Interface says:

        From what I’ve read, linguists generally assume based on philological evidence that Sanskrit became a distinct language around 1800BC, in what is now northern Afghanistan, reaching the Punjab one or two centuries later.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          That seems plausible.
          An underappreciated complication, though, is Zarathustra. He lived in Afghanistan at a time when the spoken language was very similar to Vedic Sanskrit, yet in classical antiquity the Zoroastrian calendar claimed his era was only a generation before Cyrus the Great.

  43. Loquat says:

    nursing homes trash valuable medications after patients pass away or move out

    I saw the same thing when my mother died – she’d chosen hospice at home and some sort of IV opiate had been ordered, but she died faster than expected and the nurse didn’t even have time to insert the IV, much less hook up the opiates. Afterwards, the nurse had to open the untouched IV bags and dump the contents down the drain. Fear of cross-contamination turned up to 11, I guess.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I wonder how often these drugs are instead surreptitiously used or sold instead of being destroyed.

  44. InferentialDistance says:

    Bioethicists are still fucking awful, as are criticisms of suicide rights.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Suicide has a more lasting impact on others than yelling loudly at night in a housing complex.

      If the latter can be condemned I do not see why the former cannot also be condemned.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        Because the criteria isn’t “lasting impact on others”, it’s “impact on others via mediums deemed to be disallowed”. Free speech is very much a right about telling people that they way they’re impacted by speech doesn’t matter. Noise laws are about how much sonic energy you can dump onto other people’s property at a given time.

        If people actually cared, maybe they should try to make life worth living before they jump straight caging people in misery?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Are you saying that those most immediately impacted by a particular suicide weren’t trying to make the suicide’s life worth living as best they can in some way?

          Suicide, under most laws, was deemed to be disallowed, and it’s still disallowed under most people’s visceral morals even if not under the law, the same way (though not magnitude) I’m mad at people who smoke in public despite it being a lawful activity.

          ——

          A past acquaintance had her best friend commit suicide; he didn’t inform her of his imminent plans to do so because she would have done what she could to prevent it (and indeed had tried to talk him out of it previously). In the past she had mentioned considering suicide if her life was still crap at 30, but had changed her mind about it and found life worth living (and had told him this).

          He triggered an email informing her of his suicide to arrive in her inbox on her 30th birthday.

          I have thoughts about the wrongness of suicide when done for egoistic reasons. They are as bad as requiring someone to live in constant pain for your own egoistic reasons.

          If there is no realistic possibility of an end to pain, then the person should be allowed to make this decision after explaining this to their intimates and giving them time to come to terms with it. Otherwise you’re an asshole.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Are you saying that those most immediately impacted by a particular suicide weren’t trying to make the suicide’s life worth living as best they can in some way?

            trying

            as best they can

            Intent isn’t fucking magic. I don’t owe emotionally abusive family members jack of shit just because their abusive attempts to “help” me are a result of their own upbringings in abusive households. I’m not morally obligated to make personal life decisions based on who gets hurt feelings, not with my career choice, not with my sex life, not with what food I eat, not with what media I consume, not even with my fucking decision on living itself.

            Bullshit excuses like this are exactly why suicide rights are important. Until gross incompetence is no longer rewarded, gross incompetence is what a lot of depressed people are going to be forced to deal with. Until being so inept that you fail to make life worth living reliably results in a suicide, we’ll never know if people care enough to actually make life worth living. So long as failure is easier than success (it is), and failure is given a pass (it is), failure will be common.

            Suicide, under most laws, was deemed to be disallowed

            Yeah, and slavery was also deemed to be allowed. People in the past had a whole lot of fucked up worldviews.

            Otherwise you’re an asshole.

            Bite me. If my intimates weren’t so quick to tell me to just man up and deal with my problems, you might, possibly, almost have a point. But so long as you’re defending abuse backed by police violence and crazy-person jail, nah, fuck off.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Hey, I’m estranged from my parents, have no plans to reconcile, and am happy with that situation.

            ” I’m not morally obligated to make personal life decisions based on who gets hurt feelings, not with my career choice, not with my sex life”

            If there aren’t any more people in your life, or who have feelings for you whether you know it or not, than an abusive family, then I guess no one but the non-relatives who find/have to deal with your corpse will be negatively affected by your suicide.

            This would make you a jerk, then, not an asshole.

            Feel free to be a jerk, just don’t expect people to keep from calling you a jerk. As soon as we’re functionally more morally developed than toddlers morals and ethics do dictate a non-asshole, non-jerk, non-psycho/sociopath’s decisions.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Anyone who is of the opinion that I should be forced to endure prolonged severe depression, facilitated by violent assault and literally crazy-making rights restrictions, just to spare them some sadness, is such a hypocritical piece of shit that I honestly don’t care if they think I’m a jerk.

            A few months of sadness has nothing against over a decade of nigh-suicidal depression.

      • herbert herberson says:

        That’s ridiculous. You have to compare the cost and the benefit.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          ??? Anything that has an effect on a third party can be condemned or condoned by that third party regardless of any cost-benefit analysis. This is where personal preference comes into the value-judgment process.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            Yeah, and as the third party affected by their condemnation, I condemn said condemnation.

          • herbert herberson says:

            If you really don’t see the categorical difference between something that is unpleasant to a third party and has only very trivial and fleeting benefits to the offending party (yelling late at night) and something that is unpleasant to a third party but may have very deep and profound benefits to the “offending party” (assisted suicide) then there is something deeply wrong with you

  45. Loquat says:

    Benjamin Lay […] kidnapped a slaveowner’s child to give them a taste of what slaves had to go through.

    I’m very curious what effect the kidnapping had on the family, or on the child in particular. The source doesn’t say, and it seems like the sort of thing that could just as easily backfire if done to sufficiently stubborn people.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Even in that worse case situation the hypocrisy of their response would make for a good tale in his pamphlets.

      Depending on how it was done, I do feel sorry for the child (unless the child thought this short, hunchbacked man was funny and went along with him – this was a few centuries before ‘stranger-danger’).

      • Antistotle says:

        > Even in that worse case situation the hypocrisy of their response would make
        > for a good tale in his pamphlets.

        I think you have insufficient imagination as to what sort of “worst case” could have been in those times.

        I’m just saying you don’t mess with people’s kids. SRSLY bad idea.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I think you have insufficient imagination as to what sort of “worst case” could have been in those times.

          Given the backbone of the above-average abolitionist Quaker in that era, I don’t think I do.

  46. The Nybbler says:

    There’s even very conservative expiration dates for _iodine tablets_. Fortunately when there was a shortage of replacements, someone at the NRC had the bright idea of distributing instructions telling you to crush the expired tablet and take it with liquid (the only thing that happens to iodine tablets is they take longer to dissolve).

    https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/emerg-preparedness/about-emerg-preparedness/potassium-iodide/ki-faq.html

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      That is humorous.

      I found out this myth in my twenties when using my dad’s old neosporin which had expired before I was born.

  47. onyomi says:

    The election results map makes me want to bring up again a sort of half-baked defense of the electoral college I came up with right after the election, which I think someone else described as something like “the land gets a vote.”

    So, obviously the electoral college is biased against city dwellers in favor of rural people. Against my argument people understandably said “what, the views and desires and opinions of each individual city person are less valuable than those of each individual country person??”

    I think within the narrow range of the logic of democratic voting, I am willing to bite this bullet and say “yes” (and I say this as someone who has lived most of his life in cities and who currently lives in a very big city).

    Why? Because the government claim to control what goes on in Alaska is, in many ways, a more significant claim than its claim to control what goes on in Rhode Island.

    Government claims of sovereignty are about more than just controlling people in the abstract. They are about controlling peoples’ movements, ability to build things on their property, what they do with their property, who gets to extract natural resources and on what terms, etc. etc.

    The population of Rhode Island is bigger than that of Alaska, but Alaska is a much bigger percentage of the Earth’s habitable, exploitable, surface. Which is not to say that, at twice the size of Texas, Alaska should get twice as many senators as Texas or anything nearly so extreme. Rather that, if we concede government has any responsibilities to those it claims the right to govern, it also has to account for the land it claims the right to control.

    In democracies, giving citizens the right to vote is essentially the tradeoff governments offer (not that you can refuse, or hold out for a better offer) in exchange for citizens acceding to the government’s political authority. Currently, virtually all land in the world is controlled or claimed by one government or another and virtually all people are subject to some government jurisdiction. Certainly it makes sense to say that a larger number of people get a bigger say in the running of the government they are subject to; but pure numbers is not remotely a full picture of the type of authority governments claim.

    The populations of Taiwan and Australia are about the same, but the land area of Australia is two hundred times that of Taiwan. By most accounts, Taiwan is a medium-sized island and Australia is a continent. Controlling a whole continent is a bigger deal than controlling what goes on on a medium-sized island. Yet if Taiwan and Australia were somehow subsumed into one empire, the people of Taiwan, as a group, would get equal say over what goes on in that entire continent–who can immigrate there, who can visit there, who can trade there and on what terms, what you can build on your property there–as all the people actually living there. That seems unjust to me.

    • Montfort says:

      But you view it as just that the Australian voters would have a bigger say than the Taiwanese over who gets to immigrate to Taiwan, trade with the Taiwanese, build on Taiwan, etc.? I think maybe a lot of the “unjust” intuition is coming from the lack of any compelling reason for Taiwan and Australia to join together as a single nation in the first place.

      • onyomi says:

        I agree that it’s hard for me to disentangle my general ethical problems with forced political association of any kind from my specific intuition about this case.

        I certainly don’t think it’s just that the people of Australia get equal say over what goes on in Taiwan as the Taiwanese, either, for the same reason I don’t think it’s just that people in the next town get equal say over what goes on in this town, or that my neighbor get equal say about what goes on on my property.

        But given that we live in a world of many forced political unities, the US being one of the larger ones, and assuming Calexit, Texit, or secession of Austin from Texas, or Boulder from Colorado are not on the table, the question is about what is more just or unjust within those constraints.

        And, if we assumed that, for some strange reason, Australia and Taiwan were forced into a political unity, and separation or secession were not options, I do think it would be more unjust that the people of Taiwan have equal control over the whole continent of Australia than the reverse, though the reverse is also bad.

        Of course, there’s also an injustice in the people of Australia claiming, as a political unit, control over a whole continent, despite the fact that most of it is uninhabited. Why should such a small number of people get to control what happens on such a large percentage of the Earth’s surface? But given that this is just how governments work nowadays (they claim the right to control what goes on on all the land within often expansive borders including much uninhabited territory, not just what goes on in the specific spots its citizens are owning and occupying), I can’t think of a better way to hold governments to account for this greater claim of authority, again assuming separations, secession, archipelagos, etc. are off the table.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Land acreage seems like a pretty poor proxy for usefulness/exploitablity. Most of Alaska is relatively useless wilderness, and Japan has made some big technological contributions despite its size. But even assuming acreage is a good proxy, wouldn’t you be arguing for a vote weight based on usefulness/wealth? That seems a bit problematic.

    • rahien.din says:

      If land is sparsely inhabited and poorly-developed, this is evidence that A. it has less value, and B. there is less need to regulate it. If the cold heart of Alaska and the Australian outback had great intrinsic value worth investing in, the capitalists would have already invested there, attracted workers, built cities, formed culture, etc., etc., etc. But they haven’t. Any electoral injustice done to uninhabited wilderness is essentially negated by the fact that no one cares about regulating those areas.

      Getting to your Taiwa-stralia metaphor, yes, the Taiwanese would have equal say over what was to occur in the deserts of the Oceanian continent. But they wouldn’t actually say anything. They wouldn’t have any reason to care.

      Compare the history of Wyoming’s electoral college allocation to California’s. For much of its electoral history, California was like Wyoming in its percentage of electoral college votes. Then the 1930’s happened. If some economic boom comes to Wyoming, then people will go there, and they will bring with them some ability to vote.

      This is not to say that the electoral college serves no purpose (it does) or is itself unjust (I agree that it largely isn’t). The average rural person has greater productive and/or cultural worth than is electorally represented by a single unadjusted vote or by their ability to influence policy (speech, money) outside of elections. So I agree that rural communities deserve some adjustment to their votes.

      But that only pertains to people. The electoral college is for people. People who develop the land and produce value from it are inevitably regulated, and thus they get the means to participate in the formulation of those regulations.

      Mere land area is noise, not signal.

      • Jiro says:

        If land is sparsely inhabited and poorly-developed, this is evidence that A. it has less value, and B. there is less need to regulate it.

        No, that’s evidence that it has less value to prospective inhabitants and developers. It can have value for other reasons that don’t involve inhabiting or developing it (and certainly reasons that don’t involve inhabiting or developing it immediately, as opposed to when the population increases or new resources are discovered.)

        • rahien.din says:

          If land is sparsely inhabited and poorly-developed, this is evidence that A. it has less value, and B. there is less need to regulate it.

          No, that’s evidence that it has less value to prospective inhabitants and developers.

          Yes. Exactly. Precise but inaccurate.

          Are there electorally-relevant reasons for land to have value in the absence of people who care about that land?

        • Jiro says:

          “Inhabitants and developers” are not the same thing as “people who care about the land”.

          • rahien.din says:

            Are there electorally-relevant reasons for land to have value in the absence of [group(s) or type(s) people to which you had referred]?

      • gbdub says:

        This may be unique to the United States, but a large portion of the land area in the sparsely populated states is owned or otherwise controlled by the federal government (or Native American reservations).

        And in many cases the livelihood of the few people that do live in those states are dependent on federal leases of mineral rights, grazing rights, etc. on those federal lands.

        So to that degree, someone in Montana is much more directly affected by federal policy than someone in California. That would seem to justify a greater say, at least in the areas that affect them – which are mostly executive branch functions.

        • rahien.din says:

          Again : these pertain only to people. Not to mere land.

          If there were no reservations, and no one dependent on federal leases, etc., the land would be electorally-irrelevant.

          The people are what matter.

          Mere land area is noise, not signal.

          • gbdub says:

            Right, but they pertain to people to different degrees depending on where they live, so the land plays a role.

          • rahien.din says:

            Right, but they pertain to people to different degrees depending on where they live, so the land plays a role.

            Wrong. What a person chooses to do determines the regulations they are subject to. The land’s role is entirely dependent upon choice of action.

            – If I live as a self-sufficient hermit living outside Cody, Wyoming, I am not directly affected by such things as you mention.
            – If I am a rancher or prospector living in Cody, Wyoming, then I am acutely affected.
            – If I am a crop farmer living in Cody, Wyoming, then I am acutely affected, but perhaps with a vector opposite that of the rancher or prospector.
            – If I am a ranger for Yellowstone living in Cody, Wyoming, I am acutely affected in a way that may be different from all of the above.

            A rancher in Cody, Wyoming has more in common with a rancher in Billings, Montana than their park ranger neighbor or the hermit up the road. Their mere location is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain why.

            In contrast, what-a-person-chooses-to-do is necessary (and sometimes, sufficient) to explain how one is affected by government regulations and also to explain one’s choice of home.

        • BBA says:

          The federal government owns more of California than they do of Montana. New York or Massachusetts would be a better example.

    • Lasagna says:

      I don’t think the positives of the electoral college are particularly complicated. In my view, it mitigates the problems associated by a large, diverse and geographically different group of people being ruled by a capital that’s both far away and not necessarily exposed to the problems of the smaller groups.

      The needs of Nebraska are much different than the needs of Chicago, but Chicago, by itself, is worth FIVE Nebraskas (see here for a good post on this). Without the electoral college, no presidential candidate would ever leave the major cities. I don’t believe that this is a good result.

      The presidential election is a popularity contest between the states, not between the people, and whatever the reason for originally setting it up this way, it has at least one positive effect: it’s worth a candidate’s time to take into consideration the needs of people in Maine, and not just try to lock up Brooklyn.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Without the electoral college, no presidential candidate would ever leave the major cities. I don’t believe that this is a good result.

        I think you’re not justifying this sufficiently. Any blue dog off the street could just say, so what? If the cities are where most of the votes are, then it’s only because that’s where most of the people are. If we truly consider the people to be most important, why not cater to them? If that means the future of the US lies in its cities, then why not go whole hog, declare that political power will tend to concentrate there as much as it concentrates toward ideals like greater individual rights, strong national defense, etc., and acknowledge this now natural incentive for people to concentrate further?

        There are answers to this. Rural people are much more familiar with how to manage those large rural tracts. They also still provide vital services, namely food. (Sidebar: “giving land a vote” may effectively just mean farming corps like ADM have more power.) If popular concentration causes real reliance on the few people willing to remain in the country and harvest its resources, then those people will enjoy even more power in compensation, no matter how you try to slice it.

        There may be even better arguments as well. I tend not to see them very much.

        • herbert herberson says:

          Any blue dog off the street could just say, so what? If the cities are where most of the votes are, then it’s only because that’s where most of the people are. If we truly consider the people to be most important, why not cater to them

          I’d take it one further and say it’s a positive–higher density means less time riding past cornfields on a bus and more time spent actually interacting with voters and constituents.

        • Lasagna says:

          I’m not sure you really addressed my point, which is that the needs and wants of less populated rural areas are different than the needs and wants of densely populated cities. A straight popular vote will necessarily drown out those differences and only address the needs of city dwellers. The electoral college mitigates this somewhat. It’s not perfect, but it somewhat diffuses the possibility of these areas being ignored.

          You’re making a philosophical justification – why should my vote count less? I’m outlining political reality: if New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco and Chicago get all of the political power – in addition to already having control over finance, media, tech, etc. etc. – you can’t possibly expect the rest of the county to simply bow out.

          The electoral college is far from perfect (IMO), but it at least prevents the feeling of a truly gigantic chunk of the population that they’re absolutely and completely ruled by a distant capital populated by people who know nothing at all about them.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Why privilege geographical minorities over ideological ones?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Politics is war by other means. Voting at its most basic form has two armies rally together on a set day, count up the soldiers in each, and then assume that the biggest army will win, sending everyone home without casualties.

            (One nice side effect of losing at the voting booth also lets the losers know that they are out-numbered, which means that trying the war route instead is not likely to pay off, discouraging its use.)

            But, of course, numbers aren’t a perfect predictor of military victory, especially as you get close to a few percentage points.

            Now, look at that voting map and imagine it as a war room map instead showing territory owned by each army. Which army is completely screwed? Probably good to account for that in your war simulations, because you can be sure that your citizens’ hindbrains are.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Which army is completely screwed?

            Neither? One army can’t do anything with its extremely diffuse armies except guerilla warfare, while the other is setup to do the exact kinds of highly concentrated combined-arms advances that are highly effective in conventional warfare but more-or-less useless at counter-insurgency?

            Not to imply that I think your analogy is valid; people’s choices on where to live are not comparable to troop movements.

          • Brad says:

            @Lasagna
            I think this argument proves too much. There are other cleavages besides geography that also divide voters very starkly in terms of needs and wants. But apologists for the electoral college never seem to want to add overresentation for the smaller sides of these other cleavages.

          • Lasagna says:

            @herbert herberson and Brad

            The “if you can’t help everybody, help nobody” argument isn’t very good.

            I think this argument proves too much. There are other cleavages besides geography that also divide voters very starkly in terms of needs and wants. But apologists for the electoral college never seem to want to add overresentation for the smaller sides of these other cleavages.

            How, exactly, would we “add overrepresentation for the smaller sides of these other cleavages”? If you’d like to do that, come up with a new system, and if you get enough support, we’ll amend the Constitution. That’s the only option.

            Otherwise you need to accept the system we have, with its positives and negatives. I was simply outlining one of its positives – something I think is an important, good thing. I say this as a lifetime New Yorker: New York – or rather, New York City – does not need any more power in the United States. We arguably have way too much as is. While I don’t think it’d be the end of the world to get rid of the electoral college or anything, I’d prefer we keep it, because it (imperfectly) redistributes a little of the political power.

          • Brad says:

            @Lasagna
            Would you support an amendment to the Constitution to add 100 members to the electoral college to be selected at large by the votes of only African Americans?

            (For the record, I wouldn’t. But I also would like to see the EC abolished.)

          • herbert herberson says:

            “The “if you can’t help everybody, help nobody” argument isn’t very good.”

            Maybe not, but “if you can’t help everyone, you should default to the most straightforward and comprehensible version of representative democracy” does the trick. Or, at least, not be surprised when the people who are uniquely disadvantaged by your sole dispensation to minority concerns oppose it and see it as undermining democratic legitimacy.

            (if you’re looking for an affirmative program from me, it’s finely grained proportional representation allowing even the smallest minorities, be they geographic, ideological, or ethnic, to have some representation and participation in the legislature)

          • Elphrygian says:

            Arguments for abolishing the electoral college always seem strange to me. Not that it’s the most reliable of such sources, but a quick search of the colonies during the inception of the institution shows this:
            Population of the 13 Colonies

            Virginia had nearly twice the population (447k) as the next, Pennsylvania (240k). Georgia had 23k for comparison. It strikes me that, if not for such an institution, there would have been very little point from an electoral standpoint of any but a few colonies forming the United States in the first place. I certainly can’t imagine later states would have had quite the impetus to join, either, given their relatively small populations early on.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m not sure you really addressed my point, which is that the needs and wants of less populated rural areas are different than the needs and wants of densely populated cities.

            I think I did, actually – provided we consider what’s implied by those needs and wants. (Like David Friedman, though, I dislike the term “needs”, so I’ll speak only of wants.) Ideally, everyone’s wants are served. Practically, only some of them. And not because politicians listen only to urbanites; rather, because there aren’t enough resources to go around. Who produces the resources? Everyone produces some, but the fundamental ones come from the country:

            [Rural people] also still provide vital services, namely food.

            All the other goods and services would eventually shut down without food, wood, iron, copper, zinc, natural gas, etc., so someone has to go out there and get it, and they won’t go without some sort of compensation. Some of it’s salary. And some of it is a bigger piece of an electoral vote.

            My point above is that if no one had to get stuff from the country, then everyone could just move to the city, and get their representation that way. The people of Seattle might still feel like they’re ruled unjustly by people in DC, but Seattle seems to tolerate it enough to vote blue anyway, according to that map.

            I’ll add another point (which addresses the niggling fact that WY isn’t exactly the breadbasket of America, either): a bigger share of an electoral vote may be unfair in some way, but the difference appears to be insufficient to make more people move from California to Wyoming, and there’s no Berlin Wall between CA and WY; instead, there’s Interstate 80. That suggests to me that the difference is balanced out by other effects.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @Elphrygian No one is arguing for time-traveling back to 1790 and abolishing the EC at that time, though (and had I been around then, I wouldn’t have been anti-EC, since all the arguments the pro-EC people here have made had a lot more force back when regionalism and travel costs were far greater and the importance of ideology to voters and politics was at least somewhat smaller). The question is whether the institution that made sense at the turn of the 19th century makes still sense 220+ years later.

            @Paul Brinkley

            You can choose to live in two homes. One is a drafty shack with no running water and a 45 minute commute, the other is a nice three bedroom house with full amenities right next to your dream job, except every day a hobo walks in and takes a shit on the dining room table. Does choosing the latter mean you like hobo-shit?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Sure doesn’t.

            Does it mean I tolerate it enough to not move? Sure does.

          • Elphrygian says:

            @herbert herberson

            How glib. Why should travel costs and such ultimately affect the importance of the representation of -states- in the electoral process? If anything, it seems fewer states have larger, denser concentrations of (apparently) similarly-thinking people than existed even before. Given that, the electoral college seems even more sensible if the problem it was meant to address has amplified. I haven’t really seen much in the way of criticism of the electoral college that didn’t fundamentally boil down to wanting a majority outcome, and that seems… pretty consistent with what the institution was intended to tackle in the first place.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Something can be important and worth improving without being so important to particular individuals that it significantly affects their choice of where to live.

          • Brad says:

            I certainly can’t imagine later states would have had quite the impetus to join, either, given their relatively small populations early on.

            Most states didn’t join as such. Only the original 13, Vermont, and Texas. And of those Rhode Island was basically blackmailed into accepting the Constitution.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @Elphrygian The point is twofold:

            1. As you state, at the time of ratification the country was dealing with fairly genuine sovereigns who could chose whether or not they wanted to be a part of the union, so it made sense to deal with them as individuals at that time. That is no longer the case.

            2. At that time, geography was the most important political consideration; people were likely to see themselves as having more in common with a neighbor with different political ideas as compared to someone who lived several weeks travel away but happened to have similar ideas on, I dunno, tariffs and central banking. So, if you were going to protect a political minority from being swamped by the majority, it made sense to protect geographic minorities. Now, however, most people see themselves as having far more in common with distant ideological brethren than they do with neighbors displaying the wrong candidate sign. Ergo, it would make far more sense to either go straight to popular vote majoritarianism, OR, if one does want to protect a political minority from being swamped by the majority, to pick a more salient characteristic.

          • Elphrygian says:

            @ Brad
            Could you expound a bit by what you’re referring to here? I took a random state and, from looking at its statehood, it seems to have joined through fairly straightforward means:
            Montana Statehood

          • Nornagest says:

            Montana and most of the other Western states, except for California and Texas, were US territorial possessions for most of their early history (modulo pre-contact history, and the Mexican period for Guadalupe Hidalgo acquisitions). That means they were already dealing with most of the downsides of being part of the union, viz. taxation and federal laws that may or may not suit local conditions. Moving from there to statehood is pretty much a straightforward win if you can sell it: you lose nothing and gain a say.

            It’s a very different situation than the one the original thirteen colonies were dealing with.

          • Brad says:

            It has been the historical practice for territorial governments or people to petition to become a state, but the Constitution doesn’t require that. It gives Congress the power to create new states as long as they aren’t part of any existing state.

            In any event, even if you consider those statehood votes a necessary part of the process I don’t see why people living in a territory would be less likely to vote for statehood if they only got proportional representation in the electoral college. As territories they got none.

            Edit: beaten

          • Ransom says:

            I think this is the main argument: do people really think Nebraska should be ruled by Chicago? People in one region of the country have different concerns, needs, values, ideologies than people in other parts. The people in Wyoming absolutely should have a say in their own government, at the national level. Without the electoral college (and similar things like the Senate) they would have no say at all.
            Many states have this problem in miniature: eastern Washington state is very rural, but the state government is absolutely dominated by Seattle. They have no say. People arguing for a pure body-count system would expand/exacerbate that problem to the whole nation.

          • Brad says:

            Again, there are other cleavages. What about Hasidim? They too have “different concerns, needs, values, ideologies” from other Americans. Should they too “have a say in their own government, at the national level”? Why shouldn’t they get Electoral College and Senate seats set aside for them?

            Down that road ultimately gets you to the corporatist system imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing.

          • hlynkacg says:

            do people really think Nebraska should be ruled by Chicago?

            I’m sure a fair number of Chicagoans do, but that’s one of the major reasons the Senate and EC are structured as they are. The lack of proportional representation was meant to be a check on the ability of more populous states to run rough-shod over less populated ones.

            Edit:
            @ brad
            If you actually have a proposal for how to best distribute electoral votes by religion/ethnicity instead of geography, that simultaneously addresses the concerns already raised, I’d like to hear it.

          • Matt M says:

            I think this is the main argument: do people really think Nebraska should be ruled by Chicago?

            Yes, they do.

            On the one hand, the people in rural Illinois are practically indistinguishable from the people in Nebraska, and they are ruled by the people in Chicago. Every blue state has a bunch of red rural dwellers, and every red state has a bunch of blue city dwellers, who are ruled by the opposing tribe, and not many people have problems with this framework.

            But state governments are weak and small potatoes. From 2008 – 2016 people from Nebraska (and North Dakota, and South Carolina) were ruled by someone literally from Chicago and nobody had a major problem with this.

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg
            If you actually have a proposal for how to best distribute electoral votes by religion/ethnicity instead of geography, that simultaneously addresses the concerns already raised, I’d like to hear it.

            Which concerns were you thinking about?

            I mentioned Hong Kong — here’s page on their “functional constituencies” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_constituency_(Hong_Kong)

            They have one seat for the agricultural and fishing industries, another for residents that can trace their ancestry back to the region before the British took over, another for Labour, and for finance, and so forth and so on.

            To be clear I don’t endorse this type of corporatist system — I prefer liberal democracy, but the arguments for disproportionate representation of rural areas leads naturally to it when considered in a generalized way instead of merely as a convenient justification for the status quo.

    • tmk says:

      Not convincing to me. If the Taiwan and Australia example feels intuitively unjust, it may be because Australia is richer and more culturally connected to you. How about a union between Kazakhstan and the Netherlands, or Spain and Algeria?

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s a fantastic map and I loved playing with it 🙂

      It really does show the clustering of votes, though; I have no idea if it’s simply population effects (plainly the huge spike for Clinton votes in Californian cities has to do with clustering of population there; if Los Angeles only had 30,000 people living there instead of 4 million, for instance, it could still be 71% blue but not look as out of place compared with the rest of the map). It did look to me like the red vote was smaller (no similar huge spikes) but much more consistent, spread out over the entire map, while the blue spikes really did cluster in particular regions.

      So the Democratic Party problem is how to turn those huge blue spikes into more uniform across-the-nation spread and how to become a truly national party, because it’s very visible that they have majority support in a cluster in the North-East, trailing down the coast, and then in a clump in California extending northwards, plus Hawaii.

      • herbert herberson says:

        So in order to become a “truly national party” they must abandon the approach that netted them a majority of the votes in the nation.

        • Deiseach says:

          The majority of the votes clustered in particular small regions. I doubt you’d like it any better if there were 50 million Red votes in one state which meant that the interests of you and your state were filed under “the hell with them, who cares about Nowheresville?”

          The point is that the Democratic Party and by extension the Presidency has claims to represent the best interests of the nation. Now, in practice, both parties probably mean “the best interests of our supporters, and that even gets whittled down to the people who scratch our backs”, but it’s not “vote somebody in who only cares about the ten square miles that voted for them”. A government sets policy for the entire nation and makes laws and decisions that affect the entire nation.

          Now, if the honest answer is “we rule this nation for the sake of the four million people living in Los Angeles, three-quarters of whom voted for us, and the middle of the country can go hang as far as we’re concerned”, then great. But you’re not a democratic government in that case, you’re an oligarchy. It’s particularly egregious on the part of a party that would happily cater to the sub-2 million estimated national transgender population when it comes to legislation (think of the recent rí-rá over transgender military) but thinks that the interests or issues of 115 million Red Staters are trivial (2015 estimation of population).

          • herbert herberson says:

            “I doubt you’d like it any better if there were 50 million Red votes in one state which meant that the interests of you and your state were filed under “the hell with them, who cares about Nowheresville?””

            I live in a small college town in a red state, this is already my reality. Doesn’t justify affirmative action for the franchise. Certainly doesn’t justify me dubbing the solid majority of neighbors who disagree with me “an oligarchy.”

      • Ransom says:

        I’d add that I suspect that those very large blue spikes have a lot to do with the huge patronage systems that are run in the big cities.

        • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

          I’m very curious and a little skeptical about how prevalent this is in US cities. I’ve worked adjacent to a number of local governments and frankly I don’t really see this as a substantial factor. Teaching is often brought up as a quasi-patronage system in urban areas, but my anecdata suggests these positions are high-turnover and mostly filled either by new teachers who get a few years of experience before hopping to a more lucrative suburban or private school opportunity, or idealistic do-gooders; neither predominately from the community in question. City bureaucracies for functions like benefits administration, parking enforcement, public works, etc. seem much more plausible, but in my experience aren’t nearly big enough to explain the margins by which urban areas vote blue. Policing and emergency services are a significant employer but are not really a bastion of liberalism. Perhaps the bureaucracy is large enough in e.g. Chicago or NYC for this to be a real factor, but the population (density) threshold for those blue spikes is much much lower.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Couldn’t pretty much all of the problems with both the Electoral College and your hypothetical Tiawaustralia example be solved by abandoning geographic districts entirely and just using a fine-grained PR system?

    • beleester says:

      It seems equally unjust to consider the opposite case, and say “Australia gets to say what goes on in Taiwan, overriding all the people who actually live there, because they have more land mass.”

      Your argument makes sense to me as a states-rights sorta thing, arguing that the people who live in a place should have control over that place, but I don’t think it works to say that, simply because of where you are in the country, you should have a bigger say in the workings of the country as a whole.

      I’d also point out that the electoral college is a singularly bad way of granting states weight based on their land mass. If, for example, you merged Utah and Arizona together, the new state would roughly double in size, but would lose two electoral votes, because they’d get the same number of Representatives and two fewer Senators.

      What the E.C. does is, it puts a floor on the number of votes a state can get. Simply by having their state marked on the map, they get two Senators and one Representative, with the idea that we drew the lines that way for a reason, and that reason is probably important enough to get representation at the federal level. It empowers Wyoming, but it also empowers Rhode Island.

      That might be close enough to your original intent that you still like the Electoral College, but I don’t think it’s really “the land gets a vote.” It’s more “The location gets a vote,” and locations are abstract concepts that can be as big or small as we want.

      (Does this lead to an argument that we should redraw state lines to better reflect what’s important to us today? Hmm…)

    • shenanigans24 says:

      I think people should consider whether the United States would exist without the current setup. Why would any state join a system where they had virtually no say. They would be better off staying independent. The 3/5 compromise wasn’t because anyone thought 3/5 made sense, it was because it was necessary to get the document approved.

      I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t remain true today. The electoral college exists because without it the United States doesn’t exist. Before we argue about who should rule the kingdom, we must realize the rules that allowed us to rule the kingdom cannot be changed as a precondition of the ruling.

      • BBA says:

        Well, in that case, the 13th Amendment violated the pro-slavery purposes behind much of the Constitution and it should have been rewritten completely after the Civil War. (I actually believe this. I see how it was important for the Reconstruction-era Congress to stress continuity with the antebellum government, but the 14th Amendment in particular completely upends old notions of federalism and we’d be better off redesigning our institutions from scratch.)

        To me the electoral college seems like a hasty afterthought – a way to elect an independent President while preserving the compromises that went into the structure of Congress. Notably, a major barrier to a single nationwide popular vote at the time was that each state defined its franchise separately and property requirements for the vote varied a great deal. Now the franchise is mostly uniform (the main difference between states is whether and when convicted felons can vote) and the 3/5 compromise is dead. So is there any defense for the EC other than “one acre one vote”?

        Assigning all the electoral votes in a state to the plurality winner, be it 51% or 99%, is responsible for most of the absurd results you can get, and that’s not in the Constitution. It’s determined state-by-state, and the fact that 48 out of 50 use this lousy system is a Molochian coordination problem. Of note – if you take away 2 EVs from each state, making the EC as proportionate as the House, Trump still wins. But keep those in place and make a couple of changes to state lines, supposing the Toledo War had gone the other way and similarly Florida had given up its panhandle to Georgia, and then Clinton would’ve won.

        • BBA says:

          Another thought, because I haven’t rambled long enough: France and South Korea have executive presidents elected nationwide by popular vote. Do they suffer from having their major cities dominating their elections, at the expense of the people in flyover high-speed-rail-through country?

          • Tibor says:

            France is about the size of Texas and the Republic of Korea is the size of Alabama. Most of Europe (except the north, but then there is really virtually nobody living there) is very densely populated and there is no real “flyover” country. Of course there is countryside but it is always within 100 km or so of a next big city (which in Europe means over 100 000 people or so). Usually there is maybe one or two really huge cities with a population over 1 million in a country and the rest is spread more evenly. Korea is even more densely populated, I think.

            Perhaps more importantly (I don’t know about Korea though), continental Europe, including France, has a proportional system of government. If your party gets over 5% of votes they’re in the parliament (some countries don’t even require that) and typically nobody can rule outside of a coalition (this still sometimes happens in the UK, but there it is an exception rather than a rule) and the president has a lot less power than in the US (even in France…in other countries the president usually has close to zero power…or there even isn’t one at all when the country is a kingdom or Switzerland) That ameliorates these city/rural divisions significantly. If you have a winner takes all system of government then the electoral college seems vital to me. If you shifted to a proportional system (which is never going to happen in normal circumstances because it would benefit the Libertarians and the Green Party at the cost of the GOP and Democrats) then you could perhaps do away with the EC.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            Even in The Netherlands the rural people feel ignored and screwed by the urban regions.

            The proportional system helps a bit, although there is a strong tendency to keep certain groups out of the government.

          • John Schilling says:

            Another thought, because I haven’t rambled long enough: France and South Korea have executive presidents elected nationwide by popular vote. Do they suffer from having their major cities dominating their elections, at the expense of the people in flyover high-speed-rail-through country?

            South Korean democracy is too new (est. 1987) to really generalize, but Seoul dominates everything in South Korea, not just politics. Literally half the population of the country lives in the Seoul Metropolitan Area.

          • Tibor says:

            @Aapje: My impression was that there is hardly any countryside in the Netherlands, your country is the most densely populated in Europe – 17 million people in an area similar to that of Switzerland. But I think that while it is true that the “rural people” indeed do feel that the city people make them do things they don’t like but similarly the city people feel the same about the “rural people”. And of course there are big regional differences. Downtown Dallas is probably still more Republican than San Nombre, Ningun Lado County, California. Similarly, München is probably still more conservative than Unbekantesdorf in the NRW (although most of NRW is covered by the urban monstrosity called the Ruhrgebiet, so there’s not much countryside left there anyway).

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            The economic and political heart of The Netherlands is pretty clearly Holland + Utrecht, the most populated area on the middle-left here (see the map of building density on page 2).

            Now compare this map to this map of the Dutch Bible Belt. It should be pretty clear that the orthodox protestants map very closely to low density areas.

            As we discussed here in the past, the US actually has a bunch of different groups with a different history, which cannot be simply mapped onto the Democrat/Republican divide. In The Netherlands we also have different groups with their own PoV. So you can’t just explain everything with one simple schema.

            In hindsight, I shouldn’t have put so much emphasis on the rural vs urban divide, because that is part of the divide, but certainly not all of it. However, it is true that we have urbanization/deruralization, as well as migration to Holland+Utrecht, so the rest of the country is seeing a decline, as various core services are closing due to this (schools, hospitals, shops, etc). This hits villages hardest, but also small cities in (relatively) low density regions.

            There are also different issues in different areas, for example, the bottom-middle and -right is drug production country. So they have the kind of crime that this brings. The top-right has the largest natural gas field in Europe and the gas extraction has caused an increasing number of quakes, causing property damage and fear. So the people there logically feel that their natural resources helped the rest of the country, but they get insufficient help now that there is trouble.

          • BBA says:

            @Tibor: France has single-member districts in its parliament. They have runoffs instead of FPTP, but like in Britain a diffuse minority still won’t get many seats.

            I’m trying to figure out if “the US President is too important to elect directly” is an argument or not. Because I can point to lots of other important officials who are elected directly but they’re not as important as the US President so they don’t count. Is there any other current example of an electoral college, setting parliamentary systems aside?

          • Nornagest says:

            Downtown Dallas is probably still more Republican than San Nombre, Ningun Lado County, California.

            You might be surprised how Red some parts of California are. The Central Valley is a major agricultural region with all that implies, Northeastern and Southeastern California are basically indistinguishable from rural Nevada except for the lack of slot machines, and there’s no shortage of little flyspeck timber towns in the mountains. The Hispanic vote complicates some parts of the Valley, but unless you landed in a college or tourist town, I’d expect the second two to be redder than Dallas.

          • Matt M says:

            And how blue the major cities in Texas are. (And no, not just Austin – Dallas and Houston too)

        • cassander says:

          > but the 14th Amendment in particular completely upends old notions of federalism and we’d be better off redesigning our institutions from scratch.)

          or we could have not upended older notions of federalism to begin with by passing a much more narrowly tailored 14th amendment that actually had meaningful definitions to address specific problems.

          I’m not saying that was politically possible, politicians like vaguely worded language for a reason, but if we’re talking about pie in the sky dreaming, well, federalism was a good thing that just happened to work out very badly over the slavery issue.

          • BBA says:

            Considering half of the reason for pre-14A federalism was to deal with the slavery issue, the fact that it worked out very badly over it implies that it wasn’t such a good thing after all.

            And the post-14A United States still has federalism, just with a different model than pre-14A, and different still from the models used in Germany, Switzerland, Canada, etc. I have very little patience for the notion that the Founders got everything right in 1787 – that’s ancestor worship.

          • cassander says:

            Considering half of the reason for pre-14A federalism was to deal with the slavery issue, the fact that it worked out very badly over it implies that it wasn’t such a good thing after all.

            that it was badly motivated doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. And frankly, in 1787, I don’t think that the slavery issue was really that salient, as evidenced by the relative ease with which the slave trade was banned in 1808. the bigger issues were large state/small state and war debts.

            I have very little patience for the notion that the Founders got everything right in 1787 – that’s ancestor worship.

            I agree, they got a lot wrong. But federalism wasn’t one of those things. Robust states with independent identities and the ability to counteract the centralizing tendencies of a central government were both good and necessary.

        • Skivverus says:

          So is there any defense for the EC other than “one acre one vote”?

          I think I saw – on this site – an argument that, relative to a national popular vote, the Electoral College is less vulnerable to certain kinds of partisan voting fraud: no one bothers to cheat in the safe districts because they’re going to win anyway, and no one gets away with cheating in the swing districts because the other party has enough power to call them on it.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’ve heard this, too. I think David Friedman may have made it. To put it another way: with an EC, a close margin doesn’t force you to recount the entire nation.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Do Germany and France have significant recount/fraud problems? I don’t recall much hubbub about that from their recent elections, and a quick google search of “_____ Election fraud” didn’t bring up much aside from a few Infowars-like pages on the Le Pen election.

            In any case, that’s not an argument for population-disproportionate electoral votes (i.e adding two votes to each state regardless of size). And even a proportionate EC would still have some gerrymandering-esque effects, which is not a small cost.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Manycookies there was the recent Austrian presidential election which actually ended up being re-run after a fairly close margin (30,000 votes out of about 4.5 million), combined with some allegations of irregularities in the handling of postal votes.

  48. Guy in TN says:

    Re China:

    You seem to be implying that China has simultaneously both A.) A distinct class of ruling elites, and B.) Implemented communism to some meaningful extent. This only makes sense if you are using an extremely non-central definition of communism. Using this non-central definition gives strong ammunition to the argument that true communism, half communism, or anything even resembling communism, has not actually been implemented in China.

    The quote from the paper cited is illuminating: “The dominant class are those who own and control wealth or power”.

    So the “haha, human nature wins again” only makes sense if China is actually communist. But if the economic policy of China is actually state capitalism, and lo and behold there is a ruling class of elites, what does Darwin have to do with this?

    • onyomi says:

      Yeah, but they tried really hard for thirty years to implement real communism.

      • Guy in TN says:

        They had to try “try hard” because there were forces in China that did not want Communism. The conclusion that “China proves that communism is against human nature” requires many levels of misunderstanding to reach.

        It’s like saying that “the collapse of South Vietnam is proof that democracy doesn’t work”, ignoring the whole war with the North thing, and the fact that South Vietnam was largely ruled by a military junta. But sure, South Vietnam attempted to be a democracy, so let’s go on and make the lazy claim.

        • j r says:

          It’s like saying that “the collapse of South Vietnam is proof that democracy doesn’t work”, ignoring the whole war with the North thing, and the fact that South Vietnam was largely ruled by a military junta.

          I don’t think that’s right at all. The Communist Party of China has had carte blanche policy wise since the Kumintang fled to Taiwan in 1949. If that’s not enough time to draw some kind of meaningful conclusion about the efficacy of the system, then I am not sure what would be.

          And if you want something more specific, then just look at the history of agriculture under the CPC. The initial round of collectivization resulted in increased yields, which makes sense since it was an improvement over the tenant farmer system that existed before. But once China moved into the industrial age, the top-down system of control imposed by the Great Leap Forward was simply not up to the task of coordinating all the moving parts of the sector. And since the political bureaucracy contained no reliable negative feedback mechanism, the Chinese peasants were worked into the ground chasing impossible-to-meet production targets. Further, since all the members of huge collectivized farms got the same no matter how hard they worked or how productive they were, that further depressed outputs. Once Mao died and the farming system was reformed to allow families to keep some of the surplus they produced, the sector became more productive. Again, if that doesn’t tell you something about the viability of competing systems and about human nature, there is a good chance that you are simply unable to be convinced.

          • Guy in TN says:

            The success or failure of a nation depends on a huge number of factors, most of them unrelated to who owns the means of production. Nations invade one another, natural disasters strike, global markers shift. There were plenty of starving nations in the mid-20th century, and many of them were capitalist, the so China data point isn’t terribly convincing.

            I can think of economic rationales why these capitalist countries had starvation too. Such as: How does a moneyless homeless person give “market feedback” that he needs food and shelter? But I don’t think they would be any more motivating to you, than your rationales were to me.

          • onyomi says:

            There were plenty of starving nations in the mid-20th century, and many of them were capitalist

            Such as?

          • Guy in TN says:

            I think its interesting to note that China comes out just a hair better than the median nation in the human development index. So whatever China is, it is really rather average among nations, rather than an extreme example of failure.

          • onyomi says:

            I think its interesting to note that China comes out just a hair better than the median nation in the human development index. So whatever China is, it is really rather average among nations, rather than an extreme example of failure.

            What period of time are you talking about? Today?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @onyomi
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines Plenty to work with on this list, notice how it spans all economic systems (Soviet Union before and after revolution, for example).

          • j r says:

            The success or failure of a nation depends on a huge number of factors, most of them unrelated to who owns the means of production.

            That does not make a whole lot of sense. If we were having a purely theoretical conversation about a system of collectivized industry under the central direction of unitary political entity, we could easily pick out the relative strengths and weaknesses of that system. And then if we observe the actual history of such a system of collectivized agriculture and find that the strengths led to exactly the sort of improvements that we predicted that they would and that weaknesses resulted in exactly the sort of system failures that we predicted that they would, that would tell us something. It wouldn’t be “proof,” which doesn’t really exist outside of math, and maybe the hard sciences depending on how you stretch the word, but it would be a meaningful data point.

            If your position is that nothing can be gleaned from the Chinese agriculture example, then my first intuition is likely correct: you’ve made up your mind and are not particularly interested in being swayed.

          • onyomi says:

            Guy in TN

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines Plenty to work with on this list, notice how it spans all economic systems (Soviet Union before and after revolution, for example).

            You claimed there were plenty of famines in capitalist countries in the middle part of the 20th century. Giving me a list of all famines ever is not helpful, especially since definitions of “capitalism” vary widely.

            Which “capitalist” countries can you point to which suffered famines in the middle part of the 20th century?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @j.r.
            My position is not that “nothing can be gleamed”, but that the results being gleamed are a merely a selective data point, which has to be read from the noise.

            Would it be fair if I said that your failure to change your position on capitalism, in light of the failures of Colombia compared to Venezuela, is evidence you have made up your mind and can no longer be swayed by empirical evidence anymore? No, that would be absurd. You have, I assume, a wealth of observation and study from various sources that have led you to your conclusion, as have I.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @onyomi
            The definition of “capitalism” is so slippery, that I’m not sure I could pin a country down that would satisfy all parties. I can say that Indonesia, India, Greece, and Iran all had large famines in the mid and early 20th century, none of them were communist at the time, for what that’s woth. Sure, there were environmental and conflict related reasons that fueled the famines- but the same was true for China. And it’s not like these nation’s conflicts and environmental policies were wholly detached from their economic policies, either.

            I doubt I can change your mind on this specific example. As a utilitarian who’s intuition is the maximization of human flourishing, I’m just looking for what produces the best outcomes. And the success of the Nordics makes me extremely hesitant to adopt the heuristics of “state-ownership is always bad”, or “markets are the most efficient way to allocate goods”, that people seem to want to adopt by looking at the China data point. The benefits of capitalism and socialism are more complex than what happened in China, IMO.

          • Montfort says:

            I wonder if someone could elaborate on the economic policy Greece pursued that was connected to the Italians and then the Germans invading them? Because “Mussolini wanted to invade an ‘easy’ target” doesn’t seem to have much to do with capitalism at all, at least to me. Perhaps if you take the Italian desire for “spazio vitale” to be a major contributing cause? I’m not sure how that might be particularly capitalist, but it seems more likely than other options.

          • Sandy says:

            @Guy in TN:

            I can say that Indonesia, India, Greece, and Iran all had large famines in the mid and early 20th century, none of them were communist at the time, for what that’s woth.

            All of these famines were caused by wartime occupation or wartime conditions, when the dominant power in the region either did not care about feeding people or actively tried to starve people to death. It seems reasonable to call this a “confounding factor” in a discussion about the organizational capacity of a system of government.

          • DrBeat says:

            “I’ve invented a new political system called Always-Rightism, where you give me political power, and I use it to solve every problem and make everyone happy because I am always right about everything. Now, you may have noticed that every single time without one single exception people give me power, I immediately use it to murder everyone who is inconvenient to my worldview or my emotions. But you shouldn’t be able to notice that, because that just means I’ve never implemented Always-Rightism. The only real conclusion to draw from that is that you should give me even more power and help me murder all the people who don’t want me to have power, because by definition I’m always right.”

            And we’re going to keep giving them power. It’s never going to end. The signal will betray, usurp, and devour the signified. All is lost. All is lost.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Dr. Beat

            Compare:

            “You may have noticed that every time the dissolution of the welfare state has been implemented, it has resulted in mass poverty and slave-like conditions. This is only because TRUE capitalism (the archipelago, anarchocatpitalism, libertarianism, ect) has never been implemented. So the only real conclusion to draw, is to privatize everything, eliminate taxes, and and let the market distribute all goods.”

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m not arguing that China isn’t a good argument against some aspects of communism. I’m arguing that it doesn’t discredit all the components of vast ideology. In addition to the historical confounding factors involved, there’s just a lot to communism, some aspects more praiseworthy than others.

            There are countries doing communism-like things (significant state ownership, central planning for distribution of some goods) that are working very well. As far as I know, no one is advocating for the return of the exact policies of mid 20th century China.

          • DrBeat says:

            “You may have noticed that every time the dissolution of the welfare state has been implemented, it has resulted in mass poverty and slave-like conditions.”

            Except is this actually true outside of your emotions? Libertarians/ancaps/etc actually have several examples to point to where the dissolution of all government — which includes the welfare state — leads to better outcomes than nearby governments. The “slave-like conditions” statement is absolutely indefensibly wrong, at least, because the things ancaps like to point to like Somalia and Kowloon are not “slave-like conditions” unless you redefine that term to mean “anywhere without a welfare state”.

          • baconbacon says:

            As a utilitarian who’s intuition is the maximization of human flourishing, I’m just looking for what produces the best outcomes. And the success of the Nordics makes me extremely hesitant to adopt the heuristics of “state-ownership is always bad”, or “markets are the most efficient way to allocate goods”

            The Nordics might justify a pause, but if you were earnestly in favor of maximizing human flourishing you would be forced to face the fact that the Nordics total less than 30 million people while the US totals over 350 million. This doesn’t justify extreme hesitance, you should be running open armed toward capitalism and markets with MAYBE a reservation for a few decades to centuries down the road where people can then ‘improve’ on those results after billions have been pulled out of poverty.

          • Guy in TN says:

            you should be running open armed toward capitalism and markets

            Of course the Nordics have markets and capitalism. They also have non-market distribution of goods, and state ownership. An honest look at the Nordics doesn’t lead to the conclusion of “therefore, markets and capitalism are superior”. It leads to the conclusion that their particular levels of capitalism and socialism are superior.

            So, as a person in the U.S., what does “running with open arms towards capitalism” look like? Cutting taxes, cutting labor protections, cutting state ownership, and cutting social spending. And yet, each one of these actually brings you farther from Nordic situation, than closer. In fact, the defining characteristics that separate the Nordics from the rest of the European pack seem to be opposition to these very things.

            So my advice to a utilitarian, assuming you are living in a country dealing with the ample production and poor distribution that capitalism brings, is to run open arms into socialism. At least until you get to the Nordic levels of it.

          • random832 says:

            the things ancaps like to point to like Somalia

            I have never seen ancaps talk about Somalia as anything other than “that terrible place annoying statists tell me I should move to if I like not having government so much.”

          • DrBeat says:

            You have never seen them point out how yeah it’s bad, but it’s doing WAY WAY WAY better than nations in similar situations who have governments, because those governments don’t seem capable of taking any action that doesn’t make things worse?

            You never saw them talking about how, with nobody at all ensuring the legitimacy of their currency, their currency is way more stable than that of Zimbabwe’s government-backed currency?

          • baconbacon says:

            Of course the Nordics have markets and capitalism. They also have non-market distribution of goods, and state ownership. An honest look at the Nordics doesn’t lead to the conclusion of “therefore, markets and capitalism are superior”. It leads to the conclusion that their particular levels of capitalism and socialism are superior.

            No, you should be running open arms toward capitalism because the sum total of people living high quality lives in more mixed countries is dwarfed by those living high quality lives in the US. The US was far more market oriented until the relatively recent past and produced great outcomes for 10-15x as many people, across multiple ethnicities and climates. You should run toward capitalism as a utilitarian because of the sheer numbers and scalability that has already been demonstrated, EVEN IF you are positive that the Nordic’s provide better outcomes for their people.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbacon

            You should run toward capitalism as a utilitarian because of the sheer numbers and scalability that has already been demonstrated, EVEN IF you are positive that the Nordic’s provide better outcomes for their people.

            I don’t understand. You seem to be implying that the Nordic model isn’t scalable, or impossible to implement, therefore the U.S. system is the way to go? (No modifications allowed?)

            But there are many reasons to think that the Nordic’s success has been despite their small size, rather than because of it. Due to their small size, their GDP relies far more on exports than the U.S. (46% Sweden, 37% Norway and Finland, U.S. 13%), which have to be sold competitively on the global market. High taxes and labor laws raise the price of the goods, making them less competitive. By contrast, the U.S. economy is much less reliant of selling goods in foreign markets, so raising the prices of our goods would hurt our economy less.

            Also, there is the issue of capital flight. Being a small country in the E.U., it is much easier for a company to just relocate corporate headquarters if they don’t like the high taxes and still be economically “connected” to their home country via roads, rails, shipping. Relocating out of a large country like the U.S. is much more difficult.

          • MugaSofer says:

            I’m not even pro-communist, but this just lazy.

            Which “capitalist” countries can you point to which suffered famines in the middle part of the 20th century?

            All of these famines were caused by wartime occupation or wartime conditions, when the dominant power in the region either did not care about feeding people or actively tried to starve people to death.

            Bengal famine of 1943; Ethiopian famines of 1958, 1973, and 1983–85; Sahel droughts (caused famine in Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso from 1960-1980s); Bangladesh famine of 1974; 1940–48 famine in French Morocco; Ugandan famine of 1980-81. All of these were on the list you were provided.

            Also, it seems a tad daft to exclude capitalist governments that “did not care about feeding people or actively tried to starve people to death”, considering this is also true of the famines communism is responsible for.

          • SadGit says:

            Why would Bangladesh be counted as a capitalist country in 1974? In the 3 years after winning their independence from Pakistan they heavily nationalisen industry and agriculture. Perhaps not so surprising they were not prepared to handle a famine.
            Uganda 80-81 the same. Idi Amin was not ousted by capitalists and Uganda remained a nationalised country with the added “benefit” of ethnic strife and massive loss of civilian life during the dictatorship.
            Perhaps the capitalist British Raj could have handled the famine in 1943 had they not been involved in a world war. The same could be said for French Moroco 1940-1948.
            I am not convinsed by the argument that capitalism prevents famine, but that list does not disprove it.

          • Sandy says:

            @MugaSofer:

            Bengal famine of 1943; Ethiopian famines of 1958, 1973, and 1983–85; Sahel droughts (caused famine in Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso from 1960-1980s); Bangladesh famine of 1974; 1940–48 famine in French Morocco; Ugandan famine of 1980-81. All of these were on the list you were provided.

            The Bengal famine of 1943 took place in the British Raj during World War II. Likewise the famine in French Morocco took place when Morocco was a French colony, and specifically when France surrendered and became part of the Reich. In both cases, native control over food markets was limited and became more limited still because the governing authority had other priorities at the time.

            By 1983, Ethiopia was a Communist dictatorship. Haile Selassie had been deposed and replaced by a Marxist-Leninist junta called the Derg. Prior to that Ethiopia was a feudal kingdom where most agricultural land was owned by the state and peasants were taxed out the ass for working on their family farms.

            Uganda under Idi Amin was an anti-Western, pro-USSR regime where the army was trained by Gaddafi’s Libya and the secret police were trained by East Germany. I’m not sure how this qualifies as a capitalist government.

            Bangladesh was formed as a socialist country in 1972; to this day the Bangadeshi constitution pledges to realize “through the democratic process, a socialist society”. And again, wartime conditions: this took place two years after a genocide at the hands of the Pakistani army, when hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis still lived in refugee camps and millions had fled to India. One of the first things Mujibur Rahman did after coming to power was to nationalize most domestic industries, and within a year from that he’d joined forces with the Communist Party of Bangladesh to form a one-party socialist dictatorship called BAKSAL that eventually had to be overthrown by a military coup. Again: not sure how this qualifies as a capitalist government.

            I don’t know much about the Sahel, so I will give you that.

            Also, it seems a tad daft to exclude capitalist governments that “did not care about feeding people or actively tried to starve people to death”, considering this is also true of the famines communism is responsible for.

            Not really. The Great Chinese Famine and the Holodomor took place when their respective governments did have control over local food markets. I didn’t mention the Leningrad famine because that was largely caused by a Nazi blockade during World War II, so I don’t blame it on the Soviet Union or communism.

          • Guy in TN says:

            In both cases, native control over food markets was limited and became more limited still because the governing authority had other priorities at the time.

            So right off the bat, we have capitalist countries having “other priorities” than feeding their own people, resulting in starvation.

            Seems like the question of whether there has ever been a famine in a capitalist country is now settled.

          • Sandy says:

            @Guy in TN:

            So right off the bat, we have capitalist countries having “other priorities” than feeding their own people, resulting in starvation.

            But the whole point is that they didn’t consider them “their own people”. The British, particularly Churchill, did not consider Indians “their own people”, and Vichy France certainly did not consider Moroccans “their own people”. If there were a famine in Birmingham during the war, the British government would have done something about it; a famine in faraway Bengal didn’t merit the same concern.

            Colonial regimes typically aren’t big on “free markets”; they’re usually about controlling markets within the colonies and turning the entire territory into a supply-line for the empire. It is basically government by parasitism. It is not unusual for nations to practice one ideology within their ancestral territory and another within their overseas holdings. It is not even unusual for it to happen within the same territory – look at Deng’s “one country, two systems” policy for Hong Kong and Macau. Ostensibly aimed at preventing strife and preserving local autonomy for those territories after decolonization, in practice it allows China to experiment with features of capitalism and selectively import them to the mainland at appropriate intervals.

    • shenanigans24 says:

      Communism will never reach tried status because it’s impossible. The system itself requires a ruling class to decide how to distribute goods. When a person makes ten new bicycles and more than 10 people want them someone must decide how to distribute the scarce resources. That someone is the ruling class. The same is true for deciding who will make things since production is a scarce resource.

      All it does is swap “can you afford it” for “will the authority approve it” for resource management.

      It’s not that since egalitarianism hasn’t been achieved communism wasn’t tried, its that communism doesn’t create egalitarianism.

  49. gwern says:

    This is pretty complicated, but I think what it’s saying is that in general, having autism risk genes increases your intelligence up until the point when you actually have autism, when you become vulnerable to all of the normal autism-related-cognitive-deficits. But this is probably very heterogenous across risk genes and other risk factors.

    It is a little puzzling, but also unsurprising since it is consistent both with the genetic correlations and the obvious & confirmed observation that intelligence had to be selected for at least some periods during human evolution: since SNPs predictive of autism risk overlap with intelligence SNPs and the latter have been selected for… So the question is why, since intelligence seems to reflect mutation load and general health factors, is autism/spectrum/Aspergers about literally the only trait out of 100 or 200 I have compiled where the bad increases with intelligence rather than decreases? My best guess is maybe it’s a kind of canalization – higher intelligence being more demanding of resources and lack of infection etc, so things like prenatal infections do more damage and break complicated fragile recently-evolved-and-so-not-robust functionality like social cognition & theory of mind.

    • HFAMaximizer says:

      Is autism a new trait evolutionarily speaking? What about lack of autism? Are you sure that social cognition & theory of mind are evolutionarily recent?

      I know that anecdotes don’t count. However from my observation of autists including myself it seems that what we lost are the evolutionarily ancient traits, not the newer ones. In fact many among us like machines, knowledge and love the civilization humans have created. However we lost some animalistic abilities. For example some of us aren’t interested in reproduction or can’t locate a potential mate.

      • Anthony says:

        I recall a recent discussion regarding how it wouldn’t be that terrible to be an autistic farmer in most pre-modern societies – at least no more terrible than being a non-autistic farmer. (Don’t remember if it was here or at Sailer’s, though I’d guess here in the past month, p=0.85.)

        So that would mean there wasn’t much selection pressure against autism if it’s a common genetic side effect of increased intelligence.

      • 1soru1 says:

        All animals live in a world of objects; machines are just a type of object.

        Only humans (and perhaps domesticated animals such as dogs) have a distinct concept of ‘person’. So a chicken and egg argument suggest the latter is more recent.

        Is there any recognized mental disability that’s more or less the opposite of autism, where someone can deal with people fluently, but couldn’t solve a Sudoku puzzle by themselves?

        • HFARationalist says:

          I disagree. Animals generally also need to connect to others of the same species either as a part of herd behavior, fight and mate. Animals do not need “theory of human mind”. However they do need “theory of animal minds”

          An autist is similar to an organism of a social species that lives like a solitary animal.

          https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201406/what-can-solitary-mammals-teach-us-about-autism

          • 1soru1 says:

            fair point; I did consider adding social animals as an extra case, but some teacher at some point told me off for having nested brackets, and footnotes on comments seem a bit much.

            Not sure it contradicts ‘more recent’ though, as only some animals are social, and ‘social’ is probably more than one evolutionary thing anyway; humans have no built-in theory of bee minds. And certainly humans are not descended from domesticated dogs, or indeed vice versa.

            OTOH bringing up bees probably contradicts ‘all animals live in a world of objects’, as I suspect some bees have no evolutionary-relevant interaction with objects, only other bees.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          I may be misremembering, but maybe Williams Syndrome? That’s a more general thing that also causes other health problems though.

          • Vermillion says:

            Also associated with mild-moderate intellectual disability, so yeah that’s kind of plausible.

      • gwern says:

        I don’t think autism is a new trait, I think it’s just the myriad of ways that one can “break complicated fragile recently-evolved-and-so-not-robust functionality like social cognition & theory of mind”; all sorts of breakage will have downstream effects, even if they are not especially visible (here I’m thinking of how the ‘Darwinian assay’ can reveal drug side-effects that a more conventional set of phenotype measurements won’t). Similarly, if you look at schizophrenia, it tends to cluster in gene-regions that have been evolving over the past 100k years – is this reflecting some sort of selection for schizophrenia, how ‘schizophrenia made us human’? Probably not, I suspect it reflects the slow purging of harmful variants as we evolved to be psychologically modern humans and the overlap is simply because that’s where the variants can do the most harm.

      • Wander says:

        I’m fairly fond of the idea that myths about changelings are folk explanations of autism or autism-like disorders, which would suggest that it’s been around and been known since medieval times at least.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      intelligence seems to reflect mutation load

      What is the evidence for this? That there are lots of positive correlates?

      To spell out and reject an argument that you seem to be alluding to, but neither quite endorsing nor rejecting…
      If IQ were caused only by mutational load, that would predict no downsides. While probably lots of variance in IQ comes from unique mutations, the substantial variance that has been detected seems to come from common medium rare mutations (MAF > 1/1000). These are out of mutation-selection balance, so they must have some downside. So, yes, it is mysterious that we can’t find others.

    • James Miller says:

      A hint to the puzzl