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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. Daniel Frank says:

    re: Israel and Al Jazeera. This is not about the Al Jazeera you’re familiar with, but Al Jazeera Arabic, which plays a major role in Middle Eastern geopolitics. The concern is not Al Jazeera being critical of Israel, but how their station has instigated violence against Israelis. Specifically, over the past 2 years, Al Jazeera Arabic has played an instrumental role in spreading slander about Jews/Israel regarding the Temple Mount, and is causally connected to a very large number of deaths/violent acts from both the stabbing intifada, and the most recent standoff.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Just don’t complain when Arab (and other) nations censor and shut down pro-Israel media outlets in response.

      If you choose the path of defection from free speech, choose it knowing the consequences.

      • Tamar says:

        I was actually under the impression that several other Arab nations in fact have recently tried to get An Jazeera shut down as part of their demands of Qatar during the recent diplomatic crisis, on basis of what I think was nominally the same charge of encouraging terrorism but depending on your viewpoint on said diplomatic situation may have been for the crimes of being too influential, essentially, and/or too critical of Saudi Arabia, too Islamist, probably other reasons/factors are assumed or alleged. So Israel is certainly not some unique anti-free-speech defector against this state-owned media outlet. Doesn’t mean those same Arab states won’t take the opportunity to criticize Israel about this, of course. But Israel probably has the best claim to grievances related to direct incitement of violence (which, by U.S. free speech standards, at any rate …) and least motivation by population percentage of ‘Qatari government being too generally influential’, assuming only about 20% of the population is Arab and even those Jewish Israelis on the left who might follow Al Jazeera to see its take on Palestinian issues probably are not excessively influenced by its coverage of other regional affairs.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Inciting violence is usually considered defection from free speech anyway, so assuming Daniel Frank is right about AJA’s broadcasts, they’ve defected already.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks, added a link to your comment.

    • Iain says:

      Do you have a source on your claims about causal connections between Al Jazeera and violence? The Washington Post article on the issue points out that Netanyahu’s office declined to provide any examples of incitement.

      The best I can find is stuff like this:

      …Al-Jazeera has “promoted anti-Semitic violence”broadcasting sermons by the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in which he praised Hitler, described the Holocaust as “divine punishment”, and called on Allah to “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people … and kill them, down to the very last one,” the release said.

      The letter mentions that, over the years, Qatari-owned and controlled Al-Jazeera Arabic has provided a platform to Osama bin Laden (Al-Qaeda), Abu Muhammad al Jolani (Al-Nusra), Khaled Mashal (Hamas), Mohammed Deif (Hamas), Anwar al-Awlaki (Al-Qaeda), Hassan Nasrallah (Hizbullah), Ramadan Shallah (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), and Abdel Hakim Belhadj (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group), among others, saying these interviews gave opportunities for terrorist groups to threaten, recruit and incite, without challenge or restraint.

      As far as I can tell, the claim about giving a platform to bin Laden refers to the publication of his video messages, an accusation that can just as easily be leveled against CNN.

      These all seem like very weak straws on which to build a case for inciting violence. Do you have any less ambiguous examples? I do not speak any of the relevant languages, so it is possible that I am missing things.

      • Sandy says:

        The Atlantic has a helpful piece about this:

        Still, much of the English programming remains fair and objective—adjectives that no longer apply to its Arabic sister channel. Shortly after the coup against Morsi, Ahmed Mansour, a prominent anchor, was quoted on the Brotherhood’s website as saying that the interim Egyptian president was a Jew carrying out an Israeli plot. Faisal al-Qassim, another presenter, once hosted a segment on whether Syria’s Alawite population deserved genocide. In 2014, the channel’s Iraqi affairs editor tweeted approvingly about the Camp Speicher massacre, in which the Islamic State killed more than 1,500 air-force cadets in Tikrit after singling out the Shia and non-Muslims. Some journalists quit in protest; the ones who remained continue to push a sectarian, pro-Sunni Islamist line. Though Al Jazeera is still widely watched, its reputation has been tarnished as its ratings have dropped.

        • Iain says:

          That’s bad, obviously, but it does not seem to rise to the level of Daniel Frank’s description:

          Specifically, over the past 2 years, Al Jazeera Arabic has played an instrumental role in spreading slander about Jews/Israel regarding the Temple Mount, and is causally connected to a very large number of deaths/violent acts from both the stabbing intifada, and the most recent standoff.

          This makes Al Jazeera Arabic sound like Rwandan hate radio. If that were the case, and Al Jazeera Arabic was routinely saying “I think that those who have guns should immediately go to these cockroaches, encircle them and kill them”, then I would agree with Mr. X above: free speech does not extend that far. But that does not appear to be the case. Speech can be vile without being an incitement to violence; Daniel Frank is claiming the latter, but I only see evidence of the former.

  2. Steve Sailer says:

    “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.””

    My impression is that identical twins seldom fall in love with the exact same person. It sounds like it would be a good premise for a romantic tragicomedy, but it doesn’t seem to happen much.

    I don’t know why.

    • Montfort says:

      I’m going off vague background knowledge that could be totally wrong, but don’t identical twins often form separate interests and preferences in other fields, too? E.g. music, hobbies, etc?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Identical twins raised together often try to be more different than they would if they were raised separately.

        For example, Peter Shaffer’s play “Amadeus” might really be about his rivalry with his twin brother Anthony Shaffer. They started out writing mystery books together, but then Peter specialized the writing for the stage while Anthony went into law and advertising. But then Anthony ruined Peter’s ego by suddenly writing the huge hit stage play “Sleuth.”

        My interpretation of “Amadeus” is that diligent Salieri is Peter and unfairly talented Mozart is Anthony. I could be wrong, but both of their works appear to be obsessed with the pressures of being twins.

        By the way, Anthony was straight and Peter was gay. That happens rather more than you might expect among identical twins.

        Also, they seemed to believe they weren’t identical twins, but people who knew them told me that of course they were identical. It’s also pretty common for identical twins to believe they are fraternal twins due to very small differences.

        • Montfort says:

          Huh, that’s interesting.

          But then, it seems to me the fact that identical twins raised together don’t usually fall in love with the same person can be explained by conscious differentiation, and those who are raised separately just don’t see the same targets enough to collide. Or is there a deeper mystery I’m not seeing?

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I don’t know.

            It seems like a pretty interesting topic in general that might have implications for this question of whether AI can serve as a top notch matchmaker. Also, it’s a pretty interesting Nature-Nurture question in general.

            Nancy Siegel at Cal State Fullerton is a top twin expert and she’s the one who told me that identical twins don’t fall in love with the same person that often.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Do identical twins raised together tend to fall in love with and/or marry similar people?

          • jg29a says:

            It would be pretty clearly disastrous if our specific genetics predisposed us to an extremely narrow type of partner!

            I expect identical twins, like most of us, to have broad ranges… and their ranges to be very similar, but this doesn’t imply that the individuals they find within that range will be nearly as similar as the ranges are. Once in a relationship, of course, one bonds with and adapts to that person.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          “Identical twins raised together often try to be more different than they would if they were raised separately.”

          Anecdotally, that might also be true of non-twin siblings.

    • HFAMaximizer says:

      I think we aren’t using the right model. I strongly believe that science will eventually be able to explain what sexual attraction is about.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        I did too, but that would imply that identical twins would tend to have more clashes over this than they seem to do.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          I know tons of stories about romantic triangles in real life, not just in operas. For example, about ten or 15 years ago, the NBA Dallas Mavericks suddenly started playing badly because the team’s two stars stopped passing each other the ball. That was because they were both in love with singer Toni Braxton.

          Joey and Johnny Ramone didn’t talk to each other for the last decade of their careers touring together because Johnny stole Joey’s girl, married her, and had three kids.

          But I don’t know that many such stories involving identical twins. My simple model of romantic attraction says that identical twins raised together should get into these kind of struggles all the time because of nature and nurture similarities. But they don’t seem to as often as you’d expect.

          Sorry about being a bore on the topic, but I’m just tossing it out there in case anybody wants to research it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Turns out “bros before hos” only applies to literal bros.

          • JulieK says:

            > Sorry about being a bore on the topic

            Hey, SSC is a place where you don’t need to apologize for being nerdy.

          • baconbacon says:

            Hypothesis: The larger conflicts come when one guy steals a girl from another. This doesn’t happen with identical twins particularly often because they are so similar which makes it hard for twin #2 to differentiate himself from the one who finds the girl first.

          • blah says:

            From an evolutionary perspective, identical twins have no reason to compete for women. If one twin has children with a women, he passes along the same amount of the second twin’s genes as if the second twin has children with the women himself.

            So two identical twins competing for the same woman has a cost, but no real benefit.

          • j1000000 says:

            @baconbacon: This is to me a sensible enough hypothesis, probably most vulgarly articulated by Ari Gold of Entourage starting here at 57 seconds and lasting until 1:33… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVXs8pVJQr8 (very NSFW language, although the visuals are fine)

            I suppose it ignores the idea that Sailer’s getting at, which is that identical twins would seem genetically likely to fall in love with the same woman in the first place. Personally I’d assume they generally wouldn’t mention it to people since it’d be taboo, let alone researchers.

          • darkwingduck says:

            Identical twin here. My experience:

            -my brother and I are definitely physically attracted to some of the same women (we have actually slept with some of the same people)

            -as far as I know (I can’t speak for him) neither of us has ever been in love with the other’s girlfriend, and in fact there’s been a few times where one of us has actively disliked the other’s girlfriend

            -we’ve never had someone one of us was romantically involved with ‘switch’ (i.e. start dating the other twin). I’m guessing this is both because we’re so similar that for the woman it wouldn’t be worth the hassle, and of course because it would feel weird and really wrong

            -for me, knowing my brother is romantically involved with someone is enough to make that person unattractive. It feels like they immediately become something more like a sister than a potential mate

          • hollyluja says:

            I dated a guy once whose little brother was actually his cousin b/c his mother had him by his father’s identical twin brother. Who lived in their backyard in a kind of treehouse.

            Hill people.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “I think we aren’t using the right model. I strongly believe that science will eventually be able to explain what sexual attraction is about.”

        It might end up having considerable predictive power without being able to exactly pinpoint who someone will fall in love with.

    • dodrian says:

      With all the usual prefaces about ‘anecdote’ not being the singular form of data…

      My wife has said that hearing her identical twin sister express romantic interest in someone is a sure-fire way to make that person seem unattractive in her mind.

      Somewhat related, she read this book which looks at how environmental factors influence twins (especially good/bad parenting), concluding that while well raised twins will try and differentiate themselves as children/teenagers, they’re less likely to try to be different as adults.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Interesting. I wonder if some sort of incest-revulsion is getting triggered? But that would surely affect things like Steve’s story about the Ramones.

        We obviously need a double-blind experiment where somebody romances a pair of twins independently without each other’s knowledge. That seems like such an obvious story-hook I’m surprised I haven’t read it.

      • Itai Bar-Natan says:

        With all the usual prefaces about ‘anecdote’ not being the singular form of data…

        Don’t be coy! This is exactly the place where an anecdote is appropriate: We’re in the exploratory phase of an investigation (seeking out plausible hypotheses rather trying to assay them) on a topic where we’re lacking in specific examples.

  3. Montfort 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.

    And sufficiently rich/health-insured parents. But I agree.

    • Sam Reuben says:

      I think there’s a reasonable argument for caution, especially in light of the replicability crisis. If we do find that this method of attacking certain genetic disorders works and works at any rate approaching perfection, then I’m in full favor, but this kind of thing deserves a few more tests before it gets opened up to the public.

      The basic argument is: although old dangers are certainly threatening, new ones have the added problem of being threatening in unexpected ways. As a culture, we’ve learned how to handle people with various genetic diseases and give them at least acceptable lives. With potential damage from gene therapy, we have no idea what to expect. We simply don’t know how to handle those problems yet, and that bodes ill for the people who might have them. Consider thalidomide babies, or mesothelioma patients. Both were results of new technology without proper consideration.

      Of course, it goes without saying that the arguments that will actually be leveled against gene therapy are going to be more about meddling with the unknown or based on utter tripe in the same manner as vaccines have been bizarrely rejected. My goalposts are pretty simple: as soon as the medical experts and testing bodies are confident enough in the process to bring it up to political debate, I’ll support it. I trust their knowledge of when it’s done over my own. But I sure ain’t gonna try to rush it out; a failed deployment of gene therapy is going to set the field back literally decades, until everyone who saw it go wrong the first time around is dead. That’s a lot of people set up to suffer, and too much for my conscience to bear.

      • gbdub says:

        Granted at this early stage it’s hard to quantify the “unknown unknowns”.

        But even at the current experimental level, it seems much, much more likely that a “failure” would look like either “it didn’t work at all, gene mod didn’t take” or “oops, killed the embryo outright”, as opposed to “created a viable embryo that is somehow worse off than one with cystic fibrosis / Huntington’s / Downs / whatever we were trying to fix”.

        Compared to the current alternatives of “terminate the pregnancy” or “have baby guaranteed to have serious illness ranging from crippling disability to guaranteed painful death after short unpleasant life” – I’d take my chances with the gene therapy.

        But of course we live in a benighted time when people are convinced GMO corn is a deadly poison so I’m not optimistic.

        • Sam Reuben says:

          From a utilitarian standpoint:
          Yeah, it’s pretty hard to imagine anything worse than genetic disease that can result from gene therapy, which makes it pretty tempting to push right away.

          From an epistemic standpoint:
          We don’t know as much as our genetic scientists know, and even now our genetic science is an extremely tentative field. We don’t have a fantastic idea of how the body works on every level, and it’s extraordinarily plausible that something can slip past our theory which can only be discovered through experimentation. We oughta run a few more tests.

          From a political standpoint:
          It’s going to take one terrifying and bad result from gene therapy to get it relegated to anathema for a generation or more. That’s not good for the whole saving-lives-and-ending-suffering goal. This is what happened with nuclear energy, and what’s more, happened rightly, as the technology was pushed without proper safeguards and ended up damaging things. (Fukushima is just the latest example of this: the entire setup they had was astoundingly resilient and almost survived a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami, but because of poor upkeep thanks to political incompetence, it became a disaster. The people of Japan are right in opposing nuclear energy, not because it’s inherently dangerous, but because their “best and brightest” have proved themselves incapable of using it safely.) As such, we simply cannot afford to be cavalier with gene therapy. As far as our own livespans are concerned, we get exactly one chance to get it right, or we’ll be branded as having meddled with things we don’t understand and pushing technology that sounds cool without having any scientific rigor. And worst of all, our critics will be right. So let’s take it easy, do some more studies, and shave error down to NASA-launch-levels. That’s what’ll really help people.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            There is an easy solution to the problems of Fukushima: end the evacuation.

            Well, that ends the harm to the Japanese. The harm to the Germans is much greater.

          • gbdub says:

            and shave error down to NASA-launch-levels

            Fukushima was well past that – it took a once-in-a-century massive earthquake in exactly the wrong spot to take it out, and even then the ultimate safety features successfully prevented deadly levels of radiation from escaping to the public.

            The evacuation killed more people than not evacuating would have.

            It is utterly insane that the one thing people remember about a tsunami that killed 15,000 people is the nuclear accident that killed 0. I don’t think you can fault the “best and brightest” for that. Politicians responded to Fukushima based on panic of the ignorant public, and the general CYA attitude that overrates risk avoidance.

          • caethan says:

            It’s going to take one terrifying and bad result from gene therapy to get it relegated to anathema for a generation or more.

            We’ve already had one:

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

    • Brad says:

      If these genetic disorders would have been correctable with CRISPR than presumably we must know how to test for them. And if we know how to test for them then they could be used as part of a go/no go decision on having kids with that disorder.

      I think the statement implicitly lets would be parents off their hook for their decision to have kids given all the information at hand, or perhaps treats them as not having agency to begin with.

      • gbdub says:

        Of course they do have some agency – I recall a brief kerrlufflw last year when a series of articles made it common knowledge that in e.g. Iceland, 100% of fetuses with Downs are aborted.

        If the alternative is termination, isn’t giving it a go with CRISPR a fair “do no harm” option?

        • Brad says:

          I think the answer depends on whether or not the fetus is a patient, or only the mother is.

          • gbdub says:

            Well yes, if you think the embryo (not fetus, we’re modifying it very early) is a patient, then the CRISPR approach might make them worse off (probably by killing them outright). But so would abortion – I don’t think opposition to this modification is exclusive to strict pro-lifers, although there’s probably a lot of overlap.

            In any case it would usually fall to the parent to make the final call on whether “risky but possibly lifesaving / massively improving” medical intervention would be allowed. I don’t think newborn babies usually give informed consent for heart surgery.

          • caethan says:

            As a pro-lifer, I think this kind of gene therapy would be fantastic if we could get it working well.

      • Montfort says:

        Well, there’s that to consider, too. But from the perspective of the child with the disease, it’s harder to imagine them demanding they should have been aborted (depending on the disorder).

      • secondcityscientist says:

        The current standard, as described by the original Nature paper, is to generate embryos through IVF and then screen for presence/absence of the deleterious allele. Only the embryos with the intact alleles are implanted in the mother. It is worth stating that this particular disease is dominant, meaning there’s no unaffected carriers.

        So the problem being solved here isn’t “We don’t know how to make sure children are born without this genetic disease”. We know how to do that, and for patients with this disease, we can make sure they don’t pass it on to their children. This article struck me as a solution in search of a problem. There was a fig leaf of a new method – we can increase the recombination rate if we introduce the Cas9 enzyme at a specific time! – but that’s really not worth the hype.

        Also “safely” is a big oversell. They went from 48% success rate with the standard protocol to 73% success rate. This is a good increase, but not the level of success being talked about in the popular press.

        • caethan says:

          The problem being solved is the difference between having lots of kids and murdering the ones that have medical problems versus having a kid and fixing their medical problem. I get that not everyone sees it this way, but as a pro-lifer, this would be a big step in the right direction.

  4. Steve Sailer says:

    “(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)”

    My father grew up next door to a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park, IL from 1917-1929. While FLW houses may or may not sell at a premium, they certainly add a premium to housing prices in their neighborhood. Oak Park is currently an affluent and heavily gay neighborhood.

    My wife grew up a couple of miles to the west in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which had a fine housing stock but not at Oak Park’s superstar architects level. The Austin neighborhood right next door to Oak Park is currently a depopulating slum with a very high homicide rate.

    When I went with my father to see his old Oak Park neighborhood in 1982, I warned him that it would be a depressing experience. He scoffed. As we drove through dismal Austin on our way to Oak Park, I repeated my warnings. Then we arrived on his block with its six or eight Frank Lloyd Wright houses. it was paradise. Dozens of European tourists were wandering around listening to an audio tour and snapping pictures.

    On the other hand, I’d probably rather live in my dad’s comfortable old anonymous architect house than next door in the amazing but slightly demented FLW classic.

    When Mies van der Rohe built Chicago’s first steel and glass apartment tower around 1949 he reserved the penthouse for himself. But then he realized he couldn’t see his building from inside it. He eventually moved to the old building across the street from which he could admire his masterpiece conveniently.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Also, having your house designed by a famous architect can lower its value because of historical preservation rules.

      I was watering my lawn a few years ago, when a genial hipster came up and told me the name of the designer of my 1600 sq ft 1950s tract house. I’d never heard of him before, but it turns out he really was one of the better real estate developers working in the San Fernando Valley. But if this long forgotten but now merely obscure figure became super famous, then it might become hard for me to get permission to add on to my house, much less sell it to somebody richer who might have it torn down and replaced with a bigger house.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Also, famous architects’ houses are often a drag to live in. For example, some of the most famous houses in Los Angeles from an architectural history point of view are Bauhaus steel and glass houses with flat roofs. But even in L.A. it rains sometimes, and flat roofed houses tend to leak more than houses with traditional roofs.

      Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses very much reflect the personality of the designer, but that can be like living permanently with an Ayn Rand character’s ghost haunting your home.

      Over the last decade here in Los Angeles, a once forgotten architect named Paul Revere Williams, who designed hundreds of houses for celebrities in the 1930s-1960s, has become famous. He was black, so that makes for a good story about the indignities he had to put up with. But, also, he didn’t see it as his job to impose his vision upon his clients, many of whom were talented, strong-opinioned entertainment industry stars. Williams would listen to his clients preferences and then build them the best house he could in whatever style they wanted.

      This meant he was ignored by art historians (I never heard of him during the 20th Century). But nowadays he’s very cool among people who buy and fix up homes in L.A.. Who wouldn’t want to own a house by a famous black architect, especially if he designed it for a famous movie star, extra-especially if it were also extremely comfortable rather than “challenging” like the machine-for-living houses long preferred by art historians?

      • Anthony says:

        Not so famous architect’s houses, too. I was at a party in the Berkeley hills (decades ago), at the house of an architect who had designed it himself. There were a few weird features; one that stood out was that the bathroom light was behind you as you stood at the toilet, and the room was in natural wood. This made it hard to see the target; it would have been worse for the more inebriated guests.

    • Lirio says:

      Don’t you think the fact that Austin is inside the City of Chicago and Oak Park is not would have more to do with why one deteriorated and the other did not? Originally Austin was far wealthier than Oak Park, and it retained its middle and upper class suburban character until the mid-to-late 1960s, when the tide of white flight that had been overtaking the Chicago West Side since the end of the Second World War finally caught up with Austin. It hardly seems a coincidence that said tide happened to stop at exactly the city limits, and it is in fact pretty close to exactly. The border between the Austin Community Area of Chicago and the Village of Oak Park is Austin Boulevard, one block east from it the neighbours are all one colour, and two block west of it they’re different colour. Somehow i don’t think Frank Loyd Wright had anything to do with it.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        The Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in Oak Park gave locals something respectable to rally around. They weren’t just evil whites, they were … historical preservationists!

        My in-laws belonged to a liberal pro-integration group in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago who all promised not to sell. They stuck it out longer than the other members. But after several felonies committed against their children by newcomers to the neighborhood, they finally sold out, losing half their net worth versus if they’d listened to the doomsayers and sold immediately three years earlier. They ended up living on a farm without running water for a couple of years.

        In the 1990s, I talked to the opera-composing priest who had run the pro-integration group. He took solace in the idea that while it had totally failed in Austin, it had given Oak Park time to organize its defenses.

        Oak Park did a lot of things like turning sidestreets crossing Austin Blvd., the legal border between Chicago and Oak Park, into culdesacs. But it appears the big one was Oak Park imposing an illegal but highly successful racial quota on real estate agents: the legendary “black-a-block” rule. Real estate agents could integrate each block, but they couldn’t tip them to all black.

        This was pretty clearly a violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, so there’s only one academic paper on the web studying this fascinating policy. But judging from how nice Oak Park looks today to how bombed out Austin looks, Oak Park’s notorious “black-a-block” quota deserves more serious consideration as an urban planning tool.

        • Lirio says:

          So that’s how they did it. Nonetheless, a black-a-block policy would have been impossible to implement within Chicago city limits for obvious reasons. Given that fact, it seems clear to me that the fact that Oak Park is outside said limits is in fact the primary factor that made it possible for white flight to stop at its border. Though i suppose the significant historic architecture may have served as a morale booster.

          The policy also explains why if you look closely you can see the black population does extend past Austin Boulevard, but tapers out quickly as you move away from it. Due to self-segregation on the part of people of all races, the patterns of racial change in urban areas tend to be of a block by block creep. People in general just don’t seem to like to live in places surrounded by others of a different race, but there’s still some variance in how much tolerance each family has. This can produce a gradient, with a narrow mixed corridor in the middle that fades quickly into areas of all one race or the other. By placing a hard limit on the density of blacks allowed in the town, Oak Park prevented the trailing edge of the gradient from moving past Austin Boulevard. Black a block doesn’t result in one black family per block, but rather few black families at all beyond the gradient.

          Sometimes gradients don’t happen, though. For example my neighbourhood is very racially integrated and i like it a lot. Within walking distance of my home i have African, Asian, Caribbean, Hipster, and Hispanic eating establishments of good price and quality, plus a few Asian and Middle-Eastern places i have yet to try, and regular city fare like bars, cafes, pizza, and fast food. It’s really wonderful. On the other extreme, there’s the Cabrini-Green Rowhouses. Most of the complex has been emptied and fenced off, but the nicer rowhouses on the west side are still inhabited. A couple of months ago i was down there taking pictures. Here’s some i took on the souther-eastern end. You can see that it’s not a gradient, it’s a cliff.

          Another interesting case is The Island on the southwest corner of Austin, so called because it’s separated from the rest of Austin by I-290 and an industrial zone. Likely due to that separation, it was the last part of Austin to resist integration, remaining all white into the mid or late 80s. It’s still much nicer than the rest of it these days, and very racially diverse (Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians). Presumably the same barriers that once kept out blacks now just keep out the troublesome and the poor.

          Anyway, while i would never approve of something so blatantly racist as a black-a-block policy, it’s possible Section 8 vouchers could be used to ameliorate concentrations of urban poor. It appears to me that such concentration tends to exacerbate all the problems associated with urban poverty, including crime and general social dysfunction. However they are hard to avoid because of self-segregation both racial and economic. You could probably diminish the effect by establish ceilings on the density of Section 8 housing, on the grounds that concentrating the poor in one location tends to cause other socio-economic classes to leave, to the detriment of the voucher holders.

          • hollyluja says:

            I think this is just what the Moving to Opportunity program has been doing. And so far the results of their 10 year study seem to support your theory, that 1) it is hard to get families to move to neighborhoods where the people don’t look like them 2) if you can overcome that barrier, the families that move really benefit.

  5. manwhoisthursday says:

    Some links relevant to a recent brouhaha, which shall remain unnamed.

    —–

    When you just look at the Big 5, the most significant male/female differences are in Agreeableness (largest difference, at 0.5 standard deviation) and Neuroticism.

    There is this paper, which found only a 24% overlap in personality between men and women.
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0029265
    The problem with this is that it uses the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF), which while a great first stab at using factor analysis to determine personality traits back in the 1940s, has been superseded by the Big 5.

    There is also this study using the BFAS, which is, finer grained, empirically derived using factor analysis and predicts things more accurately than the Big 5. It shows that differences are more significant at the aspect level. But it doesn’t give us the percentage in overlap, like the previous paper.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149680/

    —–

    I will also remark though, that comparing personality across cultures is pretty problematic, so I’m skeptical of studies showing that more egalitarian countries have wider differences in personality. Maybe so. But caution is called for.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Could you be specific about the advantages of BFAS over 16PF?

      The question this the 16PF paper is answering is: can you write a personality test to distinguish sex? In some ways that’s a stupid question, but it doesn’t matter how bad you think the test is for any other purpose: the conclusion is that this linear combination of 16PF has validity as a sex test.

      • manwhoisthursday says:

        The short answer is that the Big 5 replaced the 16PF because better factor analysis coalesced around the Big 5. The BFAS is a refinement of the Big 5 based on even better factor analysis. That’s just how descriptions of human personality clump.

        As Scott’s previous post on Grant/Hyde shows, it is trivially easy to cherry pick properties to maximize or minimize sex differences on your test.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Can you point to someone who says something more precise than “better”?

          • manwhoisthursday says:

            The overwhelming consensus of the field is that the Big 5 has replaced 16PF, Myers-Briggs and other early personality tests.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I guess “more fashionable” is more precise than “better.” However, it is only better for some purposes, such as having a body of literature, and is not relevant to this application.

          • manwhoisthursday says:

            One could use exactly the same argument to validate grit, EQ, positive illusion and a thousand other dodgy psych concepts. Heck, one could use it to validate creationism. It’s all fashion, right.

    • JulieK says:

      By the way, are comments closed on Scott’s recent post? They seem to be, but I don’t see a “comments are closed” line.

  6. Matthias says:

    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; Venezuela is an example of socialism actually happening.

    Venezuela is actually precisely as socialist as Sweden by this metric; i.e., it features capitalist ownership of the means of production combined with extensive consumption-related, state-led redistribution to the poor. It is led by a government that proclaimed it intends to work towards real socialism (by your, Freddie’s, and their definitions,) but this was actually true of Sweden as well for much of the twentieth century. The relevant differences concern deeper non-ideological differences in economic structure (i.e., Venezuela’s governments dependence upon oil revenues for its expenditures, and being a poorer economy in general) and political situation (Venezuela has a history of more recent political violence, and rightists can be reasonably sure the big power over would support them in the overthrow of the government; additionally Venezuela never developed neo-corporatist institutions that could have peacefully resolved distributional questions, as the Scandinavian countries did.)

    • Brad says:

      Isn’t the oil company state owned?

      • kieranpjobrien@gmail.com says:

        Yes. And famously mismanaged/stripped of any way to invest in facilities. Chavez also required loyalty tests and replaced much of the management, taking all the institutional memory and replacing it with party loyalists.

      • Guy in TN says:

        The comparison is apt: both Norway and Finland have large, state-owned oil companies, Statoil and Neste.

        • Brad says:

          I have to be overly pedantic, but Sweden isn’t Norway or Finland.

        • But how were those state owned companies formed? Were they formed by using government spending to create these companies ex nihilo, or perhaps through buy-outs, or were they formed by going into a private oil company and saying that this belongs to the government now with no compensation?

          The reason the Scandinavian countries work is because they didn’t destroy their private sectors in order to create large public sectors.

          Venezuela is a wreck because they spent a decade eviscerating their private sector with expropriations, price controls, and currency manipulation. It’s not like they just screwed up by randomly focusing on oil to the detriment of other things, it’s that this is a direct consequence of policies meant to lead the country towards socialism. The destruction of the private sector meant that the state owned oil industry was the only thing propping up the economy, and when global prices dropped, it collapsed with no private diversity to pick up the slack.

          This isn’t something the Scandinavian countries suffer from because their major socialist parties are social democratic reformists at best and have always been guided by a middle-road ideology of peace with the private sector.

          • 1soru1 says:

            One fundamental difference between Norwegian and Venezuelan oil industry is that the former is offshore, and so the state is the sole landowner. Most of the fields were in international waters until the government established a successful claim in the 1960s.

            Wheras in Venezuela (back pre-WWII) it was existing rich landowners who received the bulk of the income from oil discoveries.

          • Guy in TN says:

            The reason the Scandinavian countries work is because they didn’t destroy their private sectors in order to create large public sectors.

            I agree there is truth to this. It seems that socialism and capitalism have distinct and separate failures: socialism under-produces, while capitalism poorly distributes. The direction a country needs to move can probably be determined by answering the question of whether you a under-producing, or have ample resources that are just poorly distributed among the population. Venezuela reached too far into socialism, while the Nordics hit the sweet spot.

          • cassander says:

            @Guy in TN says:

            I agree there is truth to this. It seems that socialism and capitalism have distinct and separate failures: socialism under-produces, while capitalism poorly distributes.

            Socialism poorly distributes too. Hugo chavez was worth billions.

            The direction a country needs to move can probably be determined by answering the question of whether you a under-producing, or have ample resources that are just poorly distributed among the population. Venezuela reached too far into socialism, while the Nordics hit the sweet spot.

            there is no such thing as over producing.

          • Guy in TN says:

            there is no such thing as over producing

            Going to have to disagree with you. Irregardless, the question is one of trade-offs.

            Your argument re: Venezuela makes about as much since as someone saying “Libertarianism is bad, because sometimes libertarians violate the NAP”

          • cassander says:

            @Guy in TN

            Your argument re: Venezuela makes about as much since as someone saying “Libertarianism is bad, because sometimes libertarians violate the NAP”

            libertarianism doesn’t empower libertarians to violate the NAP. Socialism does empower socialists to steal, and they always do.

    • jjjjjooooo says:

      Here (https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/12750) is good analysis of Venezuala’s economy along these lines.

      The global price of oil and fixed exchange rates are not normally what comes to mind with Socialism. Nixon tried price controls.

      The demographics of Sweden and Venezuala are also a little different.

      Worth noting the right and the elite is dominated by anti-Keynesians. Maybe if we (and the EU) had stimulated like China in 2009 the rise of social justice/trump etc. would have never happened? (http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/165076)

      Also the stimulus we did get was apparently stripped of infrastructure projects due to lobbying by women’s groups. (http://www.weeklystandard.com/no-country-for-burly-men/article/17737)

      Regarding healthcare. Seems to me insurance is collective by nature. Does the auto insurance market work? Seems like garbage to me, just no one cares because it is less important. Car insurers run ads all day and there is no real competition due to price discrimination (adverse selection destroying the ability of consumers to coordinate–“state lines” may contribute). Want a public option.

      Edit: here (https://www.thenation.com/article/ecuadors-left-wing-success-story/) is an article by the same guy as above about Ecuador.

      • Ghillie Dhu says:

        Seems to me insurance is collective by nature.

        Not inherently, at its heart it’s a financial product where the buyer pays the seller to assume some of his idiosyncratic risk; a single party could sell a policy to a single counterparty. The efficiency is limited by the ability of the seller to accurately price the risk (i.e., actuarial tables); by selling many (presumably uncorrelated policies) insurance companies diversify away the idiosyncratic risks (the way an individual does by investing in index funds rather than bare stocks).

        • jjjjjooooo says:

          @Ghiie Dhu

          Thanks for the explanation, but still struggling with the intuitions.

          With the analogy to stocks it’s not so much people buying insurance as it’s insurance companies buying people (stocks). And to the extent risk is accurately assessed seems there is zero competetion.

          Am interested in reading more though.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            The analogy was, admittedly, framed to maximize comprehension (via the most broadly-familiar example of diversification) rather than for one-to-one correspondence; I’m unaware of any prepackaged diversification in the selling of put options (which would be a more precise analog of what the insurance companies do than buying stocks is).

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Regarding healthcare. Seems to me insurance is collective by nature. Does the auto insurance market work? Seems like garbage to me, just no one cares because it is less important. Car insurers run ads all day and there is no real competition due to price discrimination.

        I don’t know how it’s in the US, but in my experience, there’s a ton of price competition in auto insurance, to the point that actuaries and underwriters have become mortal enemies.

        • jjjjjooooo says:

          All I see is tons of ads and constant price increases (40% over 10 years). (Not sure how that compares with inflation.)

          Edit: found this (https://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/27/auto-insurance-rates-rising-at-fastest-rate-in-almost-13-years.html).

          • Nornagest says:

            40% gain over 10 years works out to an inflation rate of about 3.25% annually, which is substantially but not ludicrously higher than the headline rate.

        • John Schilling says:

          Auto insurance is much more of a commodity than health insurance, as few people have an emotional attachment to their preferred body shop and there usually aren’t heated arguments about whether it’s worth a $50,000 experimental repair procedure to save someone’s 2005 Camry. Once the type and limits of coverage are specified, it’s common to just go through an agent or broker to get the best deal from many competing agencies and not bother remembering the name of the actual insurance company.

          Also common is insurance providers trying to make a bit extra from bundling services, e.g. tailored offers of combined homeowners and auto insurance at less than the price of the two separately.

          So, a competitive industry but not usually a contentious one.

      • baconbacon says:

        Worth noting the right and the elite is dominated by anti-Keynesians. Maybe if we (and the EU) had stimulated like China in 2009 the rise of social justice/trump etc. would have never happened? (http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/165076)

        How much stimulus would have been necessary? Considering we (the US) did ‘stimulate’ heavily.

      • cassander says:

        >The global price of oil and fixed exchange rates are not normally what comes to mind with Socialism. Nixon tried price controls.

        The global price for oil isn’t what’s screwing venezuela. It’s the decline in production, which was directly caused by the socialist government using the oil infrastructure money to buy votes instead of maintain their wells. Anyone blaming the crisis on global oil prices is either ignorant or dishonest.

        >The demographics of Sweden and Venezuala are also a little different.

        venezuela’s demographics didn’t swing massively from 10 years ago, their policy did.

        Worth noting the right and the elite is dominated by anti-Keynesians. Maybe if we (and the EU) had stimulated like China in 2009 the rise of social justice/trump etc. would have never happened? (http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/165076)

        The elite isn’t dominated by the right,and the response to the great recession was the largest keynesian experiment in history. the idea that we’re dominated by enti-keynesians is laughable.

        >Regarding healthcare. Seems to me insurance is collective by nature

        .

        that makes zero sense. Insurance is, effectively, the reverse of lending money. there’s nothing collective about that.

        Car insurers run ads all day and there is no real competition due to price discrimination

        those are mutually exclusive statements.

        • jjjjjooooo says:

          You may be right in the big picture on their oil production, but I’ve read that the recent sharp decline is due to being either unable or unwilling to pay money owed to drillers, which coincides with the the price decline, perhaps this is unrelated or incorrect though.

          It’s also my understanding that Venezeuala was not so great pre-Chavez, and did ok until recently.

          My statement regarding domination was too strong. Republican politicians perhaps do perhaps favor Keynesian policies to an extent, at least when in power, though probably heavily slanted toward supply side tax cuts and military spending, which may be better than nothing in some cases. Some at least seem to be sincere supply siders and not Jude Wanniskis (two santas). Democrats probably also behave diffently when out of power.
          There is the market monetarist alternative but it is unclear to me how many hold this view. I shouldn’t have said “elites,” elite views probably vary, as do popular views. Keynesianism is perhaps itself an elite view as “balanced budgets” is a popular thing. “Full employment” is probably also popular.

          Having trouble processing “the reverse of lending money.” Insurance is the insurance company borrowing money?

          I also see constant ads for cellphone and internet service providers, but am not happy with the state of competition here either. Perhaps that is mistaken, nonetheless I feel these are natural monopolies and perhaps should be government regulated if not run. Maybe Verizon will do something surprising with their push into media and advertising? Maybe it will pay off in a decade? Maybe if we had started building out gigabit fiber in 2009 we’d all be using it now?

          But with car insurance it seems to me companies charge everyone an individual price and just compete on brand recognition for sign ups. Perhaps there is lots I’m overlooking, like maybe they have lots of churn do to poor service when claims are made or something. Still would prefer a government option I think, just to see.

          • cassander says:

            >You may be right in the big picture on their oil production, but I’ve read that the recent sharp decline is due to being either unable or unwilling to pay money owed to drillers, which coincides with the the price decline, perhaps this is unrelated or incorrect though.

            the decline started almost immediately as chavez took over. Venezuelan oil is expensive and difficult to extract,a nd one of chavez’ first actions was diverting money from maintenance and exploration to social spending to buy votes. the effects were immediate, though they were masked for a while by rising prices.

            It’s also my understanding that Venezeuala was not so great pre-Chavez, and did ok until recently.

            Not great, but people weren’t starving to death. They are now.

            Some at least seem to be sincere supply siders and not Jude Wanniskis (two santas). Democrats probably also behave diffently when out of power.

            A small minority with relatively little influence.

            There is the market monetarist alternative but it is unclear to me how many hold this view.

            even fewer. IF there were 3 republican senators who could define market monetarism, or know who scott sumner is, I would be surprised.

            >Having trouble processing “the reverse of lending money.” Insurance is the insurance company borrowing money?

            When you lend money, you give people money in the hope something will succeed, and you’ll get more money back. When you sell insurance, you take money in in the hopes that something doesn’t fail, in which case you get to keep it.

            Both the insurer and the lender rely on the knowledge that in the long run, they can charge slightly more than their risk and come out ahead even if an individual bet goes bad, but that doesn’t make the activity collective in any meaningful sense.

            I also see constant ads for cellphone and internet service providers, but am not happy with the state of competition here either. Perhaps that is mistaken, nonetheless I feel these are natural monopolies and perhaps should be government regulated if not run.

            How can cell phone coverage, a good that requires literally beaming out signal in all directions, possibly be a natural monopoly? And you should look at the history of state run telephone monopolies in most of the world, it’s a parade of disasters.

            But with car insurance it seems to me companies charge everyone an individual price and just compete on brand recognition for sign ups.

            this seems to be implying that competition on cost isn’t really competition. Why would you think that?

          • jjjjjooooo says:

            That chart ends before the recent crisis and so doesn’t capture the sharp decline I was referencing.

            And the pre-Chavez peak was during a period of very low prices.

            The stark drop between was during a strike.

            But as I said I think your big picture view of mismanagement may be correct, but am unsure it is a direct cause of the recent crises rather than perhaps couterfactually averting the crises. It is still my view that prior to the decline in prices things were going fairly well. And were prices to suddenly rise perhaps would be again.

            I may be wrong regarding wireless and perhaps should not have conflated it with ISPs, will need to do research. Perhaps it is limited sprectrum that is the problem? Regulations? Low returns? Something else–lack of diffrentation? Or maybe it is competitive and I have a cognitive bias against paying for ongoing services?

            Maybe that partially explains my problem with insurance too? But maybe it is that I don’t have a choice and there seems to be no difference between them and no way to send feedback and therefore makes me mad. If it was public I think I would view it differently.

            My understanding from reading people like Susan Crawford the internet in South Korea is faster at a lower price. I understand whether this is true and if it is true why are disputed but just putting it out there.

            I also understand some good research came out of the Bell monopoly but maybe this came with serious tradeoffs.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @jjjjjooooo – “My understanding from reading people like Susan Crawford the internet in South Korea is faster at a lower price. I understand whether this is true and if it is true why are disputed but just putting it out there.”
            South Korea – US size comparison.

          • cassander says:

            That chart ends before the recent crisis and so doesn’t capture the sharp decline I was referencing.

            this is irrelevant. the current decline wouldn’t be disastrous but for the years in decline previously.

            But as I said I think your big picture view of mismanagement may be correct, but am unsure it is a direct cause of the recent crises rather than perhaps couterfactually averting the crises. It is still my view that prior to the decline in prices things were going fairly well. And were prices to suddenly rise perhaps would be again.

            this is special pleading disguised as pedantry. Oil production, the most important industry in the country, has declined disastrously as a direct result of policy choices made by the government. to say “there wasn’t a disaster in a period of sky high oil prices” is to damn by faint praise.

            My understanding from reading people like Susan Crawford the internet in South Korea is faster at a lower price. I understand whether this is true and if it is true why are disputed but just putting it out there.

            as FacelessCraven says, korea is small and densely populated. of course it’s easier to make their internet faster.

            I also understand some good research came out of the Bell monopoly but maybe this came with serious tradeoffs.

            to speak of “good research” is to miss the point entirely. the point of a telecom monopoly is cheap telecom. the bell monopoly is the best case scenario and, as you say, there were serious tradeoffs. in most countries, things were much worse, with the monopoly doing what they always do, getting flabby from lack of competition and delivering terrible service.

    • @Matthias

      It is led by a government that proclaimed it intends to work towards real socialism (by your, Freddie’s, and their definitions,)

      I think that’s the important thing. Truly public (and not just state) ownership as defined by socialist theories is something that’s going to be very very very hard to actually achieve, so any given economy with socialists in charge that begins to fail is going to fail before it’s ever truly socialist. It’s the attempt to reach socialism which is disasterous (except when its in the form of milquetoast social democratic reformism which gets mediated by rival parties).

      but this was actually true of Sweden as well for much of the twentieth century.

      Wasn’t this in the form of Social Democratic parties though? That is; anti-revolutionary socialists who want to keep the market economy stable but build up the pre-requisites for socialism very slowly through public sector expansion. They existed in a framework where IIRC another party came along and privatized and liberalized stuff undoing their work though. Not so for Venezuela.

      How many expropriations of private property did these Swedish socialists actually make? Is it really a good comparison when Venezuela was heavy on expropriations leading to collapsing foreign investment? How much was the ideology of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party really similar to the ideology of Chavez and his 21st Century Socialism? The ideological differences translated into economic differences because the Swedish socialists were following social democratic ideology and mostly focused on expanding the public sector (which was later cut back), whereas Chavez was following something a lot closer to a revolutionary socialism and focused on attacking the private sector as a means to expand the public sector (which would be fully democratized in TRUE socialism).

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My going theory here is that Scandinavian countries have an element of public trust that Venezuela does not. Any typical Scandinavian who has a mild disagreement with a law is probably critically more likely to believe that that law is helping someone they would like to see helped (e.g. someone they consider in genuine need) than any typical Venezuelan (e.g. some government strongarm).

      This ties in turn to my working theory that any socialism that isn’t a hellhole isn’t really socialist – if you declared free-market capitalism in such a place overnight, everyone would still coordinate as they did before.

      To really test these theories, though, I would need much better, objective ways of measuring the relevant trends. If I wanted to risk acting on them anyway, I would probably put less emphasis on free-market capitalism per se in malfunctioning states, and more emphasis instead on restoring public trust. (To wit, I believe FMC is a means to that restoration.)

    • Art Vandelay says:

      Yeah it’s the fairly standard tactic of anything that goes badly = socialism, anything that goes well = capitalism.

    • I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that political ideology doesn’t predict that much about how a country will work. geography nd population density are important, Informal social conventions are important. Numbers are important. A supposedly neoliberal regime that spends more than it can afford on welfare will go bust, a form of socialism that doens’t will work better.

    • Matt M says:

      Yeah, I think one of the biggest issues we have in these debates is that nobody really agrees on what constitutes “ownership.” What does ownership mean? To have exclusive control over an asset, right? Who has exclusive control over the assets of ExxonMobil? I guess you’d say the shareholders.

      But can the shareholders decide to disallow a black man from entering one of their gas stations? Can they decide to pay their employees $5/hr? Do they get to keep 100% of the profits earned from the assets they own?

      The state claims the sole and final right to decide everything from what types of products you can sell, who you can sell them to, what wages you must pay your employees, what employees you can and cannot hire, how much of your money you can retain, and a huge number of other things. They are the owners of these assets in everything but name.

      • rlms says:

        But it is not plausible that they could exercise all those rights without repercussions.

        • Matt M says:

          They are already exercising most of them. What repercussions have they faced? I guess some companies have tried to flee to Switzerland or whatever, but don’t worry, our Congressmen are hard at work trying to find some way to make that illegal too!

  7. Montfort says:

    Your “paper on empathy” link is broken, should go here. And both Tengrism links go to the same section of the Tengrism wikipedia article, don’t know if that’s intentional.

  8. jw says:

    Standing ovation for your previous post!!!!!

    • manwhoisthursday says:

      Absolutely.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      !!!

    • DrBeat says:

      I think his previous post is completely wrong where it says that this process can be reversed or slowed, and foolishly naive when it implies that the fields that aren’t like this will stay that way for long.

      YA fiction is a field with very high social entropy. He describes tech as a field where all the parts that aren’t very high social entropy are getting there. He knows many people are actively attempting to maximize the social entropy of everything they perceive. He knows these people are constantly fawned over and given respect, deference, attention, and utility, and their demands are met. He’s personally observed and commented on all of these processes. The only reason not to conclude that this same thing is going to devour medicine, and everything else that is not yet devoured, is “Noticing that would make me very sad, so I won’t notice that.”

      Which is also the only argument I’ve gotten when I ask if any field that was high-entropy ever managed to revert itself to low-entropy again. Because entropy cannot be reversed. But it makes people sad to notice that, so they do not notice that.

      • Brad says:

        You forgot ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam all is lost.

      • carvenvisage says:

        The only reason not to conclude that this same thing is going to devour medicine, and everything else that is not yet devoured, is “Noticing that would make me very sad, so I won’t notice that.”

        Without getting into the specifics, there are at least two other important reasons:

        1. If that’s the case then, as you put it, ‘all is lost’, so it’s a case to be avoided even if doing so is very unlikely, and having a prophetic certainty of defeat might get in the way of that for some (I daresay most) people. What if there’s a hell and god puts people there who displease him? Well, then we’re all fucked, so lets worry more about possibilities that aren’t beyond repair and that we can interact with.

        2. you don’t have to have an opinion on this at all. You might not be inclined to either switch sides or lay down and die even if this was magically-prophetically known to be the case.

         

        TL:DR it’s admirable to face unfortunate facts for the sake of truth or honesty, but it’s a waste to *keep facing* the worst of them all the time. If you’re driving, you face the road, not the unfortunate orphans starving in africa. The orphans are more important in a global sense, but the road is more important in the sense of your responsibilities and what you can influence right now.

        Face the facts, yes, (if you can), but don’t keep facing them all the time, commit them to memory, be informed by them, and face your destiny, the thing you can steer.

    • Aapje says:

      Indeed, it was the best article on gender I ever read, I think.

    • Jameson Quinn says:

      It motivated me to actually go and read the James Damore google memo. The experience was mostly like watching video of somebody tap-dancing into a minefield; mostly, the things that Damore said were reasonable if debatable, but even without knowing the outcome, it would have been easy to guess that that would all blow up in his face.

      But there was one thing he said that I found laughably wrong. In the recommendations section at the end, one of the recommendations for dealing with the issue was to “De-emphasize empathy.” In light of Scott’s more clear-headed treatment of similar issues, that suggestion seems precisely wrongheaded.

      Not wrongheaded enough to be fired for, though. I think that as a practical matter, Google higher-ups should have disavowed the memo in unequivocal terms, even if they were less unequivocal in their hearts, but as a moral matter they should absolutely still have stood up for his right to express his ideas.

      As to the substance, I think that “the difference between castle A which the army took and castle B which the army didn’t take is that the army didn’t care enough to send as many people to take castle B” can be true without implying in the slightest that castle B doesn’t have walls, or that if you consider castles with walls to be bad things, siege engines might be called for.

      • Viliam says:

        Thanks for the link to the uncensored memo. Scott, perhaps you might want to add the link to the previous article!

        It is funny how some things remind me of my childhood in a communist regime. We had a similar custom where people were required to denounce texts which they were not allowed to read in the original… and if you found them afterwards, they sometimes turned out to be pretty reasonable and mild, e.g. “Several sentences”. Seems like those who cannot remember communism are condemned to repeat it.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        About “empathy”: He references the book “Against Empathy” in an adjacent link. Eerily relevant quote:

        I’ve come to realize that taking a position against empathy is like announcing that you hate kittens

        • Matt M says:

          I read this book a few months ago and posted a mini-review/summary in one of the OTs.

          I think most of his points are very clear and reasonable and that the main source of agreement is a semantic debate regarding what empathy actually means. The author freely acknowledges that many people use it basically as a synonym for “being nice” and that he is not, in any way, against niceness.

        • Jameson Quinn says:

          A steel doll (strong but summarized) version of Damore’s basic argument, as I understand it:

          > There are more men than women at Google not because we’re mean to women, and not because men are smarter, but because men care about Googley things more than women do. Men like “things” and women like “people”. Insofar as this is the reason for the gender imbalance, it’s neither a good nor a bad thing per se.

          If you believe that, why would you also go on to say “we should de-emphasize empathy” unless you also believe “the male way of thinking is the better way”?

          A book “against empathy” in the overall society can in theory be a corrective: “we’re undervaluing the male way of thinking, here’s why we should rebalance”. But advocating that a male-dominated company should address the issue of male domination by thinking about the issue more masculinely seems to be indefensible on the basis of balance, and only defensible if you think the masculine way is just generally better.

          • lvlln says:

            The part of the note about de-emphasizing empathy is this:

            I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.

            I think you’re making a connection where there isn’t. By “de-emphasize empathy,” it seems like he’s making a call for processing things scientifically rather than basing them on anecdote, in order to come up with the best procedure for producing and reaching the company’s diversity goals. Not that “we should think like males rather than females because male thinking is better.”

            Now, some people have argued that scientific thinking is male and anecdotal thinking is female based on the whole things/people dichotomy, and therefor privileging science over anecdote when it comes to producing things that work is a form of oppression of women, and we should be open to alternative ways of knowing things that aren’t based on science. But I don’t find that argument very convincing, because it seems to open things up to believing in any arbitrary thing that one desires.

      • blah says:

        Does the timing of James Damore’s memo make anyone else think that he’s probably a Slate Star Codex reader?

        Edit: Nevermind, the uncensored memo is dated July 2017 and Scott’s post I was thinking of is from August 1st.

        • hlynkacg says:

          The thought had crossed my mind.

        • sscreader2 says:

          I thought the same as well. Mostly because I felt the memo was written in a way that was charitable to those it disagreed with. I suppose there was some notable exceptions like using charged terms like echo chamber but the writing was definitely more charitable than what you would expect on average. I also could be thinking this because of my biases and maybe if I disagreed more with the contents of the memo I would have thought it was not written in a charitable way.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Did anybody else find it hilarious that apparently when you say that women have higher neuroticism they start worrying excessively about what their co-workers think of them?

      Of course if you say that men are higher on aggression and violence, they might get very angry about that.

      And if you insinuate that men are less social, this insult might well cause them to pull away from their co-workers.

      People are all the same! Don’t say stuff like that! It will only cause them to react in completely gender-neutral, but bad, ways.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Joke I heard decades ago:

        Three people of easily identifiable (and well known) ethnic groups get stuck in a conflict situation and it soon becomes clear to all them (and the listener) that one of them is going to have to do something difficult (or unpleasant) to extricate themselves from the situation.

        The first one tries–and fails–and fails in a way that is typical of his ethnic group. So the second one tries–and fails– and fails in a way that is analogously typical of his ethnic group. So the third one tries–and fails–in a way that although typical of his ethnic group…

        …is not analogous!

        Cracks me up every time.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          *sigh*

          My point wasn’t that gender (or any) stereotypes are funny.

          Just that it’s funny that Sundar Pichai condemns mentioning a gender stereotype by effectively invoking it. It’s the self-referential paradoxical structure that hides in his statement that I find funny.

          Well, now I’m depressed about my communication skills. If I ever write a memo about anything I’ll probably get shot.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Sorry, I didn’t mean to belittle your comment or step on your punch line. I was trying to participate in the meta-appreciation. I agree with you completely, and it baffles me that smart guys like Pichai — and he is really smart — can fail to notice what they are doing.

          • tscharf says:

            Or consider this:

            Pichai: “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall,” Pichai wrote in an email. “In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion.”

            …or just fire the people with the concerns, that’s another option.

  9. Sam Reuben says:

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

    I can kind of see why you only devoted one line to this. It’s a bit of a bombshell; I mean, it’s not a total surprise, there’s lots of evidence that shows it coming, but it’s still a smack in the face to see it. I would like to see more research on the subject, because the conclusion of it (i.e. that there are a lot of people who are basically born as more likely to do harm to themselves, others, and society at large) is horrific to consider.

    “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?”

    I have a feeling that if this were about post-Reformation Protestant-Catholic tensions, we’d find a very simple answer to the question. The most probable determining factor, assuming that the study is on the level, is just what social group you identify into based on birth and other qualifications. For a lot of the die-hard authoritarians, I doubt that their group membership is precisely a choice so much as a consequence of their born-into identities.

    • Antistotle says:

      Crime and Poverty:

      I bet there *is* a correlation between socio-economic class and the *type* of crimes committed, but let’s face it most people behave only because if they don’t they get in trouble.

      Republican v.s. Democrat:
      Who’s yo daddy? No, srsly, back in the 1990s there was a study that claimed to prove that the biggest predictor of what party you’d be in was what party your family was. This is, of course, before the Republican lost their backbone[1] and the Democrats lost their minds.

      For a more modern choice, Abortion, Gun Rights and how your taxes are spent.

      [1] Some would say that since they’d been out of power at the federal level from the (IIRC) late 30s to the mid-90s they never really had a backbone to lose.

      • Anthony says:

        Republican vs Democrat: Who’s Your Daddy?

        • HFARationalist says:

          Then what caused my absolute individualist views? I’m completely against family and sexual reproduction. Instead I prefer a transhumanist world with humans produced in vats.

          • Incurian says:

            Lead?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You are not outspokenly neuro-atypical? The generalization about party affiliation would be for neurotypical people, would it not?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’m an outspoken autist. I do agree that generalization is mostly for non-autists because autism makes all kinds of uncommon combinations of views that rationally make sense possible. Since autists are a lot less likely to conform than non-autists on average we autists usually can not be classified as belonging into any predetermined package of views.

          • Dabbler says:

            Speaking as an autistic myself, I’d be very curious to know- are there any studies or genuinely scientific grounds for figuring out how to predict an autistic’s view? I figure there has to be a similiar basis because there’s no good grounds for alternative theories.

            Incidentally HFARationalist, what is your view on what should be done in family and sexual matters until vats are possible?

      • Baeraad says:

        This is, of course, before the Republican lost their backbone[1] and the Democrats lost their minds.

        That’s an interesting way of looking at it. I can’t say that I’ve ever considered lack of a backbone to be the Republican fatal flaw?

        My understanding of recent American political history goes more something like:

        The 1990s: Democrats lose their backbone. Republicans lose their minds.
        The 2000s: Democrats find their backbone again.
        The 2010s: Democrats lose their minds.
        Now: Too many backbones. Not enough minds.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My main concern is that Sariaslan has about a dozen papers approximately this shocking, and I cap the number of shocking papers per person I believe at ten until someone else replicates the first few.

      • Sam Reuben says:

        That is a bit of a relief, then. I do hope he gets some attention, so that this can become a serious and general sociological question.

      • Dues says:

        Was I reading the paper wrong, or did table 1 say that one of the factors they controlled for whether your parent were poor? Does that imply they thing whether you are currently poor doesn’t matter, but if you were poor as a child it increases your risk of criminal behavior? That doesn’t sound like crime is unrelated to poverty to me.

      • Dabbler says:

        If you don’t mind me asking, where can I find other Sariaslan studies? Even if they should be treated as mere possibilities, it would be both interesting and enlightening to know.

    • Enkidum says:

      I had a fair bit of trouble understanding how the different models in the paper worked. What are “unobserved familial risk factors” (I guess, by definition, we don’t know exactly what they are)? And can they be causally linked to poverty?

      • Sam Reuben says:

        My best understanding is that they took individual children of varying economic backgrounds, compared them with people from their immediate and extended family as well as outside the family and within their income bracket, and saw if their crime-propensity fit better with an income-level model (their crime-propensity fit better with people within the income bracket than within the family) or a familial-factor model (the other way around). Their result was that the best way to predict crime-propensity wasn’t income level, but family: you could be rich, but if you were related to criminals, you’re at higher risk for being a criminal. They didn’t identify a gene that did this, and it’s left open for a cultural interpretation (as far as I understood), but money didn’t answer. The authors did note that things might be different in America, as Sweden’s safeguards against real poverty could limit the degree to which crime can be a sound economic decision and thus leave it only to the people who want to commit it for personal reasons. As far as causal links to poverty are concerned, people who commit “crime” (a term I’ve been using as gloss for “violent and antisocial behaviors”) aren’t going to build up stable and healthy lifestyles, which are the requirement for wealth.

        That’s as far as I understood the paper, with my limited knowledge of some of the jargon, and I’d welcome being corrected by someone who understood it better.

        • Enkidum says:

          OK, that helped quite a bit. I’m (a very little bit) conversant with modelling of this type, so I was surprised at how opaque I found the paper, but your explanation seems to make sense to me at least. I just got off a long holiday, so my brain may still be at the beach.

          So… I think the first half of your first paragraph is the straightforward presentation of what the paper actually did (up to “money didn’t answer”), and then the last couple of sentences are extrapolations from those results. And if your extrapolation is correct, then to the extent that there is a causal link between poverty and crime, it’s precisely in the opposite direction as has typically been claimed?

          I’m not sure to what extent I believe this, but I think that’s at least a sensible way of interpreting the paper. Thanks again.

          • Sam Reuben says:

            You’re exactly correct in interpreting my comment. I should have separated those two sections out, to make things clearer. I certainly don’t want to conflate the data and interpretations of it.

            However, I’m not sure that the paper or its authors claim strictly that crime causes poverty. I did rush through that point a little, and state it as such, but I’d like to retract that in favor of the more accurate and more modest claim. Namely, crime causes poverty in situations where luck-based poverty has been eliminated. This was what the authors were going on about in the second paragraph of the Discussion section:

            “Second, it could be that Sweden’s comprehensive
            welfare state actually mitigates the possible adverse effects of
            growing up with limited material resources.”

            The proposal is that Sweden’s welfare statism has so absolutely eliminated regular ol’ desperate poverty that the people left on the bottom are there, by and large, because there really is something wrong with them. People who are just born into tough circumstances have all the tools they need to pull themselves out, but people who have some genetic predisposition towards the sorts of serious behavioral problems that can really destroy one’s life (antisocial behavior, substance abuse) will fall to the bottom and stay there. This is supported (by me, not by the authors) from the well-known statistic that homeless folks are disproportionately mentally ill, and other such poverty-oriented statistics, and of course by the simple common-sense understanding that the kinds of behaviors tracked really can just ruin you. There are a bunch of good reasons not to commit crimes, and one of them is to not scuttle the one boat you have on the river of time.

            So I guess, to summarize: the authors do recognize that their data isn’t absolute, and that there are some other mitigating factors that can affect folks. In particular, places which are not Swedish in their welfare are likely to have people trapped in poverty just because of bad luck and not genetics, and it’s quite likely that a lot of them will commit crimes because of it. The information is still pretty important, though, if true.

            And it’s absolutely my pleasure to talk about these things. I’m just glad to help make things clear wherever I can.

          • Dues says:

            Yes, thanks, that made it clearer for me too.

          • sunnydestroy says:

            I thought they had well written Discussion and Strengths and Weaknesses sections that give fair looks at the study’s limits.

            I think it’s pretty important to the implications of the study that they recognized Sweden is a much different country than the US.

            Another interesting thing is that US based quasi-experimental studies on the same topic had different results than this study. The authors give 2 possible explanations. One is the previously mentioned welfare system in Sweden. The other is a bit interesting to me:

            First, outcome variables are not always directly comparable between studies; whereas we have focused on severe criminal offending and substance misuse, earlier studies addressed less severe antisocial behaviours and conduct problems.

            They mention the point again in the Strengths and Weaknesses section:

            Second, our approach of using nationwide registry data confined our analyses to arguably more severe cases that had been registered by the legal and clinical services for their actions

            I’m wondering if people who must commit crimes for economic reasons would be motivated to hide their crimes better. Perhaps the specific kind of criminal offenders in this data care less about being caught, but that’s just me speculating.

            Also of note in both the title of the paper and the Measures: Outcome variables section: this study only says something about violent criminality and substance abuse. I’m not sure what conclusions would be drawn from the data in terms of less serious crimes. I’m just keeping in mind that this study’s results shouldn’t be taken to mean all kinds of crime.

            They also give a bit of a definition of their “familial risk factors” in the end of the Discussion section and I would broadly agree with them:

            (such as the quality of the parent–child relationship, family dissolution and parental criminality)

      • Viliam says:

        What are “unobserved familial risk factors”?

        Yep, exactly my question after reading the article. I wanted to ask whether I just really suck at reading scientific papers, or it is really not mentioned there.

        • Aido says:

          We fitted two separate models for the entire sample
          (n = 526 167) that gradually adjusted for observed confounding
          variables. Model I adjusted for gender, birth year and birth order,
          whereas Model II also adjusted for highest parental education,
          parental ages at the time of the first-born child and parental
          history of admission to hospital for a mental disorder.

          To assess the effects also of unobserved genetic and
          environmental factors, we fitted stratified Cox regression models
          to cousin (n = 262 267) and sibling (n = 216 424) samples with
          extended or nuclear family as stratum, respectively. The stratified
          models allow for the estimation of heterogeneous baseline hazard
          rates across families and thus capture unobserved familial
          factors.23 This also implies that exposure comparisons are made
          within families.24 Model III was fitted to the cousin sample and
          adjusted for observed confounders and unobserved within
          extended-family factors. Model IV was fitted on the sibling sample
          and accounted for unobserved nuclear family factors and for
          gender, birth year and birth order.

          I agree, it isn’t particularly enlightening. As far as I can tell, “explained by unobserved familial risk factors” might as well read “explained by what their siblings were like”.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s a bit of a bombshell; I mean, it’s not a total surprise, there’s lots of evidence that shows it coming, but it’s still a smack in the face to see it.

      I’m sort of sitting back and laughing about the rash of these kinds of results lately (gender differences exist! men and women like to do different things! being poor doesn’t mean you’ll be a criminal, being a criminal means you decided to get into crime!) because I’m a conservative, and one of the sneers aimed at the right-wing is “reality has a liberal bias”.

      Well, looks like scientific fact has a conservative bias, boys.

      Also, Original Sin 🙂

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, I’m skeptical that anyone who uses that phrase is a philosophy major who reads science papers for leisure as Scott does.

        • Deiseach says:

          If you prefer, I can swap in “human nature” but the point is the same: the genuine virtue, and flaw, of the progressive side is that they really think human nature is a blank slate, this time for sure it will be different, we know the mistakes of the past and won’t repeat them, with just This One Weird Trick we can attain Utopia.

          But then you butt your head up against “I thought this time our new group really would stick to its principles and be what it said and not get bogged down in the same old story, only it didn’t”. That’s where Human Nature/Original Sin comes in – it’s a lot harder to change underlying drives than you think, people will recreate patterns, and you can’t use “society is at fault” as a blanket explanation for everything, because some things come down to individual human choice – even if you prefer to couch that in a genetic argument about “tendency for criminal-style behaviour linked to poor impulse control, higher aggression, preference for short-term over long-term gains, etc.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I meant the phrase “reality has a liberal bias.”
            I’ve also seen the form “reality has a left-wing bias”, which is orders of magnitude worse considering the data set of Communist experiments.

            Original Sin is definitely real. Contra the heresiarch Rousseau, humans don’t leave the hand of God perfect and become bad from exposure to society.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            I don’t think Original sin refers to some sort of natural instinct of people to do bad things. My understanding is that it refers to a claim of inherent sinfulness, not connected to any action taken by the person; you are simply born with it, like how all humans inherit the sins of Adam and Eve (in Catholicism, at least), or how white people are permanently stained with the sins of slavery (in SJWism).

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Original Sin is definitely real.

            The concept certainly points to a real phenomenon. But the religious hypothesis linked to that particular name for the phenomenon is sufficiently implausible and as yet unverified that it seems unreasonable to call it definitely real while calling it by that name.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Winter Shaker: well, then we can come up with a religiously neutral term for the real phenomenon.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Would ‘human imperfectibility’ do? Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly a very important concept to have, but I’m not happy about letting the Christians monopolise it 🙂

          • Viliam says:

            But the religious hypothesis linked to that particular name for the phenomenon is sufficiently implausible

            A retrovirus historically transmitted from the Malus species sounds quite plausible to me.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Winter, people being bad by default and people being impossible to make good are two separate hypotheses.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Mugasofer:

            Winter, people being bad by default and people being impossible to make good are two separate hypotheses.

            Perhaps I have misunderstood what ‘Original Sin’ means, then? I understood it to be not merely that people are born flawed but can become perfect, but rather that people are born flawed and remain flawed inevitably, throughout their lives, no matter how hard they strive for perfection. In which case ‘human imperfectibility’ sounds like a reasonable religion-neutral alternative.

            Or have I missed the point here?

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            the genuine virtue, and flaw, of the progressive side is that they really think human nature is a blank slate, this time for sure it will be different, we know the mistakes of the past and won’t repeat them, with just This One Weird Trick we can attain Utopia.

            I doubt humans will ever achieve perfect utopia, but I do think that things have genuinely changed, and that certain things which were previously thought to be unthinkable have now become the norm. The Internet, for instance–instant communication with anyone anywhere in the world, instant access to a vast pool of information. It’s fundamentally changing the way people relate to each other and think. How could it not?

            Social norms have also genuinely changed. Maybe there will always be gender differences, but our concept of what those differences are and what it means to be a man or a woman has changed dramatically compared to what it was a hundred or even fifty years ago. Whether you consider those changes positive or negative is a matter of perspective, but it’s hard to deny that the changes are there and that they’re significant.

            I don’t know what shape society will take in another fifty years, but I would be very surprised if everything were basically the same.

            Once we have genetic engineering we will be able to edit out Original Sin (or whatever you want to call it) as well. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is, again, a matter of perspective, but I don’t doubt it will eventually happen. If there is indeed a “criminal gene,” scientists will identify it and some people will want to get rid of it.

        • JulieK says:

          > A retrovirus historically transmitted from the Malus species sounds quite plausible to me.

          Well, just look at the name! “Malus” means “bad” in Latin, right?

          (n.b. The Hebrew Bible merely says “fruit,” not “apple.”)

      • Sam Reuben says:

        I feel like I ought to explain why it’s quite so horrible that this is true, if it’s true.

        The first is, of course, that it means there are people who might not have the possibility of having a good human life. That’s incredibly tragic, and isn’t something to be wished on anyone. A good life is pretty much all that any of us can hope for, and for it to be denied to some people is hard to bear.

        The second is a little trickier, and so I’ll have to put it in semi-formal logic:
        1. If someone is beyond saving, then there is nothing that ought to be done to save them.
        2. If it is known that there are people beyond saving, then people will judge certain others as being beyond saving.
        3. From 1 and 2, if people judge certain others as beyond saving, then they will judge that nothing ought to be done to save them.
        4. However, human judgment is flawed.
        5. Therefore, from 3 and 4, people will at times wrongly judge that nothing ought to be done to save others.
        I’m sure you recognize that this isn’t a unique problem. It appears quite frequently in medical care, from triage to end-of-life care. But when we move from the immediate feedback of medicine, where the truth of someone being beyond medical care will make itself imminently clear (e.g. by them dying), someone being beyond social aid is incredibly hard to prove one way or the other. There are a massive number of people who have troubled childhoods and then grow up to become pretty well-balanced and positive citizens, and a similar cohort who start out strong but go off the rails around college time. If we’re going to gain anything useful from knowing there are people who are bad to the bone, how can we apply it when people have a tendency to be so hard to predict? How are we going to avoid getting caught in the Soviet trap, where incomplete scientific knowledge was used too strictly and resulted in catastrophes?

        I fully understand that people already do judge others as being beyond any kind of help, and indeed, your glee in being vindicated seems to show that you fall within their ranks. I’m willing to accept that some likely are beyond help, but worry that wide and open acknowledgment of that view isn’t going to lead to accurate judgments of people but rather that it’ll merely encourage the aggressive judgments that people already make. Consider the studies which show that conservatives and liberals are built differently on the mental level: I’m sure you’re keenly aware that the more vengeful liberal voices use that to justify claims that you, Deiseach, are beyond all hope of saving. I don’t agree with them, or about what they seem to think you and others with conservative beliefs need saving from (I think we all need to be saved from ourselves), and I hope you see that the judgment of being beyond salvation cuts wherever it’s directed. If viewing others as subhuman is permitted as reasonable and rational rather than a warped understanding of reality, then every one of us here might be at risk – I don’t think the SSC community is politically powerful enough to defend its own.

        So that’s why I think this is a terrible thing to confront. It poses a very serious risk to how we can all operate in a free society. True, it may first claim poor people rather than those who can, say, afford to buy a computer, but threats to one vulnerable group tend to proliferate. They just keep on seeking the next vulnerability they can exploit.

    • manwhoisthursday says:

      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?

      Jordan Peterson already covered that one:
      https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-personality-of-political-correctness/
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_fBYROA7Hk

      The main personality predictors of political views are Openness, Orderliness (aspect of Conscientiousness) and Compassion (aspect of Conscientiousness).

      Left wing views are predicted by high Openness, low Orderliness and high Compassion. Right wing views are predicted by low Openness, high Orderliness and low Compassion.

      Left wing authoritarians are low in Openness and high in Orderliness (typically right wing), but very high in Compassion (typically left wing).

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Yeah, I’m not saying nobody’s investigated this, I’m saying that the known differences between Ds and Rs make the whole “they’re really the same” theory less compelling. They’re similar on some axes and different on others.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      It looks like “birth order” is defined as “first born” and “other.” Could there be bias introduced by this analysis, if “more siblings” is functioning as a proxy for poverty (and/or being an immigrant from Africa or the Middle East, particularly in Sweden)? “Other” are more likely to commit crimes, and if poor children have more siblings, they are more likely to fall in the “other” category.

  10. 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 puzzle might come from hyperlexia. As I wrote in the Wikipedia article “Some hyperlexic children learn to spell long words (such as elephant) before they are two years old and learn to read whole sentences before they turn three.” Some but not all hyperlexic children turn out to be profoundly gifted, and most (perhaps all) have autism. This might indicate that being extremely good at detecting and enjoying patterns makes you worse at social skills (where you can’t rely on patterns) and makes it harder for you to understand the minds of people who are not driven to find patterns.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I tend to agree, especially on the latter. Non-autists are usually much more socially focused than autistic people who are usually focused on anything other than socialization. This is a reason why we autists can be frustrated at non-autists.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          Turning this around, it’s also why people may get frustrated with you.

          Also you seem to like to speak for all autists. Are you so sure you don’t just speak for yourself?

          • HFARationalist says:

            Maybe. No offense, guys.:-) I think I can speak for a nontrivial subset of autists even though I don’t think I can speak for all of us.

        • Nornagest says:

          Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal, but I know several people on the autism spectrum who spend a lot more time and energy on social functions than my neurotypical self. I don’t live in their heads so I can’t say for sure, but this seems like pretty good evidence for their being more socially focused, whatever that means.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “This might indicate that being extremely good at detecting and enjoying patterns makes you worse at social skills (where you can’t rely on patterns) and makes it harder for you to understand the minds of people who are not driven to find patterns.”

        I do think there are patterns to social skills– that’s why it’s possible to have social skills.

        Those patterns aren’t simple/explicit the way mathematics and some verbal skills are.

    • carvenvisage says:

      maybe it’s about discomfort with ambiguiity (or even hypocrisy?) and these increase your intelectual predilictions but if dialed up too far become overwhelming for a developing human.

      edit: to be clear i am just throwing this idea out there not claiming its the case.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve heard a theory that there are two kinds of smart people. One kind is simply very healthy in general (intelligence might correlate with athleticism for them?) and the other has some traits which support intelligence but also a high mutational load.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.)

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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?

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. rahien.din says:

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

    Obligatory

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

        • 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.

      • 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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 eq