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Open Thread 81.75

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

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975 Responses to Open Thread 81.75

  1. The Element of Surprise says:

    Heterodox Academy made a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence regarding gender differences in aptitude and interest in technical fields. Ctrl-f “our conclusions” to read their summary; in short they are:
    1. No meaningful difference in average aptitude, probably a small difference in variance which matters at the tails.
    2. Great difference in “interest and enjoyment”
    3. The latter may be culturally malleable in some way.

    Point 3 is making me think: If it is true, then we should, as a society, try to investigate how we can steer people to be interested in occupations with high economic value. Maybe we are wasting (macroeconomic) potential with a female biologists who could have ended up as a (happy!) google engineers making twice her current salary, if only her interests had been aligned. But that would also apply to many history or literature students of either gender who we failed by not steering them into economics or management.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is the sort of person who would be a good historian or lit prof or whatever going to make a good economist or manager? There’s probably more overlap between the latter and economics, but “management” is a different skill set entirely.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        Maybe these were poor examples, but if some women are not living to their full potential because of lack of interest, then men probably do the same, and it is probably not limited to tech.

    • Brad says:

      I wonder if it would be easier to modify the jobs in some way than to modify the people. The fields I’m familiar with have some features that aren’t really necessary but probably have a large impact on “interest and enjoyment” factors.

      For example, for a long time law school classes involved a harsh version of the Socratic method. But there was no real evidence that this was necessary or even an especially effective method of teaching. Suppose for the sake of argument that women disproportionately found it distressing. That would be something that could be changed without hurting outcomes.

      • dndnrsn says:

        My experience (not a lawyer, but lawyer-adjacent) is that different fields and aspects of law seem to be quite different. Some lawyers need that confrontational dogfight mentality. But many don’t.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      If it is true, then we should, as a society, try to investigate how we can steer people to be interested in occupations with high economic value.

      My recommendation would be: pay them a lot of money.

      • Jiro says:

        That doesn’t work because in our society, and in the socioeconomic classes in question, men (often) take shitty jobs for the money, and women (often) take jobs that are fulfilling because they are supported by a man. We don’t have so many stay at home housewives any more, but we do have primary breadwinners.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          If you’ve dangled a lot of money in front of them and still gotten no takers, I’d say that’s the point where you have to take no for an answer.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        I have the impression that people believe the interest in a subject can be changed even at a level that doesn’t take earnings into account. Suppose nobody really enjoyed computer programming at all: Some people would still do it, but they would be fewer, we would need to pay them highly, and in the end we don’t have much software, and the stuff we have is expensive and has low quality. Contrast to a world where everybody loves programming, they are basically willing it to do it for a subsistence wage: There would be lots of cheap software that is of high quality, because many people have spent much time on it.
        In some way, the latter world would be preferable to the former, if we don’t take opportunity cost — maybe now we have too few doctors — into account. My first order approach would be to look at lifetime average earnings to estimate which professions are over-supplied, and which ones are under-supplied. If engineers earn twice as much as biologist, the engineer seems to be more “valuable”, and we should look for ways to turn future biologists into future engineers.

    • skef says:

      In most professions, very 15th day or so something will happen at you can make conversation about with someone else in an unrelated profession. I’ve sat at many a lunch table with really very good software engineers politely waiting for the person currently talking to stop, so that they can start talking and have everyone else not listen to them. Unless you faced or solved a given software problem yourself, it’s generally very hard even for other programming folks, even in the same group, to see why it would be difficult, interesting, or funny.

      I once had a guy who was interviewing me for a job describe a problem he was clearly very proud of having solved, and ask me to solve it sitting there. Which really doesn’t make much sense, except as an opportunity to talk about it, I guess.

      The corollary to this stuff is a lot of people suspecting that a lot of other people in their profession don’t actually know anything.

      Many (I suspect most) people would, all things considered, rather not have a job with these qualities. I’m really not looking forward to going back to it

      • Mark says:

        I think it’s pretty general.

        Nobody will ever appreciate your act of work (though they may well appreciate the fruits of that labour) unless they are someone working on the same problem at a slightly lower level than you.

        In most areas, you learn not to talk about it, though.

        • skef says:

          What I’m talking about is more general than appreciation, though.

          Here’s an example. I know someone who is a mechanical engineer. Occasionally, when someone else in his office has been trying and failing to design some mechanism with springs in a restricted space, he’ll be able to show with a simple energy argument that no such mechanism can be made with existing materials. The point of relating this story isn’t to garner appreciation, it’s more like “here’s something that happened at work, and you can understand and relate to why it would be satisfying.”

          Another template would be “here’s something dumb that happened at work, and you can understand and relate to why it would be frustrating.”

          Work is a big part of many people’s lives, and they understandably want to talk about it with other people. But very frequently with software jobs, there’s no real route to the “you can understand” part. Something dumb happens in a meeting that effects your life over the next two weeks, and any attempt to explain what happened to other people–sometimes even other people at your company–is just met with a blank stare.

    • Mark says:

      It’s impossible to tell how much (societal) economic value a job provides by looking at the salary you receive for doing it.

      Even if we assume away the possibility of pay as pure rent, what you earn is definitely determined by supply and demand for labour, with the ultimate productive output of the entire enterprise acting as a limiting factor on pay.

      More people able to perform a necessary function results in lower pay for that task (again assuming no rent). The function is still just as necessary as before, however, and the ultimate output of the enterprise may not change at all – we really can’t say anything about this.

    • Anon. says:

      Point 3 is making me think: If it is true, then we should, as a society, try to investigate how we can steer people to be interested in occupations with high economic value.

      It’s called capitalism. The invisible hand steers them by using the price mechanism to create the appropriate incentives.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        I mean this as just another way that we could help the invisible hand to steer things in the right direction. People respond to incentives short-term, but maybe there is a way to respond to market-incentives long term, and for the benefit of our children, by making them more interested in highly paid professions.

    • agahnim says:

      It’s true that people in more economically valuable professions get paid more money, and that this should be acting as a steering agent to move people to those professions. (With some possible exceptions such as Wall Street?)

      I think we could improve on this steering agent by taking steps to make it more visible to people choosing a career. I have a friend who got a degree in mathematics and then spent multiple years basically starving because there are no jobs for people with math degrees; she eventually went back to university and got a second degree in computer science. Somebody should have sat down with all the freshmen and said: “if you get X degree, it will take you Y effort to find a job; your job will involve working Z hours doing W thing, and you will get paid V amount of money.”

      Is that so hard to do? Maybe it is hard to do; I couldn’t do it without a lot of research. But someone should do that.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        I think we could improve on this steering agent by taking steps to make it more visible to people choosing a career.

        I agree with that 100%. The world would be a better place if highschool students had an accessible way to find out which career gives them the highest earning potential, given their talents and skills.
        The problem is probably that such a service would be a kind of public good that would need to be funded by the state. Maybe the people who believe in market forces don’t believe in paying for it with taxes, and the people who do believe in helping people’s careers on the state’s bill don’t think one should go for earning potential and instead “follow one’s dream”. Right now we have to rely on charities like 80k hours, but these kind of efforts deserve much more funding.

        • Brad says:

          You didn’t have guidance counselors at your high school or a career services office at your college?

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            In Germany we had no career advice at all in high school, maybe that has changed by now. In college there were career services, but they appeared much less data driven than I would have liked. The advice was of the “what does it feel like to do X” kind; I would wish for a glassdoor.com without the selection bias, and with information about what abilities (SAT? grades in school?) put you in what percentile in each profession.

    • Randy M says:

      Point 3 is making me think: If it is true, then we should, as a society, try to investigate how we can steer people to be interested in occupations with high economic value.

      If “high economic value” doesn’t entice someone towards a profession, what exactly are you going to offer them?

  2. UnPassant says:

    About the ratio of women in Tech, I’m surprised that people seem to wonder whether difference of interests (people vs things) or sexism would give the best explanation. Also, the % does not seem to fit an expected linear model of the “sexism” explanation (more women in tech in less egalitarian societies).

    It seem to me that the most trivial model combining both factors, sexism and interest for people, can explained the observation, if you consider that women, on average, would rater interact with non sexist people than with computer, but that they also would rather interact with computers than with sexist people (or that sexist people would rather not interact with them leaving them to interact with computers).

    Considering the drive toward interacting with people to be constant, the evolution according to sexism would be as follow :

    0) Extremely sexist societies : women are not allowed to join the workforce (except for childcare) →X0 = 0% of the tech workforce
    1) Sexist societies : women are allowed to work, be turned away by men form “people oriented” jobs →peak X1 % of the tech workforce
    2) Less sexist societies : women are mostly welcome in all kind of jobs including “people oriented” jobs → X2< X1 % of the tech workforce
    3) Naively anti-sexist societies : jobs were women are under represented, such as in tech, are advertised as being in a sexist environment. Women shy away from those to avoid interacting with sexist people → X3< X2 < X1 % of the tech workforce.

    Does this simplistic model not explain the observed ratios of women in tech ?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I agree. Think of the low number of women engineers in the US and Europe as being about satisfying a hierarchy of needs:

      1. I need a job that pays me well.
      2. If I have several choices of jobs that do #1, I need a job that’s high social status.
      3. If I have several choices of jobs that do #2, I need a job that I find interesting and engaging.

      In the US and Europe, good jobs are abundant enough that plenty of women reach #3 and find that there are jobs other than engineering that are more interesting and engaging to them. In other countries, they may not reach need #3 and get a job in engineering at need #1 or #2 because at that point they’ve run out of other choices.

    • rlms says:

      Maybe. Another possible theory is that egalitarianess of countries is connected to differences in culture, and less egalitarian societies have a culture that attracts more women. My basis for this is that the small set of women in the computer science course at my university is pretty different demographically to the set of all students: a disproportionately high number of the female students are Eastern European* (the university is in the UK). I get the impression that the Eastern European students often have a different background to the British ones: they are more likely to see computer science as a generally useful degree for STEM-type people, rather than having been interested in programming specifically from a young age. I can imagine that that culture (where programmers are professionals like doctors and lawyers, without as much of a specific culture of their own) could be more attractive to women.

      *I don’t think Eastern European countries are necessarily that inegalitarian, but countries that are (i.e. less developed ones) might have a similar cultures.

  3. Wrong Species says:

    Related to the Amish link above, does anyone have any idea how we would go about measuring a society’s willingness to tell the truth? It seems intuitive that some societies would have more of a stigma against lying than others(and probably decreasing its occurrence) but how would we know how to compare them?

  4. Wrong Species says:

    Amish man talks about the community and his transition to the “english world”:

    T.L. a young person who does not join the church, i.e. becomes baptized, remains in a state that sociologist would refer to as pre-adult. Thus, while they would not be supervised or repremanded like children, they would not be allowed to participate in community life like an adult. Only through joining the church would one be allowed adult responsibilities and participation.
    Till then one lives in a world somewere between childhood and adulthood and the older one gets, the more uncomfortable this twilight world becomes, thus forcing one to be baptized or to leave.

    If one leaves, life is no different than it would be for any other kid raised in a conservative rural family that leaves home young. Sure there are things that other teenagers know, but how long does it take to learn how to use the TV remote or the ATM card. To tune in a radio station, switch on a light, use the microwave timer, ipod, computer, dishwasher, etc. The Amish runaway is ignorant not retarded.

    The hardest part is not in learning how to live in the english world, thats easy, but in having no knowledge of things such as sports teams, the rules and who the players are, or of famous people, or of musical stuff like instruments, popstars, hit songs, etc. One is like a cultural foreigner, always having to ask questions.

    People don’t mind teaching you how to drive a car or how to open a savings account or even help you find a place to sleep and the younger you are or look, the more willing people are to help. But when you don’t know who Michael Jackson is and have never heard of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Heidi Klime(sp), etc, or invite you to share a giggle twig and you go with thinking that share sounds good till you discover what a giggle twig is. This makes people laugh, shake their heads and look at you like you are retarded.

    Like last year, the first time I saw a flat screen TV up close, mounted on the wall at work. I asked my work college where the box was with the rest of it, you know the working parts. I thought it was like a desk top computer, with screen and workng parts separate. Boy was I surprised to find out that those big bulky TV’s had become squashed flat. Amazed actually.

    One learns to laugh with people when ones ignorance shows, if not one will soon develop a persecution complex.

    The hardest thing at first about living in the english world is how selfish and uncaring most everybody is, also how angry and aggressive people are. Not to mention false and deceptive. Seems they can’t understand that a lie, irrespective of its color, is still a lie and that a promise is a promise and not an optional statement.

    But it is what it is and one just learns to live with it.
    And the reward is freedom, freedom to come and go as one pleases, to do/dress/watch what one wants, when one wants, how one wants and with whom one wants. (of cos within the bounds of the law)
    and what I wanted yesterday may have changed by today and I am free to follow my new wants, today tomorrow forever, guilt free. (well almost)

    Such freedom does not exist the church world where everything is regulated and prescribed.
    In the secular world one molds the world to oneself. In the church world, one moulds oneself to the church discipline.
    In both worlds, those that succeed remain. Failures in the secular world become dropouts and in the church world, shunned.

    The only question is if one wants to mould or be moulded, both ways have their unique challenges and rewards.

    Another strange difference is that in the secular world I have freedom of action but not of speech, whereas in the church world I have freedom of speech but not of action.
    For example, In the secular world if I said I gambled, no protest, however if I said that gambling should be legal for children people would protest. In the church world I could say that gambling should be legal for chldren, no comment, yet if I said I went gambling, there would be an uproar.
    In the secular world people are more concerned about whether ones speech is offensive or not and not if it is true or false, whereas in the church world people are more concerned about whether ones speech is true or false and not if it is offensive. That comes second.

    Two different worlds with two different mindsets. However, it is much, much harder to join the church world than to join the secular world, gaining freedom is easier to bear than losing freedom. Difficulty in ajusting is not what keeps the Amish in the church and out of the secular world, it is faith that the Amish way of life is the correct way. A fact most runaways will admit to as well. It is lust for freedom and worldly things that keeps them in the world. I openly confess it.

    • Jiro says:

      Difficulty in ajusting is not what keeps the Amish in the church and out of the secular world, it is faith that the Amish way of life is the correct way.

      I see that the “is that your true objection” meme has spread from LessWrong to the Amish.

      “This is the deciding factor” doesn’t mean “anything else is no factor at all”. Also, people make decisions at the margin; if there are people who would be exactly balanced between leaving and not leaving if it weren’t for difficulty in adjusting, then difficulty in adjusting will make a difference.

      (And all of that only applies to leaving before baptism.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        He’s writing a column, not a scientific study, so his language may not be precise. It’s possible that he means that faith is an overwhelming factor and basically binary, which would answer your objections; other factors would be dominated.

    • John Schilling says:

      My first thought was that we need an exchange program to introduce the ex-Amish to the nerd/geek community that also doesn’t care who Michael Jackson et al are and has traditionally delighted in teaching willing newbies their culture. But that community is heavily college-educated, and the lack of high school education among the Amish is likely to be a barrier. The ex-Amish are likely to be trying to enter the mainstream white working class, and the description seems quite plausible in that light.

      Good to see that success is possible, if not necessarily easy.

      • registrationisdumb says:

        The nerd/geek community has it’s own problems, for each subdivision of nerd/geek, of which I imagine the Amish would not appreciate.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Another strange difference is that in the secular world I have freedom of action but not of speech, whereas in the church world I have freedom of speech but not of action.
      For example, In the secular world if I said I gambled, no protest, however if I said that gambling should be legal for children people would protest. In the church world I could say that gambling should be legal for chldren, no comment, yet if I said I went gambling, there would be an uproar.
      In the secular world people are more concerned about whether ones speech is offensive or not and not if it is true or false, whereas in the church world people are more concerned about whether ones speech is true or false and not if it is offensive. That comes second.

      This is really interesting.

      It makes sense that the Amish would care a great deal about orthopraxy given the centrality of the Ordnungs to their way of life. When the Old Order movement schisms it seems to be over differences in practice, such as the split between the car driving and horse-and-buggy driving groups, rather than doctrinal disputes. It’s still hard to wrap one’s head around though.

  5. BBA says:

    From the department of tulip subsidies: Cal State is abolishing placement exams and non-credit remedial courses in an effort to boost its dismal graduation rate. It looks like too many students are entering college at a sub-high-school level and they’ll now be getting credit for retaking high school algebra and writing courses.

    For the unfamiliar, California’s public universities are divided into two statewide systems. The upper-tier research-oriented University of California (including Berkeley and UCLA) isn’t affected by this. This is about the universities in the Cal State system (SDSU, Fullerton, etc.), which began as teacher training schools and historically couldn’t grant doctoral degrees (although now some do). The 1960 “master plan” that established this organization designated UC as being for the top 1/8 of high school graduates, Cal State for the top 1/3, and local community colleges for open enrollment. So are they sticking to the plan? Is Cal State really drawing from the top 1/3 of the state’s high school graduates? If so, and if the top 1/3 needs remedial education in such great numbers, what does that say about the bottom 2/3?

    • johan_larson says:

      How sure are you that the plan is to give actual credit for the courses covering high school material?

      Apparently this issue of how to handle remediation for under-prepared students is a real sore point in the less prestigious reaches of the education system. Being placed in remedial courses is very discouraging, and many students quit. And what’s worse, the remediation efforts are quite expensive and don’t seem to be very effective. Dean Dad has written about this quite a bit. The approach he seems to favor is letting students start studying whatever they came to study, and provide any academic assistance sort of beside the main course of study.

      I ran into something similar but less severe in university in Ontario, where university-preparatory courses in high school have (had?) common standards but not common grading. In practice this meant that students with identical grades in the same courses from different schools could have quite different levels of skill. The universities dealt with this by having the first-year courses cover quite a bit of the material the students should have learned in high school. I remember first semester being more or less a review of senior year of high school, though with harder problems and a little bit of new material.

      • BBA says:

        How sure are you that the plan is to give actual credit for the courses covering high school material?

        The article talks about “stretch” courses that combine remedial education with the previous freshman-level courses. These will earn full credit. I’m assuming that they’d need to focus on the remedial material if the situation is as dire as the article suggests.

  6. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been doing some reading about university admission policies, and how all sorts of things other than apparent academic ability get throw into the mix. I leads me to wonder why it all has to be so complicated.

    Suppose you made it simple. You demanded that students take some demanding test or set of tests, and offered admission to the students with the top N scores. Maybe at the higher end of performance you threw in a tuition discount of some sort, assuming you couldn’t afford to be completely need-blind. What would go wrong?

    • Corey says:

      At the top, if you don’t have any accommodations for legacies, alumni donations will take a hit.

    • Brad says:

      It doesn’t have to be complicated. A university could simply accept the first N applications. Or put all the applications they get into a hopper and select N randomly. Either of those procedures would be simpler than the procedure you suggest. Does that mean you consider them to be superior?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        There have been proposals (I think from a conservative like Charles Murray but not him because if it was him I’d have found it when I googled) that Harvard should put everyone that can succeed at the school into a pile and randomly select the freshman group from it. It stops the crazy credential race to be in the top 0.06% of high school graduates among other things.

        • Aapje says:

          That’s never going to happen with the system of donations by alumni. Harvard doesn’t want people who can just graduate, they want people who have the skills to be very successful.

          • Protagoras says:

            Putting it in terms of skills is perhaps going beyond the data to speculations as to why, but Harvard wants to educate the future leaders of America. A lot of factors contribute to whether someone is likely to be one of those leaders, and Harvard tries to take into account all of them in order to achieve their rather challenging objective.

        • Chalid says:

          There’s a good deal of the class at an elite university that isn’t replacement-level. Even Harvard admissions is going to have some applicants that are obviously far stronger than the rest.

    • The Nybbler says:

      What would go wrong?

      The Wrong People might get in. Whether that’s poor rural or poor urban people who worked hard, children of Asian Tiger Moms, rich people with a lot of test prep, Jews, men, women, whatever. There’s really no good reason selective state universities shouldn’t work this way (perhaps also with a preference for state residents, though as I understand it the reality is the opposite); with private schools there’s the “pleasing the donors” issue Corey brings up.

    • rlms says:

      British universities essentially do this. Basically all students do 3-4 sets of exams (each set corresponding to a subject) at the age of 18, each one is graded A* to E (for passes), universities publish entry requirements like “AAB including Maths and a science”, and most of the time if you achieve the grades, you will get in (frequently, people also get in with slightly lower grades). The only exceptions are Oxbridge and med schools, which also use interviews and other tests because the high end of the normal A-level system isn’t sensitive enough.

    • Matt M says:

      All the top American universities would be 90% Asian, 9% white, and 1% everything else.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        So?

        • Matt M says:

          So that’s the “wrong kind of diversity”

          • HFARationalist says:

            The solution is to follow the approach of Caltech. Meritocracy is good.

            If liberals want to increase the percentage of AA and Hispanics in top universities let them tutor bright students from these groups for free or pay for tutors who help bright students from these groups without these students paying a cent themselves. This is true equality that actually works. Don’t lower the standards. Help people meet them instead.

          • Matt M says:

            Why tutor for free when you can persuade the government to simply order schools to use racial quotas?

          • Charles F says:

            Tutoring is a lot of fun for me, and politics is a drag. So I might be biased, but it’s worth mentioning that tutoring actually helps. Do racial quotas?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Matt M Racial quotas only make things worse unless the majority benefits from or at least is not harmed by it. Racial quotas for the majority which in most universities outside Hawaii, California, etc means white quotas. Having a 50% white quota is both good for white students and the overrepresented elite Northeast Asian and Indian populations. Here is why. One of the things a rich minority group without political power needs the most is safety which can not be guaranteed if they do not share enough with the majority. This applies to diaspora Jews, Overseas Chinese, whites in Southern Africa, Lebanese traders, Tutsis outside Rwanda and everyone else in similar situations.

            What Blue Tribers are doing is making a race war increasingly likely. They claim to defend African Americans but it is clear that a race war will be a one-sided genocide because AAs aren’t well-armed and will almost certainly lose a race war.

            Tutoring helps. Helping a large, anthropologically distinct and disadvantaged minority group is also good for the majority unless the majority is planning to go Brown completely which I doubt is happening. Here I’m not talking about the Klan or segregationists. Instead I’m talking about genocidal Nazis. Last time I checked genocide planning isn’t a popular topic even among modern Browns. Hence I guess at least the current culture is peaceful which is great. One reason why this is true is that a disgruntled minority can easily betray the majority if they feel that they are persecuted by the majority for whatever reason. A healthy society reaches deals with groups and individuals that can potentially cause trouble instead of letting oppression reign.

          • HFARationalist says:

            The only means to resolve ethnic and racial issues is through compromise for its alternative isn’t pretty. Let’s be wary of those who hate compromise on these issues for genocidal people are heavily overrepresented among them.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      If you ask selective colleges and universities about this, they’ll say that they think that the educational experience they provide is richer and more rewarding if they get a well-rounded group of students that includes but is not limited to those students who narrowly “can do well on academic tests.” That having diverse interests and perhaps academic strengths that are narrow but tall and diverse backgrounds creates a university that ultimately produces more well-rounded students.

      If you ask people who are skeptical about the admissions process of universities, they’ll say that this is a way to keep the schools from being very strongly Asian and defending the prerogatives of the traditional elite.

      Both groups are broadly correct.

      • Jiro says:

        It’s easy to determine how many Asians would be let in if they relied on test scores: count them. On the other hand, determining that the experience is richer and more rewarding is subjective and easy to claim without much evidence.

        If one group is claiming that the motivation is something which can be verified and another group is claiming that the motivation is something which cannot, they probably are not both broadly correct.

        Also, remember that the supposed benefits of diversity are a direct response to the US Supreme Court saying that reverse discrimination to benefit blacks is not okay but reverse discrimination for diversity is. I’d be surprised of more than a tiny fraction of the pro-diversity movement is really for diversity.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          The whole “we don’t rely entirely on test scores” thing is not, as I understand the history of it, founded in a desire to do affirmative action — it started earlier and was an attempt to keep out the Jews, or at least keep plenty of WASPs in the universities. Nowadays, it is at least as much about keeping out Asians and Jews and retaining seats for whites as it is about creating seats for blacks.

          While I am broadly sympathetic to the idea that we should be meritocratic about this, pretending that college would be just as rich and interesting and educational in the broadest sense if we incentivized nothing but monomanic studiers to get in is silly. Albeit perhaps what I would expect SSC to believe, in that last time I discussed college here, the broad belief of the community appeared to be that all college students were miserable loner introverts.

          • Aapje says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            the broad belief of the community appeared to be that all college students were miserable loner introverts.

            ???

            This is far from what I remember.

          • Brad says:

            While I am broadly sympathetic to the idea that we should be meritocratic about this

            For what definition of merit?

            For an employer it is at least conceptually easy enough — the employee that will on the whole make the company most money. Though figuring out exactly what qualities make that most likely and judging those qualities is a gargantuan task.

            In the case of students at a college even that high conceptual level the definition isn’t obvious.

            For whatever reason this subject seems to attract an unduly large number of people that can’t even imagine that anyone could really disagree with them about what’s important and so they believe everyone that seems to disagree must be nefarious.

          • Mark says:

            Nowadays, it is at least as much about keeping out Asians and Jews and retaining seats for whites as it is about creating seats for blacks.

            If something like a quarter of students at top colleges are Jewish, it really boggles the mind to wonder what the percentage would be without the extra-curricular element as a limiting factor.

            By which I mean:
            Really? Do Jewish students accepted into Ivy league schools have higher SAT scores than their non-Jewish white counterparts? According to Unz, it’s the other way around.

          • HFARationalist says:

            The whole “we don’t rely entirely on test scores” thing is not, as I understand the history of it, founded in a desire to do affirmative action — it started earlier and was an attempt to keep out the Jews, or at least keep plenty of WASPs in the universities. Nowadays, it is at least as much about keeping out Asians and Jews and retaining seats for whites as it is about creating seats for blacks.

            Eventually it does not matter. Those who are strong remain strong regardless of what others think about them. Those who are weak remain weak regardless of what others think about them.

            Japan was nuked. Poles were massacred by Nazis. Jews were hated throughout the Abrahamic world. None of these destroyed the three groups above.

            Neither affirmative action nor discrimination matters in the long run. I know this is hard for Blue Tribers to swallow but it is true.

          • Jiro says:

            Japan was nuked. Poles were massacred by Nazis. Jews were hated throughout the Abrahamic world. None of these destroyed the three groups above.

            Carthage was destroyed by Rome. Supporters of Catholicism killed everyone espousing the Arian Heresy.

          • Anonymous says:

            Supporters of Catholicism killed everyone espousing the Arian Heresy.

            You give us too much credit. The Muslims helped, too!

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Jiro

            Rome could destroy Carthage. However they could not destroy Phoenicians. Right now their descendants, Lebanese people are still dominating markets in some parts of this planet. For example there is a dude called Carlos Slim and he is the richest person in Mexico.

            You can eradicate religions but not civilizations. Racial and ethnic groups that had great civilizations are all here to stay. The funny thing is that you can only join the club of great civilizations but can never be expelled from it.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can eradicate religions but not civilizations.

            I wonder how many civilizations were completely wiped out that we don’t know about. You know, back in the day when they numbered much fewer and genociding a few cities was all that was needed to do them in.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous There has been almost no 100% genocide. It is almost always true that you can’t track down everyone that is connected to a civilization and kill them all.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Supporters of Catholicism killed everyone espousing the Arian Heresy.

            I don’t know where you get your history from, but that’s completely false. If anything, it was more likely to be the other way round, since Arianism was generally the religion of the elites, Catholicism of the masses.

          • Jaskologist says:

            True enough of the Cathars, but not the Arians.

    • What would go wrong?

      Brandeis University was founded in 1948, by Jews, mostly for Jews, but the founders declared that, applicants would not asked their race, religion, or ancestry, and admission would be strictly on merit.

      But they discovered a problem when the first year’s applications arrived.

      If they literally accepted just the top applicants, without regard to demography, the student body would have been 90% women!

      Essentially, the most highly qualified Jewish men were getting into Harvard and Yale. Meanwhile, the smartest Jewish women were setting their sights a little lower, and were more willing to take a chance on a brand new university.

      An almost-all-female student body would have killed the Brandeis project. So, to preserve gender balance, they quietly set lower admission standards for men than for women.

    • DeWitt says:

      This is the case in more than a few European nations. Doesn’t seem to be all that bad, either.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Living in a country where the admissions work exactly like this…. there are some curious edge cases.

      If the exams are fair, predictable, not overtly expensive, and the exam material is announced beforehand to the aspirants, you’ll get a noticeable number of would-be-students who will stay living at home while the only thing they’ll do is studying the announced material in the hopes of passing the med/law/veterinary/ school entry exam when they attempt this year. And keep repeating that for several years. (Maybe they take a part-time job at a side if accosted by their parents.) I don’t have statistics, but it’s noticeable enough to be a stereotype.

      Passing a well-defined exam that isn’t pure IQ test is a skill that someone can imagine training themselves for, and some are ready to spend quite much time doing exactly that. Some regard this as suboptimal use of human resources, if the wannabe borderline-get-into-school medical doctor could also have a productive career at doing something else (less competitive).

      Also, another consequence. People will notice that providing training how to pass such well-defined exam may be a very lucrative business, if the exam acts as a gatekeeper to a high-paying profession. Soon you have politicians scratching their heads what to do about the fact that surprisingly large number of high school graduates (or rather, their parents) are willing to pay up to 10k€ for “med school entrance exam prep instruction” courses that appear to be effective at getting their students to pass the med school exams, and as obviously not everyone can pay that kind of money, should the government start awarding stipends to the financially challenged students to attend those courses too or what

      • Jiro says:

        If those courses are effective, then either 1) the courses actually teach something useful that school cannot, or 2) the tests are not measuring what they’re supposed to measure. If #2, change the tests; if #1, then yes, the government should award stipends (to the extent that it subsidizes education at all).

      • Orpheus says:

        In my country everything is as you described , except for the politicians scratching their heads bit.
        Everyone just takes it for granted that this is the way it is.

    • Chalid says:

      If admissions offices wanted to figure out who would get the best grades in college, then that would be a logical way to admit people.

      But colleges don’t really care to do that; want to do some combination of “make an impact on the world” and “maximize their own prestige” and “set up their students to succeed in life”; all of those goals are well-served by admitting people with a variety of strengths.

      • Matt M says:

        Is “being black” a strength?

        How about “not having a penis?”

        Being homosexual?

        • Chalid says:

          In some contexts, sure.

          And more importantly, a great deal of the value of college comes from networking. *Knowing* some highly educated black or gay people is valuable for a variety of reasons, though I suppose this might not be as true for the future software engineers and scientists as it is for some other careers.

          And having roughly equal numbers of men and women is probably pretty important for making campus a pleasant and fun place to spend four years, though I’m not under the impression that women are significantly systematically favored in the system anyway? I think some colleges are easier for men and some are easier for women because of the gender-balance issue; admissions standards are probably a bit lower at MIT for women and at Brandeis for men, and since more women as a whole apply to college it’s probably systematically a bit easier for men to get in.

        • Charles F says:

          They are perhaps correlated with a few different varieties of strengths compared to being a straight white man.

          • Matt M says:

            Why bother with correlated factors when you could measure the actual factor you are looking for?

            We can test for IQ. We can observe family income or “first generation college student”. We can (roughly) test for social skills.

            What valuable information does race/gender/sexuality give us that we cannot obtain more accurately by examining the actual relevant perceived strengths or differences?

          • skef says:

            What valuable information does race/gender/sexuality give us that we cannot obtain more accurately by examining the actual relevant perceived strengths or differences?

            I nominate “somewhat less likely to become a finance asshole”

          • Charles F says:

            @Matt M
            I think the answer is “nothing except the obvious tautological cases” and I’m sure a bunch of really well designed tests could do better. But looking at a couple of check boxes is way easier.

            Maybe sometimes if you want a variety of strengths and you don’t want to test for every one of them, and you have a lot of spots, it could be reasonable to pull some qualified-but-not-as-good-at-the-entrance-exam-as-some-others individuals from a variety of populations to diversify your investments a bit. Not sure if this actually leads to the desired results in the real world. But it doesn’t seem obviously wrong to me.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe sometimes if you want a variety of strengths and you don’t want to test for every one of them

            My point is, they are already testing for the other ones too.

            College admissions don’t have to rely on race as a proxy for IQ, income, privilege or anything else. They already collect information about those things.

            If they really wanted diverse backgrounds, they could ask short and simple questions like “How many people lived in the city where your high school was located?” or something. There are better proxies for diversity than race and gender that are no more difficult to find out.

            The fact that everyone is so single-mindedly focused on race and gender and NOT any of those other things strongly suggests that actual diversity is not the goal. The goal is “fewer white males.”

          • Charles F says:

            @Matt M
            I basically agree with what you’re saying, just to a slightly lesser degree. I think there are skills they might want but don’t test for, and there is at least some hedging against missing out on being part of the next big thing because it wasn’t on any of their tests. I think they do ask questions of the type you’re thinking of (at least at the higher-caliber schools). And I don’t get the impression that they like thinking of opportunity as a fixed pie, so I’d probably frame their goal more like “stop denying entry to this group I like”

  7. Some time back, I mentioned Michele Bachmann’s warning during the campaign, that 2016 would be the last election (if Clinton won).

    Notwithstanding the headlines (and her own comments, like “I believe without a shadow of a doubt this is the last election. This is it. This is the last election.”), she didn’t mean literally that Americans would never vote again, rather, that Clinton would order a “wholesale amnesty” and make Florida and Texas unwinnable for Republicans.

    Moreover, as several pointed out here, it’s one thing (commonplace) to raise fears that the other side will tear down democratic institutions; it’s another thing entirely to threaten that your own side will do so.

    That being said, this new poll is concerning: In a new poll, half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it.

    I wish a similar poll had been done in 2009, at this same point in the Obama administration, asking Democratic voters about a hypothetical proposal from the President to “postpone” the 2012 election.

    Since that wasn’t done, I can’t prove it, but I would guess that, even at the height of Obama’s popularity, no more than 10% or 15% of Democrats would have countenanced such a thing — very far from the 52% or 56% of Republicans in this poll.

    Of course the article, and the poll itself, is an attack on Trump and Republicans. But I presume this was a legitimate poll, accurately reported. And in the orgy of norm-breaking we have seen in the past year, it ought to make us very uneasy that the winning side would be willing to hurl a brick through the windows of democracy itself.

    • Nornagest says:

      Since that wasn’t done, I can’t prove it, but I would guess that, even at the height of Obama’s popularity, no more than 10% or 15% of Democrats would have countenanced such a thing — very far from the 52% or 56% of Republicans in this poll.

      This is a hell of an accusation to hang on a guess.

      • random832 says:

        Doing things so abnormal nobody can even locate any evidence that they wouldn’t have been accepted in past eras (because no-one ever considered them) is an interesting counter to “this is not normal”.

        • Nornagest says:

          This is not a new line of reasoning. I remember speculation that Obama would cancel the 2016 elections. I remember speculation that Bush would cancel the 2008 elections. I don’t remember speculation that Clinton would cancel the 2000 elections, but there wasn’t really a blog scene at the time, so to find wild political speculation you either needed to have the right kind of crazy uncle (I didn’t), or to be reading publications that I was too young for at the time and from the wrong cultural background. I’d bet good money that it was out there.

          Actually doing a poll about it is unusual, but all it tells us is that the political press has a worse relationship with our current president than with Obama, Bush, etc. If that surprises you, I think I need to make a report to the Time Police, because we obviously have a illegal entry from 2014 on our hands.

    • Matt M says:

      Not a direct comparable, but I seem to remember a decent portion of Democrats in 2008 believing that GWB would postpone or cancel the election and just hold onto power indefinitely.

      • random832 says:

        And Republicans thought the same about Obama. The news here is supporters in serious numbers talking about it.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Are they talking about it? Or are they just being coached to by pollsters with an axe to grind?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      I also wish we’d had a similar poll in 2009. I also wonder how it would have gone down in 2016.

      And in the orgy of norm-breaking we have seen in the past year, it ought to make us very uneasy that the winning side would be willing to hurl a brick through the windows of democracy itself.

      Ehh. I dunno if that’s a fair representation of the poll. From the article:

      After a series of initial questions, respondents were asked whether Trump won the popular vote, whether millions of illegal immigrants voted, and how often voter fraud occurs. These questions evoke arguments frequently made by Trump and others about the integrity of the 2016 election.

      Then the survey asked two questions about postponing the 2020 election.

      If Donald Trump were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote, would you support or oppose postponing the election?

      What if both Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote? Would you support or oppose postponing the election?

      Postponing the 2020 presidential election is not something that Trump or anyone in his administration has even hinted at, but for many in his constituency, floating such an idea may not be a step too far.

      So IMO it’s like:
      A: “Hey, you like bricks right?”
      B: “You know I do!”
      A: “How about this new brick I found?”
      B: “Sure!”
      A: “Scandalous!!”

      • beleester says:

        If Donald Trump were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote, would you support or oppose postponing the election?

        I dunno, this is at the very least asking “What if we had a reason to throw the brick?”

        I would say that the question is asked in a “Here’s a reason we might want to do this” way rather than a “You know this is subverting the fundamental principles of democracy, right?” way, which will probably drag the polls in a more extreme direction, but I wouldn’t say it’s nothing.

        I would also point out that coming up with a reason that sounds good is the easy part. If Trump does want to throw a brick through the windows of democracy, the fact that Republicans will wait for him to say “I’m going to hit illegal immigrants with the brick” before they give him one isn’t exactly reassuring.

        (Didn’t we just have the conversation about how easy it is to say you’re justified because you’re hunting Nazis?)

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Yeah, exactly, I wasn’t gonna argue on those grounds because it’s just as easy for demagogues as pollsters (perhaps easier) to come up with spurious-but-facially-urgent calls for exceptions to the rules.

          (Didn’t we just have the conversation about how easy it is to say you’re justified because you’re hunting Nazis?)

          Exactly. See also: the actual Nazis’ seizure of power.

      • Deiseach says:

        So – pardon me here while I try and put this together – nobody like Trump himself, or any body in the administration, or any high-ups in the Republican party are saying “let’s postpone the 2020 election”, this was a question in a poll?

        I think the Democrats or the progressives or whomever the Usual Suspects in this case are want Trump to be a tyrant because after all the “literal Hitler” rhetoric, it’s an anti-climax to have “not great guy but didn’t plunge the world into nuclear war and/or wreck the nation beyond all bounds of civilised humanity”. They need a Great Satan so they can feel that glow of virtuous resistance.

        When anybody with any actual connection to being able to do this starts talking about doing it, then panic. And before you all leap in with “This is how Hitler got started!”, Trump is not Hitler or Stalin redivivus.

        • Corey says:

          That’s fair. When I’d first heard about it I thought it might be a trial balloon from the voter-fraud commission. But in this discussion I looked at the poll’s operator and it’s the Washington Post, who is not likely to be floating trial balloons on behalf of the Trump Administration.

          • Matt M says:

            Not intentionally anyway.

            The Washington Post ends up helping Trump in a lot of ways, none of which they intend…

          • Deiseach says:

            The Washington Post ends up helping Trump in a lot of ways, none of which they intend

            Well, if by publicising this, they get a lot of people thinking “You know, this might not be a bad idea!” – 😀

            Hillary 2020, anyone?

          • Matt M says:

            I plan on putting money on Hillary 2020 as soon as PredictIt offers odds on it. The woman doesn’t know when to quit and the Democrats don’t have the strength to say no to her. She will run on “russian hacking stole the election from me” and it’s politically untenable for anyone on the left to argue with that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I plan on putting money on Hillary 2020 as soon as PredictIt offers odds on it.

            For running or winning the primary?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Politically untenable for anyone on the left or politically untenable for mainstream Democrat politicians? I think your model of the latter is incorrect, and the former moreso.

          • Matt M says:

            I was thinking running but I’d be willing to bet on winning too if the odds were more favorable.

          • Matt M says:

            Politically untenable for anyone on the left or politically untenable for mainstream Democrat politicians? I think your model of the latter is incorrect, and the former moreso.

            I think it’s untenable for anyone on the left to say, “No, the Russians didn’t hack the election – you lost fair and square. We shouldn’t nominate a repeated loser.”

            That said, there are definitely non-mainstream leftists who may run and simply attempt to avoid the issue entirely and re-direct it towards “Vote for me instead of her because I’m pitching FREE COLLEGE FOR ALL and she isn’t.”

            IF she runs, she will definitely win the “mainstream democratic politician” series. Her only challenge will have to come from someone to the left of that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t think anyone who’s remotely electable in the modern Democratic party can be considered a “non-mainstream leftist.” Bernie types would be fairly average social democrats. He wouldn’t be on the left of the NDP, for example.

          • Hillary 2020, anyone?

            No, thank you.

            it’s politically untenable for anyone on the left to argue with that.

            Untenable? Nope. Even many of those who supported her in the 2016 primaries admitted she wasn’t a very good candidate, due to her unappealing personality.

            I think it’s untenable for anyone on the left to say, “No, the Russians didn’t hack the election – you lost fair and square. We shouldn’t nominate a repeated loser.”

            Again, that IS what Democratic politicos are saying. Her weakness as a candidate made it possible for the Russians to hack the election.

            Recall that, despite the manifest unfairness of the 2000 election endgame from a Democratic perspective, AND Gore winning the popular vote, there was very little interest in renominating Gore in 2004.

            IF she runs, she will definitely win the “mainstream democratic politician” series.

            No, she had her chance. Political parties really don’t like losers. The support for her (even among insiders) simply isn’t there any more. She’s not going to run.

          • Matt M says:

            Gore didn’t TRY in 2004, did he? IIRC he had comfortably moved on to his second (much more profitable and possibly even higher status) career as the world’s climate change mascot.

            But I definitely think John Kerry would have been in a difficult position trying to run against Gore in 2004. What’s he gonna say, “I agree with all of his positions, but don’t vote for him because he’s unpopular!” against four years repetition by many DNC primary voters of of “The Supreme Court rigged the election for Bush and Gore was the rightful winner”

          • But I definitely think John Kerry would have been in a difficult position trying to run against Gore in 2004. What’s he gonna say, “I agree with all of his positions, but don’t vote for him because he’s unpopular!”

            Kerry (or whomever) wouldn’t need to say anything like that. Gore, as a 2004 candidate, would not have done as well as Jeb did in 2016. There would be little support and no enthusiasm.

            When you lose an election, no matter the circumstances, you become a Loser in the minds of the party and public, but especially among your own supporters. As the Loser, you are the scapegoat for all the blame about what went wrong. It is unfair but almost inescapable.

          • Nornagest says:

            Hillary herself strikes me as a counterexample. She got her ass kicked by Barack Obama in 2008, then she went on to win the Democratic primary last year — I want to say “handily”, but that might get me lynched by Bernie supporters.

            Is it just that the Dems had an unusually shallow bench that year? Or does this only apply to general elections for some reason?

            Also, if you go back a little further, Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic candidate in 1952 and ’56, and made a credible bid for it in ’60.

          • Or does this only apply to general elections for some reason?

            It applies with much greater force to dramatic, high-stakes, single-day outcomes, like a general election. Not so much to drawn-out wars of attrition like the presidential primary process.

            Also, the higher the expectations, the greater the personalized blame for a loss. Hillary’s loss was the biggest surprise outcome in a presidential election since Thomas E. Dewey lost in 1948.

            Hillary herself strikes me as a counterexample. She got her ass kicked by Barack Obama in 2008, then she went on to win the Democratic primary last year

            Mitt Romney also went from losing in the primaries to getting nominated at the next opportunity.

            Also, if you go back a little further, Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic candidate in 1952 and ’56, and made a credible bid for it in ’60.

            Low expectations for Stevenson against Ike, AND a deeply divided party that would have had trouble coming up with a different consensus nominee in 1956.

            Richard Nixon, after losing in 1960, managed a comeback in 1968, also in the context of internal party struggles and Goldwater’s devastating loss in 1964.

          • BBA says:

            There’s also Nixon, who lost narrowly in 1960, lost an election for governor in 1962, proclaimed “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” – and then ran in 1968 and won.

          • Matt M says:

            When you lose an election, no matter the circumstances, you become a Loser in the minds of the party and public, but especially among your own supporters. As the Loser, you are the scapegoat for all the blame about what went wrong.

            Yes, but only if you believe the person legitimately lost.

            My argument is dependent on the next four years being full of official mainstream democrat politicians AND the mainstream media parroting a narrative that Hillary ISN’T a loser because the Russians stole the election.

            You may be right about Bush and Gore. But by the time 2004 rolls around, the biggest complaint against Bush wasn’t that he stole the election, it was the Iraq war and torture and 9/11 conspiracies and all that stuff.

            But so far, it seems like the left is rallying around RUSSIA as the primary anti-Trump complaint. That’s what CNN keeps pounding, that’s what Hillary keeps talking about in public, that’s what Dems are using to justify impeachment charges, and so on and so forth.

            “Russia rigged the election” and “Hillary is a loser” are mutually exclusive. You have to pick one. And it seems clear to me which one they are going to pick…

          • Deiseach says:

            “Russia rigged the election” and “Hillary is a loser” are mutually exclusive. You have to pick one. And it seems clear to me which one they are going to pick…

            I’m in agreement with Matt M here. I really can’t see Hillary running again in 2020 (although her level of hubris is such I can’t rule out she doesn’t think she shouldn’t run) and dismissing all the rumours floating around about Chelsea being pushed forward, I don’t know who the Democrat candidate will be.

            But she’s still plainly determined not to be tarred with the Loser tag, even though she has failed attempts from both 2008 and 2012, before there was any hacking or Russian chicanery, so she’s making strident attempts to shove the blame on others. The Russian connection is just jam for the Democrats to get back at Trump; were it not for that, she would probably be reduced to “it was the sexism and misogyny of the American public” and “it was all Comey’s fault” for her “I take absolute responsibility but it was their fault I lost” responses:

            But this week, the former Democratic candidate for president was front and centre at a Women for Women International event in New York.

            She said she took “absolute personal responsibility” for the loss.

            She then made it abundantly clear she blames the loss on Russian intervention in the election and FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen an investigation into her emails just days before voters went to the polls.

          • BBA says:

            Deiseach: I’ve never seen anyone besides you suggest that Hillary intended to run in 2012 at all, let alone that she ran and lost. Obama was and is extremely popular among the Democratic rank-and-file and any primary challenge would have been hopeless, even from the Most Qualified Human Being In The History Of Humanity etc.

            If nothing else, the Hatch Act would have required her to step down as Secretary of State before starting her campaign, but she stayed on until February 1, 2013.

            As for whether she’ll run in 2020, I think even her own supporters would start to get sick of her, especially if a younger woman was running against her for the nomination (which Gillibrand, Harris, and Klobuchar have all indicated they are, and that’s just the Senate). But never say never.

          • Yes, but only if you believe the person legitimately lost.

            Lots of Democrats don’t think Gore legitimately lost in 2000. That did not translate to excitement for another Gore run in 2004.

            My argument is dependent on the next four years being full of official mainstream democrat politicians AND the mainstream media parroting a narrative that Hillary ISN’T a loser because the Russians stole the election.

            But that’s not happening, because all it does is remind people why they voted for Trump (to oppose Hillary).

            But so far, it seems like the left is rallying around RUSSIA as the primary anti-Trump complaint. That’s what CNN keeps pounding, that’s what Hillary keeps talking about in public, that’s what Dems are using to justify impeachment charges, and so on and so forth.

            Flogging the Trump/Russia issue DOES NOT EQUAL rallying around Hillary Clinton.

            “Russia rigged the election” and “Hillary is a loser” are mutually exclusive. You have to pick one.

            No, you don’t. Trump won the election. Hillary’s weakness and Russian interference made it possible. Very few Democratic politicos or activists are interested in seeing Hillary run again.

          • Montfort says:

            @Matt M, I have up to $250 (US dollars, to be clear) to stake right now on Hillary not winning the 2020 primary. Are even odds acceptable to you?

          • Matt M says:

            Are even odds acceptable to you?

            Nah, I’m expecting much more favorable odds than that. I bought Trump to win the GOP primary at 24 cents when he was leading in the polls!

          • Montfort says:

            Fair enough, I read your initial posts as quite confident. I can go a bit lower, but extreme odds, e.g. 100:1, won’t be worth transaction costs with my bankroll (and I guess I’d probably give her at least a 1% chance of winning, given Trump’s unexpected success).

            If you’re interested in further negotiation, you can open communications at montfort (at) kurzepost.de, for up to a week (and then the forwarding address expires).

          • Matt M says:

            I probably won’t take you up on it. 4:1 is about what I’d be hoping for, but knowing what the market rate is also contains valuable information that’s helpful to make the go/no-go decision.

          • Deiseach says:

            BBA, she also said she would definitely for sure not run in 2016 and that turned out to not be so 🙂

            I think she was persuadable, to say the least; should the party and the nation call for her to run in 2012, she would have done her duty.

            I think there were some behind the scenes feelers put out, as there seems to have been some disquiet amongst certain elements that Obama’s popularity had declined over the course of his first term and that a second term victory was not at all a sure thing. So lining up a prospective runner in the primary would not be a bad idea. As it turned out, Hillary didn’t take the bait but some brave souls did run against him in the Democratic primary.

            Hillary had also dropped some hints in interviews that she wouldn’t be seeking to serve as Secretary of State in a second Obama administration, which I think some did interpret as her prepping for a run herself. As it turns out, she did take the job, or keep the job, however you want to look at it.

            I think her ambition was enough to get her to consider running in 2012 if the offer were made and Obama looked like he’d step down. He didn’t, he went for the second term, and I think Hillary or at least her campaign/advisors got her to back away from any semblance of putting herself up for a second defeat by him. I also think the deal over “you don’t run, you come back as Secretary of State” was done but that’s only my opinion. Indeed, back in 2012, Bill Clinton was portrayed as the one who rescued or was the driving force behind Obama’s faltering campaign, he and not Historic First President was the one with the magic touch (at least according to Clinton loyalists):

            Rather than slipping away into obscurity, Bill Clinton is hitting the campaign trail hard for Obama after his stirring performance at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, overshadowed the president. Meanwhile, secretary of state Hillary Clinton is trotting the globe as America’s top diplomat amid feverish speculation that, whichever of Obama or Romney wins on Tuesday 6 November, she will again run for the White House in 2016. That could make her the first female US president and conceivably extend Clintonian domination of US politics to 2024.

            “How many couples do we know of in American politics, or any politics, that are so manifestly talented, accomplished, persistent, persuasive and so evenly matched?” asked William Galston, a former top adviser to Bill Clinton and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “One has already been president and the other nearly was and may still be.”

            Bill Clinton is an unexpectedly visible figure on the 2012 campaign trail, hitting key swing states such as New Hampshire. He holds pro-Obama rallies and puts his name to fundraising emails. His speech in Charlotte won plaudits from both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, when Romney later came to speak at an event in New York hosted by Clinton’s charity, the Republican candidate joked about the former president’s seemingly magic touch. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned in this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good,” he said.

            Experts believe much of the goodwill now exhibited towards Clinton reflects a perception that his 1990s presidency was largely free from the wars and economic crises that have gripped America over the past decade. “We think of it as a time of peace and prosperity. We don’t think Obama measures up. We know Romney does not measure up. So we want what we don’t now have,” said Larry Haas, a political expert and former aide in the Clinton White House.

            I tend not to believe Hillary’s “I have no inclination of running for president/whatever ever again” because she has a habit of telling any particular interviewer what she thinks they want to hear. For instance, back in Bill’s second term as president, she did an interview where she talked about her Methodist faith and how important it was to her, and when the interviewer raised “so would you ever consider becoming a minister?” she was “oh yes, I’d certainly think about that!”

            Well, as we all know, once they left the White House, that career change didn’t happen. And never a word more about any religious ambitions. Until recently when it got floated once again.

            This is part of why I thought she’d be a bad president; for all the talk about experience and long serving and inside knowledge and the rest of it, she is very willing to try and ride two horses at once depending on what tranche of the demographics she is speaking to; so out of one side of her mouth she was talking to the white mainliners about her personal struggles with abortion and out of the other side she was stumping for Planned Parenthood.

            That’s why I thought she’d be a poor president – she blows with every wind.

            EDIT: As to running in 2020, every sane conclusion says she shouldn’t do it, she couldn’t do it, she wouldn’t do it, nobody wants her to do it. She’s said she won’t do it. All of which leaves me with the uncomfortable nagging thought “yeah but I think maybe she might!” 🙂

          • BBA says:

            “Might have considered running if circumstances were different” isn’t the same as running and losing. You might as well call her a four-time loser because she might have considered running in 2004, or a nine-time loser if you count every election since she became eligible to run. (And sure she’s wanted to be president since she was in diapers, but running for office takes more than just wanting it, or even making some behind-the-scenes suggestions.)

          • cassander says:

            @Deiseach

            I think her ambition was enough to get her to consider running in 2012 if the offer were made and Obama looked like he’d step down. He didn’t, he went for the second term, and I think Hillary or at least her campaign/advisors got her to back away from any semblance of putting herself up for a second defeat by him.

            I think you are projecting some non-american notions onto your evaluations of our politics here. I don’t think even hillary was delusional to think that that scenario was possible. The last time it happened, it was Lyndon Johnson in the middle of the vietnam war while the entire democratic party coalition was coming apart at the seams. unless there was some sort of impeachment level catastrophe, there was never a chance of a sitting president stepping down. The last serious attempt to unseat a sitting president failed, and if anything it’s only gotten harder since.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/poll-republicans/536472/

      A less frantic version, with some useful analysis of how much the poll can be trusted.

      The kicker at the end:

      :The bedrock principles of American democracy are often more revered than actually believed. The nation has often violated these principles, and with less sober political leadership at certain points in the past, many voters might have been willing to go much further. This is a much greater danger than Trump’s shrinking base supporting a hypothetical delayed election three years from now: that a tendency toward illiberalism spread throughout society will be encouraged by a president with little interest in democratic norms.:

      • Gobbobobble says:

        In the summer of 2016, for example, a pollster found that two-thirds of Democratic voters would trade an unconstitutional third term for Obama if it meant avoiding either Clinton or Bush. Perhaps you think, They must have been joking, and would never have followed through. But that’s just the point: What happens in polling often stays in polling.

        Huh, answers my question above. Thanks for the link!

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      If you asked the bland question “if Obama said we should delay the 2012 election” I suspect there would be low support.

      If you spiced it up, saying “if Obama said we should delay the 2012 election in order to make sure that the Republicans cannot disrupt it” or “in order to make sure that obamacare passes” or “in order to make sure that no one is illegally removed from the voter rolls,” well, things change.

      It’s still distressing to see Republicans or anyone talk about delaying elections. It’s horrible American civics.

    • Corey says:

      It’s just a progression of the usual voter-fraud FUD. I’m embarrassed to admit that, despite being an election nerd, I anticipated “there was lots of voter fraud so [past election] is illegitimate”, but never anticipated the pre-emptive strike “there will be lots of voter fraud so let’s not bother.”

      I guess this solves the puzzle of why Republicans were flogging “there was lots of voter fraud” after *winning*.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I guess this solves the puzzle of why Republicans were flogging “there was lots of voter fraud” after *winning*.

        No it doesn’t. (At the moment) It’s only being proposed by a couple most-likely-Democrat professors.

        Perhaps some Republicans are scheming toward this option in their heart-of-hearts but I’ve seen no proof of such.

        “Because Hillary won the popular vote, which damages legitimacy” remains a stronger solution to that puzzle.

        • Corey says:

          Fair enough. If I drink heavily this weekend it’ll have to be for some other reason.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “Trump is in the White House” remains a perfectly cromulent reason, no need to dress it up with flimsy bunting 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            Apparently there is some flapping going on in certain quarters about OMG NUCLEAR WAR WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!, so if you need an excuse for heavy weekend drinking, there you go!

            I find myself in the position of a granny shaking her head fondly over the shenanigans of those little scamps, aw ain’t they sweet? when I see this. 70s/80s kids been there before, children, we’re blasé about dropping the big one 🙂

          • Nick says:

            Aww, when I saw “blasé about dropping the big one,” I thought for sure you were linking Tom Lehrer. 😀

          • Deiseach says:

            Nick, when I was a teen in the 80s, the Newman song got heavily played on radio during the Reagan years so you see where I’m coming from 🙂

      • dndnrsn says:

        You don’t have to go all the way to “let’s cancel the election” for Republicans to benefit from saying “there was voter fraud” about an election they won – it just has to be a pretext for them to crank up voter suppression.

      • Matt M says:

        I guess this solves the puzzle of why Republicans were flogging “there was lots of voter fraud” after *winning*.

        I thought conventional wisdom was that Trump was pounding this home because his ego was disturbed by not winning the popular vote (partially enabled by Democrats constantly teasing him about it)

      • Garrett says:

        There are 3 reasons I can think of:
        1) Trump is vain and won’t be happy until he got the most votes.
        2) Republicans are trying to prepare the battlefield for the future.
        3) If they wait until they lose, they’ll be called sore losers instead and ignored.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t think Trump has the stones to cancel elections. Even if Mattis and the military was behind him.

      He’s had the opportunity to tell the courts to “You made your decision; now you can enforce it!” but instead immediately knuckled under. He also hasn’t done much to defend himself from the investigation(s) into his 2016 campaign. Nor even dealt with sanctuary cities and the various federal bureaucracies in open defiance of his administration.

      I might be wrong. I never predicted that he would win in the first place. But it doesn’t seem likely based on what we’ve seen so far.

    • Deiseach says:

      And in the orgy of norm-breaking we have seen in the past year, it ought to make us very uneasy that the winning side would be willing to hurl a brick through the windows of democracy itself.

      Norms of democracy? When we had tearful pleading for faithless electors to step forward and save the nation by voting for Hillary instead? If that wasn’t trying to undo the results of the election, pray tell me what was?

      Larry, if I were asked “Do you think an election should be postponed until it can be guaranteed that only those eligible to vote actually vote in it?”, I’d probably give that a tentative “yes”. It would depend how much voter fraud I thought was going on, and what country the election was being held in, but I’d be willing to extend that to my own nation. And it’s something I would agree to in principle even if I thought every election in my own country was stainlessly perfect and unbiased and no mistakes or fiddling ever happened.

      The other way to look at this result is not “ZOMG Republicans would support a tyranny!” but “People agree elections should be valid”. We could equally flip this to “X per cent of Democrat supporters think election fraud is perfectly okay” if we wanted to frame it like that.

      I mean, if we’re going to tut-tut any mention of “maybe there may be election fraud going on”, then we should be calling for all the election monitors to be yanked out of nations where 110% of the electorate voted for The President-for-Life because they have no business being there, those encouragers of doing away with democratic voting and promoters of tyrants seizing power!

      Did illegals vote in the recent US election? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does know. And I think Republican claims of substantial voter fraud are in response to the pro-Clinton side’s mantra of “Hillary won the popular vote so she should be president! (and the results of this election should be annulled until we do it right)”. If Tweedledum is going to say the election result doesn’t count because reasons, I don’t see why it’s a huge surprise that Tweedledee would then say Tweedledum’s supporters cheated.

      I’d also like to see all the questions in the poll; it sounds – though I’m only going by the linked article – that there were a lot of lead-up questions about “do you think there was voter fraud, how much fraud” etc. which certainly would get respondents in the mindset to think it more likely that elections might be fraudulent and that this might mean postponing them to make sure they were fair.

      • Corey says:

        Did illegals vote in the recent US election? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does know.

        Voter registration data (including in what elections each registration was issued a ballot) is public record, except for some details like date-of-birth.

        If an illegal voted, either they have a registration, or they voted using someone else’s registration, and that someone else didn’t also vote in that election. So it can be known, or at least upper-bounded, after the fact (find bad registrations who were issued ballots, and registrations who were issued ballots but the actual person didn’t actually vote).

        I haven’t heard how the analyses on 2016 have gone, if they’re even complete. Every time people have looked for this in past elections, even if highly motivated (e.g. losing candidates with narrow margins), they’ve found tiny numbers (like 100 out of a million).

        A charitable interpretation of Trump’s voter-fraud commission is that they’re doing this exercise on a national scale, and also correlating registrations across states to see who might have voted in multiple states.

        A cynical interpretation of Trump’s voter-fraud commission is that they’re going to treat every registration whose name has the same soundex() as the same person, then yell “millions of illegals voted, multiple times even!” based on that.

      • @ Deiseach:

        Larry, if I were asked “Do you think an election should be postponed until it can be guaranteed that only those eligible to vote actually vote in it?”, I’d probably give that a tentative “yes”. It would depend how much voter fraud I thought was going on, and what country the election was being held in, but I’d be willing to extend that to my own nation.

        In countries with parliamentary systems, like yours, elections happen when they happen. No big deal.

        In the US, we have had presidential elections on a rigid, predictable 4-year cycle since 1792. Departing from that long tradition would be a very big deal.

        Norms of democracy? When we had tearful pleading for faithless electors to step forward and save the nation by voting for Hillary instead? If that wasn’t trying to undo the results of the election, pray tell me what was?

        First of all, I had no part in that pleading. It was silly and beyond pointless. Presidential electors these days are specifically chosen for being hard-core party loyalists, and the polarization of politics these days makes it incredibly unlikely that anyone would just up and switch to the other side’s candidate.

        That being said, we have had “faithless electors” almost from the very beginning. Under our Electoral College system, the electors are the ones who hold the actual votes, and state laws restricting their autonomy would be struck down if challenged. When they individually vote in crazy ways — and they have — those votes are counted.

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, I loved the result:

          In the 2016 United States presidential election, seven members of the U.S. Electoral College voted for a different candidate than whom they were pledged to vote. The Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton, lost five of her pledged electors while the Republican Party nominee and then president-elect, Donald Trump, lost two. Three of the faithless electors voted for Colin Powell while John Kasich, Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, and Faith Spotted Eagle each received one vote.

          I thought it was a nutty idea from the start, and so it proved. But that does not change that fact that an awful lot of people, from the usual Tumblr and Twitter hysterics to more ‘reputable’ media and online opinion columnists, were seriously floating this as a way to “correct” the result of the election and take into account the “people’s choice” – the logic (to call it the most charitable thing) was that Hillary had won the popular vote, the nation as a whole clearly wanted her to be president, if Trump won this would somehow invalidate the whole thing, so faithless electors were the last, best hope to save the nation and the globe from the chaos of a Trump presidency. It wasn’t just a few randos on the Internet, some of them should have known better:

          A prominent Harvard University law professor is teaming with a California-based law firm to offer legal support for any members of the Electoral College seeking to oppose President-elect Donald Trump in violation of state law.

          Larry Lessig says his new effort, which he calls “The Electors Trust,” will provide free counsel to electors, provided by the midsize firm, Durie Tangri, whose partner Mark Lemley is a longtime associate of Lessig’s.

          More significantly, Lessig said, the Trust will offer a platform – with guaranteed anonymity – for electors to strategize about stopping Trump from taking the White House. It’s a platform, he said, that could help electors coordinate to determine whether they’ve gathered enough support to stop Trump from winning the presidency.

          “It makes no sense to be elector number five who comes out against Trump. But it might make sense to be elector 38,” Lessig said in a phone interview.

          Lessig’s announcement, shared with POLITICO on the eve of the launch, comes as the first Republican member of the Electoral College has publicly declared his opposition to Trump. The elector, Chris Suprun of Texas, published an op-ed in The New York Times to announce his intentions to vote against Trump when the 538 members of the Electoral College cast the official vote for president on Dec. 19.

          The announcement has buoyed a team of at least eight Democratic electors – based in Colorado and Washington – that has been working to lobby their Republican counterparts to reject Trump and instead support an alternative Republican candidate. On Monday, those electors signaled they were likely to select Ohio Gov. John Kasich as that alternative – and Suprun, in his op-ed, expressed the same preference.

          The Democrats leading the effort, who have dubbed themselves “Hamilton Electors,” have argued that the emergence of the first committed Republican elector to reject Trump would embolden others to break from the Republican nominee. Their goal is to convince at least 36 other Republicans to oppose Trump, the minimum they need to block Trump’s election and send it to the House of Representatives.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Did illegals vote in the recent US election? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does know.

        Well, of course there was at least one illegal immigrant who voted in the recent US election.

        But how would it even fucking work for significant numbers of them to do it? You’re telling me that tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of poor, low-information people independently on their own accord phonied up a voter registration and/or stole one from some actual citizen, then swept down onto the polls, without widespread complaints from the people whose registrations they stole being noticed or the voter counts being crazy and lopsided?

        Or maybe you’re suggesting that someone conducted a criminal conspiracy involving tens of thousands of low-commitment, low-information conspiracists in order to resolve the “how do I get a voter registration” problem. It’s pretty sad for these people who organized perhaps the largest criminal conspiracy in history without being caught that they forgot to do it in swing states. Jesus Christ people, listen to yourselves.

        • cassander says:

          >But how would it even fucking work for significant numbers of them to do it? You’re telling me that tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of poor, low-information people independently on their own accord phonied up a voter registration and/or stole one from some actual citizen, then swept down onto the polls, without widespread complaints from the people whose registrations they stole being noticed or the voter counts being crazy and lopsided?

          the way it used to work in texas was pols would offer 5 bucks a vote and the locally ambitious would round up people willing to vote for that amount, register them, and vote them. And yes, thousands of votes were produced this way.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I don’t have the book and am not going to buy it just to vet that, but what worked in the 60’s in rural Texas and what works today when any random dude can go onto Twitter and say, “Hey, some political operative just offered me $5 to vote for his candidate #maybesomeoneshouldlookintothis” are kind of different.

          • cassander says:

            the Johnson election in 48 was a big deal, got national news coverage. someone could have gone to reporters and claimed that they got paid to vote, no one did, until decades later. part of the skill, then and now, is having a pretty good idea about who won’t do that.

          • Matt M says:

            sandora,

            If I went on Twitter right now and claimed someone paid me $10 to vote for Hillary, do you think I’d be contacted by any major media outlets? What percentage of people who saw my tweet do you think would consider it a very serious matter worthy of investigation?

          • @ cassander:

            the Johnson election in 48 was a big deal, got national news coverage. someone could have gone to reporters and claimed that they got paid to vote, no one did, until decades later.

            I don’t think that so-called “walking around money” (paying people $5 to go vote) was seen as particularly scandalous back then. The reason why the Texas 1948 is (still, today) notorious as a stolen election has nothing to do with that.

            LBJ was behind by around 150 votes. Three days after the runoff, Ballot Box #13, in Alice, Texas (an identifier that lives in political infamy) turned up, with 202 votes, ALL for Johnson, NONE for Coke Stevenson.

            Not only that, they “voted” in alphabetical order, and all had the same handwriting!

            Yet Johnson managed to get Ballot Box 13 included in the totals, and was declared the winner by 87 votes.

            It was a case study in how NOT to conduct a fair election. Many states modernized and regularized their election procedures after that (Michigan did in 1951). Even in Texas, that kind of chicanery would not be possible today.

          • cassander says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum says:

            I don’t think that so-called “walking around money” (paying people $5 to go vote) was seen as particularly scandalous back then. The reason why the Texas 1948 is (still, today) notorious as a stolen election has nothing to do with that.

            Caro makes it clear that johnson’s methods were practiced by most texas pols, what mattered was the scale. Johnson’s famous 202 votes were only mattered because of the tens of thousands he’d stolen by less blatant methods. The case went to court, and the coke stevenson crowd went looking for people willing to testify to fraud, and couldn’t find any.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Matt: No, I don’t think anyone would at this point. If you had said it on twitter, you know, back around election day, I think there would have been interest. If another hundred people had confirmed your story, then it would definitely have been a big story.

            Again, the idea of a criminal organization that can turn out not just thousands, but tens of thousands of basically ordinary people without a leak in this hyper-connected era, that can engage hundreds of staffers in this conspiracy, that can spend millions of dollars doing so ($5 in 1948 = $50 today), still losing a tight election is a ridiculous fantasy.

          • Deiseach says:

            Not just Texas, apparently Philadelphia is notorious for looking for walking around money or street money to run its voter turnout campaigns. And you’re not paying the voters, you’re paying the street-level organisers to get the voters organised (which presumably means making sure they turn up, have all the necessary paperwork, and vote for Your Guy). The implication is if you don’t pay them the scratch, they don’t bother getting Mrs Jones in her wheelchair from her apartment to the polling booth to pull the lever for you.

            The Clinton campaign refused to pony up this year, so this local magazine alleges the local Democrat politicians raised the needful:

            Rendell said the asking price for street money is $200 per division. With 1,686 divisions in the city, that’s $337,200 in street money. But we heard from another Democratic source that the payout could be as low as a measly $150 per division.

            A Democratic operative who heard about the $150 figure chimed in, telling Clout: “They have to get to $200 per division. They’re asking people to work a 10- or 12-hour day. You can’t pay them less than minimum wage.”

            We called up electricians’ union boss John Dougherty to see how $200 compares to the street money that was flowing when he was treasurer of the Democratic City Committee.

            “My goal back then was to do about $750,000 to get out the vote,” said Dougherty, who left the committee a decade ago. “That would be at least $400 to $500, instead of $150.”

            So much for inflation.

            Rendell said U.S Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, has come up with about half of the $337,200 in street money through the committee’s annual pre-election cocktail party and contributions from Democratic candidates seeking statewide office. Dougherty confirmed that he sent an email to building trades officials, asking them to contribute for the cocktail party.

            “The goal here should be a 525,000-to-550,000- [vote] plurality [for Clinton],” Dougherty said.

            Rendell said he and Comcast honcho David L. Cohen scrounged up more than enough to make up the other half, about $168,600, from “a relatively small number” of local deep-pocketed Clinton supporters.

            Rendell had tried to convince Clinton’s campaign to resume the street-money tradition. That didn’t work.

            And in some of the post-election analyses I read online, a couple did have quotes from some places that “they didn’t pay the walking around money, they thought they’d get the vote out by right, that’s why they didn’t get the result they needed” from local grassroots party members.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deisach

            The Philadelphia accusations are a bit more than that. One claim from 2008 is that the activists had lists of voters and just drove people from one polling place to the next with a new name at each polling place.

            Of course, they also have the New Black Panthers watching to make sure no white people show up to vote. Voter suppression is only illegal when Republicans do it.

          • And you’re not paying the voters, you’re paying the street-level organisers to get the voters organised

            And paying campaign workers is wrong? In the past generation, has there been any successful national or statewide campaign with zero paid staff?

            The Philadelphia accusations are a bit more than that. One claim from 2008 is that the activists had lists of voters and just drove people from one polling place to the next with a new name at each polling place.

            Of course, they also have the New Black Panthers watching to make sure no white people show up to vote.

            That all smells like bullshit to me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            The New Black Panthers were certainly there.

          • Corey says:

            The Philadelphia accusations are a bit more than that. One claim from 2008 is that the activists had lists of voters and just drove people from one polling place to the next with a new name at each polling place.

            And surely this showed up in the who-voted data 🙂

            I’m reminded of something I read in “Security Engineering” (thanks, some SSCer, for linking us to the webbed version). Apparently in banking there’s a continuous stream of technical employees (and teller types) who decide to steal money via technical means, not knowing of the administrative controls banks have, invariably getting fired and/or arrested.

            “Hey, I could get a couple hundred bucks by just transferring from the reconciliation-errors account to my boyfriend – who are you and why do you have handcuffs?”

          • cassander says:

            @corey

            I’m reminded of something I read in “Security Engineering” (thanks, some SSCer, for linking us to the webbed version). Apparently in banking there’s a continuous stream of technical employees (and teller types) who decide to steal money via technical means, not knowing of the administrative controls banks have, invariably getting fired and/or arrested.

            “Hey, I could get a couple hundred bucks by just transferring from the reconciliation-errors account to my boyfriend – who are you and why do you have handcuffs?”

            The people who own banks have a great deal of incentive to make sure their employees don’t steal. the people who win elections have zero interest in making sure their underlings didn’t steal votes, and the people who don’t win election have no power to find out who stole them.

          • The New Black Panthers were certainly there.

            From what I’ve read, a guy in a showy uniform, brandishing a nightstick, outside of one polling place, who was escorted away by police. Evidently not a single person was intimidated from voting.

            And that was at just one of more than 1,600 polling locations in Philadelphia.

            Political campaigns are hyper-vigilant and paranoid about what goes on at polling places on Election Day. It’s usually very quiet, and any unusual incident will get noticed and called in and responded to with lawyers and video cameras. In this case, someone noticed the two Panthers, and the McCain campaign immediately had someone there to videotape.

            As a young lawyer, I myself was sent many times to precincts where “OMG REPUBLICANS ARE INTIMIDATING VOTERS!!!”, and observed nothing amiss, no crisis, no problem at all. And the Republicans in the same area (friends of mine) got the same kinds of urgent but groundless complaints.

            The New Black Panthers are remarkably disconnected from mainstream politics. The SPLC classifies them as a hate group. It sounds like their numbers are tiny.

          • the people who win elections have zero interest in making sure their underlings didn’t steal votes, and the people who don’t win election have no power to find out who stole them.

            Let me suggest that you volunteer as a poll watcher or worker in the next election. I think you will learn that (1) election officials are highly committed to a fair process, and (2) stealing votes is a lot harder than it looks.

    • John Schilling says:

      I wish a similar poll had been done in 2009, at this same point in the Obama administration, asking Democratic voters about a hypothetical proposal from the President to “postpone” the 2012 election.

      It wasn’t done in 2009, but in 2016 the number was 67%. As others have pointed out, polls like this are usually misleadingly phrased and/or reported. But since I believe the 1990s, there have been polls showing that every US presidential election was perceived as somehow fraudulent or illegitimate by about half the losing side’s supporters, and should therefore be nullified so that their guy gets to be president.

      But I presume this was a legitimate poll, accurately reported.

      I wouldn’t presume that about any of them.

      • @ John Schilling:

        It wasn’t done in 2009, but in 2016 the number was 67%.

        It doesn’t look like that’s remotely comparable.

        The poll questions and details are not given, but the summary (in the news article reporting it) is “67 percent of Democrats would take a third term for Obama over a potential Clinton administration.”

        Of course I agree with that. It was such a common, everyday sentiment at the time that it was put in the mouth of a villain in the movie Get Out.

        If someone asks, who would you rather have as president for the next four years, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the questioner is asking you to imagine a choice between these two as legal and legitimate possibilities, not an extra-constitutional seizure of power.

        Similarly, if someone asked, who would you rather have as president right now, Donald Trump or Theodore Roosevelt, you’re not being asked to imagine Roosevelt’s decayed corpse being dug up and revived, or TR somehow never having died, so that he’s wheeled in from a nursing home as a 159-year-old man. Rather, you’re being asked to compare the two as healthy men in their political prime.

        As the article points out, normally partisans are more excited about their shiny new candidate than their old tired president. The point of the Obama/Hillary question (from a poll conducted by a “conservative polling outlet”) was not “look how many Democrats want to overthrow the constitution,” it was “look how weak Democrats’ support is for their own nominee.”

        And, in fact, it was remarkably weak.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Yeah, it’s a “Hey, you’d like more Obama, right? Would you vote for him for a 3rd term? But that’s unconstitutional, gotcha!”

          From how it’s presented in the WP article, this is “Hey, you’d like less voter fraud, right? Would you delay the election for it? But that’s unconstitutional, gotcha!”

          Both are technically correct, but the gotchas are engineered by the pollsters&reporters. If anything, the conclusion should be “republican voters are too stupid to immediately recognize that this option we led them to is illegal”, not “republican voters want to do illegal things!”

        • John Schilling says:

          “67 percent of Democrats would take a third term for Obama over a potential Clinton administration.”

          Of course I agree with that. It was such a common, everyday sentiment at the time that it was put in the mouth of a villain in the movie Get Out.

          It doesn’t strike you as a bit off that you’re citing a villain in this context?

          Meanwhile, on the other side a guaranteed four more years for Trump instead of a possibly rigged election with millions of illegal immigrants voting for Chelsea Clinton or whomever is an equally popular sentiment. And equally villainous, because some forms of villainy are appealing if people don’t have to get too close to them.

          If someone asks, who would you rather have as president for the next four years, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the questioner is asking you to imagine a choice between these two as legal and legitimate possibilities, not an extra-constitutional seizure of power.

          Are you suggesting that 67% of Democrats don’t know that the Constitution prohibits three-term presidents?

          Because what the Republicans in this poll are being asked to imagine, is a legitimate postponement of an election which is presumed to be rigged, with the last legitimately elected president remaining in office until that somehow gets sorted out. If Democrats are allowed to imagine unconstitutional acts to keep their favorite guy in the White Hose, Republicans have to be allowed the same imaginary latitude. And if it is alarming for Republicans to do so, then it ought to be equally alarming on the other side, not excused with “well, that’s a popular sentiment and we’re imagining it’s legal”.

          • Deiseach says:

            Are you suggesting that 67% of Democrats don’t know that the Constitution prohibits three-term presidents?

            I seriously wonder about that, because in some other context the other day I saw a tweet directed to Obama’s twitter feed arse-licking* Obama about what a shame it was he didn’t run for a third term in power. That exact question occurred to me “do they genuinely not know about term limits or is it that they don’t care and think he should have illegally stayed on in power?”

            Anyway, speaking of delusional fantasies, while we are clutching our pearls over the results of a poll asking a hypothetical question, this is happening in Kenya. I think America is still a long way from this, so let’s all calm down a little, shall we?

            Mr Odinga, 72, is a veteran opposition politician seen as having taken his last shot at the presidency, which he has sought four times.

            He believes elections in 2007, 2013 and now 2017 were snatched away from him.

            Politics in Kenya is largely divided along tribal lines. Mr Odinga’s ethnic Luo supporters – and their allies from other groups – believe they have been denied political power by elites from the Kikuyus, the same ethnic group as Mr Kenyatta, the country’s biggest community.

            Amid the anxiety over how the situation would unfold, there was also much joy in Mr Kenyatta’s strongholds after he was declared the victor with 54.27% to Mr Odinga’s 44.74%.

            In his acceptance speech Mr Kenyatta urged Mr Odinga and his supporters, to “work together … so that we can build this nation together”.

            “Let us be peaceful … We have seen the results of political violence. And I am certain that there is no single Kenyan who would wish for us to go back to this.”

            The latest deaths mean nine people have been killed in election-related violence since Tuesday.

            Foreign observers praised a peaceful, credible voting process which saw turnout of 78%.

            However, the mood quickly turned sour when Mr Odinga rejected the results after only a few hours of counting earlier this week.

            *An Irish expression analogous to, but more pungent than, boot-licking and in use long before I ever heard of such a practice as rimming. Someone who sucks up to/toadies to the boss/person in power is referred to as a “lick-arse”.

          • Deiseach says:

            It doesn’t strike you as a bit off that you’re citing a villain in this context?

            I thought part of the point of that movie was that it was precisely the liberal, nice, Blue Tribe-type whites who actually had repressed racist attitudes or tended to treat black people as pets/causes to show off how good allies the whites were, and that they were just as bad as the overt racist ‘everyone agrees these are the bad guy’ whites?

            So one of the “We’d love Obama to run for a third term!” people being a villain is not contradictory at all by the logic of the movie.

    • Kevin C. says:

      And here I’m reminded of the views among some in my political circles of the Mueller grand jury as an attempt to go around impeachment procedure and Congress to remove Trump, leading eventually to the Trump family getting Romanoved, as perhaps best summed up by the dreaded Jim: “Coup by permanent government in the wind

      A grand jury is pretty much a formality, since the prosecutor has complete control. A grand jury will indict you for being a ham sandwich, so will surely indict Trump of being a Russian agent and stealing the elections. Or something. We will probably never find out what the charges were, because once the arrest is made, or attempted, the charges will cease to matter, and being able to hit what you are shooting at will matter. Does anyone recollect the charges on which King Louis or Czar Nicholas was executed?

      Once the fatal words are spoken, the logic of the situation is that you win or you die. The violence inevitably escalates. Whoever is slowest to face up to this loses, gets arrested, imprisoned, and eventually, executed, for once imprisoned, too dangerous to live. If Trump gets arrested, one thing will lead to another thing, and pretty soon his entire family and then all elected Republicans will be arrested, and not very long thereafter, executed. It is defect/defect, and the one who defects hardest and first wins. A grand jury exists to arrest people. Once you start resolving political conflicts by arresting your opponents, you win or you die. If Mueller attempts to arrest Trump or his people and fails, Trump has to arrest Mueller and his people, for if he does not, Mueller will surely succeed the second, the third, or the tenth time.

      And if Mueller successfully arrests Trump, he is going to have to kill Trump, and a rapidly increasing number of other people, for if he does not then sooner or later Trump is going to be unarrested.

      • Deiseach says:

        If Mueller attempts to arrest Trump or his people and fails, Trump has to arrest Mueller and his people, for if he does not, Mueller will surely succeed the second, the third, or the tenth time.

        No? Because look at the Bill Clinton case, and how Ken Starr tried and tried again until he did get an impeachment charge to stick, and once that went to the necessary vote, Clinton was acquitted on all charges.

        Clinton did not then go on to arrest Starr in the tit-for-tat scenario set out above. Of course, if someone wants to visualise the worst of all possible worlds, a right-wing version of Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, then I can’t stop them and they are perfectly entitled to write their dystopian fantasy, but remember how you feel when you read people talking as if Atwood’s Gilead was right around the corner and the more likely to happen the longer Trump stays in power.

        • Kevin C. says:

          No? Because look at the Bill Clinton case, and how Ken Starr tried and tried again until he did get an impeachment charge to stick, and once that went to the necessary vote, Clinton was acquitted on all charges.

          Clinton did not then go on to arrest Starr in the tit-for-tat scenario set out above.

          You’re missing a key point in Jim’s scenario. The argument isn’t that Mueller is going to follow Starr and try to get charges that will “stick” in Congressional impeachment proceedings, it’s that, with this grand jury — after he indights enough of Trump’s friends and family — he’s going to bypass Congress and impeachment altogether, by having the ordinary grand jury indight Trump on felony charges.

          And it’s not entirely a “crazy Right-wing” thing. I can’t find it at the moment, but over in Disqus comments at PJMedia, a couple of the lefty regulars seem to be gloatingly endorsing something like this, starting with citing the Clinton-Starr period precident that the president does not, upon becoming president, obtain blanket immunity for crimes committed before taking office. They then asserted, despite push-back, that presidential impeachment proceedings are only necessary for “high crimes and misdemeanors” committed while in office, and that any “collusion with Russia” or similar, being before the election, need only an ordinary criminal grand jury indightment. (One held that this indightment might not be enforceable while Trump is in office, but argued that the instant it was obtained, Trump would become “utterly powerless”, a “lame duck” unable to accomplish anything at all, and therefore Republican-controlled Congress would just have to impeach and remove Trump, because even a weak President Pence would be able to accomplish more, and thus be more preferable to Republicans, than Trump in the uttter powerlessness to which this indightment would supposedly reduce him. The other seemed to hint toward the prospect of removing Trump via grand jury indightment, forget Congress, in line with Jim’s argument.)

          That said, I’m not endorsing Jim’s argument; I merely said that I’m seeing a lot more like it in my circles. Between Mueller’s grand jury, Damore’s firing, and similar, a lot more folks on the right seem to be viewing politics more and more as “it’s us or them; when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

          • Nornagest says:

            he’s going to bypass Congress and impeachment altogether, by having the ordinary grand jury indight Trump on felony charges.

            This is unconstitutional. Not in the way that laws against flag burning are unconstitutional, in the way that being ruled by a king is unconstitutional. It is spelled out very clearly that the President cannot be removed from office without being impeached, and that Congress tries cases of impeachment through a specific procedure. Trying an end-run around it is equivalent to something like canceling the next election or giving yourself dictatorial powers.

            A sitting President would have to be stupid to try that in the current political environment, but Mueller would have to be a hundred times stupider, because Mueller has no leverage besides what his perceived legitimacy gives him. The limited power he has, he only has as long as he plays by the rules.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nornagest

            This is unconstitutional.

            Since when does the far Left care about that, and besides, “constitutional” is whatever the Left-wing portion of the Supreme Court says it is. And besides, to what degree were the legal nicities followed in the trial and execution of Louis XVI? The execution of the Romanovs?

            Trying an end-run around it is equivalent to something like canceling the next election or giving yourself dictatorial powers.

            Jim does, in the post I linked, refer to such an outcome as “a coup”. Because, yes, it would be. So what? The argument is that this is where the Left is, if not already at, then going, like the woman on Twitter who said “At a certain point white supremacists or white nationalists just kind of morphs into *white people* and we are at that point.” They are so deep into hating Trump and “kill the Nazis”, that they’re working their way toward an illegal, unconstitutional coup against him.

            because Mueller has no leverage besides what his perceived legitimacy gives him.

            The argument being that the Left controls so many commanding heights of our society, and is so far down the Leftist Singularity, that many of them might consider that “perceived legitimacy” sufficient leverage to pull off the coup.

            See also Jim’s newer Recap on the Left Singularity:

            The violent suppression of the UniteTheRight ralley, and the firing of James Damore, shows repression is getting more and more extreme, with more and more people deemed nazis, and nazis suppressed more violently.

            For roughly two hundred years, leftism has been getting lefter, and crazier. For a bit over a hundred years, repression and censorship has been getting more extreme, more repressive, and crazier. This trend is not going to naturally peter out. It is not going to stop until something extremely drastic stops it.

            Mostly it will merely be mango soup, and only a handful of flayings and burnings, because as soon as shit gets really bad, someone is going to seize power, but if no one is able to securely and stably seize power, could potentially go all the way to Szechuan and the Seven Kill Stele, where everyone tortured everyone to death for insufficient leftism until there was almost no one left.

          • dndnrsn says:

            In the case of the rally yesterday, it is not merely “deeming” people Nazis when they’re throwing up Nazi salutes, wearing Nazi-and-adjacent symbols, shouting English translations of Nazi slogans… Has Jim ever acknowledged, for example, that bad stuff was done in Europe 1933-1945 by non-leftists?

          • Matt M says:

            It is spelled out very clearly that the President cannot be removed from office without being impeached

            Fine, so they don’t “remove him from office.” They throw him in jail, where he is unable to properly execute the office, and Pence serves as “acting President” or whatever.

            You keep bringing up the constitution as if anyone cares. Lincoln threw opposition media straight into jail. FDR rounded up the Japanese. When people have enough power, they do whatever they want. The courts either duck and hide hoping to spare themselves, or find some excuse to go along with it.

            Note: I think this whole thing is a long shot. I’m not predicting it WILL happen, but saying it CAN’T happen is crazy.

          • Brad says:

            Mostly it will merely be mango soup, and only a handful blah blah blah

            Again are you and jim going to update towards “our model of the world is broken and that’s why we are terrible at predicting the future” when it turns out you were dead wrong?

          • Matt M says:

            In the case of the rally yesterday, it is not merely “deeming” people Nazis when they’re throwing up Nazi salutes, wearing Nazi-and-adjacent symbols, shouting English translations of Nazi slogans…

            What percentage of the rally attendees were doing these things? What percentage do you think openly identify as nazi? What percentage do you think ARE nazis would not admit it? Please describe your methodology for making these guesses.

            Or, alternatively, if I spot a single hammer-and-sickle flag at a BLM protest, can I dismiss the entire gathering as a “bolshevik march”

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            From a very brief internet search, I can see one Nazi flag, one Hitler-quote T-shirt, one Nazi slogan, one mention of a swastika tattoo, and one National Socialist Movement group flag (I’ve ignored other anti-semitic remarks to avoid smearing wholesome racists with the Nazi brand). If you can find a BLM rally with as many Soviet references, sure, dismiss it as Bolshevik if you like.

          • Matt M says:

            I can see one Nazi flag, one Hitler-quote T-shirt, one Nazi slogan, one mention of a swastika tattoo, and one National Socialist Movement group flag

            Compared to how many flags, t-shirts, and quotes in total?

            I’m not denying some neo-nazis were there. But how many neo-nazis does it take to make it a “neo-nazi protest”?

            This seems like something we need to decide, and then apply equally to both sides.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            “Compared to how many flags, t-shirts, and quotes in total?”
            In terms of those I can find on the internet, I see a roughly 50-50 split between explicitly Nazi and other white nationalist. Of course, inoffensive flags and tattoos are not newsworthy. But if you thereby conclude that we simply can’t tell how Nazi the rally is, you should also conclude that e.g. we just don’t know whether antifa are left-wing or not. If you don’t, you are making an isolated demand for rigour.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that’s a fair comparison.

            Everyone at this rally was “right-wing.” Everyone in antifa is “left-wing.”

            But not everyone at this rally is a literal nazi. And not everyone in antifa is a literal communist.

            If you get to call all right-wingers nazis as soon as you spot a single swastika, then I get to call all left-wingers communists as soon as I spot a single hammer and sickle. That seems fair, no?

          • The Nybbler says:

            There were Wobblies among the counterprotestors, is that communist enough? Also women’s rights marchers, who I would guess are mostly not communists. Probably the usual grab-bag of progressive everything.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            But how did you conclude that everyone there was right-wing (or that all antifa are left-wing)? Did you carefully examine all of their T-shirts, flags and slogans?

            As per my previous comment, if you can find five explicitly communist symbols, sure, wherever you found them is as communist as the right-wing rally was Nazi. I don’t think it was especially Naziish, more neo-Nazi really (and if you want to match that, you’ll need correspondingly more evidence).

          • The Nybbler says:

            It was billed as a “Unite the Right” rally. Any leftists in the rally itself were either up to something or very, very confused.

          • skef says:

            This is an event which seeks to unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Communist crackdown, to speak out against displacement level immigration policies in the United States and Europe and to affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do, free of persecution.

            If any leftists present would be “either up to something or very, very confused”, can we at least say the same about any black people in attendance?

          • Brad says:

            I’ve seen posts on SSC tagging BLM simpliciter as supporting killing cops on the basis of a handful of people at one of their rallies.

            and this is just hilarious considering the source:

            Please describe your methodology for making these guesses.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve seen posts on SSC tagging BLM simpliciter as supporting killing cops on the basis of a handful of people at one of their rallies.

            OK, so your response is, “yes, this is fair – because the other side does it too.”

            So long as we understand each other on this.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What % of the marchers are Nazis is irrelevant to the point I was making, which is that people who are doing things that identify themselves as Nazis are not “deemed” Nazis by some outside force.

            It’s also completely wacky to compare Damore getting fired to what happened Friday and yesterday, which was hardly the poor widdle neo-Nazi/white nationalist marchers getting “violently suppressed.” They kicked things off by a torchlight parade Friday night where they surrounded and attacked badly outnumbered counterprotesters.

          • Brad says:

            Matt M
            My position is that this whole subthread is an isolated demand for rigor.

            You want to develop a reputation for universal rigor you’ve got a heck of a lot of work ahead of you.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If any leftists present would be “either up to something or very, very confused”, can we at least say the same about any black people in attendance?

            Of course not, that would be racist.

            Seriously, I only heard about the black guy who apparently was one of the organizers of one of the subgroups. I don’t know what his deal is.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ll just say that I have heard many narratives from people in attendance who dispute your version of how it went down.

            I agree with you that the people carrying Nazi flags were not “deemed Nazis by an outside force,” sure.

            My point is that from what I’m seeing in the media, the entire protest is being deemed a Nazi protest by outside forces. Which is unfair to everyone who was there that wasn’t carrying Nazi flags, is it not?

            Look, I follow a lot of alt-right people on social media. They’ve been promoting this thing for months. I never once saw it explicitly advertised or promoted as a nazi, fascist, or white supremacist protest or gathering.

            Just because David Duke is one of the thousands of people who shows up doesn’t mean you get to call everyone who shows up a Nazi.

            Or, if you choose to take it that way, then you should have no problem with me doing this for every left-wing event, provided I can find a single legitimate, no-kidding Communist in the crowd.

          • skef says:

            @Matt M

            Are you saying that even inferring a trend in attendance from the language “to speak out against displacement level immigration policies in the United States and Europe and to affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests” is invalid? In the United States in 2017?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Sample tweet from the march organizers. How anyone could mistake these guys for Nazis, I can’t imagine.

          • Anonymous says:

            How anyone could mistake these guys for Nazis, I can’t imagine.

            Not everyone knows that echoes are used almost universally among the alternative right, not just Nazis.

          • BBA says:

            “We’re not Nazis, we’re just regular non-genocidal antisemites!” isn’t a good look.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            The narrative that the white nationalists heavily outnumbered the counterprotestors is from the notoriously left-wing official Unite The Right twitter. Scroll up a little and you will see some David Duke retweets, scroll down and you will see a video of marchers chanting “blood and soil“. I can’t seem to see any tweets from the mild-mannered conservatives saying that Robert E. Lee is an important historical figure who is worthy of commemoration.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            This event seems to have been a lot more composed of straight up neo-Nazi/WN people/groups than, say, the second and third rallies in Berkeley. Based on the videos and photos I have seen, I didn’t see many Pepes or Kekistan flags or whatever; doesn’t appear that Chapman or McInnes or Cernovich or whoever showed up… Wasn’t it organized by Spencer, Heimbach, Damigo, etc? If these guys are alt-right – if it’s just a catchall term for anything right of the mainstream Republican party – then this rally appears to have been by the rightmost wing of the alt-right. If you take “alt-right” to specifically have the flavour of “right-wing populist/nationalist internet memelords” then I don’t know – there seem to be a lot of guys who were neo-Nazis or WNs before a few years ago who showed up for this thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            You keep bringing up the constitution as if anyone cares. Lincoln threw opposition media straight into jail. FDR rounded up the Japanese. When people have enough power, they do whatever they want. The courts either duck and hide hoping to spare themselves, or find some excuse to go along with it.

            Yeah, this all ultimately comes down to power — and FDR and Lincoln were popular wartime Presidents, that is, they had the most power that our system ever gives to anyone. Obama could maybe have gotten away with a fast-tracked kangaroo-court investigation of Trump back when he was a candidate or even president-elect, although Obama is no FDR or (postwar) Lincoln in terms of support. Trump’s a weak President. But Mueller is an FBI agent who most of us hadn’t heard of before this all started going down; he doesn’t even have the level of fame or pull that Ken Star did when he was investigating Clinton.

            The point is, if you think this autocoup fantasy is magically going to happen just because getting rid of Trump would be politically convenient for the people involved, you don’t understand how that power actually works. The permanent government is process and legitimacy. They don’t have the biggest guns, the most money, or much if any popular support; they have procedure, they have inertia, they have the appearance of necessity. They can selectively enforce stuff, or interpret new stuff into existence. And over time that can lead to large changes in how the law works de facto. But blatantly overthrowing centuries of precedent for them would be like solving a rat problem by burning your house down.

      • Brad says:

        leading eventually to the Trump family getting Romanoved

        When this doesn’t come to pass will you and jim update? Or will you just announce that you made a minor miscalculation and the apocalypse is really going to be in 2025?

        • Anonymous says:

          This.

          Jim’s greatest failing is, perhaps, projecting strength and agency onto the political classes of today’s West. IMO, the most likely course of action is that they’ll coast along, writing their hit pieces and slitting their wrists occasionally, but never do anything much to upset the status quo – until Alaric comes.

          • Kevin C. says:

            And who could serve as our Alaric?

          • Anonymous says:

            An excellent question, to which I do not have an answer.

          • cassander says:

            Our Alaric will be bankruptcy. Eventually, the golden goose will be strangled.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Asking who our Alaric is is premature. The US is still a republic, the question to ask is who will be our Julius & Augustus.

          • Nornagest says:

            During the election, I saw a lot of ha-ha-only-serious posts about General Mattis crossing the Potomac.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Asking who our Alaric is is premature. The US is still a republic, the question to ask is who will be our Julius & Augustus.

            Juliuses and Augustuses require substantial agency on part of the political elites, and the ability to obtain PERSONAL loyalty among the armed forces. Back in Rome, being a politician and being a military leader was almost the same thing. Getting your legion or three to follow you when you declared your personal war on the state was easy. The recent Presidents were fairly low-ranking military officers, at best, and the legitimacy of the Republic is still far, far too high for pretenders to gain any traction in the military. Last guy who had any chance whatsoever was Eisenhower, if he wanted any such thing. The current guys have none.

            Yet.

            Of course, I may be wrong about our situation being comparable to Rome. We may, instead, be the Bronze Age civilization around 1300 B.C.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          “When this doesn’t come to pass will you and jim update?”

          One might hope.

      • John Schilling says:

        If Mueller attempts to arrest Trump or his people and fails,

        If Mueller attempts to arrest Trump, he will fail, and in the process so marginalize himself that nobody will have to do anything about him than they do any other placard-waving rando.

        Do the Dreaded Jim, our Despairing Kevin, and the rest, understand how this even works? Have they bothered to read the Constitution lately? Nobody, but nobody, arrests the
        President of the United States. Ever. Mueller isn’t going to try, and if he does the Secret Service aren’t going to let him or his people through the door.

        What Mueller might do, is present Congress with evidence that Trump has committed sufficiently grave crimes that Congress (not Mueller) may decide to impeach Trump. Congress, not Mueller. If Congress puts it to vote and decides not to impeach, or impeaches but the Senate does not vote to convict, that’s the end of it. They aren’t going to go through that again, and there’s no need to kill the dissenting Congressmen any more than there was when they impeached Clinton.

        If Congress does vote to impeach and convict, then Trump isn’t president any more. Period. He may still be sitting in the White House, but all the people who were five minutes ago sworn to follow his orders, are now sworn to not follow his orders. He’s a nobody, and there’s no more need to kill him than there was to kill Nixon after he resigned in the face of inevitable impeachment.

        • Matt M says:

          I thought the theory was that Mueller was looking at the grand jury route as an alternative to impeachment, because he knows a GOP-controlled Congress won’t impeach, regardless of what “evidence” is presented.

          Appealing to “that has never happened before,” is not evidence that it couldn’t happen now.

        • John Schilling says:

          Mueller is using the grand jury route (not just looking at it) because grand juries have the power to subpoena and compel testimony from hostile witnesses, which is something he can’t just off and do on his own whim. And quite properly so. Grand Juries are most commonly used to indict people, but that’s not the same as arresting them, and in any event it is not rare for a grand jury to be empaneled for an investigative function in which no actual arrests are expected.

          It is also possible that Mueller will use a grand jury to indict other members or former members of the Trump administration, who could then be arrested in the usual way. Trump himself, no, that’s not going to happen. And the evidence for that goes beyond “that has never happened before”; Mueller works for the Department of Justice, which has a clear and specific policy on arresting Presidents.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          Do the Dreaded Jim, our Despairing Kevin, and the rest, understand how this even works?

          Jim’s blog is worth reading. His commenters, not at all, but his posts, yes.

          His point is that he agrees with you, this has never happened before, or even tried. His point is that, IF someone tries THEN IF, it’s not immediately squashed by the institutional structure, THEN it’s time for US Civil War 2.0, and not before then.

    • James Miller says:

      To be fair, if you trust Trump you would believe that he would only ask for a postponement if it were justified such as if terrorists has credibly threatened voting centers and Trump needed a few months to improve voting security.

      • random832 says:

        If there is no election, then Trump will not be president on January 20th, 2021. The constitution is absolutely clear on this point. It’s less clear who will be president, but my guess is that it will be the president pro tempore of the senate – the house of representatives having dissolved on January 3rd. Orrin Hatch’s current term ends in 2021.

        • Brad says:

          US Const. Amendment XX, para. 3

          If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

          As far as I know no law has yet been passed pursuant to the bolded clause.

          • random832 says:

            The presidential succession act appears to be applicable, though it requires a questionable reading of the phrase “failure to qualify”.

            The alternative is that, the electoral college having failed to certify a president-elect, the decision goes to the house of representatives – which, as I mentioned, itself doesn’t exist if there is no election.

  8. Hey, is David Friedman okay? I haven’t seen him in the comment section for a while.

    • Montfort says:

      Pennsic is currently ongoing, which may explain his absence. Or he could have just stopped commenting here, I guess.

      • We broke camp Saturday, spent Sunday with Betty’s mother in Cleveland, are currently most of the way to the Chicago area on our way home. All well.

        Best Pennsic weather I can remember.

  9. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Have a smart cat story that I can personally vouch for.

    I was attempting to deal with a long tangled phone cable, so there was a lot of string action. The cat, who has some pain-in-the-ass tendencies, not only didn’t get in the way, after a while he started batting at a cat toy that was tied to a railing, which is not his usual behavior.

    Normally, he expects someone to wave the stuffed-snake-on-a-stick for him. I took the hint.

    • Well... says:

      My admiration goes out to you for still having a phone that’s wired with a cable.

      • Incurian says:

        How do you charge yours?

        • Well... says:

          When I read “long tangled” I figured it must refer to the curlicue landline phone cable, since micro-USB cables (the ones I’m familiar with anyway, which all came with various phones for free) tend to be not that long, and rather stiff; I’ve never managed to get one tangled.

  10. Can someone please link me to a small handful of seminal and/or cutting-edge research on IQ/gender differences? I am fine with complex methodology etc.

    Considering how much time I spend reading culture war blog posts on this stuff, I really ought to be able to reference some literature in the field.

    Thanks!

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I like Janet Hyde’s Gender Similarities Hypothesis. It’s a survey of differences. As you can see from the title, she downplays the differences, but she reports them, allowing the reader to think about bell curves and decide what to do with the numbers. At the very least we can objectively order the traits from most similar to most different and agree on that. I wouldn’t take any particular number here as gospel, but the general trend is probably accurate. Even just compiling a list of traits to think about is useful.

      An example of differing interpretation is that Hyde et al and Lynn and Kanazawa find the same difference in IQ, but the first reports it as the same, while the second reports it as a difference. Moreover, the first finds a larger (1.2) ratio of standard deviations and reports it as “similar” while the second reports a smaller number (1.1) as a difference.

      • HFARationalist says:

        The main issue with the biodiversity movement is that I don’t know whether their research is woo or legit.

        • Anonymous says:

          To a first degree of approximation, it’s obviously legit. For more details, you either have to trust some authority, or examine the research yourself. Jayman has a pretty nice collection of starter literature on the topic: https://tinyurl.com/muggle-realism

          • HFARationalist says:

            The other side is filled with woo as well.

            That’s why we need real experts here to explain what’d going on.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HFARationalist

            What is it exactly that you find “woo” about Muggle Realism? You don’t need experts to tell you that, say, a mated pair of the same race will have children of that same race. You also don’t need experts to tell you that humans are subject to the same biological laws as other animals. Or that selective breeding does, in fact, work, and people have been using it for millennia to create critters with desirable traits that did not exist in the wild.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous I’m not saying that the idea of race realism is woo. I’m saying that the studies done by Lynn might be woo. We can’t trust the Blue Tribe on IQ research either.

            We first need some basic methodology on understanding human intelligence. Then we can talk about these specific issues. Most of us aren’t in that field so we have no idea whether something is woo. The problem does not start from race or gender. Instead it starts from understanding and measuring human intelligence.

            I can’t tell legit research from woo in this field so we have to be cautious about both sides.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HFARationalist

            We first need some basic methodology on understanding human intelligence.

            Such as?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous I don’t know. If I knew it I would know which side has more woo.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Janet Hyde is not part of the “biodiversity movement.” She is the canonical source of refutations. Just look at the title of the paper! Much of the point of my comment is that the two sides agree on the facts, but just disagree on the interpretation.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Eventually truth will come out. Faith can not conceal facts forever regardless of what they are. As Eliezer said let’s make beliefs pay rent. This is exactly what I’m doing in this post. The key is to remove moralization and ad hominem from the issue.

            Here are the two main hypotheses.

            1.(Biodiversity). If this hypothesis is correct then Sub-Saharan Africans are inherently less intelligent and more violent than whites, Northeast Asians and other groups.

            What does that predict?

            In 2100, Many Sub-Saharan Africans will have reasonably good living standards and good nutrition. However due to their inherent low IQ and tendency to be violent their nations will always remain dangerous and they will almost never produce great scientists.

            2.Not (biodiversity). If this hypothesis is correct almost all issues Sub-Saharan Africans face are of non-genetic origins. As a result if single motherhood, racism, malnutrition and other issues can be fixed Sub-Saharan Africans should be roughly as competent as others in intellectual pursuits and will not be violent in general.

            What does that predict?

            In 2100, Many Sub-Saharan Africans will have reasonably good living standards and good nutrition. Their average IQ will raise to 100+, there will be many great scientists from Sub-Saharan Africa and Sub-Saharan African communities will be safe as long as they are rich and have a reasonably good culture.

            Either (Biodiversity) or Not (Biodiversity) is mostly correct. We will see. However are Blue Tribers and Brown Tribers going to stop their respective moralization of this issue before we get the result?

            Morality is good. However moralizers who distort and hate facts are evil. Let’s embrace facts no matter what they are and try our best to work with them. For Blue Tribers that means if the result is that (Biodiversity) is correct they need to stop screaming racism and instead give disadvantaged groups intelligence-boosting medicine to solve the issue. For Brown Tribers that means if the result is that Not (Biodiversity) is correct they need to stop their claim that most things wrong with disadvantaged groups is genetic.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Does a prediction that’s 80 years in the future actually pay rent?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz We can also use current phenomena.

            I’m actually inspired by a biodiversity website here. They claimed that even if we fill Nigeria with computers and infrastructure they will still refuse to learn science or develop.

            This is actually a legitimate test. However we need to actually do it right which means cultural and economic factors need to be equalized.

    • Anonymous says:

      Have a look at the Library of Hate. The name is edgy, but the content is good.

      Also, here’s some gender differences PDFs from my personal collection. May or may not be duplicates of some of the above.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        While interesting takes on Islam, I’d like to see similar questions asked about my religion and culture. How many of my fellow churchgoers could you get to say that the US should be “ruled by the Ten Commandments”? Probably quite a few. You could even get me to agree with that if you got me on the right day.

        • Anonymous says:

          Mm. I’d like to see something like that as well.

        • HFARationalist says:

          A much better idea is secular rule.

          You should be obliged to prove that your religion is likely to be correct before you can establish religious rule.

          • Skivverus says:

            Arguably, to the standards of satisfaction of their adherents, they do. And overtly religious states tend to have the religion in question be the one the majority of the population believes, and the exceptions tend to have pluralities.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Then there is no standard at all. Faith can justify any statement which means it justifies nothing.

            What you said is basically social conformism.

          • Anonymous says:

            A much better idea is secular rule.

            No, secular rule is a horrible idea. In its strong form, it’s the Reign of Terror. In its weak form, it’s a free market for the most virulent memeplexes, and the winner takes all, abolishing secular rule in the process. Take away organized religion, and people will believe anything – ANYTHING.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @HFA

            What you said is basically social conformism.

            Why do you always go on like this is an unalloyed negative? Sure, don’t take it to extremes but there is value in, well, shared values.

            ETA: @[ninj]anonymous

            Take away organized religion, and people will believe anything – ANYTHING.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous You are indeed onto something. However I’m still opposed to having state religions unless they are very likely to be correct.

            Beliefs have consequences. Wrong beliefs can result in absurd behaviors. If you want to enforce a belief you’d better make sure that it is accurate.

          • Skivverus says:

            To rephrase: I don’t think that “proving your religion is likely to be correct” is a sufficient hurdle to explain why we have secular rule in so many places.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Gobbobobble

            I faintly recall some study that showed that adult Christian believers were less likely to believe fanciful things inconsistent with their faith (contrasted with children, who apparently didn’t feel the need to pick what was consistent).

            @HFARationalist

            Beliefs have consequences. Wrong beliefs can result in absurd behaviors. If you want to enforce a belief you’d better make sure that it is accurate.

            You sound like a Catholic. 😉

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Anonymous

            I believe that. I was just poking fun at “organized religion” falling into the category of “anything – ANYTHING” 🙂

            Plus, adult Christians have been schisming over what their religion really believes for as long as Christianity has existed.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Skivverus Unless you are sure that something is almost certainly true you should not really impose it on others.
            @Anonymous Isn’t my statement correct? Wrong beliefs have consequences. If many people believe on faith that a certain city such as Virginia Beach in Virginia is somehow holy and you should all go there every Aug.7th I’m sure its inhabitants will notice something really weird due to your absurd beliefs.

            It’s actually much easier to talk to secular Browns compared to believing Christians. I can guess what Browns want, but not the faithful. Do you know why? Secular Browns, Blues and Greys observe the same reality. We are just different in ideals and morals. However I can’t agree with the faithful on reality even though many of them are nice people.

      • Anonymous says:

        This (page 14) may be of interest also.

      • HFARationalist says:

        @Anonymous Unfortunately its choice of materials are true but biased. For example why does it refuse to mention Ashkenazi Jewish achievements and glorify them such as listing all Jewish Nobel Prize Laureates? What about Northeast Asians?

        For example “Asians are nine times more likely to be in a gang than whites in America” is probably a correct statement. However you also need to add other statements in the Color of Crime such as the Asian murder rate is much lower than that of whites in America. You also need to mention that the Northeast Asian crime rate and the Southeast Asian crime rate are drastically different.

        One key problem with both SJWs and the alt-right (other than biodiversity people who are more objective) is that they love cherrypicking.

        • Anonymous says:

          Unfortunately its choice of materials are true but biased. For example why does it refuse to mention Ashkenazi Jewish achievements and glorify them such as listing all Jewish Nobel Prize Laureates? What about Northeast Asians?

          Those facts are not politically incorrect. If you read the opening paragraph at the LoH, it says “politically incorrect but true statements”. It does not claim to be the be-all, end-all resource for all facts related to the various subjects it touches on.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Agreed. However I do believe that to fully understand the subject it writes about we do need to have all the materials available regardless of whether they are politically correct.

            For disadvantaged groups (everyone other than white Europeans, Ashkenazi Jews, Northeast Asians and several other groups) I’m sure that biodiversity websites are even harder to endure than Daily Stormer. I mean at least the Daily Stormer can be dismissed as a biased hate website.

            Nature is cruel. Historically the light of civilization belonged to two groups, namely Caucasians from Europe, the Middle East and India and Northeast Asia. This is the largest circle jerk on this planet that produced almost every major human achievement and it isn’t going to accept new members anytime soon. I really can not imagine how much pain it can cause to non-members of the circle jerk if they realize that such a thing actually exists. Look at STEM in the world and you will find that circle jerk members are controlling everything in STEM.

            I’m not sure how many non-circle jerk members are on SSC but I do agree that there is too much that separates us from them. How hard can life be if there is a market dominant minority and you don’t know how to catch up to them? Yeah and there are these biodiversity people who basically imply that they deserve to rule and you deserve to serve them.

          • Anonymous says:

            For disadvantaged groups (everyone other than white Europeans, Ashkenazi Jews, Northeast Asians and several other groups) I’m sure that biodiversity websites are even harder to endure than Daily Stormer.

            That claim I would see substantiated. I mean, Jayman is black and manages to be a hereditarian himself. Scott is Jewish and yet he links to a Muggle Realist blog of Greg Cochran’s in the sidebar. And the Chinese are memetically giving zero fucks about western morality while genetically engineering human beings.

            How hard can life be if there is a market dominant minority and you don’t know how to catch up to them? Yeah and there are these biodiversity people who basically imply that they deserve to rule and you deserve to serve them.

            Are you deliberately trying to justify/apologize for the Holocaust, or did that just come out that way?

          • HFARationalist says:

            Even though I’m autistic I still have some empathy.

            Facts, including harsh facts about disadvantaged/non circle-jerk groups remain facts. However I’m not sure how many of them are of genetic or environmental origins.

            For those among us who are white European, Ashkenazi Jewish, Northeast Asian, Middle Eastern, upper caste Indian, etc, we are very lucky to have proud history to cherish and take pride in. We have our great history and will have a great future. However we do need to know that not everyone is as lucky as us. There are people who are perpetually dominated by some among us in businesses, do not have that much to cherish due to geography and history and will remain less developed for some time. We really don’t know what it means to be them, to be like them. Show some empathy for our fellow human beings, please. We will never be in their shoes.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous I’m not justifying the Holocaust which was bad. In fact, I like the Jewish people and the Jewish culture a lot. Being a market dominant minority indeed inherently involves a lot of danger. I personally believe that the Holocaust was at least partly of demographic origins. When empires became nation states Jews suddenly became a large minority and this could be (and turned out to be) dangerous for them.

            I’m glad that Israel exists, has nukes and hence Jews will always have a place to go to if everything go south.

          • Anonymous says:

            For those among us who are white European, Ashkenazi Jewish, Northeast Asian, Middle Eastern, upper caste Indian, etc, we are very lucky to have proud history to cherish and take pride in. We have our great history and will have a great future. However we do need to know that not everyone is as lucky as us. There are people who are perpetually dominated by some among us in businesses, do not have that much to cherish due to geography and history and will remain less developed for some time. We really don’t know what it means to be them, to be like them. Show some empathy for our fellow human beings, please. We will never be in their shoes.

            You gravely misjudge me if you don’t think I feel noblesse oblige towards the less fortunate.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous Most blacks aren’t like Jayman. From my personal interaction with both AAs and black Africans I think the main issue AAs have is cultural. I remember trying to get an AA girl to go to a physics talk so that she could be exposed to the STEM community but she was utterly uninterested in anything STEM-related as long as she could get away with it. Black Africans on the other hand are actually more willing to explore STEM compared to AAs.

            I’m not sure whether you have discovered this fact. However many Jews are going biodiversity/alt-right. The culture has changed. Less and less Jews are into SJ now maybe because SJ is anti-Zionist.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous I was not talking to you when I urged compassion. Some among the biodiversity community actually consider blacks perpetual global liability. I think we should give black people a chance to develop. I mean we know that Sub-Saharan Africa was isolated which cut them off from most civilizations so let’s wait for them to catch up. They are inexperienced so they may make many mistakes. I mean it isn’t easy for a Zambian whose ethnic group was thousands of years behind Europe in terms of civilization to catch up within 50 years. I hope they will learn and believe that they indeed will learn though.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m having a harder and harder time seeing how this quote

            For disadvantaged groups (everyone other than white Europeans, Ashkenazi Jews, Northeast Asians and several other groups) I’m sure that biodiversity websites are even harder to endure than Daily Stormer. I mean at least the Daily Stormer can be dismissed as a biased hate website.

            and this one

            Most blacks aren’t like Jayman. From my personal interaction with both AAs and black Africans I think the main issue AAs have is cultural. I remember trying to get an AA girl to go to a physics talk so that she could be exposed to the STEM community but she was utterly uninterested in anything STEM-related as long as she could get away with it.

            I’m not sure whether you have discovered this fact. However many Jews are going biodiversity/alt-right. Culture has changed.

            are taking a consistent point.

            Are you claiming that:
            a) non-(white Europeans) react with nearly universal revulsion at the concept of Muggle Realism,
            b) non-(white Europeans) don’t really care about Muggle Realism,
            c) non-(white Europeans) are fast adopting belief that Muggle Realism is fact, rather than be revolted by it?

            As for your AA physics girl anecdote, it’s just that. I could approach 95% of my white European classmates to do the same talk, with exactly the same result – they wouldn’t be interested, because they find physics boring.

            was not talking to you when I urged compassion. Some among the biodiversity community actually consider blacks perpetual global liability. I think we should give black people a chance to develop. I mean we know that Sub-Saharan Africa was isolated which cut them off from most civilizations so let’s wait for them to catch up. They are inexperienced so they may make many mistakes. I mean it isn’t easy for a Zambian whose ethnic group was thousands of years behind Europe in terms of civilization to catch up within 50 years. I hope they will learn and believe that they indeed will learn though.

            I don’t necessarily disagree, but I am surprised that you would advocate quarantining Africa and letting selection pressures do their thing for a few millennia (and without any particular guarantee that it would give the results you like).

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous Different groups react to biodiversity differently.

            There are obviously members of three racial groups backing it and we all know who they are. Non-PC white Europeans, right wing Jews and Northeast Asian nationalists. If you believe that American Jews aren’t becoming increasingly right wing you should think about Breitbart and Unz. Both are Jewish names. The Jewish Right and the European alt-right may eventually merge. As for Northeast Asians they obviously mock PC and then glorify themselves using biodiversity. The dividing line isn’t whether someone is white but whether someone is advantaged, whether they are confident.

            I never said that quarantining Africa is a good idea. Trade is good for development. Nature selection has been going on there for many years which does not seem to be improving the situation.

          • Anonymous says:

            Different groups react to biodiversity differently.

            Will you taunt me a second time if I don’t go away?

            I never said that quarantining Africa is a good idea. Trade is good for development.

            I’m just making the logical leaps to reach the conclusion. If you want Africans to become like Europeans, you would need to put them in a European-like environment (with a strong seasonal cycle, particularly with a portion of the year when you cannot farm and must rely on stockpiled food) and let them stew for a few thousand years. (This is not the *only* way, mind you, but the alternatives I see are substantially more horrible.)

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous Why do I want to? 🙂 Humans want to feel good about themselves. Hence groups praised by the biodiversity movement tends to like it. This is just human nature.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Anonymous
            I hope I haven’t offended you.

            I fully understand the alternatives to your plan (e.g. mass sterilization of all but the brightest) and agree that they are even worse.

            Maybe we should stop talking about Sub-Saharan Africa here. Who knows what the cultural police is up to? I don’t feel safe.

          • Anonymous says:

            I hope I haven’t offended you.

            You have not. I was just making fun of you retreating behind the motte, like a memetic Frenchman, taunting me with tautologies. 😉

    • Aapje says:

      The Wikipedia page on this seems like a good start:

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

      It’s quite comprehensive and doesn’t seem taken over by an ideologue.

  11. The original Mr. X says:

    Since we’ve got a sub-thread going on above about the ugliest historical battleships, I figured we might as well share what we think are the prettiest battleships as well. Me, I’m a sucker for big rams, so I’ll have to go with the French ironclad L’Océan (pic 1, 2).

    • bean says:

      She’s quite good-looking for a broadside ironclad, although I have to admit that I’m definitely a dreadnought fan.
      I’m going to again stump for Iowa, but I admit that I have a rather large bias.
      Beyond that, Vanguard is pretty.

    • Protagoras says:

      I rather like Yamato. I imagine bean has complaints about the superstructure, but it doesn’t look like a crazy cobbled-together improvisation like the earlier Japanese examples (presumably because it wasn’t), so I don’t have a problem with it.

      • bean says:

        She’s not bad, although I am not a huge fan of any sort of pagoda. But at least it’s in proportion to the rest of the ship, not just a tower looming over the turrets.

    • John Schilling says:

      HMS Hood has always been one of my favorites, along with bean’s choice of HMS Vanguard. But then, Vanguard was designed around the same main armament as Hood, and at the end with the same mission – be the largest, fastest, and most powerful dreadnought of a peacetime Royal Navy, to serve as a fleet flagship and sail around looking diplomatically impressive.

  12. HFARationalist says:

    (Warning: This post is NOT for the easily offended. It may contain very disturbing materials. Everything in this post is entirely hypothetical since I don’t believe any human would pursue this strategy.)

    Only one sentient entity remains?

    This is a darker variant of the Dark Forest Theory from the Three Body Problem applied to the earth which is also inspired by the darkest principles of Nazism and past empires. Assume that a single sentient entity A is self-sufficient and does not need other sentient entities. However if any sentient entity other than A itself exists it is possible that the other entity will try to harm A. Assume that A wants to survive and has no morals whatsoever one viable strategy A may pursue is to exterminate everything else that is sentient or has the potential to evolve into something sentient such as bacteria.

    No empire lasted for more than 2,000 years. A tribe that used to be enslaved can one day become free as long as they still exists. A slave may be obedient to their master/mistress but their descendants if existing may rebel against the descendants of their master/mistress. In the past and at present there have been cruel humans, including many dictators. However none has considered exterminating all their own subjects because dictators still need service from their subjects. Furthermore dictators are mortal. Hence they never tried this strategy.

    However in the age of AI and transhumanism several factors will be different which will make this strategy viable for the first time in the history of humanity. A sentient entity may finally be able to be completely self-sufficient with other sentient entities no longer important to them. AI technology introduced new sentient beings, AIs that can be completely amoral to a degree completely unheard of even among the worst humans. Transhumanism will make it possible to live forever and will make mating redundant.

    I personally strongly doubt that any human will choose such a deadly strategy. Most humans are not very autistic and as a result they need companionship from other humans regardless of whether transhumanism is achieved. However for AI this will actually be possible. A sufficiently strong sentient system of robots controlled by a single entity may be able to manufacture parts of themselves, get all the resources it requires and explore the universe. One of the few serious threats to its existence is other sentient beings, including those that are supposedly submissive.

    How to prevent this scenario from happening? To prevent something dark from happening we first need to discuss it and expose it. Hence we need to name it. I suggest that we name this strategy Exterminationist Selfism. To perpetual the existence of the self the Exterminationist Selfist AI which is likely just a Survival Maximizer wants to exterminate everything else that is sentient anywhere in the universe. It is up to us to stop it.

    • DrBeat says:

      Dark Forest Theory is obviously wrong, first off. Any theory that says “There are many alien intelligences in the galaxy, who evolved in different environments in different ways, but every single one of them all made the exact same decision, as a group, perfectly, requiring a level of forethought that could never possibly be selected for and must agree entirely with everything I personally believe at every stage. What a coincidence, the decision I claim every single alien intelligence made is the one I want other humans to make!” is obviously wrong.

      Your “Exterminationist Selfism” is just general AI risk, restated and worse. Your argument only works if the AI has infinite agency for no reason and also has, simultaneously, infinite time preference and no time preference. It must be good enough at planning to take over everything and attain infinite agency and never ever be unsuccessful at anything, but also bad enough at planning that it is utterly incapable of declaring something to be not worth the effort or resources expended. It must think in a way utterly dissimilar to a human, but also think exactly like a human.

      There will never, ever be godlike AI, friendly or unfriendly. Every possible “hard takeoff” scenario takes off right into a brick fucking wall.

      • HFARationalist says:

        The point of the Dark Forest Theory is not that all alien civilizations engage in DF behavior. As long as some are it is already sufficient.

        I agree that Exterminationist Selfism in AI is just general AI risk. I don’t think an ES AI has no time preference. Of course extermination of all life and robots is a part of the plan. However not all of the extermination needs to take place at once. For example extermination of humans and other robots is certainly very high on the list, extermination of simians is also high on the list but not as high as extermination of humans and extermination of bacteria is very low on the list. If a single attack can destroy all life and robots on the earth then it is great for an ES AI. However if some bacteria or algae are left ES AI may leave them alone for a while and prioritize extermination of aliens and alien robots.

        There is also some possibility of transhuman sociopaths and sadists (e.g. immortal Kim Jong-un) going ES. What do you think? Sociopaths will be able to edit out the remaining part of their empathy so that they will be able to become 100% sociopaths to whom ethics is completely unnatural and absurd.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          You’d need enough Dark Forest civilizations that made it to sun-destroying weapon tech to make the risk of immediate destruction from revealing yourself near-certain.

          Otherwise you don’t get Fermi Paradox: a civilization opens itself to the stars and makes contact with all the non-DF civilizations who are happily communicating and occasionally banding together to wipe out or reform the occasional DF civilization that just starts randomly blowing up stars every now and then.

          Dark Forest theory needs to feed back on itself. It’s really hard for a civilization to settle on the Dark Forest conclusion when they’re encountering a bunch of other civilizations who clearly came to a different conclusion without any ill effects.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        >Dark Forest Theory is obviously wrong, first off. Any theory that says “There are many alien intelligences in the galaxy, who evolved in different environments in different ways, but every single one of them all made the exact same decision, as a group, perfectly, requiring a level of forethought that could never possibly be selected for and must agree entirely with everything I personally believe at every stage.

        Well, they all evolved, right? Which means they have conflict built-in, which means they should be able to recognize the game-theory aspects implied in the system, right? I think you’re going to need a stronger crit than that to claim it’s obviously implausible.

        • DrBeat says:

          If it’s not obviously implausible, then your claim is that instead of humanity being incredibly unique and special because we’re the only intelligent life, humanity is incredibly unique and special because we’re the only intelligent life that ever started sending out radio and other signals before we all got together and decided that space is a dark forest so we should hide.

          That humanity is incredibly unique and special because we’re the only ones who had members who thought space might not be a hostile dark forest.

          That humanity is incredibly unique and special because we’re the only ones who might ever consider compromising an infinite-term plan with no visible benefits (hide in dark forest forever from enemies you have no proof actually exist) in order to win conflicts they can perceive immediately with other members of their species (do immediately useful things that compromise integrity of hiding in dark forest).

          This is obviously wrong.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            >humanity is incredibly unique and special because we’re the only intelligent life that ever started sending out radio and other signals before we all got together and decided that space is a dark forest so we should hide.

            I… don’t think so? How long have we been sending out radio signals for? Are we still sending them out? What if we stop sending them out? Having races realize within a few hundred years of developing radio that sending signals out is a bad idea seems like it could easily maintain the scenario. Heck, it seems plausible that the window of usefulness of broadcast radio is itself only a hundred years or so wide.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I love the conceit that aliens would think like sci-fi fans instead of like bankers or business people or artists.

    • Deiseach says:

      Transhumanism will make it possible to live forever

      Yeahhhhh… for my immortality needs, I’m still sticking with religion, thanks all the same. If I’m wrong about the soul, then I’m wrong, but it beats waiting X years for the miracle to happen via SCIENCE!!! and then it doesn’t ever happen. And if science lets you down, what have you left?

      • HFARationalist says:

        Are you implying that you actually bet your life extension on Christianity being correct?

        No offense but you need to think more before doing that.:-) However since it’s just life extension, not life itself so it’s not really a problem. Betting life itself on a theistic claim that is unlikely to be correct is very risky though.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          I’m a committed atheist but it is really not clear that the probability that I’ll attain immortality through religion is lower than the chance that we’ll get uploading / anti-geriatrics to work before I die. Maybe if you are 4 years old the situation is different.

          (A bit off topic, but there’s also a big difference between the kinds of immortality offered by transhumansim and Catholicism. With transhumanism there’s a big problem with “is future me even me? What if his thinking has gotten stuck in a closed loop, what if he’s contracted a nasty zero-day exploit? Why should I care more about him than about a random future person?” whereas Catholicism does an end-run around the issue with souls and the essence/accident distinction.)

        • moonfirestorm says:

          Well you’d probably want to do both, right?

          As far as I know, there’s nothing in Christianity making you come into direct conflict with life extension, or preventing you from working on it.

          Maybe if the technology is developed, tested, and ready to go and you have to decide “do I do this or not?”. But even then, you just have to make sure it doesn’t end up being suicide. Either the soul makes the transfer along with your mind and you have customizable-duration life extension (which you can always opt out of and die), or it doesn’t and you just died and go onto the normal religious afterlife (with a soulless mind carrying on down below). The biblical patriarchs have pretty high 3-digit lifespans in some cases, so Christianity at least seems fine with you giving it 500 years and seeing how you feel.

          There’s an edge case where the mechanism for eternal life doesn’t allow you to die later, I suppose, but that would be a concern for even the atheist, since it’s totally possible life ends up not being worth living 2 billion years in.

          The life-maximizing approach seems to be “believe sincerely in a religion with an afterlife, and be open to what proven technology Science comes up with in your lifespan”

        • Deiseach says:

          Are you implying that you actually bet your life extension on Christianity being correct?

          (1) I really don’t think life extension of the kind you envisage is going to happen in the (estimated) 20+ years of life I have left

          (2) I also really don’t believe life extension of the kind you envisage is going to happen ever, but if I want to humour you, then make that within the next hundred years. Since you are already alive, the clock is ticking down on that, and unless someone gets a way of making you live into your 100th+ year, you’re not going to live to see it

          (3) Okay, maybe you decide to freeze yourself and wait for the Glorious Transhumanist Future. Well good luck with that, because while progress is being made, I’m still inclined to think what current freezing will end up with, once thawed out, is mushy brainz (not to be confused with mushy peas). Or maybe we’ll get lucky and the Magical Brain Engram Reading Decoding will have been invented so they can make a copy of your memory state at the moment you were frozen. Which means in 300 years time, our descendants (if any) will be doing the equivalent of laughing at 70s fashion photos (“you mean people back then actually thought this was cool?”)

          Yeah. Don’t bet the house on it, though.

          If you’re going to ask me to put my faith in miraculous wonders that will happen just because, I already have a religion if I need people to point and laugh at me for believing in crazy stuff.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      Oh, goody, I ended up reading the TBP books too late to participate in last discussion here.

      Single-cellular organisms are self-sufficient. They don’t need other single-celled organisms. They’re just wildly inferior and drastically outcompeted to multicellular organisms in many niches.

      Dark Forest theory only worked in the books because space had magic forget-the-social-technology-we-have-to-ensure-cooperation properties.

      It assumes that there is a maximal ceiling on tech, and that there is no chance that tech will be developed which has a chance of tracing star-shots back to their civilization of origin. It also assumes that no cheesed-off civilization would, in its death throes, spam star-killers everywhere.

      Also, what kind of fun meta-tactics can you use, once you’re big enough? You could use the technique in the book of broadcasting the location of a star system, seed the area with ansible-protons, then stand a very good chance of catching the shooter in the act.

      Or, you can take Dark Forest theory to it’s logical conclusion. If you hear a message from a place, and you see that this place is cleansed in 50 years, then you know there’s a cleanser civilization within 50 light-years of that place. If you have an unbounded amount of star-killer rounds, then the logical thing to do is to cleanse all the stars…

      But that in turn reveals the presence of a cleanser within that area, so you’ll need to pack up your own civilization and flee, before the act of message and cleansing reaches the light-cone of a bigger, scarier civilization with an even higher unbounded amount of star-killers…

      And so on. The Dark Forest paradigm isn’t stable. The first act of observed cleansing tells the universe where you are, or at least where you were. And if we assume that everyone is paranoid enough to strike at any evidence, then the entire forest will be up in flames nearly instantly.

      And since we’re assuming that people arrived at this conclusion through perfect reasoning, it thereby follows that each civilization will, in turn, decide “Hey, let’s not give away our position by attacking people for no reason.”

      • The Nybbler says:

        And if we assume that everyone is paranoid enough to strike at any evidence, then the entire forest will be up in flames nearly instantly.

        IIRC, this is the premise behind Greg Bear’s _The Forge of God_.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        It’s probably important to note that they do have ships to do their cleansing from, and it’s reasonable that you can’t track the ship back to its point of origin once it’s been out there for a while. So all you really know from a cleansing is that a civilization has moved a ship to within 50 light years of the destroyed star.

        But of course this removes the no-communication problem of Dark Forest theory completely: if you can get a ship out where no one saw where it came from, you can communicate as much as you want with other civilizations, because the most they can do is destroy your ship, your civilization is fine, and then maybe you look at cleansing the civilization that blew up your emissary.

        • Iain says:

          You can’t get a ship out where no one saw where it came from.

          Why not? Because the ship knows where it came from. So the worst that can happen is that somebody else captures your ship, manages to extract the location of your civilization, and wipes you out. Which is pretty bad, I would say.

          (If you are tempted to respond with “Aha! But we will erase our star charts!”, then I am curious what you think you can gain by sending out an emissary who is deliberately prevented from sending any word home.)

          • Robert Liguori says:

            The flip side of that, of course, is that whatever you send to do the capturing is probably going to leave some traces as well.

            In game theory terms, if you’re stuck in the endless war of all against all, you won’t show up to the invite, because attracting attention is Bad and you don’t know if the tech you’re getting the invite on is just the bait you lure you into an ansible-net. If you are willing to do the multicellular-organism-attempt thing, then you do show up, and what happens after that depends on whether or not the civ that sent the invite is one of you or one of them.

            But since taking active actions to cleanse makes it more likely that you’ll be cleansed, well…

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Couldn’t you just solve this by having more ships, with numerous relays between an emissary and the home civilization? The emissary doesn’t know the location of the home system, just the location of the relay ship it reports to. Every relay ship knows all of its downstream ships’ coordinates and the coordinates of the one upstream ship it reports to, with the uppermost ships knowing the civilization location as their “upstream ship”

            The “we’re being attacked” signal should always outpace any pursuer, as the attacker gets delayed by having to disable the ship and search it for the coordinates of the next ship in the relay. When the next relay ship receives the “under attack” message, they pass it on up the line and leave, making the attackers completely unable to reach them since they have a head start, and completely ignorant of the location of the home system or any other ship in the web.

            The web falls apart here, but the home civilization has the coordinates of the belligerent civilization and all the now-stranded relay ships, so they can start setting up the cleansing, and if necessary get communication lines set up to recover other ships that might have been cut off by the relay ship leaving.

          • beleester says:

            I would respond with “But we will erase our star charts when they attempt to capture us.

            Blowing up a spaceship is easy (easy for people who can build a spaceship, anyway). Disabling it while leaving the star charts intact is hard. Disabling it so quickly that nobody on board has time to send a distress call or trigger the self-destruct is even harder.

            Oh, and don’t forget you have to do this in one shot, on a spaceship whose design and computer systems are unknown to you. Because if you accidentally destroy the first ship when you attempt to capture it, the second emissary will be a warship, not a diplomat. Or possibly a fleet of star-killers.

            I’m not saying the security will be perfect – if two civilizations are at war for a long enough period, eventually they’d get the intel they need. But in order to get enough communications going that the Dark Forest Problem isn’t a problem, all you need is enough security that it’s less risky to talk to your ship than it is to try and capture it intact.

          • Iain says:

            Note that “star charts” is standing in for an awful lot of information here.

            Do your crew members have memories of looking at the night sky as a child? Do they have any idea how long they have been in transit? Are your systems completely unhackable? Does the chemical composition of your ship give any indication of your home system, or its route to this point? (That one might be a concern even if you do manage to blow yourself up.)

            And how are you retaliating against a species that has access to all the same obfuscatory tricks as you? Where exactly do you send this fleet of star-killers?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            The typical Dark Forest scenario is the moment of first contact, in which you first discover a habitable star system. At this point, Dark Forest theory says you need to either destroy them or be destroyed by them.

            So you send the fleet of star-killers the same place you would have in a Dark Forest world, to the civilization you discovered and sent word about back to home. I’m saying if you have a ship you can instead talk to them first, then, if necessary, send out the star-killers. It’s possible this doesn’t apply when two ships pass in the night, but even in a Dark Forest world I don’t think you’d be able to destroy their civilization at that point.

            I suspect that anything one civilization can extract from a corpse, another civilization at the same tech level can wipe from their memory before sending a crew out, but that changes the encounter from “two civilizations that are capable of making star-destroying weapons” to “two civilizations at equal tech level”, so that’s a fair point. A civilization at lightspeed travel and star-killing weapons could probably bioengineer creatures to serve as emissaries, without any of the potential biological avenues to finding their civilization. This also cuts off the “how long they’ve been traveling” route.

            Hacking their systems won’t tell you anything in the relay model, since the ship won’t actually know the coordinates of the home system.

            I’m skeptical that looking at the remains of a ship can turn into actionable coordinates: you’re talking about encounters that can be cross-galactic, with ships built with components that could come from many different worlds. Certainly if you had already observed their world and the ship was built with nothing but those components, you might be able to link the two, but it’s probably easier to see through whatever camouflage they put over their high-tech civilization at that point.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            One big problem with these sorts of theorizing is that you don’t know and really can’t know how many resources the team you’re planning to dick over has.

            In the worst case, there’s just one civilization that has starkillers pointed at Literally All The Stars (because exponential growth plus a galaxy worth of resources, so why not?) and have refrained from pulling the trigger and enjoying some peace in the now-sterilized galaxy because this would fuck them over when the Dark Galactic Entities noticed signs of war here eventually, and the death of their star triggers the literal End Of All Things.

            But even in a Not That Bad Case, “Yeah, we’re a multi-system species, yes, we hold kinship to our multi-system brethren, and yes, we will engage in dramatic, extended, and completely disproportionate vengeance should any of us be targeted.” seems like exactly the kind of broadcast which, if actually interpreted by beings stuck in a Defect Against All Loop for game-theoretic reasons, should shut them up, because now all of a sudden cleansing exposes you to threats that you wouldn’t be exposed to if you didn’t cleanse.

  13. Sniffnoy says:

    Interesting article on the idea of priors-vs-evidence in the brain. The idea is that hallucinations can be understood as the brain weighting priors too highly. The test of this done was a variation of an old experiment, one where people are trained to associate a tone with an image and then later hear the tone just from the image being displayed (with the tone not actually played). In this one they tested this both on people who hear voices and people who don’t, and found that people who hear voices more often heard the tone when it wasn’t played.

    Not sure how much this really supports the original hypothesis, but it’s certainly interesting.

  14. HFA says:

    Societies and Rationality

    I’m beginning to think that maybe all current societies rely on irrationality and ignorance to survive. Woo is like glue. It actually keeps a society together. If everyone thinks carefully and rationally maybe few people will support the ideals of any existing society any more.

    For example it is hard to get rational people to do anything together. The more rational and nonconformist we are the more likely that we disagree with each other on anything other than facts. It is easily for brainwashed cultists to do something together but it is hard to get us to do something together. Eliezer once talked about this but there seems to be no easy solutions.

    Another issue is that of long term planning. From a pure individualist rationalist point of view unrestricted by traditions, liberalism or other dogma the world should be a hyperbalkanized collection of independent individuals. However unless death no longer exists long-term planning is an issue. Nobody will have any incentive to prepare for anything after their own death any more. If the earth will be destroyed in 2500 like the scenario in the Three Body Problem, who cares? There can no longer be large businesses that require several generations to build. I hate families but I do want large businesses to stay.

    Fellow SSC members, what do you think? Can we build a society without woo?

    • Nornagest says:

      I think you ought to pick a username and stick with it.

      • HFA says:

        I would love to do that. However WordPress is crazy. This morning I created a new account, HFA_Rationalist. It got shut down before I could post anything.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          I don’t think we can build a society without woo and I’ve changed to the point that I’m not interested in trying either. Hopefully you can do the same, or maybe not.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Yeah. Ignorance, irrationality and woo are what keeps a society together. I haven’t known even one society that is reasonably woo-free.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          You can change your handle separately from your username. In fact, you’ve done it.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Sure! I won’t post any link any more. Let’s see how long I last before WP censor me again.

    • Corey says:

      Depends on how you categorize arguments about values. That’s why people made fun of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s “Rationalia” tweet – any society requires settling on some shared set of values that can’t be empirically tested.

      Unless we solve meta-ethics I guess, though that seems harder than any social engineering problem.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I don’t think we need to require people to have the same values as long as they abide by one value, namely no one should harm another person or force them to conform.

    • Deiseach says:

      Don’t lump everything you personally think of as “irrational” under the heading of “woo”. Liking poetry may be an irrational exercise, but it’s not woo. Woo is thinking dumping everything plus the kitchen sink into a horse tablet and taking that three times a day will give you a mega brain, as in Scott’s most recent post on nootropics, and even they try to sell that snakeoil with a large coating of SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN! STUDIES SHOW! slapped on top.

    • “Woo is like glue” — “Myths bind and blind” — Hariri

    • Nobody will have any incentive to prepare for anything after their own death any more.

      You are mistaken.

      Suppose I am sixty, and see an opportunity to plant hardwoods that take fifty years to mature and will then sell for more than the cost (interest included) of producing them. I plant them. Twenty years later I sell them to someone young enough to be still alive when they mature.

      As long as property rights are secure, it pays to invest in profitable projects whose return occurs after your own death.

  15. HFA says:

    Methodology

    Shall we have links to pages that help us interpret scientific studies in fields we are not familiar with? I’m a mathematician so I do know how pure math works. However I have no idea how medical studies work for example. Ignorance can lead to inability to separate legitimate science from woo. I believe it is a good idea for people here to talk about their respective fields and help everyone else understand them.

    We have enough plausible theories here. However we do need to back up our ideas with facts. Rationality without facts can easily lead to woo.

    P.S. I had to start a new account again after my previous accounts all get banned by WordPress but not Scott.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m not sure that a resource like that exists or could exist.

      What sort of page would you link me that would help me interpret a cutting edge mathematical paper? Unless I’ve greatly overestimated the difficulty of the field there isn’t going to be one.

      I learned how to read biochemistry and molecular genetics articles in highschool by obsessively digging through piles of them. But it wasn’t until junior or senior year in undergrad that I had the foundational knowledge to really get anything out of them. I’m sure in a few years when I have my PhD I’ll look back and laugh at myself for having thought that I could interpret the literature properly now.

      Not that it’s impossible to evaluate research outside of your discipline. But it’s probably more valuable for you to cultivate an intuition about who to trust.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      I’m not sure a general resource exists, however it could be done on a paper by paper basis.

      http://fermatslibrary.com/ strikes me as one possible manner in which this could be done; I’m not sure how scaleable it is though.

      Also, scirate.com might be another model.

      Are there similar things in other fields?

      • HFARationalist says:

        Thanks!

        In mathematics I personally believe that the most important criteria that separates true mathematics from woo is rigorous reasoning. Furthermore pseudomathematical woos aren’t that common though they still exist. They are also pretty easy to recognize.

  16. Kevin C. says:

    So, per the Damore situation, given that we have plenty of folks explaining how, under “at will”, his firing is legal, moral, perhaps even praiseworthy, I must ask, first, are there not still businesses in this country owned by right-wing folks in this country? And, given the message sent by Google, why are they not responding with “what’s sauce for the goose”? As Porter at Kakistocracy put it:

    99% of the commentary I have read on this event from the right has focused on the bad-faith and hypocrisy of liberals in general and Google in particular. And though it is both those things, the point is fairly moot. War is not a good-faith enterprise. Google did not fire James Damore for failure to perform his job-related responsibilities. It fired him for being an enemy behind the lines. Thus my frustration at this firing is less with Google, whom I know wants me off the Earth, than with the pathetic accommodation on the mainstream right of the left’s own infiltrators.

    There are legions of right-wing business owners and managers in companies large, medium, and small. If perpetuating gender stereotypes is a firable offense, then anything is. Conservative decision makers could dismiss the liberal employees who hate them by the millions.

    * A democrat shows up for work every day at the same time? He’s perpetuating temporal stereotypes.

    * A black employee expresses approval for affirmative action? Perpetuating self-serving stereotypes.

    * A rainbow flag on a bumper sticker? That’s not who we are.

    This doesn’t have to be a one-sided conflict. And successful campaigns spend less time weeping over their enemy’s tactics than they do in countering them. James Damore would be a top addition to any team. There are many employed liberals who would surely understand being terminated to make way for him.

    • Matt M says:

      These people would sue and the courts would rule in their favor. They won’t rule in Damore’s favor.

      The left doesn’t just own major corporations… Come on Kevin, where’s your old defeatism?

      • BBA says:

        But see Matt Bruenig. (Though frankly I think it’s a stretch, and I’m a little surprised the NLRB still exists in this post-industrial era when the handful of remaining private-sector unions are an anachronism.)

        • Brad says:

          Hell we still have milk boards.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Having read that, I thought it sounded pretty solid. Though I admit, I don’t know enough to know what he’s getting wrong, but it looked like he backed his assertions point-by-point (at least, until he got to the Trump stuff, which was a bit more speculative.) Personally, not sure if to hope Trump disrupts the entire apparatus just to poke political correctness in the eye, but either way it’s a win-win.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agreed with him up until he got to Trump. He lumps Trump in with conservatives who want to shift power from workers to owners. But Trump ran as a populist on the side of workers. And it’s those workers who will be deciding whether or not Trump is re-elected.

          If it were Jeb Bush’s NLRB, absolutely. But I think Bruenig is expecting Trump to act like a typical neocon, which does not seem likely. If Trump pays any attention to this at all (unlikely, given the whole “possible nuclear war with North Korea” thing going on) he’d make a big show of sticking up for the worker against PC bad guys Google. That show would be worth much more than…odd regulations and precedents to stifle unions.

          • Corey says:

            I assume Breunig’s assuming that this would not be a central issue to Trump, and so as on other issues he doesn’t care much about, he’d just go with the stock Republican consensus.

            Though you have a good point that labor policy might be a central issue to Trump. And another that, especially with as many posts unfilled as there are, that he might not even get around to NLRB appointments.

          • BBA says:

            First of all, what’s a “neocon”? Historically it meant a foreign policy built around invading every country that looks at Israel funny, but now it seems to be a euphemism for “c*ckservative.” I don’t see what that’s got to do with labor policy.

            So this is a question of the precedent to be set – the NLRB, being a quasi-judicial body, is expected to rule consistently, and nearly everything in their jurisdiction involves unions in some way. I can clearly see Trump and his appointees wanting to prevent Damore from getting fired for expressing conservative views at a liberal company. However, if this sets a precedent that can help employees who complain about working conditions form a union, that’s something to oppose. Unions, after all, got too greedy and ruined our competitiveness with China, and now they’re just standing in the way of making America great again. Trump’s NLRB will try to think ahead and try to set a precedent that works mainly against the unions, even if it means collateral damage to Damore and others in his boat.

            As for Trump himself, I don’t think he even considers the meta-level. He thinks conservative employees shouldn’t be fired for their views, but liberal employees should, and sees nothing inconsistent with his view. But he can’t appoint himself to the NLRB and whoever he does appoint will be constrained from being that nakedly partisan.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Come on Kevin, where’s your old defeatism?

        Given the backlash I receive here every time I express that defeatism…

        But, if you agree that the courts are so dominated by the Left as to rule out this “tit-for-tat” strategy, do you think there’s a better strategy for the Right to engage in, or do you agree that the Left is too powerful to defeat, they cannot be stopped except by catastophic collision with reality, the Right has no hope, all is lost, and all the rest of my “old defeatism”?

        • James Miller says:

          As I wrote here, I think the alt-right will, perhaps successfully, fight back.

          • Kevin C. says:

            I read that article, and I’m not convinced.

            The firing of James Damore over his “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” memo will empower the tech alt-right.

            First, is there a “tech alt-right”, beyond a handful of Internet randos? Secondly, empower them to do what, besides lose to the unstoppable left?

            Many on the right fear SJWs.

            Given the power they demonstrate, why shouldn’t they? And what makes you think they’ll stop fearing them.

            The key difference in tactics between the alt-right and traditional right is that the alt-right doesn’t place much value on playing fair, and they mock conservatives’ seeming desire to lose honorably.

            I’ll agree with that.

            It will be poisonous if the tech right feels compelled to not only hide their beliefs but also to actively pretend to believe in progressive diversity values.

            How so?

            When SJWs in Silicon Valley realize that their ideological enemies are hiding, they might actively search them out. They might become suspicious of the guy who was the first to stop clapping when a new diversity initiative was announced. Even worse, SWJs in human resources might become reluctant to hire those with characteristics correlated with conservatism, such as past military service.

            You speak as if this isn’t already an inevitable byproduct of the “holiness spirals” inherent in SJWism.

            Business works best if different political tribes don’t seek to crush others when they have a temporary upper-hand. If, however, the right perceived that SJWs are after them, it’s understandable (if regrettable) that they will treat SJWs likewise when they have the power.

            What makes you think the upper-hand is temporary. What if the SJWs are right that their position of superior power is permanent, and that they’re poised to crust the right so thoroughly that they’ll never be in a position to “treat them likewise”?

            Although the left greatly outnumbers the right in tech, if the right uses stealth tactics and the left doesn’t, the right might eventually gain an advantage in the career-destroying game because they will more easily locate high-value targets.

            Can you clarify how this is supposed to work? Because from where I sit, entryism and other “stealth tactics” are one of those tools that inherently suits leftist ends more than rightist ones; as I put it, one does not put up a building with the same wrecking ball one uses to knock them down.

            As a free market Republican, I dislike most of the alt-right policy views. But my kind are not inclined to fight an underhanded company by company dirty political war, while the alt-right is.

            It seems to me, that there are far, far, far, far more of “your kind” than any sort of “alt-righters”, and that’s unlikely to change.

            Can you be more specific as to how exactly an expanded “tech alt-right” would successfully fight back?

          • James Miller says:

            @Kevin C.

            >Secondly, empower them to do what, besides lose to the unstoppable left?

            Google has already cancelled a meeting to talk about the memo.

            >Given the power they demonstrate, why shouldn’t they? And what makes you think they’ll stop fearing them

            They won’t.

            >It will be poisonous if the tech right feels compelled to not only hide their beliefs but also to actively pretend to believe in progressive diversity values.

            Because of lack of feedback on your beliefs.

            >You speak as if this isn’t already an inevitable byproduct of the “holiness spirals” inherent in SJWism

            I speak as if all my readers are not aware of this spiral.

            >What makes you think the upper-hand is temporary. What if the SJWs are right that their position of superior power is permanent, and that they’re poised to crust the right so thoroughly that they’ll never be in a position to “treat them likewise”?

            Could happen, and probably would have happen if Hillary had won.

            >Can you clarify how this is supposed to work? Because from where I sit, entryism and other “stealth tactics” are one of those tools that inherently suits leftist ends more than rightist ones;

            The right is being trained from elementary school to hide their political beliefs while the left are being encourage to openly state them

            >It seems to me, that there are far, far, far, far more of “your kind” than any sort of “alt-righters”, and that’s unlikely to change.

            I’m not sure. The libertarian space is pretty empty, while identify politics is growing. I think the alt-right is basically identity politics for white people or people who identify as western.

            >Can you be more specific as to how exactly an expanded “tech alt-right” would successfully fight back?

            I don’t endorse this, but do what Vox Day is suggesting: hide from them, and discriminate against them when you have power.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @James Miller

            I don’t endorse this, but do what Vox Day is suggesting: hide from them, and discriminate against them when you have power.

            (Emphasis added)

            See, the problem is I see no possible path to that bolded part. Yes, hiding your views to enter an institution, climbing up the hierarchy to a leadership position, then using that position to steer the organization in your desired direction — AKA “entryism” — is a powerful strategy… for the Left to use against the Right. It doesn’t really work the other way around.

            Because the Right has hierarchy, with defined power centers, and obedience to the authority of those centers. “Respect the rank, if not the man” and all that. So a disguised Left-winger can infiltrate, become The Boss, and then start peeling aside the mask, and yet he remains The Boss, and his orders are obeyed by those to his Right, even if he orders a Leftward shift.

            The Left is different. Often leaderless, more like ant nest behavior, an emergent phenomenon of countless individual interests without much central direction. And to the extent the Left does have authorities and power centers, they remain authoritative and powerful only to the extent they are Lefter, and become someone to be ignored, obstructed, even overthrown the moment they fail to stay sufficiently Left-wing. For example, more than once I’ve seen suggested in my circles the idea that a bunch of smart young Righties pick a prestigious university, like Harvard or Yale, and engage in “entryism”, to pretend to be Lefties and work their way up until they form a majority of the administration, then begin shifting the intellectual climate Rightward. I then point out that what would happen is the first moment these entryists push something even slightly less Left-wing, “The Boss” or no, they’ll cease to be treated in charge, and become targeted for removal. They’ll be Larry Summers, the Christakises, Bret Weinstein, whatever. And if they manage to stay, then what happens is, like the proverb about the Internet routing around censorship like it were damage, the Left will “route around” Harvard, and it’s power, prestige, and influence on the greater society will rapidly plummet to that of Falwell’s Liberty University.

            Because it’s a robust, decentralizes systems of positive feedback loops run on the principle of the holiness spiral, of “holier-than-thou”. Danton is further Left than the King, so he gets to guillotine the King; Robespierre is further Left than Danton, so he gets to guillotine Danton; Fouché is Lefter than Robespierre…

            Right-wing entryism simply doesn’t work; the Left is structurally immune to entryism. You can knock down a building with a wrecking ball, but you can’t build a building with one.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Why do you say that entryism doesn’t work on the left? The rise of a politics on the left, based in universities, that focuses on identity categories and eschews class can be modelled as entryism, if one so desires. Claiming that left-wing movements unstoppably barrel left is wrong.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @dndnrsn

            Why do you say that entryism doesn’t work on the left?

            I said it doesn’t work against the Left, at least when used by people to their Right.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The rise of a politics on the left, based in universities, that focuses on identity categories and eschews class can be modelled as entryism,

            Explain? Entryism is generally defined as the influencing or outright co-option of an organization by ideologies or factions that are outsiders to that organization. How does this model work for the Identitarian Left? I think the core theses of the modern Identitarian left are still Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 “White Privilege & Male Privilege: A Personal Account Of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work On Women’s Studies” and Kimberle Crenshaw’s work on Intersectionality like “Demarginalizing The Intersection of Race and Sex” (1989) and “Mapping The Margins” (1991). Both academics’ works are an expansion and a direct extension of earlier strains of left wing intellectual thought with a solid foundation in American academia.

            I think that it’s hard to read McIntosh’s writing about racial privilege without seeing the direct link to the SDS and the liberal (as opposed to explicitly socialist) factions of the New Left, while Crenshaw explicitly considers her approach to be in the tradition of Marxist-Feminism. This tends to make actual, traditional Marxists pretty cranky, since they tend to see the Identitarian Left as having grabbed some of the tools and parts of the framework that Marxism used but without properly understanding Marxist theory.

            In that context, how can the post-90s growth of Identitarian Left ideas on college campuses be seen as entryism by outside forces, rather than the direct evolutionary product of the same intellectual traditions that were at work on college campuses in the 60s and 70s?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Kevin C.

            Left/right how? If we view economic and social axes separately, one could argue that someone who is more offended at the lack of diversity in Fortune 500 boardrooms than they are at the existence of Fortune 500 boardrooms is to the right of a doctrinaire Marxist. A lot fewer of those around today.

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Entryism is generally defined as the influencing or outright co-option of an organization by ideologies or factions that are outsiders to that organization.

            This tends to make actual, traditional Marxists pretty cranky, since they tend to see the Identitarian Left as having grabbed some of the tools and parts of the framework that Marxism used but without properly understanding Marxist theory.

            If Marxist modes of thought, and a niche that was once held by actual real Marxists, have been coopted by people whose interest is in Marxist modes of analysis but not in actual Marxism pertaining to class… Is that so far from entryism?

            Even if it is not strictly an example of entryism – surely the supplanting of socialists and communists by people who are, at least economically speaking, far less radical, is an example of the (economic) left notbeing unstoppable? Because that’s what’s at stake here – Kevin C.’s view that the left is this juggernaut, rolling unstoppably ahead.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If Marxist modes of thought, and a niche that was once held by actual real Marxists, have been coopted by people whose interest is in Marxist modes of analysis but not in actual Marxism pertaining to class… Is that so far from entryism?

            Yes, because Entryism isn’t about “role in [organization/group]’s internal political disputes”. It’s about outside organization/ideology infiltrating and then taking over the reins of power of an existing organization or institution in order to leverage that institution’s weight to further it’s original political ends.

            Since these ideas and factions evolved entirely -within- left-wing academia, I don’t think it’s fair to call their current attempts to gain more currency there “entryism” unless it is your contention that:

            A) The Identitarian Left are outsiders in the sense that they are not really Left-Wing.

            or

            B) The Identitarian Left are outsiders in the sense that American Academia is not primarily a left-wing cultural and political institution.

            Or to put it another way, I think that Identitarian Left students getting control of the Student Union at BYU and using that to demand changes to BYU’s campus policies probably WOULD count as Entryism, but not when that happens at Wellsley.

            Surely the supplanting of socialists and communists by people who are, at least economically speaking, far less radical, is an example of the (economic) left notbeing unstoppable?

            Certainly, though it’s a bit unfair for me to be conceding that point when it was Kevin C arguing it. I actually think the socialists and communists started losing ground in American Academia in the 70s when it became clear that no, Blacks weren’t going to be a Socialist Revolutionary Vanguard and no, the American Working Class wasn’t all that amenable to joining the Class Struggle either.

            The SDS’ Port Huron Statement may have said that the New Left (though it didn’t have the capitals at the time) “must include liberals and socialists, the former for their relevance, the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system”, but by the mid-70s the socialists were pretty much back to irrelevance outside of Academia.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Yes, because Entryism isn’t about “role in [organization/group]’s internal political disputes”. It’s about outside organization/ideology infiltrating and then taking over the reins of power of an existing organization or institution in order to leverage that institution’s weight to further it’s original political ends.

            Since these ideas and factions evolved entirely -within- left-wing academia, I don’t think it’s fair to call their current attempts to gain more currency there “entryism” unless it is your contention that:

            A) The Identitarian Left are outsiders in the sense that they are not really Left-Wing.

            It is entirely possible I have misunderstood what entryism is. Still, this is where “what is left-wing?” becomes the issue. Social, economic, what? Would it be entryism if ancaps (who I think are right-wing) managed to take over by such means the Republican party, for example?

            Certainly, though it’s a bit unfair for me to be conceding that point when it was Kevin C arguing it. I actually think the socialists and communists started losing ground in American Academia in the 70s when it became clear that no, Blacks weren’t going to be a Socialist Revolutionary Vanguard and no, the American Working Class wasn’t all that amenable to joining the Class Struggle either.

            The SDS’ Port Huron Statement may have said that the New Left (though it didn’t have the capitals at the time) “must include liberals and socialists, the former for their relevance, the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system”, but by the mid-70s the socialists were pretty much back to irrelevance outside of Academia.

            That’s part of it. Have you read Days of Rage? It’s almost comical the bit where the Weather Underground realizes that black people think they’re spoiled white kids, and the white working class thinks they’re spoiled kids.

            I think also that another part of it is, well, the sort of people who end up in academia are not, by and large, the downtrodden as far as class goes. Once “we, the affluent educated, will lead the lower classes in revolution!” turns out to be a bust… The benefits and privileges of money, if one feels ashamed of them, are easily gotten rid of. Less cognitive dissonance to focus on other areas where one is disadvantaged, or, if one is advantaged, areas where one cannot divest one’s self of the advantage.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            It is entirely possible I have misunderstood what entryism is.

            Trotsky and subsequent Trotskyists (ites?) were the originators of the tactic. The idea was that you could build critical mass not by growing a separate “Trotskyist Worker’s Party” but by dissolving your party and coordinating to infiltrate and co-opt the leadership of the local, say, “Labour Party” and move it in a Trotskyist direction. Once you grow that enough, you dissolve that party and all your followers register as “Liberal Party members” in local districts, ensuring that you control enough local Liberal Party delegates to the national convention that eventually “Liberal Party” becomes the new Trotskyist party.

            Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires rather spectacularly if the group attempting entryism is too small, the target too big, or the ideologies -SO- dissimilar that the entryists try to bend things too far too fast and end up splitting the target institution instead, or simply get expelled.

            One possible example of this coming from the right would be the “revolution” that changed the NRA from something like the NSSF (In other words, an organization that didn’t really care about gun control so long as you could hunt and shoot trap/skeet) to a much more politically active anti-gun control organization. But again, not sure how much of that was deliberate, coordinated effort to co-opt the NRA and how much was an evolution of the views of its existing members. The distinction matters.

            It gets less clear cut when the target of entryism is something like “academia” or “____ fandom” or what-have-you and not a hierarchical organization like a government department or a political party. To use the example of the whole Hugo thing, both sides basically framed their narratives in terms of entry-ism: Here is this institution/organization that was(is) apolitical, but then(now) a clique of outsidiers seized(is trying to seize) control of it for political ends and must be opposed.

            Would it be entryism if ancaps (who I think are right-wing) managed to take over by such means the Republican party, for example?

            I think so, because they’re still very much outside the GOP right now unless my understanding of GOP internal factions is out of date. That would be entryism, but something like the rise of the Religious Right to dominance wouldn’t be. Sometimes I daydream about a libertarian/ancap/etc alliance in which all the various small-government leaning members register as Republicans for the same primaries…

            Have you read Days of Rage?

            Yep, the time period was an interest of mine even prior to the book’s publication (my parents met at a UC Berkeley commune in the late 60s/early 70s) but it’s a great book.

            Once “we, the affluent educated, will lead the lower classes in revolution!” turns out to be a bust… The benefits and privileges of money, if one feels ashamed of them, are easily gotten rid of. Less cognitive dissonance to focus on other areas where one is disadvantaged, or, if one is advantaged, areas where one cannot divest one’s self of the advantage.

            It could be. I think a lot of the turn simply comes from the basic failure of left-wing economic politics or a “Labor Party” style movement to gain traction in the US.

            Our racial tensions are much stronger than our class tensions, so racial tension is a much easier lever through which to motivate radical political activism, if you’re someone who thinks in terms of radical reform.

            Also, again, the Socialists and Marxists didn’t do so hot in the 60s and 70s overall, while the Civil Rights leaders entered the national pantheon.

          • random832 says:

            @James Miller

            Google has already cancelled a meeting to talk about the memo.

            I think one of the problems with evaluating anything like this is that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish real power on the right from performative “feeling unsafe” on the left which does not represent any real power on the right but is manufactured to justify how awful the right is and how necessary it is to crush them.

        • Matt M says:

          The strategy I support would probably be illegal for me to publicly advocate.

    • RDNinja says:

      I think there are plenty of businesses that are owned or founded by right-wing people, but upper management is going to be recruited from top schools, and trend toward liberal.

      I work at a multinational chemical company headquartered in Appalachia, where even middle management is largely church-going and we had a prayer over the last Thanksgiving potluck in my department. That doesn’t stop the CEO from issuing statements about diversity and equality, but the people who quoted scripture in the comments of a corporate blog post to argue that homosexuality is a sin didn’t get fired. They just got another blog post telling them to knock it off and get back to work.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I think there are plenty of businesses that are owned or founded by right-wing people, but upper management is going to be recruited from top schools, and trend toward liberal.

        So, in other words, even in “right-wing owned” businesses, the Left (thanks to their control of academia) have significant institutional power, and thus “big business”, and the power to purge and disemploy people for political views, belongs to the Left, and the right simply cannot hope to match.

        So, if that’s the case, I must point out that basic strategy 101, back to Sun Tzu, is that you don’t attack where the enemy is strong and you are weak, you attack where the enemy is weak and and you are strong. So, I must ask, what institutions and areas of American society remain where the Right is still strong compared to the Left? Then consider what the Right fighting the Left on that particular territory would look like. Or are there none left? Does the Left already dominate everywhere, their victory already inevitable, all hope is lost, et cetera, et cetera?

    • Loquat says:

      If I’m a right-wing business owner, and have some lefty employees, and wasn’t already planning on firing them anyway, they’re clearly acceptable employees by my standards. So why should I go to all the trouble of firing them and finding conservative replacements? Because some other company fired some other guy, and some other, other guy wants me to make my company a soldier in the culture war? That sounds like an awfully stupid way to run a business.

      • Matt M says:

        some other, other guy wants me to make my company a soldier in the culture war?

        But isn’t this routinely happening on the left? Like, this sounds a lot like what happened with Google just now. Some guys demanded they become soldiers in the culture war, and they enthusiastically agreed.

        I think this is the problem statement. The left is running around signing up companies left and right to serve as soldiers in the culture war, while the right is sitting there and saying “culture war? that sounds like bad business, think I’ll just sit out.” And then everyone is shocked that the left is kicking the shit out of the right in the culture war.

        • skef says:

          Sometimes companies fire people for their views. In most states it’s up to the boss. Because it’s legal, solid numbers are hard to come by.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Momentarily assuming your factual claims, the difference must be that removing right identitarians is good business, while removing leftists is not. This is plausible: There are still Jews who avoid buying German exports because of an extremely tenuous relationships to the Nazis; it wouldn’t surprise me if there are people who don’t want to patronize identitarian rightists, because of similarly tenuous connections to the KKK. No doubt there are also people who would never buy from a socialist, but the victims of socialism are mostly not living in the first world, so this is irrelevant to most US companies.

          This argument suggests that we might see companies purging leftists in Poland and Miami. I don’t know whether this is the case.

          • DeWitt says:

            This argument suggests that we might see companies purging leftists in Poland

            Eastern Europe, right now, is home to a proto-fascist government(Hungary), a military dictatorship(Belarus), and Poland itself has went off the deep end of rightist Catholic politics. A little further back, we had ethnic nationalism spark off the biggest war in Europe since WW2 over in the Balkans. The only place in Eastern Europe I can think of with a strong movement of card carrying socialists et al is Germany, and even there it’s mostly because Berlin happens to be situated more to the East. All in all, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that formerly communist nations appear to be rather fed up with the idea of such, no.

        • Kevin C. says:

          The left is running around signing up companies left and right to serve as soldiers in the culture war, while the right is sitting there and saying “culture war? that sounds like bad business, think I’ll just sit out.” And then everyone is shocked that the left is kicking the shit out of the right in the culture war.

          Yeah, it’s the whole “that’s not who we are” attitude on much of the right. Apparently, winning “isn’t who we are” either.

  17. Is this criticism of Marx accurate? It seems fairly devastating.

    Doesn’t this belief imply that a machine couldn’t make an identical machine without using itself up in the process?

    • Well... says:

      I want to read that criticism, but the wall-of-text effect is blocking me. (Amusingly this probably wouldn’t be an issue if your link had been to a blog post rather than an image of text laid out in three dense columns.) Can you summarize?

    • Marx seems to be saying that the capacity of a means of production to add exchange value to a commodity is equal to its use value, which essentially means that (since everything in measured in socially necessary labor time in Marxism) the labor time that went into producing the means of production is then transfered to the product to become its exchange value. However, machines don’t operate themselves and in order to make a profit, there must be extra value added, and this comes from the workers involved in production. This is how Marx comes to the conclusion that labor is the sole source of surplus value creation, the means of production merely being “dead labor”.

      However, this rests on the assumption that the utility of the means of production in creating a valuable product is equal to its own exchange value, and that as the utility or use value of the machine depletes, its exchange value is depleted in equal proportion so that it is entirely transfered to whatever products it produces over its lifespan. If true, this would mean that all capital inputs always equal all capital outputs, and that the ability of a type of machine to create other products of equal “cost” (exchange value is supposed to equal price when supply and demand are equal) has a directly proportional relationship to the amount of “socially necessary labor time” embodied in the construction of said machine.

    • 1soru1 says:

      Take a 3d printer that can print itself. The first such machine takes 50 million hours to produce, so can’t be produced unless economic forces conspire to persuade enough of the right people to put in that effort.

      The second takes 100 hours to mine and ship the raw materials, and 1 second to press the ‘duplicate yourself’ button. And so does the third or fourth.

      The use-value of such machines, compared to a world in which they didn’t exist, is immense. The exchange value will depend entirely on the legal regime in place. Something like patents, or other tight legal control over who can buy one, the exchange value will be slightly below the use value. No restrictions, and it will be only slightly above the cost of the raw materials.

      Consequently, Marxian economics is never predictive; the OP is just one of several flaws when you try to use it that way. Instead it’s proper use is evaluative; given a known set of exchange values, who does the legal regime that created them favor, and by how much?

      • But it’s supposed to be predictive in that it predicts that the rate of profit will decline due to capital supplanting workers, and not being able to create any surplus value, which is what is supposed to lead to the collapse of capitalism in the first place. He predicts a classless, moneyless, international society as the end result of this (with a bit of violent forcing from the proletariat). Marx predicts that exchange value will disappear to be replaced only with use values, the historical role of capitalism being over.

        Now, he was kind of close if you squint but for the wrong reasons; but it’s not capital intensity per se that should lead to a steady continuous decline in the rate of profit, but a certain threshold when automation leads to true replacement of workers, and starts removing more workers than can be transfered to new productive roles. Even then, that’s not about capital not being able to add exchange value, but about the unemployed not having wages to consume with, and would be corrected by the welfare state/nationalized wages/basic income, or by spreading around the automated capital more etc. The prediction that the rate of profit will inevitably decline until it hits zero seems dubious on the basis that the means of production can’t produce surplus value, because they absolutely can. Different predictions are drawn from this.

    • Drew says:

      Marx created an accounting system. It tells you how Marx wants to assign value within some system. But it doesn’t really predict anything. So it’s not a “model” in the economic sense.

      Suppose you looked at an accounting textbook and read:

      > Corporate investment works by taking an initial some of money (M) converting it into capital inventory (C) and then selling the product of that inventory on the market for some other amount of money (M’).
      >
      > The exact form of the process is therefore M-C-M’, where M’ = M + D M = the original sum advanced, plus an increment. This increment or excess over the original value I call “[accounting profit].”

      This wouldn’t be surprising or controversial. It’s just an accounting identity. Accounting profit is the amount of money that’s left over once you account for your expenses.

      However, accounting identities aren’t forward looking models. They’ll never (themselves) predict what’s going to happen next year. They’re just a way of annotating the data that you’ve already received.

      In practice, every conversation I’ve had with a Marxist ends up with them asserting “Well, Marx defined these terms in the following ways, so we’d describe that transaction as ____.” Occasionally, they’re correct; their description matches what Marx said.

      The problem is that this claim just reduces to, “I can create a reasonably consistent system of double-entry bookkeeping that uses ‘labor’ to denominate stuff instead of ‘money’.”

      And that’s true, but so what? Replace “labor” with “energy” and you can have an energy theory of value that describes commodities in terms socially-necessary watt-hours. It’s an interesting accounting exercise. But it’s not engaging with any economic problem.

      • But it doesn’t really predict anything.

        He predicts the declining rate of profit and therefore the end of capitalism, to be supplanted by socialism, and its highest stage; communism. Now, there’s motivated reasoning in that Marx was a communist before he fully developed his theory, but his explanation of capitalist economies is crafted such that capitalism abolishing itself (and the bourgeoisie having to be burnt off like ticks by the proletariat) is the logical conclusion.

        • Drew says:

          That’s fair. Marx does lay out predictions for the fate of society. Those have been generally falsified.

          I was thinking that his models don’t predict anything about next period’s productivity.

          • cassander says:

            I was thinking that his models don’t predict anything about next period’s productivity.

            Marx explicitly predicts that socialist production will be more productive than capitalist. His entire argument for socialism giving way to communism is premised on the assumption that socialism will be so productive (and unlike capitalism, so well distributed) that post-scarcity conditions will be achieved.

          • @cassander

            This is critical, because if you don’t think that, then you’d just wait for capitalism to produce communism automatically, but if capitalism is going to start collapsing due to its own contradictions, then you need a revolution to build socialism on the back of the collapsing system to spur the way to post-scarcity. If you don’t believe that all that would be justified would be some sort of social democratic reformism.

      • Drew says:

        And, that shouldn’t be taken as an especially damning criticism of Marx himself. His work is what it is.

        Instead, the problem is that his followers never went anywhere with their accounting. And they got so far behind real economics that they’re now completely irrelevant.

        Every economist has to take a couple classes that cover “dynamic, stochastic, general equilibrium models.” These were a major area of research back in the 1960s.

        They’re the models that start with lines like:

        Suppose that a country’s production is a function of capital and labor. Write this as Y = F(C, L). Assume that “F” is increasing in both ‘C’ and ‘L’.

        The amount of labor availble each round is …, and the amount of capital available is … . Wages and rental rates are … . Agents want to maximize … .

        The models are dynamic because they (like Marx) include equations about how capital changes period-over-period. They’re stochastic because they (like Marx) describe production as a function of just the current capital and labor stocks.

        They’re ‘equilibrium models’ because (unlike Marx) they make predictions about future states.

        There are REAMS of papers on these models. People have done every conceivable variation. One good. Two goods. N Goods. Separate production processes for consumables and labor. Random shocks. Hyperbolic discounting. Whatever.

        The theorists have taken these models and looked at what you can prove given various assumptions about F. The empiricists have tried a bunch of reasonably-specific versions of F and seen how well they can calibrate the things to historical GDPs.

        This matters, because Marx’s work, once you get into it, just looks like an under-specified DSGE. (“Production equals the socially necessary labor invested in a good, plus the replacement cost of any capital consumed” becomes “Y = L + a C” where ‘a’ is some rate of depreciation)

        Playing with that kind of model would make for an interesting homework assignment. And I’m sure people have tried calibrations with that sort of production function.

        But, in the end, the whole Marxist project seems to reduce to people talking about a specific instance of a model that was current in 1960. That’s profoundly disappointing.

    • I don’t think this article understands the distinction between use-value and exchange-value very well.

      Marx’s law of value says that the exchange-value of a commodity arises from the socially-necessary abstract labor-time needed to produce that commodity. However, the use-value of a commodity is something else entirely. A use-value (such as a machine considered in-and-of-itself as a machine and not as a marketed commodity) might be able to replicate itself *in use-value terms* without adding one iota of exchange-value.

      For example, imagine that corn kernels planted themselves and that land was infinite and had no rent. In that case, a kernel of corn might produce 10 kernels of corn, which might produce 100, and so on…endlessly, and without any labor input needed. However, this would not be a source of exchange-value or surplus-value. In fact, the exchange-value of these kernels of corn would be exactly zero in this case. People would not pay for corn or exchange anything for it, despite the fact that they might still find corn very much useful and desirable. Corn would simply be too easy to produce to be able to charge anything for it.

      Marx’s law of value argues, in line with the classical economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, that all costs of production of *commodity inputs* are ultimately traceable to labor costs in the last analysis. (Land is not a commodity, as it is not produced for sale, so it is a separate matter—hence the need for the assumption of infinite land and no rents). With no labor costs or rents, the cost of production of corn would be zero.

      Therefore, if corn had any “price of production” at all (price of production is the cost of production + the average rate of profit), then the business of corn production would have an infinite rate of profit. All activity would flow into the corn-producing sector until corn was as plentiful as air, at which point corn’s price of production would fall until corn production was yielding merely average profits. With a cost of production of zero, corn’s price of production would also have to be zero in order to even-out the super-profits in the corn-producing sector.

      Going back to the issue of machines: the law of value implies that a machine might very well produce multiple copies of itself, but this would be relevant only in a use-value sense. Any machine that could be produced entirely by other machines, whose inputs and inputs of inputs etc. are likewise produced entirely by machines, would eventually settle on an exchange-value of zero, and this production would not be a source of surplus exchange-value. This is regardless of the fact that the machine might remain very useful. Lots of useful things have an exchange-value of zero (such as air, or the washing of dishes for oneself, or grain that is produced by a peasant for his own subsistence and not marketed).

      • For example, imagine that corn kernels planted themselves and that land was infinite and had no rent. In that case, a kernel of corn might produce 10 kernels of corn, which might produce 100, and so on…endlessly, and without any labor input needed. However, this would not be a source of exchange-value or surplus-value. In fact, the exchange-value of these kernels of corn would be exactly zero in this case. People would not pay for corn or exchange anything for it, despite the fact that they might still find corn very much useful and desirable. Corn would simply be too easy to produce to be able to charge anything for it.

        Key word there.

        Self-reproduction =/= post-scarcity

        Going back to the issue of machines: the law of value implies that a machine might very well produce multiple copies of itself, but this would be relevant only in a use-value sense.

        Any machine that could be produced entirely by other machines, whose inputs and inputs of inputs etc. are likewise produced entirely by machines, would eventually settle on an exchange-value of zero

        You seem to be assuming infinite resources which isn’t a reasonable assumption. We can compare to labor to show how faulty this is.

        “The law of value implies that a worker might very well produce multiple copies of itself, but this would only be relevent only in a use-value sense.

        Any human that could be produced entirely by other humans, whose inputs of inputs etc. are likewise produced entirely by machines, would eventually settle on an exchange value of zero, and this production would not be a source of surplus exchange value.”

        If you had infinity workers, then the value of workers would also drop to zero, yet infinity workers is not merely implied by the fact that humans can reproduce, so neither should it be implied by machines being able to reproduce.

        If one machine can make two machines and so on, it still requires scarce resources to do so, and these multiple resource inputs are not going to be equally distributed geographically, nor infinite. Furthermore, even though land has no exchange value in of itself, only a use value, differences in scarcity of land would translate into differences in what products would trade for due to scale economies. I might have robots that can make robots but if I only have a small plot, that limits the value of what I can produce compared to someone with more land in a non-linear way due to scale effects.

      • Marx’s law of value argues, in line with the classical economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, that all costs of production of *commodity inputs* are ultimately traceable to labor costs in the last analysis.

        Ricardo is often claimed to have a labor theory of value, but if you work through the model in his Principles, it’s one in which all goods are produced with the same labor to capital ratio, so “exchange value proportional to labor input” and “exchange value proportional to capital input” are equivalent.

        Ricardo recognizes that this is only an approximation–he’s inventing general equilibrium theory with no math above arithmetic, so needs approximations to make that impossible project work. He explicitly discusses how much actual exchange values will deviate from what his model implies, given a reasonable range of capital/labor ratios and a reasonable range of possible costs of labor and capital, and concludes that the deviation is small.

        For details, see Stigler’s “Ricardo and the 93% labor theory of value.

  18. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    AR Background Part 2

    So, previously, I discussed Cash Application. There’s some special issues in Cash Application that routinely cause problems for us that I wanted to mention specifically.

    Missing Remittance
    You wouldn’t believe the number of customers who simply do not send any sort of remittance advice with their checks. As a brief reminder, the remittance advice is the check payment detail, similar to your memo line. It specifies where A/R should put the money.

    Without a remittance advice, A/R is in the dark.

    Ideally, A/R would not touch such checks, unless we are absolutely certain how to apply them. For example, if a customer historically sends $2,000 checks monthly, we can take a look at previous checks and determine what invoice the customer has paid. Or, if a customer has exactly $50,000 on their account, and they have sent us a $50,000 check, we can be pretty sure the customer intends to clear up their entire balance.
    Any check we aren’t sure about would remain unapplied.

    In practice, A/R is penalized for having unapplied cash. So A/R will usually apply checks aggressively, which leads to many mistakes.

    In my experience, missing remittance advices usually occur because the customer does not think the remittance advice is important, or the check has hit an intermediary. The intermediary usually thinks the remittance advice is unimportant and discards it, while forwarding the check to the bank.

    If you are in A/P, please do not forget the remittance advice!

    Incomplete/insufficient Remittance
    A more complicated issue is a remittance advice that does not tie out directly to our system, either in terms of balances, or in terms of billing descriptions.
    The best way to explain this is to explain the ideal system, of which the closest is the 835 standard in health-care.
    835s are electronic files that contain all claim information required by HIPAA, which is usually more than enough to match a payment a claim.
    Here’s how it will work, in lay terms:
    A pharmacy may process 100 prescriptions in a week. The pharmacy will have information like the prescription number, the pharmacy number*, date of service, drug, patient name, etc. This information will be sent electronically to an insurance company**.
    The insurance company will then cut a check for those 100 prescriptions. It will then prepare an electronic remittance advice that includes prescription number, pharmacy number, etc, and send that along with their check.
    Because every insurance company is sending the same standard file, and because all the fields are standard, pharmacies can translate the files into their system and post cash directly to their A/R systems. This will, theoretically, eliminate ALL cash application.

    Unfortunately, most industries do not have this level of standardization. For instance, Rearden Steel will most likely send an invoice to Taggart Transcontinetal that will bill items like the following:
    -Steel
    -Shipping and handling charge
    -Company Discount

    In the Rearden Steel billing system, this will be shortened into a bill code, like the following:
    -STL
    -SHIP

    This will not be standard, so Taggart Transcontinental will send back something like the following:
    -ST
    -S&H

    It’s quite possible Taggart will not even do that, and simply send back a remittance that says “Bill 07312017,” or something else without specific line item detail.

    Theoretically, invoice numbers could be tied to every single item. However, it would require both the billing department to include invoice numbers for every single billing line, and the accounts payable department to include invoice number for every single payment line. In practice, neither of these are feasible (and I have definitely asked!)

    While at an initial glance it may appear that these minor differences are no big deal, it actually becomes impossible to apply cash rather quickly. In one case, I had a certain Danish company who disagreed with their pricing on multiple line items, and sent over checks with what they thought was the correct price. They had specific line item detail, but the line items had descriptions unique to their system, which did not tie out at all to our system.

    In practice this looked like the following:
    Bill:
    -Steel $100,000
    -Shipping and handling $30,000
    -Rail Tie $140,000
    -Rearden Metal $70,000

    Payment:
    -RE11 $80,000
    -RE25 $25,000
    -RE49 $75,000
    -RE1000 $70,000

    In practice, the above remittance advice is useless and the check remains unapplied. This becomes more complicated as more separate billing items are added.

    In the prior comment, someone who worked in medical insurance remarked on how often his/her checks were misapplied. In practice, I saw many checks from medical insurance providers where they declined to use industry-standard pharmacy numbers at all, and decided instead to use their own unique “provider number.” In practice, this made it very difficult to figure out payment application.

    Incomplete remittances are the bane of my existence, particularly with major national companies. They are typically slow to respond, and therefore their accounts become virtually unreconcilable with all the unapplied cash.

    Electronic Payments
    It’s my belief that checks are usually easier to handle than electronic payments (either ACHs or Wires). Usually, if we receive a paper check, we have a payer name, along with a check number, check amount, and cut date. Using this information, we can contact who wrote the check, and they can look into their system to determine what the check is for.

    ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments provide much less information, and it is not consistent across payers. So whereas, with a check, I will receive a check number and a payer number, with an ACH, I will receive an ACH description populated with whatever the sending company deigned to populate.

    So, for example, I might have received a $1,000 ACH from someone, with a long string of numbers, followed by “Dept of Health” followed by another long string of numbers. I cannot identify a unique check number, I have no idea what the other numbers are for, and I have no idea which “Dept of Health” I am dealing with. Because of this, a lot of ACHs sat unapplied for a long time, because I had to go back to the bank and ask them to track down who sent it (which in turn required my bank to ask the other bank, and the other bank to find a representative from the payer).

    Wire*** payments tend to be even worse. Wire payments have less information than an ACH, as they are not processed in an electronic batch format (slightly more information in footnotes). Also, in my experience, they have not been loaded automatically, which requires someone to manually load the information into our A/R universe. I have never really inquired into this, but I suspect it’s because the banks do not actual send electronic reports of our daily wires (since we receive so few). It’s up to us to look into our bank account and download our daily reports.

    Next time, I’ll go into the Collections portion of A/R.

    • *Pharmacy Numbers are usually NPIs (National Provider Identifier). This is a 10 digit number assigned by CMS.
    • ** Pharmacies actually send data to the Pharmacy Benefit Manager, a special company that handles pharmacy claims on behalf of the insurance company.
    • ***Wires and ACHs are different. Wire payments are real-time settlements between different banks. ACHs are batch loaded, so they would typically occur at the end of the business day. ACHs are more common, as they are cheaper.

    • Deiseach says:

      You wouldn’t believe the number of customers who simply do not send any sort of remittance advice with their checks.

      Oh, I think I would 🙂 Have had plenty of instances of opening an envelope to find a forlorn piece of paper/cheque/other item with no explanation as to who sent it, what it’s for, or what I’m supposed to do with it. It’s particularly bad when it comes to money, as you say, since (a) you can’t just ignore it and (b) you have no idea what it’s for – paying a bill? hiring a room? donation? reimbursement for expenses? what?

      In my experience, missing remittance advices usually occur because the customer does not think the remittance advice is important, or the check has hit an intermediary. The intermediary usually thinks the remittance advice is unimportant and discards it, while forwarding the check to the bank.

      That explanation sounds the most probable for what I said about our pension contributions not being allocated to our account. We always make sure to (1) keep copies of all cheques and payments made, together with original invoices on file (2) attach a copy of the relevant invoice/statement/contribution period to our payment cheque so the person on the other end knows what it’s for, which is why we were baffled when the cheques were plainly being cashed but the account manager said “nope, no sign we ever got ’em”.

      Cash handling is a pain and a job I try and avoid as much as possible, because nobody thanks you for doing it and yet if money goes missing you are hauled over the coals and in deep, deep trouble (as in “did you steal that? so where is it, then, if you didn’t steal it?” and it doesn’t matter if you’ve worked there ten years and been spotlessly honest all that time, the automatic assumption if money goes missing is “who was the last person to have anything to do with it? ‘cos they’re the guilty party”).

      So, for example, I might have received a $1,000 ACH from someone, with a long string of numbers, followed by “Dept of Health” followed by another long string of numbers. I cannot identify a unique check number, I have no idea what the other numbers are for, and I have no idea which “Dept of Health” I am dealing with.

      End-of-month bank reconciliations! When the only details on the statement are “lodgement”! And we’re getting funding from four different bodies under six different schemes, all of which has to be accounted for to the government department which ultimately pays it to us, as well as funding from various sources such as fees, donations, fundraisers, etc.

      Oh the joy and fun of trying to determine which payment is from [body 1], [body 2], [other]! And if from [body 1], is it [programme A payment] or [separate programme B payment which co-incidentally is for the same amount]? Because when we’re doing the quarterly returns, we must distinguish between and account for the funds received from [programme A], [B], etc. or else!

      The “or else” actually happened, when representatives from The National Capital came down to overhaul our accounts as they insisted (by their records) that we were running an overdraft, despite us emailing records to them showing that no, we were in the black. They were making dire murmurings of taking control of receipts and expenditure away from us altogether as plainly we could not manage our finances, and I wish I’d been there for the board meeting when it was demonstrated that the screw-up was on their end and they had to leave with their tails between their legs, but alas, that joy was denied me 🙂

      No idea what was going on there, but we have our suspicions that there was some kind of inter-
      or intra-departmental turf war going on and this taking over disbursement was a power-grab on the part of the particular body these two belonged to – except it didn’t work and they left with egg on their faces.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Ha, we actually do bank reconciliations every single day. Well, at my current job I haven’t yet because it’s not my function, but I am pretty sure they do daily recs.
        It’s a massive pain in the butt, because usually the variance is just a loading error: a few checks didn’t make the bank’s EDI file cut-off, so they weren’t included on the detail sent to us, even though it was actually put into our account.
        EXTREMELY annoying.
        What’s even more annoying is when there is an internal wire but we can’t actually look at the account. So we just the EDI file, and then an internal wire payment. And they don’t much. So we have no idea what the variance is, because we don’t have the detail that makes up the wire.
        “Rec this” is surprisingly a common throw-away, even when it’s impossible because we don’t have both sides of the ledger. That happened a handful of times in my last position.

        And yes, cash app is absolutely thankless (bolding so everyone sees it). It requires a ton of legwork to apply cash correctly, but it’s usually considered a low-tier function, so you get no credit for doing it correctly. If you mess up, it’s a big problem, and you can get in big trouble.

        The only winning move is not to play!

        • Deiseach says:

          a few checks didn’t make the bank’s EDI file cut-off

          Five minutes past the time. Five effin’ minutes because the upload was slow, and that meant the cut-off time was missed, which meant it all had to be uploaded again (which was not a problem) but the processing date had to be changed to the next day, which should have been no problem except this was to pay wages, which meant every single staff member ringing up going “hey, I checked my bank balance and my wages weren’t paid in, what happened?”

          We do end-of-the-month bank recs, which generally aren’t a problem, except for one month when there was a discrepancy of €2.50. I was going cross-eyed checking and re-checking and couldn’t find the error anywhere, and it didn’t help that my boss kept asking every so often “So, did you find that mistake yet?” (No, there aren’t any missing zeroes there, that is literally two euro and fifty cents which you might think isn’t bad on routinely handling a couple of hundred thousand every month, but you don’t know public sector work).

          What actually did help was next month someone made a duplicate entry which was a big discrepancy, so I had to go line-by-line through six months’ worth of bank statements and cash book/payments book entries manually, but by cracky not alone did I correct the large discrepancy, I found that missing €2.50 as well! It’s a man’s life in the army clerical assistant grades! 🙂

          Daily bank recs, funnily enough, aren’t as bad because they mean you can catch an error fast and usually people remember “Oh yeah, I put that payment in under that heading, guess it was the wrong one, huh?” whereas when you leave it for longer, it’s “what payment? when?”

          It requires a ton of legwork to apply cash correctly, but it’s usually considered a low-tier function, so you get no credit for doing it correctly

          You said it, brother! It’s funny, because it’s the one job that requires diligence, honesty, reliability and (not to throw heavy words around but) integrity, because you’re dealing with money, and yet it’s considered low-tier, low-pay grunt work.

          One of these days, Beta Guy, we’ll snap, write a cheque clearing out the entire bank balance, then run off to Rio and blow it all in six months of decadent living. You’ll never take us alive, copper! 😀

    • CatCube says:

      I almost don’t want to believe your story about a customer who created their own line item descriptions, because what kind of psychotic asshole would think that it’s OK to do that?

      For checks that come in without remittance advice, is there generally a process for determining a default application? You’ve already stated that it might be obvious due to the amounts but for situations where it’s totally lacking, for example, apply it to bills that are about to go delinquent or something?

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, my gut instinct here is to say “who cares about remittance, why can’t you just automatically apply the amount to their total balance, prioritizing the ‘most delinquent bill’ or whatever”

        • Yeah, my gut instinct here is to say “who cares about remittance, why can’t you just automatically apply the amount to their total balance, prioritizing the ‘most delinquent bill’ or whatever”

          Ha lots of companies do that anyway, even if you do have a remittance. As a tax accountant, I know for sure lots of governments do that. They create a completely bogus tax charge, and when the taxpayer sends them money for a real tax charge they apply it to the bogus one. They then create a taxes due invoice, probably with interest and penalties attached for the real tax charge that wasn’t applied to. OF course most governments have phone trees and waiting lines to talk. Also the person who answers the phone often has no access to the billing history, so they defer it to someone else, who may never get around to calling you back. Add to that many government employees simply aren’t smart enough to untangle a billing mess, and you can end up with issues that go on for months or years.

          But now I’ve hijacked Beta Guy’s thread with one beefs about revenue departments. Sorry.

        • nyccine says:

          If they have only one account, that works, but if they have multiple active accounts, and keeping them current matters, then that doesn’t work.

          While not AR myself, I do work a customer service function that gets these sorts of inquiries all the time. There is a running problem with customers who just pay what the spreadsheet tells them to pay; if they have credits on certain accounts (for any number of reasons – overpayments, billing adjustments, deposit refunds) well, that just gets deducted from the total amount they need to pay, right? Except this results in a customer with, say, an account owing $90.00, and another with a credit of $45.00, cutting us a check for $45.00. Our sorter (this is all automated; we couldn’t possibly staff enough people to manually deal with the thousands of payments we get a day) directs it to the account owing money, and they’re late by $45.00.

          Sure, someone could manually move the money, except of course nobody handled the check, and our computer system isn’t sophisticated enough to do that. And if we take our own initiative and start moving money around, then about half the time the customer starts freaking out about how dare we, those accounts are actually for different customers, and one can’t be billed for another’s charges (we’re just supposed to know this, given that all the accounts are under one company’s name, they just manage those properties for umpteen billion people), or there’s some special bookkeeping they’re doing and moving that money screws it up, or something else.

        • Deiseach says:

          Who cares about remittance, why can’t you just automatically apply the amount to their total balance

          Speaking from the other side, not a great idea if you have several orders simultaneously with the same supplier. Maybe you have Large Order A, which is still in the process of being delivered so items are constantly arriving, then smaller Order B which is complete, and New Order C which hasn’t been processed yet.

          I as customer have received all of Order B and am happy with it, so I want to pay off all the balance on B. C hasn’t been received by me yet, so I don’t want to pay for it until I get it. A is still coming through and some of the things I might return (various reasons – damaged in transit, now that I’ve got it I see it’s not what I wanted, person who originally ordered it has now changed their mind, etc) so I’m paying off A piece by piece (a pain in the backside for everyone but it’s necessary to keep track of what I have received/am keeping and what I’m returning/hasn’t arrived yet).

          So I send off a cheque for $AMOUNT in order to pay all of B, part of A, and none of C. If supplier simply applies it all to A (the oldest and largest outstanding bill), that (a) mucks up my system of “what have I paid for” (b) maybe has me paying for items I’ve just returned (c) really annoys me.

          Something like this happened with one supplier when two separate invoices for two separate centres were paid (by two separate cheques). However it happened, both cheques were applied to bill A, leaving that centre with a credit balance, but then it looked like the bill for centre B had not been paid, and we got the “if you don’t pay your bill, the service will be discontinued” message.

          So this meant we had to issue another cheque for the same amount for centre B to pay the same bill we’d already paid, plus get reimbursed from centre A for the money they now owed us, plus re-juggle the entries on our accountancy software package to reflect the changes (luckily, our particular package is very forgiving and lets us change entries with ease – other packages really don’t and make it very, very complicated).

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          We can’t apply the cash because it screws up the collections side of thing (which I haven’t gotten into quite yet).

          What will happen, using Des’s example, is that I will apply a check to Order A (the oldest), when it was actually intended for Order B. So I will call Des and say Order B is still outstanding and needs to pay it. Des will respond that she did in fact pay Order B, and will refuse to pay a penny more.

          This goes round and round until I correct the cash misapplication.

          A lot of people on my A/R team will say “so what? If I move the cash around, it just means you owe something else.” This is the wrong way to think about it. Very possibly, our customer disagrees that they will in fact owe something else. For example, Des’ company may have returned 5% of their goods, and should get a 5% discount. Or there might be a disagreement on price. Or….basically, just because something is billed on my end, doesn’t mean the customer agrees that they actually owe it.

          Once checks start getting misapplied, it becomes difficult to unravel. I don’t even bother going back and reapplying checks in our system because it’s so tedious, I just rec out the account and haggle over the final number. Technically our payments are misapplied but if the account is at zero and the billings are accurate, none of our upper management is concerned. That’s because our budgets are based off the actual billings getting generated, not how I apply checks.

          Expanding on the above:
          Order A – 100k
          Order B – 50k
          Order C – 20k
          Total: 170k

          Des check
          Check 1 – 30k
          Check 2- 30k
          Check 3- 30k
          Check 4 -30k
          Total: 120k

          Assuming someone misapplied this and left us with a $50,000 balance, I’d just a list of our billings and determine what Des disagrees with. I’ll find out that she thinks Order A should’ve only really been 50k because she returned half the goods (which no one told me!). I do my investigative work and determine that it really should have been 60k because the contract guaranteed that minimum amount.
          Des checks with her side, agrees, and cuts a 10k check for the difference.
          I tell my billing department to book a 40k credit, apply the 10k check and 40k credit to whatever’s open, and call it a day. The actual checks and credits could be “applied” in our system to anything, but no one cares because the actual billings will tie out for both companies.

          • Deiseach says:

            Des will respond that she did in fact pay Order B, and will refuse to pay a penny more.

            Indeed yes, this is exactly how that conversation would go. How well you know me already! 🙂

            “Look, I put it in with the cheque that this is to pay off bill B. I didn’t tell you to pay off bill A. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve paid off bill B, and it’s your problem if you think we haven’t”.

            Paying off a very large order in parts as the deliveries were made happened in a former job where we were building and equipping three schools. Part of that was ordering labware. Glass tends to be breakable 🙂 So counting up all the test tubes, flasks, etc. that got broken in transit, refusing delivery and returning them, and deducting the value from the invoice was a routine thing. If we’d paid the whole thing in advance, we would have paid for goods we couldn’t use and the supplier might well have told us “your problem, if you want replacements, that’s a separate order and a new bill” (this particular supplier was reasonable and didn’t pull that, but that was partly because the order was so large, and we would probably be using them as suppliers for goods in future, that it was worth their while to stay on our good side. Some are not so reasonable).

            The actual checks and credits could be “applied” in our system to anything, but no one cares because the actual billings will tie out for both companies.

            Agreement there; as long as you can make purchases on one side and payments on the other balance off, and the bank rec agrees with cheques issued, everyone is happy(ish).

    • Loquat says:

      More tales from the medical insurance side of things: while there is no shortage of providers who lose, ignore, or otherwise don’t follow our remittance advice, I have to admit my employer creates some problems for the A/R folks by having extremely minimalist RAs. The source of the problem is that our claims are handled in an old-fashioned all-text green-on-black system that probably dates back to the 80’s, and was never designed to handle medical bills.

      So a provider sends us a bill that looks like this:
      Date of Service 5/5/2017, patient X
      99314: 100.00
      97140: 50.00
      82306: 50.00

      And we do Medicare supplements, which means we’re secondary to Medicare and pay the patient’s Medicare-assigned deductible and/or coinsurance for them, so the provider has to also send Medicare’s remittance advice, looking like this:
      Date of Service 5/5/2017, patient X
      99314: 57.83 approved, patient coinsurance 11.57
      97140: 49.35 approved, patient coinsurance 9.87
      82306: denied, not medically necessary, 0 approved

      And then we summarize the whole thing into one line in our system, like this:
      Date of Service 5/5/2017, patient X
      total charge 200.00, medicare approved 107.18, we paid 21.44

      And then we get the call asking why there’s still a $50 balance left, because our claims system doesn’t have a way to express “Medicare denied a portion of this claim”.

      Unrelated: I have mixed feeling about ACHs, largely because a noticeable percentage of medical providers who signed up for ACH payment through the clearinghouse we use are nonetheless not set up to download the associated electronic remittance advice through said clearinghouse’s website. So then they call us asking us to please fax them one instead, which is one of things that’s little trouble when it’s a one-time thing and a huge pain in the ass when there are hundreds or thousands of requests, so we resist doing it and lean on them to actually use the website.

  19. gbdub says:

    What do you (or should we) call the rhetorical strategy of, essentially motte-and-bailey from the attackers’ perspective?

    That is, the attacker shows up, rampages around the bailey smashing real but irrelevant structures (arguments), ignores the hulking motte, and then declares the whole edifice “debunked” and leaves?

    • dndnrsn says:

      If medieval warfare is going to be the theme, how about chevauchée?

      • Montfort says:

        I like the analogy. We should start translating more argumentative fallacies into historical military terms.

    • lvlln says:

      Isn’t this just a version of the strawman?

      • Protagoras says:

        That was my thought. He does specify “real but irrelevant” arguments, but I don’t think straw men are required to be entirely invented.

        • gbdub says:

          So the example that triggered this was the post above with a “debunking” of Damore’s memo that focused exclusively on the biodeterminism without really addressing the implications of preferences, even if not bio-determined.

          So it’s not a strawman, in that Damore really did use biodeterminism as an explanation of different preferences. But you can’t fully debunk the whole thing just by providing a different explanation for the preference, because the rest stands as long as the preferences are real and emerge before college graduation.

        • rlms says:

          A real strawman is a weakman.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I would call it stretching a metaphor beyond the point of usefulness.

      Motte and bailey describes a set of rhetorical tactics. You’re describing a distinct set of rhetorical tactics, but in a way which makes people likely to confuse it with motte and bailey tactics.

      That said, there does need to be a good term for superficial debunking of the “John Oliver EVISCERATES Republicans!” variety. Maybe one which plays around with the bizarre violent imagery which normally accompanies them online.

      Debunking and quartering? MSTemboweling? Let me know if I’m on the right track.

      • gbdub says:

        Maybe a boxing metaphor would work. Sort of like landing a lot of weak body shots and acting like you got a KO.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I wish I could find it, but I saw an article (or a picture with a mash-up of headlines) about John Stewart “killing,” “eviscerating,” “laying waste to,” “UTTERLY DESTROYING,” etc all sorts of people. Reading them all together it makes Stewart sound like the most horrific homicidal warlord since Genghis Khan.

        That aside, I agree. I do think there is a tactic though of taking down one non-central part of an argument or a body of arguments (and perhaps even a strawman version of the argument, such as people saying Demore said women were ‘biologically inferior,’ which he never did, he addressed preferences) and then declaring the entire thing debunked.

        Controversial study is published. Blogger finds typo, says “debunked,” and then whenever you bring the study up in the future opponents say “that study has been debunked.” I’m not sure there’s a name for this.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Me neither. I would like one. It appears to be a sequence of two: ignoratio elenchi (per rahien.din below), followed by proof by repeated assertion.

        • Nornagest says:

          Someday our idioms are really going to confuse a generation of history students, aren’t they?

    • Anonymous says:

      Raiding?

    • Vorkon says:

      Isn’t that basically the Gish Gallop?

      I mean, it’s not a perfect one-to-one comparison; the Gish Gallop specifically only works in timed, verbal debates, where the idea is to refute so many minor points that the opponent doesn’t know where to begin defending themselves, and you make them look foolish, but the general idea seems to be pretty similar: Nitpick a bunch of mostly irrelevant points, while ignoring the central argument.

      I definitely wouldn’t describe it as “motte and bailey from the attackers’ perspective,” though. An attack where you fail to take the motte is, by definition, an unsuccessful attack. You’re describing a situation in which taking the motte was never an objective to begin with.

      • Thank you. I’ve seen people use that term, and so now I needed to look it up. Yes, the original posting is talking about a Gish Gallop. I guess that’s the term to use. Rather a ponderous term, but at least there is a term.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      The bailey isn’t “irrelevant”, though. The -motte- is.

      The motte is a minimal claim or definition that is easily defensible and hard to attack/disprove, but also doesn’t really get you leverage on an argument. Example: “Calling a traumatized person a liar is a shitty thing to do, and we shouldn’t be shitty to traumatized people.”

      The bailey is a more expansive or abused/manipulated claim or definition that you cannot actually defend, but has much more rhetorical punch and leverage. Example: “All rape accusations must be treated as unquestionably true and acted on accordingly.”

      So you use your bailey claim in arguments until challenged, and when challenged or pressed, you retreat to the more easily defended claim. As soon as the attacker leaves or gives up, you back to using your bailey claim.

    • beleester says:

      The motte-and-bailey is the opposite of a weakman. If your opponent is using a motte-and-bailey, they’re basically saying that the position you’re attacking (the bailey) is a weakman, and that you should be attacking the motte. And on the flip side, if your opponent is using a weakman against you, and you defend yourself by calling it that, they can accuse you of using a motte-and-bailey against them.

  20. MichaelWStory says:

    Help required!

    Many SSC diaspora members (including me!) signed up to the Good Judgment Project back in the early 2010s and were disproportionately selected to join the Superforecasters, whose aptitude and rapid feedback-led improvements in producing accurate future predictions helped us win the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity ACE Tournament and made huge progress in the study of individual differences, psychological bias, rationality, judgment and decision making.

    I’m posting here now because we at Good Judgment need capable volunteers once again- we are working in collaboration with IARPA on the new Hybrid Forecasting Competition (HFC) Program, a multi-year, IARPA-funded research program designed to test the limits of geopolitical forecasting by combining the ingenuity of human analysts with the best available machine systems.

    We need human analysts to forecast on topics including global politics, diplomacy, citizen unrest, economics and infectious diseases as well as gather and evaluate geopolitically and geoeconomically relevant news texts or evaluate statistical models or data sources, depending on experimental condition.

    The signup link is https://www.hybridforecasting.com/ – it’ll be a rare chance to work with a range of prototype human-machine hybrid forecasting systems in the experimental stage and contribute to the ongoing improvement of the US Intelligence Community’s forecasting capability.

  21. joe lambke says:

    New to SlateStarCodex, trying to comment on this well done post:
    “CONTRA GRANT ON EXAGGERATED DIFFERENCES”

    It is great to see the careful differentiation between “Identify Politics” as a silo of unified personhood, and how people have interests, and it is similar interests that forms groups. Well laid out in your post.

    I am an Architect and Urban Design researcher. Years ago delivered a paper to the American Sociological Association about tendencies in people’s interests, and how shared interests become groups of people with the same occupations. The paper is titled “Work, Professions, Society and Meaning” and can be found on the Acadamia website.

    The paper above provides a framework for thinking about how these interests affect society.

    Thanks
    Joe

    • hlynkacg says:

      Welcome to the party!

      A note on the comments; Scott (our host) occasionally disables the comments on potentially controversial posts that get widely linked to discourage brigading. Discussion of these posts typically happens in the following open thread.

    • joe lambke says:

      Thanks for the heads up about how this works… I was unable to locate a way to comment on the actual post, and I was excited by the connections. As I reread my post now, i see the misspelling “Identity Politics,” grammar issues, etc.

      I would like to work-up a more thorough description of the link between “Work, Professions, Society and Meaning” and Scott’s essay “CONTRA GRANT ON EXAGGERATED DIFFERENCES” because back in 2006, when i wrote that paper I had no idea where it was heading… The ideas seemed entirely out of left field.

      However, after reading Scott’s essay, it appears the ‘Human Interest Diagram’ is an opposite way to view politics of the human endeavour from Identity Politics. I have been estranged from Identity Politics without knowing why.

      More soon.
      Joe

  22. lvlln says:

    I know there’s some crossover between people who read Scott Alexander and Scott Aaronson. I rather liked the latter’s recent post about the life of Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov, a mathematician who lived in the Soviet Union in the early/mid 20th century. I don’t think I found the post entirely convincing, but I must admit Aaronson made some good points about balancing the conflicting goals of truth-telling with personal safety.

    I think these passages show some of the main points of the essay:

    I’ve long been fascinated by the psychology of unspeakable truths. Like, for any halfway perceptive person in the USSR, there must have been an incredible temptation to make a name for yourself as a daring truth-teller: so much low-hanging fruit! So much to say that’s correct and important, and that best of all, hardly anyone else is saying!

    But then one would think better of it. It’s not as if, when you speak a forbidden truth, your colleagues and superiors will thank you for correcting their misconceptions. Indeed, it’s not as if they didn’t already know, on some level, whatever you imagined yourself telling them. In fact it’s often because they fear you might be right that the authorities see no choice but to make an example of you, lest the heresy spread more widely. One corollary is that the more reasonably and cogently you make your case, the more you force the authorities’ hand.

    Does this mean that, like Winston Smith, the iconoclast simply must to accept that 2+2=5, and that a boot will stamp on a human face forever? No, not at all. Instead the iconoclast can choose what I think of as the Kolmogorov option. This is where you build up fortresses of truth in places the ideological authorities don’t particularly understand or care about, like pure math, or butterfly taxonomy, or irregular verbs. You avoid a direct assault on any beliefs your culture considers necessary for it to operate. You even seek out common ground with the local enforcers of orthodoxy. Best of all is a shared enemy, and a way your knowledge and skills might be useful against that enemy. For Kolmogorov, the shared enemy was the Nazis; for someone today, an excellent choice might be Trump, who’s rightly despised by many intellectual factions that spend most of their time despising each other. Meanwhile, you wait for a moment when, because of social tectonic shifts beyond your control, the ruling ideology has become fragile enough that truth-tellers acting in concert really can bring it down. You accept that this moment of reckoning might never arrive, or not in your lifetime. But even if so, you could still be honored by future generations for building your local pocket of truth, and for not giving falsehood any more aid or comfort than was necessary for your survival.

    • James says:

      That part reminds me of this passage, which I love. It made me feel a little bit less lost—that there may, after all, be a purpose to our usually-futile-seeming little enclave of contrarianism around these parts.

      I like the post, even quite a lot, but I’m not sure I agree with how it seems to apply to recent events – the guy should have just kept his mouth shut? I’m not so sure.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        The linked tweet says:

        As Milton Friedman famously put it, ‘Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.’

        This has been a public service announcement. Also, “Ideas Lying Around” is an excellent name for a blog.

    • Eponymous says:

      I view this piece as an amazing work of art, in which Scott manages to perfectly communicate his opinion of the memo and surrounding cultural factors, but in a wonderfully indirect manner, which itself speaks volumes.

    • Aapje says:

      Where I disagree with this is that I think that the ability to criticize differs greatly based on the circumstances of a person, their charisma, their teflon-layer*, etc. I think that people ought to speak out at a level that they can get away with.

      * The magical ability to always be able to avoid/dodge shit.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Here’s my comment to Aaronson’s post:

      “Stalinism didn’t go away on its own. Khrushchev chose to move towards a less horrible totalitarian government. Presumably he observed, thought, kept silent, and waited. I’m actually quite impressed, even though that’s hardly a morally ideal approach.

      “There’s a different lesson I’m seeing in Kolmogorov’s life than most people seem to. Instead of opposing the worst thing in his environment, he made as much good as he could and that turned out to be quite a bit of good. Granting that he had extraordinary talents, it seems to me that not enough people ask about how much good they can do locally.”

      I’ll add that Effective Altruism is a good way of solving a particular problem, but it doesn’t address best ways of improving what’s going on for things that affect your life. Anyone know of work on that?

  23. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    Since immigration policy is in the US news, I’m wondering about tradable visa regimes (by visa I mean something like the US green card). In other words
    1) The government auctions off a bunch of visas to speculators
    2) Speculators sell them to each other and end users
    3) End users activate the visa, after which it is no longer tradable

    My questions are
    a) Has anything like this been tried (maybe at the city level for countries with internal movement controls)
    b) If you replace lottery or point systems with this, what happens next?
    c) Who wins and who loses? It’s particularly unclear to me whether utilitarians should see this as an improvement over the US status quo (assuming total number of immigrants stays the same) – it seems more efficient, but also like it would decrease the redistributive effects of immigration

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Regarding (b), here are some effects I can imagine.

      i) Pro-refugee activists can now directly affect things (by raising money to buy visas for refugees). At least in the US this means refugee population gets way more Christian (although they won’t be legally classified as refugees, since they’ll have entered the country on a regular visa). There is a potential perverse incentive if the government cancels refugee programs in order to drive up the price of visas.

      ii) We get a much better idea of how valuable immigrating is, and how much value the species is or is not leaving on the table by restricting it.

      iii) Great opportunity for international retail banks, who can offer immigration loans.

      • Matt M says:

        Great opportunity for international retail banks, who can offer immigration loans.

        I feel like it would take approximately five hours for this to be spun as “enabling human traffickers”

        You know who else is likely to buy a lot of these things? Russian mobsters who want to get their prostitutes over here.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          I dunno, they’d be competing with legitimate businesses for these things after all. Unclear whether a Russian prostitute is worth as much to a mobster as a Mexican horticulturalist is worth to a farmer. So I expect the Russian mob would stick with the illegal approach.

          • Matt M says:

            Well in that case, the tech companies will buy them all and 100% of visas will go to Indians and Chinese

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I don’t think the tech industry would absorb them all. Current immigration rate is about 1 million per year (this includes returning expats but I don’t think that’s too significant). The US only has 3.5 million software developers.

    • dodrian says:

      The US likes to imagine the typical legal immigrant as a plucky underdog with naught but a dream, oppressed by the laws in their native land but ready to explode with entrepreneurialsm (a word unknown in the rest of the globe) if only given that sweet taste of freedom and generous right-to-work laws.

      An auction system would strip away the last vestiges of this veneer and ensure that only the powerful or wealthy get a shot at American greatness (who can already come in through ties to companies that can sponsor them for work, etc). At least with an auction system some of those who get in must be able to prop up the image of the American dream, right?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Although maybe more entrepreneurial people can expect to get more of a benefit to moving, so would be more willing to pay?

        (I’m also not sure that most of us want entrepreneurs – they are the most likely to out-compete natives, which is the main worry with immigration. From that point of view the ideal immigrant is an old money drone.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      It works to get more money from immigrants. It doesn’t address concerns like security. For that, you’d need to make the speculators liable in some way for crimes committed by whoever they sell to.

      • Anonymous says:

        AFAIK, it used to be that way in the US.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Sorry I left this out: let’s say part of “activating your visa” is going through all the current security stuff. AFAIK that’s not much of a barrier most of the time.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t know of any auctions, but many countries have a program such that you can essentially buy your way in. Hungary’s is probably the most straightforward it requires you to invest in government bonds that pay no interest, but the US EB-5 program (‘investor visa’) is not that much different when you get right down to it.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        That’s pretty interesting, particularly given that Hungary was ground zero for the refugee controversy. I wonder if anyone tried handing out bonds to the Syrians? Anyway it looks like Jobbik has killed the program, so that’s some evidence that a program like this isn’t much more resistant to ethnic nationalists than more traditional policies.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        The US has such a program. The one here is cheaper and more humane then the ones offered by the EU, Canada, or New Zealand, where the visa can be had just for giving the local national government a pile of local money roughly equal to a million US dollars.

        The US one costs roughly a tenth that, and instead of giving it to the government, you are required to sink it into a local business that has actual hard capital such as a building, or a commercial lease, and is required to have actual employees getting paid actual money for actual work.

        It’s sometimes sneeringly called “the McDonald’s Visa”, since that company is the one that spends the lobby dollars keeping that door open, and the investment level and employment requirements map perfectly onto buying and operating a McDonald’s franchise.

        This same visa is also often used to to buy and operate a remote rural motel (thus “Patel Motel”), or a hair and nail salon (has anyone in the US had a paid manipedi NOT done by a Vietnamese woman?), a dry cleaning business (Koreans), or a parking tower (Soomaali), or a small convenience store (accurately portrayed in the fictional Kwik-E-Mart).

    • vV_Vv says:

      If you replace lottery or point systems with this, what happens next?

      Lots of your immigrants are mobsters and/or relatives of corrupt government officials.

  24. MrApophenia says:

    One interesting angle on the Damore thing that I hadn’t seen pointed out until now – Matt Yglesias from Vox made the following point on their podcast that a lot of this is assuming that Google actually does have a diversity-favoring bias and they fired Damore for violating it, but given what we know about Google (ie, gender discrimination complaints, active lawsuit against them from the government on these grounds, etc.) should we assume that’s true?

    The relevant bit:

    “I was struck most of all by the naivete of this memo. The premise of this memo is that Google and its politically correct leaders inhabit an ideological echo chamber in which they are trying really hard to increase the diversity of their engineering staff, and like, that’s just not true. If before this had happened last week you had been like, “What’s the deal with diversity at Google?” I would say “Google, like a lot of companies, does a lot of PR around this. But do they hire women engineers? No. Do they have women top executives? No. Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.”

    And then this guy has to go ruin the party for himself by writing this memo that’s like, “Hey guys, maybe we should just SAY we’re kinda sexist assholes!” and then they’re all like *groan* “James, no! No! It’s marketing, like you know, how we used to have this slogan of ‘Don’t be evil,’ but we still do evil stuff, right?”

    It’s such a software engineer reaction to just take at face value company marketing material and be like, “Aha! We have this overwhelming ideology!” So that’s interesting. And then of course he gets fired, because you can’t – especially if you don’t actually care about diversity but just have a kind of marketing push around it, then this is a no brainer, right? It would be really hard to fundamentally shift the workforce at Google and the internal corporate culture, but it’s really easy to fire one guy nobody’s ever heard of.”

    • Wrong Species says:

      Or maybe Google is really trying to hire women engineers and they can’t find any. If Google was just doing this as a marketing gimmick and didn’t have an attitude that tried to throw progressivism down everyone’s face he probably wouldn’t have written that article.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Hey guys, maybe we should just SAY we’re kinda sexist assholes!

      I know this is a quote, but I really have to push back at this. So many people are just outright lying about what the memo said.

      He had 2 major points:
      1. Google has become an left-wing echo chamber that shuts down debate.
      2. Diversity is important. Our efforts to increase it haven’t yielded much fruit; maybe if we looked at the relevant science, we could do a better job.

      For that, fired.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Right, the point is that (2) wouldn’t have gotten him fired if his corporate masters really did think that diversity is important and really did care about doing a good job.

        • Aapje says:

          Not if they are in an echo chamber where those non-effective methods are the only ones you are allowed to think about.

        • I think the ideologically important thing here is that agreement with diversity as a goal is not sufficient. It’s the belief in biological inequality that is the true faux pas. Although he was speaking in average terms about traits and how to accomodate them to best achieve diversity, this was intepreted as support for a superior/inferior dichotomy, as talk of biological differences often does, especially when it’s about sensitive things like neuroticism and competitiveness.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        …which totally resolves the whole ‘echo chamber’ question.

        Good of them to clarify that for us.

    • John Schilling says:

      Google is being sued for gender discrimination. We should thus have high confidence that they have a very active and aggressive “diversity-favoring bias” in their current hiring and management practices. That’s the only way to survive lawsuits like that. And it is usually implemented in a clumsy and ineffective manner that puts most of the cost on the rank and file work force, e.g. forcing them to sit through lectures on “here’s how to stop being a sexist bigot and scaring away all the women and minorities who the plaintiff insists would be working here if you weren’t scaring them away you sexist bigots”.

      I don’t know enough about Google’s internal dynamics to have a feel for what form this bias is manifesting, but again I have high confidence that it is present in some form, and I suspect it may have been wearing on Damore when he set down to write his memo.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Assuming you are correct, that was corporate hitting the employees with a clue-bat, which apparently missed Damore.

        “Corp: Hey guys, we stand to lose a great deal of money if you don’t make sure any of your engagement in certain behaviors isn’t known to corporate.

        D: You mean this behavior right here?!”

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Come on, HBC. You did read his post, didn’t you? Framing it as the stuff of which successful EEOC Hostile Work Environment claims are made is rich.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Framing it as the stuff of which successful EEOC Hostile Work Environment claims are made is rich.

          Why not? SJW Twitter and some of Slashdot’s few resident SJWs have. I got jeered at for saying this before the Damore piece came out, but this is really what they believe, that speech which contradicts their beliefs, or even the presence of someone who they know holds wrong beliefs, constitutes an actionably hostile environment.

          I really hope Google tries to use that in their defense, because it’ll mean a court can make a ruling on that claim. Currently it constitutes a form of First Amendment violation which evades review; private companies (at least those less woke than Google, which would fire anyway and merely uses the hostile environment thing to sound less hypocritical when they claim they allow employees to speak up) feel compelled by the threat of lawsuit to fire people for speech the government cannot restrict, but since they _could_ fire the employee even without that threat, the fired employee has no cause of action.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          While Brad is wrong about the broader baseline philosophical underpinnings that pre-date our First amendment, he’s right that these cases -aren’t- First Amendment ones.

          And the reason why not is that we’re not yet at the point where those voices on twitter and slashdot represent the sort of viewpoint used for “reasonable person” analysis. They’d certainly LIKE to be, and every time something like this happens and there is insufficient pushback they probably move a bit closer, but we’re not there yet.

          That said, none of that is about to be addressed in this case. It only would have been if he -hadn’t- been fired, and one of the complainers had filed a complaint.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      One interesting thing implied by your quote, and which often seen stated outright elsewhere, is that a diverse staff is the default. That upper management is actively working to limit diversity but if they let up then there would be a sudden surge of women and URMs into these positions.

      Putting aside the factual question of whether that’s true, the idea is that the most moral choice is also the easiest choice. This has interesting implications:

      In the universe Matt Yglesias describes, being a “sexist asshole” is a lot of work for what seems like little benefit. If you’re an amoral white man in an upper management position you might not want women and URMs competing for your job, but you would definitely want them as subordinates since they’re just as (if not more) capable and work for lower pay. Your best move would be to push as hard as possible for more diversity at each position below your own. These same incentives should logically also apply to each level above you all the way up to the board of directors. You would expect to ultimately see highly diverse companies with almost entirely white male shareholders.

      He doesn’t seem to expect to see this result.

      So what am I missing? Is he positing a literal Old Boys’ Club colluding, that these men are so filled with hate that they’re throwing money away purely out of spite, or something else?

      I’m trying not to engage in Bulverism but rather I want to understand his understanding of these people’s mindsets. His model of how other people think.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Being a podcast, they didn’t do as much linking as in an article or blog post, but they seemed to be basing their view largely on research showing that people are happier working in a more homogeneous environment than in a diverse one. They tend to bias hiring accordingly.

        They definitely did discuss reasons women are less likely to go into tech in general (although they put it to cultural rather than biological reasons); their position also seems to be, however, that these are not mutually exclusive positions. It is possible for there to be reasons outside Google’s control that women are less likely to apply to work at Google, and also for Google to have crappy workplace policies about women. (In fact, the former may make the latter more likely.)

        I mostly just found it interesting in the sense that, yeah, wait, why are we actually taking this guy’s word as gospel that Google actually holds the views he claims they do?

        • eyeballfrog says:

          If workers are happier in a more homogeneous environment than a diverse one, why are we pushing diversity? I would think that making workers happier is a good thing.

          • Charles F says:

            Wouldn’t anybody currently pushing diversity say that if working with women/minorities makes white men unhappy, that’s something to be fixed, not accommodated. And that if the women/minorities are unhappy it’s because of harassment, which should be eliminated, not accepted as a reason why diversity programs are bad overall.?

          • MrApophenia says:

            The same research they mentioned (and maybe they will link it when they post show notes, will post here if they do, otherwise no idea what specific paper they mean) is purported to show that workers are happier in more homogeneous environments, but that these environments also produce less effective work outcomes.

            I could see a moral argument here, though, even if that isn’t true. Even if it is the case that the office environment from Mad Men made all the men who worked there happier, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is an acceptable state of affairs to leave in place, as it is immiserating the excluded would-be workers.

          • Aapje says:

            Still, the question is then why they don’t go after jobs with way more skewed ratio’s first, like logging or nursing?

          • BBA says:

            Because tech has prestige, money, and (unlike the similarly skewed financial sector) mostly left-wing values.

      • Vorkon says:

        One interesting thing implied by your quote, and which often seen stated outright elsewhere, is that a diverse staff is the default. That upper management is actively working to limit diversity but if they let up then there would be a sudden surge of women and URMs into these positions.

        I’m just highlighting this observation, because I think it’s interesting that most of Damore’s critics accept this “diverse staff is the default” paradigm as implicitly true and self-evidently obvious, and never even bother arguing for or against it, while completely missing the fact that Damore’s central argument is “a diverse staff is NOT the default.” I’m not sure if they just can’t fathom a mindset that doesn’t accept that implicitly, or if they’re ignoring it purposefully, (and, to be honest, it’s probably a bit of both) but I think this issue has a lot to do with why they all seem to be talking over each other.

    • Matt M says:

      It’s such a software engineer reaction to just take at face value company marketing material and be like, “Aha! We have this overwhelming ideology!”

      Is it reasonable to fire a software engineer for doing something you expect software engineers to do?

      Further, is it reasonable to fire someone for taking explicitly repeated company mantras literally?

      If Google doesn’t really mean what it says about diversity, then it should probably stop saying it, right? Conversely, I’m absolutely confident that if a feminist wrote a similar essay saying “Google doesn’t mean what they say about diversity” she would NOT be fired. Google’s response would be something like “We do mean it, but it’s very hard, but we agree with you, we don’t have enough diversity yet! Thanks for holding us accountable!”

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Nybbler or other former Google employees can correct me, but as I understand it that’s not even a hypothetical and in fact such essays HAVE been posted internally in the past.

      • Brad says:

        Further, is it reasonable to fire someone for taking explicitly repeated company mantras literally?

        If Google doesn’t really mean what it says about diversity, then it should probably stop saying it, right?

        Yes and no, respectively. The world isn’t a Dr. Seuss book. And most of us wouldn’t want it to be. It boggles the mind that there are apparently numerous twenty and thirty somethings running around that haven’t figured that out yet.

        I guess if someone has a bona fide disability that impacts the ability to understand appropriate behavior on the basis of implicit cues, and they let their employer know that they have it, the company has to figure out whether it can make a reasonable accommodation (block internal company forums?) But I don’t think that happened here.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes and no, respectively. The world isn’t a Dr. Seuss book. And most of us wouldn’t want it to be. It boggles the mind that there are apparently numerous twenty and thirty somethings running around that haven’t figured that out yet.

          Most of us wouldn’t want a world without duplicity and falsehood? Citation needed.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I think there are actually a lot of us who believe that the left is lying when it claims to value diversity, tolerance, etc. But we occasionally, with much difficulty try to be more charitable than that and come up with alternate explanations.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I think the idea being proposed here is that the people who run Google are not actually “the left,” they are merely pretending to be for PR reasons. (Which still says interesting things about social pressure to conform if true, of course.)

          • Brad says:

            You are really going to claim that most people in the red tribe have as a terminal value telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth all the time? (Explicitly stated of course, no implicature allowed.) That out there in middle American there’s no such thing as polite fiction? Come on.

            This isn’t a blue vs red thing, it’s gray vs the rest of the planet.

          • gbdub says:

            Polite fiction is pretending not to notice when someone has a zit on their nose, or smiling and waving to the person on the bus you don’t actually like that much.

            When you’re setting up entire corporate job functions for the sole purpose of advancing that fiction, and firing those who don’t get in line, I think you’re a bit beyond “polite fiction”.

          • Brad says:

            How about propagating the meme that ‘it is unacceptable to have sex outside of marriage and doing so is likely to ruin your life’? All the people that participate in propagating that really believe it is the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

            Purity dances are are being attended by fathers that never sex outside of marriage?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Brad,

            I’m not claiming that. If RedCorp proclaimed “RedCorp believe strongly in Supporting the Troops” and then fired a guy who said “hey, we might support the troops better if we donated to Wounded Warriors Fund B instead of Wounded Warriors Fund A,” lefties would have a legit complaint. RedCorp was lying, and we shouldn’t say “well of course they didn’t mean it” as a way of excusing them.

            MrApophenia does offer an alternative interpretation to “leftists lie about wanting diversity and tolerance,” namely “those people aren’t actually leftists.” I’m not sure I believe it, but it’s a much better answer.

          • Anonymous says:

            How about propagating the meme that ‘it is unacceptable to have sex outside of marriage and doing so is likely to ruin your life’? All the people that participate in propagating that really believe it is the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

            That one happens to actually be true, per science.

            http://i.imgur.com/eqKnba0.jpg
            http://i.imgur.com/sggs9Fz.png

          • MrApophenia says:

            @Jaskologist

            I am not sure whether it is right or not but that is definitely Yglesias’ argument – that Google didn’t fire the memo-writer because of their deeply held beliefs about diversity, but rather because they actually pretty much believe the same things the memo writer does and foolishly writing a memo like that makes it much harder to maintain the fiction of caring about diversity.

            Which, y’know, not sure whether that’s true or not, but it’s a view of all this I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

          • You should be defaulting to the idea that left and right have different definitions of fairness, diversity and equality.

          • Brad says:

            @Jaskologist

            I’m not claiming that. If RedCorp proclaimed “RedCorp believe strongly in Supporting the Troops” and then fired a guy who said “hey, we might support the troops better if we donated to Wounded Warriors Fund B instead of Wounded Warriors Fund A,” lefties would have a legit complaint. RedCorp was lying, and we shouldn’t say “well of course they didn’t mean it” as a way of excusing them.

            There’s likely a hospital system nearby to where you live that has been rapidly expanding in the last 10 years. It used to own at most 3-4 hospitals but now it not only owns more hospitals but it has bought up physicians practices too. Go to their website and you’ll find somewhere a statement of values.

            1) Do you think that this statement of values actually represents what those that run the organization care about? In particular as reflected by their actions?

            2) How exactly would the world be a better place if this statement of values didn’t exist?

          • Matt M says:

            If the statement of values does not reflect the actual values, of course the world would be a better place if it didn’t exist.

            It serves only as propaganda designed to confuse and misdirect. I must be misunderstanding your point because this strikes me as obvious and I’m confused as to how anyone could possibly disagree.

            What value does a lying statement like that have to society? I can appreciate that it adds some value to the hospital (you can convince people you believe the right things without having to actually believe them, PR and all that), but I fail to see how that’s a good thing in any macro sense.

        • gbdub says:

          Being forced to ritually express things that no one actually believes to be true, and to suppress things everyone does believe, is certainly common. But I disagree that it’s popular – it seems like that’s the core objection of anti-PC backlash.

          Anyway, perhaps he “should have known” through “implicit cues” that what he said was going to cause problems. But I think you’re still dodging the question of whether saying what he said should have caused problems (or at least problems of this magnitude). That’s key to the position of most of the anti-Googlers here.

          • Brad says:

            The anti-PC backlash isn’t about the tactics of political correctness, it’s about the content of what is being pushed with those tactics. Those screaming loudest about how terrible PC is have plenty of their own taboos they are willing to go to the mat to protect. Just look at “supporting our troops” and you’ll find a ton of PC-like behavior.

          • gbdub says:

            So the people who complain about jingoism when confronted with “support our troops” are totally on board with being pressured to express sentiment they don’t personally believe?

          • Brad says:

            I don’t get the question.

            People that complain about jingoism don’t like being pressured to express how much they support the troops. People that don’t like Hispanics don’t like being pressured not to call them rapists and murderers and some, I assume, good people.

            The people from the first group are largely okay with the pressure on the second group and vice versa. There is no large scale anti-PC movement as such. Claiming to be against political correctness by and large just means you have the second set of preferences.

          • lvlln says:

            I don’t think many of the loudest voices in the anti-PC backlash like Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dave Rubin would exhibit much PC-like behavior when it comes to “Support our Troops.” I think it’s true that many people who are against PC are doing so for entirely object-level ideological or tribal reasons, but considering the incredibly wide range of political views, from very far left like Freddie DeBoer to very far right like Mike Cernovich who are part of the backlash, I don’t think it’s a good explanation for the motivations anti-PC backlash in general.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln
            I think you are doing the typical mind fallacy thing. Your flavor of anti-political correctness is numerically extremely unusual. Most people would not consider Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dave Rubin to be the loudest voices of the anti-PC backlash. Though Bill Maher would probably come closest. I don’t even recognize half those names and I spend a significant amount of time every week arguing on the internet about issues exactly like this.

            Far and away the number one voice in the “anti-PC backlash” is Donald Trump. Substantially all the voters that told pollsters that political correctness was one of the biggest problems facing America were channeling Trump, not Dave Rubin (whoever that is).

          • Matt M says:

            What about Red Tribe “support our troops” rhetoric do you think is knowing falsehood?

            I would say the “The troops are doing a moral good even if their commanders are ordering them to do something morally wrong” is some pretty damn flimsy logic. Especially when we’re dealing with a voluntary, non-conscripted force.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think it’s nearly as flimsy as you paint it, but then I’m biased.

            Volunteering to be meat for the machine may be objectively stupid irrational but it is still better to live in a society where such people exist than one where they do not.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Brad

            Lvlln’s flavor of anti-PC is the dominant one here at SSC, something you seem bound and determined to ignore.

            That said, I agree that “Support the Troops” is often PC bullshit, and I encourage people who don’t sincerely believe it to take a stand against it. I certainly have a lot more respect for anti-war or anti-military types who do than the ones who try to square that particular circle, much the same way as most GLBT types aren’t particularly comforted by “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

          • Matt M says:

            Volunteering to be meat for the machine may be objectively stupid irrational but it is still better to live in a society where such people exist than one where they do not.

            I’m thinking less “meat for the machine” and more “baby killers”

            “Just following orders” is seen as a lame excuse for our enemies, but when it comes to ourselves, “Support the troops, oppose the war” seems perfectly reasonable.

            Sorry, but if a general orders a drone pilot to drop a bomb on a hospital, I think the drone pilot deserves to be spat on when he returns home.

            If you think the war is illegal and immoral and unjustified, people who joined during wartime are knowingly and intentionally committing illegal, immoral, and unjustified acts of aggression.

          • lvlln says:

            @Brad

            I don’t think most anti-PC people think like me or like Maher. But the fact that most people who are anti-PC are unprincipled right-wingers who often exhibit PC-like behavior in other areas of speech like “Support Our Troops” is about as true and about as interesting as the fact that most people who are anti-climate-change-denial are unprincipled left-wingers who often exhibit science denial behavior in other areas of science like genetic basis of preferences and IQ. It still makes sense to say that the core objection to climate-change-denial is that it’s denying what is obviously consensus among scientific experts, even if the vast majority of the people don’t actually care about scientific expertise and are merely using it as an excuse to beat on their opponents.

            Basically any sides of any political argument is going to be dominated by unprincipled tribalists. One can then conclude that the core argument of any side of any political argument is just wanting to beat on their opponents, but I don’t think that’s generally what’s meant when describing something as the core argument of a side, and it’s not a very interesting or useful way to use it.

            Then again, I’m not a mind reader and don’t know exactly what gbdub meant. If gbdub actually did mean something along the lines of “the actual reasoning (i.e. lack thereof) that the majority of people who hold that position use,” then I am mistaken, and you are correct, Brad.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln
            Gbdub’s point was explicitly about popularity (“I disagree that it’s popular”). So was mine (“And most of us wouldn’t want it to be.”)

            The revealed preferences of the mass of Americans (and humans more generally) is directly relevant to that disagreement, not the most rarefied, steel-manned version of what some claim to believe. If you don’t find that interesting, that’s fine, but it is what the discussion at hand is about.

          • lvlln says:

            @Brad

            Alright, fair enough. The fact that the vast majority of any given side of any given political argument are unprincipled tribalists does seem to support your point in this bottom-level thread, and I seem to be wrong.

          • gbdub says:

            Well, I was really referring to anti-PC as lvlln describes it, but if Brad thinks that’s too fringe to count, then so be it.

            Still, I think it is true most people don’t like being ritually forced to declare things they don’t actually believe, or at least don’t sympathize with. They are inconsistent, because people are inconsistent about everything, and are often okay with forcing that on others.

          • If you think the war is illegal and immoral and unjustified, people who joined during wartime are knowingly and intentionally committing illegal, immoral, and unjustified acts of aggression.

            Does “knowingly” mean they know they are committing the acts or they know that the acts they are committing are illegal, immoral and unjustified acts of aggression? Your statement can be read either way. The first version is the one that is true, the second is the one needed, for the moral conclusion I think you want to draw.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Does Google hire woman engineers?

      Yes, in proportion to their availability. I’m sure they’d like to hire more, but so do Apple, Netflix, Facebook, etc, and they’re all playing from the same playbook.

      Do they have woman top executives?

      According to Business Insider, yes. No woman founders, but asking Larry or Sergey to get a sex change seems rather extreme.

      Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.

      Perhaps, but I’d suggest taking them with a grain of salt. The story I told a few OTs back, about a woman who ended up crying in the stairwell about the horrible hostility at work, when, if you read her story for its actual content rather than emoting, it simply described a co-worker politely and timidly asking her on a date? That was Google, and as it turns out, one of Damore’s public witch-burners.

    • bean says:

      Google, like a lot of companies, does a lot of PR around this. But do they hire women engineers? No. Do they have women top executives? No. Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.

      If Google isn’t hiring women engineers or women executives, then who are these women saying terrible things about it?

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m pretty sure they do. Just not anywhere approaching parity, due to the inevitable shortage of qualified women.

        The author of the quote probably meant it as a rhetorical flourish, not literally.

        • bean says:

          I’m pretty sure they do. Just not anywhere approaching parity, due to the inevitable shortage of qualified women.

          That was rather my point. The statement that Google has no women engineers is both stupidly wrong and directly contradicted by the statement that there are lots of women talking about how terrible it is.

          • Hey good point. Yes the comment was meant to be somewhat rhetorical, but I would think even the rhetorical points wouldn’t be internally contradictory.

            But do they hire women engineers? No.

            Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.

            Edit: Theoretically, he could have meant he hears terrible things from women secretaries and so wasn’t contradictory. But I think from context he means women engineers in the second quote.

    • Anon. says:

      This is bizarre..

    • InferentialDistance says:

      Or, they really are pro-diversity, but they follow the progressive’s anti-science policy advice, and thus end up with entirely ineffective methods of increasing the number female engineers and executives. When they should be trying to figure out how to get elementary-school girls to follow through on math and computers all the way through high school and college, rather than competing against all the other tech companies for the meager 20% of applicants who are women. Assuming there is a way to pull that off, however.

      • Anonymous says:

        Assuming there is a way to pull that off, however.

        Third world countries can do it. The secret is probably “do what brings the money, doesn’t matter if you aren’t interested in it” vs “follow your dreams, girl”.

        • InferentialDistance says:

          Third world countries are poor. I don’t think telling girls to chase money is sufficient to replicate the effect.

        • Matt M says:

          The secret is probably “do what brings the money, doesn’t matter if you aren’t interested in it” vs “follow your dreams, girl”.

          I wonder if this explains the results we see where the most progressive/feminist countries still have the least “diversity” in many occupations.

          “Follow your dreams, girl” seems like a very feminist message. And if it’s true that most women don’t dream of coding, then promoting this message is going to result in very few female coders.

          As an aside, I met a few Indian women in business school who had been software engineers. Usually when I asked them why, the answer was something like “I didn’t care about software engineering at all, it was just the best job I qualified for and my family encouraged me to make the most money possible.”

          My guess is that western feminists would sneer at that sort of outcome. They would see this not as a victory for feminism, but as another example of the evil capitalist patriarchy oppressing women and forcing them to abandon their dreams and become a wage-slave for profit instead.

          • Barely matters says:

            . They would see this not as a victory for feminism, but as another example of the evil capitalist patriarchy oppressing women and forcing them to abandon their dreams and become a wage-slave for profit instead.

            And they wouldn’t really be wrong. This is just the downside of fighting hard for equality without understanding how the other group lives.

            “Congrats on your newfound equality. Enjoy your 90 hour weeks in the code mines. Yeah, I’d rather being doing something else too.”

            Now, it won’t quite work that way, because women still have a bunch of other options that men don’t (Marry a coder and let them work, have a child with a coder and then spend time with your kids, divorce said coder, etc) which let them opt out without sacrificing as much. As long as other options exist, women won’t have nearly the same incentive to work in shitty conditions that men do, and will be outcompeted because the other side just wants it more.

            Women in the third world compete harder because those other options aren’t nearly as effective as they are here. That said, neither of us will ever be able to convince the crowd pushing for gender parity of the reality that having too many options has drawbacks, and that you can’t expect a group to be competitive in every field, against another group that is focused into a narrower band.

      • The Nybbler says:

        When they should be trying to figure out how to get elementary-school girls to follow through on math and computers all the way through high school and college, rather than competing against all the other tech companies for the meager 20% of applicants who are women. Assuming there is a way to pull that off, however.

        The last part is the kicker. If there is a way to pull that off, no one knows how to do it. They’ve been trying for at least three decades. Some things they try have no effect, some appear to have an effect but it quickly goes away.

  25. axiomsofdominion says:

    I’d like to ask people if they think political organizing is done poorly. This is non partisan. I feel like there is a lot left on the field internet wise as far as organizing goes. Most groups seem to have a mailing list, some apps, and a red/white/blue color scheme. Everything is mostly top down, even “grass roots” type sites. Any organizing among individuals has to be done on poorly suited Twitter and Facebook accounts. There is no central location of political focused content. Maybe a group has a shittily managed Slack at best.

    Many smaller groups would do well with a web forum designed for autonomous members of a federation. Basically each group has their own section they fully control, they can assign permissions, groups can choose to accept other groups permissions, and you probably want a facebook/twitter log in accepting public section to draw members in. You’d only need more information to grant permissions. Election reform groups and third parties are a good example. These groups have value to each other, there’s a lot and they are mostly small, and they have minimal impact and like many idea based groups they lack good geographical clumping.

    Thoughts?

    • qwints says:

      Yeah – it’s awful, but web forums aren’t really a solution. At a very basic level, you need your organizing to generate and effectively spend resources (which boil down to time and money). There are two fundamental challenges – 1) most people don’t like doing the effective things and 2) the iron law of institutions. Web forums exacerbate rather than solve those problems.

      Recruiting and persuading people isn’t fun for most people – it has a very high failure rate and requires centering the other person. Most would rather talk to people they agree with, or at most, yell at people they don’t. And since most people don’t stick around when getting yelled at, countless forums degenerate into people yelling at people they mostly agree with. It’s not just web forums – Occupy in most cities essentially consisted entirely of true believers talking to each other.

      Simultaneously, web forums provide a space for people to have power (both technologically and persuasively). People like power, and tend to take steps to preserve or increase what they’ve got even if that comes at the expense of the larger movement. The danger here is that people spend more energy maintaining their status rather than focusing on growing the group – since the latter involves bringing in more people that could threaten their status. I can think of a couple of high profile examples of once influential groups that collapsed into the cult of personality for a single individual.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Well its not a traditional web forum. There are autonomous groups. You can cooperate with something like recognizing permissions, but you don’t have to. Groups would mostly be real world existing organizations, not like you’d be founding a bunch of groups from random members.

        Also, maintaining status type stuff is already at the limit. Dems vs everyone else, how each existing group is very top down and hierarchical, etc. Also you provide a space for organizing rather than growing, so taking the already existing group of Sanders supporters for instance and providing better tools than fishing around on Twitter.

  26. Matt M says:

    Does anyone know of any dating sites or online communities that cater primarily to the interests of strong introverts?

    One of my biggest frustrations with modern dating is the mad rush for frequent, in-person interactions. If you don’t ask to meet someone in person right away, they’ll probably stop talking to you. And ultimately, most of them seem to expect multiple dates per week, usually in busy public places, etc. And here I am thinking “the entire reason I wanted a relationship is so I can have someone to interact with without having to spend a lot of time in busy public places.”

    In the past I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out of long-distance, online relationships, which ultimately seemed to collapse when the other person meets someone in-person they prefer more. My needs are primarily emotional, the desire is mostly “someone to talk to.” In person would be great, but I don’t want to get greedy here.

    I know of the existence of things like Anastasia Date and international sites which seem conducive to the long-distance thing, but those always strike me as incredibly scammy – as if the best case scenario is that you’re entering into some sort of prostitution or mail-order-bride situation (worst case being they take your money and don’t give you anything).

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Are you sure dating is what you want?

      The ideal relationship you’re describing sounds more like a pen pal than a girlfriend. It’s more than possible to meet opposite-sex friends online: you can use Facebook or a hundred other social media sites to connect to people you’ll rarely if ever meet in real life.

      Using dating sites for that purpose, without clearly advertising that you’re not interested in meeting, seems deceptive. Those sites are generally either for people looking for both physical and emotional intimacy or more often for just physical intimacy.

      • Matt M says:

        No, I’m not really sure what I want – that’s a large part of the problem.

        It’s not that I DON’T want physical contact. It’s just that it’s not a huge priority for me, and it seems to be a huge priority for most other people, which leads to difficulties. IF I could find someone locally that I was aligned on with this (take it slow, meet in person infrequently, most meetings are at someone’s residence and not at a loud bar, etc.) that would be fantastic. But there don’t seem to be many females out there who want that sort of thing, so trying to go through Tinder every day and hoping I can find one who is seems counterintuitive. I’d rather have a place where everyone is already screened as being okay with that, and then try to find one local, or not, if that makes sense?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Alright, well I wish you luck but I don’t think I have much actionable advice.

          It’s definitely possible to meet someone primarily at your or their apartments (e.g. Netflix and chill) but those tend to be unserious and primarily physical relationships. I’m fairly confident that you don’t want that.

          In my experience, women tend to infer that you’re not serious if you don’t take them out often enough. To some extent “we don’t go out anymore” is just a shit test but there’s an element of genuine anxiety: nobody wants to be the side chick if they can avoid it. So you’ll probably want to come up with a way to assuage that fear without going too far outside of your comfort zone.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Huh, this suggests that places where there is a strong presupposition that everyone is serious might work better for introverts (less need to signal). So, maybe something like eharmony?

          • gbdub says:

            I always thought of “Netflix and chill” as possible casual FWB, but also kind of the default state for longer term relationships.

            Early on, everything is exciting and there’s pressure for every date to be an experience. After awhile you realize you like hanging out more than you like the activities you came up with to justify meeting in public.

            I suspect there are a lot of inherently introverted women who still want a few public dates up front to sort out the creepers (I don’t know you at all, but you want me to spend an evening alone at your house?) and the lazy booty-callers. Once you get over that hump (no pun intended) there are plenty of relationships that end up being two people just hanging out alone.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @gbdub,

            I’d say it’s more of a failure mode than a default state.

            Today is actually my weekly date night. My girlfriend and I are going to stay in tonight and cook a steak dinner together but that’s because we’re already planning to go to Shakespeare in the Park on Sunday. Normally we’d be out on a Thursday evening.

            It’s easy to forget to go out regularly but it’s relationship poison long term. You need to fan the flames a bit if you don’t want to burn out.

          • gbdub says:

            Says you. Some people really just are introverted, and Shakespeare in the Park gives them nothing that “steak dinner at home followed by cuddling and movies” doesn’t.

            Actually my girlfriend and I found we were getting into a number of fights over “not doing anything” when in reality neither of us actually wanted to go out and do anything, we just felt like we ought to be “doing something”.

            So we’ve settled on a metric of “are we doing this because we actually will enjoy it more than the alternatives, or are we doing it so our Instagram feed looks better”. We used this to nix going clubbing on a night on vacation recently when we were both already exhausted. The reality was we were pressuring ourselves to “not waste a night of vacation” when really “a good night’s sleep so we can be more active tomorrow” was what made us happier.

            We do have to bias it a bit toward “go out” because “sit around” has inertia, but an overwhelming pressure to do stuff just to outdo your Facebook friends is toxic in its own way.

          • Matt M says:

            Some people really just are introverted, and Shakespeare in the Park gives them nothing that “steak dinner at home followed by cuddling and movies” doesn’t.

            I’d go even further than this. It’s not even that going out in public gives me nothing extra – it’s that it’s a net negative. Shakespeare in the park would be a stressful and draining experience for me. I’d be willing to do it every so often for the sake of a good friend and/or potential romantic partner (I’m not agoraphobic or anything), but it’s just not something I would ever actively want to do.

            Which means that if I DO go do it, I end up seeing it as a sacrifice on my part for the sake of the other person. But they don’t see it that way, they see it as a neutral thing we both enjoy equally. And conflict arises from there.

            Basically, I’m looking for a girl who wouldn’t be insulted if I said to her “The fact that I’m leaving my house to meet you is itself emblematic of affection and interest and I expect it to be treated as such”

          • random832 says:

            Which means that if I DO go do it, I end up seeing it as a sacrifice on my part for the sake of the other person. But they don’t see it that way, they see it as a neutral thing we both enjoy equally. And conflict arises from there.

            I wonder if one of the problems with relationships in general, for everyone, is that there’s no way to discuss what is or isn’t a sacrifice for the other person’s sake without seeming either resentful or at least like you’re “keeping score” (but you’re, of course, the bad guy if you bring it up in response to a complaint sparked by your score in her book falling too low)

          • Loquat says:

            Shakespeare in the park would be a stressful and draining experience for me.

            You know, this seems like the sort of thing you should put right in your profile – INTROVERT WHO DISLIKES BUSY PUBLIC ACTIVITIES, SEEKS SIMILARLY INTROVERTED WOMAN. Is it already there and people are just not taking it seriously, or are you not being explicit about it up front, or what?

            I met my husband on OKCupid, which asked users to (honestly) take a bunch of personality tests and match based on the results, so introverts would be matched with introverts, etc. I hear it’s gone downhill in more recent years, but a site with that sort of approach is probably going to work a lot better for you than Tinder.

          • Matt M says:

            You know, this seems like the sort of thing you should put right in your profile – INTROVERT WHO DISLIKES BUSY PUBLIC ACTIVITIES, SEEKS SIMILARLY INTROVERTED WOMAN. Is it already there and people are just not taking it seriously, or are you not being explicit about it up front, or what?

            I think the answer is “people who are looking for that aren’t on general interest dating sites.”

            When I first started online dating (5+ years ago) this was my general strategy. I was very specific about what I was looking for, and very honest and up-front about my quirks, eccentricities, and flaws. This effort was a massive failures. I got very few replies, and zero actual dates.

            At one point I went to some women (and successful men) for advice and they basically said, “What are you, an idiot? For any given woman, you are probably competing with literally hundreds of other men, most of whom are selling themselves as “I am absolutely perfect.” You think you’re going to succeed with a message of “Here are a lot of common and popular things that I hate – please date me anyway?”

            I took their advice and made my profile as general and non-specific as possible. Success went up, noticeably. I still wasn’t doing well but I at least got some first dates and a couple hook-ups. But the process was long and draining and emotionally exhausting for me, and none of the dates ever resulted in meaningful relationships.

            I think the most likely scenario here is that women who have interests similar to mine simply don’t exist, or that they’re sufficiently rare that my odds of finding one who isn’t already taken is approximately zero. The most logical thing to do is probably to just give up and resign myself to foreveralone or whatever.

            But if I’m using myself as an example, the gender-flipped version of me has already given up on eharmony and POF and okcupid. They’re tired of dealing with people who won’t talk to you unless you agree to immediate, frequent, public dates. They’ve adopted some other alternative strategy, or given up completely. So my question is – what IS the alternative strategy, and/or how do you locate & identify people who have given up?

        • Brad says:

          I know this is some kind of red pill live wire, but it sounds like you should consider a single mom. I was talking to a friend of mine that meets that description and her complaints about online dating were a lot like yours. She doesn’t want to go out and meet right away because going out means getting a baby sitter and using up precious free time. If she’s going to do that she wants to know the person better before hand to have a better chance that it is worth her time. Not interested in bars and clubs, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Holy lord no. I don’t consider myself a redpill, but “single mom” is probably my only absolute dealbreaker.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Out of curiosity, what makes it a dealbreaker? You’re not wrong to have that reaction, but the reason for it might help in figuring out what you’re looking for and where to go looking for it.

          • Matt M says:

            A perfect storm of many factors…

            1. A general dislike of children
            2. A general belief that single parenthood is really irresponsible, to the point of being indicative of a great moral failing such that it is hard for me to respect such people
            3. Standard redpill arguments regarding how most single moms are the people who, in their youthful/attractive days, wouldn’t give nerds like me the time of day, until now that they’re in trouble and their looks are fading and they suddenly have in interest in stable, responsible, men – I’m supposed to be totally cool with that and come to their rescue

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t consider myself a redpill, but “single mom” is probably my only absolute dealbreaker.

            It was mine, too.

            Guess what the punchline is.

          • Anonymous says:

            Guess what the punchline is.

            You helped make another one? 😉

          • baconbacon says:

            1. A general dislike of children
            2. A general belief that single parenthood is really irresponsible, to the point of being indicative of a great moral failing such that it is hard for me to respect such people
            3. Standard redpill arguments regarding how most single moms are the people who, in their youthful/attractive days, wouldn’t give nerds like me the time of day, until now that they’re in trouble and their looks are fading and they suddenly have in interest in stable, responsible, men – I’m supposed to be totally cool with that and come to their rescue

            #1 is good reason not to date a woman with children.

            #2 is easy, restrict your dating to single mothers of no fault of their own (ie widows and the like), or to women who have multiple other factors pointing away from it being a moral failing (ie professionally successful single mothers whose children aren’t obvious brats).

            #3 When I had no job and no money no one would sell me a car, now that I have money I’m not about to go to one of those dealerships who are suddenly falling all over themselves to sell me one! Long story short both parties in a relationship should gain from being together, how you would have hypothetically acted when you were both very different people many years ago is of minimal importance.

            This last line isn’t Disney smoke either. My wife refused to date me in college, point blank. We got in touch again in our late 20s (she wasn’t a single mother) and got engaged before our 2nd date. I could easily have screwed up a great thing by holding her actual (not imagined) rejection from years before against her but instead I mostly let it go (not that I handled it perfectly, but well enough) and that was actually part of what she was looking for (maturity).

          • Anonymous says:

            single mothers of no fault of their own (ie widows and the like)

            I wouldn’t lump widows with single mothers at all, technically correct though that may be.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, widows wouldn’t be excluded from 2 and 3, but #1 would still be an issue.

            And even if the arguments for 3 are weak, 1 and 2 are still there.

            I can imagine being willing to date a single mother if everything else about the woman was perfect, but that’s basically what it would take.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I’d be pretty freaked out about how to handle a kid. On the other hand there is at least one advantage of single moms for us introverts: you’re never going to be the main person in her life, so there’s no need to live up to that standard.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’d be pretty freaked out about how to handle a kid.

            The good news is you don’t have to. Even if the mom is explicitly looking for a new husband/father to the kid, they aren’t going to dump them on you right away (if any of them try it should be a deal breaker for you). Most single moms are going to be looking for time to live their own lives a little, even on “family” dates where you take the kids to the fair or park, the kids will be playing with other kids. Not their mom’s new boyfriend.

            Treat them the same way you would a co worker you don’t really care to get to know. Polite detachment for a while, and if things work out with the mom you will eventually slide into his life (reasonably) comfortably.

    • rahien.din says:

      The groundwork is a basic, honest inventory. What is it about your prior relationships that you have found satisfying? What did they lack? How would you describe your own sexuality? What do you need from a partner, and what do you want? What can you offer in to a partner, and what can’t you?

      From there, you just need 1. a proper method (goals are for suckers) and 2. the willingness to be surprised, by yourself and by others.

      However, like Nabil I am not convinced you want to date – “frequent in-person interactions” is the very definition thereof. You seem to want a successful long-term emotional correspondence.

      ETA: one other thing about relationships is that they are successful bidirectional imaginings. Keep that in mind.

      • Matt M says:

        However, like Nabil I am not convinced you want to date – “frequent in-person interactions” is the very definition thereof. You seem to want a successful long-term emotional correspondence.

        Yes. This is true.

        So my question is, “Where do I meet females who might also want this?”

        • rahien.din says:

          You might try personal ads of various types – that’s a good way to be upfront about what you need and want. Or, restrict your dating-site profiles in such a way that the only people who find your profile interesting are people like you.

          I don’t know anything about your life (nor have I any right to) but I would say it’s always wise to be open to surprises. The right person has a way of introducing you to yourself. Speaking from direct experience, I would not have been successful in my current relationship without having gone through a very specific relationship that was painful-wonderful and ultimately transformative.

        • sophiegrouchy says:

          Why does it matter if they are females, given that it mainly seems like you want a penpal/ hangout friend?

          • Matt M says:

            Well, I do also have biology-based physical desires. Probably less so than the average person but they aren’t non-existent.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          Start playing World of Warcraft.

          Tongue-in-cheek, but it actually worked for me. Played WoW because it was fun, eventually gave it up because I was in college and figured I should probably be going out in the world, with a main focus of having dating prospects.

          Failed at that for about 3 years, went back to WoW because if I’m going to fail anyway, might as well have something to do. Turns out there are a decent amount of women in my age range, and we start with a common interest (and a bundle of related interests) and the ability to show off my intelligence. I’m now dating a lovely girl I met there.

          Long-distance is inevitable and is always a problem, but hey, having your SO be 6 hours of driving away actually works out pretty well if you only want infrequent in-person interaction.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve been playing since Vanilla, man.

            Too much competition for me. Any obvious female will always have a following of 20 dudes competing for her attention. I’m not really the competitive type so I never tend to win these things.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            This hasn’t been my experience, and actually I don’t think I ever remember having competition on any of my relationships, at least not in-game.

            Maybe it’s a different setting? Most of the people I’ve met have been through my raiding guilds. I tend not to be super hardcore, but we are talking like 8-10 hours a week with serious progression and an expectation that people will do their homework with regards to their class. Maybe women in those sort of guilds are less interested in a bunch of men fighting over them and being flirty?

            The way it generally starts is that I need to interact with people fairly regularly for raid-related stuff, and sometimes we hit it off, and start talking about unrelated things. This eventually leads to phone numbers being exchanged, and things go from there. I don’t remember being actively flirty: it’s more showing competence within the game, being friendly, and sort of coming up through the friend zone. My current girlfriend and I have been friends and raided together for years before deciding we were into each other.

            Could have just been lucky too I suppose, but we’re talking 4 solid relationships and ~4 OK ones within 4-5 years, of which 5 were ready to move to the real world and 2 did. Probably not a great track record for most people, but way better than I’ve ever done in the real world.

          • Matt M says:

            Wow, that’s really weird. In my 10+ years I’ve probably only met about four females within my age range. About half of them already have boyfriends, and the other half constantly have every other guy in the guild flirting with them.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            I don’t really have a good explanation for our different experiences.

            It’s not that my people are more mature, because they’re definitely not. It just never escalates beyond casual jokes, no one’s actually flirting. I had to chew out an officer for rather explicitly drunk-texting another raider once, but that was the only issue I had in years of being the raid leader (and thus the guy who would have to deal with that).

            My ~15-person raid team currently has 6 women, at least 5 of them in their 20s or 30s. All are currently in relationships (3 to other raiders on the team, 3 to people who play the game but are not part of the team). We’ve had at least 3 other women in the guild since June 2016 (when I joined this team). This team is way more woman-heavy than any of my previous teams, but there were at least 2 women on all of my previous teams.

            I’d say maybe it’s because we don’t constantly flirt, but a female player would have no way of knowing that before joining, and if that was the problem you’d have met women, but they would have left quickly due to the environment, so that doesn’t work.

            Only thing I can think of is Alliance v Horde? I’m Horde, and my perception is that Horde tends to be either completely immature 13 year-olds or fairly hardcore, focused players, whereas the Alliance is more of a social, casual faction. It’s possible the latter leads to more flirty congregation around the women.

          • Matt M says:

            That is odd. I switched from Horde to Ally about two years ago and haven’t noticed any major differences in gender balance or maturity leve.

            My current guild has a decent gender balance but most of the females are old ladies. There’s only two that I know to be within my rough age range and both have boyfriends already (which doesn’t seem to stop many other guildies from flirting with them anyway)

    • kenziegirl says:

      I’d recommend sites that are more skewed toward friend/pen pal relationships, or the ones that let you advertise that’s what you’re looking for, versus dating.

      As a fellow introvert, I sympathize with your inclinations, but I do think there is a trade-off. My ideal friendship would be someone who (1) checks in every month or so, (2) who doesn’t pester me too much, and (3) who is always available when I’m in the mood to get together. And (4) who would settle for chilling at home doing nothing in particular. It’s not realistic though and it’s an entirely self-interested way to go about doing friendship. (2) If you’re not getting regular meaningful interaction with this person, can you really call it a friendship? (3) Everyone I know, like me, is really busy with other obligations and is rarely able to drop everything on a dime to socialize. (4) Again, everyone is really busy, if they just want to sit at home doing nothing in particular, they don’t need me for that. I’ve found my invite/acceptance ratio really goes up when I suggest something more special and specific (that yes, takes more work to plan but makes for a fun night out). And without those things aligned, why would this person care enough about me to do (1)?

      So, YMMV, but I do find that having a meaningful relationship requires stretching out of my introvert comfort zone. When I don’t make the effort, I can’t maintain the friendship.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s not realistic though and it’s an entirely self-interested way to go about doing friendship

        But why, assuming the other person wants the same things?

        I’ve pretty much already ruled out the possibility of having a healthy and functional relationship with a normal person who has normal social needs. Either they’d be miserable with me, or I’d make myself miserable trying to keep them satisfied.

        But I feel like if I met someone with similar social needs to myself, we could make it work just fine. And I’m pretty sure my next best alternative isn’t “figure out how to make myself appealing to normal people,” but rather “resign myself to a lifetime of solitude and hope that robot wives are invented before I die”

        • Deiseach says:

          resign myself to a lifetime of solitude and hope that robot wives are invented before I die

          Genuinely sorry about that. I think in one way I hit the jackpot when I got the genetic combination that resulted in both “extremely introverted, don’t much like people and would prefer to be alone and left alone” with “asexual and aromantic”. If you’re gonna be messed up, go big or go home!

          That means I am not interested in getting, finding or having a relationship that is sexual and romantic or sexual but not romantic or romantic but not sexual, which means it’s much less stressful all round since I don’t have clashing “want to be on my own, prefer staying in to going on, not interested in/good with kids, if I do go out and do stuff with you please recognise that this is a genuine sacrifice on my part, not going to have/want lots of friends and a social life” with “but I want a special person in my life” desires.

          For people who do want a special person and can’t find one/can only find a mundane person who sooner or later will want to have friends round, go out and do things, etc./can find another person with your traits but you both grate on one another, then that is really hard and I’m sorry. I have no suggestions; I don’t think you are being unreasonable in your requirements because heck, I share them too but I also think it’s not really very likely to happen. The best way it works out is when the couple agree that one person stays in and is happy with not being part of a circle of friends who all socialise and the other person goes out and does things on their own/with that circle of friends and that neither party is being unreasonable or demanding by doing this, but that takes balance and strong-mindedness on both parts; it worked for my parents but the active partner is going to have to put up with a fair amount of “so where’s your partner, why didn’t he/she come along?” at the start and they may get tired of having to explain “no they’re not sick/working, they just didn’t want to come and no, that isn’t an insult and doesn’t mean they don’t like you, they just don’t like parties”.

    • Well... says:

      Get a dog. Take the dog to a dog park. Over time you will get to know the girls who go there. Girls who have dogs are usually pretty cool.

      – The dogs do things that prompt their owners to talk to each other in easy, non-awkward ways.
      – Your dog is there, providing the “pet therapy” effect that will make it easier to talk.
      – It’s a quiet, relaxed setting in which it’s not considered rude for you to sit off by yourself and not talk to anyone if you feel like it (though since you’re there to meet girls, you should eventually go talk to them).
      – It provides its own “slow drip” into a relationship since you see people there for relatively short periods of time about once a week.
      – Buncha other stuff that seems like it fits what you’re looking for.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t like animals either.

        (And yes, I know at this point I’m just shooting down all suggestions and making excuses for not improving)

        • Well... says:

          Do you dislike animals more than you dislike loneliness?

          Also, what is it about animals you dislike? If it is some of the elements they tend to have in common with children, then I’m curious what you expect to eventually offer and get out of a long-term relationship with a woman, since women tend to want kids eventually even if they don’t think they will when they are younger.

          • Matt M says:

            I dislike things that are loud, unpredictable, and place a lot of requirements and responsibilities on me.

            So that rules out kids, pets, and most women. Yes, I know.

          • Well... says:

            Well, nobody “likes” those kinds of things. So when you say you “dislike” them, does it mean you are so averse to them you would forego enduring happiness, fulfillment, and companionship to avoid them? Or is it something you might be able to learn to deal with in return for greater rewards?

          • Matt M says:

            does it mean you are so averse to them you would forego enduring happiness, fulfillment, and companionship to avoid them?

            Uh, I guess it does? Or when I say “I dislike X” what I mean is “I seem to dislike X significantly more than the average person.”

      • Do not do this.

        Girls don’t talk to you as a dog owners because they like dogs, they do so because it’s a convenient excuse and you’re hot. I promise you this.

        Dogs are a massively logistical commitment and mine, as much as I love her, has rewritten my life in many ways, not all of which are good. I am stuck with her for another decade. If I had just gotten her to pick up women (and I really did believe that she might help–women do love her when they pay attention to me for whatever reason) I’d be furious at her and miserable for having her.

        • Matt M says:

          Trust me, I know.

          And people have started mis-interpreting my post. I’m NOT looking for general “help me meet women” advice. As I said, I’ve given up on that. I’m looking for “help me meet a very very specific kind of woman, with the qualifier that I am unwilling to use general ‘meet women’ tactics and just hope to luckily stumble upon the right type”

    • sophiegrouchy says:

      It sounds like you’d do well with a good roommate. It’s not too hard to get a roomie from the SSC/rationality community if you post about it on the various listservs. You can spend most your time alone in your room, and when you want to hang, venture into the living room.

      Probably best to get two slightly extroverted roomies, so you can just join them when they’re hanging in the living room. Two introverts are probably rarely in the living room at the same time.

      • Matt M says:

        Haha, no way, not a chance. I said strong introvert remember? My home is my shelter from other people. I don’t want to live with someone else!

    • winchester says:

      /r/ForeverAloneDating has many such people. Though it has a high male:female ratio, so competition is a problem. A thoughtful post, maybe a modified version of your OP in this thread, will probably get some responses. Being willing to start with a long-distance relationship will grow your pool a lot.

  27. Brad says:

    In the links thread, in response to a post that in part called for liberal people to take efforts to reduce polarization I wrote:

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

    The conversation involved other things and I don’t blame my interlocutor for passing over this, but I want to open it to everyone. It’s pretty clearly the minority position, but there is a small but steady stream of articles in liberal media elite publications calling for understanding and empathizing with the White working class in middle America. Is there any significant parallel phenomenon in any medium in the red or gray tribes calling for looking at the motivations and anxieties of urban, White, professional Clinton voters in anything even approaching a charitable way?

    N.B. I admit this is a semi-gotcha question because I expect the answer to be no. However, I think the most interesting result would be if the answer turns out to be yes. The least interesting result would be a bunch of posts saying no, but but the blue tribe is so evil! They don’t deserve any understanding!

    • bean says:

      I think I’d point to Haidt’s stuff on modeling the other side as at least a partial answer to this. IMO, the typical Clinton voter is voting for things which sound good, but won’t work. “Free healthcare for everyone” sounds great, as does “no racism”. But both are hard enough to implement that I don’t really trust the government to do the job. This isn’t really hard to understand, and I do sympathize with them.
      The fraction of conservatives that says “liberals are evil and out to get us all” is smaller than the fraction which says “liberals are nice people who are fundamentally misguided”. But I do think it’s growing, and that’s a dangerous thing.

      • Iain says:

        Surely Haidt is an example of Team Blue making an effort to better understand Team Red, not vice versa. Brad is asking for his counterpart on the other side.

        • bean says:

          I was referring to Haidt’s results on the Intellectual Turing Test. Conservatives are much better at modeling liberals than the other way around.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Agreed on both counts.

          Unfortunately, I’ve seen this question raised in the past, and I know the stock response. The TL;DR version is that Team Red already understands Team Blue fairly well – all they have to do is turn on the news to anything other than Fox. The longer version is that Red people with Blue acquaintances get a strong correlation between Blue viewpoints and journalist viewpoints (aside from Fox). This is independent of whether Red people think Red viewpoints are more correct; all one has to recognize is that they differ, and most journalism either extolls or assumes one side more than the other.

          Haidt even ran a study, frequently alluded to by the right (EDIT: including bean while I was writing this), that suggested that the right understands the left more than the other way around. As I recall, it was a rather clever study, although I admit I have the same suspicion toward it that I do toward any sociology study. Is it replicable, etc.?. Then again, I keep getting confirmation of it every time I see one of my blue friends post some political point to Facebook or elsewhere, and I instantly notice it’s not even something my red friends believe. I honestly can’t remember the last time one of them nailed a conservative viewpoint.

          (It’s genuinely harder to find this in the other direction, but my red friends are conspicuously less likely to post their political views, so my sample size suffers. It’s also possible that I just have an unusually mild group of conservative acquaintances.)

    • gbdub says:

      Was there a push to understand McCain voters in 2008? How much of this steady stream of liberal thinkpieces would exist in the reality where Hillary won?

      Losers are going to spend more effort hand-wringing over why they lost than winners spend wondering why they didn’t win bigger. The thoughtful losers are going to realize they need to figure out how to convince some of the other side. Add to that that “working class” is something the Dems used to own – lamenting and explaining that loss might be key to winning back a Dem coalition.

      The pro-Trump narrative, rightly or wrongly, was “you guys already have your voice, you’ve been dismissing and insulting us for too long, now you have to listen to us”. The election vindicated this narrative. Why would you expect them to question it?

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        This. There was an exactly analogous assumption among Republicans after 2012 that they had to find some way to reach Hispanic voters, which turned out to be just about as sincere (and just about as necessary).

      • gbdub says:

        A couple more points as I think about it more. Really, white working class populism was the emergent phenomenon of the 2016 election. We’re trying to explain them because they’re the thing that needs explaining. I doubt we’d see the same thinkpieces about Jeb Bush voters (but we might see more right-wing thinkpieces about people who voted for new president Bernie Sanders).

        You don’t need to explain urban Democrat moderates any more than you need to explain moderate Republicans. They are a known phenomenon. You might need to have more charitable takes on say radfems or BLM, but so far they are fringe and ignored. If the Dems win a major election on the backs of BLM activism, then you’ll probably see more.

        Also, the sort of thoughtful Republicans that would write about understanding Hillary voters are probably themselves not super high on Trump (or actively trying to rein him in), so they too are trying to grasp the white working class populism phenomenon.

        Finally, I really do think moderate Republicans have more access and exposure to moderate Democrat views and media than moderate Democrats have to Trump’s base. Those who are interested in engaging with pro-Hillary ideas don’t need journalists to mount a safari to the mysterious land of Flyover on their behalf.

        This is not saying “Dems are evil”, just that there’s a lot more distance between “moderate Hillary voter” and “rabidly pro-Trump white working class” than there is between “moderate Hillary voter” and “Republican who would have preferred Bush or Rubio”.

        • Brad says:

          Finally, I really do think moderate Republicans have more access and exposure to moderate Democrat views and media than moderate Democrats have to Trump’s base. Those who are interested in engaging with pro-Hillary ideas don’t need journalists to mount a safari to the mysterious land of Flyover on their behalf.

          This is not saying “Dems are evil”, just that there’s a lot more distance between “moderate Hillary voter” and “rabidly pro-Trump white working class” than there is between “moderate Hillary voter” and “Republican who would have preferred Bush or Rubio”.

          Sure. But I don’t understand why that’s relevant. If the reducing polarization project requires understanding and compassion from the moderate Hillary voters to the rabidly pro-Trump white working class, then doesn’t it also require understanding and compassion from the rabidly pro-Trump white working class to the moderate Hillary voter?

          I don’t see where moderate Republicans come into the question at all. There aren’t any think pieces on understanding moderate Republicans.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think too much of the immoderate left is writing understanding think pieces either. It’s not like “understand the Trumpers” was the universal or even majority reaction to Trump – those are still the exception while the rule is “10 ways Trump is exactly like Hitler and nuclear war starts tomorrow”.

            And that crowd is not happy with the understanding think pieces. Hell I just had several friends on my Facebook feed calling the ACLU a hate group for crying out loud.

            Most of the thoughtful think pieces are coming from the middle on both sides. The world would be a better place if more people reached out to the other side, but I think you overestimate the degree to which it’s happening at either pole.

          • Brad says:

            Where are any thoughtful think pieces from the moderate conservatives calling for understanding and compassion towards the immoderate left? That would be the parallel to what’s happening on the left. Not pieces designed to tell the moderate right they can work with the moderate left.

            You are trying to claim the situation is symmetric, but I see no evidence of that. Maybe the lack of symmetry isn’t a big deal and maybe it comes down to having recently lost the presidency — I thought that was a decent point — but this thread of the conversation where you claim it is symmetric is wholly unconvincing to me so far.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            A brief search turns up a few examples, like Glenn Beck on BLM.

            I can’t speak for how frequent or widespread this is because I don’t follow mainstream conservative thinkpieces much unless I’m linked to a specific article via someplace else, already knowing where they stand and generally being uninterested in anything they have to say. I get most of my thinkpieces via places like Lawfare, Popehat, Volokh Conspiracy, Small Wars Journal etc, and not so much NRO, Breitbart, WSJ Editorial, etc.

    • Matt M says:

      I think Glenn Beck has been doing some of this in more recent years (and his fall from relevance may be due, in large part, to this decision). Listen to his more recent stuff and it’s full of calls for peace, love, and unity. Of sermons about loving your neighbor and how we’re all Americans and we need to understand each other. About how liberals and conservatives “want the same things, we just disagree on how to get there,” etc.

      There’s also the left-libertarian faction who has become far more, let’s say, “equal opportunity critics” post Trump. As in, they aren’t necessarily saying good things about the left, but they’ve started saying “the right is just as bad as the left” louder and with greater ferocity.

    • John Schilling says:

      Is there any significant parallel phenomenon in any medium in the red or gray tribes calling for looking at the motivations and anxieties of urban, White, professional Clinton voters in anything even approaching a charitable way?

      Not that I know of, but which “medium in the red or gray tribes” were you thinking of?

      Gray Tribe doesn’t have much in the way of mass media at all; what we do have is specialized, very much anti-Trump, and mostly geared towards urban white professionals who almost voted for Clinton or maybe held their noses and actually did, so there’s not much of a gap to bridge there. But it’s not being marketed much outside of Gray tribe.

      Red Tribe has a bit more of the media to work with, but Red Tribe isn’t exactly unanimous on Trump except in the “not as bad as Hillary!” sense.

      I think the median MAGA-hatted Trump voter is watching a mix of entertainment and news programming out of Blue Tribe’s Hollywood bastion, and some specialized Red Tribe news outlets whose pitch is basically “For when you’re tired of liberal intellectuals not even bothering to hide their contempt.” It’s probably not reasonable to expect the latter to offer up apologetics for liberal intellectuals, but Red Tribe still watches an awful lot of Blue Tribe scripted entertainment. So that’s where I’d start looking for the sort of thing you want, and if I don’t see it I’ll ask Blue Tribe why they aren’t selling it.

      Hmm, “Big Bang Theory” seems to be a clumsy attempt at getting a broad swath of Blue and Red America to understand and empathize with at least one set of urban white professionals who mostly voted for Clinton. But that’s a special, and AFIK entirely apolitical, case.

      • Brad says:

        With “any medium” I was trying to leave the door open for something out of the box, like mega pastors’ sermons.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @brad:

          With “any medium” I was trying to leave the door open for something out of the box, like mega pastors’ sermons.

          I can think of one thing that used to fit that bill: The Advocates For Self Government (a libertarian outreach group) teaches communication skills to political activists – how to have productive conversations, how to get your ideas across without making people angry, that sort of thing…which requires understanding where the people you’re talking to are coming from. So their “Communicator Course” used to include a unit (I think I had it on audiocassette?) called “How To Talk To Liberals”, recorded by a psychologist who was trying to convey to libertarians how liberals think. The part I remember best went something like:

          “Never never assume that they know you have good intentions; they do not. Their whole guilt system is tied up in the idea that THEY have the good intentions – and you don’t!”

          Thus no matter WHAT the topic, you always have to start out by CLEARLY SAYING what your good intentions are – emphasizing that you definitely do want the same things they do. You worry about the disadvantaged classes. You don’t want people to be hurt or go hungry or be discriminated against…and this is WHY you think (insert policy here) might be a good idea.

          Because if you EVER skip that first step of clearly stating your intentions, part of your audience will assume the reason you want (insert policy here) must be that you are a bad person who kicks puppies and hates babies. (I mean, sure, some will assume that anyway, but at least you’ll have tried!)

          A couple other units of the course involved techniques to let the other person reach conclusions for themselves rather than lecturing at them. Some of this was motivated by Meyers-Briggs style analysis – libertarians tend to find long detailed careful logical arguments worked to convince THEM, so they assume that’s what other people want too – and this is usually not the case. One alternative is the Socratic option – ask questions designed to help the other person realize something is wrong and solve for themselves what the better option might be. Another technique was to come up with a really carefully-worded short sound-byte type answer that gets across the gist of your solution while not providing much specific detail – that way the other person can figure out the details or ask you to fill in the ones they most care about.

          Both of these were ways to deal with the problem that liberals have different vocabulary and background assumptions than you, so you’re essentially speaking a different language. Liberals can convince themselves of some point because they speak their own language fluently; you can’t directly convince them nearly as well as they can convince themselves because too much gets lost in translation.

      • Matt M says:

        Hmm, “Big Bang Theory” seems to be a clumsy attempt at getting a broad swath of Blue and Red America to understand and empathize with at least one set of urban white professionals who mostly voted for Clinton. But that’s a special, and AFIK entirely apolitical, case.

        An interesting point that I hadn’t considered before.

        And yes, while the show itself is nominally apolitical, I’m pretty sure that approximately zero of the seven main characters would be considered likely Trump voters.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I’d peg Sheldon as a possible Trump voter, if not a likely Trump voter. He’s a white male from Texas that has an adoration of the military and proud his invention might serve to enforce order.

          • Matt M says:

            He’s also a Bay Area college professor with an advanced degree.

            He has some personality quirks that you might associate with Trumpism, but statistically, the odds seem quite small…

          • John Schilling says:

            Sheldon is “from Texas” in roughly the same sense that Ayn Rand was “from Russia”, and I don’t see him as seeing Donald Trump as a force for order.

            Penny of the early seasons would plausibly have voted for Trump. Amy might have created Trump as a laboratory experiment without running it past the bioethics community, but the timing doesn’t really work.

          • johan_larson says:

            Sheldon’s mom is the likeliest Trump voter, I should think.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t see him as seeing Donald Trump as a force for order

            Even if you don’t personally see Donald Trump as the best force for order, the tribe that values order above all else voted for Trump.

          • Not Bernadette’s dad?

          • MrApophenia says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            They may value order in general, but in this particular case polls tend to find that one of Trump’s biggest selling points among his supporters was the degree to which he created chaos in Washington. There are lots of analogies to things like chucking a brick through the window of the Washington establishment.

          • Vorkon says:

            Out of all the characters in Big Bang Theory, Sheldon seems like the one most likely to frequent SSC, and SSC readers seem to include a larger number of Trump supporters than you’d expect to find among most highly educated Bay Aryans, so yeah, I can definitely see it.

          • Matt M says:

            and SSC readers seem to include a larger number of Trump supporters than you’d expect to find among most highly educated Bay Aryans

            And yet, I’d still peg “voted for Trump” at well below 50% among SSC readers/commenters

          • Brad says:

            Not weighted by number of comments.

          • Matt M says:

            Not weighted by number of comments.

            I think a lot of the people that are assumed to be Trump voters on this site did not, actually, vote for him.

          • Brad says:

            “I assume my assumptions are more accurate than other people’s assumptions.”

          • InferentialDistance says:

            SSC Survey has people skew heavily left, with liberal (i.e. democrats) and socialists summing to more than 50%. Libertarians probably split between democrats for social policy and republicans for economic policy. Conservatives plus N.e.o.r.e.a.c.t.i.o.n.a.r.i.e.s. is only 11%. 59% were very unfavorable to Trump, with another 23% being unfavorable. Favorable plus very favorable sums to less than 7%.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            if his assumptions really are more accurate than other people’s assumptions, then that’s a reasonable assumption to make

            now are you going to go for an empirical test or just circle jerk it up

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Do we have information about what proportion of ssc survey-answerers vote?

          • Matt M says:

            I’m sure this won’t satisfy Brad at all, but I vaguely remember a thread where we discussed “Who did you actually vote for” and VERY few people stepped up and said “I voted for Trump.” Even in the aftermath of his victory when you’d expect some people to want to falsely jump on the bandwagon.

            To use myself as an example, I’m guessing Brad sees me as a Trump supporter, but I did not vote.

          • Brad says:

            now are you going to go for an empirical test or just circle jerk it up

            I’ve been asking that for months.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If you believe what posters say about their beliefs and votes, it’s trivially demonstrated by going back and looking through the comment sections on posts for the second half of 2016. Brad doesn’t.

            He has previously stated, forcefully and repeatedly, that he considers SSC’s libertarian and libertarian-leaning posters to be de-facto Trump supporters by dint of our obvious revealed preferences.

            As someone who has voted Independent, Reform, Libertarian, and even Boston Tea one time, but never GOP, and has maintained a fairly consistent political stance over the past decade or so I find this a bit offensive, but the man is entitled to his opinions.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Matt M:

            I think a lot of the people that are assumed to be Trump voters on this site did not, actually, vote for him.

            That’s too high of a bar: I’m a Trump voter, in spite of not actually voting for him.*

            What seems to be lacking is the critical distinction between Trump voter and Trump supporter. When I talk to fellow Trump voters, I almost always discover they aren’t actually supporters, they just held their nose and picked the lesser of two evils. And Trump’s kept the one (implicit) promise that matters to us: Not Being Hillary Clinton.

            There’s another phenomenon layered on top of that: however much I dislike Trump, I still think it’s possible to be unfair and biased in reporting about him. For some reason, while it’s in the interests of most of the media to remind me why I hate Trump, they end up instead reminding me why I hate them.

            (* I would have, if there had been any chance at all of my 100%-urban not-state being competitive.)

          • skef says:

            What seems to be lacking is the critical distinction between Trump voter and Trump supporter. When I talk to fellow Trump voters, I almost always discover they aren’t actually supporters, they just held their nose and picked the lesser of two evils.

            The key aspect of this attitude, of course, is that it is prospective. “Although I voted for Trump, no matter what happens in the future, however bad, I’m not in any way responsible. Any blame falls on Hillary or maybe nebulous primary voters.”

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @skef:

            The key aspect of this attitude, of course, is that it is prospective. “Although I voted for Trump, no matter what happens in the future, however bad, I’m not in any way responsible. Any blame falls on Hillary or maybe nebulous primary voters.”

            Yeah, literally nobody has said anything like that to me.

            Is there really anything to your comment beyond “Republicans suck”? Are you aware that projection is a thing?

            I think Conservatives tend to be more realistic than Liberals: sometimes you’re faced with unpalatable choices, but if you just opt out, you get the worse one. We also tend to be more realistic about Trump’s ability to take over and establish himself as a dictator—to wit, there’s no chance, and there wouldn’t be even if the Republican Congress supported him.

            I am disappointed that nobody seems to be taking this opportunity to rein in the power of the Executive Branch, but I guess we’ve got three more years for that.

          • skef says:

            Is there really anything to your comment beyond “Republicans suck”? Are you aware that projection is a thing?

            Yes, I am aware of projection, and that part of the “not responsible” phenomenon is that the modal Trump voters’ projection of Hillary scales as necessary.

        • James Miller says:

          Penny is probably a Trump voter, if she bothers to vote, because she is white, not college educated, and attractive.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            and married

          • Matt M says:

            Penny is largely ignorant of the world and has few strong opinions of her own. I think she would easily fall into the “support Hillary because she’s a woman and Trump is a creep” camp.

            I’d actually peg Raj as the most likely Trump voter, as he occasionally expresses redpill/socially conservative viewpoints. Probably the most likely to see a groping billionaire as an inspirational figure.

          • random832 says:

            @Matt M Maybe, but Raj is not a US citizen. There’s an episode where he’s concerned about possibly being deported because the research project he was working on ran out of grant money.

    • BBA says:

      As I understand it “urban white professionals” don’t make up the bulk of Clinton supporters. That would be the nonwhite working class, which by some definitions is larger than the white working class that propelled Trump to victory.

      • qwints says:

        Not according to CNN’s exit polls. . Nonwhite, no college degree made up about 1/4 of Clinton supporters while white, college degree made up about 1/3.

        I thought this 538 piece claiming that education was the major factor was pretty persuasive.

        • BBA says:

          Huh. I’ve often heard that the future of the Democratic party was a coalition of non-whites, but I guess that future isn’t quite here yet.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      What do you think the Red Tribe misunderstands about the Blue Tribe that you would like corrected? “I wish for once Sean Hannity would say _______ about [Democrat voters|the left|urbanites].” What goes in the blank?

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      What precisely is there that you think is not understood or empathized with?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Personally I think both sides understand each other quite well, they just pretend not to in order to make their rhetoric sound more badass. However:

        Wrt misunderstandings: there is a standard failure mode where conservatives treat things that leftists view as side-effects/trade-offs as the core leftist agenda[*]. The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State, in a context where Islam is the religion in everyone’s crosshairs. The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

        Wrt empathizing: I don’t think conservatives realize how scary nationalism is. (Conservatives make this even worse when they insist that nationalism is human nature – if this were true, we should be extra vigilant in suppressing it.)

        [*] Wild speculation: this happens because conservatives are less consequentialist, and therefore more likely to think in terms of principles rather than means and ends.

        • Nornagest says:

          Nationalism isn’t an aspect of human nature. Nationalism as we know it didn’t even exist until the 1700s or so. Tribalism is an aspect of human nature, and in my more cynical moments (which, as I’ve said before, is now most of them) I’ve thought that it can’t be suppressed, that trying only makes it come out in new and inevitably more sinister ways.

          On the other hand, I don’t think leftists are substantially more consequentialist than conservatives. It would speak well for them if they were, but consequentialism is not intuitive to anyone, and only a tiny fraction of the population ever bothers to develop it.

        • Matt M says:

          The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          That’s funny, I actually think the right doesn’t go down this line of thought ENOUGH…

          Like, take left-wing support for “public transportation” over private vehicles. Most conservatives I know assume this is just hippy environmentalist stuff that’s misguided but not particularly harmful.

          It usually takes me to come along and say “Have you considered that a population dependent on government-operated transportation would be much easier to control than a population where everyone owns their own private vehicle?”

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            We can play this game all day. Have you considered that public transportation allows the poor to leave their enclaves, making them harder to control? Have you considered that a population dependent on private vehicles cannot travel anonymously? But this is all pretty silly.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            Have you considered that public transportation allows the poor to leave their enclaves, making them harder to control?

            Well, both I (who doesn’t own a car) and my mother (who works at a branch library in one of our city’s poorest neighborhoods) agree that the upcoming “improvements” to the Anchorage public bus system (which will make getting around so much harder for me; no longer having a direct route to most places I take the bus to/from) seem designed to make it much more difficult for people in the “poor enclaves” to get near the “nicer” neighborhoods.

          • Charles F says:

            the upcoming “improvements” to the Anchorage public bus system (which will make getting around so much harder for me; no longer having a direct route to most places I take the bus to/from) seem designed to make it much more difficult for people in the “poor enclaves” to get near the “nicer” neighborhoods.

            Yeah, I’ve seen this happen. We used to have a main bus route that went straight through town from one end to the other and back. And in most of the important areas left you <10min walk away from anywhere you wanted to go. No transfers except at hubs, no memorizing a bunch of weird twisty routes. Now we've got our new system that's supposed to have designed to make everything more accessible, and just happens to route lines that start or end in low-income areas away from the richer parts. (You *can* usually get a bit closer to your destination, but with longer waits (a huge pain in winter) and rides, and more transfers)

          • Have you considered that a population dependent on government-operated transportation would be much easier to control than a population where everyone owns their own private vehicle?

            Is taking public transportation away supposed to mean that everyone can suddenlty afford a car, or that the poor just don’t get to go anywhere? From the left perspective, this fits “the right hate poor people and want them to be as wretched as possible”.

          • Matt M says:

            The central examples I was thinking of were less “Let’s install public transportation where none existed” and more things like “Let’s eliminate a lane of traffic for a dedicated light-rail system” or “Let’s shut down this particular area to cars to make it a pedestrian-friendly zone” or things like that with fairly obvious trade-offs.

            That said, public transportation does not make the poor more mobile in a manner that correlates with decreased control. The government can shut-down or re-route the buses immediately if it wants to. The buses only go where the government tells them to go. Cars go anywhere.

        • cassander says:

          The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State, in a context where Islam is the religion in everyone’s crosshairs. The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          This strikes me as….hard to swallow in a world where, e.g. feminists will defend the burka. The enemy of my enemy is my friend is a much more plausible explanation.

          > The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          again, not always. There are large segments of the left that actively want a cause to crusade for, the bigger the better.

          Wrt empathizing: I don’t think conservatives realize how scary nationalism is.

          Not nearly as scary as socialism is.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Nationalism and socialism both have their body counts, but remember, nationalism did not begin and end with fascism: one could lay WWI at the door of nationalism very easily.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            World War one was a war. Wars between powerful countries seem to occur largely regardless of ideology. Maybe you can make a case for a global democratic/capitalist peace being the exception, but I’m not ready to make that claim yet as we’ve only had that for about 30 years. An ideology that gets you willing to slaughter your own every single time it’s tried is clearly more pernicious that one that merely allows you license to slaughter others. Pointing out that capitalism is far from perfect does not disprove, or even bear upon, the claim that revolutionary socialism is uniquely pernicious.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            This which-is-worse discussion is important, but sort of orthogonal to the point I intended. I don’t expect conservatives to support socialism, I’d just like them to be more circumspect about nationalism.

          • cassander says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            You can’t beat something with nothing what do you see as the alternative to nationalism do you see that’s less pernicious?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I don’t think you need to equate nationalism to socialism. Or if you do, it’s in more of a gradual sense, where “socialism” also means things like welfare programs.

            The point being, small amounts of it are good and helpful. Taking it too far can lead to disaster. I think America and much of Europe need more nationalism, especially since they’re in danger of falling to other, more virulent forms of tribalism which can cause a lot more damage. (Like how if you don’t implement some amount of wealth equality, the people will riot and establish a communist dictatorship). I would like a social-democratic equivalent to nationalism, and I’m hoping that can happen.

          • @Anon
            (Civic) National Social(-liberal)ism

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Nationalism of the German (Germans wanting Germany to have its place in the sun, feeling that Germany had been unfairly left out of the period of most colonization, and getting the rather stupid idea to try and compete with Britain at sea), Serbian (Serbs in Serbia proper believing their brethren under Hapsburg rule should be a part of Serbia), and pan-Slavic (Russians seeing themselves as being on the same side as those Serbs) varieties certainly played a role, though. A war might still have happened; people generally find reasons for war, but the war that happened happened in part because of nationalism.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @cassander

            You can’t beat something with nothing what do you see as the alternative to nationalism do you see that’s less pernicious?

            I think conservatism has two strong alternatives to nationalism: tradition and enlightened self-interest. Admittedly this is a better fit in some countries than others: in the US, enlightened self-interest is the traditional mode of politics, which seems less true for e.g. Russia.

            On the flip side, nationalism isn’t even a good fit for anti-socialists. In a world where the upper class is more cosmopolitan than the lower, national consciousness can easily shade into class consciousness.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            A war might still have happened; people generally find reasons for war, but the war that happened happened in part because of nationalism.

            I’d say that the causation runs just as much the other way, that “place in the sun” got shouted as much because of the war because of the war as to cause war, and that such tribalism is absolutely universal in all wars. The particulars are unique in every conflict, of course, but I see nothing fundamentally different about them in WW1 vs any other war.

            @hoghoghog

            I think conservatism has two strong alternatives to nationalism: tradition and enlightened self-interest.

            I don’t mean to be snarky, but I don’t see how either of those is in any way a substitute for nationalism.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I guess I’m not sure what you want nationalism to do? I was assuming you had in mind something like “nationalism prevents mob rule by making people put national interest above class interest”

          • cassander says:

            @hoghog

            I guess I’m not sure what you want nationalism to do? I was assuming you had in mind something like “nationalism prevents mob rule by making people put national interest above class interest”

            My take was more “nationalism prevents civil war (and reduced demand for politics in general) by keeping everyone thinking they’re part of the same tribe”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            I’d say that the causation runs just as much the other way, that “place in the sun” got shouted as much because of the war because of the war as to cause war, and that such tribalism is absolutely universal in all wars. The particulars are unique in every conflict, of course, but I see nothing fundamentally different about them in WW1 vs any other war.

            Germany started trying to make elbow room for itself while complaining that it wasn’t fair that all the other countries had snapped up the good colonies before they could unify enough to do that before the war, so it can hardly have been because of the war.

            WWI is not some special, different event, and even without nationalism Germany probably still wants more (like everyone does), but pan-Slavic nationalism was to some extent behind the Russian desire to back the Serbs, and without Serbian nationalism Franz Ferdinand does not get shot. Sooner or later something else would probably have set it off, but we’re dealing with history as it was.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I’d like remind that Germany existed because of nationalism? Of course, it wasn’t the only only reason, but it was a major contributing force on Bismarck’s chessboard while creating Germany.

          • On the flip side, nationalism isn’t even a good fit for anti-socialists.

            Indeed, Stalin was both a socialist and a nationalist. I think that was true of Mao as well. So that gives you two of the three most murderous socialist regimes–I’m not sure about the Khmer Rouge.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State, in a context where Islam is the religion in everyone’s crosshairs.

          I’m pretty sure they’re just pro-underdog, with underdog only calculated in a west-centric manner.

        • @Matt M

          But then what’s the purpose of the control?

          I think the left doesn’t see government as necessarily meaning a lack of control by individuals, but instead a way of exercising collective agency, which is why they aim to democratize government as well as enlarge it, so more and more things are in the hands of “the people”. There is control of the individual, but it was never any different and you were always at the mercy of entities larger than yourself such as corporations, so the only way to truly exercise control is to become part of a larger collective, where you will yes, be controlled as always in a literal sense as an individual, but in turn take part as an individual but equal component in the mechanism of control for the whole of society. There is control of the individual, but also control by the individual. You gain control by transcending your individual weakness and becoming the government.

          Thesis: the yearing for control and agency in the face of forces larger than oneself.
          Anti-thesis: all powerful government that wipes out individuality
          Synthesis: A direct democratic all powerful government that transcends individuality.

          I don’t agree with this, but I think this is the spiritual core of collectivist strains of leftism. The reason they don’t fear “big government” is because they see themselves as being part of government. On an individual level they are being controlled, but since they took part in crafting that mechanism of control as a member of democratic state society, it actually represents a form of agency. This explains why these leftists don’t support autocracies. If the end goal was merely control of the individual, their nightmare wouldn’t be a corporate state.

          • cassander says:

            this is well put.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            but instead a way of exercising collective agency,

            This part in particular bugs me, because recently I’ve been told very sternly by large portions of the left (and by no one on the right) that there is no collective agency when the topic is immigration policy.

          • Brad says:

            I’ve been told very sternly by large portions of the left

            What is this kind of statement supposed to mean? Clearly it isn’t literally true. Whatever figurative meaning you might have intended isn’t clear to me.

          • @Edward Scizorhands

            The left are also internationalists (only ever strategically nationalist), so to them the agency of all humanity should be collectivized, and consequently a national collective would be outvoted by an international collective. Since they are trying to form such a thing, they want countries to be diversified in terms of culture and race and so on. Anti-immigration means being against a larger humanity and means denying our collective destiny.

        • The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          Some evidence against that position.

          Not exactly “like regulation” but “like what they see as the non-climate benefits of regulation they argue for as necessary to control climate change.”

          That cartoon seems, by casual observation, to be popular with people on the left making climate arguments, and it doesn’t seem to occur to them that it’s a reason for people to be skeptical of their climate position.

        • The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State

          I agree that the left isn’t pro-Islam. But I think the appearance of being pro-Islam is a side effect of two other things:

          1: The right is very much concerned about Islamic terrorism and Islam as a threat, and the left is against whatever the right is for.

          2: Much of the left is pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel, I think as a carryover of the anti-western colonialism attitude.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I’ll agree that the left isn’t pro-islam.

        Regarding the left and increased regulatory authority over the economy, increased centralization of political power, and increased redistribution of wealth both intra and inter-nationally, I have to say that this is exactly as convincing a claim as a libertarian saying

        “It’s not that I actually WANT the state to have less power. It’s just that I see the state having less power as an acceptable and necessary COST of accomplishing….”

        Would you take that statement seriously if, say, Dr. Friedman or Onyomi said it? If not, why should I take that statement seriously when left wing politicians and intellectuals make it about climate policy?

        EDIT: Basically, the fact that increasing government control over the economy and the mechanisms of wealth distribution and redistribution are instrumental goals rather than terminal goals does not mean that they are not still -goals-.

        Regarding nationalism, Nornagest captured it best. Nationalism is simply one form of tribalism. I have a hard time taking you seriously when you try to claim that left wing political philosophies have a monopoly on resistance to tribalism.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Your comparison to libertarianism is a perfect illustration of the mistake. Opposition to (a fairly narrow definition of) coercion really is central to deontological libertarianism. Leftists aren’t libertarians, so we conclude that support of coercion is central to leftism. It just doesn’t follow.

          If not, why should I take [the statement that it’s not that I actually WANT state power] when left wing politicians and intellectuals make it about climate policy?

          For one thing, it lets you predict their favored policies. Remember, a carbon tax is farther left than cap-and-trade or direct regulation. You would never expect that if you thought this was all a fig leaf for government power. It also tells you that libertarians should be able to make alliances with liberals (e.g. with Yglesias on housing policy, or with Will Wilkinson on everything except redistribution).

          I have a hard time taking you seriously when you try to claim that left wing political philosophies have a monopoly on resistance to tribalism.

          I do not claim that. I do think the right is pretty cavalier about stoking tribalism (you might remember ‘Real Americans’).

          • Remember, a carbon tax is farther left than cap-and-trade or direct regulation.

            In what sense is it farther left? Sanders vs Clinton? Defined by the other views of the people who support each?

            I would have classified both cap and trade and carbon tax, which are pretty much two variants of the same approach, as less socialist hence less left than direct regulation.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          , so you conclude that support of coercion is central to leftism.

          Except I didn’t conclude that. I called it an instrumental goal, as distinct from a terminal goal. Do you understand what those two terms are and how they relate to one another?

          a carbon tax is farther left than cap-and-trade or direct regulation. You would never expect that if you thought this was all a fig leaf for government power.

          Of course you would. Money IS power. In a state with even a moderately mixed economy a government without the money to fund its programs and policies or pay its personnel has extremely limited power, and its power increases in direct proportion to the amount of GDP it controls via tax revenue and spending.

          I do think the right is pretty cavalier about stoking tribalism

          I would agree, and note that you left out the religious right. Almost as cavalier as the left. Nation, Creed, Race, Sex, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Class, it’s ALL tribalism.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Sorry, I was not clear: my beef is with people who believe that government power is a terminal goal for leftists. I don’t like your libertarian comparison because small government is a terminal goal for many libertarians (so I interpret it as a bad argument for something that you don’t actually believe.)

            Money IS power.

            You are flattening out a potentially important distinction. Here’s Will Wilkinson making the point much better than I could:
            https://www.vox.com/2016/9/1/12732168/economic-freedom-score-america-welfare-state

          • baconbacon says:

            Wilkinson makes a basic error in this piece, he equates GDP and GDP growth with wealth, and (follows someone else’s conclusion) that because large government (in already advanced countries) is correlated with ‘stable’ GDP growth that the large government isn’t hampering the growth much.

            Here’s the puzzle. As a general rule, when nations grow wealthier, the public demands more and better government services, increasing government spending as a percentage of GDP. (This is known as “Wagner’s law.”) According to standard growth theory, ongoing increase in the size of government ought to exert downward pressure on rates of growth. But we don’t see the expected effect in the data. Long-term national growth trends are amazingly stable.

            Because government spending (g) is included in GDP calculations it has a ‘stabilizing’ effect when it is increased, even as it decreases consumption at the household level.

            If you look at GDP per capita (PPP) lists you typically see a country like Canada ~20% lower in GDP per capita than the US. However if you look at final household consumption then it is ~35% lower. This wikipedia list of final household consumption has Denmark (one of Wilkinson’s examples in his graph) with final household consumption of ~$18,000 a year vs the US at $35,000.

            This has been a criticism of GDP for ages, in the US during WW2 GDP saw ‘robust’ growth, but consumption was stagnant to falling and that was compared to years during the great depression. Basics like stockings and milk were hard to come buy and yet the economy grew at enormous rates.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Fair enough, I can understand why you have that beef, though I’d note that libertarians would argue in much the same way that smaller government is an instrumental goal, and that the terminal goal is maximized individual liberty. I think that Libertarians and Liberals come to blows so often these days precisely because while they have often had overlapping terminal goals in the past (and still do to some extent), their philosophical approaches to achieving those goals are almost polar opposites.

            As far as the article, I don’t see how Wilkinson’s argument addresses my point at all. Your claim was that “you wouldn’t predict taxation to be a position further to the left of cap-and-trade or direct regulation if you believe that liberals see increased government power as a goal to be pursued”. My counterpoint was “Of course you would, and in fact I did, because money is the ultimate power through which the Government accomplishes things, and liberals want a government with a sufficient power supply to accomplish their goals.” To make it more clear, increased regulatory authority is also good, but money is better because it can be used for all your goals, not just the one. Money can be directed as needed to provide either leverage to boost support for or to pay directly for, say, enforcement of gun control, or for improved public schooling or programs getting more people into college or forgiving student loans, or for more welfare spending, or for the hiring of more EPA inspectors to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, and so on and so forth. This observation also helps to shed light on why the GOP is incapable of meaningful reduction of government revenues and spending. The mainstream GOP and especially its base doesn’t object to government size on philosophical grounds, only in terms of the legitimacy of the goals the spending is directed towards.

            Having read the article, Wilksinon’s claim boils down to “hey guys, you can preserve (economic) liberty while having a robust redistributive state!”. Setting aside any issues I might have with the claim, it doesn’t touch on my point that money is power. I was making no claims either way on the subject of freedom/liberty here.

        • rlms says:

          “Would you take that statement seriously if, say, Dr. Friedman or Onyomi said it? If not, why should I take that statement seriously when left wing politicians and intellectuals make it about climate policy?”
          As hoghoghog says, the two situations are not comparable. The state having less power and the state having more power are not symmetric. Consider the analogous situation where Alice says “we need a bigger army to achieve our goals, it might cost more but it will be worth it” and Bob says “we need a smaller army to achieve our goals, it might be bad in some way but it will be worth it”. I would assume that Alice is being genuine, because her argument obviously makes sense. I would be more skeptical about Bob, because his doesn’t.

          That said, while approximately no-one on the left supports increased state power ceteris paribus, I think it’s fair to say that a large part of it is basically indifferent to it — they view the cost as very low. I don’t think that the right as a whole is any different though.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            As hoghoghog says, the two situations are not comparable.

            Then please provide an argument with evidence demonstrating that this is not the case. I laid out my reasoning why it -is- the case, and I responded to the article he linked. My core reasoning was never addressed.

            Consider the analogous situation where Alice says “we need a bigger army to achieve our goals, it might cost more but it will be worth it” and Bob says “we need a smaller army to achieve our goals, it might be bad in some way but it will be worth it”.

            Yes, it’s analogous in that Alice’s and Bob’s arguments both make equal amounts of sense and are symmetrical. You’re undermining your argument, not reinforcing it. In fact, Bob’s argument is a common one among both liberals and libertarians, and in more detailed form it goes:

            The costs of:

            -Less ability to respond to humanitarian crises overseas.
            -Less ability to check the aggression of rogue states or check the geopolitical additions of would-be regional hegemons.
            -America no longer having sufficient strength to act as the guarantor of international stability in the form of the bulk of NATO’s real power, freedom of navigation of the seas, etc.

            is outweighed by the benefits of:

            -Having the funds to spend for more important and impactful domestic spending.
            -Reducing our capacity to engage in needless and immoral meddling in other countries’ affairs.
            -Not having US citizens killed in fights that we should never have picked in the first place.
            -Long term decrease in geopolitical enemies and terrorists who have hostility towards the US. Don’t Start Nothin’, Won’t Be Nothin’.

            I don’t think that the right as a whole is any different though.

            You apparently missed the part where I said: “The mainstream GOP and especially its base doesn’t object to government size on philosophical grounds, only in terms of the legitimacy of the goals the spending is directed towards.”

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            I think there is some confusion here. You originally claimed that “I don’t *want* X, but it’s a necessary cost to accomplish our goals” was unconvincing when X was “more/less state power”, but then in my example where X was “bigger/smaller army” you said it was perfectly valid. What’s the difference between them?

            Let me restate my argument. Claiming that we need to make X more powerful (for whatever value of X) in order to achieve Y despite cost Z is very plausible argument, because making things more powerful
            tautologically increases their goal-achieving ability. Arguments of this form can be dishonest: if someone benefits from making X more powerful independently of Y, the above argument might not be their true reason for their position. But if the arguer is only interested in Y, they are probably being genuine.

            In comparison, claiming that we need to make X *less* powerful in order to achieve goal Y despite cost Z is not plausible. If you want to invade somewhere, a smaller army isn’t going to help. Someone making that argument transparently has making X less powerful as a “terminal” goal. Requests to make the government bigger (by mainstream right-wingers or left-wingers) fall in the first category, your libertarian example falls in the second category. That is why they are not symmetrical.

            Now, one might (and you have) argued that this is irrelevant. The first kind of arguer is interested in changing X in order to achieve Y *with it*, the second kind is interested in changing X for its own sake (or to achieve Y), but both of them have changing X as a goal. But this misses the point, which is that just because you should distrust libertarians who claim that decreasing the size of is negative/neutral in itself but necessary for other things, you shouldn’t necessarily distrust non-libertarians who make corresponding claims about increases.

          • cassander says:

            That said, while approximately no-one on the left supports increased state power ceteris paribus, I think it’s fair to say that a large part of it is basically indifferent to it — they view the cost as very low. I don’t think that the right as a whole is any different though.

            there are enormous swathes of the left wing coalition that DO support state power for its own sake, specifically the government employee unions and the people who surround them. these groups have enormous influence on the left, both politically and intellectually, and it’s naive in the extreme to think that their motives and arguments will have no effect on their coalition partners’ thinking.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            They have interests in increasing their own power, but not in e.g. raising taxes. Also, the military.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In comparison, claiming that we need to make X *less* powerful in order to achieve goal Y despite cost Z is not plausible. If you want to invade somewhere, a smaller army isn’t going to help. Someone making that argument transparently has making X less powerful as a “terminal” goal. Requests to make the government bigger (by mainstream right-wingers or left-wingers) fall in the first category, your libertarian example falls in the second category. That is why they are not symmetrical.

            Not necessarily; if you think that the government has become too big and is stifling economic growth, for example, arguing that “We need to make the government smaller in order to stimulate economic growth” would make perfect sense.

          • Jiro says:

            But this misses the point, which is that just because you should distrust libertarians who claim that decreasing the size of is negative/neutral in itself but necessary for other things, you shouldn’t necessarily distrust non-libertarians who make corresponding claims about increases.

            That doesn;t follow. Consider an example where “other things” is itself a reduction in something, such as less corruption or less opportunity for regulatory capture.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I think there are two possible cases there. In the first, that’s the distinction between “make X less powerful to achieve Y *with it*”, and “make X less powerful” (for its own sake). If you think that reducing government size causes economic stimulus as a general rule, you are promoting making it less powerful for its own sake. If you are only arguing that it is sensible in this particular case, you are making a sophisticated argument along the lines of “taking harsher action on this group will actually embolden them due to second-order effects”. Those are exceptions, but the libertarian hypothetical doesn’t fall into either category.

            @Jiro
            The “other things” there are part of the intrinsic benefits of decreasing the size of the state. It wouldn’t really make sense for a libertarian to say “we don’t want to decrease the size of the state, but it would reduce corruption and opportunity for regulatory capture enough that it’s worth doing”. They would just say that those other thi