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OT83: Slippery Slopen Thread

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

1. Comments of the week are Douglas Knight on how “eclipse season occurs like clockwork, about every half of a solar year”, and . on how ant colonies sometimes settle wars through ritual combat.

2. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about whether I still endorse my old post “You Are Still Crying Wolf” in light of recent events. I’m not up for causing more controversy right now, so I’ll hide this here instead of writing a full post, but the short answer is: yes. If this ever changes, I’ll put it on my Mistakes page – if you don’t see it there, I still endorse it. I don’t think anything has changed significantly since I wrote it. Trump continues to condemn white nationalism; his opponents continue to condemn his condemnations as insincere or not good enough. White nationalism continues to be a tiny movement with a low-four-digit number of organized adherents, smaller than eg the Satanists; people continue to act as if it’s a gigantic and important social force. I don’t want to get drawn into another ten thousand words on this, but you can probably piece together where I’m coming from from some of the following: this estimate of about 500 people at the Charlottesville rally; this estimate of about 1100 people at a recent Satanic rally, this poll showing more blacks and Latinos agree with the white supremacist movement than whites do (probably a polling error based on random noise; my point is that the real level of support is literally unmeasurably low), the constant Obama-era claims that Obama’s half-hearted condemnations of Islamic terrorism proved he was a secret Muslim or just dog-whistled some sort of vague spirit of not really opposing terrorism (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), and this analysis of Trump’s completely unprincipled and stupid way of deciding what opinions to have on things. I continue to think crying wolf is a major danger, with the worst-case scenario being a sort of repeat of the War On Terror, where rampant fear of terrorism (even in the general absence of any real threat) transformed our society and our politics for the worse in various ways. And as always, I continue to believe that Trump is a terrible person and a terrible President, and that any attention we focus away from his gaffes should be redirected to all the terrible laws and policies he’s promoting.

3. I’m trying to stay off Twitter and seriously limit my exposure to Facebook for a while, so if you send me any messages over those platforms, I might not see them.

4. New advertisement on the sidebar for Breakdown Notes, an online tool to make notes, diagrams, or mindmaps in your browser with paid and free+ads versions.

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1,459 Responses to OT83: Slippery Slopen Thread

  1. hlynkacg says:

    I’m passing along a request from the subreddit

    I want a word that’s kind of like “schadenfreude”, except instead of taking joy from someone’s misfortune, you take sadness in it; in addition, this outcome was an inevitable consequence of the harmed person’s own beliefs, but they never expected it to happen to them despite warnings…

    Is there a word for that? If any language has a word for that it’s got to be German.

    The Slavic languages also seems like good candidates. The way my granddad used Злорадствo (gloat) seems to have shades of this, something akin to “I told you so”.

  2. AnthonyC says:

    Psychology question: As we know, some people have mental imagery, some don’t and we can measure how much mental imagery each person has by asking them questions. Have equivalent studies ever been done for the other senses? Do some people have much better mental olfaction or gustation (gustitation?) or hearing (audition?) than others?

    Personally, I’m very bad at imagining tastes and smells, much more so than images, with sounds and tactile sensations somewhere in the middle (actually, very different for different kinds of tactile sensations).

    Obligatory nod to Trump discussion up-thread: I’ve decided for now to pretend though Trump is faithfully carrying out his oath of office. He swore to execute the office of the president, and is striving to ensure it is very, very dead. He’s not too good with his vocabulary words.

    • I suspect that the ability to imagine what a dish will taste like with more or less of some spice is part of what makes someone a good cook.

      • AnthonyC says:

        My wife has that. I don’t. I’m better at the science of cooking and some of the technical skills, and I do come up with good dish ideas, but I rely on her to get the flavors and proportions right. At our wedding my brother-in-law called us “the seasoning” and “the reasoning,” respectively. And yes, that’s part of why I asked the question 🙂

  3. purplepeople says:

    Does anyone else visualize a good post-singularity outcome as sort of like a video game, where we know there are better and better levels of existence, and we need to solve fun challenges the AI designs to “level up”?

    • powerfuller says:

      That description makes me think of the video game The Witness (haven’t beat it, but it involves lots of puzzles and vaguely transhumanist philosophy). It also reminds me of that passage in Paradise Lost where Adam and Raphael discuss God’s prelapsarian plan for mankind to gradually rise in wisdom and grandeur (I could be misremembering that). Or the basic scheme of reincarnation — gradually level up from an animal to a Brahmin and beyond? In other words, I think what you’re describing may be what a lot of people already think is the nature of life.

      What, does “leveling up” mean in this case? If it’s something an AI can help with, I imagine an increase in knowledge and power? Are these levels of existence differences in physical nature or in perception? If it means something more like attaining Nirvana or another spiritual insight, I’m not sure how an AI could help.

      • purplepeople says:

        Leveling up would mean gaining more knowledge and insight, and the ability to have deeper subjective experiences than were possible in the previous level.

  4. yossarian says:

    A random question to those who are better than me in optics and/or ophtalmology, that has been bothering me ever since the last eclipse: so, we all know that staring at the sun will hurt your retina unless you use protective devices. But, let’s say, I am standing my apartment’s balcony and staring at something that goes on in the house next to mine, while the sun is in my general field of vision (so it stays in the same spot in my eyesight for a while), not in the center, but somewhere on the side. Am I burning out pieces of my retina that are less noticeable, because they are not in the center of my field of vision, or is that sort of exposure ok?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I don’t know for sure, but my general belief is that “if the sun is doing your eyes any noticeable harm, it will be uncomfortable.” Like, if it seems bright-but-not-uncomfortable, you’re fine. If you feel a strong desire to shade out the sun with your hands or look away, but you override it those desires and instead keep looking, you might be doing yourself harm.

    • AnthonyC says:

      I also don’t know for sure, but I would highlight two things that may be relevant.

      1) Focal plane. If I’m looking at something nearby, my eye is not specifically trying to focus the sun’s rays onto the retina, so the effective dose of sunlight is much lower. Like how a 1W laser is a lot more dangerous than a 1W LED.

      2) The further from the center of my field of vision the sun is, the less of its light actually makes it into my eye per unit area of eye surface even though its angular size in the focused image is the same. Think in a ray optics diagram of having incoming parallel rays striking a surface oriented at different angles.

      It’s possible the effect is still damaging to the eye anyway, even at the lower intensity, though.

      • random832 says:

        I’m not so sure about point 1. Beyond a certain distance (I couldn’t find much about what distance this is, except it apparently varies depending on both ambient lighting and pupil size) you might as well be focused on the sun (or some other point in the sky behind the subject) anyway.

  5. Deiseach says:

    This comes from over on the sub-reddit and all I can say is “Holy Put A Bit Of Butter On The Spuds, Batman!”

    Because this study is contradicting all the dieting advice, including that by medical professionals, that I have ever received:

    High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings.

    That part about saturated fats has knocked me down with a feather. Lashing the full-fat butter on the spuds? Full-fat cheese? Creamy desserts? Not alone will it not carry you off with a stroke, it has a negative association!

    Higher saturated fat intake was associated with lower risk of stroke (quintile 5 vs quintile 1, HR 0·79 [95% CI 0·64–0·98], ptrend=0·0498).

    Now granted, by reducing carbohydrates they do mean “less sugar and starchy foods” like bread, pastries, potatoes (sigh). And granted, this does not mean go out and stuff yourself like a turkey being fattened for Christmas on all the fat-laden goodies. And yes, we should be upping our intake of vegetables way more than we consume as our normal diets.

    But by jings, this is not the “cut out dairy, cut out everything full-fat, use olive oil sparingly” advice I’ve been hearing.

    So the next time you’re pouring double cream on your fruit salad, you can say with a clear conscience “I am doing this for the sake of my health” 🙂

    • schazjmd says:

      They also published a paper from that study regarding the vegetables. (I don’t have the Lancet link, but this article summarized it.)

      “While the study found a beneficial effect of increasing consumption of fruit, vegetables, and legumes on mortality, the maximum benefit was seen at three to four servings a day (equivalent to 375–500 g/day), with no additional benefit with higher intakes.”

      (bold is mine)

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, by damn. We should all go back to our grandparents’ diets so, because I have seen the recommendations that hey, we have now decided you should be eating seven or more portions of veggies a day. (Look, if I’m eating that many vegetables, I may as well just call myself a cow and turn out to graze in the field).

        Back to the days of “everything in moderation”, “a little of what you fancy does you good”, and real butter on your bread 🙂

        • engleberg says:

          Yes! Fuzzy Pink Niven’s Law- ‘Never waste calories’; never eat soggy potato chips or crappy ice cream, but if the pleasure is worth it, it’s worth it. Take what you want and pay for it, says God.

    • lvlln says:

      Well, keeping in mind that we should never use one study as definitive proof or even strong indication of anything, I don’t think it’s all that surprising relative to what we already know. The saturated fat bit is probably the most surprising part.

      Evidence has been developing for a while that calorie-for-calorie, carbohydrates seem to lead to negative health outcomes, so that part isn’t at all surprising. As for fat, I believe evidence has been building that calorie-for-calorie, fat isn’t particularly unhealthy compared to the other macronutrients – it’s just that the calorie-per-gram density of fat is more than double that of carbohydrates or protein, so eating a lot of fat implies eating a lot of calories, all else being equal, and eating a lot of calories without also exercising a lot means increase in body fat. I think recent nutritional science supports the notion that having a high proportion of fat in your diet isn’t particularly unhealthy as long as your caloric intake is just as low as if you weren’t eating a lot of fat.

      In general, I really hate the idea of labeling certain foods healthy or unhealthy – with few exceptions, the dose makes the poison. Like, you could be quite healthy with a diet could be primarily made up of butter, cheese, and creamy desserts, as long as you limited your daily caloric intake to something matching your size/age/gender/activity level. It may be difficult to do so because the high calorie density of fatty foods means you have to lower the total mass of the food you eat, but if you could do it, the results wouldn’t be all that bad.

      • powerfuller says:

        I really hate the idea of labeling certain foods healthy or unhealthy – with few exceptions, the dose makes the poison.

        My guess is this is part of why nutrition advice is always flip-flopping: it seems that experts assume people are either going to ignore or only halfheartedly follow any advice, so the advice gets exaggerated. “SALT WILL KILL YOU” gets a few people to eat less salt, whereas “watch your salt consumption” gets nothing. Then later on somebody notices, “wait, salt’s really not that bad.”

        • My cardiologist says I should walk for at least thirty minutes a day. Checking online material, the usual advice is 150 minutes a week. I suspect the same pattern.

          He gave me a copy of a journal article of which he had been one of the (many) coauthors. It found that people who started out healthy were less likely to have heart attacks, as were people who self-reported as getting more exercise.

          I will restrain myself from telling him that it reads like something written by people who wanted an article on their vita, not people who wanted to generate useful information.

      • Randy M says:

        Evidence has been developing for a while that calorie-for-calorie, carbohydrates seem to lead to negative health outcomes, so that part isn’t at all surprising.

        It will be surprising for people not paying close attention, as we have been told that fat is not only bad for losing weight, but also bad for your heart, for some time, with quiet walkbacks such that people still buy egg-white omelettes as the “heart healthy” option.

    • AnthonyC says:

      IDK about that particular study’s quality or conclusions, but the idea that low carb high fat diets can be healthy is not new or novel, just not widely accepted or practiced.

      I had been struggling to lose (or even stop gaining) weight for several years, and am doing much better on a very low carb ketogenic diet. The more I read about macronutrient metabolism, the more sense it makes to me, but bodies are complicated and I am ignorant enough that it could all be just-so stories. Nevertheless, my blood work was good before and is still good now.

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve been seeing claims that Houston’s lack of zoning contributed to flooding. I’m wondering whether other cities in Texas which have zoning are doing a better job of flood mitigation.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      People like to compare to the Netherlands, but in fairness I don’t think the Netherlands have to deal with storms of the kind Texas/Louisiana do.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I haven’t seen talk about the Netherlands, what I’ve seen is claims that there were a lot of surface put in which was impervious to water, and it would have been better to put in bricks with gaps between them instead of asphalt and concrete.

        There’s a premise that if there’s regulation, it will be sensible regulation, and I’d like to check on that.

        • Urstoff says:

          Concrete + storm drainage systems is standard in Houston as well as cities with much stricter zoning laws. And for 99.999% of scenarios, such a system is what’s best in urban environments. I don’t think any alternate system would have fared any better under Harvey; concrete or no, the ground is surely completely waterlogged by now.

    • bean says:

      All other cities in Texas are either much smaller or much further from the coast. I’m not sure this question is going to get you good answers.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Galveston has zoning, and it floods every time a hurricane hits it. New Orleans isn’t in Texas but it has zoning and it flooded real good when Katrina hit it. All the Jersey Shore towns flooded by Sandy have zoning, as did the East Coast cities flooded by Floyd and Irene (both mostly rain events, like Harvey but unlike Sandy or Katrina).

      The claim that lack of zoning was a significant contributor to flooding is rather extraordinary. Harvey set a record for rainfall; every OTHER city (with zoning) hit by similar rainfall has flooded badly.

      Never mind that the two articles I’ve looked at mix zoning with other things and contradict each other. The Post article mixes building codes (how you build) with zoning (where you build). The Spokesman-Review complains about “pave over natural areas that provide resilience to floods”, where as the Post points out that Houston’s soil is quite impermeable in the first place.

      The best claim is that if you had zoning which didn’t allow people to build in flood-prone areas, you wouldn’t have these problems. True… but no real city subject to significant flooding has such rules, because they’d prevent building in huge parts of the city. And that’s not the traditional use of zoning anyway; it’s to separate areas of industrial, commercial, and various densities of residential use from one another.

      • Brad says:

        You don’t need zoning to get people not to build in flood-prone areas, you just need to let the natural incentives work on builders, buyers, lenders, and so on. When we hide those natural incentives we get overbuilding in flood prone areas. Which not only makes things more expensive but means more people living in those areas and so greater tragedy when something like this happens.

        Edit: does this discussion violate the 3 day rule? Not sure when the clock started.

        • bbartlog says:

          Not sure what argument you’re making, here. I suspect that if you let people do whatever they want with only the limits of libertarian ‘natural incentives’ to constrain them, you end up with flood prone areas settled by people with high time preference, living in relatively shoddy buildings (as banks will not lend to them). Which may be a great use of the land in some economic sense but certainly doesn’t lead to great outcomes when the flood does come. This touches on the broader question of whether the state should act to constrain people with high time preference and provide incentives for them to practice more of the bourgeois virtues, or whether we should just accept the outcomes of high time preference as part of the human condition.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think you get much density in these areas that have land that effectively can’t be borrowed against. So the outcomes when the flood does come may well be significantly better as compared to the status quo. Maybe worse for the people caught up in it, but far fewer people impacted.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think you get much density in these areas that have land that effectively can’t be borrowed against.

            Third-world shanty towns would argue otherwise, and places near major labor markets but “off limits” to legal and/or high-value development are likely to be seen as ideal sites for shanty town construction.

            And subsequent destruction, by fire and flood and other disaster, is a common end state for shanty towns. This may not constitute a market failure, depending on the values and circumstances of the residents, but it ought to be accounted for in your analysis.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            To amplify John Schilling’s point, Kowloon Walled City.

            50,000 residents on 6.4 acres.

          • Brad says:

            Third world shanty towns are generally built without respecting any sort of property rights regime. I’m not suggesting abolishing all government and enacting anarcho-capitalism, I’m suggesting eliminating NFIP and committing not to pay for rebuilding after floods.

            And I would expect major labor markets to migrate away from flood zones too, as businesses also wouldn’t be able to rely on the federal government picking up the tab.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            committing not to pay for rebuilding after floods.

            I don’t think this is politically feasible, and likely would be generally viewed as a violation of the compact between government and citizenry.

            You have to mitigate these problems before the disaster. Not “blame” people for doing the permitted thing after.

            It’s one thing to depend on the market to solve things that happen all the time and everywhere. It’s another to expect that problems in Houston will cause the kind of mass re-migration in coastal areas that is required to prevent the next Houston “somewhere”.

            I don’t believe flood insurance was available before NFIP? And yet we still had large scale losses due to flooding. NFIP was intended as a carrot to push local governments to adopt some sort of management of their floodplains.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t understand why there is a compact between the government and its citizens to rebuild your house if a hurricane destroys it but there’s no such compact to rebuild your house if a fire burns it down.

            A hurricane on the gulf coast of Texas isn’t some black swan that no one could have foreseen. In the next hundred years there will be bad hurricanes that hit the gulf coast, various parts of Florida, the outer banks, NYC, and so on. These are well known risks that can and should be insured against using the private insurance system. There’s no market failure here. The only “problem” is people would rather have someone else pay their costs for them.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t understand why there is a compact between the government and its citizens to rebuild your house if a hurricane destroys it but there’s no such compact to rebuild your house if a fire burns it down.

            Generally I agree that people should not expect to be recompensated for obvious risks, but in terms of that comparison consider that floods may be predictable, but they are not easily started by oneself for fraudulent purposes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            The difference is not between flooding and burning, but scale.

            When one house burns down or gets flooded, what you say applies.

            When tens of thousands do, it’s a completely different story.

            We could try and explore exactly why these are different, but I hope you would accept as a “fact on the ground” that it is simply true of human nature and virtually impossible to deny.

          • Brad says:

            @HeelBearCub
            I wonder if that was true before television. I think the “fact on the ground” you are talking about might well be the visual images causing all logic and reason to go out the window.

            Anyway, if we can’t precommit to not treating uninsured people as if they were insured because of pictures of homeless kids on tv, then the obvious solution is to mandate insurance before hand. And not NFIB insurance policies we have now, but real underwritten policies.

            The ACA had a similar underlying logic of mandating health insurance in part due to the practical impossibility of turning people away from emergency rooms.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            Yes, it was this way before television as well. But I think you may be on to something.

            A few books come to mind. The first is “The Johnstown Flood” by David McCullough. Mostly this treats the precursors to, and the actual flood itself, but it also recounts some of the national outpouring of aid, including federal governmental aid, in the aftermath. I believe you will see this is a pattern when examine most disasters, whether it is the terrible western wildfires during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency, the San Francisco fire, the Halifax Explosion, the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, etc.

            The second book that instantly came to mind was “Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded” by Simon Winchester. This explosion was, IIRC, the first major world event after the undersea trans-pacific telegraph cable was laid. Thus it was the first far-away tragedy which could be reported in near real time, and it became an overnight obsession in London as a result.

            I would say that the closer in time that unaffected people can hear about a great tragedy, the more likely they are to help. Fast communication in general, and telecommunications especially, make societal response to tragedy more likely.

          • tscharf says:

            I think this may be related to why you don’t get insurance for large asteroid impacts. If that actually happened the insurance company couldn’t pay all the claims off. If you are a local insurance company in Houston you are going bankrupt on flood claims tomorrow, otherwise you would have to have enough money to pay off all claims at once. The total value of the house for every house you have insured.

            100,000 houses don’t burn down on the same night, but they might get flooded in a natural disaster.

            That might be it, then again maybe not.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @tscharf:
            As I mentioned upthread, I don’t believe flood insurance was available from any insurers at all until NFIP was instituted, and I think it is for precisely the reason you outlined.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The risk of an insurer being wiped out by a large regional disaster is a known thing; this is what reinsurance addresses.

            (An asteroid impact would probably wipe them out anyway. Literally.)

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not suggesting abolishing all government and enacting anarcho-capitalism, I’m suggesting eliminating NFIP and committing not to pay for rebuilding after floods.

            You are also suggesting that this will result in the flood plains being left empty as they are unprofitable to develop without NFIP, etc. If the land cannot be profitably developed, then any property rights to that land are of negligible value. So go ahead and postulate the strongest possible property rights regime; the sort of people who build shanty towns in places with no property rights, will instead offer $50/acre or whatever to the current owners and build a shanty town with property rights. And the current owners will sell for pennies on the dollar, because you are postulating there is nothing else they can profitably do with the land.

            And I would expect major labor markets to migrate away from flood zones too, as businesses also wouldn’t be able to rely on the federal government picking up the tab.

            Houston isn’t a major labor market because somebody said, “hey, wouldn’t it be neat to build a whole lot of expensive industry on an easily-flooded swamp?” Houston is a major labor market because it is a major sea and river port convenient to, initially, a bunch of prime agrictultural land and, lately, even more oil. That geography isn’t going anywhere. The infrastructure that has been built up over the past century and a half to exploit that geography, isn’t going anywhere. Houston’s industrial base and associated labor market, isn’t going anywhere.

            It will be protected from flooding by whatever means its owners and their associated government deem necessary, and if that means private dikes and expensive insurance, so be it. If, in addition to this expensively protected industrial base, there is adjacent land that is defined as cheap and useless because we are resolved to point and laugh when anyone who builds there suffers and dies (see HBC regarding the political implausibility of that), then a whole lot of desperate poor people hoping to improve their lot by working in Houston’s industries are going to take their chances and build there, hoping to better their circumstances and move up and out before they lose everything to the next flood.

            So, the Greater Houston Shanty Town. Or some more profitable and durable sort of industrial, commercial, or residential development. Take your pick, but leaving the land idle isn’t on the table unless you’ve got men with guns tasked with shooting anyone who sets up a shanty there.

          • Randy M says:

            There’s a reason insurers have insurers. And probably them as well.

          • tscharf says:

            The difference between using commercial reinsurance and a federal flood insurance program might be semantics. I suppose with reinsurance the people who aren’t prone to floods won’t be paying for it.

          • Brad says:

            @tscharf (@2:17 pm this is going fast)
            As Paul Brinkley says, concentrated risk is a well known problem that the contemporary insurance industry is capable of dealing with. And the size of the Harvey claims, while certainly large, are also within the capacity of the system.

            Again, these hurricanes are not extremely low probability, extremely high cost events that the insurance model somehow doesn’t work for — like an asteroid strike or the Yellowstone super volcano going off. Something like that wouldn’t just be too large for the insurance industry it’d also be too large for the USG.

            The private insurance industry could handle these hurricanes. The “issue” is that some of the premiums would be very high, and the people that would be responsible for paying those very high premiums would rather not pay them. That’s it. That’s all that’s going on here.

          • tscharf says:

            Right, it’s pretty hard to argue against that people should pay for the risks they take and people who live in flood plains should assume that risk. It’s OK to share that risk with other flood plains but sharing it with people who don’t live in a flood plain is a bit bizarre.

            And you can build a house that is flood proof by just jacking it up in most places in Houston. Building codes. Their local property taxes can account for the increased risk to publicly funded infrastructure.

            They should be allowed to live there though, if they want to take on the risk and understand the risk.

          • The ACA had a similar underlying logic of mandating health insurance in part due to the practical impossibility of turning people away from emergency rooms.

            I don’t think that was a significant part of the reason from the standpoint of the people who designed it–emergency rooms are a very small fraction of medical costs–although it might have been part of the rhetoric.

            The ACA created adverse selection, since insurance companies were forbidden from basing prices on information about purchasers, aside from a limited ability to base it on age. If customers are free to decide whether to buy, the ones who are being charged much more than the actuarial value of their policies–young and healthy–drop out. That drives up the cost, which drives up the price, which pushes out more of the good risks. You end up with system at which you can only buy insurance at a bad risk price–the classic “Market for Lemons” problem.

            The ACA attempted to solve that problem by forbidding the buyers as well as the sellers from basing their decision on information about how much the customer was likely to collect–requiring everyone to buy. I gather it didn’t do a very good job of it, because the penalties were not high enough. Also, I don’t think it prevented adverse selection on what sort of policy you bought. But that was the motivation, from the standpoint of the economists designing the system, all of whom would have been familiar with adverse selection.

        • The Nybbler says:

          When we hide those natural incentives we get overbuilding in flood prone areas.

          The big issue being federal flood insurance. Though an event as big as this one messes even that up; most of the flooded areas weren’t considered flood prone.

          • Brad says:

            Not just federal flood insurance but the well nigh inevitable disaster relief whereby it acts as if flooded properties were insured despite no premiums ever being paid. It’s something like the equivalent of the Greenspan put for real estate.

      • bean says:

        The Spokesman-Review complains about “pave over natural areas that provide resilience to floods

        Because if there’s one paper we can trust to know about flood control, it’s a medium-sized paper from a city with 16.5″ of precipitation (a large fraction snow) a year, very different geography/geology and really bad flood control. Seriously, I’ve seen what what I would classify as a medium thunderstorm turn every road in Spokane into a river 4-6″ deep for half an hour or so. Of course, I’ve only seen the one, so it’s not not the end of the world that this happens, but I’ll still take my advice on flood control from elsewhere.

    • Iain says:

      There’s a twitter thread going around (Storified here for convenience) that has some things to say about this. The most interesting part:

      The powers that be decided (wisely, mostly) to slowly convert all the roads into a giant rain collection network. So every time an asphalt road needed to be repaved, it got replaced with curb & gutter concrete w/ big storm sewer underneath. This has been highly obnoxious to anyone living nearby when such a project was underway but ultimately quite effective. It usually means that in flooding situations, roads briefly become rivers and then drain, saving houses from flood damage, but it’s also a work in progress that has proceeded at the rate roads needed replacing, and varies greatly by location. […] Thus, flood control in HTX is and has been in a continual state of upgrade for 20 years with the result that at any given time the flood control has been adequate, but for the city T-5 years ago, not now, with the currently least-adequate parts usually around the geographic periphery and immediately downstream.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Thank God we can find a way to put a partisan spin on this issue. For a second, I was worried that we might be united in concern for the people stuck in a flood zone.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think it’s a mistake to say “lack of zoning” is responsible or contributory.

      If you posit both the existence of zoning, a particular set of zones, and a particular set of construction requirement, you can design a Houston that would have been more resilient to Harvey. But merely saying “zoning” is not a magic bullet, as I can also posit a particular set of zone regulations that increase the devastation of Harvey.

      I think people saying “zoning” are really pointing at the idea that either: we incentivize, in various ways, proactive and preventive action to mitigate future disasters (everywhere) at some cost, or we will pay for the (unmitigated) disasters when they eventually and inevitably occur.

      Still, some of these are in the mode of type-1 vs. type-2 mistakes. The raising of disaster preparedness has other costs. For instance, we could encourage or require more density on higher ground. Many people who want aggressive zoning rules want those rules to prevent dense development, as it changes the character of existing neighborhoods.

    • BBA says:

      Houston has land use regulation akin to zoning ordinances – there are maximum density requirements, parking minimums, etc. But it doesn’t have zones. Development is either allowed or disallowed, anywhere in the city. You can’t plop the Equitable Building in the middle of a residential subdivision (or anywhere else for that matter), but a Dairy Queen is just fine. This gets rounded off to “Houston has no zoning” in the popular discourse, which doesn’t really explain the situation. (At least, this is just how an ignorant Yankee who’s never been there understands things. Any Houstonians here, correct me if I’m wrong.)

      In any event I don’t think zoning policy has that much to do with the flood.

      • Urstoff says:

        Is there any major city that doesn’t have density regulations (beside NY, I guess)?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Pretty sure even NY has density regulations. See: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/04/regulatory-arbitrage-deal-of-the-year.html
          Basically, a building straddled two zones, and one zone was technically overbuilt. So…there’s definitely a FAR limit in New York.

          You can generally purchased additional FAR, IIRC. That’s how it works in Chicago. The money is then used to buy voters invest in underdeveloped communities.

          • Brad says:

            I think the best you can do anywhere in NYC as of right with bonuses (e.g. for including a public plaza) but without transferred air rights is a FAR of 18.

            In terms of built FAR, the Equitable Building mentioned above, built before the zoning law was put in place, has a FAR of 30. That may be the highest in the city. It’s more than the Empire State Building (25) and and One World Trade (26).

  7. ManyCookies says:

    Not that I have any inclination to start a conversation on this topic, but I’m surprised how little the past Open Threads talked about the Trump-Russia thing, even during the “highlights”. Is there just not much to say, pending Mueller’s findings? Is the Open Thread community on the same page in one direction?

    • hlynkacg says:

      There was a good deal of talk about it back in February as I recall but at this point yes, it’s pretty much “pending Mueller’s findings”.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Recall how long the Nixon investigation took.

  8. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Accounts Receivable Background Part 4
    So far, I have discussed Accounts Receivable from a largely process viewpoint. For a typical A/R Accountant or A/R clerk, the process dictates daily workflow. By this I mean that every A/R accountant is largely concerned with simply going through their work in a “If A, then B” manner. There’s some space for independent judgement, but not a whole lot, and rarely do staff members look at the “10,000 foot” view.

    In this section, I’ll describe some of the ways management look at A/R, with two major focuses: Reserve metrics and Fraud.

    I’ll begin with Reserves, because any discussion of Fraud will require knowledge of Reserves. Unfortunately, there are some rules that I do not fully understand, and this is a bit above my paygrade at the highest levels. It also does not help that general accounting rules and the IRS do NOT agree on the correct treatment of reserves. Also, international standards do not agree with US standards.

    That aside…

    A/R does not expect to collect on all the money we are owed. Despite our best efforts, some businesses simply do not pay their debts, whether due to inability or unwillingness. After a certain period of time, A/R will write off these past due amounts. These past due amounts are referred to as Bad Debt.*

    However, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) requires companies to forecast credit losses at the moment of sale**, and expense at the moment of sale. In Accounting, this follows from the “matching principle,” which means that all expenses need to be categorized in the same period as the revenues they earned. Basically, if Rearden Steel sells $100,000 in steel in August, it would have to record ALL expenses associated with that $100,000, to the greatest extent possible: this includes any Bad Debt Expense incurred during this period.

    Therefore, A/R will create a “general reserve,” based on prior experiences with companies and overall collection rates. If, historically, Rearden Steel writes off 1% of all revenue, it will create a Bad Debt Expense of 1% of all revenue whenever it makes a sale.

    In accounting terms, the General Reserve looks like this:
    Bad Debt Expense $1,000 Allowance for Bad Debt $1,000

    The Bad Debt Expense will be closed out at the end of the month, meaning it will be taken as a loss against income. The Allowance for Bad Debt, while a credit account, will be reported on the asset side of the balance sheet, as a contra-asset. So the balance sheet will read:

    Accounts Receivable $100,000
    Allowance for Bad Debt $(1,000)

    Note: Financial statements will use the term “allowance,” even though internally we use the term “reserve.” “Allowance” is most accurate. We are not setting aside specific dollars for these losses, so we aren’t actually “reserving” anything.

    Setting the General Reserve rate is not generally done by A/R accountants, and I have no familiarity with the process. I would think that this is typically set at Director or VP level, in conjunction with Internal Audit, and possibly even C-Suite level since it can affect income.

    Note: While GAAP allows setting a reserve based on prior experience, recent international standards have prohibited this practice. International standards now require an “impairment review” to be performed, customer by customer. US accountants are trying to harmonize GAAP with international standards, so this may change in the US in the future.

    This is the part where I get fuzzy, as its generally above my viewpoint:

    Specific reserves are set for accounts when they become “doubtful.” It is my guess that most companies actually set specific reserves and do not fully reserve at the moment of sale. I base this off reading several 10-Ks of major companies, that all describe Allowance for Bad Debt set up as a percentage sales past due a certain amount. My prior company’s 10-K specifically states that they used specifically identified receivables, which we would only be able to identify after the balances are already substantially past due.

    There is nothing stopping a company from a using blended rate of specific reserves and general reserves to arrive at a single unified allowance rate.

    Anyways, “Doubtful” is a specific accounting term meaning A/R no longer has 100% confident the debt will be paid. Once a charge become doubtful, A/R is required to set a specific reserve it, usually on a percentage basis. So, if Rearden Steel sold $300,000 of metal to Union Pacific last year, and only expects to collect $150,000, Rearden Steel will set a $150,000 reserve.

    The accounting transaction would then be the same as the above:
    Bad Debt Expense $150,000 Allowance for Bad Debt $150,000

    The allowance would then be reported as a contra-asset on the balance sheet, reducing the company receivable.

    Specific reserves are set by A/R accountants in conjunction with A/R managers. These are usually reviewed at the Director and VP level on a monthly or quarterly basis for approval.

    Reserves are always a judgement call. It’s tough to know exactly what a company will receive for payment, and always tough to judge a reserve amount. We are supposed to set reserves conservatively, but management will often revise reserves to reflect a less aggressive target.

    Bad Debt Expense, being an expense account, is then closed at the end of the month, and taken directly against income. Note that this means that we are taking the loss before actually writing anything off.

    Write-Offs typically occur when A/R no longer believes an account is collectible. This does not eliminate the customer’s legal requirement to pay, so further collections efforts may be attempted, but from an accounting perspective the receivable is lost. The accounting transaction is typically handled as follows:

    Allowance for Bad Debt $150,000 Accounts Receivable $150,000

    Again, you can see that this would not actually hit our income statement. When A/R writes something off, it will be taken against the previously established Reserve, which has already been expensed. To our investors, the asset position of the income position of the company should be unchanged, as long as we are properly reserved.

    The tax treatment, however, is entirely different. IRS does NOT recognize bad debt expense based off reserve rates. So, if Rearden Steel set a $150,000 reserve last quarter, the IRS would not recognize this as a valid expense. Income would be taxed at the full receivable rate.

    The IRS only allows deductions for bad debt based on specific charges. So, from an IRS perspective, the actual relevant loss occurs not when A/R sets a reserve, but when A/R writes off the charge. From a Wall Street perspective, the relevant loss occurs when A/R sets a reserve, not when A/R writes off the charge.

    Fun contradiction, huh?

    A/R management will be judged off the following metrics:

    -Receivable
    -Reserve
    -Write Off

    Obviously, increases in all these are bad, and decreases in all these are good. And of these, the write off number is obviously the most important, as it represents the actual final expense to the company: those are the charges on which we have simply given up. We can always reduce the reserve if we think we are over-reserved and reclaim those dollars, but a written off amount is a permanent loss.

    Reserves are typically judged as a % of outstanding receivable, on a comparison to prior reserves. For instance, if reserves are not increasing, but receivable has doubled, upper management will hound A/R until they get a reason why A/R is not reserving for the increased receivable. Similarly, if receivables have declined, but reserves have not, upper management may override prior reserve decisions and lower the reserve.

    Receivables will be judged as a % of sales. At my current position, an unhealthy account is anything that has receivable over 1.5% of sales and will receive extra attention. Upper management may hound A/R to collect the account.

    That’s all for now. If anyone sees anything that think is incorrect, you can let me know. I am not really an expert at this level.

    *Accounts Receivable is debt because it is trade credit extended to another company. The revenue is already booked, and the sale made.
    **This is referred to as a “Day One Provision.”

    • ManyCookies says:

      I have nothing intelligent to contribute, but I did enjoy the view into some of the complexity of accounting.

    • dodrian says:

      Thank you for sharing!

      What happens when a company with a long-standing account which has accrued an allowance for bad debt pays off all its debts in full? (In a way that’s obvious it won’t be making any further purchases – it’s going out of business, or had a one-time need that’s been fulfilled)

  9. Don_Flamingo says:

    Physics question (kinda):
    Can you combine skydiving with a trebuchet? Meaning, launch some thrill seeker from a trebuchet into the sky and then let him use his parachute at the highest point to safely land?
    My intuition is that the height might be sufficient, but the accelaration would kill him.

    Sounds kinda fun, though….

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Given that the world record for human cannonball distance is only about 200 ft linearly, and minimum parachute deployment is about 600ft vertically, I don’t think what you propose is possible.

      • Iain says:

        It is if you are launching from a 400 foot cliff!

      • Charles F says:

        Well, a human cannonball has some special limitations. They have to accelerate in a particular way over a short distance, which doesn’t allow you to get very fast without injuring yourself. If you were to make a really big trebuchet, the arc along which you’re accelerating could get pretty long.

        (Edit: for a normal-sized trebuchet e.g. this one there’s no way you could get enough height.)

      • bean says:

        600ft is the minimum for a conventional parachute. BASE jumpers often jump from much lower altitudes. I’m not sure a human-throwing trebuchet would work, but it’s not totally impossible.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          TIL, that apparently the minimum height for a base jump is about 55ft.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Much lower than that you wouldn’t even need a chute.

          • engleberg says:

            Maybe skip the chute and just make the jump inside a steel coffin- I think it sort of worked for partisan insertion in WWII, and when it fails, you planned ahead. Airbags on the coffin for pussies.

          • Barely matters says:

            Haha, as much as these guys are being sarcastic, it’s not that far off. The things to note though, is that for extremely low jumps people start with their parachute already deployed like this exceptionally dedicated fellow

            It’s hard to give strict minimums for skydiving shenanigans because luck plays such a colossal role. So jumping like in the video above, someone might be able to theoretically go as low as 40 feet if everything worked out just perfectly, but you sure wouldn’t have any time to steer towards a good landing spot and flare.

      • dodrian says:

        The Sling Shot Ride claims it reaches speeds of 160kph. Assuming that speed happens at the top of the 60m tower a released rider would reach a height of 260m (850ft) – That’s enough for your cited minimum parachute deployment and well more than a BASE jumper would need.

    • gbdub says:

      There was recently a video of a guy BASE jumping after being launched from a big slingshot type thing. He was successful, but as you noted the acceleration is the kicker. Not dying from the accel itself isn’t even the big worry, it’s that even a momentary blackout might prevent you from orienting properly and deploying the chute. The other problem is making sure the catapult doesn’t launch you with an unrecoverable tumble rate.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Are you talking about this one?

        • gbdub says:

          No, this one.

          Your link is slingshotting off a cliff that was already high enough to BASE. My link is a crane-sized slingshot from ground level.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            So basically trebuchet<=cannon<abnormaly big trebuchet<sling-shot. Guess, I'll wait for some more leaps and bounds in sling-shot and parachute engineering (fully automatic and redundantly deploying parachutes) and it's subsequent commercialisation and hope this will come to a place near me, then.
            Probably still too dangerous for Germany, but hey, that's what Poland is for.

    • Barely matters says:

      Wow, I’m slow on the draw on this open thread.

      So, there are a couple of groups who have made BASE slingshots, and to the best of my knowledge they’ve been working as intended. I’ve seen a couple way sketchier and lower budget versions than the one in thevideo that Gdub found (like, for example, this other rig also from youtube). The Quebecois rig that that I first saw doing this included a lot more duct tape and foam on their launch basket, so it looks like the tech is improving steadily.

      I know that the main reason they’re not used more is that it takes a long time to get the passenger packaged just right so that their neck doesn’t snap during the acceleration (As well as being an insurance nightmare). Lots of padding and braces get the job done, but I can’t imagine it’s very comfortable. BASE openings can be a lot of shock at the best of times (depending on deployment delay.)

      So for a trebuchet specifically, while I’ve never seen it done, it’s probably possible unless a trebuchet is that much weaker than a giant slingshot.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Well, I’ve already been wrong once here, but …

        I imagine some of the problem with any trebuchet that is powerful enough to reach the required velocity at launch is going to be the fact that the acceleration is neither constantly linear in vector nor as consistent in terms of raw numbers as a slingshot. That should mean that the maximum acceleration undergone in the trebuchet is likely to be much higher, and therefore more dangerous.

  10. b_jonas says:

    Random question about global warming.

    Everyone talks a lot about how to generate electric power, how much this contributes to global warming and other longer term environmental effects. This is great, and certainly very important.

    What I’d like to know is how much vacuum trains matter. How far are we from actually building vacuum trains, at least for transcontinental bulk freight (non-passenger) transport? Is the technology still “always thirty years in the future” like fusion power? Or is it already so close that tomorrow some big company will invest a bazillion dollars into building a vacuum train line somewhere and expect that it will return profit in like five years? If we did have vacuum trains, clearly it would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from transport, but how significant would this reduction be?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Given how efficient rail transport already is, my guess is the impact of this specific posit is “not very much”. If you were positing replacing truck transport with vacuum train transport, it would have more impact, but I don’t think that is anything like doable in the short term, as the number of routes which require replacing are too numerous.

      I think the “big money” in mass transit is always around concentrated populations.

    • beleester says:

      I Googled a bunch of things, and found that trains average about 2.6 MJ/passenger-mile and maglevs get about 0.4, so they use about 1/6th of the energy.

      Although one source noted that they lose a lot of their luster in mountainous terrain, because they need more energy to brake and accelerate than a diesel engine.

      Couldn’t find anything on how much further you could improve efficiency by running the maglev in a vacuum (or even if it would help, seeing as keeping the tunnel evacuated costs energy).

      • bean says:

        I Googled a bunch of things, and found that trains average about 2.6 MJ/passenger-mile and maglevs get about 0.4, so they use about 1/6th of the energy.

        Something seems really fishy about that. A typical railroad’s rolling resistance coefficient is only ~.002, something like a third of a car’s value. A maglev gets rid of that (and I’ll assume for the sake of argument that it’s as efficient elsewhere in the drivetrain), but it still has to deal with air resistance. Normal trains are not notably streamlined, but you’re probably looking at no more than an order of magnitude reduction in drag coefficient, and possibly less because of the influence of skin friction on such a long vehicle. And the maglev is usually going a lot faster. I just can’t see how you’re going to see a factor of 6 difference in energy efficiency unless you’re running the maglev at the same speed as the normal train. And if the savings are that great, why don’t they do it more? Because revealed preference says it doesn’t work that well. Maybe they’re normalizing the total maglev numbers to the same speed, which could hide a lot of overhead.

        • beleester says:

          Yeah, I’m not sure what’s going on there, I saw that same 0.4 MJ figure quoted everywhere so I thought it was accurate. Maybe all of them are taking that figure from some single source that’s not accurate?

          Or maybe maglevs tend to be installed in situations that take advantage of their qualities, and if you tried to replace other rail networks or haul freight with them you wouldn’t get the same advantage?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      As everyone says, existing trains are efficient. But they are slow. Slow is good enough for freight. Also, if your tracks have enough traffic to matter, you can power them off of the electric grid. The point of vacuum trains is not to save energy over regular trains, but to be much, much faster and compete with airplanes for people traveling medium distances. Airplanes use a lot of fuel.

      • b_jonas says:

        Thank you all for the replies. This implies vacuum trains can be economically worth only if they can transport passengers.

  11. johan_larson says:

    Some more information about the problems the USN has been having:

    For nearly 30 years, all new surface warfare officers spent their first six months in uniform at the Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, learning the theory behind driving ships and leading sailors as division officers.

    But that changed in 2003. The Navy decided to eliminate the “SWOS Basic” school and simply send surface fleet officers out to sea to learn on the job. The Navy did that mainly to save money, and the fleet has suffered severely for it, said retired Cmdr. Kurt Lippold.

    After 2003, each young officer was issued a set of 21 CD-ROMs for computer-based training — jokingly called “SWOS in a Box” — to take with them to sea and learn. Young officers were required to complete this instructor-less course in between earning their shipboard qualifications, management of their divisions and collateral duties.

    https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-navy/2017/08/27/navy-swos-a-culture-in-crisis/

  12. HFARationalist says:

    The seducer-provider divide

    The main ideas of I and III are from a Jewish reactio.nary from Coalpha Brotherhood. I do not endorse his views especially his more radical ones. However this one deserves to be discussed.

    I.Seducers and Providers
    Both seduction and provision are male mating strategies.

    A seducer is evolutionarily valuable due to the sexy son hypothesis. A male who is popular with other females is more likely to have sexy sons who are more likely to mate compared to other males. Hence a female should mate with popular males. Seducers don’t necessarily provide. Their key to success is in the number of progenies.

    A provider is evolutionarily valuable because a child he and the mother provide for is more likely to survive compared to a child only the mother provides for. The key advantage of a provider is the percentage of offsprings who survive long enough that they can reproduce.

    II.The Environment
    When the environment is harsh and inequal hence the percentage of kids who survive long enough to reproduce themselves widely differs from person to person in the environment provision is very important. It is not the amount of kids that matter. Instead it is the amount of kids who survive and breed that matter. Hence cold and dry climates are good for providers.

    On the other hand when the environment is equally harsh on everyone or equally nice on everyone hence the percentage of kids who survive long enough to reproduce does not vary a lot inside a population. When this happens it is the amount of kids people have that evolutionarily matter the most. Hot and wet climates are good for seducers.

    Human cultures also constitute a part of our evolutionary environment. Arranged marriages and anti-adultery laws promote provision. On the other hand hook ups, eloping, adultery and sexual freedom in heterosexuality promote seduction.

    III.Seduction and Societies

    Pure seducers do not provide. Furthermore seducers tend to not respect others’ mating rights and as a result cause mating-related conflicts. Seduction also leads to de facto harems with a popular man mating with many women leaving many men without mates. These mateless men have few reasons to fight for a tribe but lots of reasons to subvert it. The seduction strategy is in essence antisocial.

    Sexuality and fertility are negatively correlated. Hence sexiness and lack of intelligence are positively correlated. A society of seducers tend to be unstable, violent and unintelligent.

    IV. The modern Western society and Seduction

    The West used to be a provider culture which is why it was and still is great. However the modern Western society promotes seduction. Modern medicine and welfare significantly lowered the number of people who do not survive long enough to produce. Sexual freedom further made the Western culture pro-seduction As a result seduction has suddenly become the norm in the West which is filled with people genetically more suited to be providers.

    V. Solution: Curbing Seduction without Female Submission

    Seduction is harmful, hence it needs to be curbed. It can be achieved without the completely unrelated and stupid idea that women must obey men. Voluntary submission is just absurd and no one should voluntarily perpetually subject their will to the will of another person. Women should still be allowed to work and more importantly they should be encouraged to refuse to obey their family members.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      >Voluntary submission is just absurd and no one should voluntarily perpetually subject their will to the will of another person. Women should still be allowed to work and more importantly they should be encouraged to refuse to obey their family members.

      What does this have to do with the rest of your post? Also, that’s a lot of shoulds out of nowhere.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Well it was really late and I was about to sleep. The basic idea here is to support the anti-patriarchy idea of feminism without supporting sexual freedom. The idea that one person has to obey another forever is evil just like seduction.

        Can we oppose adultery and freedom in choosing heterosexual partners while opposing female submission and supporting LGBT rights? Lesbian sex is unlikely to transmit STDs so it might be a good idea to encourage it.

    • Orpheus says:

      However this one deserves to be discussed.

      Does it?
      I don’t see anything particularly original or clever in this (quite the contrary, in fact: “The West used to be a provider culture which is why it was and still is great” really? That’s the reason?).
      Leaving aside whether any of this is true, what purpose does it serve?
      How are you going to deprogram women from liking “seducers” without implementing full-on Sharia law?
      If you are having problems dating, you should realy deal with them on a personal basis rather than trying to restructure all of society.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I’m not even interested in dating. However the seduction problem needs to be fixed or it will seriously harm the society both socially and evolutionarily.

        We don’t need Sharia or other systems promoting or enforcing the patriarchy. However we have to evolutionarily fix the seduction problem.

        • Orpheus says:

          …we have to evolutionarily fix the seduction problem.

          How?

          …the seduction problem needs to be fixed or it will seriously harm the society both socially and evolutionarily.

          Why? You keep insisting this is some sort of a HUGE crisis, but you don’t explain why.

          • HFARationalist says:

            I think we should discourage adultery without promoting the patriarchy.

            I believe it is a huge crisis because the genotypical IQ in the West has been decreasing. When seducers win intelligence is phased out.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think we should discourage adultery without promoting the patriarchy.

            What if promoting the patriarchy is the only, or only feasible, way of discouraging adultery?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @The Original Mr.X We can’t have few adulteries without forcing wives to submit to their husbands other than merely not cheating on them? That sounds very odd.

            A law punishing adultery defined as heterosexual sex with someone other than one’s spouse without consent of the spouse in a voluntary heterosexual monogamous marriage with one year of imprisonment will work.

            Note that I intentionally permit any arbitrary homosexual sex for it has no evolutionary consequences, polyamory and sex orgies if one’s spouse consent to them. The purpose of this idea is to stop cheating. That’s it.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The purpose of this idea is to stop cheating. That’s it.

            That’s easy. Ban marriage and do not provide for civil unions.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @A definite Beta guy
            Well that will make the seduction problem even worse.

          • bbartlog says:

            Contraception has already fixed ‘the seduction problem’.

            The (rather mild) selection for lower intelligence that we see is not the same problem at all. It’s driven largely by the fact that highly educated people, especially women, have few children. Mate choices that we might disapprove of on eugenic grounds have very little role, unless we’re contrasting with a scenario where poor single mothers use sperm bank donors or something.

          • Orpheus says:

            I believe it is a huge crisis because the genotypical IQ in the West has been decreasing. When seducers win intelligence is phased out.

            Citation needed. Is IQ actually decreasing? Woemen have been dating however they want rather freely since at least the 50s. I really don’t think the situation is so dire.

          • bbartlog says:

            There are some moderately good theoretical reasons to believe that genes for IQ are being selected against, revolving around the fertility of various cohorts of society, their average IQ or other correlated test scores, and the fairly high heritability of IQ. On the flip side, however, we don’t see much evidence for this in the actual test scores; selection for lower IQ *should* have been going on for the past hundred and some odd years (in the US and UK) and instead we got the Flynn Effect.

            As I already noted above, however, this does not have much to do with some provider/seducer dichotomy, but with different levels of fertility at different levels of education and intellect. The availability of contraception and abortion is already a fairly crushing blow to the evolutionary prospects of any ‘seducer’ cohort in some kind of evolutionary competition.

          • Charles F says:

            @HFA
            Citing the daily mail isn’t going to inspire confidence in anybody familiar with that publication. If they’re reporting a real phenomenon, I recommend finding just about any other article covering it, or linking directly to the study they’re covering.

            FWIW the article doesn’t seem nearly as bad as my preconceptions about the daily mail would lead me to expect, but it doesn’t seem to be supporting your claim very strongly. They’re not showing data that actually says IQ scores have dropped, they’re showing data that says visual reaction time has dropped, and positing that this means our genetic upper bounds on intelligence/brain function are decreasing even as environmental factors have helped IQ scores rise, and predicting that we’re close to the point where the trend will reverse.

            See this article for some links to the data/studies I think they’re discussing.

            (Yeah, HuffPo is not a paragon of clear, apolitical reporting, but it does have links here)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          If you’re worried about seduction problems, changing the law and social norms so that it pays to get married and have lots of children, whether by implementing Sharia Law or by some other means, seems much more doable that “evolutionarily fixing the seduction problem”.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Sharia includes submission clauses. We need pro-provider policies without family obedience which is another dangerous idea.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Family obedience is another idea that hampers intellectualism. Of course the idea to force women to obey their husbands is very stupid. The idea that anyone has to obey their parents is even worse for at least half of the population is male and is hence not subject to the “wives must obey husbands” idiocy. It is a different disease from the seducer problem but it is still pathological. In the worst case it will lead to Confucianism-like scenarios when the oldest person or even a dead person is an authority people have to obey regardless of how stupid their ideas are.

          • Sharia includes submission clauses.

            Could you expand on that? Under Islamic law, the wife has to let her husband have intercourse with her unless there is some good reason not to, such as illness. The husband has a similar but weaker obligation to the wife–he has to have intercourse with her with reasonable frequency, scholars disagreeing about exactly what that means.

            In what other important ways is the wife required to submit to the husband? The husband is required to maintain the wife at the level appropriate to her family status. I do not believe the wife has any legal obligation with regard to earning money, cooking, housework or the like. That part seems biased towards the wife.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Women should still be allowed to work and more importantly they should be encouraged to refuse to obey their family members.

      The women in my in-laws family would all have been much, much, much better off it they simply outsourced their dating decisions to their father.

      Their father not only did not ban them from working, he actually paid for them all get advanced degrees.

      I don’t think you have a good handle on how social shaming of dating rituals might work in practice, and how it differs simply from “listen to what men say.”

      • HFARationalist says:

        I really don’t know. I personally believe that the very existence of dating or courtship is pro-seduction. Only letting the state or some other agency arrange marriages will solve that.

        However the most important reason why I hate the patriarchy has nothing to do with women. It has something to do with freedom of males from their families.

        I agree that “listen to what men say” is a good idea. However “listen to what fathers say” is a bad idea for the society because men may condone their daughters going for seducers. Daughters going for seducers is at least evolutionarily beneficial so men may turn a blind eye to their daughters dating or marrying seducers unless they are somehow discouraged from doing so. Instead the state or some other impersonal entity should arrange marriages.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I feel like you’ve been posting a lot of low-quality alt-right-ish stuff for a while now. While I’m not 100% against anything like that ever appearing on Open Threads, I’d like you to limit it a little more or take it to the Culture War thread on the subreddit or something.

  13. sandoratthezoo says:

    Random media report. No spoilers:

    The Good Place is a half-hour comedy (ie, about 22 minutes of non-commercial time) that aired on NBC last year. The first season (13 episodes) is available on Netflix streaming. The second season will start to air on traditional icky television on 9/20/2017. It stars Kristin Bell (Veronica Mars, Frozen) and Ted Danson (Cheers, lots of other things).

    The plot is that a woman (Bell) is sent to Heaven (well, “The Good Place”), but she doesn’t actually deserve to be there. Hijinks ensue.

    My wife and I binged it this weekend and enjoyed it. obSSC content: It includes moderately weighty-for-a-half-hour-comedy-on-network-TV content on morals, ethics, and the doctrine of hell. Not “weighty for an SSC comment,” just weighty for a half-hour-comedy-on-network-TV. But I thought it was funny and well acted and fairly inventive. And it has no costs beyond opportunity for those of you who are already subscribed to Netflix.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      While we’re on the topic, I just finished watching Atypical on Netflix, a show about a high-functioning autistic teenager learning how to date, and various adventures of his family. Highly cringy (prompted my questions about cringe comedy in a previous OT) but well written and fairly sympathetic. Definitely considers autistic kids ingroup.

      Would recommend.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I’m probably forgetting other programs, but this is the only show I’m looking forward to in the fall.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Also, I just started watching Good Place on my flight home this morning, and second the recommendation. Quite fun. Reminds me a lot of Better Off Ted, a favorite of mine–different content, naturally, but similar sensibility.

    • PedroS says:

      Thanks for the suggestion! We have just watched the first three episodes and are loving it!

    • Protagoras says:

      Also recently binged “The Good Place” and liked it. I particularly noted that the character who was supposed to be a philosophy professor never said anything obviously stupid and wrong when talking about philosophy. He wasn’t amazingly insightful or anything, but avoiding being obviously stupid and wrong is much better than I expect from TV representations of my profession.

  14. Don_Flamingo says:

    To continue the conversation about shaving techniques and whether or not to use product on your skin (started whether Libertarians are irrationally anti-status quo biased, but this is obviously more interesting):
    @AnonYEmous
    @The Nybbler
    Well, no I don’t shave dry. I use cold water and a Shavette (straigt razor with disposable blades). I apply the cold water on the area, just before the blade touches it and after some hairs are on the blade, I hold it under a stream of water, to get most of them off. Sometimes, I cut myself, but only when I’m unfocussed and I’ve been using the same blade for too long (used to be cheapness + lazyness +ignorance vs caution, but now it’s vs caution + experience, so I’m doing mostly fine on that these days). I think, I’ve ‘mastered’ that particular skill (not really that hard, might be different, if I was hairier). I haven’t tried dry shaving with that razor in a while. I remember it not working very well. With lots of focus, I could probably shave off each hair individually and not cut myself, but that just takes too long and is boring. I don’t like shaving in the shower with a Shavette, bcs. I’m not going to get all the hairs without looking in a mirror.

    I also saw another, much hairier person get pretty harsh razor burn using warm water and my shavette (with a new blade). Not sure, if he maybe used too much pressure with it or some skin or hair types just can’t handle that. So mileages may vary with this, I guess.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      If you find shaving irritating, I recommend the following:

      Use a razor blade which has not gone dull. I found that the Mach-4 razor blades were worth it for me and would last a long time, but YMMV.

      Apply a liberal base of cold-cream, like Noxzema, to skin that is thoroughly wet.

      Put a gel-type shaving cream on top of this.

      Shave with a wet razor, rinsing/re-wetting frequently.

      You will thank me.

      • . says:

        And remember to sharpen your razor on your pants before use!

      • orihara says:

        Shavettes are probably better for the whole “not gone dull” part. Blades are significantly cheaper, which means it’s alot easier to just chuck it at the end of the week. I use a DE razor, but it amounts to the same thing (expensive handle, super cheap blades).

    • episcience says:

      I am a double-edged razor evangelist. Look into them, buy a nice one, you will save so much money and your shaves will be fantastic.

      I’m a hirsute guy and I went from avoiding shaving with my Gilette because I didn’t want razor burn to actively looking forward to shaving every day.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        @episcience
        I already find my shave pretty fantastic. With a blade costing abt. 50 cts, disposing the blade after three shaves and me shaving every 2-3 days, I’m at about 7ct per day in terms of cost. I’m not a hirsute guy, but having a 2 1/4 inch long blade at my disposal is really great even for me (I used to use a 2 inch blade for learning, but I would recommend skipping that step). I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘upscale’ shavette. It’s just a flexible, but stiff enough handle, that you fix your blade on. Throwing money at it, wont make it in any way better. A shavette’s blade is sharper than a traditional straights blade, after honing, at least for the first use or so I’ve heard.
        I got about two dozen cuts over a year or so, but none of them were visible for more than a day (always applied a razor pen and healing balm immediately). It was a learning experience (the lesson always being “Pay attention, you idiot!”). If I pay attention, I can move the blade very quickly. If I don’t, I can move the blade slowly and still cut myself. So, I learned, that I’m safer working quickly, as to not get bored, bcs. that’s dangerous. I never got razor burn, except for the first couple of times of using it and I almost never cut myself, anymore.

        I looked into DE blades. They look pretty neat and are apparently easier to learn (and very safe).

        Though with a shorter blade, I think a shave would take a bit longer. Also, I think the flexibility of the handle, my Shavette, gives me lots of freedom, with angles, that I would loose. I shall try DE, if my skin gets more sensible with age (I am only in my mid twenties, now) and isn’t so forgiving anymore.

        Traditional straights seem rather silly to me. All this extra equipment that you need and the high price. Though, they definitely look the coolest…

        How long is your DE’s blade? Do you ever wish you could ‘attack’ a hard to reach spot from an impossible angle? Can you target each hair individually, if you would want to?

        • Don_Flamingo says:

          I also use the length of the blade not necessarily for full skin contact, but to use different parts of the blade after each other, to ‘fill’ them with hair, so I can save some time, before I rinse the blade. If I were to buy a new shavette, I’d buy one with 2 1/2 inch blades (the longest one possible, I believe). I’m now thinking abt. measuring how many hand movements I make, timing each and trying to estimate, what the fastest possible, safe shave would be for me…

    • Winter Shaker says:

      My last girlfriend actively preferred bearded-me, which saved me the bother of having to shave, which suits me since I am lazy, though for reasons alluded to above, I can’t afford to limit my future dating pool to pogonophiles only, and if I need to keep a smooth face in future, I am likely to go back to the lifehack of shaving under the shower.

      No product needed, just running water, and I cut myself a lot less than shaving with foam in front of a mirror, though the disadvantage is you need to feel carefully for any missed spots, or I suppose carry a mini mirror into the shower.

  15. papermite says:

    Does anyone know if ads served on SSC (and other small sites) are paid by total ads served or based on click-throughs?

    I’m an avid ad-blocker, but would still like to make exceptions for smaller blogs and websites that I want to support. I have not and will not ever click through ads though (mostly due to growing up in the 90’s and never trusting any ad to not be malware). If for some reason I see something that I actually want to investigate purchasing, I will always just google it first to check reviews. If the site doesn’t get any money if I’m not clicking the ad, then I’d prefer to just leave the blocker on so I save on bandwidth and make the sites more aesthetically pleasing.

    Thanks!

    • dodrian says:

      Scott has his advertising policies pretty clearly spelled out. In his case they are sold for a specific period of time (neither impressions nor clickthrus).

      That said, if the link contains a referral marker (?ref=ssc or similar, as the sidebar ads do), clicking on the ad can influence whether or not a site will decide to continue running ads in the future.

      • papermite says:

        Thanks for showing me that page. I hadn’t even realized that my adblocker wasn’t automatically removing them, so I guess there’s no harm in keeping them there.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I can say with pretty high confidence that my ads aren’t malware – I’ve talked to the people involved, I’ve looked at them myself, and they all seem pretty legit.

  16. Wrong Species says:

    From a utilitarian perspective, what’s worse, clinical depression or the despair that comes from hunger, disease and war?

  17. apollocarmb says:

    if we are discussing ants then watch this video titled ‘how to raise an ant colony’. Its so cool.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiD5Sx60CVA

  18. aNeopuritan says:

    May be old news, but the Sam[]zdat author pointed to another Last Psychiatrist Diasporan: https://hotelconcierge.tumblr.com .

  19. Brad says:

    Scott Alexander wrote:

    White nationalism continues to be a tiny movement with a low-four-digit number of organized adherents, smaller than eg the Satanists; people continue to act as if it’s a gigantic and important social force.

    You have any comments on whether or not antifa is a gigantic and important social force? Because a bunch of your most enthusiastic commentators seem to think it is.

    • . says:

      My theory: there really are a ton of them in the communities that posters here inhabit, and said posters don’t realize how unusual this is, but also outsiders don’t realize that these communities exist.

      I work in academia, and it bears no resemblance to the descriptions that I hear from right-wingers. I wore a MAGA hat with my academia-bros (admittedly late primary rather than the general election, and not while teaching) and I didn’t get punched once. Actually it was was totally fine. And there are plenty of academics studying gender differences etc. Since “everyone knows” that academia is the most closed-minded lefty place on Earth, I concluded that right-wingers were lying about everything else.

      But in light of the Damore affair I have changed my mind. Actually, Silicon Valley is the most closed-minded lefty place on Earth. Right-wingers weren’t lying, they were just extrapolating their personal experiences too far. By the same token, we who live in sane communities shouldn’t extrapolate our experience too far; there really does seem to be a lot of craziness out there, it’s probably not just conservative hysteria.

      • ghi says:

        The problem is that Academia and Silicon Valley have influence disproportionate to their size.

        • Urstoff says:

          Silicon Valley, maybe. Academia? No way, particularly when it comes to the hyper-left humanities. Probably the most influential academics are economists (with law professors and business school professors a distant second), which is hardly a stronghold for left-wing thought.

          • ghi says:

            The humanities professors imposed a regime to indoctrinate all students that pass through the university whatever their major (if you’re a professor, you may not be aware of the amount of indoctrination directed at undergrads). How do you think Silicon Valley got to be the closed-minded lefty place it is today?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Plus all the extreme lefty thought we see today came from academics in the first place.

          • . says:

            @Wrong Species: I don’t think that’s true anymore. Extreme leftiness these days is about the means rather than the ends. It’s not people supporting far-out ideas via conventional means (like writing dumb books), but rather people supporting basically mainstream ideas via far-out means like street-fighting and ostracization. They didn’t learn to do any of that stuff in class.

            Maybe if schools were doing a better job of teaching them how to write books they’d be doing that instead. One can tell a story where leftist intellectuals disappeared up their own assholes, which made leftist activists dumber.

          • lvlln says:

            It seems to me that today the far-out means like street-fighting and ostracization do indeed come from academia, though. It’s probably not ubiquitous or even close to it, but professors in humanities do openly advocate for using violence to achieve the social changes they desire and also openly see their classes as means by which to affect such changes, with education of students either a distant 2nd priority or conflated with recruiting them into their own specific way of thinking. And more generally the idea that if certain people determined that they’re oppressed, then they basically have carte blanche to use any means they deem fit to destroy and throw off their chains, and the people they’ve determined are oppressors are wrong to obstruct that comes from academia, I believe.

          • ghi says:

            I don’t think that’s true anymore. Extreme leftiness these days is about the means rather than the ends. It’s not people supporting far-out ideas via conventional means (like writing dumb books), but rather people supporting basically mainstream ideas via far-out means like street-fighting and ostracization.

            So you consider things like the call for all white males in academia to resign their positions to be “basically mainstream”.

          • . says:

            @ghi:

            So you consider things like the call for all white males in academia to resign their positions to be “basically mainstream”.

            Let’s play a game! You try to guess my response, and I’ll tell you if you’re right. If we all get good at this game we could save a lot of time!

          • ghi says:

            Let’s play a game! You try to guess my response, and I’ll tell you if you’re right. If we all get good at this game we could save a lot of time!

            Sorry, I have better things to do with my time then model every mind-killed idiot I find online.

            But here’s my attempt: “I don’t actually have a response, that’s why I resorting to meta-replies”.

    • Zorgon says:

      You have any comments on whether or not antifa is a gigantic and important social force? Because a bunch of your most enthusiastic commentators seem to think it is.

      As one of those enthusiastic commentators If we keep strictly to “wears a mask and goes to marches” I would personally place a rough estimate of antifa at around middle-four-digits; same order of magnitude as white nationalists, possibly slightly larger in numbers, and with a larger proportion of antifa being willing to use violence (at the moment; this may well be changing rapidly in the wake of recent events).

      I took a large part of Scott’s point to be that the issues with white nationalists have very little to do with their actual numbers and influence, and the same thing applies to antifa, if for different reasons. There is no grand media narrative about antifa having taken over the government and/or planning to engage in mass violence against their targets, even though they have engaged in more direct violence during recent protests (and I would suggest they have avoided a Charlottesville only through sheer luck; there’s only so many times you can take a bike lock to people’s heads before someone dies).

      This is an apples-to-oranges comparison in the true sense; these movements are comparable, but they are sufficiently different to make the comparison a clear one. What is most notable to me is that only one of these groups has the tacit or outspoken approval of large parts of a culturally-dominant Tribe supporting their violent acts. I am not afraid of Nazis or Antifa; but I am deathly afraid of normal people who begin to form a self-righteous mob, and that’s been happening more and more as the pendulum continues to swing.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        Does the lack of bike-lock-related deaths cause you to update your priors on either a) the deadly nature of bicycle lock attacks or b) the number of times a right-wing protester has taken a bike lock to the head?

        • eyeballfrog says:

          Having reviewed the videos, it updates my priors on how many people go to these protests wearing bike helmets. Bike lock guy is usually hitting people’s shoulders because they’re wearing helmets.

    • InferentialDistance says:

      Not a big force, but potentially important if they’re allowed to continue shutting down speakers and getting into brawls with nazis. Escalating violence forces non-members near the margins to join up for self defense, which makes the groups bigger, which means now there are more non-members near the margins, and they’re bigger which makes them more threatening, so people are even quicker to join up. This is literally how Hitler rose to power in Germany, I do not want antifa LARPing as 1930s German communists.

      Like, the problem with antifa is not their size or importance at this moment, but that they’re getting away with illegal, immoral actions. Nazis are held to the law, and in some cases their rights violated by government. Nazis are denounced by both sides of the political spectrum. Antifa use violence against speakers they don’t like, so the bureaucrats give antifa exactly what they want by cancelling the speakers. Antifa were allowed to continue their counter-protests despite the state of emergency. The cops funneled the protesters towards the antifa-filled counter-protesters. Antifa get a lot of support and defense from the left.

      I’m not worried about antifa getting into government power and passing antifa-friendly laws. I’m worried the establishment is going to continue to look the other way, and the antifa get increasingly bold, until the first amendment is effectively dead because of roving not-freedom-from-consequences gangs.

      • hlynkacg says:

        In one of the OTs a few months before the election I tried to steel-man Scott Aaronson’s doom-saying by trying to come up with a plausible path from “Trumpism” to totalitarian-fascism.

        The scenario I came up with was that violence like we’d seen at San Jose and elsewhere would continue to escalate with the tactic approval of both law enforcement and the media. Sooner or later Trump’s supporters start organizing armed “self defense teams” to keep the anti-fa from disrupting rallies. To the shock of everyone Trump wins the election. Protestors take to the streets to smash windows and burn businesses only to be met by “the red hats” several people (on both sides) are killed in the ensuing violence. The media lionizes the fallen on the anti-trump side and lays the blame for squarely on trump’s shoulders meanwhile trump praises the red hats as fine people doing a job that the police were either too scared or too incompetent to do themselves. A plurality of Americans agree with him. Paramilitary organizations become a part of mainstream US politics, and it’s all downhill from there.

        • The Nybbler says:

          This scenario still seems possible, though on a government schedule (i.e. late, incomplete, and overbudget). Mostly seems to be the city of Berkeley doing the heavy lifting on the “approval of law enforcement” part, though they seem to have missed the “tacit” part of that with their “strategic withdrawal”.

        • tscharf says:

          Telling the police to stand down repeatedly in the face of predictable imminent violence is an invitation for the beatees to arm themselves for the next encounter. I hope nobody is going to act surprised when a shootout occurs in the near future. If the government isn’t going to enforce safety during a legitimate peaceful assembly then the outcome is predictable.

          If the five on one antifa beat down shown in video yesterday took place in front of an armed protester somebody is going to get shot. The guy on the ground could probably claim self defense here.

          • herbert herberson says:

            that’s maybe two seconds of footage that ends with a black dude shouldering in to stop it. Maybe you meant to post the Deandre Harris video?

        • ghi says:

          The scenario I came up with was that violence like we’d seen at San Jose and elsewhere would continue to escalate with the tactic approval of both law enforcement and the media. Sooner or later Trump’s supporters start organizing armed “self defense teams” to keep the anti-fa from disrupting rallies. To the shock of everyone Trump wins the election. Protestors take to the streets to smash windows and burn businesses only to be met by “the red hats” several people (on both sides) are killed in the ensuing violence. The media lionizes the fallen on the anti-trump side and lays the blame for squarely on trump’s shoulders meanwhile trump praises the red hats as fine people doing a job that the police were either too scared or too incompetent to do themselves.

          The problem with this argument is that if Hillary had one the same thing would have happened, only now the alt-left rioters are met with the approval of the media and the president.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Sounds like we’re all having the same nightmare!

  20. Relevant to the title of this thread, as well as the culture wars, Worm fanfic author Ack has announced: “I’m putting Slippery Slope on temporary hiatus until the American political situation has calmed down (due to themes in that fic which hew uncomfortably closely to real life).”
    https://forum.questionablequesting.com/threads/vote-thread-for-acks-omake-corner.1144/page-317

    Slippery Slope is a “Taylor becomes a Nazi” alternate history fic, where the lead character of Worm gets drawn into the Empire 88.

    (The other story of Ack’s that he comments about in the same message is called Trump Card, but it has nothing to do with the current US president.)

  21. Andrew Hunter says:

    Sometimes Twitter is genuninely interesting and has good information about city planning and disaster:

    https://twitter.com/CorbettMatt/status/901959336850804737

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Further evidence that any time Twitter happens to have something genuinely interesting it would be 100x better if presented with real paragraphs instead of shoehorned into Twitter.

  22. analytic_wheelbarrow says:

    Do Asian-American men generally have a really tough time dating? I see a lot of white men with Asian-American women (and in fact lots of white men prefer AA women over white women) but you hardly see the reverse. Just as a matter of arithmetic, it would seem that AA men would have a lot of difficulty in the dating world.

    • HFARationalist says:

      As I said before, this is just an inevitable consequence of welfare and the hook-up culture that prefers sexy people to providers.

      My theory is that South Asian men should have no problem dating. Instead they should be easier to get a date compared to white men. Southeast Asians should have it better than Northeast Asian men. However labelling SE Asians as Asian certainly make their men sound less attractive due to labelling. Northeast Asian men should be unattractive because they are in a wrong dating market.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      You get that impression if you browse a bit on reddit.com/r/AsianMasculinity, a thoroughly weird place being both SJW and TRP. Given how many non-Asian men complain online about their lack of dating success, though, I don’t know what that proves.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Because they aren’t actually Red Pilled. The key issue here isn’t racism so its treatment has nothing to do with racism either.

        Providers don’t do well in general in a society with lots of welfare.

    • Aapje says:

      OKCupid data suggests that Asian men have it slightly better than black men and much worse than white men.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Oh we have to face facts. Now we need to.explain this phenomenon. My theory might be wrong.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Online dating is also different than the real world. People are much more superficial.

          • HFARationalist says:

            I agree. So do we have real world data?

            My hypothesis is that different groups are different on the provider-seducer spectrum. Like Northeast Asians > Ashkenazi Jews > Europeans > Southeast Asians, South Asians, Middle Easterners, Mestizos > Blacks on emphasis on providing and the opposite on men seducing women. I believe that seducers thrive in environments with lots of free resources while providers thrive in harsh environments with few free resources.

            I believer emphasis on provision and discouraging seduction is important to maintain a healthy, rich and intellectual society. Europe used to be much more pro-provider than it is now and people need to return to pro-provider values to ensure that the society remains healthy.

    • sconn says:

      Yes, it’s a thing. AA men, along with black women, tend to be rated the least sexually desirable. It probably has to do with physical features — AA men are shorter and often slimmer, and many women go for the tallest, buffest guy they can get. Culturally, AA men also appear less confident to Europeans because they are socialized not to boast. Meanwhile AA women can date pretty much anybody and don’t have a particular preference (on average) for dating AA guys.

      That said, the effect isn’t enormous and AA guys do in fact get girlfriends. Especially among women whose tastes don’t run toward the big, buff, and brash — mine don’t.

      • HFARationalist says:

        That only applies in a seducer-dominated market. What Northeast Asian men need to do is to recognize that they are too good for this stupid hook up culture and get spouses from provider-friendly ones. In fact this also applies to many white men, especially the ones in STEM.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Broadly speaking, I think that the prejudice goes that African-Americans are masculine and Asian-Americans are feminine (I do not endorse that prejudice, just report it). So Asian-American women and African-American men benefit from this prejudice on the dating markets, while Asian-American men and African-American women suffer from it.

        • HFARationalist says:

          @sandoratthezoo
          I personally don’t believe that this is the real problem. On the other hand, the provider/seducer split does.

          Northeast Asians were traditionally in a culture of arranged marriages with no courtship. Europeans were traditionally in a culture of arranged marriages but with courtship. Hence to Northeast Asian men a pure provider culture works the best. For European men it is mixed but still with a strong emphasis on provision. Modern dating culture favors seducers over providers. Hence it is bad for both groups of men but even worse for Northeast Asian men. On the other hand a seducer-dominated dating culture is good for black men.

          Interesting fact: Mixed marriages in NE Asian-majority Singapore are mostly between Indian men and NE Asian women. Yet we don’t see NE Asian men marrying lots of minority Malay or Indian women despite the fact that NE Asians are politically and economically dominant.

          Another interesting fact: Jewish Israeli extreme groups try to prevent Arab men from going out with Jewish women. Yet Jewish men almost never want to go out with Arab women.

          Hence the problem isn’t white racism. Instead it is the fact that when people are no longer starving to death and sexual morals are loose seducers are favored instead of providers. Racially it causes certain groups to be favored instead of other groups.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            You mean based on your incredible insight as an asexual autist into how the dating market functions?

          • HFARationalist says:

            Please read my modified expanded argument. 🙂

            Only where there is a lot of poverty such as Brazil do Northeast Asian men get to normally date in a mixed-race environment. That means in a poor society providers still get wives despite their lack of sexiness.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Okay, for the record, I didn’t say anything about “white” racism. I think that the stereotypes exist to a greater or lesser degree cross-race.

            I don’t really buy the argument that this is a legacy of arranged marriages. For one, the US dating market is now pretty far from any time of relatively pure arranged marriages in Asia. Like, the vast majority of Asian-American men are now, what, at least two generations removed from the last arranged marriage in their family, quite possibly three, and don’t actually share a language with the last person in their family to have an arranged marriage. And arranged marriages are hardly unique to northeast Asia, and in particular were common in India as well — so that kind of argues against your Singapore parallel. And how does arranged marriage play into the Jewish/Arab divide you set up? Are Jews more likely to have arranged marriages in their cultural background than Arabs are?

            Why should we assume these three examples have anything to do with each other?

          • sconn says:

            This seems needlessly complicated and disconnected from the reasons people actually choose partners. I didn’t pick my guy because he would be a good provider (though he is), I picked him because he was physically fit, intelligent, and made me laugh. I know my libido well enough to know these are the things it likes. I would happily have gone for an Asian guy; I think they are hot. But many American women are really attracted to muscularity and obvious dominance, and Asian guys aren’t known for having either.

            Your theory isn’t needed to explain the difference — so Ockham’s Razor says you should probably abandon it.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @sconn You live in America, right? See? Here is the issue. You are attracted to men you consider sexy. You don’t really need a dude to financially support you hence you can afford to choose a partner based on sexiness.

            On the other hand, traditionally there was no dating or courtship in Northeast Asia. Instead resources are what cause one to get a wife. Hence men try to be as resourceful as possible, not as sexy as possible.

            That’s why South Korean and Taiwanese men are still getting brides from Vietnam and the Philippines. The shy Northeast Asian dudes aren’t sexier than the more open Vietnamese and Filipino guys. However by marrying them you move to a richer country and live a better life. You sacrifice sexuality for material gains and this is sometimes worth it even if it is no longer justified evolutionarily.

            I really wonder what Northeast Asians will do if they ever become the richest race in the world. Will they try to implement some form of Jim Crow to prevent others from getting their women? Otherwise their well-educated rich women will marry foreign sexy guys and many among their men will be both rich and incel. Basically what happens to some white guys but to a much greater degree.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      Any study I’d accept on this would need to be controlled for location. Asian-Americans are more prevalent in West Coast cities that also have a famously high ratio of single men:single women. Here in the land of reasonable male:female ratios (that is, the Midwest), many of the Asian-American men I know have been successful enough at dating to get married and have kids – many of them with Caucasian women.

      • HFARationalist says:

        By “Asian” you mean South Asian or Southeast Asian here, right?

        Both South Asians and Southeast Asians traditionally have more seductive cultures compared to white European or Northeast Asian cultures.

        Cultures that have existed for long enough have evolutionary impact on a group.

        • secondcityscientist says:

          Not exclusively South Asian, although I do know some of those. My cousin is married to a 2nd-generation Chinese man. One of my friends is the son of a Japanese father and a Jewish mother, and he himself is married to a Latina woman. Another friend is 2nd-generation Japanese and married to a caucasian woman.

          As a lame married person myself, I don’t tend to have conversations with my friends about dating, I mostly only hear about it when they get married or have kids. So I guess my single friends could be having problems that I don’t really know about.

  23. fightscenegrades says:

    I clicked on two of the ten links (specifically, #4 and #5) that are ostensibly examples of “Obama’s half-hearted condemnations of Islamic terrorism proved he was a secret Muslim” and they… don’t make the “secret Muslim” accusation.

    Curious, I’m going to click on the rest now.

    #1: a column on The Blaze. Doesn’t make that claim either, but arguably plays footsie with it towards the end: “What is Obama’s agenda? It certainly isn’t to protect Americans, our country, or our children. Does Obama suffer from complete ignorance? Crippling political correctness? Is he blinded by his childhood in Indonesia? I don’t know. But I know something is wrong.”

    #2: WorldNetDaily, a known crank site. Does not accuse Obama of being a secret Muslim, but it does accuse him of being cozy with Islamic extremists.

    #3: a Pajamas Media column by Roger Simon. Not only does it not make the secret Muslim accusation, it explicitly rebukes it. “As many have noted, Islam is a shame culture (the kind of society that will go berserk over cartoons) and, like it or not, our president is part of it culturally. That does not mean he is stoning adulterers or cutting off the hands of thieves or treating women like chattel, but it does mean he is genuinely and quite deeply ashamed of the religion he, in part, came from. He cannot adjust to or accept the calamities it is causing.” […] “Obama is not a Manchurian candidate and never was. He never had to be. He is just absolutely the wrong human being to be leading the West at this point in history.”

    #6: A column from The Week. Doesn’t even come close to making the accusation. It’s actually somewhat generous to Obama.

    #7: A New York Post column. Again, nope.

    #8: news piece from Daily Mail, a trashy populist British paper. Doesn’t make the claim or quote anyone who does.

    #9: New York Post again, written by the same columnist as #7. Doesn’t make the secret Muslim accusation.

    #10: Breitbart! But even then they’re just relaying the TV rant of LTC Ralph Peters. But neither he nor the site makes the claim that Obama is secretly a Muslim.

    So out of all ten examples, literally none of them charge Obama of being a secret Muslim. Most of them are varying degrees of the “Obama doesn’t take Islamic terrorism seriously” charge, with one arguably coming close to (sigh) dog-whistling it and one actually saying it’s Obama making a deliberate strategic choice. The preceding link before the ten examples (hyperlinked from the “constant Obama-era claims” text, and coming in the form of an accusation against Michael Ledeen from the lefty site Right Wing Watch) is actually closer to that than any of them, curiously, and it’s really more of a bit of over-the-top rhetorical bombast than a genuine conspiracy theory– e.g., Obama is “an anti-American zealot” who has “sided with the enemy” etc.

    I don’t doubt there were and still are people who genuinely believe Barack Obama is a Muslim and won’t admit it (I personally can’t believe he’s anything other than an atheist, honestly), and it wouldn’t be that hard to find them. But you’d have to look a lot harder than this, especially if you want to find the charge being genuinely made by notable right-wing figures in serious publications to the same degree Trump’s partisan adversaries do with Nazism.

    Which is unfortunate because I still agree with the overall points Scott makes here and he has a *crazy* good intellectual rigor when devoting more time to a post. But as it is this is an inadvertent case of false equivalence, which is ironic considering the topic.

    • beleester says:

      To be fair, most of the condemnations I’ve read of Trump’s speech haven’t been calling him a literal Nazi. They’ve been calling him a white supremacist, or someone who sympathizes with white supremacy. So it might actually be equivalent – Obama’s detractors get summarized as calling him a “secret Muslim” while not actually using that exact phrase, Trump’s detractors get summarized as calling him a “secret Nazi” while not actually using that exact phrase.

    • Iain says:

      But you’d have to look a lot harder than this, especially if you want to find the charge being genuinely made by notable right-wing figures in serious publications to the same degree Trump’s partisan adversaries do with Nazism.

      Last time we had this discussion, I did the same exercise in the opposite direction, looking at a set of links that purportedly showed lefties who thought Trump was literally Hitler. My results were basically the same as yours: it turns out to be pretty hard to find anybody who will come straight out and say “Trump/Obama is a Nazi/Muslim”.

      • fightscenegrades says:

        I’m willing to admit that finding people calling Trump a Nazi is not as easy as you might think if you spend too much time on comedy Twitter (the left-wing version of YouTube comment sections), which is of course a lesson for me in not speaking too loosely. I did find two immediately (here and here) right away, but it was actually more difficult after that.

        It’s somewhat easier if you loosen “Nazi” down to “white supremacist” or similar (see one of the early paragraphs in Scott’s original Crying Wolf essay for examples) but again– lesson in speaking loosely.

        • rlms says:

          To be pedantic, I don’t think your second article fits. Being a “Nazi sympathiser” is not the same as being a Nazi; it is essentially the same as your number 3 which claims Obama “identifies emotionally with Muslims”.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You’re right, I over-edited that post. The original claim was that people dissected his speeches for evidence that he wasn’t really against terrorism. I’ve re-edited that sentence to add that in.

  24. Mark says:

    When I was a child, I used to hate Tom and Jerry because of all the unnecessary destruction. It used to really annoy me.

    So, I think, in the current climate, I’m just in favour of statues in general. Where do people like me go?

    How would I feel if they built a statue of Martin McGuiness in Hyde Park? I don’t know.

    I think I wouldn’t mind the statue – I’d be more concerned about the attitudes of the people who built it.

    If you had a statue of someone who was unambiguously considered bad, like Pol Pot, it would be a great thing – focus our attention on this evil character.

    Maybe we just need more statues.

    • sconn says:

      I favor more statues. If taking down Lee is “erasing history,” let’s just aim for more history and not just one side of it this time. More Harriet Tubman statues. More Abraham Lincoln statues. Heck, even John Brown statues, why not? Let’s remember *all* of history and not just bits of it. And we really need some memorials to the slaves; it’s odd that this country has more Holocaust memorials than slavery memorials given that slavery is the one that actually happened here.

      • . says:

        Best solution: replace all statues of people who aren’t Norman Borlaug with people who are Norman Borlaug. Why would you commemorate someone inferior to Norman Borlaug, when you could commemorate Norman Borlaug instead?

        • cassander says:

          I’ve heard worse proposals. How about we consider others when we have as many statues of Borlaug as he saved lives? That should keep us going for a while.

          • dndnrsn says:

            We need to optimize for statues of Norman Borlaug.

          • John Schilling says:

            But that would require melting down perfectly good paperclips to make Norman Borlaug statues.

          • bean says:

            Could we make a Norman Borlaug statue out of paperclips without melting them down? It might even be modern art, come to think of it.

          • Iain says:

            Surely we can compromise, and focus on making paperclips with tiny images of Norman Borlaug etched into them?

        • sconn says:

          HECK YES. Melt down the Robert E. Lees and replace them ALL with Norman Borlaug. In fact NOT having a Norman Borlaug in our town square is erasing history. How dare they erase history?!

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        These statues are generally not destroyed, but moved to museums. Even Germans store Nazi stuff in museums.

        The general consensus is we should not destroy history, even and especially bad chapters of history.

        Having statues out and about in public spaces sends a different signal than just “history preservation,” though.

  25. Markus Ramikin says:

    I see the wolf-crying article is tagged as something you’ll regret writing. I hope you don’t. For me it’s among your best, brilliant and highly entertaining.

  26. DavidS says:

    So, loads of societies (most, to varying degrees) have some members of families controlling others’ sexual activity (mostly but not only women’s). This, including the focus on women has a fairly clear ev psych justification. But does it exist in other animals? Will a chimp stop its sisters/daughters mating with ‘unsuitable’ mates? Seems weird for it to be just humans but not something I’ve seen talked about.

    • . says:

      What is the ev psych justification? Fathers want to impregnate their daughters before someone else does?

      • ghi says:

        Father doesn’t want to get stuck supporting his grandchildren if his son-in-law bails, he’d rather support more direct children.

        • Mark says:

          Kill the grandchildren then.

          Seems more likely to be cultural than biological.

          • ghi says:

            Kill the grandchildren then.

            Then he doesn’t get the benefit of having his daughter pass on her genes.

          • Mark says:

            She can still breed.

            Actually, yeah. What you are saying makes sense. I think in practical terms it’s more likely to be cultural though.

          • Wrong Species says:

            He doesn’t know if the grandchildren are his. Controlling his daughters sexuality improves the probability that they are.

          • ghi says:

            She can still breed.

            Yes, but having an out-of-wedlock child makes it harder for her to find a man willing to marry her.

            Also, it’s perfectly possible that if the son-in-law ditches her its still in his interest to support the child, but he’d obviously rather that the son-in-law do so.

            Since the daughter values her son and brothers differently than her father, it might very well be in her but not her father’s interest for her to get pregnant by a high value male who’s not going to support her children.

          • bean says:

            @Wrong Species
            He does know that the grandchildren are his if it’s his daughter. (Presuming his wife wasn’t unfaithful, but that should have been taken care of years before this becomes an issue.)

            A good son-in-law means good support for the kids. Simple as that.

          • John Schilling says:

            How does the daughter’s father not know if the grandchildren are (25%) his? Is the theory that the daughter is faking pregnancy and adopting/stealing a baby, or that faeries are sticking the family with a changeling?

            Genetically speaking, the maternal grandfather doesn’t care who impregnated his daughter so long as he’s reasonably fit, any anyone who can seduce a married woman probably qualifies. He does, as noted, care that he gets to have grandchildren he doesn’t need to materially support(*) and so wants his daughter to have a husband who will stick around for the duration.

            * Because he might not live long enough, or he might need those resources to support another set of grandchildren from a widowed daughter, or he might still father children of his own who will need support.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m not really sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. I think I mixed up father and grandfather.

        • bbartlog says:

          I don’t think non-human primates have this tension that is created by the need for someone other than the mother to provide significant resources to the children.
          In humans, sure: we can imagine that father doesn’t want to be stuck providing resources to help raise his daughter’s kids (maybe he’s still in a position to possibly have kids of his own), so he’d rather have her get a son-in-law that can take care of that. Whereas she might be better of, at least in terms gene propagation, by having kids with a higher quality mate who doesn’t stick around; at which point her father’s best choice is still to help her out. In this case her choice would be a kind of precommitment which her father would rather not let her undertake.

      • DavidS says:

        If there’s reason to select mates for yourself for maximum genetic advantage, there’s reason to do so for your gene carriers. Particularly if by having a child with ‘bad’ father genetically they can’t hacve one with a good father at the same time and area absorbing resource costs and risks.

      • Marriage provides allies who may be useful.

    • HFARationalist says:

      I think this is probably mostly a tribal thing. Seducers are evolutionarily more successful than providers in an unregulated sexual market. However seducing is harmful to a tribe because it causes a lot of internal strife and make the sexually unsuccessful males less motivated to do anything on behalf of the tribe. As a result more successful tribes tend to make sure that their male members have access to sex and reproduction in general so that all of them will be motivated to work for and fight for the tribes.

      I also believe that the harsher the environment is (dry weather, cold weather, etc) the more likely that a tribe will emphasize provision. On the other hand, the nicer the environment is (wet, warm weather with lots of free fruits and vegetables) the less likely that a tribe will emphasize provision.

  27. Jack Lecter says:

    This is probably theoretical, but-
    If things get much worse here in the States, can anyone think where would be a good place to move to? Preferably somewhere with what you might roughly call ‘enlightenment values’- serious commitment to free speech, robust civil liberties, etc.
    I’ve never thought of myself as a Really Serious Libertarian, but… both the Neo-Nazis and the Antifa terrify me, and if either of them manage to acquire significant political power, I think this could very rapidly become a much less fun place to live.
    I vaguely remember someone saying something nice about Belgium…

    • ghi says:

      I vaguely remember someone saying something nice about Belgium…

      Assuming you’re willing to live under Sharia.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        I’m not.
        Was not aware of this, not sure how seriously to take it.
        Any better suggestions?

        Edit: To be clear, I’m worried there’s gathering cultural hostility toward free speech and Enlightenment culture in America, and I’m thinking about where to run to if the country takes a big step in a totalitarian direction. I see both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe as potentially tyrannous, so it’s really hard to root for either of them in the culture war. The Grey Tribe seems pretty cool, but that may be because they don’t really have the power to make tyranny tempting.

        But people haven’t always been terrible everywhere- The Enlightenment was a thing that happened. Given the number of countries in the world, you’d think there’d be somewhere with people seriously committed to liberty of thought. In meatspace, I mean.

        • ghi says:

          I think you should consider what evidence caused you to consider both “Neo-Nazis” and Antifa to be serious threats. If you’re a typical gray tribe member, the evidence for why Antifa is a treat is that they’re constantly trying to shut down speech they don’t agree with (including true speech) and pressuring corporations to do likewise, occasionally they beat people up in the streets of Berkley. The evidence for the Neo-Nazis is that Antifa and the people afraid of them are constantly ranting about how much of a threat the Neo-Nazis are so there has to be something to it, right?

          • Jack Lecter says:

            Point.

            Think I was trying to be politic- in retrospect probably not something I need to do, here.

            I do think the neo-nazis would be a problem if they were to acquire serious political power, but that seems unlikely at this point.
            Antifa scare me much more, at the moment.

            On the other hand, I’m attending a left-leaning college at the moment, so Scott’s comments on Outgroups vs Fargroups come to mind- it’s possible I’d be inclined to underestimate the threat posed by the Hard Right just because I never seem to actually meet any of them. (Except, arguably, here, where everyone is polite and reasonable enough to disable my fight-or-flight circuitry.)

            With all that said, I’d like some suggestions on where to move to- ideally, places that resemble neither leftist dystopias or rightist dystopias.
            [I realize x-ist dystopia could refer either to dystopias caused by x or dystopias envisioned by x, but in this context that ambiguity kind of takes care of itself 🙂 ]

          • ghi says:

            With all that said, I’d like some suggestions on where to move to- ideally, places that resemble neither leftist dystopias or rightist dystopias.

            What do you mean by “rightist dystopia”? Most of the plausible claims I’ve heard would tend to imply that the whole world was a “rightist dystopia” until ~20 years ago.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            It depends where the cutoff for ‘dystopia’ starts. The archetypal image would be something like Nazi Germany.

            There are a lot of things about 20 years ago which I don’t exactly love, and a lot of terrible things happened, but I’m not sure it ever qualified as a dystopia. It’s possible I’m underestimating how bad it was. When we talk about the past, it seems like Social Desirability Bias causes people to to emphasize the negative- if you try to downplay how bad the past was you’re insufficiently progressive, and there doesn’t seem to be an analogous disincentive when it comes to exaggerating it, so all the pressure is on one side of the question. In practical terms, this makes it hard to really know what things were like back then without doing a lot of research.

          • ghi says:

            That’s my point, you’re being overly paranoid about a “right wing dystopia”.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            Mmm. Overly paranoid or just Moody-level paranoid?
            I think most of us can agree that one side of the pendulum is *really scary* (even if we disagree about *which*.)
            That seems like enough reason to be at least *a little* worried about the other side.
            Y’know, given the whole ‘pendulum’ dynamic.
            I agree that a lot of people are trying to stir up irrational fear using bad logic.
            I’m not similarly convinced that good logic isn’t available.

          • . says:

            Most of the plausible claims I’ve heard would tend to imply that the whole world was a “rightist dystopia” until ~20 years ago.

            You might enjoy the book Glasshouse, which bites the bullet on this. Part of the story involves a bunch of posthumans in a shady historical experiment to recreate the 20th century. There’s an evil conspiracy in the background, but it is typically ambiguous what is due to evil conspiracy and what is due to evil 20th century norms.

        • Jack Lecter says:

          I meant in Nazi society generally, not the Camps specifically.
          Obviously I’d prefer to live someplace that doesn’t have Death Camps, but that preference is so common that it’s not hard to find first-world countries to satisfy it.
          The Nazi attitude toward freedoms of speech and assembly, on the other hand, seems hard to escape, at least in some measure. If Johnathan Haidt is right that support for these freedoms is declining in the US, it might be wise to find a place to run to- not just because these freedoms are nice, but because they’re a load-bearing part of the structure of protections that keeps this a pretty nice place to live.

      • Machine Interface says:

        There is no place in Belgium where anything ressembling Sharia law applies. Everytime someone (usually from outside Belgium) has claimed a particular district of a particular Belgian city is “under Shariah law and forbidden to whites/non-muslims”, multiple white non-muslim people who have lived in that district for decades have showed up and called that nonsense what it is.

        • ghi says:

          There is no place in Belgium where anything ressembling Sharia law applies.

          Leave a ham sandwich in front of a mosque, see what happens to you.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            This seems testable. Has anyone tried it?
            If the answer is ‘no’, do we have reason to think bad things would happen that make testing it undesirable?

          • rlms says:

            I do not believe that Sharia law has anything to say about that situation.

          • Mark says:

            There was a guy in Britain who left a ham sandwich outside a mosque and got sentenced to a year in prison (he recently died in prison.)

            I think there might have been more to it than just the ham sandwich, though.

          • Urstoff says:

            Actually, Sharia law is 95% ham sandwich regulations.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            Was also unaware of this.
            That’s the UK, though, not Belgium.
            I’m enough of a free-speech geek to have already crossed the UK off my list. I don’t think of myself as being likely to violate ‘Hate Speech’ laws, but I’ve yet to see them defined in a principled way and I worry about slippery slopes.

          • rlms says:

            The men who were sentenced in the sandwich incident also yelled abuse at a worshiper at the mosque. I don’t think that incident was really connected to free speech; they were convicted for public order offences. Also, the sentence of 12 months is unrepresentatively harsh: both his fellow sandwich protestors and these guys who did the same thing were sentenced to less.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It’s a lot more likely that Belgium falls under Sharia Law than the US gets taken over by Nazis.

          • Machine Interface says:

            More likely as in 0.000001 chance vs 0.0000009 chance?

          • rlms says:

            What evidence do you have for that?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            What evidence do you have for that?

            That there are almost no Nazis in the US, and numerous terror cells operating out of Belgium, which has the worst policing in this regard out of any European state.

            The idea of Nazis taking over the US at all, at any point in history, is moronic. It is almost as improbable than me farting myself to the Andromeda galaxy in the next 15 minutes.

          • rlms says:

            If there are almost no Nazis in the US, there are almost no jihadists in Belgium. Other than that, you make some baseless claims about the improbability of a Nazi coup; that’s the opposite of evidence. I could make exactly the same statement about an Islamist coup, and it would be equally as useful (i.e. not at all).

            Can you be more specific? What do you think the probabilities are for each case?

          • Randy M says:

            According to this Atlantic piece, 516 Belgians have fought on the ISIS side in Iraq or Syria, out of 11 million Belgian people. Proportionately, that would be as if 15,000 US residents had recently fought in a war for Aryan supremacy.

            Whether that’s troubling or almost nothing is subjective, though consider that this is just the portion currently committed enough to actually fight in armed conflict, not those who might be convinced to do so or to support those doing so. I’m not sure on the differential birthrates of Belgian Belgians versus new Belgians, but I suspect it is favorable to the side more sympathetic to Sharia.

            Of course, the a critical factor in relative likelihood is how loose we are being with the terms “Nazi” and “under Sharia.”

          • shar says:

            20,000 Americans attended the German American Bund rally in 1936, when the US population was something like 40% of what it is now.

            Not the same level of commitment as taking up arms, but there was a time within living memory when a Nazi takeover of the US was approximately as likely as a sharia takeover of Belgium by this, uh, heuristic.

          • Randy M says:

            20,000 Americans attended the German American Bund rally in 1936

            Shame you weren’t there at the time to tell them it was nothing to worry about.

        • It was also deliberate provocation, not someone dropping his lunch

          • ghi says:

            Yes, the person was engaging in what according to Western norms is called a “peaceful protest”, and according to Muslim norms “blasphemy”. Guess which norms prevailed.

          • . says:

            @ghi: this was in Europe, where restrictions on blasphemy is a Western norm. Unfortunately.

          • Mark says:

            In England you get arrested for not blaspheming too.

            It’s illegal to say “No Mosques” but probably, most of the things being said inside the mosque are also illegal.

            There was a case a few years ago where a woman was arrested and charged for, basically, describing government policy – “We don’t want foreigners coming over here using the NHS taking our tax money”. The government had recently instituted NHS charges for foreigners.

            If it wasn’t so silly it’d be scary.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            I’ll go ahead and be scared anyway, thank you very much.
            (I’m… actually not sure if I’m joking or not. This seems terrible, but talking about how terrible it is is actually kind of fun.
            I wonder if I’m the first person in history to discover this dynamic.)

          • Would you call daubing swastikas in a synagogue a peaceful protest?

          • bbartlog says:

            daubing swastikas in a synagogue

            You’ve introduced a new element by having the swastikas be *in* the synagogue rather than outside in some more public space.

          • That was a typo for “on”…but notice how fine the lines are.

      • I now have the distinction of having lived in two places that are fantasised as being under Shariah by the US right.

    • Michael Wallace says:

      I would recommend Chile. It has a modern infrastructure, a fairly sophisticated culture, great weather (obviously highly variable considering the latitudes it traverses), and is removed from the current culture war nonsense in a way that anywhere in Europe or the Anglosphere is not.

      In addition, if there is ever a hard collapse of civilization, the relatively low population density means a higher percentage of the population are likely to survive, the geographic isolation should protect it from wandering hordes/sea people, and the climate/resources make it a likely center for civilization to begin rebuilding.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Switzerland, maybe, but it’s almost impossible to become a citizen and fit in there as an immigrant. I’m afraid the US is your last and best hope. The neo-Nazis are an annoying fringe, and I suspect if you walked up to Richard Spencer and said “L’chaim” he’d jump 14 feet in the air (but don’t try this with the real 1488ers). But the Antifa, along with their allies in government, industry, and academia… they are a real threat.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        Agreed, and thanks.
        Let’s hope the US doesn’t fall, then.

        Edit: I often enjoy reading your comments on here- I have you mentally sorted into my (very loosely organized ad-hoc) likely-to-be-educational pile. So, thanks.

    • . says:

      Freedom House gives very high scores to the Nordics, Canada, Barbados, Australia, New Zeeland, Japan and Uruguay.

    • bbartlog says:

      My general position on this topic is: whatever change you’re trying to accomplish by moving to another country, in terms of security or isolation from some threat, is almost certainly easier to achieve simply by moving *within* the US.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        Interesting…
        Where within the US?
        The Rationalist enclaves are in Berkeley, but I understand that’s not lacking for Far-Right/Antifa dogmatism. Which suggests it’s not lacking for purity ethics. Which I’m sick of.

        Purity ethics are disgusting . They’re disgusting and they contaminate everything they touch. :\

        • . says:

          I think it’s less geographical and more occupational or class-based. I don’t think the haute bourgeoisie takes purity stuff very seriously (if anything, bucking it demonstrates a sort of aristocratic elan). I think that occupations where thinking rigorously about society is part of the job (like social scientists, advertisers and political operatives) are also pretty based.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Purity ethics are disgusting .

          I am assuming you did that on purpose, but I don’t know for what purpose…

          • Jack Lecter says:

            Aargh, I forgot Scott hates meta humor. Sorry Scott!
            I said this to my mom the other day,in all innocence, and it was a full moment before the penny dropped and I realized I was a self-loathing abomination.
            Not to, y’know, be dramatic about it.

        • SamChevre says:

          I would suggest a town with a STEM-heavy university in or near Appalachia; Appalachia has an extremely sturdy culture, and a STEM-heavy university will be less political than a typical university while making the area less entirely Red Tribe. I’d consider:
          Blacksburg VA (Virginia Tech)
          Knoxville TN (University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge)
          Lexington KY (University of Kentucky)

          There may be other similar towns but these come immediately to mind.

          (Yes, I’m prejudiced–I grew up in Appalachia, and I still like it.)

    • where would be a good place to move to?

      New Zealand is a pretty pleasant place, as if my visiting it a fair while back. If you happen to be of Jewish descent, Israel has the advantage that they will give you citizenship. A developed country, an active tech sector, obvious risks from terrorism or war. I’ve never lived there, so am not sure how good it is on free speech and related issues.

      The nice thing about EU countries is that if you decide you don’t like the one you are living in you can readily shift to another. Estonia looks pretty good. In a fair number of them and the Scandinavian countries a large fraction of the population is fluent in English. The EU as a whole may be gradually developing into a United States of Europe, so the diversity of the member countries may decrease, but that will take a while.

      You might also consider Switzerland. Or Chile.

      There are a lot of countries in the world that are not strikingly worse places to live than the U.S.

      • Michael Wallace says:

        Israel might not exist in 50 years. And if not in 50, then it will surely be overrun in 150. There will come a time when the country is weak vis a vis its neighbors, and in that moment, said neighbors will pounce. There is no hinterland in which to hide.

        If Europe falls, Switzerland will go, too. New Zealand is infected with the same nonsense as elsewhere. South America seems like the best bet to me. I don’t know Uruguay or Argentina personally, but I (and my descendants) could probably make a go of it in Chile for a few generations.

    • Well... says:

      Sort of in line with what bbartlog said, but I’ve lived other places, also strongly dislike both Antifa and Nazis, and I prefer the US to everywhere else I’ve lived or even visited.

      As for where in the US, I recommend the Midwest, not in a major city (e.g. Chicago) but not in an isolated small town either. Suburbs of small cities in the Midwest are awesome. By small cities I’m talking about ones with populations around 150,000 give or take maybe 40,000. If you need to be in a major city for work reasons, try to live in the outer suburbs, especially if these are within the commuting zone to a much smaller city. The aforementioned places are the most likely, I’ve found, to be both stable and intellectually diverse. Many of them are fairly racially diverse on top of that.

      In the places like that where I’ve lived, the white people tend to be fairly red tribe but very tolerant and compassionate, while the black people and other minorities tend to be more conservative and “assimilated” than their stereotypical urban counterparts. This is a robust combination that withstands the extremism. we both dislike.

      • Yes, I can’t imagine moving OUT of the the US if you care about free speech. The US still has the strongest advocates of free speech of any developed country, in my estimation. Partly this is due to the First Amendment to the Constitution (does any other country have protections in law this great), and partly because it is just part of American heritage to say what you think. Many European countries have hate speech laws. As others have said, the Antifa and Nazis are both pretty miniscule in size. I do think they partly exist BECAUSE of free speech laws — it is more likely they’d be arrested for some reason or other in Europe.

        I agree with others that the best approach is to find the freeest locations in the US. It is a big country, although it is true that I don’t know anywhere free speech is totally free. Busybodies that want to regulate your speech are everywhere — all you can do is minimize.

    • James says:

      Not great for freedom of speech and civil liberties, but does anyone know what it’s like for a white, western person to move to Singapore? Do you need to learn a language, or do people speak enough English there that you can get by?

      • bean says:

        I spent 9 days there a couple months ago. Everybody speaks English. I wouldn’t particularly want to move there, as it’s expensive and they aren’t great on civil liberties, but it’s amazing to visit.

  28. CheshireCat says:

    I made a post a while back mentioning that I was going to try shrooms to try and combat treatment-resistant depression. Original comment, follow-up after trial dose.

    I’ve taken the main “experimental” dose that I’ve been planning, here are my experiences:

    I was going to have a friend tripsit me, but he had something come up and wasn’t able to, so I decided to take the 3.5g dry dose in my room by myself. It took a long time to kick in, I was sort of drunk feeling up to about 2 hours after the dose, after which the effects started to get much more potent. The main experience in this stage was giddiness/mild euphoria, with some warping visuals. This was pretty much all that happened in the first 2/3rds, me doing random things and playing video games while also shroom-drunk.

    The final third happened when I got into bed, and was a bit less pleasant. My mind started racing uncontrollably through places, books, shows, movies etc that I’d been/consumed/watched before, I felt like I died several times, ate a whole apple (I mean a whole apple, stem core and all. It wasn’t a negative experience, but it wasn’t unambiguously positive like the first 2/3rds. I didn’t experience any traditionally “trippy” Lucy-In-The-Sky kinds of visuals, I didn’t have anything representing a spiritual or meaningful experience, I just kind of went nuts for a while. I remember laughing at silly things, singing Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas for some reason, biting random non-food objects (the curtains, the bed, my blanket, etc). The trip felt like it was lasting much longer than it actually did, and towards the end I started to get this burnt-out feeling, like I get when I wake up without having slept enough. I was mostly just waiting for it to be over at this point. It was fun, but did absolutely nothing to alter my depression. If anything I’m slightly more depressed after, although that is mostly due to some frustrating events that occurred after the dose.

    So, takeaways:

    – Magic Mushrooms don’t seem to have any magical antidepressant properties on me
    – I may need to take a higher dose (5g?) to get the spiritual/meaningful effects people refer to
    – It’s pretty fun and basically harmless so cultivating them has not been a waste
    – I may have to try tripping outside to get the effects which everyone seems to report

  29. Andrew Hunter says:

    I am a rather serious Taylor Swift fan. (“Know and can sing all of the songs and have bought live tickets twice” serious, not “cosplays from the music videos” or “creepy basement shrine” serious, though it’s irrelevant to this post. For the record, Red > Speak Now > Fearless > 1989 > Taylor Swift.) I mostly follow the music, but get enough splash damage from the celebrity gossip that I am curious about thoughts here. (Before any objects that they don’t care/know who these people are [1], that’s sort of the point I’m getting to; there is no object-level gossip in this post other than enough name dropping to center the discussion.)

    For those that don’t pay attention, Taylor Swift is currently “feuding” with a few people, most notably Katy Perry over some sort of backup dancer shenanigans and Kanye West/Kim Kardashian over some nasty lyrics TayTay may or may not have okayed. This is particularly in the gossipy news right now because Taylor dropped a single explicitly about drama (with a strong implication that the entire album is themed similarly.)

    Now, I’ve heard a few people say something along the lines of: “Why in the world do I care? This is all made up for attention and to sell albums! Kim and Taylor are probably friends, or at least their publicists are–they’re laughing at you for thinking they hate each other!” I don’t pretend to be experienced enough to know the likelihood this is true, but an interesting thought struck me: even assuming arguendo that you care about celebrity drama at all, does it matter if it’s fictionalized?

    Whether or not Taylor Swift hates Kim Kardashian is not, I think, an actionable belief (okay, I could try to John Hinckley/Jodie Foster my way into marrying Taylor–no, I’m not psychotic, there is no world where I would actually do this, anyone wondering–but short of that). I am never going to meet Taylor or Kim; I am never going to personally interact with them; neither is anyone I know. In a sense, if this is made up, someone who cares about their drama is actually a fan of “Taylor Swift” the image–and is there any reason this is more or less respectale than caring about Taylor Swift the actual factual human being?

    My general explanation–without real proof–for why people care about celebrity drama is evo-psych-y: my brain thinks I’m living in a hunter gatherer [2] tribe, and if I’ve heard of two people Taylor and Kim who are feuding, they’re my next door neighbors and knowing who to support will affect my decisions about who to share food with/etc. Someone who enjoys celebrity gossip is already feeding that module false information about the “people” they’re learning about, no? Does it matter if the information is fictional because those people live far away in Hollywood or farther away in fictional “Hollywoo”? Is there any reason to care about this distinction?

    [1] As a side note, I have a perhaps unfairly low opinion of people who make a point of “not knowing who Kim Kardashian is”. Like..you don’t have to care about her at all to know that, and I don’t think, in most cases, going to the effort to miss that information makes you a better person. I don’t think I care about that sort of thing at all, but I used to play highly competitive quiz bowl, and my memory is pretty good, so unfortunately I do know who a lot of unimportant celebrities are because I heard it once while paying attention to something more interesting and I didn’t forget. I would have to go to quite some trouble to isolate myself in monkish fashion to actually not know who these people are.

    Now, if you’ve done that, more power to you; Anathem is maybe my favorite novel and I dream of living in a real live concent. I respect the hell out of you. I’d love to hear how you did it. But given that concents aren’t on the menu, I’ve allowed myself to pay attention to some of the better parts of pop culture (Taylor Swift music, 30 Rock, what have you…) and the worse parts sort of come by osmosis. And I hear a lot more peope sneering a bit about how little they know here who aren’t actually isolating themselves from popular culture totally for a life of the mind and more performing a bit of hipster-y signaling. (I bet there are some exceptions here. Bean has implied he’s managed this by obsession with naval history.)

    [2] I really wish I *were* living around many Hunter gatherers. 🙂

    • smocc says:

      I won’t say anything about evo-psych, but I think it is pretty clear that many (most?) people have a basic need / desire to know about other people and their relationships, and that one of the juiciest fruit that fulfills this need is knowing about fraught relationships.

      Soap operas are the prime example. It appears to be nearly as satisfying to many people to talk and gossip about the fraught relationships of known fictional characters as real people. The soap opera review magazines occupy the same space in the supermarket and have the same covers as the tabloids.

      Professional wrestling has also learned how to play on this urge.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There are two separate questions:
      1. Should I care about this feud?
      2. Assuming 1 is “yes,” should I care whether the feud is fake?

      There’s nothing wrong with loyalties to people you never meet. That’s how we establish group identity larger than the Dunbar number, after all. But even granting that, why should I care about “Taylor Swift” image? And assuming I do, I should definitely care that it is fake (I highly doubt it is in this case, as an aside). These celebrity feuds aren’t as obviously fake as professional writing, and not obviously scripted like television programs.

      If they are, then, whatever. Pure consumption value. Better to care about the drama of Taylor Swift than get into a fight with Canada over softwood lumber.

      EDIT: My issue regarding Taylor Swift these days? The political left calling out Taylor Swift for not doing enough to denounce Donald Trump.
      Matt Y of Vox fame, in the run-up to the election, said there were only 3 endorsements left that mattered: George HW Bush, George W Bush, and Taylor Swift.
      She’s a bloody pop singer, just let her sing songs about boys and slumber parties.

      • INH5 says:

        EDIT: My issue regarding Taylor Swift these days? The political left calling out Taylor Swift for not doing enough to denounce Donald Trump.
        Matt Y of Vox fame, in the run-up to the election, said there were only 3 endorsements left that mattered: George HW Bush, George W Bush, and Taylor Swift.
        She’s a bloody pop singer, just let her sing songs about boys and slumber parties.

        Most of her fans are probably too young to vote anyway, so I have no idea why anyone thought her hypothetical endorsement was important in the first place.

        • rlms says:

          I think you misjudge the age of her fan base. Her teenage fans from Fearless in 2008 are now in their mid-twenties.

          • Aapje says:

            That is still a group with very few voters.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            Is it? If everyone who bought Fearless is a fan, her base has about as many people as Arizona.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The joke is that young people don’t vote.

            On the other hand, they do vote based on stupid reasons, so it’s often not hard to swing them with a celebrity.

          • INH5 says:

            I think you misjudge the age of her fan base. Her teenage fans from Fearless in 2008 are now in their mid-twenties.

            But how many of them are still fans, at least to the degree that they would particularly care about her political opinions? From what I’ve seen, the fanbases of teen pop stars tend to experience very rapid turnover. This is most visible in how far their sales numbers often fall when they go more than 3 years between album releases; see Britney Spears (2003-2007, though she did make a comeback the following year), Avril Lavigne (2007-2011), and Katy Perry (2013-2017), among others.

            The trouble with making music (or really anything) for teenagers is that they don’t stay teenagers for very long.

          • rlms says:

            Even if only 10% of her fans from Fearless remain, they would still be as numerous as e.g. the population of Baltimore or North Dakota. I don’t think her number of fans is the main thing that makes her potentially politically important though, since I doubt many would cast their vote purely on her opinion. I see her more as having a fairly small amount of influence on millions of people, such that if she jumped on a bandwagon she could make it a lot more popular. If she’d endorsed Clinton, I bet that would’ve swung her home state of Pennsylvania (margin 44,292 votes), and if she’d got a couple of other marginal states that would’ve changed the overall result.

    • bean says:

      Bean has implied he’s managed this by obsession with naval history.

      Have I? I actually can’t say I’m totally isolated from popular culture. I do know the rough outlines of who these people are (to the extent of their wikipedia articles anyway), for whatever reason. I try to avoid hipster-ish signalling. I just don’t have the music understanding gene. Seriously. I’ve tried to read rlms’s posts, and they just are gibberish. That’s part of it, as is a general disinterest in most of the rest of pop culture. But it’s not total isolation.
      (As to how I know what I do, I have a really good memory and lots of books.)

      • That is just plain snobbish. We could be smartest blog on the world, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like music (and yes pop music qualifies), and doesn’t mean we don’t live in the same world as everyone else. I find it refreshing to occasionally take on pop phenomena not from a snobbish perspective but still a lot more intellectual than fan magazines.

        I kind of like Taylor Swift, and I love her attitude in Shake It Off. And my two 20 something kids love her stuff.

      • James says:

        I’m not sure what mobile’s intention is in quoting that line–maybe it’s just “presented without comment”–but yes, I too will fly the flag for talking about pop music (and associated culture) without feeling embarrassed about it. It’s fascinating.

    • James says:

      I agree that TayTay is one of the better parts of pop culture. I’ve never listened to her albums, and I only know a handful of the singles, but they’re good songs. Max Martin’s a good writer/producer, and I like the kind of song he’s doing for her more than I do the stuff he used to for Britney etc. And she’s a sweet, wholesome persona, of which I’d like to see more in the culture.

      My explanation for why we care about celeb drama is a tiny bit different to yours: I’d say it’s a form of practice, play, rehearsal. Correctly navigating drama (perhaps better to say “conflict”) is very important to our fitness when it comes up, but we don’t get many chances to practice it. So we follow and discuss celebrity drama, in order to rehearse and flesh out our ideas and principles about how one should properly behave in a conflict. The same is true of fiction (in which we are also drawn to conflict).

  30. Atlas says:

    Random query:

    Is this just a misperception based on my personal taste/generational cohort, or is there in fact a relative paucity of works of fiction in various media featuring Communists as the antagonists/Communism as the deconstructed opposing ideology, at least relative to Nazism? I want to stress that I am ABSOLUTELY NOT making some sort of political contention here, along the lines of e.g. “hahahaha you say you’re against Nazis butwhatabout Communism which killed [x] million more people hahahhaa checkmate liberals” or intending to spark some sort of broader substantive political/historical debate about Nazism, Marxism, WW2, the Cold War, etc.

    Again, this may well just be a limitation in my knowledge, but I reflected recently that I can think of a lot of notable popular works of fiction off the top of my head in various media where Nazis are the bad guys, and where moreover the ideology of Fascism is deconstructed to even some small degree, so it isn’t a purely cosmetic choice. The Indiana Jones movies, the Hellboy comics/movie, the Wolfenstein games, lots of the famous World War 2 movies like Casablanca, Saving Private Ryan and Inglorious Basterds, Maus, Captain America: the First Avenger, etc. And there are also quite a few works of fiction where, while the antagonists aren’t literally NSDAP members, they have aesthetics and ideology clearly modeled in part to Nazism: the Empire in Star Wars, Norsefire in V for Vendetta, Death Eaters in Harry Potter, the Enclave in Fallout, etc. (As usual, TvTropes has an excellent page on this trope.)

    Whereas, at least I personally can’t think of that many works of fiction well known in the Anglophone world where Communists are the antagonists, or rather where fighting Communists/the ideology of Communism is an interesting and important part of the story. (Will expand on that shortly.) Of course, there’s Animal Farm and Darkness at Noon. You can somewhat reasonably add 1984 to that list, but I think, unlike Animal Farm, it’s more of an attack on totalitarianism in general, including specifically Nazism, rather than just Communism/Stalinism. Likewise for, say, General Woundwort’s warren in Watership Down. Also, some of BioShock Infinite’s antagonists, the Vox Populi, are heavily Communist inspired in terms of ideology and aesthetics. But aside from that, I can’t think of many works of fiction where Communism is the enemy, aside from goofy, shallow and ultimately forgettable ones like the Green Berets or Red Dawn. (Or Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, though I love Tintin too much to put it in the same bracket as such garbage.)

    To expand on what I said earlier, I mean that one can of course think of lots of works set in the Cold War, or where the enemy government/soldiers are nominally Communist, but where that isn’t really an important or interesting part of the story. For example, while notable cinema about the Vietnam War, like Apocalypse Now or Platoon, might have enemy soldiers who are Communists shooting at the main characters, the real enemy isn’t Vietcong soldiers/the North Vietnamese government/the ideology of Communism, it’s something that comes from within, whether that’s our own psyche or American society or whatever. (In marked contrast to WW2 cinema.) Similarly, though it’s set in the Cold War, it would be a serious misreading of Dr. Strangelove to say that the enemy is the USSR (or for that matter the US), when it’s really the logic of mutually assured destruction. There’s also lots of great espionage fiction set in the Cold War, like the Third Man, the James Bond novels/movies and Tom Clancy’s early novels, but I think that these tend to use the conflict between the US led bloc and the USSR led bloc as an excuse to tell a compelling story about espionage, rather than as important thing worth exploring in its own right. (This is also kind of true of Top Gun.) Like the way Dunkirk, despite being set in World War 2 and having Wehrmacht/Luftwaffe forces shooting at our protagonists, isn’t really about World War 2 or why Nazis are bad.

    To reiterate some stuff from earlier: I wasn’t being rhetorical in asking whether this is real or a figment of my limited perception, I genuinely wonder if other people have the same impression. And I want to reiterate that I’m not making a political argument here, so let me note that there are many perfectly compelling reasons why this might be the case without reference to Stefan Molyneux-tier “hahahhaah it’s because the media is full of filthy Communists who hate capitalism and America and think Stalin did nothing wrong hahaha” glib accusations. For instance, while World War 2 was seemingly a resoundingly successful conventional war that garnered near universal support, the Vietnam War was a grueling, ultimately failed counter-insurgency campaign that provoked sharp divisions in the US.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I don’t know pop culture well enough to answer this question myself, but your one big qualification jumped out at me – how many of the works you mentioned earlier with Nazis as the villain would pass the analogous test of “are they just nominal Nazis or is their Nazism really part of the story”? Would even Casablanca pass that test, if it’s administered strictly enough?

      • ashlael says:

        Casablanca didn’t really bother too much with the ethnic cleansing part of Nazism, but the bureaucratism of it got a serve.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        The only two movies I can think of off the top of my head that go into the crimes of Fascist or Communist regimes in a serious way are Schindler’s List and The Killing Fields respectively.

        For every Dirty Dozen there’s a Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (with it’s inserted Russian as the main villain while the Vietnamese are mostly faceless mooks and cannon fodder), and for every Red Dawn there’s an Inglourious Basterds.

        What’s the Fascist equivalent of something like The Longest Day, though?

    • pontifex says:

      Nazis are a really safe and easy choice for a fictional enemy. You don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining who they are or why they are bad. There’s a reason why they’re considered a cinematic cliche. Plus, the US actually fought them.

      We never actually fought Russians, so it was all more abstract and “far mode.” There was also a very big focus on stability and the balance of power in the Cold War years. People who advocated open warfare between Us and Them were (mostly correctly) regarded as dangerous fanatics who might end civilization as we knew it.

      Edit: Movies and fiction are also often about escapism. And talking about a current enemy (the USSR) is less escapist than about the Nazis.

      Plus, CULTURE WAR CULTURE WAR CULTURE WAR something something Hollywood. 🙂

    • cassander says:

      The nazis have two traits that make them perfect movie villains. (A) They lost a war against us that was costly to both sides but where they acted with unquestionably villainy so they are universally reviled (B) they did it while dressed fantastically.

      • ManyCookies says:

        But why skulls though?

        (But no seriously, what did the Skull and Crossbones represent to the SS?)

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Tradition, basically. The Totenkopf was a symbol used by German military units, especially cavalry, going back several centuries. That tradition in turn is based in the same symbolism that led to its association with pirates, and the use of skulls in many other unit insignias of modern militaries or for that matter gang and motorcycle gang tattoos.

          Some examples: The Black Brunswickers (napeolonic-era cavalry unit) ; A good example of the Prussian Hussar dress uniform;

        • Aapje says:

          @ManyCookies

          The skull and crossbones/totenkopf is an old international symbol for death, the defiance of death, danger, or the dead, as well as piracy. The totenkopf was firstly used as a military emblem under Frederick the Great, for a Hussar cavalry regiment in the Prussian army. It then remained in use for various German units, including stormtrooper units in WW 1.

          In the interwar period, Weimar Germany had right-wing paramilitary units called Freikorps which were in large part a precursor the the Nazi SA. Paramilitary units with the name Freikorps existed long before that though, the first example were Hussars recruited by Frederick the Great. This explains why the later Freikorps units would be interested in using the totenkopf for historic reasons.

          Julius Schreck served with Freikorps Epp and was an early member of the Nazi party. He created a bodyguard unit for Hitler which used the totenkopf. Eventually that turned into a separate elite unit, the SS. Schreck wore a Freikorps Epp badge on his SS uniform, so he seemed to see the SS as a continuation of the Freikorps, which explains why he would keep the totenkopf.

          Schreck was sidelined (and died) before WW 2 and Himmler took over command of the SS and kept the totenkopf. He said:

          The Skull is the reminder that you shall always be willing to put your self at stake for the life of the whole community.

    • Tarhalindur says:

      Off the top of my head, you’re looking at a mix of factors:

      1) The culture war factor. Specifically, the question “which of the Communists and Nazis is the lesser evil?” is actually a pretty good indicator for which side of the culture wars someone is on: if they think Nazis are worse, they’re likely Blue; if they think Communists are worse, they’re probably Red. I will freely concede that America’s artist types lean Blue; given that, they were already more likely to consider Nazis the greater evil even before taking any other factors into account.
      2) Adjacent to that: Exactly how bad the Nazis were was clear immediately after World War II, while the existence/extent of Stalin’s massacres weren’t clear until somewhere between the mid 1980s and early 1990s.
      3) The US fought the Nazis in World War II, and that war is popularly considered one of the two most justified wars in American history due to a combination of Pearl Harbor and the Nazis being genocidal assholes. Given that, the above factor, and the supply of “evil Japan” drying up (probably due to Cold War alliance with Japan post-Korea – West Germany was also an ally, but Germany was de-Nazified), Nazis were slightly better suited to the role of least-common-denominator villain than the Communists were. That’s not even counting the supply of straight-up war propaganda left over from World War II. (Case in point: Casablanca.)
      4) Speaking of war propaganda, consider the following. You just mentioned that Communist villains tend to show up in spy fiction. How did the United States contest the Soviets during the Cold War? Exactly.
      5) While both Nazis and Communists tend to be alluded to in science fiction rather than shown outright (see: Daleks and Cybermen, respectively) my impression is that the Communists are slightly more
      likely to show up as allegories. (The Borg are, of course, the Communist stand-in par excellence, and in general “hive mind” translates as “Communist allegory”.)

      • How did the United States contest the Soviets during the Cold War?

        The question was about communists, not Soviets. The U.S. fought two wars against communist opponents during the cold war.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          And we had scads of movies making enemies of the Vietnamese.

          Korea is harder, because, you know, we couldn’t make Koreans (full stop ) the enemy. The same goes for the Japanese.

          • ghi says:

            Name one. In the most famous Vietnam movie,

            Apocalypse Now

            it is the Americans how are the “Real Villains”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The “missing in action” franchise? Rambo First Blood Part 2. There are more from the 80s. Frequently the US government is also cast as the enemy, or at least “the bureaucrats” are.

            James Bond “Die Another Day” uses North Koreans as the enemies, as well.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            It’s worth noting that First Blood Part 2 also has a Russian advisor as the central villain and climactic fight rather than a Vietnamese officer.

            There were certainly a decent number, though I’d separate out those and their imitators like the infinitely risible “Strike Commando” from films like Platoon, Bat-21, Hamburger Hill, etc.

            A lot of those late 70s to late 80s action movies are basically “revenge fantasy” type movies combined with the POW question that was still very much alive at the time.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim:
            Films like Platoon, Hamburger Hill, etc. aren’t the kind of films that need a stand in for “other tribe I need to defeat”.

            Fundamentally, Nazis, the VC, or literal Alien Predators, all occupy the same role of “outgroup who is a threat to me” in a very simplistic way. They really aren’t all that much different than the college kids in “Breaking Away”, although that is a movie about overcoming outgroup-bias, rather than defeating the outgroup.

            Platoon and the like are much more about examining in-group dynamics, I think. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Fundamentally, Nazis, the VC, or literal Alien Predators, all occupy the same role of “outgroup who is a threat to me” in a very simplistic way.

            I agree, and that’s why I’d separate them out from stuff like Hamburger Hill, Platoon, etc. Though I was thinking more in terms of them being more straight up “war” movies rather than 80s Action Blockbusters that just happened to be focused around wartime foes.

            You could swap “Missing In Action” to Central American rebels kidnapping americans for profit and not lose anything.

            I was trying to think of war movies that took an even-handed approach to fascists and communists while still making no bones about which side the film-makers were rooting for. The main ones that come to mind for me would be The Longest Day and We Were Soldiers, respectively.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim:

            You could swap “Missing In Action” to Central American rebels kidnapping americans for profit and not lose anything.

            I think you are misunderstanding the unique impact of Vietnam on the American psyche.

            While movies like that were made (see Predator for an example of a Macaguffin that vaguely resembles this), the concept of POWs left to rot specifically in Vietnam is a powerful image. Essentially it acts as a means to simultaneously insist that America could have been victorious in Vietnam, if not for the perfidy of the corrupt in high-places, and also that we should never have sent the soldiers to Vietnam to begin with (as the motivations were essentially corrupt).

            The second type of movie about Vietnam dispenses with the idea we could have won to conclude that the war was ultimately pointless.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I think you are misunderstanding the unique impact of Vietnam on the American psyche.

            I don’t think I am, because I referred to that very point in the first comment you replied to in this sub-thread. Again, I think there’s a clear difference between Rambo and Missing In Action and other Vietnam war movies, even ones that deal with the same ideas (The Deer Hunter, Rescue Dawn). Those action films toy with the idea of the POW question, but only at the level that action films like Delta Force 2 or License To Kill engaged with questions about the rise of central american drug cartels and the War On Drugs, or a movie like Taken is a serious examination of human trafficking.

            To be clear, I’m not knocking them, at least not Rambo (I unironically enjoy the entire film series and think it comes closest to straddling the divide between the action movies and the more serious films), but I think if we’re talking about how the Vietnamese and/or Communism is depicted as the enemy in American film, it’s worthwhile to separate out the movies that are primarily driven by fight scenes and spectacle from the ones who are interested in engaging with the reality and history of the conflict on another level.

            Now, as far as your interpretation of the significance of the POW imagery, let me clarify something: are you claiming that film-makers were exploiting it in an ambiguous or multifaceted way. Using an an image that means different things to different people?

            Because the overwhelming majority of people who believed or believe

            “America could have been victorious in Vietnam, if not for the perfidy of the corrupt in high-places”

            categorically reject

            “we should never have sent the soldiers to Vietnam to begin with”

            and vice-versa.

            The overwhelming majority of proponents of the first view agree with Domino Theory and/or the idea that opposition to Communism was sufficient cause for involvement in Vietnam, while the overwhelming majority of people pushing the second view think that Vietnam was unwinnable either from the outset or from very early on.

            People who believe the truth of both those premises are rare as hen’s teeth on the ground.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim:
            First, I was really just reacting to the idea that “Missing in Action” could have been first set in Central America “and not lose anything.” I’m simply saying that those kinds of movies almost had to be made. Perhaps we are simply in vehement agreement on that point.

            People who believe the truth of both those premises are rare as hen’s teeth on the ground.

            I think you may be wrong about people believing both of those things simultaneously. I understand why you would hold that opinion and make that argument, as I think it’s rare to see the opinions actually voiced simultaneously.

            But, the rise in support of the idea that the federal government is evil or to be opposed rose steadily from the 60s onward, on both sides of the political spectrum. Thus, in the 80s, with Reagan’s often misquoted “Government is the problem.” it’s fairly easy to see how someone who thought we could win the war, and was not opposed to waging war against communists, would also at the same time readily accept a sub-textual message that the Vietnam War was the wrong war to fight.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @HBC

            Sorry for the tardy reply, combination of work and the site being wierd about letting me log in.

            I think we’re mostly in agreement. I’d just suggest that movies like the missing in action series are probably not engaging with these ideas in a deliberate/thoughtful way. Lots and lots of movies pick up on topical parts of the national conversation, or national consciousness (Central American Cartels in the late 80s/early 90s ; Fall of the Soviet Union in the mid 90s ; Rising wave of street crime in the late 70s, etc), but many of them are doing so just because the writer saw an article in the NYT and went “huh, I could make some money doing an action movie based on that”.

            As I said, Rambo may be a biiit more nuanced, but I’m not sure.

            it’s fairly easy to see how someone who thought we could win the war, and was not opposed to waging war against communists, would also at the same time readily accept a sub-textual message that the Vietnam War was the wrong war to fight.

            I can see how that’s possible, sure, but I’ve never seen any evidence that the combination of those two views is anything but VERY unusual, even among Vietnam-era vets. What’s more common in ones who embrace the “wrong war” idea is that they disown and disavow their earlier belief about the war’s winnability and desire to fight communists and say “I was young and wrong and stupid, and I know better now which is why Iraq/Afghanistan is so stupid.”

            I’ve gotten to hear this fairly frequently at American Legion and VFW events when I explained that I was an Iraq vet.

      • SUT says:

        “Enemy at the Gates” is an interesting one for this discussion:

        Well-dressed, well-read and sophisticated, ultra loyal Nazi villain who murders children? Check.

        “A million deaths is a statistic”-style soviet disregard for life or dignity of their own? Check.

        The good guys? Those fighting to protect the helpless against both sides.

    • I think your perception is correct. It’s particularly striking given that the Nazis were defeated before most living Americans were born, whereas the Communists were the enemy until relatively recently.

      • ghi says:

        That’s precisely the reason. After being defeated the Nazis are no longer around to defend themselves, whereas the communists had decades to spread their propaganda.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      There’s White Nights, quite a good movie, but I agree with everyone else that there’s very little.

    • onyomi says:

      It is definitely true recently, at least, as Nazis and slaveowners have definitely started to fill a “people you can kill without remorse because they’re pure evil” slot in our culture, as evidenced by the films of Quentin Tarantino. This is because these two groups committed the cardinal sin of our current civic religion, which is racism.

      I’m not sure if this was always true. I definitely recall as a kid that the Russians were the baddies in everything (even the Star Trek TOS Klingons were clearly Russians). For a little while after 9/11, Middle Eastern terrorists were the go-to villain, but then that became un-PC. Not sure who filled the hatred void between the end of the Cold War and 9/11. Big companies that liked to pollute?

      Besides Hollywood is super-left wing blah blah everyone has a weird soft spot for communism they don’t have for other ideologies blah blah I do think there’s also a weird thing where people who kill “others” make better villains than people who kill their own people (yes, I know many of those killed in the Holocaust were, by rights, German, but the Nazis themselves didn’t think so). Which is ironic, because I would kind of think killing your own people is worse. But even when the Russians were the enemy, it was always because they might nuke us, not because they might engineer a famine and starve a bunch of Ukrainians. This may be about how to have movie/book conflict; may also just be about “evil is a fargroup that threatens you, not a fargroup that threatens another fargroup.”

      I do really, really hate the whole “punch a Nazi meme” and related Tarantino-esque justified sadism (I also found the “whooohooo!” reaction to the death of Bin Laden weird and off-putting; not that I wasn’t glad they killed him, just that I found the celebratory atmosphere disconcerting) and find it especially worrisome because seemingly new, at least to me: even during the Cold War I don’t remember any sense it was okay to totally dehumanize Russians just because they were our political enemies. Russians weren’t like zombies you could just say “score!” when you ran over them with a truck. But now Nazis and slaveholders have joined the ranks of zombies and other cartoon monsters. Not good, especially when the definition of “Nazi” keeps expanding.

      I’m not sure if people are becoming more vicious lately (though I’m well aware that we’re still incredibly not bloodthirsty by standards of human history) or just expressing it differently, though.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Racism can not kill a strong group. Affirmative action can not save a weak group.

        Since you live in China I’m sure that you know that some parts of China used to be occupied by foreign powers and massacres of Chinese happened. Does that harm the Chinese in the long run? Not at all.

        Ashkenazi Jews have been persecuted for very long. So many massacres, discriminatory laws, expulsions. Yet they still exist and are doing well.

        Poles were massacred by the Nazis and lived under German and Russian occupation for a long time. Yet Poles continue to exist and Poland is increasingly rich.

        Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked. The Japanese simply rebuilt the cities. Now they are even better than what they used to be before the nukes.

        Racism and persecution can never seriously harm any strong group in the long run. Hence we shouldn’t focus on racism when it comes to inequality and its causes.

      • ManyCookies says:

        I’m not at all a film buff, but haven’t the Nazis have been acceptable zombie targets for quite a while now, well past the current PC culture? Indiana Jones was killing the shit out of them, off the top of my head.

        • onyomi says:

          Yeah, sort of, though I think Indiana Jones was primarily fighting Hellboy, Captain America-type Nazis, i.e. people who make good villains both because they were an antagonist of ours in a war and supposedly obsessed with the occult. Nazis really do give you a lot to work with, don’t they?

          There were also the neo-Nazis in the Blues Brothers, but I don’t think they quite reached zombie level of dehumanization. Along with the good ol’ boys, they were just sort of a bunch of assholes out to get the heroes, though knocking them off a bridge into shallow water for holding up traffic was funny.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think it’s interesting that this changed over time, though. Consider Hogan’s Heroes. I don’t think you can make a show today where a Nazi camp guard is a bungling silly-willy like Sergeant Schultz.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think you can make a show today where a Nazi camp guard is a bungling silly-willy like Sergeant Schultz.

            This is part of the reason I don’t think the Nazis’ status as our wartime enemy, or, for that matter the Confederacy’s status as the Union’s wartime enemy, is what makes them seem good villain fodder today.

            If it were about the trauma of the war itself, you’d expect the earlier treatment of the enemy to be the harshest and for that to later fade to a more nuanced/less deathly-serious treatment. This is why no Americans hold a grudge against the British anymore for the Stamp Act.

            But depiction of the Confederacy and the Nazis has gotten worse over time and I think it’s because they are racist and racism has become more and more unforgivable over time.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        This is because these two groups committed the cardinal sin of our current civic religion, which is racism.

        This is not correct. The actual reason both of those groups are in that slot is because they took up arms and lost against the USA, and in two of our three most celebrated wars. More proximal to your point, “racism” isn’t quite enough. The Nazis attempted an industrialized genocide. Slavery in the US involved rape, breakup of family units and torture as punishment. We don’t have quite the same sentiments towards white suburbanites who are big exclusionary zoning enthusiasts.

        • onyomi says:

          This is not correct. The actual reason both of those groups are in that slot is because they took up arms and lost against the USA, and in two of our three most celebrated wars.

          I mean, okay, you can assert that, but why should I believe your theory is more accurate than mine? The British fought us in what I’m guessing you consider our third most celebrated war and we don’t seem to have an irrational hatred of the British… or the Spanish, Koreans, or Vietnamese.

          We don’t have quite the same sentiments towards white suburbanites who are big exclusionary zoning enthusiasts.

          Don’t we? I mean not nearly as bad, but is it a difference in kind or just degree?

          • secondcityscientist says:

            Consider two outgroups on either side: World War I and the Revolutionary War on the side of “celebrated wars the USA won” and the Rwandan and Armenian genocides on the side of “Violent and systemic racism is bad”. Do we have movies and video games and other media where the USA is portrayed as great and killing British or German soldiers is justified? Sure we do. Maybe not to the same extent as Nazis and Confederates, but we still do.

            Do we have media celebrating Tutsis fighting back against Hutus, or Armemians fighting back against Ottomans? We do not, or if we do they’re minor documentaries and art-house films. Because these events were far away and don’t involve Americans.

            Of course, for the real test consider the genocide of Native Americans. “Actually, killing all of the Native Americans and stealing their lands was bad” is still considered a moderately-fringe belief that people have to fight for rather than an obvious conclusion. Andrew Jackson is still on the 20 dollar bill, there’s a huge park named after him here in Chicago along with parks for Lincoln, Washington and Grant. He’s still considered among the greatest presidents despite committing an act of genocide that was called the Trail of Tears at the time. Westerns featuring heroic white people fighting Native Americans were common until pretty recently.

          • onyomi says:

            Of course American involvement in the struggle is a prerequisite for Americans caring about it. Most Americans don’t even know who Tutsis and Hutus are. But among those enemies Americans have had, the depiction of those who can be construed as racist gets worse over time, while the depiction of others gets more nuanced or completely fades as a “villain” category.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think you’re not asking whether there is fiction with Communists as villains, because you’ve found examples (like Cold War spy fiction) and ruled them out. You’re looking for fiction with the ideology of Communism as the driving force behind the villains, or where the villains used Communist symbology. There’s less of that; Chalker’s “Midnight at the Well of Souls” has Communism as a malign force, but it’s not the main enemy. Much Libertarian SF does as well, though usually ‘modeled after’ rather than actual hammer-and-sickle Communism.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Add Nabokov’s Bend Sinister to your list.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      There’s also We, the Living, Ayn Rand’s first novel.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “Communism”, but C.J.Cherryh’s Cyteen might qualify. It’s science fiction, though, not historical fiction.

    • mobile says:

      Dr. Zhivago
      Gulag (an HBO original movie from 1985)
      We The Living (1942!)

      Bridge of Spies
      Moscow on the Hudson

    • ilikekittycat says:

      It’s hard to comprehend now, but during the years the Soviet Union was around, it was widely suspected some kind of communism was, in some sense, “the future.” Now, plenty of people objected to Leninism/Stalinism/Maoism, but there was an unconscious anxiety all throughout the West (even amongst fairly conservative people without communist sympathies) that our current state was transitional, that Marx and Engels really had figured something out, that change was inevitable even if we weren’t heading for a violent proletarian upheaval. On Star Trek they don’t come out and say “we’ve accepted communism” but it was apparent what that future was, post scarcity equality and not having to sell labour time for wages anymore, etc. Even Orwell, who you rightly put as one of the biggest critics of Actually Existing Communism, dreamed of a socialist future. It wasn’t until the Soviet Collapse (which simultaneously had the effect of making communists not scary in the same way anymore) that everyone firmly accepted that liberal capitalism really had been the “End of History” this whole time.

      Nazism, on the other hand, was abhorrent to us shortly after it seized power, and was extinguished fairly quickly, with very few left suspecting it was still going to have any influence on the future

  31. HFARationalist says:

    How far can individualism go?

    I want to have as much individualism as possible as long as no violence is commited and the living standards are preserved. The Non-Aggression Principle should be a guideline of interpersonal relationships. All individuals should be only subject to the state, be allowed to withdraw from any social group including families and tribes and be free from any non-legal rule they have not voluntarily agreed to.

    Please point out weaknesses of my idea so that it can be improved. Thanks!

    • Well... says:

      Sorry for going off-topic, but did you delete your other thread on political correctness? It’s gone.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I didn’t. I believe Scott did it.

        • Well... says:

          OK. Well, I was just going to say you might have benefited from or been protected by political correctness and not realized it, and taken it for granted as a result. Since you ostensibly have autism I suspect this is very likely true.

          • HFARationalist says:

            I agree. Things could have been much worse in a more un-PC, conformist or mean environment.

            I love intellectualism and knowledge. However I know that a society with too many people like me can not function. People like me provide novel ideas but also weaken social cohesion by fighting against basically any form of social consensus and agitate against any form of conformism. I can.not be satisfied by changing how societies work. Instead as long as shared values I disagree with or taboos that impede intellectualism exist I won’t ever stop complaining.

          • Well... says:

            That is a radical departure from your most recent previous statements on this topic. Seems like your mind has been completely changed.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Well.. I agree. Usually I pursue intellectualism without considering real life consequences of my ideals if actually put to practice.

            For example if my attitude towards sexuality becomes the majority view humanity will experience a serious depopulation.

    • Evan Þ says:

      What counts as violence?

      Okay, we can probably agree that pro-Nazi speech doesn’t (but we’ve already gone beyond universal consensus there.) But does blowing cigarette smoke in my face count? Does playing loud music at midnight count? What about blowing your garbage all over your lawn, making my view unsightly and stinking up the neighborhood?

      Sure, you can fit most of these in under “preserving living standards,” but the questions – along with hundreds of others – still need to be answered, and there’s no one answer everyone will agree on.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I think all three have exceeded what should be allowed. Nazi speech isn’t inherently a problem, however if it is directed at Jews and others with the intent to threaten or intimidate people it is now a problem. Being a Nazi is a right. Wearing SS uniforms is a right. Writing pro-Nazi speech on Ironmarch is a right. Threatening to gas a Jew is not because it violates the rights of the Jew.

        In generals if you do something that affects others then regulations should be introduced at some point. However one person’s rights does not involve control over another person so that nobody can argue along the lines of “Person A does not obey me hence I feel that my right to dominate others is violated”.

        I agree that these are all interesting questions.

        • Well... says:

          if you do something that affects others then regulations should be introduced at some point.

          A lot of things we do affect others in ways that aren’t obvious.

          For example, people with unusual taste often find ourselves having to spend more, or travel farther, or otherwise make compromises in order to purchase the unusual things we want. These things don’t necessarily cost more to make or transport, but the fact that they are not in high demand means that we are inconvenienced. This should be clear to anyone who’s been in the market for a used (non-sports) car with a manual transmission. Other people’s private individual purchasing decisions have affected me.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Threatening to gas a Jew is not because it violates the rights of the Jew.

          What? Threatening “I want to get together this large apparatus that pretty much can only be done by a government, with the end goal of killing you,” violates your rights? As I understand it, this’s a huge departure from current law which says that only plausible threats are banned. See, e.g., how “If they ever make me carry a rifle the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.” is totally legal.

          If you hold to that – would “I wish adultery were a capital crime,” said to an adulterer, also be a violation of his rights?

          • @ Evan. I don’t know what HFA’s answer to this is, but the concept of threatening in criminal law involves plausible “threats.” (I am not an expert in criminal law, so anyone please let me know if I am blowing smoke). Saying “I am in favor of the government putting all of your type in camps,” is not a threat, it is an opinion. A threat is telling someone you will commit violence on them in such a way that the recipient plausibly feels personally threatened by your behavior (and not “threatened” because they are scared of what government might do if it took up your suggestions). This definition of threats sounds like a pretty good guideline for criminal behavior vs. speech.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Mark, I agree with the standard you’re talking about, and I view killing people with gas chambers as inherently implausible to do on a personal level.

    • All individuals should be only subject to the state, be allowed to withdraw from any social group including families and tribes and be free from any non-legal rule they have not voluntarily agreed to.

      What makes the state special, such that it gets to subject individuals to rules they have not voluntarily agreed to but other groups don’t?

      • HFARationalist says:

        Because the state has to exist. Otherwise who is going to keep the peace?

        • Jack Lecter says:

          Heh.
          I think he may have had cause to consider this question before…
          I’d recommend googling his book. For something that trips the Absurdity Heuristic, it’s surprisingly persuasive.

        • . says:

          You may also want to read Leviathan if you haven’t already, for a classic and detailed exposition of your own view.

        • Incurian says:

          Seriously, David Friedman, author of The Machinery of Freedom, it’s like you’ve never even considered this.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Wait I thought this was David Friedman ambassador to Israel, or is that the “carrying a duck” guy 😉

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I’m confused while reading this exchange. Which one you think is being silly: D.F., for asking this question (because the author of The Machinery of Freedom can be suspected of having thought about it) or HFA, for responding to D.F. (for the same reason)?

        • For something shorter than The Machinery of Freedom, you might want to read the chapter on feud law in the webbed draft of my current book. It describes at least one mechanism for decentralized private law enforcement that has functioned in some past societies. If sufficiently interested, other chapters describe some of those societies.

  32. Zorgon says:

    I laughed at the image far more than was nice, necessary, or charitable.

  33. sierraescape says:

    Commenting in order to follow the thread

  34. hlynkacg says:

    Anyone else watching the GOT finale?

    • CatCube says:

      I’m on the west coast, so it won’t be on for another hour. I will be watching it, though.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Actively avoiding it, as I have with the show ever since it passed the books.

    • Well... says:

      It took me two or three episodes, tops, into Season 1 to realize it was a garbage show propped up by immense production values and a willingness to depict nudity and gore. Part of those production values was in making the plot alluring. Superficial, shallow, what-happens-next-ist hooks pulled me along very begrudgingly until somewhere through the 3rd season when I finally said “enough of this crap” and quit watching. A couple years later I was surprised to hear it was still going.

      Sorry. Unsolicited grumpy opinion. It’s late.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I actually thought Season 1 was quite good since it hewed so close the books. It did go downhill from there, though.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I would say the books went downhill, too, though 5 is somewhat better than 4.

          Book 1 was good enough that even with quite a bit of slippage, I’m still reading the series.

          Martin read the beginning of book 6 in a video (sorry, can’t find it), and it was very promising.

          • Nick says:

            Martin read the beginning of book 6 in a video (sorry, can’t find it), and it was very promising.

            We’ve had a couple of chapters released now over the years, but I’ve been keeping away from them in anticipation to read the full book. (I dunno if the chapters Martin read in that video were the same chapters released.)

          • Orpheus says:

            What do you think was better about book 5 then book 4?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            As of book 4, I was concerned that Martin had lost control of the plot. In book 5 it seemed as though the plot threads were starting to come together.

            What impressed me about book 1 (aside from the willingness to kill main characters and the cynicism, both of which seemed a lot fresher back then) was excellent control of information being given to the reader.

            Also, what was going on was just plain interesting, for all that I wanted to reach into the book and shake the characters and say, “Don’t you know winter is coming?”.

            My memory isn’t extremely good, and I can lose track of complex plots and large casts of characters. In The Game of Thrones, Martin did a brilliant job of reminding me of who was who and what was going on without excessive redundancy. He hasn’t met that standard since (fails on both counts in later books– both not telling me what I need to remember and repeating things I do remember), but I also haven’t seen any other books by anyone else which are as good that way.

            I wonder if there’s some way of integrating insights from Anki cards with writing long complex novels.

          • Randy M says:

            My memory isn’t extremely good, and I can lose track of complex plots and large casts of characters

            This is the reason I didn’t bother with the last book or two. Given the length of time between releases, I would have had to reread all that came before. Given the the length of books, it wasn’t worth it.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            Yeah, that’s a good point. The pacing got all muddled while writing, so book quality took a hit too.

            I need to re-read since it’s been several years, but if memory serves: books 1 & 3 were excellent, 2 & 5 were good, and 4, while certainly adequate, felt like a bit of a placeholder.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I thought 1, 2, and 3 were strong, then the 4th really slows down, and the 5th starts flailing around adding new stuff instead of tying things up.

          • Orpheus says:

            For me, book 5 suffered from many of the same problems book 4 did: unimportent charecters doing unimportent things (Quentin spending half the book on the way to propose to Dany when the reader knows full well he has no chance, and then he is just killled off; Theons uncle sailing on a boat; Theons subplot itself etc.),
            charecters you do care about not doing anything interrsting (Arya, Jon, Dany,Tyrion…)
            And a new subplot that felt like it came out of nowhere (so you thought Dany and Jon where the last Targarians? Nope! And now he has an army! And now he is in Westerose! Man, if Dany took such initiative we would be done by book 3).

    • James Miller says:

      Yes, it’s my favorite TV show. Anyone else think that a big theme is the value of consequentialism? Tonight Jon Snow did something that seemed anti-consequentialist, but then he defended his actions on consequentialist grounds.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        I feel like GoT used to be more about actions having consequences than it is now. Ned being executed for his refusal to play dirty, the Red Wedding because Rob chose love over honoring contracts. Now I feel like the “good guys” get to have their cake and eat it too — in the end Cersei gave them the agreement that they wanted (and probably would have breached it even if Jon had lied) so no real consequences for Jon. This is probably expected in some way if you want to have a satisfying ending soon, but I think it takes away a bit of the initial appeal (although I still enjoy watching it).

        • hlynkacg says:

          Agreed.

        • James Miller says:

          in the end Cersei gave them the agreement that they wanted

          SPOILERS. Ohg Prefrv jnf tbvat gb cergraq gb qb guvf ab znggre jung, naq jung Wba fnvq nobhg gur pbfg gb fbpvrgl bs ylvat ybbxf ba genpx gb xvyy rirelbar va Jrfgrebf. Prefrv punfgvfvat Glevba sbe xvyyvat gurve sngure (rira gubhtu ur pyrneyl qrfreirq vg) jnf rkcyvpvgyl pbafrdhragvnyvfg.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Yeah, there have been a few moments this season where I’m left thinking “George would have killed them.” – D&D just lack the stones to follow through and it cheapens one of the main draws for GoT.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I feel like GRRM would have killed Tyrion, and let that be the thing that pushes Jamie over the wall.

            …also Jamie should have been captured at the wagon-train battle. Instead of Tyrion sneaking into King’s Landing, releasing Jamie then becomes part of “the carrot” offered to Cersei.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Lrnu, be unq Tertbe npghnyyl bss Wnzvr orsber ur pna tb jnea Glevba gung Prefrv yvrq. Ohg na vzcbegnag pnirng vf gung Trbetr jbhyq unir xvyyrq gurz *unq ur npghnyyl jevggra gurz vagb gubfr fvghngvbaf gb ortva jvgu* juvpu V guvax vf engure qhovbhf.

            Nyfb, Gbezhaq ba gur rkcrqvgvba. Oevatvat nybat 3 anzryrff pebjf whfg gb qvr ng pvarzngvpnyyl nccebcevngr jnf ynml jevgvat. Grnfvat Gbezhaq qlvat naq gura erfphvat uvz whfg fgeratguraf gur creprcgvba gung punenpgref gur nhqvrapr yvxrf trg cybg nezbe.

        • gbdub says:

          I’ve had similar issues with “actions have consequences” not working as well, but I think to some degree that’s inevitable as we get to the endgame – they’ve killed off so many characters that basically everyone left (probably) has a key role to play in the final episodes. There’s no time to introduce new characters either (at least not ones that we’ll care about).

          What bothers me more is the repeated last second deus ex machinas. Beyond the wall featured TWO! At this point it is clear that Jon Snow is going to survive at least to the finale. Quit making cheap drama with his near-death.

          V guvax Oebaa arrqrq gb qvr va gur jntba genva, nf zhpu nf V yvxr uvz. Gubhtu V ynhturq n ovg jura ur jnyxrq bhg jvgu Cbq va gur ynfg rcvfbqr (uvf npgbe qbrf abg trg nybat jvgu Yran Urnql, gb gur cbvag jurer gurl nccneragyl ershfr gb funer fprarf).

          V jnf qnexyl ubcvat gung gur jvtug gur rkcrqvgvba oebhtug onpx jbhyq or n mbzovsvrq Wbenu. Be znlor Wbenu ghearq vagb Pbyqunaqf 2.0. Jbhyq unir orra qnexyl vebavp va n tbbq jnl sbe uvz gb or fnirq sebz tenlfpnyr bayl gb snyy ivpgvz gb mbzovsvpngvba.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            V jnf qnexyl ubcvat gung gur jvtug gur rkcrqvgvba oebhtug onpx jbhyq or n mbzovsvrq Wbenu.

            Gur snagurbel V fnj sybngvat nebhaq nsgre rc5 jnf gung vg jbhyq or mbzovr Ubhaq sbe Haqrnq Pyrtnarobjy (trg ulcr)

    • cassander says:

      I find myself oddly enjoying this trainwreck of a season. When the show was just getting worse in seasons 4 and 5, it annoyed me, but now, well, I guess if the writers have stopped giving a fuck I can to.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I find myself oddly conflicted. On one hand we have plot holes big enough to sail the Iowa through. On the other I think the show has done more to make characters who pass the Turing test than GRRM ever dreamt of. There were several moments in in tonight’s episode most notably with the hound, Jon Snow”s big moment, and the conflict with Little finger (and Sansa’s conversation afterwards) that I don’t think GRRM would have handled half as deftly as D&D did.

        It’s also nice to see a long standing fan theory confirmed

        • cassander says:

          I find the show oddly inconsistent. It has consistently done a lot of really great, original character work. The relationships between robert and cersei, for example, or the tywin/arya exchanges, all fantastic. It wouldn’t be possible to write those bits without a nuanced understanding of the characters, but this nuance seems to be paired with a willingness to totally disregard it whenever it proves even slightly inconvenient. (do we really imagine, for example that littlefinger wouldn’t znxr fher gb tb gb gur abegu fheebhaqrq ol yblny ergnvaref?)

          As a rule, I like my fiction highly structured, with setups that feed to coherent plots that pay off satisfactorily, so I can’t rate D&D really highly on that front, but when they step back from the big set pieces and just let the characters talk (without trying to move the plot forward) they usually do a pretty good job.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t think this Season has been anywhere near as bad as 4/5. Those seasons had way too many plot lines going on at once, IMHO. Maybe fine in a book, poor for a television show.

        They’ve rushed a lot this season, but at least it’s moving, with only a few plot-lines. I thought half of it was fine (eps 3/4, Frozen Lake Battle itself, and the last episode was okay except for the LF part).

      • Gobbobobble says:

        but now, well, I guess if the writers have stopped giving a fuck I can to.

        Exactly. It’s not canon so who cares.

    • John Schilling says:

      I am shocked, shocked to find that plan “Get Cersei Lannister another pet zombie” somehow inexplicably failed to convince Cersei Lannister to actually join Team Good Guy in their war against the Army of the Dead. Her sudden but inevitable betrayal should serve as proof that absolutely everybody on Team Good Guy is literally too stupid to live, but I doubt that D&D will have the stones to kill more than one or two of the minor ones.

      The actual dialogue, I actually enjoyed. This show still has the knack for putting interesting people in a room together and having them talk in a way that makes me want to listen. It merely has to resort to wholesale idiot plotting to get them there, which doesn’t quite spoil the entire effect but close.

      Similarly, I enjoyed Littlefinger’s fall from the ladder of chaos. I’d have enjoyed it more if setting it up hadn’t been a matter of “Arya is ignorant. Sansa is stupid. Bran is unhelpful. Arya remains ignorant. Sansa remains stupid. Bran remains unhelpful. Arya is still ignorant. Sansa has somehow stopped being stupid. Bran is actually telling people useful stuff”, with no justification beyond a self-depricating crack about Sansa being a slow learner.

      The finale had a better ratio of good moments to crap plotting than most of the season, if only because many of the plot lines came to an end. I’m not optimistic about the next season, though.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Eh, the GCLAPZ plan was only stupid from the perspective of the audience which has both more information and more genre saviness than the famously ignorant Jon Snow. Tyrion really should know better, but then I don’t think the Tyrion was trying to convince Cersei so much as he was trying to convince his brother.

        • John Schilling says:

          Tyrion should have known better, Varys should have known better, Sansa should have known better and Jon should have been listening to Sansa from the start, and that’s just counting the ones with extensive firsthand knowledge of Cersei Lannister.

          Basic knowledge of human nature, plus the detail that Cersei is a member of the “conniving politician” subset of humanity, should have been sufficient to roundfile this proposal from the start. No conniving politician is going to change their fundamental beliefs and/or sacrifice local political presentation over a show-and-tell presentation, no matter how shockingly staged. And really, that’s not limited to conniving politicians. If Cersei marches into Daenerys’s court with a leashed Gregor Clegane and says “you must sail back to Essos and give up your claim to the throne, or all Westeros will be consumed by zombies such as this!”, would we expect Daenerys the Good and her Wise Councillors to back down? Might as well expect the GOP senate delegation to all become Global Warming true believers because of Hurricane Harvey.

        • cassander says:

          John Schilling has the right of it, Danaerys offers Cersi less than nothing. they won’t even promise not to immediately start trying to murder her as soon as the zombies are dead. They don’t even threaten to burn down KL if she refuses. Why on earth would cersi accept such a deal? They show has always been pretty weak on the actual politics when not cribbing directly from martin, but this was especially so.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          famously ignorant Jon Snow

          I know nothing, least of all how to depreciate a 8,000 year old 300 mile wall of magical ice.

          But I totally convinced AIG to underwrite that shit. Congressional bailout in 3, 2, 1….

        • Loquat says:

          I’m sticking with the theory that the GCLAPZ plan will not exist in the hypothesized Martin Original. (It will exist someday! I have faith!)

          In fact, the finale made me even more confident Martin would have the expedition north of the wall actually be after the Horn of Winter – fbzr zvtug guvax vg jnf jbegu vg gb ybfr n qentba gb xrrc gur cbjre gb qrfgebl gur Jnyy bhg bs gur unaqf bs gur qrnq… yvggyr ernyvmvat gung gur JJf pbhyq mbzovsl n qentba vagb fbzrguvat gung xabpxf qbja gur Jnyy NAQ qbrf rirelguvat ryfr n qentba pna qb.

      • James Miller says:

        Were you shocked by the History channel show on that so-called World War II in which Churchill and Stalin managed to put asside their differences to work together to stop the Death Heads?

        • John Schilling says:

          You mean the one in which Stalin and the Death Heads were on the same side, right up until the Death Head invasion of Stalin’s domain?

          I absolutely believe that when a horde of zombies is actually attacking King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister will be looking to a temporary alliance with the Targaryens to actually stop them, and preferably one that has her armies occupying most of Westeros for the immediate post-zombie-apocalypse renegotiation of status.

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        I’ve been more annoyed by the show playing very fast and loose with the size of Lannister/Crown loyalist forces. It would seem like the invaders have such a dominant military position, that Cersei’s only/best option would be to forge a truce and spend the entire truce rebuilding her armies. But the show seems to wish to pretend that she could actually make more than a token effort against Dany, and I’ve yet to see how she could.

    • John Schilling says:

      One more plot device I’m not really fond of: The “Golden Company” or whatever it is. An army of mercenaries that can turn the tide against the combined might of the United Dothraki Horde, the Unsullied, the Bannermen of the North, and three two dragons, available for whomever has the gold to pay for them.

      What, exactly, has this Company been doing the past few decades? The Iron Bank mentioned using them as debt collectors, but that would require Kingdom-level debts being collected on a reasonably constant basis. I don’t think there’s room for that in what we know of Essos geopolitics, and definitely not Westerosi. And mercenary companies don’t tend to last very long if they aren’t being regularly paid. You generally don’t find standing mercenary armies except in eras of relatively constant conflict, e.g. late Medieval / early Renaissance Italy, and even then scaled for the relatively modest level of conflict that can be sustained for years on end among many squabbling city-states or the like.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        IIRC parts of Essos have a political situation similar to late medieval/early Renaissance Italy, with squabbling city states. This doesn’t explain the size of the Golden Company, but then Everything’s Bigger In Essos.

        They are also not the standing army of the Iron Bank, though the Bank may have hired them (or provided the money for their enemies’ enemies to hire them) before. They are just the largest and best-regarded of many mercenary companies.

        Their behaviour and loyalties in the books mostly relate to a plot that was written out of the show, so it will be interesting to see what they do…

  35. entobat says:

    Bug report to Scott: after submitting my last comment I was redirected to OT82 instead of the current one.

    0/10, would not comment again.

    (Edit: this comment failed to reproduce the error, seems safe to ignore)

  36. entobat says:

    Counterpoints to Scott on white nationalism and Trump:

    Trump seems very lite on solid opinions for things most people view as being important to politics: NAFTA (is it bad / are we leaving?), NATO, probably some other abbreviations starting with N too. My guess is he does not have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than “it’s a tough situation but Jared will work something out that makes everyone happy”. I have no reason to dispute the common perception that his opinion on these is the same as that of whoever last spoke to him about it.

    But he does seem to have well defined ideas that fall under what we might call “right identity politics”: bringing back coal jobs, the Muslim ban, the trans-in-military ban, building the wall to keep the bad Mexicans out. He’s tried to reissue the Muslim ban, he’s following through on the trans ban, and is now pushing for Congress to pay to build the wall, presumably because he views wall-we-paid-for as better than no-wall. (I fully expect him to come out with “The main important thing is to get the wall built now to stop all the Mexicans from coming in, and then we can strong-arm Mexico into reimbursing us later”; frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t said it already.) He’s now pardoned Arpaio as well.

    Under that guise things start looking, well, sinister. Obama may not have been a secret Muslim just because he wouldn’t call things “radical Islamic terrorism”, but he certainly was (or chose to behave like) the kind of leftist who doesn’t want to condemn Islam at all due to concerns about multiculturalism etc. Basically, there are people out there who would respond to name-dropping Islamic terrorism as “that’s Islamophobic!”, and regardless of how he felt about the issue, Obama knew this and was choosing not to provoke them. It’s not secret Muslim-level, but it points to something more than just random noise in what words Obama chose to speak at press conferences.

    Trump has behaved analogously about white nationalism, refusing to call them out at first, very grudgingly call them out later, and then letting us all know how he felt off-the-cuff at the infrastructure press conference. Sure, maybe he was upset with his aides / the media for making him call out white nationalism by name just because he doesn’t like being pushed around. But in the same way that this said something about Obama, it says something about Trump—there are groups he is being careful not to offend.

    I don’t think it’s meaningless that David Duke went on camera at the rally basically saying he was Trump’s evangel; can you imagine him saying that 10 years ago about George W. Bush? I don’t think it’s meaningless that white nationalists seized on Trump’s original words as “this is good for us, he likes us but can’t say it”.

    The infrastructure press conference gave weak evidence—”many sides”, comparisons of statues of Robert E. Lee to those of Washington and Jefferson, and “I’m waiting until I have all the facts about this before I condemn anyone”.

    “Many sides” is not inherently wrong—the antifa people are pretty nasty, and from the sample of Berkeley they do seem to enjoy excuses to punch people and break things. But they do seem to be more focused on hurting property than on people. The statement “radical leftists have killed much fewer people recently [whatever that means] than radical rightists” seems to be mostly true. Antifa notably had not just murdered someone with a car, unlike the other side. There may be two nasty sides, but one of them seems appreciably less nasty.

    The Lee vs Washington comparison is something I doesn’t think holds merit, due to Washington being famous for some good things (founding America, being the first President well enough for there to be a second) and Lee being famous only for betraying his country to fight for slavery.

    Still, these are two arguments that I don’t agree with but have seen from the mouths of people I view as intelligent, and I have not decided that they are unintelligent based on that data alone. Basically, these are weak points against Trump, and forgivable in the absence of other points against them.

    As for “I’m waiting for more information”, I commend him on his newfound intellectual restraint and am sure we’ll be seeing more of it in the future.

    In summary, Trump seems to be alt-lite himself—doesn’t like Muslims because their culture is too different from ours, doesn’t like Mexicans because they suck, wants to “fight for the real Americans”. Opinions that are within the range of “we’ll still visit grandpa, just try not to talk about politics around him”. He probably doesn’t hate Jews or anything crazy like that. But I think he views the white nationalists as merely extreme members of his own team, of the sort that are present on all sides in all conflicts and whose sins are glossed over or magnified in history books corresponding to whether or not their team won. Either Scott disagrees with this conclusion, or finds it less troubling than I do.

    From a practical point of view, of course white nationalists don’t pose an existential threat to America, and terrorism in general is vastly over-feared. But I don’t think tying Trump and white nationalists uncomfortably close together is intellectually dishonest, in the sense that the conclusion is false, and I’m interested in doing so because I want his approval rating to decrease further.

    • cassander says:

      Lee being famous only for betraying his country to fight for slavery.

      To quote Samuel johnson, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” Washington being both a prominent liberty yelper and negro driver, it seems to me that this description applies as much to him as Lee.

      Had Lee won, he would have been considered a founding father of the Confederacy. I don’t see how you can condemn Lee for treason, but not Washington, unless you actually think that “it’s only treason if we lose” is a moral as well as practical argument.

      • entobat says:

        I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that Washington was fighting for slavery, but sure.

        I don’t believe in “it’s only treason if we lose”, and I appreciate the correction to what I wrote. I think a better way to argue for my point there is as follows:

        Lee is famous in the United States for betraying the United States. It is discordant to have so many statues of him and schools named after him in the US today. As discordant as it would be for there to be many tributes (as opposed to just one) to George Washington in England; moreso, given that in the end Washington had some sympathetic goals.

        I think it’s in any country’s best interests not to glorify traitors (a practical, not moral, argument). I think the right understands this well from their general opinions of recent traitors Snowden and Manning. Benedict Arnold, who actually did do some good things for the country before turning traitor, has (AFAIK) exactly one statue relating to him here, and it very carefully avoids naming him due to the traitory business.

        So when the right makes an exception to have tons of commemorations for the traitors Lee and Davis, my thoughts turn towards the unsympathetic goals they were fighting for.

        • How do you feel about Oliver Cromwell? He seized power by force, ruled as a military dictator until his death. Should the U.K. remove all statues of him?

          • 1soru1 says:

            Checking the history, it appears the British ruling class was actually smart enough not to build a statue of Cromwell in Ireland. Had they done so, I would certainly not expect it to stand today, any more than the staues to Nelson and Victoria do.

            On the other hand, apparently Wellington is ok.

          • entobat says:

            American, so not super familiar with him, though I’ve heard the name. If England (yes I know he ruled over other places too, but in traditional English fashion I will pretend they don’t exist) was England I before he took over, and England II afterwards, is it more reasonable to think that present-day England is descended from England I or from England II? Or do people not generally think of the distinction in those terms?

          • rlms says:

            @entobat
            Cromwell (protestant-aligned) rebelled against Charles I (Catholic-aligned). Following his death, Charles II (Catholic-aligned) was restored to the throne. He was succeeded by his Catholic brother James II, who was then defeated by William of Orange, who was protestant (as were all the monarchs after him). So in that sense, England is more descended from Cromwell than Charles I. But it is a monarchy, not a republic as Cromwell wanted, and the present queen is related to Cromwell’s enemies.

          • entobat says:

            England isn’t much of a monarchy.

            This history seems complicated, and I’m not sure how my principles apply after only the two-minute introduction to it.

          • Cromwell (protestant-aligned) rebelled against Charles I (Catholic-aligned). Following his death, Charles II (Catholic-aligned) was restored to the throne.

            You are merging the two civil wars.

            Parliament rebelled against the king, there was a civil war which parliament won, largely due to the New Model Army in which Cromwell was, I believe, second in command and a dominant figure.

            The New Model Army then rebelled against Parliament, there was another civil war which the New Model Army won, resulting in Cromwell being installed as Lord Protector aka military dictator. A job he seems to have done pretty well.

            He died, the attempt to continue the dictatorship with his son was defeated, and the son of the king who had been executed was brought back into power. The eventual result, after a successful coup to prevent that king’s Catholic brother from succeeding him, was a monarchy with a powerful parliament.

            You might argue that England II was a continuation of the outcome of the first civil war (parliamentary rule) but not the outcome of the second (military dictatorship).

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman
            As far as I know, the second civil war you describe is a relatively minor part of the overall conflict: it was more like a coup than a war.

            The victory of the Parliamentarians certainly could have heavily influenced the style of government after Charles II’s restoration, but my understanding is that it didn’t. The monarchy’s power decreased moderately under each king from James I, until Walpole became Prime Minister and it decreased more sharply.

        • Protagoras says:

          How much of a stretch is it really to say Washington was fighting for slavery? Somerset vs. Stewart was 1772, and was much discussed in the colonies; the worry that anti-slavery forces in England might grow strong enough to extend the policy to the colonies was certainly a motive for some who supported the revolution.

      • cassander says:

        @entobat says:

        given that in the end Washington had some sympathetic goals.

        So did lee. By his lights, be fought honorably and skillfully to defend his home and country from invaders, in defense of his constitutional rights and democracy. Was slavery a part of that? sure, but it was also part of what washington fought for.

        I think it’s in any country’s best interests not to glorify traitors (a practical, not moral, argument).

        This is the crux of it. the definition of traitor is highly subjective. Lee was only a traitor because he lost. As a rule I tend towards consequentialism, but I have a hard time saying that Lee is a vile traitor in this universe, but a great and noble figure in a universe where Sergeant Bloss smoked some cigars before examining them.

        • entobat says:

          I don’t disagree with your moral judgment. I am not saying that being a traitor makes him a bad person per se—but that being a traitor to the US makes him a person who should not (as a practical matter) be celebrated in the US, because I like the US and support norms that would tend to increase its longevity. Much like Arnold—whom the Boot Monument celebrates for things he did while still loyal to the country! I think this is something like the same reason that other people often oppose celebrating traitors, and this leaves their support of Lee et al a question in need of an answer.

          • cassander says:

            I don’t disagree with your moral judgment. I am not saying that being a traitor makes him a bad person per se—but that being a traitor to the US makes him a person who should not (as a practical matter) be celebrated in the US,

            Does this logic apply to John Brown? I grant you that he has fewer statues than Lee, but far from none, and I doubt there will be a campaign to tear them down.

          • entobat says:

            I don’t think vigilantism is a good thing to glorify. Law and order are delicate constructs and “vigilantism” by itself is wielded as ably by the righteous as by the wicked; if our society allows people to use weapons instead of words, they should at least be legendary swords that can only be removed from the slabs they rest in by someone pure of heart.

            I would not have put the monuments up in the first place, and on sane corners of the internet I might admit to supporting tearing them down. Politically it is of lower magnitude (fewer tributes), not relevant to a currently harmful brand of identity politics, and probably harder to argue for in the public sphere (“Why does that jerk hate John Brown, the abolitionist’s Batman?”).

      • BBA says:

        I for one think it’s totally irrelevant that Lee was a traitor. Suppose in 1860 the Democrats were able to broker a backroom compromise for a single national ticket, and Breckenridge or Douglas or whoever they ended up choosing narrowly defeated Lincoln in the election. Suppose then that radical abolitionists in Pennsylvania continue to sabotage the operation of the fugitive slave laws, and it escalates to the point that President Breckenridge orders General Lee’s army into Philadelphia; in response, the Northern states secede, and Lincoln and Grant are among the leaders of the “treason.”

        I submit that this doesn’t change the moral valence of anyone involved.

        • hlynkacg says:

          That is an excellent point, one that I wouldn’t have thought to make but will likely use in the future.

        • entobat says:

          To the moral calculus, yes, “traitor” is irrelevant; see other threads. Washington was a traitor too.

          It is not in the interest of the United States to glorify traitors to the United States; many of those who glorify Lee et al have internalized this principle to some extent; their support for glorifying the Confederate traitors is therefore a question in need of an answer.

          • hlynkacg says:

            No it’s not.

            The current conception of federal supremacy did not exist until the civil war made it so. An answer you don’t like is not the same as not getting an answer.

          • BBA says:

            My view is that morality controls over “national interest” in determining who is to be glorified. I say tear down the statues of Lee not because he was a traitor, but because the cause he fought for was “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

    • Antifa notably had not just murdered someone with a car, unlike the other side. There may be two nasty sides, but one of them seems appreciably less nasty.

      Nobody on the right had recently opened fire on a group of congressmen of the other party at a baseball practice.

      and Lee being famous only for betraying his country to fight for slavery.

      Alternatively for refusing to betray his state. You are taking it for granted that loyalty to the nation trumps loyalty to the state, considerably less obvious then than now. In the 19th century, of federal, state, and local expenditure, federal was the smallest.

      • Well... says:

        It’s not even about it being less obvious then than now, it’s just basic historical fact. Robert E. Lee has many recorded statements about how he felt compelled to fight for Virginia, about how that was his primary loyalty, etc. He knew he would have to defy his commanding officers in order to do so, and he was not a guy who took such things lightly.

      • Montfort says:

        Merely refusing to “betray” his state could be accomplished by resigning his commission in the federal army and living a quiet life at home. But mere days after he resigned his federal commission he took up arms against the United States. He’s famous for the latter, not the former.

        • Incurian says:

          I’m not sure that abandoning the defense of one’s state is very much better than betraying it.

          • Montfort says:

            You can say he’s famous for defending his state, that is an alternate way of framing the issue that is quite popular. But don’t give me this passive baloney, like Abe Lincoln sidled up and offered him thirty silver coins to sell out Virginia and poor old honest Rob just said “no thanks, I’m happy here on my farm.”

            Taking up arms against his friends (to be clear, fighting for the Union would obviously have involved taking up arms against his friends, too) was a positive decision Lee made, whether you celebrate it or find it contemptible or fall somewhere in between.

      • entobat says:

        Nobody on the right had recently opened fire on a group of congressmen of the other party at a baseball practice.

        The questions were about Charlottesville. Do Trump’s statements suggest that this was on his mind?

        I stand by the point that Antifa is appreciably less nasty; there was a good comment thread on one of EY’s recent statuses about leftist vs rightist violence statistics.

        Alternatively for refusing to betray his state. You are taking it for granted that loyalty to the nation trumps loyalty to the state, considerably less obvious then than now. In the 19th century, of federal, state, and local expenditure, federal was the smallest.

        I grant you the point on this one; see my reply to the comment above. What bothers me is the unprincipled glorification of these specific traitors to the US, i.e. our country; it is less important that the thing Robert E. Lee betrayed was the US, than it is that he is a betrayer of your and my country, and is being glorified in your and my country.

        • Zorgon says:

          The questions were about Charlottesville. Do Trump’s statements suggest that this was on his mind?

          I can’t imagine why a Republican politician would have the attempted murder of Republican politicans on his mind. {/snark}

          I stand by the point that Antifa is appreciably less nasty; there was a good comment thread on one of EY’s recent statuses about leftist vs rightist violence statistics.

          I used to hold this opinion too, until someone pointed out that the current definitions of “rightist” violence includes essentially every single vocal right-winger who commits a violent crime, while “leftist” violence pretty much consists of antifa and communists and doesn’t include violent crimes committed by, for example, minority identity-driven groups.

          I should note, however, that I have a strong memory of the opposite problem existing during the Bush administration and immediately afterwards, with “leftist domestic terrorists” begin treated as a huge problem while anti-immigrant militias sprang up everywhere. I suspect it’s more of an artefact of which side just served 8 years in the White House than anything inherent to left or right.

          • entobat says:

            I haven’t been politically involved for long enough to notice that trend, and I appreciate having it pointed out to me. This is something to think about.

            “Leftist” violence pretty much consists of antifa and communists and doesn’t include violent crimes committed by, for example, minority identity-driven groups.

            Is this pointing to the Bureau of Land Management? Is it pointing to anyone except them?

        • tscharf says:

          Touting score keeping while the count is 1 death to 0 deaths may come back to haunt you in this environment.

          (why is 1 death singular and 0 deaths plural?)

          • carvenvisage says:

            maybe?:

            quantities are plural by default, 1 is an exception because it is singular and functions as an article (‘a’, ‘the’). 0 is less than singular but doesn’t point to a specific instance, so remains a quantity rather than an article

      • Brad says:

        Alternatively for refusing to betray his state. You are taking it for granted that loyalty to the nation trumps loyalty to the state, considerably less obvious then than now. In the 19th century, of federal, state, and local expenditure, federal was the smallest.

        Yes, but aren’t living in the 19th century. It’s bizarre to be more patriotic than thou and simultaneously celebrate the memory of a traitor to the country for which you are an ultra-patriot.

        If the people celebrating Lee were revanchists that to this day considered themselves Virginians first and foremost, then it would make much more sense.

        It’s like being a royalist and having a bust of Michael Collins in your house.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s bizarre to be more patriotic than thou and simultaneously celebrate the memory of a traitor to the country for which you are an ultra-patriot.

          What about celebrating the memory of an honorable and capable general of a different country than that which one is allegedly an ultra-patriot of?

          Are we allowed to honor the memory of Native American leaders whose tribes were subsequently conquered and incorporated into the United States of America, or are they also retroactively defined as traitors? Are the British allowed to honor the memory of Scottish leaders who resisted British rule before the UK was U, or while the U was personal and of debatable legitimacy?

          • Brad says:

            Where is the implication of retroactivity coming from? Lee wasn’t a loyalist who opposed the American Revolution. Lee was a military officer of the then long existing United States before he took up arms against it.

    • Clegg says:

      But I don’t think tying Trump and white nationalists uncomfortably close together is intellectually dishonest, in the sense that the conclusion is false, and I’m interested in doing so because I want his approval rating to decrease further.

      Most of the journalists at the infrastructure press conference seemed to share your objective, and Trump played along. Presumably he figured that people who didn’t believe his disavowals of white nationalism wouldn’t be persuaded by more robust disavowals, while his supporters like that he doesn’t let the media push him around (or whatever).

    • Chalid says:

      As for “I’m waiting for more information”, I commend him on his newfound intellectual restraint and am sure we’ll be seeing more of it in the future.

      This. If there’s one thing Trump is really good at and which he loves doing, it’s condemning things. When he refuses to do that, it gives us information.

      In contrast, look at Scott’s example of Obama not condemning terrorism forcefully enough for the right. Obama generally projected a calm, even-tempered persona; his barbs at his political opponents were really mild by the standards of American politics and tended to look like sarcasm or mockery or sorrow, not rage. Condemning terrorism in a way that would have satisfied the Michelle Malkins of the world would have been really out of character for him.

      Trump, on the other hand, is constantly calling things he dislikes “awful,” “worst ever,” etc. Then when literal swastika-waving Nazis crawl out of the woodwork he suddenly is all about waiting for enough information and looking at all sides. Why did he pick now to start showing restraint? It’s hard to think of a reason that reflects well on him.

      • Well... says:

        Why did he pick now to start showing restraint?

        My charitable reading of this was that he wants to distinguish himself from Obama who, while calm and even-tempered in many ways, was sometimes quick to jump into the fray and condemn parties in racially-charged news stories, sometimes before we really knew who was at fault or what all the details were.

        So, if Obama can be restrained in general but in certain instances be unrestrained–say, when commenting on the recent shooting of some unarmed black person–then Trump can be unrestrained in general but in certain instances be restrained. In both cases you could make a cynical reading and say it’s about playing to some political base (this is the reading I find most plausible), or else say it suggests where the president’s true loyalties lie.

        • entobat says:

          This seems way too charitable, and in particular doesn’t jive with how he acts about Islamic terrorism.

          • Well... says:

            When I wrote “racially charged” that was too generic. See my cynical reading: Obama wanted to position himself a certain way with regard to some racially charged news stories, and Trump wants to position himself a certain way with regard to other racially charged news stories. They both have different groups they’re positioning themselves for.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Trump, on the other hand, is constantly calling things he dislikes “awful,” “worst ever,” etc. Then when literal swastika-waving Nazis crawl out of the woodwork he suddenly is all about waiting for enough information and looking at all sides. Why did he pick now to start showing restraint? It’s hard to think of a reason that reflects well on him.

        http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Donald-Trump-Rally-in-San-Jose-Draws-Protesters-381728251.html

        • Chalid says:

          You’re going to have to be more explicit about whatever point it is you’re trying to make with that link. A woman had bottles and eggs thrown at her at a rally over a year ago, and some cars were damaged, and Trump called Hillary Clinton “pathetic” and said Mexico would pay for the wall, and what is the relationship of any of that to the quoted text?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Given that Trump has an enormous ego and may be a narcissist (note: I am not a psychiatrist and cannot diagnose mental illness), the fact that HIS rallies were disrupted by people very much like those who disrupted the Unite the Right rally is probably relevant to his reaction.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Given that Trump has an enormous ego and may be a narcissist (note: I am not a psychiatrist and cannot diagnose mental illness), the fact that HIS rallies were disrupted by people very much like those who disrupted the Unite the Right rally is probably relevant to his reaction.

            I don’t think you even need to refer to Trump’s ego or possible narcissism here: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a very common sentiment, and is held, explicitly or implicitly, by loads of people across the political spectrum.

      • By-Ends says:

        Consider whether the groups that Trump is condemning are American or non-American.

        From the start of his presidential campaign, Trump has gone hard after non-American groups (Mexicans, Islamic terrorists, China, etc). He has had strong words for American individuals. But he has not really condemned groups of Americans.

        This was in contrast to his opponent in the general election, who was willing to condemn a very large group of Americans (see “basket of deplorables”). Or Mitt Romney in 2012 writing off the 47%. I get the feeling that Trump will go after non-American groups, but he has a different standard for Americans.

        All Americans deserve to be represented by their government, even if they don’t hold the approved opinions.

        • rlms says:

          What do you think about felony disenfranchisement?

        • Iain says:

          Is “the media” not an American group?

        • INH5 says:

          From the start of his presidential campaign, Trump has gone hard after non-American groups (Mexicans, Islamic terrorists, China, etc).

          Except for Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Tashfeen Malik, every Islamic terrorist that has killed someone on US soil in the last 5 years has been an American citizen, so calling Islamic terrorists “non-American” is a bit of a stretch, especially in this context.

    • keranih says:

      Lee being famous only for betraying his country to fight for slavery.

      That’s a very…regionalist statement. In other parts of the country, that’s not the general (or complete) understanding.

      But I don’t think tying Trump and white nationalists uncomfortably close together is intellectually dishonest, in the sense that the conclusion is false, and I’m interested in doing so because I want his approval rating to decrease further.

      The reasoning that most quickly leads us to the opinion (or end) that we most want is the reasoning we should most closely examine for errors.

      • entobat says:

        That’s a very…regionalist statement. In other parts of the country, that’s not the general (or complete) understanding.

        Wikipedia says he distinguished himself in the Mexican-American War, was a good Superintendent of the Military Academy, quashed John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, and briefly led Union troops against the Confederacy (before Virginia left). As far as I know he is not famous for any of these; certainly he’s not famous to me, since I had to look them up, though that’s still possibly explained by regionalism. How big a deal are these things? Did I miss any?

        The reasoning that most quickly leads us to the opinion (or end) that we most want is the reasoning we should most closely examine for errors.

        I don’t think I’m on this side of the argument for non-rational reasons. I’m pursuing the argument, as opposed to any of the million other things I could be doing, for non-rational reasons, and I’m open about that.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Absent the Civil War, the number of statues of Lee would be almost infinitely reduced in number.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Re the Lee v. Washington comparison, the full argument isn’t that they’re essentially the same; it’s that the popular bailey of the arguments deployed against Lee – essentially, “He was a slaveowner!!! And arguably not such a great general at that!” – apply with equal force against Washington. Yes, you can make more theoretical distinctions, but does the popular clamor care about them? Or the theoretical Leftist clamor, where voices have been calling for years if not decades to dethrone Washington and all the other Founding Fathers from their perch and indict them for slavery?

      • entobat says:

        Noted. I was only hearing the second half of this exchange.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This is is a weak-man summation of the argument against Lee in comparison to Washington. Honestly, people should be embarrassed to trot it out.

        The South seceded over the issue of slavery and its future provenance. Lee supported that secession.

        Washington did not support a secession primarily intended to ensure the continuation and flourishing of slavery. King George was not an abolitionist.

        • ghi says:

          Tell that to the people calling for the removal of Washington statues.

          Heck, in some universities simply being white is enough for your statue to be tron down.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Theoretically, it’s a weak-man.

          Popularly, it’s the bailey I’ve been hearing outside our small rationalist circles.

        • m.alex.matt says:

          Lee is an interesting character. While he probably wasn’t ‘against’ slavery in the way a lot try to paint him these days, it’s pretty clear that he wasn’t fighting the war for slavery. He was fighting the war for Virginia, damn her reasoning. Lee was a member of a smallish group of men who had the explicit choice near the end of war between slavery and independence and he chose independence. The Confederacy was organizing black regiments in Richmond when the Army of the Potomac marched into the city because Lee had asked Davis to do it.

          Lee gets the admiration he does because of this kind of character trait. A self-sacrificing patriotism that we tend to admire no matter what country the patriot is so in love with. That he was otherwise an American who fought out of patriotism for his state in a time when loyalty-to-state competed well with loyalty-to-nation makes that admiration even stronger. Combine that with a man who anyone with any familiarity can recognize as extremely admirable and it becomes obvious why people…admire him. Even people who are otherwise extreme American patriots.

          That’s why I feel a bit miffed that this whole dust-up is happening surrounding Lee. He was a slaveowner and he wasn’t rushing to free his own slaves or advocate for abolition, but couldn’t this whole mess be about Forrest (literally KKK member after the war) or someone else a little less personally dazzling?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Oh, it’s vaguely possible that Lee’s image could have been saved, if those who were interested in keeping the monuments up had been pro-active about it. But of course the monuments were never about remembering how tragic it was that the South decided to fight a war to keep and defend the practice of slavery. Trying to repurpose some of these monuments as such might have held water at some point, but you can’t do that by continuing to insist that they were never intended to convey any message about the enduring glory of the Anglo-Saxon race.

            There is an old saying “lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas”.

          • m.alex.matt says:

            I’ll be honest, I don’t care deeply about the statues as statues. If the locals want to take them down, people who aren’t from there, using that public space should keep their noses out of it.

            But this is how the popular narrative is written. It bothers me when the popular narrative is wrong about things and slanders people who don’t deserve it.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I agree that Lee is a complicated character, and had admirable character traits. But you can’t call Lee a patriot, he raised the rebel flag after all. That’s not how patriotism works. Maybe he was a Virginia patriot, but that’s not how we use that word today.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But you can’t call Lee a patriot, he raised the rebel flag after all. That’s not how patriotism works.

            Few people seem to have such difficulty calling George Washington a patriot — or, for that matter, calling Benedict Arnold a traitor for fighting against the American rebels.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            That’s true. Washington was a patriot to the US, and a traitor to the British Empire. It would, therefore, be weird if modern day Brits considered Washington a patriot.

            Same with Lee. We live in the US, not the Confederacy. So Lee is a traitor.

            Unless, of course, your loyalties do not lie with the US. Which would be very helpful to know, if so.

          • Washington was a patriot to the US, and a traitor to the British Empire.

            Englishman: British history is a history of military success.

            American: What about the American Revolution?

            Englishman: A fine example. Heroic British colonists defeating a Hanoverian king and his Hessian mercenaries.

          • but couldn’t this whole mess be about Forrest (literally KKK member after the war) or someone else a little less personally dazzling?

            Scott had a post some time back explaining why it wouldn’t happen that way. If you want your campaign to get attention, you need people on the other side fighting you. So it makes sense to attack the most defensible target instead of the least.

          • m.alex.matt says:

            Ilya, did you know there’s a statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square?

          • m.alex.matt says:

            David: Yeah, I read that post. The reasoning makes sense and, while I have some doubts about how deeply considered the whole circus surrounding this statue was, I’m really more just expressing frustration at a topic of deep care and some expertise on my part (American history in general, rather than Bobby Lee in particular) being twisted and contorted for political theater. Popular American understanding of our own history is so wildly offbase in many instances its a bit sad seeing another bad set of memes germinate.

            And, can I say, it’s a bit thrilling to be having a conversation with you, I don’t think I’ve ever interacted directly with someone who is only as degree of separation from speaking with Presidents and Senators. I sometimes wonder if Scott appreciates how lucky he is to have you as a regular commentator on his blog.

    • John Schilling says:

      Trump seems very lite on solid opinions for things most people view as being important to politics: NAFTA (is it bad / are we leaving?), NATO, probably some other abbreviations starting with N too. My guess is he does not have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

      Only the pundit class gives a damn about NATO or the Palestinian conflict, and the only reason NAFTA rises above that level is that it codes so well for pro/anti-immigrant. But then, the reason Donald Trump is President of the United States and so many pundits are still in denial is that Trump has the superior understanding of what most people view as being important to politics. So, try again.

      • . says:

        Anecdotally this seems wrong. I lived for 6 years in flyover country and I know people there who don’t read the newspaper and are primarily concerned with their jobs, friends and families. Many of them care about NAFTA and the Palestinian conflict, and these (especially NAFTA) appeared to factor into their voting decisions.

        Of course flyover country is a big place, and I was somewhere near manufacturing and Jews, so maybe these issues were especially relevant there. And I only hang out with people who I enjoy talking to, which is a powerful filter.

        • sflicht says:

          Yeah color me skeptical. I don’t buy that any substantial portion of voters know what NAFTA is, much less care about it.

          • . says:

            Revised claim: maybe, but that is probably the case for any particular political datum. I don’t think that NAFTA is any more obscure than H1B visas, or pizzagate, or the Carrier air conditioner factory, or Trump’s Atlantic city shenanigans, or Clinton’s future-trading shenanigans, or the the warm huskiness of Trump’s voice, or the steely glint in Sanders’s eye.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I highly doubt that NAFTA is an unknown quantity among most Americans. It was a major campaign issue in the 90s and was brought up multiple times in the last election. They may not have a full grasp of what NAFTA is, but they probably know that it at least has trade provisions with Mexico.

            Plus, as you can see here, NAFTA is now a tribal issue, so both sides will know what it is, even if they don’t know any of the specifics about it:
            http://www.gallup.com/poll/204269/americans-split-whether-nafta-good-bad.aspx

    • ghi says:

      The Lee vs Washington comparison is something I doesn’t think holds merit, due to Washington being famous for some good things (founding America, being the first President well enough for there to be a second) and Lee being famous only for betraying his country to fight for slavery.

      Tell that to all the leftists calling for Washington and Jefferson statues to go as well.

      • Deiseach says:

        Lee being famous only for betraying his country to fight for slavery

        How about “Lee not leading an insurgency post-war, as some Southerners seem to have hoped, and instead working for some kind of reconciliation in however limited a fashion”? At least, that seems to be the view of some people in this story about “a parish is named in Lee’s honor, on the edge of the campus of Washington and Lee University.”

  37. Eponymous says:

    A better question might be whether more people agree with your “crying wolf” post now that our country is going crazy and gnawing ferociously at its first amendment leg to get off the speck of white nationalism.

    • HFARationalist says:

      Why is White Nationalism a problem at all if it does not include White Dominionism (in the sense of John Derbyshire)? Japan, Poland, Russia, Israel and China have LOTS of nationalism but few people actually believe that this is actually a problem.

      Nazism was a real problem not because it contains German Nationalism but instead because:
      1.It was violent.
      2.It contains German Dominionism.
      3.It contains eliminationism.

      Unless WN contains any of the things above it is not a problem.

      • 1soru1 says:

        Because there are black and hispanic people in the USA.

        One King can rule a country, but two Kings of the same country is a recipe for a civil war. The same applies to forms of nationalism.

        • HFARationalist says:

          There are also non-Poles in Poland and non-Japanese in Japan. Yet there are no potential civil wars.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Not anymore, after the 1945 ethnic cleansing of Eastern Europe reduced the minorities to more manageable numbers. Plus, being oppressed by Communists and then going full speed ahead to join the cosmopolitan European Union probably helped matters too.

          • alawisunjust says:

            There’s a difference of degree, though. Japan has 1.5% non-Japanese people, but the US has 13% black people.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Evan and alawisunjust I agree.

            So what are we supposed to do? Can we reliably help black Americans improve and let them feel that they are not left behind?

            Many people would stop their anti-black attitudes if the black crime rate can be lowered to the white one and black neighborhoods can become generally safe and interesting just like Chinatowns. Can we give this a try? We are rationalists so let’s think about methods that do work, not methods that sound great but don’t work.

            I mean we will certainly de facto shut down the most rabid anti-black hate sites such as Chimpmania, nwordmania, etc if these can happen. These sites are in fact multiracial with Jews, whites in mixed marriages with non-blacks and a significant amount of Northeast and South Asians but are also much more hateful than real white supremacist and white nationalist websites. They literally cheer when a black person dies. So the problem is not just about white racists.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @HFARationalist, I agree you’ve picked the right goal. I’d recommend looking more at the examples of past American immigration and integration; I’m reading a book right now – William Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice – that has a very interesting argument on that score. Basically, he talks about how police and court procedure are now imposed upon communities from outside (with the best of intentions), while before c. 1950 they were organically grown from within. I’m not sure what I think of the argument yet, but it’s very interesting.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Evan The problem is really just about blacks. In the worst case Hispanics can always flee to Latin America instead of getting caught in a concentration camp. Furthermore Hispanics don’t attack whites for being white and work more than blacks.

            Blacks have nowhere to go, not even Africa. In black Africa there are many ethnic groups. They probably won’t just allow tribeless black Americans to settle there en masse and become a new ethnic group that breaks the tribal balance. Most blacks aren’t criminals, nor do they kill whites simply for being white. However there are indeed blacks who attack whites for being white and blacks who call for such attacks. If the two-way race riot Thomas Sowell worried about ever happens it will be a one-sided massacre. The election of President Trump actually made this scenario less likely, not more likely.

            Affirmative action has been tried and it does not work. What works?

            First of all I think to solve a problem we have to be able to face facts. That includes whether H.BD is correct and whether reducing single motherhood rate can reliably reduce the amount of crime in black neighborhoods. Facts can’t be racist or sexist. On the other hand acknowledging facts is necessary before we can work with them. We can’t fix problems if we aren’t allowed to find out what they are and what exactly caused them. This procedure can be uncomfortable just like an operation. However the patient will feel better in the long run because the operation is done so it’s worth it.

          • ashlael says:

            “Blacks have nowhere to go”.

            Liberia is a country expressly formed for this exact purpose. I mean, it’s pretty much a disaster of a country, but still. Not every ethno-nationalist project can be Israel.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I agree that facing facts would be a huge help. It’s possible to stumble into an answer without that, but much less likely.

            My own supposition is that the three most important fixes would be reducing single motherhood, increasing employment at legal work (which includes both making jobs more accessible and getting more people to want them), and increasing trust in institutions.

            Unfortunately, the only way I can think of to do it in less than another century is for God to come down and change people’s hearts. As other commenters have said here about other societal trends, we’re in a high-entropy state. Trust in institutions and good habits are much easier to destroy than to build.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @ashlael Liberia does not work any more. After the civil wars natives probably don’t want even more Amero-Liberians.

          • . says:

            There are things that can be done to increase trust in institutions:
            1) Body cameras on police
            2) Investigations of police to be handled by the next town or state over
            3) Increased police deployment to Black areas
            Only number 3 is particularly expensive, and all can be accomplished on the county level.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @. Then it needs to get started. Start from Washington, DC and Chicago.

            Will President Trump send the Feds to fix Chicago?

          • . says:

            Luckily there is a grassroots movement devoted to these goals. Unfortunately a terrorist terroristed on their behalf and they said some mean things on Twitter, so now everyone hates them.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @. Who are these people?

          • . says:

            BLM. Especially Campaign Zero which is some sort of intellectual vanguard for the movement.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @. The key weakness of BLM including Campaign Zero is that they tend to focus on the wrong problems.

            What they should do instead of asking for reparations etc (these don’t work. In fact reparations won’t help them more than winning a lottery ticket will) is to try to understand what’s wrong with their community itself and fix it.

            The universe is a cruel place. I’m not sure whether black leaders have ever realized this fact or not. Asking for mercy or compassion does not work in the long run. Making oneself more competent does. In order to succeed in this cruel universe you have to do it in spite of racism instead of asking for racism to be removed. That’s the path taken by Jews, Poles, the Irish and Northeast Asians and it actually works.

          • HFARationalist says:

            By the way, I hate to say it but the only people who can save black Americans are themselves. We can help them but only up to a point. They will have to go through all the ups and downs by themselves. I agree that America is a bit racist. However the rest of the world is considerably more racist than America. If you can not survive some racism then you can not survive on this planet. If you can not thrive when some racism exists then you can not thrive on this planet. It’s much easier to make oneself more racism-proof (think of it as something similar to being drought-proof) than making the entire society less racist. As Nietzsche said, anything that does not kill you, yes that includes racism, makes you stronger.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @HFA:

            We can help them but only up to a point.

            I highly reccommend that you, especially, don’t start dividing things this way. Your autistic head would be on the proverbial chopping block quite a bit faster than you would like.

            My point being, if you start wanting to divide things into us and them, don’t be surprised when you are all of a sudden on the outside,as one of them.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @HeelBearCub I do not have any ill will towards blacks in general and black Americans in particular. If they will one day no longer be overrepresented in crime and underrepresented in STEM my life will also become more secure. On the other hand if open race war happens everyone will suffer including me.

            We are all on the same team.

            Hell what if Detroit suddenly becomes a prosperous city while it remains black it will be good for its black, white and other inhabitants, it will be better for Pistons fans, it will be better for me because I will be able to visit Detroit, it will be better for America both economically and socially. And…it can shut certain rabid racist websites such as chimpmania down and make others such as Stormfront unpopular.

            That will be a win-win scenario.

            Since the goal is pretty clear (and it is not to make ghettos even worse or start a race war) we need to think about how it can be achieved and what shall we do towards the goal. Liberals tried affirmative action plus curbing racism. That already failed. So let’s try something else.

            If the socioeconomic problems related to blacks can finally be over America will achieve true racial harmony. That will indeed be wonderful. 🙂

          • . says:

            @HFA: I’m not an expert on Black politics but I think this understanding of their aims and rhetoric is mostly wrong. As far as I can tell demanding reparations is atypical. Certainly BLM is not about reparations, but about the conduct of law enforcement.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @. Unfortunately that won’t work either. The main reason is that a community should not prioritize protection of its members who are more likely to commit crimes than others. Start from those who aren’t in trouble with the law or the community will look bad and encourages even more racism. Why not start from encouraging black-owned businesses and help black students study? There is no shortage of people who are willing to tutor them to earn some bucks. Why not accept donations and use them to pay tutors to help black students? Instead of lowering standards why not help them meet the standards? 🙂

            By the way the reason why reparation doesn’t work is that the ability to earn and keep money is more important than money itself. I’m sure those who artificially persecuted Jews or other market dominant minorities, stole their properties and then ended up losing their spoils due to mismanagement know this fact. If we can help black Americans manage their money better there will be no need for any reparations.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @HFA:
            You still are very confused about my point. By excluding people who are black from your idea of “we”, you are making a mistake.

            You encourage me to exclude you from “we”.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @HeelBearCub I see. 🙂 Exclusion isn’t my idea.

          • The Element of Surprise says:

            @HFARationalist

            Asking for mercy or compassion does not work in the long run.

            But it does: The reason BLM has such wide support, at least in liberal circles, is empathy for the injustice that black people in America have to suffer.

            Liberals tried affirmative action plus curbing racism. That already failed.

            Did it, though? According to NYT, black happiness saw “one of the most dramatic gains in the happiness data that you’ll see” (also Scott: “Things Probably Matter). Just because we (all races) are not at the goal yet doesn’t mean we haven’t come far.

            Anything that does not kill you, yes that includes racism, makes you stronger

            Maybe some of the Left’s obsession with “microaggressions” has trivialized this a bit, but racism can very much fall into the category of things that “kill you”, or at least make your life significantly worse. It is not about being virtuous in the face of adversity, but simple utilitarian calculus–if “being racist” brings less utility to whites than “being victimized by racism” takes utility from blacks, the level of racism should be lowered, whether that helps decreasing the racial gap in other respects or not. In some communities with already low racism it is possible that the policing against perceived racism is doing more damage than the racism thus avoided does good, but I expect this not to be the general case.

            we have to be able to face facts.

            It is very much possible that these facts will prevent us from ever achieving true equality, and it is hard to know how far along the path of diminishing returns we’ve come.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @The Element of Surprise
            I didn’t saying that racism is harmless. Instead I said that the ability to survive despite malice is necessary for a group.

            For example antisemites murdered many Jews but they can never break their will to succeed again. Hence Jews always managed to rebuild everything evil mobs destroyed.

            Poles, the Irish and Northeast Asians were persecuted as well. The persecution was actually sometimes lethal. However they used the strategy Jews use and it turns out to be a good idea.

            I’m not suggesting that compassion is harmful. However one needs to be prepared for a scenario with no compassion at all but instead only malice. Black American leaders are putting too many of their eggs in the basket of liberal compassion and I disagree with this strategy.

            If affirmative action actually works we should let it continue in some way.

            I disagree that facts about racial differences will prevent us from achieving true equality. On the other hand it will make true equality achievable by identifying the exact bugs to fix through transhumanism or medicine.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @. The policing problem can be solved by making all the police officers in predominantly black areas black so that racism won’t be an issue. The unsafe areas that happen to be predominantly black need more (non-racist) policing, not less.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @HFARationalist:
            Yes, this is why the Vichy government was fully committed to resisting the Nazis.

            You don’t understand how non-autistic humans work.

          • Aapje says:

            @HFARationalist

            That is a major BLM demand and it’s actually already true that relatively many police officers in black neighborhoods are black. It’s also true that black police officers are more likely to shoot black citizens.

            The idea that black policing black solves the policing issues seems like a pipe dream.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Aapje I agree with them on that demand. The main point of making police officers in predominantly black communities black serve two purposes:
            1.It generally eliminates racism in policing.
            2.It makes it harder to reasonably blame police-related incidents unrelated to racism on racism.

            By black police officers I mean police officers in predominantly black communities should be black, especially the police chief. We should even allow the communities to turn a blind eye to minor crimes they don’t care about that much and first focus on violence if necessary. We may also arm black civilians with no criminal background so that they can defend themselves if attacked by criminals.

            Let the black community police itself and take pride in making itself safe and prosper. 🙂

          • bbartlog says:

            One thing that would be interesting would be to examine the data on police force racial composition and seen whether having a police force that does not mirror the composition of the community actually leads to worse effects. Some data on the topic has been collected for other purposes (analyzing the impact of residency requirements), here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/reexamining-residency-requirements-for-police-officers/

          • HFARationalist says:

            @bbartlog Sure. However I still consider black self-policing a good idea. It reduces the amount of racism and prevents attempts to claim that legitimate policing is actually racist persecution of blacks. If it actually make black communities safer it will be black police officers who take the credit which can shut racists up.

            It is bad for real racist police officers, it is bad for thugs who happen to be black, it is bad for Stormfront and chimpmania and it is good for all of us, black and non-black alike.

            As I said before if black underachievement can be corrected true racial harmony will follow.

  38. I am curious what SSC commenters think about capital punishment. I have mixed feelings myself, but I am surprised at the strong anti-capital punishment beliefs of some people. It seems to be the consensus in Europe that it is a barbaric practice of the past, which mystifies me. I sometimes give money to Amnesty International, but I sometimes hold back because of their strong belief that capital punishment is somehow equal to torture.

    I find the moral arguments completely unconvincing. Some say that people don’t have the right to take the life of another person. But we take away the freedom of other people all the time — I don’t see the difference. Society has to make judgments about individuals as criminals, to provide any deterrence at all. In my opinion, people who have committed mass murder have given up their right to life. I certainly don’t think the Norwegian murderer who killed so many no longer has the right to life. I hate the thought that he may go free some day.

    There are some practical arguments against capital punishment that are more convincing.
    1) They say that capital punishment has no deterrence value. In my opinion, the only rational reasons for punishing people (prison or death) are for deterrence or just to keep them off the streets, so this is an important issue in my mind. But even though the article claims almost unanimity amongst criminologists, I’d like to see studies, or at least the reasons they believe this.

    2) The Innocence Project has used DNA evidence to prove that a large number of those in death row are actually innocent. It does make me nervous about executing innocent people, but it makes me even more nervous about the state of criminal justice overall. Maybe there are hundreds of thousands we’ve put in jail for decades that are innocent. It isn’t really an argument against the death penalty.

    3) I have also heard that it costs more to execute someone than to put them in jail for life. But again, this sounds more like an indictment of our criminal justice system than of the death penalty. We should spend just as much to verify that those we put in jail for life are guilty as we do for those on death row.

    • Well... says:

      Mixed feelings also.

      Argument against capital punishment I agree with most: carries a huge risk if the State, with the sanction of The People, kills an innocent person by accident (or more accurately, very deliberately by accident). I do think this is very different from accidentally incarcerating an innocent person even for life.

      Argument for capital punishment I agree with most: humans in societies might have an evolved psychological need to know that the worst transgressors are being killed–especially as opposed to kept alive, housed, and clothed and fed at public expense. (In fact this argument seems to suggest executions in public spaces would be even better. Related: I’ve heard intelligent arguments that if we’re going to have capital punishment then we ought to be executing people by firing squad or some kind of blunt force trauma if we want the combination of humane and visible/definitive death. I saw one guy on Quora–yeah yeah, I know–say we should do nitrogen gas asphyxiation if we wanted to maximize humaneness.)

      • Jiro says:

        The argument that it’s really terrible if the state kills an innocent person by accident also applies to the state sentencing someone to life by accident.

        (The usual non-rationalist reply to that is that there’s some chance of discovering that the person with the life sentence is innocent, but that argument only works if either the chance of discovering innocence is 100%, or you accept some losses of innocent people who get life sentences and are not discovered. And if you accept some losses, you ought to accept some for execution as well.)

        • Well... says:

          As I said in my comment (but it was an edit so maybe you had already typed your reply) I think killing an innocent person is fundamentally different from incarcerating them, even for life.

        • Montfort says:

          Yes, but I (and perhaps many people) would rather be imprisoned for life than killed. Similarly, just because you accept some rate of uncorrected false convictions doesn’t mean you should accept a higher rate of uncorrected false convictions.

          The argument is that imprisonment produces less of those bad effects, not none of them.

          • On the other hand, if you believe that capital punishment provides more deterrence than life in prison–as best I can tell, it’s still unclear whether it does–then you are trading (say) two executions for three life sentences.

      • Loquat says:

        I’ve heard nitrogen asphyxiation mentioned as a humane option as well – in fact, I vaguely recall seeing a discussion on SSC one time about how dangerous it can be to work at a job that for technical reasons has to keep something in a chamber full of inert gas because if you have to go in there yourself you won’t notice you’re low on oxygen until you pass out, at which point you’d better hope your co-workers were keeping an eye on you and can help.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          I have been working in that sort of environment (as a scientist) for several years now. Normally, the hazard is large quantities of liquid nitrogen used either for storing biological samples at very low temperatures, for “cold traps” in vacuum lines to keep solvent vapours out of the vacuum pump, or for cooling NMR magnets (the superconducting magnet itself is cooled by liquid helium , but there is a jacket of much cheaper liquid nitrogen around that so the helium boils off more slowly), but cylinders of nitrogen or argon for inert atmospheres for chemical reactions are common.

          Any room where large quantities of inert gases are used has an oxygen depletion alarm- when it goes off, you get out (and open all the doors to ventilate the area).

    • Sam Reuben says:

      You’ve completely skirted around the most important difference between the death penalty and any other form of punishment: there’s really nothing you can do to take it back once it’s been delivered. With every other punishment imaginable, there’s at least something that can be done to compensate for the punishment (even if it often fails to really make up for it). There’s nothing you can do for someone who’s dead. They will stay dead, now and forever, and that fact is incontrovertible. That’s a really big deal. (Notably, the other “barbaric” punishments are things like mutilation, which are also very difficult to reverse. This is not a coincidence.)

      As for my own stance on the death penalty, I believe it to be improper in a modernized society that can afford to keep people in prison, mostly because it legitimizes on the largest scale the idea that there are things that people can do that they ought to die for. Once that’s been acknowledged, a murderer isn’t categorically wrong for killing someone, but simply wrong on the details. I would prefer for the sake of law and order that killing be firmly beyond the pale as a reasoned penalty. In societies where you can’t effectively imprison someone for life, then I’m all for the death penalty or exile, as one or the other may fit the circumstances. America is not one of those.

      I’m not sure I fully understand your concept of the “right to live,” by the way. Do we have a right to live? Is it something we exercise, or not, as we choose, like speech or association? It seems to me that it’s more of just a state of being, rather than a right. People are living, or they aren’t living. They aren’t granted the right and then have it revoked under certain conditions. They won’t live forever so long as the right-to-live amendment is in the Constitution. It seems like a mistaken classification to try and call it a “right.” Something that does seem reasonable as a right is the ability to move freely about the country and determine one’s fate more-or-less as one wishes, and it seems quite severe enough to permanently revoke that. At the very least, a spot in a supermax prison ensures there will be no repeat offenses. Could you clarify what other reasons you have for considering the death penalty to be a useful answer to some crimes? At the moment, I have only the abstract concept of the “right to live” and an emotional response to the Norwegian mass-murderer to go off of.

      • You’ve completely skirted around the most important difference between the death penalty and any other form of punishment: there’s really nothing you can do to take it back once it’s been delivered.

        That would be an important difference if, when someone was falsely convicted, there was a substantial chance that the error would be discovered. Unfortunately I don’t think there is. When it happens it makes the news–which suggests how rare it is, given how many people are convicted each year of serious crimes.

        • Sam Reuben says:

          It still stands as a difference in kind. I won’t argue that overturning convictions is anything but rare, but killing someone gets to a much higher level of can’t-take-it-back. It’s similar to why we shouldn’t surgically castrate sex criminals (leaving chemical castration to the side).

          I’d also be willing to lean a little on the emotional response to killing as supporting evidence. Humans already do treat killing people as a serious line that’s crossed. That’s not purely random, nor part of a cost-benefit equation, and I think it’s right to treat it as having some different character to other kinds of harm. I wouldn’t put it as the ultimate harm, but when we’re talking about societal consequences, I’d certainly like to see it off the table. I wouldn’t mind admitting that part of this is emotional reaction: I’d be much happier when watching the responses to high-profile cases if we had the bloodthirsty mob baying for the suspect to be thrown in prison rather than taken to the gallows. It’s so brutal and primitive.

      • Jiro says:

        You’ve completely skirted around the most important difference between the death penalty and any other form of punishment: there’s really nothing you can do to take it back once it’s been delivered.

        This seems like a pointless distinction. Even if you just put them in jail for life, you can only take back the punishments of the innocents whom you can detect. And you can’t detect all of them.

        In other words, there are life sentences that you can’t take back either.

        In order to distinguish life sentences from execution here, you need to use an artificial definition of “can’t take back” where being able to take back some members of a set exempts the other members of the set.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          Jiro,

          Under either system, some small, but non-zero proportion of persons thought to be guilty will subsequently be shown to be innocent, while the rest will not.

          Under capital punishment, these people are shit out of luck.

          Without capital punishment they will be freed and potentially compensated (at a cost to the state, but establishing improved incentives to avoid doing it again).

          Option (b) is much better for the small number of persons found to be innocent, and this particular distinction is irrelevant to everyone else. That’s a pretty clear Pareto gain, and I can’t really see what you’re getting at with the objection that many people will not benefit.

          • Option (b) is much better for the small number of persons found to be innocent, and this particular distinction is irrelevant to everyone else. That’s a pretty clear Pareto gain

            It’s not a Pareto gain, for two reasons:

            1. Keeping someone in prison for life costs a lot of money, which someone has to pay. In a system that treats capital punishment as a normal alternative, it’s a lot cheaper.

            2. It’s at least arguable that capital punishment provides more deterrence, in which case you don’t have to convict as many people if the punishment is capital. If a conviction provides more deterrence, you can raise your standard of proof, convict fewer people, and so convict fewer innocent people due to both the smaller number and the higher standard.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Also, if you imprison innocent people, this means the guilty person is both unpunished and free to continue committing more crimes.

            I’m not sure why this isn’t highly salient to the many people who just want the person who has been identified as guilty to be punished.

            Hypothesis: when someone has been identified as guilty, it’s easy to imagine them committing the crime, so it’s natural and satisfying to want that person punished. It’s harder to imagine some unknown person committing more crimes or getting punished.

            There may also be a matter of loss aversion– if you let someone who you want to punish go, you lose that particular imagined punishment.

            Another piece of loss aversion might be loss of status by admitting that one’s representatives have made a mistake.

          • Jiro says:

            Under capital punishment, these people are shit out of luck.

            “Every person has some chance when we’re using life sentences” expresses our lack of knowledge as a probability. It is, in fact, equivalent to “every person has a 100% or 0% chance, and a certain percentage of people are in each set, but we don’t know who they are.” The fact that you choose to characterize it in one way and not the other is only a matter of framing.

    • Montfort says:

      The idea with number 2 is that, while putting someone in jail for forty+ years isn’t really reversible, it’s more reversible than killing them. It points out a cost of capital punishment – innocent men are killed, which is probably worse than imprisoning them falsely, and shortens the window for correcting such decisions considerably. This extra cost will exist as long as there are any false convictions for capital offenses. You may not consider that cost large, or you may think the benefits of capital punishment outweigh that cost, but it is an argument against capital punishment.

      I suspect the kind of people who argue against capital punishment would mostly agree with you that the criminal justice system needs other, farther-reaching reforms, but as far as I can tell such reforms are incredibly risky, politically speaking (“soft on crime”). Banning capital punishment seems like a potentially achievable way to reduce the harm of some defects in the system until said defects can be improved upon, so I can see why people who don’t think capital punishment has many benefits would pursue it.

      • Jiro says:

        You may not consider that cost large, or you may think the benefits of capital punishment outweigh that cost, but it is an argument against capital punishment.

        I very, very, seldom see opponents of capital punishment say “there’s an acceptable amount of life-destroying error, but life sentences are under that level and capital punishment is over”. It’s always some absolute.

        • Montfort says:

          If you want zero, less is still better than more.

          • pontifex says:

            We’re committing “life destroying errors” all over the place, though. Inmates kill each other in prisons. Gangs get out of control and kill each other (and innocents) in shootouts. People get depressed in prison and kill themselves. And so on.

            The death penalty is only even considered for (roughly) a triple digit number of people per year in the US anyway. And not many of those people ever actually receive it. So it seems like a weird cause to be passionate about, just from that point of view.

          • Montfort says:

            Yes, but people are generally against all those things, too, that’s why they’re illegal. If you have a great idea about how to reduce murder or suicide, people will be very pleased, and happy to implement it (as long as the side effects aren’t terrible). In the meantime, death penalty opponents know how to stop the death penalty from killing innocent people – get the state they live in to stop executing people.

            The other major difference between capital punishment and the examples you give is that capital punishment is done under color of law, in the name of the people. People want their government to be just, and in a democracy are responsible (to a degree) for keeping it just.

          • Jiro says:

            In the meantime, death penalty opponents know how to stop the death penalty from killing innocent people – get the state they live in to stop executing people.

            And we know how to prevent people from having gang shootouts or killing themselves in prisons: Get the state they live in to stop imprisoning people.

            I think this is an isolated demand for rigor, unless you actually think that that’s a legitimate objection to prisons.

          • Montfort says:

            Not imprisoning anyone would not, as far as I can predict, reduce gang shootouts. But not imprisoning anyone would certainly reduce the amount of harm from false imprisonment.

            The reason most capital punishment opponents do not argue for that is, as I suspect you may have guessed, they believe imprisonment has some benefits that outweigh those costs. The permanence/irreversibility of execution is one cost of capital punishment, but if they thought it had benefits that outweighed that cost (and the others) they would not oppose it.

            This is not the One True Argument against which no factors can be weighed, it is simply one argument against capital punishment which may be overshadowed by more important and pressing downsides of capital punishment, or overturned by more important and pressing upsides of capital punishment.

          • Jiro says:

            if they thought it had benefits that outweighed that cost (and the others) they would not oppose it.

            I don’t believe this for one moment for most death penalty opponents. Arguments against the death penalty tend to be nearly entirely absolutist arguments against which nothing can be weighed.

          • Montfort says:

            If someone really believed you couldn’t execute someone even if it, e.g. eliminated all crime forever, then I’m guessing you’re dealing with a non-utilitarian. Which can be frustrating, but I can’t make their arguments for them. Maybe it’s something about the sanctity of life.

          • Jiro says:

            Pretty much any argument can be considered utilitarian in the sense that “it should be our highest priority to X” can be equated to “X should be assigned the highest utility”.

          • Montfort says:

            Perhaps. If you prefer, you can append “or utilitarians with extremely unusual ideas about how to calculate utility,” and the rest of my post will still apply.

    • But even though the article claims almost unanimity amongst criminologists, I’d like to see studies, or at least the reasons they believe this.

      As best I can tell, the deterrence effect of capital punishment really is an open question, with the supposed unanimity reflecting politics not statistics. The first serious statistical test, by Isaac Ehrlich, found a strong deterrent effect. That set off both a whole lot of politically motivated criticism and serious statistical criticism, and I don’t think anyone ended up with a result strong enough to convince those who didn’t want to believe it, in either direction. For reasons people here are probably familiar with, doing statistics correctly when you can’t do controlled experiments is hard, biasing the results to what you want to find pretty easy.

      As some evidence of what is going in in the criminology community on the subject, the following anecdote may be relevant.

      Back when I was a faculty fellow at the University of Chicago law school, I got into a conversation with a colleague who was strongly against the death penalty, mentioned the Ehrlich piece. His response was to claim that research showed that deterrence didn’t work and that Ehrlich had refused to share his data, making it impossible for other people to check his results. He offered to lend me a volume on the subject edited by people he knew.

      I read it. The only thing in it against deterrence (in general–the book wasn’t all on the death penalty) was the introduction, which offered reasons why the evidence for deterrence might be misleading but offered no evidence in support of any of them. Various articles found evidence that criminal punishment did indeed deter. One of the articles was by someone who had been given Ehrlich’s data by Ehrlich and had duplicated his results.

      I told my colleague that. He conceded that he had not actually read the book he lent me. My conclusion was that he had been persuaded to believe what he wanted to believe by a very one sided professional culture that he was part of, believed what his friends told him without any serious attempt to check it.

      I should add that the colleague was both prominent and, in my view, an unusually reasonable person.

    • One argument against capital punishment that I think only I make is that it’s too cheap–not in our society, which has very strong legal barriers against it, but in a society that takes it seriously. That means that if, for political reasons, the welfare of those potentially convicted has little weight in legal decisions, you may get too much punishment on too low standards of proof. It’s part of my old article on the inefficiency of efficient punishment. You have to take account of the incentives on the people making and running the legal system as well as the incentives on potential criminals and potential victims.

      A point made in a Larry Niven short story a decade or so before I made it in a JPE article.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      One thing I’ve long suggested is more corporal punishment. Yes, really.

      I don’t have real data on this, admittedly. But my strong conviction is that ten lashes administered now is *more* deterrent than N years in prison, especially to the median criminal, but is in fact more humane. Having considered it extensively I’d certainly rather be flogged quite badly than go to American prison for even a year (but I expect it’d have more effect on putative criminals.) It’s also dramatically cheaper, and avoids creating a breeding ground of crime.

      This isn’t quite the same issue as capital punishment but it feels relevant.

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        I don’t have real data on this, admittedly. But my strong conviction is that ten lashes administered now is *more* deterrent than N years in prison

        Have you read In Defense of Flogging by Peter Moskos? He makes this exact case.

        I would agree that it’s more humane and cheaper. Saying “it’s a better deterrent” while also saying “it’s what I’d choose, personally” feels kind of contradictory, but I suspect that once someone went through it the desire to not go through it again would be quite strong.

        I guess the obvious objection is “it would mentally fuck up a lot of people and probably give them PTSD,” but that’s also applicable to prison. Probably even more so.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          I mean… I’m pretty explicitly claiming I’m smarter than the average bank robber or what have you, hence the inconsistency in preferences.

          Other than that I agree with your comment entirely. (I’m not sure I’ve read the particular work you mentioned–writing this comment from plane WiFi on a phone–but I’ve definitely read other defences of the concept and I didn’t come up with it.)

        • No, the objection is that modern states should not use brutal punishments in order to send a message that violence is wrong.

        • bbartlog says:

          The main thing to do before re-introducing corporal punishment would be to review the arguments against it that led to its abolishment. Unfortunately I can’t find the relevant essays right now but I do remember that some of the early 19th century writing on the topic was quite compelling.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          >Saying “it’s a better deterrent” while also saying “it’s what I’d choose, personally” feels kind of contradictory, but I suspect that once someone went through it the desire to not go through it again would be quite strong.

          Criminals generally have higher time preference than non-criminals, meaning that bad thing all at once right now is worse to them than bad thing spread out over the next 5 years. To the low time preference non-criminal, the latter would be worse than the former.

      • Randy M says:

        This will only work when we get robo-floggers. (Perhaps re-purposed sex bots?) Imagine the optics of a white corrections officer whipping a black thief. That would sink if even if all involved agreed that high levels of incarceration is bad all around.

        • Hyzenthlay says:

          Imagine the optics of a white corrections officer whipping a black thief.

          Or a man whipping a woman. Or an able-bodied person whipping someone in a wheelchair.

          Easy fix: just make all the professional floggers black disabled women. Ideally lesbians.

      • engleberg says:

        Corporal punishment would be progressive in the sense that rich people are weenies who fear physical violence more. When I was in grade school parents could opt out of having their kids spanked; the only family that took advantage was the rich family on my block. It was taken as a sign that their son was a weenie.

        I think Heinlein used flogging in Starship Troopers as part of his ‘include plenty of sex and violence’ writing plan, mostly. But also he really idealized the American Pioneers of the nineteenth century. They flogged felons, so he figured there had to be something to it.

      • It is an interesting model, and it seems to work in Singapore. I think the weakest point of using flogging instead of prison is that a major benefit of prison is we keep the bad guys off the streets for a period of time. That is an important function of prisons, perhaps as important as the deterrence principle. I’ve heard it theoroized that much of the decline of US crime is directly due to the higher level of criminals in prisons. They can’t commit more crimes when they’re in prison. The flogged guys can go right back and commit crimes. Flogging has to have a much greater level of deterrence value to offset the value of getting criminals off the street.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      My only qualms about it are tied to the fallibility and potential manipulation and abuse of the justice system.

      I feel pretty strongly that there are times and circumstances where killing another human being or beings is not only “not immoral”, but where it is actively morally praiseworthy. If this is true for individuals, then it follows that it should be true for societies.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I’m in a similar boat, my current ambivalence towards Capital Punishment has much more do with the way it is currently implemented than the philosophical/moral grounds.

    • pipsterate says:

      2) The Innocence Project has used DNA evidence to prove that a large number of those in death row are actually innocent. It does make me nervous about executing innocent people, but it makes me even more nervous about the state of criminal justice overall. Maybe there are hundreds of thousands we’ve put in jail for decades that are innocent. It isn’t really an argument against the death penalty.

      This is my main objection to the death penalty. If you put an innocent person in jail for decades, then at least they have a chance to live to see their names cleared, but if you kill them, then they lose that chance. I’m not opposed to the death penalty in theory, but I feel that we should hold off on executing many people until we figure out how to reduce our rate of erroneous convictions. If it turns out to be impossible to do that, then I’d be willing to abolish the death penalty.

      • Jiro says:

        If you put an innocent person in jail for decades, then at least they have a chance to live to see their names cleared

        As I pointed out above, “everyone has a chance” is equivalent to “some people have a 100% chance, some people have an 0% chance, but we don’t know who they are”. Whether everyone has a chance is a matter of framing, not an actual fact about the situation.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          Yes, that’s kind of the notion of chance. When I roll a die, the outcome is 100% to be one of the faces and 0% chance to be the others, but I don’t know which is which.

        • pipsterate says:

          I don’t see why reframing the concept of chance should change which course of action is more morally correct.

          Say that, from a certain perspective, 10% of the convicts have a 100% chance to see their names cleared (as long as they aren’t executed before then), and 90% of the convicts have a 0% chance.

          Since we have no way of knowing in advance which of the convicts are in the 10% and which are in the 90%, I prefer to delay or cancel the executions, and allow those 10% to eventually be freed, rather than killed. Regardless of how you frame it, that’s definitely the system I’d want in place, should I ever find myself on death row.

          (Realistically, I expect the rate of exonerations would be less than 10%, but it makes a nice clean number to use as an example.)

        • Jiro says:

          I don’t see why reframing the concept of chance should change which course of action is more morally correct.

          That’s my point.

          Because “everyone gets some chance” can be reframed as “some people get 100% chance and some people get 0% chance”, the presence of the 0% chance cannot possibly make any moral difference.

          Death penalty opponents act as though having an 0% chance in there does make a moral difference.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Except in the case of the death penalty we know who has 0% chance: all of them. I’m really confused by your insistence that using probabilities to talk about unknown events in the future is incorrect because, once those events happen, we’ll know for certain what their outcomes are.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t find it compelling that “we know who has the 0% chance” makes it immoral but “we don’t know who has the 0% chance” leaves it moral.

          • John Schilling says:

            Except in the case of the death penalty we know who has 0% chance: all of them.

            Except for at least 159 of them.

            Those condemned to death and those sentenced to life in prison have, qualitatively, the same chance. A period of time between when they are sent off to prison and when they die, during which they might be acquitted and released, after which they cannot be.

            Quantitatively, there is almost certainly a difference, but it isn’t clear who has the advantage. Time is a significant variable in that equation, but so is intensity of effort. We have a well-defined appellate process to try and make sure we get the death penalty right, and people who are motivated to work real hard in the time available. I see rather less of that where life in prison is concerned.

            Morally, I count as the clear winner the people who say, “We are going to do this, and so we are responsible for doing it right”, not the ones who say “there’s a chance that somebody else can fix our mistakes thirty years from now, so our hands are clean”.

          • Are the death penalty opponents who don’t care about miscarriages of justice made out of the same substance as the envoironmentallists who are opposed to nuclear power and geoengineering.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are the death penalty opponents who don’t care about miscarriages of justice made out of the same substance as the envoironmentallists who are opposed to nuclear power and geoengineering.

            I’m mostly concerned with the death penalty opponents whose concern with miscarriages of justice ends with “…and now someone else will come and fix the actual problem”, and I suspect they are made from the same substance as the no-nukes environmentalists who expect someone else to put together an adequate non-nuclear but carbon-neutral energy infrastructure.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Maybe there are hundreds of thousands we’ve put in jail for decades that are innocent. It isn’t really an argument against the death penalty.

      I agree with other commentators (Sam Reuben inter alia) that I can’t follow your logic there.

      Some additional reasons why I tend to be against capital punishment and even for strong legal checks against introducing it:

      * Because of the total irreversibility of capital punishment, the justice system that utilizes it may be extra disinclined to admit the chance that conviction is wrongful. Wrongfully jailed people can be paid with money, so the system has a chance to “save face”.

      * I also find it plausible that if past some point the perpetrator knows that they will be killed anyway for the crimes they have already committed, they have no reason to surrender or cease (they may even try to achieve so called suicide-by-cop). I believe this is a part of the rationale why our police shoots even machete-wielding terrorists at legs if possible.

      * If the capital punishment is in the books, in exceptional circumstances an exceptional government will have less hoops to jump start misusing it to (for example) murder political undesirable persons, conscientious objectors, and alike (which has happened many times in many countries during the 20th century). If there’s instead strong anti-capital punishment legislation, on the same par as the constitution (as currently we have after concluding that murdering people is reprehensible), the government that would like to do something like that will either have to admit they are no longer governing by the rule of law (and everyone, especially the bureaucrats and officers will know it) or they have very strong support to able to legally overturn the constitution.

      (edit. To address John Schilling’s issues below, here the life sentence that actually is for life is reserved for the very few very terrible criminals, and I’m content with that.)

      • Jiro says:

        Because of the total irreversibility of capital punishment, the justice system that utilizes it may be extra disinclined to admit the chance that conviction is wrongful. Wrongfully jailed people can be paid with money, so the system has a chance to “save face”.

        If someone dies in jail, compensating him with money is as hard as compensating someone who was executed. (And if your reply is “*some* people in jail can be compensated, if they are discovered early enough”, see other comments about accepting 0% when you don’t know who the 0%-ers are, and not accepting it when you do. The fact that you don’t know ahead of the time who’s getting the uncompensatable punishment shouldn’t make it okay.)

        Also, you can’t really pay someone back for the years anyway. You can’t give a half of a life worth of years back any more than you can give a whole life worth of years.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Nevertheless, considering the very low probability of dying in a prison, I’d prefer being wrongfully prisoned than wrongfully executed.

          And also tangentially related to my point at best. Compensation is not perfect, but it’s still an available route for the state if they realize they have the wrong person. The dead person you can’t even compensate. After killing someone, the system might very well be very disinclined to admit they did it because wrong reasons.

          (Further, I don’t understand your concept of probability.)

          • After killing someone, the system might very well be very disinclined to admit they did it because wrong reasons.

            My memory of Actual Innocence (book on the DNA reversals) is that the authorities were disinclined to allow DNA testing that might reverse past cases even when they had not led to execution.

          • Which is the fault of the DP opponents?

          • Which means that

            After killing someone, the system might very well be very disinclined to admit they did it because wrong reasons.

            may not be an argument against the death penalty, since it may also be true after convicting and imprisoning someone.

    • John Schilling says:

      I am largely indifferent to capital punishment itself, but I view life imprisonment as capital punishment for moral cowards and I want no part of it. Either commit to returning someone to the human race, or commit to removing them from it.

      And in any case, make damn sure you’ve got the right person. Eschewing capital punishment doesn’t get you out of that responsibility. The plan is to lock someone in a cage until it is time to drag out a corpse. There will be a finite period of time in which any mistakes can be corrected, after which it will be too late. But mistakes won’t be corrected, unless someone goes and does it. I’m much more interested in what someone plans to do in the first three months to make sure they’ve got the right guy, than in their claims to moral superiority on account of they have arranged things so that someone in thirty years can fix their mistakes for them. If they care, which they probably won’t, and if they can, which they probably can’t, and if the innocent victim hasn’t been raped to death, which almost nobody cares to prevent.

      • bean says:

        Well said. I think I’m going to use this going forward.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        It’s a very fine thing to say, but I believe it also manages to avoid what the argument actually is about. Does anyone who is against capital punishment advocate for not striving to decrease the sentencing error rate?

        After bold statements, the issue that judicial systems are not perfect remains. The cases where the imperfections cause more dead people than necessary will increase faster then linearly wider the category of crimes warranting the death penalty is, because police has limited resources to throughly investigate all crimes.

        And thinking a bit more I must walk back on my words. Claiming that nobody cares about preventing raping innocent victims to death is anything but fine thing to say, because I’d tempted to believe that actually people do care. Even the people who oppose death penalty.

        • pipsterate says:

          If anything, I would expect people who oppose the death penalty to be more concerned than the general population is when it comes to thinks like prison rape, false convictions, and other problems with the American justice system.

    • Acedia says:

      What if you feel that a swift execution is more humane than life in prison without possibility of parole? I can’t be the only person who’d prefer the former, given the choice.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        What if you feel that a swift execution is more humane than life in prison without possibility of parole? I can’t be the only person who’d prefer the former, given the choice.

        This is easy enough to accomplish by giving a jailed person the opportunity to kill themselves (in such a way that it can’t be used against anyone else).

      • SUT says:

        Yet it appears that many hardened criminals who live by the credo ‘get rich or die trying’ seem very motivated to avoid the death penalty once it becomes a choice between life without parole and the needle. Have you asked yourself why? Why would you be more cavalier with a likely 4 decades more of life compared to a career criminal with a consistent pattern of nihilism and extreme risk taking?

        I suspect max-security for life would be quite the fall from grace for any SSC-commenter, and shame aversion is what’s driving your hypothetical decision making. But after you adjusted to your new situation you might not be as brash; to paraphrase Tyrion: “plenty of principled minds have been persuaded to compromise after a few weeks cooling off in the brig.”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Fake executions are used for torture.

        I’ve never heard of fake opportunities to commit suicide being used as torture. Any examples?

    • holomanga says:

      I think that it doesn’t work well as a deterrent, and that many people arrested today have a non-insignificant chance of surviving until the Singularity, after which they will live a vast number of happy years, which I think is a great thing no matter how weird someone’s values are.

    • Thegnskald says:

      If I was innocent, by my best understanding of current statistics, it might be better to have the death penalty than life imprisonment, because of all the additional legal attention received; it is hard to find exact figures for reversal of conviction, but a slight majority of death penalty cases are at least reduced to life imprisonment, suggesting that innocence might be more likely to come out in a death penalty case.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      In this above-averagely-transhumanist internet community, I’m rather surprised that no one has brought up the obvious possibility: If you are still in favour of the death penalty in principle, but worried about our ability to avoid false positives in conviction, then instead of shooting/gassing/lethally injecting someone, cryogenically preserve them. That way, if technology later improves to the point of being able to a) thaw them safely, and b) accurately tell whether they were actually guilty (possibly with some sort of brain scanning that we cannot currently do), then they can be thawed out, scanned for innocence, and if so, released … with the added bonus that the people you would be freezing would be less dead at the point of preservation than the people that can currently legally be cryo-preserved, and therefore better candidates for future thawing technology.

      And if they were, guilty, well, they haven’t lost anything that they wouldn’t have lost with the regular death penalty anyway.

      😛

    • JulieK says:

      I notice there’s a similarity of methods between opponents of abortion and opponents of the death penalty. That is, if they can’t ban it, they try to make it inconvenient. E.g., pressuring labs not to manufacture chemicals used in lethal injections.

    • yossarian says:

      Seeing the comments above, I would say that my position on death penalty would be somewhat unusual, but here it is:
      1) As was already mentioned, yes, while death penalty is more irreversible than life sentence, but life sentence is pretty rarely reversed and and it can easily be more humane.
      2) Policy-wise, I would argue for more lenient policies for less-violent and less socially-dangerous criminals, and death penalty for more violent and socially dangerous ones.
      3) Lenient policies – as in, not jail, but more like home imprisonment with a right to work or study (or not work) under supervision at a house and job picked by the judiciary system.
      4) Jails, as they currently are, are not really places where people get rehabilitated or resocialized – they are a cruel and unusual punishment for good people who are not systematic criminals, a “crime university” or “home sweet home” for bad people and a place where medium people get turned into bad ones (plus, don’t forget the damaged psyches of the prison guards – it’s probably psychologically easier to kill a criminal once than fuck with him for n years).
      5) The death penalty should be given to the… you know, actual criminals. An average person on the street can, by being shown a photo of a suspect, tell whether he is a criminal or not with like 90% accuracy at a first glance. I don’t think that it is impossible to get a scheme that would tell a criminal from a non-criminal with a 99% accuracy or better. (Not talking here about a 100% proof that the suspect commited some particular crime – just that he is a criminal. For example, back in good old USSR mafia dudes would draw some very special tattoos on themselves. A dude with such tattoos commits a crime, any crime – just execute him and be done with it).
      As for what we currently have – criminals don’t even get taken out of the circulation, not really. Not even when they are in for a life sentence.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I’m with you. The pragmatic arguments against the US’s current implementation seem reasonable, but I just don’t buy into the deontology that most progressives seem to feel around the issue.

      Something that seems obvious to me, but I’ve never heard proposed: Require a higher evidentiary standard for capital punishment (“beyond a shadow of a doubt” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt”, perhaps?)

    • ilikekittycat says:

      I am against the death penalty, and I *do* believe it has deterrence value. I am also convinced it’s not as good as reasonable incarceration, because the deterrence is very front loaded. The reason we don’t have death penalty anymore except for egregious murder is because if the state executes people for rapes or stealing horses, it removes the disincentive once you’ve passed the line – better to kill everyone who saw it and get away, because you’re not getting killed multiple times for multiple death sentences, and because even if you get 130 years or something you’re not gonna serve it. The value to the Nordic European system where you’re getting 12 years for a murder is that there’s still headroom to keep punishing people for doing *more* bad after that. Killing 2 people and getting 24 years is a significant enough increase to make you really think about that second capital crime after you’ve done the first. (This is all assuming you’re a rational person and prone to considering deterrence, there’s nothing you can do about the real true psychopaths so you just have to bracket them off)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m in favor of capital punishment for the normal reasons. It’s an elegant combination of retribution and incapacitation which we shouldn’t abandon.

      If it was actually used, it could keep the worst criminals off the streets much more cheaply than locking them away. And unlike a prison sentence it can’t be reversed after the fact, eliminating the possibility that a criminal will be let out partway through his sentence.

      Beyond that, there are a lot of crimes which you shouldn’t expect to survive committing. Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and thieves should live in constant fear. It’s not necessarily about deterrence so much as an emphasis of our values as a society.

      • . says:

        Honest question, why do rapists, drug dealers and thieves make the cut? It’s not retribution in those cases, and it’s no more incapacitating than being in a cage[*]. I’ll admit I’m biased: a friend of mine is a perfectly nice drug dealer and I’d strongly prefer that no one kill him.

        [*] for the most casual drug dealers it’s no more incapacitating than begin given a stern talking-to, but I assume you’re not talking about them.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The following is an explanation of my thought process, not a rigorous argument from first principles.

          Rapists and thieves make the list in my book because a victim of attempted rape or attempted robbery/burglary who killed their attacker in self-defense would be justified. In general that seems like a good starting point: whenever the victim of a crime would have the right to kill their attacker, the state has the same right.

          Drug dealers are the odd man out there, since you can’t justifiably shoot your dealer. I don’t really have a moral justification so much as a practical one: places like Singapore have managed to control drug abuse by executing dealers while we have utterly failed using every other conceivable tactic. If it works it’s a simple fix and if it doesn’t it’s not a huge loss trying it.

          Some of my friends were low-level dealers. Hopefully they would have been smart enough to switch careers in the face of the death penalty. But if not they weren’t exactly America’s best and brightest to begin with.

          • Rapists and thieves make the list in my book because a victim of attempted rape or attempted robbery/burglary who killed their attacker in self-defense would be justified. In general that seems like a good starting point:

            Can=/=must. Also note that you are incentivising these types of criminal to kill their victims.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Can doesn’t equal must, that’s true, but it definitely doesn’t equal mustn’t.

            The argument against capital punishment is that it mustn’t happen at all. My argument is that it should happen more often. If I’ve implied that I think it should be universal then that’s a miscommunication on my part.

            Also note that you are incentivising these types of criminal to kill their victims.

            It’s funny how quickly people shift between execution being a weak disincentive and a strong one depending on whether or not it serves their argument to do so.

            If the death penalty is frightening enough that some criminals would rather kill than risk facing it, it should also be frightening enough to keep some people from committing crimes in the first place. And given that murders are much easier to solve than rapes or thefts, it seems that we should expect the latter incentive to quickly win out.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            It’s funny how quickly people shift between execution being a weak disincentive and a strong one depending on whether or not it serves their argument to do so.

            If the death penalty is frightening enough that some criminals would rather kill than risk facing it, it should also be frightening enough to keep some people from committing crimes in the first place.

            Well, it’s not a shift. In general, it’s either an assumption that a large number of cases where people who kill someone or commit other crimes think about the repercussions only after the deed is done and even then not very clearheadedly, or considering probabilities: Assuming there’s death penalty in place for thieving, a thief still may reasonably think (or at least think they are reasonable) that they can get away with stealing a telly as long as they do their business undetected. But if the family who lives in the house wakes up, suddenly they are witnesses who will get you dead if they alert the police and the situation must be resolved within a minute, no room for careful thinking (rational or ethical).

            And death penalty for something so trivial as stealing stuff is way over my Overton window, I feel slightly nauseated about about discussing it.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            And death penalty for something so trivial as stealing stuff is way over my Overton window, I feel slightly nauseated about about discussing it.

            I was a bit surprised at your comment until I reread and saw the word telly. If you’re not British please disregard the following.

            With respect, your attitude is part of why the UK has between two to five times more home invasion robberies than the US.

            If you break into a home in the US there’s a small but very real possibility that you’re leaving in a body bag. Criminals take this into account and try harder to make sure that nobody is home. This extrajudicial death penalty has probably prevented quite a few murders rapes and assualts over and beyond protecting property.

            There’s nothing trivial about a break in or a mugging. And behaving as though it’s trivial is how you get more of them.

          • rlms says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            “With respect, your attitude is part of why the UK has between two to five times more home invasion robberies than the US.”
            Source?

          • I believe nimim is Finn, so he probably learned British English.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            he probably learned British English.

            A hodgepodge collection of the internet English, really. Though my autocorrect defaults to US English because I don’t usually bother to tinker with language settings.

            For the record, the most prominent form of thievery that I’d be concerned about in my everyday life is stuff like … having a bike stolen, maybe a car … at worst, pickpockets. Home break-ins are not unheard of, but the prominent target would be unattended summer cottages or suburban houses during the workday. Large number of which would be committed by “professional burglars” who travel all around the Schengen area and pick “easy” targets.

            These days, the stereotypical “Hollywood break-in” that happens a) at night and b) the family is likely to be present …I couldn’t find statistics, but I believe that would be relatively rare. Nobody I know is particularly worried about that scenario. [The latest burglary statistic: ~0.040 burglaries per capita during the latest 6 mo period; does not differentiate whether the occupants were present or not.] The prominent case would be animal right activists breaking in into livestock outbuilding to take pictures of the cows, but that’s probably affected media / perception bias. I can’t remember any prominent news items about serious violence in connection with burglaries, though.

            Anyway, having your stuff stolen is only stuff and often covered by the insurance to some extent. Taking the US-UK numbers, a culture where you’d be expected to engage in possibly lethal fights with thieves with the benefit of pushing the number of burglaries down by only a factor of 5 does not sound like a good deal to me.

            And I’d like to remind the particular scenario we were originally discussing was an official death penalty for thieves. While I dislike death penalty in all cases, I admit that in case of murder it can be argued to be proportional to the crime committed. But for stealing things? Unimaginable.

          • Since I cannot find a legal definition of “home invasion” I don’t see how any reliable stats would be possible to derive since they rely on crime statistics.

            However “burglary” in both countries is defined in a similar way as unauthorised entry to a property with the intent to commit a felony/crime, as are “homicide/murder” and “rape”. So we could look at all three….

            There were about 630K burglaries in the UK in 2012 (against 26M households) (ONS)

            In the US, the FBI report lists 2.2M in 2009 (out of 114M households) (FBI).

            Comparative rates: UK 1 per 41 households. USA 1 per 51 households. (USA dropped slightly overall since)

            So you are around 20% more likely to be burgled in the UK, but hardly a massive difference.

          • It’s funny how quickly people shift between execution being a weak disincentive and a strong one depending on whether or not it serves their argument to do so.

            it’s not a shift, It’s pointing out that the DP generates incentives going in both directions, imprisonment in only one direction.

          • Randy M says:

            it’s not a shift, It’s pointing out that the DP generates incentives going in both directions, imprisonment in only one direction.

            Depending on how well calibrated the risk-reward calculations of the criminal are, and how finely tuned the punishments are.
            A robber might still kill a witness to avoid time in jail, just as they might to avoid being killed.
            Assuming robbers are the type of people who take foolish risks for a chance at short term gain, anyway.

          • John Schilling says:

            A criminal might well kill a witness to avoid a $50 fine, if they think they are likely to get away with it and if the penalty for murder is a $100 fine. In order to dissuade criminals from killing witnesses, in a world where you don’t have omniscient policemen and killing witnesses often actually works, you need a punishment for murder that is substantially more severe than your punishment for e.g. armed robbery.

            It seems unlikely that the average criminal is going to consider a 30-year prison sentence to be substantially more severe than 20 years, or life imprisonment substantially more severe than being put in jail until geezerdom and then “released” into a nursing home. So, what’s your proposed penalty for a career armed robber on his third conviction, and what’s your proposed penalty for murder?

          • The technical term for one of the issues discussed here is “marginal deterrence.” For any interested, I coauthored an article on it a very long time ago.

          • orihara says:

            What’s the penalty for being late?
            Death.
            What’s the penalty for rebellion?
            Death.
            We’re late.

          • That’s a famous story about the end of the Ch’in dynasty, the first to unite China. It’s probably Han propaganda. At least, when they excavated a Ch’in tomb whose documents provided legal information, the system appeared to be much less severe than in the accounts of the Han and later historians.

      • And unlike a prison sentence it can’t be reversed after the fact, eliminating the possibility that a criminal will be let out partway through his sentence.

        You consider that a uniformly bad thing? Of course it is a part of the system. People are released early as a reward for good behaviour. If you think reform should not be part of the system, maybe you could say so explicitly.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Parole and appeals aren’t inherently bad. As you said, they’ve been part of the Anglo-American legal system for centuries.

          The problem is that for the last half-century an alarming number of judges have completely lost their minds. I don’t know how or why this happened but dangerous criminals keep being let out because of it. Until the underlying issue there can be fixed there needs to be a workaround.

          I’m theoretically in favor of reform. If a criminal can be rehabilitated then they should be. But the way reform advocates behave in the real world, I’d rather keep them as far away from the criminal justice system as possible.

          • I don’t know how or why this happened but dangerous criminals keep being let out because of it.

            Are you sure this is a problem with an objective basis? Bear in mind that the media are incentivised to report failures and ignore successes.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        I know that the next open thread has already been posted, and that you’ve already partially addressed this, but:

        Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and thieves should live in constant fear.

        One of these things is extremely not like the others. The fact that many drug dealers are thoroughly shady types is true because and only because our societies persist so bone-headedly in insisting that no lawful actors can enter the market, and in pretending that all drug use is pathological, so that all instances of using, or enabling others to use drugs can justify punishment.

        I understand that Singapore is quite effective at keeping their levels of drug use down. I expect that if they were to apply the death penalty to sugar importers, alcohol importers, heck, raw milk importers if there’s demand for that, then they would be successful at reducing their population’s exposure to those health hazards as well. Doesn’t mean that death is a remotely proportionate response to people’s desire to decide for themselves what health risks they’re willing to run on their own bodies.

        And unless I’m mistaken, Singapore applies the death penalty to even cannabis importers, while alcohol is still legal to import (if somewhat more restricted in terms of public consumption). As I’ve mentioned on these threads before, anyone who has it that way round, who would respond with lethal violence to what is almost certainly the less dangerous of those two drugs, while giving the more dangerous one a pass, is either utterly deranged in their understanding of relative risks, and therefore unfit to be deciding what risks people ought to die for, or is optimising for something almost perfectly uncorrelated to the goal of protecting their society from health risks in the first place.

  39. bean says:

    Basics of the airline industry:
    I’m soon to leave the airline industry for the defense world, but I’ve learned a lot in my two years here, and thought some of this might be of interest. Also, I don’t feel compelled to research as thoroughly as for my battleship stuff. I’m going to try to explain why airlines work the way they do, so that next time you travel, you’re hopefully less annoyed and actually understand what is going on around you.

    First, I’m going to discuss how and why they sell seats the way they do. The basic principle is that they want to get paid as much as possible to move people between A and B, and do so as cheaply as possible. But there are lots of combinations of A and B, and lots of different kinds of people who want to go between them, so the airlines have very complicated rules in place to maximize their revenue.

    At a high level, we can assume there are two kinds of travelers: business and leisure. Business travelers have to go somewhere specific at a specific time. They may or may not have a lot of warning, and they’re pretty insensitive to price. So airlines want to charge them as much money as possible. Leisure travelers are the opposite. They make plans long in advance, are very sensitive to price, and are much less firm in terms of when and where they are going. So an airline is going to build rules in an attempt to sell tickets to both groups. Obviously, it could decide not to bother with leisure travelers, but bigger airplanes are more efficient to operate, and there is rarely enough demand on a given route for an airline to sell exclusively to business travelers. Once a flight is being operated, the marginal cost of a passenger is pretty low. But it also doesn’t want to sell the entire plane to leisure travelers, leaving it with no seats for businessmen.

    So what airlines do is to create fare rules and fare classes to sort out the different travelers. There are a lot of ways to do this. We could increase the price as we get closer to departure. We could impose conditions on our cheapest fares, such as requiring a stay over a weekend (which business travelers aren’t likely to accept) or restricting flexibility (again, businesses might be willing to spend more on changeable tickets). We could only sell a certain number of our cheapest fares, and then as the plane fills up force people to pay more. All of these are actively practiced by airlines, although the details have changed over the years.

    Obviously, our 2-type model is rather simplistic, and we see a sliding scale between the types. Holiday travel is a good example of this. I want to be in a specific place (where my family lives), at a relatively specific time (Christmas day, plus a few days around Christmas), but I’m much more price-sensitive and somewhat less time-sensitive than a business traveler might be, and I’m booking far in advance. So they can get more money out of me than they could if I was just trying to fly somewhere warm and sandy, but not as much as if I need to go look at an airplane on my employer’s dime. So now we might raise the prices for most of our fares around Christmas, although we also will suffer from decreased last-minute business. (I’m not actually sure how much airlines do this. They don’t talk much about the specifics of their revenue-management practices.)

    However, not everyone is just interested in going from A to B, and some of them are willing to pay extra for better service. Some airlines, most prominently Spirit, EasyJet, and Ryanair, operate entirely a la carte, selling everything besides the basic seat for a premium. These airlines focus on leisure travel, where they have learned that the most important part of getting someone to book is the ‘sticker price’. People make their decision on the price displayed on whatever travel search engine they use, and then are more willing to pay extra for luggage, better seats, and even in-flight drinks.

    This even affects legacy airlines, which introduced checked bag fees as a sort of stealth price increase during the recession, as opposed to raising prices directly. (It also helps that these kind of fees are exempt from the 7.5% federal tax on airfare.) Fuel surcharges were a similar tactic, although one thankfully blunted at least in the US by regulations requiring that advertised ticket prices include all mandatory fees and taxes. The airlines occasionally try to get this repealed, but I personally think it’s a good thing.

    Southwest has taken the opposite tack, not charging for checked bags or change fees on even the cheapest tickets. This is basically a marketing decision on their part, differentiating themselves from their competitors. Personally, it’s one I really like, and I fly them preferentially.

    This also leads us obviously to premium cabins. Some people are willing to spend more money to make their flight more comfortable (which in practice translates primarily into more space), and so long as they’re willing to spend enough extra to make up for the cost of the extra space, we might as well oblige them. Some of these people are just tall and want a few more inches. Some are businessmen flying from LA to New York overnight who need to give a presentation in the morning, who want a good seat to sleep in. We’ll sell a few rows of economy with more legroom to the first group, and a few first class seats to the second.

    Now, in the years since deregulation, airlines have learned a lot about how customers buy tickets. I mentioned that leisure travelers are most concerned by sticker price, and don’t take into account fees very well. But all travelers book primarily on price and schedule/convenience. It’s not uncommon for an airline to charge a premium for a nonstop flight, particularly when one end is at a hub, and most of the competitors on the route would require a connection. (Sometimes you’ll have a nonstop premium within an airline, depending on their route structure.) This also means that the airline with the most flights on a given route has a major competitive advantage.

    For all that people complain about legroom, American tried to differentiate itself by offering more legroom throughout coach for a few years, and found that not only were they unable to charge a premium for it, it didn’t even drive bookings to them at the same price. So airlines instead offer a few rows of economy with better legroom for a premium, or for their elites, usually with priority boarding thrown in. (This is usually only available as a buy-up after booking, presumably because that drives more sales than letting people book it on the front end.)

    I hope this has been helpful in understanding what the airlines do and why. There will probably be a couple more of these, interspersed with my normal output on ships.

    • Sam Reuben says:

      This was really cool. Can’t think of anything in particular to say about it, but I’d like to express my appreciation for the post!

    • cassander says:

      So answer me this. Why on earth can’t airlines put another half inch of foam on the goddamned seats? If you want to cram me into a tiny seat, fine, I get that. But what reason is there for crafting a seat that feels like bare metal after you’ve been sitting in it for 2 or three hours? That 737 costs, what, 70 million? And they can’t slap 2500 bucks worth of memory foam on those seats?

      • bean says:

        Sorry. I work for the company that builds the planes. Seats are furnished by different companies, and chosen by the customer. I can’t speak to this very well, as it’s not something I have professional contact with, and it hasn’t really been something I’ve looked into for fun, either.
        I do know that the seat manufacturers pay close attention to their ergonomic scores. But when it has to be light, relatively cheap, and meet an absurd number of regulations, I suspect they’re doing the best they can. For all we know, memory foam is too flammable, or they can’t make the seats too thick. It’s probably the FAA’s fault one way or another.

        Edit: I’ve heard rumors that companies are unwilling to upgrade seats because they can’t swap all planes at once, and passengers on old seats would complain way too much. I rather doubt this. But I suspect it ultimately comes down to the same problem as legroom. Yes, you’d like more of it, but it’s not actually going to drive buying decisions, so the airlines are very limited in their willingness to pay for extra comfort.

    • Well... says:

      Man, all this time I thought your job was being a tour guide on some kind of battleship-turned-museum.

      • bean says:

        No, that was my hobby. (Sadly, emphasis on the was, as I was there for the last time today before I move.) I’m an engineer doing aftermarket support for a major airline manufacturer. For the next week. Then, I move to a job doing aftermarket support for a major military aircraft.

        • Well... says:

          That sounds pretty interesting. Did you ever do technical writing?

          • bean says:

            Yes. That was the problem. My job resembles technical writing more than proper engineering, which is why I found a new one that didn’t. Also, it helped that it’s on the defense side, which I find more interesting.

          • Well... says:

            Technical writing always seemed like a fun-in-a-super-challenging-way kind of job to me, but one that might also contain a lot of tedium and not-fun tasks. I don’t have enough technical background in anything to find out if my impression is correct (except by talking to my technical writer friends, and to people like you), but I’m glad you found something more to your liking.

    • One thing I’ve never understood is the enormous premium they charge for first class. When I’ve looked at it, it seems to be two or three times the price of regular fares. I think the premium may have come down some in the last few years so maybe now it is only double or even less. The difference obviously doesn’t relate to cost differences, because there is no way ti could cost that much more for a few more inches and more attention by the flight attendants. I presume the airlines do this as a profit maximizer, but I don’t get it.

      You did mention that American tried to get more money for more space and were unsuccessful. My guess is that a small incremental change won’t have a lot of effect, especially since pretty much everyone doesn’t believe what the airlines tell them, so there is time needed for a learning curve. But people do buy first class, and there is certainly a great mystique about it, so I think more would buy if it wasn’t so outrageously priced. I would think if they had planes that were half first class and they lowered the premium to 50% over regular fares, then the airline would make out like bandits. Or even entire planes being first class. Of course these would have to be frequently traveled routes so they would have enough passengers to do this upgrade. like New York to Chicago or New York to LA.

      The worst thing about flying these days is TSA, and the airlines can’t do much about that. I really try to avoid flying if I can.

      • cassander says:

        here’s a seating chart for a 737

        in place of those 8 first class seats you can fit 15 economy plus seats or 18-21 economy seats. So pricing them at double to triple is definitely about right in terms of opportunity cost for that square footage even before you get to side benefits like perks, baggage checking, meals, free booze, etc.

      • bean says:

        One thing I’ve never understood is the enormous premium they charge for first class. When I’ve looked at it, it seems to be two or three times the price of regular fares. I think the premium may have come down some in the last few years so maybe now it is only double or even less. The difference obviously doesn’t relate to cost differences, because there is no way ti could cost that much more for a few more inches and more attention by the flight attendants. I presume the airlines do this as a profit maximizer, but I don’t get it.

        It’s not that simple. If we assume that the plane is limited by floor space instead of weight (may or may not be a good assumption, and I’ve promised myself I won’t spend too much time on research for this series), then the minimum premium they need to charge to keep revenue constant is 1.78 for the last plane I flew on. A factor of 2 seems pretty reasonable. They might be able to do better on widebodies, where you have more room to play with seat width.
        That said, there has been a significant change in the way airlines deal with first class. Up until 5 years ago or so, most people in first were elites who had been upgraded. But they’ve been pushing more and more to monetize those seats, with Delta going from (IIRC) ~30% of first-class being sold to ~70%. This has caused a lot of distress in the frequent-flier community, and might well be bad for the airlines in the long run. (Frequent flier programs are a topic for later.)

        Or even entire planes being first class. Of course these would have to be frequently traveled routes so they would have enough passengers to do this upgrade. like New York to Chicago or New York to LA.

        It’s been tried. Notice what almost all of those airlines have in common. The only really successful all-business-class (international business is equal or better than domestic first) is the BA route from London City to La Guardia. And that’s special for a lot of reasons. Basically, it’s usually more profitable to attach a coach cabin to the plane.
        Edit:
        To explain, BA001-004 are routes from an airport in the heart of London to the closest commercial airport to NYC. This is a banker’s route, and there’s no competition on it, because London City has a very short runway, and La Guardia can only take flights that have gone through a US pre-clearance facility. (The westbound flight refuels in Shannon, which has such a facility.) So you have a massive convenience bonus in a market where there’s going to be lots of people with lots of money. And because of the limits at London City, they can’t use a plane bigger than the A318. Normally they’d attach 200-300 coach seats to the 32 business class seats they have, but they just can’t do it.

        The worst thing about flying these days is TSA, and the airlines can’t do much about that. I really try to avoid flying if I can.

        Get PreCheck. I got it a couple months ago, and it is fantastic.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Get PreCheck. I got it a couple months ago, and it is fantastic.

          I’ve gotten it a few times by random airline vagaries, and once the halfway version where they swab your hands and run it through the bomb sniffer but is otherwise the same, and it is good; almost like flying pre-9/11. But actually seeking the favor of the TSA feels like a pretty big violation of my integrity to avoid an inconvenience.

          • bean says:

            If it’s the TSA specifically you have trouble with, you can spend a tiny bit extra and get Global Entry ($100/5 yrs instead of $85/5 yrs), and get fast customs on return to the US. There, you’re dealing with CBP instead. Of course, given the nature of this board, some people might think that’s worse.
            (Personally, I’m not a fan of the TSA, but I’m not going to subject myself to serious inconvenience to protect a tiny bit of integrity.)

        • Brad says:

          Why is it that domestic is so much crappier than international in each of the cabins? I understand not wanting to pull out all the stops for a two hour flight, but JFK – SFO is not that much shorter time-wise than JFK – LHR.

          • bean says:

            Why is it that domestic is so much crappier than international in each of the cabins? I understand not wanting to pull out all the stops for a two hour flight, but JFK – SFO is not that much shorter time-wise than JFK – LHR.

            I’ve covered a lot of this below in my second reply, but it comes down to the fact that special fleets have costs, and airlines don’t particularly like having to split their fleet into ‘longhaul’ and ‘shorthaul’ when they can avoid it, and they know that the minimum route length on the international fleet is long enough to justify good premium cabins. That said, American, Delta, JetBlue and United all run special fleets for JFK-SFO and JFK-LAX. (Well, United goes out of Newark. You know what I mean.)
            I’d also question if economy is that much worse in domestic. I’ve checked a bunch of seatmaps on SeatGuru, and there’s no clear trend on a given airline as to who has more legroom. I’d suspect that there’s more bundling on international fares (with things like luggage), but that has more to do with expected demand than anything else. For premium cabins, I suspect it has a lot to do with international routes having a much higher percentage of business travelers, and generally people willing to spend more money. Also, you know you aren’t going to be wasting those planes on shorthaul routes where people are less willing to buy up.

      • bean says:

        Of course these would have to be frequently traveled routes so they would have enough passengers to do this upgrade. like New York to Chicago or New York to LA.

        I’m not entirely satisfied with my response to this the first time around, so I’m going to have another crack at it. Basically, there are two problems here. First, you need frequency to attract business travelers, and it’s usually economical to fly big planes, so you might as well attach a coach cabin and sell seats there. Second, airlines like flexibility. They don’t like being stuck with a bunch of planes in different configurations, because it limits operational flexibility. There are a couple examples of this. We’ll take American. They run 3 different A321 configurations, one each from legacy American and legacy US Airways (the later are terrible, and American really should at least fit them with power ports), and one specially configured for the transcon routes, basically NYC-LA and NYC-SF. These are three-class planes, with 10 lie-flat seats in the front, and then 20 domestic first and economy (including a lot of main cabin extra). There’s enough premium traffic on the route that a special fleet is worthwhile, with a total of 17 planes.
        Another example is the shuttle fleet. There’s a historical shuttle service between DC, New York, and Boston, run by a number of different airlines over the years. (Trump actually owned what is now American Airlines Shuttle in the late 80s.) Particularly back before airline security became what it is, it was much more like a bus than air travel as we know it, and Eastern (who owned it before Trump) for a long time had a policy that anyone who bought a ticket would be flown, which occasionally meant dragging out a second airplane for one person (and great PR). The planes were configured as all-coach, and for a while tickets were paid for after the plane took off.
        But when US Airways was running the shuttle, they stopped configuring the planes as all-coach, and put premium seats in. Actually, what they did was stop using special planes, and reconfigure the planes in the normal configuration for whatever model they were flying on the route. The flights were rarely full, and it wasn’t worth the mess that it made of scheduling to have special planes. For instance, let’s say they have a plane go mechanical, and the only available airplane is a shuttle-configured plane. Suddenly, you have to deal with a bunch of passengers who were booked into first (and who you probably really want to keep happy, because they’re likely big spenders) who now have much worse seats.
        The only really interesting experiment being carried out with better seats is on Spirit, who offer the Big Front Seat, basically a domestic first seat. But that’s all you get. You don’t get lounge access, priority boarding, free luggage, or a meal. Spirit just sells you a better seat, for a $32 premium. Just to be clear, this isn’t necessarily a reflection of the economics of doing this on other airlines. The base fare for Spirit is often $10-20, and on the cheapest fares they actually give more to the government than they keep. They make their money on auxiliary revenue, and when you factor in getting the same service, it’s often cheaper to go with another airline. In terms of economics, Spirit has 4-10 of these seats, which costs them the same number of regular seats. So it’s a question of how much money they’d make from those extra seats, because that $32 is basically pure profit. (Also, the A319s, which are the only planes with 10, have 145 seats, which means that in practice they’d only get 5 extra seats, because going above 150 means they need an extra flight attendant.)

        There’s probably more room to sell the premium seats a la carte, particularly on routes with poor demand for premium cabins. And I suspect that we may see that going forward, but ultimately those cabins have to pay for themselves, and that’s just not achievable at a 50% premium over economy.

        Edit:
        Thinking this over more, another interesting parallel is JetBlue’s initial model. They offered 34″ legroom on their A320s (actually they still do, but they’re down to 32″ on the new A321s), and a bunch of customer-friendly policies, like not overbooking, not charging for checked bags, and good food. They recently started charging for checked bags, and the new planes are getting about .1″ more legroom than Southwest offers so their marketing people don’t get sued, which suggests that it hasn’t worked all that well as a revenue-optimizing strategy now. It helps that planes are full and demand for air travel is high. They don’t need to fight as hard to fill their planes.
        (Also, not overbooking didn’t help them when they had to swap a bunch of 321s for 320s, leaving them with 50 people/plane to deal with.)

        • Since you are to some degree an insider, can you offer an explanation of something that has puzzled me about airline procedures?

          The standard procedure for loading passengers seems very inefficient, since someone seated in row 5 is blocking everyone in higher rows while he puts his luggage up and gets into his seat. Why not line people up in row order before boarding?

          Southwest actually does line people up before boarding, so it’s doable, but they don’t have assigned seats.

          • bean says:

            Sorry. Not that much of an insider. This puzzles me, too. I suspect that the modern status hierarchy has helped here somewhat, as the Super (Precious Thing) Elite in the back boards before First, and isn’t in anyone’s way, while Basic Economy is dead last, and they’re scattered in middles throughout the cabin. What really annoys me is the difficulty in getting people off.
            But I also suspect that it’s a matter of elitism, at least a tiny bit. Making your customers line up like that is something Southwest does, and Southwest hasn’t quite shaken the image of the old “Cattle Call”, even though it’s not true these days.
            Also, on the last few flights I made with American, we sat at the gate for quite a while after general boarding was done, so that may not be the rate-limiting factor these days. Also, American at least does general coach boarding groups based on how you check in and not where in the cabin you are (except main cabin extra, but those are kind of spread out).

          • Charles F says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Why bother? It’s not as if the passengers getting into their seats is the factor that’s delaying when they can leave. After you’re in your seat you still have to wait for a bunch of other stuff, so loading passengers more efficiently doesn’t help timelines any, and enforcing any degree of discipline would add some unpleasantness to the boarding process when people do it wrong.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            On what basis do you say that? Reducing turnaround time was a major innovation for Southwest.

          • bean says:

            On what basis do you say that? Reducing turnaround time was a major innovation for Southwest.

            It was, but even Southwest is taking a lot longer to turn than they once did. They used to do the 10-minute turn, but even their -700s are up to 30-40 mins now. I don’t have a good explanation of this.
            Speculation:
            1. The planes are bigger. I think the 10-minute turn was done on -200s, which carried a lot fewer people.
            2. Load factors are up. Since 2002, Southwest’s load factors have gone from 65% to 82%. So each plane, even of the same size, has 25% more people on it, and I suspect that means more than 25% more turn time.
            3. A change in the passenger population. When the majority of passengers are businessmen going to Houston for their weekly meeting and flying back tonight, you’re going to load and unload more efficiently than you do when the majority of passengers are families with small chlidren and lots of luggage who don’t fly very often.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This link has some nice youtube animations showing simulations of ways to load planes, and links to MythBusters real trials. https://www.vox.com/2014/4/25/5647696/the-way-we-board-airplanes-makes-absolutely-no-sense

            In reality, boarding first is sold on the basis of being able to snag the limited overhead space. That should be sold separately, by making checked baggage free and charging for carryons.

          • bean says:

            This link has some nice youtube animations showing simulations of ways to load planes, and links to MythBusters real trials.

            I find it hard to take that analysis completely seriously, because Mythbusters didn’t test the SWA method. They tested a complete free-for-all, which is not what SWA does these days, although I think they used to. Not assigning seats is something that’s definitely associated with low-cost carriers, and none of the legacy carriers will touch it.

            In reality, boarding first is sold on the basis of being able to snag the limited overhead space. That should be sold separately, by making checked baggage free and charging for carryons.

            I don’t think this is quite such a good idea. People carry on bags for reasons other than simply not wanting to pay for checked luggage. The people who are most likely to not care about the cost of checking bags, airline elites and business travelers, are also the people most likely to not check bags, because, in a frequent flier community proverb, there are two kinds of bags, carry-on and lost. Spirit actually charges more to carry-on than to check, although given how horrible it is to check a bag with them, this may be an attempt to raise revenue. Again, I did this when I last flew Southwest, simply because I only needed a carry-on sized bag, and I’d rather have it with me and not have to wait at the baggage claim. Also, there are recent overhead bin designs that improve capacity about 50%.

          • bean says:

            Thought this over more, and I’ve just noticed a serious problem with the Mythbusters test, and a related reason why the Steffen method will never work. I’ve seen the episode of Mythbusters, and the volunteers they used were all adults ‘traveling independently’. They did not have any kids at all, and the adults in question were Mythbusters fans, who are probably not a particularly good representation of the population as a whole. (If you doubt this, Adam Savage once said that they were up against the Super Bowl a couple of times, and you couldn’t see it in the ratings. But they got absolutely hammered when up against the Presidential debates.) They don’t have the person who has never flown before, or the person who is really bad at following directions. They did include a couple of ‘jokers’ (people with coats and such, IIRC), but probably not enough. (I’m not really criticizing the mythbusters for this. They were trying, but we shouldn’t base policy decisions off of their work alone.)
            Steffen does not work with parents with kids, which kills it immediately so far as the airlines are concerned. I’ve often pondered something similar to it for getting people off the plane, but it runs into the same problem. I do wish there was a stronger norm for letting people behind you who are ready go, but I can’t see a way to formalize it.

    • ManyCookies says:

      So what are we calling your aviation blogs? Bird Watching?

      • bean says:

        We aren’t. This is a limited series, done because it’s a lot easier to write these than it is the Naval Gazing ones these days. (I have to do quite a bit of research for those, and I’m in the middle of moving.) Probably.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Related to Naval Gazing:

      Bean has asked me to do some guest posts or two on Naval Aviation while he gets settled in to his new digs. Are there any particular questions people have or topics they’d like covered?

      • James Miller says:

        When will the U.S. Navy phase out human pilots?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Sometime after Top Gun 2 comes out.

          Edit: in all seriousness though, adding drones to the topic list.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Not Navy, but I spent 5 years in the Army as a UAV operator, and the RQ-7 Shadow is fairly closely related to the RQ-2 Pioneer the Navy and Marines used until 2007, so I may be able to help with some drone-related questions for comparable systems (i.e. not the strategic/long range, real-pilot-operated ones like Reaper, Predator, Global Hawk, etc)

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I have heard that helicopters are able to fly because they are so ugly that the ground repels them. So how do navy choppers work?

        Less shitpost-y: we’ve heard all about the Iowa(s) from bean. What is your favorite boat (or class) and why?

        • hlynkacg says:

          In regards to the first question, it’s looking like a my Naval aviation post will be getting split into two posts one on carriers and another on non-carrier aviation (helicopters and float planes).

          As for the second question; I’m inclined to agree with bean that I think the late generation US BBs like the South Dakota and Iowa classes with thier flared bows clean lines and big guns, peg the meter on sex appeal, though I also have a soft spot for late war carriers like the Yorktown and Midway.

          That said “favorite class” is going to be heavily influenced by my own time in. Perry’s are wonderful until you have to spend more than weeks at sea and water rationing kicks in. Meanwhile Burkes are the classic hot chick with a shitty personality. 2nd generation Ticos on the other hand are ugly as sin but I love them so.

          • bean says:

            Meanwhile Burkes are the classic hot chick with a shitty personality.

            Care to expand on this? I’ve only been aboard one briefly, and not into any of the living spaces.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Burkes look sexy as hell, but despite being signifigantly larger than a FFG thier accommodations are more cramped. Their flight-deck is a PITA as is the hanger arrangement and the fact that thier berthings are accessible only via ladder was giving me nightmares long before the recent handling incidents.

        • quaelegit says:

          When over water, they are repelled by their own reflections.

        • bean says:

          I have heard that helicopters are able to fly because they are so ugly that the ground repels them. So how do navy choppers work?

          That’s not true. Hlynkacg himself told me that they were held up by the pilot’s belief, which is why helo pilots are so…different.

      • ManyCookies says:

        How do modern warships and their crew handle bad weather? Does the crew need to stay on deck for anything, or does everyone hunker down? Would a typhoon/hurricane be a serious threat? Big waves?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Modern ships handle bad weather much as thier predecessors did. Turn into the wind, batten down the hatches, and hold on for dear life. IE hunker down.

          Whether a storm poses a threat is dependent on sea-state/wave-height. A carrier or amphib with 75 ft of freeboard can weather a lot more than a Burke with 20.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Would something on pre-WWII carrier doctrine/what the military theorists thought would work versus how it evolved during the war be in the cards?

        • bean says:

          If hlynkacg doesn’t want to do that, I just might. I know something about it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ve always found it interesting to compare what prewar theorists thought would happen with what happened. I know less about the navy than other fields; I’m under the impression that the dominance of carriers came as a bit of a surprise, but I may be mistaken.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’ve got a solid handle on the “what happened” side but I’d need to do more research on “what the theorists thought would happen” to make a detailed comparison.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        History of helicopter usage in the Navy–how’d we get to this state and where did you get your roles from?

        Some sort of long discussion of fueling and its implications–range, drop tanks, aerial refueling, loiter time, etc.

        Osprey: brilliant advance with problematic development or still a white elephant?

        Effect of Marine amphibs on Navy doctrine/history: people sometimes say the F-35 sucks because of needing to work for the navy’s army’s air force. Is this the first time this has caused problems?

        • bean says:

          Osprey: brilliant advance with problematic development or still a white elephant?

          My opinion (because this isn’t quite a full topic), is that while it falls short of ‘brilliant’, it’s a significant advance with a fairly typical development for a new technology. We’re just not willing to expend lives and airplanes like we used to be to develop new types of aircraft.
          I talked with a V-22 pilot last year, and he said that he’d come from Harriers, and never flown a plane without an ejection seat before, and he was more confident in the V-22 (no ejection seat, a bunch of Marines in the back) than he was in anything else he’d ever flown. He was very complimentary of the engineering, and I suspect there are a couple of people who want to be V-22 pilots today because of talking to him and seeing how passionate he was about the airplane. Operationally, it seems to work OK. It’s not a panacea, but it’s a useful piece of equipment.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The real test will be in seeing how the next generation of tilt-rotors and compound helicopters currently in development compare mechanically and economically to more conventional designs.

        • hlynkacg says:

          As I said above it’s looking like I’ll be doing multiple posts and your questions already comprise the meat of the “non-carrier aviation” material.

          As for the Osprey, my opinion largely mirrors bean’s, though I suspect that I may be a bit more skeptical of it’s long-term viability than he is.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Thanks for sharing, Bean!

      It sounds like you’re not quite on the marketing or business side, so you might not be able to answer all of these questions, but some that come to mind:

      1. Operations-side: What’s the value/purpose of a “hub” in the first place? Is it just because it is easier to centralize maintenance operations? I figure it’d be easier to send planes to some small, out-of-the-way airport for that kind of thing, and have it managed by a third party. Is it really important for flight crew transition or something? It seems like airline companies could hit a lot more routes if they just didn’t have a hub.
      2. What’s the normal % increase in price as flight time approaches? Does this change as you get into differ