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Open Thread 85.25

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

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678 Responses to Open Thread 85.25

  1. bean says:

    The following is an air travel guest post by my Favorite Sister:
    (Effort post index, including this series)
    I was reading through what bean had posted on commercial aviation earlier, and I ran across a question about why hubs exist. As much as I love my darling brother, I don’t think the answer he gave did justice to the complex, wonderful world of airports. And yes, I am that person who actually enjoys long layovers, and thinks that the airport textbooks bean has given me for my birthday and Christmas are very good gifts. One of the highlights of my summer was sitting in an airport reading an airport management textbook. It was glorious. [bean: Yes, this is all true. She really is almost as geeky as I am, just about different things.]

    Airlines are famously a “pray really hard, cross your fingers, and hope you’ll make enough money to buy a new plane or retrofit old ones” industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is expecting airlines across the world to have a near record total net profit of $29.8 billion, with a profit margin of 4.1% in 2017. The $29.8 billion number might sound really great, but that’s the net profit of all of IATA’s 278 member airlines. This works out to about $107 million per airline, which is enough to buy 89.7% of a Boeing 737 MAX9 (list price of $119.2 million as of May 2017). Granted, some of the IATA airlines made more, some made less, and some lost money, but we’ll use averages for simplicity’s sake. It’s important to remember that most airlines don’t pay full price for their planes [bean: Industry rule of thumb is that airlines pay about 50% of list], and the purchase of planes is generally funded by either sale of stock or large loans. Hubs save airlines a lot of money. I’ll leave an in-depth explanation of the costs of a commercial flight to someone else (ahem, bean) [bean: Hey, you’re the one with the accounting minor], but, in essence, airlines only make money when their planes are in the air, and a plane costs roughly the same to fly whether it’s full or not, because the weight of an additional passenger and their baggage is a drop in the bucket compared to the empty weight of the plane itself. So, airlines make the most money off of full flights, and bleed money on the flights where half the seats are empty. Airlines have a very good incentive to run flights as full as possible. Even though I might want to travel from, say, Lawton, Oklahoma to Lewiston, Idaho, there will never be a direct flight from Lawton to Lewiston because there isn’t enough demand (or really any demand at all- let’s be honest, there’s not much in Lawton, and there’s not much in Lewiston). This is where hubs come in.

    For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that there’s only eight airports in the US, four on the east coast, say Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK), Charlotte (CLT), and Miami (MIA), and four on the west coast, in this case Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Las Vegas (LAS), and Seattle (SEA). For the record, the FAA lists 514 commercial service airports in the US, which means, in reality, this is significantly more difficult. Suppose our pretend airline, Bean Airways, wants to be able to connect anyone from one airport to any of the other airports. If Bean Airways ran a flight from each of the airports to each of the other airports, there would be 56 flights. If, on the other hand, Bean Airways picked one airport on each coast to be a hub, there would be far fewer flights. Let’s use ATL and LAX for this example. You’d have a flight to and from Atlanta for each of the airports on the east coast, and to and from Los Angeles for each of the airports on the west coast, and a flight between Los Angeles and Atlanta. This is a total of 14 flights to cover the same service area. The two transcontinental flights (one eastbound, one westbound) would be what’s known as a trunk routes, or very profitable, high-demand routes. By having one transcontinental flight it each direction, the flight would become a trunk route for Bean Airways, and Bean Airways would have a significantly higher profit margin and much fuller flights than if it tried to run 24 transcontinental flights by having a direct route between every airport. [bean: This isn’t quite right, because it would require two stops unless you’re originating or destination in ATL or LAX. In practice, you’d probably set it up so that you’d have one flight from each city to each hub, which still means we drop from 24 transcons to 8. Maybe less, theoretically as low as 4 if we just have one hub for transcons. Passengers dislike making multiple connections. To put more real-world numbers on this, by the late 80s, it was possible to fly between 48,860 pairs of cities in the US with one stop (ref Hard Landing by Thomas Petzinger Jr.) This was great for the 22 people a day who flew between Norfolk and Kansas City. Lawton to Lewiston today still requires a double connection.] [I, bean’s favorite sister, would like to take a moment to point out that not all passengers dislike multiple connections. Specifically, I don’t dislike multiple connections. More airports to explore that way. Also, my example is still a very viable way to explain the necessity of hubs. Since you’d be the CEO of Bean Airways (as scary as that sounds), you can run as many flights as you’d like, despite whatever I think.] [bean: Yes, but since the extinction of the mileage runner, you’re the only one who likes multiple connections, and you don’t spend enough for the airlines to care.]

    Legacy carriers really like hubs, and the related hub and spoke transportation model, which is what was described in the Bean Airways example. Airbus tried to capitalize on this when they developed the A380, which allows for the movement of a lot of people at once on ultra-high demand trunk routes. The other model is point-to-point, which is used by low cost carriers, and was the transportation model Boeing had in mind when it developed the 787, a smaller wide-body jet with an ultra-long range that is perfect for long, low demand routes. Allegiant is a prime example of this, as they don’t allow connections, and basically just let people to go from point A to point B. Southwest is a mix of hub and spoke and point to point. They have some airports they use more than others in instances where people need to change planes (Chicago Midway, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando, Love Field, Houston Hobby, Oakland) that could be considered “hubs”, but, in general, if there’s enough demand to justify a flight between two cities, Southwest will be very quick to open a route, because direct routes are always cheaper for an airline than connections, assuming the demand exists to justify a direct route. I’ll address why in another post, assuming my dear, sweet brother lets me write anything for him again. Thanks for letting me take over for a bit, bean! [bean: Hmm. I think you’ve probably done enough to earn a second one, but I’ll see what the others have to say.]

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I’m curious how hubs are selected. How did Delta, for example, come to operate so famously out of Atlanta?

      How much of it is political – incentives offered by city or state governments to attract an airline? Does that even happen all that much anymore? How often to airlines move hubs, once they’ve selected one?

      How much of a role does the airport play in hub selection? For example, my home airport of Kansas City is a beautifully convenient airport to fly out of, but due to the way the terminals, security, and gates are laid out it’d probably be a nightmare to catch a connection through. Do hubs follow airport design, or do airports follow hubs? If another airport has a hub in a city, are other airlines incentivized to also route through that city, or to establish their own, independent hub in another city? What support services are available at hubs that aren’t available at the end of the various nodes, if any?

      The logistics of mass airplane flight has always fascinated me, sorry for the barrage of questions. I’ve been looking forward to this series all week!

      • bean says:

        (Answers are by bean. The Favorite Sister may or may not chime in at some point)

        I’m curious how hubs are selected. How did Delta, for example, come to operate so famously out of Atlanta?

        Delta has always run Atlanta more or less as a hub, even back before hub-and-spoke became so common. The statements about ‘whether you’re going to heaven or to hell, you’re going to go through Atlanta’ is, IIRC, pre-deregulation.
        Hubs are selected for a combination of airport facilities (terminals, runways, and slots), geographic location (you want short flights to the spokes), and local demand. Ideally, you want to put the hub in a place people want to go, and a place people want to go places from. This means you always have a baseline of traffic, and it’s particularly good for attracting the high-revenue business traffic.

        How much of it is political – incentives offered by city or state governments to attract an airline? Does that even happen all that much anymore? How often to airlines move hubs, once they’ve selected one?

        Operational needs are likely to take priority, but if it comes down to two or three nearby cities, politics might play a big part. There hasn’t been much hub movement of late. Hubs grow and shrink. The consolidations of the past decade have meant that there were too many hubs, and quite a few of them have gone away. I can’t think of a new hub proper opening recently. Airlines seem to prefer to grow at existing hubs instead.

        How much of a role does the airport play in hub selection? For example, my home airport of Kansas City is a beautifully convenient airport to fly out of, but due to the way the terminals, security, and gates are laid out it’d probably be a nightmare to catch a connection through. Do hubs follow airport design, or do airports follow hubs?

        Most hubs have been hubs for a while, and have been built as hubs. If you were to put a new hub in at an airport that hadn’t been one, you’d be likely to have to build a new terminal to handle the level of traffic, which is very different. Picking up an old hub for a song might work well, though. St. Louis springs to mind. There might be some interesting number-crunching you could do on O/D vs connecting at major hubs and cities of similar population that aren’t hubs.

        If another airport has a hub in a city, are other airlines incentivized to also route through that city, or to establish their own, independent hub in another city?

        The only cities which are hubs for multiple airlines are New York, LA, Chicago, and to a lesser extent Seattle. (Discounting Southwest, as their business model is rather different.) Business travel is the foundation of legacy airline revenue, and fighting over market share in a market smaller than the big three is just going to leave everyone bloody. Set up a hub somewhere else.

        What support services are available at hubs that aren’t available at the end of the various nodes, if any?

        The big thing that springs to mind is spare airplanes. At a hub, a plane that breaks just gets swapped out. At an outstation, you probably don’t have that luxury.
        I’m sure that I’ve annoyed my sister enough with these answers. If she comes up with different replies, I’ll post them or encourage her to get her own account.

        • sister bean says:

          Most hubs have been hubs for a while, and have been built as hubs. If you were to put a new hub in at an airport that hadn’t been one, you’d be likely to have to build a new terminal to handle the level of traffic, which is very different.

          That’s mostly right. Generally, airports are there before they become a hub, but, in some cases, new airports are built (Denver and Hong Kong spring to mind). The new Denver airport and the new Hong Kong airport were specifically built to be hubs because the old airports were hubs that weren’t designed to be hubs. This is especially true in the case of Hong Kong. Here’s the Wikipedia article on Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong’s airport from 1925-1998. link text

        • Evan Þ says:

          If you were to put a new hub in at an airport that hadn’t been one, you’d be likely to have to build a new terminal to handle the level of traffic, which is very different. Picking up an old hub for a song might work well, though.

          Yep. Look at the history of Raleigh-Durham Airport, NC (RDU), where I grew up: it built a third terminal in 1985 to house an American Airlines hub, and when American moved out in 1995, Midway Airlines immediately took its place. They were subleasing the terminal from American, IIRC rather cheaply because American needed the cash.

          When Midway closed up shop in turn in 2003, RDU was rather in trouble: they had two terminals (the original second having merged with the first) without an airside connection, the newer one of which was designed without enough security or baggage claim space because they assumed most passengers would be connecting at the hub. In the end, they decided to float new bonds, renovate the hub terminal, move everything there, and then demolish part of the other terminal and renovate the rest. It was a bold plan, but so far it seems to have paid off.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’d be interested in the explanation as to why direct routes are cheaper, myself. Obviously, there has to be sufficient demand – but just as obviously, there is sufficient demand if you fly small enough planes, infrequently enough. So the next obvious question is, how many flights do you need to “connect” two cities? I would naively think that two direct flights each way per day, morning and late afternoon departure, would suffice to capture almost all of the traffic between any regional city pair if the competition is requiring a layover, but that’s just a wild guess.

      • bean says:

        I’d be interested in the explanation as to why direct routes are cheaper, myself.

        Off the top of my head:
        1. You’re flying the minimum possible distance, and only taking off once. This saves fuel and time, both of which are expensive.
        2. It’s operationally simpler. You don’t have to worry about people misconnecting, or about getting baggage between planes. You don’t have to schedule around letting people make connections.
        The big problem is that there are relatively high fixed costs for a given flight. By hubbing, I can replace a bunch of regional jets with a few 737s, and make a lot more money.

        So the next obvious question is, how many flights do you need to “connect” two cities? I would naively think that two direct flights each way per day, morning and late afternoon departure, would suffice to capture almost all of the traffic between any regional city pair if the competition is requiring a layover, but that’s just a wild guess.

        One of the biggest drivers of business travel market share is frequency. If I’m on someone else’s dime, I care a lot more about convenience than I probably do on my own dime. If one of your two times doesn’t work for me for whatever reason, I might well rather have a layover than spend an extra night on the road. That said, what you describe is basically Southwest’s business model (although they generally have high frequencies, too), and they clean up on it. The legacies are more interested in moving people in and out from their hubs or points further away.

        • sister bean says:

          bean’s favorite sister here (he missed out on one of the biggest factors of why direct flights are cheaper and I was so annoyed by it that I decided to procrastinate on my homework and answer this instead). Also, yes, I decided to shamelessly ride my brother’s coattails and borrow his username.

          Landing fees and other fees associated with the use of an airport are a huge factor in why direct flights are cheaper. The three categories of airport use fees are landing fees, which are typically variable based on the weight (generally maximum takeoff weight), number of seats, operator, time of day, etc., parking charges, which are variable based on length of stay, size of aircraft, weight, etc., and passenger charges. Passenger charges are usually only charged for departing passengers, but some airports, notably Bridgetown, Barbados (BGI), charge for both arriving and departing passengers. Excluding taxes, the single biggest portion of the ticket goes to airport use fees, not fuel or the cost of the plane. The fewer stops you have to make, the fewer airports you have to pay to use. It adds up rather quickly, especially when you consider the astronomical landing fees at some airports.

          • bean says:

            Excluding taxes, the single biggest portion of the ticket goes to airport use fees, not fuel or the cost of the plane.

            Really? My understanding is that MIA is one of the highest-cost airports in the country, and landing fees there are around $20/passenger. More typical is something like half that. Average round-trip airfare is, what, $200-300? You’re saying that fuel is 10% or less of the ticket price? Maybe today, but not a few years ago.

          • sister bean says:

            I’ve definitely spent more time researching the ticket costs for short haul flights. As much as it pains me to say, you’re probably correct for long haul flights, but it really adds up for short haul flights.

          • John Schilling says:

            Thanks; I hadn’t realized the airlines were paying that much in landing/parking fees. In general aviation they are usually negligible, in part because they are usually waived altogether if you are buying fuel from the airport’s fuel concession, but I expect airlines are making their own private arrangements for fuel while at the same time making heavy demands on the rest of the airport facilities.

          • bean says:

            @Sister
            That’s believable. According to Southwest’s filings with the DoT for Q2 2017, it costs them about $4038/hr direct to run a 737-700, broken down to $873 for crew, $1501 for fuel, $789 for maintenance, and $277 for depreciation. (The rest is minor headings I didn’t feel like adding up, and taxes and landing fees are not included, nor are various overheads.) At the load factors SWA had for Q2, you’ve got an average of 122 passengers on each plane, so cost comes to $33/pax/hr. So on a 1-hour flight, fuel is $12.3/passenger, which is definitely in the realm of landing fees, depending on where you’re going. Note that this is based on recent jet fuel costs, and the ratio probably wasn’t the same 5-10 years ago.
            (Also, apologies for destroying your day with that link.)

    • J says:

      You’ve mentioned Allegiant twice now. I keep hearing that they’ve had a ton of safety issues with their planes. Should I hesitate to fly with them?

      • bean says:

        Depends on your tolerance for risk. Allegiant is definitely the least safe of the major carriers, but probably no more than a factor of 2-3 less safe than anyone else. Still definitely safer than driving. That said, I’d look very closely at other options before booking with them. They charge fees for everything, and you’re not going to get good customer service. Do the math ahead of time, and figure out the lowest price for what you want, not just the sticker price.
        I’ve thought about flying with them just to say I did it, and I might have done so if they’d flown a route I was interested in. Never happened, and they don’t fly to OKC.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      [bean: Industry rule of thumb is that airlines pay about 50% of list]

      Who else is in the market that would be paying full price? Or is the “list” price just 100% inflated to make stock look more valuable than it really is? Are billionaires really interested in passenger jets..?

      • bean says:

        I have no clue. For all I know, it’s like healthcare sticker price. I may poke around a bit and see.
        (Note that the rule of thumb is not hard and fast. It varies depending on model and demand. I’d expect you can pick up a 747-8 at a much greater discount than a 777X.)

    • Wait, your sister calls you bean? I thought it was an Internet name.

    • Incurian says:

      let’s be honest, there’s not much in Lawton, and there’s not much in Lewiston

      All I need to know about Lewiston is that it’s not Lawton.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What are your and your sister’s favourite airports?

      (Mine’s Schiphol, in the Netherlands; it’s less confusingly laid out than most I’ve been to)

      • bean says:

        Singapore Changi. Utterly astonishing. It’s well laid-out, and has so many things to do. It’s been rated as the best in the world for a lot of years running, and it’s not particularly hard to see why.
        The same for her, although she hasn’t been. (Finding a souvenir from the airport itself was a lot harder than expected, but I finally did it just before I left.) I’m not sure what she’d say for airports she’s been to.
        In terms of US airports, I’m sort of torn. LAX has horrible ground transportation and some fairly bad terminals, but if you can get into Bradley (the international terminal), there’s some fantastic plane-spotting. Long Beach is really nice if you just want to fly, although their Uber policies were annoying last time I was through. John Wayne and Spokane aren’t bad, either.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How about least favourite?

          (YYZ is a shitty airport and an overrated Rush song)

          • bean says:

            Dulles. I was stuck listening to CNN there once for hours with nothing to do. What makes it particularly galling is that I missed the opportunity to go to Udvar-Hazy. LAX on a bad day is a close second.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Second vote for Changi. As you say the terminals are amazing, and from an operations side the approach plates are simple (despite the crowded airspace) the runways large, well marked and parallel, and the lily-pads out of the way without being too out of the way. Also the FBO staff are Singaporean which generally means they have their shit together. The flyers club being full of SIA Girls is also a nice perk even if none of them were ever willing to give me the time of day.

    • John Schilling says:

      So if we’re going to talk about favorite airports, what makes an airport good anyway?

      From a pilot’s perspective, it needs to be in a place with generally favorable weather particularly w/re winds and thunderstorms, it should have a few reasonably long and broad runways well aligned with the local prevailing winds (ideally just one runway aligned with an unvarying wind), unobstructed approaches for every runway in both directions, some clearly-visible local landmark (but see above), a very simple arrangement of taxiways with easy ramp access, a hassle-free FBO or terminal operation, a decent restaurant and hotel on or adjacent to the terminal.

      From an airline perspective, particularly for a hub, I imagine they would want multiple runways and a carefully-designed maze of taxiways to handle high throughput, large and in particular highly flexible terminal capacity, and probably other stuff that I am missing because I’m not bean nor his favorite sister.

      From a traveler’s perspective, convenient ground transportation including a rail link straight from the terminal to whatever it is people visit your city for (probably downtown). An efficient flow from the curb and/or rail station to check-in, baggage drop, security, and departure lounge. Comfortable departure lounges with a good view, though the best real estate will almost certainly be claimed by the privileged-flier clubs. Easy access from any terminal to any other terminal without having to go through security again. A selection of good restaurants and bars, some shopping particularly including books/electronics, travel essentials and accessories, and food. Again, a hotel in the terminal, not just for connecting flights but for early morning departures. Efficient baggage claim at the far end. General cleanliness throughout, and low ambient noise.

      From a PR department or big-city mayor’s perspective: Spiffy architecture and internal design that they can point to when they’ve failed to deliver any of the rest.

      What else?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Speaking as a passenger, a bad airport design usually features a layout that forces you to take a long circuitous route to get from point A to point B, and bad signage.

        Routes being bad might be something that can’t be helped due to geography and how planes work. I don’t know. But bad signage? No excuse. Airports are places where unless someone is a frequent traveller, they’re going to rely on signage.

        Since most airports are multilevel, one thing that particularly galls me is when it’s hard to tell by a sign’s design whether an arrow is indicating “straight ahead” or “go up.”

      • Brad says:

        All the airline and pilot stuff is pretty important to travelers too, even if they don’t realize it, because the worst thing when traveling are delays. If I had a choice between Penn Station being as beautiful and well laid out as Grand Central Station or the bowels of the station being fixed or modified in some way so as to reduce delays, I’d take the latter every time.

        • bean says:

          Everyone’s part matters to everyone else. Passengers and airlines both dislike bad weather because it causes delays. Airlines dislike bad terminal layout because it delays passengers and forces them to raise connection times and deal with misconnecting passengers. It also costs them businesses, as people avoid bad airports.

      • bean says:

        I think internal design can be good for passengers, too. Thinking back over the various airports I’ve spent time in, the worst ones are the ones that bear a more than slight resemblance to the DMV waiting room. The best ones are the ones that look like somewhere you might want to spend time at even if you weren’t flying. Changi is the best example of this. I was staying at the hotel connected to Terminal 3, and one evening I just wandered around the airport. It was a lot of fun, and one of my regrets is that my flight out was so early I didn’t get to spend much time airside, and most things were closed. But TBIT at LAX is much nicer than Terminals 1 and 4 (the others I have recent experience with), to the point that I don’t really regret having to show up so early if I get to be there.
        On the other hand, part of what makes Changi so great is that while it’s got amazing architecture and ambiance, they did it without losing sight of the fact that it’s an airport. And I’d always take an effective airport over a cool but ineffective one.
        (It helps that the designers at Changi really knew what they were doing. For instance, the landside viewing gallery is pretty much totally lacking in decoration, because people are coming there to look at the pretty airplanes, and don’t care as much about decoration. It’s still spacious and clean, but not overdone.)

      • BBA says:

        Funny how no matter what metric you pick, LaGuardia comes dead last of any major airport on Earth.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I prefer it to ATL, honestly, based on one my one experience with ATL. (Although I guess that’s assuming you can get there — LaGuardia does have the whole problem of getting there, whereas ATL doesn’t).

          • hlynkacg says:

            You can’t get to heaven or hell without passing through Hartsfield-Jackson.

          • Brad says:

            It’s not especially easy to get there. From midtown for mass transit you need to take a subway and a bus. In terms of a cab, at certain times of the day the traffic is likely to be awful.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I’m pretty sure LaGuardia was built on a hell-mouth.

        • bean says:

          Interesting. I haven’t been to either, but among the frequent-flier community, JFK is generally considered to be much worse than LGA.

          • BBA says:

            I’d say they’re both awful when it comes to flight delays, but JFK’s terminals range from meh (AA) to pretty good (JetBlue), while LGA is in a state of utter decrepitude. I primarily fly JetBlue, fwiw.

            There’s a plan underway to rebuild LGA (and give it the most useless, ill-conceived rail link ever built, but that’s another rant). Although it would take a lot of effort to be as incompetent and poorly done as Berlin’s new airport, if anyone’s up to the challenge it’s the Port Authority.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I bet Philadelphia is worse at baggage.

        • SamChevre says:

          La Guardia? I would have picked Newark, most specifically the terminal that you have to get to by bus, where I spent hours and hours waiting for a much-delayed flight.

          For “exciting to fly into,” Tegulcigalpa is the stand-out of those I’ve flown into.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        From an ex-ATC perspective: lots of parallel runways, with taxiways and ramps laid out to minimize the number of crossing ground paths. (Ground Control tends to be the most difficult position of operation at the busiest towers.)

      • Nornagest says:

        Affordable and reasonably accessible parking is a big plus, especially when transport links aren’t that great. Being able to charge electronics in the departure lounge is increasingly essential, too; a lot of airports try to half-ass it by scattering charging stations through the terminal, but this really isn’t good enough. Quick access from any gate to any other gate, or at least domestic to domestic: connections are the most time-sensitive part of flying, because you can’t get there early and it isn’t always practical to choose another schedule. Going through security again is the cardinal sin here, as you say, but avoiding it isn’t sufficient: I almost missed a connection in Denver once because of its weird tram-linked terminal layout.

        But the number one thing that pisses me off about airports is their propensity for delays, and that’s an issue that’s caused more by pilot-side than passenger-side problems, I expect.

  2. Charles F says:

    (I just posted this on the previous thread before I realized there was a new one up, sorry)

    So, I just heard about these weird attacks in Cuba. And it seems like a pretty interesting mystery. Anybody here have pet theories or domain specific knowledge about possible explanations?

    It seems unlikely but possible that the experts are all wrong and it actually is possible to have a compact, cheap, directed sonic attack generator, and that the sound can produce the effects we’re seeing.

    But I’m inclined to think that if the experts are saying the effects don’t make sense and the device would have to be unreasonably bulky due to acoustic laws or w/e, they’re probably right. So, trying to work around those, the first thing that comes to mind is that they’re reporting sound, but maybe the victims are just wrong about that. An electromagnetic wave/radiation emitter could be pretty compact and cheap, and possibly have weird damaging effects on a brain, and who knows how your brain would interpret being disrupted in that manner, it might think it was sound.

    Or maybe they really are being targeted by some sort of sound-based thing, but that’s not the actual cause of the brain damage. A drug or poison could be doing the actual damage, and the sound aspect could be accomplishing something else. Or they could be linked, like how strychnine can cause even more problems if the subject is exposed to loud noises or bright light. The victims could be poisoned to sensitize them to the noise and then attacked with a noise that might actually be much quieter/milder than what they feel like they experienced.

    For the cases where the noise seemed localized to the bed, they don’t mention the stupid simple possibility that somebody was watching and turning it off/on when they saw the target move, though who knows why anybody would bother with that except to be deliberately confusing. And if it actually did have to be a pretty loud noise, and they managed to isolate it in one hotel room, is it possible to have a loud noise generator in one room, and loud noise dampeners/cancelers set up in the surrounding rooms? Or would that be way too much equipment?

    What other strategies could get these sorts of confusing experiences/effects without actually being confusing/convoluted themselves? Hypnotize the subject to implant a false memory then hit them on the head to cause a concussion xp? Are there any that make sense as strategies even apart from the amount of confusion they’re causing? Or do we basically have to accept that as a goal of the attacker even they’re forgoing some simpler methods for the sake of mysteriousness?

    • hyperboloid says:

      It’s extremely unlikely that there is any “sonic weapon” targeting the US embassy in Cuba. Assuming this is not just a case of mass hysteria, then it’s probably a surveillance device gone wrong.

      In the 1940s the US ambassador to the soviet union was given a hand carved copy of the great seal of the United States by a troop of Young Pioneers (basically Communist boy scouts), he proudly hung it in his office and went about his business.

      A few years later a radio operator and the British embassy overheard a mysterious transmission of a conversation apparently taking place in the US ambassador’s office. American personnel swept the office, and to their surprise found the the seal was indeed emitting a radio signal. When they broke it open they found a remarkable device that they dubbed “the thing”. It resembled a pill bottle, or perhaps an over sized spool of thread, affixed to the end of a long antenna. It contained no battery, and was connected to no discernible external source of power. When western technicians examined it in detail, they discovered it consisted of little more than a condenser microphone attached to the end of an antenna. The device acted as a transceiver, receiving it’s power from a 330 MHz signal used to “illuminate” it from a distant surveillance station. As the thin conductive membrane that covered the the acoustic cavity resonated, the change in capacitance provided amplitude modulation to the remitted signal effectively broadcasting any sound in the ambassador’s office back the KGB listening station.

      It would not be too hard to design a similar device that used ultrasound. If there is actually an ultra sonic signal bombarding the US embassy in Havana, and something like this is the source, then there should another, very much weaker, signal being emitted from a device hidden somewhere in the building. The transmitting and receiving equipment would have to truly massive, with a powerful, and power hungry, speaker for sending out the initial signal, and a large parabolic microphone for reviving the modulated reply. One of the nearby buildings could easily conceal such a apparatus, but I expect that a discrete mobile version is out of the question.

      As for the reports of “attacks” at diplomatic residences, or multiple locations away from the embassy, I would chalk it up to a kind of paranoid hypochondria, where every random ailment is attributed to nefarious sound waves.

    • Garrett says:

      I’d note that apparently people from the Canadian embassy have also reported the same thing. Checking Google Maps, I was surprised to find that the US and Canadian embassies are a long distance away from each other. If they were close I could imagine there being “spill-over” from one impacting the other.

  3. Well... says:

    Continuing our discussion about art from the last OT…

    @johan_larson:

    Off hand, I would expect the artistic summits of the 1960s to be somewhat higher than those of the 1890s, since society was wealthier and technology had advanced significantly, giving artists more options.

    I think the quality of art isn’t related to technology and “options” so much as to the character of artists and their ideas. Otherwise we should be in a golden age of Hollywood and literature right now, yet we aren’t.

    Why don’t you list some of the great accomplishments of the earlier decade [the 1890s], and we’ll go from there?

    I should have said the 1880s, but you get the point. Consider the works of: Ilya Repin; Rachmaninov; Mussorgsky; Debussy; Kramskoy; Frederic Remington; Gilbert Munger; Sibelius; Twain; Dostoyevsky. These were masters. Giants. In 140 years what will they say about “Cool Hand Luke”?

    @The Red Foliot:

    It might surprise you to learn that realism in painting lives on.

    No, I have a couple realist painters in my family. They’re even more pretentious than me, if you can believe that.

    One reason for its drop in relative status is that it is no longer novel.

    Realist painting wasn’t novel in the 19th century either though. For example you had Leonardo in the 15th century, Michelangelo in the 16th, Rembrandt and Vermeer in the 17th…all doing realism. (Michelangelo’s work was especially ahead of its time.)

    • hyperboloid says:

      Otherwise we should be in a golden age of Hollywood and literature right now, yet we aren’t

      How do you know we aren’t?

      There is no accounting for taste, so maybe future generations will look back with nostalgia at our artistic output.

      Realist painting went out of style because of a guy named Louis Daguerre. By the early twentieth century, any person with a bit of experience, a camera, and a properly equipped studio could create something that would make Velázquez green with envy. Once a cheap automatic process could duplicate, and then exceed, the works of the masters, the public lost interest in that kind of art. Of course, some people still appreciate realist paintings as displays of sheer technical talent, rather than for purely aesthetic reasons, but that is relativity niche abundance.

      As for music, who is to say that any of the composers you listed are better than those of the twentieth century? From the neoclassical school we have Igor Stravinsky, and Carl Orff, you have atonal music from Schoenberg, Adorno, and Xenakis; you have minimalist compositions from Cage, and Glass. Other then your personal tastes, I see no metric by which we can judge that there has been a decline in quality.

      In literature it’s even more apparent, because there weren’t the same kind of huge stylistic changes, that accompanied music, and painting. In your opinion, who was the greatest english language writer of the ninetieth century?

      For novelists the twentieth century gave us Hemingway, Orwell, London, Fitzgerald and Nabokov. The eighteen hundreds had Dickens, and numerous other long winded writers fond of sentimental plots, purple prose, and shallow characters. Oscar Wilde got it right; one must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.

      • Well... says:

        I forgot to note about modern photorealism: in some ways it’s more limited than the older Realists because it’s based on seeing the way a camera sees, rather than the way the mind sees. For example in terms of lens distortion and exposure latitude.

        Stravinsky, Orff, the atonalists, Cage, and Glass aren’t even in the same ballpark as the composers I listed. Stravinsky comes closest of those you mentioned, I suppose. Samuel Barber, Kodaly, and Shostakovich would have come even closer but they’re still inferior.

        I’m willing to concede on literature that the 20th century was probably stronger on the whole than the 19th. I haven’t read the Russians in Russian, but if what everyone says is true they might be a notable exception.

        Note: I wrote my original comment right after a weekend visit from my very pretentious artist father who idolizes the 19th century Russians, so I was kind of in the mood (in that mode?). I’m not really as pretentious as this–I mostly listen to Helmet-esque rock these days and my art collection is mostly Tlingit and Norman Rockwell prints for crying out loud–but I must now defend my argument out of stubbornness.

        • hyperboloid says:

          My larger point is that there is no objective standard by which to judge art. It can only be judged relative to some set of subjectively chosen of aesthetic goals.

          Think about it like this; there is a configuration space containing all the potential works of art that humans could ever create. It is vast, but finite. There are only so many words in all the languages of the world, and only so many ways they can be combined to tell a coherent story. There are only so many notes perceptible to the human ear, and only so many ways they can be arranged. There are only so many gradations of color, and shape detectable to the human eye, and only so many combinations that can be put on canvas.

          This vast potential space is divided into areas corresponding to the various genres, styles, and artistic movements. Over here are the surrealists, right there, the expressionists, next to them the baroque, and the mannerists. In one corner is all theater that obeys the classical unities, next to it are the plays of Shakespeare. Here are all the works of modernist literature, there are the Gothic novels. Below is all pornography, and above, all devotional art.

          Each area is finite, and can contain only so many works that can be differentiated by the human aesthetic sense. Every so often society judges that one area is full, and so moves on from that artistic framework and begins to explore a new one.

          I love English romantic poetry, but I do not think we would be better off if Ginsberg had tried to write like Blake. We already have Blake, and Shelly, and Byron; and any attempt to further mine that territory is bound to subject to the law of diminishing returns. If all the greatest creative minds of a given society are devoted to to exploring a particular kind of art, they will eventually exhaust it’s potential. Schoenberg was not Tchaikovsky for the simple reason that Tchaikovsky was already Tchaikovsky. There was one, and there could not be another. One could not make compose two originals of the score to The Nutcracker, anymore than you could paint Mona Lisa twice.

          I put it to you that Schoenberg was as good at satisfying the preferences of people who like atonal music as Rachmaninoff was at appealing to the romantics.

          • Well... says:

            One could not make compose two originals of the score to The Nutcracker, anymore than you could paint Mona Lisa twice.

            But you could compose a second Romeo and Juliet after Tchaikovsky, as Prokofiev did! Hah, but OK I get your point. See my answer to timewarp below.

        • timewarp says:

          Congratulations! This is my first time posting on this website, and I do so exclusively because your comment – and in fact, your whole line of thinking is so poorly executed that I am no longer able to stop myself from commenting.

          I’m a musician and composer, and I’ve been playing seriously orchestrally for the last 8 years, and composing for the last 10. In your discussion of great composers, you have failed to answer hyperboloid’s question entirely – what metric do you use to judge music that puts Mussorgsky in an entirely different ballpark from Schoenberg? You only re-affirmed your specific opinion in this post, without actually addressing what your standards for musical greatness are.

          In fact, in all of your posts on music and art that I’ve seen so far, you completely fail to define your answer to the question of “what makes a work of art good?” which is the basic question from which almost all modern aesthetic theory follows. I’m very, very curious as to what metric you use that puts Mussorgsky – known for approximately one major orchestral piece (Pictures) and a few smaller piano solos – ahead of Schoenberg, whose utterly revolutionary 12-tone system changed the course of music forever. It’s historically inappropriate to regard composers like Barber, Shostakovich, or Stravinsky as entirely unaffected by the giant that is Schoenberg in post-1920s music, as Stravinsky eventually adopted the 12-tone system towards the end of his career, and both Barber and Shostakovich’s musical careers existed as a reaction to the serialist mainstream, and their work utterly would not have been possible without that basis.

          Ultimately, it seems like you have conflated your personal preferences with a general judgement on the objective quality of these composers’ works, and taking the time to investigate precisely why you love the works you love. Don’t get me wrong – Rachmaninoff is my favorite composer, and I strongly feel that modern musical academia is far too deep into the expressionist/post-expressionist theory (constant dissonance, irregular and unsettling rhythms, and impenetrable textures) to be publicly enjoyable, but my subjective personal feelings are not an objective judge of quality if an objective judge of quality in music can exist at all beyond the answer to the question “did the composer accomplish what they intended?”

          I don’t want to presuppose the origin of your viewpoints on this, but they appear entrenched in classical aesthetic theory. The Art Assignment channel on youtube has a fascinating series of videos exploring the creative motivations behind many of the art movements and artists you dismiss out of hand (minimalism, performance art, Rothko, Ai Weiwei, abstraction…) You’re entirely entitled to your personal opinions (I cannot stand listening to most of Boulez’s early works, and Copland makes me die internally), but you can’t substitute those for reasoned academic discourse (Boulez’s early works were fundamental in defining the total serialist style that was so influential [in both positive and negative artistic reactions] in the latter half of the 20th century; Copland defined the characteristics of an American composer in many ways) while retaining intellectual and academic honesty.

          This is my first comment on this site (and possibly my last one, unless other discussions of music theory happen frequently – most of this site’s politics I wouldn’t like to touch with a 10 foot pole.) so let me know if I’ve broken any rules!

          • Well... says:

            Well yeah, I interpreted the original post (last OT) as an invitation to conflate my personal preferences with general judgment and bloviate and breastbeat accordingly!

            I do grapple with the question you and hyperboloid raised, of how art can be defined as good or bad if it’s all subjective and based on individual taste at the end of the day. Some art seems clearly better than other art–so clearly that it seems impossible that this is just due to subjective preference (Mozart has to be objectively better than Godsmack, right??), but yet I can’t point to anything other than technique and theory to try to justify it, and that’s begging the question anyway.

            There’s the metric of seeing who’s remembered better for longer, but of course that’s subject to many problems too, not the least of which is the Popularity Contest of History.

            “Did the composer achieve what he intended?” is also a subjective metric since we can’t know perfectly what was intended, even among living composers!

            Thus my interpretation of the OP.

            I’m with you on Copland, though his clarinet concerto’s not bad.

          • timewarp says:

            Eh, I don’t see where you’re getting that from. However, I definitely disagree with The Red Foliot on the previous OT – the possibility space for any given style is practically infinite, given the subtleties of orchestration, form, and melody, and I doubt that the progression from one dominant style to another (if you can even call it that – Romanticism had so many competing factions, and the Classical style is essentially centered around Mozart and lesser imitations, and the transition from Romanticism to Modernism is both hazy and ignores the contemporary Impressionist movement, and everything after that is a blur of Post- and Neo- [insert older school or minimalism here]) can be modeled as “well, we finished that possibility space”. I think that changes in style are much more likely to be reflective of social changes, and changes in the artistic atmosphere of the time – and of course this is only discussing the Broadly Accepted Western Canon, which for the most part disregards post-1600 sacred music with the exception of Bruckner and Verdi.

            And, artistic progress always looks faster and greater in the past, since we only remember the good stuff. Yeah, you probably wouldn’t be able to point out which modern composer is going to be compared to Brahms in 50 – 100 years, but contemporary to Brahms, you probably couldn’t claim him as one of the greatest composers of all time without coming off as a preposterous fortune teller. I honestly think that in [the amount of time it takes for a musical period to become canonized, like the process that music historians are currently doing to the 70s and 80s with the Experimentalist and Minimalist movements], the early 21st century will be looked at similarly to any other period of political chaos and artistic confusion: 1860s, 1910s, 1940s… And that not only will we find new possibility spaces, we’ll continue finding new ways to use old possibility spaces (like the dance suite I’m working on that uses 19th century dance forms and styles with modern harmonies, rhythms, and emotional arcs!)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Timewarp,
            when you mention the Art Assignment channel, are you talking about any particular videos? the “case for” ones?
            Do you also recommend the rest?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The question “how many other composers did this guy influence” certainly lends itself well to academic discourse, and I agree it should be part of how we assess a historical composer; but I would hate to think it’s the only question. Surely whether, over time, the listening public seeks his music out or avoids it ought to figure somewhere?

          • timewarp says:

            @Douglas Knight – I personally only really like the ‘Case For’ videos, most of the others (especially the interviews with non-artists) I can take or leave, but the ‘Case For’ videos are really exciting and interesting.

            @Paul Zrismek – Honestly, I don’t think public appeal is a good indicator of the quality of anything. I mean, The Sound of Music is one of the highest-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation), and one of the highest in terms of ticket sales, but I doubt anyone, academic or not, considers it one of the greatest movies of all time. Avatar is an even more broadly applicable case, since there is practically no appreciation for that film today, and it’s the highest grossing movie of all time (not adjusted for inflation, though). And when it comes to an artistic movement that to some degree prides itself on inaccessibility, (see anything Milton Babbit wrote, ever), and an audience population that is aging rapidly, that metric is even more broadly off the mark.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Thanks!
            You may find it amusing to search this site for music theory.

          • johan_larson says:

            If I may be so bold, I think the reason “Well…” judges 20th century music so harshly is that he focuses closely on classical music. And that genre of music did not fare well in the 20th century.

            On the one hand, it in some sense stopped. Its collection of instruments is visibly that of the 19th century. That last one to be included in the formal orchestra was the saxophone. Purists disdain also disdain electronic amplification, to say nothing of sampling. On the other hand, they sort of lost their minds, caught up in inside-the-academy status games of radical atonality. Even sophisticated audiences didn’t want that stuff.

            And meanwhile other genres of music weren’t standing still. Over in musical theatre, George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers produced some wonderful stuff. Jazz fostered a parade of heroes like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. And even rock’n roll had some composers (like Brian Wilson and Lennon/McCartney) who managed to make the four-minute pop song into something special.

            The 20th century had some great music. It just didn’t come from the tradition of the Vienna salons.

          • John Schilling says:

            The 20th century had some great music. It just didn’t come from the tradition of the Vienna salons.

            Alternately, it came from that tradition but wasn’t performed in any salon or concert hall. If your list of great “classical” composers of the 20th century doesn’t include e.g. John Williams, you’re missing something important.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Hell even if we limit ourselves to orchestral arrangements we still have guys like Gustav Holst, Ennio Morricone, John Williams, and even Hans Zimmer putting out excellent work. I’d wager that The Imperial March and Jaws Theme will be better remembered and more influential in 100 years than anything the atonalists composed.

            Edit: Ninja’d by John.

          • timewarp says:

            John Williams stole all his harmonic and melodic content from Romantic composers, but sure, his music is fun to listen to, I guess.

          • rlms says:

            “Gustav Holst, Ennio Morricone, John Williams, and even Hans Zimmer”
            One of these is not like the others!

          • hlynkacg says:

            You’re right, Morricone is Italian. 😛

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Honestly, I don’t think public appeal is a good indicator of the quality of anything.

            I’m not pushing vox populi vox Dei as such– at least in the case of serious music (pop culture plays by different rules), I view the evolution of opinion as a dialectic between professionals, critics, and the listening public. I’m merely insisting on the importance of the public’s role, not trying to denigrate that of the other players. In any case, we ought to be agreed about the importance of time (judging by your well-considered remark upthread about the riskiness of assigning Brahms a place in the pantheon while he was still composing). I shouldn’t be answerable for the people who thought Avatar a great movie any more than you should be answerable for the critics who thought Beethoven would be a flash in the pan compared to Hummel.

          • JohnofSalisbury says:

            I don’t want to endorse all of Well’s specific judgements, but let’s note that he started out with a list of composers from a single decade (the 1880s) and the come back was a list of composers from the entire 20th century. Compare century to century, however, and the aesthetic ignorance plea sounds a lot less plausible. Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner etc etc are obviously superior to Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Shostakovich etc. That’s just a Moorean aesthetic fact. I can’t do much to justify it on the spot, but I don’t think I really need to either.
            And yes, there are aesthetic facts: as Well points out, Mozart really is better than Godsmack. How can we tell what’s better? Basically, listen attentively to a lot of music, and reflect upon it. That’s what it comes down to. There are decent shortcuts, though, such as seeing who gets remembered longest, as Well suggests. Being remembered longer isn’t a mere popularity contest, since there are aesthetic experts: people who listen to more music, more attentively, and reflect upon that listening more deeply. The aesthetic experts are important in determining what gets remembered, because they tend to accrue institutional power: become conductors, scholars, etc. On this note, btw, no one accepts a Western Canon that excludes so much Bach: sacred music is in right the way through.
            Though time helps, it’s not necessary. I’m deeply suspicious of your claim about contemporaries of Brahms not being able to identify him as an all time great. Of course, there’s the general problem of innovators not being appreciated by their contemporaries, but that only goes so far. Wagner is a clearer case. When Tristan premiered, the less conservative experts knew that something immense had happened, that it was an unprecedented achievement that would change music forever. Heck, they probably knew it with Schoenberg, too.
            Finally, I’m going to call BS on hyperboloid’s dismissal of 19th century literature. The 19th c also gave us Austen, Eliot, Melville, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky… I think it’s less clear cut here than in music, but I’m pretty confident than none of the authors you mention ever wrote anything the equal of Middlemarch. (Ulysses and Middlemarch is too close for me to call, but you for some reason you mentioned Orwell rather than Joyce).

          • Well... says:

            @JohnofSalisbury:

            Good catch. I was comparing art highlights of the 1880s to those the 1960s.

            BTW I thought way better highlights from the 1960s could have been chosen than got chosen by the OP last OT. (I don’t remember most of them now and I’m too lazy to go look but two were “The Graduate” and “Cool Hand Luke”.)

          • quaelegit says:

            @ JohnofSalisbury — good catch about the time intervals but,

            Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner etc etc are obviously superior to Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Shostakovich etc. That’s just a Moorean aesthetic fact. I can’t do much to justify it on the spot, but I don’t think I really need to either.

            Yeah, you do. I’ll take Shostakovich over Wagner or Mendelssohn every time. I mean, I like all of these guys’ work except maybe Wagner, and I can see how some people might prefer your older grouping to your younger one, but I don’t see such an obvious difference “greatness” between the two groups at all.

            @johan_larson

            On the one hand, it in some sense stopped. Its collection of instruments is visibly that of the 19th century.

            I’m no music historian, but my impression as an amateur orchestral player is that this is largely intentional — classical music came to be defined as “music using these instruments” — anything else was considered a different genre. Although there is still some innovation in instruments — e.g. recorded sound. Respighi’s Pines of Rome is famous for using a recording of a nightingale at the end of the third movement, and in my last year of high school I played Cantus Arcticus which also prominently features recorded birdsong. (Admittedly one “new instrument” in a century isn’t a lot… but it’s much more flexible than any one 19th century instrument. And there may be more I’m not thinking of right now.)

            (Edit: was checking Wikipedia and I think a lot of percussion instruments became codified in their current orchestral form in the 20th century — e.g. the vibraphone. Also perhaps auxiliary tech like mutes? Idk the history there.)

            @ timewarp

            I mean, The Sound of Music is one of the highest-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation), and one of the highest in terms of ticket sales, but I doubt anyone, academic or not, considers it one of the greatest movies of all time.

            Why not? I haven’t seen that many movies so my opinion probably shouldn’t count but it strikes me as a pretty good one?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Though time helps, it’s not necessary. I’m deeply suspicious of your claim about contemporaries of Brahms not being able to identify him as an all time great.

            Well, the real rap against those gentlemen is that so many of them found it necessary to dismiss Wagner while they were doing it; their opposite numbers in Wagner’s camp of course making the same mistake in reverse. The moral being not that we should ignore such efforts to help the historical winnowing process along, but that we should be careful about taking what they say for the last word.

          • JohnofSalisbury says:

            @quaelegit To clarify, my claim was not supposed to be that the composers on the old list are on average greater than those on the young list, still less that every composer on the old list is greater than every composer on the young list, but rather that the composers of the 19th century are, in toto, greater than those of the 20th. Hence the old list was longer and included a second ‘etc’: I was trying to suggest strength in depth. At a first pass, I would defend this claim with reference to all time great lists compiled by reputable sources: I would expect a significantly higher proportion of 19th c composers than 20th c composers. Unfortunately, I’m struggling to find a wide selection of such lists.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Realist painting went out of style because of a guy named Louis Daguerre. By the early twentieth century, any person with a bit of experience, a camera, and a properly equipped studio could create something that would make Velázquez green with envy.

        I’m not so sure, given that lots of the old realist paintings depicted things that would be completely impossible to photograph. (How would you photograph, for example, St. Benedict’s soul ascending into Heaven, or get the River Danube and the land of Germany to assume human form so that they can post with the victories commanders at the Battle of Noerdlingen?)

        • hyperboloid says:

          Technically realistic paintings of impossible things were a big part of surrealism well into the twentieth century. Magritte, Dali, and Max Ernst all did considerable work in this vein. Interestingly, Dali in particular was very aware of his debt to Catholic devotional art.

  4. paranoidaltoid says:

    Scott: You should become a psychiatrist who specifically provides therapy for aspiring effective altruists.

    I read two things on here that gave me this idea: One, your angst about 80000 hours claiming that medicine is not a great field to enter, in terms of marginal positive effect on the world. Two, the story of the unemployed trans math grad who felt shame after seeing how successful other rationalists are, where you reassured her that there are many people like her, out of sight.

    So unlike normal psychiatrists who just help people get their lives together, you’ll be helping people get their lives together and increasing the number of successful effective altruists. In theory any therapist could help unsuccessful effective altruists, but perhaps knowing that their therapist “gets it” could establish a better relationship.

    I’m sure you’ve thought about it and decided the logistics don’t work out, but, there it is anyway.

  5. Matt M says:

    Issue: When I log into this site via wordpress, there’s a black wordpress toolbar at the top which blocks a row or so of the webpage. This is somewhat annoying because when I use the “last comments” feature to skip to new comments, the name of the person making the comment is hidden behind this bar.

    Does anyone know what I’m talking about, and more importantly, have a proposed solution?

    • Well... says:

      Yup, just tried it on your very comment and it indeed does exactly what you said. I think I’ve noticed that before. I rarely use the “new comments” feature, but if I did I would find this annoying too. My workaround would be to grit my teeth and scroll up a line or two each time.

      The way I actually read new comments here is to load the page (or refresh it as the case may be) and Cntrl+F for my handle. Then I click the up arrow next to my search field until I’m at the bottom of the page. Then I scroll up, using the up arrow on the comments to skip comments and sometimes collapsing top-level comments as I go past them. If I’m specifically interested in replies to my own comments I keep pressing the up arrow next to my search field until I get to whatever comment thread I’m interested in.

      I can’t restate often enough how much I wish they’d add a second “Hide” button at the top of each comment.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Go to your profile and uncheck “Show Toolbar when viewing site.” (If you have a wordpress account rather than a local account, your profile may be in a different place. Try the toolbar icon of 3 horizontal bars.)

      Do you use bookmarklets? here is a page about one to kill floating items like that.

  6. HFARationalist says:

    The freedom of speech needs to be protected from social consequences

    We should not allow social shaming and pressure to curb the freedom of speech. No one should be harmed for any controversial or unpopular views no matter how extreme such views are. We should allow Nazism, Communism, Misanthropy and other weird views to be expressed and not harm people due to such views.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Who are you? and what have you done to the real HFARationalist?

      • HFARationalist says:

        What? I’m the real HFA. What happened?

        The case I have in mind is Stormfront. I’m explicitly not a Stormer. I disagree with the views expressed on Stormfront. However I believe Stormfront should be allowed to exist due to free speech. The harm SF can do is not as significant as the harm erosion of free speech can do. Today it’s SF. Tomorrow it can be someone else. Who knows where will censorship ever stop?

        I disagree with both Nazism and censorship of Nazism. We should always allow free, open and rational discussion on any topic, including Nazism. First the mob come for real Nazis. Then they come for any ethnic nationalist. Then they will come for every non-Nazi who does not condemn Nazis emotionally whenever it is mentioned and prefer to have a rational discussion about them instead such as me. I have commercial values which is something real Nazis actually hate. I’m in fact a rootless cosmopolitan in the literal sense of the word as opposed to a code word for Jews. However angry mobs don’t seem to let anyone who does not repeat the party line go. Yes. I love Moloch. I love what Nazis call “Jewmoney” and the so-called “Judaized world”. Yet I want freedom of speech for every one, including Nazis because currently Nazism is a lesser problem compared to the problem of the leftist mob. I’m perpetually against majority values and social consensus no matter what they are because I’m afraid that any attempt to have people agree on any value for the sake of unity is potentially dangerous.

        • Well... says:

          FS (Free Speech) is SF (StormFront) backwards.

          But really SF is San Francisco, and the harm San Francisco can do might be worse than the harm erosion of free speech can do, although the former is linked to the latter linked anyway.

          OK sorry, I’m only playing with my food because the point you were making is sort of banal around here.

          • HFARationalist says:

            LOL. Nazis benefit from SJW outrages. The crazier SJWs are the more reasonable Nazis themselves appear to be which is awful.

            In fact we need to subject Nazism to rational scrutiny. For example some Nazis call money “Jewmoney”. However Jews didn’t really invent money. Hence the term “Jew
            money” is a misnomer. Furthermore what is the Reichsmark then? A Nazi-issued “Jewish corruption”?

            Another official Nazi doctrine is that Jews are inherently destructive parasites. OK. Let’s analyze this theory. There are at least two components that are especially vulnerable, “destructive” and “parasite”. Let’s start from “destructive”. If Jews are indeed destructive a place full of Jews such as Israel should be completely devastated. We haven’t observed this phenomenon. Now let’s discuss “parasite”. What is the most important characteristic of parasites? They need hosts. Hence a completely isolated Jewish community should be completely dysfunctional since there is no host they can feed on. However we haven’t observed this phenomenon. There are crazy Haredi communities. However they are also free from violent crimes and support a large community of scholars. That doesn’t sound like parasites to me.

          • Well... says:

            At the risk of going down the rabbit hole of “Why subjecting Nazism to rational scrutiny breaks down after a while”…to summarize: its proponents eventually will admit they aren’t trying to be rational in the first place, so they don’t care about your rational scrutiny.

            You see this from All Triters even here, this stuff about having to match the SJWs tit for tat, the Saul Alinsky playbook, etc. At the end you realize it’s not about holding and furthering a coherent set of ideas, it’s just about waging war, or more accurately a kind of online mischief-making.

            It gives Nazis way too much credit to use them as an example in a discussion of whether and where we ought to draw boundaries around free speech. If a defining free speech dilemma of our age is whether to ban Stormfront then another might as well be whether to penalize farting in public.

          • Mark says:

            @HFARationalist
            Yes… money is an English invention.

            Jewish morality prohibits the taking of interest on loans to other Jews. The Israelite is, historically, an agricultural person, with laws that serve to restrict commerce.

            However, there isn’t a universal moral rejection of usury – the taking of interest from ‘others’ is allowed.

            Gilbart, “History of Banking’:

            Undisturbed by love of country, for they were an outcast people ; unstimulated by the love of war, for they were a peaceful race ; uncalled upon by Norman baron, or Saxon chief, to assist him, save with cash and credit, for other help from them was worthless ; they devoted themselves with undivided mind to a pursuit, which, while it excited the inexorable passions of their masters, made the Hebrews the possessors of that wealth, which was alike their consolation and their curse.

            So, the existence of Israel isn’t really a knockout anti-anti-semitic argument – it’s just that Jewish people existing as a minority, used as a financial class, must behave in a very different way as to when they live as a nation.
            The anti-semite would assume that the motivations of the minority Jew are always malicious.
            Gilbart argues that ‘natural’ anti-semitic feeling was cultivated by rulers as a means of controlling their valuable Jewish subjects – the Jews were essentially owned by the Kings.
            Often, these minority financial classes *were* destroyed by rulers taking advantage of ill-feeling for their own gain – the Jews, the Lombards, the Templars, the Goldsmiths…
            Eventually the financial class ended up amalgamating with the rulers to become untouchable.

            So the modern anti-semite has the following concern: now that financial whizzes *are* rulers, does the ancient formula for Jewish (financial) success still stand? And if it does, what control exists upon them?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Mark
            Your argument in essence favors my diversity with standards solution. Let all high-IQ and other civilized groups have their own homelands, respect each other, cooperate and be good stewards of this planet. As for Jews being a minority behave like cats on some islands we can agree to have a deal. I’m sure that Jews will sign it and abide by it for their own welfare. Acknowledge and protect Jewish success while leaving some parts of the markets for others.

          • lvlln says:

            @Well…

            At the risk of going down the rabbit hole of “Why subjecting Nazism to rational scrutiny breaks down after a while”…to summarize: its proponents eventually will admit they aren’t trying to be rational in the first place, so they don’t care about your rational scrutiny.

            You see this from All Triters even here, this stuff about having to match the SJWs tit for tat, the Saul Alinsky playbook, etc. At the end you realize it’s not about holding and furthering a coherent set of ideas, it’s just about waging war, or more accurately a kind of online mischief-making.

            This seems like a fully general argument, though, against arguing against any ideology. Any ideology is going to have its ideologues who have irrational faith in that ideology, completely closed from rational scrutiny. Nazism isn’t unique or even unusual in this, and I see no evidence that Nazism’s irrational core supporters are any more common or irrational than the irrational core supporters of any other ideology.

            The point of rational scrutiny isn’t to sway these people, because they cannot be swayed – it’s to sway people who are on the margins so that they are rationally convinced to incrementally take tiny steps away from the ideology.

            Now, every ideology and the context in which the ideology exists are unique in their own ways, so it’s possible to argue that these idiosyncrasies surrounding Nazism (or any other particular ideology) are such that it is better not to extend free speech to expressions of that ideology (e.g. one could argue – though I don’t know if it is actually true or not – that the people on the margins are particularly less swayable than people on the margins of the typical non-Nazi ideology). But that’s a wholly different argument than the fully general one that Nazism’s core believers can’t be swayed by rational scrutiny.

            Personally, when it comes to Nazism, my perception is the opposite, actually; rational scrutiny seems like a particularly strong tool against Nazism in the context of a society that has already so heavily socially stigmatized it already. I think we’ve reached such diminishing returns when it comes to social punishment that additional social punishment seems likely to have little effect on the people on the margins (much less people who have already bought into the ideology despite the already heavy social punishment they know exists). On the other hand, there seems to be a dearth of rational scrutiny to it – whether that’s because it’s drowned out by the social punishments or because social punishments are inflicted upon people who scrutinize Nazism rationally, I’m not sure.

            Of course, studies indicate that rational scrutiny may be a particularly ineffective means of persuasion. Or, at least, the rational scrutiny has to be optimized in strange ways so that it’s persuasive. This seems to be one of those Very Hard Problems.

          • Mark says:

            I think that the appeal of bad Nazism must be romantic – and I guess that the best way to dissuade a romantic from doing something awful is probably to channel their energies and ideas in a more productive (and beautiful) direction.

            Turn a bully into a protector.

            But ultimately, it’s people who don’t think at all who make things really awful, so I would say that the most important thing is creating conditions in which people are able to think.

    • . says:

      Who is supposed to do the protecting?

    • Brad says:

      We should not allow social shaming and pressure to curb the freedom of speech. No one should be harmed for any controversial or unpopular views no matter how extreme such views are. We should allow Nazism, Communism, Misanthropy and other weird views to be expressed and not harm people due to such views.

      Vanilla is the best kind of ice cream.

    • Even if their speech is instigation to violence or overthrow?

      • HFARationalist says:

        That is indeed a problem. However most far-right websites explicitly ban promotion of violence. That includes Stormfront and these Chim.pout-descended racist sites.

        • Nick says:

          That sounds a whole lot like social consequences/pressure curbing freedom of speech, which you said you were against. So should those things be banned or not?

          • HFARationalist says:

            Yes. I love the freedom of speech but the value of human lives is even higher. The purpose of having FoS is to let humans think more carefully, not to let humans kill each other in global race wars. If what is around is just really offensive speech without actual intent to kill someone then it should be allowed to exist. However actual violence or promotion of violence is not OK.

        • And if self-regulation doesn’t work?

    • DavidS says:

      Social shaming and pressure is a form of free speech. So this sounds self defeating? Unless you say that telling someone you think they’re a bad person because they’re a Nazi is somehow objectively uniqueluy bad compared to e.g. telling someone you’d kill them if you got the chance because they’re a Jew.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Social shaming is de facto restriction of free speech. I agree that antisemitism is horrible. Indeed I believe it is inherently idiotic, anti-intellectual and anti-competition. However I’m worried that if Nazism is de facto banned through social shaming the mobs can ban something else that I actually care about, such as legitimate research on human genetics.

        We can of course stop at antisemitism using the following reasoning: Ashkenazi Jews have contributed a lot to humanity, have nukes and have a high average IQ. As a consequence antisemitism is dangerous to human prosperity or even the very existence of humans because it may lead to nuclear wars and hence must be banned. However this isn’t a popular idea outside the H.BD circle.

        • beleester says:

          How does one express the opinion that Nazis are terrible people without causing social shaming? Social shaming is more or less the aggregate result of a lot of people speaking against something. So how is it possible to protect Nazis from shame without restricting the ability of an individual to speak against Nazism?

          Similarly, how do you protect the right of free association (i.e., the right to not be friends with someone if you don’t want to), when losing all your friends is a powerful form of social pressure?

          Bonus question: Do you consider your own statement, “…Antisemitism is horrible. Indeed I believe it is inherently idiotic, anti-intellectual and anti-competition,” to be a form of Nazi-shaming? If not, why not?

          • Mark says:

            Wouldn’t it be better to say “Nazism is terrible – and I am defining Nazism as these behaviours” than to say “Nazis are terrible, and you are a Nazi!”

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Mark I agree. I criticize Nazism. However I do not try to hunt down and doxx Nazi
            s.

            @beleester What I criticize is Nazism as an ideology as something intellectually awful. I do not try to morally shame Nazis because for me something being anti-intellectual is awful enough without any moral argument.

          • beleester says:

            @Mark: That seems like an extremely narrow needle to thread, if not an impossible one given that connotations are a thing.

            If your Facebook friend posts something about how Jews are evil, and you say “This looks like Nazi behavior, and Nazism is terrible,” then you’ve pretty much said “You’re a Nazi,” even if you haven’t actually said that.

            @HFARationalist: “Nazism is anti-intellectual, and anti-intellectualism is awful” certainly sounds like a value judgement to me, if an uncontroversial one. Anything you can describe as “awful” has a value judgement in it somewhere.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @beleester I agree that it is a value judgement. However crucially it is not a moral judgement.

    • Mark says:

      I think that we should agree not to discuss things, if we can’t discuss it without rancour (mutually consenting rancour lovers excepted.)

      Don’t discuss money, politics, or religion at the dinner table. If you overstep obvious boundaries you most definitely should be shamed.

      The reason why the current social shaming is distasteful is because it’s ‘I can say white, you can’t say black’ type stuff. I’ll start the discussion, but don’t dare reply if you disagree. Power. Control.
      I suppose there must be some mean spirited and narrow minded private spaces where such behaviour will exist, but we should try and prevent such attitudes from taking over public arenas as far as possible.

    • Garrett says:

      How is your position different from that of JS Mill in “On Liberty”?

  7. HFARationalist says:

    Colonial/Occupation Currencies

    Colonial powers and occupation regimes sometimes use currencies separate from the currencies of the home countries. I do suspect that this is sometimes fishy (i.e. plunder is done through currency manipulation). Can anyone here with background in economics explain why separate colonial/occupation currencies exist?

    • Evan Þ says:

      Fighting counterfeiting, and controlling the economy better. If there’s some ex-Nazi counterfeiting US Occupation Script, the effects are localized to Occupied Germany rather than diffusing to the US as a whole. Because the economy’s more localized, the occupation government can track currency better, and criminals can’t ship off their ill-gotten gains to America. Finally, as a last resort, the occupation regime can declare all bills with such-and-such serial numbers invalid (or more likely, all the bills printed with certain colored bands done in anticipation of this) and make people bring them in to be exchanged.

      And, finally, Occupation Script can be printed more easily than the actual US Dollar, and if some of the blanks or printing presses get stolen, the damage can be more easily controlled.

  8. onyomi says:

    Other than “have a history and tradition of good government,” what are the factors people can generally agree tend to contribute to having a functional, non-crappy government in any given place? Part of the reason I bring it up is I am recently realizing how quickly the quality of government in a place may deteriorate if one or more of the factors making it good disappear–that is, non-crappy government is not something you can put in place and walk away; rather, it has to continually renew with each generation.

    Factors making it more likely to have a good government (ranked from most to least impactful, based on my own rough estimation):
    1. Don’t have a Marxist revolution (of course, this raises the question as to what makes it more likely to have a Marxist revolution: answer seems to be “be an agrarian society with a lot of natural resources”?)
    2. High average IQ population
    (?). Be further away from the equator (but this may be a proxy for 2 and not directly causative, given that brain size apparently increases the further from the equator you get?)
    3. Be ruled by the British at some point (kind of a joke, kind of a proxy for having someone else who already has a tradition of good government build your institutions for you; whether or not you keep them after the British leave, however, depends on other factors)
    4. Ethnic homogeneity (all else equal; but bringing in a higher-IQ population has costs and benefits: benefits include increased growth, productivity, etc. costs include more potential for inter-group strife, perhaps decreased social capital, etc.)
    5. Geographically small
    6. Don’t have a ton of easily exploitable natural resources
    7. Don’t be located in a strategically valuable area likely to become a proxy war for bigger nations

    Confounding cases: North Korea is a high-average IQ place but has possibly the world’s worst government, which is why I rank 1 above 2. However, I can’t think of any place with a low average-IQ population and a good government, so 2 seems to be a sine qua non.

    Also confounding, and not sure I’ve totally accounted for: this isn’t meant to be a list of factors making you rich and prosperous; it’s a list of factors making you have a non-crappy, functional government. Of course, these two tend to go hand-in-hand, but I want to zero in on this. This may caused me to overestimate the importance of e.g. 2, since it’s at least conceivable smart people contribute more to economic growth than they do to good government, perhaps resulting in a bias where we automatically assume any place that is prosperous has a good government without adequately considering the extent to which the prosperity is because of, or in spite of, the government.

    I also thought about putting down “have a culture valuing public service, education,” etc. but I’m not sure that there are any “pure” cultural factors that don’t reduce to one of the others, like IQ and geography; could be wrong though.

    • HFARationalist says:

      North Korea is an example of high-IQ people whose intelligence is utilized for evil. The evil of North Korea is orderly just like the evil in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

      • onyomi says:

        So maybe having a smart population increases the likelihood you’ll have an effective, efficient government, but not necessarily the odds that that government will effectively, efficiently do good things? Or at least not to the same degree?

        • HFARationalist says:

          Yes. Smart people usually don’t like to sacrifice their lives or take up weapons for democracy. There is a reason why ancient Northeast Asia was probably one of the most oppressive regions in the world. In fact the oppression machine was so well-oiled that revolts rarely succeeded even when many people literally starved to death.

          • onyomi says:

            What if smartness and willingness to risk your life to fight authority are just orthogonal?

            My vague impression is that East Asians are, on average, smarter than Europeans, especially in mathematical domains, but that Europeans are, on average, more likely to question authority. Is it a coincidence, for example, that many of my ancestors came from a place famous for resisting central authority and that I am a libertarian?

            Of course, it’s a conceivable just-so story that this quality of East Asians was a result of thousands of years of brutally killing the most rebellious East Asians.

            Somewhat related, I’ve heard the argument that Western Europe’s success can be attributed, in part, to centuries of application of capital punishment to its most violent members, leaving the remaining population smarter, less impulsive, and more cooperative. It’s highly conceivable to me this happened in East Asia as well (and over a longer period), but, perhaps due to other factors, there was more killing of the “smart but rebellious” contingent as well.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @onyomi I think having strong authority might be an East Asian trait that evolved slightly after the European-Indian-East Asian split which might be a founder effect. You don’t need Confucianism to have extreme levels of parenting. Thais have it as well. As for high IQ it only evolved among Northeast Asians but not many Southeast Asians on average.

            Every civilized group has its own dark secret. The dark secret of Northeast Asia is that it is like Trisolaris in Liu’s Three Body Problem. Governments did not give a shit about the populace which caused the populace to evolve into people who are capable, smart, diligent, robust (i.e. can thrive under persecution because persecution is everywhere) but are also capable of gross immorality and are unwilling to really trust each other as a side effect. Mass murder of the populace by troops of the same ethnicity isn’t unheard of in the region.

            As for obedience Northeast Asians act like they are obedient which is important for their survival. However such obedience may not be sincere. I suspect that the obedience is most likely to be sincere in Japan and least likely to be sincere in China. Korea is in between. NE Asia has a lot of supposed obedience but also a lot of real rebellions and coups. So you know this obedience is often just some facade. Of course everyone claims to obey and preaches obedience. However few really obeys or believe that others actually obey.

          • onyomi says:

            One other factor to consider with respect to East Asian submission to authority: in much of Chinese history, the punishment for rebellion/treason was putting to death your entire extended family. If it’s conceivable European capital punishment practices had an appreciable effect on their temperaments, it seems conceivable this did as well.

            Whether East Asian obedience to authority is just a “facade,” I tend to think not. Of course there are many historical rebellions, but I’m not sure they are more than average, given the population size; if anything, I’d wager they are fewer than average. The Korean Goryeo Dynasty managed to endure 400 years and the Joseon Dynasty 500!

            One thing that does seem odd about this is the fact that, in Mainland China, at least, people are relatively non-violent and not especially prone to question authority, yet even areas with pretty high ethnic and cultural homogeneity, there doesn’t seem to be a very high social capital or sense of obligation to the community beyond one’s immediate family and friends. This may be a partial result of relatively recent historical events, yet there is a stereotype:

            Contrast the American suburban front yard: you show off your beautiful lawn and garden for your neighbors; the traditional Chinese house runs right up to the street and has a beautiful courtyard on the inside; the beauty is for you and yours, not your neighborhood. I tend to blame high population density.

            This is less the case however, in e.g. smaller, more homogeneous Japan: people will strongly frown on you if they see you littering, for example, even in a crowded city, much less a small town.

          • . says:

            Stereotype-mining is a good way to quickly generate examples, but it doesn’t let you estimate magnitudes, which is really what we’d need to answer onyomi’s question. Exactly how much more obedient are Chinese than Germans?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @.

            I agree. Chinese are more obedient than Germans? Unlikely.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Is North Korea’s IQ actually high? According to this site, analysts haven’t been able to obtain real figures and were forced to average IQ’s of neighboring countries like South Korea, Japan, and China. That could hide a whole lot of effects from their actual poor government and starvation conditions.

        • HFARationalist says:

          This is indeed a good question. However the average IQ of NK is at least reasonable and the genotypic IQ of NK should be roughly as high as that of South Korea.

          • Evan Þ says:

            However the average IQ of NK is at least reasonable

            Is it? How can we know that?

            the genotypic IQ of NK should be…

            But we’re talking about the actual North Korean government, so we should be talking about their actual IQ. At the very least, they’ve been suffering from a generation-long famine, and famine is known to depress IQ.

          • John Schilling says:

            North Korea suffered a famine that lasted maybe half a generation, ended about half a generation ago, and was inequitably distributed in a way that disproportionately spared the ruling class. One good look at Kim Jong Un should dispel the notion that a half-starved leadership is by their own malnutrition rendered incapable of ruling well, and it’s harder to make a case for starving peasants causing (as opposed to being caused by) bad government.

            Also, the space launch vehicles and thermonuclear weapons, developed under severe resource constraints, would seem to argue for a reasonable IQ among the get-important-stuff-done segments of the North Korean population.

          • Wrong Species says:

            IQ researchers don’t have a good handle on which environmental effects depress IQ. But it has to be more than just famine, otherwise we wouldn’t see the Flynn Effect. Whatever it is, surely the people of North Korea are dealing with those issues.

          • John Schilling says:

            We don’t have a handle on which environmental effects matter, but you’re sure that whatever they turn out to be, North Korea will have them? Explain, please.

          • Wrong Species says:

            South Koreans have also had a noticeable Flynn Effect in the last few decades. They were poorer but they weren’t suffering famines. So if North Koreans are indistinguishable genetically from the South Koreans and if the Flynn Effect increased intelligence, then it’s logical to assume that North Koreans have lower IQs than South Koreans.

          • John Schilling says:

            Did somebody actually figure out for sure what causes the Flynn effect while I wasn’t looking? If not, what’s the basis for assuming North Korea didn’t experience it just like every other industrialized nation?

          • Wrong Species says:

            There are various proposals for what causes the Flynn Effect, such as nutrition, environmental complexity, healthcare. These are connected to rising economic growth in some way. Whatever it is, North Korea is much more stagnant than other countries. South Korea also had a stronger Flynn Effect than Western countries. Considering they started from a lower economic position, that certainly is what you would expect if it was connected to economic growth. Unfortunately, it looks like data is fairly limited in developing countries.

            But the question can be easily turned around on you. Considering that the Flynn Effect is an environment effect and North Korea has a vastly different environment than the south, why do you think the Flynn Effect has the same effect in both countries? Does it just happen, for inexplicable reasons, regardless of the country’s trajectory? That doesn’t make any sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Flynn effect doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anywhere. It happens, but nobody really know why no matter how fond they are of their pet theory. And in South Korea, the Flynn effect seems to have started its work in the 1970s, when the ROK and DPRK were both under the rule of military dictatorships of roughly equal brutality and impoverishment (but in both cases with the ruling class well-fed and often foreign-educated).

          • Wrong Species says:

            South Korea started industrializing in the 1960’s and started diverging from North Korea in the 70’s. The Flynn Effect started in the 70’s. This is exactly the kind of thing that you would expect if they were related.

            According to this paper:

            The gains in Japan of 7.7 IQ points per decade for those born approximately 1940–1965 are identical to the gains per decade for Koreans born 1970–1990

            If the Flynn Effect is some kind of sociological constant, then why the lag? Again, if it’s related to economic growth, then this is exactly the kind of result that should be expected.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      6. Don’t have a ton of easily exploitable natural resources

      This is a common claim that I think completely false. It is a simple statistical error reversing causality. Natural resources as a proportion of GDP predict bad government because bad government causes the nonexistence of other production. America has a wondrous assortment of resources that you hardly notice because it is so rich in other things.

      Fukuyama’s recent books on Political Order are supposed to be pretty good.

      • Matt M says:

        This strikes me as quite plausible. No matter how corrupt your government is, how ineffective your institutions are, or how poorly your infrastructure works, natural resource extraction is always on the table, because there will always be some foreign company willing to come take it all out of the ground and leave you whatever royalties you can get away with charging.

      • onyomi says:

        Natural resources as a proportion of GDP predict bad government because bad government causes the nonexistence of other production.

        Hmm, this seems quite plausible, but what about the “Dictator’s Handbook” argument that not having natural resources forces the rulers to rely more on the people for support, whereas having natural resources allows them to pay the army and their other key backers without actually building e.g. any roads and hospitals (in fact, building roads other than those necessary for transportation of the resources will only make it easier for the people to get to the capital and overthrow you)?

        It’s a sort of “just-so story,” but seems to play out this way in many places and to make logical sense? If you can’t pay your backers and army with money from the foreign companies extracting the resource then you have more need to actually respond to the desires of the people to remain in power?

    • . says:

      0. Have good laws. Nice traditions, history and demographics might be nice, but there’s no way they are more important than having good laws.

      This also explains why deterioration can happen quickly – all it takes is to change the laws. And vice versa, like how lord Shang was able to turn around the state of Qin in less than a generation.

      • onyomi says:

        I think this is less important than it seems, though having good laws is part of what having good government means.

        But if just having good laws meant having good government, then third world countries could simply adopt the US Constitution and expect first world prosperity, or, at least, a first world level of government functionality. But this is not the case. Many Constitutions guarantee, in theory, all kinds of rights the people do not, in practice enjoy.

        I would say that places that have, for whatever reason, already developed a strong tradition of e.g. respect for property rights, common law, etc. are more likely to go on to have non-corrupt, non-terrible governments, all else equal, though that might be a case of the same factors causing two different things, but those two different things not causing one another.

        Also, I’m not sure I would categorize the government of the State of Qin as “good,” though I guess “effective” or “efficient” might be more on the mark.

        I guess I’m realizing as this thread goes on that there’s a big difference between “good” government and “efficient” or “effective” government. I suppose this should not surprise me, since I’m a “that government is best which governs least” libertarian grateful we don’t get all the government we pay for.

        What I suppose I was more trying to get at is: most third world countries have governments that seem to exist primarily as a way to loot the population. Most first world countries have governments that, even if they end up looting in practice, are at least not rife with obvious corruption and do at least try to accomplish the tasks they are expected to use tax funds for, rather than just embezzling them all. I guess I’m trying to contemplate all the predictive and/or causative factors for getting one type of government as opposed to the other.

        The obvious pattern that emerges is “be a first world country” or “be a wealthy country,” but this feels a bit too “chicken and egg”…by today’s standards, we’d have trouble calling the State of Qin a “first world country,” yet it managed to develop an effective and efficient, if cruel and evil government over two thousand years ago, so clearly “already be a first world country” cannot be a prerequisite for having a government that doesn’t just embezzle everything.

        • . says:

          Yeah, “having good laws” is itself chicken-and-egg-ish, if ‘having’ a law implies that the law is enforced. This makes the development of good legal systems mysterious.

          But I don’t think it means you need to look beyond the legal system to resolve the mystery[*]. It could be that good law develops through a boot-strapping process, rather than being built on a foundation of ancient traditions or genetic predisposition.

          In the boot-strapping process you use your current shitty laws to develop and enforce slightly less shitty laws. The outcome of each iteration is uncertain; for the process to proceed you need the good guys to win, which could be totally contingent.

          [*] of course you still should, I’m sure every factor we can think of is relevant, at least a little.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Are you advocating for a prescriptive legal system? I don’t think these work well. The legal system in the US (and the UK) descends from English common law. The laws are descriptive, describing the way the people already live, rather than prescriptive, where the rulers decide how the people should act instead and force them to adopt those methods.

        Politics is downstream from culture, and good laws come from good people.

        So saying

        Nice traditions, history and demographics might be nice, but there’s no way they are more important than having good laws.

        Puts the cart before the horse. You will not get good laws without good traditions. No one will care about your “good laws” if they don’t conform to your traditions because no one will really care about them or want them.

        • . says:

          Are you advocating for a prescriptive legal system?

          Basically yes, although I think judges should have more discretion in criminal cases than they do in the US. The French legal system seems fine.

          No one will care about your “good laws” if they don’t conform to your traditions because no one will really care about them or want them.

          They will care because if they do not follow the law they will go to jail. They will go to jail if they do not follow the law, because otherwise the police will lose their jobs… you can keep following the strands of the net as far as you like, without ever appealing to tradition.

          Of course, it still might be true that in fact all successful legal systems rely heavily on tradition, but then it’s weird that knowing a country’s traditions doesn’t predict its legal system. If all you knew about Japan and Russia was their traditional culture, would you be able to predict that the first is a well-oiled utility machine and the second is a kleptocracy? If all you knew about Singapore and Burma is that they are multiethnic south-east Asian countries colonized by Great Britain, could you predict that the first is a shining city on the hill while the second is prey to despotism and ethnic cleansing?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            They will care because if they do not follow the law they will go to jail.

            If you’re imposing prescriptive laws contrary to culture and traditions on to a people via force of government, this sounds like tyranny or despotism. That is, you’re jailing people for doing things that large swaths of the populace do not consider wrong. This seems like a recipe for creating dissidents and eventually revolution.

            If all you knew about Japan and Russia was their traditional culture, would you be able to predict that the first is a well-oiled utility machine and the second is a kleptocracy?

            Yes?

            If all you knew about Singapore and Burma is that they are multiethnic south-east Asian countries colonized by Great Britain, could you predict that the first is a shining city on the hill while the second is prey to despotism and ethnic cleansing?

            I don’t know enough about the histories of Singapore or Burma to say.

          • . says:

            If you’re imposing prescriptive laws contrary to culture and traditions on to a people via force of government, this sounds like tyranny or despotism.

            I’m not assuming that, they could have voted for these laws. There’s no contradiction between the law being enforced by state violence and the law being the expression of the ‘popular will’ (see e.g. the USA). I am claiming that it would be possible for a tyrant or invader to impose a self-sustaining democratic system (which is not say that I think it’s easy or that people should try).

            To elaborate irresponsibly on Japan/Russia (I really know very little about either, especially Japan): the traditional cultures seem very similar. Moderately devout, strong families, extremely hierarchical, massive powerless underclass. The laws seem very different: Russia had a weird system of land ownership, where peasants would own parcels of land which would get chaotically repartitioned among the villagers on a regular basis. This was pretty much a shitshow and it is not surprising that Russia is the one that wound up experimenting so radically with property rights.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            If you’re imposing prescriptive laws contrary to culture and traditions on to a people via force of government, this sounds like tyranny or despotism. That is, you’re jailing people for doing things that large swaths of the populace do not consider wrong. This seems like a recipe for creating dissidents and eventually revolution.

            Or alternatively, the recipe for creating the Western Christendom. After a thousand years of papacy, while the local religion as practiced seldom was exactly what the scriptures commanded, practically everyone were sure they wanted to be Christians (whatever they thought it implied).

            As a less drastic example, the legislation seems to have been quite effective in promoting safety belt usage and reducing drink-driving in a timespan of decades.

          • JohnofSalisbury says:

            Obviously if I had exactly the same evidence about Singapore and Burma, I couldn’t make different predictions about them. If I knew that Singapore was a Han majority city-state, that would lead me to predict to good outcomes for it.

          • onyomi says:

            @. and Conrad

            The cultures of Japan and Russia do not strike me as very similar at all. And certainly if I had to guess, behind a veil of ignorance, which of the two would get the governments they actually have, I’m pretty confident I’d guess right.

            Or, at least, that knowing their culture and nothing else would be more helpful to the guess than knowing their written law codes and nothing else (and not just because I’m no legal expert).

            Also, for sake of argument, let’s assume that good laws are key to having a well-run government. Other than having somebody who already knows how to do law well (like the British) take over and establish them for you, what are the factors explaining why some countries get good laws and some bad?

          • Aapje says:

            The way I see current Russian culture is that it is strongly influenced by conditions in which open revolt was useless and usually resulted in hard punishment (gulags and such), while it was also impossible to survive and/or have a semi-decent life by following the laws. Furthermore, it was very common for people to report on each other, so distrust was not just by the citizens against state officials, but against everyone who was not family or someone who you have leverage over.

            IMO the logical result of this are citizens who openly speak in favor of the leaders, but who act in their own interests whenever possible AND who are very comfortable with fleecing their fellow common man (this is why so many ransomware attacks and other kinds of criminality originate there).

            An anecdotal story I heard by a Dutch person who lived there before the fall of the wall was that one day she caught a neighbor stealing her windshield wipers and the person expected her to understand that this was just something that is done. If there is an opportunity to improve your life, you take it, even at the expense of a neighbor and neither the person being stolen from or the thief are supposed to take it personally.

            Japanese culture is really extremely different, as Japanese people are very eager to follow their leaders/rules. The very low crime rates attest to this. They are very group oriented, while Russians are clearly much more individualistic (this can be seen with Japanese vs Russian tourists, where the former really like doing things with a group). Onyomi’s link that shows strong differences in emotional openness and how confrontational people are also matches both my own experiences and anecdotal evidence.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          The most important laws are the ones (written or unwritten) describing how the laws are made and how the local government or equivalent operates (including how effectively it can maintain the local laws and traditions). I don’t think “common law comes from the people” exactly captures all of the intricacies the evolution of the British system of government starting from, say, Magna Carta.

          A couple of other examples from European history:

          I can’t put an exact percentage on how much the legislative (and other) tradition dating back to Hansaetic League has influenced laws in the wider the German-Scandinavian area, but I suspect it mattered a great deal in all areas of law that are relevant to being a successful merchant city.

          The Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth used to be a prosperous and powerful player in Mid/East Europe, until their whole political system slowly but steadily collapsed partly due to ineffective version of aristocratic parliament not conductive for advancing the commonwealth’s interests. The ensuing partitions of Poland did not improve the wellbeing or the traditions of the populace in that particular corner of Europe, especially the parts that Russia took for herself.

    • Nick says:

      Does corruption play a causal role in all of this, or is it a proxy for something else?

      • onyomi says:

        I guess corruption was one of the key factors I was originally using to define “bad government.” Obviously, governments can be bad in a variety of ways, but I was originally hoping to focus on those factors that predict and/or cause you to have a very corrupt government that everyone treats as a way to get all they can while the getting is good versus those that predict a more “earnest” government where the officials and bureaucrats are at least vaguely trying to work toward broader social good, either because they really believe it and/or because the incentives are set up in such a way as to encourage it.

    • Evan Þ says:

      However, I can’t think of any place with a low average-IQ population and a good government, so 2 seems to be a sine qua non.

      How do you know IQ is the cause and good government the effect? Might it be the other way around?

      • timewarp says:

        During this whole discussion, this point popped out to me much more – a stable, wealthy, education-concerned government is going to produce a higher IQ population, to a greater degree than a “inherently higher IQ population” (assuming such a thing actually exists and is not the product of a biased measurement [which I’m still not convinced by, but this whole community seems to cling to desperately, so I won’t challenge it for now]) is going to create a good government out of whole cloth.

        Ultimately, I think that “good government” is mostly just going to correlate to historical wealth of the country: the US’s government was honestly a disaster plagued by rebellions and infighting until it became the war-funded production powerhouse in the 1910s and 40s. A wealthy government can afford to educate its populace, and effectively teach them the social values that make democracy/republicanism stable. A government that does not have access to that wealth (often due to international free trade laws…) simply can’t. Take for instance Tanzania: during the 70s and 80s, literacy rates were at an all time high, since the government had high tariffs on exports. Then the IMF essentially forced them to lower tariffs and education spending, and literacy rates actually dropped moving into the 90s and early 2000s. A government’s stability and the population’s IQ (again, assuming that it is a valid measure of group intelligence, which I really don’t accept) are both a result of the sheer amount of assets that a government has, not the other way around.

        • onyomi says:

          And here I think the US government started going downhill around the time it became a “war-funded powerhouse”… I mean, it may do a lot more in an absolute sense, but what it does it seems to do quite poorly. Not third world poorly, but not well compared to most other developed nations. The infrastructure of the US, for example, is really bad for a developed nation. Which is not to say it was better in the 19th c., but probably was for the time relative to the rest of the world.

          • bean says:

            I think it bears pointing out that population density in the US is a lot lower than in the rest of the developed world. That changes the picture for infrastructure quite a lot.

          • onyomi says:

            That may be a good reason why it’s harder to do e.g. economic, high-speed trains, but what about the tri-state area?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Additionally, a large part of our infrastructure issues result from the fact that we are nearing the end of the lifespan for most of our country’s infrastructure, because we built a significant percentage of it in a relatively short timeframe (and shortly before some major innovations were made that would have improved the lifespan).

          • CatCube says:

            Yeah, a lot of our problems stem from the fact that we were left untouched by the war, but were a rich society before it. For an extreme example, many of Germany’s cities were bombed flat, so they could take the opportunity to start from a white sheet of paper. The US, on the other hand, generally kept on the same trajectory. Then, of course, once we put in the Interstates by rolling over people, we put in a bunch of legal hurdles that tie up all development (It’s racist for you to locate this high-speed rail line through this neighborhood!)

            If you’ve not worked with infrastructure before, it’s hard to describe just how much effort it is working around existing construction, and results in a lot of compromises and expense. There are a lot of things we could do a lot cheaper by telling people, “fuck you, the design engineers have picked a solution heavily weighted toward technical factors, so you have to move.” It’s not really a great world if you’re not a civil engineer, though.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not really buying the difficulty of working around/fixing existing old stuff and/or not inconveniencing the residents as a primary explanatory feature.

            I’ve seen my local government spend too many billions of dollars getting too little done at a glacial pace, all while massively inconveniencing the residents by e.g. shutting down major roads for years.

        • JohnofSalisbury says:

          How do countries get wealthy, then? Why is Singapore so much richer than Jamaica now given they were neck and neck in 1960? Also, by world-historical standards the US has never been anything but great.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I remember reading Why Nations Fail and the author used Botswana as an example of good governance and I believe Russia as an example of bad governance. Of course this immediately stood out to me as a problem with his theory. Why is Russia richer than Botswana if governance is the primary determinant of wealth?

          • Nornagest says:

            Botswana started lower and later. Don’t look at absolute GDP/capita, look at GDP growth curves.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Saying Russia had a head-start doesn’t really prove anything. They have basically always had a bad government, not at all conducive to economic growth. Was the Soviet Union supposed to be an example of good institutions?

        • Evan Þ says:

          What makes you say “the US’s government was honestly a disaster plagued by rebellions and infighting” till the 1910’s? There was exactly one armed rebellion – or four at most, if you insist on counting Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, and the Mormon War – and I haven’t seen any evidence we had more infighting than other countries. Meanwhile, though IQ measurements hadn’t been invented yet, literacy was leaps and bounds ahead of just about every other country on Earth.

      • Garrett says:

        I would have argued the other way around. Allowing poor people to vote in welfare policies makes IQ less necessary for survival, reducing upward pressure on IQ.

    • vollinian says:

      Reads pretty close to a description of Hong Kong?

      1) No Marxist revolution, under British colonial rule when Mao rose to power.
      2) Highest average IQ in the world (note that the results are controversial, from IQ Research dot info)
      3) Hong Kong is a former British Colony, handed over to China in 1997
      4) Largely homogeneous, as of 2011 94% of the population is Han Chinese
      5) Very small land area, around 2750 km2 (like 3.5 New York Cities) but 79% of land is vegetated
      6) Not much natural resource, the city is tiny
      7) I have no idea

      But is the government good? I don’t know. Seems decent but note that there are demands for universal suffrage like the Umbrella Revolution in 2014.

      • onyomi says:

        Of all the places I’ve lived, which includes Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, Japan, and several US cities, I probably would rate HK’s government “most functional yet benign.” “Most functional” doesn’t mean “citizens are most satisfied with it,” though I’m not sure I’ve ever lived anywhere the people were actually happy with the government. Compared to the complaints most people have about their government, however, HKers’ complaints seem mostly procedural: “we want real elections,” etc. and/or wishes the government would do more about worrisome trends, such as rising cost of living, overcrowding, and possible future erosion of civil liberties.

        Which is not to downplay the importance of the above, but rather to say there seem to be very few cases of gross incompetence or corruption (or what passes for incompetence in HK would make a New Orleanian laugh), and the day-to-day stuff seems to run very smoothly. Taxes are also really low and public transportation etc. quite well-run.

        Singapore, of course, also fares well on most of these measures, and is also routinely ranked very functional and non-corrupt–sometimes almost too effective (at e.g. discouraging drinking through heavy taxes, grafitti through draconian punishments, etc.)!

      • onyomi says:

        Also interesting to note it’s not entirely an exception to the “be far from the equator” rule, since most of the Han Chinese there now descend from people who migrated south within the past 2000 years or less.

        Also interesting to note the analogy to Europe: the Han Chinese civilization gets gradually pushed south and east over time due to invasions from the north and west; 1,500-3,000 years ago, Southern Europe and Northern Africa have much more developed institutions than northwestern Europe, but now the opposite is kind of true, or so the stereotype goes when comparing the tomato belt to the potato belt. In the case of Spain we might say something similar was happening with Arabs; not sure about the rest (why Norway now has a more effective, less corrupt government than Greece).

    • John Schilling says:

      Widespread and sincere belief in a religion that promotes honest behavior even when nobody is watching. However fashionable it may be to claim that Christianity was only ever a force for Evil in Western Civilization, I don’t think that holds up to close examination, particularly during the middle ages. Confucianism and the associated traditional Chinese folk religion played a strong role in the development of the Middle Kingdom’s civil service institutions. And I believe a big part of the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in Palestine, even early ISIS, is that they offered something approximating good government to people who had been suffering under the hideously corrupt variety.

      In principle, atheistic unifying belief systems might be able to provide the same function, but the obvious candidate there would Marxist Communism and we can see how that worked out.

      • onyomi says:

        And I believe a big part of the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in Palestine, even early ISIS, is that they offered something approximating good government to people who had been suffering under the hideously corrupt variety.

        Interesting point. For people whose only other historical option has been living with the “grab all you can while the getting’s good” variety of government, a government that actually has convictions and principles of some kind may seem quite appealing, even if many of those convictions and principles seem weird and bad to us.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          You may be interested in this old article about What ISIS Really Wants. True Islamic government bears more than passing similarity to communism, which quite often sounds good on paper, especially to impoverished or suffering people. Citizens of the Islamic State got free food, free healthcare, etc.

          We see the gruesome executions, but the people living in the Islamic State like that sort of thing: those people were apostates, infidels, homosexuals, etc.

          This is part of what I said above about politics being downstream from culture. Muslims living under and Islamic government are not often thinking “grrrr, this oppressive government denies me free speech rights so I cannot slander the Prophet Mohamed!” No, they’re thinking “I sure am glad my government beheads those who insult the Prophet Mohamed.”

          One of the (many, many) fallacies of the Iraq invasion was that free from Saddam the people would adopt western democracy. No. They kept trying to put Sharia law in their constitution because they like Sharia law.

        • CatCube says:

          Some of this is also the fact that if there is very widespread corruption in a society, the only way to get ahead is to be corrupt. For example, I recall discussions of government salaries for the Afghan government when I was deployed there; it was pointed out that they were very low, and could be so because officeholders could expect to make it up through bribes. So an honest man literally couldn’t survive as a government worker. Then, of course, it becomes normal to pay and take bribes, which creates a permanent expectation of low salaries and the whole process feeds on itself.

          • Aapje says:

            Yes, so to combat corruption you’d need to increase salaries which requires higher taxes, but then the issue is that people desperately want to avoid high taxes because they spend so much to bribe people already and don’t want to get ‘double taxed’.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        I once heard that the Taliban operated a shadow court system in Afghanistan, used primarily for mundane civil matters like land disputes. Supposedly they actually would make basically fair rulings on these, while the official government’s courts would rule for the highest bidder.

      • Civilis says:

        As much as I would like to think this is true because it supports my worldview, I think the obvious counter-example is Latin America: very Catholic, bad governments. Certainly there is a difference in the quality of government between culturally Catholic southern Europe and culturally Protestant northern Europe.

        My quick and dirty theory is that Protestantism arose due to bad government by Catholics and hence contained values conductive to good government. It could also be that places that went Protestant already had cultural values resistant to corruption which prompted the discontent in the first place. Monarchs of Protestant states in Europe needed to be somewhat responsive to their populace, lest the public support restoration of a Catholic to the throne.

        Overall, I suspect that it requires both belief in a higher power as check on bad behavior by those in power and openness to trade especially in ideas that leads to good government, so a strict theocracy isn’t going to be well governed. Ultimately, a powerful religion separate from the government and public openness to new ideas are both sources of feedback by which government improves over time.

        • John Schilling says:

          It does seem to be the case that Protestant Christianity is historically associated with better government than (post- or early pre-reformation) Catholicism, with the Orthodox churches I think somewhere in between. That’s not what I’d have expected from the theology, and is worth some thought.

          • . says:

            But France was the archetype of highly-functional enlightened despotism after it got to the end of its religious conflict, while the German states other than Prussia at least have a reputation for being extremely sclerotic.

            I’d guess that there is a real effect here and that it is really, really small.

          • Civilis says:

            Having given this some thought, I think for society to function well, it needs to have competing power centers, so that if one goes bad the others can force a correction. Government is merely one power center; religion is another. Theocracies break down because the government/religion form one power center. As long as they are separate, there’s a correction mechanism, so a strong religion separate from the government is key. While the Catholic church had power in Europe, it obviously wasn’t enough for it to be a government in its own right (outside the Papal States), yet it could still play kingmaker while it was the dominant religion.

            I would suspect that a trade/commerce/financial/business class would be a potential third power center. I’m not really well read on the relevant history, but it would be interesting to see if areas of Europe with a strong trade history, such as the areas once part of the Hanseatic League, are better governed than the rest of Europe. I know northern Italy has a better reputation for government than southern Italy, and I wonder if it’s related to the lingering influence of the Republic of Venice.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Catholic Church : Louis XVI’s France :: Mainstream Media : United States Government

          • . says:

            @Civilis: Could also be the story where trust is correlated with strong institutions. Long distance trade requires a lot of trust.

          • Aapje says:

            @.

            I would argue that trade requires many of the same skills that are necessary for a fairer/more democratic political system.

            Essentially, a democracy functions by compromises: group A gives up things that group B desires more, while group B gives up things that group A desires more. Because A and B have different preferences, this gives higher overall happiness than if everyone maximizes the things that they have control over. Since the other group has control over things they favor much less than you and vice versa, it’s better to ‘trade’ control.

            Since utility functions are not transparent and people want to maximize their happiness, we have politics where group A tries to convince group B that it’s costly in lost utility to give in their preferences, while it’s cheap (in lost utility) for group B to give into the preferences for group A, so they better grant lots of the wishes for group A and not make group A give in too much. Of course, group B tries the opposite.

            Trade similarly consists of people giving up control over things they have, in return for getting control over stuff the other person has. Since utility functions are often not transparent there either, you have similar efforts to convince the trade partner to give a good deal.

            Long distance trade also requires various institutions to function (like standardization of quality, trusted weigh stations, etc), the protection of trade routes (who will send the soldiers/army to fight the bandits/tribe that steals your stuff?), agreeing on fair taxation (there were often choke points on trade routes where the owner of that point could levy duty), etc. So trade naturally leads to forming governmental-style institutions to protect the common interests of the traders.

          • Civilis says:

            Essentially, a democracy functions by compromises: group A gives up things that group B desires more, while group B gives up things that group A desires more. Because A and B have different preferences, this gives higher overall happiness than if everyone maximizes the things that they have control over. Since the other group has control over things they favor much less than you and vice versa, it’s better to ‘trade’ control.

            I think this logic ties in to the competing power centers theory. A solitary power center has no reason to compromise on getting what it wants. To tie in to period’s first post, by the time of the French Revolution, the ‘enlightened despotism’ of the French Monarchy saw no reason to compromise with the French population, leading to corruption and eventually the violent overthrow of the Monarchy. On the other hand, one can view as examples of effective compromises the balance between the Catholic church and the monarchies, between the English monarch and the lesser nobility expressed in the Magna Carta, or between the various parts of the government of the Republic of Venice (again, not my usual historical interest, but the history I’m reading tends to portray Venice during it’s prime as a sort-of Renaissance Singapore, a functional and reasonably well governed autocracy).

            Could also be the story where trust is correlated with strong institutions. Long distance trade requires a lot of trust.

            Yes, but which comes first? You need an effective government to generate trust, and trust in government makes government more effective. I think the idea of trust may be more important in looking at why governments eventually keep going despite being lousy. As you pointed out, the French Monarchy worked well, for a while. I think it often takes some sort of event to trigger the public realization that the government doesn’t work for the trust to go away, at which point the collapse accelerates. Likewise, at some point, the European monarchs realized that the Catholic church no longer had power over them.

        • JohnofSalisbury says:

          Sorry, I accidentally reported your comment went trying to reply to it. Please ignore.
          I think something along the lines of what you argue is true. The Catholic Church was doing pretty well in the middle ages: witness the proliferation of constitutional charters and representative assemblies around the 13th century, of which Magna Carta and the English Parliament are but the best known examples. These were clearly stimulated by the systematisation of canon law and the convening of Church councils respectively.
          I suppose those polities that chose religious reform were more eager for and open to reform in general.
          Not sure where John Schilling got the idea that Orthodox government is better than Catholic government from.

          • JohnofSalisbury says:

            Expanding on civilis’ point re theocracy. This is another case where the lingering influence of the Church has been super-important in ways that are surprising from the perspective of the present. In the long wide view of human history, sacral kingship has been a dominant political institution. Even when there have been kingless states, such as the classical cities, religion and politics have been woven closely together in other ways (Roman imperial cult, Athenian citizenship a religious rite, etc). The main historical force undermining sacral kingship has been the Catholic Church, particularly during the Gregorian Reform of the 11th century. Gregory VII was basically saying ‘The sacred is my sphere; you kings get on with governing well and leave the sacred to me’. Secular moderns may not like Gregory’s idea of governing well, but they certainly like the distinction between the spheres. And behold, within a few centuries foundational legal documents and representative assemblies sprang up across Christendom.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There is such a vast difference between pre-modern and modern economic development that discussing the benefits of Catholicism in the former doesn’t seem to be very illuminating. The important question is why Protestants do better post-Industrial Revolution.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      One hypothesis courtesy Dalrymple: To have non-corrupt government, its agents must be willing to value the integrity of their job over the needs of their extended family.

      Possible approaches include fostering integrity (good luck), raising the wealth waterline so family’s needs are less pressing, and eroding the sense of familial obligation.

      • Civilis says:

        I think one of Scott’s links posts a few weeks back had an article on how Christianity influenced Roman inheritance laws ending up leading to an increase in legal respect for individual ownership over family ownership. Could this be another spin-off benefit of that influence?

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        This hypothesis is interesting. The counterexample would of course be a non-corrupt government where the agents choose family needs over job integrity, and I’m not sure I can think of one. (Almost seems tautological when I try it. Monarchies whose family members are exceedingly honorable? There doesn’t seem to be a way to prove them incorruptible without somehow putting their families at (the) stake and seeing what they do.)

        Supposing it is so, what can cause this to come about? The first thing I thought of was mandatory term limits, on pain of popular rebellion, which would compel agents to think of who would hold office after them. But I’m not quite 100% sure about this. I could see certain people holding office indefinitely without scandal.

        • John Schilling says:

          The person who holds office after them, in that scenario, is likely to be a member of their own family. So not much help there. Maybe you could get mandatory term limits + no direct dynastic succession, but that just gives you alternating Bushes and Clintons who profess to hate everything the other stands for but are careful to never really step on the other’s core interests.

          Telling people that once they’ve had a Bush, a Clinton, a Roosevelt or a Kennedy as their leader, they must never ever have another, that’s not likely to work for a population of actual human beings.

    • cassander says:

      Access to a port is big. There are a few exceptions, but it’s a pretty good general rule that you don’t want to live in a country without access to the sea. Without a port, a country’s prospects for trade, and thus economic success, are highly limited, and lack of economic success makes any other success precarious at best.

      • Creutzer says:

        I don’t know. Central Europe seems to have been doing fine without access to the sea.

        • cassander says:

          the good parts of central Europe have a bunch of large rivers that make for effective waterways.

          • Matt M says:

            How many landlocked central european countries are doing particularly well anyway?

            Switzerland and Austria obviously. Lichtenstein I guess?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Czechoslovakia was doing pretty well until it got overran by the Nazis and Soviets.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @The original Mr. X, in other words, it was doing well for twenty years or so. Not long enough to really be a data point.

            (Though Switzerland and Austria do support this hypothesis, together with some pre-unification German states like Bavaria and the Rhineland.)

          • Creutzer says:

            The Czech Republic at least has been doing well again since the communists left, no? And at least in a world-wide comparison, Slovakia isn’t bad, either, as far as I know.

            But if you start counting large rivers, then basically all of Europe is out of the question, anyway.

    • JohnofSalisbury says:

      Exogamy exogamy exogamy. See ach bee dee chick.

      Also, and relatedly, having the Roman Catholic Church shape your norms and institutions, at least until the defeat of Conciliarism (roughly the end of the middle ages).

      Kudos to those who got in before me with versions of both points; will make some replies, filling in details of this comment.

      • onyomi says:

        An interesting theory: for most of premodern Chinese history the clan was the most important social unit and cousin marriage was not uncommon; however, there was also a taboo against marrying people with the same surname (and given the relatively small number of Chinese surnames, this could be a significant limitation), as well as an assumption that people with the same surname were somehow genetically related, if only distantly.

        I’m not sure if this arose as a simple incest taboo or as a result of other forces, like you describe (a desire on the part of some monarch some time to reduce the influence of clans).

    • Chalid says:

      For another take on this issue you could note that there is wide variation in government quality among US states which allows you to control for many of these issues. I don’t *think* the geographically small ones systematically are better governed? (Rhode Island bad, NJ bad, NH/VT good…) And I’m not sure that the ones with natural resources are worse-governed either. But I guess I don’t know enough about state government quality to say anything with any confidence.

      • Nick says:

        Isn’t how well these states are being served by the federal government potentially having a bigger impact than their state governments? It’s my impression the federal government has gotten steadily more influential over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries.

        • Chalid says:

          Sure, but you can say that some state governments are bad even if they’re not that important. e.g. NJ and RI wealthy and nice places to live on average, but their governments are famously corrupt. CT is very wealthy and has horrible budget issues.

          It actually potentially makes it a cleaner dataset in some ways because the state government’s ability to affect the variables you’re looking at is smaller. Often you get caught up in cause-and-effect questions – is X a cause of bad government or do bad governments cause X? If governments are extremely weak then their ability to cause things to happen is more limited.

          • Nick says:

            You have a number of good points here, thanks. Especially re a less effectual government having a smaller effect on the variables.

      • onyomi says:

        Yep, my home state of Louisiana: relatively close to the equator, resource-rich, diverse, historically run by the Spanish and French rather than the British…

    • DeWitt says:

      I’m not sure how valuable this thread is, so far. A lot of the reasoning seems to be off. In no particular order:

      High IQ, okay. But high IQ in who? When? Data on what people do and don’t have high IQ are somewhat easy maybe maybe-not to attain right now, but extrapolating this to history is folly. Height is a variable often taken as a good parallel to IQ, and we know that average height of people has varied very widely ever since we have data since the 19th century. Similarly, I question that social scientists and historians have any good data on historic IQ at all, let alone the people that frequent this place, given that most people here have different backgrounds.

      Good government, too. Define it! I see Qin get thrown around as an example of particularly brutal government, but Qin’s reputation for being nasty is overblown and a relic of Han era historic falsification. Compared to its contemporaries, predecessors, and successors, Qin was not particularly much worse or better at governing. And even so, what are you going to compare it to? And how? Number of executions per capita? Other data you don’t have access to? We’re talking about such ancient history that there is very little you could do to really grasp at how effective, benevolent, or encompassing a state’s government even was.

      Ethnic homogeneity: when? Of whom? What’s an ethnos? Prior to the 1800’s, a state beyond the city level of ethnically homogenous people didn’t exist. Anywhere. Ever. Even in the 1800’s, ethnic nationalism was a long and arduous process, which this link very neatly demonstrates. I’m not even really sure ethnic homogeneity lead to better government, as the three ancient Persian empires were much better at governing than their Greek adversaries, despite being much larger and being composed of many more ethnicities. It may be true that homogeneity is better in the current era, it may not be, but I’m not entirely certain that it’s a constant across history, or something that will stay true.

      Other than that, I think some modesty is due when talking about fields of study that aren’t your own. The Marxist revolution part, for example, is one that’s apt, but for all the wrong reasons. Marxist revolutions happen in countries without middle classes, and having a strong middle class is something that leads to having good government in many cases. Similarly, the chicken-and-egg thing of ‘can’t have good government because low IQ so no good government so low IQ’ isn’t entirely fallacious, although I’m unsure if it really has to be about IQ; in the modern era, migrating abroad is easier than ever for people with prospects. If today, your country is unattractive for middle class professionals to live in, they’re going to migrate, which makes it less attractive, which encourages more migration, etc, etc.

  9. BBA says:

    Previously, in semi-effort-posts in OTs 84.75 and 85 that I’m too lazy to link, I discussed the origins of science-fiction fandom in Hugo Gernsback’s letter column, and the first few science fiction conventions on both sides of the Atlantic. This is all somewhat interesting to me, but I meant it mainly background for this post, on the culture war of 80 years ago that was the Futurians.

    There had already been some debate over whether science fiction was about the science or the fiction. In the summer of 1937, the main SF fan club in New York, the “International Scientific Association”, disbanded after its president, Will Sykora, quit after finding that too many of the other members, most prominently Don Wollheim (him again!) and John Michel, weren’t taking the science seriously enough. Sykora, soon to be joined by Sam Moskowitz, was a follower of Gernsback’s belief that science fiction was supposed to be educational and pique youngsters’ interest in science fact. Wollheim and Michel were more interested in utopian speculation about how technology could shape society. In the fall of 1937, this came to a head.

    The “Third Eastern Science Fiction Convention”, on Halloween of 1937, brought the New York fans back to Philadelphia for the second fall in a row. In the back room of a former speakeasy turned legitimate bar, owned by one fan’s father, our forefathers in nerdery gathered to trade fanzines and discuss the news of the genre. It was there that John Michel’s manifesto was first presented, though since Michel had a stammer it was Wollheim who read the speech to the crowd. The manifesto, dramatically titled “Mutation or Death!”, was later printed as a zine, so rather than rely on secondhand account we can read it ourselves.

    To tell the truth, I have trouble getting through it. Michel was all of 20 years old at the time and his naivete shows. (He was also, as the text makes clear, a Communist.) The immediate consequence of his speech was a heated debate among the fans in Philadelphia, more about “mundane” politics than fiction, until the convention chair stepped in and declared the proceedings closed. The longer-term impact was that the fanzines and the New York fan clubs became engulfed in in-fighting between the Moskowitz-Sykora faction and the Michel-Wollheim faction. Clubs formed and disbanded at a rapid pace, with the two factions trying to outmaneuver each other using Robert’s Rules of Order, and at one point a ruling came down from the editor of Wonder Stories that under no circumstances could any chapter of the Science Fiction League include both Sykora and Wollheim as members. Somewhere along the line, the spat became more personal than political.

    By the time of the first Worldcon in July ’39, the two factions each had their own club. Moskowitz and Sykora led a club called New Fandom, which had taken responsibility for organizing the con and, in light of the political wrangling that had broken up previous clubs, decided to forgo club elections in favor of a permanent ruling “triumvirate.” Wollheim and Michel, meanwhile, had established the Futurian Society, a freewheeling, creative group that pushed for more overt political activity in fandom. Although the Futurian leaders were hard-left (at least until the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact cured them of their Marxist sympathies), the members of the club ran the gamut of the political spectrum.

    At the start of Worldcon, one Futurian-leaning fan, Dave Kyle, printed a pamphlet decrying the undemocratic manner in which New Fandom operated, and left copies in the convention hall lobby. Moskowitz discovered attendees reading it, and on the spur of the moment decided to ban the Futurian leadership from attending any of Worldcon. Oddly, Kyle himself had already been allowed into the convention hall, and Moskowitz made no effort to expel him.

    The general reaction of fandom to these events was that although the Futurians could be irritating and disruptive, it was inappropriate for New Fandom to preemptively exclude them from the convention. After all, it had been intended as a gathering of all fans worldwide. On the other hand, the convention ran smoothly and mostly free of the political bickering that previous cons had devolved into. I see it mainly as a regrettable result of the participants’ immaturity – of the dramatis personae I described here, the oldest were in their mid-20s at the time.

    My overall point? For those who want politics out of fandom, Worldcon, the Hugo Awards, etc., I have bad news: it was there from the start, and it isn’t going anywhere. Also, think of how dumb this all looks 80 years later.

    • John Schilling says:

      It was there at the start, not from the start, and it didn’t take eighty or even eight years for people to realize how dumb it was. Politics was fairly quickly pushed off center stage, in part because most organized fannish activity was suspended for about four years not long after these events, and I do not think fandom would have survived if that had not been the case. Not sure about science fiction itself, except for the Hollywood variety.

      We’re now eight years into post-Racefail fandom with no sign of the politics departing center stage, so we’ll be rerunning the experiment without a World War to put fannish political disputes in perspective.

      • BBA says:

        I’m not buying the notion of a long apolitical lull between WWII and Racefail. I’ve been browsing Fancyclopedia and without really looking, I stumbled upon Harlan Ellison “boycotting” a con in Arizona where he’d agreed to appear as Guest of Honor in order to join a NOW protest of the state’s non-ratification of the ERA. He managed to attend while maintaining his boycott by staying in an RV he’d driven in from California, rather than using the hotel’s facilities or spending any money in the state. At the time, the boycott tactic itself was controversial but the sentiment behind it wasn’t – fandom was largely pro-ERA. (Granted, a big part of that incident was just Ellison being Ellison.)

        To wildly speculate about a community I know relatively little about: what Racefail changed is that the Overton window of acceptable views in fandom has moved so much that nothing that was acceptable before 2009 still is. But there has always been an Overton window, and those outside it would insist that things are “politicized” while those inside it would see it as “apolitical.” If the window has moved and you haven’t, it looks like politicization, but I question whether it’s really possible for anything in culture to be apolitical.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m not saying that fandom was apolitical between ’39 and ’09, only that it wasn’t exclusionary in its politics to any significant degree. Harlan could boycott a Con, and being Harlan he did, but he didn’t expect fandom to boycott Arizona or ostracize anti-ERA members. Now, you’ve got Vox Day being expelled from the SFFWA and Johnathan Ross being disinvited from the Hugos for nakedly Social Justice reasons, and Hugo nominees being treated with open, public, and official contempt for having been on Puppy lists. That’s new, or more precisely that’s something I don’t think we’ve seen since 1940 and almost certainly not to this extent.

          To address your speculation, from 1946 through 2008, the Overton window of what was acceptable for discussion ranged from Actual Communism to Nigh Unto Fascism. People discussed these things. They were nakedly, openly political about it. And they expected to have to discuss these things with their political opponents. Now, a plurality if not a majority of “Worldcon Fandom” (and SFFWA Prodom) expects to be able to silence or expel anyone whose political views are not sufficiently SJ-compliant.

          SJ-compliant Actual Communism, among other things, was within the Overton window before 2009 and remains so today, so it hasn’t been a complete shift in that regard.

          • BBA says:

            Very well. I have no experience of the politics of the time, and am working solely off comments from Nancy and others about how overnight, critical race theory went from a mostly dismissed fringe belief to enforced dogma.

            Having read up on VD’s expulsion, I think he thoroughly deserved it, and if any other author had behaved that way (except, of course, Harlan Ellison) they’d have been expelled too. Politics were involved, but they were not the decisive factor. And if we don’t see eye to eye on that, I don’t think this discussion will get anywhere.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            hmm; I actually don’t know the answer to this question, so please answer honestly: how did Vox behave? I.E. what was the act that got him kicked off?

          • 1soru1 says:

            To address your speculation, from 1946 through 2008, the Overton window of what was acceptable for discussion ranged from Actual Communism to Nigh Unto Fascism.

            Which is entirely compatible with banning Actual Fascists, like Vox Day. The politicization came about precisely because a fairly substantial group within fandom were unhappy about that decision. The Overton window of wider society has been moving rightwards since around the 1980s, so it is not surprising that a chunk of fandom turned out to have followed.

  10. Wander says:

    Are there any good analyses on the impact of population size on the general well-being of a country? It always struck me as strange that in comparisons between the US and other Western countries rarely if ever mentioned the fact that the US has an enormous population in comparison. Looking roughly at the rest of the world, there seems to be at least a vague connection between how well-managed a country is and its population size, and I’d like to read a properly researched view on this idea.

    • . says:

      I don’t know, but one could try correlating population with PPP GDP per capita (“general well-being”) and the corruptions perception index (“well-managed”). The “problem” with this is that the USA looks really good by either measure.

      (I’m inclined to say that this isn’t a flaw in these measures, and that the US is actually so well-off and well-managed that it’s in a perpetual revolution of rising expectations)

    • Brad says:

      Looking roughly at the rest of the world, there seems to be at least a vague connection between how well-managed a country is and its population size, and I’d like to read a properly researched view on this idea.

      Really?

      1-10
      China
      India
      United States
      Indonesia
      Brazil
      Pakistan
      Nigera
      Bangladesh
      Russia
      Mexico

      Even if you just take OECD nations, 10 biggest:
      United States
      Japan
      Germany
      Turkey
      UK
      France
      Italy
      South Korea
      Spain
      Poland
      Canada

      vs 10 smallest
      Iceland
      Luxembourg
      Ireland
      Norway
      Finland
      Denmark
      Israel
      Switzerland
      Austria
      Hungry

      • Matt M says:

        I’m with Brad on this one. Without looking at any numbers, I don’t believe in any correlation between population size (or density) and “quality/effectiveness of government” at all.

        • bean says:

          I actually would believe there’s a correlation, but not in a bigger-is-better way. Countries that are small, dense, and/or homogeneous seem to have better governments in general than the other way around. Singapore is a prime case in point.

          • Matt M says:

            And Bangladesh would be a prime exception, right?

          • bean says:

            Bangladesh hardly satisfies the ‘small’ criteria when it comes to population. I’d speculate (and I’ll agree that the correlation is pretty weak) that one of the major problems is overhead when dealing with larger populations, combined with more options for factions and less outside pressure to stay together. On the physical side, it’s easier to be united with someone an hour away than someone several hours away by airplane.

          • onyomi says:

            All else equal, states with smaller, less diverse populations and smaller territories have more functional governments. This is legal tender issued by one of the world’s smallest governments. I rest my case.

            Besides the simple fact of diseconomies of scale setting in past a certain point, I think the biggest reason is that governments provide services in a non-optional bundle. The greater the overlap of the needs and desires of the customers, the more politics can pursue optimal solutions as opposed to second or third-best compromises cobbled together for acceptability to a big, diverse coalition.

            This is why the comment section of a blog can come up with better ideas to fix health care than the whole US Congress: it’s not that Congress is actually that stupid (though this is a smarter than average blog); it’s that nothing this reasonable will ever get adopted in the US.

            The countervailing trend: people want to move to places with good governments.

    • cassander says:

      there definitely is research to this effect.

      https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs101010200051?LI=true

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014292110000991

      Smaller countries consistently score better on most good government measures.

  11. During a period of hyperinflation (according to the Wall Street Journal, prices rose by 230 million percent per year), the government of Zimbabwe printed banknotes worth a billion dollars, then a trillion dollars, and finally a $100 trillion note, the highest-denomination currency ever issued anywhere in the world.

    When those bills were retired from circulation in 2009, $100 trillion in Zimbabwe dollars was worth about 40 cents US.

    A few years ago, on Ebay and Amazon, you could buy authentic Zimbabwe $100 trillion bills for around 50 cents each.

    A friend of mine bought a great quantity of these, and gave away hundreds of them as tangible proof of how bad a financially irresponsible government could be.

    I did the same, but on a smaller scale.

    Now, in 2017, it seems that these $100 trillion bills have picked up some weird cachet. On Amazon, Ebay, and elsewhere online, they now sell for around $50 to $100 each!

    My friend estimates that at current values, he gave away about $25,000 worth of seemingly worthless currency.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      highest-denomination currency ever issued anywhere in the world

      Zimbabwe may have had the most zeros (14), but Hungary had higher denominations. Wikipedia shows a picture of a note with no zeros, but that reads “százmillió b.-pengő,” ie, 100 million billion (pengo). And that’s a long billion.

      • Interesting. I think some news organizations were unaware of that.

        The figure $100 trillion has some personal resonance, because soon after I became county clerk, I was sued in federal court, by a state prisoner I had never met or dealt with, for that exact sum in damages.

        In US dollars, that comes to more than the Gross World Product.

        Needless to say, the case was dismissed.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        To save everyone else the trouble, that’s 10^20 on the Hungarian bill.

    • cmurdock says:

      The $10 trillion and $1 trillion Zimbabwean notes are much cheaper, by the way, in case you want to get a show-your-friends-how-crazy-inflation-is prop but don’t want to spend 100 dollars.

    • Well... says:

      Now, in 2017, it seems that these $100 trillion bills have picked up some weird cachet. On Amazon, Ebay, and elsewhere online, they now sell for around $50 to $100 each!

      A self-correcting market adjustment!

  12. Nick says:

    SSC, I want to hear your pie in the sky healthcare reforms.

    We’ll suppose on account of timeliness that this is a replacement for current US healthcare. Pretend for a moment that you don’t have to worry about the likelihood of passing Congress or being signed into law, but economics and basic viability still matter. Try to keep your proposal grounded on planet Earth, at least—so no funding your healthcare scheme with asteroid mining. And of course, healthcare-adjacent fields like rehabilitation, hospice care and nursing homes, and insurance are fair game.

    I’m also tabooing the words Obamacare and Trumpcare, socialized medicine, death panels, and single payer. You’re free to talk about these things, just not in those terms.

    • . says:

      1) FDA continues to exist, but only as a truth-in-advertising agency
      2) Foreign medical professionals are not just allowed to immigrate, but given instant citizenship and allowed to vote twice
      3) Tax benefits for paying employees via insurance are abolished
      4) Catastrophic medical insurance is required of all citizens.
      5) The government helps you pay for aforesaid insurance if you are poor, unless you are older than 40 and ‘very unhealthy’
      6) ‘very unhealthy’-ness is determined by adversarial health courts with health prosecutors

      • Evan Þ says:

        Could you describe that catastrophic medical insurance better? Does it cover congenital illnesses that you know you have in your teens before you’re actually of age to buy insurance for yourself?

        And what constitutes “very unhealthy”? It seems targeted toward people whose bad habits are responsible for their ill health, but as you phrase it, you’re also refusing to cover people who happen to get cancer or get run over by a truck or anything like that.

        • . says:

          Sorry I was incredibly unclear: the point of the “very unhealthy” cutoff is to prevent directing most of our resources at people who are probably terminally ill anyway, which I see as a big problem with government-supported catastrophic coverage. So government would not cover people who get enough malignant enough cancer.

        • CatCube says:

          This can be a tricky terminological debate. If you know you have a disease, there’s no such thing as “insurance” for it. Insurance is a financial instrument where you pay the actuarial value of a possible future event of known risk, and you get paid if the event actually occurs. The point is to pay small amounts to hedge against a catastrophic event. For example, most people won’t have their house burn down, but would be ruined if that occurred. So everybody pays a premium according to the value of their house and the odds of a fire occurring, and the relatively few people who suffer a house fire get money back out.

          If the event (disease) has actually occurred, what you’re buying isn’t insurance (unless your premium is the cost of your care + overhead). It’s just a subsidy. Imagine for a second if you didn’t carry fire insurance on your house, the suffered a fire. You can’t buy “insurance” after the house has burned down.

    • johan_larson says:

      Pie in the sky, but not actually impossible?

      1. Medicare-light for everybody. Basic medical care for everybody is funded by the government. As an American, you will not die or suffer grievous loss of quality of life from anything that can be treated reasonably economically. That said, this program doesn’t cover every conceivable thing; it has a budget and it only reaches so far. Its rates are the de facto baseline for the industry.

      2. A continuing role for privately paid healthcare. If Medicare won’t pay for something, or you prefer a physician who charges more than Medicare rates, you are welcome to pay for it privately. There are tax-free savings accounts available to help you do this, and medical insurance is still a substantial industry. Most people who are not truly poor either save or buy insurance. Employers are not involved. Pricing transparency laws help consumers make good choices.

      3. Narrower moats. In the current medical system, you need a graduate degree and a harrowing apprenticeship to legally diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication for anything at all. It’s a big jump. Replace that with a smoother curve of rising authority accruing with depth of training. The military gets a lot of medicine done with medics who only have a year or so of training; no reason that couldn’t be done in civilian life. If you’re in a very small town, the local medical professional may only have an associate’s degree in medicine, and is therefore only authorized to diagnose and treat simple ailments, but it’s a whole lot better than schlepping hours away to the big city for every single thing.

      • 3 Narrower Moats

        Nurse practioners are already a thing. I would have thought the low hanging fruit there was to remove the requirement for pre-med.

        • johan_larson says:

          Yes, and NPs are a good thing. But they still need master’s degrees. I’m thinking it may be possible to be an effective medical practitioner with even less.

          You’re right about the pre-med, though. Good catch.

      • cassander says:

        1. Medicare-light for everybody. Basic medical care for everybody is funded by the government. As an American, you will not die or suffer grievous loss of quality of life from anything that can be treated reasonably economically. That said, this program doesn’t cover every conceivable thing; it has a budget and it only reaches so far. Its rates are the de facto baseline for the industry.

        Define “reasonably economically.” And what does it not cover?

        • johan_larson says:

          I don’t have a specific dollar sum or list, but think glasses not contacts and certainly not laser eye surgery.

          It would pay for things like regular checkups, vaccinations, broken legs, dental drilling and filling, and appendectomies.

          It would not pay for long-shot cancer treatment, particularly in the elderly, care of long-term comatose patients, elaborate reconstructive surgery, and pricy quality-of-life procedures like hip replacements unless the ailment is keeping you from doing your job.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What you’re describing might end up more expensive and broad-coverage than most Canadian public health care. Glasses and dental work tend to be covered by private insurance, not public.

          • cassander says:

            It would not pay for long-shot cancer treatment, particularly in the elderly, care of long-term comatose patients, elaborate reconstructive surgery, and pricy quality-of-life procedures like hip replacements unless the ailment is keeping you from doing your job.

            Again, define long shot. More importantly, define how the government will define it. Something like a qaly?

            I don’t mean to be nitpicky, but what you’re saying amounts to a hand wave like “just pass some common sense regulation and everything will be fine.” Without specifics, it’s a platitude, not policy.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It would pay for things like regular checkups

            This will blow your mind, but regular checkups have no measurable impact on outcomes.

    • dodrian says:

      I would want to see large amounts of funding driven to state university hospitals. These hospitals now have an expanded role in treatment/research/education, with the triple goals of driving down costs of training new medical professionals, developing innovative and cost-effective treatments, and providing free access at point of use (or maybe with fixed fees that scale based on income). There will no doubt be long waiting times to use this care – this is partially by design to encourage those who can afford to pay to go elsewhere.

      Funding would have to come from a mix of sources – probably a new state tax, some Federal assistance, but also the intention is to absorb medicare/medicaid funding (there would be no individual or corporate mandate to buy insurance). There may be room in this system to see non-state healthcare facilities pay a small ‘private practice’ fee to send some money back (it would have to be a small fee though, as part of this idea is that if everyone has a cheaper alternative it encourages private practices to lower their costs). There would be the possibility of letting the states fund treatment privately as part of public health initiatives, especially diagnostics, (eg: they will pay up to $X for a private mammogram scan, possibly on a sliding scale based on income or tax band), that would be down to a state-by-state basis to help decide what’s most cost effective.

      It would probably need to be combined with some sort of tort/liability reform, both on the treatment and research sides, but I’m not sure how to do this best while still adequately protecting patients. The federal government would need to set up a mandate that the state system can’t refuse any treatment that meets certain cost/benefit ratio ($/QALY or something similar). It’s probable more federal assistance would go to rural states where treatment costs are higher.

      I’m neither a medical professional nor economists, so I’m not sure how feasible this idea is in practice. I’m trying to balance the need for publicly-funded healthcare for those who can’t afford it on their own with the astronomical costs of trying to provide that for everyone. I think that inevitably in the short-to-medium-term the US will rely much more on the private sector than the rest of the developed world, though I think public opinion is shifting towards a need for government-funded healthcare. My proposal would help states set up a healthcare model that suits them better (Wyoming’s needs are no doubt very different from New York’s). There’s always the risk of this particular scheme collapsing under the weight of one helluva bureaucracy (or seeing one state collapse, though hopefully surrounding states would be willing to step in and help them rebuild, better, with lessons learned), there may be need to set aside federal funds for assistance when that happens.

      • The Nybbler says:

        So take the two major cases of cost disease (medicine and education), put them together, and throw money at them? This strikes me as likely to drive UP costs and INCREASE credentialism.

        • dodrian says:

          We can aim to prevent that by increasing the bureaucracy regulating them!

          I’m not sold on the idea of mixing the two, but I was thinking along the lines of those are hospitals that the state already owns, and can springboard off of (some on that list are private).

    • rlms says:

      Find a state that’s willing to put its healthcare system completely under the control of another developed country (France, Singapore, wherever) and see what happens.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        A lot of those foreign systems work because you can’t sue your provider (the government) for failing to cover you. You can appeal to the press, which raises problems because only popular people get their uneconomic diseases treated, but still a whole lot better.

        HillaryCare had this provision. You weren’t going to be able to sue the government for lack of care. It’s not because she was evil, it was because it’s necessary if you are going to decide what is and isn’t worth it.

        • rlms says:

          There’s nothing to stop people under those systems from using private providers.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m not talking about making it illegal to get the procedure elsewhere else.

            I’m talking about people suing because they insist their current medical provider cover something the current medical provider doesn’t want to.

            HMOs had a great run at cost-containment until Congress allowed these lawsuits to happen. HMOs were also very very unpopular, despite providing care no worse than competitors. People felt it wasn’t as good care.

    • Urstoff says:

      Mandatory transparent pricing; doctors and other healthcare professionals are paid by salary; subsidized HSA’s and catastrophic insurance for those falling below a certain income level; making health benefits illegal (the only way I can see of breaking the link with employers; if there’s a gentler way, I’m all ears); some sort of action that reduces current health insurance companies to rubble, forcing them to build from the ground up. This is pretty close to a standard libertarian/left-libertarian perspective on healthcare, although with some harsher measures that ensure the old system is permanently destroyed.

    • John Schilling says:

      Wal-mart health care. Nearly but not entirely the full range of health-care services under one roof, explicitly organized for the lowest practical price and with no pretense that the customers either deserve or will get the best possible health care. Operating in parallel with Target health care and all the rest, up to boutique health care for the very pretentious. I’m guessing there won’t be more than a few years’ difference in life expectancy across that range, but there are other ways to cater to the pretentious than measurable improvements in outcome.

      HMOs were supposed to be this, kind of, but never really pulled it off. I’m not sure the idea is entirely worth giving up on.

      Also, there are a number of workable payment models for this, including the one Wal-Mart itself uses. But employment-based health insurance has got to go. Almost by definition, anyone incurring the sort of health care expenses that require insurance to pay for, isn’t healthy enough to be holding down a job. Nothing we do to address that can ever be more than a half-baked kludge. So, eliminate the tax exemption for employer-provided health insurance. It will take at least a generation for the practice to fade away, but in the meantime we can use the tax windfall to subsidize care for the generation of patients whose pre-existing conditions are ill-served by current institutions but should not define future ones.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Employment-based health insurance has got to go. Almost by definition, anyone incurring the sort of health care expenses that require insurance to pay for, isn’t healthy enough to be holding down a job. Nothing we do to address that can ever be more than a half-baked kludge.

        ^ This, a thousand times^

        • gbdub says:

          Ehh… not sure I buy it (despite thinking employer insurance ought to go). What about trauma, childbirth, orthopedic surgery, etc.?

          I had to have reconstructive knee surgery that would have been a hardship out of pocket, despite being well paid. But I was back at work within a week. I would certainly want that covered by insurance, given the choice (after all, I carry collision insurance beyond the state minimum to cover financial losses of similar magnitude)

          • John Schilling says:

            Trauma care is a bit under 7% of total US health care costs; not negligible, but not a driver. I can’t get a quick read on how much of trauma care goes to employed people, outside of workplace injuries that will likely be billed to the employer through separate channels.

            Childbirth, I think we’re already well into “kludge” territory with things like maternity leave, so this goes well beyond health care. A society may feel it appropriate to subsidize the bearing and raising of children. That’s legitimate, and I’m happy to go along with it to a point. Implementing this by telling employers that whenever a woman who works for them decides to become a mother, they have to cough up an expensive package of benefits, seems likely to lead to perverse results. Particularly if we are also complaining about a “wage gap” or “glass ceiling” for women and expecting employers to fix that as well.

          • Brad says:

            It’s hard to know if it would have been of a similar magnitude in cost in the alternative universe where wal-mart healthcare exists.

            The price of knee surgery (I had my ACL done) translated into median-worker-hours-of-labor is quite shocking. It’s pretty hard to understand where all that money is going exactly.

          • gbdub says:

            I was objecting explicitly to the argument that anyone incurring large health care expenses isn’t healthy enough to have a job.

            That’s true for a lot of chronic and terminal illnesses, but there are still a large category of expenses that are both unexpected and expensive.

            As for the overall cost, the sticker price of my ACL surgery and subsequent rehab (something like $36k) really was shocking, but then again the actual insurance reimbursement (i.e. what the docs actually got paid) was (memory a bit fuzzy here) something like $6-8k. Which considering the people (surgeon, anesthesiologist, a couple of nurses / assistants, and a physical therapist for about 20 visits), equipment, and hours involved, seems much more reasonable. It’s easy to hit that number with serious repairs on a mid-range car.

      • Thegnskald says:

        We could require employer-provided health insurance to actually insure your health, instead of providing healthcare; do what all other forms of insurance do, and make you whole after a loss, less a deductible. (In the financial sense of “whole”, I realize health makes this concept sound different than it is.)

        ETA:

        Imagine if your house insurance could cancel your policy after you got hit with a hurricane, and avoid paying out on your claim, because all they do is cover repairs on currently insured houses. That insane system is how health “insurance” works.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Sounds great, but we can’t get there from here. It would require full system collapse. We’re more likely to slouch into socialized medicine, and the effective end of medical progress.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I agree but that’s what makes it “pie in the sky” rather than “realistic policy proposal”.

        • Nick says:

          What hlynkacg said. We can give bonus points to proposals for being more or less actionable, for sure, but I wanted to encourage out of the box or creative answers here.

        • . says:

          I actually think this would be relatively easy, since it’s left/right agnostic. Particularly the insurance-through-your-employer thing; everyone agrees that it’s terrible but no side wants to be the first mover and responsible for the temporary stress.

          So they could pass a law that says “10 years from now, tax breaks and mandates for employer-provided medical coverage are over, we’ll come up with something to replace it in the mean time, and congress can extend the deadline in 1 year intervals.” Realistically congress would keep extending the deadline, but it would be politically cheaper for whichever party grows a spine first to change things.

          • Brad says:

            That’s not far off from what happened with the “Cadillac plan” provision of ACA. IIRC there was no automatic adjustment for inflation so it would have gradually phased out tax expenditures to subsidize employment based healthcare plans.

            No surprise it was DOA. In fact, the real surprise was that it ever passed in the first place (similar story for the national flood insurance reform that was never allowed to go into effect).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The issue with “get rid of employer-provided insurance” is that it’s currently the part of the system functioning best for its users.

            I agree it has to go.

          • Brad says:

            I’d say rather that it is the part of the system that the users perceive to be functioning best. The users are quite upset about how the high cost growth of employer provided healthcare has impacted them — i.e. stagnant wages — many just don’t make the connection between the cause and the effect.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      1. The government publishes health care efficiency data, assigning (with varying levels of granularity, which itself is a big issue) a dollars-per-QALY to every procedure.

      2. A government agency funds everything that costs no more than (pulls number out of ass) $100,000 to save a QALY. The government agency can use its normal market power to negotiate but cannot otherwise threaten to e.g. revoke patents or control prices.

      3. Private insurance can, at their option, use the government’s tables to decide what to cover and what not to cover at whatever threshold. If they do so, clients who believe the company has not met its published obligation can sue in a special court that quickly decides and that stands.

      4. As a derivative of #3, private insurance can publish modifications to the government’s table. These modifications don’t necessarily need to be human-readable but the formulas should be published enough that anyone can put information into their website and see if it’s covered or not. This would allow for people who’s specific desires differ from the governments to find their own. (For example, marathon runners might place a very low QALY on life without legs.)

      5. The government agency from #2 is funded by a VAT. If people want more coverage, they have to vote themselves higher taxes on the goods they consume.

      • Matt M says:

        Doesn’t five create a situation where sick/risky people constantly push for higher taxes, while the healthy and conservative oppose?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Sure, but that’s a normal part of public choice. The primary thing I want to avoid is “get more stuff by raising taxes on that other guy.”

          The US, believe it or not, has one of the most progressive tax systems on the planet. This is probably a defect because people think they can always raise taxes on someone else and don’t worry too much about efficiency. My unscientific survey shows that people in other countries care a lot more about that than Americans do, where the tax system is often a way to punish your cultural enemies.

    • We should have a medical welfare program for those who can’t afford it. This would cover those who are so poor they receive normal welfare, but also those who can support themselves for other types of expenses, but have medical expenses so high they cannot afford those. For most welfare, a set stipend per person works pretty well, but medical costs can vary significantly. It would be expensive to create a medically knowledgeable bureaucracy to handle these issues, but no more than it spent today on government administration. Currently medical administration covers the entire population.

      Medicine outside this welfare system would be completely deregulated. This would dramatically reduce prices (so fewer people would need to be on medical welfare), maintain quality about the same as it is now, and greatly improve freedom for patients to manage their own medical care. There are three main areas of health care to deregulate — I list them in priority of importance:

      1) Deregulate health insurance. Most important, no subsidy for insurance. Employees would pay taxes on health benefits just like other income, and no itemized deductions or paying employee share before tax. I think this should be the case for all medical care, but it is most important for insurance. This should eventually greatly reduce the use of insurance for everyday health costs, since that is an expensive use of insurance, if one gets no tax benefits. Also, the states should stop regulating insurance. Deregulating insurance is probably biggest driver of decreased cost, because losing third party billing would allow supply and demand to work.

      2) End licensing of medical jobs. There would still be organizations of doctors, nurses, etc., so patients could use these designations to determine practitioners if they didn’t have better ways to choose. Even with licensing, the trend is to use less expensive practitioners for more routine care. But licensing greatly restrains this trend — and patients rarely need expensive doctors for most care. Patients could choose who they want for the care they get — not have to go with licensing requirements, which are heavily driven by practitioners who don’t want to lose their lucrative earnings.

      3) No more prescription drugs! Pharmacists could actually practice their trade by advising customers which drugs are safe and which aren’t. How often do patients go to the doctor solely to get a prescription? They don’t need the doctor’s care — only his signature. Let patients make their own decisions on risk levels, instead of allowing the FDA and doctors to make it for them.

      • Brad says:

        Re: 3
        What about antibiotics whose use constitutes a part of the commons?

        • Evan Þ says:

          Wild and crazy idea: Antibiotics are heftily taxed, with the tax money going to development of new ways of fighting bacteria. Or, perhaps, they pay out hefty sums of money to everyone suffering from antibiotic-resistant infections, and if the fund runs low, the antibiotic tax goes up next year. Perhaps people with an actual doctor’s prescription are (partially?) exempt from the tax.

          This would, of course, suffer from misestimation of how much damages antibiotic-resistant infections would cause, or how hard it’d be to fight them.

          • @ Evan. Yes, that’s a good idea.

            I don’t think my plan would affect antibiotic usage a great deal. Much antibiotic usage may be because of doctor CYA, which would decrease without prescription requirements. The problems with antibiotics is pretty much orthogonal to my plan. I’m not sure if antibiotic over-usage is really a threat to society, or just a panic attack of those people that like to tell us how this or that behavior will destroy us all. Regardless, it doesn’t relate much to my plan.

      • onyomi says:

        I would endorse this plan.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        This is good from a “freedom” perspective, but people really suck at evaluating their own medical prognoses. Especially at end of life.

        • People in general suck at a lot of things. A good example is voting, where people make really stupid and dysfunctional decisions. It’s just that the alternative to democracy is usually worse. Besides, IMO people have the right to run their own lives, including their own government.

          All the more so for personal decisions like running one’s own medical care. Even if people make worse decisions than an all-controlling master would do, control itself is important. I also think that “expert” decision makers usually do make worse decisions about people’s lives than those who are actually living those lives, especially when it comes to satisfying the particular desires and risk levels wanted by each of those people.

    • BBA says:

      Suggestion that nobody has mentioned: All-payer rate setting. Require each hospital, and each doctor’s office, to publish their prices for all services, and then forbid them from charging a higher or lower price based on whether the payment comes from Medicare or a private insurer or the patient’s pocket. A version of this is in place for hospitals in Maryland, and Johns Hopkins hasn’t moved away or seen any decline in quality because of this.

      It’s impossible to have a functional market when neither the buyer nor the seller has any idea how much something will cost until they’ve already made the sale. This should cut down on the nonsense of “negotiating down” from an absurdly high charge-master price that only a Saudi prince could afford and that is only charged to Saudi princes.

      • cassander says:

        This only matters if people are incentivized to shop for price, and they aren’t. out of pocket share of expenditures in the US are low by international standards, and have been falling for decades.

        • onyomi says:

          This is not entirely true, at least not anymore.

          I remember not too long ago I had to get an MRI but had not yet met my employer-provided plan’s minimum expenditure to cover it fully, so I had to pay for a good chunk of it out of pocket. I called around and checked online various price quotes and picked the lowest one near me. I paid a good chunk of the estimated price on the day of the test and thought that was basically my “copay.”

          Later, I was sent multiple bills amounting to 5 times the initial quote on my insurance company’s “provider cost estimator,” which they defended by saying that was only an estimate…and plus, my insurance was still paying some vast sum in addition to that… but explain to me why you can’t give me an accurate estimate in advance for my out-of-pocket expense on a completely routine test with no complications?

          I refused to pay more than the original estimate, resulting in a derogatory mark on my credit in the end, but it was the principle of the thing… Sure, I probably didn’t do my research well enough or read all the fine print, but I also have a PhD and made at least some effort to shop around. In other words, it’s made intentionally opaque in part to discourage comparison shopping.

      • dodrian says:

        It’s impossible to have a functional market when neither the buyer nor the seller has any idea how much something will cost until they’ve already made the sale

        I agree with you on the knowing the price before purchasing bit, but isn’t variable pricing a regular part of having a functional market? Cars for example (even limiting ourselves to new-from-dealer), almost no one will pay the list price.

        As infuriating as it can be for consumers, isn’t healthcare one of the areas where we’d really want those who can afford ‘list price’ to do so? Wouldn’t that help hospitals treat people who can’t afford much?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          No. If we want the rich to pay more, we should do that all in one place, at the tax system.

          By making dozens of different means-tested systems, we create huge marginal tax rates at a bunch of random places.

          • No. If we want the rich to pay more, we should do that all in one place, at the tax system.

            Yes, except I don’t think it should be at the tax system. We should have one welfare system for those who are to poor to survive otherwise, and not have the dozens of other systems that make it impossible to determine how much welfare we do pay. The tax system is not the simplest or fairest place to do this.

            And these “ability to pay” rules aren’t technically welfare but amount to the same thing, but make it even more complicated. I just read about some law that forces medical providers to make their services cheaper for those who are poorer. I only found out about it because the Republicans may not be renewing the law, so of course there is a hew and cry about it (Yea Republicans in this case). There are so many formal and informal rules about ability to pay that it is impossible to know how much welfare really exists, and also impossible to make informed judgments about what really is a living wage. It is a terrible idea to have different rates depending on income.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My usual proposal of late tends to have about six points:

      * Allow insurers to compete across state lines.

      * Allow people to open new hospitals, clinics, and other care facilities without having to submit proof that the area needs it.

      * Allow nurses to perform even more care duties. (I.e. subthread above about nurse practioners.)

      * Allow people to become certified care providers (doctors, nurses, etc.) more easily (trimming courseload requirement, tuition, internship requirements, etc.). In other words, johan_larson’s narrower moats.

      * Allow treatment researchers to bring new treatments without a Phase III clinical trial. Patient elects whether to assume the risk, or go with earlier tested treatment.

      * Equalize the tax rates on salary and non-salary compensation offered by employers. In other words, eliminate the tax incentive for employers to offer benefits such as health and dental; it should be just as easy for them to offer that in the form of higher wages.

      I also endorse the idea of FDA as truth-in-advertising agent. Ideally, even that could be outsourced (different people may be interested in different aspects of care providers, treatment providers, and insurers).

      If any of these are implemented and promoted reasonably accurately, they should drive the market toward care that is efficiently priced – every treatment price should end up very close to its real cost. Arbitrary incentives opposing them should hopefully become widely apparent.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        What does “allow insurers to compete across state lines” mean to you, and what benefits will it offer?

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          To me, it means increasing the choices consumers have in insurer, and permitting any customer to keep their plan with their current insurer, even if they move to another state, if they prefer to. I don’t know to what extent consumers are getting booted from some plan for moving, but AIUI the nation has effectively several dozen fiefdoms, each of which contains a relatively small number of insurers, with a corresponding ability to force consumers to pay higher premiums with less risk of losing them to a competitor. If my impression is correct, this would allow premiums to drop to whatever their true level would be, while also eliminating the cost of enforcement.

          If my impression is incorrect, then premiums would remain largely the same, but still eliminate the cost of enforcement. (I’m aware that a lot of the cost is dependent on locality, which could easily mean that moving would be effectively treated by an insurer as a change in a customer’s risk profile, which I would expect to raise or lower premiums accordingly. But this would also give consumers extra incentive to move to places with lower cost of living, which I expect would have benefits with regard to overcrowding.)

          This would also be partially addressed by my sixth item. And it and my first item are very much in line with Mark V Anderson’s item about deregulating insurance.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Why can’t Fred’s Insurance of North Carolina just open an office in Columbia SC to offer Fred’s Insurance of South Carolina?

            Let’s say they avoid needing to open a SC office and can just sell directly to SC customers. Should they have to follow SC insurance laws?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Why can’t Fred’s Insurance of North Carolina just open an office in Columbia SC to offer Fred’s Insurance of South Carolina?

            That’s a good question that I would like to hear a good answer to. Mostly what I hear is “because it’s too hard”.

            (And alternately, that it’s complicated because Fred often went to SC for a new job, and that’s why he lost his insurance.)

            Let’s say they avoid needing to open a SC office and can just sell directly to SC customers. Should they have to follow SC insurance laws?

            I would prefer that they did. But the impression I get is that $state insurance laws have been placing the insurers’ interests over the consumers’ often enough that the consumers would prefer federal intervention. This admittedly weakens my support for my first item, but I still support it enough to leave it in my personal list.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think I may have over-reacted a bit to the “sell across state lines,” thing, but one of the reasons is because “sell across state lines” can mean so many different things, like “single-payer” or “public option” can.

            If it’s just avoiding the need to have an office, but you still have to follow the other state’s laws, there’s no real benefit.

            If it’s being able to follow any state’s laws, that’s a huge can of worms. Some states are way too demanding in listing a bunch of things that must be covered, usually decided by lobby instead of by what’s good policy, but I think it’s better for individual states to try to fix that than to have every insurance company run to Delaware.

        • BBA says:

          Regarding state regulation of insurers: it’s my impression that the regulatory burden is nonzero but manageable. Here’s a post from David Anderson describing how a mid-sized insurance company in Pennsylvania got licensed to sell plans in neighboring states. The real barrier to selling across state lines is provider networks. It’s much harder for an out-of-state insurer with few local customers to negotiate favorable rates from a hospital than for a company with a wide customer base in the region.

          Of note in Anderson’s post is that Georgia and Maine have passed laws to allow any out-of-state insurance company to sell health plans to residents as long as they’re otherwise compliant with state law, and so far there have been no takers.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think healthcare should be more privatized in market friendly areas and more state controlled in less market friendly aspects. When it comes to basic healthcare(check-ups, medicine, a broken bone), the free market can handle these just fine with a combination of insurance and over the counter costs. But when it comes to extremely costly and long lasting treatment, maybe the government should cover those. It shouldn’t cover every possible “pie in the sky” treatment but the ones that realistically have a chance of helping the patient. In that case, there could be a government option for those scenarios. I don’t think it should be compulsory but they could make it more expensive if you don’t already have it when you need it. Of course, getting rid of the tax incentives for employer provided healthcare and eliminating other regulations should improve incentives and lower costs.

      • Yeah, this sounds reasonable to me. See my comment above about deregulating all health care, but provide medical welfare for those who can’t afford it. The problem I see with my own plan is that those who do require very expensive treatments, it is going to be covered by insurance or the government in almost every case even under my plan. These third party payments don’t have the benefit of price control through supply and demand. Since the market won’t be controlling costs anyway, maybe just cover them all through the government. This will unfortunately restrict people’s choices, but I don’t see a way around that.

  13. phil says:

    Fwiw, Philippe Lemoine (who’s not me despite the similar first name), who pitched his blog here in somewhat clunky fashion a few months ago, was able to get and article published on national review’s website

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/451466/police-violence-against-black-men-rare-heres-what-data-actually-say

    Not entirely sure about their website model, but they seem to publish what, to me anyway, seem like pretty high quality one off articles, (at least in contrast to more clickbaity sites)(though I’m sure my opinion about that is influenced by my tribal affiliation)

  14. The Author says:

    Not my first time posting, but my first time posting from WordPress – I recently read an article about this study that links antidepressants (specifically SSRIs, but also older types of anti-depressants) and long-term risk of heart problems. As someone who recently began taking atomoxetine (Strattera), an NSRI and a molecularly-similar analog to Prozac, I am concerned about the implications for my long-term health. The ADHD relief atomoxetine provides has made my life significantly better, and I am not the sort of person who freaks out about a single study when it comes to drug functions and health interactions, but I am curious what this commentariat thinks about the possible connections, given the themes of the blog and the educated discussions that you all have here regarding psychiatric medication and molecular effects. Full disclosure: I have not read the full study, merely the abstract and a “medical news” website breakdown of the study.

    I did a Ctrl+F for anything about this and did not see it, but apologies in advance if someone has raised this latest information elsewhere in the open thread.

  15. vollinian says:

    What can a layman like me do now about the AI risk movement?

    • Thegnskald says:

      The standard answer is “donate”, I think, but there may be some self interest involved in that answer.

      I’d say the correct answer is “relax”. You have approximately as much control over unfriendly AI as you have over an asteroid. Worrying about it only means you suffer twice.

      This answer may be influenced by my strong belief that concerns over unfriendly AI are greatly overblown, and that “intelligence” is being used like the word “witch”, to paper over a lot of stuff we don’t actually understand, and thus cannot actually implement. The amount of magical thinking involved supports this.

      We have achieved most, if not all, of the early goals of the AI movement. We stop calling it intelligence whenever we achieve something, because, once understood, it loses that spark of magic, that ineffability we really refer to when we say “intelligence”. The idea that image recognition software might become unfriendly is absurd, now that we understand image recognition.

    • Matt M says:

      I’d say “talk to people about it”

      With the caveat that you don’t talk about it so often, or use doomsday-esque language that people dismiss you as a conspiracy theory crank.

      Make people aware that

      1. You are a smart, well informed, educated person not prone to paranoid delusions
      2. You think this is potentially a very big deal worth looking into
      3. You encourage them to look into it themselves and draw their own conclusions

      90% of the time I think “raising awareness” is pointless virtue signaling, but this particular issue falls into the 10% where “awareness” really is something we need.

  16. Thegnskald says:

    Posting a modified comment here because I am interested in responses:

    Is there any non-just-so-story evidence that men are more sex-driven than women? The evidence I have seen suggests, for example, that women are just as interested in casual sex, but less likely to seek it out over concerns over personal safety.

    I suspect this is a self-sustaining social norm; whichever sex is the gatekeeper can effectively have sex whenever they most need to, whichever sex is not cannot, producing negative behavior which gets interpreted in the light of the current social views, reinforcing them.

    That is, given a society in which women are regarded as horny and men are regarded as prudish (and non-prudish behavior is looked down upon), is there any reason to expect this standard not to be self-reinforcing?

    As I mentioned in the previous open thread, evolutionary just-so stories have to account for the fact that women already are evolved to have sex more often than is reproductively optimal (women like to have sex outside of estrus, and symptoms of estrus are greatly suppressed compared to other species), so stories arguing against such possibilities on the basis of reproductive optimums have some explaining to do. (Also, bonobos, whose sexual behavior, as far as I know, is closest to human.)

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Well, dating websites and apps like Tinder generally have a much higher percentage of male than female users, which could be taken as evidence that men are more interested in the charms of the opposite sex. On the other hand, the old (pre-1800 or so) view was that women are all horny and promiscuous, which is a data point against.

      • rlms says:

        Additionally, there’s no (equally successful) Grindr for lesbians.

        • timewarp says:

          Mainly because every single attempt at that resulted in straight men invading the app, or was funded by trans exclusive radical feminists, which would have scared away the majority of lesbians. From personal anecdote (my college experience of the last 4 years), lesbians almost definitely are as horny as gay men are, if not more.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Part of that is lesbians are rarer than gay men (gay men are twice as common as gay women), making it harder to get network effects going.

          Another part is that they’ve been pushed away from online dating by early experiences with them, which tend to involve a lot of unicorn-hunters and bicurious women who aren’t interested in relationships.

          Lesbians do have fewer sexual partners than gay men, but a huge part of that disparity is caused by a (relatively) large number of lesbians who have no sexual partners in a given year. Given the network effects of relative frequency, I’m not sure how much we can learn from looking at lesbians and gay men.

      • Thegnskald says:

        If you go back further, men were the horny ones again. Go back further still, women again.

        Which looks to me like two local attractors our society slowly swings between. In the 1800s, on an interesting note, the then-equivalents of feminists (interested lobby groups for women’s interests) were pushing for a tax on bachelors, and pushing back against a perceived rise in the social acceptability of male homosexuality, as the disinterest of men in women was getting to be regarded as a serious social problem..

        As for dating websites, it my experience that is is more socially acceptable for men to date online than women, as it is seen as borderline desperation, and it is more socially acceptable for men to behave desperately than it is for women.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I’d be very interested in any studies that can back up that “experience” – that’s exactly how I view online dating, which is one of perhaps two reasons I haven’t done it.

          (The other reason being that I can see a couple holes in my life that it’d be nice to fill before getting into a serious relationship.)

      • Matt M says:

        To X’s point, it’s not just that men outnumber women on Tinder, it’s that they outnumber them by an order of magnitude, and if we were to further slice that into “specifically looking for casual sex and not a relationship”, probably by a couple orders of magnitude.

        One can point to history as an argument that the current situation is largely culture driven and not biological. I don’t know enough about biology to speak to that. But it seems ludicrous to make the argument that today, men and women are “equally interested” in casual sex when all evidence points to the opposite.

        The idea that they are just as interested but worry about safety also strikes me as unconvincing. The supply of men desperate for sex is such that any woman for whom this was a concern could unilaterally set the requirements of meeting in whatever such way she wanted to ease her mind and still have an unlimited supply of men who would accept it. “Send me a picture of your drivers license first, then we meet in a crowded public place, then you show up, alone, to this particular streetcorner where I will handcuff and blindfold you and take you to my apartment and we will have casual sex and then you will leave.” Enough men would accept these (or any other) terms.

        And of course, the knowledge of male desperation in this regard is now common enough that predators can easily exploit it. There are plenty of stories of cute girls on Tinder or Craigslist who say “meet me here” and the person you actually meet are three big dudes who beat you up and steal your wallet.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Not necessarily; friends with benefits also works, and is probably more sexually attractive to the average woman than playing dominatrix for safety reasons.

          Assuming an uneven distribution of friends-with-benefits (which shouldn’t surprise us, even distributions are unusual), you can have a situation where both sexes have equal minimum and maximum desired number of casual sex experiences, and so long as the maximum doesn’t equal the minimum, a smaller number of men could have satisfactory sex lives, resulting in greater unsatisfied demand for female partnership, even though the supply and demand are equal on both sides.

        • Deiseach says:

          The supply of men desperate for sex is such that any woman for whom this was a concern could unilaterally set the requirements of meeting in whatever such way she wanted to ease her mind and still have an unlimited supply of men who would accept it.

          Uhhhh – what is all this advice about “Game” I am reading, where the advice to the desperate guy looking to score some hot chick is “Don’t be available, make her work for it, make it look like you’re out of her league and she needs to up her game to get you”? That does not sound like “Sure I’ll jump through all these hoops”!

          As for “if women are worried, this check list will weed out possible murderers”, there are always cases like the Karen Buckley murder, where she accepted a lift home from a guy who (for unknown reasons) killed her, tried disposing of the body, and when arrested cooked up two different stories – first that she went home with him for sex, hit her head, and left; then that she went home with him for sex, afterwards got violent and attacked him, and he killed her in self-defence. Neither story being true or any way close to the facts.

          And this is why women sometimes do sound paranoid: “Okay, this guy offering me a lift home, how bad could it go? It’s not like every man is a rapist/murderer! Er, except that’s probably what Karen Buckley thought and look what happened there”. Or the Irish woman in Australia raped and murdered on the fifteen-minute walk home by a parolee out on parole for sexual offences. Or the Irish woman in Wales raped and murdered by her house-mate’s ex-boyfriend who drove all the way to the house and broke in.

          The idea that they are just as interested but worry about safety also strikes me as unconvincing.

          Women do have to worry about safety, or are you going to tell me that when you meet a woman in a club or bar and hit it off, you really have in the back of your mind “But yeah, she probably could attack and murder me” as a possibility, however remote? When we get a string of stories in the media about “young man raped and murdered by woman who picked him up in bar/woman on parole for sexual offences/woman who offered to drive him home from club/ex-girlfriend of his flat mate who broke into the house to rape him”, and these are regrettable but normal stories, then I’ll agree that women being put off looking for casual sex for safety reasons is “unconvincing”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Men are more likely to be mugged, women are more afraid of it.

            I am not going to say whose safety evaluation is better – that is a dumb game – but nevertheless, men and women have completely different risk evaluations.

            Given you are arguing with a predominantly male audience with male risk evaluations, I’m not sure this can go much further than “Women are more safety-conscious, get over it.”

            (That said, I do find women complaining about feeling unsafe to be… annoying, since our society already feels annoyingly over-averse to risk to me. Maybe this is a place where everybody has to be content with a compromise leaving nobody completely satisfied.)

          • lvlln says:

            I interpreted Matt M as saying that he was unconvinced that women were just as interested in sex – and that worry about safety was not the only or primary factor causing them to seek out sex at a lower rate than men. Not that he was unconvinced that women tend to worry about safety more than men.

            FWIW, I’m a man, and “But yeah, she probably could attack and murder me” is a thought I have in mind when speaking with any woman who’s new to me. Or man, for that matter. It’s certainly true that statistically it’s far more likely for a woman’s feeling of such a concern to be grounded in reality than a man’s. But since I know how much knowledge and tools can increase someone’s ability to inflict harm on others, I find myself thinking this no less when interacting with new women than I do when interacting with new men.

          • Matt M says:

            Women do have to worry about safety, or are you going to tell me that when you meet a woman in a club or bar and hit it off, you really have in the back of your mind “But yeah, she probably could attack and murder me” as a possibility, however remote?

            Yes, actually I do.

            Or, slightly more specifically, “She could be leading me to a remote location where her boyfriend will attack and murder me.” (as an aside, I’m also not exceptionally strong or agile or in shape and have never been in a fight in my life. I think there are a lot of women out there who could successfully assault me if they really wanted to.)

            Which is totally a thing that does happen, and seems about as fantastical as “my uber driver raped and murdered me” (which I’m constantly told is a thing all women are worrying about all the time)

    • Aapje says:

      @Thegnskald

      Yes, lots of evidence.

      If the only difference was concerns over personal safety you’d expect a pattern where women were very wary of more dangerous sexual activity, such as casual sex and visiting prostitutes, but just as likely to:
      – masturbate
      – think about sex
      – seek out porn
      – complain about low sex drives in their partner (presumably, personal safety is not much of an issue for most women who are in a relationship)

      In reality we see consistent differences across the board that all point in the same direction of men doing it substantially more than women. We also see that women enjoy fairly safe forms of sex less than men, for example, women enjoy receiving oral less than men.

      You’d also expect lesbians to have just as much sex as gay men, since lesbians run no risk of getting accidentally pregnant and their partner will be able to physically dominate them about as often as a gay partner can physically dominate his sex partner to the same extent. Yet again we see survey results that are consistent with gender differences in libido, rather than fear of personal safety.

      • Thegnskald says:

        These are also self-report studies in the context of a culture which frowns upon promiscuity in women.

        For porn, specifically, I think the success of Fifty Shades of Gray suggests very strongly women are a heavily underserved market in porn, and the hesitant if rising success of sexualized movies aimed at women (Magic Mike) suggests that this market remains greatly underserved.

        As for lesbians, they are more likely than straight women to have had no sexual partners, less likely to have had one, and more likely to have had two, three, or four or more. Given the significantly greater difficulties for them to find partners, this is suggestive. (Also, lesbian relationships are at least no less likely to involve abuse than heterosexual relationships, so I do not think we can conclude lesbians will automatically feel safer about casual sex than heterosexual women.)

        • dndnrsn says:

          Regarding DV in female-female relationships, doesn’t it tend to be psychological? At a minimum, men kill their female partners far more than women kill their female partners. And a lot of people are unaware of/in denial of the statistics – do lesbians and bisexual women receive a great deal of messaging on the subject? Regardless of how safe they are, how safe do they think they are?

          Also, regarding 50 Shades of Grey, what is different about it from the steamier romance novels? Those exist and have for a while.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Women are as likely to use physical abuse, but less likely to cause significant injury.

            And the difference is, effectively, that it was treated as porn. Romance novels are treated more like trashy fiction, in something the same way popular culture regards out-of-vogue fiction genres like westerns.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think you are actually right concerning the % of physical abuse. But they do certainly do less harm. Regardless, do women feel as physically unsafe having a casual sexual encounter with another woman as with a man?

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            I believe the answer is “no”, which may explain why a higher proportion of lesbians than straight women have three or more sexual partners in a given year.

            Certainly that was the result of the study I saw a few years ago about gender interest in casual sex; women’s acceptance rates equaled men’s when it was a woman propositioning them, and safety was the reason the study cited. I don’t recall if they asked the participants, or whether that was just their guess, though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            However, lesbians do have fewer sexual partners than gay men. You pointed out the apparent statistical point that there are fewer lesbians than gay men above, so smaller network effect – but does that account for the whole difference?

            What explains the rest of the gap – what % of the rest of the gap is due to safety concerns? Do women feel safer with other women than men feel with other men, or less safe, or the same?

        • Urstoff says:

          The erotic/romance fiction market is incredibly huge (it’s literally a billion dollar industry). Women aren’t underserved; they just consume it in a different medium.

        • Matt M says:

          For porn, specifically, I think the success of Fifty Shades of Gray suggests very strongly women are a heavily underserved market in porn, and the hesitant if rising success of sexualized movies aimed at women (Magic Mike) suggests that this market remains greatly underserved.

          Not buying this comparison. 50 shades of grey is not even remotely comparable to the type of porn viewed by males on the internet. It’s a slightly more sexually tinged version of the standard mainstream female romance novel (or, alternatively, a slightly more mainstream version of the more-sexualized romance novels that have been around, but weren’t previously as accepted by the mainstream).

          But it and Magic Mike are still moves that women go together to see as a “girls night out” as a social event. This is not at all the same thing as how the typical male consumes “Ass Bangers 26.” Male-targeted porn is becoming increasingly of the “gonzo” variety (as in, all graphic sex with no attempt at plot-lines). The stereotype of porn having cheesy plots about the pizza delivery guy are a relic from decades past. Men do not consume internet porn socially with other men. It’s a sexual activity, not a cultural one.

          As an analogy, I’d say women go to see Magic Mike in the way that men might go to Hooters. You go to Hooters with your guy friends and you eat some wings and you drink some beer and you watch some football. Yes, the waitresses are attractive women in skimpy outfits, and that’s a nice bonus – but you aren’t there primarily for sexual reasons. That’s what strip clubs are for. 50 Shades is Hooters, not a strip club.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Why are you so certain the existence of a social aspect rules out a sexual aspect?

            Have you never experienced a social-sexual situation? They feature prominently in women’s media, and are a major facet of many youthful sexual experiences (truth or dare, spin the bottle, other party games with overt sexual overtones).

            It is currently socially unacceptable for adult men to do much in this vein, but women still enjoy social-sexual activities. I mean, there are companies which organize sex toy parties for women; what do you think that is?

          • Urstoff says:

            By this criterion, nothing will be comparable since women and men tend to be aroused by different things. There “porn movies for women” market will never be remotely as large as that for men, and the “romance/erotica fiction for men” market will never be as remotely as large as that for women.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Urstoff –

            Disagree.

            I think the reason romance novels aren’t popular with men is that they are targeted at women.

            Certainly there is erotic fiction aimed at men; as I understand, the stories in Playboy and similar magazines were quite popular, and the internet is full of male-oriented erotic fiction, particularly targeting niche tastes that aren’t well-served by porn. (There is way more female-oriented erotic fiction, though. That’s most of the fanfic erotic fiction. It tends to be light on plot, like traditional porn, but given how it leans on established characters, it is hard to characterize.)

            (I am curious about the gender balance of fans of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series; I suspect largely women, given its BDSM emphasis.)

          • Wrong Species says:

            What on Earth makes you think that “50 Shades of Grey for Men” would be just as popular? Do you think fan fiction sites have even 10% of the traffic of pornhub? I know that politics is the mind killer but seriously, use some common sense.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What on Earth makes you think that “50 Shades of Grey for Men” would be just as popular?

            John Ringo’s _Ghost_ (and follow-ons) did quite well, though not nearly the success of “50 Shades”. Hard to say whether that was because of or in spite of the BDSM porn.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Wrong Species –

            Yes. But I will try an experiment and get back to you.

            (If I make money on this, I am not sure how I will feel about it. This sucks to write.)

        • Aapje says:

          @Thegnskald

          These are also self-report studies in the context of a culture which frowns upon promiscuity in women.

          So are you claiming that these women are lying? Because where we can verify it with hard data, we see similar gender differences. For example, 1/4 of the visitors to YouPorn are women. Visiting that site doesn’t require doing anything public and most men don’t seem particularly eager to advertise their porn habits either (hence most now browsers have ‘incognito modes’ now so people can keep it secret from other who may use their PC).

          If you are not going to accept any evidence and rationalize it all away, then there is no way to convince you.

          For porn, specifically, I think the success of Fifty Shades of Gray suggests very strongly women are a heavily underserved market in porn

          Fifty Shades is not technically porn, although you can argue that it serves as a female gender role equivalent by being a primarily romantic fantasy consistent with toxic gender roles where a woman finds the most extremely masculine man (aggressive and financially successful) and uses her charms to convince him to temper his extreme masculinity and to make her the beneficiary of it. If anything it shows that many women dream far less often of a enthusiastic sex partner who wants to have sex without any need for romance like male porn shows, but of a provider & highly aggressive person who exempts her from his aggression and instead makes her benefit from it*. Of course, Fifty Shades is just a rewriting of the Twilight narrative where the vampire guy doesn’t drink her blood, but defends her from his rapey blood drinking fellow men vampires. That in turn is a modern rewriting of Beauty and the Beast, where the modern element is that the woman doesn’t actually have to have the traditional quality of beauty, but no other qualities either. So in that respect it is similar to male porn in that the fantasy is stripped down to the core of what one gender tends to dream of and excludes the part where male and female preferences tend to clash and require compromise.

          * Note that this is not an accusation that men or women actually want such an extreme outcome, but rather that it fulfills a deep longing at the core of their person.

          Anyway, if you see 50 shades as providing a similar service as porn, this is evidence in favor of women having on average a lower libido, because it doesn’t strip down the fantasy to sex, but primarily to other things.

          As for lesbians […] Given the significantly greater difficulties for them to find partners, this is suggestive.

          Women are more likely to identify as lesbian or bisexual than men & are more willing to have sex with the same gender even if they identify as straight. So in so far that it is harder for women to actually enter a relationship, that can logically be attributed purely to logistics, which logically, are better for those with higher libido’s.

          So, none of your objections actually disprove that women have lower libido’s on average, but instead tend to support it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So, there is a relatively new genre of porn emphasizing plot; it was originally aimed at women, but was so successful with men (who apparently are bored with a series of loosely connected sex scenes) that plot is making a resurgence in porn.

            (That said, this may also.be an artefact of “empty sex scene” being free on the internet.)

            And BDSM porn is, IIRC, more popular with women than men. (Rape fantasy in particular)

            But I think you suffer from the opposite problem you accuse me of, so I don’t think we will make much progress on this discussion.

            I will note that my own romantic successes have been entirely derived from my beliefs, so they paid rent for me.

            Married now, so it matters less.

      • . says:

        I just skimmed the intro, but I notice that they dis-aggregate the strength of sex desires from the spontaneity of sex desires. This seems like a really good idea, since the second one seems easier to measure and would explain differences in behavior (more interest in seeking out porn or people on Tinder)

      • Incurian says:

        We also see that women enjoy fairly safe forms of sex less than men, for example, women enjoy receiving oral less than men.

        I find this extremely surprising.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Certainly doesn’t match my experiences. Sort of.

          I have encountered women who can’t orgasm from oral sex; they can enjoy it, but that isn’t quite the same. Those that can, however, are extremely fond of it.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is there any non-just-so-story evidence that men are more sex-driven than women? The evidence I have seen suggests, for example, that women are just as interested in casual sex, but less likely to seek it out over concerns over personal safety.

      How do you establish interest, short of look at who is pursuing casual sex? People who want casual sex often take horrendous risks to go for it: promiscuous casual sex is a major disease risk, but back when there were no antibiotics or condoms men still frequented prostitutes, during the height of the AIDS crisis men having sex with men were still indulging in risky sexual activity, back when rough trade was more of a thing, gay men were willing to risk that their rough trade would rob/assault them, and back when being caught could ruin your career/life, men still took risks to have sex with othe rmen. Were these risks inferior to the risks a woman runs by having casual sex? What separates the women who have (unpaid) casual sex from the women who don’t in our society today – do they exhibit lesser regard for their safety otherwise?

      I suspect this is a self-sustaining social norm; whichever sex is the gatekeeper can effectively have sex whenever they most need to, whichever sex is not cannot, producing negative behavior which gets interpreted in the light of the current social views, reinforcing them.

      That is, given a society in which women are regarded as horny and men are regarded as prudish (and non-prudish behavior is looked down upon), is there any reason to expect this standard not to be self-reinforcing?

      In societies where that is the case – where women are thought to be irrational and lusty, men rational and in control – are men the gatekeepers to sex, or do we see the same patterns as we do in this society? In settings where the trope is that women are irrational and want sex always, and men are rational and in control, prostitution is still men paying women for sex almost all the time.

      You don’t need an evopsych explanation to say “men are more interested in casual sex than women.” I think that’s a true statement; the explanation for why is another issue. Evopsych explanations are usually bad because they can account for anything.

      • Thegnskald says:

        We don’t call it prostitution when a traveling “doctor” is paid to use a “medical device” to calm a “hysterical” wife, but yes, we definitely saw that pattern.

        Historically, however, the trope is that of the seducer, which makes sense in the context of a society in which women have limited property rights and might have difficulty coming by currency to pay a prostitute with.

        • dndnrsn says:

          What were the numbers for doctors using steampunk vibrators on bored housewives, versus prostitutes having sex with men for cash? Was Whitechapel full of street doctors offering a thruppenny buzz to women passing by? Did this occur at more than one point in time – is it anywhere analogous to the fact of men paying women for sex throughout space and time?

          Was this just women looking for casual sex, or women looking for a man who would (under medical guise) pay attention to bits and spots that women today still complain about men neglecting?

          And, was what the seducer offering just casual sex? Or was he offering an emotional experience?

          • Thegnskald says:

            She. Seduction is traditionally a woman’s art. (And historically was reviled as deeply immoral conduct, aimed at corrupting pure men.)

            And yes. We have records of what became known as gigolos – men who were paid for social and sexual companionship, typically in bread, clothing, and housing. It isn’t a well-studied phenomenon, and the term is a bastardization of a French word used to describe women in that role, but it is a known phenomenon.

            What isn’t known is the frequency or extent, as it went largely unremarked upon historically. Further back, when property rights weren’t quite so unbalanced and prostitution wasn’t considered scandalous, we have evidence of male prostitutes servicing women in areas like classical Greece.

            ETA: I am ignoring the requests for numbers because they don’t exist, as far as I know, and for good reason; women known to frequent male prostitutes would suffer socially in a way men wouldn’t. Even presuming equal institutions – which I doubt, because social pressure does matter – there’s good reason to expect one to be a hell of a lot more secretive than the other.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You were speaking of Casanova elsewhere, so I assumed you were speaking of male seducers, rather than seductresses.

            In any case – is prostitution of men to women as present throughout space and time as the opposite? I highly doubt it. Where prostitution of men to women (for the purposes of argument, let’s call doctors fingerbanging bored housewives because something something uterus energy something something “prostitution”) existed, was it as widespread, at different price points (in the same way that women trading sex for money would vary from mistresses of a certain sort to survival-sex street prostitutes hollering a price at any man to walk by), as prostitution of women to men was/is? Were property rights for women accompanied by a rise in men selling sex to women? It doesn’t appear so.

            Is there a society right now where the common belief is that women are the horny ones, and where women have full property rights? What you’re saying would predict that this society would have more prostitution of men to women than vice versa.

            If what you’re saying is correct – what changed to reverse the trope? I’m not advancing an evopsych argument; my explanation for why women are more willing to have free sex without a ring being put on it is based in the interlocking reduction of medical risk and reduction of social stigma – the end result being less that there’s a lot of women out looking for casual sex, and more seen in the fact that most men lose their virginity to a girlfriend, instead of losing one’s virginity to a prostitute being a common experience, and most women lose their virginity to a boyfriend, rather than to a fiance or husband.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Possibly some regions of Africa – there are a number of countries popular for sex tourism for women where male prostitution is particularly common. (Thailand being one of them, but it is better known for other types of prostitution.)

            And I’d guess the trope reverses according to fashion standards – there does seem to be a correlation there. Whichever gender is held to a higher standard of attractiveness tends also to be the sexual gatekeeper.

            This makes sense if you assume parity or near-parity of sexual desire; assuming the baseline expectation of sexual partners is “above average”, then if you can artificially make most of one gender above average, then most of that gender will have access to sex. Since you have artificially removed the one-step-below-satisfactory level, below-average members of the opposing sex must either compromise more (have sex with people they find significantly less attractive), or they will have significant difficulty getting any sex at all.

            Once this norm is in place, it is self-reinforcing, as the desperate behavior of the below average is off-putting and reinforces the sexual gatekeeper role; changing it would require a fashion change that makes the other sex more sexually attractive on average.

            Fashion, in this case, could be something like “Women are expected to put more effort into their appearance”, or “The male form is more beautiful” – that is, either trends in preference towards masculine or feminine features, or trends in effort.

          • Deiseach says:

            Seduction is traditionally a woman’s art.

            Er, wasn’t the charge in law aimed at men?

            we have evidence of male prostitutes servicing women in areas like classical Greece

            Interested history amateur here would love to see some sources, since I’ve never heard of male prostitutes in Ancient Greek context and only as providing gay sex in Ancient Roman context!

            All of which is only to say that societies change over time and culture changes with them. Women as seductresses becoming the popular imagery, even if never quite driving out the notion of the male seducer, certainly did happen. And rich women paying male companions/lovers certainly happened and happens (though the fact that we have no term comparable to “mistress” here – “master” has quite different connotations – would tend to demonstrate that the norm is still rich man/trophy woman). And women having lovers/escorts as part of tolerated social custom, though again within bounds.

            But I don’t know if there ever was quite the same “a guy is lonely/horny, he can go hire a streetwalker for an hour and get his ashes hauled” for women; can you think of any example where a woman can/could have hired a guy off the street/go to the brothel for a quick bout of relief? In the same socially tolerated manner?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I have read that there are places in the Caribbean where older women go for sex tourism, and there’s guys who prowl the beaches looking for a sugar mommy/green card. But the stuff I’ve read about it suggests that the woman is as interested in the attention as the sex, and the if the winning move for the guy is to get married for the green card, that suggests more going on than sex.

            As to your explanation-

            1. What determines changes in fashion? Is it just random chance? What about cultures where both men and women are expected to peacock?

            2. What evidence do we have of men actually being the sexual gatekeepers in the past? Our evidence for this sort of thing for the past in general is not so great. Sometimes the evidence conflicts: at the same time that doctors were being paid to use olde timey vibrators on well-off women, there was massive prostitution of women to men. But evidence from right now would suggest that men are more interested in casual sex than woman. If we’re in a time where the trope is “men are horny”, and the trope determines who’s the gatekeeper, it’s bizarre that we have less prostitution, and non-professionals gatekeeping less (so to speak), than appears to have been the case at times when the trope was that women were the horny ones.

            3. While evopsych explanations do have to account for concealed ovulation and so forth, and many don’t, the theory that men and women are equally horny for casual sex has to account for how it seems that casual sex is more beneficial in terms of continuing one’s genetic line for men than for women, and more dangerous for women than for men (especially before modern medicine).

          • Thegnskald says:

            Deiseach –

            There are some classic Greek plays that reference it; Wikipedia mentions Plutus, but there are others.

            (Greek culture is very alien. There is some reason to believe they may have used gender roles in a more modern sense; that is, “he/she” may have referred to your social role rather than your sex, and there was a festival where trans women emasculated themselves in public.)

            Part of the issue is that prostitution tended to be associated with male-centric cities and professions (sailors, soldiers); Japan had a particularly notable case, in that male prostitution became predominantly aimed at men, whereas it was originally aimed more at women, as the feudal era meant large armies frequently dramatically distorted gender balances.

            Modern South Korea provides an interesting case study, as male prostitution aimed at women is (or was, uncertain) legal owing to a loophole in the anti-prostitution laws, and it is very popular – oddly enough, particularly with female prostitutes, but it is one of the countries that experiences women-centric sex tourism. 2.6% of Korean women admit to purchasing sex (23.1% of Korean men admit to the same).

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            The accounts I have read of Johns suggest they are also looking for attention as much as sex; it isn’t uncommon, particularly for widowers, to hire women to sleep (as in, sleep, not necessarily have sex) with them.

            Consider the cultural context that is filtering the information you receive – emphasis is paid on the fact that women are seeking attention, and thus worthy of empathy, but the reciprocal information is concentrated on the sexual aspects of the profession.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Contemporary accounts? And is this even across the board, or does it focus on some levels more than others? I imagine the quickest, cheapest forms of street prostitution don’t see that very much.

            Agreed that the cultural filter is in place. However, I would guess that a higher % of male prostitutes to female sex tourists see marriage and a green card as a more realistic possibility than female to male, or male to male.

            (As an aside – mail-order brides are about a lot more than sex; are there mail-order husbands? If no, why not?)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yes, there are.

            No idea how common the practice is, but Google turns up several sites advertising exactly that service pretty quickly.

            Flip side, it looks like it was set up by a Goon (a Something Awful forum member), so I have no idea if it is legitimate.

            There is a clickbait article claiming Amy Schumer ordered one. I somehow doubt the veracity of that claim, though.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            The accounts I have read of Johns suggest they are also looking for attention as much as sex; it isn’t uncommon, particularly for widowers, to hire women to sleep (as in, sleep, not necessarily have sex) with them.

            I read a story by a prostitute a while back where she said that while some men clearly visit for companionship, they almost always also desire sex.

            So I’m not convinced that this isn’t just a myth/exaggeration.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Aapje –

            You just characterized these Johns in exactly the same way you characterized Jills – interested in both sex and companionship – except you behave as though the emphasis is sex, then companionship, for the Johns, and companionship, then sex, for the Jills.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There is some reason to believe they may have used gender roles in a more modern sense; that is, “he/she” may have referred to your social role rather than your sex, and there was a festival where trans women emasculated themselves in public.

            Citation needed for all three of those things.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The Origin X –

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender_history#Ancient_Greece

            Sybele’s priest class is the clearest evidence we have, but there are other mythologies concerning gender transformation, suggesting a cultural acceptance of the phenomenon.

            (There are also some contemporary accounts, in which homosexuals are implied to really be women, and shouldn’t pretend to be men – suggesting they were more accepting of transgender identity than homosexuality.)

            FTM transformations are less accounted – we have surviving mythology in Greece revolving around such transformations, but little is known of how widespread the phenomenon was. A semi-contemporary account by Lucian of Samosata mentions a FTM individual encountered by, IIRC, a foreign prostitute, who is somewhat taken aback by the situation. (I believe the implication is that Lucian, who was Assyrian, was also taken aback by the idea.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sybele’s priest class is the clearest evidence we have, but there are other mythologies concerning gender transformation, suggesting a cultural acceptance of the phenomenon.

            If the phenomenon really was culturally-accepted, we should have better evidence than a minor foreign cult and a few myths in which somebody gets turned into a woman.

            (There are also some contemporary accounts, in which homosexuals are implied to really be women, and shouldn’t pretend to be men – suggesting they were more accepting of transgender identity than homosexuality.)

            Which contemporary accounts are these, who wrote them, when, and how mainstream were the views they expressed?

            FTM transformations are less accounted – we have surviving mythology in Greece revolving around such transformations, but little is known of how widespread the phenomenon was. A semi-contemporary account by Lucian of Samosata mentions a FTM individual encountered by, IIRC, a foreign prostitute, who is somewhat taken aback by the situation. (I believe the implication is that Lucian, who was Assyrian, was also taken aback by the idea.)

            Which work of Lucian’s is this?

          • Deiseach says:

            there was a festival where trans women emasculated themselves in public

            I don’t know about the Greek attitude, but the Roman one very definitely was not “oh hey, these were women all along”, it was that it was a weird, perverse foreign cult (and not associated strongly with the Greeks, whom Roman culture both appropriated and downgraded, but the Galli as particularly Phyrgian and often ‘Orientals’ – like the Trojans, inhabiting the ambiguous territory between Greece and Asia Minor).

            The historical attitude to eunuchs has been “effeminate males” not “trans women” and I think you are very much overlaying modern terminology and attitudes onto past societies.

            As to FTM transformations, I have no information on that outside of myths like Poseidon and Caenis/Caeneus and the story of Shikhandi from the Mahabharatha, but the rather coarse Roman works on tribades do think of them as “masculine women” who play the male part, not just sexually but aping male behaviour in dress, appetite, drinking, and athletics.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Deiseach –

            The Romans certainly had a different attitude towards it, and in ways you might not expect: They saw it as patriarchal intrusion into a matriarchal power structure.

            Yeah, TURFs go way back.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            You just characterized these Johns in exactly the same way you characterized Jills – interested in both sex and companionship – except you behave as though the emphasis is sex, then companionship, for the Johns, and companionship, then sex, for the Jills.

            I’m was not arguing order or that this was proof of relative libido differences. I was arguing that for very emotionally lonely men, sex is still important enough that they don’t fill an entire session with chatting.

            It was not meant as some slam dunk evidence for the overall debate, just a story I heard that weakens specifically your claim that a decent number of men visit prostitutes just for company.

            BTW. There used to be a Russian coitophobic sect that practiced castration of men and the mastectomy of women to fight lust. An interesting question is whether trans people were attracted to this sect, as the ‘Greater Seal’ can be seen as a transgender operation.

          • Deiseach says:

            Thegnskald, I think we have different interpretations of Roman attitudes (and I strongly suspect we’re reading different sources, and/or different commentaries on those sources).

            The fact that you are talking of “matriarchal power structures” in this context leads me to conclude we are not going to agree on Classical attitudes to gender roles. Or foreign religions based around goddesses, see Isis and Cybele.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Romans certainly had a different attitude towards it, and in ways you might not expect: They saw it as patriarchal intrusion into a matriarchal power structure.

            Again, citation needed. For the record, I have a degree in Classics, and I’ve never come across any ancient authors worrying about “patriarchal intrusion into a matriarchal power structure”, or anything that could reasonably be characterised as similar to modern TERF-ism, so I’m, erm, somewhat sceptical as to your ability to provide a proper citation.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Original Mr X, thinking about it Thegnskald could possibly be referring to the Clodius Pulcher scandal.

            Certainly by straining a bit you could call that concern over “patriarchal intrusion into a matriarchal power structure”, but I think the easier/more conventional reading is (a) the social disapproval of cross-dressing/going outside gender roles as indicating unmanliness and effeminancy* (unlike Thegnskald, I do not read the myths as indicating either the existence of a category corresponding to the modern-day concept of transgender or acceptance of such) and (b) the horror at what was perceived, to use our terms, as blasphemy or desecration of a sacred ritual. The Romans were very conservative in religious matters (see the continuance of the taboos around the Flamen Dialis even when the reasons for these had been forgotten) and they strongly leaned on the idea of contracts: we agree to provide God X with services thus-and-so, and in return God X agrees to provide protection/wealth/victory in battle, etc.

            Publius Clodius Pulcher may or may not have been renowned for his good looks and attractiveness but he was not a trans woman!

            A man dressed as a woman snooping on the sacred mysteries of the Bona Dea in order to find out the secrets was a very serious breach of such a contract and for the Romans it would have been likely to result in all kinds of unknown bad effects. Not so much worry about the patriarchy as “Oh shit, the Goddess will smite us for offending her!” :

            Incestum (that which is “not castum“) is an act that violates religious purity, perhaps synonymous with that which is nefas, religiously impermissible. The violation of a Vestal’s vow of chastity was incestum, a legal charge brought against her and the man who rendered her impure through sexual relations, whether consensually or by force. A Vestal’s loss of castitas ruptured Rome’s treaty with the gods (pax deorum), and was typically accompanied by the observation of bad omens (prodigia). Prosecutions for incestum involving a Vestal often coincide with political unrest, and some charges of incestum seem politically motivated: Marcus Crassus was acquitted of incestum with a Vestal who shared his family name. Although the English word “incest” derives from the Latin, incestuous relations are only one form of Roman incestum, sometimes translated as “sacrilege.” When Clodius Pulcher dressed as a woman and intruded on the all-female rites of the Bona Dea, he was charged with incestum

            *Off the top of my head, the only examples I can think of are Sporus, which is reported in terms of “this is the kind of shit Nero got up to, and we all know he was crazy and evil” and not as voluntary on the part of the boy, and Heliogabalus, who ended up assassinated and was pretty much a figurehead for the women of his family to exercise power through, and again accounts of his reign treat him as depraved, licentious, etc.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Deiseach:

            Clodius was apparently a bit of a player during his youth — he was accused of incest with several of his sisters, and of having an affair with Caesar’s wife — which doesn’t really comport with the notion of him as a woman trapped in a man’s body. (Unless he was a trans-lesbian, I guess, but the usual theory seems more likely, that he was wearing woman’s clothing as a disguise to sneak into Caesar’s house and bang his wife.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Thinking more broadly: why can’t it be a bit of everything?

      There’s evolutionary psychologists – real ones, not randoms on the internet; I’m thinking of Diamond’s book on the subject, but presumably there’s more recent stuff – trying to grapple with why concealed ovulation and sex outside of ovulation happen among human women. Humans are confusing.

      Why couldn’t men be more interested to some degree in casual sex for evolutionary reasons, but this be compounded by social stigma, women’s fear of men, etc? Perhaps in a society where there was no sex stigma and all violence had been eliminated, there would still be a difference, but a smaller difference?

      You brought up evopysch in the previous OT; I’m not sure that anyone else was advancing it as a reason, and you’re saying that someone is saying that the entire difference is due to evopsych reasons.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Could be.

        But I am automatically suspicious whenever somebody asserts that current social views that have varied historically correspond with some kind of biological truth.

        My guess would be that sexual dimorphism is evolutionarily expensive (it requires evolutionary pressure to maintain complexity, and there is a maximum on the number of bytes of complexity that can be encoded), and we have jettisoned a lot of it in favor of learned behavior. Not all of it – some is necessary for obvious reasons, and other elements will be byproducts of necessary elements – but most of it.

        And the studies I have seen suggest that both male and female sexual hormones increase sex drive, but the effect of both taper off after about two years. So there could be a cultural artifact in the form of acceptable sexual age – the cultural age of sexual maturity is more aligned with male sexual development than female. That could affect things, too.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Has anyone here asserted that formulation of it?

          Because I agree that “well, looks here that what we got/what I want is what Nature wants” is sketchy.

          I think it’s far more likely that the society we have now is a mishmash of biology, socialization, and the attempts of our biology and socialization to keep up with changes (driven largely by technology) that have always been faster than biology changes, and increasingly faster than socialization changes. I think this is similar to what you’re saying.

          However, I think that the evidence shows that if you took out all impediments, men would still be more interested in casual sex, on average, than women. Certainly not to the degree we see today, maybe to a rather narrow gap (like, 20% more, rather than 2x more, to pull some numbers out of nowhere).

          Saying “well it’s biology got my evopsych right here” does indeed run into some major problems. But “men and women are both equally interested in casual sex, but various things dissuade women” feels like a lack of parsimony is involved, and a bunch of ad hoc hypotheses.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Strictly from parsimony, purely social forces is simpler than social forces plus biology.

            We can arrive at exactly the same situation without biology. We could arrive at the same situation even if women were more interested in casual sex than men, given the social forces involved.

            It is notable that as social forces have relaxed, and female sexuality has been less constrained, we have begun moving towards parity. I don’t know if we will arrive there, but to me, the evidence that there is a significant difference looks weaker every year, and at a certain point, I have to see that trend as meaningful.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Purely social forces has a lot arguing against it, though, in a way that biology + social forces doesn’t. Not just in the realm of sex, either.

            By “the evidence that there is a significant difference looks weaker every year” do you mean “the evidence is that the difference is getting less significant every year”?

            Regarding social forces relaxing, a necessary condition was technological advancement that made this safe. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that once we figured out penicillin and effective birth control that was in the woman’s hands, social attitudes changed.

            I would agree we have been moving towards parity, but I think that in this world, we will not reach parity – even if social stigma disappeared, the majority of men are considerably bigger and stronger than the majority of women, and women know this – and even in a perfect world, we would not reach 100% parity.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The specific claim I challenge is that women are less biologically inclined to have sex than men; socially, I definitely think there are differences.

            I have a specific prediction, though: We are currently undergoing a reversal of the sexual roles here, as a result of increasing male interest in personal attractiveness/grooming, increasing social perception of masculine beauty, and declining male participation in the sexual marketplace. These are matters of perception, and hard to back up with concrete evidence.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The specific claim I challenge is that women are less biologically inclined to have sex than men; socially, I definitely think there are differences.

            Less biologically inclined to have sex, or less biologically inclined to have casual sex?

            I have a specific prediction, though: We are currently undergoing a reversal of the sexual roles here, as a result of increasing male interest in personal attractiveness/grooming, increasing social perception of masculine beauty, and declining male participation in the sexual marketplace. These are matters of perception, and hard to back up with concrete evidence.

            What are you predicting will come of this? Women outright pursuing men – guys logging on to OKC to find dozens of lewd messages, women Tinder-matching with men who turn out to be prostitutes?

            Already we are in a place where a guy who is OK looking, halfway pleasant, and with a university degree, is quite the commodity, but he still has to do most of the work of initiating.

          • John Schilling says:

            Purely social forces can explain everything, including the exact opposite of the last thing they explained, and therefore explain nothing unless you’ve got an explanation of why social forces point in a particular direction. Preferably one that also explains the other directions they have pointed at various points, and isn’t at least as big a just-so story as the usual run of pop ev-bio.

          • Matt M says:

            Already we are in a place where a guy who is OK looking, halfway pleasant, and with a university degree, is quite the commodity

            Citation needed.

            Women claim this guy is quite the commodity, but ultimately are still more likely to choose “tribal tattoo guy who already has a criminal record and an out of wedlock child”

          • Thegnskald says:

            It will be slower than that, and the relevant technologies will have changed.

            It will start with an increase in male homosexual behavior – men are still the horny ones, and with an increase in the relative attractiveness of men, dating men will become a little more common.

            This will erode the sexual balance, and women will begin initiating contact and relationships more frequently. Initially, this will be very successful for the women who switch strategies, and it will start to become more popular as this becomes more widely noticed. After it achieves a certain level of popularity, the success rate will begin to decline, as men grow accustomed to being propositioned. As this goes on, men will be decreasingly inclined to proposition women, since most of them won’t have to. (Those who do, meanwhile, will start to be regarded as desperate, rather than ordinary).

            Indeed, sexual seeking behavior in men will be widely regarded as desperate, and will be an active turn-off to prospective partners. Instead, unsuccessful men will be encouraged to improve their attractiveness, rather than persisting at propositioning. Gradually the bar for male grooming will rise. Grooming for women will decline – not because it isn’t helpful, but because advice will shift away from attracting men, to seducing them. (That is, grooming will become a one-off activity, like men dressing up for a club; you don’t look good all the time, only when you are hunting)

            Then, you will begin to see those sorts of things, yes.

          • Matt M says:

            It will start with an increase in male homosexual behavior – men are still the horny ones, and with an increase in the relative attractiveness of men, dating men will become a little more common.

            Not sure if you intend this or not, but isn’t this a pretty direct claim against the born this way/not a choice logic.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Bisexual men outnumber gay men quite considerably. They’re the significant element to that shift.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Citation needed for that too.

            Let’s rephrase: a man who is reasonably pleasant and has a degree and is otherwise attractive is a commodity. At least, a commodity among the women I would want to be involved with.

            Women, generally speaking, dislike marrying down more than men do – a woman with a BA is going to be less interested in a man with a high school diploma, all else equal, than a man with a BA in a woman with a high school diploma. Women outnumber men at the undergrad level now.

            Now, within the category of “guys with degrees”, yeah, a guy who is confident to the point of maybe being a little cocky, who lifts weights, maybe does some Muay Thai or something, etc etc etc, is going to be more attractive.

            The women I know from university who have ended up with guys who are utter shitbags are, first, few in number and, second, hot messes outside of poor choice of mate.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thegnskald

            What sort of time frame are you predicting for this shift?

            Don’t you think the distaste that some straight women have for bisexual men will be a factor?

            Do you think that gay men will come to have a distaste for bisexual men in the way that a lot of lesbians have a distaste for bisexual women?

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            Ten to twenty years to complete, I think; it would surprise me if it took less than five years, but it wouldn’t be the first time a shift happened faster than I expected. It began five to ten years ago, as masculinity began to come back into fashion; we see the grooming thing growing now. (Think about the resurgence of straight-edge razors and barber shops).

            And bisexual men will probably be seen something the way bisexual women are now (this is already starting to be the case, as masculine beauty is getting more traction; it is already no longer a strict liability, and depending on your dating pool, is starting to be an asset).

          • Thegnskald says:

            And on an aside to Matt –

            I had considerable sexual success, when I was inclined towards it. (Which wasn’t often.)

            This is in spite of being a soft-spoken, polite, bookish sort.

            It probably had something to do with the fact that I wouldn’t stand out in a Viking raiding crew, though.

            (I was turned down once because the woman thought I was too “innocent”. I still laugh about that. I’ve broken a rattan cane on someone. I just have to get to know you a bit before you get to see that side of me; otherwise, I am reserved and polite.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Thegnskald

            Would it be correct to state that bisexual women get more interest (and often more prurient interest) from straight men, but have a harder time with lesbians than other lesbians would? That’s the second-hand impression I’ve gotten.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Hard to evaluate. Anecdotal reports say yes, personal experience suggests that maybe bisexual women reporting this are including unicorn hunting in these reports.

            There is definitely a cultural difference between the bisexual and gay communities, though, which could account for it either way. Different kind of life experiences, perhaps. Bi people got to fit in, and there is definitely a sense that they missed out on an experience the gay community shared.

          • Matt M says:

            Women, generally speaking, dislike marrying down more than men do – a woman with a BA is going to be less interested in a man with a high school diploma, all else equal, than a man with a BA in a woman with a high school diploma. Women outnumber men at the undergrad level now.

            As usual, “all else equal” is doing a lot of work here, and in reality, all else is never equal.

            A slightly more attractive/charismatic high school drop-out will have more romantic success than a PHD.

            It’s like saying “All else equal, customers prefer cars that have larger cupholders.” Like, okay, you’re not wrong, but that also doesn’t mean that GM should start optimizing for large cupholders when designing the next Chevy.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            “Attractive and charismatic high-school dropout” is not “tatted-up ex-con.”

            Further, they’re not competing for the same women. A woman with a PhD might ignore the dweeby guy with a PhD, but she also probably won’t go for the high school dropout.

          • Matt M says:

            “Attractive and charismatic high-school dropout” is not “tatted-up ex-con.”

            Sure it is. Lots of girls love tattoos. A non-trivial number on Tinder specifically call it out as something they are looking for.

            Being a criminal says virtually nothing about your likelihood of being attractive or charismatic.

            I’m not saying that women go for criminals and dropouts for those qualities inherently. Just that educational attainment is so far down the list of qualities they judge on as to be almost irrelevant.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Educational achievement isn’t what I’m talking about. It’s social status. Among the sort of people who go to university, not having a BA is a major status hit. Women “marry down” in status less. Waving your PhD around will not get you laid, but a lot of women with university educations will disqualify men for not having them, in a way men do less, or at least historically have less.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            This will erode the sexual balance

            I’m not entirely sure what you mean, but I think we can see the effect of one kind of balance pretty easily, by comparing colleges with 60:40 ratios to those with 40:60 ratios. They’re different, but not the way you predict.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The tattooed ex-con behaves as if women want sex, and he is a desirable commodity.

            Many educated men behave as though sex is a favor paid to them, at the woman’s cost, and his sexual desire is a liability.

            Makes a difference. Begging for sex, no matter how circumspectly, isn’t exactly attractive.

            We could call the difference “confidence”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Douglas –

            Sorry, keep.forgetting to respond.

            What are you referring to?

            Can’t comment on colleges, but when I lived in an area with more women than men, casual sex was definitely significantly easier to get. (And I was actively propositioned on dating sites on a semi-regular basis, by women who hadn’t read my profile and only looked at my picture, until I got annoyed and changed my profile picture to be unattractive.)

            ETA: Which is to say, yes, I have experienced a low-grade version of the behavior women complain about about dating sites. I am not just talking out of my ass about all of this.

            None of this should be taken as implying these changes will make life easier for men, mind. The average woman has easier access to casual sex in our society – but the average woman also puts way more effort into her grooming/personal appearance than the average guy. Women who don’t tend to do worse than men who don’t.

            A huge part of the changes will be that men will be expected to put that kind of effort in.

    • Mark says:

      I have, in the past, read women’s magazines, and they seem to think that people have sex because it feels nice.
      To me, that’s a bit like saying people hydrate because it tastes nice. Makes me suspect that there might be a bit of a gender difference going on with the old sex drive.

      I suppose you could see how things change as gender roles become less pronounced, but the fact that the sexual revolution accompanied improvements in gender equality might spoil things a bit.
      Um… I would say rates of weird fetishes might be a good measure – presumably both men and women are discouraged from developing weird fetishes, and the strength of natural sexual desire must have some relation to how easily you can attach a sexual significance to some random object.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Consider how much of a step that is from the gender role of “Women have sex because it makes them feel more emotionally connected to their partner”, which is the impression you would have gotten a couple of decades ago. It has only been relatively recently that it has become socially acceptable to admit women like sex for any reason.

        That is a significant change.

        Likewise, I think the first time female masturbation was portrayed as normal in a non-pornographic setting in modern mainstream media was – fifteen years ago? (It was one of those teen comedy movies, and feminists made a huge deal about it, and the fact that it increased the rating of the film.)

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Is there any non-just-so-story evidence that men are more sex-driven than women? The evidence I have seen suggests, for example, that women are just as interested in casual sex, but less likely to seek it out over concerns over personal safety.

      I mean, there’s a lot of empirical evidence. Is there any non-just-so story rebuttal you have to that?

      Looks like the answer is no. You’ve written a whole lot on the topic and gotten plenty of responses, and I’m not planning on tackling all of it. But frankly, this is the real issue here: maybe you’re right, and maybe I am. But you have to admit that you don’t have much solid evidence here. Your best argument is a just-so story about the pendulum swinging – and more importantly, one which complains about men refusing to marry women, not refusing to have sex with them. We have the same phenomenon in the year 2017, with men being told to man up and get married, but certainly not to man up and have casual sex (men don’t need to be told this, as we will establish shortly)

      women like to have sex outside of estrus, and symptoms of estrus are greatly suppressed compared to other species

      As far as I can tell, women don’t really have an estrus; Wikipedia states that the estrous cycle is replaced by the menstrual cycle, which was about what I’d assumed. Maybe you meant having sex right before or after the period? Do women even want to do that?

      So at this point your argument is that women evolved to have meaningless sex outside of estrus and then evolved to have longer and longer and eventually infinite estrus to take advantage of that, as opposed to it being the other way around. Except…even if that’s the case, women still suffer much higher costs for every conception of a child compared to men. So did evolution just stop after the part about estrus? Why on earth?

      I hate to say it, but this sounds a lot like a…just-so story. Evolution did the thing you want, but not the thing you didn’t want, despite how silly that sounds? I’m just out here saying that evolution optimizes around basic physical realities, so don’t try and throw that label at me; if evolution doesn’t optimize around physical reality, then it doesn’t optimize survival, and we may as well throw Darwin out on the corner and go back to believing in the Christman.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The thing is – do the odds of dying during childbirth change if women are less into casual sex?

        Which is to say, what evolutionary pressure would result from the dangers of childbirth that would have a differential effect if the potential children are born out of casual sex?

        Do you think male insects of species that are frequently cannibalized have lower sex drives?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Taking the risk when the father is fairly likely to be around and will help look after the children, whether or not the mother lives, is a different calculation than taking the risk when the father is much less likely to.

          As for the second point, clearly evolution would cause those male insects to have really intense vore fetishes.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          The thing is – do the odds of dying during childbirth change if women are less into casual sex?

          No, but it does mean that you have to pick your shots and make everyone one of them count. If you get impregnated by a bum who not only won’t be around to help, but also gave you bad genes, then your risk is outweighing your reward – always a bad idea. Men have a near-zero risk, so their risk-reward is almost always going to favor a quick spot of nookie.

          Do you think male insects of species that are frequently cannibalized have lower sex drives?

          I would imagine that the answer is yes, but there’s probably a lot of other factors impacting this. For example, Google informs me that apparently if the males are eaten, the females produce more eggs with more of the males’ DNA. Plus, adult praying mantises don’t even live 1 whole year, and outside of the tropics they mate only in the fall. In other words…you’ve got a risk of death, but you’ve also got a risk of not being able to mate at all. Women have something along those lines, but much less so; there are many fish in the sea and worst-comes-to-worst it’s not hard to find a guy to knock you up a couple of times, sorry to say it. I also wonder how you’d measure sex drive; again, given that there is one mating season, I assume most males will look to mate multiple times, so you’d probably be measuring their willingness to mate down, I guess.

  17. Inspired by this Reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/socialism/comments/72snl6/boston_antifa_a_fake_antifa_twitter_account/.

    There’s much evidence that Russia is trying to exploit the culture wars between the Red and Blue tribes. Could the solution then be to try to unite the tribes against the Russia? This would take advantage of our inherent tribal nature and be vastly more successful than trying to make everyone more empathetic and rational.

    • dndnrsn says:

      “Let’s reconcile our internal differences by uniting against a hated and perfidious foreign foe” might work, insofar as it might take some of the edge off the Culture Wars, but that’s not an idea with a great pedigree as far as making the world a better place goes.

    • Matt M says:

      Will never happen. The left has already claimed anti-Russia as its own weapon to use against Trump. This makes the right automatically sympathetic to Russia in response.

    • HFARationalist says:

      I think it is a bad idea. Russia isn’t the devil for there is no such thing, nor is China.

      If there is indeed something that needs to be removed I would suggest that we get rid of Islamism on this planet. That’s something most of the Reds, Blues and Greys can agree on. Let Reds send their troops and Christian preachers. Let SJWs open women’s refuges and dismantle Sharia courts. Let us preach rationality to the newly freed. Many ethnic nationalists will probably also be satisfied if SJWs can create a safe zone for refugees without people flooding Europe. Atheists will be satisfied because people will be more secular. Everyone will get something to do and the result will be good for most people.

      • The left doesn’t tolerate even the slightest hints of Islamophobia so that wouldn’t work. Also, Islamic militants are largely kept at bay, while Russia’s subversion of Western democratic elections has been quite successful.

      • Nornagest says:

        I would suggest that we get rid of Islamism on this planet. That’s something most of the Reds, Blues and Greys can agree on.

        No, it’s not. Reds actively oppose Islamism, but the reasons and the exact policy prescriptions vary — old-school Reds are still mainly concerned with international Islamist terrorism, and are relatively comfortable with intervention, but the newer approaches are mainly concerned about cultural issues (which might include domestic terrorism) imported as a side-effect of immigration, which is an inherently isolationist stance but might extend to some intervention. A few staunchly anti-religious Grays are worried by it because it’s the scariest and most totalizing major sect that most of them have heard of; they’re probably okay with limited intervention too, but the Iraq War burned most of the hard-liners.

        For most Blues, and most Grays, it’s a bad thing, but it’s not really our business. Blues don’t like strict gender roles, true, but they’re also highly concerned with racism and cultural imperialism: depending on the Blue this might hash out to anything between a misguided belief that Islamist gender roles are actually good and beautiful and we just don’t appreciate them because Islamophobia, and being willing to provide an air force against Islamists as long as we don’t put any boots on the ground. The average Blue probably lies somewhere in the neighborhood of standing back and applauding any Malala Yousafzai that happens to appear, but opposing any Western intervention except maybe against ISIS. Grays have a similar spread but different reasons.

        And no matter what side you’re on, if your goal is getting rid of Islamism rather than just containing it or rolling back its worst manifestations, then there are some very serious practical issues. You can’t pull it off without knocking over the House of Saud, for example; we could probably do that if we really wanted to, but it’d cause instability throughout the region that would make postwar Iraq look like the Marshall Plan.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Russian subversion is noise compared to the overwhelming signal coming from mainstream media and college campuses.

      Russia(ns) spent about $100,000 on FaceBook ads during the election. The Guardian warns that this makes FaceBook:

      an out-of-control Tyrannosaurus Rex whose creator thought he was building a fun and profitable theme park until it was too late.

      Apparently this $100,000 was so incredibly well spent it swayed the election in a way the approximately $10 billion spent by everyone else could not. Truly, the Russians are marketing geniuses.

      • Isn’t the difference that:
        1) Private Facebook ads are actually a relatively new concept and wildly successful?
        2) The $100k is what we know about right now, not an all-up total
        3) A lot of the spreading of memes and so on is not directly tie-able to elections, it’s tie-able to polarizing ideologies

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          1) Private Facebook ads are actually a relatively new concept and wildly successful?

          The campaigns spent $1 billion on digital advertising. What made the Russians’ $100k so much more wildly successful than the campaigns’ $1 billion?

          2) The $100k is what we know about right now, not an all-up total

          Given that all we’ve got so far is $100k after approximately 11 months of Russian meddling hysteria, how much do you think the Russians spent influencing the election? Was it anywhere close to the amount of influence $10 billion in advertising, plus the influence of all the major media publishing? (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo, etc)

          3) A lot of the spreading of memes and so on is not directly tie-able to elections, it’s tie-able to polarizing ideologies

          Memes don’t spread unless they strike a chord with people. Sure, the Russians promoted Black Lives Matter (with like one ad)….but they didn’t invent BLM, nor did they con BLM activists into promoting BLM for them.

          Unless…unless you’re suggesting that the Russians have discovered a way to force a meme. Mother of God. Could…could Vladimir Putin make Milhouse a meme?

      • . says:

        Broadly agree, although Russians apparently did weird stuff (like impersonating US organizations) which even the most nefarious political operatives don’t do.

        If there’s a real story here, I think that’s probably it. People are not in the habit of checking a signing key before they believe that a message really came from the supposed source. And you don’t need to be able to pass the Turing test to create millions of fake people apparently interacting with your fake source – the Turing test for internet flame wars was passed a decade ago.

        • Broadly agree, although Russians apparently did weird stuff (like impersonating US organizations) which even the most nefarious political operatives don’t do.

          I thought it wasn’t at all uncommon for political operatives to pretend to be the other side to create valuable propaganda of “what the other side is doing.” Sure, this is pretty extreme and risky, but in the current political climate I expect it isn’t uncommon. Which sounds similar to what you heard the Russians do.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That the Russians want to influence American politics is without doubt. Any government that does not want to influence the world’s largest economy and most powerful military is either irrational or incompetent.

            What makes the “Russian interference” hysteria silly is that Russia was not in any way unique, nor is there any reason to believe they were particularly effective. Yes, Russia makes efforts to influence American politics. So does China, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, even the UK, Germany, Canada and Mexico.

            Russia spends $100k on FaceBook ads. Hillary PAC Correct the Record spends ~$10 million astroturfing online support. And I’m supposed to be up in arms because of Russian duplicity?

            This is all very silly. As a Republican, though, I’m fine with the left screaming about Russia instead of focusing on jobs, taxes, immigration, etc. The further the Democrats descend into Alex Jones tier nuttery the more they alienate non-partisans.

      • 1soru1 says:

        Russian subversion is noise compared to the overwhelming signal coming from mainstream media and college campuses.

        If you say ‘campuses’, plural, that means you are not getting those stories first hand. That means there is a data path for that signal from a campus on the other side of the country to you. If that path passes through a building full of civil servants somewhere near Moscow, is that fact not worth knowing?

        And that’s ignoring the likelihood that the story originated in that office block, rather than merely being filtered through it. Either by grossly misrepresenting it, by simply making it up, or perhaps by paying for it to happen.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’d rather Americans tore into each other in a manner which is almost always figurative or at least non-violent (mean tweets, political catfights, dumb news articles, lying) with the rare violent murder than have Americans become gung-ho for “Fuck XXXX”. That way quickly spirals towards much larger damage like economic sanctions, trade wars, boycotts, or god forbid, war.

      Also, I don’t need the Russian government to be correct in a perception that the U.S. is trying to screw them (I mean, the U.S. often is, but at least it’s not something the whole U.S. population is vicariously into). That will just make everything worse.

      I’m understating my emotional reaction to your proposition though; I think your plan is as morally repugnant as if instead of saying “Russia” you had said “the Jews”.

  18. veeloxtrox says:

    Following some links from the post about IQ I ended up reading this (had to use the wayback machine). It is an article talking about the difference between not allowing American Sniper (war movie claimed to be racist) to be shown and refusing to read Fun Home (contains explicit lesbian material). The article concludes that there is a moral distinction because

    If I say “Racist speech is banned because I find it offensive,” and then you say “Well, now LGBT speech is banned because I find that offensive,” then I am stuck. But if I say “Racist speech is banned because racism is harmful,” then I do have a response to you, since LGBT speech isn’t harmful.

    I think that last assumption is interesting that LGBT speech isn’t harmful. I would argue that LGBT speech is harmful. This would rest on the fact that LGBT speech is an outgrowth of the free love movement from the 70’s. The free love movement has contributed to the increase divorce rates and the increased rate of children born to unmarried mothers. Increasing divorce and increase numbers of children of unmarried mothers are harmful to society. Thus the free love movement was/is harmful to society. Thus LGBT speech is harmful to society. I understand that the LGBT speech free love movement connection is suspect. Also, free love movement might be the wrong term, I am trying to use the term for the general movement since the 70s of more open acceptance of sexuality in general and extra-marital sex specifically. Does anyone have arguments/statistics for or against any parts of the above line of reasoning?

    Further more, I am open to the possibility that since 1970, the free love movement might have done more harm then racism. This assertion would be hard to prove and I do not currently have the time or skills to do so. A proof would require a lot of assumptions. Heck, I think that putting a ballpark estimate on how much increased divorce rates and single parents have negatively affected the USA would be a good start. Does anyone know of anyone who has tried to put forth or prove such an assertion?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think it would be easier to look up statistics about the poor outcomes associated with the homosexual lifestyle (higher chance of alcohol and substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, suicide, etc).

      Then, note that current research has not identified a biological cause of homosexuality. If it’s not biological then it’s likely the result of cultural conditioning. There exist cultures where homosexual behavior is approved at least for men and young boys (Afghanistan, ancient Greece) and I don’t think there’s any evidence they’re genetically more gay. Also, since the normalization of homosexuality in the US, less than 50% of teens identify as entirely straight. I do not think they became retroactively biologically gay.

      I believe homosexual behavior is culturally transmitted with about 65% certainty. I could entirely be wrong, and I would welcome evidence to the contrary. I do not think LGBT speech, or racist speech, or really any speech short of true threats and direct exhortations to immediate violence should be banned, but given the poor outcomes for homosexual behavior and the significant chance such behavior is culturally conditioned, in my household my children will not be watching Glee.

      • dndnrsn says:

        If homosexuality was culturally transmitted, how in the world does it exist in societies that do their utmost to suppress, repress, and quash it?

        • veeloxtrox says:

          I would be willing to say that there is a middle ground between biology and culture since identical twins are more likely to both be homosexual then for two brothers to be homosexual. Thus there are some people who feel that way regardless of the environment. With that said, I think that there can be a very large portion of any population that can be influenced to consider homosexuality given the right culture.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Because their efforts are not entirely effective. Remove the repression and you get less than 50% of teens identifying as straight.

          Also, notice the tone of the Out Magazine article I linked:

          And how great is that? While I often question the taste level of today’s teens—back in my day, we had faces—I take comfort in knowing that they’re much less hung up about gender and sexual orientation than my generation, and the generation before, and before that. It’s called progress. And try as they might, no one can stop the inexorable march of progress.

          They don’t seem surprised by the survey. The authors seem to think that this is “great” and “progress.” The gay authors of the gay magazine appear to agree with me that this is a cultural phenomenon. I don’t see any reason to doubt them, as they know more about gayness than I do.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But in an intensely anti-gay culture, how is it being culturally transmitted?

            “Less repression means that people who otherwise would have lived in the closet are coming out, and people who are Kinsey 1s and 2s will experiment more than usual” isn’t the same thing as “this is culturally transmitted.”

          • bean says:

            Because their efforts are not entirely effective. Remove the repression and you get less than 50% of teens identifying as straight.

            What does ‘not straight’ mean in this context? Because I suspect that the vast majority of the ‘not straight’ population is composed of people who once were attracted to/kissed someone of the same sex, who are identifying as something other than straight to be cool. What percentage of bisexual men on OKCupid message both sexes again? And where was this survey done, anyway?
            I’m not disputing that social pressure has a lot to do with the prevalence of homosexuality, but that number is completely implausible.
            Edit: Checked the survey. 48% is the number who identified themselves as ‘completely straight’, i.e. no attraction to the opposite sex at all. I’m more than willing to believe that a lot of people who are ‘naturally’ Kinsey 1 and 2s basically considered themselves as 0s in the past. This is not surprising.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            Edit: Commented before bean edited, he has the right answer now.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Less repression means that people who otherwise would have lived in the closet are coming out, and people who are Kinsey 1s and 2s will experiment more than usual” isn’t the same thing as “this is culturally transmitted.”

            How are those in any way different? Culture change -> more gay stuff -> higher chance of disease/drugs/depression/etc.

            I have nothing against gay people, but if the Sexual Orientation Fairy (insert fairy joke) comes to you and says “you must choose your child’s sexual orientation” the answer is “straight.” This is like the Louis CK bit about being white. I’m not saying that straight people are better. I’m saying that being straight is clearly better.

            Do what you want in your household, but I would be doing my children a disservice if I told them that there’s no difference between being gay and straight, and showed them the entirely one-sided propaganda on the TV and movies that being gay just means being fun, fashionable, sassy, smart and good (there are no evil gays on TV), and entirely ignoring the reality of gay promiscuity and drug culture.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Your statement was:

            I believe homosexual behavior is culturally transmitted with about 65% certainty.

            Do you think sexual orientation/inclinations are culturally transmitted, or are we wrapping up a whole bunch of things in “behaviour”?

            Because “kids are taught to be gay” is different from “social messaging represses biologically-determined stuff.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because “kids are taught to be gay” is different from “social messaging represses biologically-determined stuff.”

            But there is no evidence homosexuality is biologically determined. If you can show me some I’ll update.

            The biological argument in absence of any evidence appears to be politically motivated reasoning.

            Here is the latest and greatest Johns Hopkins study that shows there is no evidence people are born homosexual.

          • dndnrsn says:

            One could say the same about the social argument.

            If it’s social messaging that produces people’s sexual orientations, again, how in the world does anyone in societies where gay people are fired, fined, ostracized, executed, whatever, end up gay?

            Is there some homosexual conspiracy turning people in Iran gay?

          • John Schilling says:

            How are those in any way different? Culture change -> more gay stuff -> higher chance of disease/drugs/depression/etc.

            If the culture change is from 100% of a society’s messaging being “Gay = PURE EVIL” to 50% “Pure Evil” and 50% “Gay = Sick and Disgusting”, and if as you claim sexual orientation is culturally transmitted, then both before and after the change that society should be 0.00% gay. If sexual orientation is culturally transmitted, then there should be no gay people anywhere until at least some of a culture’s messaging is “Gay = Better than Straight!”

            If instead you point to a cultural history where there are say 1% gay people when the messaging is 100% “pure evil”, shifting to 2% gay as we move into “sick and disgusting” and now 3% at “who cares” with a side of “hip and cool”, then those first 2% at least had to come from something other than cultural transmission.

            That’s the difference. Genetics, or weird infectious diseases or alien mind control lasers, can all result in an increased prevalence of homosexuality as soon as repression of homosexuality is marginally lifted. Cultural transmission only results in increased prevalence of homosexuality, or indeed any homosexuality at all, when repression is locally outweighed by advocacy. One of these things is a better match for observed reality than the other.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know, which is why I only have 65% confidence in my assertion. But I know your idea of “born that way and repressed” is false because of the study I linked.

            Both Milo Yiannopoulos and George Takei exhibit cognitive dissonance when talking about their rape as children. Both state that:

            1) Men having sex with underage boys is wrong.

            2) It was a good thing when an older man had sex with them while they were underage.

            [Epistemic status: armchair psychologist pulling anecdotes from anus] This seems like a coping mechanism. Rather than deal with the childhood trauma of being raped by a man, they delude themselves into believing that, “no, no, in my case it was a good thing. This is who I am and what I like.”

            This seems like one pathway for socially transmitting gayness. That at least plausibly exists with anecdotal evidence, where there is no evidence of biological causes.

            I understand why politically you want it to be biological, but there’s no evidence it is.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Genetics…can all result in an increased prevalence of homosexuality as soon as repression of homosexuality is marginally lifted.

            Can you show some evidence for genetic causes of homosexuality? As far as I can find, this has been essentially ruled out. You’re calling the thing that has been essentially ruled out by science a “better match for observed reality.” Does this not strike you at all like motivated reasoning?

          • dndnrsn says:

            “Not biological and innate” does not automatically mean “socially transmitted.” Let’s say Robert Graves’ wacky theory is correct – homosexuality is caused by drinking too much milk in childhood. This doesn’t mean that it’s socially transmitted, unless there’s some cabal seeking to get kids to drink more milk to turn them gay.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Additionally, “biological” != “genetic”.

            We can have biological causes such as a glitch in fetus development.

            And a tendency towards such glitches in fetus development could be genetic, but not show up reliably in gay men – for a probably-not-true case, the presence of a specific gene in either of the mother’s sexual chromosomes could cause 100% of gayness, and show up in only slightly more than 25% of gay men.

            Personally I am of the opinion that 100% straight people are mentally crippled, in a “Puberty completely overwrote your brain and left you with a horribly deficient sense of self-determination” sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            But I know your idea of [X] is false because of the study I linked.

            Meh, for some reason I am wary of people who come to “know” things because they have one study that says so. Can’t quite put my finger on why.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, John, there exist studies that show the thing you believe (genetic cause) is false, and there exist no studies that show it to be true, and yet you believe it (apparently without error bars).

            For the rest of you in this conversation, can you give me some confidence levels of your beliefs?

            For me:

            Homosexuality not genetically caused: 99% confident

            Homosexuality not biologically caused (i.e., in utero hormones, “too much milk”): 80% confident

            Homosexuality socially/culturally determined: 65% confident

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, John, there exist studies that show the thing you believe (genetic cause) is false,

            I doubt that you understand what I believe, and I’m certain I haven’t given you enough information to determine that in this thread.

            and there exist no studies that show it to be true

            And now you’ve lost me. For any of the standard and most of the non-standard belief systems re origin of sexual orientation, there are many studies that show it to be true. You will no doubt dismiss these as flawed studies that don’t actually “show” anything, and the one study that supports your belief as meticulously researched unassailable proof, but that’s the sort of thing that requires either an effort post or contemptuous dismissal.

            This is not a field where there is an easy, obvious, true answer that all rational people understand and only those blinded by ideology will deny.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            Personally I am of the opinion that 100% straight people are mentally crippled, in a “Puberty completely overwrote your brain and left you with a horribly deficient sense of self-determination” sense.

            This is an opinion I have not heard before, would you mind elaborating on it some more?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is it a gene? Which gene is it? Can we do genetic tests for gayness? Will we eventually be able to use something like CRISPR to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals or vice versa? What other large scale behaviors do you think are genetically determined?

            Is it a hormonal issue? What hormone is it? Can we do blood tests and determine level of gayness based on hormone levels? Can we turn homosexuals into heterosexuals and vice versa with hormone replacement therapy?

            There do not seem to easy answers to these questions, which kind of rules out genetic/biological determinism.

            If it isn’t a direct causation, but a “risk factor” issue so a combination of biological susceptibility and cultural/social pressures or choices, then you still have to be careful about what cultural or social messages you expose yourself or others to because you’re influencing your/their sexuality one way or the other.

          • Thegnskald says:

            veeloxtrox –

            There isn’t much to add – if your identity was defined by the biological processes rewriting your brain during puberty, and you have no choice about it, you have lost the possibility of self-definition.

          • onyomi says:

            @Conrad

            To the extent there’s a “genetic susceptibility” issue at play in addition to purely genotypic factors, I’m pretty sure most of the environmental factors are things like maternal hormone levels and immune function during pregnancy, not things like whether or not you watched Will and Grace as a kid.

            I remember what some of the gay people I know were like as kids. The little straight boys played with G I Joe and the little gay boys played with Barbie and EZ Bake Oven. It’s not because of Barbie that they became gay; it’s because they were gay that they liked Barbie.

          • . says:

            There do not seem to easy answers to these questions, which kind of rules out genetic/biological determinism.

            Conrad, I don’t think you intended quite such a blunt statement, but if I interpret you uncharitably I get to say an awesome quip. So, now I’m going to say it, with the proviso that I’m saying it because it’s fun rather than relevant:

            “yeah and physicists can’t predict how cream will move in a coffee cup, must be cultural factors”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @ .

            Entirely reasonable. My statement was too blunt. I charitably accept your uncharitable statement with a hat tip.

      • skef says:

        I believe homosexual behavior is culturally transmitted with about 65% certainty.

        but given the poor outcomes for homosexual behavior and the significant chance such behavior is culturally conditioned, in my household my children will not be watching Glee.

        Suppose we stipulate that current evidence supports a judgment of 65% certainty that social factors are the cause of homosexuality. By what reasoning are you getting to Glee?

        You seem to be assuming social influence on X is only or primarily in virtue of content explicitly about X. As recently as the early 90s there was little or no such content in any media that children were exposed to by the age at which orientation is already determined by almost every scientific study concerning the question. Considering sexual fetishes, even if development of the fetish depends on exposure to the idea, there is no evidence that it depends on exposure to the idea in a sexual context. Are you going to avoid exposing your sons to men before they are teenagers?

        In short, you are a crackpot.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Suppose we stipulate that current evidence supports a judgment of 65% certainty that social factors are the cause of homosexuality. By what reasoning are you getting to Glee?

          Modern media portrayals of homosexuals are uniformly positive. Gays are presented as fun, fashionable, smart, and funny. Exclusively. There are essentially no evil gays on TV. In reality, gays are just people, who do some good things and some bad things and are not really defined by their sexuality. However, given the focus on gay rights and not at all on responsibilities, homosexuals tends towards behavior that is not pro-social like promiscuity, partying, substance use and abuse, aversion to child rearing. These attributes and their downsides are conspicuously absent from media portrayals of homosexuals, which leaves young, impressionable minds with a false sense of the homosexual lifestyle. Glee is just one example of an irresponsible portrayal of a given lifestyle.

          Alcohol abuse frequently leads to poor life outcomes, so we avoid universally positive portrayals of alcohol use and abuse.

          Smoking frequently leads to poor life outcomes, so we avoid universally positive portrayals of tobacco use.

          Obesity frequently leads to poor life outcomes, so we avoid universally positive portrayals of overeating.

          Homosexuality frequently leads to poor life outcomes, so anyone who wants to avoid exposing his children to universally positive portrayals of homosexuality is a crackpot.

          Anyway, do what you want with your son. Teach him that drinking, smoking, overeating, and promiscuous sex with men are lifestyle choices equally as good as not drinking, smoking, overeating, or not having promiscuous sex with men. It is no skin off my back.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Thought experiment: a genie tells you that 100% of your children would turn out to be 100% homosexual. What do you do? Consider that back when homosexuality was near-universally publicly condemned, and often punished quite harshly, that did not stop it.

          • skef says:

            Hmm. It feels like you might have changed the subject a little bit.

            But I get it, and I’m sure your sons will too: “If you wind up attracted to men, don’t act on it and don’t let me know about it.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Thought experiment: a genie tells you that 100% of your children would turn out to be 100% homosexual. What do you do?

            That’s a meaningless question because it’s not the reality we live in. Did the genie remake the world such that sexual orientation is now biologically determined? Or is he going to groom and molest my kids? I think I’d probably just have the genie arrested.

            The standard liberal talking points on race, sex, and orientation are 180 degrees opposite of the scientific evidence, and humorously contradictory.

            We are to believe that race is a social construct, and any difference in average racial group ability, behavior or interest is the result of society, propaganda, stereotype threat, etc, and only Literally Hitler thinks genetics has anything to do with it. We are to believe sex/gender is a social construct, and any differences in gender abilities, behaviors or interests are entirely the product of patriarchal society propagating harmful gender stereotypes, and only Literally Hitler thinks biology plays any role in gender differences. Social interaction and media portrayals of women and girls must be closely monitored and critiqued because the slightest whisper into the ear of a little girl that “math is hard” makes her swear off engineering for good.

            Now when it comes to sexual orientation, though, that is not a social construct, but written in your genes and in the stars, immutable and unchangeable, and only Literally Hitler crackpots think social interaction or media portrayals have any bearing whatsoever on orientation. Obviously the gay gene is retroactively activated when the media spends 15 years pumping out nothing but positive portrayals of homosexuals and those who point out the negative outcomes of homosexuality are banned from the public square such that fewer than 50% of teens identify as fully straight. Also, prison changes your biology to make you biogay.

            Of course back here in reality, race is not a social construct, racial group differences are largely genetic, intelligence is largely genetic, racial group average intelligence differences are largely genetic, men and women are biologically different, hormonally different, which results in different interests, behaviors and aptitudes just like every other sexually dimorphic species on the planet, there is no gay gene, no gay hormone, and no evidence that biology plays more than an extremely minor role in sexual orientation.

            But remember, the left fucking loves science and the right is science denying Megahitlers.

          • lvlln says:

            I’m ignorant of the stats, but I could believe that gay characters on TV shows tend to be presented positively relative to how straight characters tend to be presented (though what a reasonable way to measure that is anyone’s guess – do we just count up every single character who appears on screen? Do we put different weights for character significance, i.e. main/supporting/extra, or for show length/episode count, show popularity? What about reruns?).

            But I’m pretty sure gay characters aren’t “exclusively” or “uniformly” presented positively. Off the top of my head, there’s Jeryn Hogarth from Marvel’s TV shows, an amoral lesbian lawyer who, among other things, tries to exploit a villain’s mind control powers to manipulate her ex-wife. Orange is the New Black has a number of gay characters, including Nicky who’s a lesbian self-destructive heroin addict and Piscatella who’s a gay corrections officer with loose standards of behavior when it comes to violence towards inmates. The Wire had a couple homosexual characters who, while generally depicted positively, also were depicted with character flaws that ended up harming others. Kima Greggs was a lesbian police officer who cheated on and had issues respecting her live-in girlfriend, while Omar Little was a gay robber of drug dealers (one could argue that Omar was depicted completely positively, but it’s also the case that he was shown to be living in poverty and under constant danger, while causing a lot of harm to others, almost entirely due to his life choices).

            I mean, hyperbole is a useful tool, but even as hyperbole, I think saying that it’s “exclusive” or “uniform” is a step too far. I do find it plausible that there has been and continues to be depictions of gay characters that are unusually positive relative to depictions of straight characters in a lot of TV shows, but my perception is that shows that depict them as humans with negative and positive traits aren’t completely obscure outliers.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            That’s a meaningless question because it’s not the reality we live in. Did the genie remake the world such that sexual orientation is now biologically determined? Or is he going to groom and molest my kids? I think I’d probably just have the genie arrested.

            The genie is predicting what will happen. Or he’ll use magic to turn your kids gay. Whatever. It’s a thought experiment; I’m just coming up with a cause-agnostic version of “your kids turn out to be totally gay.” For the purposes of that question, it doesn’t matter why it happens.

            I don’t know what a condemnation of the “standard liberal talking points” on things not brought up here is supposed to accomplish, or how it’s relevant to what I’m asking. I am just asking the question – your kid turns out to be gay, despite your Glee-free household. What do you do?

            Additionally, you still haven’t addressed my point – regardless of what the cause(s) is/are, people still end up homosexual or bisexual in societies that are extremely vicious to people caught engaging in such behaviour, suspected of being such, etc. Very often, gays and bisexuals in those societies would choose not to be, if the option was available – but apparently it’s not. How does a guy in a society where gay men are stoned to death end up gay?

          • Thegnskald says:

            dndnrsn –

            Well, clearly we are just really indirect about fulfilling our death wishes.

            Or maybe we just do it to annoy people like Conrad. That does have some appeal, but if I found men unattractive, I think I would find an easier way to annoy people like him.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Perhaps you set out to annoy him by doing drugs, but misunderstood the meaning of “get stoned.”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Additionally, you still haven’t addressed my point – regardless of what the cause(s) is/are, people still end up homosexual or bisexual in societies that are extremely vicious to people caught engaging in such behaviour, suspected of being such, etc. Very often, gays and bisexuals in those societies would choose not to be, if the option was available – but apparently it’s not. How does a guy in a society where gay men are stoned to death end up gay?

            (FWIW my priors are a lazy “it’s some mixture of nature and nurture and I really don’t care enough to dig further”, this just seems like a poor argument and it’s come up multiple times in this thread)

            I think this proves too much. Nerds, communists, and criminals are also… terminology failing me here, classes that are not produced as a population? As opposed to e.g. race or religion. Hopefully you get what I mean?

            Anyway, despite strong societal pressures against being a nerd, communist, or criminal, we still have wound up with a bunch of them. But you’d be hard-pressed to claim that they’re entirely genetically/biologically determined. IMO the wide variety of societal pressures are just inconsistent and inconsistently applied, so weirdies are able to crop up but only in such numbers that they remain relative outliers.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Gobbobobble

            I’m not making an argument that it’s biological, or entirely biological, in whatever way. I don’t know what causes it, and I’m not informed enough to speculate beyond “hey I read this thing once.”

            However, that something still pops up when it is harshly repressed, would seem to be a strong argument against the notion that it is somehow transmitted by social messaging.

            A society that says “x is cool and fun” is going to probably have more x than a society that says “x is lame and stuff them in lockers” or “x is villainous and blacklist them” or “x is monstrous and burn them alive.” However, when x still occurs despite repression ranging from the mild to the deadly, that raises a challenge to the idea that people are just doing x now because it’s trendy or whatever.

            (I’d also ask why you’re putting communism on one side and race and religion on the other. Most people get their religion from their parents, but it is not biological; if you take a Lutheran baby and put it in a Catholic family it will probably be raised Catholic; and some people change religions or whatever on their own. Conversely, political affiliation is very much like religion: most people get theirs during their upbringing. Politics and religion are more like each other than either is like race)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Also, nerddom is definitely biological.

            I was a nerd when I was four, and wanted to wear suits and bowties and suspenders everywhere, much to the chagrine of basically everybody around me.

            Anymore I dress to blend in to a crowd – I am rarely not in grays and earth shades – but I own a complete western villain outfit I wear clubbing, because weird is normal in a club.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @dndrsn
            Ok, that expansion does make more sense, thanks. I still have some reservations but I suspect it’s largely hampered by woefully ill-defined boundaries between biological, social, and everything in between.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I am just asking the question – your kid turns out to be gay, despite your Glee-free household. What do you do?

            Shrug and take up an interest in show tunes. I have nothing against gay people, but I agree with the “straight privilege” motte: being straight is clearly preferable to being gay. Since there is scant to no evidence of biodeterminism with regards to homosexuality, one should act in the way that minimizes the chances of the children growing up to be gay. Sensible precautions include:

            1) Not telling the children homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle are equally as good as heterosexuality and the heterosexual lifestyle.

            2) Not exposing them to media that contains the message that homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality and anyone who thinks otherwise is evil.

            3) Try my best to protect them from child molesters. An inordinate number of homosexuals seem to have been molested as children.

            This seems like a mode of acting that is congruent with my goals of raising children who are disease free, not promiscuous, not depressed or suicidal, and likely to breed and thereby carry on my family name and genetic legacy. Is there another method of behavior you think would be preferable towards accomplishing my goals?

            How does a guy in a society where gay men are stoned to death end up gay?

            Isn’t man-boy rape not uncommon in societies like that?

            Again, scant to zero evidence homosexuality is biodetermined. I also don’t believe it’s a choice. So if you’re not born that way, and you didn’t choose to be that way, then that really only leaves some type of social or cultural interaction. Or, perhaps genies.

            How do you think people in those societies wind up gay?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Gobbobobble

            I think the most plausible explanation is that some factor or combination of factors determines a person’s sexual orientation, which is then fairly set, and someone’s sexual activity depends on the context they’re in – whether there’s the opposite sex around and what society thinks.

            The big game-changer is what varying degrees of bisexuals do, but they’re usually ignored: bisexuals strongly preferring the opposite sex but attracted enough to the same sex to have sex with them if there are none of the opposite sex around (because prison/navy/boarding school) get rounded off to straight. Bisexuals strongly preferring the same sex but attracted enough to the opposite sex to manage likewise – for some reason, my mental model of this is a male aristocrat in the olden days who would rather be having sex with other men but can get it up to impregnate his wife because heirs, and kind of enjoys it a bit.

            I find the concept of “situational” anything – that someone who is actually 100% straight will have sex with men in the right circumstances and enjoy it – baffling, because you have to like something to enjoy it, and for men there’s an additional physical factor in the game. They’re not straights who can improvise, they’re bisexuals who only appear in the right circumstances.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Shrug and take up an interest in show tunes. I have nothing against gay people, but I agree with the “straight privilege” motte: being straight is clearly preferable to being gay. Since there is scant to no evidence of biodeterminism with regards to homosexuality, one should act in the way that minimizes the chances of the children growing up to be gay. Sensible precautions include:

            1) Not telling the children homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle are equally as good as heterosexuality and the heterosexual lifestyle.

            2) Not exposing them to media that contains the message that homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality and anyone who thinks otherwise is evil.

            3) Try my best to protect them from child molesters. An inordinate number of homosexuals seem to have been molested as children.

            This seems like a mode of acting that is congruent with my goals of raising children who are disease free, not promiscuous, not depressed or suicidal, and likely to breed and thereby carry on my family name and genetic legacy. Is there another method of behavior you think would be preferable towards accomplishing my goals?

            But you’re dodging the hypothetical. The genie says your son is going to be 100% gay. It doesn’t matter this is a ridiculous hypothetical – what matters is that you are proceeding from the assumption that by keeping your kid from watching the Fun Gays on Teevee (TM) he will turn out super hetero.

            Because, if you’re wrong, your son ends up a self-hating closeted guy who is maybe doing something ultra sketchy like telling his wife he’s going out to get milk and then wandering through the unlit part of public parks.

            (Aside: closeted guys tend to use Craigslist instead of Grindr, because it’s more anonymous and doesn’t involve having a set “profile” which is kind of a sign of commitment, but the most closeted guys still do analog cruising; probably because “well, I was just walking through the park; it’s weird how I keep having sex with these guys I meet in the park at 1 in the morning” allows for more self-denial than setting up an online ad)

            Your options are not just “protect son from Glee; he becomes upstanding heterosexual member of local business improvement association” and “son watches Glee; he ends up snorting meth in a glowstick-strewn warehouse while dance music blares and seven guys take turns barebacking him at a circuit party.”

            Based on what you want, and assuming your kid is gay because of the genie’s curse or whatever, isn’t the victory condition “son avoids hard drugs, marries college boyfriend, finds some female friend to carry two point five baster babies, has no mental problems other than baseline atomized modernity ennui, owns golden lab and is condemned by radical queer activists for being homonormative” or female equivalent?

            Isn’t man-boy rape not uncommon in societies like that?

            Where do men get the urge to have sex with little boys, though? This just becomes a chicken-and-egg question. Pederasty and bacha bazi is in the same mold as boarding school and prison homosexuality: it occurs in societies where women are kept away from unrelated men not their husband, and guys who don’t have wives/want to have sex with someone not their wives kinda figure that if they squint, a prepubescent boy doesn’t have that much testosterone, and is kinda like a girl, right? But if they had zero attraction to boys and the idea of having sex with them in the first place, they wouldn’t be able to do it, because no amount of lack of women would drive them to do something they had zero inclination to do. If someone is 99% straight but has that 1% that means that as a tribal warlord they are inordinately proud of their kohl-eyed dancing boys, that 1% still has to come from somewhere, and even if it was because they got diddled by another 1%er, that guy’s 1% has to have come from somewhere, etc.

            Again, scant to zero evidence homosexuality is biodetermined. I also don’t believe it’s a choice. So if you’re not born that way, and you didn’t choose to be that way, then that really only leaves some type of social or cultural interaction. Or, perhaps genies.

            How do you think people in those societies wind up gay?

            I have no idea, but I don’t think it’s socially transmitted – messages of “gay is OK” don’t turn people gay, they just lower the water line and you see gays and bisexuals who were already there, including some bisexuals who wouldn’t have thought of themselves as such previously.

            I’m not promoting any particular theory of how or why people turn out gay or bisexual. I’m saying that “protect kids from pro-gay messages so they don’t turn out gay” will not prevent kids from turning out gay, because it hasn’t in the past.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But you’re dodging the hypothetical. The genie says your son is going to be 100% gay. It doesn’t matter this is a ridiculous hypothetical – what matters is that you are proceeding from the assumption that by keeping your kid from watching the Fun Gays on Teevee (TM) he will turn out super hetero.

            Because, if you’re wrong, your son ends up a self-hating closeted guy who is maybe doing something ultra sketchy like telling his wife he’s going out to get milk and then wandering through the unlit part of public parks.

            I think you’re assuming that the alternative to not plopping him down in front of Glee or taking him to wave rainbow flags at Pride parades is screaming at him that “God hates fags.” There’s also the option of “not doing any of those things,” which I think makes it unlikely that he will wind up self-hating or resenting me. And that’s my plan. I’m not going to give him pro-homosexual propaganda, but I’m also not going to give him anti-homosexual propaganda. I think that’s a good middle path.

            Based on what you want, and assuming your kid is gay because of the genie’s curse or whatever, isn’t the victory condition “son avoids hard drugs, marries college boyfriend, finds some female friend to carry two point five baster babies, has no mental problems other than baseline atomized modernity ennui, owns golden lab and is condemned by radical queer activists for being homonormative” or female equivalent?

            Yes.

            I have no idea, but I don’t think it’s socially transmitted – messages of “gay is OK” don’t turn people gay, they just lower the water line and you see gays and bisexuals who were already there, including some bisexuals who wouldn’t have thought of themselves as such previously.

            So we’re back to predestination then? The gay was already there? This does not seem to fit the scientific evidence.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think you’re assuming that the alternative to not plopping him down in front of Glee or taking him to wave rainbow flags at Pride parades is screaming at him that “God hates fags.” There’s also the option of “not doing any of those things,” which I think makes it unlikely that he will wind up self-hating or resenting me. And that’s my plan. I’m not going to give him pro-homosexual propaganda, but I’m also not going to give him anti-homosexual propaganda. I think that’s a good middle path.

            [snip my description of a super-clean cut gay couple]

            Yes.

            OK, but not talking about it in general isn’t going to work. Let’s say you want to avoid your daughter becoming promiscuous, but you also don’t want her to become celibate, because you want to continue your genetic line. The solution is not “I won’t tell her that sex is always great, but I also won’t tell her that sex is awful and dirty.” There’s got to be some kind of life path presented as the best option.

            Not mentioning anything either way to your hypothetical gay-because-genie-magic son seems like a worse option than saying “look, son, it’s OK if you’re gay, but you better not be one of those party gays.”

            So we’re back to predestination then? The gay was already there? This does not seem to fit the scientific evidence.

            The scientific evidence for any position is really bad. But it has to come from somewhere, and “it’s socially transmitted” seems the least plausible to me, because it doesn’t indicate how/why that social transmission starts.

            EDIT: And, if it’s not socially transmitted – if turning off Glee when it comes on doesn’t reduce your kid’s chance of being gay and thus being a part of a group with a higher statistical chance of snorting MDMA while listening to something with a heavy four-four beat and Autotune – the whole approach doesn’t make any sense. You’d be far better off trying to raise a kid of the sort who isn’t going to be doing hard drugs and having bad-idea sex, because that is good for them regardless of who they’re attracted to.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Well, clearly it starts by portraying male friendships as healthy, so no Robin Hood. That relationship between Robin and John is way too homoerotic.

            ETA:
            Also, no hot women. Some bi women report realizing they were bi when they found a woman in a movie attractive, particularly as children. And no Disney or Warner Brothers, that leads to furries. Probably no attractive people at all.

            So… uh… hm.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Better not let the kids watch the movie Top Gun. In fact, no volleyball, period. And if they want to be a fighter pilot, it has to be in the Air Force.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            hypothetical gay-because-genie-magic son

            Okay, if it’s a gay-because-genie-magic then yes, obviously telling him pro-gay things is fine. But your predestination bias is baked into your hypothetical. While “socially transmitted” is dubious on science (hence I only state it with 65% confidence), biological determinism has been almost ruled out. I would say ruled out genetically (your 23 and Me has sections for “prefers sweet or salty tastes” and “can smell asparagus in urine” but not “% gay”) and nearly ruled out biologically caused at all. Yet you say “socially transmitted” is least likely. But since I’m assuming we all agree to rule out “choice,” it’s the only option left!

            saying “look, son, it’s OK if you’re gay, but you better not be one of those party gays.”

            Let’s get away from the genie, because there is no homogenie. I don’t think you “tell” your kids much of anything. You show. Similarly I don’t think propaganda works by telling people things. It works by showing. So what you do is demonstrate healthy heterosexual relationships, like the relationship my wife and I have, and he sees media in which boys are friends with other boys but not in love with each other but the boy and the girl fall in love with each other and get married, that’s probably going to send a better message than taking him to a Pride parade where he watches sweaty dudes make out with each other while I and everyone else cheers.

            It’s more of a “do this, not that” kind of a thing. By the time he’s approaching puberty and beginning to understand these things, the positive, healthy relationships he will have seen in real life and in media will largely have been heterosexual. I think that’s about the best I can do to help outfit my kids with that sweet, sweet straight privilege.

            My son is American, white, cis, male, Christian and straight?! Got it made, yo. Patriarchy Powers, Activate!

          • dndnrsn says:

            What happens, though, if the biological theory is correct and he’s gay (whether it’s genes, hormones in the womb, whatever), or the milk theory is correct and your judgment was clouded by dairy industry propaganda, or the genie magic theory was correct and you really should not have angered that beggar, given he found the magic lamp shortly thereafter and all? All of the models of healthy relationships your son has seen will have been straight ones – if he feels out of place, like there’s no good model for him, etc, this probably increases the chance he ends up making bad lifestyle choices, like taking black-market boner pills to make up for the erectile dysfunction of the combination of MDMA and “tina” he’s on at the circuit party.

            Whereas, if he sees wholesome golden-retriever gays as something that exists, if he turns out gay, that’s an option on the table.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Let’s get away from the genie, because there is no homogenie.

            What if there exists a non-empty man-space for which the genie is trans?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What happens, though, if the biological theory is correct

            Oh well then. But that’s among the least likely options. Is not Rationality “systematized winning?” You put your Bayesian numbers on stuff and take the best bet. The best bet is “social interaction/conditioning” because the biological options are nearly ruled out.

            You seem to want people to bet on the unlikely biological option for political reasons, not because it rationally has the best chance of positive outcomes. You can do that with your kid, but I’m certainly not doing it with mine.

            ETA: Oh, and my bet is hedged by not telling him “God hates fags.” So, encourage heterosexuality for best possible outcome, don’t condemn homosexuality for second best possible outcome. This seems reasonable to me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not proposing the biological theory – I’m openly saying that I have no idea. But, at a minimum, consider that the “try to keep kids from turning out gay” approach has failed a lot in the past, in a wider culture much less gay-friendly than ours now.

            Let’s say social interaction and conditioning is the correct option. You can only control so many of your kid’s waking hours. What happens at school? If it’s a public school, depending on where you are, your kid might be getting gay-friendly messaging. If you decide to send your kid to Catholic boarding school, uh… Regardless of what the cause is, the vast majority of gay people throughout history had parents who did not want them to be gay, and tried to prevent that, by whatever means.

            Some percentage of people are always going to be gay or bisexual. Not a society exists without that. Let’s say gay people are more likely to use hard drugs, and hard drugs are bad (as far as I know, the statistic is correct). Going for the direct causation of “try to keep your kid from being the sort of person who does hard drugs” seems a better idea than “try to go for the correlative factor.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You can only control so many of your kid’s waking hours.

            You control/influence the ones you can. There are no guarantees here. Nothing about raising children is guaranteed, and if you’re looking for a guarantee you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

            Do best option. Hedge bets. See what happens and accept what comes.

            Going for the direct causation of “try to keep your kid from being the sort of person who does hard drugs” seems a better idea than “try to go for the correlative factor.”

            Why not both? I demonstrate both heterosexuality and clean living. I’m certainly not going to teach “abuse drugs so long as you’re straight.”

          • Deiseach says:

            dndnrsn, suppose the genie says “your son is going to be 100% paedophiliac”, what do you propose?

            In that case, we assume that sexual desire can be controlled, or re-routed, or given therapy/drug treatment. We would say “you can never act on these desires, so you must either learn to live chastely or learn to re-orient those desires to socially acceptable ones” – unhappily, we have both child-on-child sexual abuse and juvenile sex crimes (e.g. the instance in the link of a 13 year old boy raping a 9 year old boy). So the same for your instances of “even though same-sex desires have been castigated throughout history, they still persist, so they must be normal”.

            We don’t just shrug and say “Well, gosh, this kind of thing has always happened, ain’t nothing to be done about it but let it happen”. Same with your hypothetical, where it only works because you are assuming “same-sex desires are perfectly fine and normal, therefore any attempt at discouraging them is wicked and abusive”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            But what happens if your kid turns out gay, and he doesn’t have any models for “healthy gay lifestyle”, only “healthy heterosexual lifestyle”? Surely you want him to see that baster babies and golden retrievers are possible.

            @Deiseach

            Key difference is that attraction to underage kids can’t be indulged healthily. Same-sex attraction can. I don’t think you can compare the two in terms of the reaction to them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn

            But what happens if your kid turns out gay, and he doesn’t have any models for “healthy gay lifestyle”, only “healthy heterosexual lifestyle”? Surely you want him to see that baster babies and golden retrievers are possible.

            But what if the (far more likely) social interaction/culture theory is correct and by showing him gay lifestyles with positive reinforcement since childhood I contribute to turning my kid gay?

            And remember, as far as we can tell, this is the more likely option. Biological causes of homosexuality are highly unlikely given the state of modern research.

            You might as well say “you’re not molesting your kids?! But what if it turns out molesting your kids is good for them?!” I suppose in some bizarro universe that’s theoretically possible, but highly, highly unlikely. I guess not molesting my kids, and not providing positive reinforcement to homosexual ideation and hoping for the best are risks I’ll have to take.

          • dndnrsn says:

            How exactly does that work? How does seeing two guys with a suburban house and so forth make your son want to have sex with other men? I think “far more likely” is a bit of a stretch.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How exactly does that work? How does seeing two guys with a suburban house and so forth make your son want to have sex with other men?

            [Epistemic status: idea pulled from anus (in a completely heterosexual manner, natch)] Expose boy to idea that homosexual relationships are healthy and normal. When he’s 15 and desperately horny and no girl or woman wants anything to do with him a man or another boy says “let’s have sex” he thinks “oh this solves my horniness problem and there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s healthy and normal.” He is now involved in the homosexual lifestyle.

            Again, scant evidence of genetic/biological predetermination. In another branch of this thread Thegnskald says:

            Personally I am of the opinion that 100% straight people are mentally crippled, in a “Puberty completely overwrote your brain and left you with a horribly deficient sense of self-determination” sense.

            Being bisexual, Thegnskald certainly knows more about homosexuality than I do, and he seems to think attraction across genders is natural, and those who are 100% straight are “mentally crippled.” This seems to align with the “sexuality is socially determined” argument. Everyone has potential gayness, and whether you express it or not is socially/culturally determined.

            My opponents in this argument seem like they’re trying to have it both ways. That aversion to homosexuality is due to social/cultural repression, but engaging in homosexuality can not at all be the result of social/cultural encouragement. Homosexual behavior is either socially influenced or it isn’t. You can’t with a straight face claim that homosexual behavior is repressed by social influences but that the very idea of homosexual behavior encouraged by social influences is crackpottery.

          • dndnrsn says:

            [Epistemic status: idea pulled from anus (in a completely heterosexual manner, natch)] Expose boy to idea that homosexual relationships are healthy and normal. When he’s 15 and desperately horny and no girl or woman wants anything to do with him a man or another boy says “let’s have sex” he thinks “oh this solves my horniness problem and there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s healthy and normal.” He is now involved in the homosexual lifestyle.

            Is this something that happens – does it extend past “prison/navy/boarding school and no women as even a possibility” to “women but don’t like the chances”? Outside of the imagination of women writing slashfic?

            My opponents in this argument seem like they’re trying to have it both ways. That aversion to homosexuality is due to social/cultural repression, but engaging in homosexuality can not at all be the result of social/cultural encouragement. Homosexual behavior is either socially influenced or it isn’t. You can’t with a straight face claim that homosexual behavior is repressed by social influences but that the very idea of homosexual behavior encouraged by social influences is crackpottery.

            Homosexual inclination is not homosexual behaviour, and homosexual behaviour is not “engage” vs “do not engage” – if homosexual inclination is somehow innate, or if it is somehow developed and banning Glee doesn’t stop it in a particular case, the most that can be accomplished is keeping people with that inclination celibate, etc.

            Lack of cultural repression leads to homosexual behaviour being practiced openly, to various degrees. However, the vast majority of historical evidence shows that repression just leads to sketchy underground stuff like rough trade. Healthy relationships of the “mortgage and kids” variety are impossible without some degree of social tolerance or acceptance; if sexuality in general was thoroughly repressed, would there be stable healthy heterosexual relationships?

            Someone with a given orientation can be dissuaded or encouraged by the culture to pursue that orientation, or it might be neutral. I would posit that a lot of the unhealthy correlated behaviours are the result in part of a hangover from past repression: if you can’t do something publicly, gotta go underground, and if you can’t be allowed to form stable healthy couples, might as well enjoy the circuit parties, eh? (Of course, to some extent, I certainly subscribe to the “this is what all men would do if they could”; in communities where homosexuality is really thought well of – I’m thinking of where I went to school – there’s plenty of men who are as far as behaviour goes 100% straight and who seem quite jealous of the gay guys who can just order up sex on their phone like a pizza you don’t have to pay for, and I think a decent chunk of the evidence shows that if a higher % of straight women were up for random sex, a higher % of straight men would be pursuing the hundreds-of-sexual-partners lifestyle)

          • Deiseach says:

            dndnrsn, remember when homosexuality was down in the psychiatric manuals as a mental illness and all the same things about homosexuality were said as are now said about paedophilia? And how over time that turned from “no, of course gay men as teachers are not going to assault their pupils” to your “victory condition” of happily married with kids? You really think there could’t be a campaign about “Just because I have this condition, it does not mean I am going to rape every child I see” to help overcome stigma? Because the same argument does apply: it’s genetic, it’s happening despite severe social opposition (including killing) and it’s not going to go away even if you don’t tell your kid about it, if they’ve got the genes for this.

            I think your insistence on homosexuality being absolutely genetic is not helping your case; the “warlords wouldn’t have dancing boys unless they had some attraction to their own gender, a completely straight guy would not be able to get an erection” argument is not completely true because it’s on the same lines as “if these guys weren’t attracted to young boys in some degree they wouldn’t be able to get an erection around them”; if they’re having sex with boys not girls, then they must be in some degree gay – that is, attracted to their own gender. Else by your argument, they couldn’t have sex, it would be physically impossible. Which brings us back to the original state of affairs years back that argued gay men would prey on young boys. And that is an attitude that will get you hammered by all the right-thinking types.

            If it’s acceptable in one society to have sex with underage kids and not in another, then I don’t think it’s very surprising that men having sex with underage kids happens more in the first society than in the second. And if being gay and engaging in same-gender sexual encounters is acceptable in one society and not another, same thing will happen – more out gay guys in the first and not the second. Genetics doesn’t much matter here, it’s the existence/lack of social approbation that effects “more gays in Hereville than Thereton”.

            I’m cynical enough to think that ephebophilia will get treated more sympathetically in the future; after all, labeling a man who has sex with a 16 year old the same kind of criminal as a man who has sex with a 12 or 10 or 8 year old is not at all fair or just. If 16 year olds are considered mature enough to choose to have sex with another 16 year old or 18 year old, why not a 30 or 40 year old? But that’s a different question.

            Your “golden retrievers and turkey basters” imagery could also be attacked on the basis that you are advising people to tell their kids “Son, you must save yourself until marriage!” about expressing their sexuality, and we all know that abstinence only education and purity culture are toxic, evil, brainwashing and ineffective to boot.

            the victory condition “son avoids hard drugs, marries college boyfriend, finds some female friend to carry two point five baster babies, has no mental problems other than baseline atomized modernity ennui, owns golden lab and is condemned by radical queer activists for being homonormative”

            If his straight peers are having drunken, drugged, meaningless casual sex at parties and hooking up online, why should he be expected to hold out until the picket fence and golden retriever and exploiting a Third World woman to have the surrogate baby? Besides, that’s promoting the oppressive cisheteronormative model of conventional nuclear family as the only real or valid family, and aren’t you then oppressing little Conrad if he’s poly or trans as well as gay? 🙂

          • dndnrsn says:

            Where in the actual world did I say it was entirely genetic? I have not said that, here or anywhere else.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Otherwise:

            dndnrsn, remember when homosexuality was down in the psychiatric manuals as a mental illness and all the same things about homosexuality were said as are now said about paedophilia? And how over time that turned from “no, of course gay men as teachers are not going to assault their pupils” to your “victory condition” of happily married with kids? You really think there could’t be a campaign about “Just because I have this condition, it does not mean I am going to rape every child I see” to help overcome stigma? Because the same argument does apply: it’s genetic, it’s happening despite severe social opposition (including killing) and it’s not going to go away even if you don’t tell your kid about it, if they’ve got the genes for this.

            However, the key difference is that one involves consenting adults, and the other doesn’t. The line between “mental illness” and “inclination” is fuzzy, but regardless, an attraction to males is different from an adult to prepubescent or pubescent males, just as would be the case with the opposite sex.

            I think your insistence on homosexuality being absolutely genetic is not helping your case; the “warlords wouldn’t have dancing boys unless they had some attraction to their own gender, a completely straight guy would not be able to get an erection” argument is not completely true because it’s on the same lines as “if these guys weren’t attracted to young boys in some degree they wouldn’t be able to get an erection around them”; if they’re having sex with boys not girls, then they must be in some degree gay – that is, attracted to their own gender. Else by your argument, they couldn’t have sex, it would be physically impossible. Which brings us back to the original state of affairs years back that argued gay men would prey on young boys. And that is an attitude that will get you hammered by all the right-thinking types.

            Do we have any evidence that gay men are more likely to molest little boys than straight men are likely to molest little girls? A lot of parents want to keep girls below a certain age away from adult men: men who want to be K-6 teachers get some suspicion, female babysitters are preferred… Nobody condemns them.

            If it’s acceptable in one society to have sex with underage kids and not in another, then I don’t think it’s very surprising that men having sex with underage kids happens more in the first society than in the second. And if being gay and engaging in same-gender sexual encounters is acceptable in one society and not another, same thing will happen – more out gay guys in the first and not the second. Genetics doesn’t much matter here, it’s the existence/lack of social approbation that effects “more gays in Hereville than Thereton”.

            Again, inclination is not behaviour. Hereville and Thereton might have the same number of people with homosexual inclinations, but not the same people engaging in the behaviour; the gays in Thereton who are actively practicing are probably also more likely to do it underground.

            I’m cynical enough to think that ephebophilia will get treated more sympathetically in the future; after all, labeling a man who has sex with a 16 year old the same kind of criminal as a man who has sex with a 12 or 10 or 8 year old is not at all fair or just. If 16 year olds are considered mature enough to choose to have sex with another 16 year old or 18 year old, why not a 30 or 40 year old? But that’s a different question.

            There was an attempt to mainstream attraction to underages back in the 70s; it failed for a variety of reasons. Sex with kids seems to be one of the things that the slippery slope doesn’t work for.

            Your “golden retrievers and turkey basters” imagery could also be attacked on the basis that you are advising people to tell their kids “Son, you must save yourself until marriage!” about expressing their sexuality, and we all know that abstinence only education and purity culture are toxic, evil, brainwashing and ineffective to boot.

            You’re attacking something I haven’t said again.

            If his straight peers are having drunken, drugged, meaningless casual sex at parties and hooking up online, why should he be expected to hold out until the picket fence and golden retriever and exploiting a Third World woman to have the surrogate baby? Besides, that’s promoting the oppressive cisheteronormative model of conventional nuclear family as the only real or valid family, and aren’t you then oppressing little Conrad if he’s poly or trans as well as gay?

            Why do you assume that I think that intoxicated random sex is good for the (straight) goose but not the (gay) gander? I also don’t know what the kid being trans has to do with it. Nor what poly relationships have to do with it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            …the key difference is that one involves consenting adults.

            The obvious question that springs to my mind is; what makes you think this “key difference” can’t or won’t be discarded like any other taboo?

          • skef says:

            The obvious question that springs to my mind is; what makes you think this “key difference” can’t or won’t be discarded like any other taboo?

            Why is this question salient? Are you thinking in terms of the most generic slippery slope argument, e.g. “If the badness of one thing seen as bad is questioned, then what is to stop every other bad thing from being accepted?”

          • skef says:

            Where in the actual world did I say it was entirely genetic?

            Deiseach and Conrad Honcho apparently think that biological determination and depictions or descriptions of homosexuality are the only plausible explanations of what causes homosexuality. You’re questioning the former, so they deduce you believe the latter.

            Someone should draw them a Venn diagram that includes a few more options. Weren’t smothering mothers a popular choice in the 50s?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hlynkacg

            Well, various socially liberal movements kind of made it their basis. And, why would people try to get rid of the taboo? The motivation to remove it for homosexuality was clear. But consider:

            -There was an attempt at mainstreaming attraction to pubescent girls in the 70s – look up the treatment Polanski received for raping a little girl – very lenient, considered. To some extent it extended to prepubescent girls – consider those photos of Brooke Shields. But it retreated, and hard. If something like the case with Polanski happened today, the response would be much harsher. Child pornography is more illegal than it was then, as I understand it. People hate child molesters; they are the only group that everyone hates and nobody defends. Even in very left-wing contexts, it’s a line you don’t cross. They hit all the “this is awful” buttons.

            -Why would anyone go to bat for people who fuck animals? They’re insanely low status. Every “haha those hicks” jokes includes something about fucking animals.

            There are clearly some places where the slope has not slipped.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            The obvious question that springs to my mind is; what makes you think this “key difference” can’t or won’t be discarded like any other taboo?

            Any taboo can be overcome, but anti-pedophilia is a taboo that is based on consequentialism, not just social tradition. There’s a large pool of both conventional and scientific knowledge which tells us that young children suffer deep emotional damage from having sex at that age; unless people actually stop caring about children being damaged in this way, hatred of pedophiles will continue.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I think there are basically four reasons someone might object to one of their children being gay, and it’s important to talk about them separately.

            The first is fundamentally religious. Based on some of your past comments, I take you to be a roman Catholic, and the teachings of the Catholic church hold homosexuality to be a sin. Of course, natural law ethics holds that all sexual activity, excepting for that “of the reproductive sort”, between a married man and woman, is a sin.

            To the faithful Catholic a sin is simply any deviation from God’s plan for human salvation, which includes, for most people, a committed fruitful marriage. To wish to protect your children from sin is a perfectly reasonable thing for a Christian to want. Nevertheless, one should ask: is the abhorrence traditionally directed at homosexuality (which has been much greater than that directed against heterosexual deviance) justified on grounds of faith? It would seem obvious that the answer is no.

            Compared to adultery, or good old fashioned fornication, homosexuality would seem relatively mild, as far as moral failings go. Homosexuals are relatively unlikely to despoil the sacrament of holy matrimony, and I can say with some confidence that no Gay man has ever had an abortion.
            And yet, at no time in American history has adultery been a criminal offense. It seems that Christian moralists have some strange priorities indeed.

            The second has to do with the idea that there is a “homosexual lifestyle”, presumably involving drugs, and casual sex, that is exceptionally risky. Here the most relevant risk factor here is not being a homosexual, but being a man. Men have on average more sexual partners, a stronger preference for casual sex, and a stronger tendency for high risk behavior than women. For heterosexual men having to satisfy our sexual desires with women serves as a powerful break on these drives, for gay men their partners provide no such restraint. If you aim to minimize your child’s chances of engaging in risky casual sex you should want to have a lesbian daughter.

            Homosexuality frequently leads to poor life outcomes

            It’s not at all clear that this is true in aggregate. One thing the “homosexual lifestyle” avoids is unwanted pregnancy. The reason gay men have significantly more disposable income than straight men, is that they have a much easier time avoiding that most unfortunate side effect of sex, having kids.

            The third is the idea that homosexuality is just fundamentally “gross”, and repugnant. The only thing I have to say about this is that all sex is gross, or to be more precise, all sex that you’re not into is gross. From the time I found out what it was, until I hit puberty, I thought heterosexual sex was pretty damned disgusting.

            At one of the summer jobs I worked in high school there was a guy who, as we found out from his ex, had a foot fetish. We all thought this was both repulsive, and hilarious, and we broke his balls about it constantly. We got a kind of competition going about how often we could slip feet into random conversations. He would come into work in the morning, and we’d all be like; “put your best foot forwards”, “remember you got stand on your own two feet”. We’d talk about football, but when we’d quote statistics, we’d give the distance in feet. Like: “McGahee ran for nine hundred yards last year, …which as you know is 2700 hundred feet“. Of course, why is liking feet gross? Much like the right honorable sir Mix a lot, I like big butts and I can not lie, and the ass is a far more disgusting part of the body than the foot. It’s just a matter of the love of a fine ass being a lot more common than a foot fetish.

            Not to get too evo-psych about things, but I think people have two powerful competing biological driven instincts. One is the instinct to avoid intimate contact with the bodies, and bodily fluids of strangers, the other is the urge to reproduce. For most men and women, the second overpowers the first, at least with regard to the opposite sex. But when you encounter someone who’s sexual drive is directed to ward a different target then yours, be it a man who lusts after feet, or a man who lusts after penises, it’s weird and off putting.

            I suppose what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t judge a man …until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes (*rimshot*).

            The fourth, and I suspect for you most important, reason is family honor, and masculine pride. No son of yours is ever going to be a f*got. This is strongly bound up with misogyny, women exist to get f*cked, and for a man to be a homosexual is to behave like a woman, and therefore bring shame on himself.

            Of course back here in reality, race is not a social construct, racial group differences are largely genetic

            The fact that you bring race into this is telling. For some people society is, or properly ought to be, a liner dominance hierarchy, with them very near the top. Whites above blacks, men above women, gays as deviant dalit like outcasts. To this kind of thinking, the liberal egalitarian project is an attack on the proper order of things.

            There are few reasons to believe that there are meaningful differences between the cognitive capacities of different racial groups. There are very good reasons to believe that there are not.

            There are also good reasons to believe that homosexuality, has a strong biological component. The most powerful evidence is twin studies. A 2010 study of all adult twins in Sweden found the following:

            Biometric modeling revealed that, in men, genetic effects explained .34–.39 of the variance [of sexual orientation], the shared environment .00, and the individual-specific environment .61–.66 of the variance. Corresponding estimates among women were .18–.19 for genetic factors, .16–.17 for shared environmental, and .64–.66 for unique environmental factors. Although wide confidence intervals suggest cautious interpretation, the results are consistent with moderate, primarily genetic, familial effects, and moderate to large effects of the nonshared environment (social and biological) on same-sex sexual behavior.

            That is not the same as there being a one hundred percent correlation with any genetic profile, but it is good evidence of a biological effect.

            @hlynkacg
            For that to happen we would have to stop caring about the effect that being raped has on children. This seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

          • Deiseach says:

            Someone should draw them a Venn diagram that includes a few more options. Weren’t smothering mothers a popular choice in the 50s?

            Yes, and apparently drinking too much milk is also a theory which dndnrsn mentioned and pooh-poohed. I suggest, skef, that if they don’t want to be seen as “where did I say it was purely genetic?”, they don’t keep insisting (a) environmental factors play no part, e.g. watching “Glee” won’t turn your kid gay and the very strong social repression of past centuries didn’t prevent people turning out to be gay and (b) postulating genies telling you “100% sure your son will be 100% gay”.

            If the acceptability of being gay in society doesn’t matter a damn as to whether or not your kid is going to come out as gay, as dndnrsn seemed to be arguing all along (“if you don’t talk to your kid about being gay, and if you filter out all mentions of gayness in the media, it still won’t keep your kid from being gay if they’re born gay”), then what is left apart from “then are you arguing it’s all in the genes?” or perhaps “the genies” but if magical beings are turning our kids gay, that’s not something I’m qualified to have an opinion on.

          • Nick says:

            Compared to adultery, or good old fashioned fornication, homosexuality would seem relatively mild, as far as moral failings go. Homosexuals are relatively unlikely to despoil the sacrament of holy matrimony, and I can say with some confidence that no Gay man has ever had an abortion.
            And yet, at no time in American history has adultery been a criminal offense. It seems that Christian moralists have some strange priorities indeed.

            At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it’s not so much that Christian moralists have strange priorities as that being a Christian moralist or, indeed, a moralist of any kind in any modern institution, is very difficult. If the people don’t like what you say, they can go somewhere else. We built liberal democracy with this feature. Consequently, if your Sunday homily is aimed at adulterers or fornicators or whomever else, they might not be back next Sunday, and the collection pool will be that much smaller. Faced with this dilemma, many Catholic homilists, at least, don’t say anything about any difficult topics at all; often they just relate the day’s gospel to something anodyne and contemporary, or, if they’re really feeling brave, will go after something no one even feels bad about, like gossip.

            A very different approach to this dilemma, seen much less commonly today, is to go after sinners whom one can hardly offend more anyway; gays are as good a target as any for this. If you can’t tell, I find this a terrible idea, equal parts alienating injustice and spineless dilution of the gospel, but I digress. The point is, outside of USCCB documents no one reads or papal addresses everyone misquotes, no one is condemning adultery because no one wants to hear adultery condemned. You can bemoan the cowardice of this, and I’d be inclined to agree, but just try preaching the gospel when your church’s doors are shuttered and no one’s showing up anyway.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            And yet, at no time in American history has adultery been a criminal offense.

            Sweeping statements are unlikely to be true. Do you really think the Puritans didn’t criminalize adultery? The Scarlet Letter was a real sentence.

            Although they stopped be enforced around 1950, laws criminalizing adultery remained on the books. According to wikipedia, twenty years ago a majority of states still had laws criminalizing adultery, although most of them had a civil flavor, the penalties only affecting divorce and common property. Fornication laws also remain on the books, but some have been struck down in light of Lawrence v. Texas.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yes, and apparently drinking too much milk is also a theory which dndnrsn mentioned and pooh-poohed. I suggest, skef, that if they don’t want to be seen as “where did I say it was purely genetic?”, they don’t keep insisting (a) environmental factors play no part, e.g. watching “Glee” won’t turn your kid gay and the very strong social repression of past centuries didn’t prevent people turning out to be gay and (b) postulating genies telling you “100% sure your son will be 100% gay”.

            I never said environmental factors didn’t play a part, and the genie was a thought experiment. The point of the thought experiment was, what if what he thinks will minimize the chance he has a gay son, first, won’t, and second, will make that kid’s life harder in some way.

            If the acceptability of being gay in society doesn’t matter a damn as to whether or not your kid is going to come out as gay, as dndnrsn seemed to be arguing all along (“if you don’t talk to your kid about being gay, and if you filter out all mentions of gayness in the media, it still won’t keep your kid from being gay if they’re born gay”), then what is left apart from “then are you arguing it’s all in the genes?” or perhaps “the genies” but if magical beings are turning our kids gay, that’s not something I’m qualified to have an opinion on.

            If you’re gonna quote me, can you actually quote what I said?

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Douglas Knight

            I was using American in the coequal sense of “estadounidense”, the Puritan colonists miss the 1776 cut off point by quite a bit.

            My understanding was that laws against adultery had been exclusively civil in nature, mostly affecting divorce proceedings. Looking at the wikepedia entry I was apparently wrong. I amend my statement to: “has not generally been prosecuted as a criminal offense in living memory.”

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It’s one thing to define “American history” to begin in 1776, quite another to apply that restriction to a phrase like “at no point in American history.”

          • skef says:

            environmental factors play no part, e.g. watching “Glee” won’t turn your kid gay and the very strong social repression of past centuries didn’t prevent people turning out to be gay

            If the acceptability of being gay in society doesn’t matter a damn as to whether or not your kid is going to come out as gay, as dndnrsn seemed to be arguing all along

            You and Honcho are forever conflating two issues. One is men experiencing same sex attraction. The other is willingness to be open about that. dndnrsn likely thinks that whatever combination of biological and environmental factors contribute to men experiencing attraction of men do not include exposure to homosexual content, or at least its contribution is not significant. The evidence that it does is about as good as the evidence for milk or smothering mothers. It is a view that has some intuitive appeal but falls apart under much scrutiny even from a folk-psychological standpoint.

            On the other hand, lack of, and more particularly suppression of, homosexual content is an entirely sensible explanation for men not being willing to be open about their attraction to men.

          • CatCube says:

            And yet, at no time in American history has adultery been a criminal offense.

            It’s a criminal offense in the military. Adultery is one of the crimes listed under Article 134. It requires proving that an actual sexual act took place, though, which is obviously a tough proposition without a confession.

            Also of note, General Kevin Byrnes was fired for committing adultery. He started shacking up with another woman while separated from his wife; General Schoomaker fired him the day his divorce was finalized. Of course, the exact reason for his relief was disobeying an order. General Schoomaker had ordered him to cease living with the woman until his divorce was finalized. General Byrnes didn’t do that, so he got bounced.

          • Controls Freak says:

            It is a view that has some intuitive appeal but falls apart under much scrutiny even from a folk-psychological standpoint.

            …I’m listening…

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Nevertheless, one should ask: is the abhorrence traditionally directed at homosexuality (which has been much greater than that directed against heterosexual deviance) justified on grounds of faith? It would seem obvious that the answer is no.

            Clearly it’s not obvious, since most people who’ve actually held the faith don’t agree with you. “Your interpretation of your own religion is obviously wrong” rarely makes for a good argument.

            Compared to adultery, or good old fashioned fornication, homosexuality would seem relatively mild, as far as moral failings go. Homosexuals are relatively unlikely to despoil the sacrament of holy matrimony, and I can say with some confidence that no Gay man has ever had an abortion.

            Well, if you want to get picky about it, no heterosexual man has ever had an abortion, either. Regardless, this argument is irrelevant: Catholics aren’t consequentialists, so appealing to a (highly selective and cherry-picked) list of possible consequences isn’t going to refute the Catholic view.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            a (highly selective and cherry-picked) list of possible consequences

            To elucidate my meaning: one could equally say something like, “Compared to adultery, or good old fashioned fornication, homosexuality would seem extremely serious, as far as moral failings go. Homosexuals are far more likely to engage in risky sexual practices or kill their partners by giving them deadly STDs.”

          • AnonYEmous says:

            “Your interpretation of your own religion is obviously wrong” rarely makes for a good argument.

            wait, are we still pretending like people don’t take whatever they want out of religion 90% of the time

            the very fact that you can have both ISIS and, ahem, “progressive muslims” more or less disproves that. Either one of their interpretations is obviously wrong, or more likely people simply take out of religion what they want to, as usual.

            Homosexuals are far more likely to engage in risky sexual practices or kill their partners by giving them deadly STDs.”

            Just to be clear though: why do you care if they engage in risky sexual practices? I guess it leads nicely into killing their partners by giving them deadly STDs, except that AIDS is getting less deadly by the year and no other STD is at all deadly.

            Anyways, here’s a very serious question: since lesbians aren’t taking this risk, is that OK? Isn’t it strange to have a catholic teaching mostly based on a disease which emerged in the 20th century? But let’s say you’re arguing from your own personal view: why can’t you just condemn people who give others STDs? Lord knows there are enough straight people that do this that you don’t need to attack an entire demographic.

          • CatCube says:

            Isn’t it strange to have a catholic teaching mostly based on a disease which emerged in the 20th century?

            The claim isn’t that Catholics (or Protestants) knew about AIDS. God did. Your mom didn’t slap your hand to keep you from touching the burner on the stove because she hated you. The Lord didn’t put these restrictions on people for His benefit, they’re for ours.

          • John Schilling says:

            Anyways, here’s a very serious question: since lesbians aren’t taking this risk, is that OK? Isn’t it strange to have a catholic teaching mostly based on a disease which emerged in the 20th century?

            Male homosexuals and bisexuals are a substantially greater risk for all STDs, not just AIDS, and and diseases like syphilis and gonnorrhea were more deadly prior to the 20th century than AIDS has been after it. And prior to the 20th century, most of the religious conservatives who went after male homosexuals seem to have given lesbians a pass (if only because they couldn’t conceive of lesbians existing).

            So the hypothesis that religious proscriptions were based on hygiene considerations is at least coherent in those respects, which is not the same as being true.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            the very fact that you can have both ISIS and, ahem, “progressive muslims” more or less disproves that. Either one of their interpretations is obviously wrong, or more likely people simply take out of religion what they want to, as usual.

            Firstly, that’s a false dichotomy: it might be non-obvious what the correct interpretation is. Secondly, and more importantly, not every opinion is equally valid. For example, the opinion of a leading Koranic scholar as to what the correct interpretation of the Koran is would obviously be more valid than the opinion of some random guy with no formal training in Koranic studies. In the case at hand, the vast majority of theologians throughout history and every relevant Church document all say the same thing, and some rando on the internet thinks that these people are all “obviously wrong” about what their religion requires. Why, exactly, should we side with the rando over the theologians and popes?

            Anyways, here’s a very serious question: since lesbians aren’t taking this risk, is that OK? Isn’t it strange to have a catholic teaching mostly based on a disease which emerged in the 20th century?

            You’re missing the point, which is that Hyperboloid’s argument was based on cherry-picking consequences to make it look as if homosexuality was OK (“They’re less likely to commit adultery and have abortions”). I was just providing an example of a list cherry-picked in a different way so as to suggest the opposite conclusion.

            (Not to mention, there are many non-AIDS heath risks associated with anal sex, so it would be a comparatively risky proposition in any historical period.)

            But let’s say you’re arguing from your own personal view: why can’t you just condemn people who give others STDs? Lord knows there are enough straight people that do this that you don’t need to attack an entire demographic.

            If you’re worried about adultery and abortion, why not just teach children not to commit adultery and have abortions?

          • Nick says:

            Missing from this entire discussion, including the responses to hyperboloid and AnonYEmous, is any notion of the actual theological justifications for these moral positions, like natural law or the Bible, neither of which has much to do necessarily with AIDS or syphilis or whether gay men can have an abortion. I can understand an urge to translate or steelman the Catholic position into consequentialist terms, but if it’s not making sense, maybe the answer is to examine the original.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Frank Underwood from _House of Cards_ is arguably an evil gay man on TV, though he’s at least somewhat bisexual (only for business, not for pleasure, as far as we know) and he is the protagonist.

      • Well... says:

        I thought the research suggested it was some mix of hormone levels present in the natal environment (e.g. gay men are disproportionately likely to be the youngest of brothers) as well as post-natal environmental factors (particularly trauma–e.g. being molested as a child–and/or random factors present around the onset of puberty–e.g. having lots of gay friends). I guess you might also count whatever you call it when people become gay in prison.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I thought the research suggested it was some mix of hormone levels present in the natal environment

          What hormone? Can we test for it? Change it? Can we make gays straight or straights gays via hormone replacement therapy?

          (particularly trauma–e.g. being molested as a child–and/or random factors present around the onset of puberty–e.g. having lots of gay friends).

          Social/cultural cause.

          I guess you might also count whatever you call it when people become gay in prison.

          Social/cultural cause.

        • Aapje says:

          @Well

          That’s weird because fetuses don’t know whether the mother will become pregnant again in the future, so the only logical interpretation of your comment is that boys have a higher chance to be gay if they are not the first son. Not too long ago, people had way more children than today, which meant that they had far more non-‘first son’ sons, who then would have a higher chance to be gay. Ergo, the relative number of gays should have been (much) higher then.

          Is there actual evidence for this?

        • Deiseach says:

          I guess you might also count whatever you call it when people become gay in prison.

          Lack of alternatives. Or the fancy name is situational homosexuality.

      • Vermillion says:

        This post is mostly aimed @ Conrad Honcho but I did want to also speak in favor of divorce. I’m a bit biased here, being the product of my mother’s second, much happier, marriage. Her ex-husband also went on to a second, better, marriage illustrating, I hope, that the fission of a nuclear family can be beneficial as well as destructive.

        Now then, CH you claim 99% certainty of no genetic basis for homosexuality, and 80% for no biological basis of homosexuality. My (admittedly limited, it’s about 3 in the morning) own research (all taken from a chapter on human sexuality and epigenetics by Ngun & Vilain here, if you don’t have access I can send you the PDF) has found a lot of evidence to contradict that assertion. I also skimmed the work you linked by Lawrence S. Mayer, Paul R. McHugh, enough to establish that it was not an experimental study which found no link, but a review of other studies, much like the following.

        Evidence for a genetic basis of homosexuality.

        Gay men have a higher number of homosexual relatives in comparison to heterosexual men (Bailey & Pillard, 1991; Pillard & Weinrich, 1986).

        Although the exact concordance rates in monozygotic (MZ) twins differs between studies, they are uniformly higher than concordance rates in dizygotic (DZ) twins or nontwin siblings, and all suggest that sexual orientation is a highly heritable trait (Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000; Bailey & Pillard, 1991; Kendler, Thornton, Gilman, & Kessler, 2000; Kirk, Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000).

        Mustanski et al. (2005) performed the first genomewide scan for markers associated with male sexual orientation. […] the highest linkage scores were seen at chromosomes 7 (7q36) and 8 (8p12).

        […] The first study was a large-scale linkage study on 410 independent pairs of homosexual brothers from Alan Sanders, which largely agrees with the results of Mustanski et al. (Sanders et al., 2012). In this study, the strongest linkage peak was seen on chromosome 8 and overlaps with the peak seen in the 2005 study. The second strongest linkage peak was at Xq28. The second study was carried out by the personal genomics company 23andme. Although this was the largest and best-powered genomewide association study (GWAS) on sexual orientation, it did not find any genetic markers that were significantly associated with sexual orientation (Drabant et al., 2012). This is likely due to the differences in the types of subjects collected—Sanders et al. used brother pairs whereas Drabant et al. cast a much wider net.

        “Taken together, these studies show that genetics plays a role in sexual orientation, at least for men.”

        Evidence for a biological basis of homosexuality

        The concordance rate between MZ twins was always higher than in DZ twins but even the highest observed rate of concordance, 52% (Bailey & Pillard, 1991), was far below what would be expected for a trait that is exclusively genetically influenced and strongly suggests a role for environmental effects in influencing sexual orientation.

        [environment meaning] variations between each twin during development, which can include differences of the intrauterine environment. Although the nutrient bath in which both twins develop may be highly similar, there could be differences that could affect epigenetic markers on genes relevant to sexual orientation. We already know that the DNA methylation profile is not identical between MZ twins at the time of birth (Gordon et al., 2012). There is also increasing evidence that discordance among MZ twins in other traits is related to DNA methylation differences (Dempster et al., 2011; Kuratomi et al., 2008).

        Each son increases the odds of homosexuality in the next son by 33% relative to the baseline population rate (Blanchard, 1997; Blanchard & Bogaert, 1996; Jones & Blanchard, 1998). Although this may seem like a large increase, the probability of a gay son reaches 50% only after 10 older brothers. The birth-order effect only holds true if all the brothers are from the same mother—if the older brothers are from another mother, there is no effect. […] One hypothesis that has yet to be tested is that a male pregnancy triggers male-specific antigens in the mother, and each successive male child increases this immune response (Blanchard & Bogaert, 1996; Blanchard & Klassen, 1997).

        In individuals with two X chromosomes, one copy of the X chromosome is inactivated so that X gene dosage is equivalent to individuals who only have one X. In theory, the choice of which X chromosome to undergo inactivation is random and happens independently in each cell. Therefore, at the population level, the maternal X should be inactivated in 50% of cells, and the paternal X should be inactivated in the other 50%. In practice, a slight departure from this 1:1 ratio (or skewing) is not uncommon. However, mothers of gay men show extreme skewing of X inactivation (ratios of ≥9:1) at rates far higher than mothers with only heterosexual sons (Bocklandt, Horvath, Vilain, & Hamer, 2006). The rate of extreme skewing seems to be positively correlated with the number of gay sons.

        A model for how epigenetic markers could lead to homosexuality

        …sex-specific epigenetic marks (which could take the form of histone modifications, DNA methylation, and/or noncoding RNAs) lead to sex-specific traits. The sex-specific marks that are present in the parents are usually erased during gametogenesis (so that the “correct” sex-specific mark can be placed during embryogenesis). If this erasure fails to occur and carries over to the zygote, development of traits that are discordant with the sex of that individual (like homosexuality) can occur. For instance, if a feminizing epigenetic mark remains in the ovum, and it is fertilized, then the trait under the control of that mark in the offspring might also be feminized.

        The second core assertion is that sensitivity to fetal androgen signaling is sexually dimorphic due to sex-specific epigenetic marks with XX fetuses being less sensitive than XY ones. To support this claim, the authors point out that in both rats and humans, about 5% of XX fetuses have testosterone levels that are in the lower end of the male range during the prenatal testosterone surge, which is important for genital development. Since the incidence of discordance between the genitals and gonads is much lower than they would be if testosterone levels were the only determinant, the authors conclude that there is sexual dimorphism in sensitivity levels to testosterone.

        One of the fundamental assumptions of Rice et al.’s model is that the biological factors affecting sexual orientation are the same in both sexes. The data do not necessarily support this view. For instance, linkage to Xq28 for sexual orientation only holds true for men. The manifestation and expression of sexual orientation in men is not the mirror image of this process in women. […] the percentage of nonheterosexual women who are attracted to both sexes is much higher than in nonheterosexual men (Hamer et al., 1993; Hu et al., 1995; Vrangalova & Savin-Williams, 2012). Men also appear to be highly target-specific and only aroused by their stated preference (Cerny & Janssen, 2011; Chivers, Rieger, Latty, & Bailey, 2004). Additionally, sexual orientation appears to be much more fluid (more movement between categories) in women than in men (Diamond, 2000; Peplau & Garnets, 2000).

        Perhaps most importantly, prenatal androgen levels have not been shown to play a role in male sexual orientation although they have been implicated in female sexual orientation. […] The strongest data for this view comes from women who have a genetic disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Female fetuses that have CAH experience increased levels of androgen exposure, which greatly exceed female-typical levels. In some cases, androgen levels are high enough to cause masculinization of their external genitalia. Because CAH can be fatal if uncontrolled (for reasons unrelated to the level of circulating testosterone), these girls start treatment immediately after birth, which brings their postnatal testosterone levels back into the female-typical range. The proportion of adult CAH women who identify as lesbian is many times higher than in the general population and is correlated with prenatal androgenization (Dittmann, Kappes, & Kappes, 1992; Hines, Brook, & Conway, 2004; Meyer-Bahlburg, Dolezal, Baker, & New, 2008). Studies of CAH girls have repeatedly shown that they are masculinized on other sexually dimorphic cognitive and behavioral traits. These include play behavior (Hines, 2011; Nordenstrom, Servin, Bohlin, Larsson, & Wedell, 2002), spatial cognition (Mueller et al., 2008), and aggression (Pasterski et al., 2007).

        [There’s a lot on the actual molecular mechanisms of how testosterone etc can change neural development, I can get into that if you like, DNA methylation and micro-RNAs play a role.]

        Conclusion

        Although we believe that the biological factors that affect sexual orientation differ between the sexes, we believe that the genetic network that underlies this trait is common to them. […] If our overall hypothesis is correct, this implies that there are different subtypes of nonheterosexual men and women if we categorize them based on the biological origin of their sexual orientation. The evidence indicates that this may be the case for male homosexuality. For example, linkage to Xq28 may help explain homosexuality in families where this trait is maternally loaded. All the studies that have identified linkage to Xq28 thus far have selected for maternal (but not paternal) linkage and coincidence of homosexuality in brother pairs. In contrast, the studies that did not find linkage to Xq28 (Drabant et al., 2012; Rice et al., 1999) did not select their subjects based on those criteria.

        Anywho, like I said it’s late, I doubt you’ll actually read all this, but if you do I hope you’ll at least revise your priors a point or two.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I read it, thanks for the information.

          You note:

          Although this was the largest and best-powered genomewide association study (GWAS) on sexual orientation, it did not find any genetic markers that were significantly associated with sexual orientation (Drabant et al., 2012).

          And then extract

          “Taken together, these studies show that genetics plays a role in sexual orientation, at least for men.”

          This does not follow.

          Also,

          The concordance rate between MZ twins was always higher than in DZ twins but even the highest observed rate of concordance, 52% (Bailey & Pillard, 1991), was far below what would be expected for a trait that is exclusively genetically influenced and strongly suggests a role for environmental effects in influencing sexual orientation.

          emphasis mine.

          To what do you suggest I update my priors? Perhaps “99% confidence sexual orientation is not primarily genetic?” Or, “99% confidence sexual orientation not primarily genetic; 20% confidence certain genetic traits increase likelihood of future homosexual behavior?”

          They say:

          Gay men have a higher number of homosexual relatives in comparison to heterosexual men (Bailey & Pillard, 1991; Pillard & Weinrich, 1986).

          Although the exact concordance rates in monozygotic (MZ) twins differs between studies, they are uniformly higher than concordance rates in dizygotic (DZ) twins or nontwin siblings, and all suggest that sexual orientation is a highly heritable trait (Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000; Bailey & Pillard, 1991; Kendler, Thornton, Gilman, & Kessler, 2000; Kirk, Bailey, Dunne, & Martin, 2000).

          Emphasis mine. Heritable != genetic. ZIP code is highly heritable. Having gay relatives may increase the likelihood of a person becoming gay due to positive social interaction with the gay relative, or molestation.

          Again, it seems that a genetic cause of homosexuality is almost ruled out (my 99% statement). There is weak evidence for an epigenetic or natal development cause (my 80% statement), and only in some instances.

          So I’ll update my priors to:

          Homosexuality not primarily genetically caused: 99% confident

          Genetics play a role in increasing the likelihood one may exhibit homosexuality: 20% confident

          Homosexuality not primarily biologically caused (i.e., in utero hormones, “too much milk”): 80% confident

          Uterine development plays a role in increasing the likelihood one may exhibit homosexuality: 50% confident.

          Homosexuality largely socially/culturally determined: 65% confident

          Does this seem more reasonable?

          You cannot tell your son that homosexuality is normal, natural, just as valid a lifestyle as heterosexuality, show him TV and movies with (near) universally positive portrayals of homosexuals as fun, smart, and attractive, and then when he responds more positively to sexual advances from men say “no social interaction or cultural information caused this, it was genetically or biologically predetermined.”

          • Deiseach says:

            when he responds more positively to sexual advances from men say “no social interaction or cultural information caused this, it was genetically or biologically predetermined.”

            Or if you do, explain how in previous societies the genetic/biological determination meant that fucking younger pretty males was considered okay as long as you were the one doing the penetrating, and that being penetrated by an older male was okay but only up to a certain age/social status and liking it/only wanting sex with males was a horrible, effeminate deviance?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Leprosy has an identical twin concordance of 80%, compared to a fraternal concordance of 20%, much more heritable than homosexuality.

          Is it useful to call leprosy genetic? “substantially genetic”? Is it even useful to say “genetics plays a role”?

          It is just not true that homosexuality is “highly heritable.” Have the authors even read their sources?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I should have inserted between the last two lines: It is not even true that their sources consistently show it.

          • hyperboloid says:

            leprosy is a (very weakly) infectious disease. The direct cause is infection by Mycobacterium leprae. Susceptibility to this infection has a strong genetic component, and ninety five percent of people who are infected do not develop Hanson’s disease. So yes genetics does play a very strong role.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Conrad, you do understand bisexuality exists, right?

        The spectrum isn’t a binary between straight and gay.

        For myself, well, men can be attractive. That is pretty much it – noticing I could find men attractive.

        Women are way easier to date – partly because there are way more straight or bisexual women than gay or bisexual men in my age bracket, partly because identity annoys me and a nontrivial number of gay and bisexual men have identity baggage – so I have usually ended up dating them.

        But nobody told me men could be pretty. Hell, the messaging throughout my entire childhood was that men were unattractive brutes, and it was a miracle women put up with us, which is an idea it took a lot of introspection to overcome.

        Bisexuality wasn’t something culture taught me. It is something I arrived at through consideration (and not a little bloody-mindedness, as I came out basically because somebody said bisexual men didn’t exist and it annoyed me.)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          So you’re saying homosexuality is a choice?

          • Thegnskald says:

            No. -Bisexuality- is a choice.

            Homosexuality is as much a choice as heterosexuality is.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Which matters, incidentally. Bisexuality is associated with mental disorders like depression and PTSD, but only among lower-income bisexuals. High-income bisexuals have no such associations.

            So if you do a good job raising your children and preparing them for the world, and they are bisexuals, it won’t matter. It will only matter if they end up lower-income, which is associated with negative mental health outcomes anyways.

            So you would.do better to focus your effort on, say, raising engineers, than you would be to focus effort on raising straight people.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So you would.do better to focus your effort on, say, raising engineers, than you would be to focus effort on raising straight people.

            Why not both?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Finite resources to allocate.

            Also, given that B gives all the benefits of A, and A has downsides (such as potentially making your kids resent you if it doesn’t work) that B doesn’t, B is the better investment.

            Unless, of course, your objections have nothing to do with life outcomes.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            They’re going to resent me because I didn’t show them Glee?

            I’m not planning to teach them that homosexuality is bad. I’m mainly going to not mention it.

            I see people who take children to Pride parades and wave rainbow flags and I think that’s a mistake. I plan to not do that. I find it unlikely that my children will resent me for that later, but who knows? There’s no guarantees in this world.

            And if finite resources are an issue, this works out great. I can spend all the time I’m not pushing homosexual propaganda on my kids on math and science instead. Win-win!

          • Thegnskald says:

            No. They will resent you because they will realize that they didn’t even know “gay” was a thing when everyone else does, and your refusal to engage any media that hints at its existence, or to talk about it in any terms, implies you are a closeted homophobe, and are privately disgusted by them even if you never say anything about it.

            ETA: So prescreening all media they might consume takes no time? This isn’t something you aren’t doing, you are talking about investing considerable effort into policing their cultural influences.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            So prescreening all media they might consume takes no time?

            Isn’t this something responsible parents do anyway? At least concurrently-screening or, in a pinch, reading up on it? Up to a certain age, at any rate – my intuition is middle school is when to phase that out, but depends on the kid.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Concurrent screening is normal, but Conrad can’t do that, because turning off a movie whenever a gay shows up is, uh, not neutral.

            Worse, given current social norms, he will have to screen a LOT of media, since it will get increasingly difficult to find media without a gay character somewhere.

            Also, gay characters will get decreasingly remarkable, and may not show up in written material describing the work. So he would have to find explicitly anti-gay write-ups.

            And at that point, the gig is up. Either he agrees with homophobia, or he gives up, because the only company he is in looks pretty bad.

            And then, after all of that, what about other people? Do you keep the kid locked up in a religious compound to avoid their interacting with anybody who knows what gay people are and might talk positively about them?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            are privately disgusted by them even if you never say anything about it.

            I don’t think it’s possible to raise children who only ever turn out in ways you approve of. Homosexuality is not a unique case.

            ETA: So prescreening all media they might consume takes no time? This isn’t something you aren’t doing, you are talking about investing considerable effort into policing their cultural influences.

            Keeping an eye on what your kid is watching or listening to is kind of Parenting 101. Screening for teh ghey occurs along with screening for excessive violence, inappropriate heterosexual content, pro-drug messages, racism, objectionable political content, etc.

            ETA:

            Conrad can’t do that, because turning off a movie whenever a gay shows up is, uh, not neutral.

            But I would turn off the show because I’m not neutral and never claimed to be. I’ve specifically stated that I agree that straight privilege is a thing, and therefore I would rather my kid have it than not have it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            As I recall, none of the sex or violence my parents let me see was that interesting. Horror movies were boring dumb people in costumes. (Scared the shit out of myself with Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, though. Probably shouldn’t have been reading those books when I was six. ETA: I was, like, sixteen before the idea of the wendigo stopped making me afraid to walk under an open sky. And holy shit the illustrations.)

            I am reasonably certain, however, that the scene in Cinderella where the mice get put in the stepmother’s pocket gave me a small taste for vore. (Which I have turned off, because that is a uniquely useless sexual taste.)

            So, uh, yeah. Good luck with that.

          • Deiseach says:

            They will resent you because they will realize that they didn’t even know “gay” was a thing when everyone else does, and your refusal to engage any media that hints at its existence, or to talk about it in any terms, implies you are a closeted homophobe, and are privately disgusted by them even if you never say anything about it.

            Oh no, a homophobe? Gasp, faint!

            How about zoophilia while we’re at it? Won’t these theoretical kids resent not knowing that “man’s best friend” was also a thing when everyone else does, and refusing to engage with any media or talk about it implies that the parent is a closeted zoophobic, and privately disgusted about them feeling all tingly when thinking about getting riding lessons, even if the parent never says anything about it?

            “Dad, you never told me about Who Is Sylvia, I had to find out about my feelings on scummy Internet porn sites! I hate you for ruining my life!”

            It’s very easy to make a laundry list of “if you never talk to your kids about….” that will evoke the same spectre of “and they will be resentful and think you are disgusted by them”, yet somehow most parents manage not to talk about stuff like rimming or watersports when discussing sex with their kids and their kids don’t think that was disgusting sex-negativity when they get older and become aware of the rich banquet of choice out there.

          • Nick says:

            I think we can separate the probably ridiculous reason for raising the topic with your kids—namely, that they might be LGBT—from the far more practical reason for raising it—namely, that you want them to be well-informed about the modern world. Deiseach is right that we shouldn’t have to talk about zoophilia or who knows what else with our children, but zoophilia is also sufficiently rare and out of the public consciousness that it really need never come up at all. This is not so with LGBT issues, even outside the push for gay rights. For one thing, there’s vanishingly little chance you’ll ever know a zoophiliac, but there’s a very good chance you knew or will know someone LGBT. I think Conrad would reply, “Yes, but they’ll get that everyone else in the culture anyway,” but let’s not unduly discount a child’s interest in his parents’ beliefs.

          • Randy M says:

            zoophilia is also sufficiently rare and out of the public consciousness that it really need never come up at all

            All the more reason for the parent to cover how to have a healthy zoophiliac relationship, if so inclined. What other options are there? Not expressing their true selves? Repression? Cruising the woods at night with a pocket full of Raccoon Munchies, a high pitched whistle, and come hither eyes? Responsible parents are not going to risk having their children fall into the darker side of that lifestyle when better ways are only a conversation away.

          • Nick says:

            Randy,

            I’m perfectly willing to trust society and a reasonably good education as well as my own moral formation on the question of zoophilia. I am not willing to trust society, education, or moral formation on the question of homosexuality: pace Conrad, it’s a topic way more fraught, and requiring way more care, tact, and nuance, and I don’t buy for a minute that some studies correlating it with bad outcomes puts it to rest.

          • rlms says:

            “All the more reason for the parent to cover how to have a healthy zoophiliac relationship, if so inclined. What other options are there? Not expressing their true selves? Repression? Cruising the woods at night with a pocket full of Raccoon Munchies, a high pitched whistle, and come hither eyes? Responsible parents are not going to risk having their children fall into the darker side of that lifestyle when better ways are only a conversation away.”
            This, but unironically.

          • Randy M says:

            I was just pointing out that you kind of missed the point; Thegnskald & dndnrsn were arguing that you need to talk to your son about the right way to be gay on the chance that they had the predisposition (genetic, other biological, or through some sort of passive learning) to be gay, they could be gay in the best way (wait, wouldn’t that be straightsplaining?). Deisach wondered if this should also extend to other paraphilias, which you asserted it does not without addressing the argument; namely, if homosexuality is beyond control and needs healthy expression, how much more likely is it that other, for the moment disapproved of disorders are as well? No one is indoctrinating lonely rural men on the allure of livestock, and yet some choose this form of sexual expression. Perhaps they would be better served if their parents were not reticent like Conrad, but forthright about the healthy expression of uncommon lusts.

            I’m perfectly willing to trust society and a reasonably good education as well as my own moral formation on the question of zoophilia. I am not willing to trust society, education, or moral formation on the question of homosexuality

            Not society, education, or your own morals… well, what’s left?

          • Nick says:

            I didn’t miss the point at all, Randy, rather I said it was a “probably ridiculous reason.” I agree that Deiseach’s point is on target and cogent; that’s why I said “Deiseach is right that….” The point of my post was to suggest that we can ground discussing homosexuality with our children in good reasons rather than the bad one that was being discussed; hence why I said “I think we can separate [the bad reason] from [the good reason].”

            Not society, education, or your own morals… well, what’s left?

            I qualified education with “reasonably good.” Simply, I think the topic requires an unreasonably good education. It was a poor way to put it, I admit; I should have said “common” or “usual” education, which is really more what I mean.

            Edited for grammar and clarity.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            This, but unironically.

            Really? I mean really?!

            At no point are you going to say, “Really son? You wanna go stalk the forests to fuck woodland creatures? You sure about this? Maybe don’t want to reconsider?”

            Look, this stuff is not theoretical. It’s practical. I actually have children. I have to communicate to them things about sexuality. I have to aim them towards positive outcomes the best I can.

            If asked, “your child can either be part of a universally unobjectionable majority, or part of a frequently persecuted minority, which would you prefer?” and you answer either “persecuted minority” or “don’t care” then you should not be a parent, and not give advice about parenting.

            Saying you think you should instruct your child into the positive ways to enjoy a zoophiliac lifestyle is deep, deep into “trained him wrong, as a joke!” territory.

            By all means, do this with your kids (or don’t have kids). My kids, not having been raised wrong (as a joke) will have greater access to quality mates and resources. Not to mention massive savings on therapy.

          • Controls Freak says:

            So you’re saying homosexuality is a choice?

            No. -Bisexuality- is a choice.

            Homosexuality is as much a choice as heterosexuality is.

            Can we pause for a second and recognize just how weird this claim is? Especially in context of:

            The spectrum isn’t a binary between straight and gay.

            Is the claim that there are some points or regions on the spectrum that are choice-driven, but other points or regions on the spectrum that are not choice-driven? Can anyone propose a mechanism for this?

          • Incurian says:

            I think the claim is that it’s not a spectrum: you’re born gay or straight, but you might choose to switch hit for reasons or something.

            This is a really weird thread.

          • Nick says:

            I think the claim is rather that if someone is bisexual, they can choose to pursue only one sex or the other, and so, in effect, are indistinguishable from heterosexuals or homosexuals. So to pursue both sexes is a “choice.”

            That still seems like a pretty weird and unhelpful way of using the term, but I think it makes more sense given what Thegnskald has said throughout the thread. And necessary disclaimer that I’m only giving my best interpretation of what he means.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            If my (hypothetical) children showed zoophilic leanings, I would much prefer them to explore them by being a furry rather than by having sex with animals. I probably wouldn’t proactively tell them about furries if they’d shown no inclination that way, but I doubt it would be particularly harmful to do so (presuming that they were at an appropriate age). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if telling your children about fetishes is a guaranteed way to stop them developing them.

            On the original subject, I agree with your assumptions that straight privilege is useful and that sexuality is environmental to some extent. I’m very skeptical that you can significantly affect in an ethical way: you could probably make your kids gay/bi by e.g. keeping them isolated from the opposite gender until adulthood, but I don’t think you can stop them from being gay by not showing them gay role models.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Just show them the Disney Robin Hood.

        • Deiseach says:

          For one thing, there’s vanishingly little chance you’ll ever know a zoophiliac, but there’s a very good chance you knew or will know someone LGBT.

          Ah, but how do we know the true incidence of zoophilia? Because it is so scorned, people will not give true answers about their inclinations so we just don’t have the data. Even for LGBT, the estimates seem to range between 2-7% of population. Kinsey (whose figures are probably very dodgy for every damn population he estimated) claimed a figure of 8% (but take that with a whole Baltic mine of salt) so even if we say it’s only as prevalent as 2%, it could be at least as common as being trans. Or if you want to take it as a paraphilia and not an orientation, being into BDSM. Maybe little Conrad is a born submissive! Not telling him about, and not exposing him to representations of, healthy BDSM relationships will leave him closeted, exploited, and resentful at being kept ignorant and left to think his sexuality was disgusting and immoral!

          Besides, the whole point of the “one of your family, friends or co-workers could be gay and you don’t know it” campaigning was to make such things normalised, to overcome the “but surely there are only a very few people like that” and bring it to a personal level in order to overcome bias; get the straights to think not in terms of “anonymous gay people out there somewhere” but “cousin George, good old Mac my buddy, or Bill at the office”.

          • Nick says:

            Deiseach, I think you’re missing my point. Perhaps zoophilia is just as common as homosexuality—this is dubious in a number of ways, but suppose it were so. Regardless, it is not in the public consciousness, while homosexuality is. I think for that reason it’s entirely reasonable to discuss the one with your child and not discuss the other. There is a point to discussing the one which does not apply to the other. For the third time, I’m not interested in the original question whether you or Conrad or whoever we’re talking about at this point needs to tell his kid it’s okay if he’s a zoophiliac and he’s still loved or whatever, I already said I agreed with you, twice, that that is a stupid reason for bringing it up.

          • Deiseach says:

            Regardless, it is not in the public consciousness, while homosexuality is.

            And for a long time being gay was not in the public consciousness, and if referred to at all was as a disgraceful, sick, immoral, wrong mental illness and sexual perversion.

            And yet we’ve gone relatively quickly from “at least get rid of the ‘blackmailer’s charter'” to “the victory condition of golden retriever and surrogate babies”.

            We don’t know what other lifestyle choice is going to become publicly visible in the next twenty to thirty years. And a kid born now could turn out in twenty years time to be Oh You’re One Of Those, and by the logic dndnrsn was arguing, would have every right to be resentful of their parents for not discussing such a possibility with them or giving them access to healthy, respectful representations of same.

            I’m certainly not arguing for “zoophilia – the happy healthy friendly life!” (I picked that at random as something probably very minority) but simply that attitudes change a lot faster than we imagine and that evoking the spectre of future closeted, resentful kids isn’t as simple as “just be chill about being gay”. Maybe poly will be the next new frontier for taboo-smashing, in which case if Conrad tells his kid he should only marry one partner, that will be an awful imposition of outdated social values on a budding mind and burgeoning sexuality and Conrad should be open to all the possibilities shown on TV like Big Love!

          • Nick says:

            The thing is, I’m not convinced homosexuality was ever really out of the public consciousness, regardless of how poorly it was perceived. I think we’ve generally been aware of it for pretty much ever; you can find prominent homosexuals throughout the last two centuries or so, for one, and you can find discussion about it, and people having gay sex, going back millennia. I’ll grant you it’s probably more in the public consciousness than ever before, but I think it’s partly by virtue of how common it is (a few percent of the population, as opposed to… whatever rate zoophilia actually has) that that can happen at all; a necessary but not sufficient condition—the same way that the public acceptance/quasi-celebration of it we have now is a necessary but not sufficient condition for it to be so much more noticeable. And I don’t really think we can realistically expect anything else to be like that, or we’d already know about it. I mean, let’s be real, if literally one in fifty people wanted to screw animals, we’d definitely have been hearing about this since time immemorial, in a way we definitely don’t actually hear about it. Public shame isn’t enough to explain its irrelevance.

        • Deiseach says:

          This is a really weird thread

          Tell me about it. This is what happens, however, when you don’t dismiss any topic of debate as being beyond the pale and instead try to have a (fairly) honest discussion.

          Though I am getting flashbacks to some of the… odder… corners of fandom I wandered into (and I don’t mean furrydom, for certain values of that when I had a brief online acquaintance with a guy who was a furry and brony). I don’t think I should even mention a particular term? trope? because it’s very much NSFW and if you know what I’m referring to you’ll understand why I say this and if you don’t, believe me, ignorance is bliss. Never read stories with unfamiliar three letter acronyms in the tags on a fanfic site, is all I can say 🙂

          • Nick says:

            You’re not talking about alpha/beta/omega dynamics, are you? It’s… certainly something.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, I see you too have had your mental horizons broadened!

            The part I can’t understand – well, let me rephrase that: one of the parts I can’t understand is the enthusiasm for adding in 24/7 BDSM dynamics to the mix, which is not necessarily something that goes along with canid pack dynamics, but eh. Humans. We like to weird stuff up something crazy.

            Though I have to admit guiltily I followed with some interest a discussion about the biology of it, i.e. how the heck would the genetics work to get three genders/sexes (depending on how you define them) in male and female versions in the first place and then recombine them to have the possibility of offspring continuing to produce three genders if you only have two of the genders mating in the first place? Figuring out the chromosomes got rather detailed and very interesting.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, third sex has actually been a thing elsewhere; I’m sure you’ll recall TNG had an episode about an alien race with three sexes. I’m sure that biologically it’s all very interesting, though it’s way out of the realm of things I know anything about.

            It’s instructive to look at the origin of A/B/O:

            The trope originated in Supernatural fandom with a few very specific AU kink meme prompts for the J2 RPF ship. The first one[2] was in May 2010 and has also been identified as the culprit responsible for the popularity of knotting in SPN fandom:
            AU – Their world is just like ours…except…in their world there are two types of men. One is the alpha male, the other is the bitch male. Alpha males are like any ordinary guy with the exception of their cocks, they work just like dog cocks (the knot, tons of cum etc) The bitch male, is just an ordinary guy without the special cock.
            I’d like to see Alpha male Jared, and Bitch male Jensen. Jensen is a snotty prude (think Lady from lady and the tramp) he may be a bitch male but he’s not just going to let anybody take a go at his sweet little ass…until he meets Jared…then prudey little Jensen turns cock slut for Jared. Bonus points for J2 being OTP, Jensen was a virgin before Jared, and now that they met each other, it’s for life.
            Completely up to you if mating happens just anywhere like in the middle of the sidewalk, in a park etc or on a more private level.[3]
            In response, tehdirtiestsock posted “I ain’t no lady, but you’d be the tramp” aka Tramp!Verse in July and August 2010.[4]

            So, to translate all that: this came about as a request for a fanfic detailing a relationship between the actors who play the two brothers in Supernatural in a world where some people have canine sexual biology but also lots of people have regular human biology. This certainly sounds like something extremely specific, so I’m pretty amazed it caught on. Even more interesting is the degree of overlap with other fanfic tropes. From the Fanlore wiki again:

            Destinationtoast concluded that[9]:
            -The majority (55.7%) of A/B/O fics are rated Explicit
            -90% of A/B/O fics are tagged M/M
            -Knotting, mpreg, mating cycles/in heat, AU, dubcon, angst, and fluff are tags commonly found on A/B/O fic
            -A/B/O has been gaining in popularity over time, but is still less than 1% of fics produced on AO3 each month
            -The most A/B/O fic comes from the Sherlock (TV), Teen Wolf, The Avengers, Supernatural, and Supernatural RPF fandoms

            So, evidently there’s a strong theme of M/M, and consequently things like male pregnancy and angst fics. I’m not sure which way the causality runs here: did the fanfic writers start out interested in weird M/M dynamics and sought out shows with multiple strong male leads, or were they already interested in a bunch of shows with strong male leads and that was a gateway into weird M/M dynamics? It wouldn’t surprise me if the primary method of transmission by A/B/O is writers from one fandom writing a story for another fandom, or requesting a story with this via prompt; I’ve certainly seen it happen before. Given the strong M/M emphasis but nothing else really popping out to me, I don’t really know what the connection to BDSM is, but that’s just ignorance on my part; I deliberately avoid fanfics marked BDSM, so I know nothing whatsoever about those folks.

            This is just mean on my part, but I also have to quote the section on fan comments, because I get a bit of schadenfreude out of this:

            Omegaverse is really a fascinating fandom invention. 50% of it is totally problematic and reinforcing a lot of fucked up patriarchal, rape culture values. The other 50% is some of the most insightful, subversive social commentary I’ve ever read on gender identity/gender roles/queer oppression.[10]

            And even more critically,

            honestly im so tired of how a/b/o is used to enforce creepy-ass heteronormativity thats already at full blast with Popular Yaoi Ships… like wow, how fuckin original, the less masculine, submissive of the two is the Lesser Male meant to be a breeding factory, and often destined to be subjected to a forced, downright rapey relationship. you did a real good job going beyond our expectations there, real genre breaking

            i really have no love for the fact that an au template that hinges on rape/dubcon fetishism and transphobia/cissexism out of ignorance happens to be The Most prevalent thing i have to see when i just want to jerk off[11]

            Sorry for the super long comment; I’ve basically just quoted more than half of that wiki page. I’m disappointed that the wiki page doesn’t elaborate much on the “insightful, subversive social commentary” the first critic mentions. What exactly is it subverting? I mean, besides traditional sexual dimorphism, obviously.

    • Randy M says:

      Thus the free love movement was/is harmful to society. Thus LGBT speech is harmful to society

      Sympathetic as I might be to your claim, this doesn’t follow. If A –> B + C, and B is bad, that might mean A is bad, but it doesn’t mean C is bad, and it doesn’t mean opposing C limits B in anyway.
      You could say C is a type of B, and you can’t limit B without limiting C, but you would have to show this.

      But then, “Racist Speech is bad because Racism is harmful” is also a category error. Just because the category that contains Racist speech also contains racist behavior doesn’t mean that because racist behavior is bad, then racist speech is bad. You have to show that racist speech leads to the kinds of racist behavior with demonstrable harms (perhaps instead it is just blowing off steam, similar to how pornography doesn’t seem to cause rape), or else posit that the hurt feelings are a form of harm, in which case it is basically subjective and one could equally plausibly claim hurt feeling from seeing “LGBT speech” (whatever exactly that is) causes hurt feelings and thus harm.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        I think you highlighted the least supported part of my above argument. I will add some support here and hope other comment chains will deal with other parts of the argument.

        There is some subtly that I didn’t express to make for a shorter argument. The free love movement in the 70s focused on increasing the acceptance of all forms of sex, it in large part succeeded. Now that the original goals of the movement succeeded it has moved on to allowing more forms of sexuality to be openly expressed. The is largely captured in the LGBT movement. The LGBT movement today advances more openness to sexuality not just in extra-marital ways but in the LGBT specific ways. As evidence to this, I would submit that the NSFWness expressed at many Pride parades which I believe tries to normalize sexuality. This effort to normalize sexuality will probably have similar affects as the free love movement had. (I said probably because I assume the trend that started will continue going but there is the possibility that we have hit some kind of saturation point and that the trends will not continue, time will tell.)

        Thus, if we conclude that the effects of the free love movement are harmful and we conclude that the LGBT movement will have similar effects, we can conclude that the LGBT movement is harmful. Also, if the LGBT movement is harmful then LGBT speech is harmful.

        As an aside, I am working with the assumption that “X speech is bad because X is harmful” implies X speech supports and increases the occurrence of X. If the X is harmful enough it is okay to ban speech of type X. Saying something like “Kill that f****r” to a mob is harmful enough it should be banned.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also I think a distinction should be made between LGB and T. There is strong evidence that T is biologically caused, and is a medical condition that is treated by doctors, regardless of whether you think it’s a mental illness that needs therapy, or a “wrong body parts” issue that needs surgery. I don’t think they should be in the same category when talking about cultural changes.

      • lvlln says:

        @Randy M

        or else posit that the hurt feelings are a form of harm, in which case it is basically subjective and one could equally plausibly claim hurt feeling from seeing “LGBT speech” (whatever exactly that is) causes hurt feelings and thus harm.

        I think there could be something to this if it were fleshed out. That is, I think it’s possible that the hurt feelings from “racist speech” is more harmful than the hurt feelings from “LGBT speech.” I think an argument making such a case would have to start with pretty rigorous definitions of “racist/LGBT speech” and then go into empirical evidence concerning the neurology and psychology of people whose feelings tend to be hurt by such speech and show how the response of one group is significantly different in a negative way compared to the response of another group.

        Of course, it’s possible that the empirical evidence points the other way – that “LGBT speech” harms the people whose feelings it hurts more than “racist speech” harms the people whose feelings it hurts. I honestly don’t know what the state of the research is – my intuitive belief is that there isn’t enough research done in this area to make a good argument in either direction. But I think doing the research would be one way to avoid the case of the claims of harm being “equally plausible.”

        Unfortunately, people who do posit that one is more harmful than the other tend to just assert this based on nothing (other than maybe personal experiences, which almost never amount to a sufficiently big and definitely never amount to a sufficiently random sample to draw meaningful conclusions about society in general) rather than doing this hard work to provide support for (or possibly against! How awesome would it be if it turned out that racist speech was no more harmful than LGBT speech! All those resources that go into suppressing racist speech could be diverted to something more productive!) their beliefs about this.

        • Jiro says:

          That is, I think it’s possible that the hurt feelings from “racist speech” is more harmful than the hurt feelings from “LGBT speech.”

          That reasoning is basically “we should feed the utility monster”.

          • John Schilling says:

            He’s proposing an anti-utility monster. Those offer more flexibility. You can appease them, and so avoid causing the nigh-infinite negative utility they will experience if you don’t. Or you can kill them, causing finite negative utility but eliminating an obstacle to everyone else’s positive utility.

            Or you can look at how often utilitarianism leads to you talking about who you should kill and wonder if maybe you should pick a different ethical system. But in the meantime, you’ll probably find that as you tie the SJWs to the trolley tracks a fair number of them will admit to not feeling that afraid of “hate speech”.

          • lvlln says:

            @Jiro

            That is, I think it’s possible that the hurt feelings from “racist speech” is more harmful than the hurt feelings from “LGBT speech.”

            That reasoning is basically “we should feed the utility monster”.

            If you put it that way, then any argument against physical assault is “we should feed the utility monster.”

            The difference between the harm from physical assault and the harm from “racist/LGBT speech,” as I see it, is that the causal pathway is very well established and agreed upon for physical assault. There’s little denying that a punch will almost definitely activate sensors that will send signals to the brain which will cause an experience of suffering. For the vast majority of people in the vast majority of case