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### 844 Responses to Open Thread 87.75

1. rlms says:

I think today’s society needs more effigy burning.

2. Deiseach says:

Any opinions on this story? Myself, I think it’s along the lines of “in the bad old days, the sultan made sure of his ascent to the throne by killing off his cousins and brothers; now in the modern liberal days, he just has them arrested for corruption instead”.

But what I’m most interested in is the idea that this will have a knock-on effect on the investments; sure, I imagine stock prices will take a hit, but will (say) Lyft go tumbling down because of this? Again, I think myself any foreign investments are safe enough as they’ll probably be acquired on behalf of the new Crown Prince state for the good of the people, the old favourites are kicked out and the new favourites of the current ascendant star are installed on any boards, and it’ll be back to business as usual.

But the major point is how vulnerable companies which rely on/are taken over by huge chunks of investment money are to the whims and shifts of primitive* tribal factionalism even in the 21st century, despite all we like to tell ourselves about democracy and the overthrow of feudalism and the like.

*For a given value of “primitive” which has nothing to do with mud huts and thinking the earth is flat; you can witter on about how Uber and Lyft are the future of transport and are revolutionizing the paradigm all you like, but if they’re dependent on money pumped in by an investment company headed up by a guy who gets yanked out of controlling it in an intra-family power-consolidation gambit straight out of the days of the bowstring and the Bosphorus (yes I know that’s the Ottoman Empire not the Arabian), then the Shiny New Future is not so new or futuristic!

• massivefocusedinaction says:

It’s a very modern twist on how succession works in CKII, especially in a large family (kill or imprison rivals to the throne).

3. Deiseach says:

If anyone is interested in eye health (or getting a nutritional supplement to support the same), here’s a local news story:

Participants in the study all had the early stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which is estimated to impact on 7.2% of Irish adults aged 50 and over.

Those living with AMD would usually have been expected to experience a continued deterioration in their vision over the two years of the clinical trial.

Instead, those receiving carotenoids showed a significant improvement across 24 out of 32 tests of vision. 40% of trial participants had what is deemed to be a clinically meaningful improvement in their vision after 24 months.

The research was conducted by a team from the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). During the trial, the volunteers taking part received supplementary meso-zeaxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein, the three carotenoids that make up macular pigment.

Improvements in vision were particularly marked among those receiving all three carotenoids compared to those receiving only zeaxanthin and lutein.

Carotenoids are naturally-occurring pigments that give many fruit and vegetables their colour.

So anybody interested in taking a supplement, be sure that it contains all three carotenoids, not just lutein (that seems to be the one most touted in the multi-vitamins/supplements I see sold).

• quaelegit says:

Wait, carrots ARE good for you’re eyes after all?! That’s hilarious (even if its not actually the vitamin A that is helpful.)

Ok, only lutein is actually found in carrots… still pretty funny though.

• Deiseach says:

What’s even funnier is that apparently the supplements sold for eye health containing all three are made from marigolds, which are also an edible flower, so unless you want to start grazing like a bunny in a florist’s, you should eat your broccoli and your sprouts and eat fish and eat corn and bell peppers and yellow veggies!

Lutein is a yellow compound made only by plants. They make it in order to absorb blue light, as part of their mechanism to capture energy from sunlight through photosynthesis. Animals then get it from eating plants – good sources are green kale and spinach, or the yellow yolks of eggs.

It is used as a supplement to feed industrially-reared chickens to make their yolks a more attractive yellow (and, being fat-soluble, ends up turning their skin and fat yellow too).

Zeaxanthin is another yellow compound, almost identical to lutein, made by plants to absorb light. It is the chemical that gives corn, bell peppers and saffron their yellow colour.

Meso-zeaxanthin is a form of zeaxanthin not generally found in plants, but it is made in the body from lutein. More research needs to be done on how efficient this process is. It is found in some fish (particularly in the skins), but in supplements containing marigold extract, it appears that the industrial processing that the marigolds undergo can create meso-zeaxanthin (and it has been found to be in some marigold-extract supplements, even when not listed on the label).

4. johan_larson says:

A view of Fox News from the left, in Slate:

The network isn’t all garbage, of course. Shepard Smith is a quality anchor. Neil Cavuto and Bret Baier are basically fine. Geraldo sometimes speaks truth to stupid. Fox’s breaking-news work is competent and its panel discussions are occasionally enlightening. These periodic spurts of adequacy are what makes Fox News so very frustrating. They prove that Fox could be a reasonable platform for conservative news and commentary if it wanted to be. Instead, the network has chosen to travel a much more stupid path. The network flatters its viewers’ sense of moral superiority while validating all of their latent resentments, cultivating in them a constant state of righteous rage that can be easily exploited by wealthy demagogues.

• cassander says:

These periodic spurts of adequacy are what makes Fox News so very frustrating. They prove that Fox could be a reasonable platform for conservative news and commentary if it wanted to be. Instead, the network has chosen to travel a much more stupid path. The network flatters its viewers’ sense of moral superiority while validating all of their latent resentments, cultivating in them a constant state of righteous rage that can be easily exploited by wealthy demagogues.

Funny, I think the exact same description applies equally well to State. Or most media, really. Just about everyone gets by by flattering their audience’s sense of moral superiority.

• Aapje says:

I’m pretty sure that johan_larson produced that quote exactly to point out the irony of the statement.

• Deiseach says:

What, you mean Slate was flattering its readers’ sense of moral superiority to Fox News while validating their latent resentments against the people perceived to be Fox News viewers? Imagine! 🙂

• johan_larson says:

No, actually I was just looking for a summary of the article, and that paragraph fit the bill.

But it certainly does not surprise me that what one side considers essential truths the other considers mere inflammatory propaganda for riling up the ignorant.

• But it certainly does not surprise me that what one side considers essential truths the other considers mere inflammatory propaganda for riling up the ignorant.

The relevant quote:

The network flatters its viewers’ sense of moral superiority while validating all of their latent resentments, cultivating in them a constant state of righteous rage that can be easily exploited by wealthy demagogues.

That says nothing at all about whether the flattering is done via true or false statements. It accurately describes what it is doing, whether or not its description of Fox is accurate.

5. ec429 says:

Contra Scott on Moloch is my attempt to show that OGH has drawn the wrong conclusion from Moloch, and that rather than supporting his pet hobbyhorse of FAI, it supports my pet hobbyhorse of ancap. I look forward to being torn to bits in this thread.

• Deiseach says:

Taking your solution example of the coffee plantation on the same habitat as that of a rare tropical bird, you say that the plantation will only happen if the coffee is worth more than the bird.

But that’s what is happening already, and why the environmentalists/bird-lovers are freaking out about things, and why special legislation has to be enacted to protect habitats of rare species – the [product] is always/is always considered to be more valuable than the [exception]! So what if I can grow my coffee elsewhere, or I am not the only coffee-grower in the game? I can make more money growing coffee than letting this land lie idle for the Grilled Squab to nest on, so too damn bad for the Grilled Squab, it’s getting ploughed under and turned into a coffee plantation. And the market of coffee drinkers, who are all far away from the land of hte Grilled Squab and have never seen one, are going to make the decision that “Screw it, my caffeine hit first thing in the morning is more valuable to me than some bird” and so it will be profitable for me to sell, grow, and establish that coffee planation, so the plantation is – by my estimate and my customers’ estimates – more valuable than the bird.

But those are not the only values – money, that pleasure-jolt of the drug – when estimating “what is valuable”? Unhappily, Mammon only counts in one coin, and that is coin: the value of species diversity, of stewardship, of not destroying a species for the sake of monoculture, of choosing to set up my plantation elsewhere even if it is less convenient or more expensive, of taking the estimates of the bird-lovers into equal account even if they are numerically not as plentiful as the coffee-drinkers – these do not count for Mammon, so I don’t think Mammon is a trick we are playing on Moloch; for Mammon, enslaving the coffee-drinkers to work on my plantation is just as valuable as killing the birds, and their opinions against that (rather than being in favour of killing the birds for coffee) don’t count if it makes more coin. Mammon is part of Moloch as well.

• ec429 says:

Umm, I feel like you’re (a) just restating Scott’s original argument and (b) not taking into account the paragraph after the one you reference, where I say

Of course, our current system fails to internalise all externalities

and then I go on to discuss what is necessary for externalities to be internalised.
Your response above seems to me to be saying “Yeah, but have you noticed the skulls externalities?”

You then complain that Mammon does not count

the value of species diversity, of stewardship, of not destroying a species for the sake of monoculture

but, again assuming-externalities-are-internalised, Mammon counts these values to the extent that we do. If the market decides not to save the rare bird, yes, that could be because of a failure to internalise the externalities. Alternatively, it could be because there just aren’t that many people who care about the bird (and lots of people who care about coffee). Or, and this is uncharitable on my part but it’s a possibility so I have to mention it, maybe people care about the rare bird enough to complain but not enough to put their money where their mouth is, and that there maybe is a mechanism to internalise these externalities but the complainers don’t want to use it.
In short, the mere existence of an outcome that doesn’t unconstrainedly optimise a given person’s values doesn’t prove the market has failed at the constrained optimisation problem; allocating a good to its highest-valued use means not allocating it to less-valued uses.

• Deiseach says:

I’m complaining that you seem very complacent that Mammon will trick Moloch, and is on our side and under our control, while seeming to forget that Mammon is also a demon, and those who invoke demons seeking to bind them to their will are deceived and end up the victims of those same demons.

By the values of Mammon, those who don’t “put their money where their mouth is” are not sufficiently invested to bring about outcomes other than those of the market. That some may not have the money, or that there are other values to measure things in than money, is not within Mammon’s purview. The market is a tool, but not the only tool, the same way as a toolbox needs to contain more than a hammer.

If you invoke Mammon to save us from Moloch, who do you invoke to save us from Mammon?

• ec429 says:

while seeming to forget that Mammon is also a demon

There is always a demon. As long as there is more than one goal-seeking agent in the world, there exists some mechanism for resolving disputes. The demon could be Mammon, it could be FAI, it could be fistfights, it could be social manipulation. But goal-aggregators are unavoidable, and I argue that Mammon has certain properties that make it a better choice of demon than the others (possibly excluding FAI, but we already know the rituals to summon Mammon and don’t need a major research project).

that there are other values to measure things in than money

Money is not a value. It is the interpersonal accounting unit we use to measure value. The economist’s underlying assumption (the ‘principle of revealed preference’) is that your values are precisely that-which-you-will-pay-to-defend, and that your values can be (intrapersonally) compared by how much you will spend to defend them.

That some may not have the money

And some don’t have political power, and some don’t have big fists, and some don’t have social eptness. Every demon has a weighting by which it trades off values interpersonally. The advantage of money is that it is acquired by serving the values of others, and while that acquisition is in turn weighted by how much money those others have, the distribution ends up much flatter than under other demons. Markets are unlike most other demons in not being winner-takes-all (the contrast with political power is instructive).

• Aapje says:

It is the interpersonal accounting unit we use to measure value.

No, it is the accounting unit for one kind of value.

We often reject counting other kinds of value in terms of money (like friendship).

• ec429 says:

We often reject counting other kinds of value in terms of money (like friendship).

I disagree. I think friendship (also, more explicitly, marriage) is a kind of contract where we agree not to do accounting of value at all. It’s a bit like the Coasian theory of the firm: by not continuously fighting over the division of the surplus, we create a greater surplus. But since this has massive diseconomies of scale, it generally only works in small groups (with pure-pairwise the most common).
The Schelling point of friendship is ‘we’ll have fun together and not worry about who’s having the most fun and whether that’s fair’; it’s a Schelling point because trying to push beyond it causes a discontinuous increase in enforcement costs (‘drama’), so as long as the division of surplus isn’t completely out of whack, it’s a Nash equilibrium.
Note that this same analysis applies to cases where the value is explicitly monetised, as in the theory of the firm. Taking my industry (IT) as an example, companies which try to measure each employee’s contribution directly (billable hours etc.) tend to be pretty dysfunctional, whereas companies that just trust that everyone’s working and it’ll all average out perform much better — but they have to be small to pull it off.

It’s all about the positive-sum games, man!

• To expand a little on ec429’s excellent defense of what is also my position …

We do measure the value of friendship in dollars. Suppose I am offered the opportunity to move to another city at a higher wage. One of the many things going into my decision of whether to accept is that I have friends here who it will be difficult to stay in touch with if I move there. So one of the costs of moving is losing those friends. If, for some reason, I think I will be unable to make equally good new friends after I move, it will be a substantial cost.

The new job will pay me a thousand dollars a year more. My moving expenses will be covered and there are no other significant expenses or differences. I turn down the offer.

One of my close friends dies, the other moves away. The offer is repeated. I accept it.

I valued the friendship I previously had (net of whatever friendship I expect to acquire at the new location) at something over a thousand dollars a year, as shown by revealed preference. If, while the friends are still around, the offer is renewed with a ten thousand dollar raise and I accept it, that gives an upper bound to my value for the friendship I had at my current location.

The fact that things cannot be bought and sold on a market does not mean that they do not have value to someone that can be measured in dollars.

• Aapje says:

@ec429

I think friendship (also, more explicitly, marriage) is a kind of contract where we agree not to do accounting of value at all.

People obviously prefer to be friends (or be married) with some people over others and end friendships (and marriages) that don’t provide enough value to them. So your claim is false, because value is just another word for preference. Where there is preference, people assign value.

@DavidFriedman

Yet you can’t really buy friendship.

In general, isn’t it an issue with the rational model of homo economicus that people actually don’t have consistent valuations when merely converting outcomes into money? Isn’t it fair to argue that violations of economic rationality suggests that people value things that can’t be expressed purely in terms of money?

• rahien.din says:

You both come across as though you understand frienship very poorly.

• rahien.din says:

Er, that was directed at ec249 and David Friedman, not Aapje

• Yet you can’t really buy friendship.

But you can bear costs in order to get or keep it, as in the example I sketched. Something doesn’t have to be available on the market to have a value.

Isn’t it fair to argue that violations of economic rationality suggests that people value things that can’t be expressed purely in terms of money?

I don’t think so, given that you also get such violations for things that can be expressed in terms of money. The rational actor model isn’t a perfect description of human behavior, but it’s close enough to be useful.

• You both come across as though you understand frienship very poorly.

Bare is brotherless back.

Of, if you prefer

• rahien.din says:

Okay, yeah, I misspoke. I blame iPhone-mediated parsimony. Consider that retracted.

• of taking the estimates of the bird-lovers into equal account even if they are numerically not as plentiful as the coffee-drinkers

You seem to think that’s a mistake. Putting aside the rest of the argument, do you argue that numbers are irrelevant to judging outcomes?

Suppose I am writing a novel (as it happens I am). Further suppose that collecting royalties from selling it is not a significant part of my reason for writing it (also true) and that one of my objectives is giving pleasure to my readers (also true). Finally suppose, this time contrary to fact, that there are two different ways I could write it, one of which would give pleasure to a thousand readers, one to a hundred thousand.

Are you arguing that I should ignore that difference in deciding which way to write it? That seems to be the implication of your “into equal account.”

• Deiseach says:

I think I’m arguing that if you are calculating “will I take this job that makes me move away?” in terms of dollars and cents, then you’ve already placed money as higher than friendship: all else being equal, if the job were more financially attractive, you’d move. Since the job “only” offers a thousand a year more, it’s not worth it to you to move, which implies that if it offered ten thousand a year more, you would find it worth it to move. So therefore you do value money as a determinant more than friendship or family or loyalty to place or whatever (if it’s “move to this new job or stay here and starve”, that’s not quite the same because there is real harm in not moving).

Not everybody chooses to measure things in that category; I’m not saying it’s wrong to do so, I’m saying that it’s one measure but I am not convinced it’s the only meaningful measure or the superior measure. And what I’m mostly saying is if we triumphantly declare that X is the best way of working things out since it makes the most money, we may not find that to be such a good decision in the end (and even ec429 admits that in their happy ancap utopia, Mammon may perhaps not be the ultimate way of working out the optimisation problem). Pollution, for example, is one “make more money in the short-term, suffer long-term consequences that end up costing more” instance of this.

• ec429 says:

if it offered ten thousand a year more, you would find it worth it to move. So therefore you do value money as a determinant more than friendship

Let’s take the contrapositive here. You’re saying that some people value friendship more than money. But that implies that there is no sum of money that they would value more than that friendship. To me, that sounds absurd; as absurd, in fact, as the reverse case:

you’ve already placed money as higher than friendship: all else being equal, if the job were more financially attractive, you’d move

No. He only moves if the amount by which the job is more financially attractive is greater than the value to him of the friendship. So by not moving in the first case, he reveals that the friendship is worth more than $1k/a to him; by moving in the second case, he reveals that it is worth less than$10k/a. The first does not imply that friendship is a “higher” value than money, nor does the second imply it is a “lower” value. Rather, the two merely bound the exchange rate between the two, which is to say they enable us to use dollars (the unit) to measure friendship (one of many values).

Consider a lever balance and a set of leaden weights. When I place a given quantity of apples on one pan and a 1lb weight on the other, the balance tilts to the apples. When I replace the 1lb weight with a 10lb weight, the balance tilts to the lead. This tells us that the apples weigh between 1lb and 10lb; we have used lbs of lead as a unit to measure weight. We have not thereby assumed that all that has weight is made of lead!

I maintain that it is precisely analogous to use money as a unit of value without thereby assuming that all that people value is money.

And just as in the absence of calibrated and numbered weights of lead, I could still use the balance to compare the weights of apples and oranges directly — so in the absence of assayed and stamped discs of metal, I could still use barter to compare the values of a friendship to a rump steak.

if we triumphantly declare that X is the best way of working things out since it makes the most money

That is not how Mammon works. (The total amount of money in circulation could be fixed for all Mammon cares.)
X is the best way of working things out since it maximises the amount people would pay to bring it about. That is to say, if we tried to change the state of affairs from X to Y, the total amount we would have to pay the losers for them to assent to the package (change + pay) is more than the total amount the gainers would be willing to pay us and still assent to the package (change + pay). X is therefore a Marshall optimum and it is, under the assumption that money prices are a valid yardstick for interpersonal utility comparisons, optimal from the utilitarian standpoint. If you reject that assumption — well, how do you propose to compare my utility with yours, and does your solution produce incentives that are non-perverse-by-default?

Pollution, for example, is one “make more money in the short-term, suffer long-term consequences that end up costing more” instance of this.

Isn’t that like a deontologist arguing that following consequentialist ethics will lead to bad consequences?

• Deiseach says:

X is the best way of working things out since it maximises the amount people would pay to bring it about.

A person dying of thirst in the desert will sign over all their personal fortune to you for a litre of water. Therefore, the best way to sell your water is to kidnap a bunch of people, dump them in the desert, then turn up with your case of bottles and sell them at “sign over your firstborn” rates to them, since that sure maximises the amount people will pay to bring about “not dying of thirst”!

Silly example? Perhaps, but we’ve had comment threads on here before where people have argued that it’s not profiteering to jack up prices in a shortage where not alone people are hysteria-buying (e.g. stores getting cleared out in advance of hurricane warnings where it turns out not to be so severe) but in actual disaster situations, the rationale being “if you’re dumb enough not to prepare in time and find yourself in dire need of potable water/food/shelter and I’ve got that, then sucker I can legit take you for every penny you’ve got”.

So from this, I take it not to trust you in any situation where there is profit to be made, since you can and will gouge me regardless of hardship, need, or any other reason that might be brought to argue against “how much are you willing to pay for this to happen/not happen?” And friendship certainly will not sway you, as it is measurable in dollars and cents value and it has to make itself more valuable in a dollar sense to you than the alternative you might consider.

The argument over what is a good standard to judge by, and what does bring about the best result, has been going on for a long time and I do not think it is settled in the favour of economics.

Isn’t that like a deontologist arguing that following consequentialist ethics will lead to bad consequences?

Funny you should say deontologist 🙂 If you assume I’m a utilitarian, you assume incorrectly.

• Matt M says:

people have argued that it’s not profiteering to jack up prices in a shortage where not alone people are hysteria-buying (e.g. stores getting cleared out in advance of hurricane warnings where it turns out not to be so severe) but in actual disaster situations, the rationale being “if you’re dumb enough not to prepare in time and find yourself in dire need of potable water/food/shelter and I’ve got that, then sucker I can legit take you for every penny you’ve got”.

This is incorrect.

The rationale is, in fact, “A sudden increase in demand that exceeds available supply must be rationed one way or another, and rationing based on price ensures people conserve the good, while rationing based on ‘who happens to show up in line first’ is less optimal.”

The price system is the best way to allocate scarce resources. Period. This doesn’t change just because there’s a hurricane about. The alternative to “price gouging” in a hurricane isn’t “everyone gets all the water they want for cheap,” but rather “a bunch of people get water for cheap and others can’t get water at all, no matter how much they might need it or be willing to pay”

• ec429 says:

we’ve had comment threads on here before where people have argued that it’s not profiteering to jack up prices in a shortage

Well of course not. The higher prices serve the socially-useful function of encouraging people outside the disaster area to bring supplies in. Also, of encouraging people within the area to economise on those supplies.
The price-as-seen-by-customer will always rise to a level where quantity demanded equals quantity supplied. If you forbid price rises, then the extra will be paid in queueing costs etc., and, being no longer available to draw in supplies from outside, will peak higher because the supply fails to increase.
This has been covered recently on Cafe Hayek.

I take it not to trust you in any situation where there is profit to be made

On the contrary, you can trust me absolutely. Specifically, you can trust me to always be willing to make a mutually beneficial trade, regardless of silly considerations like “oh but you’re a different colour to me” or “but the wage you’re offering me is less than a certain arbitrary threshold” or “but that value is sacred and putting a money price on it feels icky“. I am homo œconomicus, and once you have learned how to make use of me, I am your best friend.
(Okay, so actually I’m not homo œconomicus, but that’s just an aspect of me not being rational. The same biases that blind me to truth may also blind me to an honest profit opportunity.)
And as for the idea that I would “take you for every penny you’ve got”… I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Ultimatum Game, but since you hang out here I assume you’re familiar with concepts like precommitments and acausal bargaining. The way you get me to make a better offer is to be the sort of person who wouldn’t accept a worse offer. If you would accept any positive epsilon offer in the Ultimatum Game, then arguably you aren’t rational; besides, I’d never make such a small offer because I’d assume you wouldn’t accept it. (Incomplete information actually helps to ensure fairness here!)

And friendship certainly will not sway you, as it is measurable in dollars and cents value and it has to make itself more valuable in a dollar sense to you than the alternative you might consider.

But if I spend £10 helping you out of a sticky spot, I don’t then consider my friendship with you to be worth £10 less than it was before (that’s what I mean about “no accounting”). Assuming you are not abusive or abnormally needy, I apply the 1/N heuristic and value the friendship at ½ of the surplus produced by cooperating-without-accounting, on the basis that that’s its expected value to me averaged over possible worlds, and that I choose to be the sort of person who cooperates on the PD and one-boxes on Newcomb’s problem.

Funny you should say deontologist 🙂 If you assume I’m a utilitarian, you assume incorrectly.

Do you agree that the argument “Consequentialism is wrong because it leads to bad consequences” is incoherent (regardless of whether consequentialism is right or wrong)?
Do you agree that the argument “Profit-maximising is wrong because it leads to greater costs in the end” is identically incoherent?
Both are arguing that “by optimising for X, you fail to optimise for X!”

(My position, btw, is that consequentialism is the justification, deontic ethics are an implementation designed to guard against our failure to accurately and reliably calculate consequences. ESR once described something similar.)

• Aapje says:

@Matt M

The price system is the best way to allocate scarce resources. Period.

That is a subjective claim and based on a theoretical model that may not apply in practice.

First of all, perfect free markets maximize quid-pro-quo. Whether that is the best way to allocate resources is a moral position that most people seem to disagree with (hence welfare, regulations forbidding certain transactions, etc, etc). In any case, this makes your claim subjective.

Secondly, markets can never be perfect and unforeseen events are exactly a situation where they are more imperfect than otherwise, as people in those situations tend to have very imperfect information, are often irrational buyers, become willing to externalize costs even more than otherwise (like harming another to get to safety), etc.

The alternative to “price gouging” in a hurricane isn’t “everyone gets all the water they want for cheap,” but rather “a bunch of people get water for cheap and others can’t get water at all, no matter how much they might need it or be willing to pay”

The common solution is rationing close to the minimum people need to survive to keep the maximum number of people alive in the short term at the risk of many people dying if resupply* doesn’t happen in time. Many people consider this the optimal solution when having to make a choice for a large group (and resupply generally seems to come in time, so I expect that this causes less deaths on average than ensuring that fewer people can last a long time without resupply).

However, when people get to make the choice for themselves, they often choose to maximize the chance that they personally will survive by hoarding, because they favor their own lives over those of others. The issue of imperfect information plays a role here as well, as people who need water may have no idea of how often supplies will come. In contrast, the people who bring supplies in generally come from more information-rich places and thus can usually better judge the supplies a person will need to last until the next resupply.

In practice, I think that rationing works better in some situations and a market solution better in others.

* This includes scavenging or producing supplies on site.

• Matt M says:

However, when people get to make the choice for themselves, they often choose to maximize the chance that they personally will survive by hoarding, because they favor their own lives over those of others.

The whole point of allowing price gouging is that it discourages hoarding. Rationing encourages it.

If you have a five day supply of water, you might wish to expand it to a ten day supply, at current market prices. But if prices are allowed to triple, maybe you won’t – and yet, the person with a one day supply likely will. The person with no supply at all definitely will.

• Aapje says:

@Matt M

If you value your life very highly (as most people do) and due to the above reasons you (probably incorrectly) judge that resupply of a critical supply may not happen soon, there is a strong incentive to not sell any of your supply on the market.

If you have a five day supply of water, you might wish to expand it to a ten day supply, at current market prices. But if prices are allowed to triple, maybe you won’t – and yet, the person with a one day supply likely will. The person with no supply at all definitely will.

The issue is that:
– very few people may want to sell, even those with a large supply.
– many people may have not enough money to pay for a necessary supply & no welfare system is in place to redistribute wealth for this specific (unforeseen) eventuality.

In a non-crisis situation, society may collectively decide that everyone should have enough money to pay for the water and do wealth distribution. In a crisis situation, everything is too dynamic and unpredictable to make this work, so then you can fall back on rationing instead.

6. keranih says:

I have been super busy at work the last few weeks. I would like to say thank you to the commentariant for what looks like no less than three really interesting and meaty threads in this OT. I don’t have time to read them, much less comment, but even as I dive back into my “must do” list, it makes me happy, knowing these discussions are here to read/watch when I get less busy.

7. johan_larson says:

I’m pretty fuzzy on the Star Wars Extended Universe. Does it include a character who is depicted as a decent person yet sides with the Empire for good reason? How about one that also isn’t hopelessly obscure?

• bean says:

Thrawn. Best possible example, and really good books. I was actually amazed how good they were when I re-read them a couple years ago.

• Aevylmar says:

He’s not really a good person, though, just a clever, rational one. (ROT13: Gur zbfg oyngnag vafgnapr bs uvf npghnyyl-rivy fgnghf vf ubj ur gerngf gur Abutev ubzrjbeyq, ohg ur’f nyfb jvyyvat gb yvr gb uvf nyyvrf, unir uvf fhobeqvangrf xvyyrq sbe gurve snvyherf, naq zheqre nalbar jub trgf va uvf jnl. Ur’f fzneg, ur’f frafvoyr, ohg ur’f jvyyvat gb qb ubeevoyr guvatf sbe gur fnxr bs uvf tbnyf.)

But yes. The Thrawn trilogy isn’t great literature, but it’s strong and smart and fun. And he’s a pretty great villain.

• johan_larson says:

It’s been a couple of decades since I read Zahn’s trilogy, but I remember Thrawn as being more personable and sophisticated than decent.

One character who may fit the bill is Ciena Ree, from the YA novel Lost Stars. She was a Republic military officer who continued in service when the Republic became the Empire. Her boyfriend/lover left to join the rebellion, but she did not. She considered doing so a violation of her oath as an Academy graduate, which she took extremely seriously.

• Aevylmar says:

On the other hand, thinking about the Thrawn books, does Pellaeon count? He’s Thrawn’s right-hand man, generally disapproves of the more evil things he does, and feels extremely happy that he’s working for someone only as evil as Thrawn, instead of someone as evil as Darth Vader. So he might actually count.

• moonfirestorm says:

Pellaeon also continues as the leader of the Imperial Remnant for quite a while after Thrawn’s death. From what I remember, he was fairly honorable and wasn’t doing anything particularly evil. He did continuously fight a war against the New Republic and only signed a peace because it was clear that he had no chance at winning that war, but that’s not really evil on its own.

You can tell he’s supposed to be a good guy because his first name, Gilad, is one people in the real world use.

8. Deiseach says:

I feel the Underpants Gnomes should get in on some of this action.

The ‘Soil my Undies’ challenge was first launched by the California Farmers’ Guild in July and is slowly being adopted by agricultural organisations across the world.

California. Well of course!

9. Thegnskald says:

Is anyone aware of a good site I can post a (massive) probably-crank physics hypothesis for evaluation?

(Basically, “Probably not true, but if it is, it rewrites a rather large chunk of physics”)

ETA:

Alternatively, anyone know a physicist who wouldn’t mind wasting some time reading a crank theory? I think I can probably promise it would be interesting to read, and I am pretty sure even if false it has some useful insights.

• Thegnskald says:

Actually, I will just add an insight here:

The speed of light is scale-insensitive.

If you shrank the size of everything by a factor of one million, the speed of light would look exactly the same; it would still be the same number of meters per second, because seconds would be smaller too, because everything would be closer together and smaller and thus everything, including our perception of time, would happen faster.

• smocc says:

This is either naively true for every speed because (a*dx)/(a*dt) = dx/dt, or wrong, I think.

When you say “seconds would be smaller too” what reason do you have for believing that? How are you defining a second, and how does bringing objects closer together change the length of a second under that definition?

• Thegnskald says:

It would necessarily be true for every speed – the interesting thing to me here is that it implies there is some sort of scalar equivalent of relativity.

And it is hard to describe what I mean by a second – if you imagine our galaxy is a nucleus, it becomes obvious it would take many many years of our time for the equivalent of an electron to orbit around it.

Smaller distances mean smaller percentages of C mean less energy to achieve faster relative speeds; this applies to atoms and molecules as well, so chemical reactions go equivalently faster. Our brains go faster. If our hearts beat once per second, and we define a second to be how often our hearts beat, then a “second” shrinks with everything else.

Does that make sense?

• smocc says:

If you re-scale space and time by the same factor then all speeds remain the same but accelerations change, leading to noticeable physical effects.

Suppose we measure time with two mirrors separated by a fixed distance with a pulse of light bouncing back and forth between them. One tick of our clock corresponds to one back and forth between the mirrors.

If we move everything closer together mirrors closer together then the ticks “speed up”, but the light still moves at the same speed of 2 clock lengths per tick. We have implicitly redefined our time scale. So far so good.

But consider a planet in orbit around the sun. When you move everything closer together the force between the two planets increases, decreasing the orbital period (according to Kepler’s third law). The planet will complete one revolution around the sun in a fewer number of ticks of the new clock than the old one. This is a physical difference.

The only way to keep the symmetry is to not only rescale distance and time, but the masses of everything, or maybe Newton’s constant. But then you’d still have electric forces to worry about and you’d have to rescale electric charge as well. The real answer is that our universe simply does not have physics that is re-scaling invariant.

• Thegnskald says:

Very true!

This forms the root of what I set out to do – create a scale-symmetric physics. The hierarchy problem threw a small wrench in it, but that got better when I noticed that the scalar symmetry of C was exponential rather than linear anyways (that is, energy requirements don’t go up linearly as a percent of C). The hierarchy problem is just a natural result of this. I think.

(Again, pretty sure it is wrong, but hopefully wrong in useful/interesting ways.)

• kingofmen says:

because seconds would be smaller too

Measure time using a pendulum. Its period is proportional to \sqrt{L/g}, where L is the length and g is local gravity. Scale all distances by a factor k. Now the length is kL, but g, which is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the center of the planet, is (g/k^2). So the period scales as k^{3/2}; it is not linear in your scaling factor, and that should be an end to the argument “seconds are smaller too”. Sure, but not by the same factor, which is what your “everything happens faster” argument depends on.

I will make a further observation: Invariance arguments are really effin’ powerful. In particular, every invariance under some transformation corresponds to a conserved quantity. So while not necessarily low-hanging, they are immensely tasty fruit, and you should not expect to find a new one all by your ownsome. The garden has been very carefully searched for those. Downthread you mention “making a scale-invariant physics”; that suggests to me that you don’t really grasp invariance. Either there is a conserved quantity corresponding to scale, or there isn’t. It’s not a question of having a mathematically convenient description.

• qwints says:

Sorry, I am not. This post came up in a brief search which may give a sense of likely physicist attitudes:

http://ap.io/blog/amateurs/

• Thegnskald says:

Yeah, I am aware of that problem.

It is mildly frustrating. I have spent quite a bit of time going through old physics experiments to see whether my model violates any of them – I don’t have any “No” answers, although I do have a couple “I have no idea how to do the math” answers, particularly around complex bits of rotational physics. (Gets important with particle physics.)

• smocc says:

I am a physicist with a minor interest in crankery (reading about, not creating), so I’m willing to at least look at it and maybe (maybe) respond. If you’d like you can G-mail me at thesm0cc

Besides me, you might try Quora. There’s a contingent of competent physicists who are friendly as long as you ask nicely. Perhaps set up a blog post externally, then ask a question like “I have an amateur alternative physics theory about []. Is it valid, or am I way off course? If so, where?” along with a link to blog. It is crucial to make sure the phrasing shows humility because there are some real annoying cranks on Quora and you want to dissociate yourselves from them.

If you do post a Quora question post the link here and if I think you have interesting stuff I can boost it around.

• Thegnskald says:

Thanks, I’ll email you.

I have been tempted to create a crank physics blog – I find crank physics fascinating, and I find it bizarre I haven’t found any blogs dedicated to the subject.

• smocc says:

Let me know if you find one. Good Math, Bad Math used to be good at collecting math crankery (and explaining good math well), but it hasn’t updated in a long time.

• Thegnskald says:

Will do. Or if I get the project of my own up and running, will comment here about it.

(The part in the email about electricity is the worst, incidentally. My knowledge of particle physics is kind of out of date, and rusty to boot – apparently the proton spin problem was solved? – and I have only recently started attempting to catch up.)

10. bean says:

Fire Control Part 2 is reposted at Naval Gazing. Comment mirroring is back up now.

• bean says:

(This would be the point at which someone comments, either here or over there.)

• quaelegit says:

I don’t have anything to say except continued appreciation of your series! I’m currently reading Fire Control 1 and appreciating the pictures 🙂

11. chosh says:

In Scott’s post on inefficient charity here, he mentioned Robin gave a whole list of things people can do to make their donations go further which people don’t currently follow, then didn’t give us that list. I know it’s over four years ago, but is there any chance we can get that information? That seems way more important than various musings on “X isn’t about Y” 😛

12. Mannerheim says:

Is Bayesian inference incompatible with Popper’s idea of falsification? I’ve recently started reading Karl Popper’s ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ and I already feel pretty confused. In the first few pages, Popper rejects ‘the principle of induction’ because in trying to justify it, one ends up with an infinite regress. He also seems to reject probabilism on the basis that it suffers from the same problem. Popper writes:

For if a certain degree of probability is to be assigned to statements based on inductive inference,
then this will have to be justified invoking a new principle of induction, appropriately modified.

It seems as if Popper’s criticism would include Bayesian inference, but Bayes Theorem can be derived from mathematical axioms without invoking induction.

I realize that Popper’s falsification could be framed as a special case of Bayesian inference. If a scientific hypothesis, h, asserts that some statement, p, is true (P(s|h) = 1) then showing that p is false will disprove the hypothesis (P(h|not s) = 0) but showing that p is true will not necessarily prove the hypothesis.

My question is: is Popper somehow fundamentally mistaking here, or am I misreading him? Also, is ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ still considered to be a good description of the scientific method?

• Protagoras says:

Though he has been popular with some scientists* and science groupies, Popper has always been regarded as somewhat fringe by most philosophers of science. He probably is making the mistake you describe. The most popular criticism of Popper is that his claimed asymmetry between verification and falsification is unsustainable under close scrutiny; your observation seems to be an instance of that phenomenon.

* Very few scientists are any good at philosophy of science; as one of the endless examples of humanity’s mysterious ability to massively compartmentalize, scientists often endorse philosophies of science which are wildly incompatible with their own practice.

• skef says:

Popper’s reputation seems to suffer from the “he wasn’t very careful” problem. I’ve been in a department that basically throws Locke into the crapper for the same reason.

Personally, if I’m in a position to explain one thing about philosophy of science to a civilian on the street, I’m going with falsifability.

• Philosophisticat says:

This ranks with “trying to talk about free will” as one of the more frustrating things I see out of scientists as a philosopher.

• Douglas Knight says:

Philosophies of science, plural? What do they say, other than Popper?

• quanta413 says:

Very few scientists are any good at philosophy of science; as one of the endless examples of humanity’s mysterious ability to massively compartmentalize, scientists often endorse philosophies of science which are wildly incompatible with their own practice.

Almost every scientist I’ve known doesn’t think about philosophy of science; I wouldn’t say it’s so much compartmentalization on average so much as “not even considering”. I certainly haven’t thought about it a lot myself. I’d actually be surprised if you met many scientists who endorse a philosophy of science. On the other hand, there’s probably enough scientists who write philosophical things about how to do science you could get a sample. But could you point me to any polls of scientists on the issue? Failing that, a review of scientists’ writings on philosophy of science would be interesting although maybe an unrepresentative sample.

• Douglas Knight says:

Have you tried your own poll of those you know? I predict that an awful lot will endorse Popper. I agree that they haven’t given it any thought and I think Protagoras is wrong to call it compartmentalization, but settle the basic facts first.

• quanta413 says:

Sure, I’ll ask some colleagues, but I’d prefer a broader poll than people I know. For one thing, that’s concentrated in one field. For another thing, that sample is going to be small.

I’d be kind of surprised if there had never been a poll on what scientists think they are doing or think they should be doing philosophically speaking, but I’m having trouble finding anything the lazy google way. I suspect it’s at least partly because I lack the relevant domain knowledge of where to search.

But it’s also possible that I can’t find a poll because neither philosophers nor scientists care what scientists think about philosophy of science. If this was true, this would strike me as probably a mistake, but not a particularly bad one.

• Anatoly says:

I think most scientists who think about the scientific method at all are Popperians.

On the other hand, when I tried to make some sense of current philosophy of science, I had the impression that Popper isn’t so much wrong from their perspective as naïve in an ancient way. Probably a contemporary of Aristotle, or something. Since Popper there has been schools upon schools fighting each other and contradicting each other. Even Kuhn and Feyerabend seemed like several levels down from the current thinking, which I’ve never quite succeeded in understanding what it might be. By the way, if anyone cares to recommend an accessible introduction to or summary of current ideas in philosophy of science, please do.

Anyone want to defend the mainstream progressive position on immigration? It seems utterly incomprehensible to me. We’re allowed to have borders but if we try to enforce them that’s a bad idea? I understand not wanting to deport those brought to the country when they were young but progressives seem to have a problem with deporting those who came here as adults as well. How is that coherent?

He was then accused of presenting a strawman of leftist thought on immigration.

Recently, Current Affairs published an article, Can We Have a Humane Immigration Policy? My model of Current Affairs is “reasonably representative progressive thought not particularly beholden to the Democratic Party.” Do any of the SSC leftists take issue with this article? Does this jive with Wrong Species’ description of leftist immigration thought?

Particularly:

We’re allowed to have borders but if we try to enforce them that’s a bad idea?

The CA author says:

We can posit two reasonably humane purposes for the existence of regulated borders. One is purely administrative: borders define the particular unit of geographical space that a national or subnational government is responsible for, and so it’s important to have some idea of who is living in which territory at any given time. The second purpose is defensive: a border is the logical place where you would repel an aggressor.

This jives with what Wrong Species said. You may have borders, but can’t really enforce them (unless you’re enforcing them against military invasion).

Also,

but progressives seem to have a problem with deporting those who came here as adults as well.

From CA:

The other reason why “felons not families” is bad is because, in the case of immigrants who have recently committed violent crimes, deportation will serve neither to aid their rehabilitation or keep other potential victims safe, since the person may go on to commit similar acts of violence against people in the designated country of deportation. For this reason, I think that violent criminals shouldn’t be deported, but I recognize that it will probably be near-impossible to persuade the general public of this

If one can’t even agree to deport violent criminals, then I think WS’s characterization of the progressive stance on immigration as having a problem with deporting those who came as adults also stands.

This also jives with my own opinion of the leftist attitude towards immigration, that it is based on moral arguments wherein the moral duty of the state is to foreigners, and not the citizens. I disagree strongly with this morality. The purpose of the United States government is not to do good for foreigners, but to protect the interests of United States citizens. If one is opposed to deporting even violent criminals because they may cause harm to foreigners while giving no consideration to the harm they do to Americans, we are far, far away from protecting the interests of citizens, and into xenophilia or oikophobia territory.

If the US government is not interested in promoting the interests of US citizens, who will be? As Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself who is for me?”

• Randy M says:

Positions go from strawmen to orthodoxy rather quickly these days. If you listen closely, you can hear history marching.

My model of Current Affairs is “reasonably representative progressive thought not particularly beholden to the Democratic Party.” Do any of the SSC leftists take issue with this article?

I don’t know if I’m supposed to be one of those leftists and as I said in the other thread, I continue to not know what progressive is supposed to mean.

I have only vaguely heard of Current Affairs before. Aside from the article you linked there’s also, among others, “NEW PROOF THAT THE DNC WAS JUST AS CORRUPT AS YOU THOUGHT IT WAS”, “GETTING BEYOND “NEW ATHEISM”, and “HOW TO BE A SOCIALIST WITHOUT BEING AN APOLOGIST FOR THE ATROCITIES OF COMMUNIST REGIMES”. On the prior page there’s this one: “JUSTIN TRUDEAU AND THE POLITICS OF SPECTACLE: The Canadian PM’s carefully-crafted progressive image conceals typical status quo politics…”

Its about page has this quote “The only sensible anarchist thinking coming out of contemporary print media.” The editor in chief is: https://sociology.fas.harvard.edu/people/nathan-robinson a doctoral student in Sociology & Social Policy at Harvard. Among other indicia, he’s published in Jacobian and is a white guy with a B.A. in African American Studies.

All of which is to say that I think this magazine is quite far to my left. The article you posted takes the rhetorical position that there’s little difference between the Democrats and Republicans, which itself gives an idea of where they stand. It isn’t a matter of being beholden or not beholden to the Democratic Party, they are far to the left of where almost all Democrats and left of center people in this country are.

If you want to define that as “progressive” I guess I can’t say you’re wrong. But don’t in the next breath use the same term for Vox, Hillary Clinton, and well me.

In terms of immigration policy the article takes many policy positions I do not agree with. No one denies that there are genuine open borders advocates on the left and the right. In both cases they are tiny fringes. It’s the attempt to smear anyone that disagrees with whatever policy proposal the extreme restrictionists have come up with as “de facto open borders supporters” that are the problem. If you want to go debate a fringe be my guest, but don’t use them as a weakman.

• Iain says:

Co-signed.

This is certainly a position that exists on the left. Describing it as mainstream requires you to be looking at a pretty unusual river.

What’s mainstream left then? When I read Current Affairs it seems to me like a more well-articulated version of /r/politics.

• Iain says:

Vox?

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

What’s mainstream left then?

Pretty much any large news outlet that doesn’t have the prefix “Fox” in it? One cannot complain about the liberal bias in the media and then wonder where one might find a median left opinion!

• Wrong Species says:

It’s funny that you mention Vox as representing mainstream leftism. They have written many pieces supportive of open borders.

• cassander says:

@Wrong Species

In my experience, Vox is pretty much dead on for mainstream leftism. Granted, I’m exactly the demographic they’re going for, ezra klein was born within a month of me, so maybe that’s just what it’s like with my peer group.

• rlms says:

I think Vox’s pieces on open borders are more “here is a somewhat wacky idea that’s worth considering” (just like their articles in support of e.g. UBI) rather than “here is a central plank of our policy”.

Vox is Clinton-wing, CA is Sanders-wing. Both are pretty main streams at this point, though the Clinton wing is probably mainer.

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

Jacobian sounds like a cool name for a magazine, but you’re probably thinking of Jacobin.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

The arts column would review Shakespeare and Ben Jonson plays.

• johan_larson says:

Jacobian is sort of a lifestyle magazine for mathematicians. They have a clever column about odd bits of mathematical history (Infinitesimals) and their annual wine issue is a treasure.

What’s the “reasonably representative leftist magazine” then? And where can I read the “reasonable leftist’s guide to immigration policy?”

• AnonYEmous says:

No one denies that there are genuine open borders advocates on the left and the right. In both cases they are tiny fringes.

This is certainly true, but I do feel like – and maybe I’m wrong here – that the Democratic Party and sort of mainstream left mostly supports borders in a sort of semiotic sense. That is, borders are the water we swim in, they are the normal, so obviously we support them, but they very rarely offer full-throated defense on borders or a solid argument in favor of them and they are relatively soft on illegal immigration as well. And they do try and chip away whenever they can.

Anyways, if you want to get rid of the open-borders charges, the best thing to do is to open up the discussion. Right now it’s kind of hard to have. I’d be a lot more convinced of the innocence of “””The Left””” if I felt like they were willing to lay it all out on the table – how many, for what reason, et cetera, et cetera. For example, I think you’re willing to do that and I’m pretty convinced of your innocence.

• Aapje says:

I’d be a lot more convinced of the innocence of “””The Left””” if I felt like they were willing to lay it all out on the table – how many, for what reason, et cetera, et cetera.

That would create infighting. There is no agreed upon limit, reason, etc.

• Wrong Species says:

If the left opposes every attempt at reducing illegal immigration, then how is that a weakman? What are the progressive solutions to illegal immigration that don’t involve amnesty or opening up the border to more people?

• Le Maistre Chat says:

What are your thoughts on the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes?

• Funny you should ask that:

The Cure
“In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”
[THOMAS HOBBES, Leviathan]

Hobbes had a vision, certain, crystal clear,
Through logic’s lens alone he clearly saw
The state of nature, red in tooth and claw
And sword and axe, where each man lives in fear,
A nightmare world unless a king appear
Equipped with force enough to overawe
All powers else and bend them to his law,
A monarch absolute, without a peer.

One question yet remains: In many lands
Men lived and fathered children, planted grain,
Slept soundly through the night, worked with their hands,
Together or apart, for love or gain.
How is it that the human race survived
Through the long years before the king arrived?
————
A doctor synthesized the perfect cure
For a disease that he was certain sure
Mankind without his aid could not endure.
His flawless logic with no doubt implied
That the disease existed, so he tried,
To offer up the cure on every side.
And many patients took the cure
And died.

“In total, during the first eighty-eight years of this century, almost 170,000,000 men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; or buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens or foreigners.”
R.J. Rummel, Death by Government.

(From The Machinery of Freedom, Third edition)

• JulieK says:

“planted grain,

Through the long years before the king arrived”

• Hobbes’ king is an absolute ruler–hence Leviathan. I won’t claim there are no previous examples, but absolute monarchy in Europe is roughly a seventeenth century idea. A feudal king wasn’t close to absolute, since most of the key resource, heavy cavalry, was controlled at the level below him. A feudal noble wasn’t absolute either–he was constrained by a network of reciprocal obligations wrt those below him. The normal human pattern isn’t dictatorship, it’s an equilibrium among people with varying abilities to use or threaten force against each other.

For more extreme examples of societies without absolute rulers, try Norway before Harald Haarfagr, Iceland after Harald Haarfagr, Somaliland any time we have information about it, the Comanche, pretty much any Romany group we know of, … .

For details on some of this, see

I’m with JulieK on this one. Monkeys have hierarchies. We came down from the trees and the first thing that happened was the 80/20 strong/social monkey beat down all the rest of the monkeys and invaded the monkeys from the other tree to steal their monkey women.

• Deiseach says:

How is it that the human race survived
Through the long years before the king arrived?

Before the king, the family and clan
Directed fate for every local man;
No loner ever, atomised, did toil
Man by himself to till the stony soil.
No pioneer, self-ruling, ever strove
Save, driven out to be akin to wolves,
Abhorred, anathemised by kin and friend
To be a foe to all till bitter end

• Nornagest says:

I’m probably not an SSC Leftist — that content-analysis pass a while back classified me as independent, which I’m reasonably happy with — but the tweedy, buttoned-up Oxbridge-sounding name notwithstanding, Current Affairs strikes me as an old-school class-struggle leftist’s version of the Independent. Slightly less clickbaity, probably, but more stridently ideological. The last article from it that got linked here took complaints about modern architecture and managed to turn them into a call to overthrow capitalism, which is a neat trick.

Not very representative, in other words. If you want boring middle-of-the-road American leftism with enough outrage to keep the cheap seats filled, go watch CNN — it’s more or less explicitly designed as such.

• Randy M says:

The last article from it that got linked here took complaints about modern architecture and managed to turn them into a call to overthrow capitalism, which is a neat trick.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

The Voice of CNN is Darth Vader. That makes Ted Turner Palpatine, which makes Jane Fonda… a henchwoman from the EU, so I need to stop this metaphor before it leads to the conclusion that Jane Fonda was erased from reality.

• Incurian says:

I’d be ok with that.

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

Current Affairs is not only quite far left (from my comfy center-right perspective, at least), but it’s particularly contrarian among the left-wing publications.

• Guy in TN says:

This also jives with my own opinion of the leftist attitude towards immigration, that it is based on moral arguments wherein the moral duty of the state is to foreigners, and not the citizens.

As someone on the Left who would tend to agree with Current Affair’s position on immigration, I don’t think you are modeling us very well here. It’s not that foreigners are more important than citizens, its that they are equally as important as citizens, and deserve the same rights to access the resources as citizens. Anti-nationalism is birthed from the same ethic as anti-racism, anti-sexism, ect.

Importantly, this ethic does not have to be justified on moral grounds, but is often based on utilitarian grounds as well. It’s not hard to see how “do what is best for humanity as a whole, not just what is best for your favored nationality” leads to the conclusion of a free immigration policy.

• Randy M says:

Importantly, this ethic does not have to be justified on moral grounds, but is often based on utilitarian grounds as well.

Utilitarianism is an example of a moral code. “Open borders is better for the median/total utility of humanity” is justifying the policy by recourse to a position on what is moral + a (likely quite subjective) estimation of what will help reach that goal.

• Guy in TN says:

To address the content of Wrong Species’s description: The Left’s position on immigration and borders is only incoherent if you think the primary purpose of borders is to keep people out. As addressed by the CA article, borders serve an obvious administrative purpose.

But more than that, I think many leftists see borders as one of the few controls that we have in place on the movement of capital, which is something we would like to decrease the power of. This is why many leftists oppose things like NAFTA or the TPP, yet also support free movement of people. To enforce a border is to wield power over the people you are enforcing it against. The Left wants to use it to decrease the power of the capital-owning class, while the right wants to use it in a way that would decrease the power of the working class. By having borders against the flow of capital but not people, we are choosing to wield that power in a way that serves our interests.

• cassander says:

while the right wants to use it in a way that would decrease the power of the working class.

I can’t tell if you’re describing the position you think the left holds here, or your own, but I certainly hope it’s the former. If it’s the latter, the argument is ……well the most polite way to put it would be deeply uncharitable.

• Guy in TN says:

I intentionally avoided ascribing intentionality to the Right’s position here, instead stating what I thought the results would be, so that you would be able to understand the far-left and my self’s position on the matter.

EDIT: Perhaps it would have been better stated as: “We think the results of the Right’s position on immigration will be a decrease in power of the working class” so that it is clear than I am not describing this as their intention.

• “We think the results of the Right’s position on immigration will be a decrease in power of the working class”

That’s odd. One of the usual objections to open borders is that immigrants will drive down the wages of American workers. My impression is that labor unions have pretty consistently supported immigration restrictions, presumably on that theory.

The other half of your argument, the idea the restrictions on the movement of capital reduce the power of the capitalist class, makes a little more sense, since the U.S. is likely to import labor but expert capital. But it ignores the effect on the places capital is exported to. Raising the capital to labor ratio in a country with lots of labor and little capital would be expected to increase wages, as local capitalists have to compete with foreign capitalists.

• 1soru1 says:

The Trumpist right’s position on immigration is that it should be illegal. Illegal workers have no rights, no unions, no alternative to working flat out for starvation wages.

At core is the idea that the working class should not have citizenship, and so should not be allowed to vote. To ensure that happens, you prohibit immigration with big, obviosu and deliberately ineffective measure like a partial border wall. While increasing the supply of jobs that can only competitively be done by immigrants, by deregulating and cutting enforcement budgets.

How could that possibly be anything but a boon to the people who own, not do, things? Is that dynamic something people are genuinely unaware of?

• John Schilling says:

The Trumpist right’s position on immigration is that it should be illegal. Illegal workers have no rights, no unions, no alternative to working flat out for starvation wages.

Or going home, which as the stated goal of the Trumpist right should not be ignored here. There are others on the right who can be reasonably suspected for secretly wanting to keep illegal immigrants around as virtual slave labor, but not the Trumpists.

• 1soru1 says:

> Or going home, which as the stated goal of the Trumpist right should not be ignored here.

When someone states a goal but takes actions that clearly will not lead to that goal, to what extent is their stated goal useful information?

There are two parties claiming to want to deal with rising sea levels. One is proposing limiting carbon emissions, building higher levees, etc. One is promising to build a giant spoon.

As it happens, donors to the spoon-building party all own desert land that’s next in line to be waterfront.

Should you perhaps consider the possibility that the spoon-builders are lying?

• cassander says:

@1soru1

The trumpists don’t want a spoon, they want a huge wall and an army of deportation happy border guards. their methods are not implausible.

Trumpist here. I want a border wall with machine guns, flame throwers, and nuclear landmines (wall would be nuclear landmine proof), and a border catapult to launch illegals captured by ICE Trumpenstaffel commandos back over the wall*. Also nationwide e-verify.

The intolerable situation is the shadow labor force of illegals who are both exploited by greedy businesses and not offered the protections of labor laws which also drives down the wages of American workers. To say that we actually like this arrangement and that’s what Trump’s working class voters were after is to completely miss the plot. If that’s what Trump voters actually wanted there would be no talk of walls or deportations because the thing you say we want is the status quo.

*political hyperbole.

• Thegnskald says:

I think the wall is a simplistic, spoon-like solution.

I won’t say it won’t work – honestly I have no idea if it would work, and immigration isn’t a subject I have much of an opinion on either way – but it does suffer a very specific problem. It is a fixed solution facing off against humanity ingenuity.

The real issue isn’t that there isn’t a wall, but that people desire to come over illegally in the first place; the second-level analysis of the wall is that it can’t work because it attempts to solve the symptom instead of the root cause.

The non-simplistic purpose of the wall is to decrease this desire by making it look difficult or expensive or dangerous to do; the is the second-level analysis supporting the wall.

The real issue isn’t that there isn’t a wall, but that people desire to come over illegally in the first place

How do you propose to make America less desirable? We only really have control of the stick here, not the carrot.

I would also support helping Make Mexico Great For Once by decriminalizing some drugs. A big part of Mexico’s problem is the cartels (probably the closest thing to pure evil on earth is the Zetas), and they’re only in power because drug money. People will kill their own momma for a 17,000% profit.

How is it that we don’t have mandatory e-verify yet? It’s been 11 months since the Republicans took both Houses of Congress and the White House. Was there a filibuster I didn’t hear about?

• cassander says:

Only about half of the republican party actually wants to crack down on illegal immigration. Less than half if you don’t count the people that don’t want to, but are paying lip service to the idea out of fear of their primary voters.

I love SSC because I think Scott bats about a .995 with his essays, but the big swing and a miss was To Understand Polarization, Understand Conservativism’s Failures. Scott’s assertion that Republican voters only think their Congressmen and Senators are frauds is false. I’d say half Republican Congressmen and 90% of Republican Senators are, in fact, frauds.

• 1soru1 says:

Trumpist here. I want a border wall with machine guns, flame throwers, and nuclear landmines (wall would be nuclear landmine proof), and a border catapult to launch illegals captured by ICE Trumpenstaffel commandos back over the wall.

Do you want that for its own sake? In which case fair enough, who can argue with the rule of cool?

Or are you somehow under the impression that spending all that public money and resources to subsidize the profits of the Trumps of this world will work out for you?

When it comes to emptying a bowl of soup, a spoon works, and if it doesn’t, maybe you need a bigger spoon. When it comes to dropping the sea level, there is no such thing as a big enough spoon. Eventually you hit some practicality limit, it gets dropped and starts a wave that swamps the shore.

When that happens, you can rebuild your house, double down and cry ‘Bigger!’.

Or you could apply a bit of theory of mind and think ‘If I was trying to trick people into not solving the problem, what kind of thing would I suggest? What kind of things would I say about the anti–spooners?’

How does the removal of cheap illegal immigrant labor subsidize the profits of the “Trumps of the world?” The rich want cheap labor. Reduction of the supply of cheap labor increases the price of the labor, which is not good for the employers.

That’s bullshit. It’s the same kind of bullshit that as all the other vast shadowy conspiracies. Politicians are venal and corrupt, yes. But they are a very good at what they do, which is getting and staying elected. They are venal and corrupt exactly to the extent they can get away with it.

You represent a very loud and passionate segment of the Republican voters that cares with a blinding intensity about “illegals”. This is not some trivial or minor segment of the party. It is a significant part of it, and they have significant representation in Congress. But it isn’t by any means all of Republican voters. Those that don’t care so much about it may not be so loud, and they may even say the same things as those that are passionate about it when asked, but at the end of the day it doesn’t fire them up the way it fires you up. The Congressmen that represent them know this and they tailor their behavior accordingly. They know that these folks have other things that they really really care about — maybe taxes — and on those issues they toe the line perfectly, because again they are good at their jobs. But on immigration they know that they don’t have to rant about nuclear mines and catapulting human beings because the majority of their constituents aren’t you.

It is not fraud that politicians that don’t represent you, don’t represent you and instead represent the people they do represent. That’s democracy.

• johansenindustries says:

Whether its democracy or not. Surely the McCains – to give an example – campaigning on the abolition of ObamaCare and giving all that impression and then acting as they do in Washington is dishonest, even if it did fit with what the majority of voters really wanted.

If they don’t want anti-immigration policies then it seems dishonest to make anti-immigration noises whether that is democracy or not.

• cassander says:

I think you’re both right. Republicans politicians get elected promising by promising to do things like slash taxes and welfare, and don’t do it. They’re frauds. But a big part of the reason they’re frauds is that their voters are also frauds. They like to vote for people who say things like I’m going to slash taxes and welfare……but they also don’t want anyone denied healthcare on the basis of pre-existing conditions. They’re not being hypocritical here, they’re genuinely schizophrenic, because like almost all voters, they have essentially zero understand of policy. They embrace policy positions on the policy positions largely on the basis of tribal loyalty and leaven them heavily with emotional signaling.

Note, this is not unique to republican voters. Democratic voters want equally impossible things. The difference is that the costs of the things that democratic voters want are typically less direct than what republicans want. If republicans try to cut spending, they’re instantly deluged by the lobbyists for the people who that money is going to. Democrats, by contrast, can pass a big healthcare bill in 2010, and the premium increases won’t really start rolling in until 2016, by which time they can be plausibly blamed on someone else and any attempts to roll it back will be met with the army of lobbyists.

• Wrong Species says:

@Thegnskald

You seem very confident that a wall would have little effect on illegal immigration. What if you were wrong? Would you support a wall then?

• Thegnskald says:

Wrong –

Not sure where you got that impression; I don’t know what effect a wall would have. At a first order of effect, it might have a marginal effect – adding just a little bit more difficulty to the process – but that might disappear if coyotes can reliably bypass it.

On the second order of effects, it might discourage illegal immigration by making it seem harder than it is.

Effectively, I assume we’ll have less interest in making it work than they’ll have in bypassing it, so they’ll win. They care more than we do.

But overall? I don’t really care about illegal immigration per se. I neither support nor oppose it; I see it as a fairly morally balanced issue, in that they have a legitimate interest in coming here, and we have a legitimate interest in maintaining our borders.

So I tend to be against a wall because it is expensive and morally neutral as far as I go. Whether or not it works is pretty much irrelevant to me.

Brad, do you have any evidence that Republican voters oppose E-Verify? I googled around for recent surveys and couldn’t find any I’d necessarily trust although they agreed with me. When it’s anti-immigration groups reporting “our poll shows Republicans agree with anti-immigration ideas!” sure it confirms my prejudices but I would not be terribly shocked if the polls were biased.

Now everything I find about E-verify getting killed is Republican lawmakers expressing the concerns of agribusiness interests, which is definitely not the same thing as expressing the will of Republican voters.

Essentially you’re making an argument from “my opponents don’t really believe the thing they say they believe.” They do. Trump’s voters weren’t chanting “BUILD THE WALL” for nothing. They actually want a wall. They actually want E-verify (which was also in Trump’s immigration policy paper on his website but nobody ever talked about it).

Republican voters want this. Republican candidates pay it lip service and then never do it because they’re beholden to business interests. See also John McCain “leading the fight to repeal ObamaCare.”

Why did you bring up Republicans’ failure to act on it, anyway?

• Guy in TN says:

@DavidFriedman:
Nation-centric approaches aren’t very persuasive for an anti-nationalist. I would be more interested in seeing how immigration effects global wages- I suspect the effect is minor since there would be no net change in global workers (perhaps even a long-term decrease, as workers move from high-birthrate cultures to low-birthrate cultures).

I’ll admit that open borders is a far-left position. I can’t speak for what motivates the more mainstream Left. But for what it’s worth, the three biggest unions in the U.S. support citizenship for illegal immigrants. This is likely due to what 1soru1 mentioned, in there being less bargaining power for illegal workers due to the threat of deportation.

• Guy in TN says:

In addition, the ability to move has value in of itself. It’s a trade-off the workers have to consider.

For example, if I was given a choice between taking a wage of $10 tied to a contract that said I could never take a job in a neighboring state, vs. a job that paid$9.95 that left me free to emigrate, I would have to seriously consider whether the latter was in my best interests.

• Randy M says:

Seems like it would be because then labor laws would only then apply to the immigrants, protecting them but also preventing them from undercutting the workers the unions represent.
I’m not sure if illegal aliens are eligible for union membership, but it is reasonable to suspect legalization would make more eligible for unionization, thereby increasing the clout of unions.

• 1soru1 says:

How does the removal of cheap illegal immigrant labor subsidize the profits of the “Trumps of the world?”

The same way as a police crackdown on drugs raises the profitability of drug dealers.

What you think of as ‘removal’ is actually ‘creation’. Just as if you ‘remove’ earth, you ‘create’ a hole. The existence of workers with no rights, no negotiating power is a _consequence_ of strict immigration law, the threat of deportation.

Now, the creation of such a category of economically active non-citizens, tax-payers without representation doesn’t come cheap. All that massive public expense, the walls and helicopters and cameras, is required to establish a large gap between the amount of money made from their work and the amount of money paid to them.

Naturally, the money represented by that gap flows not to the innovative or hard-working, but to the politically well-connected; those who can ignore the rule of law, fire prosecutors and end the careers of judges, joke about the idea of being punished for their crimes.

Taste is of course subjective – maybe that is the kind of society you want to live in?

• I would be more interested in seeing how immigration effects global wages

It will raise them, because it will increase total productivity. Probably by a lot. There are lots of potential jobs in the U.S. that are not worth doing at U.S. wages but are worth doing at wages considerably higher than the potential migrants are currently getting. There are lots of people outside the U.S. who could start businesses, do productive things, in an environment with reasonably secure property rights.

Average U.S. real wages would probably go down, at least for a while, but that’s a fallacy of composition, since the average includes lots of immigrants who are now better off than before but now are, and before were not, included in the U.S. average.

Average real wages for those presently in the U.S. might go up or down. On the one hand the labor/capital ratio goes up as labor comes in, which tends to drive down wages. On the other hand the society becomes more productive, goods and services get less expensive, and that benefits everyone. And the new immigrants are in part substitutes, in part complements, for the existing workers.

The assumption that the only tradeoff is between wages and profit, capital and labor, only works if the total size of the pie is fixed.

Essentially you’re making an argument from “my opponents don’t really believe the thing they say they believe.” They do. Trump’s voters weren’t chanting “BUILD THE WALL” for nothing. They actually want a wall. They actually want E-verify (which was also in Trump’s immigration policy paper on his website but nobody ever talked about it).

I’m not making that argument. I believe the people chanting “BUILD THE WALL” want to BUILD THE WALL.

But my point is that people wearing MAGA caps do not make up the entire Republican electorate. Tens of millions of people, perhaps a majority, but not all or close to it.

You seem to be expressing ingroup homogeneity bias, which I didn’t even think was a thing.

Why did you bring up Republicans’ failure to act on it, anyway?

For exactly this discussion. Guy in TN can be at least partially right even if what he says doesn’t apply to you or the millions of people like you.

• Deiseach says:

I would also support helping Make Mexico Great For Once by decriminalizing some drugs. A big part of Mexico’s problem is the cartels (probably the closest thing to pure evil on earth is the Zetas), and they’re only in power because drug money.

(1) Agreed that Mexico is suffering because of the cartels

(2) Disagree that legalisation would do a lot; does anyone really think a cartel is going to say “Well goodness, now our product is legal, there is no way we can compete with a new supplier getting into the biz! Plus our profit margin is going to go to hell once scarcity is no longer an issue! Guess we’d better all turn ourselves into the cops or give up and go get honest jobs as construction workers!”

I rather imagine legal drugs would be under the control of cartels, as a new competitor coming in from outside will be likely to get made an offer they can’t refuse, or end up nastily dead. You’ve already got the source of your drug, a refining and manufacturing facility, a distribution set-up and all the rest in place, how hard is it going to be to find some superficially clean-record guy in a suit to be your front man to go and get a shiny new government licence to make and sell product?

I don’t think it’s the same as marijuana legalisation, unless you foresee North American poppy growers coming on stream and cutting that link of the chain, and again I don’t see the problem there for a Colombian cartel that moved into Mexico finding some front guy in the USA to do the whole import-export set-up for them once they’ve got a licence to produce legal highs (if you’re going to be making legal coke, you need to import coca leaves from South America, so that’s a legit reason to have a ‘business partner’ organisation located in Mexico or Colombia or wherever).

And if I believe this report, legalisation has its own knock-on effects:

The legalisation of marijuana in parts of the US has driven Mexico’s cartels to push harder drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. This has fuelled an epidemic north of the border, with over 33,000 Americans dying from opioid-related overdoses in 2015, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The end of Prohibition certainly got the mob out of alcohol production but it didn’t make them disappear, they moved back to ordinary crime. I think the same would happen with the cartels – they’d move to other territories or get into dealing the stuff that is still illegal, particularly exotic new synthetics; this is not something that will just happen as a happy side-effect of legal meth or whatever, it’s like uprooting weeds.

• Aapje says:

You seem to be expressing ingroup homogeneity bias, which I didn’t even think was a thing.

Of course it is a thing. It’s very common for people to claim that their entire ingroup has the exact same beliefs as them, so other people better give in.

• Matt M says:

The end of Prohibition certainly got the mob out of alcohol production but it didn’t make them disappear, they moved back to ordinary crime.

Which MUST be less profitable than alcohol bootlegging was, or they would have already been doing ordinary crime and not alcohol bootlegging.

If you take away their most profitable option, the remaining options are less profitable, thus reducing their power and influence. Reducing it by how much is a good question that we cannot know the answer to, but saying “it would make no difference” seems a little odd. If you got fired from your job, that makes your life worse. You can’t just handwave it away by saying “Well I can just get a different job so it makes no difference.”

• The Nybbler says:

The legalisation of marijuana in parts of the US has driven Mexico’s cartels to push harder drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. This has fuelled an epidemic north of the border, with over 33,000 Americans dying from opioid-related overdoses in 2015, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wait, wait, that’s because of pot legalization? Here I thought it was because I took Oxy/APAP for the pain in my broken bones and pseudoepehedrine for my stuffed up nose, both of which are now effectively illegal. You mean it was POT the whole time? Can I have my pseudoephedrine back now?

The end of Prohibition certainly got the mob out of alcohol production but it didn’t make them disappear, they moved back to ordinary crime.

They also got a LOT less powerful. Because ordinary crime and narcotics are far less lucrative, and less tolerated, than alcohol. Their control over governments waned.

• 1soru1 says:

this local news story may be of relevance to this discussion:

Trump won permission to hire 70 maids, cooks and servers at the Mar-a-Lago Club for the 2017-18 tourist season, according to newly released data from the U.S. Labor Department. In 2016-17, Trump hired 64 foreign workers at the Palm Beach property.

It’s straightforward to connect the dots between that and ‘build the wall’, between working class economic slots being filled by people with no legal right to vote and the political side-tracking of the working class, between the outrage of Trumpist media over selective or spurious stories and their silence on the easily verifiable stories their listeners would really be interested in.

• Controls Freak says:

slots being filled by people with no legal right to vote

Could you make an attempt to put this in a sentence which might be spoken by someone whose primary lens isn’t the eternal struggle of the labor class?

• Deiseach says:

They also got a LOT less powerful. Because ordinary crime and narcotics are far less lucrative, and less tolerated, than alcohol. Their control over governments waned.

If the argument were “the cartels will be forced into ordinary crime”, that might indeed be an improvement (though how much of one remains to be seen). But I think it’s very wishful thinking to imagine that legalisation of drugs (some or all) will cut the legs entirely from under the cartels and that they will give up or not find some way to be involved in the new legal business.

And narcotics may not be as profitable as alcohol, but it’s sufficiently profitable that we’re talking about Mexico embroiled in a kind of civil war to wrest away control of the south from the cartels, funded by these profits from narcotics. We may laugh about the Reefer Madness campaigns of the past, but what were these but reactions to the attempts by criminal gangs to get a lucrative drugs trade up and running on a mass-market basis to win back the lost markets of bootlegging? That it was put forward that legalising marijuana drove the gangs to pushing harder drugs is my point: they don’t simply curl up and die when one market is shut off, they move into another. Permitting North American legal heroin, even if it ever gets past the “hell no!” stage, won’t mean the cartels are cut down, they’ll simply move on to something else with a bigger kick that is still illegal. Why would they just give up vast profits?

• The Nybbler says:

But I think it’s very wishful thinking to imagine that legalisation of drugs (some or all) will cut the legs entirely from under the cartels and that they will give up or not find some way to be involved in the new legal business.

Of course it won’t and of course they will. They’re still severely weakened. Or perhaps some of them “go legit” as the Kennedys did.

That it was put forward that legalising marijuana drove the gangs to pushing harder drugs is my point: they don’t simply curl up and die when one market is shut off, they move into another.

The gangs were already pushing harder drugs. They’ve been selling heroin a long time. The switch to fentanyl is an innovation to reduce volume of drug to make shipping it over the border easier. Their involvement in meth is mostly a result of the pseudoephedrine ban in the US making high-volume Mexican manufacture and import cheaper and more reliable than small-batch cooking in the US. End the narcotics laws and you can make meth in New Jersey or Puerto Rico along with the rest of the pharmaceuticals. If the cartels in Mexico are a problem, a legal operation could grow its poppies elsewhere, or produce synthetic opioids like fentanyl (if cut more precisely than the illicit pipeline does, it should actually be safer than heroin from an OD standpoint)

• Matt M says:

that they will give up or not find some way to be involved in the new legal business.

But isn’t this what happened with alcohol? To what extent are prominent breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the US still influenced by the mob?

Isn’t this happening right now with marijuana in US states and some EU countries?

In business terms, the mob simply doesn’t have a core competency in “legitimate business” and it makes little sense for them to even try to compete in it. They will get outcompeted by legit business.

• 1soru1 says:

Could you make an attempt to put this in a sentence which might be spoken by someone whose primary lens isn’t the eternal struggle of the labor class?

Unfortunately, I probably can’t. If you can look at a situation where there are groups of people with legally different rights, including specifically the right to vote, organised on an explicitly economic basis, and say ‘stupid Marxist, what’s class got to do with it?’ then I doubt there is some extra explanation that would make you see what is in front of your face.

Either you want to live in a society where bartenders, waitresses and fruit-pickers get to vote, or you prefer one where your vote is not diluted by theirs.

Upton Sinclair said ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it’. That apples doubly when it is not actually a salary, but the higher returns on investment you get when others are paid less.

• BBA says:

@Matt M: Nevada casinos were mob-dominated for decades after gambling was legalized there. And then there’s waste management…

• Protagoras says:

@BBA, Criminal enterprises do need to launder their money, and casinos are extremely well suited to that. Not sure what’s up with waste management, but I’m also not sure how much of the mob reputation of waste management is real vs. the Sopranos. In any event, if criminal enterprises have fewer sources of criminal profit, that will reduce the amount of money laundering operations they need and can afford, so their “legitimate” operations will also shrink, rather than expanding.

• Matt M says:

Yeah, my understanding is that mob casinos were not necessarily a profit center, but rather a necessary logistical element to support their various “other” operations. Basically a standard “front” but on a very massive scale.

• quanta413 says:

@Protagoras

Not sure what’s up with waste management, but I’m also not sure how much of the mob reputation of waste management is real vs. the Sopranos.

I can sort of confirm the mob still controls a significant amount of waste management in New York (as of a few years ago). Unfortunately, not the sort of thing I have any solid proof for; just secondhand knowledge from someone I trust.

• Evan Þ says:

It’s straightforward to connect the dots between that and ‘build the wall’

Okay, so if we take that at face value, it’s evidence that Trump wants a class of poor, marginalized workers. Sure; I already knew he wasn’t a great guy. It doesn’t say anything about the average Trump voter, who – as we’ve been told many times – is very unlike his candidate.

• Controls Freak says:

Could you make an attempt to put this in a sentence which might be spoken by someone whose primary lens isn’t the eternal struggle of the labor class?

Unfortunately, I probably can’t. If you can look at a situation where there are groups of people with legally different rights, including specifically the right to vote, organised on an explicitly economic basis

This is a really strange statement to me, because this issue looks clearly organized explicitly on a territorial basis, not an economic basis.

• Rob K says:

@Matt M this is anecdotal, but years ago at the Grand Canyon I spent some time talking to a ranger who’d been working there since the mob days in Vegas; in his description, the ownership wanted big crowds to justify the claimed profits, and was willing to take a loss on many aspects of the business in order to draw those crowds.

That being the case, it was a great place to go if you were looking to have a high time on a park ranger’s salary.

• Matt M says:

Right, and I’d bet you that over the last few decades, as mob influence declined, the notion that Vegas is a “cheap” destination has changed significantly.

Corporations maximize profit. The mob was maximizing other things.

Which is exactly why I wouldn’t expect the cartels to dominate legal weed, unless it served as a really useful front for still-illegal heroin or something like that.

• Deiseach says:

Which is exactly why I wouldn’t expect the cartels to dominate legal weed, unless it served as a really useful front for still-illegal heroin or something like that.

Oh, I wouldn’t expect them to bother with that at all, as it’s too small-time at present (only legal in certain states) and currently draws a lot of attention to make sure precisely that nobody with a bad record gets a chance to move in; ironically, I think I’ve read some online articles arguing that this is racist as white guys are taking over the legal weed market, since they are less likely to have criminal records than black small time dealers, so the black guys are being cut out of the legal and profitable market. Now, if you could guarantee that legal meth/heroin/cocaine means the same thing for the cartels, I’d accept that and shut up. But if legal heroin or meth comes in, it would be attractive to have a “clean”, respectable front guy apply for a licence and set up a company which can then be a shell company for the various cartel activities.

Basically I am arguing that legal drugs are money on the table and I do not expect the cartels to simply walk away from the business altogether if they can find any loopholes to maintain a profitable market.

• Matt M says:

legal drugs are money on the table

So is software development. Do you think the cartels are going to get into that?

• Montfort says:

Charity has nothing to do with it, though you can certainly dispute its accuracy. He doesn’t claim the right intends to decrease the power of the working class, only that it would be a result of their policy. Note the distinction between, e.g. “My colleague wants to raise the deficit and let orphans starve” and “My colleague wants to change the tax code in a way that would raise the deficit and let orphans starve.”

• Wrong Species says:

I don’t think this is right. The most spirited defenses of free trade in recent years have come from the left, not the right. Certainly you have old school leftists like Bernie Sanders who aren’t fans of free trade but he isn’t a fan of open borders either.

• actinide meta says:

We’re allowed to have borders but if we try to enforce them that’s a bad idea?

I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a leftist, and I’m very skeptical of the claim that the mainstream left supports open borders, but I don’t see any inconsistency here. Borders are there to keep foreign governments and laws out, not to keep peaceful migrants out. As far as I know for virtually all of human history that was the understanding – migration restrictions are a super modern concept.

As a US citizen, migration restrictions infringe on my freedom to invite non-citizens onto my property and to trade with them. I think that US citizens on the whole would be better off in a country rapidly expanding in population through migration. So I don’t think the “citizenist” vs “universalist” question is even relevant.

• hinewaccount says:

migration restrictions are a super modern concept.

Granted. But the pre-modern response to group migration was often displacement and chain migration of the host population, or enslavement and massacring of (the grandchildren of) either the migrants or the hosts. Not necessarily always, possibly not even a majority of the time, but enough to make me prefer our modern norms.

(A dishonourable mention must also go to the pandemics unleashed by first contacts with Europeans; that was a one-off and is unlikely to ever recur. Well, unless the migrants are bringing a dangerous memetic virus with them that the hosts don’t have any immunity to…)

• Matt M says:

migration restrictions are a super modern concept.

sos the welfare state and forced integration

• Aapje says:

@actinide meta

Caesar refused passage to migrating Helvetii.

Sounds like a migration restriction to me and 58 BC is not super modern.

• actinide meta says:

Sure, it would be astounding if no one in (ancient) history had ever interfered with migration! What I think is modern is the assumption I was responding to that that’s what borders are for, and that pretty much every state highly regulates immigration and is hostile by default to anyone wanting to come there, work and pay taxes.

Similarly, passports were introduced broadly in World War I as a wartime emergency thing (though, of course, you can go find historical anecdotes of similar things happening before!). I think they were pretty widely considered an offense against human rights that would quickly be eliminated once the war was over.

• Skepticality says:

It’s not necessarily progressive or libertarian, but a rational position on immigration would presumably argue something like the following:

We allow free trade of goods and services across borders (e.g. NAFTA, WTO).
We allow free movement of capital across borders (e.g. foreign direct investment, SWIFT wire transfers).
Why, then, shouldn’t there be free movement of labor across borders?

In short, you cannot consider free movement of labor in the abstract. You have to discuss it in the context of complementing existing freedoms regarding good, services, and capital.

Furthermore, adopting freedom of travel across international borders would be a natural extension of existing rights under both existing domestic and international law.

For example:

In the United States, freedom of travel across state borders — defined in 1869 by the US Supreme Court as “right of free ingress into other States, and egress from them” — is guaranteed as a fundamental right that originates in the Privileges and Immunities clause of the US constitution, and enforced by the several states.

In the European Union, the right to travel is enshrined as one of four fundamental freedoms in its founding charter, the Treaty of Rome (subsequently renamed, in typical bureaucratese “Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”).

At some point, it becomes apparent that what we’re actually discussing is the relevance and meaning, both in principle and in practice, of the concept of a nation-state itself.

Historically over the last several millennia, the concept of a state has grown from collective villages to city-states to nation-states to today’s multipolar world, with regional blocs, bilateral and multilateral treaties, transnational organizations, and non-state actors.

At each point, the constraints on a state’s extent and reach were primarily technological and administrative, e.g. transportation, communication, trade and supply lines, projection of military power, and organizational structures.

Is it any surprise, then, that in today’s globalizing world — which is increasingly connected and increasingly interconnected — that the very concept of a state may be due, once again, for revising?

• Aapje says:

The problem is that free travel is incompatible with rights granted to citizens merely for being citizens, like welfare. In fact, it’s incompatible with forced wealth transfer of all kinds, including progressive taxation. It’s also incompatible with the ability for cultures to develop shared formal and informal rules (as we see in practice that it takes a very long time for people to adapt to a new culture, usually multiple generations).

So by resolving one issue, you create other issues. We already see that globalism is causing huge issues that affect large parts of the population and these people are really angry about that, resulting in the rise of populism in the West.

Globalists tend to portray their choices, which are overall greatly beneficial for themselves, as inevitable. The worst part is that they tend to be in complete denial about this, claiming their selfishness as a desiring to help others.

• The problem is that free travel is incompatible with rights granted to citizens merely for being citizens, like welfare. In fact, it’s incompatible with forced wealth transfer of all kinds, including progressive taxation.

That’s true if you have a sophisticated definition of forced wealth transfer, but not with a naive definition. To expand …

Suppose a society has progressive taxation and uses the money collected to improve the society in ways valued by, among others, rich people. They then have the choice of living in that society, paying higher taxes and getting superior benefits or living in another society with lower taxes and lower benefits. If the value to them of the benefits is greater than the cost, they will choose that society.

The sophisticated answer is that this is not really wealth redistribution, since they are getting something for their money more than worth the cost. But it is what naively looks like wealth redistribution, since there is progressive taxation.

What I am describing is, of course, the Tiebout model on an international scale. In the limiting case of zero moving costs, it means that governments can only produce services that are worth at least what they cost–like firms in a market. But it also means, as you say, that they cannot really redistribute.

Some regard that as a bug, some as a feature.

• Aapje says:

Suppose a society has progressive taxation and uses the money collected to improve the society in ways valued by, among others, rich people. They then have the choice of living in that society, paying higher taxes and getting superior benefits or living in another society with lower taxes and lower benefits. If the value to them of the benefits is greater than the cost, they will choose that society.

What if many will have a strong preference to only pay for the things they use, not for anything else?

Imagine a market where countries bid for companies & highly productive people. If the market is imbalanced in favor of the companies & highly productive people, you can expect countries to start outbidding each other by lowering taxes on companies & highly productive people. Then the countries can maintain their tax income by roaming off the productivity improvements of the middle and lower classes, shifting more of the tax burden to them.

That seems exactly what has been happening for the last few decades.

Some regard that as a bug, some as a feature.

Yes, because you dislike the welfare state.

However, as productivity is highly unfairly distributed, your model will cause the kind of extreme disparities that will make way more people unhappy than happy. So that makes it incompatible with democracy. So now you don’t just lose the welfare state, but you also have to start oppressing people. Hmmm.

• However, as productivity is highly unfairly distributed, your model will cause the kind of extreme disparities that will make way more people unhappy than happy. So that makes it incompatible with democracy.

I don’t know what a fair distribution of productivity would be, and doubt you do. But since free migration produces enormous net benefits, especially for people who migrate from places where they are unproductive to places where they are productive, I don’t see why maintaining it would be inconsistent with democracy.

The U.S had pretty nearly open borders until the 1920’s–I think entirely free migration from the New World and Europe, some restrictions on Asian immigration (I’m not counting things like trying to keep out people who were carrying contagious diseases). Did that have the results you predict? All four of my grandparents plus my mother and her siblings came here during that period, and they don’t seem to have viewed the institutions that let them get of Eastern Europe negatively.

• Imagine a market where countries bid for companies & highly productive people. If the market is imbalanced in favor of the companies & highly productive people, you can expect countries to start outbidding each other by lowering taxes on companies & highly productive people. Then the countries can maintain their tax income by roaming off the productivity improvements of the middle and lower classes, shifting more of the tax burden to them.

That seems exactly what has been happening for the last few decades.

Where the heck do you get this idea? If countries have been bidding for companies and hoghly productive people, shouldn’t the rich have lower taxes and higher benefits than the poor? Funny how the exact opposite of that is the case. In the US, the rich pay enormously more than the poor in taxes, including a much higher percentage of income. In Europe the rich pay more in taxes, but closer to an equal percentage of income. And especially in Europe, the poor receive a lot more in benefits than the rich., although it is mostly true in the US also.

It sounds logical that countries should be bidding against each other to get the rich, but it certainly doesn’t happen in practice.

• Aapje says:

@DavidFriedman

I don’t know what a fair distribution of productivity would be, and doubt you do.

I think that people have a sense of this and the more people feel that the distribution is unfair and the stronger the feelings, the greater the chance of revolts. In any case, if productivity/the economy grows faster than the wages for a certain group, then it’s objectively true that this group gets a smaller piece of the pie.

But since free migration produces enormous net benefits, especially for people who migrate from places where they are unproductive to places where they are productive, I don’t see why maintaining it would be inconsistent with democracy.

If you assume that the people who lose out to these migrants have such a strong bond with them that makes up for their sense of loss, then yes. In practice, I can’t help but notice that favoring open borders is pretty strongly correlated with benefiting from open borders/globalism and anti-immigration sentiment with those who are harmed by open borders/globalism.

Now, I’m not disagreeing that more people may benefit overall and those may then be able to outvote the people who don’t, but it’s quite likely (and IMO already happening) that this causes the latter group to lose faith in a democratic system that doesn’t benefit them enough in their eyes.

The U.S had pretty nearly open borders until the 1920’s […]. Did that have the results you predict?

I think that conditions have substantially changed, so past results are no longer representative, although I don’t feel like going into detail, because it would require too much explaining.

• Aapje says:

@Mark V Anderson

My argument is that we currently have a situation where the outcome consists of X percent bidding for companies and highly productive people & 100-X percent determined by a desire for egalitarianism. My position is that we need a balance between the two, that X has been increasing for the past decades and that X is too high.

In the US, the rich pay enormously more than the poor in taxes, including a much higher percentage of income.

Sure, but that reflects the reality that the rich profit way more from government spending (not necessarily directly, but in a more holistic sense) and that the poor are simply not productive enough to pay for a high level of government services. Expecting the rich to contribute way more than the poor is just as logical as expecting the healthy to contribute way more than the sickly.

Furthermore, US taxes are only progressive up to a point, after which they become regressive.

It sounds logical that countries should be bidding against each other to get the rich, but it certainly doesn’t happen in practice.

http://fortune.com/2016/08/30/apple-tax-ireland-ruling/

Of course, in the last example you see that after decades of this, some push back is happening.

• Paul Zrimsek says:

I think that people have a sense of this and the more people feel that the distribution is unfair and the stronger the feelings, the greater the chance of revolts.

Your opposition to “vigilantism” has a curiously uneven quality to it.

• The Nybbler says:

Sure, but that reflects the reality that the rich profit way more from government spending (not necessarily directly, but in a more holistic sense)

Given that a huge percentage of government spending is transfer payments and services for the poor, I’m not buying it.

and that the poor are simply not productive enough to pay for a high level of government services.

Well, the Willie Sutton argument of “that’s where the money is” does make a point.

Expecting the rich to contribute way more than the poor is just as logical as expecting the healthy to contribute way more than the sickly.

Indeed, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need, right?

• rlms says:

@The Nybbler
“Given that a huge percentage of government spending is transfer payments and services for the poor, I’m not buying it.”
See page 15 of David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom for a counterargument.

• In any case, if productivity/the economy grows faster than the wages for a certain group, then it’s objectively true that this group gets a smaller piece of the pie.

Yes. But unless you have some reason to believe that their previous slice of the pie was fair, which you don’t, that isn’t evidence that the new distribution is unfair.

If you assume that the people who lose out to these migrants have such a strong bond with them that makes up for their sense of loss, then yes. In practice, I can’t help but notice that favoring open borders is pretty strongly correlated with benefiting from open borders/globalism and anti-immigration sentiment with those who are harmed by open borders/globalism.

You assume that you know who is benefited by open borders and who is harmed. The people most plausibly harmed are U.S. unskilled workers. The people most obviously benefited are those whose income comes mainly from capital.

Neither of those is a very large group, and I’m not sure they are particularly likely to be oriented as you suggest. American blacks, for instance, mostly support the Democratic party, which at the moment is more pro-immigration than the Republicans. People whose income comes from capital are generally viewed as tending to be Republicans, although I’m not sure it’s really true.

• Aapje says:

@The Nybbler

It’s unfair to call me a commie/extremist when I’ve explicitly said that this principle has to be balanced with other concerns.

@DavidFriedman

Yes. But unless you have some reason to believe that their previous slice of the pie was fair, which you don’t, that isn’t evidence that the new distribution is unfair.

Yes, that part of my claim is subjective. However, it is objectively true that all else being equal, the smaller a slice that a group gets, the more people in that group get displeased.

American blacks, for instance, mostly support the Democratic party, which at the moment is more pro-immigration than the Republicans.

Arguably, American blacks have other problems which are bigger right now, which means that the impact of migration on them is relatively small, since those other problems harm them very much.

However, that merely means that you have 2 destabilizing factors, rather than 1.

• actinide meta says:

The problem is that free travel is incompatible with rights granted to citizens merely for being citizens, like welfare.

There might be some tension between these things, but “incompatible” is going way too far. For better or worse, there are lots of ways you could have a welfare state with open borders without making it extremely attractive to move there and collect welfare.

• Aapje says:

I think that true free travel implies being on par with citizens, otherwise people are not truly free to pick their place of residence, but are being coerced in some way.

Even if you disagree, merely allowing anyone in who is more productive than citizens can be expected to drive the latter into un- or underemployment.

I think that Western countries are currently hiding their worker surplus by increasing the amount of underemployment & by policies and market forces that result in stagnating wages for these not very productive people. So effectively, the jobs that need to be done and the wages for these kind of jobs get parceled out over more people.

• IrishDude says:

merely allowing anyone in who is more productive than citizens can be expected to drive the latter into un- or underemployment.

Per comparative advantage, even if Person A is more productive at every task than Person B, Person B will still have opportunities for working by doing the thing they can produce at relatively lower cost than Person A. Rich nations and poorer nations gain from trade with each other and so do productive people and less productive people.

• albatross11 says:

IrishDude:

The easy way to think of this is to consider why a busy cardiac surgeon might hire a maid to clean his house. It’s not because he can’t do the work–indeed, he’d probably do it better than the maid. (He’s smart and good with his hands and detail-oriented, or he wouldn’t be doing surgery.) But he can do *enormously* more valuable things with his time than clean his house. Both he and the maid are better off for him paying her to clean his house, and indeed, the world is better off–if he were somehow forbidden to hire a maid, he’d spend fewer hours doing lifesaving surgeries so he could wash dishes and sweep floors.

• IrishDude says:

@albatross
I agree with your illustration of comparative advantage. My post was rebutting Aapje’s claim that letting more productive people immigrate into a country pushes less productive citizens out of the labor force and I’m not sure if you’re trying to rebut my post or add support.

• I think that true free travel implies being on par with citizens, otherwise people are not truly free to pick their place of residence, but are being coerced in some way.

If an airline offers special benefits to frequent fliers, are the other customers being coerced in some way? The fact that different people are offered different terms isn’t coercion.

My old proposal was that new immigrants not be eligible for welfare for some substantial length of time, but that their tax rates be reduced to reflect the proportion of spending that is for things they are not eligible for. How is that coercion?

Even if you disagree, merely allowing anyone in who is more productive than citizens can be expected to drive the latter into un- or underemployment.

Why would you expect that? More productive people in a market economy will get higher wages. Do you assume there is some fixed number of jobs out there, so if someone is better than I am he gets the job instead of me?

If the absurdity of that view isn’t obvious, consider that over the history of the U.S. the number of workers and the number of jobs have both increased by about two orders of magnitude, yet they have been out of sync by as much as 10% for only short period of time with special causes. Not likely if they are independent.

Would you similarly argue that if someone gets a good education, making him more productive, that hurts everyone else in the society? If so, you should support taxing schooling instead of subsidizing it.

• Aapje says:

@IrishDude

Per comparative advantage, even if Person A is more productive at every task than Person B, Person B will still have opportunities for working by doing the thing they can produce at relatively lower cost than Person A. Rich nations and poorer nations gain from trade with each other and so do productive people and less productive people.

That logic only works without welfare in the rich nations, without people in rich countries having family that they don’t want to leave behind, people in the west don’t already have higher expectations, etc.

The situation is asymmetric.

14. Nancy Lebovitz says:

In re sexual harassment and assault: Any thoughts about the best way to deal with crimes which are commonly done in secret?

I haven’t seen anyone mention how much simpler it is to assume that one gender is guilty. It’s less work than finding out what’s actually going on.

****
I’ve noticed that in the RL rationalist, skeptic, and sf groups that I know, people are very good about letting me into the conversation. All I have to do make a little indication of wanting to say something, and I get to talk. I think I’m seeing similar courtesy extended to men.

I appreciate this a lot, and I don’t think it’s always been this way.

It’s possible that the people who aren’t making the little indication aren’t getting to talk, and for all I know, they want to.

I live in Philadelphia. My sister (lives in California) is envious.

• gorbash says:

I think everyone should be recording what happens to them. All the time. Our phones should have apps which save the last 2-3 hours of audio in a loop. A quick websearch reveals an android app called “smart voice recorder” which records sounds and skips over silence.

Why don’t we use this? Is it the battery drain? Is it a negative social reaction, like we saw to Google Glass? Are a lot of people actually doing this but nobody talks about it?

I know that Russian drivers do this. (eg, websearch for [why do russian drivers have cameras in their cars].)

• Edward Scizorhands says:

It’s flatly illegal in 12 states where everyone has to be aware that they are being recorded (unless they are in public).

I also wouldn’t trust someone who I found out was unilaterally recording a conversation because I’d be too suspicious that they were doing it to selectively release harmful things I say but not harmful things they say. Yes, I can counter this by recoding on my own, but we aren’t at that equilibrium.

FYI this is standard practice in Raikoth.

I also think it might be the right solution, though it’d require some forethought to implement.

(Unfortunately, Raikoth is Scott’s conworld and not a real place)

• Aapje says:

@Nancy Lebovitz

One of the best ways to go after serial offenders whose crimes happen 1-on-1 and which don’t leave solid evidence, seems to be to have multiple accusers. Then if they independently tell similar stories, especially with consistent details about the modus operandi of the offender, a good criminal case can be brought.

In practice, we see that this currently tends to happen when the media makes an accusation public and enough people back it, which can then result in more people coming forward. This seems a fairly imperfect way for various reasons:
– It seems to generally take a long time for this to happen, resulting in serial offenders being able to continue for decades, their crimes to lapse under the statute of limitations, the victims having forgotten many details which could help for the criminal case, etc.
– The publicity messes with people’s memories
– It seems to greatly favor high status victims over low status victims
– If the initial accusation is provably wrong or the accusation doesn’t get corroborated, huge damage can nevertheless be done to the accused
– It’s quite unpleasant to the people who come forward and have their statements be picked apart by the entire world

My preference would be if the normal procedure would be that people who consider themselves victims of crimes that are very hard to prove for single instances would talk to investigators and have their testimony be recorded and a stored. Then if a critical mass of victims has come forward who all point at the same perpetrator and their stories match sufficiently, the investigators would notify them that a good case can be brought. This would avoid many situations where accusers go through a long and painful process, without getting justice at the end. If victims come forward very often to have their testimony stored, it should help to stop these offenders way sooner. By filtering on repeat offenders, it should result in an efficient use of police & court resources, reducing the time spent on accusations without evidence, false/mistaken accusations, etc; while the resources are primarily used to stop the really bad offenders.

Of course, in theory this is already somewhat how things should work with the police, so the real issue is figuring out what is preventing this from working now. For example, by seriously investigating and addressing as much as reasonable the issues that cause victims to not report. By looking at whether the police dismisses some accusations which could be used to make a case, rather than making a report for them. By teaching people what kind of experiences they should report to the police. Etc. Then if this is done well and victims report good experiences with the process, I would favor putting substantial social pressure on people to actually come forward, for the benefit of others.

*I’m trying to let you get into the conversation 🙂

• John Schilling says:

One factor that needs to be considered is that people who don’t report sexual harassment or sexual assault may chose not to do so because they believe they can do a better job of handling it privately. And they may be right.

The only genuine case of sexual harassment I’ve had to deal with in twenty-plus years in the industry, ~five as a manager, the victim chose to handle privately because she expected management to overreact and botch the job – which, to be fair, is exactly what they had done the last time someone complained. Short of a time machine, she wasn’t going to undo the transient disgust of the original experience, but she ensured that there was no repetition, that the perpetrator suffered a loss of status, no innocent bystanders harmed. When I found out what had really happened, I accepted her resolution of the situation and kept her confidence.

Then more senior management found out about it, and overreacted and botched the job. Lots of good people wound up losing their jobs, including both the perpetrator and the victim – in the latter case not because of any retaliation, but because enough other people had been fired or quit in disgust that her project team had dissolved around her.

If the objective is to solve the problem, rather than to be seen to be solving the problem, then sometimes the best solution will be to give potential victims the tools they need to solve the problem privately without ever having to report it. Starting with a generally supportive culture and some specific mentorship, if that can be arranged.

• Andrew Hunter says:

Can you describe what her private solution consisted of? I’m having trouble thinking of anything someone could do to punish a harasser short of spreading nasty rumors about them, which is not a solution I want to encourage, since it has no connection with the target of the rumors actually misbehaving, and will end with sociopaths winning.

• John Schilling says:

Does it count as a “nasty rumor” if it’s the truth? Or a subset of the truth in that it leaves out the worst bits and isn’t shared with the people who would overreact to the other bits?

• Aapje says:

Most people are utterly unable to accurately determine the truth. The way the human mind works is that people have a biased and flawed perception and then fit what they perceive into a narrative that is made to work by making assumptions and other guesses.

I once saw a real crime documentary where the same person was asked to testify in court multiple times, over the course of many years. You could see the testimony changing as the person forgot the perceptions that mismatched with the narrative and the person making up things he might have noticed if the narrative was true. The end result was that the testimony at the end was more consistent and damning, but it was obviously less reliable than the more inconsistent initial testimony.

An example of how it can go wrong:

Australian eyewitness expert Donald Thomson appeared on a live TV discussion about the unreliability of eyewitness memory. He was later arrested, placed in a lineup and identified by a victim as the man who had raped her. The police charged Thomson although the rape had occurred at the time he was on TV. They dismissed his alibi that he was in plain view of a TV audience and in the company of the other discussants, including an assistant commissioner of police. The policeman taking his statement sneered, “Yes, I suppose you’ve got Jesus Christ, and the Queen of England, too.” Eventually, the investigators discovered that the rapist had attacked the woman as she was watching TV – the very program on which Thompson had appeared. Authorities eventually cleared Thomson. The woman had confused the rapist’s face with the face that she had seen on TV. (Baddeley, 2004).

Such mixing can also happen temporally, for example, a person can think that a person who acted creepily also groped them, when that person may have been groped at a different time by another person. The human mind also categorizes events (imperfectly) by theme and it can happen that when one searches one’s memory for ‘creep’, memories for different events are retrieved and get attributed to one event. These memories can even be fantasies (our memory doesn’t just have actual events, but also fantasies and we can sometimes confuse them for the real thing).

• Andrew Hunter says:

That seems equally usable by actual victims and sociopathic liars.

• John Schilling says:

That seems equally usable by actual victims and sociopathic liars.

All the tools of human interaction can be used or abused by sociopathic liars. Or, per Aapje, by people with fallible memories and imperfect minds.
So what? Are humans to stop interacting, to stop saying good and/or bad things about one another and all the rest, unless approved my Management or Authority?

Are you really suggesting that a person who has suffered harm at the hands of another should not be allowed to say, “I have suffered this harm at the hands of this person”?

• Aapje says:

Vigilantism is so easily abused on purpose or by accident that civilized peoples developed impartial legal systems.

I prefer the benefits of civilization over the alternative.

• Rob K says:

@Aapje

Vigilantism is distinguished by using methods reserved for the formal legal system (e.g. corporal punishment).

Extend the definition to cover social sanctions and you’ve turned my friends into vigilantes if they stop inviting me to dinner because I make a habit of stealing property from restaurants I eat at.

• The Nybbler says:

Are you really suggesting that a person who has suffered harm at the hands of another should not be allowed to say, “I have suffered this harm at the hands of this person”?

It means there’s a rather low weight we should put on such claims, if we have no idea of the reliability of the person making them. There are people I would believe such a claim from. There are people I would most definitely not.

• Andrew Hunter says:

Are you really suggesting that a person who has suffered harm at the hands of another should not be allowed to say, “I have suffered this harm at the hands of this person”?

Of course not, no; but you seem to be encouraging this as a method of resolution in general (am I wrong?) One consequence that would follow, aiui, is that we’d have to act on such claims and should generally encourage people to repeat them and stain people by them.

Which seems very exploitable.

• Aapje says:

@Rob K

I think it’s obvious that social sanctions have a vigilante element. Lynchings were also social sanctions.

So the issue is the severity.

People generally believe that sexual misbehavior should have harsh sanctions, so vigilante responses tend to be severe.

• John Schilling says:

People generally believe that sexual misbehavior should have harsh sanctions, so vigilante responses tend to be severe.

And you chose to hang that argument on a case where the “vigilante” response was mild but effective and it was the Official Management response that was severe, ineffective, and accompanied by massive collateral damage to the innocent?

Possibly you or Andrew might offer a more relevant example of “vigilante” overreaction to sexual harassment. Or possibly you don’t have any, because your theory of human behavior seems to be at odds with the observed behavior of (western non-SJW) humans.

Also, “vigilante” is a loaded term that you might not want to use against real people who have done no violence to anyone.

• Also, “vigilante” is a loaded term

Long ago, wandering through the library of the University of Chicago law school, I came across a shelf largely of books on the California Vigilante movement. Some of them thought the Vigilantes were the bad guys, some that they were the good guys. The same history seen through different lenses.

• Aapje says:

@John Schilling

I think that it is fair to assume that, in a society with subcultures and individual diversity, the vigilante-style solutions will vary with each subculture and person. So it would normally vary more than the global solutions. So pointing to any individual case is anecdotal evidence, picked from a range of examples that you could point to, some of which are better than the global solution and some of which are worse. Furthermore, the mere inconsistency is already unjust, IMO.

Now, I agree with you that the more global authority can be very unjust and in that case it can certainly be true that it may be better for the individual to act themselves. However, doing that destroys the general deference to authority and thus promotes anarchy, which I oppose. It will also make people with bad moral judgment more likely to act themselves. So I only favor doing so if the global authority is quite unjust, not for relatively small moral disagreements.

Of course, if the global authority is quite unjust, then that is a problem in itself and one that simply cannot be fully solved by acting individually. So I see vigilante-style solutions as a means that is only justified by a lesser evil standard (like war is as well), not a just thing in itself.

Of course, you have chosen to not go into detail about the chosen solution, so it might also have been one that falls within the bounds of social norm enforcement, but given the current societal shift towards legitimizing outlandish witch hunts, I choose to risk erring the other way.

• John Schilling says:

I think that it is fair to assume that, in a society with subcultures and individual diversity, the vigilante-style solutions

Stop right there.

If you’re going to use the word “vigilante” to describe people whose great sin is telling the truth as they see it without official sanction, then all I can do is say “Go Vigilantes!”

This isn’t the place to use Power Words outside of their appropriate domain in hopes of importing their emotional affect to their cause. And, since you seem to insist on doing that, I’m done thinking you have anything useful to say on this subject.

• Andrew Hunter says:

If you’re going to use the word “vigilante” to describe people whose great sin is telling the truth as they see it without official sanction, then all I can do is say “Go Vigilantes!”

Well, again (noting that I am not Aapje and haven’t used the word vigilante): can you give some details as to how Susie complaining about John effectively punished or limited John by saying he did something creepy? In particular, who listened to her and changed their behavior how?

Because if the answer is “everyone in the office Listened And Believed ™ and shunned the harasser” then this sounds scary. And if that behavior–which is highly believable in left-aligned workplaces–is not what you’re referring to, then, as per my original ask, I’m really not clear what Susie *did* do and how it helped.

• Aapje says:

@John Schilling

People with a grievance don’t magically always tell the truth, they tell their side of the story. The mere fact that they have a grievance influences them (generally by changing their memories to justify their grievance/emotions). People also simply make mistakes.

An independent arbiter in a well setup legal system cuts through the emotions, separates actual fact from inferences, looks into verifiable claims, etc.

@Aapje,

An independent arbiter in a well setup legal system cuts through the emotions, separates actual fact from inferences, looks into verifiable claims, etc.

In theory, sure.

But have you ever dealt with an administrator / administration in the real world which you would be comfortable describing in those terms?

It seems like John gave a pragmatic answer suited to how companies and school administrations function in practice (i.e., poorly). If your answer depends on an administration which only exists in theory, that’s a big strike against you.

• Of course, if the global authority is quite unjust, then that is a problem in itself and one that simply cannot be fully solved by acting individually.

That was the situation that produced the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance in 1851, at least according to accounts sympathetic to it.

I think of that as the original vigilantes, but the term may be older–there was a Philadelphia Committee of Vigilance in the 1840’s.

• Aapje says:

I actually pointed out exactly that, adding nuance to my argument. I tried to get John to admit the (potential) problems with his solution, but he refuses to admit there are any.

So I reject the implication that I’m the extremist here.

15. dodrian says:

A few days ago a technical glitch briefly locked a number of users out of their Google Docs, with a worrying, slightly Orwellian error message.

I use Google Docs a lot for volunteer work especially – preparing Sunday School lessons for my church, organizing community events, etc. Web-based is especially useful for being cross-platform (I use Linux at home, but no one else does), accessible anywhere (including on a phone) and for collaborating docs with others. Docs is a pretty full-featured word processor as well, and prints/pdfs nicely. But this is a reminder that on the web you don’t really own your data.

A temporary glitch would be annoying at the very least. If the service suddenly decided I wasn’t welcome that would be a lot of lost data.

In the short term I’m looking for a way to sync Google Docs with my home computer, though under Linux all the solutions appear to be a bit cludgy. In the long term, are there any services like Google Docs I could run on a home server? Or am I just being overly paranoid?

16. johan_larson says:

I’ve been thinking of reading Yudkowsky’s collection “Rationality: From AI to Zombies”, but I’ve seen some complaints that Yudkowsky isn’t really an expert in any of the topics he addresses (philosophy, statistics, neurology, psychology, quantum mechanics, …), so maybe he isn’t the best guide.

If one were to replace Yudkowsky’s single collection with books by more qualified authors that together address the same material, roughly speaking, what would those books be?

“Predictably Irrational” by Daniel Ariely might do for the subject of cognitive biases.

• Incurian says:

Thinking:Fast and Slow is a common suggestion.

• Anatoly says:

How much of it is now an embarrassment due to the replication crisis? Certainly the priming stuff, but there’s probably more? (I haven’t read it fully back in the day).

• Incurian says:

Not sure.

• Nick says:

Eliezer himself responds here. Note of course that that is from 2007, though.

• rlms says:

Thinking Fast and Slow plus Language In Thought And Action gets you most of his good stuff and then some.

17. Thegnskald says:

Ok, today, a criticism of the anti-SJ crowd.

First, the insistence that everything SJ fights for is a lie gets just a little bit old. There are actually problems; racism is very real, and black people experience more of it on average than anyone else. And history matters; highways tended (and still tend) to get constructed through black neighborhoods, and lead poisoning today is a very real artifact of overt racism yesterday.

Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement. The correct response to “Women experience sexism constantly” isn’t “They are imagining the existence of sexism against them” using more complex words. By and large, most of the anti-SJ crowd has no problem acknowledging that sexism against men exists, but agreeing with the enemy that sexism against women is still a thing is apparently beyond the pale. Quit reversing stupidity.

Third, I don’t know when the hell it became cool to be an asshole, but seriously, you lot are familiar with Billy Beck, right? (If not, you should be. He makes fascinating arguments which fail only because they assume everybody shares his political values.). He is an unhappy man who you shouldn’t be emulating. Pissing off your opposition to “prove” they are irrational works on just about everybody and produces no truth value. And at this point, I think the relatively small number of anti-SJ people have probably equaled the raw amount of hate expressed in SJ.

And yes, the SJ movement is full of sociopaths. I personally know three, with maybe a fourth I am currently uncertain of. So is the anti-SJ movement. I think the best criticism of SJ is that it is full of toxic ideas that lend power to sociopathic assholes; the same is true of anti-SJ, for approximately the same reasons. If your argument comes down to “Their movement is full of assholes”, well, so is every movement. Scott has done a pretty good job picking out specific toxic ideas in SJ – the superweapons post being a great example. This is what you should be doing.

Ultimately, I tend towards an egalitarian form of highly specific misanthropy, which is this: Any position which depends on an inequal distribution of assholes is almost certainly false. This is why I tend to take the idea of false rape accusations seriously; in order to assume they aren’t and can’t be an issue, you have to begin by assuming women are less assholish than men, which I don’t think is true. I do think there is a tendency to treat self-identity-oriented harms as more serious, because they are more salient. And, keeping in mind what I just said, I do think men are currently getting a worse societal deal than women, because I think the gender roles historically did a good job of balancing gendered interests, where modern society has systematically reduced or eliminated the negative tradeoffs women made in the previous arrangement while not adjusting either the positive tradeoffs, or the negative tradeoffs men made – or, to put it another way, society has been quashing male privilege without paying much attention to female privilege. (For recursive reasons, in that part of female privilege is having harm against you taken seriously). I also think this situation is reversing, albeit slowly.

So I am with you to a point – that point being where you become the thing you are fighting against. Let’s not have the next century be a pendulum of terribleness, in which Republicans become the masculine-perspective party, and the Democrats become the feminine-perspective party. Maybe, given competing perspectives, the correct solution isn’t whatever extreme we happen to believe in.

I hear a lot of criticism of call-out culture. Maybe the issue isn’t with call-out culture – calling out assholes in our midst seems like a good idea – but rather the broader cultural issue in which “our” assholes are acceptable and “theirs” aren’t.

Hear, hear. Listening to anti-SJWs is very cathartic for the first couple of weeks. After that, you start noticing that it’s just the same biases and prejudices and self-serving rationalisatins only in reverse.

Any position which depends on an inequal distribution of assholes is almost certainly false.

I think that is a good rule of thumb, also.

Maybe the issue isn’t with call-out culture – calling out assholes in our midst seems like a good idea – but rather the broader cultural issue in which “our” assholes are acceptable and “theirs” aren’t.

I think there is a problem with calling out assholes, which is that when you get right down to it, just about everyone is an asshole some of the time – and the people who talk the loudest and therefore become prominent members of any group are almost invariably extreme assholes a lot of the time. (Scott is actually one of the few examples I’ve seen of a talkative non-asshole… and I still wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he had some sort of Deep Dark Secret just waiting to come out) So at a certain point, it all starts looking like anyone is a potential target and the ones who get picked out are just the ones that it’s currently safest to attack.

I don’t have any solutions to the asshole problem, except to just pre-emptively distrust everyone and especially the people who take charge.

• Thegnskald says:

That gets into a recursive problem – calling out assholes, as a function, has been coopted by assholes who use it to punish enemies.

The fix is calling out all assholes, not just those on the enemy team – because then we can remove the people abusing the power.

I already told you what I think the problem with that is. Once you start looking for assholes, everyone will start looking like an asshole.

You want to call out “all assholes”? Okay. *points to the entire human race* Those people are ASSHOLES!

See how that didn’t really help?

• Thegnskald says:

Sure.

Which is why I advocate elsewhere for a less subjective version of “asshole”.

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement.

Is it, though? If you want A, and your opponent wants A+5 and you argue for A, then you might get compromised into “A+1”, “A+2”, “A+3”, and so on. If you refuse to compromise your position at A, you run the risk of being painted as unreasonably fundamentalist. I’m not saying this is how it works, but it doesn’t seem obvious to me that what you said is the best strategy.

I hear a lot of criticism of call-out culture. Maybe the issue isn’t with call-out culture – calling out assholes in our midst seems like a good idea – but rather the broader cultural issue in which “our” assholes are acceptable and “theirs” aren’t.

I don’t know how representative my position is, but my issue is with proportionality: It’s OK to call out assholes, but does being an asshole (or even worse, acting like an asshole) really justify trying to get someone isolated/fired/ousted from their party/etc.? At the same time we’re reducing the state’s punishment (thankfully), we’re revving up the public’s. And the latter is (mostly) unregulated and unbounded.

• Thegnskald says:

We aren’t arguing over policy, we are arguing over facts.

Also, I think that approach to negotiation is a major solvent for (as in, it melts) social trust.

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

We aren’t arguing over policy, we are arguing over facts.

I’m not sure how separated these are. If you just mean that we acknowledge that racism against non-white people is a thing that still happens and is bad, then sure, but there is something to be said to not accepting to argue within your opponents’ framework, at least unless it’s very explicitly defined.

That being said, I’d guess the kind of Anti-SJ people you’re talking about are not super represented here, except for maybe the South Park guy.

Also, I think that approach to negotiation is a major solvent for (as in, it melts) social trust.

I’m also not sure how much of that is left.

• Well... says:

We aren’t arguing over something on a linear scale like a price, we’re arguing over facts.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I suppose I’m anti-SJ, but not part of the anti-SJ crowd you’re describing. I hate SJ, but I see it as trying to deal with mostly real problems by emotionally abusive means.

If you’re not willing to list SJ sociopaths publicly, would you be willing to email me? I’m nancyl (the usual) panix (another usual character) com. The only SJ sociopath I’m sure of is Requires Hate.

Call-out culture is a problem– it isn’t just identifying assholes, it’s a concerted attack on people’s reputations and motives, sometimes on very little evidence.

• Thegnskald says:

The SJ sociopaths are in real life. I have alluded to them before; one is an emotionally abusive man who alternates between yelling at women who he knows won’t fight back and trying to establish safe spaces, the other two are manipulative women (whose behavior is just as bad in subtle ways, and who rely more on guilt as a means of emotional abuse than anything else – again, only targeting the people in the social group who will always choose “Cooperate”, no matter how many times the other person has defected).

(I really don’t understand the people who insist SJ is an internet only phenomenon. What kind of bubble are they in?)

My arguments for call-out culture rely on the idea that we call out assholes on our own side; right now the toxicity arises because assholes are abusing the function, and nobody is willing to call them out on it.

• albatross11 says:

On one extreme, you have a policy of never calling out your allies on anything–the result is that you accept some pretty nauseating and destructive allies, and one day you find yourself marching alongside guys in Klan robes carrying torches and chanting anti-Semetic slogans when you just didn’t want that statue of General Lee removed from the park.

On the other extreme, you have a policy of calling out your allies on anything problematic they say or do, and one day, you realize that your whole movement has devolved into an endless series of internal witchhunts and denunciations and tearful apologies, and isn’t actually accomplishing anything because it’s spending all its energy eating itself.

You need some middle point to have any kind of cohesive group that functions. You need to be willing to call out (and kick out) the Nazis, violent people, crazies, rapists, etc., so your movement doesn’t become toxic, but you need to be willing to *stop* at some point, so your movement doesn’t become a a race to see who can purge each other first.

• Thegnskald says:

Agreed.

Objective norms are a good start. There is a reason Hammurabi is a big deal. When the rules are subjective, assholes win.

• Anatoly says:

A bit of a tangent here, but I don’t think sociopaths are the major problem, both in SJ and in anti-SJ. It’s more like, the epistemic culture that makes them horrible, makes them also attractive to sociopaths, but sociopaths aren’t the ones causing most of the harm; and when they do, it’s through being enabled by well-meaning people who adopted the terrible epistemic culture.

At work, a well-meaning, thoughtful person endorsed this link in a discussion about assuming good intent: https://thebias.com/2017/09/26/how-good-intent-undermines-diversity-and-inclusion/

This article, right there, embodies much of what’s wrong with SJ. But was it written by a sociopath? I doubt it. Was it shared by a sociopath? Definitely not. The culture this article argues for is one in which a particular kind of a particularly visible sociopath will thrive, but that’s a secondary harm of this culture – it would’ve still been extremely bad without any sociopaths in it.

• Thegnskald says:

Arguing for stupid ideas isn’t unusual to any particular ideology, however.

The problem is in how those stupid ideas enable malevolent actors to act.

First, the insistence that everything SJ fights for is a lie gets just a little bit old. […]

Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement.

“You can argue with me but only if you concede all questions of fact in advance.”

Third, I don’t know when the hell it became cool to be an asshole

“Also you are obliged to treat me with respect even especially when I’m treating you with open contempt.”

No. I’m touched by your concern but I got sick of playing that game a decade ago. Being the bigger man doesn’t work, it just paints a target on your chest. Ask Mr. Damore how politely disagreeing with SJ excesses works out.

SJ routinely makes claims which are laughably untrue and then uses them to justify heaping abuse on the majority of the country’s populace. Then scolds like you “call out” any “assholes” among the majority who have the temerity to notice.

• Thegnskald says:

I am endlessly amused by the fact that everyone assumes I am on the enemy’s side because I insist on sanity.

In case you don’t remember who I am, I have consistently argued against SJ here.

I am just being consistent, and refusing to buy into the tribalist narrative. Kind of like how I argue with leftists even though I am one.

And a target painted on my chest is just a soapbox from which to speak.

• John Schilling says:

I am endlessly amused by the fact that everyone assumes I am on the enemy’s side because I insist on sanity.

If you define “sanity” as not opposing the enemy using the tactics most people see as appropriate for the task, and/or offering the enemy more respect than most people think the enemy deserves, how is it anything but mind-numbingly obvious that most people are going to see this as evidence that you are on the enemy’s side?

Also, if you “insist” that the thing you are asserting is “sanity”, you are accusing everyone who doesn’t agree with you of being insane, which is A: highly insulting and B: likely to be seen as evidence that they aren’t on your side.

I don’t agree with you, and I’ll be explaining why when I’ve had a chance to codify my thoughts. In the meantime, maybe you should rethink how you go about amusing yourself (and whether this sort of amusement is something you want to exhibit in public).

• albatross11 says:

I have seen almost exactly this argument used on the SJW side, in response to people pushing back on some of its excesses.

• Thegnskald says:

“Most people” meaning “Everybody who hasn’t already been chased away from our movement because of the tactics we use”? Because most people aren’t exactly on board with those tactics used by either side. It is only the SJW and antiwarriors who think the fight is one to be fought with these tactics.

Which is to say – the thing by which everyone can agree that racism is bad, but the tactics used by SJW are bad?

The same thing applies to your side. They can agree that SJWs are bad, but the tactics used by the anti-SJW warriors are bad.

• John Schilling says:

I have also seen SJWs breathing. Possibly I am supposed to feel bad about doing that because they are doing that?

• Thegnskald says:

If you are going to complain about them breathing, yes.

• The Nybbler says:

It turns out that even when two groups have symmetric complaints against each other, the situation isn’t necessarily symmetric.

• Thegnskald says:

Nybbler –

I don’t care if the situation is symmetric. Just plain doesn’t matter.

If As are going around beating the shit out of anybody who looks like a B, and Bs are going around beating up people who look like an A, I don’t care if A outnumbers B in a way that makes me want to change the distribution of power there – the situation doesn’t get better if Bs convert a bunch of people to their side and suddenly outnumber As.

Which is to say – saying their behavior is worse because they have more power doesn’t actually make me want to give YOU power, if you are just going to be exactly as shitty as they are.

• The Nybbler says:

If As are going around beating the shit out of anybody who looks like a B, and Bs are going around beating up people who look like an A,

That situation is symmetric. But if it turns out that the A’s are doing violence against anyone who they think is a B, and the B’s are speaking out against the A’s and the A’s are calling their speech “violence” (sound familiar?), then the situation is not symmetric, despite the fact that both sides are complaining the other is doing violence against them. Truth matters.

• Thegnskald says:

The Nybbler –

Spoken like a true ingroup member.

See, to them, those violent people are no more part of their movement than you think the guy who drives a truck into an antifa protest crowd is part of yours.

• The Nybbler says:

See, to them, those violent people are no more part of their movement than you think the guy who drives a truck into an antifa protest crowd is part of yours.

Yes, they are. They promote the idea that “racist” speech is violence, they openly support “no platforming”, and they openly support punching “Nazis”. If they didn’t, one would have to make a determination about whether they were sincere or dissembling, but there’s no need to go that far.

You want to see both sides as the same and the whole thing as a pure tribal conflict, but it’s not. This is the fallacy of balance.

• Thegnskald says:

So they are uniquely terrible for saying that certain forms of speech are uniquely terrible?

• The Nybbler says:

And acting on that belief by forcibly and violently stopping and retaliating against that speech, as if it were indeed violence.

• Thegnskald says:

Again – like driving a truck into protesters?

You are treating anti-fascists as part of SJW – by the same token, it is legitimate for them to treat fascists as part of anti-SJW.

Anti-fascists are probably SJW. It would surprise me if fascists weren’t anti-SJW.

Doesn’t matter in either case, because a subset is not the set.

• lvlln says:

To me, there’s an asymmetry in that, while the typical SJW seems to be loudly and proudly encouraging antifa and encouraging escalation of their violence, the typical anti-SJW seems to have immediately and loudly condemned the Charlottesville murderer and disavowed him to whatever extent he’s connected to them (the typical anti-SJW seems to have basically no ideological connections to that murderer that would necessitate such a disavowal, other than the anti-SJW part, which isn’t a connection beyond outgroup-homogeneity).

That’s not to say that SJWs are responsible for antifa violence (or any violence they don’t directly engage in or incite), or that I agree with The Nybbler in the best way to deal with SJWs and the literal physical violence they encourage – I think Thegnskald is right on when it comes to how to de-escalate the situation, and I agree that whether or not it’s symmetric shouldn’t guide us too much on the best course of action going forward. But I do think it’s true and helpful to recognize that there’s an asymmetry, even if the only thing we get out of it is that the frustrations that The Nybbler expresses is based on something real and significant.

All that said, my perception of SJW and anti-SJW may not be accurate and are definitely heavily biased. As such, I may be wrong that it’s asymmetric. I just don’t think I am at the moment, given what I’ve observed.

• The Nybbler says:

You are treating anti-fascists as part of SJW – by the same token, it is legitimate for them to treat fascists as part of anti-SJW.

No. You are again claiming a symmetry of form means a symmetry of substance.

• Thegnskald says:

A symmetry of form is a symmetry of form.

You don’t need anything else.

In terms of kings, imagine, for a moment, a king who executes people whenever they displease him, and goes looking for reasons to be displeased. Everyone is terrified of and hates him.

An upstart appears, and starts killing cronies of the king, and talking about how much the current state displeases him, and how he wants to execute all the people making things terrible, if only he’d be made king.

There is a different in substance, but not form. Which means nobody wants to oust the old king to put a new, equally terrible to different people, king in his place.

That is the issue. Antiwarriors aren’t offering an improvement, just a different variant on terrible.

• The original Mr. X says:

At the risk of Godwinning this thread, say you go back to 1930s Germany and ask a Nazi what he thinks of the Jews. “They’re powerful, organised, and have it in for us,” he tells you. Now say you go to a Jew and ask him what he thinks of the Nazis. “They’re powerful, organised, and have it in for us,” comes the reply. Both people are expressing the same attitude towards members of the other group; does it follow that they’re both equally wrong, or equally bad?

• Aapje says:

@Thegnskald

It’s wrong to treat anti-SJ(W) as the opposite of SJ(W). They are not, in the same way that anti-Christians are against, but not the polar opposite of Christianity. Christianity involves specific claims about God, Jesus, etc. Anti-Christians can be atheists who disbelieve in a supernatural being or Muslims who have a different faith. These two groups disagree with Christians for completely different reasons.

Christians almost always have shared foundational beliefs and generally feel kinship with each other, but atheists and Muslims don’t have either with each other. In fact, Christians and Muslims generally prefer each other over atheists. Similarly, SJ people almost always have shared foundational beliefs and generally feel kinship, but various group of anti-SJ people don’t have the same disagreements with SJ and often oppose each other. For example, toxic pick up artists like Roosh V are anti-feminist, but think that MRAs are sad whiners who beg for favors instead of employing dark arts to just take what they want like proper men should. Traditionalists and progressive MRAs oppose feminism, but the former disagree with the goals and the latter with the methods (and facts).

• albatross11 says:

John Schilling:

If you define “sanity” as not opposing the enemy using the tactics most people see as appropriate for the task

So, I’ve argued with people about tactics like no-platforming or staging riots to shut down offensive speakers, because I think those tactics are both destructive of society and unlikely to end well even for the SJW movement. And this is exactly the response I’ve gotten. These are the tactics that work, why do you want us to stop doing what works, do you like the fash?

, and/or offering the enemy more respect than most people think the enemy deserves

This is a particular failure mode I’ve seen in a lot of the SJW movement. To even allow Charles Murray or Heather MacDonald to speak and treat them decently is offensive–they’re the enemy, and deserve whatever they get. To even link to or quote some offensive speaker is wrong.

, how is it anything but mind-numbingly obvious that most people are going to see this as evidence that you are on the enemy’s side?

Can you think of any situations where people on opposite sides of a contentious issue can agree to treat each other with respect and refrain from effective-but-unfair rhetorical tricks? Because those are the conversations I’m interested in being part of, or reading, or hearing.

It seems to me that the alternative to this is to turn every serious difference of opinion on an important issue into a no-holds-barred war. If I think abortion is morally equivalent to murdering children and you think it’s morally equivalent to clipping your toenails, how should we deal with that?

Agreeing to disagree can work, but not if treating each other like humans or refraining from the nastiest attacks possible if they’re effective is forbidden by the rule we both follow.

Having an actual discussion and maybe trying to see each others points of view is also possible in principle, but again, that can’t happen unless we’re able to treat each other with a minimum level of respect and have a conversations.

If neither of those are acceptable, then what’s left? And if we establish the rule that anyone who argues for respecting people on the other side as humans, refraining from super nasty attacks, etc., is a secret supporter of the other side, then where does that lead?

• Jiro says:

Can you think of any situations where people on opposite sides of a contentious issue can agree to treat each other with respect and refrain from effective-but-unfair rhetorical tricks?

So far, “don’t include your enemies’ children in your political attack on your enemies” seems to be mostly still not used.

Sanity:
1. Believing lies which are flatly contradicted by both casual observation and statistics;
2. Arguing using only rhetoric which has been proven to be ineffective;

Yup, clearly an unobjectionable request made with the best of intentions. I withdraw my statement.

And a target painted on my chest is just a soapbox from which to speak breadline I can stand in after I’m fired for wrongthink.

FTFY.

I know men whose professional reputations have been seriously marred by spurious accusations of sexism and racism. These guys weren’t exactly heretics either: one who I’ve worked with before is an ardent feminist and anti-racist with the misfortune of looking like a “bro” and having a lower class accent.

It’s hardly an idle threat either: you’re probably sick of hearing it by now but biology has proven that it’s not squeamish about throwing its Nobel laureates and Ivy League deans under the bus.

Standing on a soapbox doesn’t work unless you’re independently wealthy. Otherwise you’re just a ranting hobo wearing a sandwich board.

• Thegnskald says:

So your complaint is that the movement is eating itself, therefore you should be free to use the same tactics that are causing it to eat itself, because by eating itself it is proving how dangerous it is?

My complaint is that it’s eating everyone.

If you publicly oppose SJ, you’re punished.
If you privately oppose SJ and are discovered, you’re punished.
If you publicly support SJ and it’s a day ending in y, you’re punished.

There’s a reason why people and comparing these guys to the Red Guards. It’s just smash, smash, smash with no rhyme or reason.

• Thegnskald says:

So, when I say “Hey, don’t be like them” and your response is “Their tactics work best so we should adopt them”, I have to ask –

What do they work best for?

Because “smash everything” doesn’t seem like a good tactic to adopt if your goal is defeat a group because they are using “smash everything” tactics.

If a madman is running around punching people in the back of the head at random, there’s a certain moralistic sense in which punching him out is “sinking to his level.”

On a more practical level, if nobody is willing to lay hands on him he’s going to hurt a lot of people, including people you know and care about.

There’s consequences to winning and losing. There are people and things which I want to protect and it’s little consolation if I manage to keep my hands clean in the process of failing.

• Thegnskald says:

So, in Europe, there is this thing.

There are fascists, who occasionally do bad things.
Then there are anti-fascists, who respond to those bad things by doing bad things to perceived fascists.
Then there are anti-anti-fascists, who respond to the bad things anti-fascists are doing – most of them to innocent bystanders, because there aren’t actually very many fascists – by doing bad things to perceived anti-fascists.

The chain goes up a few more levels, but is readily dissolved into this:

Both sides going “Those other people are defending terrible people and doing terrible things, let’s punch back and do terrible things to them!”

This is pretty much what I see happening with the anti-SJW side. Knock it off, we don’t need more terrible recursions.

Standing on a soapbox doesn’t work unless you’re independently wealthy. Otherwise you’re just a ranting hobo wearing a sandwich board.

This is one thing I’m very concerned about with regards to “getting racists fired” and what not. The only people concerned about getting fired are middle class people with a job. The owner of the company isn’t worried about getting fired. The hobo isn’t worried about getting fired. When we make employment contingent on not expressing political beliefs then only the wealthy and the desperate can participate in the political discourse. This does not seem like a solution that leans towards optimal outcomes.

• The Nybbler says:

This is pretty much what I see happening with the anti-SJW side. Knock it off, we don’t need more terrible recursions.

If you won’t pay attention to the base case, you’re going to get the recursion. Here in the US we have people who do nothing but speak taboo views, sometimes rudely — Milo (the rudest), Ben Shapiro, Charles Murray, Bret Weinstein, Christina Hoff Sommers, Donald Trump (second rudest), etc. And we have the antifa and SJWs who shut them down and physically attack them. There’s no symmetry there. Complaining about the next level, those who oppose the antifa and the SJWs, is to take the side of the antifa and the SJWs.

• Thegnskald says:

Nybbler –

And when you cut down all of the trees, where will you hide?

Seriously – this is exactly the rhetoric used by both sides of this debate, and both sides of the antifa nonsense in Europe.

Except the SJWs would treat the base case as a black man being dragged behind a car in rural Texas, or whatever.

• The Nybbler says:

@Thegnskald

You’re paying attention to the form, not the substance. Certainly the SJWs might pick an offense (or make one up) which they claim justifies their actions. But it won’t; there will be no actual connection between that offense and their action. Unless you think some random attack in rural Texas justifies attacks on completely different people who are doing nothing but speak.

As for cutting down the trees… they’re already down; the SJWs chopped them all down to go after the racist and sexist “devil”.

• Thegnskald says:

Why did your side drive a truck into a crowd of people who were doing nothing but speaking?

• The Nybbler says:

@Thegnskald

You keep trying to find a symmetry which isn’t there by eliding all the details.

• Thegnskald says:

And you are ignoring inconvenient parallels.

• Well... says:

Ask Mr. Damore how politely disagreeing with SJ excesses works out.

Are you saying he instead should have trolled them on Twitter and started using triple parentheses and giving polemical talks at the AmRen conference? That if he did those things he’d still have his job at Google and would have persuaded most of the country to his side, and wouldn’t have become an unemployable pariah? I’m not clear on your point here. In fact, I think the support he’s gotten is entirely due to his politeness and good-faith, rational approach.

What he should have done is stayed anonymous until he had earned Fuck You Money. Then he would absolutely have preserved his career and reputation.

The problem is that he believed all that crap about sanity and dialogues. He wasn’t cynical enough to get that there’s no possible argument he could have made that was more convincing than “you’re fired.”

The way to fight SJ and win, as President Trump demonstrated, is to fight from a position of financial independence and never give an inch of ground. When the public sees SJ rage deflected by your complete inability to give a shit they’ll feel more free to publicly express their unPC opinions. Once that consciousness exists you can start organizing open resistance and drive them out.

• Well... says:

As some here may know, my position has long been that he shouldn’t have taken part in those discussions at work at all, despite their being effectively encouraged. That seems to accord with what you’re saying, although you’re putting an idealistic twist on it by saying he should have instead attained great wealth before speaking his mind. But it doesn’t follow, given that he was determined to join the conversation when he did, that being polite and reasonable was the wrong approach.

I do think that once the Eye of Sauron is upon you it’s better to not grovel and apologize, but that isn’t really what this situation was about.

I think I might not have made my position clear:

Polite engagement never works but that doesn’t mean that impolite engagement always works.

SJ is all about speaking power to truth. Power is all they talk about and it’s the only thing they respect. If you want to beat them, you do it by demonstrating that they are powerless over you.

The trick is, they do actually have a fair bit of power. Not enough to unseat a President yet but more than enough to get a CEO or a Nobel laureate fired. So you need to make sure that your powerbase is actually secure going into the fight.

SJWs hate men like Peter Thiel and Donald Trump. But you can’t fire someone from his own company, and their lawyers and private security are good enough to keep them from being sued or punched. Which just leaves them impotently yelling at men who can contemptuously ignore them.

• Well... says:

I think your assessment of the situation is accurate but unfocused. What does it mean to “beat them”?

Everyone who on some level opposes SJ doesn’t necessarily share the same objectives when it comes to dealing with SJ.

• The Nybbler says:

As some here may know, my position has long been that he shouldn’t have taken part in those discussions at work at all, despite their being effectively encouraged.

Which is to say that he should simply accept that he has lost.

I think your assessment of the situation is accurate but unfocused. What does it mean to “beat them”?

To remove them from their positions of power. To leave them unable to implement their policies, and to implement opposing policies. As is being done with the Title IX tribunals.

• Well... says:

Oh, OK. So you can’t just oppose SJ and occasionally discuss/debate those issues with people because it’s interesting to you or you find it stimulating or because you feel like you could persuade a few people; no, you have to go to War against the Enemy and all engagement has to be conducted with the goal of Victory, seeing your enemies driven before you, etc.

Anything else means you’ve “lost.” (Lost what?)

In that case, why go through such indirect speech-based routes at all? There are ways to shut people down and prevent them from having a voice or having power. Many of those don’t even mean rendering physical harm, though some do. You’re not opposed to rendering physical harm, are ya, loser? Seriously, it seems like this is where your line of reasoning is headed.

BTW even if we lived in an All Trite utopia where Google basically upheld the values of Jeff Sessions and Todd Akin Richard Spencer and Jack Donovan, I don’t think it would be appropriate to go into work and discuss politics there. I understand how Damore got lulled into a false sense of security and let his opinions out (it’s happened to me too) but generally you shouldn’t talk politics at work, no matter where you work or who’s in power.

• The Nybbler says:

BTW even if we lived in an All Trite utopia where Google basically upheld the values of Jeff Sessions and Todd Akin Richard Spencer and Jack Donovan, I don’t think it would be appropriate to go into work and discuss politics there. I understand how Damore got lulled into a false sense of security and let his opinions out (it’s happened to me too) but generally you shouldn’t talk politics at work, no matter where you work or who’s in power.

If we lived in the alt-right mirror-image of what we have now, people at work would be able to go on about how the Jews were overrepresented due to their conspirational nature and the Negros and Hispanics were getting promoted too much, and how women really should stay at home and raise white babies instead of doing engineering. And if our mirror-Damore were to say “You know, it turns out that Jews are over-represented because they’re just that much more intelligent on average” and backed it up with studies and charts with circles and arrows, he’d get fired. And presumably you’d be all for that, because after all he spoke politics at work (never mind that everyone on the other side did too).

• Randy M says:

I don’t think it’s really fair to say one shouldn’t discuss politics at work when the politics in question concern matters of who should be hired and/or promoted, how to judge merit, etc. It’s not like bringing up abortion out of the blue at a dinner party; the discussion of whether he and his coworkers represented sexism in hiring or not directly impacted him, and his points directly impacted a situation in which he held a stake.
Issues of tact aside, if he [Damore] couldn’t bring up relevant facts that bear on the situation without breaching protocol, that seems unreasonable.

• Well... says:

I don’t think Damore should have gotten fired. I just think he shouldn’t have talked politics at work*. Ideally I don’t think anyone should. I hate overhearing people’s Trump-bashing from the next cubicle over, for example, even though nobody at my employer would ever be fired for that kind of thing. It shouldn’t be a fireable offense (unless it’s really egregious and obviously violates a clear and explicit code of conduct), but it shouldn’t be encouraged either, and when people do it we should be opposed to it and say “No! Bad!”

*OK, if it’s my lunch break and I have a few really close work buddies who I know and trust really well, and we go somewhere where we’re out of earshot of everyone else, then I don’t have a problem if our conversation touches on political topics. But it’s inappropriate to bring that back to our desks.

Anyway, Nybbler, you focused on the All Trite mirror world, but what of my the rest of my post?

@Randy M:

Yes, even if your company baits you and even if you think your ideas are relevant, it’s still inappropriate to bring them up at work–to a bunch of people you don’t know really well–if the content is obviously political.

• lvlln says:

Saying Damore shouldn’t have talked about politics at work looks like an isolated demand for rigor. Certainly, there’s a case to be made that no one should talk about politics at work, and Damore is someone. However, in a work environment where lots of people talked about politics in exactly the same way Damore did, just from a different point of view, without repercussions anywhere near the level that Damore faced, such a statement rings hollow, because it’s clear that the general rule of “people shouldn’t talk about politics at work” was not a significant factor in the event.

• Randy M says:

So you include “company policy” in the term politics?

There’s something to be said for not trying to overturn the values of the company that hires you, but at the same time your attitude rounds off to “quiet, peasant, your betters are talking.”

While a company wide e-mail of a manifesto is not likely to be helpful, saying to management “our diversity goals are going to waste a lot of time and money if this research is true” reads like looking out for the company’s bottom line even if it ruffles feathers.

Of course, that’s the ethics of it. Practically, large corporations are pretty wedded to bland progressivism and I’m certainly not going to risk my neck tilting at windmills.

@lvlln , that’s anarchy-tyranny on a small scale. Have an unenforced policy that you can use against trouble makers if the need arises.

• Well... says:

@lvlln:

Like I said, I understand how Damore got lulled into that sense that he could participate, but we ought to beef up our already-existant ethos about not talking politics at work. It should apply to everyone. That’s the point.

@Randy M:

Yes, if your company policy is political, you should still avoid talking politics. Most companies have “diversity strategies” or special celebrations of Hispanic Culture or whatever else. That stuff is political and it is grating to us anti-SJ folk to have to put up with it, but it still doesn’t give us license to engage in political speech at work. Sorry. Save it for SSC, or 4chan if that’s more your speed.

• Randy M says:

Yes, if your company policy is political, you should still avoid talking politics.

And by “politics” you mean “has the potential to offend someone”, right? Because it’s not like he was advocating for changes to US laws or the like, was he? (Correct me if I’m wrong)
Are company fitness programs “talking politics”? It is perilously close to fat shaming, after all.
How about discussions of the weather? “It sure has been cold lately” could be seen as an implicit rebuke of climate change, so that’s out, right?

• Well... says:

It’s a judgment call. Maybe what this really boils down to is “exercise better judgment.” If judgment is hard for you then maybe you shouldn’t be so sure of your political beliefs to start with.

What I find absurd and unproductive is this role-playing fantasy where we’re supposed to be soldiers in a war and we have to “beat them” otherwise we “lose”…etc.

• Randy M says:

It would be helpful to specify the heuristics, especially for programmers who tend to be “on the spectrum” as they say around here, and may have thought the rule of thumb was “don’t talk about controversial things unrelated to work” rather than “don’t talk about controversial things, even if the company takes a position on them you feel is factually wrong and has a financial impact on you personally.” or more succinctly, “Don’t annoy management”

• Well... says:

Like I kinda said (though it was in an edit), if you need heuristics spelled out for everything then maybe you shouldn’t have such strong political opinions. There might be some heuristics there you’re missing.

• lvlln says:

@Well…

Like I said, I understand how Damore got lulled into that sense that he could participate, but we ought to beef up our already-existant ethos about not talking politics at work. It should apply to everyone. That’s the point.

And my point is that bringing it up in this case of Damore, where it’s quite obvious that the principle of “no one should talk about politics at work” was not at all in play in any significant fashion doesn’t beef up such an ethos.

• Well... says:

Absolutely it beefs it up! If all we can say is “Ohh poor Damore! Ohhh those rotten SJWs! He was polite and rational and they still ousted him! Next time we better [mumble mumble something something shake-fist] otherwise it means They Beat Us and We Lose” then it beefs up nothing except inflammatory culture warring. The way to beef up an ethos is to harp on it every time the situation — any applicable situation — comes up.

• BBA says:

Re financial independence: Robert Mercer has Fuck You Money by any standard, and yet…

(Most of the coverage of Renaissance has fallen into the fallacy of “the CEO is the company”, which is only sometimes true. In Mercer’s case, it isn’t: the founder and retired CEO of Renaissance, Jim Simons, still holds a larger stake in the firm than Mercer does, and Simons is a major Democratic donor. But that doesn’t fit the narrative, so nobody mentions it.)

• lvlln says:

@Well…

Absolutely it beefs it up! If all we can say is “Ohh poor Damore! Ohhh those rotten SJWs! He was polite and rational and they still ousted him! Next time we better [mumble mumble something something shake-fist] otherwise it means They Beat Us and We Lose” then it beefs up nothing except inflammatory culture warring. The way to beef up an ethos is to harp on it every time the situation — any applicable situation — comes up.

That’s not all we can say. I’m personally of the opinion that we definitely shouldn’t say that, and that saying that will only cause harm, to both people like Damore and people like those who hate Damore. There are many other things we can say that would be helpful in this situation.

But one thing that isn’t helpful is invoking the general principle of no politics at work when, again, that was not a principle at issue in this case. Isolated demands for rigor don’t work to reinforce the general case, because the people who see those isolated demand for rigor can easily recognize that it’s an isolated demand for rigor (even if unconsciously, in the discomfort created by cognitive dissonance). People notice selective enforcement, particularly when it’s done toward people similar to them.

If some police force is only arresting black people for using illegal drugs while letting white people who use illegal drugs similarly go, telling everyone that the black people shouldn’t be using illegal drugs anyway won’t convince people that the important thing to pay attention to here is that we should all stop using illegal drugs if we don’t want to be arrested, not that the police force is racist as fuck and needs to be reformed. If some white people face huge social and physical punishments for making bigoted statements towards black people, but black people making similarly bigoted statements towards white people face no similar punishments, pointing out that those white people shouldn’t be making bigoted statements anyway isn’t going to convince people that we should all just stop making bigoted statements together. I think both of those examples have been playing out and continue to play out today in real life.

Now, if you want to say that Damore should be the 1st case of a new landscape in which we purge all politics from workplace talk, then there’s a case to be made here. But then we need to continue to harp on it by having a movement to have everyone at Google fired who posted any memo like Damore’s, regardless of political views, and we need to make sure that such a movement is just as well-supported as the one that led to Damore’s firing. But short of that, it’s just paying lip service to general principles while only applying it to specific cases, and that’s transparent.

• Well... says:

Fine, except 1) I don’t think talking politics at work is so horrible it merits firing, and 2) it doesn’t change my original point which was that to the extent Damore did choose to talk politics at work, he was right to go about it in a polite and rational way.

• albatross11 says:

Well:

Would it be inappropriate for *anyone* to discuss politics, or just some people? Was it acceptable for Damore’s coworkers to claim that female underrepresentation in programming was caused by explicit and implicit sexist bias on the part of men?

• Well... says:

@albatross11:

Anyone. I don’t think it’s acceptable for Damore’s coworkers to make their political claims at work either.

• John Schilling says:

Is there any workplace in the Bay Area where Donald Trump jokes are actually not tolerated? Because “no talking politics, except it’s OK to dismiss the other side’s political leadership as laughably incompetent”, seems an awful lot like special pleading.

• Matt M says:

I work in Houston, Texas and open mockery of Trump is practiced during meetings by our executives.

• Well... says:

I’ve seen this in my workplace too. Makes me want to quit.

• Peffern says:

This thread is in desperate need of some ‘In favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization’

• Incurian says:

This is reasonable-sounding to me. Both sides are following the Arguments as Soldiers Doctrine. One problem, I think, with your analysis is that while it’s safe to assume an equal distribution of assholes, it’s not safe to assume an equal distribution of power. Unfortunately, it’s easy for both sides to feel like the other side has all the power, so they will continue to feel their overstatements are justified regardless.

That said, I think this symmetry only applies to rhetoric. When it comes to public policy goals, the SJ side seems to push for truly whacko over-corrections against Xism in line with their rhetoric, while the other side favors the status quo (or more likely some incremental changes). There really isn’t much of a side calling for more Xism policy. An exception that springs to mind the Transgender Ban which I find completely incomprehensible, but that seems like more of an exception than a rule to me. Perhaps a better example of [seemingly] pro-Xism policy is anti-immigration stuff, but the other side isn’t merely pro-immigration, they’re pro-free college etc. for illegal immigrants, which does not seem symmetrical. It probably does not help that the SJ crowd tends to attract commies.

Note: I am pro-immigration but anti-free stuff.

Edited several times.

• MrApophenia says:

In order to assume they aren’t and can’t be an issue, you have to begin by assuming women are less assholish than men, which I don’t think is true.

Sort of a tangent, but how do you square this with the evidence that sociopathy is much more frequent among men than women? The exact rate estimates vary depending on who you ask, but basically everything seems to point to men being much, much more likely to be sociopaths/psychopaths/ASPD/pick your jargon than women.

When you combine this with the fact that there also seems to be strong evidence that the bulk of sexual assualt is committed by a small group of serial offenders, it seems like the facts on the ground may actually support the idea of an unequal distribution of assholes exploiting the system.

• Incurian says:

You are cherry-picking what sort of mental illness contribute to being an asshole. I could have made the opposite point by presenting the numbers for borderline personality disorder.

When you combine this with the fact that there also seems to be strong evidence that the bulk of sexual assualt is committed by a small group of serial offenders

Men are stronger than women?

• Thegnskald says:

Different gender expressions of the same phenomenons, combined with social pressures against men reporting abuse, particularly emotional and sexual abuse but not limited to those forms, combined again with greater transparency in masculine modes of sociopathy – it is harder to catch a woman who hires a hitman to kill her husband than it is to catch a husband who kills his wife himself, for example.

Toss in a convenient “victim” mantle a woman sociopath can wear at will and be believed, which isn’t available to men, and you end up with quite the system. I have personally observed this in action, with a (luckily quite stupid) woman sociopath abusing her ex-husband for many years using the legal system before he could prove what was going on. Had she not made repeated stupid mistakes, she would still be doing so, assuming he never snapped and killed her for the emotional abuse she put their kids through. (My snapping point would have been much sooner, when she tried to convince one of their girls that one of his friends had sexually assaulted her, in retaliation for him getting custody of another of the kids because she tried to have him committed without cause, in retaliation for some other nonsense I have forgotten.)

So, yeah. I don’t take those statistics too seriously. They require an equivalence that doesn’t exist.

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

Sort of a tangent, but how do you square this with the evidence that sociopathy is much more frequent among men than women? The exact rate estimates vary depending on who you ask, but basically everything seems to point to men being much, much more likely to be sociopaths/psychopaths/ASPD/pick your jargon than women.

On the converse, BPD seems to be a lot more frequent among women.

• lvlln says:

When you combine this with the fact that there also seems to be strong evidence that the bulk of sexual assualt is committed by a small group of serial offenders

An aside, but is there strong evidence of this? I recall looking into it a couple years ago when the Title 9 “Dear Colleague” letter was starting to have real effect on college policy wrt rape adjudication, and what little I saw made me think that it was about as well supported as the infamous “1 in 5 (or 4 depending on the context)” college sexual assault statistic, i.e. based off one study (or, at best, a handful of studies) that couldn’t possibly be generalized beyond the specific context of that study, and also whose methodology was extremely poor.

But I was just using a heuristic as a quick shortcut there and didn’t do the rigorous research required to properly conclude that the evidence that the bulk of sexual assault is committed by a small group of serial offenders wasn’t strong. So I’d be curious to know if it actually is the case that the evidence is quite strong, and if so, what that evidence looks like.

• dndnrsn says:

There isn’t much good statistical evidence for anything about sexual assault, or stuff having to do with sex in general, but it’s better stats than the 1/5 (a more reasonable statistic is 1/5 lifetime for rape and 3/4 for other sexual assault – which is still really high – per the NISVS). However, while it is far from a statistical slam-dunk, it would fit the mold of other crimes: Googling gives me this, which cites a criminologist:

But there have been studies suggesting a subset of residents commit about half of crimes. Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, said by email: “A routine finding in the criminological literature is that about half of the crime is committed by a very small fraction of the population, around 5-8 percent depending on the sample and methodology used. This finding has been replicated in many different studies around the world. The bottom line is that a small fraction of the offending population is responsible for a great majority of crime.” Piquero said most of the studies tracked residents only into late adolescence or early adulthood.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I find myself vaguely assuming that sociopaths do more damage than people with BPD, but really, I have no idea. Thoughts?

People with BPD seem to be more willing to work on getting better, perhaps because BPD is painful.

• The Nybbler says:

First, the insistence that everything SJ fights for is a lie gets just a little bit old. There are actually problems; racism is very real, and black people experience more of it on average than anyone else.

Certainly there’s racism. But quantifying it? That seems like an intractable problem. How do you do so? For instance, if a white man is afraid to walk into a black neighborhood at night for fear of the residents mistreating him, that’s white racism according to the SJ crowd. On the other hand, if a black man is afraid to walk into a white neighborhood for fear of the residents mistreating him, that’s ALSO white racism. White people move out of a neighborhood (“white flight”)? White racism. White people move IN (“gentrification”)? White racism. How do you count the set-asides and discrimination for blacks, Hispanics, and everyone-but-whites-and-asians? How do you count the overt anti-white racism of the SJ crowd itself, and the fact that it’s OK to openly denigrate “whiteness”?

And history matters; highways tended (and still tend) to get constructed through black neighborhoods, and lead poisoning today is a very real artifact of overt racism yesterday.

My family lived in industrial urban NJ during that period. I don’t want to hear about how I benefited from my family being free of pollution.

Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement. The correct response to “Women experience sexism constantly” isn’t “They are imagining the existence of sexism against them” using more complex words.

I’ll say it in so many words, only with the slight qualifier of “much of the”. Treating women better than women is “benevolent sexism”. Treating them worse is “hostile sexism” As for treating them the same…there’s been a few studies done which show that when women are treated the same as men, they perceive this as sexism against them. To defend themselves against this point, SJWs call it “mansplaining” any time you point out that the things women are complaining (typical examples: being interrupted, being lectured about something they already know, having someone else propose the same idea they did and have it accepted where they were ignored) about happen to men all the time. If you can get past that, they insist that the way men act is wrong and instead they should act the way women (supposedly) want them to, which is the way the SJWs are proposing. Or they propose out-and-out deference to women, on the grounds that no matter how much you tilt the playing field in women’s favor, the structural biases in favor of men still outweigh them.

Third, I don’t know when the hell it became cool to be an asshole

When SJWs got control of what was good manners and what was asshole behavior and defined everything that disagreed with or contradicted them as the latter, and whatever they do as the former. Case in point: I once (during the Lambdaconf incident) objected to an SJW calling Curtis Yarvin a “Nazi” and was told that was being an asshole. But of course calling a Jewish man a “Nazi” without damn strong evidence, that’s OK and fine. You can’t have a polite debate with someone who, if you make a point, can successfully dismiss it as “You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole”, and is completely unconstrained themselves.

• Thegnskald says:

Cast the beam out of your own eye, I think is the relevant quote here.

Seriously. I agree.

Doesn’t change anything. The anti-SJW movement is still toxic.

• Nick says:

What movement isn’t toxic anymore? Tangential but serious question. It seems to me everything is way more toxic now than a few years ago, but I can only speak for the movements I pay attention to.

• Thegnskald says:

They are all toxic, and always have been; assholes are evenly distributed and all that. It has just gotten a lot more public, lately, because of social media.

• Nick says:

But come on, take the Moldbuggians as an example: its culture and norms weren’t ridiculously awful when it got going, and it definitely went downhill over time. But it started over social media, right from the beginning. So what really changed that drove it into the ground? Was it the platforms that people were primarily using? Was it the leadership (it comes to mind this is something people point to for New Atheism’s demise)? Something else I’m not thinking of?

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

My theory is that there’s been a rise of troll culture– people who give emotional and practical support to each other’s verbal abuse.

• albatross11 says:

I think social media is a pretty effective mechanism to make movements more toxic. Loud people who stir up outrage and omit any kind of nuance or empathy for the other side from their writings tend to be the most successful memners of most movements on social media, and they acquire more and more followers as a result.

• The Nybbler says:

Doesn’t change anything. The anti-SJW movement is still toxic.

Of course it is. “Toxic” is just another of those words the SJWs define as meaning “in opposition to themselves”.

• Thegnskald says:

So when I say the SJW movement is toxic, I am saying something meaningful, but when I say your movement is toxic, it is just an irrelevant referent to the fact that you oppose them?

• The Nybbler says:

The term “toxic” has lost all meaning in this context. An SJW calling anyone else “toxic” is just another day. An SJW calling another SJW “toxic” is just infighting, and someone else calling SJWs “toxic” is turnabout. You’re going to have to get more specific.

• Thegnskald says:

Do refrain from interpreting everything I say through a SJW lens.

• quanta413 says:

Do refrain from interpreting everything I say through a SJW lens.

If you don’t want that to happen, you should probably avoid using their rather distinctive terminology.

As far as the broader topic goes, I try to avoid politics at work like the plague, and most people I know behave reasonably. But at the same time, your categorization seems either unclear or off to me. There isn’t really a cohesive anti-SJ crowd as much as SJ is cohesive (although it’s not super cohesive either seeing as it runs the gamut from communists to tepid bureaucratic overlords, but it’s still more cohesive than anti-SJ). The only people I’d say are anti-SJ without something else more central to their public identity are mostly edgelords (i.e. Milo). Or maybe part of the “manosphere”. And these people are pretty rare, control few institutions, and mostly don’t matter. I need you to give some examples of who you mean by anti-SJ and why these people are bad to really get any idea what you are trying to argue about exactly. Vague generalities aren’t helping me understand you here.

For example I’ll list some people I wouldn’t call “anti-SJ”:Charles Murray isn’t anti-SJ; he just happens to disagree with a lot of SJ tenants. Republican congressmen aren’t anti-SJ; they just sometimes disagree (and sometimes agree). The KKK disagrees with SJ on almost everything, but I still wouldn’t call them anti-SJ since they existed first. Of course, the KKK is terrible, but they’re also kind of small and irrelevant.

Anti-SJ makes me think Vox Day. And seriously, if your point is that Vox Day is pretty toxic or whatever then I’m on board. But it’s also not a very interesting or controversial sentiment.

• Thegnskald says:

quanta –

And if I don’t want to be known as a racist, I should avoid…?

This is exactly what I mean.

• quanta413 says:

@Thegnskald

And if I don’t want to be known as a racist, I should avoid…?

This is exactly what I mean.

If you don’t want to be known as a racist don’t talk like David Duke or like Donald Trump. Obviously your question is rhetorical, but I’m still not sure what your point is. Is Vox Day bad? Yes we agree, but I think Vox Day has a pretty low reach. Does the manosphere or whatever have as large a percentage of assholes as SJW-types? Sure, I also agree. The aggressive anti-SJ people are outnumbered by the pro-SJ people in most areas anyone posting here is from, so one group is more of a pain than the other to most people here, but that can be reversed depending where you are.

But if your point is that Charles Murray or other reasonable people who sometimes disagree with SJ are as bad as the bad SJ people, then I disagree. And I can’t quite tell what you are arguing for because you are unclear.

• John Schilling says:

And now for my criticism of a criticism of the anti-SJ crowd:

First, the insistence that everything SJ fights for is a lie gets just a little bit old.

I am certain that the insistence that everything about slavery was wrong was getting just a little bit old by 1860, particularly when people saw that it was driving the nation towards literal Civil War. Tough. If a thing is worth fighting against, you fight against it until it is defeated, not until fighting against it “gets a little bit old”. As opening arguments go, “it gets a little bit old” is basically conceding that everything you are about to complain about used to be appropriate, but that you just got tired of fighting the good fight and want everyone to give it up.

There are actually problems; racism is very real, and black people experience more of it on average than anyone else.

And here we get into motte-and-bailey territory, because the racism that was actually a problem (worthy of SJW-ish tactics) is mostly decades in the past, and the racism that is very real today is of an entirely different and lesser kind, but both you and Social Justice just lump it together under “racism”. Same goes for sexism and all the rest – one of the broadly objectionable characteristics of modern Social Justice is its eagerness to claim the mantle of great battles against injustices past as it goes about bullying the weak and mostly harmless of the present.

Or we can engage in an object-level discussion of the effects of differential highway construction over time, but I don’t think that’s where you were going either.

Second, the correct response to an overstatement is a corrected statement, not an equal but opposite overstatement.

This is usually false. Most overstatements are oversimplifications. Assertions that a thing that is usually true is instead an unqualified truth, assertions that a person or group is “evil” when their motives are selfishness and indifference, etc. And most of the time, oversimplifications are appropriate for effective communication. Even in the rationalist blogosphere, it is not and ought not be the case that most communication takes the form of detailed effort-posts or even brief but cautiously hedged statements.

So if someone has made a false or misleading oversimplified statement, they are nonetheless probably correct in having determined that the oversimplification is appropriate for effective communication in that context. The result of responding with excessive detail and/or cautious hedging will thus probably be little more than dismissal. Look for and exploit the exceptions, certainly, the cases where an opponent has misstepped with an inappropriate overstatement and something more cautious will actually be more persuasive. But this will not be the norm.

Third, I don’t know when the hell it became cool to be an asshole

Is this a joke? The second-best functional definition of “cool” is “that which enables one to get away with being an asshole”. That’s an oversimplification, BTW, but an appropriate one.

And yes, the SJ movement is full of sociopaths […] Scott has done a pretty good job picking out specific toxic ideas in SJ. This is what you should be doing.

Because sociopaths are generally persuaded by specific elucidation of their toxic ideas? That’s not even true of the sort of bystander who listens appreciatively to sociopaths. There’s value in what Scott does, but there’s also value in simply calling out sociopaths for being sociopaths.

Ultimately, I tend towards an egalitarian form of highly specific misanthropy, which is this: Any position which depends on an inequal distribution of assholes is almost certainly false.

So, you start with the presumption that all groups have an equal share of assholes, and your criticism of the “anti-SJ crowd”, is that it has too many assholes. First, I’d like accusations of assholery pointed in my general direction to come from something more than an a priori presumption of asshole prevalence. And second, you’ve painted yourself into the same no-win corner as your enemies and all of the bystanders with that presumption. I can see why it “gets a little bit old” for you; being a bit more optimistic about at least some subsets of humanity, I’m willing to keep up the fight a bit longer.

So I am with you to a point – that point being where you become the thing you are fighting against.

Maybe, given competing perspectives, the correct solution isn’t whatever extreme we happen to believe in.

And now we conclude with the meaningless platitude portion of the debate, which I am strangely uninterested in. Probably because I am an asshole.

• Thegnskald says:

As opening arguments go, “it gets a little bit old” is basically conceding that everything you are about to complain about used to be appropriate

No, it means I am tired of seeing the same basic mistake repeated. It is forgivable in a young movement; at some point, the movement needs to mature.

As for the rest of the post, it is in the same vein: Rhetorical arguments taking my commentary in bad faith, and strawmanning. For example, racism isn’t worthy of SJW tactics, SJW tactics are toxic and terrible, which is why I oppose them. SJW tactics are equally inappropriate when directed at SJ, so I oppose that too, hence the thread.

About the only interesting argument is this:

So, you start with the presumption that all groups have an equal share of assholes, and your criticism of the “anti-SJ crowd”, is that it has too many assholes

To which my response is: No. The anti-SJW crowd doesn’t have a disproportionate share of assholes. What it has is a culture which empowers assholes, same as the SJW crowd. It has less power to give them, but it gives as much as it can.

• Thegnskald says:

For an important reminder, one of the most dangerous SJW tactics is that any criticism of SJ is equivalent to supporting the relevant Xism.

And huh, what an interesting parallel popping up across the responses. It isn’t quite as overt, but it is there.

I notice some level-headed responses, correcting perceived overstatements on my part to a more reasonable statement – which, hey, great job. You are doing a better job at what I am talking about than I am.

But, well, if I failed to make my point, some of the other responses have done a good job making it for me. I need a word for this. Antiwarrior is too ambiguous.

• Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

I mean, I agree with a bunch of what you have said, but the “heh, I guess you’re both ideology-blinded warriors. Nothing personnel, kid” attitude is not going to make getting the point across any easier.

• Thegnskald says:

Oh, I’m not aiming to change their minds, I am aiming to give a rhetorical weapon to moderates, in something the way He Who Must Not Be Named gave free speech as a weapon to the right-wing with his talk of the Cathedral shutting down right-wing discourse. (I am seriously impressed by how quickly that weapon spread, and how effective it became.)

• The Nybbler says:

What is this “moderate” position you’d like to stake out? And why do you feel it’s best to oppose the efforts of anti-SJWs in getting there?

If you’re the sort of moderate who just wants the arguments to end, and you’re doing it by telling the side you think is more likely to listen to lay down its (rhetorical) weapons and let the other side have free reign because there will be less conflict that way… well, that’s the sort of moderation that makes being unreasonable a successful tactic.

• Thegnskald says:

The moderate position is that it is not a goddamned war. Literally all you have to win is to get people to acknowledge that the SJW side is acting in bad faith – that is all you have to do to win, and indeed the only way you can win, because the social superweapons being used depend on complicity, in a common belief that they are correct.

When you attempt to fight back using the same illegitimate tactics, you prove they have a meaningful enemy. They can safely attack you, and in doing so bolster the idea they are fighting a fight worth fighting.

Every soldier they “kill” is proof there is a war on they need to fight, which is why inflammatory figures are so goddamn important to them. People saying nasty shit is proof that there is still nastiness to fight.

Every sympathetic martyr they “kill” is proof they are monsters, which is why everybody cares that the Google guy got fired and why people keep bringing him up. He is a far more effective weapon than some asshat spouting pseudofascist nonsense who gets punched.

• Aapje says:

@Thegnskald

The moderate position is that it is not a goddamned war.

Every sympathetic martyr they “kill” is proof they are monsters, which is why everybody cares that the Google guy got fired and why people keep bringing him up.

So there is not a war, but one side is creating martyrs and we need to let people get hurt to get sympathy…

If your point that we should be like Ghandi, peacefully resisting, then say that. Don’t pretend that we are exaggerating when we feel under attack and then in the same post talk about how it’s par for the course that people we like get hurt…

• quanta413 says:

Every sympathetic martyr they “kill” is proof they are monsters, which is why everybody cares that the Google guy got fired and why people keep bringing him up. He is a far more effective weapon than some asshat spouting pseudofascist nonsense who gets punched.

Just so we’re clear, is your central example of anti-SJ Richard Spencer? Because his ideas are bad, his conduct poor, and his morality wrong, but when you say anti-SJ I usually don’t think of wannabe Nazis. I’m more likely to think of this blog’s author.

• The Nybbler says:

The moderate position is that it is not a goddamned war.

It sure isn’t peace.

Literally all you have to win is to get people to acknowledge that the SJW side is acting in bad faith – that is all you have to do to win, and indeed the only way you can win, because the social superweapons being used depend on complicity, in a common belief that they are correct.

No, they do not. The social superweapons depend on complicity, but not in a common belief that they are correct. Only a common belief that it’s easier and smarter to give in than oppose them, and that anyone opposing them is “just causing trouble” even if they’re right.

• Every sympathetic martyr they “kill” is proof they are monsters

That’s one way of looking at it. The other is that every martyr is evidence that if you say the wrong things you might get martyred, which is a reason to at least say, perhaps eventually think, the not-wrong things. In the limiting case hardly anyone believes the orthodoxy but almost everyone assumes that most other people do, hence that being openly heretical is dangerous.

Which view is more accurate probably depends on how powerful the people doing the martyring are in the relevant environment.

• Aapje says:

@DavidFriedman

And also how much sympathy the martyrs get.

Men get relatively little of that in our society, ironically in no small part due to traditional gender roles, so traditional gender roles empower SJ.

• lvlln says:

One issue I personally had with your post that made it hard to express support, even though I think I agree overall with your general message is that I don’t think you define “anti-SJ crowd.” When I think of “anti-SJ crowd,” I think of Dave Rubin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maajid Nawaz, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Christina Hoff Sommers, the organization FIRE, as well as the people who follow/agree with them. The behavior you describe and call out as unhelpful – which I agree are unhelpful – is behavior that I haven’t really observed in that group. It seems like you’re thinking more of people like Donald Trump, Mike Cernovich, Milo Yiannopoulos, Scott Adams, and the people who follow/agree with them. I see those people more as right-wingers who naturally landed on being against SJ due to that, rather than being specifically anti-SJ in the same way that the former group are.

Even in the former group, I see problems worth pointing out, though. Peterson, for instance, has recently been talking up software he hopes to release to analyze course syllabi for postmodernism with the express purpose of students using the tool to know which courses to avoid. Leaving aside the question of how accurate such a tool would be, I think creating such a semi-blacklist of courses is likely to be chilling to speech in a way similar to how SJWs chill speech with their criteria for wrongthink.

But as problematic as I find that, I find that to be problematic in a different way than denying that bigotry exists and needs to be fought to the extent that it exists or being an asshole.

• Thegnskald says:

Eh. It tends to be more local than that; I have relatively little interest in the behavior of Big Names, and more in the small people.

There is an instinctive pushback people engage in when they argue, wherein they often argue with anything said, even when it doesn’t make sense to.

• Aapje says:

But by being vague about whom you talk about and what specific behavior you think is wrong, you are attacking everyone and no one. It’s one of these debating tactics that are only persuasive to those who already emotionally agree with you and which allows people with way more extreme positions than you would support to project their beliefs on your vague attack. So people with extreme anti-anti-SJ(W) positions probably feel supported by you.

Am I one of your small people? Peter Dinklage? Name names so those you are talking about can defend themselves and/or be specific about the behavior you object to so we can actually address the object level.

The abstract level at which you want to debate is useless. Yes, some anti-SJ(W) people are too extreme. Yes, some tactics that some anti-SJ(W) people use are wrong. Are you blaming all anti-SJ(W) people for not policing ‘our’ side?

How can I/we address this unless you point out who exactly we should police, so we can talk about issues like whether they are really part of my/our ingroup, whether we think they are doing substantial harm*, whether there are actually realistic ways to police these people, etc, etc.

* I think that a good argument can be made that policing ought to scale with actual harm done.

• Iain says:

Aapje has a point.

It is a point that anti-SJW people in this comment section could also take to heart. Vague indefensible accusations are by no means limited to Thegnskald.

I seem to recall making this argument before, once or twice. Funny how much more compelling it seems when the shoe is on the other foot.

18. Nancy Lebovitz says:

I’ve been wondering about the history of anti-Semitism and the outside view. For a very long time (at least in Europe) there was a strong consensus that Jews are a problem, and shouldn’t be permitted to integrate into the larger society. My feeling is, so much the worse for the outside view, but I wonder if there’s a good system for identifying when there’s something wrong with the outside view.

Chesterton’s Fence would suggest being very careful about taking anti-Semitism down. On the other hand, and if it matters, Chesterton was an anti-Semite. (Page down to “Given that longing” to get to the discussion of anti-Semitism.)

He wasn’t an extreme anti-Semite– Nazism was starting to form before he died, and he hated Nazi anti-Semitism– but he also felt for a long time that Jews just didn’t fit in England.

• albatross11 says:

So he was anti-Semetic in the same sense that a largish fraction of Americans are anti-Muslim?

• Well... says:

Haven’t read it, but my hunch is that’s only true if part of Chesterton’s reasoning was “…and a relatively large portion of Jews seem to partake in an ideology that paints killing all of us, or at least making us submit to their laws instead of our own, as a heroic act.”

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Personally, I let it slide when Chesterton said Jews were too conformist to want to eat breakfast on the roof. It hurt my feelings because I would be delighted to eat breakfast on the roof– I like heights as long as I’m sure of my footing.

When Chesterton had a character described as a Jew of almost n—– vitality (redacted because of forbidden word but spelled out in the original), I simply admired the efficiency of the insult.

I’d been a Chesterton fan for some time, and after I read that, I didn’t read anything of his for a decade or more. What got to me was the utter presumption of relocating people.

I do think it’s a little much to be attacked for being too conformist to eat breakfast on the roof, and also for being so unconformist as to wear unduly bright colors.

I don’t take “man of his time” arguments too seriously. He was trying to be better than his time, and he had a considerable blind spot about Jews.

• Deiseach says:

He did, to the point where it was almost a mania. I love the man, but this is a big, dark blotch on his character. He lost all sense of proportion when discussing Jews and Jewishness; how much this was to do with that libel case his brother was involved in, I have no idea. I think he started off with the ordinary prejudices of his time – it’s quite breath-taking to see how common and unremarkable references to “n-” (the slur that will get this eaten by the spam filter if I type it) are in even otherwise reasonable and civilised authors (I got a real shock in one of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels when Inspector Charles Parker who is a character presented as a good man and indeed is a good man in all other instances we see him casually refers to “plural n-words”, and it’s not at all remarked upon by the other characters because that’s the usage of the time).

But it turned sour and twisted for some reason and he just went all the way wrong on it. This is the sin my dear GKC is expiating in Purgatory.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

It’s interesting that Chesterton was alright with being an urban person doing intellectual work, and he had Jewish friends, and he didn’t seem to mind (or perhaps even notice) that he thought they should be exiled to do manual labor in order to satisfy his (Chesterton’s) idea of how the world should work.

I’ve learned a true thing or two from Social Justice, and one of those things is that you can have a pleasant time thinking about rearranging the world, but oddly enough, there are people who will take your intellectual game personally if it suggests making their lives worse.

• Nornagest says:

I’ve learned a true thing or two from Social Justice, and one of those things is that you can have a pleasant time thinking about rearranging the world, but oddly enough, there are people who will take your intellectual game personally if it suggests making their lives worse.

I would respect Social Justice a lot more if it took that line of thought seriously w.r.t. its own ideas about rearranging the world.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Nornagest, the world would be a better place if SJWs applied “impact, not intent” to themselves instead of assuming that their good intentions are magic.

I’m bringing back some history here. “Intention isn’t magic” came before “Impact, not intent”, but there was an earlier less elegant version during Racefail, and I can’t remember what it was.

The mass culture version is “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

• Nornagest says:

“Intention isn’t magic” came before “Impact, not intent”, but there was an earlier less elegant version during Racefail, and I can’t remember what it was.

I think I first heard “intent isn’t magic” somewhere around the Racefail timeline, but it might have had predecessors that didn’t reach my ears.

• It’s interesting that Chesterton was alright with being an urban person doing intellectual work, and he had Jewish friends, and he didn’t seem to mind (or perhaps even notice) that he thought they should be exiled to do manual labor in order to satisfy his (Chesterton’s) idea of how the world should work.

I don’t think that’s a fair description of his position, at least in “The Problem of Zionism,” the one relevant essay of his I have read–you might be referring to something else. His position was that Jewish Englishmen and Frenchmen and … were Jews, not Englishmen and Frenchmen. One of his half serious suggestions is that they should be free of all legal restrictions save for the requirement that they dress like Arabs, to remind both themselves and their hosts that they are a different people.

This seems very odd to an American Jew. But many years ago, traveling in Europe, I had an experience that supported Chesterton’s view–from the Jewish side.

I was in a youth hostel or something similar, sitting with a bunch of strangers of about my age–early twenties. One of them asked me where I was from and I said America and asked where they were from. They gave a sequence of implausible answers–I no longer remember the details. One of them then asked to see my passport. I showed it to him. He then said (by memory, not verbatim quote) “I’m French the same way you are American and he is Italian and he is … .”

They were all Jews, and looked at the matter as Chesterton did.

The point about Jews becoming laborers was his description of what Zionism would have to do to succeed–and, incidentally, a view that seems to have been shared by at least some of the zionists. Where did he suggest that Jews should be exiled to do manual labor?

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Chesterton: “Therefore I would leave as few Jews as possible in other established nations,”

As far as I can tell, he meant a great many fewer Jews than were living in other established nations. And he also talked about it being important that Jews to more manual, worse-paid work, so as to be more like typical people of other ethnicities.

Now, I don’t know how seriously he meant his suggestion any more than I know how seriously he meant for Jews to be required to dress as Arabs in England.

I do believe that implementing it would have made a lot of Jews worse off, and I don’t think he noticed that.

• Deiseach says:

he thought they should be exiled to do manual labor

I only half-read that particular piece but that’s not the impression I got from it; I thought he was saying that Jews in their own country (be that Israel or the Zionist proposal or whatever) would be (a) Jews immigrating from other nations (b) in that case, they couldn’t come in as land-owners and occupiers using native (Palestinian? Arab? non-Jewish anyway) labour to do the messy manual work while they were at the top of society (c) for it to be a real country and run on the same lines as every other nation on the earth, then a Jewish state needs Jewish carpenters and plumbers and farmers and road-sweepers as well as businessmen and bankers and doctors and the other professions that Jews are (over) represented in, otherwise it would never work and it would be seen as artificial and oppressive.

I have some small sympathy there as applying the logic to Anglo-Irish landowners who for a long time vacillated between being British or being Irish, were regarded by Britain as “Irish for all intents and purposes like the natives”, were regarded by the natives as Other and did take the top role in society while leaning on a structure of manual and lower-class labour from those inhabitants of the country established there before they (or their families) arrived in Ireland.

Chesterton believed very strongly in ties to the land. His point was that if a Jewish state is set up, it will only work if the kind of Jewish middle-class and working-class urban populations in Europe and America who run small businesses like shops and pawnshops and the like then set up as tradesmen and farmers and small businesses in Israel/Zion as well, because then they will have put down roots and feel that they have a place they have invested their labour and time in, that it belongs to them and more importantly that they belong to it. It will never work as a real country if it’s the equivalent of the Rothschilds setting up country estates worked by native tenants, because that’s unsustainable: a landlord class like that has no real emotional tie to the place and it’s simply the same as their French or German or English country house.

America is different because everyone’s an immigrant. A Jewish immigrant family has just as much opportunity to become a “real American” family as the Germans, Poles, Italians and Irish who arrived over on the same boat at the same time as they did.

• Jiro says:

Chesterton’s Fence tends to fail for things that are done for no meaningful reason–it forces you to keep the fence up until you can find a reason that isn’t there.

• and if it matters, Chesterton was an anti-Semite.

The argument for that position is about as strong as for the claim that he was a Zionist. I discussed the question at some length in the second edition of my first book, which is webbed as a pdf. It’s the last chapter.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Chesterton said, “Therefore I would leave as few Jews as possible in other established nations,” which I think is a very casual way of talking about disrupting a lot of people’s lives.

• Evan Þ says:
• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Funny, I was thinking about that piece, but more from the angle that if civilization needs anti-Semitism, so much the worse for civilization.

• Where is the quote from? Have you read the source?

• skef says:

Where is the quote from? Have you read the source?

• skef says:

And here is a summary I turned up on the evolution in his written thinking about the subject. It sounds like the explicitly antisemitic stuff is from later in his career.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

The quote is from the middle of the paragraph I quoted above– from Chesterton’s long piece about Jews and Zionism.

• I have now seen the quote in context–I hadn’t remembered it. It’s part of a suggestion for establishing a network of self-ruling Jewish enclaves both in and out of Palestine, with most Jews in them, those not in them to be treated as privileged resident aliens–he analogizes it to the status of an ambassador. Chesterton goes on to say that if Zionism doesn’t work, all Jews everywhere should have that same status, treated as foreigners legally resident.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I’m intrigued that the sentence struck me very hard, while David Friedman, who is Jewish and an anarchist didn’t even notice it.

I think there’s a logical fallacy or perhaps a tactic of laying out an incomplete premise so authoritatively that people don’t notice there’s something wrong with it.

In this case, Chesterton isn’t terribly clear about whether it’s that dangerous to have people in a society who don’t completely buy into it. I don’t know whether he ever addresses the possibility of Catholics having dual loyalties. (Not that Chesterton could know, but it’s probably not a coincidence that Solidarity was Catholic.)

• In this case, Chesterton isn’t terribly clear about whether it’s that dangerous to have people in a society who don’t completely buy into it.

I don’t think he is arguing that it is dangerous to have them physically in the society–several of his proposals involve Jews being entirely free to live in other countries, although he thinks it would be better if they had their own country and most of them lived there. He is arguing that it is dangerous to regard them as fellow members of your society because they aren’t. It would be equally dangerous for the English to regard French or Italians or Germans as fellow members of their society.

I myself am more convinced than ever that the World War occurred because nations were too big, and not because they were too small. It occurred especially because big nations wanted to be the World State. But it occurred, above all, because about things so vast there comes to be something cold and hollow and impersonal. It was NOT merely a war of nations; it was a war of warring internationalists.

Again, consider The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

Let’s look at the practical side of Chesterton’s proposals if they were to be enacted.

The proposals are that Jews are to live in predominantly Jewish areas, with Jews entirely or substantially in charge. If there is a Jewish state, almost all Jews should live there. Otherwise, there should be Jewish enclaves in the established nations.

However, at present there are many Jews living among Gentiles.

Who pays for the Jews to move? And who covers the costs of disrupting households and businesses?

How are the rules about residence to be enforced?

If there is no Israel, Jews living among Gentiles might well lose political power. Is this a risk for them?

What about the non-Jews living in places designated to be Jewish enclaves?

I think Chesterton was doing his best to be benevolent, but in this case, his bast wasn’t very good.

• I think he is proposing an outcome, not a way of getting there. One way of getting there has already in part happened. Zionists establish a Jewish state in Palestine and many Jews from elsewhere move.

There are two remaining pieces. Various countries cede territory to the Jewish state, which is now a network of Jewish enclaves. Those countries also tell their Jewish citizens that they are now citizens of the Jewish state with legal residence where they presently are, without the right to vote in the country they are resident in (but with the right to vote in the Jewish state) but also no longer subject to conscription and various other rules applying to citizens.

Under those circumstances, many but not all of the Jews choose to move to some part of Israel. It is, after all, what Jews have been saying they want to do for most of the past two thousand years.

“Next year in Jerusalem.”

That version seems to me to be consistent with what Chesterton wrote–his preferred outcome.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I think Chesterton was proposing an outcome, and not thinking about how it could happen– which leaves me thinking very much the worse of him.

We probably need a much more sophisticated vocabulary for talking about prejudice.

It’s normal to call Hitler an anti-Semite, and to also call people who won’t let Jews into a country club anti-Semites, but they aren’t really in the same class.

The argument for that position is about as strong as for the claim that he was a Zionist. I discussed the question at some length in the second edition of my first book, which is webbed as a pdf. It’s the last chapter.

I read your last chapter as well as the 10k+ essay by Chesterton linked by Nancy above, and I don’t think this is a fair characterization.

It is true that he considered himself a Zionist and not an Anti-Semite but he had a peculiar definition for both.

At least vis-a-vis the modern conception. I don’t have the background to know whether or not he was anti-Semitic as compared to his contemporaries.

The essay no matter how heartfelt is clearly anti-Semitic as a subset of being nationalist to the point of racist. I don’t mean nationalist in the sense of overwhelming pride in one’s country or racist in terms of hating other races, but rather believing in some kind of mystical essence that all Englishman or all Frenchman or all Jews share. Similar to how people believe in Zodiac signs. Not genetic, I don’t see any kind of trace of Darwinism in the essay. But not cultural either, as he rejects even the possibility of assimilation.

Meanwhile his Zionism was of the sort that thought that once the state of Israel was established all Jews would or should move there. Or if not at least should be considered citizens of it living abroad. I will admit that there are some Israelis that hold to this type of Zionism, but it isn’t the majority even in Israel, is broadly rejected in NYC, and is–to me–offensive from anyone, but extremely offensive from a gentile in my own country as it implies what Chesterton says outright — that I am not a real American.

Without intending to compare the two in a moral sense, which are more related to actions than ideas, I will note that there was significant “Zionism” of this type among the Nazis. Like Chesterton they thought there was a Jewish Question and one of the solutions they considered was exiling them all to Palestine.

In sum I don’t think it is fair to say the argument that Chesterton was an anti-Semite is about as strong as for the claim that he was a Zionist. For the former in order to refute it you need a very strained definition and for the latter in order to support it you need at least a somewhat special definition.

• I don’t mean nationalist in the sense of overwhelming pride in one’s country or racist in terms of hating other races, but rather believing in some kind of mystical essence that all Englishman or all Frenchman or all Jews share.

I don’t think mystical essence is quite right. It was rather that he thought that identifying with small groups you were a part of was better than identifying with large groups. The extreme (fictional) example is The Napoleon of Notting Hill. Given that there were cultural differences, identifying your nationality by them was a way of doing it.

As I commented in the thread, his view seems odd to an American Jew but less odd in the European context. It’s worth noting that until sometime in the 18th century, most Jews in Europe and the Middle East were living under Jewish law, their Christian and Muslim rulers having subcontracted the job of ruling them to the Jewish communal authorities.

But thinking it was better to identify with small groups rather than large groups, doesn’t get you nearly to the conclusions he draws about the impossibility of assimilation or the indelibility across centuries of a “oriental” character on a people.

His essay is filled to the brim with (highly dubious) positive claims which cannot be downstream of his normative preference for small group identification over large.

As far as being less odd in the European context, it is relevant that anti-semitism is also far less unusual in the European context and especially so in 1920.

Finally, with respect to the separate legal status, it is worth noting that like the expulsions and exclusions they had long ended by the time Chesterton was writing. It would be one thing to point to that if it was contemporary and say he was only a man of his time. We might forgive a southerner for defending slavery in 1800, we are far less likely to excuse one writing in 1900.

• Finally, with respect to the separate legal status, it is worth noting that like the expulsions and exclusions they had long ended by the time Chesterton was writing.

That situation had existed for most of two thousand years. It had ended about a century before Chesterton was born, exact timing different in different countries. Seeing Jews as foreigners seems odd to an American, but I don’t think it was an odd attitude for a European–including many, although not all, European Jews. I already reported my encountering it as a grad student traveling in Europe.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

If Chesterton had lived until 1950 or so, he would have known about the holocaust and had some time to think. I can hope that he would have figured out that there was a connection between his “Jews just aren’t like us” and more virulent forms of anti-Semitism.

Chesterton did think that is was in people’s imaginations matters for what they do. I find myself wondering what Chesterton would have made of Social Justice.

19. Kevin C. says:

Pareidolia in action? Justified outrage, or hypersensitivity?

• Well... says:

It’s one of those cases where “outrage” might be unjustified for the most rational of us, but is understandable for most. I think the outrage is based not so much on “OMG this reminds me of the Holocaust now I’m traumatized by seeing this dress” but on “How ignorant do you think we are, Clothing Designer? And why would you choose such a tasteless path of inspiration? Don’t you have any appreciation for sensitive topics?” And in that sense, I would agree. It almost comes across as an exercise in “Let’s see how dumb people really are.” I mean, people are dumb, but it’s obnoxious and cynical to sell clothing whose sole purpose seems to be to make a demonstration out of it.

• The Nybbler says:

Reminds me of something I saw in an art supply store once. A bunch of cheap Chinese easels being sold under the names of lesser-known and lesser-liked Presidents, e.g. the “Gerald Ford”.

I suspect the same thing going on here. Patches in that position are common. Snowflakes are common. OK, put a snowflake in that position and sell it. The clothing designer knows little of the Holocaust (not being European and probably being quite young) and doesn’t see any problem. No one else does either, because the connection isn’t that obvious, except to someone who has been absolutely soaked in Nazi imagery.

• rahien.din says:

No one else sees any problem either, because the connection isn’t that obvious, except to someone who has been absolutely soaked in Nazi imagery.

This.

I’m baffled by the assertion that a red snowflake is equatable to a yellow hexagram in the manner suggested. “If you squint real hard you can perceive the unintentional and highly-oblique allusion to the Holocaust!” That’s what we care about? How hard are we supposed to be squinting?

I am wearing a plaid shirt. If I squint really hard it looks like evenly-spaced rectangular grids, which evokes High Modernist city planning, which verges on Lysenkoism, which makes me a famine-apologist. Should I be squinting that hard?

• Let me take a much closer case. The standard peace symbol, which huge numbers of people wear, is based on the semaphore signs for ND, standing for nuclear disarmament. I am not positive, but I believe it originally represented the movement for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the U.S. and its allies.

Some of the supporters of that movement may have been honest pacifists who believed that conquest by the Russians was better than the risk of nuclear war, some may have really believed that the Russians, with a monopoly of nuclear weaponry, would not have attacked anyone. But surely many were people who wanted the communists to win, and the results would have been very very bad.

So should anyone who makes a pendant of the peace symbol or uses it on a shirt be shunned as insensitive to communist atrocities?

• hyperboloid says:

But surely many were people who wanted the communists to win, and the results would have been very very bad.

Bullsh*t .

The CND is a British movement , and it’s position is that the United Kingdom should adopt a policy similar to Japan’s, by renouncing nuclear weapons, and pushing for global disarmament. So far as I know, no member of the CND ever advocated a Soviet nuclear monopoly. In fact one of it’s founders, Bertrand Russel, was a noted (left wing) anti-Communist, who had actually argued that a first strike on the USSR might have been preferable to allowing Stalin to develop nuclear arms .

It should be noted that the nuclear freeze movement, the CND’s equivalent the United States, a country that could not free ride on the security apparatus of an allied superpower, only advocated for a moratorium on further nuclear weapons development.

At the hight of the CND’s influence in the mid nineteen eighties it had around between a hundred fifty, and three hundred thousand members. The larger figure is from the CND itself, the smaller (and likely more accurate) figure is from the BBC. In the 1983 general election the Communist party of great Britain received a total of 11,606 votes. If any great percentage of CND members had been Communists they had a funny way of showing it.

You may disagree with the CND’s position, and there are many good arguments against it, but believing that Britain would be safer without a nuclear arsenal makes one neither insane, nor a Communist.

• rahien.din says:

Here’s one that is near-and-dear to me :

God willing and the creek don’t rise.

There are two potential denotations of “creek rising”
[A] a small body of running water rises in level, such that it can no longer be forded. See also : come Hell or high water.
[B] the Creek nation stage a violent insurrection

[A] is what I (and almost everyone I know) ascribe to. Every now and then I run across someone who insists that [B] is correct, and therefore, the expression is explicitly racist. This always strikes me as lunacy.

Suppose we take the [B] claim seriously*. The fact remains that [A] makes perfect logical and syntactic sense on its own, even in the era during which [B] could have held meaning. IE not everyone, even in the late 1800’s, would have heard “creek” and thought “injun.” Moreover, [A] is currently the prevailing denotation. The very need to point out [B] would be evidence that usage had drifted from a racist denotation to a denotation that is not even race-adjacent. This is what we would want!

So, even arguendo [B], if people usually mean [A] then to remind them of our more-racist past and insist that they should/must/ought to mean [B] is to correct them towards racism. Ostensibly, in order that we all be less racist.

* Ultimately, we needn’t even take [B] seriously. As best as I can tell, [B] is pure folk etymology.

• @hyperboloid:

Thank you for the information. Apparently I was correct that the CND supported unilaterial nuclear disarmament, but only for the U.K., hence not producing a Soviet monopoly.

• ec429 says:

The CND’s membership might not have been mainly communist; but it’s my understanding that its organisational armature (i.e. the not-in-the-public-eye part of its leadership) was. There may even have been a connection to the KGB’s Active Measures department — after all, it’s exactly the sort of thing it would make sense for them to encourage.

• There is a wiki discussion of communists in CND. John Cox, chairman from 1971 to 1977, was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and there were some other connections. Also, “In 1990, it was discovered in the archive of the Stasi (the state security service of the former German Democratic Republic) that a member of CND’s governing council, Vic Allen, had passed information to them about CND.”

But nobody seems to have provided evidence that the organization as a whole was controlled by the Soviet Union or subsidized by it.

• rlms says:

“a member of CND’s governing council, Vic Allen, had passed information to them about CND” is evidence against the idea that the CND were controlled by the USSR. You don’t need moles in an organisation you run.

• The Nybbler says:

You don’t need moles in an organisation you run.

I’m pretty sure Stalin would disagree. When you’re paranoid, having backchannels into your own organization is just a necessary precaution.

• bean says:

But nobody seems to have provided evidence that the organization as a whole was controlled by the Soviet Union or subsidized by it.

There was a tremendous amount of back-channel support to organizations like the CND by the KGB. I can’t say for certain that the KGB was one of them, but I would be at least mildly surprised if the Soviets hadn’t subsidized them at some point. Whether that information is publicly available, I don’t know.

Also, the Stasi was not the KGB. And all of the Stasi’s papers that survived have been declassified, AFAIK. The same isn’t necessarily true of the KGB. Every few years, stuff comes out of the Russian archives that overturns everything we thought we knew about (insert topic). I’ve seen at least a couple cases with the Soviet navy.

• entobat says:

I’m obviously poisoned by knowing what I’m supposed to be seeing, but I don’t think it’s pareidolic to see the Nazi symbolism there.

• Evan Þ says:

It’s definitely a Star of David, but I’m not sure wearing a Star of David is necessarily a reference to the Holocaust.

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

I’d call it superduperhypersensitivity.

20. Kevin C. says:

A recurring dynamic I see (I recall one example in the midst of the Rotherham revelations, and saw another one more recently).

Consider a situation where there are serious charges, of say, serious sexual offenses having been committed against some women or girls. A figure — with, say, far-right political associations — steps forward and makes some comment naming, or in some way alluding to the identities of those accused of committing these offenses; let us call him Odious Outgroup Figure (OOF). So a bunch of people (the BoPs), at least some of whom would normally be pursuing justice for those victims and punishment for the perpetrators, see this, and decline to act. Because however guilty they may be, punishing the named perpetrators would be potentially giving some measure of boost to OOF’s status. And they find that so unacceptable they’re willing to let bad men go free, and deny justice for those they claim to care for, out of hostility to OOF.

I see people frequently wonder about the occurrence and persistence of “untouchability”. Dalits, Burakumin, Cagots, and all that. Isn’t that whole concept strange and kind of ridiculous. Well, I think it becomes a bit more comprehensible when you consider the next part of the above scenario. That is where another person comes along and sees the above situation. And their reaction to the situation is anger — but not at the BoPs, who are willing to see a grand injustice be done. No, it’s at OOF, because it’s entirely his fault for “contaminating” the situation with his presence, thereby “forcing” the BoPs to go hands-off.

• Well... says:

I see the similarities, but I am very reluctant to say understanding one means you can understand the other. For example, the caste system in India did not necessarily come about for the same reasons, or operate in the same way, as our Cold Civil War. India’s culture has its own rather distinct and very long history; I wouldn’t presume to summarize it so conveniently neatly.

A better analogy would be to the actual Cold War here in the US, where if in the 1960s a Communist sympathizer came forward and reported a crime committed against masses of young girls, everyone else might refuse to prosecute, for fear they’d be raising the status of the Communist sympathizer.

• Kevin C. says:

I see the similarities, but I am very reluctant to say understanding one means you can understand the other.

Indeed not, but there’s some definite overlap of mechanisms. I agree that “the caste system in India did not necessarily come about for the same reasons, or operate in the same way, as our Cold Civil War”. What I’m saying is that where most people seem, IME, to have trouble with untouchability is the element of contamination, the idea that certain people “taint” everything they touch. And yet, this dynamic, that if a thing becomes somehow associated or connected to an “untouchable”, it is expected and justifiable for others to dissacociate to avoid the now “tainted” thing can be readily seen. Like this from our dear host.

• Well... says:

I don’t really understand the example closely because I live too much under a rock to know who Mike Cernovich or the “shitty men in media” are. But I think I understand how it could be an example of the pattern you’re talking about.

21. Kevin C. says:

Since there’s plenty of libertarians here, thoughts on Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s recent speech at the 12th annual Property and Freedom Society conference in September, released online a few weeks ago? The video of which was apparently taken down from YouTube. The Ludwig von Mises Centre has a transcript of it here.

• skef says:

If you want to live in peace with other people and avoid all physical clashes and, if such clashes do occur, seek to resolve them peacefully, then you must be an anarchist or more precisely a private property anarchist, an anarcho-capitalist or a proponent of a private law society.

Given that the lower part of the talk makes it extremely clear that these commitments will not be remotely sufficient, one wonders why they, as opposed to the sort of social unity he advocates on other grounds, are necessary.

• What makes Hoppe controversial in libertarian circles isn’t that he is an anarchist. It’s some combination of his claim to be able to prove that the libertarian anarchist position is correct via a screwy argument and his sympathy for views that are at least alt-right adjacent.

There was recently a thread on a FB A-C group responding to a speech of his, probably the same one. I don’t remember anyone defending him, although I did argue that some parts of it were not as bad as others in the discussion thought.

• Matt M says:

It’s some combination of his claim to be able to prove that the libertarian anarchist position is correct via a screwy argument and his sympathy for views that are at least alt-right adjacent.

With the latter being about 10x more controversial than the former. A lot of people disagree with argumentation ethics, but nobody calls you a Nazi for it…

• I am at least libertarian adjacent, so I looked at the link. But it is pretty long and didn’t look too interesting, so I only got down this far:

Someone, anyone, is not a libertarian or merely a fake libertarian who affirms and advocates one or more of the following: the necessity of a State, any State, of ‘public’ (State) property and of taxes in order to live in peace; or the existence and justifiability of any so-called “human rights” or “civil rights” other than private property rights, such as “women rights,” “gay rights,” “minority rights,” the “right” not to be discriminated against, the “right” to free and unrestricted immigration, the “right” to a guaranteed minimum income or to free health care, or the “right” to be free of unpleasant speech and thought.

Well. I guess he isn’t very interested in sharing the word libertarian with too many folks. And maybe I’m not even adjacent. He’s defined a libertarian as an anarcho-capitalist. But most people consider those in favor of a limited state to be libertarians, whereas Hoppe doesn’t consider anyone who accepts a state at all to be pure enough to be allowed that word. It’s this sort of speech that will ensure that libertarianism never will share power in any advanced society.

• Matt M says:

I know a lot of people who call themselves catholic, but don’t believe that the bread they eat on Sunday (when they choose to show up) is the literal body of Christ.

So is it a foolish notion for the pope to continue to insist that it is?

The “I’d like legal weed but come on, who would build the roads?” strain of libertarian is to me, roughly the same as the “I’ll go to church once in awhile, but come on, when I get knocked up I need to have that abortion” catholic.

If you want to call yourself one fine, I won’t lead purges to discredit and march you out – we need all the allies we can get. But if someone bothers to ask me if such a person is in fact a libertarian, the answer is clearly no.

• John Schilling says:

So is it a foolish notion for the pope to continue to insist that it is?

Who is the Libertarian Pope in this analogy?

Because we’ve got, at least in the United States, an actual Libertarian party with a chairman and a committee and everything. Founded, IIRC, by the first generation to use the word “libertarian” in English as a political term. Founded for the purpose of using the United States Government as a tool to advance the cause of human liberty, which purpose it remains to this day and with no expressed intention of ever dismantling or deposing that government.

So it would seem that the anarcho-capitalists are the heretics of this analogy, and the advocates of limited government have the backing of the Libertarian Pope.

Who, being libertarian, is fairly tolerant of heretics but probably shouldn’t let them monopolize the brand identity. And it’s not like we don’t already have a perfectly good brand identity for people who want there to be no government at all.

• Matt M says:

https://www.lp.org/platform/

This isn’t explicitly AnCap, but seems to pretty heavily imply it to me.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Government is inherently forceful. The existence of the state is incompatible with this goal.

• The Nybbler says:

So it would seem that the anarcho-capitalists are the heretics of this analogy, and the advocates of limited government have the backing of the Libertarian Pope.

Does this make David Friedman the Libertarian Antipope?

• Founded for the purpose of using the United States Government as a tool to advance the cause of human liberty, which purpose it remains to this day and with no expressed intention of ever dismantling or deposing that government.

To quote Wikipedia:

In 1974, anarchists and minarchists within the Party agreed to officially take no position on whether or not government should exist at all, and to not advocate either particular view.

Checking the 2016 platform, I observe:

We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual:

Note the “where governments exist,” which avoids saying whether or not they should.

22. Kevin C. says:

So, any thoughts about the controversy around the recent tweets by sociology professor Jessie Daniels of CUNY’s Hunter College (“an internationally recognized expert on Internet manifestations of racism”), as discussed here and here, amongst other places? Note the bit where she blamed the “marriage equality fight” for undemining the “marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society”.

• Well... says:

“marriage equality fight” […] undermining the “marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society”.

If only it were true, I’d be out there waving a rainbow flag.

• hyperboloid says:

I’ll go one further. I think It is true, and in fact it is one of the reasons I support gay marriage.

Stripped of it’s radical rhetoric, the basic argument is that the focus on advancing the right of gay people to participate in marriages that are very much patterned on the heterosexual norm has shifted the gay rights movement in a conservative direction, away from radically libertine sexual expression, and towards something much more in keeping with the straight status quo. This strikes me as both obviously true, and overwhelmingly a good thing.

• Well... says:

I think I’ve been exposed to a small subset of the gay population that seems to want to assimilate into the hetero norm (of having kids, a house in the burbs, mow the lawn and go to church on Sundays, etc.) and sees marriage as an important part of that. But it doesn’t seem like that describes most gay people’s ambitions as it relates to marriage, nor does it seem like this is something that is changing much. Instead, marriage seems to have been weaponized as a cudgel with which to beat opponents over the head with in the culture war.

Of course, I’m not really plugged into gay culture so my epistemic certainty on this is middling at best. Happy to be shown evidence to the contrary.

• skef says:

I think I’ve been exposed to a small subset of the gay population that seems to want to assimilate into the hetero norm (of having kids, a house in the burbs, mow the lawn and go to church on Sundays, etc.) and sees marriage as an important part of that. But it doesn’t seem like that describes most gay people’s ambitions as it relates to marriage,

Well, the more qualifiers added to “the hetero norm”, the fewer the number of any kind of person who has those ambitions “as it relates to marriage”.

Lots of younger gay guys want to raise kids. Without a good deal of money, the remaining options to do so don’t appeal to everyone.

Instead, marriage seems to have been weaponized as a cudgel with which to beat opponents over the head with in the culture war.

Lack of marriage was weaponized when many families shut partners out of hospitals in the AIDS (as opposed to HIV) era. You might be surprised how much of the later politics is tied to such simple issues.

• Well... says:

“Mow the lawn/go to church on Sundays” etc. was used to suggest a picture of the hetero norm, not to strictly name those things as qualifiers of it. I guess an even looser way to put it is “settle down and start a family.”

Is the stereotypical association between “the gay lifestyle” and the R-rated fast-paced/urban/night-owl/partying/promiscuous/etc. one totally wrong?

If lots of younger gay guys want to settle down and raise kids, are they bothered by this incorrect portrayal? And if so, can you show me some examples of their effort to correct it?

Without a good deal of money, the remaining options to [raise kids] don’t appeal to everyone.

Which remaining options? And of course any given set of options will not appeal to everyone–that’s always true–but it seems like not having a lot of money (not to mention being unmarried) does not necessarily stop people from having kids.

Lack of marriage was weaponized when many families shut partners out of hospitals in the AIDS (as opposed to HIV) era. You might be surprised how much of the later politics is tied to such simple issues.

Is this supposed to be “two wrongs make a right” reasoning?

• skef says:

Is the stereotypical association between “the gay lifestyle” and the R-rated fast-paced/urban/night-owl/partying/promiscuous/etc. one totally wrong?

Not “totally”. It’s a fairly small contingent who takes it into their thirties, let alone beyond. And its a fairly substantial contingent of straight guys in their twenties who do something along the same lines.

If lots of younger gay guys want to settle down and raise kids, are they bothered by this incorrect portrayal? And if so, can you show me some examples of their effort to correct it?

When you’re basic identity is one of the main negative symbols in your culture, no. You don’t particularly give a shit about this sort of thing.

Which remaining options?

Is this supposed to be “two wrongs make a right” reasoning?

Sorry, what’s the other wrong, again?

To elaborate, the lives of gay men living and working as professionals in cities looks a like the lives of straight men living and working as professionals in cities. Not identical, but similar.

If you want to see gay couples doing the whole, marry young, live in the exurbs of Midwestern cities, have kids young, go to church and occasionally hunt — then at a minimum those places are going to have to make the kids that grow up gay in the those places feel like staying there, finding love, and settling down there is an option. Just being able to legally marry isn’t going to be enough to do that. I’m not familiar with that sort of place so I don’t know if it is or isn’t happening.

• Well... says:

@skef:

It’s a fairly small contingent who takes it into their thirties, let alone beyond.

I buy that, but I’m also puzzled by why gay people wouldn’t try to publicize that more if they see (er, saw?) legal marriage as a path to settling down and having kids.

And its a fairly substantial contingent of straight guys in their twenties who do something along the same lines.

Indeed, although that lifestyle doesn’t seem quite as synonymous with being straight. And if it was, I am confident many straight people would become very vocal about opposing that association.

When you’re basic identity is one of the main negative symbols in your culture, no. You don’t particularly give a shit about this sort of thing [the popular association between being gay and the R-rated urban lifestyle].

Maybe giving a shit about it would be productive.

Sorry, what’s the other wrong, again?

Wrong 1: denying e.g. hospital visitation to gay S/Os.
Wrong 2: tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to its meaning as the foundation of the start of a nuclear family, thereby weaponizing it in the culture war.

the lives of gay men living and working as professionals in cities looks a like the lives of straight men living and working as professionals in cities. Not identical, but similar.

I understand. See above.

If you want to see gay couples doing the whole, marry young, live in the exurbs of Midwestern cities, have kids young, go to church and occasionally hunt — then at a minimum those places are going to have to make the kids that grow up gay in the those places feel like staying there, finding love, and settling down there is an option. Just being able to legally marry isn’t going to be enough to do that.

That makes sense. But doesn’t that basically support what I said earlier, about gay marriage NOT “undermining the ‘marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society’”?

I agree that exurban people who hunt and go to church and mow their lawns should not hate gay people for being gay, and should not push them out of their societies toward cities unless there’s a legitimate reason. That requires a change in that group’s thinking and communication too. Which group’s change is more possible?

• skef says:

Maybe giving a shit about it would be productive.

Can I assume, based on your preoccupation in this thread, that you worry quite a bit what other people think of you? Not everyone thinks that doing so is a virtue.

More generally, minorities are usually rigidly stereotyped by majorities in a way that majorities don’t get stereotyped. You seem to assume that there is some magic trigger gay people can pull to stop that. The people who (endlessly) point to the pride parades don’t understand, or admit, that any sign of a gay relationship, including holding hands, used to be “flaunting”, as in “I don’t mind that there are gay people, I just wish they wouldn’t flaunt it.”

Wrong 2: tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to its meaning as the foundation of the start of a nuclear family, thereby weaponizing it in the culture war.

That happened about 20 years before gay marriage legalization.

• Well... says:

I wouldn’t say I “worry quite a bit what other people think of me.” I would say I spend some effort (not a lot, but not zero) trying to understand how others stereotype people like me, and if I can visibly violate the parts of that stereotype I don’t like or don’t feel are true, then I do it, with pleasure.

More generally, minorities are usually rigidly stereotyped by majorities in a way that majorities don’t get stereotyped.

I’m not sure I understand. Can you explain?

You seem to assume that there is some magic trigger gay people can pull to stop that.

Not sure where you get that idea. I’d love to have seen prominent gay people (or gay people with access to a powerful platform) who don’t like certain aspects of the gay stereotype vocally speak out against the perpetuation of that stereotype by other gay people in a way that got the attention of non-gay people. That’s not magic, it happens often for other minorities. See, e.g. Thomas Sowell.

[tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to the start of a nuclear family] happened about 20 years before gay marriage legalization

So? Are you saying in the intervening 20 years, no gay person was allowed to criticize this move?

• quaelegit says:

There are prominent gay people who are doing the “house in the suburbs with two kids and dog” thing*. One example that comes to mind is Neil Patrick Harris and his family. (Well, it’s possible there’s wild scandals relating to him that I’m unaware of — I only know about his family because of their AWESOME group Halloween costumes.)

Incidentally, my central experience with gay people are friends of my parents who have been effectively married and living in the burbs together since the 90s. They have ONE kid and THREE dogs though, so totally bucking the trend there 😛

If you want to see gay couples doing the whole, marry young, live in the exurbs of Midwestern cities, have kids young, go to church and occasionally hunt — then at a minimum those places are going to have to make the kids that grow up gay in the those places feel like staying there, finding love, and settling down there is an option. Just being able to legally marry isn’t going to be enough to do that.

That makes sense. But doesn’t that basically support what I said earlier, about gay marriage NOT “undermining the ‘marxist-feminist critique of The Family as an inherently conservative force in society’”?

I don’t think it does. I think the pivot to gay marriage (from AIDS advocacy) did undermine the marxist-feminist critique of The Family. Prior to that there was a significant strain of “queer” thought that scorned marriage as hetronormative. But with the pivot people pushing those critiques were marginalized as traitors to the cause.

However few or many couples there were settling down, having kids, and mowing lawns — they were pushed forward as the pride and voice of the community. Theirs were the stories that made the lawsuits that the entire community was obsessed with.

That severely undermined the power of the prior critique of marriage. Although I’m not myself gay, my perception is that it also fairly strongly changed dating norms. While the urban hook up culture still exists, gays that are interested in relationships and settling down were increasingly not looked upon as strange or square. Somewhere in this OT in a discussion of polygamy someone linked Scott’s essay on the importance of defaults (https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/12/01/setting-the-default/)– and in my observation the default did shift.

If you were expecting to see a thunderclap all at once change, well that didn’t happen. But I don’t think that is a reasonable exception.

I agree that exurban people who hunt and go to church and mow their lawns should not hate gay people for being gay, and should not push them out of their societies toward cities unless there’s a legitimate reason. That requires a change in that group’s thinking and communication too. Which group’s change is more possible?

I think the power is really in the hands of the communities now. There are plenty of messages from mass media that say that it is normative for gay people to fall in love and settle down, just like straights. Sure there are other messages too, but there are for straights as well. If red tribe gay kids’ parents and neighbors provide the space for them to stay, at least some of them are going to grab it.

• skef says:

I wouldn’t say I “worry quite a bit what other people think of me.” I would say I spend some effort (not a lot, but not zero) trying to understand how others stereotype people like me, and if I can visibly violate the parts of that stereotype I don’t like or don’t feel are true, then I do it, with pleasure.

So you … also worry about what people think about you in a different way.

[tying the politics of marriage to a bunch of engineered benefits rather than to the start of a nuclear family] happened about 20 years before gay marriage legalization

So? Are you saying in the intervening 20 years, no gay person was allowed to criticize this move?

Well it wasn’t really our problem, was it? Especially at that time?

• skef says:

Look, Well, there have always been a substantial subset of gay men who think pretty much like you do about marriage. They marry women, fuck on the side, and don’t talk about the latter. Which is, of course, how a large proportion of straight men conduct their marriages, including what they do and don’t talk about.

• Well... says:

So you … also worry about what people think about you in a different way.

I guess? How little can you care what people think about you before you’re a sociopath? How much should you care what others think about you before you’re obsessed or paranoid? I’d say I’m well between either of those two extremes, and I’m not sure why you’d consider that useful information.

Well it wasn’t really our problem, was it?

I don’t believe gay people are a monolithic group, or ever were. If this kind of “but it’s not our problem” reasoning is so pervasive that the only gay guys with my view on marriage are the ones who sham-marry their beards, then it would suggest my belief is incorrect and gay people are actually much more monolithic than I thought.

• skef says:

@Well

The point is that, not being a monolithic group, gay people tend to think that marriage-with-kids-in-the-suburbs is one way to live, among others. Gay guys who do choose to live that way have no particular reason to ritually cleanse themselves of other people who live different ways. And even if they did, lots of people would be grumpy about them anyway.

They don’t need your approval. They could win you over personally and it would mean nothing to some similar guy three streets away. Much easier to put the whole thing out of one’s mind as best as one can.

• skef says:

How little can you care what people think about you before you’re a sociopath?

In theory, at least, not at all. Someone who doesn’t rape and murder only because they’re worried about what the neighbors would think is a sociopath.

• Well... says:

@skef:

Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists? I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

True, conservatives don’t need the approval of liberals, but if they want to persuade the other side that some policy is a good idea or at least not an evil one, it helps to distance themselves from the people who do Nazi salutes.

Yes, on some level this means they have to care about how the other side sees them. Caring about that isn’t some kind of pathology; rather, it’s an important requisite for persuasion.

• skef says:

Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists? I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

Suppose that a young gay suburban couple knows some single gay guys who live in a nearby city. If the point of comparison is to white supremacy, it would seem that, to be acceptable in your eyes, the couple would need to end any socializing or association with such people?

Why not just avoid the straight busybody prig instead?

Never mind. I think you’re confusing “kids-and-dogs-in-the-suburbs” with “social conservative”. Not the same thing. Gay socially conservative men generally marry women.

• The Nybbler says:

Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists? I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

This is only true if the media cares whether the run-of-the-mill social conservatives ritually cleanse themselves. They do not. They will even blame those who have explicitly separated themselves. Gavin McInnes got heat for Charlottesville despite denouncing the rally ahead of time (and threatening to expel any members of his organization who attended). Not just conservatives; the gaming ants get blamed for everything from Trump to Charlottesville to Harvey Weinstein (yes, really). At that point, there’s no media advantage to disavowing or disassociating, and there’s a big disadvantage in spending a lot of energy doing so.

Somehow I doubt anti-gay conservatives are going to care if “boring” gays diassociate themselves with the flamboyant ones; they’ll use the flamboyant ones as a reason to object to homosexuality in general, because the flamboyance isn’t their true objection. Those for whom flamboyance IS their true objection won’t need the disassociation; they need merely be shown the “boring” gays exist.

Do white run-of-the-mill social conservatives have any reason to ritually cleanse themselves of white supremacists?

Denouncing rarely does any good, and demands for denunciation are generally bad faith (though I don’t take yours to be).

In addition to The Nybbler’s example, consider the endless denunciations of terrorists and terrorism by American Muslim organizations and how little it’s gotten them.

On the other hand, moderates of all stripes need need not bend over backwards to defend those in their groups they don’t actually agree with — either openly or in the fashion of ‘I’m totally against X but [ten more paragraphs of what amount to apologetics]’.

• Well... says:

@skef:

No, the point of comparison is of a young suburban “settled down” gay couple to the flaming R-rated antics seen in gay pride parades (and perpetuated in Out! magazine, lots of movies and TV shows with gay characters, etc.). I don’t think I’m confusing anything. If “socially conservative gay men generally marry women” (really??) then does that mean the rest of the gay population has experienced boil-off and is now very monolithic?

At that point, there’s no media advantage to disavowing or disassociating, and there’s a big disadvantage in spending a lot of energy doing so.

I don’t presume to talk about media advantages. How are those measured and how quickly do they ebb and flow? No, I’m talking about what it would take to persuade me, with the assumption there must be many others like me. (Maybe that assumption is wrong?) For me it depends a lot on the sincerity and plausibility of the disavowal. Some Muslim disavowals of violent Islamism, for example, are believable and make me inclined to be more sympathetic to the disavowers.

Somehow I doubt anti-gay conservatives are going to care if “boring” gays diassociate themselves with the flamboyant ones

I have no reason to think of myself as “anti-gay” but I do (did?) oppose gay marriage, in part because I didn’t see any “boring” gays (who I thought would tend to contribute positively to the institution of marriage) disassociating themselves from the flamboyant ones (who I thought would tend to make a mockery of it, and/or possibly turn it into something even more straight people would avoid).

• The Nybbler says:

Yes, you did.

I think so: the white supremacists hog media attention and give everyone to the right of center a bad name.

See, right there^^.

How are those measured and how quickly do they ebb and flow? No, I’m talking about what it would take to persuade me, with the assumption there must be many others like me. (Maybe that assumption is wrong?)

I don’t think any sort of “ritual cleansing” helps anything. If you’re going to believe that a gay couple in the suburbs with a dog and a couple of adopted kids are somehow tainted by existence of a bunch of flamboyant gays dressed in leather and simulating sex acts on top of a float in a parade, and you disbelieve the couple’s sincerity when they roll their eyes at the flamboyant ones, you’re probably not willing to be convinced. It’s not like the former can do anything about the latter.

• 1soru1 says:

No, I’m talking about what it would take to persuade me, with the assumption there must be many others like me. (Maybe that assumption is wrong?)

The problem here is you are using an objective metric grounded in personal experience.

For any narrative, you can always find facts to support it. There will be a Jane in Austin impressed by a disclaimer, and a Bill in Atlanta less so. So, whether or not such measures are counted as successful by consumers of media primarily depends on whether or not the media chooses to tell them they were successful. Which works fine as long as the producers of such media are entirely upstanding and incorruptible citizens, and probably tolerably so long as they have some comprehensible agenda that can be compensated for.

When the producers of the media in question may (or may not), have an agenda out of a Tom Clancy novel, the required compensation will not converge om a deterministic result.

• Protagoras says:

Of my close gay friends, one is married and one has been living with his partner for 15 years or so. I am not myself married and while aging has slowly but steadily increased the number of my friends who are married across the board, I do not particularly seek out the suburban normal type to associate with. I have no idea what this is evidence of, if anything, but since lots of people in this thread have been throwing around anecdotal evidence, this is some more of the same.

• It’s not like the former can do anything about the latter.

If the former are numerous, there are things they can do, ranging from not contributing money to organizations that participate in such displays to making negative comments about them to other gays, trying to shift the community attitude from “these people are bravely standing up for us” to “these people are getting their jollies by making life harder for us.”

I have no idea to what extent those things actually happen.

• The Nybbler says:

If the former are numerous, there are things they can do, ranging from not contributing money to organizations that participate in such displays to making negative comments about them to other gays,

OK, suppose this works. Suppose it works so well that the “boring” gays and the “flamboyant” gays are now entirely separate communities. But do the straights notice this? Probably not.

• Suppose it works so well that the “boring” gays and the “flamboyant” gays are now entirely separate communities.

That’s not working. Working is there being fewer flamboyant gays or the flamboyant gays being less flamboyant.

• Well... says:

Or the flamboyant gays no longer owning the gay stereotype.

• skef says:

If “socially conservative gay men generally marry women” (really??) then does that mean the rest of the gay population has experienced boil-off and is now very monolithic?

No.

Every openly gay man has done something explicitly non-typical that is central to his life. That experience tends to ingrain the perspective that different people want different things.

You don’t just want gay men who wish to couple, live in the suburbs, and raise kids to do so, you want them to disapprove of other gay men who make different choices, qua those different choices. This amounts to a demand for a self-imposed monolith, tsk-tsking everyone who stands outside of it. Maybe you see that as an inherent aspect of suburban kid-raising. It’s hard to see why it would be.

Plenty of gay guys, including many that I know, are grumpy about the assumptions that are made about their sexual habits, taste, and so forth. In my experience, that grumpiness extends to the extreme parts of the culture, and the people like you who project that culture on to them, in roughly equal measure. Which seems about right.

Well…

I don’t mean this to be nasty, but I think at this point not much effort is warranted to convince you and however many others there are like you. Gay marriage is settled legally speaking, and unlike abortion, it’s not going to remain controversial politically for the next 50 years. It’s going to be the next mixed-race marriage, the kind of thing kids won’t even believe was ever illegal. Republican support is at 40% up from 25% five years ago. Independents and Democrats are in the 70s.

You want to cling to the bitter end because you have some sort of thing about gay pride events, that’s certainly your right. There isn’t going to be any ritual casting out of “flamboyant” gays.

• Well... says:

@skef:

I don’t really buy that being gay makes you more likely to accept a “live and let live” ethos. But anyway, I’m more talking about gay burb-dwellers living the Hank Hill lifestyle more vocally rejecting the stereotype of gays as hip urbanites living an x-rated lifestyle. But yes rejecting a stereotype about yourself often does mean in some way trying to change the behavior of others who fuel it.

“The pro-Xs won the legal battle over X against the anti-Xs. Therefore as a pro-X I no longer need to listen to your bitter anti-X arguments.” (And later…) “You’re anti-X? That basically certifies you as insane.”

^ This is what people predict will happen any time something they don’t think should become legal becomes legal. Someday you will be one of those people and you will know.

• skef says:

But yes rejecting a stereotype about yourself often does mean in some way trying to change the behavior of others who fuel it.

“often does” … interesting.

How would you characterize the factors that determine when it does and when it does not?

• Deiseach says:

Wasn’t that Andrew Sullivan’s argument as to why conservatives should support gay marriage? It would give gay men a foothold and stake in society, reduce promiscuity by diverting them away from ‘gay culture’, if gay men could realistically aspire to the “spouses with 2 kids and a dog in the suburbs” life like straight men then they could and would be assimilated into mainstream society and all the rebelliousness of politicised sexual practices would be quashed?

• Well... says:

So is that what happened?

• quaelegit says:

I think an increasing number of gay people are doing this, but you hear about the ones that aren’t (toxoplasma of rage an all that). I’m not sure though b/c my peers (and thus almost all the gay people I know) are early to mid 20s, so almost none of us are getting married or buying houses yet.

My anecdotal view is we’re moving in that direction, though lord knows how representative my particular gay sphere is. It’s probably going to be a while though; you can’t stigmatize gay relationships and force them underground for 40+ years, deny the significant benefits of marriage/civil partnerships for another 20, and then be like “We’ve been fine with you for a few years, why aren’t you at background platonic marriage levels? Chop chop dudes!”.

Hmm. Massachusetts has had gay marriage since 2005, so gays hitting puberty at that time might have comparable “normal relationship” experience with the straights. It might be interesting to compare the marriage stats between 25-30 year old gay residents and 25-30 year old straight residents.

• Well... says:

@quaelegit:

In my experience some significant fraction of straight people settle down by age 25; even more by 27. I’ve never met a gay person who settled down that early. In a quiet Midwestern suburb I lived next door to a lesbian couple who were like two female Hank Hills, but like Hank Hill they were middle-aged. Anyway, I sincerely hope you’re right about the number increasing.

you can’t stigmatize gay relationships and force them underground for 40+ years, deny the significant benefits of marriage/civil partnerships for another 20, and then be like “We’ve been fine with you for a few years, why aren’t you at background platonic marriage levels? Chop chop dudes!”

Fair nuff.

My anecdotal view is we’re moving in that direction

I hope that’s true. This is one issue I’d definitely like to be wrong about.

Well I believe Richard Spencer called homosexuality the “last stand of white identity” so, there ya go. If you’re gay you’re a racist.

• Well... says:

Maybe that explains the haircut.

• Kevin C. says:

No comment on Prof. Daniels’s bit about how having mixed-race children is potentially “problematic”? Or the part about home ownership?

• Protagoras says:

I’d never heard of her; the “internationally recognized” is probably a result of her having written the blurb on her web page herself. I was aware of the existence of loons, and that some of them are in the academy. Why is it particularly important that anybody say something about her?

• The Nybbler says:

This isn’t even news any more. Just archive it for the next time someone tries to tell you the garden-variety academic SJW is a strawman.

• Urstoff says:

Ignore idiots. Spend your time more productively, like napping or playing video games.

23. Kevin C. says:

Anyone else read the Desmet, Ortuño-Ortín and Wacziarg paper “Culture, Ethnicity, and Diversity“? [PDF] (h/t to Garett Jones for highlighting it). They look at both cultural (via the WVS) and ethnic diversity, examining a chi-square index for the correlation between the two, and find that the problems arise when that index is high:

Does cultural diversity between ethnic groups, though small in magnitude, matter for our understanding of political economy outcomes? To analyze whether the overlap between culture and ethnicity is relevant, we explore how ethnic heterogeneity, cultural heterogeneity, and the overlap between culture and ethnicity affect civil con ict and public goods. We find empirically that both cultural and ethnic diversity have weak effects on civil conflict and public goods. If anything, higher cultural diversity reduces the probability of civil conflict and increases public goods. However, in countries where ethnicity is more strongly predictive of culture, as captured by a high χ2, violent conflict is more likely, and public goods provision tends to be lower. Our interpretation of this empirical result is that in societies where individuals differ from each other in both ethnicity and culture, social antagonism is greater, and political economy outcomes are worse.

Also, this bit in the conclusion:

Our results parallel a famous debate in population genetics on within-group versus between-group genetic differentiation, going back to Lewontin (1972). Lewontin pointed out that between-race genetic variation was a very small part of overall variation, and that within-group diversity accounted for a much larger share of overall genetic variation. This led him to question the validity of the very concept of race. In a series of rejoinders, Edwards (2003), Dawkins (2005), and others argued that while between-group variation was small, it could still be a relevant part of the variation: humans share up to 99 percent of their DNA with some animals, yet the 1 percent that differs matters a lot to set the two groups apart. Lewontin’s point on genetics mirrors our finding that between-ethnic group cultural variation is a small part of overall cultural variation, and that most of this variation occurs within-groups. Edwards’ (2003) and Dawkins’ (2005) argument also finds an echo in our work, since we argue that between-group variation, while a small share of the overall variation, matters for civil conflict and public goods.

I found it well worth a read.

24. Kevin C. says:

Note:My first attempt at posting this apparently hit the spam/banned word filter, so I’m trying it again without my footnotes, as they’re the most likely area to have a problem.

(I mentioned in the comments on the links post that I’d put this in this open thread. I’ve put my more parenthetical and digressive asides in numbered footnotes.)

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones had another recent piece on the predicted wave of automation-driven unemployment, and Rod Dreher engages with it in a recent post of his own. In his final paragraph, he asks:

Thought experiment: what would an effective conservative response to the coming AI revolution and its likely socio-economic effects look like? I think it would have to start by asking not “what seems best according to free market principles?” but “what is likely to keep social stability throughout the coming economic turmoil?”

(Emphasis in original)
Not too many other mainstream[1] conservative writers seem to have engaged with this issue, though I must note that Andrew Stuttaford at National Review has written a fair bit, like this, and engaged with the same Drum piece here.

There was quite a bit of comment and discussion at Dreher’s. Yes, many of the commenters dismissed the issue, but not in the ways one might think. I didn’t see any “AI is nonsense because robots can’t have souls” religious-based objections (though there was one “God will always provide for His people”). And pretty much the only ‘Luddite Fallacy, Lump of Labor, machines always create more human jobs as an absolute law of nature’-type argument I saw was by a left-leaning commentor (somewhat unfairly, IMO) snarking that we all know that the “conservative response” to technological unemployment will be to deny the very possibility, insist that the unemployed are just lazy and make bad decisions and that they all need to just pull themselves up and get jobs.[2] In fact, the primary objections mostly are about predictions of the future in general; that predictions of powerful new technologies coming soon and of impending major misfortunes are both overblown, with comparisons to flying cars and the Y2K bug. That, at least by implication, the great majority of jobs human beings do today will still be performed by human beings fifty or a hundred years from now.

But a number did engage, and there were some interesting ideas tossed about. Most seemed willing to engage with the idea of a UBI. One person coined a useful additional acronym, UBIHC: universal basic income and health care. The only case I saw of someone condemning UBI as “socialism” was actually someone reporting what other people they talked to said about it. Though, plenty of people had the usual “idle hands”/”dignity of work” concerns about it.

A few highlights I found notable:

•The “Kiryas Joel Option”: A number of people pointed to Hasidic communities which already see significant “welfare” usage, and where the men generally don’t work; they spend their time studying the Torah instead. The idea is that a UBI would let Christians follow suit, that people will fill their time and find purpose and dignity, in the absense of work, in religion and religious activity. That one of the biggest obstacles to forming “Benedict Option” communities is the concern about employment and supporting a family: needing to live where the jobs are, rather than with like-minded Christians, concerns that one can’t be “consciously counter-cultural” without risking getting fired for being a “hater”, and so on, and that UBI would eliminate that. Another asked “Should a deeply Catholic family, neither of whom work, and have nothing better to do be allowed to have 18 kids? How would you propose preventing that?”

The main objection mostly seemed to be concerns about the U in UBI(HC): “when the government provides those things at will, they can also put the squeeze at will on people who need them (i.e., most everybody.) Say, recalcitrant social malefactors like orthodox Christians?” That it might not be truly “universal”, but instead things like “oppose gay marriage? No Basic income for you!” While I’m not totally confident about that, I do suspect that if “getting bigots fired” no longer suffices as a way to hurt said “bigots”, the sort of people who do that presently will go looking for new ways to strike at the “deplorables”.

•Redistributing Jobs: People did mention the establishment of the 40-hour week, and thus some proposed another such change, such as to a 30-hour or 20-hour work week. And lowering retirement ages, or making them mandatory. But there was another one someone raised, which I thought was intriguing, particularly given the possible effects on the “two-income trap”. That was to “redistribute” on a household basis, by heavily taxing “second incomes”. It was noted that one could expect this to push women in particular out of the workforce[3], which at least some conservatives and traditionalists would consider a benefit, but would make it unpopular and politically difficult[4]. And another pointed out that this same incentive system would also significantly discourage working women from marrying or cohabitating, and that this negative effect on marriage might well predominate instead.

•Reject the Molochian Exchange: There were a number who mentioned Solzhenitsyn’s calls for “simple, local, de-centralized, agrarian, zero-growth economies” and the writings of E.F. Schumacher. “The economy was made to serve humans, not humans to serve the economy” and such. A lot about buying land and growing one’s own food and such. In short, taking a page from the Amish and choosing as a community or a nation not to use these technologies, even if it makes us poorer in the aggregate. Though, none of them engaged with the basic Moloch problem, the whole “if we don’t use these technologies, we’ll be outcompeted by and at the mercy of those (perhaps the Chinese) who do” issue. Nor did anyone drop the phrase “Butlerian Jihad,” but I did detect a certain understandable opposition to “a machine-attitude as much as the machines.”

•Deindustrialization and Right-Wing Primitivism: Related to the above were a few that fit with something of a trend in the right-wing circles I frequent[5]. Besides the one commenting about how one “North Korean EMP” would put everyone back to work, a few individuals argued that because of energy, resource, and environmental limitiations we will not only not have a lasting wave of mass automation, but will, not as a choice like above but by necessity undergo “deindustrialization” and technological reversion:

I think our future looks a lot more medieval and demechanized that people would like to accept. We have already reached beyond both the carrying capacity for the planet and where we shluld[sic] have stopped in terms of economic growth and development. There are no innovations in suburbia, just another fried chicken place or car wash.

As a Christian, I don’t have a problem with deindustrialization by mandate of reality. Yes, we live longer and in more comfort, but we have not learned anywhere how to be more Christian. Likewise, if we believe that this world will come to an end and be replaced by a perfect heaven and earth, this is what we really care about and should focus on.

So, what is the conservative/traditionalist/right-wing response to mass technological unemployment? Religious communities funded by UBI spending their time in prayer and having huge families, like some Hasidic communities of the present? Incentives to “redistribute” work and push women out of the workforce? Reject these technologies in the name of human flourishing? Count on warfare, disaster, or some other collapse to knock us back centuries? Just tell folks to “get a job, you lazy bum”? Or something else?

• Kevin C. says:

Let’s see if this works for the footnotes:

[1]Outside the mainstream, there’s Moldbug’s “The Dire Problem and the Virtual Option,” and, of course, Nick Land.

[2]Another left-leaning commenter similarly held that the “right” response for conservatives in this scenario is simply to surrender and admit the left is correct.

[3]Because, being agnostic on the causes (how much is deep cultural programming, how much is biology), the statistics show that “househusbands” are rare, and that wives making more than their husbands tends to be bad for the stability and reported happiness of marriages.

[4]Though there was mention of women being “thrown out of the workplace to make room for men” in the Great Depression.

[5]For example, in Rod’s “The Reformation At 500“, he quotes Carl Trueman, who says, as part of one passage, “Given the choice, I would rather live today, with analgesics, antibiotics, and easy access to education, than in the thirteenth—or indeed any earlier—century.” And the fifth comment responds to this with:

This seems an odd position for an orthodox Christian to take. In 13th century Europe, compared to now, a far higher proportion of the population were orthodox Christians who feared Hell, attended Church and, when they committed sins like having sex outside wedlock, quickly confessed and repented.

Modern day America has technology and education, but most people are Moralistic Therapeutic Deists if not completely irreligious – including many people brought up in orthodox Christian households. How could an orthodox Christian disagree that a much higher percentage of people are “lost” today than before, and that the odds of their own children becoming “lost” are higher in today’s society?

Which is more important to Carl Trueman – that his son avoid a bit of pain with an anaesthetic when he gets a tooth pulled, or the probability that he avoids an infinite amount of pain in Hell?

In short, I’m seeing more folks on the Right who consider antibiotics and medicine that works, the ability to put objects into space, radio, electricity, and the whole past two centuries of technological progress being lost for all time as a price worth paying to stop the Left. (And if one takes Scott’s “technological determinism” arguments seriously, is that not the only viable path for the Right?)

Edit: it did. Looks like it was another example I gave of “right-wing primitivism”, possibly the online handle of the fellow whose blog it is on. The page in question is here, and mainly those in the comments who responded to the bit about non-repeatability of the Industrial revolution.

• Incurian says:

I like Arnold Kling’s take.

We should not worry about “mass poverty” in a world of almost unimaginable abundance.

• Randy M says:

1) At what point does unprecedented shade into unimaginable? I don’t think the concern is employment post-singularity, but post automating many more things. We find numerous ways to spend money now without uplifting every person to completely lack all want; I’m not sure that will change.
2) When that does change, what will that abundance do to people? We have people in generational poverty that are cared for through various welfare and charity programs. Does that idleness lead to human flourishing? Is the lack one that would be ameliorated with more goods, or more social/spiritual/intellectual? I’m not saying something must be done, but it probably deserves thinking about.

• Edward Scizorhands says:

Create a wage subsidy. As AI displaces more and more jobs, keep increasing the subsidy. People’s working environments will continue to improve. Eventually the wage subsidy becomes so large it’s effectively a UBI.

One nice feature is that if, as I suspect, we really aren’t looking at a future of mass unemployment due to AI, we just stop increasing the wage subsidy. And we don’t have a bunch of people trying to support families who have gotten used to never working.

• Evan Þ says:

On the other hand, a wage subsidy doesn’t help when you can’t find a job due to robots digging all the ditches and shipping all the packages and doing everything else you’re remotely able to do. Nor does it help if you’re unemployable due to purity spirals.

To avoid those problems, a UBI needs to either be truly unconditional or be coupled to a job guarantee: literally anyone can get a job in the Neo-CCC if they just show up (and, maybe, show their citizenship.)

Alternatively, I suppose a wage subsidy could help subsidize community businesses: if I want to start a theater troupe with my fellow unemployables, great, the government will pay 90% (or whatever) of my actors’ salaries. There’d still be problems with people feeling the work isn’t worthwhile, but definitely no more than under a true UBI.

• Edward Scizorhands says:

For simplicity, imagine there are no taxes on employment or wages or income, no minimum wage. Also no fraud. Also that no jobs are actively harmful to others. (There are big discussion to have about those issues, but I’m just trying to address your point about employability.) The government is willing to pay you $5 an hour if you can find someone willing to pay you$6 an hour.

A whole lot of jobs become feasible that weren’t feasible before. You don’t have to wander the store for 5 minutes looking for someone to help you because the store can afford more employees. The shipping company can afford more people moving boxes around. The home delivery can be done in teams of two for safety. You can sort through more recycling and hire more people for grounds clean-up.

I believe this will be a huge environmental boon. Cheaper wages make repairing old things more competitive against throwing them out and replacing them with new things. You can afford to have people sort through recyclables or even trash. You can make handling hazardous waste properly more likely to happen. (By hazardous waste I mean things like old rechargeable batteries, not biohazards.) Remember how Obama said we could save millions of gallons of gas by keeping our tires inflated (for which conservatives unfairly attacked him)? A local environmental group could decide to run a road-side “free tire check and inflation while you wait, less than 3 minutes and you don’t even need to get out of your car” service, maybe with sponsorship by a local garage, in order to keep thousands of pounds of CO2 and particulates out of their local air. Really, a huge number of ways of cleaning up the local environment become possible with cheap wages.

• Incurian says:

I don’t understand what you’re asking with #1.

I don’t know the answer to #2, but it doesn’t seem likely to me that having more abundance would be negative. Maybe not having to work would make people lazy, but if they can afford to be lazy why not let them? When the world changes, so must our conception of virtue, I think.

• Randy M says:

Basically, I’m not by any means sure that having more cheap stuff will be bad on net, but it might be worth worrying, or rather, thinking about as it will present different problems.

• lvlln says:

One possible issue that I heard pointed out by Jordan Peterson, specifically on the issue of universal basic income, was that it might be a death sentence for some drug addicts who no longer have financial limitations to over-using and eventually dying from drugs they’re addicted to. Overabundance doesn’t necessarily imply UBI, and it’s also questionable just how great a proportion of drug addicts fit this profile, but it struck me as a concern worth considering when it comes to exploring any overabundant future.

There’s also the question of to what extent virtue is malleable. If we could engineer people a la Brave New World this wouldn’t be an issue, and maybe there’s hope that overabundance will come with it such bio technology. But if it doesn’t, and we’re still mostly limited to the brains that evolution gave us, will it be truly possible to make mass portions of the population feel content while being lazy? I really really hope the answer is Yes, but it’s not obvious to me that it is, and what research I’m aware of regarding happiness tell me that there’s good reason to at least explore the possibility that the answer might be No.

• skef says:

One possible issue that I heard pointed out by Jordan Peterson, specifically on the issue of universal basic income, was that it might be a death sentence for some drug addicts who no longer have financial limitations to over-using and eventually dying from drugs they’re addicted to.

This would mostly be a speed issue (if it turned out to be an issue at all).

Cocaine is expensive and, heart attacks and such aside, most of the health damage comes from long-term use that many people manage while holding down a job.

The biggest risk with opiates is irregular (in time or type) supply. With a UBI you might even see a (small) reduction in overdose deaths.

Other downers like benzos generally have fewer health effects than booze, which would probably remain the main downer of choice even after a UBI.

Religious communities funded by UBI spending their time in prayer and having huge families, like some Hasidic communities of the present?

Yes. My degrees are in electrical and computer engineering, and in college I worked at a robotics laboratory. My daydream was that my robots would help achieve a post-scarcity society, and the first thing I would do is have my robots build a zero-work self-sustaining community for my parish. Then I would direct my robots to build a cathedral of my own design, the world’s first robot-assembled cathedral. I would then invite the pope to come give the first mass at the Cathedral of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

Part of the breakdown of the family has been technologically determined. Agricultural labor was replaced partially by unskilled industrial labor and partially by skilled office work. Farmers could recruit their children into the family business, while they’re an economic burden to white-collar workers. If adults without certain skills become an economic burden, a humanitarian solution (UBI, wage subsidy, an inalienable share in the self-replicating robot corporation) that covers them will also, ceteris paribas, cover women having a bunch of children.

25. Le Maistre Chat says:

So the House intelligence committee is publicizing that Russians bought a bunch of political ads on Facebook and Instagram. Some of them were anti-Clinton (including one of Satan arm wrestling Jesus, with the claim that Clinton will only win if Satan wins at arm wrestling) or generically conservative (pro-cops, pro-gun) while others were anti-Trump or pro-BLM.

I’m still trying to figure out why it matters if Russian citizens pay to comment on US politics or release information that the DNC or RNC want kept hidden. The latter is a public service if transparency is of value, and while I can see the authors of the Federalist worrying about the latter, trying to make a crime out of it seems a wild overreaction. So much of politics is culture war, and can you imagine the spectacle of USG telling Facebook and Instagram that they have to ban ads touching on cultural issues from everyone but US citizens?
Or am I foolish to even bring up the possibility of USG applying a general principle, and all they care about is punishing Russia, hereditary enemy of the English-speaking Empire?

• dodrian says:

Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing financially to any US political campaign, including making “independent expenditures” which advocate for election or defeat of an identifiable candidate. Also from that page, court rulings clarified that

“[this] does not restrain foreign nationals from speaking out about issues or spending money to advocate their views about issues. It restrains them only from a certain form of expressive activity closely tied to the voting process—providing money for a candidate or political party or spending money in order to expressly advocate for or against the election of a candidate.”

So it appears that a genuinely anti-Clinton or anti-Trump ad would be illegal, but generic pro-cops or pro-BLM ads wouldn’t be.

• John Schilling says:

Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing financially to any US political campaign, including making “independent expenditures”

And cats may be prohibited from going about unbelled, but so what?

The only law that matters to the Russian government, or its agents in Russia, is Russian law, and I’m pretty sure that Russian law is OK with Russian government agents meddling in foreign elections. US law (which is OK with US government agents meddling in e.g. Russian elections) matters only to the extent that it means Russia will have to pay extra if it needs agents to be standing on US soil when they do their meddling.

Saying that it is against the law for foreign nationals to meddle in US elections, is akin to saying that it is against the law for Germany to invade Poland. I mean, there’s a Pact and everything, which the Germans even signed. Aside from whining about it and saying “that’s illegal”, is there a credible plan to either A: stop it or B: live with it?

• MrApophenia says:

It does, of course, matter if you can prove that American citizens assisted the foreign power in their interference with the election. The American law may not apply to the foreign agents in Russia, but it would apply to, say, members of an American political campaign who coordinated with those foreign agents.

What if one of the campaigns hired a group of lawyers, who cut checks to a political research firm, who paid a British spy, who paid Russian assets including current members of the Russian intelligence apparatus who then fed them political damaging (although factually dubious at best) information about the opposing campaign? And then the chairmen of that campaign, while testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the source of the information claimed to not know who paid for the information, while sitting next to the lawyer who cut the check for the information? Would that be “frowned upon?”

• MrApophenia says:

There’s two different questions there. The part where the campaign claimed no knowledge of the dossier, hey, if you can nail them on perjury, throw the book at them. I’m sick to death of the Clinton campaign telling unnecessary, stupid lies that then blow up in their face. I thought that was over with, but since we get one more, go to town.

But there is a substantive difference between paying people to conduct research (even if some of them are Russian) and paying for illegally obtained information.

If any of the stuff in the Steele dossier was based on hacking, it might actually be more similar – in which case, again, have at ‘em, although as far as I know that hasn’t been alleged.

I think there is also a difference between “I bribed a Russian spy to get some information” and “Vladimir Putin and several Russian oligarchs would like to help us become President and all we need to do is change the Republican Party platform on Crimea,” but I’m not a lawyer, so maybe I’m off base there?

There’s no reason to believe the Russian information is anything other than disinfo. “Boris, the Democrats want dirt on Trump, what do I say?!” “Eh, tell imperialist swine Trump is Russian puppet…and likes pee from Russian hookers har har har!” And then they ran with that when it’s almost certain none of that is true.

I said a year ago when all this “Russia hacked the election” stuff started that our media and the Dems were doing Putin’s propaganda work for him. They’re spreading the word far and wide that Putin is the leet h4xx0r who controls the whole world.

Now we’ve got congressional hearing where they’re showing blow-ups of 4chan memes and pretending a few thousand dollars worth of FaceBook ads determined the outcome of the election, rather than the billions of dollars from campaigns and PACs, and the campaigns themselves, and the entire US media establishment.

This is all lunacy.

As an American who would kind of like some sort of social cohesion to return to the nation, this makes me very sad. But as a Republican, well, I guess I’m glad the Democrats are neck deep in this garbage instead of figuring out why they actually lost and trying to appeal to people who just want jobs and food and stuff.

• John Schilling says:

It does, of course, matter if you can prove that American citizens assisted the foreign power in their interference with the election.

Only in the sense that it matters that we could prove the Rosenbergs gave atomic secrets to the commies. The commies still got the bomb, but it sure made us feel real good to execute those damn traitors, didn’t it?

Oh, sorry, wrong tribe. But I expect you’ll get the same feeling when Paul Manafort gets sent off to prison. It won’t actually matter, except at the margins where it makes it more expensive for the Russians (Chinese, Israelis, et al ad infinitum) to hire their next on-site election-meddler. They’ll still be able to find people willing to take the job, and Donald Trump will still be president, but if it makes you feel better…

If you can prove that a US political officeholder or candidate themselves actively colluded with a foreign government, that might matter.

• MrApophenia says:

Since the FBI have already submitted a court filing containing testimony from Papadopoulos that Trump was in the room when the Russia deal was discussed, yeah, I kind of think that’s where we’re headed.

And, oh, hey, a second person in the meeting has just confirmed it!

“He went into the pitch right away,” said J. D. Gordon, a campaign adviser who attended the meeting. “He said he had a friend in London, the Russian ambassador, who could help set up a meeting with Putin.”

Mr. Trump listened with interest. Mr. Sessions vehemently opposed the idea, Mr. Gordon recalled. “And he said that no one should talk about it because it might leak,” he said.

That’s throwing in perjury for Sessions, as well.

• John Schilling says:

Since the FBI have already submitted a court filing containing testimony from Papadopoulos that Trump was in the room when the Russia deal was discussed, yeah, I kind of think that’s where we’re headed.

Let me know when we get there. Because being in the room when one of your subordinates says something like “we should collude with the Russians” and another replies with “Hell no we’re not going to do that (because we’d get caught)”, is not actually collusion with the Russians.

In the meantime, you might want to get past seeing any spatial or temporal connection of “Trump” and “Russians” as compelling evidence that Trump was actively colluding with the Russians, and take a more critical look at what is actually being said and what can reasonably be inferred from that. I think my anti-Trump credentials should be pretty solid here, but if Team #NeverTrump is going to pin all its hopes on Donald Trump being impeached when it is finally proven that he was colluding with Russia to steal the election, then we’re probably going to be stuck with President Donald Trump until 2025.

• MrApophenia says:

If it was just that meeting, sure.

But what it actually is, is that meeting, followed by Paul Manafort sending an email saying they should send a low-level campaign staffer to Russia to meet with them instead of Trump himself (also already submitted to the court by the FBI), followed by Carter Page going to Russia, followed by the Trump campaign forcing the Republican Party to actually change their official position on Russia, followed by the Russians, in fact, actually then doing a bunch of stuff to help get Trump elected.

And since the FBI have now also shown us that these clowns were so inept they were literally sending emails within the campaign with subject lines like “Re: Messages from Russia” where people up to and including the campaign managers (both Lewandowski and Manafort) openly discussed the ongoing effort to work with the Russian government, at this point I think the FBI should be able to produce some pretty damning results.

We’ve passed the point where this is some kind of tinfoil hat conspiracy. We have on the record quotes submitted in plea bargain documents, from emails in which people up to and including two out of three Trump campaign managers just outright talk about this stuff.

and pretending a few thousand dollars worth of FaceBook ads determined the outcome of the election

My political coverage is far from perfect, but I haven’t actually seen “Russia Facebook Ads were a major factor in Clinton’s downfall” argued outside of your posts, whether as a r/politics level argument or as a weak/strawman. I’ve seen the ads come up as an example of Russia cyber-meddling, but that’s not remotely the same as it being anyone’s keystone evidence/argument.

There have been actual congressional hearings this past week, where real live politicians have been grilling Facebook, Twitter, etc for allowing Russian(-linked) content on their site.

Here’s CNBC on those hearings how important they are.

• Montfort says:

I invite you to quote a relevant section of your link that seems to argue “Russia[n] Facebook Ads were a major factor in Clinton’s downfall.”

The closest I could find is “social media advertisements that attempted to influence the 2016 election… targeting both sides of each debate in an effort to foment unrest.” The rest of the piece seems to be about the author’s desired reforms in online social media advertising practice in general, not specific to this situation.

• hlynkacg says:

@Montfort

Are you conceding that Russian meddling was not a significant factor in Clinton’s downfall/Trump’s Victory?

• Montfort says:

@hlynkacg

Will you concede “russian meddling” is not synonymous with “Russia[n] Facebook ads”?

I don’t see what my opinion on this matter has to do with anything. I’ll indulge you with a response below, but in return I’d like to know why you think it’s relevant – will my opinion on this question affect the contents of the link?

In any event, I haven’t seen much evidence of significant Russian influence on the election in any particular direction, not that I’ve been following it very closely. And even if they had influenced it, somehow, I’m willing to bet it wasn’t the facebook ads that did it.

The Economist’s cover this week: Social Media’s threat to Democracy. Think they would have run that if the correct candidate had won?

• albatross11 says:

The election was extremely close, so you can probably find hundreds of factors that plausibly might have determined the election.

• AKL says:

Though it may technically be against the law, I don’t see a foreign government as inherently different than any other interest group. To the extent that there is such a thing as “the interest of the United States,” the objectives of any political actor (Heritage Action, Russia, Exxon-Mobile, Joe the Plumber, Planned Parenthood, etc. etc.) will align with it in some ways and not align in others. So Russia buying political ads just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. To a large degree I think the hand wringing about Russia / social media is a red herring.

However, I DO think that many of Russia’s actions are hugely problematic independent of their status as an “adversary.” Suppose Planned Parenthood had a cyber operations division that illegally accessed the internal campaign infrastructure of a pro-life politician, discovering that they paid for their mistress to have an abortion. Further, suppose that PP took that information to that politician’s opponent to coordinate the maximally effective rollout while simultaneously probing technical election infrastructure for vulnerabilities.

The issue would not be that Planned Parenthood had an interest in the election. The issue would be espionage / other criminality on the part of PP and conspiracy on the part of the benefiting campaign.

And absent coordination, we would STILL view the fact that PP’s criminality swung the election as hugely problematic, even if the politician who benefited wasn’t to blame.

• albatross11 says:

I think most politicians and campaigns would totally go along with that disclosure, as long as they could keep some kind of plausible deniability about the source (“it was a leak from a concerned citizen”). I definitely don’t think the Trump campaign was some kind of outlier here.

• AKL says:

Is there any conceivable body of evidence that would change your view?

I’m guessing that you find at least one counter-example basically irrelevant?

• albatross11 says:

I’m definitely open to evidence changing my mind about this–I’m not starting out with deep knowledge of political campaigns.

In the linked article, it looked like the Gore campaign explicitly refused to look at some material that was mailed to them and that was illegally acquired, and that the Reagan campaign in 1980 did look at similar material that they got. So maybe we should start with a base rate of 50% for similar material? Are there other incidents of this kind that are known? Nixon in 72 is an extreme example the other direction. Clinton was alleged to have gotten access to FBI files on several prominent Republicans in news stories, but I don’t know how serious that really was. (The right-wing press was almost as inclined to make everything into the Worst Scandal Ever against Clinton as the left-wing and mainstream press is against Trump.) What other examples can we draw from?

• Standing in the Shadows says:

And absent coordination, we would STILL view the fact that PP’s criminality swung the election as hugely problematic

Wha’d’you mean “we”, white man?

I would have absolutely no heartburn about PP doing exactly that, and I’m on the opposite side of the culture war divide from them!

• Jiro says:

To the extent that there is such a thing as “the interest of the United States,” the objectives of any political actor (Heritage Action, Russia, Exxon-Mobile, Joe the Plumber, Planned Parenthood, etc. etc.) will align with it in some ways and not align in others. So Russia buying political ads just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

That’s only a good comparison if the government of Russia is supported by donations.

Governments have access to funds collected at gunpoint, which makes them different.

• AKL says:

I don’t understand why that’s relevant?

Unions have less coercive power than governments, certainly, but not none (in some areas at least). Should unions be prohibited from donating to campaigns? Is it a matter of degree? Or am I missing the point?

• Deiseach says:

PP don’t have to go to the opposition; they give out 100% or 0% ratings to their favoured/disfavoured politicians and get to have the candidate running for President giving gushing speeches about how great they are and how she stands with them and will show up at their gala even after the unfortunate loss and in return will get awarded Champion of the Century.

Why would they need to run intelligence operations when they already have one of the two parties in their pocket? Though yeah, they did gather intel without revealing who they were to some of their focus groups, so the “Trump voters [could speak] unguardedly without fear of being stigmatized as racist or sexist”:

Besides the four focus groups of Trump voters, Planned Parenthood also held additional focus groups in Phoenix and Milwaukee with a mix of Trump and Clinton voters. The Trump-only focus groups are more interesting, however, because they show Trump voters speaking unguardedly without fear of being stigmatized as racist or sexist. The moderator stayed neutral throughout and never revealed that Planned Parenthood had commissioned the focus groups.

• The Nybbler says:

Or am I foolish to even bring up the possibility of USG applying a general principle, and all they care about is punishing Russia, hereditary enemy of the English-speaking Empire?

They don’t care about general principles or Russia at all, it’s Trump they want to punish.

• MrApophenia says:

In the case of “releas[ing] information that the DNC or RNC want kept hidden,” my understanding is that the crime is less the release of the information than the illegal means used to acquire it. If an entirely domestic organization hacks their political opponents and releases the information, that’s still a crime.

The fact that it was a crime committed as part of a broader effort by a foreign power to influence the election adds another layer to it, of course.

• cassander says:

I do love the idea that the Russians bought an election with 150 grand in facebook adds. I should hire them to run my campaign for president. I’d pay 300 grand if they throw in a money-back guarantee!

• anonymousskimmer says:

I’m still trying to figure out why it matters if Russian citizens pay to comment on US politics or release information that the DNC or RNC want kept hidden. The latter is a public service if transparency is of value

Absolute truth is indeed a public service. The biased release of not-fully-contextualized information is less so the more biased or uncontextualized the release. And the release of genuine disinformation is not a service at all.

I have no idea where the Russian releases all fall, but it’s unlikely they are all absolute, truly contextualized truth.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

Absolute truth is indeed a public service. The biased release of not-fully-contextualized information is less so the more biased or uncontextualized the release. And the release of genuine disinformation is not a service at all.

Agreed. But as I recall, the DNC doesn’t claim the embarrassing emails were genuine disinformation, but that it’s a crime and a threat to the electoral process to release information they want hidden from the voters.
No doubt the hacker was very biased, and ideally the RNC should have been hacked too, but what if the facts on the ground were that Debbie What-Shername had much worse cybersecurity than her GOP equivalent?

• Iain says:

but what if the facts on the ground were that Debbie What-Shername had much worse cybersecurity than her GOP equivalent?

That would certainly be convenient for Republicans, but there’s no particular reason to believe that it is true, and pretty good circumstantial evidence against it.

• entobat says:

The latter is a public service if transparency is of value

Not necessarily. If everyone has skeletons in the closet (and they’re politicians—of course they do), having the power to selectively show you skeletons is quite dangerous.

A non-representative sample of the truth can be more epistemically damaging than no information. Given the motives of the Russians on this one (which seem to be “damage American discourse”), it’s hard for me to imagine that’s not the case.

• Iain says:

There is lots of legroom between finding something concerning and wanting to ban that thing.

A clear pattern is emerging: Russia spent a non-trivial amount of time and money during the recent election deliberately amping up hyper-partisan rhetoric, on both sides of the aisle. The fact that these ads were on both sides is important. Russia didn’t put out those ads because they actually believe that Trump/Clinton/Sanders are all simultaneously the Antichrist/Messiah. They didn’t release the DNC’s emails because they care deeply about informing the American voter. The most plausible explanation is that they were trying to throw a wrench in the machinery of American discourse: it’s in Russia’s best interests if America is a house divided, and they pursued those interests savvily.

Being cynically whipped up into a partisan hatefest by a geopolitical rival is not in America’s interest. (If anybody’s going to whip Americans up into a partisan hatefest, it should be Real Americans!) Set aside the question of solutions; the first step is to acknowledge that it is happening, and figure out the scope of the attack. That appears to be what the House Intelligence Committee is doing.

• Randy M says:

Russia spent a non-trivial amount of time and money

Actually this is convincingly disputed, unless I’ missing a couple orders of magnitude.
But the rest of your post is well taken, and although the House committee may be trying to get to the bare facts, its darkly amusing that the fact of the influence may be more influential in the real goal (ie, stirring up partisanship) than the actual influence itself. See “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street

• Iain says:

The money spent on Facebook ads is only one part of it. The hacking infrastructure used to acquire the leaked material isn’t cheap either.

That the Russians hacked the DNC/Podesta emails is by no means proven.

I’m not saying they didn’t do it. But I would be shocked if they did, not because it’s not something Putin would like to do, but because it would be the first time WikiLeaks has told a lie.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

Yes, this. I believe the hacker was biased, but not a Russian at a computer terminal saying “We’re in” as a satisfied Putin pets his cat in the middle of the room.

• Iain says:

We actually do know, with a pretty high degree of confidence. (Here’s the report much of that twitter thread is based on.)

The phishing email that was used to hack Podesta’s account was included in the dump. It included a “Change Password” link that went to a fake gmail login, via a bit.ly link. The bit.ly account associated with that link was also used to create equivalent links for ~1800 other targets in 2015 alone. Who were these targets?

Many of the accounts in the 2015 campaign belonged to individuals in Russia and the former Soviet Union, but some belonged to former military and government personnel in the US and Europe, individuals working in the defense and government supply chain, and authors and journalists, particularly those with an interest in Russia. The range of targes demonstrates that the threat group poses a broad threat to individuals and groups associated with US politics, to organizations and individuals in the government and defense verticals, and to those whose business involves commenting on Russia.

Quoting Matt Tait’s summary:

When hackers hack at scale, they reuse infrastructure. They make mistakes. This isn’t unusual. You can piece the bits together. And this isn’t even the DNC hack. It’s just the Podesta one. And it’s only one of many different strands in just the public attribution case.

There is lots of publicly available evidence pointing at Russia. The US intelligence community has concluded that it was Russia. There really isn’t much doubt that Russia was behind this.

• The Nybbler says:

It’s most likely that _several_ groups hacked the Podesta emails, so it can be true that Wikileaks did not get the emails from a Russian source but the emails were hacked by the Russians also.

I know of a company which was a military contractor (and thus something of a high-value target). At one point they had security experts in and found out that no less than five groups (three believed to be Russian and two Chinese, I think) had pwn3d them. If you’re a high value and vulnerable target you will be hacked multiple times.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

Iain: do we also know why
Wikileaks started lying?

N/m, belief updated by Nybbler.

That the “intelligence community” says Russia did it is not a point in favor of Russia having done it. How much trust do you put in the intelligence community?

• Iain says:

That the “intelligence community” says Russia did it is not a point in favor of Russia having done it. How much trust do you put in the intelligence community?

On a matter where I can go out and evaluate a bunch of evidence pointing in the same direction with my own eyes? US intelligence agencies are fallible, but not so fallible that their agreement should count against a claim.

C’mon. You are engaging in blatantly motivated reasoning. Would you treat a statement from the intelligence community as disproof in any context where you liked their conclusion?

@ Le Maistre Chat

do we also know why Wikileaks started lying?

You’d have to ask Assange why, but it is pretty clear that the Wikileaks agenda has shifted over the years. Here’s an old thread about it. See also here, here, and this deliciously ironic tweet.

C’mon. You are engaging in blatantly motivated reasoning. Would you treat a statement from the intelligence community as disproof in any context where you liked their conclusion?

Yes. After Gulf of Tonkin, WMDs in Iraq, “least untrue statement I could make” Clapper, I have so little faith in the honesty of the intelligence community that if the CIA said it was raining I would assume the sun was shining.

If the CIA says something I agree with, I would doubt my prior.

I’m also dissuaded by their epistemic certitude. The “17 intelligence agencies” say they “know” Russia did it. No error bars. And without ever examining the DNC’s servers.

I am not an expert, but I’m not a stranger to computer security. I have a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. I was the system administrator of a computing research laboratory at a major university responsible for hundreds of nodes in a cluster about 17 years ago when that was a lot of computers. Linux, Solaris, HP-UX all mixed in. I’ve been haxx0rin the boxens for a long time. Given the IC’s reputation for habitual lying, and their certitude based on very little evidence, I have much doubt.

On the other hand I have WikiLeaks with its perfect track record of honesty saying it wasn’t the Russians.

Why do you think my reasoning is motivated? I don’t care if it was the Russians who did it or not. They’re outgroup to you, but they’re fargroup to me. I don’t really care what the Russians do, and mainly think the left is silly in their “everything is the Russians” hysteria.

Also, you said the infrastructure for the hacking was “not cheap.” I thought Podesta was nabbed by a freely available “babby’s first phishing script.” This does not seem expensive.

• Iain says:

I’m also dissuaded by their epistemic certitude. The “17 intelligence agencies” say they “know” Russia did it. No error bars.

This is flatly untrue. The actual report is full of stuff like this:

We also assess Putin and the Russian
Government aspired to help President-elect
Trump’s election chances when possible by
discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly
contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three
agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and
FBI have high confidence in this judgment;
NSA has moderate confidence.

And the document starts with a discussion of what each of the various levels of confidence means.

Why do you think my reasoning is motivated? I don’t care if it was the Russians who did it or not. They’re outgroup to you, but they’re fargroup to me. I don’t really care what the Russians do, and mainly think the left is silly in their “everything is the Russians” hysteria.

Your outgroup is the left. It is obviously nice for you to be able to dismiss their claims that Russia interfered in an attempt to help your team win as “silly hysteria”. Of course, that trick only works if they’re wrong. I guess it’s lucky that the intelligence community’s amazing powers of anti-truth cancel out the publicly available evidence pointing in the same direction.

(As for any track record of honesty from Wikileaks, I invite you to peruse the links in my previous post. Wikileaks was hilariously unsubtle about being in the bag for Trump.)

I stand corrected with regards to the certitude of the IC. In that case, the IC supports my original statement to which you objected, that Russian responsibility is not proven.

They still say it was probably the Russians, which given my “CIA always lies” heuristic means the Russians probably didn’t do it.

And I didn’t say Assange wasn’t biased. Assange is biased in favor of Assange. I just said WikiLeaks has no record of having been caught in a lie.

• Iain says:

For the record, “high confidence” is the strongest level of confidence available, requiring multiple independent sources of corroboration. If you want to rest your case on the difference between “we are very confident” and “we have proven”, be my guest. Technical correctness is, of course, the best kind of correctness.

(On the other hand, if the CIA tells you that they have not proven that the Russians did it, surely the correct response is to conclude that they have secretly proven it, but are lying? Constant vigilance!)

As for your assessment that Wikileaks has never lied: I’m sure you won’t accept this, but for anybody following along at home, “the GRU handed the DNC leaks over to Wikileaks” is one of the things that the intelligence report concluded with high confidence. Even if you don’t trust that, though: Wikileaks is very explicit about the hoops they jump through to ensure that their sources are anonymous, even to them. If they are telling the truth about that, then how precisely does Julian Assange know that the DNC information wasn’t from Russia? Magic?

• Edward Scizorhands says:

First, it was 4 intelligence agencies, not 17.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/25/us/politics/trumps-deflections-and-denials-on-russia-frustrate-even-his-allies.html

Correction: June 29, 2017
A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential election. The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.

Second, their high confidence was not in the fact that the Russians hacked the email, but in the fact that the Russians were seeking to undermine the election.

This is the same game Bush did in the lead-up to the Iraq War. He never said Iraq was the cause of 9/11, but he would say one sentence about the terrorists who did 9/11, and then another sentence about Iraq, and then back to the terrorists, and left it up to people to naturally join the two in their heads. Bush had technical deniability, but was happy to let his supporters say they were obviously connected and was in no rush to correct them.

Third, the SecureWorks report relies upon two competing narratives: 1. that the hackers were so super professional and so well-funded that it had to be an APT, 2. yet they were also sloppy and so poorly-funded that they didn’t know how to recreate infrastructure that would take literally 10 seconds to spin up in a professional environment and they had such poor OPSEC and made such silly mistakes that let a third-party figure out who else they had targeted. Which is it?

(As an aside, I’ve participated in professional red team engagements, and we always build a new infrastructure for each client and burn it completely to the ground when we are done.)

Fourth, I do think it was likely the Russian government. It was definitely someone whose interests aligned, but that could also include an independent operator who knows that if he finds something the Russians are buying.

Fifth, I do not trust Wikileaks at all for any analysis, ever. They can present source documents if they wish, which is their actual value.

• Incurian says:

On the subject of evaluating the public claims of intelligence agencies…

I think it’s reasonable to take the fact that they have come to conclusions as weak evidence in favor of their conclusions. However, if you can consider the same evidence they used to draw their conclusion, and you are an expert on the subject, I think you should feel comfortable disregarding their conclusion. I have some experience in/with the IC (but you should take it with a grain of salt), and I did not come away with a great deal of confidence in them.

They will fudge conclusions for political purposes. Not necessarily national politics, but organizational politics are huge. At some level I suppose organizational politics are closely tied to national politics.

Confidence levels are often BS. It’s nice to have a little chart that links confidence language to probabilities, but it’s subject to the GIGO law. If you didn’t use rigorous probability theory to draw your conclusion in the first place, slapping a rigorous-sounding label on it at the final stage is worse than useless. They will sometimes use the language of rationalists, but it’s usually a facade, do not mistake analysts for rationalists.

Together these traits lead to a situation where leaders will happily state a tentative conclusion confidently (especially if it is one their boss wants to hear) rather than admit they’re not sure. It is possible that at the highest levels things are better than my experience would indicate, but from what I saw competence only increases logarithmically with rank.

• Iain says:

@Edward Scizorhands

Second, their high confidence was not in the fact that the Russians hacked the email, but in the fact that the Russians were seeking to undermine the election.

This is false. From page 13:

We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.

I mentioned this in my previous post.

Third, the SecureWorks report relies upon two competing narratives: 1. that the hackers were so super professional and so well-funded that it had to be an APT, 2. yet they were also sloppy and so poorly-funded that they didn’t know how to recreate infrastructure that would take literally 10 seconds to spin up in a professional environment and they had such poor OPSEC and made such silly mistakes that let a third-party figure out who else they had targeted. Which is it?

This is a blatant misrepresentation of the report.

You should not believe that the attacks were from Russia because they were “super professional”. You should believe that they were from Russia because there is a robust chain of evidence tying them back to an attacker with an extensive history of hacking exactly the people Russia is interested in hacking: “individuals in Russia and the former Soviet states, […] current and former military and government personnel in the U.S. and Europe, individuals working in the defense and government supply chain, and authors and journalists, particularly those with an interest in Russia.”

You can tell that’s what the report is arguing, because it includes a bunch of graphs describing the targets of the attack, and doesn’t mention the words “professional” or “well-funded” once.

@Incurian:

I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, but it’s worth considering that in this case the conclusion (Russia interfered) is precisely what the boss does not want to hear, which is a minor point in favour of the report.

• Edward Scizorhands says:

This is a blatant misrepresentation of the report.

You’re right, I got confused and was thinking the summary that “the infrastructure used to acquire the leaked material isn’t cheap either.” It is actually very cheap. The problem is that most of it is illegal to operate and would result in career destruction for any American doing it. Russia is a den of lawlessness as far as this is concerned, and if the argument were that Russia tacitly approved of hacking by being so unconcerned about hacking coming from within itself, I would be 100% on board. I’ve had smaller clients ask about simply blocking all traffic from Asia (because they don’t do business there) and helped them do that.

You should believe that they were from Russia because there is a robust chain of evidence tying them back to an attacker with an extensive history of hacking exactly the people Russia is interested in hacking

That is why I said:

I do think it was likely the Russian government. It was definitely someone whose interests aligned, but that could also include an independent operator who knows that if he finds something the Russians are buying.

I do have “moderate” confidence that it’s Russia but other people overstate the case. They are attempting to Euler other people by presenting technical evidence that only provides part of the picture.

• Incurian says:

@Ian: I have no special insight into this particular case and I don’t have any idea who is right, I was just concerned by some of the deference to the IC. Your point about it being what the boss didn’t want to hear is a good one, although it’s possible that the “boss” is not always who it appears to be (I don’t mean to say I have some conspiracy theory in mind, just a general thought).

• Iain says:

I don’t think the concept of Eulering is really applicable here.

Part of the case for Russian involvement is based on publicly available information like the SecureWorks report. You yourself acknowledge that the publicly available knowledge is sufficient for medium confidence. I may be biased by my own CS background, but I think the explanation in the report is clear enough that a layman can follow it without having to worry about being snookered.

Another part of the case is based on a series of intelligence reports claiming private knowledge. Whatever your opinions about the trustworthiness of such reports, they are clearly not trying to baffle you with fake technical details. (Proof: they leave the technical details out completely.)

A third part of the case would involve corroborating details from parallel investigations, like the Papadopoulos statement:

The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”

Again: not Eulering.

I think it is reasonable to doubt that the Trump campaign actively collaborated with the Russians. I have little sympathy for the willful blindness of people who refuse to acknowledge that the Russians were involved at all.

And if you’d dispute the extent of Russia’s involvement, could we at least agree that “a) Email hack massively changed election b) Russia did email hack -> Russia massively changed election” is a sane line of thought, if not necessarily correct? Because Conrad (in another post on this now incredibly messy thread) implied the main concern is over the Facebook ads, and now I’m wondering if others think the Trump opposition is that insane.

Not “main” no, just that the entire thing is a gish gallop. The “Trump won because Russian interference” argument is many very weak arguments thrown together, and jumps between:

“Hacks!” even though not proven, could be a non-state actor, what about UMBRAGE, the CIA hacking tool that lets them finger other people for their attacks and that was leaked years before. And again, while I’m not a security expert, I am an engineer and am smart enough to realize that rule zero of being behind seven proxies is “don’t make your last proxy anywhere near where you actually are.” Also, that maybe if the Dems weren’t doing lots of shady stuff it wouldn’t matter if their emails were leaked.

“Russian bots!” Except lots of PR/political campaigns pay for fake followers.

“Troll farms!” That outweighed Correct the Record?

“FaceBook ads!” That out-influenced the $10 billion dollars spent across the campaign season, and the unimaginable influence of the entire US media apparatus (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Breitbart, CBS, ABC, NBC, NYTimes, WaPo, HuffPo, blah blah blah)? “Collusion!” But all the meetings or attempted meetings show they didn’t have communications. Papadapolous tried to set up a meeting and was rejected. Why would he have needed to try to pitch a meeting if Trump and Putin were already BFFs? Don Jr. gets an email pitch to set up a meeting with some lawyer he’s never met. If the Russians wanted to pass “the dirt” to Trump, why didn’t they leave it at the dead drop in Central Park at 2AM on the second wednesday of the month and leave a chalk mark on the mailbox like usual? Why did Kushner have to set up “back channels” in December after the election if they’d been colluding the whole time? It’s a gish gallop. A fire hose of weak arguments, none of which stand up to scrutiny, and are entirely unpersuasive to anyone who isn’t already desperately searching for an excuse to justify losing the election to Donald Trump. ETA: Also, we’re ignoring all the rest of the foreign influence efforts from China, from Israel, from Mexico and Univision and Carlos Slim-owned NY Times. Everyone wants to influence American elections because we’re the largest economy on the planet with the piles of nukes and the aircraft carriers and everything. It’s kind of important. The focus on Russia alone is silly. Also, from what we’ve seen, Russian activity was not in support of Trump. It was in support of any cause that creates division in the US. Pro BLM, anti BLM, pro abortion, anti abortion. And the single most massive success of the Russian disruption operation was…Russian agents telling Steele/Fusion/Hillary that “yeah we totally hacked your elections with pee pee tapes” and that’s sent our entire media and political class into a tailspin. Like the devil’s greatest trick is making you think he doesn’t exist, Putin’s greatest trick has been making Americans think “Russian collusion” does. But hey, keep at it. I’m sure that what’s going to win 2018 midterms for the Democrats is “Russia Russia Russia!” Not at all jobs, or the economy, or taxes or healthcare of anything. “Puhlease Brer Fox, whut evah yew dew, don’t throw me in that briar patch keep harping on Russian collusion!” • Nornagest says: The funny thing is, before I started seeing numbers I was perfectly willing to believe that a Russian influence campaign had meaningfully influenced the election. Russian intelligence has always been good at HUMINT, a lot better than our own government is; the Russians have been making a real push towards exploiting social media (we’ve probably all seen the pro-Putin trolls that pop up whenever Ukraine gets mentioned on a major site); and the Clinton campaign’s own influence operations during the election struck me as particularly clunky and inefficient, hence easy prey. But now we’re getting concrete estimates of the resources that went into the Russian side of this all, and they’re hilariously stingy. Six figures? I don’t think I could swing a state senate campaign with that kind of money. It does seem true in an abstract sense that the Russians were trying to exert influence, but they simply can’t have exerted much of it with those resources, at this scale, with this much competition running around. No one’s that good. • could we at least agree that “a) Email hack massively changed election … is a sane line of thought I don’t know about sane, but “massively” seems unlikely if it refers to number of votes changed. What is plausible is that, in a close election, it cost Clinton enough votes to change the outcome. • ManyCookies says: @DavidFriedman Weren’t the emails a huge focus of the campaign’s anti-Hillary stuff, the backbone of Lying Hillary/You’d Be in Jail? If so, I’d call that a pretty massive (large? strong? significant?) effect! Heck the Comey letter alone had a measurable, possibly election swinging effect. Oh I’m a silly goose. As per JayT below, I was mixing up the private server scandal with the Podesta+DNC leaks. Those were still important, but “massive” is definitely the wrong term for their impact alone. • JayT says: Hillary’s emails were a completely different thing from Russian hacking. I think you are confusing two stories. The issue with her emails was that she was using a personal email server for official emails. It had nothing to do with Russians. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Clinton_email_controversy • Edward Scizorhands says: I think it is reasonable to doubt that the Trump campaign actively collaborated with the Russians. I have little sympathy for the willful blindness of people who refuse to acknowledge that the Russians were involved at all. Full agreement here. • Thegnskald says: Yeah, that is pretty much my take on this. The way this is being turned into a partisan wedge is far worse than the initial acts, which, in the political framework of the US, were just more noise in an already noisy process. • Deiseach says: Being cynically whipped up into a partisan hatefest by a geopolitical rival is not in America’s interest. (If anybody’s going to whip Americans up into a partisan hatefest, it should be Real Americans!) Set aside the question of solutions; the first step is to acknowledge that it is happening, and figure out the scope of the attack. That appears to be what the House Intelligence Committee is doing. That would really be a good thing, but when you’ve got the Latino Victory Fund running an ad (which I see has now been yanked due to the outcry in response) about Racist Trucks hunting down Our Brown Children (I swear, this thing reminded me of nothing so much as the Supernatural early season episode about, yup, a Racist Truck) I think the polarisation has gone so far, it needs somebody with a hose to spray cold water all over the yapping dogs to divide them and who has a hose that big? • Deiseach says: What I think is the most likely revelation to come out of this whole investigation? Trump was very interested in doing business in/with Russia (which means doing business with Putin/his trusted crew because that’s how Vlad rolls and he’s busted down the oligarchs who used to operate independently of him) and had some dodgy deals set up. That’s as a businessman outside of politics. That people associated with Trump/his campaign/hangers-on had dodgy deals on the side as well, going back years before they threw in with Trump and that’s where the connections came in? Sure, I’ll believe that. That Trump was politically colluding and tied in to the Russian government? No, I don’t think so. Trump and his campaign would very much like to hear about this dirt you claim to have on the Clinton campaign and Hillary and are open to setting up a meeting to talk about it? Well, duh, that’s every politician in every election about their rival! • 1soru1 says: > That Trump was politically colluding and tied in to the Russian government? If he did illegal deals with the Russian government, then it would be strange if the Russian government were unaware of those deals. What scenario are you imagining where Putin had blackmail material that would put a non-President in jail, but had no reason to mention it to a candidate? • Deiseach says: I’ve been led to believe that some of them at least were dumb memes propagated by trolls putting in fake Russian names to mock the “Russians are hacking everything!” hysteria going around. As to whether I believe Facebook’s algorithms identified only naughty real Russians and only those alone, I am not that sure. Do I trust a guy who is shorter than our Taoiseach? 🙂 • What’s interesting about that story, if accurate, is that what the Russians were trying to do was not change the outcome of the election but make political culture worse, increase the degree to which people on opposite sides hate each other. It hardly seems necessary, given what is happening even without Russian intervention, but it’s interesting. • Iain says: Yeah. This is the part that I would hope people across the political spectrum can recognize as potentially concerning. • Le Maistre Chat says: Yeah, that is dastardly. Though you could say we deserve it because it’s entirely in our power to respond with “Hmm, we should build a culture where love has wider play.” • Matt M says: And the ultimate irony is that running stories about this saying “HERE’S HOW RUSSIA HELPED ELECT HITLER” is playing directly into their hands by advancing the goal of political polarization. If you really want to stick it to Putin, ignore his antics and go make friends with someone with the opposite political beliefs as you. Anyone doing that? • John Schilling says: What’s interesting about that story, if accurate, is that what the Russians were trying to do was not change the outcome of the election but make political culture worse The other interesting thing about that story is that it’s the only version that doesn’t require the Russians to be trans-Silverian superduperforecasters. At the time the Russians were doing, and even more so planning, their meddling, every reasonable prediction was that either Hillary was going to win by a substantial margin, or that Trump would win by way of a polling error or black swan event of sufficient magnitude to void any careful plan to swing the election by facebook ads and wikileaked emails. The idea that Russia could ever have planned or even believed it could plan to actually swing the outcome of the US presidential election by such perturbations is not plausible. As our Larry Kestenbaum points out, US political parties with greater local knowledge and more focused resources can’t pull that off. If it might be possible for the Russians to actually swing a US election and so earn the gratitude of Donald Trump or whatever, it’s going to take something of a different order than cheap facebook ads, trolls on the internet, and wikileak email dumps. Planning to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt, to nudge people towards thinking Hillary is the crookedest president ever and Trump is the equal and opposite crook who might as well have been paid to take a dive and take his party down with him (or vice versa in the unlikely event that Trump wins), that doesn’t require accurately predicting razor-thin electoral margins months in advance. And there’s no threshold effect where all your effort is wasted unless it results in an actual election win. Whatever the outcome, every bit of FUD is a win for Russia, because no matter who wins the election the leadership of their chief geopolitical rival has less political bandwidth for effective action. • publiusvarinius says: As our Larry Kestenbaum points out, US political parties with greater local knowledge and more focused resources can’t pull that off While I agree with most of your points, I don’t think that this is strong evidence that Russia cannot do it either. Information and resources matter, but models matter too (ArchiCAD is way better at analyzing the statics of a given building than the actual construction workers, even though the construction workers have better local information, not to say their lives on the line if the building does collapse). If a certain set of beliefs was to mindkill mainstream U.S. analysts, and they would no longer be able to predict anything about certain demographics, it would be plausible that Russia could do much better using a more accurate and less mindkilled model of how society works. • ManyCookies says: Wait I thought something like your version was already the version! Are people saying Russia was a super-predictor bent on swinging the election? Note that saying Russia ended up swaying the election (with the benefit of hindsight) is not the same as saying Russia’s main goal was to sway the election. Also I don’t think the story has to be quite as dramatic as a devious poisoning of the political culture. Russia might have just disliked Clinton and wanted to kick her down; they’d weaken her political strength, as you said, and they might luck out and swing a close election towards a better nominee (for them). A pretty simple and opportunistic win:win. • Deiseach says: I think Russian meddling (if any) was not so much “We’re gonna get Trump elected” (I imagine they held to the conventional wisdom at the time that Hillary had it in the bag) as “We’re gonna make it tough for Hillary and who knows, maybe we can even put a dent in her chances”. Stirring up the electorate so that the First Female President has a lot of resentment and dislike (even more than she naturally engendered) to overcome and take some of the gloss off her triumphant entry into the White House, and raise a cloud of scandal, gossip, criticism and plain stirring the pot around her in the early days of her administration. That she managed to lose and Trump won is probably just gravy for them but I really can’t see them pulling off such a master-stroke of manipulation, otherwise they’d be doing it in every election in every country. 26. Baeraad says: I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent posts on the (supposed?) failure of New Atheism, which inevitably ties into the question of how New Atheism went from being a core part of the progressive movement to being, essentially, booted out of it. I have two ideas I want to share, first about just what went wrong, and second about why that happened and how it’s still relevant today. Let’s start back when we all got along so well. The idea we all had back then was simple. Women and men were equal and functionally identical; the only reason to believe otherwise was lingering religious indoctrination. We would get rid of religion, and equality would inevitably follow. Atheism and feminism were two sides of the same cause. It made sense. The problem was, as it turned out, that it was in many ways wrong. There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that. The inherent differences between men and women were hidden beneath the artificial differences laid down by tradition, many of which in fact ran directly contrary to actual biology. Before peeling away the artificial, there was no way of knowing what the organic even looked like. But yes, it became (or should have become) increasingly obvious that our assumption was wrong. The sort of environment that men found most natural was an environment that women found actively unpleasant. Sexuality is the obvious example – it appears that women do not in fact enjoy having men sniffing around them 24/7, implicitly begging and cajoling and blustering for a chance to inseminate them with their genetic material; it’s not that they don’t ever want sex, but the sheer mindless relentlessness of the male libido tends to end up annoying them – but it’s far from the only one. Women tend to want to be given their turn to speak in an orderly and respectful fashion, not to have to shout the current speaker down before they can have their say. They have a higher tendency for depression and anxiety and just generally cause to feel like shit a lot of the time, so they’re not going to be entirely on board with yet another Carl Sagan-esque reverie about how the universe is beautiful and wonderful and perfect. You get the idea. Just treating women the same as men did not lead to them being as happy as men. It turned out that they wanted not something as simple as equal treatment, but the more complicated equal consideration. This would have been an excellent time, then, for both atheists and feminists to show some of all that scientific rigour they claimed to have, to say, “it was a bold new experiment, but it didn’t entirely succeed; let’s take what we learned from it and device a new one.” This… did not happen. Instead, both sides remained confident that their initial assumptions had been 100% correct, and that the reason why a post-sexism utopia had not manifested was that the other side had fiendishly sabotaged their efforts. Cue the schism that makes them bitter enemies to this day. I do blame the feminists first and foremost, here. They were the ones who was in the best position to note that they weren’t happy, and to examine why. Instead, they decided to demonise their male peers for acting in exactly the way they had always told them they ought to act. The sheer stubborn wrongheadedness it takes to convince yourself that men coddle and protect and nurture each other, or that men would absolutely hate it if women were constantly shoving their sexuality in their faces, is mindboggling. Just for starters, you have to dismiss every single man who comes forward with his Lived Experience to tell you that, er… no. Just… no. But at the same time, the atheists were riding on a wave of hubris that is hard to excuse. They built the moral justification for their crusade very much on how non-sexist they were, on how the women would be so much better off in the world they were building, on how they stood against nasty, chauvinistic religion in protection of the ladies fair. You’d think it would have occurred to them to check, every so often, how much those women they claimed to champion were actually enjoying the world they were building. Okay, not “them.” “Us.” I was part of that too – I spent the aughts yelling a lot at social conservatives for their supposed misogyny, and it didn’t occur to me, either, to actually ask some women what they wanted rather than just assuming that I knew what they ought to want. One of the most frustrating parts of the current state of affairs, for me, is that in some ways I’m getting exactly what I earned when I was younger and dumber! Regardless, while I wish they’d had more self-awareness about it, I can’t entirely fault the feminists for eventually getting fed up with the atheists constantly talking themselves up as being the benefactors of women, while at the same time those women were conspicuously failing to benefit. As for why New Atheism has lost its approval rating? That one’s easy. The feminists walked away with our moral justification. If you’re a bookish guy and a bunch of women are hanging out with you in preference to the traditionally masculine guys, you’re a gentleman and a scholar and probably the future of the nation. If you’re a bookish guy who women shun like the plague, you’re just a dweeb and no one will take your seriously – and if you insist on still proclaiming that you’re the future of the nation, you’re a dweeb with ideas above your station, and people will actively despise you. We never admitted to ourselves just how completely we owed our success to the approval of women. When we lost that, rightly or wrongly, we lost everything. The second thing I want to propose is that the reason why both sides were so adamant about not admitting that they had been mistaken is that this was part of their shared DNA right from the start – which is an important point, because that’s what keeps tripping our whole society up to this day. New Atheism and Third Wave Feminism were both born out of the nineties and aughts, when the world was floating in a daze of happy relativism, where everything and nothing was true all at once and nothing could be or needed to be done. If you think progressives today are fanatical about finding fault with everything, try to remember that they got their start in a time when the very idea of progress seemed to be dead, where we were told that everything was as good as it was ever going to get… and never mind that this sense of apathy was allowing things to actively keep getting worse, with all the progress achieved over the course of the twentieth century getting gradually eroded because no one was bothering to maintain it. What I’m saying is that there was great utility, back then, in stating the obvious – or, more accurately, in stating things that were held to be obvious in theory but which were going neglected in practice. New Atheists pointed out that we considered ourselves modern and rational, but that religion was steadily creeping into our governments and our schools. Feminists pointed out that we considered ourselves gender-equal, but that women somehow had ended up getting less than half of the pie. Everyone pointed out that we were supposed to be heading for something different than what we seemed to be heading for, and that we ought to wake up and do something about that. Really, so many things make sense when you realise that New Atheism and its brother-and-sister movements on the left wasn’t a revolution, but a reformation – a call to return to the values we still more or less held but had gotten increasingly lax about. The problem with a movement that is all about reaffirming what is obviously true in the face of muddled thinking, though, is that it gets caught wrong-footed when it runs into the possibility that the things it is reaffirming might not be entirely true after all. When you’re used to fighting sophistry, it’s very easy to confuse valid criticism for just another smokescreen that you need to shout at until it goes away, and to see indications of practical obstacles as enemy propaganda that is trying to make you veer from your righteous course. Case in point – it couldn’t be that women and men were actually different. We all knew that men and women were the same, because that was what we’d known back before religion deceitfully crept back in and confused everything, and we couldn’t possibly have been wrong about that. So someone had to have betrayed the cause, and it certainly wasn’t us. No, it was those damn atheist men lying about how they were in fact treating women exactly as they themselves would like women to treat them! Or it was those damn feminist women who had gotten back into bed with religion on the sly! The only alternative was that our starting assumptions had been wrong, and to suggest that was HERESY! … so that, basically, is why I think we’re in the mess we’re in. I feel like I should end this on some sort of hopeful note, but I’m afraid I can’t think of one. The feminists are continuing to double down on their assumption of absolute certainty, and while atheists (being the side that lost the most in the schism and has therefore had the more reason to reflect on what went wrong) have done a somewhat better job at re-examining themselves, they’re still proving (from my perspective) frustratingly unwilling to take their new theories to their logical conclusion. They tend to agree, now, that biological differences between the genders exist, but only rarely do I hear one flirt with the idea that maybe female preferences should be given greater consideration. “Men and women are different… and it just so happens that men are better at making decisions and running the world, so step aside and let us do that” tends to be the refrain. I don’t see that sentiment bringing any women – with their all-important ability to provide moral sanction – back into the fold anytime soon. To be honest, I think that our generation has simply done what it could. Our uncompromising determination to get things moving again got things out of the rut they were in when we came of age, stopped everything from decaying back into the Dark Ages… and now we need a new generation that’s willing to sit down and negotiate, to offer the other side half of what they want, to consider that perhaps questioning your own assumptions isn’t treason. We may be incapable of doing that, because our entire upbringing taught us to fear compromise as a certain route to stagnation. We need younger people to rebel against us in turn and in doing so build on our accomplishments. Whether the next generation is up to the challenge is another question. To be honest, I can’t say that anything I’ve seen of it fills me with confidence. • There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that. The inherent differences between men and women were hidden beneath the artificial differences laid down by tradition, many of which in fact ran directly contrary to actual biology. There may have been no reliable way of forseeing what the differences were but there was never any good reason to believe that there were none, at least for anyone who believed in Darwinian evolution. It implies that we are as if optimized for extended reproductive success. Men and women differ precisely in their role in reproduction. Hence it is a priori unlikely, although not impossible, that the same distribution of characteristics was optimal for both. • Baeraad says: Yes, but it seemed reasonable to believe, at the time, that what differences existed were negligable and vastly less important than both individual variety and social conformity. After all, survival and reproduction work in very different ways now than they did back during the bulk of our evolution, and yet we seem to have adapted to it. That in itself seemed to suggest that we weren’t ruled by our primal instincts anymore. And yes, like I said, I do think that it’s become more clear that the truth is more complicated and less blank-slate-y, but I maintain that the theory made sense at the time. Let’s remember, also, that we had a vested interest in believing that biology could be overruled by intellect, since the superiority of intellect over more fuzzy and uncivilised influences was one of our main ideals. Once you start thinking that maybe people should do what feels natural to them even if it is not logically optimal, you’re only one step away from considering that perhaps religious/supernatural/superstitious beliefs are a natural part of how the human brain works and that trying to stomp them out is futile – and that was definitely not a notion we were in any mood to entertain. For the record, one of the reasons why I’m considerably less anti-religious these days (even though I am more atheistic than ever) is that I’ve come to think that that’s exactly the case – that being perfectly rational is unnatural and therefore unsustainable, so the best we can hope for is curbing the worst excesses of irrationality. • Conrad Honcho says: You seem to be making an appeal to nature here. “Natural” is not necessarily good. “Natural” is murdering each other for resources and shitting in the woods. Civilization is largely about the suppression or redirection of “natural” things. • Baeraad says: True, and exactly the sentiment that fueled much about New Atheism. The problem is, I think we vastly overestimated how much most people could (or wanted to) go against their nature. • Once you start thinking that maybe people should do what feels natural to them even if it is not logically optimal, you’re only one step away from … The argument I was sketching says nothing about what people should do. It’s about what people are. It was entirely obvious that men were, on average, taller than women. That’s an easily observable physical fact, presumably due to evolution. So the obvious guess was that the distribution of not easily observable characteristics was also different for men than for women. How big the difference is is then an open question. But there was no argument, ideology aside, for expecting zero difference. • Baeraad says: True. Also irrelevant. Rightly or not, a related “is” is going to inform any “ought,” and that gives people a powerful incentive to be disproportionately skeptical to any claimed “is” that will damage their prefered “ought.” • Aapje says: @Baeraad What you are arguing is that ‘ought’ informs people’s perception of ‘is.’ In other words, people deny reality when they don’t like the conclusions some people may draw from the facts. • secondcityscientist says: [Darwinian Evolution] implies that we are as if optimized for extended reproductive success. It does no such thing. Evolution is a greedy, contingent and iterated process with substantial random elements. It might arrive at a local maximum, but it will not optimize for much of anything. • Thegnskald says: I think part of the issue with feminism is that women’s interests are already getting disproportionately favorable consideration in spite of less representation. • Baeraad says: I find that very difficult to believe. It’s an acknowledged fact that women have vastly less than half of the money – there’s an intense debate about why that is, yes, but no one’s questioning their lower average income. They still get raped like it’s going out of style – even conservative estimate has it as something like one women in every ten will get assaulted in her lifetime, and even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences. Women’s health issues still get less research put into them. Public discussions are dominated by the shoutiest and most odious people, who are almost always men, because men are better at being shouty and odious. I have no tolerance for feminism’s claim of “… and all of that is because of MISOGYNY, and needs to be solved by yelling at men some more!”, but looking out the window I do not see a world where women come first. • cassander says: >They still get raped like it’s going out of style – even conservative estimate has it as something like one women in every ten will get assaulted in her lifetime, and even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences. Rape, like all crime, has been on a decline for decades, not thanks to feminism, and notice how you’ve shifted goal posts from rape to “sexual assault”, which is an incredibly vague term that has been watered down to sometimes include getting catcalled. • Checking the BJS victimization figures, rape/sexual assault for 2015 is 1.6 per thousand persons age 12 or older. Assume all the victims are female and multiply by sixty years and that gives a lifetime chance of about 20%. Of those, 28% are completed rapes (Table 12), so about 6%. That’s a high estimate of the percentage of women who get raped at some point in their lifetime, since I am ignoring both male victims and women who are victims more than once. • albatross11 says: Note that the BJS numbers David is quoting: a. Draw from a big survey of crime victims, so we’re seeing what the victims report, not an arrest or conviction. (Since a lot of rapes and sexual assaults never get reported to the police, this is likely a much more accurate number than we’d get from looking a crime stats. On the other hand, there’s no way to know whether any of the surveyed victims are telling the truth.) b. The people being surveyed are asked for details of whatever happened, and then the BJS people decide how to categorize it based on their fixed rules. So this isn’t just “did you get raped?” c. The rules for what’s categorized as rape or sexual assault are pretty clearly stated and their methodology tends to get lower numbers than many other surveys. d. The rape definintion is just about what you’d expect. e. Sexual assault is much wider, and generally amounts to some kind of unwanted sexual contact. If you grope some woman on the subway, that’s sexual assault; if you catcall her or hit on her during the whole subway ride, that’s not sexual assault. • cassander says: It looks like the rape figures use a different methodology than the other crimes. To quote from the what I think is methodology section they cite, “For example, the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and conducted in 1995–96, estimated an incidence rate for rape (counting multiple rapes) of 8.7 per 1,000 women aged 18 or older, compared with an incidence rate for rape (including attempted rape) and sexual assault in the previous 12 months of 2.3 per 1,000 women aged 12 or older from the 1996 NCVS The differences that arise from using different methodologies and surveying different populations have resulted in debate over the ideal method for collecting self-report data on rape and sexual assault.2 In addition, these differences have resulted in confusion among stakeholders as to which estimates are more accurate. This debate has had the negative consequence of raising doubts about the self-report methodology itself. Note, those figures are from 96, when the overall crime rate was much higher than today. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/bjs_amrsa_poster.pdf • qwints says: The NCVS is very well documented – and To clarify what albatross11 said – the screening question is “has anyone attacked or threatened you in any of these ways – … Any rape, attempted rape or other type of sexual attack -?” (41a) If the person answers yes, the questioner then goes through a detailed crime incident report, which is then coded. Notably, the language used to code for rape is “You mentioned rape. Do you mean forced or coerced sexual intercourse?” (question 29c). Other surveys which get higher numbers generally use more graphic language, e.g. the Campus Climate Survey asked about unwanted oral sex, anal sex and sexual intercourse and defined all the terms. It then asked about how it was unwanted, and coded accordingly. The NCVS routinely finds lower rates of rape and sexual assault than other surveys. The discussion on pages 2-3 of this report give good explanations of the current proposed explanations. • if you catcall her or hit on her during the whole subway ride, that’s not sexual assault. On the other hand, “Verbal threats of rape and sexual assault” are counted as sexual assault (Table 12). • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says: Women’s health issues still get less research put into them. They do? • The Nybbler says: Women’s health issues still get less research put into them. More than men’s health issues. even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences. Maybe you could laugh at 14 years. I couldn’t. but looking out the window I do not see a world where women come first. Look in the mirror; you mentioned rape but never mentioned the higher rate for men of all other violent crime. • JayT says: Look in the mirror; you mentioned rape but never mentioned the higher rate for men of all other violent crime. Not just that, but if you count prison rape, more men are raped than women in the US. • Aapje says: @Baeraad Women earn less money, but don’t necessarily have access to less money, because men transfer large amounts of wealth to women. It’s the logical consequence of the provider role, yet one that somehow keeps getting overlooked, despite logically following from feminist theories. I don’t really understand how it’s necessarily unfair to women when society pushes men to sacrifice more for work and then hand over part of that additional income to women. Women can choose to make those same sacrifices if they want. The major reason why rape statistics are so disparate is because female rape of men is not classified as rape (which gets defined as penetration and women who rape men usually don’t penetrate them due to a lack of a penis). The gender-swapped equivalent of the (sexist) definition of rape is ‘made to penetrate.’ CDC’s victim surveys find almost identical number of yearly adult male victims of ‘made to penetrate’ as adult female victims of rape. Most health research is actually gender neutral, because men and women are actually both human and are similar in many ways. The narrative that some huge injustice is done to women by not doing more research on women seems mostly made up. We do know for a fact that women consume more healthcare than men, so in terms of actually getting healthcare, women do better than men. PS. In general our society transfers wealth from men to women, both privately as publicly (as women pay less in taxes than what the government spends on them, while the opposite is true for men). • It’s an acknowledged fact that women have vastly less than half of the money Women earn, on average, less than men. To the extent that the reason is different choices made by women, that doesn’t mean their interests are getting less consideration–they may be less interested in earning money, more interested in doing other things. An interesting description of the evidence. And how much women earn isn’t an adequate measure of how much money they have, since about half of all adults are married, hence sharing incomes. • keranih says: They still get raped like it’s going out of style – even conservative estimate has it as something like one women in every ten will get assaulted in her lifetime, and even those few rapists who get convicted get off with laughably short sentences. Women’s health issues still get less research put into them. Public discussions are dominated by the shoutiest and most odious people, who are almost always men, because men are better at being shouty and odious. As one of those “they” – your statements here do not reflect my perception of the world around me, and are excessively taken out of context when they are not flat out inaccurate. You don’t have to believe me, but please do believe that there are women who disagree entirely with you. • John Schilling says: There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that. In the sense that there is no reasonable way of foreseeing that the old fence you encounter across your path might be keeping you away from the dangerously short-tempered bull or the abandoned minefield, perhaps. When the majority of humanity did in fact foresee a thing, it strikes me as exceedingly arrogant to assert that it could not have been “reasonably” foreseen. As David Friedman notes, it could have been foreseen on the grounds of evolutionary biology. It could have been foreseen from social or psychiatric study, or from history, or from simply observing human behavior in the real world, or by reading the warnings of all the people who were saying “I foresee bad things if you do this and here’s why!” Most of whom were in some sense religious, but only because about 90% of Western Civilization was at least softly religious – and it was definitely not the case that all of their arguments were based in religion. Against all of this foresight, there was only the hypothesis that the obvious differences were 100% due to archaic religious traditions, and the arrogance to assume that this hypothesis was itself so obvious that it needed no proof and anyone holding it up to critical examination must be the Enemy. Feminism, or more precisely the subset of feminism you are referring to, very nearly defined itself by ridiculing a broad class of useful foresight. And then went on to ally itself with similar movements with similar tastes. Is it any wonder that they all blundered into a minefield of fallacies they were ill-prepared to deal with? • Baeraad says: When the majority of humanity did in fact foresee a thing, it strikes me as exceedingly arrogant to assert that it could not have been “reasonably” foreseen. True, but you may have noticed that there’s one trait New Atheists have never been accused of lacking… As David Friedman notes, it could have been foreseen on the grounds of evolutionary biology. Which is, or at least seemed to be, a bunch of crock that consistently claims that we absolutely evolved for exactly the kind of behaviour we exhibit right now. When a field of science says things like “women like pink because they evolved to look for berries with strong colours,” and someone notices that pink was a masculine colour until the twentieth century, then that field of science doesn’t come across looking too credible. It could have been foreseen from social or psychiatric study, Those always say different things. We picked the ones whose conclusions we liked. Like people usually do. or from history, History contained a LOT of things that we hoped to be able to avoid from now on! Also, it always had religion in it. Always. or from simply observing human behavior in the real world, Most of whom, as you point out yourself, were religious. or by reading the warnings of all the people who were saying “I foresee bad things if you do this and here’s why!” Every time something changes, tons of people foresee bad things. In fact, at the time we’re talking about, conventional wisdom was that nothing could ever be allowed to change ever again because it was already perfect. In summery, you can accuse us of arrogance and of not being as rational as we thought we were, and in fact I have already admitted to both – but I still say that our starting theory was sound, pending experiments, and that our mistake was not paying attention when the experiments started turning out differently than we thought. • Deiseach says: History contained a LOT of things that we hoped to be able to avoid from now on! Also, it always had religion in it. Always. Gosh, it’s almost like there might possibly be something to this religion thing after all – nah, can’t be! We could never be that wrong! Now, where’s that minefield I want to tap-dance across in my lead diving boots? See you on the other side! • As David Friedman notes, it could have been foreseen on the grounds of evolutionary biology. Which is, or at least seemed to be, a bunch of crock that consistently claims that we absolutely evolved for exactly the kind of behaviour we exhibit right now. That claim, if anyone serious in the field made it, might be relevant to the question of what the differences are produced by evolution. What I was offering was a much simpler argument, the reason why anyone who believes in Darwinian evolution should expect differences to exist. Assuming without evidence that there are no differences in not easily observed characteristics when there are striking differences in easily observed characteristics and a theoretical argument to expect both is an act of faith, not of reason. • John Schilling says: “[negative outcomes of feminism could have been foreseen] or from simply observing human behavior in the real world” Most of whom, as you point out yourself, were religious. And that’s where the quote ends because that was the end of your response on that point. It is hard for me to understand that as anything but an assertion that feminist atheism’s position is basically, “all these people have a different religion than us, therefore we should ignore what they have to say on any subject for any reason” The prosecution rests. • Standing in the Shadows says: I would say you (plural) are getting exactly what you (plural) asked for and what you (plural) deserve, good and hard. My only complaint is that my nieces and my kids are going to have to live with the increasing amounts of increasingly toxic fallout of this idiocy. (And I’m using idiot in the ancient and archaic sense: a political and civic sense formed excessively from the own-self’s immediate desires.) • Baeraad says: Probably true. But if you’re waiting for an apology, you can wait a long time. I don’t like the world we’ve made, but we made it in an attempt to get away from the world we had, which I’ll assume from the tone of your comment worked really well for you but was screwing a lot of the rest of us over. At least in this one, we’re all screwed – fairness, of a sort! • Randy M says: women – with their all-important ability to provide moral sanction This is an odd assumption. I’m also not sure what your metric for success is going to be now that you aren’t all seated together at tabula rasa. (Boy, that was a stretch…) Is a society with only 40% of$[influential position] being held by women still unforgivably sexist when women might have some legitimate differences in interest, let alone ability?

• Nornagest says:

I don’t think New Atheism was ever really a core part of the progressive movement. It certainly enjoyed more acceptance a decade or so ago, but it was never very big: remember, most progressives are Christian, and most of those that aren’t fall into the vague spiritual-but-not-religious category.

But it did fit better into the narrative. American progressivism in the early oughts saw itself as the underdog, fighting against an overwhelmingly powerful Religious Right edifice as embodied in George W. Bush. (Who was never really a Religious Rightist, but he did suck up to them more than average for a Republican president, so whatever.) There was still an *ism angle to it, but it wasn’t embedded in the elaborate social theories that’ve since become popular; rather, it was just sort of generally assumed that American racism and sexism and homophobia were all rooted in religious traditionalism. Fundies were the enemy. And the New Atheists hated, hated, hated fundies.

Your average rank-and-file Democrats — probably Episcopalian or cultural Catholic or something like that — saw themselves as hewing to an enlightened Christianity, not like the dark millennialist superstitions they saw across the aisle. They wouldn’t exactly like the Dawkinses of the world, but they could ally with them under the banners of e.g. the “reality-based community”, and they were perfectly happy to sit back and watch them go.

When Barack Obama got elected and the Religious Right started losing ground, though, cracks started appearing in that narrative, and it became necessary to craft a new one.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

remember, most progressives are Christian, and most of those that aren’t fall into the vague spiritual-but-not-religious category.

Aren’t you a Bay Arean? I’m super surprised if this is your lived experience. I can count the Christians I know who are conforming Blues on the fingers of one hand.
If you’re saying this based on demographic data that includes the Northeast rather than experience, then eh, maybe. There are definitely a lot of Episcopalians, Quakers and other fuzzy-headed heretics, but here they’re vastly outnumbered by atheists and spiritual-not-religious.

American progressivism in the early oughts saw itself as the underdog, fighting against an overwhelmingly powerful Religious Right edifice as embodied in George W. Bush. (Who was never really a Religious Rightist, but he did suck up to them more than average for a Republican president, so whatever.)

George W. Bush was a sincere evangelical, in a William James sort of way. He claimed, at the cost of political embarrassment, to maintain a personal relationship with Christ because he was saved from alcoholism, but he wasn’t theologically conservative enough to permit criticism of Islam.

• Nornagest says:

I’ve lived in the Bay, but I’m not talking about the Bay, I’m talking about Blue Tribe country-wide. The DC-NY corridor and the Los Angeles area are probably the most important parts when it comes to agenda- and narrative-setting — that’s where the media, and most of the nationally important politicians, live. DC in particular’s got a Blue Tribe culture that’s very different from the Bay.

Even if I’m wrong about Judeo-Christian vs. spiritual-but-not-religious, I wouldn’t discount the latter. Those types are as potentially hostile to Dawkins et al. as the Christians are.

• Le Maistre Chat says:

OK, that all makes sense.

Random fact: Lutherans in America are split between conservative and liberal, and for historical reasons the liberals ended up with the name Evangelical Lutheran Church in America while Evangelical is otherwise treated as a synonym for “Republican” or even “fundie.”

• Nancy Lebovitz says:

And Conservative Jews are sort of middle of the road. This is because Language Is Not Fair to Human Understanding.

• Deiseach says:

We all knew that men and women were the same, because that was what we’d known back before religion deceitfully crept back in and confused everything

Annnnd that was – when, exactly? When humans knew all humans were the same, before some humans started believing in spirits and deities and invisible entities? Kinda like to get a year on that and please don’t say anything like “1960s” or “1820s”. Because if we didn’t know it until 1782 and we knew it until 1963 and we then forgot it in 1980 until we knew it again in 1995 – that’s not totally convincing to me.

There was, I still maintain, no reasonable way of foreseeing that.

And this is the liberal/progressive attitude that has me, as a conservative, hanging my head in my hands. Well, no, if you’re operating on the assumption that nobody before you ever knew anything, they were all wrong about everything, and nothing that traditional society has said is ever correct or factual, then yes this is precisely the mistake you will make.

It’s like someone coming up to the edge of a cliff, seeing a signpost about “Danger – stay back at least 5 metres, cliff face is crumbling” and saying “Pah, this sign is at least thirty years old, why should I believe it is in any way accurate?” and then they go right to the edge and it falls out from under them because coastal erosion is a real factual thing that happens and warnings about it are right and just because you didn’t put that sign up five minutes ago does not mean old things are wrong.

And if by some miracle they survive the fall, as they are being winched up by the rescue crew they go “But how could I reasonably have known that would happen? Oh sure, all those old signs and the local people said it was dangerous, but come on – that’s the old confused tradition at work!”

YOU COULD REASONABLY HAVE KNOWN BECAUSE OF THE BIG WARNING SIGN, CLANCY!

• Next you’ll be quoting Kipling at us.

• Deiseach says:

Going even further back than that, Ecclesiastes:

And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

27. tomconerly says:

There’s this idea/pledge I’ve heard a few times. Someone says that they encourage all feedback. They don’t care whether it’s constructive or destructive. They make it clear that they will accept any feedback without getting angry or shooting the messenger. Basically it’s their responsibility that the feedback is handled well. Not the responsibility of the person giving the feedback. I think this thing has a name, but I can’t seem to find it (if anyone knows that would be great).

I’m curious if anyone here has tried this and what their experiences are. Did you run into cases where you ended up not being able to handle feedback well?

Personally I thought I’d be able to handle any feedback, but I recently ran into a case where I had a difficult time. Now I feel like it would be very difficult for most people to guarantee that they handle any criticism well.

• anonymousskimmer says:

Psychologically pretty much everyone has areas of sensitivity (various enneagram authors try to generalize some of these sensitivities to types as “childhood wounds”). You aren’t always aware of these sensitive areas until they’re triggered. But once they’re triggered your initial reponse is a childish response. It takes time, effort, and practice to develop childish responses into adult responses.

I’m curious whether you think your inability to handle feedback is because the feedback was related to such a childish “wound” or sensitive area?

I haven’t made such a pledge and never will. But I did become very angry at feedback when the person providing said feedback didn’t open themselves to reciprocal feedback (and a whole bunch of other people piled on – seeing my initial opening to feedback as indicating that I needed it and that the other person was correct).

• tomconerly says:

It was related to a sensitive area (social skills) but I think it’s because I’ve improved a bit in that area. Normally for sensitive areas my thoughts are worse than any feedback I’ve gotten (so the feedback isn’t too hard to swallow). In this case I built up some confidence then got some tough feedback from someone I cared about.

• WashedOut says:

I take it by “destructive” you mean a frank assessment of someone’s flaws and weaknesses? Outside of some possibly apocryphal stories from the military, I’ve never heard of anyone been given destructive criticism in the context of professional life.

I regularly ask for feedback from my supervisors, the repeated problem I get is that it isn’t frank or ‘cutting’ enough, they tend to focus on superficialities that don’t invoke individual character.

I’m curious about your logic btw. You’ve gone from “I think I can handle it” —> “I can’t handle it” —-> “Well I guess most people wouldn’t be able to handle it.” I agree with your conclusion, just curious what made you think your were ‘stronger’ initially?

• albatross11 says:

There are times when you end up taking some feedback that seems (and maybe is) incredibly nasty and unfair. And you nod, accept the feedback calmy, and go scream/cry/get drunk/curse at the world in private, later, out of sight of the people giving you the feedback. If you’re in a position where you face the public, and your organization does any controversial things, makes unpopular tradeoffs, or just flat screws up, you will experience exactly this, and you just have to take the feedback, and try as hard as you can to distill the useful parts out and filter out most of the the nastiness.

• tomconerly says:

I’m thinking of personal life rather than professional life. I’ve had the same experience as you in professional life. It’s really hard to get people to give good feedback in that setting.

My original logic was that I couldn’t remember a time where I’d had a strong emotional reaction to tough feedback thus I could probably handle it. I never really thought too hard about it. Once I had the experience it seems obvious that it’s really hard to know what your reaction will be. Especially when you have an emotional reaction to something.

• tomconerly says:

That’s it! Thanks

• Randy M says:

Can you summarize the conclusion you expect someone to draw after going through a few screens worth of links to blog posts?
And if not, can you avoid posting? I find this style poorly conductive to conversation or persuasion.

• Gobbobobble says:

I’m wondering how it got past the spam filter, considering every other week someone claims that including a few links got their post eaten.

• andrewflicker says:

I always figured that was people with confirmation bias- I’ve posted several times with literally a single link as the only post content, with no problems.

• Aapje says:

@andrewflicker

I think that the WordPress spam filter looks at the number of links, not the link to text ratio.

• Scott Alexander says:

It didn’t; I had to unspam it.

• PedroS says:

But why?….. I know you are the One true Caliph, but it does seem somewhat arbitrary

28. Atlas says:

In Partial Defense of Hardcore Isolationism (comment 1/2):

Possibly controversial proposition: From the perspective of maximizing the welfare of US citizens, a foreign policy very, very close to isolationism is correct. Furthermore, almost all the wars the US has fought, even ones commonly thought of as “good wars”, have done almost nothing to benefit US citizens. Additionally, current US security commitments/alliances in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia do not make US citizens more secure and in virtually no way benefit the material interests of US citizens.

In case the bolded text above didn’t make it clear, note that I’m not making a claim about whether US wars have been net moral positives when considering the lives and interests of non-Americans. A more ambitious claim along those lines actually doesn’t sound totally implausible to me, but it would take more effort to defend and I think this is probably surprising enough for many people anyway.

Consider the following wars: the Americ