SELF-RECOMMENDING!

OT88: Homage To Threadalonia

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

909 Responses to OT88: Homage To Threadalonia

  1. PsychBrief says:

    Some might be interested in my write up of my survey on “Why do psychologists leave academia?” http://psychbrief.com/why-do-people-leave-academia-the-results/ It’s open data and open code so feel free to have a look for mistakes or interesting conclusions I missed. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

  2. The death of objectivity – How one concept’s fall threatens the entire scientific project (Part 1/2)
    The recent discussion of postmodernism has encouraged me to post related thoughts that have been percolating on related topics for a while. Objectivity, which I take as an apparently useful and central concept of the scientific project (even when we attempt to use intersubjective verification as a less ambitious proxy), is philosophically and practically flawed, and this presents a major target for postmodernist critics of the scientific project. I claim that the chief difficulty arises from the selection of content for inclusion in scientific questions, answers and descriptions, which is presently arbitrary, unsystematic and rarely formally considered. I also contend that ‘solving’ this selection problem is the chief challenge for those who wish to see the scientific project and the creation of unbiased bodies of knowledge continue (or improve). I hint this also has implications for other societal functions like journalism, political discourse etc.

    I hint at a Part 2, as yet unwritten, where I will no doubt solve this problem and refresh the scientific project in time for the next episode of the Big Bang or whatever I ought to be watching. Actually, no, I’d be very interested in anyone keen to share thoughts on this problem, which is obviously fairly complex and challenging. I’d also be keen to hear from any philosophers familar with Kant to know if my reference to the ‘infinite manifold problem’ is an acceptable appropriation of Kantian language around this subject.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t think that this is actually a problem.

      No scientist in history has ever been capital-O Objective in the Kantian sense that you’re using, and any scientist who believes otherwise is a dangerous idiot. Objectivity has always been an ideal to strive towards: every scientist has a pet theory, that’s never going to change, but you can at least reduce e.g. the frequency of p-hacking.

      Science works in the absence of perfect objectivity. This is demonstrably true even to a layman by the Elijah test. Airplanes, computers, vaccines, nuclear bombs and a million other technological devices work when they’re built according to scientific principles. No other “way of knowing” has produced even 1/1000th as much tangible evidence of its correctness.

      Science reliably produces accurate models of the natural world. If philosophers can’t account for how that can be, so much the worse for philosophy.

      • I think you’re right that objectivity has always been held as an ideal to strive towards! But its difficult to work towards an ideal if that ideal is perceived as poorly defined. Or if that ideal has serious flaws. Or if that ideal means different things to different people (ironically). Or if a group of people (eg postmodernists) can succesfully argue that the ideal doesn’t exist or isn’t worth pursuing.

        I’m trying to describe why I think that is exactly the case we’re now dealing with.

        Certain disciplines like maths, particle physics and their applied fields can certainly carry on day-to-day without worrying too much about the philosophy – I do try to acknowledge this in the article. But when we introduce human interests into the field, things can get messy very quickly, even well before you move across into the social sciences (where I have resided and I can assure you this problem creates cascading failures of all sorts). Take climate science for example. There is clearly fairly significant disagreements over what sets of evidence, measurements, timeframes, models etc are to be included as relevent – we can select different (but all accurate) data and form very different pictures of what’s going on. Public perception of politicisation is greatly increased by the idea that there is no such thing as a objective position and that we should merely listen to all the perspectives and select what feels right. Yet that is exactly the philosophical message seeping into public culture, and the failure to defend objectivity as a concept lies at the heart of that. Some might be insulated from this problem if they are in the purest of physical and mathematically sciences, but its already influencing the rest of academia (see Scott’s writings on social psychology for example), and I think it will ultimately decimate the insitutions of science and objectivity as a whole.

        • Aapje says:

          Certain disciplines like maths, particle physics and their applied fields can certainly carry on day-to-day without worrying too much about the philosophy

          Gödel proved that there is no consistent system of axioms that is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of the natural numbers or demonstrate its own consistency. So you can easily take a post-modernist ax to math, arguing it to be subjective.

          Perhaps it is, but math is nevertheless incredibly useful and the outcomes almost always consistent with reality. It pays rent.

          Science should also be evaluated by how much it pays rent, not whether it is perfect. It’s never going to be perfect as long as humans are involved, anyway.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          In addition to what Aapje said above, based on your examples it sounds like you’re mistakenly treating a practical objection as a philosophical one.

          Psychology, economics, sociology, education research, biomedical sciences and climatology have all lost a lot of trust recently. Laymen feel as though their opinions on these topics should be held as equally valid to those of the experts.

          But you know what else those fields all have in common? The first five are in the midst of replication crises, with less than half of results holding up under serious scrutiny. The last is a brand new field facing credible allegations of institutionalized fraud.

          Laymen aren’t philosophically opposed to the scientific method. They just hate being taken for a ride. And who can blame them for that!

          The solution to this isn’t going to be found in the philosophy of science but in adopting sound scientific practice. When predictions made by economists or climatologists are correct as often as those of chemists, the distrust will evaporate.

          • > The first five are in the midst of replication crises
            Mostly agreed, I did kind of say that, and doesn’t that support the idea that there’s a broad multi-disciplinary failure, like for example a fundamental philosophical problem?

            >Laymen feel as though their opinions on these topics should be held as equally valid to those of the experts.
            Agreed, sounds like if a group managed to spread the lay version of the idea that objective knowledge is invalid into the general population, it would look exactly like that. I’m just saying that’s a symptom of the failure in defence of the idea that’s been occuring in academic circles several decades before.

            > The last is a brand new field facing credible allegations of institutionalized fraud.
            … I’ll just say I wildly disagree with this sentence and leave it at that, to avoid a fairly pointless debate on an unrelated topic.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a general issue here: In any field where there are a lot of people working for a long time, you will get a body of knowledge and set of theories built up which are pretty complicated. Sometimes, they may sound unintuitive or even crazy to outsiders. There are only so many hours in a day, so it’s not workable to tell everyone “Go become sufficiently conversant with the field to understand whether they’re spouting nonsense or not.” That means that, as an outsider, I’d like to have some sense of how much confidence I can have in the pronouncements of experts in those fields. Quantum physics and postmodernism both seem pretty damned opaque and bizarre and unintuitive to the uninitiated. Should we trust both equally when they tell us something about our world or advise us about future decisions we should make? If the physicists want a billion dollars to build a quantum computer, and the postmodernists want a billion dollars to deconstruct the dominant white-centric narratives of number theory and factor integers through other, equally valid, ways of knowing than Western logic, which one should get the cash?

            One part of that is whether the field produces actual results we can see. I don’t have to understand the physics behind lasers or GPS satellites to appreciate that modern physics tells us stuff we need to know to build them. I can use the fact that antiretrovirals have put AIDS patients into remission and stopped the massive die-off of young gay men as a check on the claim that virologists know what they’re talking about w.r.t. the cause of AIDS.

            Another part of that is whether the field polices itself–that is, that they are doing a good job figuring out their field of study, even when the outside world can’t see direct evidence of it all that often. The replication crisis in social psychology indicates that social psych hasn’t done a great job there. (Though it also indicates that social psych will probably be much more reliable in the future, since now everyone asks about replicatability and pre-registered studies and such.)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @citizensearth,

            The problem with saying that it’s a fundamental philosophical problem with science is that a) the harder fields don’t really have this problem, and b) the popular perception of the untrustworthiness of certain fields actually seems to be rational even if the reactions aren’t.

            We can solve the replication crisis without fundamentally changing what science means. We just need to adopt better methodology in a few lagging fields and ditch a few activists masquerading as researchers.

            … I’ll just say I wildly disagree with this sentence and leave it at that, to avoid a fairly pointless debate on an unrelated topic.

            Sure. I’m not a skeptic but just wanted to point out the elephant in the room.

            The one field which doesn’t fit the criteria of being in the replication crisis is irreproducible by its nature and hasn’t been terribly impressive when it comes to predictions.

          • albatross11 says:

            Has economics had a major replication crisis? Macroeconomics seems to have the property that they can give wonderful retrospective explanations for what happened, but can’t predict much, but I wasn’t aware of a lot of retracted or irreproducible results in economics.

          • @Nabil ad Dajjal

            > We just need to adopt better methodology in a few lagging fields and ditch a few activists masquerading as researchers.

            I don’t wildly disagree (apart from thinking its not a few but most), but I think that looks exactly like answering the philosophical questions I’ve been pointing to. We need to be able to say clearly what is better methdology and what isn’t, and what is activism and what is science. I think objectivity used to be central in that process, and I’m saying that it now clear lacks the ability to do so where outcomes are complex to measure or where human interests differ heavily.

            @albatross11
            That’s a good point, one difficulty I think lies in the fact that most humans feel roughly the same about what selection of content is appropriate when describing a particle’s behavior, but when we describe a human, or a government, or the economy, or even the weather, it becomes almost totally dependent on different approaches to selection of content.

  3. meh says:

    Lots of firsts last night: http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/08/us/election-firsts-lgbt-minorities/index.html
    But still people won’t vote for an atheist.

  4. onyomi says:

    This short article much better articulates an idea I was groping after in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting and makes me want to read more Arendt.

    To summarize: violence is antithetical to power in that real power is people doing your bidding without a fight; people fight to challenge or preserve power. Today, because states are so overgrown, we suffer increasingly under a “tyranny of nobody,” where “the system” itself is crushing, but no one person or even small group of people is really responsible for it (the desire to avoid having “the buck stop here,” I imagine, is universal, but much easier in a vast bureaucracy). Tyranny without tyrants. This robs people of a sense of agency. Those feeling helpless may sometimes lash out in violence.

    And even if this isn’t a major cause of mass shootings, I think it’s still a big problem for other, Molochy reasons.

    • Creutzer says:

      The tyranny without a tyrant is exactly the topic of Eliezer’s new posts on “Moloch’s Toolbox” on Lesserwrong, by the way.

    • Kevin C. says:

      This short article much better articulates an idea I was groping after in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting and makes me want to read more Arendt.

      Yes, it is a very good article. Thank you for the link.

      To summarize: violence is antithetical to power in that real power is people doing your bidding without a fight; people fight to challenge or preserve power.

      I’m reminded of Max Weber’s distinction between “power” and “authority”, whereby “power” is the ability to make people do what you want them to, while authority is the ability to do so without having to resort to explicit rewards or punishments; i.e. power with legitimacy.*

      I was also reminded of Weber by another bit in that article:

      Arendt believed that modern states had become “bogged down under the monstrous weight of their own bigness.” She saw that the bigger a state grew, the more need there was for an administrative apparatus to allow it to function. The bureaucratization of society sounds more mundane than oppressive, but Arendt saw it as an insidious and smothering force that resulted in a sort of faceless tyranny.

      Because Weber was pretty much the guy who coined “bureaucratization”, and while he saw it, and “rationalization”, as an inexorable, unstoppable process of modernity, he was not optimistic about the likely outcome, talking of a “steel-hard shell”**, and of the bureaucratization of social order as “the polar night of icy darkness.

      Humans are by nature political creatures, Arendt understood. She believed the bureaucratization of society robs man of a fundamental human need: the ability to take action</i<.

      “What makes man a political being is his faculty to act,” she wrote in her 1969 essay Reflections on Violence. “And I think it can be shown that no other human ability has suffered to such an extent by the Progress of the modern age.”

      I’ve actually seen pretty much this same point made in a Tumblr discussion***, where it was phrased in terms of a spectrum between being a “subject” and an “object”, where the distiction is between “doing” and “being”; the former is defined by and valued for what they do, while the latter is defined by and valued who they are. At the extreme of subjecthood lie the “faceless” videogame protagonists:

      To some extent, identity-building always pushes towards the object side of the equation. It’s about being rather than doing; it involves saying, “witness me! appreciate me!” The pure Platonic subject, like Doom Guy or the main character of an old-school dating sim, has no actual traits that can be perceived (and thus nothing on which to hang an identity); he is simply a perspective-that-does-things, a blank empty force of happening in the world.

      While “objecthood” can be seen with “commodification”/”branding”:

      Commodification and cultural churn mean that there’s an eternal seller’s market for cool things</I., which is great if you primarily construct yourself as a cool thing in search of a buyer/audience. Loosening social norms mean that you can be pretty much any kind of cool thing you want.

      The point was that, like the above article, modern society has reduced the ability to act, it has devalued “subjecthood” — and concomittantly raised the value of being more an “object”.****

      Today, because states are so overgrown, we suffer increasingly under a “tyranny of nobody,” where “the system” itself is crushing, but no one person or even small group of people is really responsible for it (the desire to avoid having “the buck stop here,” I imagine, is universal, but much easier in a vast bureaucracy). Tyranny without tyrants. This robs people of a sense of agency.

      I believe I made a similar point back in OT73.75, in the comment string that ended with this post:

      @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

      Knowing which Lord made a decision does not get you all the way to to responsibility, because you cannot hold him accounntable.

      But, neither can one hold accountable an algorithm. Because a key part of Weberian rationalization and his description of bureaucracy is the replacement of human judgement and discretion with “action taken on the basis of and recorded in written rules… implemented by neutral officials”; that is to say in more modern parlance, replacement by algorithms. In a bureaucracy, any individual bureaucrat has limited responsibility of outcomes, as they take action primarily due to procedures, rules, and processes laid down by (often multiple) others. One cannot much hold a “faceless” bureaucracy “just following and implementing the rules” accountable for a specific decision either.

      And it might just be me being an irrational social primate, but if a decision goes against me, I’d much prefer to have a specific human being to blame for it, rather than it being the bloodless rules and procedures of a buck-passing bureaucratic mass, given I’m unlikely to be able to do much about it either way (except try to appeal to a higher authority, and again that’s much easier with a clear hierarchy of fealty rather than bureaucracies answering to the directives of higher bureacracies).

      tl;dr to put it more crudely, as a “little guy”, I expect to get screwed over no matter the system, so I’d at least like to be able to put a face and a name to who’s screwing me over.

      In short, tyranny with a tyrant is preferable to the tyrany without a tyrant that bureaucratization makes inevitable, which is another point to feudalism, where all authority is personal.

      The thing is though, Weber has a point about the difficulty-to-impossibility of reversing bureaucratization, and the resulting diffusion-of-responsibility-and-blame.

      *Now, some of the stronger libertarian types might object that all government action is ultimately backed by (police) violence, but in terms of actual practice, human psychology, etc., there is a meaningful difference between obeying a traffic light and obeying an armed robber.

      **Usually translated as “iron cage”, but the original German is stahlhartes Gehäuse.

      ***The original core of the discussion was about trends on the anime boards on 4chan and similar spaces toward attitudes around a subset of FtM transgender.

      ****The other major point was about how the subject/object distinction seems to universally be partly gender-coded. See, for an example (of my own), the usual nature in more primitive/traditional societies of coming-of-age rites-of-passage, whereby a girl automatically becomes a woman by virtue of biology, but a boy must earn, often quite painfully, “manhood” and full tribal membership. From the original:

      And a bunch of men are growing up with the intuitive understanding that Real Success consists of being an extremely desirable object, and they are furious that the world does not actually contain any way for them to pull this off. A dude needs tremendous talent, and tremendous luck, to be as good an object as your average twenty-year-old girl in a tight t-shirt. So they mutter dark mutterings about how women have all the good things in the world, and it drives them insane, but it’s not like they’re totally making it up.

      • Davide S. says:

        It’s an interesting distinction and

        whereby “power” is the ability to make people do what you want them to, while authority is the ability to do so without having to resort to explicit rewards or punishments; i.e. power with legitimacy.*

        By this definition, many non-government groups have significant authority, as they can make (some) people to act in a certain way through persuasion and shaming rather than violence, don’t they?

        One thing that often strikes me as interesting is how often these groups will talk about ‘fighting the power’ when opposing the government, while not recognizing that they, too, possess significant social influence.

  5. johan_larson says:

    In case of Warren v. District of Columbia, the US Supreme Court ruled that while the police are supposed to protect the people in general, there is no specific duty to protect anyone in particular, except in special cases.

    This seems like a very strange ruling, and I am wondering how broadly this doctrine applies. Can cops see someone in obvious distress, and solely at their discretion, decide not to do anything about it? Can the fire department decide not to fight a fire in their territory? Do they need a reason? A good reason?

    It sure seems remarkably self-serving on the part of the government. You MUST pay for it. You MAY get something in return.

    • keranih says:

      Can cops see someone in obvious distress, and solely at their discretion, decide not to do anything about it?

      A cop can see someone in the obvious commission of a crime and (by policy) not break off their apprehension of another person, nor can they break off their response to a radio call (that might turn out to be nothing.)

      (The classic example is a traffic stop, wherein the cop has you pulled over on the side of the radio with his ticketbook out, and you see a string of @$$holes rolling past at double the speed infraction you were doing, whilst the cop ignores all them.)

      (I am told that in my area, the phrasing from the senior cop was “If he goes past holding a severed head out the window, and when you pull him over you can produce the severed head, I will reconsider firing you for breaking off the traffic stop you were already engaged in. But you *damn* sure better have the head.”)

      It sure seems remarkably self-serving on the part of the government. You MUST pay for it. You MAY get something in return.

      Oh, aye. But, more practically – money is needed to do stuff. No matter how much money is given to the gubmint, not all stuff is going to be done. The Warren doctrine is (as much as anything, I gather, but IANAL) a declaration of this limitation.

      Additionally, in the case of the ‘don’t break off one task to start another’ rule above – failing to have this rule could make it very easy to fall into harassing people with bs stops that they failed to push through to the paperwork stage “oh, we saw someone else speed past and went after them, pity, but they got away.”

      • Jiro says:

        In that case, the court should have said that the police are not responsible if they had a good reason, with a low bar for what counts as a good reason (perhaps with verbiage about how a reasonable of officer would act). Ruling that the officer has no obligation even if he’s just sitting around twiddling his thumbs, or if he’s refusing out of malice, goes too far.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This seems like a very strange ruling, and I am wondering how broadly this doctrine applies. Can cops see someone in obvious distress, and solely at their discretion, decide not to do anything about it?

      Yes.

      It sure seems remarkably self-serving on the part of the government. You MUST pay for it. You MAY get something in return.

      That’s the best deal you get from governments. Often enough it’s “You won’t get something in return” or “You must pay for it, and it will be actively harmful to you.”

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Can the fire department decide not to fight a fire in their territory? Do they need a reason?

      Yes. They can decide your house is too far gone and not worth the effort and risk.

      • JayT says:

        With the wildfires we had up in wine country last month they basically gave up on entire neighborhoods because their time was better spent on other fronts.

    • Iain says:

      That’s not quite what Warren v. District of Columbia says. The case is not about whether police have a duty to the public — they do. The case is about how that duty can be enforced. Warren holds that, in the absence of some pre-existing special relationship, you can’t sue the police for failing to protect you. The relevant part of the decision:

      The public duty concept has drawn some criticism for purportedly creating the rule that: “`Because we owe a duty to everybody, we owe it to nobody.’” Riss v. City of New York, supra at 585, 293 N.Y.S.2d at 901, 240 N.E.2d at 862 (Keating, J., dissenting). A duty owed to the public, however, is no less enforceable because it is owed to “everybody.” Public officials at all levels remain accountable to the public and the public maintains elaborate mechanisms to enforce its rights—both formally in the courts and less formally through internal disciplinary proceedings. In the case of the Metropolitan Police Department, officers are subject to criminal charges and a penalty of two years imprisonment for failure to arrest law breakers. D.C.Code 1973, § 4-143. Additionally, officers are answerable to their superiors and ultimately to the public through its representatives, for dereliction in their assigned duties. D.C.Code 1973, § 4-121.

      The absence of a duty specifically enforceable by individual members of the community is not peculiar to public police services. Our representative form of government is replete with duties owed to everyone in their capacity as citizens but not enforceable by anyone in his capacity as an individual. Through its representatives, the public creates community service; through its representatives, the public establishes the standards which it demands of its employees in carrying out those services and through its representatives, the public can most effectively enforce adherence to those standards of competence. As members of the general public, individuals forego any direct control over the conduct of public employees in the same manner that such individuals avoid any direct responsibility for compensating public employees.
      […]
      Although recognizing the obligation of public employees to perform their duties fully and adequately, the law properly does not permit that obligation to be enforced in a private suit for money damages.

      In the same way, although elected officials have duties to voters, you’re not personally empowered to sue your Senator for doing a bad job.

  6. entobat says:

    Today I voted in the New York State general elections. Among other issues at stake was an amendment that, and I quote from the ballot,

    …would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s duties.

    The NYT tracker has the amendment passing 73-27.

    Can anyone explain why 1 in 4 people would vote against this?

    • shakeddown says:

      I don’t know much of the details, but it sounds pretty suspicious. When there’s a ballot measure on criminal justice, I tend to assume it’s because it’s sensationalist and outrageous rather than practical, which is why someone put it on the ballot instead o getting it through the legislature. This particular example also sounds like it’s looking for a way to double punish – I assume a public official convicted of a felony would already be facing fines or jail time proportionate to the severity of the offence, and adding on another punishment would be overkill.

      • entobat says:

        I think a Google for “Albany corruption” will suggest why this is something on people’s minds. This is a state where the governor formed an anti-corruption commission and then disbanded it when they started sniffing around his people.

        Suppose we had no policy yet and were making one from scratch. Why do the pensions exist at all? What behavior exactly are we incentivizing by giving pensions to legislators who get convicted of corruption or bribery? Are these people who have earned themselves a spot on the state’s dime for the rest of their lives? It’s not clear how typical an example this is, but one convict will spend 5 years in jail and receive nearly $100,000 a year for his excellent service. I think that’s $100,000 too many.

        It’s not even automatic—a judge has to opt to strip them of their pension, and has the option to continue payouts to uninvolved family members who might need the money. (There are a lot of people who might need public assistance, and I don’t know why marrying a scumbag entitles you to five figures a year. But I guess that’s why I’m not in government.) It really seems like a no-downsides, “why haven’t we done this already” kind of thing.

      • Brad says:

        which is why someone put it on the ballot instead o getting it through the legislature

        New York doesn’t have ordinary initiative or the ability of citizens to propose constitutional amendments.

        This was a proposed constitutional amendment that was passed by two successive Legislatures and then had to be ratified by the voters.

    • meh says:

      Maybe 1 in 4 are public officers?

    • keranih says:

      Can anyone explain why 1 in 4 people would vote against this?

      Firstly, thanks ever so for asking for a different perspective, rather than assuming the worst of others.

      The most obvious reason is the reflexive voting down of all ballot amendments, as being obvious run-arounds the legislative process, and generally poorly-worked through ones at that. CA is the poster child of why this is dumb limited in utility.

      Secondly, on the merits of this measure: while I am not a citizen of NY state, I am against retrospective punitive punishments for people out of office. Regardless of he righteousness of the particular case, it seems a bad move to go about stripping people of their retirement *on top of* convicting them of a crime. The tipping point, remember, is not “was this person a rotten scoundrel” (for which I would be happy to strip most public persons of their state retirements) but instead “have we managed to convict this person of a felony associated with that office”. Many of the convictions I can think of were obtained through plea bargains and/or people turning in other folks for a lighter sentence. Threatening pensions only increases the willingness to be a hardliner, stay in office conducting misconduct, and go out only after having seen to it that all the evidence is destroyed.

      Obviously, mine is not a majority view. Life is like that.

      • entobat says:

        Firstly, thanks ever so for asking for a different perspective, rather than assuming the worst of others.

        I’d like to credit this at least partially to good debate etiquette. But I also didn’t understand why one would vote “no” at all, and so had no model of my opposition.

        I hadn’t thought of the point about incentivizing hardliner-ness. I don’t think it changes my calculus on this, but I’ll think on it.

    • Brad says:

      My guess is the ridiculous, deceptive, and more than occasionally outright dishonest campaign by the public sector unions against the first ballot question spilled over to the second.

      The unions told retirees, among other things, that if the con-con passed that their pensions would be confiscated (a lie) and that if they didn’t turn over the ballot to vote no it would be counted as a yes (a lie). So I think some people turned over the ballot, voted no on the con-con, then started to read the second measure, saw the word pension and voted no on that too. Just in case. Because you know these shadowy pro-yes on the con-con forces, which as far as I could tell didn’t exist at all, were trying to steal little old ladies’ teacher’s pensions. I had half thought that both #2 and #3 would go down as colleteral damage.

      No, I’m not bitter at all, why do you ask.

      • BBA says:

        I was also pro-con-con. This may be sour grapes, but since the convention would have been elected on a partisan ballot, it’d probably have ended up dominated by the Democratic machine and nothing of substance would have gone through. I still thought it was worth a try – even setting aside the radical changes I wanted (unicameralism! proportional representation!) our hopelessly arcane judicial system is crying out for structural reform, and maybe Article XIV can protect the Adirondacks and Catskills without a list of every square inch of land there that’s exempt from the “forever wild” policy.

        Oh well. See you in 20 years.

    • John Schilling says:

      Aside from the reasons already given:

      A: Breaking promises is bad, and it sets a bad precedent. Pensions are a very strong, very important sort of promise that turn out to be very useful if you want to convince people to devote the better part of their lives to civil or (especially) military service. New York may have made that sort of promise too often or too generously in the past and might want to reconsider how they do so in the future, but it would probably be a bad idea to break their ability to make such promises in the future by retroactively altering the terms of pensions already made.

      B: Felony crimes are a Really Big Deal that come with Really Big Punishments. Including fines, if we need to hit people in their pocketbooks and put their money in the State’s coffers. We’ve put a lot of effort into developing legal machinery that can not merely answer “Guilty of felony Y/N?” but then go on to implement the proper punishments with the proper safeguards. If we want to make the punishment more severe to further deter crimes and/or make ourselves feel righteous and just about how we are punishing the bad guys, we should probably do that within the context of the existing system and be extra suspicious of crowd-pleasing novelty.

      C: Good luck getting convictions on all but the most severe sorts of official misbehavior when every jury will include a couple of civil servants and/or pensioned ex-civil-servants saying “there but for the grace of the grand jury go I” and knowing that the punishment will likely be financial ruin. By the same token, there are lots of civil servants and ex-civil-servants in the New York electorate.

      Maybe all of these are properly addressed in the initiative. Cynical voter I, the minimax optimal strategy is to assume it won’t be a productive use of my time to look at the details and just vote “no” on principle. As is the case with most ballot initiatives.

      • entobat says:

        It would probably be a bad idea to break their ability to make such promises in the future by retroactively altering the terms of pensions already made.

        Indeed. The measure only applies to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2018.

        Felony crimes are a Really Big Deal that come with Really Big Punishments. Including fines, if we need to hit people in their pocketbooks and put their money in the State’s coffers. We’ve put a lot of effort into developing legal machinery that can not merely answer “Guilty of felony Y/N?” but then go on to implement the proper punishments with the proper safeguards.

        This is not obviously true to me. Sheldon Silver seems wealthy enough even with a $7 million dollar fine, has had his conviction (including the fine, it seems) overturned, and will receive $80,000 a year for the rest of his life. Dean Skelos will be in jail for 5 years and ate about $800,000 in fines; that’s a sizable dent in his net worth, but then he’ll receive $100,000 a year in pension money. These are the two salient examples that I think kick-started this process, and it seems that they’re going to be living pretty for the rest of their lives.

        I don’t think of this as a particularly punitive measure. If the pension is there as a contract between society and civil servant—do this unappealing job for us, and we’ll help you out later—it seems that finding them guilty of corruption or bribery to enrich themselves should revoke their “took one for the team” status. The idea of Prop 2 happens to be on everyone’s mind because of the terrible state Albany is in, and maybe the other “yes” voters are doing this because they hate the bastards, but I’d vote for it even if the capital was squeaky clean. It just seems like sound policy.

        Good luck getting convictions on all but the most severe sorts of official misbehavior when every jury will include a couple of civil servants and/or pensioned ex-civil-servants saying “there but for the grace of the grand jury go I” and knowing that the punishment will likely be financial ruin. By the same token, there are lots of civil servants and ex-civil-servants in the New York electorate.

        I don’t imagine that this response would override the “I hate those corrupt bastards” one, or that most civil servants view themselves as particularly likely to go down as felons. But maybe that’s my lack of imagination. And juries will presumably be instructed not to consider this, though who knows what effect that has.

        The measure defines itself as applying to

        elected officials, governor-appointed officials, municipal administrators and managers, heads of government departments, boards, and commissions, state and local chief fiscal officers and treasurers, judges and justices of the unified court system, and employees of the state designated as policymakers.

        I have no idea how many different offices this includes.

        • John Schilling says:

          Indeed. The measure only applies to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2018.

          They’d have been on stronger grounds if it only applied to pensions that vested after January 1, 2018. A pension that can be arbitrarily revoked (today for felonies, tomorrow for misdemeanors, next Wednesday for racially insensitive facebook posts) is rather less valuable than one which can only be revoked under conditions known to both parties at the outset.

          I don’t think of this as a particularly punitive measure. If the pension is there as a contract between society and civil servant.

          What sort of contract allows one party to unilaterally change the terms after the fact? And what sort of premium do you have to pay to get people to deal with you, when you’ve established that is the only sort of “contract” you can sign?

          Ah, well. That’s what we have public-employee unions for. Have fun, New York.

          • Brad says:

            Ah, well. That’s what we have public-employee unions for. Have fun, New York.

            If the unions opposed this it would not have passed. How ballot measure #1 went is proof positive of that. That it is limited to what amounts to management, CxO equivalent management at that, was probably why they did not oppose it.

            Also, this was not a ballot initiative in the California sense. New York has nothing like that. It was a constitutional amendment passed by two consecutive legislatures. The amendment procedure then requires ratification by the voters.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @John Schilling

            What sort of contract allows one party to unilaterally change the terms after the fact?

            A (modern) marriage contract?[/mostly_joking]

  7. Kevin C. says:

    Something I found quite interesting, and far different from the usual fare, over at Status451: “Times to Die (Mental Health Part I)“, by Giancarlo M. Sandoval. (While the article is a couple months old, I only just read it now.) It talks about depression, suicide, deep philosophical questions, and personal autonomy, from an author who struggles with depression (and whose description of his first suicide attempt reads as somewhat similar to my own). Several parts stand out, most notably the final two paragraphs:

    Suicide is a personal decision, something that ruminates in the mind of the depressed person for a while, and is not to be taken lightly. As with every personal decision, it has personal particularities that are not easily extrapolatable to other cases. “They were not in a correct state of mind” is one of the usual phrases professed by those that are left behind. However, this judgement call, seen from whatever angle, is not easily assessable, and it becomes hard to process for anyone around the depressed person, let alone entertain, the notion that suicide might was the best option available for the person, at the moment. A lot of these questions come down to personal autonomy, and how much of it has been fostered throughout a person’s development process. One learns of external sources of pain, and internal ways of engaging with them, but if the phantom is haunting from the inside, what is the best way to deal with it? It does not come down to help or hell, other people can momentarily serve as tokens of forgetting, but they do not make for “sustainable solution” for depression or suicide. Because there is not one.

    One of the very first things in any sort of road to dealing with depression, external or endogenous, is to decide is these conditions are something that anyone is willing to live with. It is something I hope to be exploring in future posts. But I could not continue doing so without asserting the first principle of any kind of deal with depression: you have a right to kill yourself. It will never be pretty to write or say those words, as our progressive saviour culture has decided that anyone and everyone should continue living, even if they cannot fathom the thought of existing. The “it gets better” culture, specifically for adults, fosters the idiocy chain of a concatenating cult. If one has decided that there is no going back, there is no going back. When this has pragmatic consequences, no one can know. Yet, positivity culture and the rise of progressive values that elude any conversation about suicide that is not about saving, occlude the unthinkable truth of someone’s existence, that they simply should not be living anymore.

  8. OptimalSolver says:

    What would be the least traumatic way to introduce resurrected historical humans to 21st Century?

    Assuming we found some way to resurrect all humans who have ever lived, and that we had the resources to support them all, how could we ease them into modern life with minimal culture shock?

    This should apply for everyone from a Stone Age caveman to Jane Austen

    • quaelegit says:

      Usually estimates for “all the humans that have ever lived” are close to 100 billion, so any method of introduction would require every modern human to handle 10+ historical humans…

    • Shion Arita says:

      It probably wouldn’t be that big a deal. One of my friends is from rural Ethiopia, where they think the world is flat and still sometimes hunt with spears. It only took him a couple of years to get up to speed.

    • Davide S. says:

      Depends on which time period they are from, and which modern culture you would introduce them to?

      I wouldn’t assume that people who died earlier would always have a harder time – I can’t quite explain why but I’d expect Ancient Romans from the Empire and late republic to adapt relatively well, likely better than many if not all people from the European Middle Ages.

    • hlynkacg says:

      It should be pointed out that the vast majority of historical humans will hold views on morality/ethics that are antithetical to those of the sort of person who thinks “resurrect all historical humans” is a good idea and are likely to clash violently with them.

      Even if they don’t, Chesterton’s “Democracy of the Dead” going from metaphorical to literal seems like it would have a lot of down-stream effects that moderns are unlikely to enjoy.

      Edit: another thing to consider, are the Romans and Carthaginians in this scenario still nursing a grudge?

      • Davide S. says:

        But shouldn’t being resurrected alter people’s views on morality/ethics, especially if they were strongly dependant on religion?

        If you hold some moral positions because you are a Christian, and you are a Christian because you believe Jesus’ resurrected…then knowing humans can resurrect other humans makes Jesus’ resurrection much less special. You might as well question your moral beliefs then.

        Of course we shouldn’t underestimate the ability of people to come up with rationalization to justify their beliefs; when end-of-the-world predictions are proved wrong, people rarely lose faith.

        • hlynkacg says:

          But shouldn’t being resurrected alter people’s views on morality/ethics

          Why would it? Even if they do update, what makes you think they’ll update in the direction you want them too? Wealthy utilitarian rationalists are the weird fringe of an already atypical group that is heavily insulated from harsh realities that most historical humans would take for granted.

          • Davide S. says:

            I’m not expecting them to update directly towards the beliefs of the resurrectors; but if being resurrected caused them to abandon their previous religious faith, then they could no longer use it as a justification for some moral beliefs.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Again, why would it? If anything I would expect resurrection to reinforce metaphysical beliefs.

          • Davide S. says:

            If you died and were at some point resurrected having no recollection of anything resembling an afterlife, wouln’t you consider that be good evidence that there is no afterlife at all?
            I would.

            Of course people might look for a rationalization or a way to reconcile their lack of memory with the existance of an afterlife (some people do believe in reincarnation after all), but I’d still expect some to actually do the obvious thing and abandon their faith.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You’ve just provided the resurrected with incontrovertible proof that they have an immortal soul. How exactly does that lead to one abandoning their faith? Never mind make it “the obvious thing” to do?

          • JayT says:

            Not only that, but to someone that lived ~2000 years ago, our current world would look quite a bit like heaven to them, so I suspect many would assume that when they died they went straight to where they are now.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @JayT,

            People say things like that a lot but is there any evidence that it’s true?

            There are still remote tribes in the Amazon and on pacific islands. Do the people who come out of those kinds of environments and into ours actually express those sentiments?

            From what I’ve read about cargo cults, for example the cult of John Frum, the islanders seemed to become disillusioned with modern life almost immediately. While they’re certainly awed by our technological abilities they didn’t seem to have any interest whatsoever in adopting Western culture.

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      Into a bottle reality that looks like their personal pastoral heaven, with an archon / angel / spirit guide / annoying sensi. And a library. And a graduation / escape test conducted under the baleful eye of an alethiometer.

      Actually, I would like to shove everyone currently alive today into eight billion instances of this…

  9. FishFinger says:

    (provocative topic but something I’m genuinely intrigued by)

    Was anti-Japanese racist propaganda in America during WW2 justified?

    I mean obviously it wasn’t “true” as a representation of an ethnicity, and it probably hurt a lot of perfectly innocent people. But maybe “Slap a Jap” posters sold war bonds and raised morale, which made winning the war easier. Did they? If so, was it worth it?

    People praise the killing and destruction done by their soldiers as long as they believe it’s justified as an instrument. But stuff like this is remembered today as little more than simple unenlightened ignorance. Is it because people don’t want to admit that motivation for good deeds may come from a dark place?

    • keranih says:

      But maybe “Slap a Jap” posters sold war bonds and raised morale, which made winning the war easier. Did they? If so, was it worth it?

      There are a number of ways to approach this question, and related “is it ever justified to torture people” questions. I grant that there are many ways to judge the utility of this.

      Myself, I’m not a utilitarian, and hold that there are things worse than death. It may be that we-as-a-nation may not survive some future conflict without sacrificing all of our morals. In which case, I would rather that government of the people, by the people, for the people pass from the face of the earth, rather than struggle on like some rotting shambling sham. Until that time comes, I think that we should not break our values for lesser things than our ultimate survival.

      (The thought is not mine. I regret that I had to be reminded of it, some years back, and have attempted to not forget it since.)

      The question does come, though – which of competing ethical values should be best honored? Which is much harder to answer easily.

    • shakeddown says:

      Towards the end of the war, it prevented Americans from agreeing to any peace term short of total unconditional surrender, which made the war drag on unnecessarily longer than it had to and made the US use nukes, which was an unfortunate precedent. And it also may have helped the soviets get more territory and helped the Chinese communists. So overall, seems like it had a negative effect.

      • bean says:

        This is simply not true. The commonly-cited Japanese willingness to agree to terms would have had them agreeing to terms involving self-disarmament and control of the war crimes trials. This was totally unacceptable to the US, for reasons that are obvious if you look at European history 1918-1945. We were going to break the Japanese of ever wanting to do that again, and that meant they weren’t allowed to add conditions. It worked, too. Even with the shock of two nukes, Hirohito barely pushed through the surrender terms we wanted. Claims that we could have had peace without the bomb are simply wishful thinking. The book Downfall is excellent and goes into great detail on this.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m9cch

          Interviews with some of the very few surviving kamikazes.

          It didn’t cover why the kamikaze program was set up.

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

          It’s interesting that kamikazes weren’t especially effective at causing damage.

          • bean says:

            I don’t quite agree with the wiki article there. The Kamikazes were a really serious problem for the USN. In 1942, the Japanese had good pilots and the USN had mediocre radar and was still learning how to put all of the parts of an air defense system together. In 1945, the USN had good radar, CICs, VT shells, lots of planes, and still lost quite a few ships. The picket destroyers in particularly suffered horrendous casualties. They weren’t as effective as the Japanese might have liked, but as a means of dealing damage with untrained pilots, it was very effective.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Americans should have stayed at home during the first WW, then maybe there wouldn’t be a second so fast.

    • Civilis says:

      I hate to respond with a series of ‘ifs’, but it’s the best way for me to answer this question.

      If total war is justifiable, then government propaganda to support the war effort is justified.
      If any war required the US to engage in total war, it was the second world war.

      I think throughout history, soldiers have naturally resorted to demeaning the enemy for their own morale. (We even see it in sports, which is the closest most of us get to war these days). In a total war, everyone is part of the military complex; those not in uniform are building the weapons, even kids are collecting scrap for the war effort. Everyone is also sacrificing for the war effort; conscription, restrictions on travel and rationing. Further, everyone is potentially a target; if they bomb a weapons factory, it won’t spare the workers or people that live nearby. The war effort requires everyone to sacrifice, and that requires morale efforts to counteract, so that people know why they are being asked to sacrifice and assume these risks. For some people, a straightforward recitation of facts will work, but some people react best to emotional persuasion.

      Furthermore, I don’t see those sorts of propaganda campaigns as having any sort of sticking power after the war. I don’t recall any history of people attacking Japanese-Americans after the war was over, no matter how bad we treated them in the war. And acting like they’re all potential spies and interning them generates a lot more negative sentiment than ‘slap-a-jap’.

      What I do think has long term negative effects and cannot be justified is spreading known false stories of atrocities, because we’ve seen those false stories have sticking power long after the fact.

      • keranih says:

        If any war required the US to engage in total war, it was the second world war.

        (Working through a thought here, bear with me.)

        There is a sense (which I think you agree, correct me if you do not) that total war – “bomb them back into the stone age” is worse than limited wars, where only military forces get targeted, damage to civilians is minimal, etc.

        It’s also been argued that ignoring the rise of Hitlers only enables the eventual might of these persons and the powers that they can control.

        Does it follow from this that a series of small, limited wars would be better all around than a world-changing total war?

        • bean says:

          Limited war is a luxury of those who have vastly more power than the other guy, and can afford to handicap themselves. That was not WW2, even in the Pacific. If anyone deserved to have total war waged on them, it was the Japanese and Germans of WW2.

          Does it follow from this that a series of small, limited wars would be better all around than a world-changing total war?

          Maybe. The problems I see here:
          1. Limited wars have a tendency to bog down. By trying to go for outright victory in WW2, we got it, along with the ability to reshape Germany and Japan into an image that, so far, has shown very little tendency to go conquering again.
          2. Limited wars are politically more expensive. Going up against Hitler when he’s invading Belgium is politically easy. Going up against Hitler when he’s first taking over Germany is politically hard, and there are a lot more moments that look like Hitler taking over Germany than there are Hitlers. And when you stop Hitler, nobody really notices. I’d point out the popular erasure of Saddam’s various crimes in the past decade as an example, and Saddam was unambiguously a bad guy, not just someone who might have been bad.

          • John Schilling says:

            1. Limited wars have a tendency to bog down.

            I think limited wars between opposing states have a pretty good track record in that respect, actually. States have the power to surrender and make it stick, and a pretty strong motive to end a war that is dragging on but is not an existential threat to lose. Just in US history we’ve got the Quasi-War with France, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Spanish-American War, Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm. Korea dragged a bit, but even so lasted only three years (not eleven).

            Limited wars against insurgencies can get drawn out, as can proxy wars, but that’s another matter – and mostly, those wars are total existential-threat wars from someone else’s perspective and you don’t hear their political theorists talking about the dynamics of “limited” war. The failure mode for limited war between competing nation-states is not that it drags on forever, but that it doesn’t settle the dispute and you have to refight the war a decade or so later. See again Desert Storm.

            A limited war to e.g. keep the Nazis from conquering Czechoslovakia, I don’t think would have dragged on very long. But it might have given us World War II in 1948.

          • albatross11 says:

            bean:

            I think the usual objection to the second Iraq war (my objection, at least) isn’t that Saddam wasn’t a bad guy–we can all agree he was a bloodthirsty dictator. The usual objection is that he wasn’t an actual threat to the US or our interests.

            There are lots of bloodthirsty dictators and awful oppressive regimes in the world. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for us to try to invade them all to replace them with democracies, and wouldn’t even if I though we were likely to succeed with the democracy part very often.

          • John Schilling says:

            The counterargument is that, at least as long as people from the Middle East are going to be coming over to the United States to shoot up our nightclubs and crash airliners into our cities, it is very much in the interest of the United States for the Middle East to be not such a horribly fucked-up place where simple questions like:

            “Should the Saudi government crack down on Al Qaeda logistics and recruitment in Saudi Arabia, Y/N?”

            do not come down to

            “No, because Iraq would exploit the resulting instability so we’re going to have to live with Al Qaeda”, or

            “Yes, and oops now there’s a civil war in Saudi Arabia where the winning faction is being armed by and professing loyalty to Baghdad”.

            The counter-counter argument is that instead we got a Middle East where s/Al Qaeda/ISIS and the final answer is “…and oops now there’s a civil war in Iraq where the winning faction is armed by and professing loyalty to Tehran”. But that may be a problem with a flawed implementation rather than with the concept as a whole, and may not have been knowable at the time of the original intervention.

          • bean says:

            @albatross11
            My point was that taking out Saddam was very close to the absolute best case for a limited war, and it didn’t work very well, either militarily or politically back home. Brutal dictator, avowed enemy of the US, making all sorts of trouble, and it’s all whitewashed as soon as the war turns out badly.

            @John (first post)
            The examples you give almost all share a couple of characteristics. In all but one case (or maybe all cases), there was no real way to fight a total/existential war (either the powers were too far apart or one was much stronger than the other), and all but two were fought before the modern era, specifically the advent of nuclear weapons. The modern equivalent of Britain trying to stop Germany from taking over Czechoslovakia is probably just going to turn into WW2 a bit early.

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            If the surgeon keeps killing his patients, maybe it’s time to dial back on aggressively pushing surgery as a solution for every problem.

            Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya don’t really look like a commercial for our ability to do military interventions in a way that leaves us better off or improves US security. And it’s really hard for me to imagine that the cheapest or most-likely-to-succeed method for stopping Middle-Eastern terrorist attacks in the US involves invasions and occupations, rather than stamping “REJECTED” on a lot of visa applications.

            I mean, maybe this is just a really hard problem, so the implementation would be hard for anyone. Or maybe we suck at it. Either way, it seems like that should make us a lot less eager to reach for a military intervention when we see some international problem.

        • Civilis says:

          Bean’s answer is very good, but I think I need to elaborate.

          “Bomb them back to the Stone Age” is worse than limited wars, if you can win with a limited war. You could easily kill more people and do more damage in a series of small, limited wars than in one big war.

          As always, it’s the unenviable task of those making the decisions as to how much force is needed to get the job done, and that’s going to depend on the current state of affairs. We’re quite fortunate that, for the US in the present day, we’re at a point where any situation where total war makes sense, nuclear war also makes sense… and so waging total war doesn’t make sense. “The only way to win is not to play” is the whole idea.

          One of the necessary conditions for total war to make sense is that the enemy is at a point where they are putting their whole economy into the war effort, and you must match them. With current society, any nation trying that is going to either collapse quickly or slowly burn itself out. Right now, North Korea may be the only state that can even consider putting its economy on a total war footing, and they’re burning themselves out doing so.

          Further, the technology eliminates the need for total war in other ways. My understanding is that the whole point of ‘Shock and Awe’ bomber tactics is to duplicate the psychological effect on the enemy’s civilian morale that the huge air raids of earlier wars used to have, with a lot fewer resources required and an incredible reduction in collateral damage. I don’t need to build a bomber factory to build enough bombers to bomb the enemy bomber factory anymore; I can reliably do it with one plane or a couple of missiles.

    • bean says:

      Was anti-Japanese racist propaganda in America during WW2 justified?

      If you’re going to fight a war to that scale, you’re going to use propaganda to make your people support it. Period. Yes, this will involve demeaning your opponents as terrible and subhuman. On racial grounds, if that’s possible. And the Japanese were working at the 900 miliHitler level (maybe even higher), so I can’t see any grounds for holding back.

      Actually, I’ll make a stronger claim. The actions of the Japanese empire during the war were so terrible that we were justified in doing whatever was necessary to end it, up to and including killing everyone who was trying to stop us, without mercy. I have a really strong stomach, and the only time I can recall being affected by reports of war crimes recently was at the Changi Museum in Singapore, reading about the PoWs there. The level of German brutality that you saw out of some of the worst of the SS was pretty much par for the course for the Japanese.

      • Nornagest says:

        The Empire of Japan’s wartime atrocities don’t get much play for some reason; most of the overviews of the war I’ve read, even in sources specific to the Pacific Theater, have a page or two on the Rape of Nanjing and leave it at that. I think it might be because they didn’t systematize them the way the Germans did; they didn’t have anything like the Holocaust going, just a sort of diffuse culture of brutality hanging over their whole side of the theater.

        • Civilis says:

          To refer back to my comment above, I said that one thing that I couldn’t find acceptable is known false reports of atrocities. Our playing up reports of German atrocities in the First World War in some ways fed into the Second World War, both in German resentment for their post-war treatment and in Western reluctance to see the rising threat. It was the desire to prove that, yes, this time the Germans really, really did all that horrible stuff we accused them of that led to us going to such meticulous lengths to document what we found in the camps, and even then we’re stuck with idiots using the fact that the documentation isn’t perfect to muddy the waters. That we couldn’t do so for Japan is unfortunate, in part because it wasn’t systemic, in part because most of it wasn’t current (the Nanking massacre was 1937).

      • engleberg says:

        Japan fought dirty to the point of being self-defeating, but a liberal in Japan could support the overall goal of ending the white man’s dominion of the yellow man. And after WWII, that ended.

        • bean says:

          That was only the goal so far as ending the white man’s dominion was a necessary part of establishing Japanese dominion over the yellow man. No points to the Japanese liberal here.

          • engleberg says:

            @only the goal so far-

            Sure about that? What if they wanted to end the white man’s dominion over the yellow man, would have also liked to establish Japanese dominion over East Asia, but, hey, fortunes of war, still kind of glad that (sometime) after the war they are dealing with Indonesians running Indonesia instead of Dutch running Indonesia. Ditto India, Burma, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore.

            Some points, for a Japanese equivalent to early Milner’s Kintergarden liberal imperialists.

          • Aapje says:

            Having the Indonesians run Indonesia did result in mass killings though (with US help), so it was not without problems either.

            I don’t know what would have happened without Japan forcing the issue. Suriname was another Dutch colony. It gained independence later than Indonesia, but also without the violence that happened in Indonesia (Bersiap, the ‘police actions’ and the post-independence killings). A less chaotic decolonization process might have been better for Indonesia.

    • Jiro says:

      If you’re not a utilitarian, or if you’re utilitarian but your utility function has a large term for inequality, it’s wrong.

      If that doesn’t apply, it’s still Omelas or a trolley problem. One answer to the trolley problem is that real-life human beings are not trustworthy enough and unbiased enough to let them make decisions that greatly hurt innocent people to help others even if a perfect reasoner would be.

      This also is affected by precommitment. Because human judgment is so unreliable in such matters, we should precommit to not sacrificing the innocents even if it seems the right thing to do at the time. “Scruples over hurting innocents even to save the greater number” are how humans actually implement precommitments. Asking if we should have done it is asking “should we have not had the precommitment”, which would be a bad idea even if it would have been beneficial in that specific scenario.

    • John Schilling says:

      If you’re allowed to drop napalm on people because they are Japanese, you are allowed to tell lies about people because they are Japanese.

      If you’re going to draft schoolteachers to go bayonet Japanese people who are little older than schoolchildren for you, and telling lies means they come home slightly less insane, you damn well better tell the lies.

      And if this seems wrong to you, the time to consider that is before you decide to wage total war. Preferably at least a decade before, when you’ve got somewhat less distasteful solutions available for whatever will have you choosing between total war and abject surrender a decade hence.

      • Davide S. says:

        Yet you wrote in this same thread that “Breaking promises is bad, and it sets a bad precedent.”

        How does this not apply to lying?

        People might come home slightly less insane because of your lies, but some might find out you were actually lying and once word gets out, people will consider you less trustworthy. Even when you are telling the truth.

        Or do you expect people to not trust you less because of these lies just because it was ‘total war’?

        • John Schilling says:

          Yet you wrote in this same thread that “Breaking promises is bad, and it sets a bad precedent.”

          How does this not apply to lying?

          Did we ever promise not to lie about the Japanese?

          Do we have a reputation for not lying ever that would be harmed by lying in this case? In the sense that we have a reputation for not breaking employment contracts, e.g. it happens but we all agree it’s an intolerably bad thing and the government should use its courts to make sure management never gets away with that.

          I’m open to the possibility that there could be a nation with such a strong commitment to Truth Uber Alles that the damage to their reputation from the usual sort of wartime propaganda would outweigh the value of the usual sort of wartime propaganda. But the United States in 1941 wasn’t that nation, and the United States in 2017 isn’t that nation either and I’m not sure that nation exists on Planet Earth.

        • Davide S. says:

          I didn’t mean to imply that lying and breaking a promise are the same thing, sorry; rather that both are bad and set a bad precedent, giving people more reasons to not trust a government.

          As for reputation, people don’t expect governments (both their own and other nations’) to tell the truth all time, and obviously didn’t back then, either; but there are degrees of (un)trustworthiness and every time a government is caught lying people will (very reasonably) trust it less.

          Does the loss of public trust outweight the potential gains? Perhaps not, but it’s still real damage and I don’t think it should be dismissed.

          • John Schilling says:

            every time a government is caught lying people will (very reasonably) trust it less.

            Equilibrium happens. If a government is caught lying at the usual rate and under the usual circumstances, people will continue to extend it the usual level of trust.

            What that equilibrium should be is legitimately debatable, but real governments all seem to chose a number that is conspicuously neither 0% nor 100%. And if you’re going to allow yourself a certain fraction of lies, you’re presumably going want to use them where they help you the most. Not losing wars turns out to be a really, really helpful thing for governments to do.

        • Civilis says:

          Is a caricature a lie? It’s an artistic representation of a group. I mean, there surely were some bayonet-crazy Japanese troops that would have treated the residents of Los Angeles like they treated the residents of Nanking, given the chance. And there probably were a few sadistic aristocratic Prussian SS officers with monocles and jackboots. The wartime portrayal of your own troops and your allies is also an exaggerated caricature. Not every GI in a foxhole is uniformly brave and dedicated to mom and Apple Pie. One could suggest that the wartime portrayal of the Soviets was as unfortunately inaccurate, just in the opposite direction.

          Our best chance to evaluate propaganda is to look at the actual war. The Japanese garrison on Okinawa convinced or pressured a sizable number of civilians to commit suicide rather than surrender because of the fear of American atrocities, and yet despite the American troops being exposed to ‘Slap a Jap’ posters and even being hardened by actual combat with the Japanese, actual incidents were few… the Okinawans were at much greater risk from the Japanese garrison.

      • Jiro says:

        If you’re allowed to drop napalm on people because they are Japanese, you are allowed to tell lies about people because they are Japanese.

        The lies are being told to, and partly about, citizens of your own country. The people you’re dropping napalm on are not citizens of your own country, and if you are not a SSC/EA, you have less obligation towards them.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Let’s pick up the question by a different corner.

        While it might be allowable to build up prejudice against an enemy, the truth is that the enemy is composed of human beings with fairly normal inner lives.

        Are there any advantages to telling the truth about the enemy being human beings?

        • Civilis says:

          If the enemy is willing to surrender, it’s better to let them surrender than force them to fight to the death. In that respect, it’s necessary that your side understand what makes the enemy tick. If the enemy almost never surrenders, telling your people that they do gets your people killed. If the enemy surrenders easily, convincing your people that they’re monsters ends up with the enemy as monsters, and gets your people killed.

          In that respect, it’s lousy luck to be the Japanese soldier that decides that surrender is a good idea when all your comrades are using it as a ruse to try to kill a last American before dying. It’s also bad luck to be the American (or Canadian) facing off against a Hitler Jugend SS fanatic.

  10. Walter Alter says:

    Artificial Intelligence- what’s not to like- A means of processing data without neurotic inhibition or exhibition, amnesias, preconditioned interpretive frameworks, subconscious infant traumas, fantasy constructs, paranoid mountain out of molehill making, fear reactive knee jerk thinking, obsessions, compulsions… Rather, with AI we have all the data allowed to speak for itself and organize itself into classifications and priorities. I think I might welcome our AI overseers and the clarity and sanity they will deliver to all predictive decision making.

    • VivaLaPanda says:

      Talking to SSC members about how friendly AI would be good is like telling Catholics that maybe God is good.

      • nestorr says:

        But these Catholics are a little uncertain about the rituals, the chanting and the robes and the goat’s blood spilled on a pentagram will probably work out ok. But there are niggling doubts.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yeah, this is like such a confused version of Catholicism that instead of praying to Jesus to destroy Moloch, the priest is trying to summon an angel by pouring goat’s blood into an architecture of silicon and light.

          • The Nybbler says:

            the priest is trying to summon an angel by pouring goat’s blood into an architecture of silicon and light.

            Yeah, I remember SCSI too.

          • skef says:

            Yeah, I remember SCSI too.

            The most frightening part was that you could terminate it, but doing so would only make it more powerful.

  11. platanenallee says:

    Happy Birthday, Scott!

    (it’s today, right?)

  12. nestorr says:

    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=7710

    Posting this because

    -Peter Watts is a underrated hard sci fi author who writes books about consciousness so he’s an interesting dude

    -He’s trying to help a homeless mentally ill person, which is commendable and folks around here might have relevant information/expertise/advice to give him

  13. Wrong Species says:

    I’ve argued a few times that state and property are, in a political philosophy sense, fundamentally equivalent. There are good threads explaining my beliefs here and here. Let’s say that an anarcho-capitalist is convinced by the argument. Where should he go from here? One obvious answer is that he only uses consequentialist ancap arguments. Let’s put that aside right now. The other obvious answer is that he should stop being an anarcho-capitalist and become a statist. But my argument doesn’t justify states, it just says they’re about as justifiable as property ownership. He still wants to maximize consent. What options does he have? A couple proposals, ignoring feasibility:

    We could make it that when you reach age of majority, you either sign an explicit social contract or you are kicked out to whoever will take you.

    Some kind of Distributist “Three acres and a Cow” principle. You are raised on some self-sufficient property. When you reach age of majority, you either continue to remain there on your land or you can move to wherever you like.

    Maximize exit rights. Basically try to create some systematic way to reduce the size of states and keep them small so that moving between states is not the inconvenience that it is now.

    Promote seasteading. If you don’t like the state, you can create your own island.

    Maybe Geolibertarianism?

    Thoughts? Ideas?

    • actinide meta says:

      Then I would:

      * Maximize entry. Make sure that it is always possible for someone to peacefully raise a feasible amount of money and create a new [state/property] to compete with existing ones. Of course this also requires exit rights for individuals. At the extreme, and I think in the expectation of basically every ancap, essentially anyone who prefers to can have their own property. Of course some people will prefer to rent.

      * Try to ensure that people can’t, through no fault of their own, start life completely destitute. This would mostly be a problem to solve in a world where human labor was worthless, which is definitely not one we live in today. This could be done through some form of “taxation” (as in the mandatory charity of the Pax, above, or as in geolibertarianism I suppose). It might also be achieved by changing the incentives of parents.

  14. Vermillion says:

    Anyone else played Doki Doki Literature Club? It appears to be a completely generic japanese style dating sim and is actually…not that at all.

    Not in the least.

    Anywho I really liked it and it’s free so check it out if yer intrigued and try not to google it first because the less you know the more effective it will be. Direct download. Steam.

    • Futhington says:

      Unfortunately everything that told me the game was worth checking out spoiled exactly why. I guess that’s the risk you run reading about things.

      • ManyCookies says:

        I’ve always wondered how to sell meta-heavy games without spoiling them, especially when it’s the only thing going for them. I can at least pitch a certain other game as a “Paper Mario TTYD style RPG, with fun characters and a story that goes in an interesting direction”. But it’s hard to convince someone who would never play an Anime VN to pick up this Anime VN, because it’s not really an Anime VN… without mentioning or strongly implying that it’s not really an Anime VN.

        • powerfuller says:

          Yeah, Doki Doki Literature Club is to games what Audition is to movies. I was glad to learn about it here and have been trying to surprise friends with it. Luckily, I know a couple who enjoy playing dating sims in general, so I was at least able to surprise them. With most everybody else, the dating sim is such a niche genre that to even suggest playing one implies a gimmick.

          • Mark says:

            Audition? How so?

            Is it a lot better if you have no idea what kind of movie it is beforehand?

            Don’t look at the box cover!

          • powerfuller says:

            @Mark

            Audition is a decent movie worth watching. It is, as best as I can tell, a somewhat unfaithful Japanese remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

          • quaelegit says:

            >It is, as best as I can tell, a somewhat unfaithful Japanese remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

            Sounds delightfully surreal (but I already think the original is a pretty weird movie…)

    • Mark says:

      V gubhtug gung bar bs gur tveyf jnf tbvat gb or n frevny xvyyre naq gung V’q unir gb jbex bhg jub vg jnf naq cebgrpg zl tveysevraq – bar bs gur tveyf cbrzf jnf nobhg srrqvat n png naq pbaqvgvbavat vg gb pbzr sbe zvyx naq gura xvyyvat vg jvgu n xavsr, fb V gubhtug vg jnf nobhg cvpxvat hc pyhrf naq fghss.

      V gubhtug gur obff tveyf cbrzf jrer xvaq bs n xabjvat wbxr sebz gur nhgubef… raqrq hc n ovg qvfnccbvagrq ol gur npghny pbapyhfvba, gubhtu V qvq srry xvaq bs onq nobhg jung V qvq gb ure.

      Tbbq, ohg V guvax gur ulcr xvaq bs fcbvyrq vg sbe zr va gung V jnf rkcrpgvat fbzrguvat n ovg zber oehgny guna vg npghnyyl jnf.

    • AnarchyDice says:

      I enjoyed it, but would have liked it better if the text skipping option was more clear/worked better to not skip any important deviations when saving/reloading/replaying. I ended up accidentally skipping some new text when trying to skip past stuff that I’d already read before on a previous reload/replay.

      Fantastic idea for a quick one-shot game though, if horrifying story-wise (I did notice some oddities in the very beginning that were the source of the twist, but ignored them thinking the option would open up some introductory game-play, boy was I wrong), I would be curious if similar mechanics could be used in a longer format game.

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    We all know that Scott tabooing terms produces cutesy substitutions. So imagine if he decided other terms were vacant hurrahs/boos:

    Racist -> track team
    Neoliberalism -> Keanu Reeves

  16. googolplexbyte says:

    Since we’re discussing politics, if anyone here is UK located and interested in electoral reform I’d appreciate if you checked out my petition:

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/203139

    Just passed the 1000 signature mark.

  17. VivaLaPanda says:

    There is a chance I’ll be living in Malaysia (Penang in particular) for a few years coming up. Anybody have any anecdotes/information to help me understand what life would be like there? All the articles I could find were about retirees which isn’t really my demographic.

  18. Walter says:

    I dunno if Worm is a main rationalist thing, but it is in the blogroll so it feels fair to talk about. The preliminary stuff for Worm 2 is going up! Go read!!

  19. harland0 says:

    So if Hillary funded the DNC after taking $145 million in Russian money, does this mean Russia funded the DNC?

    Hillary won the popular vote using the DNC which she controlled financially with her Russian uranium kickbacks. The electoral college saved us from Russia. Thanks, Founders.

    • Nornagest says:

      [citation needed]

      • Brad says:

        Or not, perhaps.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Anyone in this thread like borscht?

        • Iain says:

          I do!

          The secret ingredient is a tea ball full of pickling spice.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Haven’t had it, but I was not a fan of the other sour soup (Solyanka) I tried. Is borscht different enough that I should give sour soups a second chance?

          • Bugmaster says:

            They are completely different. I used to hate Solyanka when I was little, but now I kinda like it. Still, my favorite Russian soups are, in order of preference:

            1). Harcho (arguably not Russian, but whatever)
            2). Borscht (with sour cream)
            3). Ukha
            4). Stinging nettle soup (with egg, not sure if it has a unique name)
            5). Solyanka

            All of these soups have a very distinctive taste. Also, I am totally not a Russian spy. Nyet. I mean, “no”. Da.

    • Deiseach says:

      What I’d love to see discussed, in the middle of all this drama, is if the DNC was in such financial straits ($24 million in debt after Obama’s two campaigns), how the heck was Hillary Clinton/the Clintons able to bail them out? Where did they get that money to keep the DNC on a funding dripfeed and afloat from month to month? mumblemumbletheFoundationmumblemumble? ‘Cos this makes insider trading in cattle futures look like a vicarage tea party!

      • harland0 says:

        Donna Rich is claiming that after the murder of Seth Rich she was so afraid of assassins that she kept her blinds closed. That seems like a strange reaction to a random mugging gone wrong. Hmm.

        • Rick Hull says:

          I’m pretty sure you mean Donna Brazile, but Donna “Richard” Brazile could have some legs.

      • Iain says:

        Did Hillary Clinton personally bail out the DNC? I was under the impression that it was the Clinton campaign, in which case it is not hard to figure where the money came from. The Clinton campaign raised $623M; the DNC’s $24M debt is less than 5% of that.

    • shakeddown says:

      And that’s not even talking about the chemicals she got Jerry Brown to put in the water supply to shore up the popular vote in California… \s

      (I give like a 70% chance that this is already a popular theory on r/T_D).

      • hyperboloid says:

        I have a confession to make; until he was elected in 2011 I didn’t realize that Jerry Brown was real person. I thought he was just an absurdist hippie fascist character Jello Biafra made up for a song.

  20. Douglas Knight says:

    What are the best Shakespeare films?

    • lvlln says:

      I was a big fan of the 90s production of Twelfth Night starring Helena Bonham Carter, and that movie helped make that play be my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays.

    • Urstoff says:

      The 2016 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe done for BBC’s Shakepeare Lives is hilarious. Branagh’s Hamlet is great, but polarizing (Branagh’s everything is polarizing). Twelfth Night with Mark Rylance as Olivia (and an all-male cast), available from The Globe’s website, is fantastic.

      The Globe

    • Davide S. says:

      Have you seen Kenneth Brannagh’s Shakespeare movies?
      They are quite good, although I didn’t appreciate his decision to set his Hamlet in the 19th century.

      I liked Kurzel’s MacBeth too. Gloomy visuals and great performances by the actors, quite faithful to the original.

    • smocc says:

      Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing is fantastic.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I thought neoliberalism really brought it down.
        As I was musing this, I remembered that his best performance was also Shakespeare.

        • smocc says:

          Neoliberalism’s performance was typically flat and weird, but the main villain he plays is 1) pretty flat writing-wise, 2) not all the important to the central conflicts of the play, 3) not in many scenes anyway. It’s never been enough to bring the movie down for me. Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson’s sarcastic chemistry more than makes up for anything else (they were married at the time!)

    • Björn says:

      The Lion King.

    • cassander says:

      Anthony Hopkins’ Titus Andronicus, especially if you love it when they let the production design people just go nuts.

      • Brad says:

        I disliked this so much, I was sure it had to have been a bastardization. Sure enough it was a faithful rendition. Apparently even Shakespeare didn’t start out as an amazing playwright.

    • Anon. says:

      Chimes at Midnight is the best one by far. Welles’ other Shakespeare films are not that successful, though they are all interesting and never boring.

      Polanski’s is the best Macbeth.

      Richard III with Stewart is excellent.

      The Branagh films are overrated, especially his Henry V. Hamlet isn’t bad, though I can see why some might not like it. His Much Ado isn’t bad either…but you can find a filmed stage version with David Tennant that’s much better.

      Olivier is similarly overrated.

      The ’53 Julius Caesar isn’t great, but Brando delivers a killer “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech. Watch it on youtube and skip the rest.

      The Hollow Crown series has received a lot of praise but I think they’re crap. Hiddleston is just awful as Hal.

      Ran/Throne of Blood lack the language but are great films on their own merits.

      Taymor’s Titus is controversial but I like it. If you have a taste for weird stuff, it might be up your alley.

    • hlynkacg says:

      While it is not my Shakespeare favorite play (R & J, Macbeth and Taming of the Shrew are all better IMO), Branagh’s Henry V featuring BRIAN BLESSED is probably my singular favorite Shakespeare film.

      I am also quite fond of Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus but concede that it may be an “acquired taste”. Despite the modern trappings it really does belong to a different age.

      *

    • engleberg says:

      I saw a great Shakespeare cartoon years ago I’ve never been able to track down. One of his history plays. What are the best Saturday morning Shakespeare cartoons? I don’t mean Wiley Coyote, I mean a word for word Shakespeare play shot as a cartoon.

      • Urstoff says:

        Gargoyles was 65% Shakespeare.

        Perhaps you are thinking of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfnUq2_0FOY

        • Randy M says:

          Gargoyles second season opened with a multi-part bastardization (and I use that in the most loving way) of MacBeth.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It seems a shame that I missed this growing up.

          • Randy M says:

            Have some kids so you can relive the classics with them. My daughters are enjoying Star Trek TNG & Redwall.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Have some kids” is always good advice, no? 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            In the words of the Prophet, “Get married and have kids, everyone.” 🙂

          • cmurdock says:

            I wouldn’t call it a “bastardization”– many of the places where Gargoyles’ “City of Stone” veers from Shakespeare are places where City of Stone is being more historically accurate than the play. E.g. Banquo not being present (he was apparently not historical, invented for dynastic propaganda purposes– not by Shakespeare, but by one of Shakespeare’s sources), and Malcolm being a young child when banished from Scotland and returning as an adult. The gargoyles are obviously not historical, and the Weird Sisters subplot is a nod to Shakespeare’s version, but it is VERY rewarding to watch “City of Stone” after having reviewed both the Shakespeare and Real Life versions of the Macbeth story. The writers did an incredible job weaving the two versions together with each other and with Gargoyles lore.

          • Randy M says:

            Fair, I mostly meant that if you went in looking for Shakespeare you might be disappointed by the liberties taken. I enjoyed the story more myself. Another change is that Macbeth had an heir in the Gargoyles version.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            “Have some kids” is always good advice, no?

            No, it isn’t always good advice. I recall a pretty lengthy discussion here one time how it was, in my personal case, bad advice (which didn’t stop Well… from continuing to give it). Surely you can think of some person you know who shouldn’t be having kids?

            @Anonymous

            Much easier said than done, especially these days.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Kevin C.

            No, it isn’t always good advice. I recall a pretty lengthy discussion here one time how it was, in my personal case, bad advice (which didn’t stop Well… from continuing to give it). Surely you can think of some person you know who shouldn’t be having kids?

            My enemies, if I were feeling very uncharitable? People with sacred vows of celibacy too, I guess.

            Much easier said than done, especially these days.

            Yes, but that shouldn’t stop you (or anyone) from trying. People have been taught the false life path. He who resists this satanic propaganda will prosper.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Anonymous

            Read this discussion thread on OT75.5, the one I mentioned above.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Kevin C.

            With respect, that’s way too much to read. I think I remember the gist of it, from the time I participated in that thread. Would you care to refresh my memory of the salient points?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Anonymous

            Would you care to refresh my memory of the salient points?

            I asked:

            How does an unemployed, introverted, ultra-rightist atheist with Aspergers, who doesn’t drink for medical reasons (medication interaction), and who (for multiple reasons) cannot move from his current city of residence, who has a practically nonexistent sex-drive (even before antidepressants) and literally no dating experience go about searching for a potential wife (for the purpose of meeting a moral obligation to reproduce)?

            And pretty much everyone agreed that I shouldn’t reproduce. That the only way human scum like me could even get a woman would be through deception and fraud, or human trafficking; that I’m not and never will be father material, and that I absolutely shouldn’t ever, ever, ever have kids. And from Matt M:

            Fair enough. I’ve found myself much happier since I gave up on the idea of ever finding a relationship (and therefore stopped trying to change virtually everything about myself) – but to each their own.

            I just think that “give up and figure out how to be happy alone” is, in fact, legitimate advice and a sound strategy that doesn’t get proper consideration in many cases.

            So, no “have some kids” is not good advice for everyone, nor should everyone “Get married and have kids,” because <em<I'm a part of “everyone”, and it is agreed that “have some kids” is bad advice for me, and that I shouldn’t even try to “get married and have kids.”

          • Anonymous says:

            @Kevin C.

            I see. I respectfully disagree with pretty much everyone. Matt M is correct that you would need to pretty much make it your life’s mission, and chisel someone high (or even average) value out of that granite. In your place, I would have made the attempt – or DIED TRYING – seeing as I find few things more important to do in life.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not saying you should completely give up on reproducing, but if you’re barely taking care of yourself, how will you take at least partial care of additional people?

          • Aapje says:

            +1 for Nancy.

            Also, that doesn’t make you human scum, just not competent at one specific thing.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are lots of things that are good advice for most people, but bad advice for some people. As an obvious example, “find a nice girl and get married” is pretty good advice for most men, but not so helpful for gay men, who aren’t likely to have a fulfilling marriage with a woman.

            This gets messier when we’re dealing with some kind of socially beneficial behavior, where we end up with the fallacy of composition[1]. Like, imagine if I believe that the world would be better if more people listened to classical music. This might even be true–perhaps it would be a better world if more people with a casual interest in classical music became serious fans, say. And yet, it’s not at all clear that the guy who can’t stand classical music improves the world a bit by gritting his teeth through a symphony once a week, or that the tone-deaf guy who finds music no more appealing than any other kind of background noise should go out of his way to listen to Beethoven.

            [1] If I stand up in the football stadium, I will see the game more clearly. Therefore, if everyone stands up in the football stadium, we’ll *all* see it more clearly.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            And we have the benefit of having billions of people, so fortunately the fate of humankind doesn’t depend on any one of us doing the right thing.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Anonymous

            I respectfully disagree with pretty much everyone.

            On what basis?

            chisel someone high (or even average) value out of that granite.

            I’m not grasping your metaphor

            In your place, I would have made the attempt – or DIED TRYING

            How, exactly, in the context in question, does one “die trying”?

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            I’m not saying you should completely give up on reproducing

            Why not?

            @Aapje

            just not competent at one specific thing.

            One specific, important thing that was managed by every single one of my ancestors stretching back all the way to the very first lifeform on Earth.

            And while that alone does not make me an utterly defective waste of life (though it is a large component), I’ve got plenty of other sorts of basic human functioning at which I am also a total failure, so together they do.

            the fate of humankind doesn’t depend on any one of us doing the right thing.

            And if one is concerned about the fate of something smaller and more specific (say, “the family line” or one’s surname)?

            @albatross11

            There are lots of things that are good advice for most people, but bad advice for some people.

            That was my original point. Le Maistre Chat used the word “always”, and Anonymous “everyone”, so I provided a ready counterexample.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Kevin C.

            On what basis?

            On the basis that I don’t think your situation is so hopeless that you should not try. In fact, I’d probably advocate you to try even if your chances were on the order of winning the main prize of a national lottery.

            I’m not grasping your metaphor

            Granite is a hard stone, and very difficult to carve. I’m not under the impression that reproduction would be easy for you.

            How, exactly, in the context in question, does one “die trying”?

            You reach an age when you can no longer reproduce. You’re a man, so you have more leeway than a woman; you might theoretically remain fertile until your death of natural causes.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Kevin C., the reason I don’t think you should give up on reproducing is because it seems to be something you really want, and your situation may not be as hopeless as you think.

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            I’m not grasping your metaphor

            How, exactly, in the context in question, does one “die trying”?

            Anonymous is suggesting you do things that are high-risk and (that you perceive as) having a low chance of success.

            Ultimately it is your own call. You do seem quite unhappy with your current situation, which speaks in favor of taking risks and making an effort, since even if you end up worse, it may not be much worse, while there is a lot of upward potential. On the other hand, you seem to have a tenuous grasp on a stable life in the first place, so…

            Anyway, my perception from earlier discussions is that you don’t take ‘low-risk and low chance of success’ choices either, due to having a level of anxiety where you have extreme fear of minor failure. That seems like an obvious first problem to solve.

            One specific, important thing that was managed by every single one of my ancestors stretching back all the way to the very first lifeform on Earth

            Many very respected people contributed to mankind without reproducing. Leonardo da Vinci almost certainly didn’t have children and he was highly influential and respected in both his day (a king held his head as he died) and through the ages. The catholic church built one of the biggest institution of the world around non-reproducing men. A guy who spent 54 years in prison, most of which in solitary confinement, even managed to become a respected ornithologist while serving a life sentence. Thousands of people so respected his work, that they demanded that this violent psychopath be released. If a violent psychopath can achieve that, then why wouldn’t you be able to achieve something that benefits mankind? So I think you suffer from having an idée fixe, not a realistic assessment of how you can contribute to society/make good on your ideals.

            I’ve got plenty of other sorts of basic human functioning at which I am also a total failure, so together they do.

            In the past it was suggested that you self-publish a book with your political ideas or fiction, but you seemed to get stuck by demanding to know beforehand what to do, so you wouldn’t end up with minor failure. So you never actually failed at writing, you failed at attempting to write. People are telling you to actually get started.

            Even if you fail, it is a learning experience that tells you your actual limits better than what you currently seem to do: just assume that you will fail.

            And if one is concerned about the fate of something smaller and more specific (say, “the family line” or one’s surname)?

            Many people change their goals to mostly match their abilities. Many people start with focusing on things they like to do and/or are good at; and then try to turn that into a career, way to meet girls or whatever. You continuously seem to want to figure everything out beforehand, creating a path from your current position to some larger goal. Analysis paralysis is the logical result.

            Don’t do that. Start writing a book or whatever. Just see where you end up and learn from it. Even if you get stuck along the way or mess it up, you will learn about yourself along the way and can use that information to figure out something you may succeed at.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            Anonymous is suggesting you do things that are high-risk and (that you perceive as) having a low chance of success.

            Yes, precisely. The male strategy of playing to win, as opposed to the female strategy of playing not to lose.

            Anyway, my perception from earlier discussions is that you don’t take ‘low-risk and low chance of success’ choices either, due to having a level of anxiety where you have extreme fear of minor failure. That seems like an obvious first problem to solve.

            It is not insurmountable. I consistently score “very high” on neuroticism, and have been that way since I was a child.

            @Kevin C.

            It may help to understand that planning is essential, but plans are useless. Do obsess over details in preparation for action (as your obvious neuroticism inclines you to), but adjust the plan on the fly once under way (which your intelligence should enable you to).

          • Mark says:

            A guy who spent 54 years in prison, most of which in solitary confinement, even managed to become a respected ornithologist while serving a life sentence.

            Surprisingly good quality 1951 photograph there.

            I personally think that writing a book is a really bad idea.

            Anyone stuck for something to do should become a subsistence farmer.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            On the other hand, Kevin C., do you like children? Do you personally want children?

            Raising children is a situation where emotions matter. I don’t think I’d like to hear that my parents had me solely out of deontological obligation.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            I don’t think I’d like to hear that my parents had me solely out of deontological obligation.

            I’d be impressed with mine, if I found that to be the case.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Why?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            That’s the natural response in learning that people have done their duty even though they had no natural inclination to do so, absent any particular punishment for failing to do so, purely on the basis of it being their duty.

        • engleberg says:

          @Perhaps you are thinking of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales

          Yes. Thanks.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Branagh’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost” is the best LLL I’ve ever seen, though it certainly takes some liberties. The play is kind of a mess to begin with, but this version cleans up a lot of its problems in a very fair way, and the setting gives the ending a poignance I’ve never seen communicated on stage. (But stay away if you don’t like musicals.)

      I quite liked the 1996 “Twelfth Night” with Imogen Stubbs as Viola.

      The 1983 TV movie of “Comedy of Errors” with Michael Kitchen as the Antipholuses and Roger Daltrey as the Dromios is a scream.

      I recently finally saw the Max Reinhardt “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1935) because it was available to me on a big screen. It is an amazing spectacle.

      It’s interesting that (at this writing) nobody’s mentioned the classics, like Olivier’s “Hamlet” or “Henry V” or “Richard III”. Too obvious, maybe?

      ETA: There was a British TV series twelve years ago called “ShakespeaRe-Told” that did modern versions of four plays. By far the best was the “Much Ado” with Damien Lewis and Sarah Parish. Better if you already know the play, because you can appreciate the clever things they did to make it work in the modern world.

  21. Douglas Knight says:

    Here’s a striking example of a culture-bound syndrome. “Resignation syndrome” is catatonia of child refugees in Sweden. It was first recorded about 15 years ago. It doesn’t happen to native Swedes. It doesn’t happen to refugees in Denmark, but it happens next door in Malmö.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is that the one where the kids get suddenly ill when they face deportation, and equally suddenly get better when they get a residence permit?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        That is how it is often described in the press, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. My link says

        Several authors stress the importance of a permanent residency permit (PRP; Lindberg and Sundelin, 2005; Ascher and Gustavsson, 2008) although a permit in itself neither is sufficient for remission nor precludes debut (Bodegård, 2006).

        but doesn’t give any numbers. Bodegård might give numbers, out of a survey of 424 cases, but I’m having trouble with the translation.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          So Sweden has to bend over MORE backwards to Muslim kids to preclude this syndrome? And apparently the Danes are already so whipped that Muslim kids don’t get the syndrome there.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            On the contrary, Denmark is generally considered to be harsher on refugees than Sweden. Denmark never had this syndrome, not today when it is harsher, nor a decade ago, when I think they were pretty similar.

            I don’t think that this is just Muslims. Today I imagine most refugees are Muslim Arabs, but this began in 2003. The Malmö article specified ex-Soviet. They might be Muslim, but even if so, very different from the Arabs today.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @DK: huh. That’s just cryptic, then.

  22. Matt M says:

    Is anyone willing to steelman the objection to “It’s okay to be white” as racist hate speech?

    My take is that this was a fairly brilliant move by 4chan to expose/highlight that yes, a lot of SJW-leaning types really do hate white people, full stop. Not privilege. Not racism. Whiteness specifically is considered bad. This statement seems maximally designed to be as inoffensive as possible – it isn’t saying being white is exceptional, it isn’t saying being white is better than average, it isn’t promote white “pride”, it’s taking the weakest possible position of “it’s okay” – and yet, you still have mainstream media outlets definitively declaring these posters to be “racist.”

    At first I thought a lot of the objections had to be false flags or just poe’s law in action. But now I’m not so sure. A lot of people seem to really mean it. They really do not believe that it is okay to be white.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I would also like to hear this.

      The explanations I’ve heard from administrations are a bit perplexing. They say that know that it’s a 4chan raid. They say that know that the purpose is to forment conflict which will drive white people towards the Alt Right. But they don’t seem to get that it only works if they take down the pamphlets.

      If they had left them up without fanfare there wouldn’t be a story and the trolling attempt would quietly fail.

      It really does sound like they’re taking the official stance that it isn’t okay to be white. I already figured as much but it’s surreal to see that confirmed publicly.

      • albatross11 says:

        [Epistimic status: speculative as hell]

        I suspect the issue here is internal incentives. The college administrators know perfectly well that they’re being trolled, just like they know that when some jackass spray paints a swastika on a locker, or there’s a big panic about someone having left a Trump sticker somewhere on campus. But they have to be *seen* to respond, because they fear the response of the student and faculty activists if they aren’t seen to respond with enough vigor.

        The leaders among the activists similarly know they’re being trolled. But again, the path to greater influence within their environment is to lead big protests and shut down classes and visibly collect an occasional faculty or staff head. Dumb trollery provides just as useful an excuse for this as an actual threat. (And actual threats are thin on the ground on a very liberal campus–it’s not like Oberlin or Evergreen or Middlebury actually have any substantial number of white supremacists hanging around.)

        As political strategy, it’s nuts, because it trivializes the grievances of the activist faculty and students, makes them look like a bunch of idiots to the wider world. But within their environment, their incentives still incline them toward overreacting to the “it’s okay to be white” messages. The bigger the overreaction, the better, as far as they’re concerned.

    • Walter says:

      I don’t think what is going on here is genuine anti-white prejudice. Most of them are, after all, white. They don’t ‘hate’, they just enjoy being bullies.

      • Matt M says:

        They don’t enjoy being bullies to women, people of color, or homosexuals though.

        If you only enjoy bullying a very specific demographic subgroup, that looks like hate to me.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not sure this is about who they enjoy bullying the most, so much as about who’s the softest target. Twenty years ago, there would’ve been more stigma associated with, say, being gay, and less chance of a response from the people in charge, so bullying people for being gay would have been both easier and more effective. Straight cis white people now have that, uh, privilege, at least in Blue Tribe cultural spaces.

          The old saw about how bullies are all cowards isn’t really true, but you don’t need to be a coward to make life easy for yourself.

          • DrBeat says:

            They seek to punish anyone who is weak enough to not be able to make the punishment stop. They have no values other than the punishment of the weak for being weak.

            Human beings having values other than punishment of the weak for being weak is an unnaturally low-entropy state. It will go away. It will never ever return.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not going to get in a nihilism fight in this thread.

          • Mark says:

            Human beings having values other than punishment of the weak for being weak is an unnaturally low-entropy state. It will go away. It will never ever return.

            I think that’s a bit silly.
            A group is always stronger than any individual, and in order for group cohesion to exist there has to be individual respect for the group. Nobody respects only strength – anyone that way inclined will be attempting to subvert the strength of others.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Seeing bullies get hurt satisfies moral intuitions (this is why Chesterton said children don’t need folktales censored for them). So on that level, it’s satisfying to see white Americans get away with cultural chauvinism. Lots and lots of us live in big cities and university towns where we’ve been designated targets for an attribute we were born with.

            On the other hand, I think having pale skin is a lousy, un-Christian thing to build identity on. I would rather anti-racism and this new Milo type racism just go away.

    • maldusiecle says:

      That Baked Alaska dude quoted in the article was part of the Charlottesville Nazi rally, which ended with a white supremacist murdering a protestor. He was literally marching around with people chanting antisemitic slogans and brandishing swastikas. I’m not surprised he’s a big fan of the “It’s okay to be white” message. What you find if you pay attention to what white supremacists are doing and saying is that they begin with “It’s okay to be white,” and then as soon as you assent, they pull out the swastikas. It’s a motte and bailey.

      A sticker saying “It’s okay to be white” in the context of Harvard (which, let’s remember, has a 70% white faculty) has an obvious message: that discussion of past racial injustice is illegitimate. “It’s okay to be white” means, “It’s NOT okay to ask people to think about white privilege, racial violence, etc.”

      • Simon Penner says:

        The last time I walked outside in my (predominantly not-white) neighbourhood, I saw no less than four signs publicly advocating violence against me. The worst read “1 million whites dead now!”

        I don’t give a shit who is what or where. This is happening in my life, every fucking day. I don’t believe people think it is ok to be white. The general reception of these signs by society confirms my suspicion

        • maldusiecle says:

          I’m pretty sure the 70% of Harvard’s faculty who are white are not literally advocating genocide against themselves. It would take much stronger evidence to convince me of that–certainly more than your anecdote, which frankly sounds completely made up.

          [edited to remove a few typos]

          • quaelegit says:

            > Certainly more than your anecdote, which frankly sounds completely made up.

            I know some people have worried recently that SSCers are prizing charity too highly, but you clearly don’t have this issue. (To state more clearly: that was uncharitable.)

            The anecdote sounds quite plausible to me. In some places people post crazy flyers on lamposts and public places. (Berkeley, for example — not that I’ve seen any anti-white flyers there, but definitely some very crazy ones in other directions.)

            Note this is NOT evidence that anti-white beliefs are common — one person can post a LOT of flyers.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          If you don’t mind, where is your neighborhood?

      • Matt M says:

        A sticker saying “It’s okay to be white” in the context of Harvard (which, let’s remember, has a 70% white faculty) has an obvious message: that discussion of past racial injustice is illegitimate. “It’s okay to be white” means, “It’s NOT okay to ask people to think about white privilege, racial violence, etc.”

        Is there any possible context in which expressing a non-negative opinion on whiteness would be considered okay, or would not carry implications of promoting racial violence or whatever?

        How could they rephrase the statement so that it wouldn’t carry these implications? Where could they post these fliers that everyone would consider acceptable?

        • maldusiecle says:

          The issue isn’t the “non-negative opinion.” There are non-negative opinions of white people all over the place. There are white artists whose works are advertised, white faculty whose lectures are promoted, groups and classes dedicated to studying Greek or German or English culture. The statement “It’s okay to be white” is different from any of these, in the way that a “Black Power” gesture is different from praise of Duke Ellington’s music.

          Rephrasing the statement without those implications? I don’t think you could, because those implications are the point of it. You could say that one needn’t feel guilty for being white, but given that “white guilt” is cliché enough that even sitcoms poke fun at it, such a statement loses most of the original’s punch.

          You could say that a lot of anti-racist (“anti-racist” if you’d prefer scare quotes) rhetoric is excessive, destructive, unproductive. But these are things that people already say–there are constant arguments about language within left and liberal movements. And arguing against particular language is much weaker than the original statement. The original statement’s implication isn’t that this or that antiracist position is mistaken, it’s that antiracist movements as such are illegitimate. It suggests that all of these movements only exist to diminish “white people,” not to struggle against objectively-existing oppressions and injustices.

          I realize that pulling so much out of a seemingly anodyne phrase isn’t going to be popular on a blog where a recent post claimed that dogwhistle language doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. Personally, I would have left the stickers be. But if you want to understand why the administration acted the way it did, you have to look at these implications as they did.

          This may be over-theorizing. Possibly Harvard only saw it as a provocation, and doesn’t like being provoked.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How might “It’s ok to be white, it’s not ok to be Nazi” play?

          • outis says:

            The original statement’s implication isn’t that this or that antiracist position is mistaken, it’s that antiracist movements as such are illegitimate. It suggests that all of these movements only exist to diminish “white people,” not to struggle against objectively-existing oppressions and injustices.

            But don’t you see? The reason why you see that implication is that, to yourself, those antiracism movements do imply that it’s not okay to be white. Therefore, saying that it’s okay to be white implies opposition to those movements.

            It’s so perfect.

          • John Schilling says:

            How might “It’s ok to be white, it’s not ok to be Nazi” play?

            Roughly the same way as, “It’s ok to be a Jew, it’s not ok to be a shyster”. Lots of people will read that as an implication that the stereotype is true unless disavowed at every turn.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The issue isn’t the “non-negative opinion.” There are non-negative opinions of white people all over the place.

            Matt M asked for a non-negative opinion on whiteness, not white people.

      • albatross11 says:

        That’s one way to interpret the message, but not an obvious one. I think if you showed that message to a majority of Americans or a majority of undergrads, you would get relatively few who interpreted it that way.

        I’d interpret it as “It’s okay to be white and NOT worry overmuch about white privilege, structural racism, etc. You aren’t any more responsible for curing those ills than anyone else, and you’re perfectly within your rights to focus your time and attention on other stuff.”

        I think that’s both a pretty widely acceptable message, and also one that is quite upsetting to many activists on racial issues. Perhaps that’s one reason why it’s being spread.

        The closest parallel I can think of is “All Lives Matter,” which similarly got all kinds of denunciations despite being a surface-level completely unobjectionable comment.

        • Matt M says:

          The closest parallel I can think of is “All Lives Matter,” which similarly got all kinds of denunciations despite being a surface-level completely unobjectionable comment.

          I don’t even like this comparison, because it’s clear that “all lives matter” is structured parallel to “black lives matter” and is clearly an objection/pushback against that statement.

          This is organic, and is phrased to be as neutral and non-specific as possible. Showing up at a BLM rally and shouting “ITS OKAY TO BE WHITE” is clearly confrontational and should be treated as such, but just placing these flyers randomly about town is a very different matter.

        • maldusiecle says:

          I think it was an obvious reading to the administrators, and a very non-obvious reading to many people who saw this article.

          I like that rephrasing–a flyer saying that wouldn’t have stirred up as much controversy, probably. The issue is the motte and bailey. When white supremacists want to seem harmless, they say, “It’s okay not to worry too much about white privilege.” Once they’re not in public, it’s back to planning how to eliminate this or that minority.

          Outside of context, this sounds paranoid, no? But if you look at the leaked Milo emails, for instance, or reports of people who have infiltrated these movements, it becomes clear that they are very consciously pursuing this strategy.

          • albatross11 says:

            I imagine the people posting these notes range from genuine white supremacists who wish they could emulate Cecil Rhodes, all the way down to white kids who want to stir up some shit on campus, and are maybe tired of being harangued about racial issues. But the slogan is going to resonate with a lot of ordinary white guys who are tired of the harangues. And suppressing it seems like it will also resonate with them, but in a really negative way.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But they’re still whacking on the motte with swords and axes, though. Do that and you get boiling oil dumped on you, which is what’s happening here. When the villagers retreat to the motte, the attackers are supposed to clear out. At worst camp in the bailey.

        • jml says:

          The closest parallel I can think of is “All Lives Matter,” which similarly got all kinds of denunciations despite being a surface-level completely unobjectionable comment

          There’s actually a closer parallel just next door – the original “Black Lives Matter.” As you point out this is surface-level completely unobjectionable. The reason I think it’s a closer parallel is because both this and “It’s okay to be white” do the work of being Defense Of A Specific Race rather than defense of race as a whole.

          It’s also interesting in general as an example of a Flip-The-Narrative tactic. One of the steel-manned objections to “All Lives Matter” made by proponents of BLM was that although it’s true that all lives matter, responding to the assertion that black lives matter with that comment is more a method of derailment than something that actually addresses the issue.

          So suppose the response to seeing “It’s okay to be white” flyers had been to put up “It’s okay to be whatever race you are” flyers over them. How should you respond to that if you thought ALM was a productive response to BLM? Moreover, would changing the original flyer to something that wasn’t a Defense Of A Specific Race have accomplished the same goal that the real flyer did? (And to what extent is this reflected in the success of BLM as a movement, compared to the imaginary movement and controversy that never came from the hashtag #allsortsoflivesmatter.)

          My answer: being surface-level unobjectionable doesn’t mean you’re still not a Defense Of A Specific Race. In fact, the whole point of things like BLM and OK-Whiteness is that they are controversial but with a built-in motte and bailey. (Or have ew forgotten all the reactionary tweets to the effect of “the mere fact that black-lives-matter is controversial is proof of our society’s racism.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            So suppose the response to seeing “It’s okay to be white” flyers had been to put up “It’s okay to be whatever race you are” flyers over them.

            I think it would be an outstanding response.

          • Baeraad says:

            So suppose the response to seeing “It’s okay to be white” flyers had been to put up “It’s okay to be whatever race you are” flyers over them.

            I would have applauded that and felt a glimmer of hope for the world.

    • Randy M says:

      The weak steelman would be something like: The objections are from people who are aware that this is a campaign from 4chan/pol/whatever internet racists, and therefore assume that if an internet racist is going on about race, it’s probably safe to assume it is racist and oppose it. This is weak because reversed stupidity is not always correct, or however the saying goes around here, and because they may well be handing them a tactical victory.

      Stronger steelman of the objections: The message “It’s okay to be white” doesn’t specify an individual being white; it’s a broad statement that could, and given the source, likely does, apply to an organization, an industry, a family, or a nation. Of course white people can exist, but fighting for a group to be white means fighting for the right to exclude, and that is notokay.

      The problem with the stronger steel man is, well, two problems, first that it isn’t articulated–at least that I (and apparently the above posters) have seen. The statement is presumed prima facie to be unredeemable racism, and the above reasoning is not made explicit, making the antipathy towards it look very much like antipathy towards anyone who happens to be white and not explicitly repentant of that (which if I’m not steel-manning, I think it is in fact).

      Second objection to the steel man of the opposition to the statement (which probably means it is an insufficient steel-man, but not everything can be perfectly defended) is that it is nonsense; homogeneity is not proof of exclusion, and small scale voluntary segregation is not equivalent to material predation or even antipathy.

    • Wrong Species says:

      “It’s ok to be white” has subtext beyond the text. The kind of person who passes around these flyers is the kind of person who has stronger opinions about whiteness than it being acceptable.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The strongest steelman is that the trick was explained beforehand – Nazis or Nazi-adjacent people announced their plan to put up the posters to trigger an overheated response. If someone sketchy asks you the time and you say “time to get a watch” instead of taking your phone out – on the basis that asking someone the time then snatching their phone when they pull it out and running is a thing – you’re not somehow against people asking the time. Even less so if they tell you beforehand their plan is to snatch your phone. However, it’s unclear what % of people responding knew beforehand of the trick. Those who did know, the question becomes, why do what the Nazis predicted? Just saying “nice try, loser internet Nazis! Not falling for your tricks! Cry about it to your waifus!” is the correct response. Even if someone is of the view that the sentiment is offensive, outsmarting your enemy is job one. A boxer with a strong inside game who knows that his opponent will be able to stymie his attempts to get on the inside might prefer to play their A game over their B game, but should go to their B game regardless, because their A game will be playing to what their opponent wants.

      So, in this steelman (which is basically what I believe) the real meaning of the sentiment of the posters is determined by the fact that it’s Nazis/Nazi-adjacent types putting them up (and, realistically, the sentiment itself is likely coded that way even if you’re not sure who’s putting them up), but the response to the posters must be tempered by the foreknowledge of what the Nazis want you to do.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The strongest steelman is that the trick was explained beforehand – Nazis or Nazi-adjacent people announced their plan to put up the posters to trigger an overheated response.

        In addition, easily accessible Bayesian priors strongly point to statements like this being exactly this.

        In other words, the following is completely false:
        “This statement seems maximally designed to be as inoffensive as possible”

        No, it is not maximally designed to be inoffensive. It is maximally designed to “be offensive while offering plausible deniability that it is offensive.”

        And, honestly, I’m surprised Matt M can’t see this. What do you think 4 Chan does? They troll as an end unto itself. Can’t you see the obvious troll tactic.

        It’s like the “little shit” in high-school who wears a “Question Authority” T-Shirt and then thinks it’s clever to say “No, no. I’m just an authority on questions.” He isn’t fooling “anyone”. Except for those other things who don’t realize that it’s all just a joke.

        • Matt M says:

          No, it is not maximally designed to be inoffensive. It is maximally designed to “be offensive while offering plausible deniability that it is offensive.”

          What other statement could they make? What re-phrasing would be maximally inoffensive?

          The statement, in and of itself, is not offensive. The fact that you say it implies white supremacy is your problem, not a problem of the statement.

          Is it possible to express a non-negative opinion on whiteness without being offensive?

          If you assume, in advance, “the only people who would want to express such an opinion are the types of people who also are nazis” then no, I guess. But that’s your own prior.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The fact that you say it implies white supremacy is your problem, not a problem of the statement.

            Context is a bitch, Matt M. Simple statements derive most of their meaning from context. It has always been so.

            The fact that you say “It’s 4:20” implies drug use is your problem, not a problem of the statement.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is anyone willing to steelman the objection to “It’s okay to be white” as racist hate speech?

      Very well!

      Objection 1. This is a transparent bit of sophistry that’s meant to troll pro-diversity progressives. It has no meritorious content, and is best ignored.

      Objection 2. In its essence, “it’s okay to be white” is a motte statement, to the implicit bailey of something to the effect of “reverse racism is real” or “white people aren’t especially privileged” or even “white people did nothing wrong”.

      Objection 3. While the wording may seem benign, it’s a recruitment campaign by racists, who want to establish an ethnic power bloc for whites, similar to the various movements of the ethnic minorities. This is awful because whites already have power – they control government and mainstream society.

      On the contrary, the Esteemed Host says, ‘Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever, saying “I KNOW YOU FEEL UPSET RE STAMPING, BUT THAT’S DIFFERENT FROM STRUCTURAL OPPRESSION”‘.

      I answer that, It is not wrong to be white.

      Reply to Objection 1. While it is accurate to say that this is trolling, because it is, it does have content. If it did not, there would be nothing to be upset about, as the various progressive authorities – against their better judgment – are. It would, indeed, be wise to just ignore it, because by not ignoring it, the offended are revealing their own bailey positions, such as “it’s not okay to be white”.

      Reply to Objection 2. None of those bailey statements are particularly out of sync with reality. Reverse racism is just racism. White people really do seem to be under attack of late, and have institutional power wielded against them. And while white people did a lot of wrong things, they did not do particularly worse than other kinds of people, and may – given objective standards – have done much better overall than some other kinds of people.

      Reply to Objection 3. While whites do form the majority of the people in positions of power in American society (leaving aside the question of whether some particular kinds of white-passing people are actually considered and consider themselves ‘white’), they are not, as yet tribal in their wielding of power. In fact, it seems that particularly self-hating whites are the vanguard in the effort to reduce the legal and economic status of the white majority. It would be more accurate to say that some whites control the government and form the mainstream society, but it is also these whites that appear to hate whiteness the most, and work to destroy their outgrouped kin and themselves.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        If it did not, there would be nothing to be upset about

        Next iteration: put up blank white pieces of paper, explaining it in advance again.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I think the “milk is a symbol of white supremacy!” scandal a while back covered this ground already.

          Luckily that didn’t last long. People like milk too much to sustain outrage.

        • Anonymous says:

          Everything happens in context.

      • Zyxophoj says:

        It would, indeed, be wise to just ignore it, because by not ignoring it, the offended are revealing their own bailey positions, such as “it’s not okay to be white”.

        But they didn’t ignore the bait … and this, I think, shows us that 4chan deserves their reputation as master baiters. The overreaction didn’t just reveal the SJWs as racists, it revealed them as bullies.

        Genuinely oppressed people develop a certain discipline; they are prepared to turn the other cheek when faced with mild or even non-mild provocation. Bullies, on the other hand, do not. Indeed, they can not – bullies are all about asserting dominance, and they can’t do that by allowing the bullied to dissent unchallenged.

        • Brad says:

          > But they didn’t ignore the bait

          Are you sure? I mean Matt M linked http://www.wusa9.com not exactly the keystone of the Cathedral. So far I’ve only seen this story from crypto channers trying to spread the word.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          “Genuinely oppressed people develop a certain discipline; they are prepared to turn the other cheek when faced with mild or even non-mild provocation.”

          You’ve almost got it. SJW says that white people should adopt the oppressed position even when they’re not in actual danger, and I believe this carries a risk of actual oppression.

          Two things from memory, so I’m telling the truth as i see it.

          During racefail (when anti-racism came to science fiction fandom), white people reacted to the first shock of poc anger by asking for rules. And the answer I saw was, “Black people in during Jim Crow weren’t given rules”. Now this wasn’t entirely true, though I expect that the deference black people were supposed to give to white people wasn’t formally codified.

          Having had an extensive course in thinking the worst of people as a result of little clues, I think there are people in SJW who want at least the social power white racists had. I don’t *think* they actually want the freedom to lynch.

          Here’s one from one of those NPR story shows, probably The Moth, but I haven’t been able to track it down, and I would rather listen to it again to check.

          A white man tells about his white son being bullied by a black kid at school. He tells his son something something something about black history. In other words, his son has no right to expect to not be bullied by black people.

          The punch line of the story was that the white man is hoping that poc and women will think of him as one of the good ones.

          • 天可汗 says:

            I don’t *think* they actually want the freedom to lynch.

            I was almost killed by two blacks for the crime of being outside after sunset. Which is rather more in accord with 2017’s idea of lynching than most actual lynchings.

            People tried the historical grievance line anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            I don’t *think* they actually want the freedom to lynch.

            Some are definitely fighting for the right to punch a Nazi. In practice, physical violence can easily get out of hand and result in murder/lynchings.

            So I’m not very convinced that white people would not have to fear for their lives in a hypothetical SJW nation.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve raised the subject before. There’s one time in particular I’d like to check on– I think there were some interesting comments.

            The thing is neither a friend nor I have been able to find it, and I’ve asked Scott whether he’s removed it, and he can’t remember.

            This was probably around two years ago.

            I said that I thought SJ actually wanted a world without white people, but since killing all the white people wasn’t feasible, they were settling for trying to convince white people to make themselves and each other miserable.

            For some reason, this shocked people, and the first responses added up to I couldn’t possibly be feeling or thinking what I said, and that SJWs aren’t at all like that.

            In the second round, some people realized that this is the kind of dismissal people who talk about abuse tend to get. As I recall, someone mentioned SJWs who refused to take a genocide (possibly of Armenians) seriously until a case was made that the victims weren’t white.

            Anyway, does anyone remember this discussion, whether you can find it or not?

          • albatross11 says:

            Teaching your child who’s being bullied by a black kid that he has no right to anything better because of the color of his skin is pretty much the best way I can think of to make your child into a white nationalist.

          • albatross11 says:

            Aapje:

            To my mind, the SJWs are much less scary than the backlash they could easily unleash. If you were trying to make some kind of white identity politics/white nationalism/white power movement mainstream, there’s probably very little you could do to encourage it more effectively than the broad, visible SJW movement is doing right now. (Well, social media is good at making everyone hate everyone else, so that’s probably pretty good for amping up the racial hatred, too.)

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            That is why I said “hypothetical SJW nation.”

            My argument was what they could realistically do after having already gained absolute power.

            The chance of that occurring is a separate topic.

          • Nornagest says:

            To my mind, the SJWs are much less scary than the backlash they could easily unleash. If you were trying to make some kind of white identity politics/white nationalism/white power movement mainstream, there’s probably very little you could do to encourage it more effectively than the broad, visible SJW movement is doing right now.

            I’ve thought that for a while. Didn’t expect literal Nazis in the news, though; I was expecting something more like a resurgence of the militia movement from the Nineties.

            Reality had other ideas. Though the Nazis are still pretty small potatoes, to be fair.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think there is actually much of an uptick in Nazis, it’s just that they are getting more press now. Of course, now that their ideas are getting so much attention, I have no doubt their ranks will swell.

          • 天可汗 says:

            The parts of the right that are actually competent think Richard Spencer is an idiot, but the parts of the right that are actually competent are probably doomed to the same fate as the serious leftists in the ’50s and ’60s.

            If it sounds like I’m implying Richard Spencer’s e-celeb status was orchestrated to kill the right, it’s because I am.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Objection 1. This is a transparent bit of sophistry that’s meant to troll pro-diversity progressives. It has no meritorious content, and is best ignored.

        This is literally true, by design. The correct response would’ve been to do nothing.

        Unfortunately, we live in a society where doing nothing is utterly impossible, and thus the posters serve as a kind of basilisk. I may not always agree with 4chan’s goals, methods, or vocabulary, but I cannot help but admire the craftsmanship.

    • Rowan says:

      My steelman: “It’s okay to be white” has the subtext “(((they))) don’t think it’s okay to be white”. There’s no reason to put up a poster saying it’s okay to be white unless you believe there’s a conspiracy against the white race. The objections are to the posters being put up, not disagreements with the claim that it’s okay to be white – no-one, modulo lizardman constant, is actually saying it’s not okay to be white.

      • albatross11 says:

        Quite a bit of SJW rhetoric seems to me to be either saying or implying that it is not, in fact, okay to be white. Specifically, that many or most social problems are the fault of straight white men—that straight white men are responsible for the underrepresentation of women in software, the low rate of high school graduation among hispanics, the high murder rate among blacks, etc. And there is this big ideology pushed to explain why, invoking concepts such as white privilege, structural racism, implicit bias, etc. And there’s a genuine cultural phenomenon of white guilt, which I have seen with my own eyes, and which seems to me to be being nurtured in some quarters for political advantage.

        I think (but don’t know) that a lot of whites are tired of this ideology being pushed on them, or being treated as somehow above question. I think (but don’t know) that a fair number of nice white kids feel guilty for stuff done by people who looked like them decades or centuries ago. And pushing back on all that seems really worthwhile to me.

        There are genuine hard problems wrt race in the US. I would like to see us try to address them. But it seems to me that the existing mainstream public conversation is massively broken, dominated by this ideology that is very long on moral and factual assertions, short on empirical evidence or checking their assumptions against reality, and inclined toward awful tactics and winning at all costs. So long as that ideology is dominating the discussion, I don’t expect much progress, and I expect race relations to get worse. So I’m pretty content to see some effective psushback against that ideology and approach.

      • DrBeat says:

        The objections are to the posters being put up, not disagreements with the claim that it’s okay to be white – no-one, modulo lizardman constant, is actually saying it’s not okay to be white.

        “We should explicitly say that it is not okay to be white, and this is good, because nobody actually thinks it is not okay to be white! That’s why people who say those words should be told it is not okay to be white!”

        4chan predicted exactly and specifically what the Elect would do, because popularity politics are pathological politics, and all of them are literally incapable of stopping themselves. The only political goals that will ever be scored ever again until merciful Death comes to save us will be own-goals scored through a political faction’s pathological behavior, and false-flags that ineptly emulate a political faction’s pathological behavior but are believed anyway because they are emotionally rewarding to that faction’s enemies.

        “Why did we score this own-goal? We had to! 4chan gave us the opportunity to and we’re totally incapable of restraint in our political behavior, and never shall be ever again!”

        Every single thing is in a signalling death-spiral and will never ever return no matter how fervently you wish. All is lost.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        There’s no reason to put up a poster saying it’s okay to be white unless you believe there’s a conspiracy against the white race.

        Does “disproportionately vocal far-left activists we share this university with” constitute a conspiracy?

        • Deiseach says:

          There’s no reason to put up a poster saying it’s okay to be white unless you believe there’s a conspiracy against the white race.

          Ehhhh – playing a stupid practical joke and standing back to laugh at all the frothing at the mouth about “this is a white supremacist dog whistle conspiracy hate crime!” does not require you to think there is a conspiracy against the white race, only that you possess the kind of jejune sense of humour college-age guys have. Remember the hyperventilating over sticks of chalk?

          This is the one time I agree with DrBeat over the popular thing to say and how they literally could not stop themselves from falling right into the “please please please over-react” trap. Cultivate a sense of “systemic oppression always lurkin’, ready to strike, I must prove my allyship by being more woke than actual POC” and this is what results (anyone else notice that the Reed College videos of the protests about the Humanities 101 curriculum were looking awful white?)

      • harland0 says:

        The left says white like how they imagine Nazis said Jew or Southerners said Negro.

        • 天可汗 says:

          No, no, those are two different things. Distinguishing between political movements that want to suppress populations believed to be violent and incompetent so they don’t break everything and political movements that want to suppress populations believed to be overly successful and malicious is important, because without the second category you have no way of telling what exactly progressivism is.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        no-one, modulo lizardman constant, is actually saying it’s not okay to be white.

        I would think that the fact that ideas like “toxic whiteness” are mainstream in these circles should go a long way towards making you re-evaluate that claim.

        If that is insufficient, then how many quotes from “National Conversation”-level voices (academics, TV talking heads, bloggers that are read and responded to by nationally read journalists, nationally-read journalists, etc) would it take to make you re-assess your claim?

        I used to say “Oh, nobody’s saying that, don’t be silly” to try and reassure friends. I no longer do, because the evidence available to me no longer supports that conclusion. Thankfully I can still say “That’s only one specific faction within a wide spectrum of American progressive/liberal political movements and factions”, at least so far…

        • Anonymous says:

          Mind you, this exercise is steelmanning. Not crafting an irrefutable justification for the claim. If the steelman was indestructible, it wouldn’t be a steelman – the point is to make the best argument for the position, and then show that it is still wrong.

          You do have a point that this bit should probably not be considered the ‘best argument’.

          • Aapje says:

            The steelman still has to be accurate…

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            Accurate in portraying the subject matter, not necessarily accurate towards reality. It’s fair game to include a central belief that happens to be false in the steelman, and then showing that to be false – if, in fact, that issue is important.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @anon

            You have it backwards. The steelman is supposed to be stronger than the original argument. It’s the inverse of a strawman.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Wrong Species

            You have it backwards. The steelman is supposed to be stronger than the original argument. It’s the inverse of a strawman.

            I don’t think we disagree.

            Consider steelmanning Flat Earth. You don’t do that by disregarding the important, central claims of Flat Earthers. You write a better argument for Flat Earth than the Flat Earthers themselves did. *Then* you refute it.

            In steelmanning “IOTBW as racist” (hereafter IAR), you merely have to make a good argument on the behalf of the proponents. Asserting that nobody important believes that it’s not okay to be white is a not the worst possible argument in defense of IAR. I wouldn’t use it myself, but maybe OP thinks it’s better than I think it is.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        That’s the toxic thing about whites: they can’t seem to say anything without leaving some sort of discreditable subtext lying around where their enemies can find it. If they were capable of acquiring the Woke knack for saying only the things they publicly announce they mean to say, they would have done it by now.

    • DocKaon says:

      Trolls are going to troll, engaging with the particulars of statements by trolls is pointless and counterproductive. Anything associated with 4chan should be excised from any community trying to maintain a civil society without regard for it’s content.

      If they had left up the statements, 4chan would be crowing about how they’d played the administrators getting them to leave up clearly racist pro-white statements. Engaging with 4chan is like trying to win a game of Calvin-ball with an asshole, it’s pointless and it makes you look weak and ineffectual.

    • Anatoly says:

      If you hang a poster saying “it’s okay to be rich”, some people will be offended. Why? – is it because they really think it’s not OK to be rich and everybody should be poor? Maybe a small minority thinks so, but probably not most. Rather, because the form of the statement sneaks in a presupposition that it’s not OK to be rich, from which it bravely dissents (see: Gricean maxims, Bravery Debates). If you think that it’s misleading or false that there’s a general consensus that being rich is bad, you’re going to hate the poster for sneaking this presupposition in in an underhanded way. Presuppositions are a powerful way to troll because you can always fall back to “but I’m literally saying a very unobjectionable thing”.

      Now white/nonwhite is different from rich/poor, but due to the culture of white privilege etc., many of the intended audience will perceive it in the same way, and will hate it for the same reason (and not, to reiterate, because they literally think it’s not OK to be white). The administrators may or may not share that perception; recognizing that the poster will likely inflame the passions of those who do is enough for them to treat it as a provocation and to remove it.

      It is likely that neither the administrators nor the majority of the students believe, or wish to assert, that it’s not OK to be white.

      • John Schilling says:

        If you hang a poster saying “it’s okay to be rich”, some people will be offended. Why? – is it because they really think it’s not OK to be rich and everybody should be poor? Maybe a small minority thinks so, but probably not most.

        Why does it have to be “most”? Disagreeing with a minority opinion, particularly a vocal one, seems to be a perfectly reasonable and not inherently offensive thing to do.

        • albatross11 says:

          I wonder how that would have played in a time/place where the main social unrest came from ideas surrounding class struggle. “It’s okay to be bourgeoisie” would likely have been seen as a challenge to those guys, for many of the same reasons as “It’s okay to be white” is seen as a challenge to modern SJWs.

          [Edited:]Alternatively, “It’s okay to be a capitalist.” But then it’s just Ayn Rand writing protest notes.

        • Anatoly says:

          Disagreeing with a minority opinion, particularly a vocal one, seems to be a perfectly reasonable and not inherently offensive thing to do.

          There’s a vocal minority opinion that rich people are inherently and unavoidably horrible, that they’re exploiting the rest of the society, that we’d be better off taxing their wealth away from them completely etc. Many people disagree and find ways to express their disagreement (the trickle-down theory, the rejection of progressive taxation as a matter of principle, the American dream, add your own memes here). Still, messages such as “it’s OK to be rich” are not usually employed as a rhetorical strategy against this minority opinion. Why, if such messages are “a perfectly reasonable and not inherently offensive thing to do”, empirically we do not see such posters, campaign slogans, T-shirts etc.? My guess is because people intuitively understand what I wrote above – such a message is not targeted narrowly to the minority opinion, and will be offensive to a much larger audience (because it carries a presupposition yada yada).

          • John Schilling says:

            Still, messages such as “it’s OK to be rich” are not usually employed as a rhetorical strategy against this minority opinion.

            That’s because the alternative phrasing, “Greed is Good”, has achieved near-total pop culture saturation.

    • Mark says:

      I’m not white.

      I think that whiteness is only really a meaningful term in the US – where “whiteness” is pretty much defined in contrast to “blackness” – it doesn’t really say anything about your culture, what you do for a living, your language – it just means that you aren’t in the slave caste.

      So, whiteness is a bad thing.

      Solution: stop being white. Get yourself on 23andme for a bit more specificity. If you’re really lucky you might find out you are British.

      (89% British)

      • Nornagest says:

        If you’re a mutt like a lot of Americans are, your 23andMe breakdown says quite a bit less about your culture, livelihood, and use of language than your ethnic identity does.

        • Mark says:

          So, is “white” a genuine cultural thing?

          • Brad says:

            Sort of. White Americans can be Irish (-American), Italian, Polish, or Scandinavians. They can be Appalachians or Cajuns or New England WASPs. They can be Boston Brahmin or Virginia First Families. They can be Pennsylvania Dutch or Mormon or Jews. But after you filter out all those and other strong cultural groupings, there are some left that you can’t say much more about than that they are white.

            My tentative sense is that much of that vacuum comes from the suppression of German pride in the lead up to and during the world wars. Germany is, I believe, the single biggest ancestral homeland for Americans but IME it is quite rare for anyone to identify as German-American — at least other than the aforementioned Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsche).

          • Nornagest says:

            So, is “white” a genuine cultural thing?

            I don’t know what’s genuine to you, and certainly it’s a pretty big bucket, but I do think it carries real information. Imagine someone who’s just checked 23andMe for the first time and found that they’re ancestrally about 18% Igbo, 22% Iberian, 43% British and Irish, and the rest miscellaneous. I’ve known people identifying as white for whom that’d be a plausible mix. I’ve also known people identifying as black or Latino for whom it’d be plausible. Which is strong evidence for where and how they grew up, who their friends are, what their accent sounds like, and a bunch of other stuff.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            In the US, it seems to have varied between “Christian, not black” and “English, not black.” Before the Wilson administration, anti-immigrant sentiment was anti-Catholic and anti-Chinese, and most voters were latitudinarian enough to not shut down Ellis Island or build a border wall.
            My immigrant ancestors were Pomeranian, Catholic German, Catholic Irish and Scots-Irish, and they all had very similar experiences in America until Wilson cracked down on bilingualism.

          • JayT says:

            Don’t forget that if you work in Silicon Valley white also includes East Asians, Indians, and Middle-Easterners!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            JayT, that’s ridiculous. Most Middle Easterners and a large minority of Indians are Muslims, who are innately PoC.
            As far as East Asians and Dharmic Indians… I guess that’s one of the Four Aryan Truths.

          • Lambert says:

            Le Maistre Chat: Poe’ law, or have you never heard of Balkan Muslims or Tartars?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Lambert: Of course I have. This was piggybacking on JayT’ s comment on how “white” is constructed in Silicon Valley.

          • JayT says:

            I was making a point about how there is article after article talking about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, when in reality members of those groups I mentioned make up about a third of the workforce. It seems that when talking about diversity, Asians just don’t count as PoC.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And Muslims count as diversity regardless of race.

            (How long is the moratorium on mentioning recent homicides? A week?)

          • Anonymous says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Three days, I think.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        I having a hard time reconciling your two statements of “I’m not white” and “89% British” can you explain how those two fit together?

        • Randy M says:

          Mark is saying that “white” is not an ethnicity or a heritage the way “British” or “Irish” is.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            I would consider British and Irish a subset of white just like I consider both Mexican and Costa Rican a subset of Hispanic, is that not the case?

          • dodrian says:

            Many of my [black, Indian, Arabian, east-Asian, and indeed white] British friends would disagree vehemently with the assertion that ‘British’ is a subset of ‘white’.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @veelotrox:
            What about Spanish?

            What about someone who is 100% Spanish but born in Mexico to Mexican born parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc?

          • Mark says:

            @veeloxtrox –
            It’s a bit like saying – “Are you a 10 West to 10 East longdituder?”

            Well, I guess, but it isn’t how I’d choose to define myself. And it doesn’t seem like a particularly relevant label to me.

            So, what I’m saying is – this label means nothing to me – and to the extent that it does mean something, with respect to US racial politics, it probably is a bad thing, or at least associated with bad things.

            @dodrian –
            Yeah, that’s true on a legal or cultural level, but there is something exciting about the heritage/racial element too.
            It’s kind of like supporting a team, but for people who are interested in history.

            [I think you could make the case that 10W -10Eers are the worst people of all time. You’ve got the barbary pirates, the slave traders of West Africa, and the British, French and Spanish with their evil empires.]

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @dodrian
            Point taken, British is a nationality not an ethnicity. Though, in the context of results from 23andme, it seemed like he was talking about British as an ethnicity.

            @HeelBearClub
            I have specifically didn’t mention Spanish because I am not sure the answer to your question.

            @Mark
            If I understand you correctly, you are saying that technically you fit the definition of white but you decide it is just a label. Instead you identify as British. Thanks for the follow up.

        • mdet says:

          Many people (including myself) distinguish between “White pride” and British, Irish, German, French, Spanish etc. pride.

          For example, a French heritage celebration is likely to contain specific cuisines, music, clothing, art, etc. that is native to or associated with France. Sounds like a fun time. But a “White” heritage festival I think seems more likely to attract White supremacists and Neo-Nazis, and I would not recommend hosting one.

          British, French, Italians, Germans, etc. used to have very specific and distinct cultural identities until they arrived in America and assimilated to the label of “White” in order to set themselves apart from Black people. Italians and Irish used to be victims of bigotry as well, until they assimilated to “White” and became part of the in-group (oversimplifying here).

          What I think Mark is getting at, and which I’ve heard others express as well, is that there would be less anti-Black racism if White people didn’t view themselves as a homogenous group. So “I’m half Italian, a fourth British, and a fourth Irish” is preferable to “I’m White”

          (By contrast, Black Americans who are not recent immigrants lost their specific heritages during slavery, and don’t have any more specific ethnicity they can refer to other than “Black”)

          • Randy M says:

            (By contrast, Black Americans who are not recent immigrants lost their specific heritages during slavery, and don’t have any more specific ethnicity they can refer to other than “Black”)

            I don’t think this contrasts. Most white Americans have also lost their specific heritages during the intervening centuries–hence Mark’s admonition elsewhere to go to 23andme to find it.

            American whites have typically been happy just being “Americans” or “un-hyphenated Americans.” But now America is multi-ethnic; groups are not seeking to assimilate, but to unite around differences. Any detail that sets one apart from the previous default status is cause for celebration and the creation of an identity group from which to draw allies.
            And it seems to be the case to many that we are becoming a minority–with no small amount of gloating over the fact–while being denied any recourse to solidarity. Basically, “it’s okay to be white” is a step in reclaiming the slur.
            (And yes, white does not have the history that some other ethnic slurs have. Things happen faster these days.)

          • quanta413 says:

            What I think Mark is getting at, and which I’ve heard others express as well, is that there would be less anti-Black racism if White people didn’t view themselves as a homogenous group.

            Although an interesting belief, I’m pretty sure that any serious study of how much Americans identified as “white” vs other things would probably show the opposite result. Early americans often thought of themselves as having a heritage from England or Germany or Ireland or what-have-you and they were an awful lot more racist than modern Americans.

          • mdet says:

            @Randy M
            Spoiler alert: I’m Black. Politically, I’m a charitable moderate, so I’m not trying to shame anyone for being White or conservative.

            Many White people have lost their heritages, but in a different way from Black people. There are a lot of White people today who might identify as generic-White, but can ask their grandparents about their heritage or trace the records back to when their ancestors immigrated. I personally can trace some of my White ancestors all the way back to 1820s Belgium. Trying to trace my Black ancestry, I generally hit a stop at “Farmer, Louisiana” or “Farmer, Mississippi” in the 1870 Census (first census after emancipation). So I get what you’re saying, but it’s still a little different.

            America is multi-ethnic; groups are not seeking to assimilate, but to unite around differences.

            In terms of rhetoric, this is definitely the case, but in practice, I think there’s evidence that Asian and Hispanic immigrants are learning English, becoming middle class, and intermarrying with White people at a fast enough rate that I’ve heard one person suggest that in 50 years they may end up assimilating the same as European immigrants. I think the focus on retaining a unique identity mostly comes from the precedent Black people set as a minority group. Our features are different enough from White people’s that even someone of only 1/4th African descent would visibly stand out in a group of British-Italian-German-Americans. Makes it kinda hard to assimilate. And of course, Black Americans have been in America for so long, and contributed so much, that we don’t really feel a desire to assimilate to an “American” identity—we fought in the Revolutionary & War of 1812 too, how much more American can we get? Again, I still get what you’re saying about White people being concerned with rapid demographic and cultural change turning against them, I’m just adding my two cents.

            @quanta413
            I think a better comparison would be comparing “White” people in 2017 to European immigrants in 2017, since I think the correlation is not casaution in this case. Still, I’m not exactly betting all my anti-racism hopes on this

          • quanta413 says:

            @mdet

            I think a better comparison would be comparing “White” people in 2017 to European immigrants in 2017, since I think the correlation is not casaution in this case. Still, I’m not exactly betting all my anti-racism hopes on this

            I think the comparison might favor more people with more fine-grained identities being less racist if you counted Western European immigrants, but I wouldn’t bet on it either. If there was a difference in either direction, I think it also wouldn’t be a causal relationship. On the other hand, some immigrants’ outgroups aren’t near them in the U.S. so old conflicts don’t pop up. I don’t think the comparison is very favorable in any direction either way.

            sidenote:
            My impression from reading is that Eastern Europe is notably less friendly to immigrants and minorities than the U.S. That’s why I leave them out of the comparison.

            Our features are different enough from White people’s that even someone of only 1/4th African descent would visibly stand out in a group of British-Italian-German-Americans. Makes it kinda hard to assimilate.

            I dunno. You’d almost certainly be better attuned to this than me, but I think if it wasn’t for the strong socially enforced color line a significant fraction of people who were 1/4 African could pass as a different ethnicity. Maybe Italian. Obviously it would depend strongly on exactly what physical features they inherited, but I think it’s not too unlikely. 1/8 definitely gets a lot of people to the point of passing as white if they want; I look exactly like an Anglo-Saxon and I’m somewhere around 3/4-7/8 white. But maybe your point about African features being more distinct from European features than (for example) my Chinese and Hawaiian ancestor’s features is the explanation. It’s not obvious to me that this is true, but I can see it. Especially if people are tuned to look for that by their home region’s social/racial structure. It could be because I grew up in California in an area with few black people but a lot of people of other races and ethnicities that I am somewhat less attuned to black/white and more attuned to other differences.

          • Chalid says:

            For example, a French heritage celebration is likely to contain specific cuisines, music, clothing, art, etc. that is native to or associated with France. Sounds like a fun time. But a “White” heritage festival I think seems more likely to attract White supremacists and Neo-Nazis, and I would not recommend hosting one.

            This made me wonder – I’ve never encountered any complaints about, say, French-American festivals or German-themed events or the like. Do these complaints exist? The closest I can think of is objections to Columbus Day which is kinda-sorta an unofficial Italian pride day, but those aren’t rooted in objections to Italian-ness.

          • Randy M says:

            So I get what you’re saying, but it’s still a little different.

            Sure, a little different. But in the centuries since colonization, whites have largely abandoned their heritage and formed a new one. That they did it voluntarily and blacks were forced to is significant but perhaps not relevant to the outcome. And if we’re at the point where people are going to genetic testing to discover their heritage, it’s basically equivalent.

            Basically I’m pointing out why “I’m white” actually is an identity in America in a way it isn’t in Europe, etc. People just don’t know “I’m half Italian, a fourth British, and a fourth Irish” in a lot of cases.
            I don’t mind saying “European American” but people are going to use slang.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Chalid

            Yes, there are such complaints, though pretty much only about St. Patrick’s Day (the only white ethnic holiday with national scope in the US) and as far as I can tell they’ve remained pretty weak and isolated. No big name bloggers, academics, journalists or the like are endorsing or parroting them, so they appear to be dead in the water.

            For a more nuanced and sympathetic example, see here: http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2014/03/17/st-patricks-day-celebration-of-whiteness/

          • LewisT says:

            @Chalid

            I was involved in a very minor way in helping to plan an annual German-American festival earlier this year. Thanks to this involvement, I found out that the main organizers received several unfounded complaints about Nazi memorabilia being sold by a vendor. I’m slightly worried that this will become a bigger problem next year (e.g. people attacking the festival as a front for Neo-Nazis), especially if the media keep covering small Neo-Nazi and KKK rallies and blowing their numbers and influence entirely out of proportion.

            I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if German-heritage festivals began to be associated with Neo-Nazis over the next several years. Needless to say, I sincerely hope it never comes to that.

          • cassander says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Columbus day is quasi-ethnic.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Cassander

            Yes, but not national in scope. 5 states pretty much officially -don’t- celebrate it and among the other 45 there is widespread non-participation/non-observance that seems to be growing annually.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I’m ethnically Jewish, and I know lots of people like me back in the Old Country who would absolutely love to be re-classified as “generic white”. That would be a major step up in the Old Country… though not so much in the USA, it seems.

        • 天可汗 says:

          Worse-performing populations tend not to like better-performing ones.

          Now take into account that these “upper-middle-class” white people with victim studies degrees are stuck working the same shit jobs as the Haitians, while the “tasteless” white people with business degrees who vote Republican aren’t, and, well…

      • Aapje says:

        @Mark

        I think that whiteness is only really a meaningful term in the US – where “whiteness” is pretty much defined in contrast to “blackness”

        It’s becoming more meaningful outside of the US, as Europeans are increasingly told that their whiteness makes them colonialist oppressors.

        So it’s an identity that is pushed on pale-faced Europeans, whether they like it or not.

        • Mark says:

          Taking concepts or terms from one society and applying them in another without taking into consideration the weight of historical and cultural meaning…

          Is it… cultural appropriation?

          Anyway. I’m not white.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “British” doesn’t get diversity points with HR or the college admissions board, though.

          • Mark says:

            Does “white”? It should do:

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11987142/Ethnic-minorities-more-likely-to-go-to-university-than-white-working-class-British-children.html

            That’s the thing I find kind of amusing about hominid life variance theories/ social justice people. The facts don’t square with *either* of their theories. In Britain, “white” people are stupider than “black” people, go to university less. Underrepresented in the professions.
            Young women get paid more than men. 2/3 of entrants into professions are women.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            Black Brits are mostly relatively recent economic migrants. AFAIK, economic migrants to the west usually are more intelligent than average, in no small part because modern immigration restrictions usually discriminate in favor of the capable. The subset of Black Brits who equal or better whites at GCSE and A-Levels are Nigerians and Ghanaians. These countries occupy the part of Africa where the Igbo people are from and the Humanoid Brain Diversity crowd tend to claim that the Igbo have high IQs. So this outcome seems consistent with their beliefs.

            I don’t know why you think that women getting paid more or getting more jobs is incompatible with Humanoid Brain Diversity, which is not about gender, AFAIK.

          • Mark says:

            Hmmm… Igbo were a higher proportion of the American slave population than they are of the Black British population, so I’m not sure that is a get out of jail free card.

            The second bit was for the SJWs.

          • quaelegit says:

            >Igbo were a higher proportion of the American slave population than they are of the Black British population, so I’m not sure that is a get out of jail free card.

            But the two populations have/had very different selection criteria: for Black British (at least the economic migrants Aajpe is talking about) it is education and economic success needed to get visas, for American slaves it was surviving the Middle Passage and years of forced labor. So even if they were selecting from the same population its not surprising the two groups ended up with different characteristics.

            Re: Igbo — Do you have evidence for this? I’m not saying you’re wrong, I just have no idea how you would go about figuring out demographics of imported American slaves. (Even if you know what region the ship departed from that doesn’t tell you much about their ethnicity.)

            Also @Aajpe — the Igbo people are from southeastern Nigeria, but not Ghana. Maybe the “Humanoid Brain Diversity crowd” is using the term to apply to a larger set of people than the anthropologists (or whoever wrote the wikipedia article — although the sources I checked seemed legit), and ethnicity in West Africa is complicated, but connecting the Igbo people to Ghana strikes me as a weird claim.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Aapje,
            Look at Mark’s chart. It breaks out Black African, Black Caribbean, and Other Black and all of them have higher university attendance than White British. (What is Other Black? Americans? People who want to identify as British?) There is a bizarrely rapid change that from 2003 to 2008 when Black Caribbean and Other Black overtook White British.

            (I don’t see the source for these numbers and I’m suspicious that they have a weird definition, not per capita university attendance, but maybe per-O-level university attendance. But whatever the definition, the existence of rapid change should make you suspicious that your prior explanation is out of date.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            In contrast, 55 per cent of the richest white British children attend university.

            This seems like a weirdly low number. Is British culture significantly different from North American – are the richest white kids in Britain ignoring university because only scribes learn to read and they must instead supervise the training of the levies so that they can fulfill the queen’s feudal demands, or whatever? Because if you told me that barely more than half of the richest kids of any race in Canada or the US go to university, I would be very dubious.

          • quanta413 says:

            This seems like a weirdly low number. Is British culture significantly different from North American – are the richest white kids in Britain ignoring university because only scribes learn to read and they must instead supervise the training of the levies so that they can fulfill the queen’s feudal demands, or whatever? Because if you told me that barely more than half of the richest kids of any race in Canada or the US go to university, I would be very dubious.

            If we define “richest” loosely enough this should work for the U.S. or Canada too I think. The number of people with degrees in the U.S. is something like 1/3 of the relevant population and the same for the U.S. Granted 55% are at is not the same as how many will get a degree, but if we pretend the difference is not too big then 1/2 > 1/3 and if we call the top half of the distribution “richest” then it could make sense.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Looking at the article, they’re defining “richest” as “top quintile” not “top half.” I’d be very surprised if, whether we’re talking just whites or everyone, the top 1/5 by SES in Canada don’t overwhelmingly go to university.

          • JayT says:

            @Mark, keep in mind the slave traders were also Igbo, so if you are in the crowd that looks at regional IQs, it would be fairly easy to say that the high IQ Igbos took advantage of the low IQ Igbos, and sold them into slavery. It’s very possible that the Igbo IQ in Africa increased due to the slave trade.

            Disclaimer: None of this is my opinion, I’m just throwing out a possible explanation.

          • Aapje says:

            @quaelegit

            There are some Igbo living in Ghana, although not that many. However, I was assuming that people marry their neighbours and thus mix genes to some extent, although I don’t know how much tribalism there is in that part of the world.

            @Douglas Knight

            The table shows that all black people do better, which is consistent with a selection effect & Black Africans doing better than Black Caribbeans, which is consistent with Africans coming from a region where they have the additional benefit of high-IQ genes.

            So I don’t think that the Sailer fans will see this as evidence that they are wrong.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            here is the source for Mark’s chart.

            Aapje,
            Talking about your beliefs about other people’s beliefs is unproductive.

          • Aapje says:

            @Douglas Knight

            I disagree. It’s useful to try to understand people and verify with people that your understanding of others is reasonable.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t see why a population of genetically high-ability blacks from some region of Africa would be a challenge to Muggle Realism (aka h. beady) as a model about the world.

            I don’t know much about Igbo immigration into Britain, but Caribbean blacks who immigrate into the US tend to do very well for at least a couple generations–about as well as whites, I think. Thomas Sowell pointed this out as a datapoint that fits his model (that culture drives differences in accomplishments between different ethnic/racial groups) better than the Muggle Realist model. Caribbean blacks are drawn from the same basic source population as American blacks, and it’s hard to see a lot of genetic change happening in the short time they’ve been separated[1]. It seems like the confounding variable here is selective migration–the people who choose to immigrate and are allowed in won’t be the same as the people who stayed home.

            The point of Muggle Realism is recognizing that sometimes, differences between identifiable groups of people are genetic(races/ethinicities) or biological (genders, maybe sexual orientations). To my mind, there’s no contradiction in noticing that sometimes culture is more important in explaining some differences. (People of German descent ending up as brewers in many different countries seems nearly certain to be cultural rather than genetic, for example.) And there’s *certainly* no contradiction in noticing that sometimes, there will be groups that do unexpectedly well.

            If it turns out that Igbo are an unusually smart subset of blacks who outperform whites in academic tasks, the right response to that is to make sure we vacuum up all the super-smart Igbo we can find and put them in really good schools, so they can end up as the next generation of physicists and chip designers and molecular biologists and such. (I have no idea if the effect being described reflects that Igbo are really super smart on average, rather than some kind of selection effects, though.)

            [1] Though I’m not 100% sure of that–Caribbean sugar plantations were a fair approximation of hell on Earth, as I understand it, with horrible mortality rates persisting over many decades. That’s the kind of environment where you can at least *imagine* some kind of fast selection going on. But it’s sure not obvious why any such selection would have been on intelligence or work ethic, rather than (say) resistance to tropical diseases and harsh environments.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Aajpe — thanks for the correction. That’s what I get for trusting maps! (*insert “map is not the territory* joke)

            @Mark — thanks for the article! From the intro it looks really interesting.

    • Witness says:

      This statement seems maximally designed to be as inoffensive as possible

      Others have pointed this out, possibly better, but I would not settle here if asked to design an inoffensive version of the statement.

      This looks more like something I would design if I wanted to irritate people while being able to claim I was trying to be inoffensive.

      In other words, it’s bait. I’m sad, but not surprised, that it was placed. I’m sad, but not surprised, that it was taken.

      • albatross11 says:

        Would my less-offensive/more-nuanced version, above, have been more acceptable to the folks who overreacted to this one? That’s not obvious to me.

        • Witness says:

          Assuming you’re talking about this:

          It’s okay to be white and NOT worry overmuch about white privilege, structural racism, etc. You aren’t any more responsible for curing those ills than anyone else, and you’re perfectly within your rights to focus your time and attention on other stuff.

          My facebook feed is full of people who would call this “apathy” or “indifference” and insist that it’s “part of the problem” or any number of other insinuations that your argument is wrong, but I don’t think any that would call for it your removal/firing/banning/etc for it (or explicitly use the word racist).

          I don’t hang out on the twitters, maybe it’s worse there.

    • All I Do Is Win says:

      They really do not believe that it is okay to be white.

      It’s really not an innocuous poster, and you damn well know it.

      The concept of “toxic whiteness” is standard issue, uncontroversial social justice terminology. Putting up signs that say “it’s okay to be white” are, in essence, saying that “toxic whiteness” is a-okay. It’s not okay.

      In particular, the kinds of people who put up the “it’s okay to be white” signs are precisely the kinds of “toxic white people” that are the problem social justice is trying to address. Literally 4chan.

      Try again.

      • The Nybbler says:

        You’re just proving the channers point — that there are people who think it’s not OK to be white (because they talk about things like “toxic whiteness”, which is only uncontroversial to those fully bought into social justice). Yes, these posters are aimed at social justice. Direct hit, I’d say.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The fact that “toxic whiteness” is “standard issue, uncontroversial social justice terminology” is pretty damning.

      • Rick Hull says:

        What does “toxic whiteness” refer to? That all whiteness is inherently toxic? Or does it refer to a subset of behaviors that could, at least hypothetically, be enacted by any human regardless of skin pigment? And it’s just “toxic whiteness” when that subset of behavior is enacted by our light-skinned brethren?

        • Aapje says:

          Someone saved a page from EverydayFeminism that seems to have a good definition of the bailey:

          What do we mean by “toxic whiteness”? Similar to toxic masculinity, toxic whiteness is something created by white supremacy and not inherent to white people. Toxic whiteness comes from the history of how the white identity was created since people of European descent had been identifying with their home countries and not as ‘white’ prior to the creation of whiteness. In the early 19th century, wealthy northwestern European landowners who colonized the Americas created the social construct of whiteness to prevent poor Europeans (like the Irish and Italians) from joining with enslaved Africans and indigenous folks against them since they had much more in common with them than with the wealthy Europeans. Now as white people, they got to be in the same social group as the wealthy Europeans! But in return for access to what was once denied to them – like land, education, and jobs – poor Europeans had to disconnect from their cultural heritage and history of why they left oppressive Europe, and how they were exploited in the Americas by wealthy white people. It was a pretty raw deal that exploited poorer white people and manipulated them to act against their own well-being in exchange for white privilege (and it’s still happening today!) That’s why it’s important for white people to free themselves from toxic whiteness by acknowledging and resisting white supremacy, while reconnecting with who their people were before they became beneficiaries of white privilege.

          • John Schilling says:

            That tells me where “toxic whiteness” is supposed to have come from, but not what it supposedly is. Possibly that’s the point, but it leaves the term useless except as a weapon.

          • Nornagest says:

            So it’s a literal conspiracy theory. Okay then.

          • Anonymous says:

            Somewhat accurate view of the “problem”. Really insane view of the solution.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            So, the more ‘compassionate’ version of this towards seems to be “We’re not trying to deprive you of your culture, ‘whites’. We want you to reconnect with your roots, become more truly part of your original cultures!” (which doesn’t seem like the Bailey as I’ve observed the arguments deployed in practice, but closer to the more moderate and easily defended Motte). My observations:

            1) Advocating more stronger ethnic identity separation seems to me to be a very BAD thing on several levels, and a step backwards towards the cultural politics (and associated individual and collective violence) of the 18th and 19th centuries.

            2) Given the tendency of the people arguing this to think in terms of identity politics, ethnic power blocks, and solidarity, and given that there isn’t a matching call to dismantle “blackness” or “African-American” culture as problematic and instead focus on reclaiming “Kenyan-American”, “Senegalese-American”, (or dismantle Latinx/Hispanic for that matter), this could be read as an attempt to divide and conquer.

            So, yeah, as someone who is against “salad bowl” and “{Race} Pride!” of ALL flavors and favors “melting pot” / “Unhypenated American”-ism and extending that “American” ethnic/cultural identity to encapsulate and assimilate everyone within US borders, I don’t find this kinder/softer version any more reasonable or defensible. If anything, rather less so.

          • Aapje says:

            I mixed up the terms, this is indeed the motte.

            Ultimately, this solution seems to result from the belief that some groups don’t get to be part of the melting pot and these groups then get dominated/oppressed by those who became ‘no hyphen American’, by way of the melting pot. So they want to undo the melting pot or in other words, balkanize society, so no one can dominate. I would argue that this is an obsession with one way in which society can fail, while being extremely ignorant of other failure modes (like those that resulted in war and genocide in the actual Balkans).

    • Lillian says:

      Context is everything. A known crony capitalist saying it’s okay to be rich is taken as a defense of an unfair status quo, an attack against attempts to reform, and a strawman of his opponent’s position. A socialist reformer saying the same thing is taken as an expression of the limitations of her ideology, that it is reformist rather than revolutionary, and that redistribution does not preclude rich people still existing.

      Basically the statement is racist because it’s perceived to have been made in service of a racist agenda. In other words, anything a racist says to promote racism is racist, even if the statement is otherwise inoffensive. The complaint here is not against the the words, but their understood message.

      That said, the whole thing is clearly a trap, and due to lack of coordination it’s been successful. Some SJWs do actually hate white people and whiteness, and anything that draws them out makes everyone else look bad by association. Moreover by exploiting the difference between the words and the message it’s possible to make all of them look like a hateful loons.

      The best reaction would have probably been to explicitly call out the group doing this and ignore the words in the posters. The problem is that most people’s message and context evaluation is done subconsciously. They percieve “It’s okay to be white” as racist because of the agenda it’s promoting, but have difficulty articulating it in those terms, since on the concious level it just seems an inherently racist thing to say.

    • Drew says:

      Best attempt:

      Sasha Baron Cohen played an anti-semetic character in Borat. Imagine that, during filming, he’d glued some silver coins to the pavement in front of an orthodox synagogue. He then filmed people’s attempt to remove the coins, so he could set their efforts to appropriately irreverent music.

      The defense is, “What? He was just giving them money. How is that possibly wrong?”

      Yes, on an extremely literal level, that’s what happened. But the object level communication wasn’t the point.

      Borat’s actual, high-level goal was to make a video mocking orthodox jews. That’s anti-semitic as such. Similarly, 4chan’s actual high-level goal was get news reports mocking racial justice efforts. That’s anti-racial justice.

      Going a step less meta, the communication was, “There’s a community of people who are hostile to you. We’re going to go into your spaces and leave messages proving it. Worse, you’ll know that the messages are intended to be hostile. We’ll know they’re intended to be hostile. But you’re going to have to feign ignorance for the cameras or look unreasonable.”

      Everyone involved, from 4Chan to the people they’re trolling are fully aware that the signs were going to be taken as a stand in for some big “White Lives Matter” banners. But, with the phrasing 1 step removed, people somehow have to feign ignorance.

      • Incurian says:

        Borat’s actual, high-level goal was to make a video mocking orthodox jews.

        More likely it would be to mock anti-semites, no?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        “There’s a community of people who are hostile to you. We’re going to go into your spaces and leave messages proving it. Worse, you’ll know that the messages are intended to be hostile. We’ll know they’re intended to be hostile. But you’re going to have to feign ignorance for the cameras or look unreasonable.”

        I don’t think that’s a steelman, though. That’s conceding the point, that yes, the community is hostile to white people. That the anti-racists are not, in fact, just against racism, but are actually against white people.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      The sort of “whiteness” that social science academics want to destroy (the idea that all people of sufficiently European origin have a common interest different than people of other ethnic origins) is different than the public, vulgar definition of “whiteness” (white-passing, existing as a pale-skinned person that would be recognized as “white.”)

      By taking advantage of this disparity for a tactical advantage, an intellectually dishonest argument is being made that inflames racial tensions.

      • The Nybbler says:

        (the idea that all people of sufficiently European origin have a common interest different than people of other ethnic origins)

        That’s certainly an possible motte for “toxic whiteness”, but the bailey of “white people are evil” seems to be by far more common use of the term.

        By taking advantage of this disparity for a tactical advantage, an intellectually dishonest argument is being made that inflames racial tensions.

        If the “social science academics” didn’t want to inflame racial tensions, they shouldn’t have chosen that term. As the “words, words, words” post gets at, a lot of this academic social justice terminology seems to be specifically chosen so its surface meaning is hostile towards certain races and genders.

        • ilikekittycat says:

          1. No one actually retreats to “white people are evil and it’s not okay to exist as a pale-skinned person” in the real world, so its not a bailey. It’s a magical position. Very few people exist in academia that even believe in that kind of innate evil

          2. People exist who want to enforce academic terminology on everyone outside of academia as a bludgeon, but the academic terminology itself is not specifically chosen with even the expectation of being widely read or known outside of its field. Notice how the sense of “privilege” that people fuss about now and the sense of “racism” used in academic terminology were around since ~1989-1992 before becoming culture war issues 20 years later. “Whiteness” in this academic sense goes back to 1991 IIRC so it was a very long fuse if this was some sort of timebomb trying to destroy race relations in America… seems far more likely it was (correctly) taken in context as innocuous until it became a performative culture war issue much later by people interpreting it in bad faith

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Without necessarily addressing the strength of Nybbler’s argument, the problem is that you’re asserting that no one really believes that

            white people are evil and it’s not okay to exist as a pale-skinned person” in the real world

            which might fly if not for one problem: namely, the other definition, which you give here

            (the idea that all people of sufficiently European origin have a common interest different than people of other ethnic origins)

            isn’t believed by many people of European origin. So when you talk about “whiteness” with this definition, you’re not talking about very many actually white people, which means you either think I’m wrong about this (you’re an idiot) or you’re just dog-whistling (you’re a racist). And this is important, because while Nybbler may have gotten the two terms confused, this phrase:

            “white people are evil and it’s not okay to exist as a pale-skinned person”

            is definitely either a motte or a bailey. Since I can’t recall which is which, I’ll explain that this term is the fertile position. Sounds kind of crazy, but the point is that as long as you can say this, you can recruit a lot of wacko shock troops and convince your people to radicalize. Then when you get caught, you retreat. Was this the specific intent of the people who started using this term? You seem to think otherwise…

            “Whiteness” in this academic sense goes back to 1991 IIRC so it was a very long fuse if this was some sort of timebomb trying to destroy race relations in America

            but the people who invented these terms are almost certainly marxists. Don’t believe me? Privilege theory is basically just a reclassification of class conflict along racial lines: we have to abolish the idea of race distinctions, tear down the inherent privilege of whiteness, and everyone within racial class X has a certain boost. Reclassifying racism along these lines turns it from just “hatred” to another tool of class conflict, sort of similar to the idea that the poor know things the rich don’t but not the reverse, the poor can’t hurt the rich but the rich can hurt the poor, but keep in mind to replace “rich” with “white” and “poor” with “black”. (If that sounds racist, remember it’s the Marxists saying it, not me.) So who knows what the specific purpose was, but poisoned fruit from a poisoned tree produces…uh, poisoned people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            No one actually retreats to “white people are evil and it’s not okay to exist as a pale-skinned person” in the real world, so its not a bailey. It’s a magical position. Very few people exist in academia that even believe in that kind of innate evil

            That’s a strawman of the actual bailey, which is “white people are evil and they must constantly denigrate themselves and make and accede to policies which will harm them in order to atone”. You don’t retreat to the bailey, you retreat to the motte, which is that we’re really talking about “(the idea that all people of sufficiently European origin have a common interest different than people of other ethnic origins)”

            People exist who want to enforce academic terminology on everyone outside of academia as a bludgeon, but the academic terminology itself is not specifically chosen with even the expectation of being widely read or known outside of its field.

            Strange, then, that it seems on the face of it to have been chosen specifically to inflame. This claim is believable for “privilege”, but doubtful for “racism” and not at all believable for “whiteness”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I wonder why the social science academics are so interested in destroying “whiteness”, but they haven’t a word to say about the “toxic leftism” that inspired people to kill and starve 100 million other people.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Matt M, assuming you or anyone reads this:

      The tactic is a subtly weaponized statement, as many have gone over. And I don’t think people have necessarily overheated because they don’t think it’s OK to be white, though many of them have very messed-up thoughts in that direction. Most of them just sighted enemy rhetoric and immediately started losing their shit, because the society around them always gives them what they want when they throw a tantrum. After all, minorities and progressives are like baby children who need to be treated very carefully, and as long as we never say this out loud it doesn’t count as racist, so take that conservatives.

    • Baeraad says:

      Steelman? Sure. Like so:

      “It’s okay to be white” is an obvious statement by our dominent outlook as a society. People do not see the need to make obvious statements except when they consider them to be challenged. The most likely source of a perceived challenge to the statement “it’s okay to be white” is anti-racist rhetoric, therefore the statement can be assumed to be an implicit push against anti-racist rhetoric, therefore it is lending aid and comfort to racists by forcing anti-racists to defend themselves from the anti-anti-racists and therefore have that much less time and energy to spend on attacking racists. This, of course, is assuming that the statement was made in good faith, and not made by racists in order to weaken the ability of anti-racists to attack them.

      Now, I do not agree with this reasoning, because I think that the self-esteem and emotional well-being of white people matters, and that having the goal of attacking racism does not give you a blank check to attack white people in general, which is something I feel that anti-racists frequently fall into. But nor do I agree with your claim that opposition to the statement is a sign of racism against white people. It is not a matter of personally agreeing with the statement or not, it is a matter of getting what they regard as the correct way of thinking universally accepted without having it obstructed by smoke screens and sophistry.

      • The Nybbler says:

        therefore the statement can be assumed to be an implicit push against anti-racist rhetoric, therefore it is lending aid and comfort to racists by forcing anti-racists to defend themselves

        And there’s the gaping rusty hole in the steelman. Opposing the tactics of a group which claims to be anti-racist is not in itself racist.

        • Baeraad says:

          Since I myself oppose those tactics, I personally agree with you. However, not everyone makes that distinction.

    • lvlln says:

      This whole thing looks like a mirror image of the choice of name “Black Lives Matter” or the phrase “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” On their face, the phrase “black lives matter” is entirely inoffensive and uncontroversial, something that pretty much everyone in modern society can get behind. Likewise the phrase “women are people.” But the choice to take a radical group and name it “Black Lives Matter” or declaring that “women are people” is a radical notion highlights the context within which we live, a society which behaves in such a way as to make some people conclude that society doesn’t believe that black lives matter or doesn’t believe that women are people. And by highlighting that context, it shows the utter absurdity of that context, that we live in a truly fucked up society that needs to change for the wellbeing of some of its members.

      “It’s okay to be white” is similarly a completely innocuous phrase on its face, but it highlights the fact that we live in a society that often sends messages that many people interpret as saying “it’s not okay to be white” or, at best “it’s okay to be white ONLY if you follow [set of arbitrary rules].” Which is a truly fucked up situation.

      Of course, it’s an open question to what extent the belief is justified that society behaves in such a way that indicates it doesn’t believe black lives matter or that women are people or that it’s okay to be white. I think it’s pretty clear, though, that the evidence for any of these is so weak (and subjective in a lot of cases) that one can’t really justify buying one belief as correct while rejecting another of the beliefs as incorrect, at least in their general versions.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “Feminism is the claim that women are people.”
        “Yep, I sure am!”
        “Why are you wearing lipstick?”
        “Because I think this shade of red makes my face look better.”
        “But feminists can’t wear makeup! Making your body attractive to men is denying your personhood!”
        “Oh, so feminism is the radical claim that people are rational spirits and giving in to my body gets me oppressed? Why not name it Gnosticism so it’s less ambiguous?”

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I’m always surprised gnosticism isn’t brought up more often in criticisms I read of patriarchy theory / white privilege theory. What else is “wokeness?”

    • John Schilling says:

      We need a word that unambiguously describes the ethnicity of the people who came out of the American “melting pot”, even if they do still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or Columbus day.

      “White” used to be a pretty good word for that back when that ethnicity included only 100% white-skinned people and we were OK with dismissing as not really “white” even the palest Irishman who hadn’t yet been melted down and assimilated. We don’t do that any more, and we do invite visibly Asian, Hispanic, Native American and even Black people to join the club, so while there are still people using “white” in this context for lack of anything better it’s a bad fit.

      “American” is a better fit, particularly if we expect all the other ethnicities to assimilate eventually and we don’t use it as anything more than a slight nudge towards “why haven’t you assimilated yet”. But some of us seem to want the other ethnicities to persist indefinitely, and others want more of a club than a nudge to use against them.

      Pretending that no such ethnicity exists is at odds with reality, unless we’re using a gerrymandered definition of “ethnicity”, and not helpful to clear communication regardless.

      I generally use “ethnic American” myself, and to try to recognize from context when other people are using “white” or “American” to refer to the same group of people, but the potential for miscommunication or unintended offense is obvious. Shutting up and denying the existence of my own ethnicity to avoid offending people is not an option. Anybody have anything better?

      • dndnrsn says:

        The category of “White Ethnics” doesn’t really get used any more, but it included Polish, Italians, Irish, pretty sure Eastern Europeans in general, maybe Jews?

        I think a good test for “is this a still-identifiable ethnic group” is “does a politician relying on votes from where they live have to do the ethnic-festival circuit for this group?”

        • John Schilling says:

          I think a good test for “is this a still-identifiable ethnic group” is “does a politician relying on votes from where they live have to do the ethnic-festival circuit for this group?”

          Modern US presidential campaigns start in rural Iowa and New Hampshire. Officially that’s because of the primary calendar, but that calendar can be changed and I have to wonder whether it is a coincidence that those two are among the whitest, least diverse, most Norman Rockwell states in the Union.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I was under the impression that the primary calendar gave Iowa and New Hampshire outsized influence, and so any representatives from those places would fight tooth and nail to keep the calendar from being changed.

            When they go to Iowa and New Hampshire, though, do they go pump hands at the Iowa State White (NOS) Festival, or do they go to, I don’t know, the Iowa Corn Jamboree?

          • John Schilling says:

            When they go to Iowa and New Hampshire, though, do they go pump hands at the Iowa State White (NOS) Festival, or do they go to, I don’t know, the Iowa Corn Jamboree?

            Is there a difference between the two, other than that the latter doesn’t attract as many protesters looking for Nazis to punch?

          • dndnrsn says:

            If the overlap between “Iowan” and “White (NOS)” is huge, functionally there might not be a huge difference, but courting Iowans as Iowans/corn enthusiasts is a different thing from courting people who value being generically white enough to have a parade about it (I’m imagining some flaxen-haired lass being crowned Miss Unseasoned Chicken 2017).

            Compare to, say, Boston, where I am given to understand that St. Patrick’s Day is a big time for politicians to show how much they value the Irish community, etc etc. It’s evidence that, in Boston at least, “Irish” is still an identity that people really assign to themselves.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @dndnrsn on primary timing- States time their own primary. In the case of New Hampshire, state law stipulates the date of the primary as the second Tuesday in March *or* at least seven days before the first “similar election” that year in another state, whichever is earlier. Iowa doesn’t count as a “similar election” as it is a caucus not a primary.

            An attempt in 2008 to put Nevada first resulted in the New Hampshire primary that year being on January 8.

            The last time the New Hampshire primary was actually held on the second Tuesday in March was 1968, a time when primaries meant something very different.

          • Brad says:

            One wonders what would happen if a different state passed an identical law.

          • John Schilling says:

            States schedule their own primaries, but the party committees decide how much (if any) weight to apply to those primaries. The primary votes have no legal status except what the DNC and RNC assign them, and they’ve used that to push back against attempts to leapfrog primaries back in time. They are happy to have the first tests of Presidential fitness being held in the whitest parts of America.

          • Brad says:

            That’s true to a certain extent. But if a state wanted to play hardball, things change somewhat.

            For two reasons:

            1) if say Florida decided to hold its primary before NH, the party said it was going to refuse to seat the delegates, and the would-be Florida delegates turned out to be enough to change the outcome nomination, all hell would break loose and the result of all that drama would be to damage the party and the eventual candidate far more than it would harm Florida specifically. So it is a bit of an empty threat.

            2) What Florida would hope to accomplish by scheduling its primary before NH, would be to shape the race. Even if its delegates weren’t seated it would still very much do this. A candidate that didn’t do well in Florida’s not really a primary would still have trouble keeping staffers and getting money and would be under pressure to drop out.

          • Rob K says:

            @Brad this was tested in 2008, when Florida and Michigan both attempted to push their primary dates into the time frame that both parties had reserved for specially designated early primaries.

            The Dems stripped both states of all their delegates and instructed candidates not to campaign there, while the Republicans stripped them of half their delegates. There were lawsuits and protests over this, but the committees essentially stuck to their guns until it was clear that any delegates they restored to the states wouldn’t impact the election.

            This cost the DNC in particular some negative PR, but given that no states have tried this move over the two succeeding cycles it looks like the party committees proved to everyone’s satisfaction that they were willing to go through with their threats.

          • Brad says:

            @Rob K

            but the committees essentially stuck to their guns until it was clear that any delegates they restored to the states wouldn’t impact the election.

            Right. That’s one of two possibilities: 1) it doesn’t impact the election and they do or don’t get seated, who cares? 2) It does effect the election, Hillary Clinton goes nuclear over seating them, there’s a whole bunch of bad blood regardless of whether they do or don’t get seated, and John McCain beats the Democratic candidate. The Democratic Party decides kowtowing to Iowa and New Hampshire isn’t worth it going forward.

            Meanwhile where’s the downside to the challenging state? The party orders the candidates not to campaign in those states, but late state primaries are ignored anyway because a candidate has already been selected.

            I can’t see how this delegate thing is anything but a paper tiger, except perhaps for the actual delegates themselves and their desire for a junket. IIRC there was an actual fistfight in upstate NY between trump people and republican party stalwarts about who was going to get the free junket, so I suppose that’s not a factor to be ignored.

          • Rob K says:

            @Brad in 2008 on the dem side, the primary was contested late enough into the season that Michigan and Florida were among the few places that didn’t see significant campaigning.

            The relevant authorities in MI and FL apparently cared enough about the loss of input to move their primaries back in future years. I hear what you’re saying about the incentive structure, but it doesn’t match what we’re seeing in practice.

    • JonathanD says:

      I can think of two ways:
      One: It’s slanderous. It implies that someone out there is saying that this is not the case. In particular, it implies that someone who is saying, “Black Lives Matter”, or your slogan of choice, is *really* saying “Whitey must die”. After all, everyone knows that when *those people* are talking about justice, what they really want is to beat up white people. It’s offensive in imputing bad intent to people who lack it, and offensive because it puts white folks at the center of something that isn’t necessarily about them. This was my first reaction, and it’s why such signs would bother me if I walked by them.

      On reflection, I noticed that it’s also a shorter version of the fourteen words. That’s pretty much enough right there.

      Whether it should be banned is a separate question, but I would certainly read such a poster as racist if I came across it.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve met BLM members (campaigning for a white candidate) who weren’t saying “Whitey must die”, but they had no interest in stopping the justice system from mistreating white people.

        • JonathanD says:

          Every group has some crappy members. BLM as a movement is interested in better policing as one of its main objectives. It believes that the bad policing is focused in the black community, hence the focus and the slogan.

          • Aapje says:

            @JonathanD

            A strong belief that the vast majority of harm happens to group A, by members of group B, can result in:
            – strong resistance to efforts to help group B, based on the belief that the resources must go to help group A
            – dismissing and denying any evidence that shows harm to group B and exaggerating the evidence that shows harm to group A
            – desiring that more harm happens to group B, so they will do more to help solve the problem

            These behaviors can result unnecessary harm happening to group B, especially if the beliefs that cause this behavior are (partially) incorrect.

            Because people’s individual experiences are often non-representative and it’s easy to assume that outgroups have fewer bad experiences, there is a substantial risk that members of a group develop a bad belief and then reinforce that bad belief due to various cognitive fallacies.

      • albatross11 says:

        Why wouldn’t slogans like “black lives matter” and “feminism is the radical notion that women are people” be equally slanderous?

        • JonathanD says:

          Because the world is a lot harder place for black people than white ones, or for women than men. Those slogans are pushing back on something real, whereas IOTBW is pushing back on something that’s made up to make the outgroup look bad. I’m guessing that you’d probably dispute the assertion, but that would be the reason.

          And sadly, I really can’t argue in support of the assertion today, so if you want to dispute the upstream claim, you’ll have to do it with someone else.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            What, so now white guilt isn’t a real thing?

          • JonathanD says:

            @Gobbobobble: Um, I don’t think so? I’m not parsing your point.

          • Aapje says:

            @JonathanD

            Because the world is a lot harder place for black people than white ones, or for women than men.

            Those are subjective beliefs, not objective fact. Furthermore, even if true, those broad beliefs don’t automatically make more specific claims true. For example, it can be true that the world is a lot harder place for black people and yet also be true that these problems are not primarily or significantly caused by racist policing.

            In that case, the implied message of ‘black lives matter’ is still slander.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Their assertion is that anti-white sentiment exists on campus.

            If one were to put up “It’s Okay To Be Black” flyers and someone tore them down, I would assume there is anti-black sentiment in the area.

            If one were to put up “It’s Okay To Be Jewish” flyers and someone tore them down, I would assume there is anti-Semitic sentiment in the area.

            If one were to put up “It’s Okay To Be White” flyers and someone tore them down, I should assume…what exactly?

          • albatross11 says:

            I wasn’t arguing about the rightness or wrongness of the assertion at all. Your argument about IOTBW being offensive was partly about it being slanderous, as it implies that there are a lot of people who say it’s *not* okay to be white. By the exact same logic, “black lives matter” is slanderous, as it implies that there are a lot of people who say black lives *don’t* matter. And “feminism is the radical notion that women are people” is slanderous, as it implies that there are a lot of people who say that women aren’t people.

            This has nothing to do with whether the world is harder for blacks than whites[1].

            So, let’s think a bit about “black lives matter” as a slogan. The point there isn’t, as far as I can tell, to imply that there are really a lot of people who think black lives don’t matter. Instead, it looks to me like the point is to call attention to the fact that a lot of black kids get killed in the US, including too many[2] unarmed black kids who get shot dead by the police. In other words, it’s not saying “nobody cares about black lives,” but rather “hey, if you agree with me that black lives matter, then help me do something about the police shooting too many black kids.”

            I think an entirely reasonable reading of IOTBW is something like this: “if you agree with me that IOTBW, then help me push back on some of the over-the-top rhetoric that seems to imply that it’s not okay.”

            [1] By most of the available statistics, it *is* harder to be black than white in the US.

            [2] From the Washington Post database on fatal police shootings in the US, in 2016, a total of 233 blacks were shot by police, including 17 unarmed blacks, and 13 with toy weapons. So we’re not talking about huge numbers here, but 30 dead kids is still 30 dead kids too many.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            The problem is that debating by use of subtext obliterates most nuance and specificity. You get people with moderate claims and people with extremist claims all uniting under one banner and making claims based on their particular beliefs. The leaders of advocacy movements usually end up being the more extreme types (because they care more), so the demands end up extreme, but those get legitimacy because most casually interested people assume that the subtext of the banner is moderate.

            Then you have something similar by the opposition, who have their counter banner, with people with moderate claims and people with extremist claims all uniting under it.

            Add in that the mutual outgroup homogeneity fallacy is common on both sides and you get groups attacking each other like this: ‘you are OK with cops getting murdered,’ ‘you are OK with innocent black people getting murdered.’

  23. rahien.din says:

    @ec249,

    I didn’t get to reply before the previous thread was succeeded. I found your piece very interesting, and it led me to David Friedman’s discussion of Coase’s theorem, which was also fascinating. You asked why your system might not work. Here are my initial, partially-informed thoughts.

    Coase’s theorem

    If transaction costs are zero then any initial definition of property rights leads to an efficient outcome

    .
    If any definition of rights leads to the efficiency maximum, then the management of externalities is simply a type of revenue-sharing between agents. Each agent maximizes their revenue share by minimizing their loss (the downwind resort minimizes the amount of pollution-mediated losses it takes, and the steel mill reduces the amount of pollution control expenditures, overall achieving some efficiency maximum). Moreover, total revenue is maximized.

    IE, this creates a system in which revenue distribution is efficient, and the system is Pareto-optimized.

    Holmström’s theorem

    No incentive system for a team of agents can make all of the following true :
    1. Revenue is efficiently distrubuted
    2. The system is stable (Nash equilibrium)
    3. The system maximizes total profit for all agents (Pareto-optimized)

    Coase’s theorem states that efficient revenue-sharing and Pareto-optimization are the natural consequence of reduced transaction costs. (In this sense, Coase is the special case of Holmström in which transaction costs are the cause of Pareto inefficiency.) Therefore, Coasian solutions never achieve Nash equilibrium. Under such instability, each agent will have moves to increase their own gains at the other agent’s expense. IE, within any Coasian solution, each agent has moves that will yield a more favorable revenue distribution.

    Certainly, by Coase, the first phase of the game is positive-sum. But the endgame is still zero-sum. Therein lies Moloch, who is not fooled.

    Importantly, Coasian solutions under incomplete information have decreased overall efficiency. (In an important sense, Coase’s theorem acts a bit like Aumann’s agreement theorem re-domained into economics.) This means that each Coasian solution is only applicable to the information environment in which it was reached, and by changing the information environment you change the Coasian solution. This provides a lever : creating a more favorable information asymmetry will create a more favorable revenue distribution.

    One solution : we voluntarily cede some Pareto efficiency in order to maintain a state of complete information, in which the Coasian solution will distribute revenue efficiently and stably. IE, oversight.

    • ec429 says:

      Sorry for the slowness of reply, I had to find time to read Holmström’s paper as I’ve not come across his Theorem before.

      If any definition of rights leads to the efficiency maximum, then the management of externalities is simply a type of revenue-sharing between agents.

      I’m not quite sure I follow you here. The initial-definition-of-rights is the cause which determines the payments included in the contract that moves from this ‘endowed’ state to the ‘efficient’ state by reallocating rights. So the two phases of the game are (1) agree on the contracts, which may lead to some bargaining as there are multiple choices of Pareto-satisfying payment vectors; and (2) act in the newly optimal manner under the contracts (which, by assumption, is efficient).

      If I’m understanding Holmström correctly, his conditions include a ‘budget-balancing’ which, he claims, cannot be broken without a separate principal because ex post the agents will not agree to waste some of the product. (Hence his insistence on Nash equilibria.) But this is simply a precommitment problem, and the ‘separate principal’ rôle can, I think, be filled by a shared expectation that contracts will be enforced — it is in the agents’ individual interest ex post to enforce the contract among themselves because of the future value of that shared expectation being maintained (for, in future contracting, it is in my interest to be able to credibly precommit to penalising myself for certain actions). IOW, defecting against the rule of law has a big enough long-term cost to the individual to dominate ex post regret and thus maintain the commitment.

      • rahien.din says:

        No worries!

        If any definition of rights leads to the efficiency maximum, then the management of externalities is simply a type of revenue-sharing between agents

        I’m not quite sure I follow you here.

        I can try to explain better (or at least it will become clear where I’m off-base – anyone CMIIW).

        Regarding Coase, the very brilliance of his idea is that it turns externalities into revenue sharing. The revenue to be shared is either some positive benefit (such as the revenue from ripe pears), or the avoidance of a cost (either runoff damage, the cost of a wall, or fees, depending on the problem’s definition). If the definition of rights does not matter, then no one has any clear right to that revenue pool, neither the creator of a positive revenue pool (as with the pears) nor the perpetrator of a negative revenue pool (as with runoff damage). The interaction, then, is defined by the incentives. The Joneses have an incentive to recoup the revenue from their lost pears, so to buy another tree, and the Smiths have an incentive to help pay for the lost pears because a fourth tree means 33% more free pears landing on their property.

        Therefore, by Coase, externalities are simply interactions between agents, who divide revenue according to incentives.

        This is exactly the type of situation that is subject to Holmström’s theorem, which states that no incentive-based system of revenue sharing for a team of agents can make all three of the following true :
        1. the budget is balanced – all revenue is distributed, and the system does not distribute more than it takes in
        2. the system is Pareto-optimal – it is the best possible solution for all agents, and there is no way to help one agent without harming another
        3. the system achieves Nash equilibrium – no agent can better their position by changing their strategy

        Crucially, Coase’s theorem describes how situations will naturally Pareto-optimize themselves in the absence of transaction costs. Moreover, the budget in such solutions is inherently balanced. These are two of Holmström’s conditions. Therefore, it is impossible that Coasian solutions achieve the third – Nash equilibrium. Each agent will always be able to alter their strategy and thereby increase their revenue share – that’s Moloch’s turf.

        this is simply a precommitment problem

        If you are precommitting to anything, you must be precommitting to one of Holmström’s three conditions, and thus you must be renouncing one of the others.

        The cost of [stability + Pareto optimization] is [waste] … this could describe bureaucracy

        The cost of [efficiency + Pareto optimization] is [instability] … this could describe your Coasian AnCap

        The cost of [efficiency + stability] is [freeloaders and/or martyrs] … maybe this describes monarchy/oligarchy/etc.?

        One alternative conjecture : Coase+Holmström suggests that transaction costs actually play a beneficial role! They stabilize a revenue-sharing system by 1. bleeding off revenue that would otherwise be interminably fought over (sort of, playing the anti-sharer role?), and/or, 2. making it harder for people to go after freeloaders.

        • ec429 says:

          Your ideas are intriguing and I think within Holmström’s framework they’re valid conclusions. However, I think that framework isn’t applicable:

          Therefore, it is impossible that Coasian solutions achieve the third – Nash equilibrium. Each agent will always be able to alter their strategy and thereby increase their revenue share

          But agent A understands the logic of the game and knows that if he alters his strategy, he will thereby alter the pay-off matrices of other agents and B will (either acausally or through iteration of the game) alter his strategy, ultimately worsening B’s outcome.

          Nash equilibrium is only the proper criterion when the game is played by naïve causal decision theorists, which people aren’t. I think in my article I should have put more stress on the “sane enough to co-operate on the Prisoner’s Dilemma” bit, because I think that’s the key element that makes it all work.

          If you are precommitting to anything, you must be precommitting to one of Holmström’s three conditions

          No, precommitting to ignore one of his three conditions; specifically, the Nash equilibrium one. Precommitting to observe contracts and uphold the rule of law even when it doesn’t serve one’s immediate interests, because one understands that the ability to credibly promise to ignore a Nash disequilibrium is more valuable than the gain from hitting Defect once.

          The cost of [efficiency + stability] is [freeloaders and/or martyrs] … maybe this describes monarchy/oligarchy/etc.?

          I just nearly committed the fallacy of generalising from fictional evidence; I was going to talk about “scratchers” in And Then There Were None.
          Anyway, I can believe that free-riders are ‘survivable’ (i.e. they don’t bring the system crashing down). But the idea that they could be necessary is deeply weird (not that that necessarily makes it wrong, of course).

          • rahien.din says:

            I am precommitting to ignore one of his three conditions; specifically, the Nash equilibrium one.

            [IE] precommitting to observe contracts and uphold the rule of law even when it doesn’t serve one’s immediate interests

            Well there we have it! That’s Holmström’s theorem put into practice!

            You claim to be ignoring the equilibrium condition, but you’re not. In fact you’re insisting on it – saying “I will ignore Nash disequilibrium” is to deem the current set of strategies stable, and it is to impose equilibrium. Your imposition of equilibrium is incentive-mediated, via “we predict that everything will blow apart into Hobbesian hell if we don’t precommit to keeping our strategies stable.” So you’re still within Holmström’s jurisdiction.

            Holmström’s theorem tells us what costs we may accept in order to impose equilibrium : if you want to achieve a stable set of strategies, you have to tune your strategies so that they leave money on the table. You can leave some money on the table by letting the budget go out of balance, or, by permitting some inefficiency in how the revenue gets divided.

            For instance :

            I can believe that free-riders are ‘survivable’. But the idea that they could be necessary is deeply weird.

            Instead of necessary, I would say beneficial.

            If, as it seems, you want your budget to balance and your system to be strategically-stable, you could precommit to someone will get more revenue share than their efforts would indicate / will be a free-rider. But you could just as easily commit to someone will be rewarded insufficiently for their efforts / will be exploited. Either of those precommitments could keep the system off the Pareto frontier, permitting the combination of strategic stability and a balanced budget.

            Holmström’s theorem just tells us that any such system of incentives will have slack, and we can pick where the slack is. IE, when you say “even when it doesn’t serve one’s immediate interests,” Holmström defines that clause more precisely, as “even if the system is wasteful and/or unfair.”

            This all demonstrates that your precommitment is anti-Coasian.

            Coasian solutions drive toward a balanced budget and Pareto optimization – fair systems without waste, but with instability. Precommitment to renounce either the balanced-budget condition or the Pareto-optimal condition is precommitment to renounce the full Coasian solution in favor of stability.

            “Enforceable systemic precommitments that renounce Coasian solutions in favor of the default value of stability” might be another way to say “government.”

            the ability to credibly promise to ignore a Nash disequilibrium is more valuable than the gain from hitting Defect once.

            This is not necessarily true.

            Assuming a balanced budget, if we are at Nash disequilibrium but Pareto-optimal, then there is some move I could make that would increase my revenue share (at someone else’s expense). If I make that move, and the system is then stable and budget-balanced and my revenue share is maximized, then this is the best possible world as far as I am concerned – predictable, solvent, and personally-maximal (though not perfectly fair).

            That’s the exact definition of victory!

            You may claim that others will subsequently defect. If so, there are only two reasons why they would. They may be acting on incomplete information. Or, if the system is not at equilibrium and yet is off the Pareto frontier, the budget might not be balanced. Balancing the budget (IE, there is no opportunity for any agent to get any more revenue share without making the system insolvent) would permit equilibrium despite being Pareto-suboptimal.

          • ec429 says:

            @rahien.din:

            So you’re still within Holmström’s jurisdiction.

            I notice that trying to think about this keeps confusing me, and therefore have lowered my confidence somewhat. That said:

            “Enforceable systemic precommitments that renounce Coasian solutions in favor of the default value of stability” might be another way to say “government.”

            Government is one way to precommit to maintain civil society. But it is not the only one; civil society does not require an institution with a monopoly on legitimised use of force. David Friedman’s treatise on legal systems (which OGH has recently reviewed, huzzah) should demonstrate the effectiveness of common-law-as-Schelling-point. And since contracts can change Schelling points or create new ones, Coase isn’t being ‘renounced’.

            if we are at Nash disequilibrium but Pareto-optimal, then there is some move I could make that would increase my revenue share (at someone else’s expense). If I make that move, and the system is then stable…

            Or, if the system is not at equilibrium and yet is off the Pareto frontier, the budget might not be balanced.

            It seems like you’re treating Holmström as ‘always two of three’ rather than ‘at most two of three’. If we are at Nash disequilibrium, and any move I can make will lead to a state that is also a Nash disequilibrium (in ways that are relevant to me, i.e. the move someone else is now incentivised to make will affect my pay-off), then my choice is not between ‘current state’ and ‘my move’, but between ‘current state’ and ‘whatever Nash equilibrium we might end up in’.
            So everyone agrees to respect the rule of law, and Marshall improvements happen by Coasian bargaining turning them into Pareto improvements, and we (almost) all ignore the fact that if we defected and started defaulting or reneging on our contracts, and no-one else did, we could make a killing.
            Remember, Nash equilibrium is defined by each player assuming that other players’ strategies will not change! Remember also that the Nash equilibrium in the Prisoner’s Dilemma is defect-defect.

            At the same time, we are not ‘enforcing stability’, because the current set of strategies can be changed if a Marshall improvement is available. It is the metastrategy (of honouring contracts, respecting property rights, defending Schelling points, etc.) that is being stabilised.

            So I am arguing that the outcome of the AnCap system will be one which is on (actually, just tending-towards) the Marshall frontier (a subset of the Pareto frontier), and which may balance the budget (it’s a closed system), but which is in Nash disequilibrium — yet is stable anyway because people don’t defect on the PD.

          • rahien.din says:

            ec249,

            You may be right! And I think we have exceeded my ability to make a stronger case. Probably have to leave it at that.

            This has been fascinating, you have given me a lot to think about, and I have learned some very cool things. Thanks for the excellent discussion.

          • ec429 says:

            @rahien.din

            you have given me a lot to think about, and I have learned some very cool things.

            Likewise, thank you. ☺

  24. meh says:

    I’ve read Scott’s meditation post recently and have become interested. My main concern is that I for some reason have a personality type that meditation doesn’t work on, and it will be wasted time. Have any readers had experience seriously practicing mediation (something like an hour a day for 6 months), and having little to no results from doing so? Does this happen? If so, why do you think it didn’t work for you?
    Thanks!

    • cuke says:

      Can you say more about what you mean by having a personality type that meditation doesn’t work on?

      I teach meditation and many folks when they come to me say things like “I’m a terrible meditator” or “I just can’t do it” and when they tell me more, it turns out they were trying to do something like “empty their mind” or “stop having thoughts” or “focus on the breath all the time” or they’d received inadequate instruction and had gotten stuck in their practice. Or they had other kinds of problems that needed to be addressed first (ie, certain kinds of mental health problems that can make meditation difficult).

      There are also a variety of different meditation practices and people generally find they take to some forms better than others.

      • meh says:

        In the sense that some things just don’t work for some people; maybe being too left brained would be a barrier?

        I have a background in abstract math, so I immensely enjoy closing my eyes and thinking. I find it very difficult to not think about things the handful of times I have attempted. The guided program I listened to did say it is ok to have thoughts, but to notice them, and then return to focusing on breath. Is this not correct?

        In your teaching experience, are there examples of students giving serious effort to meditating, but not getting the full benefits from it?

        • ilikekittycat says:

          The point isn’t to not think about things, which is obviously impossible; it’s to have the serenity to not have your jimmies rustled when thoughts come up and not get lost in obsessing about them. The reed bending in the hurricane, and not the tree that gets felled trying to resist it.

          • meh says:

            so forgetting about what makes it hard for me in particular, are there some brains that just can not meditate properly? So far no responses from failed meditators, so possibly it does not happen.

        • cuke says:

          The kinds of conversations I have with students who raise the kinds of concerns you do is to ask more about what they mean by “getting the full benefits from it” to understand what the expectations are better and to inquire more about what the moment-to-moment experience is in your mind when you meditate.

          The only folks so far that I’ve met who say “this doesn’t work for me” are people who are beginners and have incorrect assumptions about meditation, have received poor instruction, or have mental health problems that make meditation very difficult for them. Just on that last one, people with OCD and/or strong perfectionist tendencies can get very caught in eddies without knowing it if they don’t have individual instruction and may fail to get benefit from meditation because it’s just another arena of OCD practice for them. People with lots of anxiety and/or trauma have more trouble emotionally tolerating the experience of sitting still with their minds.

          I’ve not met someone who got personal instruction in meditation, stuck with it for six months, and said “this doesn’t work for me.” I meet tons of people who gave it a cursory try with no individual instruction and gave up because it was uncomfortable, hard, or inconvenient. After all, it is uncomfortable, hard and inconvenient for most of us. There’s a small minority of people who seem to find it easy and experience no resistance about keeping it up. And I just want to reiterate that meditation doesn’t refer to one thing but a multitude of different practices, some of which have very different aims.

          There are meditation teachers who have worked with way more people than I have and would have many more data points, so please don’t take my response here as definitive. I don’t see on the face of it why someone who works in an abstract math field and considers themselves to be very left brained couldn’t meditate.

          If you’ve only attempted to meditate a handful of times (I can’t tell if that’s what you’re saying above) and you’ve received no individual instruction/feedback, then I would say that your response that “this doesn’t work for me” is by far the most common response for all beginners, who then give up if they don’t have better instruction to address their specific internal experience.

      • Creutzer says:

        it turns out they were trying to do something like “empty their mind” or “stop having thoughts” or “focus on the breath all the time”

        What’s wrong with the last one? Isn’t that supposedly how you reach the samatha jhanas?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The problem is with “all the time”. A beginner can’t do that, and if they aren’t told really firmly that it’s a goal rather than a prerequisite, they’re likely to give up.

          • cuke says:

            Yes, that’s what I meant, thanks. Also, many forms of meditation give instructions like “30% of your attention on the breath, the other 70% on passing thoughts and sensations” and/or to play around with those percentages. So that the goal isn’t ever to focus 100% of your attention on the breath as a way to “shut out” thoughts.

    • cuke says:

      It occurs to me to add that people meditate to achieve different goals. Some of the ones that get talked about are:

      * to reduce stress or pain in the moment, including to produce other physiological effects like lowering blood pressure or specific muscle tension;
      * to improve concentration, either in the moment or later;
      * to achieve rare ecstatic states;
      * to produce various kinds of insight;
      * to relate to thoughts and emotions with greater equanimity;
      * to increase capacity for compassion for self and others;
      * to disrupt one’s “default mode”;
      * to experience “no-self” and the insights associated with that;
      * to “clear” one’s mind to be able to do subsequent tasks with greater focus or creativity;
      * to improve cognitive/intellectual performance in some way;
      * to improve mood, either in the moment or in an ongoing way;
      * to experience being “in the moment” more.

      In Buddhist psychology, meditation is one practice of many aimed at cultivating awareness of the Four Noble Truths, which are the center of all (I think?) Buddhist traditions: the fact of suffering, the cause of suffering, the possibility of ending suffering, and the path out of suffering (the Eight-Fold Path… those Buddhists love their lists).

      Depending on which Buddhists you talk to, some would say that the “point” of meditation is to practice awareness of the cause of suffering (attachment, aversion, delusion), and to practice the path out of suffering (the experience of no-self). Others would determinedly say that you’re missing the point as soon as you start talking about a “point” to meditation.

      In order for meditation to address suffering in the Buddhist sense, one needs to develop some basic tools, including a capacity for steady concentration/mindfulness in meditation and a capacity for compassion. Other aspects of the Eight-fold path that are seen as inseparable from and essential to progressing in the meditation practice are about ethical living. Meditation is kind of broken when viewed as a thing in itself. Much of the fad of “mindfulness” fails to acknowledge this… though to a certain extent, just having some mindfulness tools on board can be helpful in a limited sort of way.

      From my own perspective, meditation is part of a larger set of practices that are aimed at relating to one’s lived experience differently, a way of changing one’s relationship to one’s thoughts, feelings, experiences so as to reduce suffering. Just doing meditation for concentration or relaxation or even insight isn’t going to get you there.

      So that’s why I asked about what you meant by it not “working for you.” What is the work that you’re hoping it will do? Some practices will better meet some goals than others, but also, all these practices grow out of an integrated tradition/psychology/philosophy and it helps to understand the larger context that “meditation” sits in, unless you are doing it for some very narrow and specific kind of benefit, like how yoga can help with flexibility.

      • meh says:

        thank you for the thoughtful response, i find it useful.

        let me first clarify that I am not claiming meditation definitely doesn’t work for me (I am aware I have not practiced long enough to come to a conclusion), I am just wondering if it is possible for it ‘not to work’, so I can avoid wasted effort.

        So, what do I mean by “not working for me”… well, you have a bullet list of different goals. are any of those impossibly elusive for certain people?

        Finally, quotes like this always confuse me:

        Others would determinedly say that you’re missing the point as soon as you start talking about a “point” to meditation.

        certainly you are not saying there is no ‘point’ to meditation? Only that it should not be talked about?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        One more purpose: To explore the nature of consciousness.

  25. smocc says:

    Star Wars as Medieval Irish epic, and also as an Icelandic saga

    “What was the reason for the Tragic Death of Cenn Obi and the Destruction of Da Thféider’s Hostel? Not difficult that.”

    • Peffern says:

      Can you link the Icelandic one?

    • engleberg says:

      Good stuff. If the Sith were the Sidhe, Da Thfeider was Irish. I think of him as the Dark Invader from the North, a combination of the Southron slurs against Abe Lincoln and Beast Butler.

  26. mscantrell says:

    Relationships for INTJs.

    I had an epiphany this past year when I read a book about validating your partner’s feelings. I had heard that phrase, read descriptions, and never grasped it. Then I found the right book and the concept clicked for me. Using that understanding, I’ve made an ENORMOUS improvement in my marriage.

    I’m struggling now with the principles of you can’t control your partner and your happiness shouldn’t depend on your partner or your partner’s happiness. It feels the same as the other- I’ve heard it a thousand times, read about it, and fundamentally don’t get it. Can anyone recommend a book or article that might help this click for me?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Can you describe what was different about the explanation that convinced you about validating your partner’s feelings?

      • Incurian says:

        As an INTJ, I’d guess it was something like, “If you say these words she’ll be less mad at you all the time. It’s stupid but it works.”

      • mscantrell says:

        The book was The High Conflict Couple.

        The book describes the emotional steps involved in communicating and being understood. Specifically, the author says if you accurately describe what you’re feeling, and your partner convincingly expresses that they understand your message, you will tend to become calmer. If they express that they reject, disapprove of, or don’t care about your message, you will tend to become more agitated. (Agitation leads to inaccurate communication like name-calling, and unhelpful decisions like throwing things.)

        Prior to reading it, I had assumed that saying “here’s why you’re wrong” absolutely implied “I understood what you just said”.
        I didn’t get the part about the emotional impact of thoroughly expressing that you understood the message, or that that can easily be separate from agreeing with the message. I also paid very little attention to my own emotions versus her actions. Making statements about her actions prompted disagreement; she didn’t experience her actions the same way I did. Making statements about my own experiences/emotions allowed and encouraged her to express that she understood it. And a the risk of sounding like a jerk here, more than once I did say, “No, you don’t get to tell me what I’m feeling here. I know, and I’m telling you.”

        I also had backed myself into a little corner where I never expressed what I wanted until I was so desperate that I was actually demanding it. So she never heard anything from me except infrequent desperate demands. When she couldn’t/wouldn’t fulfill them all, it was really crushing to me. It was not at ALL intuitive to me that the solution was to express many, many more of my wants! But that was the solution. It meant she could understand and acknowledge at least most of them, and she could have a spectrum, a larger sample size, to see how important each was relative to each other.

        So. Now I’m hoping there’s a similar book for this business of “Your happiness shouldn’t depend on your partner’s happiness.” That currently baffles me. If I love her, am I not supposed to care about her happiness? If I’m not pathologically calloused, am I not supposed to be stung when she accuses me of something, or glares at me, or gripes about me to someone?
        And how about “You can’t control your partner”? Should I not try to do the things that will cause her to not divorce me? Things that will make her happy? Things that will make her want to have sex with me? Is there a difference between “control your partner” and “choose actions based on the super-predictable responses the actions will elicit from her”? Those look the same to me!

        • maia says:

          “You can’t control your partner” and “your happiness shouldn’t depend on your partner’s happiness” are kinda-exaggerated versions of advice for people in particular situations. So they may not apply to you.

          “You can’t control your partner” basically means “Your control over what another person does is limited” and also “Don’t try to control parts of your partner’s life that are not your business.” People will write into advice columns asking questions like “How do I make my partner do X?” and the response is usually either of the form (if they haven’t asked their partner) “Ask your partner if they will do X for you” or (if they have already asked and the partner obviously doesn’t want to) “You can’t make your partner do X.” You can explain to your partner that something is important to you and that you want it, but ultimately they are independent agents and choosing whether to fulfill your wants/needs. You can choose your response to that, but trying to “force” them into doing what you want after they have expressed that they don’t want to will generally have bad results.

          There are also things like “I want my partner to stop wearing such unfashionable clothing,” where trying to control your partner’s behavior on an ongoing basis will be bad for both of you. You because it’s really exhausting to be constantly nagging someone else, and your partner because it’s horrible to be constantly nagged. It’s just not your job to handle personal things like that for them (note: exceptions may apply, depending on the structure of your relationship! But for most people it makes sense to have some things that are “your own job” and “your partner’s job” to manage).

          “Your happiness shouldn’t depend on your partner’s happiness” essentially means “you should live your own life.” You should do things that make you happy independent of your partner, and have a support system outside your partner, and try to be stable even when your partner is having emotional problems. This way both of you are more resilient. For example, I am a person who gets depressed sometimes. My fiance used to always get really upset and freaked out when this happened, and this made me feel even worse because I felt pressured to change my emotions to make him feel better, and I couldn’t. These days he will still respond to it, and be unhappy about it, but he does his best not to get too freaked out and I do my best to insulate him from the worst parts of it. Another way to phrase this might be “You should try to be happy even when your partner is sad.” If your emotions are totally dependent on your partner’s, it is overwhelming for you, because you can’t control those as well, and overwhelming for them, because it’s stressful to have to think about how every little decision will affect their partner as well as themselves (“should I eat a mango today? He might be upset if I don’t eat my favorite food, even though I’m sort of sick of them…”). Plus, it’s just easier to handle a crisis when at least one person is still emotionally okay.

        • Another Throw says:

          “Your happiness shouldn’t depend on your partner’s happiness.” That currently baffles me…. And how about “You can’t control your partner”?

          The two are frequently related. For the purposes of illustration, take the first proposition to the extreme: Your happiness is completely depend on your partner’s happiness.

          Most people have a strong drive to control how they feel–to ensure they feel happiness instead of pain. In the absolute dependency case, all of those efforts become redirected at controlling how your partner feels. Your begin to substitute your control of your partner’s feelings for their own. Since an enormous part of happiness is having control, they will naturally feel bad because of it. This becomes a self reinforcing cycle.

          If on the other hand, your partner’s happiness is just one of a cornucopia of happiness that you experience–everything from job performance to the weather has its part to play–you need not exert control over your partners feelings any more than you do the weather. I mean, sure, everyone would like to move somewhere with better weather, but…

          There is range of how dependent your happiness may be on your partner’s. If it is far enough down the scale that you feel a need to control your partner’s feelings then you need to diversify your happiness portfolio instead. So, do you do the things that make your partner happy because you want to or you need to?

          Edited to add: I haven’t thought about it rigorously, but I suspect all attempts to control one’s partner are rooted in attempting to control how that partner makes you feel through various vectors. “You’re going to wear that??” included. Some level of control is necessary and proper. Finding the right balance between how their actions impact your feelings, and allowing them enough of control to not negatively impact them is the crux of the matter.

          • Doesntliketocomment says:

            I was going to chime in with something similar from the inverse perspective: Imagine your partner’s happiness was completely dependent on your own. If your objective was maximizing their happiness, you would be forced to present a happy front at all times, regardless of your actual mood, and the necessity of keeping up the charade would become a source of stress. Your partner would never be able to respond to your emotional needs or stress, because you would be actively hiding those from them, and likely you would grow to resent your partner’s lack of compassion even as you prevented them from exercising it. Eventually they would seem something like a parasite.

            I think the optimal state is one where you and your partner have two reservoirs of happiness to draw from. If you are unhappy, for whatever reason, they might be happy and that could be a reassurance to you, and vice versa. In this case, seeing to your partner’s happiness is a goal, one that enhances, but is not a firm prerequisite, for your own happiness.

            Unfortunately, I’ve been the parasite, and it (in part) destroyed a relationship. In the end, knowing she the sole source of my happiness was an emotional drain on her, and left her in a constant state of guilt. So let me be a cautionary tale.

        • wobbler says:

          I am super interested in this myself; If I’m INTP or INTJ varies depending on the test I take and the mood I am if I take it, but the INT-ness is very very solid)

          I haven’t (knowingly) had the former problem much (although backing myself into a corner by not expressing what I want often enough, and then framing them as demands, feels plausible)

          The latter problem of “Your happiness shouldn’t depend on your partner’s happiness” is something I am struggling with a lot too, for exactly the same reasons you point out.

          EDIT: What do I do if I have a hobby that makes me happy independently (say to a level of 10 hedons), and a partner who makes me even happier (say 15 hedons-worth), but then that partner hates me doing that hobby? Utilitarianism suggests that I should drop the hobby, rather than the partner, but then I become fully dependent on my partner for my happiness?

          • Aapje says:

            @wobbler

            It depends on various variables. Does your partner have a valid reason to be unhappy or is it evidence for a abusive/overly controlling personality? Can you make the partner accept the hobby by making a sacrifice of a few hedons? Is there an acceptable other hobby that gives, let’s say, 7 hedons? Can you easily pick up the hobby again if the relationship fails or is it very hard to get back into it? How likely do you think it is that the relationship will last? How do you expect the happiness due to your partner to change in the future? What do you think the consequences are of losing those 15 hedons vs sticking with a more stable 10 hedons? It matters if it is temporary deeper depression that you can deal with or suicide. Etc.

          • wobbler says:

            @Aapje

            I’m not sure of all those details yet. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable: Essentially it boils down to scheduling conflicts — I like going to international events that she isn’t interested in, which she’s OK with *unless* it conflicts with a date that’s important to her. Which they always seem to be. So I either don’t go and fall out of touch with some of my international friends (some of these events are only annual, so it’s the only chance I get to meet them face-to-face) and keep my partner happy, or go to them and upset her. I’m even trying to offer alternate dates where we can do stuff before or afterward, but that’s accepted only begrudgingly or with an air of martyrdom.

            Previously, I would have automatically given up the thing which interests me, and thus ended up fully reliant on her for my happiness. But that doesn’t work out great in the long run, IME. But this way doesn’t seem great _either_.

          • Aapje says:

            @wobbler

            That hobby doesn’t seem like an all or nothing proposition. There should be room for compromise there. I would rate/rank the events by importance to you and then ask your partner to rate/rank the dates by importance to her. Then you can try to make a deal where you give up some events and she gives up some dates. Try to reason what is fair beforehand and then fight fairly hard for that deal. You can throw in some compensation like you already did to sweeten the deal and/or get more events to go to.

            Such a negotiation makes it explicit that you are both giving something up, so it ought not feel to her that she is merely giving up stuff for you, but also that you give stuff up for her. I think that such mutual willingness is necessary for a healthy relationship and that if she is unwilling to do so, it is likely that your needs will be ignored in many other ways in the future and I would suggest preferring being single over getting pushed around.

            Don’t be afraid to stop the negotiation and start sulking if you feel that the deal she wants is unfair, to force your partner to reevaluate the relationship. Even if you later end up taking the deal, it establishes that you have boundaries and she pushed up to them.

            You seem to have a strong tendency to be a pushover, which I would advise trying to remedy. That behavior can often repel women because they reasonably tend to want a person who stands up for them (which she can’t reasonable expect if you don’t stand up to her either) and/or cause crises when you have been ignoring your needs too much. It’s better to make it clear to the other person where your limits are and stick to them, than to make your partner get used to getting her way and later trying to reign this in again, because you can’t stay healthy that way.

            Your behavior may result from being desperate for a partner, but I think that being a pushover generally makes it more likely to be in bad relationships that don’t last and less likely to get into good relationships that endure; even if it emotionally may not feel like this is the case.

            PS. An common issue seems to be that long term relationships often results in a division of labor where the man focuses (primarily) on maintaining the income and the woman maintains the social contacts. Then a split results in the woman losing much income (although the state often intervenes here, reducing the extent of this issue) and the man losing most or all of his social contacts (which is not remedied in any way by the state). I would personally suggest recognizing this pattern and not letting it happen too much to you, given the instability of modern relationships.

    • Garrett says:

      How’d you even manage to get to the point of being married? I consider it a rare event if I can make it to the 3rd date.

  27. actinide meta says:

    Mechanism Design: Constitutional Anarchy

    First, a just-so story.

    Imagine a Hobbesian state of nature: all war against all. The strong prey on the weak and sleep with one eye open. Occasionally a few strong men band together, the better to prey on others, but such alliances quickly fall, to treachery from within or the jealousy of outsiders. Life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” and people speak of summoning the demon Leviathan to rule them.

    But one day a strong group tries a different kind of “alliance”: they publically agree not to fight one another or anyone else who so agrees. Others find it in their interests to join in this agreement (for protection against the people already in it), and this incentive gets stronger as the group grows. Defections against the agreement are swiftly punished by opportunists (who see the opportunity to profit from violence without breaking the agreement and opening themselves to retaliation). Perhaps eventually the agreement spreads enough, and the level of violence drops enough, that a civil society can start to form. Yet there is no sovereign, and no state.

    An omnilateral peace treaty is an agreement that:
    a) Anyone can join as an equal party
    b) Binds only its parties
    c) Incentivizes non-parties to join, by limiting the behavior of parties toward other parties more strictly than the behavior of parties toward non-parties

    An OPT can serve as something like what people want to call a “social contract.” That terminology smuggles in an unjustified presumption of justice: a true contract is probably (though not necessarily) just, because the parties made it voluntarily for their mutual benefit. But an OPT (like other “social contracts”) is not a contract: by definition an omnilateral peace treaty is a coerced agreement, as likely to be unjust as to be just. Any justice will have to come from the content, not the form, of the agreement.

    An OPT is a powerful mechanism for stabilizing an equilibrium that doesn’t specifically depend on a monopolistic organization (thus, an “anarchy”), but can also (for better or worse) enforce principles that might not otherwise arise or be stable. You might call this kind of society a constitutional anarchy. Let’s try to come up with a less crude example.

    This is the Pax, version 0.1 (not for production use!):

    1. I will not use or threaten violence against anyone who abides by the Pax
    2. I will respect the property of anyone who abides by the Pax.
    3. I will pay restitution for damages that I do to anyone who abides by the Pax.
    4. Whenever possible, I will submit my disputes with any person to a fair and neutral arbitrator.
    5. I will carry effectively unlimited insurance for my liabilities to others.
    6. I will give away one eighth of the value of what I consume to charitable causes of my choice, receiving nothing in return.
    7. I will not threaten the freedoms of others by obtaining or attempting to obtain a monopoly of violent power or property
    8. I will commit in a public and non-repudiable way to abide by the Pax, and to my choices of arbitrators as they may change from time to time.

    What does this buy us? 1-2 give us non-aggression and property rights between signatories. The latter restriction provides self-enforcement. These rules apply to everyone in the society, so they also place important restrictions on the behavior of security providers. 3-4 provide a foundation for tort law. 5 is a small imposition on freedom which deals with the challenge of recklessness – it is the insurance market that will decide whether you can own a tank – and makes safety regulation the business of people with proper incentives. Liability insurers will also be a stabilizing force in the arbitration market, because they get stuck with a good part of the bill for any private wars! 6 is fiscal anarchy, another small imposition on freedom that provides for public goods and for those in need. I think it makes this society much stronger and better able to defend itself against invaders and defectors, but I would be happier with an endogenous way of setting the optimal “tax rate”. 7 serves three purposes: it reifies the common sense intuition that if someone is clearly trying to conquer the world you don’t have to wait until they are ready to attack to do something about it, it provides a check on the possibility of defense or security services being a natural monopoly, and it provides some peace of mind to people like @Wrong Species who are afraid that people will, through individually peaceful steps, obtain so much property as to be able to oppress others. I think the latter concern is unlikely to ever be realized, but I could be mistaken and it does no harm to make it clear that it shouldn’t be allowed. 8 adds a reputational cost to defecting, creates common knowledge that the Pax is the law of the land, and makes the arbitration market run a little more smoothly since if you want to insist on a weird arbitrator you at least have to pay the social (and insurance!) cost of that in advance rather than waiting until you are in a dispute.

    A lot of important things are deliberately omitted because I think the arbitration, insurance, charity, or security markets can best decide them: contract law, all the details of property law, redistribution, how two people and their respectively chosen arbitrators agree on actual arbitrator(s) and process, some equivalent of class action lawsuits, which would serve a vital function in this society as a defense against diffuse negative externalities (I’m personally charmed by @David Friedman’s description of a society (medieval iceland?) where rights to sue can be traded and aggregated, and I think that approach would scale really well with modern technology and institutions), the exact definitions of “effectively unlimited” insurance, “receiving nothing in return” or “monopoly”. As a “constitutional” document, there is a delicate tradeoff between the OPT being clear enough that people know when someone is defecting, and being vague enough to permit the evolution of institutions for the better. The hope is that the civil institutions of this society, all of which are subject to vigorous market competition, would tend to push the law in a better direction than political institutions do, while the explicit protections in the “constitution” protect against broad classes of market failures.

    The details of these institutions matter at least as much as the text of the OPT! This post is already long enough without my recapping all the ideas others have suggested for anarcho-capitalist institutions. Many of these ideas could coexist (and, therefore, compete) under the Pax. For example, you could have Machinery-of-Freedom-style protection agencies that bundle security and arbitration services, or vertically integrated microstates that bundle property and security, etc. There are also “new” options available that are dependent on the unique features of the Pax. For example, “defense” organizations might collect charitable donations (for providing the public good of defense) and also sell private insurance for disaster rescue (since there’s lots of overlap between disaster aid and military logistics).

    With no legislature or executive, such political conflict as this society has is likely to focus on the arbitration market. This is a separate issue from individual defections. People favoring very different interpretations of the law will be able to find arbitrators willing to enforce their preferred version among themselves. They however have very strong incentives (including those reflected in insurance premiums!) to choose arbitrators that are able to successfully compromise in cases involving people from “other” legal systems, and even stronger incentives to not be widely seen as defecting from the Pax itself. But this seems like a particularly good area to try to explore in some kind of simulation, to see if anyone can manage to destabilize it.

    I think a well functioning modern society along these lines would be very peaceful – insurance companies and arbitrators have every reason to hate wars – but I would hesitate, as a state, to pick a fight with it. Unlike other anarchies, these people can coordinate pretty well to fight a defensive war (via all that mandatory charity). Unlike states, they can’t coordinate well to surrender, and they’re more creative. You can “win” the war, blow up their defense industry, and have tanks sitting in their city squares, and while you’re trying to set up an occupation government in a place where no one dares take a government job, a respectable fraction of their GDP is still going into dark web cryptocurrency assassination contracts on your leaders, and the density of anti-aircraft fire is higher than at the beginning of the war, and there is a kickstarter for some kind of individually targeted biological weapons, with some big names attached, that has raised $500 million. Best to just leave them alone in the first place.

    Obviously these ideas are very new, and I’m sure I haven’t explained them fully in this already excessively long comment. In particular I haven’t tried to wrestle with the morality of all this. Feedback, improvements, and proposed attacks welcome!

    • SamChevre says:

      A really good historical example of an OPT (new language to me, but helpful) is the original Geneva Conventions.

      Follow this set of rules, and everyone who follows this set of rules will treat you better than they will treat anyone who doesn’t.

      If you:
      1)Fight in uniform
      2) With a command structure

      Then you:
      1) Cannot be questioned
      2) Cannot be punished for participating in the war
      3) Must be kept in reasonable conditions during the war and released afterward

      The addition of non-state actors under Article 3 really confused the structure, as it was no longer a quid pro quo like the original structure.

    • Wrong Species says:

      This whole thing seems to be built on the assumption that once inside the agreement, no one would ever have an incentive to defect. But history is a crash course lesson in people defecting because it’s in their own interest so I really don’t see how that assumption is justified.

      • actinide meta says:

        I’m not claiming that the stabilizing effects of the agreement are infinitely strong! But I think that in combination with other mechanisms they can be very strong. There are really big advantages to not being widely seen as “outlaw”. Only a very powerful organization can possibly find that to their advantage, and a system can and should be designed to prevent any organization from becoming that powerful to begin with.

        Tell me, why do you think states are sometimes stable? There is no actual Leviathan, no single actor that can overpower everyone else. Governments have to be made up of individual people who are capable of defection. Yet kings are often obeyed, and democracies often transfer power peacefully. Why?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Governments are powerful because in the way they are set up, defecting is incredibly costly. If I as an individual oppose the state, the imbalance between us guarantees my loss. That’s why states work. In Hobbesian anarchy, we might each have weapons that are incredibly powerful. By giving it to one organization, we’re signaling to the others that we can’t do as much to hurt them so we can back down(of course, one individual like a King could oppress us but checks and balances should mitigate that to some extent). We give up some freedom for security.

          In your scenario, you aren’t taking away anyone’s weapons, you’re just making an agreement not to hurt anyone part of the agreement. That sounds great but defection is trivially easy and I can attack when it’s advantageous. Since you know that, the agreement is basically useless. You assume that one person breaking the agreement means everyone else would jump at the chance to take their weapons. But they could just as easily be scared of losing their own.

          Think back to history. Japan was not “lawfully” allowed to invade China. But did anyone stop them? No, because a war with Japan means you have to give up your men and resources to fight them and China isn’t really worth it. The US only went to war once it was declared on them.

          • actinide meta says:

            The state is not literally an individual. The weapons are still there, in the hands of (many) individual people with divergent desires. Yet these armed individuals also can’t defect easily. They restrain each other. There is a Schelling point, where everyone mostly obeys the king or the constitution or whatever, and as long as that coordination equilibrium holds defection from it will be punished, and so the equilibrium does hold. It helps if people think the equilibrium is just, and are more satisfied with it than the uncertainty that would follow a big change.

            There’s no reason why every self-stabilizing equilibrium has to satisfy the definition of a state. I’m trying to explore other parts of the space, using some of the same underlying tools that make states work to make anarchies work better.

            Your question about who will pay the costs of punishing defectors is addressed by various mechanisms under the Pax. For example:
            * Private security services (“anarchist police”) can be paid via subscriptions, premiums, or a la carte, to protect individuals and property.
            * Public defense or security organizations (“anarchist militaries”) can be funded by charitable donations, which there are guaranteed to be a fair amount of
            * Since everyone has to have unlimited liability insurance, it is almost always possible to recover damages from a criminal. There will be no shortage of people and organizations eager to get a piece of this pie
            * If the crimes you’ve committed are such that no one is willing to insure you as a free agent at a price you can pay, then you will have to sacrifice some freedom to be more easily monitored by a specialist insurer (“anarchist jail”)

            There’s lots of room for ingenuity in improving on these ideas, and I think it’s a very good thing that they are subject to peaceful competition. But I really don’t think it would be difficult to improve on the present world, where apparently no one can be bothered to test a rape kit, and courts have consistently ruled that the police have no duty to protect citizens.

            (Maybe I confused you with my “just so story”; in that context I didn’t try to get into this question at all. I just assumed that, for whatever reason, there are ample reasons to attack anyone in that world.)

          • Wrong Species says:

            The difference is that in a state, you need a lot of coordination to overthrow it. Think about nuclear weapons. Yes, we can create these treaties to try and limit nuclear proliferation and use our economic power to enforce it. But let’s say that the only thing we cared about was reducing the possibility of nuclear war. Then our best method would simply be to empower the United Nations to the point that they are the only ones in charge of nukes and they have the authority to keep anyone else from trying to develop them. In your scenario, it takes a hell of a lot of coordination to sustain an equilibrium. Under a state, it takes a hell of a lot of coordination to change the equilibrium. Which do you you think is more stable?

            As far as who will pay, these all just seem like libertarian thought experiments. Whenever states break down in real life, you don’t get anarcho-capitalism, you get warlords. Why should I, as a skeptic, believe that “Dispute Resolution Organizations” would naturally function without turning in to a state?

          • actinide meta says:

            I still feel like you haven’t fully processed the argument that I’m trying to make. A state is just a collection of individuals, and coordination mechanisms that punish defectors. A very simple model is that most individuals won’t defect from a social equilibrium where

            a) they are likely to suffer severe consequences for defection, provided that the equilibrium doesn’t permanently collapse,

            and

            b) they don’t believe the equilibrium is extremely likely to permanently collapse

            And under normal circumstances, if people believe (a) is common knowledge, they are willing to believe (b) by induction.

            To have (a), among other things it has to be pretty easy to tell whether someone is defecting. The simplest and easiest way to tell if an individual is defecting from your coordination equilibrium is to make it hierarchical (are you doing what the person above you says to do? no? then you’re defecting), and that’s why most primitive coordination technologies are very hierarchical. And people deployed more or less exactly the argument you are making to explain why democracy could never work. But in fact, with clever mechanisms, it’s possible to build a government where the leader has to step down when he loses an election, because everyone knows that he has to, and he can’t count on the people with guns following him if he doesn’t. And now we have lots of experience proving that can work. (Obviously we are at a much earlier stage with these new ideas!)

            The Pax society is also a coercive coordination equilibrium of this exact form. People who defect get arrested, tried, and fined or thrown in jail. The organizations that do this just aren’t geographical monopolies, and they get paid for in a slightly different way than you are used to.

            Overthrowing the Pax should require a similar level of coordination as overthrowing a state. More, even, because it will be harder to take over its coordination mechanisms for your own use. There is no military monopoly that can easily organize a coup. You will have to organize a coalition from scratch (or at least from a bunch of competitive defense organizations) that can overcome all the defense organizations, plus whatever new efforts will be organized to resist you, out of people sufficiently certain that they can defeat their entire society that whatever reward you are promising them outweighs the risks of the fight plus the punishments they will face if they lose. And you will have to get all these people to conspire without anyone letting the cat out of the bag, which is impossible. In short, you will probably wind up in anarcho-jail.

            If you have a specific attack in mind – a way of subverting these institutions or building a coercive state “atop” them – I am very interested to hear it and see if I know how they could respond. It’s very possible that there are important attacks I’ve overlooked! But I need more to go on.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There’s a three step process here:

            1. Set up agreement
            2. ???
            3. Stable equilibrium

            What is step 2? I don’t understand why the first defection wouldn’t break the whole system. Yes, democracies are different from monarchies but they are still states. Leviathon doesn’t require much of you besides following the law and paying taxes. But your system works on everyone deciding that they are going to attack the guy who defects. But while people may want someone to attack that guy, they have a lot to lose from doing it themselves. If they can’t get enough coordination from others, than they risk losing everything. Again, this is what you see throughout history. If you were right, then everyone should have decided to declare war on Japan after they invaded China. But they didn’t. Why do you think that is? Your whole idea should work with currently existing states in general. After all, we’re living under international anarchy. So why can’t we have world peace tomorrow? Why doesn’t the real world seem to be following your societal model?

          • actinide meta says:

            You are saying that punishing defectors is a public goods problem.

            There are at least two ways to solve this problem:

            1. Make it a private good for someone: the victims of your defection, the insurance company that is on the hook for damages, or professional litigators who can get paid out of your and your insurance company’s pockets for prosecuting you. The Pax makes all of these the case. You can get rich fighting crime.

            2. Coordinate to pay for public goods. The Pax does this through its mandatory charitable giving (“anarcho-taxes”). People are going to have to pay ~11% of their income to some charity, and if private mechanisms aren’t doing an adequate job of limiting defections, people are going to be eager to contribute to charities that are doing a good job at that. Charitable organizations can do everything from pay for prosecutions to operate police or military forces that go looking for offenders and deal with them. But these organizations are subject to the Pax and have to buy insurance like everyone else; they don’t have sovereign immunity like a state and will get in big trouble if they start breaking the rules themselves. I think the charitable mechanism will be unnecessary for the vast majority of individual defections (“crime”) but much more important for discouraging large scale attempts at conquest or invasion.

          • actinide meta says:

            I’ll add that there are lots of ways in which the anarchy between states isn’t a promising one in which to build something like the Pax. One is that it’s not clear that states generally want to eliminate war; wars are often profitable to a society’s leaders with the costs borne by others. Another is that the society is tiny and extremely unequal; it’s very challenging to have an “anarchy” when one “person” is as strong as all the others together. And despite all that, nations have in fact entered into multilateral agreements, like as someone brought up above the Geneva conventions, intended to reduce or limit conflict.

            You seem to think that I think that an OPT will literally function by itself. In actuality, as I said, the institutions surrounding it are at least as important. Your step 2 is “found a bunch of insurance companies, security companies, arbitration associations, a huge body of case law, defense charities, military contractors, etc.”

            Have you looked at my response to Futhington below?

        • Futhington says:

          I can think of at least one organisation that could become powerful enough by entirely non-objectionable means: a family.

          Consider: I, my three brothers and each of our four wives in our early twenties settle down and found a community where we agree to follow the Pax. We have two children with each of the wives (hardly an onerous burden) while doing something to support ourselves, say we farm.

          Once those kids are old enough, and there’s forty of us now, we start inviting in wives/husbands for them all. Even if we just pair them off if they have 2-3 kids each in their early twenties we’re looking at over 150 people.

          From there we put a lot of effort in: we discourage association outside the community (let’s call it what it’s becoming: the tribe), educate within the community, isolate ourselves where possible except for our annual spouse-seeking pilgrimages and encourage loyalty to our paterfamilias and to relatives in general. We start breaking the Pax between ourselves and we’re outright hostile to anyone from outside who tries to convince us to follow it.

          How many people want to swing from a tree just to make a big tribe respect the Pax for its own members? Defection from any agreement to stop us is easy and encouraged to keep your skin, for members of the tribe it means losing their support structure and emotional bonds. Then when he feels the time is right our paterfamilias can call on the loyal ties of family to give him a small army that he can use to not just defend himself but also to attack others.

          There are basically three ways to stop him right now: Have some organisation coordinate everyone to defend everyone else, either by providing incentives in the form of pay/property or by coercing them; have everybody act in a 100% rational and self-sacrificing manner to coordinate against the onsalught of the tribe and hope they can win; form your own tribe, ensuring the loyalty of your community members through blood/marriage ties to ensure your tribe can beat ours. In one of these outcomes you can successfully preserve the anarchy with no guarantee you can do it again, in one you’ve just sent us back to the days before non-tribal states were formed, in the other you’ve reinvented the state. Pick your poison.

          • actinide meta says:

            REALSURE INSURANCE EXCHANGE CONFERENCE BRIDGE
            BEGIN MACHINE GENERATED TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT
            HOST: JEFF JEFFERSON, INTERNAL COUNSEL AND SENIOR RISK MANAGER
            DIAL OUT: RANDALL PATERFAMILIAS [NUMBER REDACTED]

            RANDALL: Hello?
            JEFF: Hi, I’m Jeff Jefferson representing RealSure Insurance Exchange. Are you Randall Paterfamilias?
            RANDALL: Yeah, so?
            JEFF: According to our records, you are delinquent in insurance premiums for your group excess liability policy. We’d like to get that cleared up.
            RANDALL: We don’t want your insurance.
            JEFF: Can you confirm that you have obtained Pax compliant excess liability insurance from another insurer?
            RANDALL: It’s none of your business.
            JEFF: As I’m sure you’re aware from reading your policy, if you go uninsured, we are fully responsible for your excess liabilities for twelve months after the date that we attest publicly that you are no longer in compliance with the Pax. That makes it very much our business to make sure that you remain compliant. Accordingly, if we can’t get such assurance from you, we will have to resort to arbitration.
            RANDALL: You and your arbitration and your Pax can go straight to hell, and if any of you show your face around here I’ll fill it full of lead.
            CALL DROPPED: RANDALL PATERFAMILIAS

            DIAL OUT: JOHN GLENN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT RISK MANAGEMENT

            JOHN: Hello?
            JEFF: Hi, John, this is Jeff. We have an urgent problem. We have a group excess policy here, a hundred and fifty people and three hundred guns. It went delinquent and got flagged for me because of the size. The client just told me to go to hell.
            JOHN: Well, it sounds like we need to litigate it then.
            JEFF: Yes, I want to treat it as an emergency. I have a bad feeling about this one, and if god forbid those people went on some kind of rampage, we could be on the hook for billions. But it might not be cheap to solve.
            JOHN: Billions? Well, a hundred and fifty armed people… I guess I see your point. Run with it, I trust your judgement. But keep me updated.
            JEFF: Of course.
            JOHN: Good luck.
            CALL DROPPED: JOHN GLENN

            DIAL OUT: CINDY BLAINE, JUST ARBITRATION

            CINDY: Hello?
            JEFF: Your honor, this is Jeff Jefferson representing RealSure Insurance Exchange. We have a dispute that requires emergency arbitration.
            CINDY: OK, give me a moment… I’m recording this. State your complaint.
            JEFF: The defendant, Randall Paterfamilias, is willfully delinquent in his excess liability policy, which covers a large group, and stands in open defiance of the Pax. He threatened us on the phone, though frankly we’d drop that if we can get a peaceful resolution here. Pax five, eight, and one. I’m sending you a transcript and the policy documents.
            CINDY: All right… Why is this an emergency? It doesn’t sound like you are in danger personally, and this delinquency sounds like a basically commercial dispute. And since you’re the defendant’s insurer of record, if there are large damages you’ll be paying them to yourself! Why can’t you file this in writing?
            JEFF: We’re liable for the defendant’s actions, and he has a large and well armed group. We’re concerned about his intent and want to minimize our damages. That’s why the emergency filing. Nothing would make us happier than to be reassured that this is just a billing dispute and we can all sleep soundly this weekend. To your second point, though it’s true that we’re sort of on both sides of the dispute economically, that just increases our incentive to see it settled quickly and cheaply. What we’ve found in these Pax five cases is that if we don’t file, a professional litigator will file basically the same case, with us standing behind the defendant, and that’s multiparty litigation which is more expensive. This approach is quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial.
            CINDY: “Quicker, cheaper, and less adversarial.” Your honeyed words suggest to me that you have been around the litigation block before. All right, I’ll allow the emergency proceeding provisionally. I’m contacting the defendant’s arbitrator of record.

            DIAL OUT: DONALD DEWEY, PEACEFUL RESOLUTIONS LLC

            DONALD: Hello?
            CINDY: Donald, this is Cindy Blaine with Just Arbitration. I have an emergency dispute filed against your client Randall Paterfamilias.
            DONALD: OK, I see your e-mail too. Let me call him, please hold.

            DONALD: I spoke to my client. Former client. What he said to me isn’t printable, but it’s clear that he is refusing arbitration. Under the circumstances, Cindy, I think this case is in your court. As it were.
            CINDY: Thanks, Donald. Send your bill to me, I’ll see that it’s paid by whoever winds up responsible for costs.
            DONALD: Thanks, Cindy.
            CALL DROPPED: DONALD DEWEY

            CINDY: Jeff?
            JEFF: We’re adding Pax four to our complaint, of course. And we move to proceed in absentia.
            CINDY: I’m thinking… I’m concerned about this being a totally one sided proceeding. The defendant has made it clear that he won’t arbitrate, but this policy covers a hundred and fifty people. Have all of them rejected the Pax? Shouldn’t they have representation? I’m going to recommend counsel for them, unless you’re going to object to the cost.
            JEFF: No objection.
            CINDY: I’m sending an e-mail.
            JEFF: If you don’t mind, your honor, in the interests of speed I will make some other calls while we wait and try to put a solution together.
            CINDY: Absolutely.

            INCOMING CALL: ALICE HOWE

            ALICE: Your Honor. I received your e-mail. I made an attempt to contact my prospective clients, and was rebuffed by an extremely rude man who I assume is Defendant. I’m prepared to take the case as a Williams trustee.
            CINDY: You are so appointed.
            ALICE: Then I’m eager to hear plaintiff’s proposed resolution of the case.
            CINDY: Jeff?
            JEFF: We’ve been in contact with an expert hostage negotiator, d.b.a. Don’t Shoot. On his recommendation, we’ve also negotiated with a military contractor, Chao’s Armor. They can have, I’m not a military man, but a bunch of tanks and infantry in armored cars, on site in four hours. There’s also another contractor that supplies a chemical weapon that they describe as “nonlethal,” and the negotiator describes as “usually less lethal than one fifty five explosive.” They won’t be on site, but Chao’s will have that equipment in case things really go badly. The military guys will surround the compound and then the negotiator will try to get them to accept arbitration.
            ALICE: What are the economics of these arrangements?
            JEFF: That’s a private matter, not a subject of this dispute.
            ALICE: On the contrary, you’re describing a situation where a lot of very dangerous equipment is pointed at my clients, and which is likely to move way too fast for even emergency litigation. It’s going to be out of your hands, and my hands, and the court’s hands. I think the details of the incentives of the people who will be holding the guns are very relevant.
            CINDY: I agree. Jeff?
            JEFF: All right. We’re paying Don’t Shoot a flat fee, and they have liability only in case of their negligence. They say that their clients are experts in risk pricing, and that the detailed outcome record that they supply is both proof that they do a good job and ample incentive for them to keep it that way. And they’re right, we had an underwriter look at their record and it’s very impressive. I can forward that report to you if you want. Chao’s, we wanted them to take on liability for the outcome but they won’t do it. They’re also only liable in case of negligence. The contract with the weapons supplier, well, we might have to file another lawsuit after this is over. But their people won’t be on site so it’s not relevant to Alice’s objection.
            ALICE: You say Chao’s wouldn’t take on more liability. At any price?
            JEFF: They wanted $24 million to take on strict liability, on top of the operational cost, and that’s – our own risk assessment, is that that’s way overpriced.
            ALICE: The defendant should pay for this to be done in a way that minimizes the risk to my innocent clients, including children. If you can’t find a contractor that will take the job for less, maybe it’s your own risk modeling that’s in error.
            JEFF: Chao’s is an expert in military operations, not in risk pricing.
            ALICE: Nevertheless, having them have no incentive not to kill my clients endangers them. And you will be liable if they get hurt!
            JEFF: Yes, so we already internalize the risks to your clients.
            CINDY: I’m finding Alice more convincing here.
            JEFF: All right, we’ll pay to transfer liability to Chao’s. At least that caps our losses.
            ALICE: I also think we should hear from a second expert besides this one negotiator. Are tanks really called for here?
            CINDY: I’ll give you two hours if you want to bring in your own expert.
            ALICE: Honestly, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that we don’t know what’s happening in there. My clients could be in danger from the defendant, too. If RealSure will agree to pay for a consultation with a second expert, I’ll do it in parallel while the contractor is getting into position. If they have a sharply different opinion, we can discuss that.
            CINDY: Jeff?
            JEFF: We’ll pay reasonable costs for a consultation only.
            CINDY: All right. I’m going to write up an opinion and an order regarding the use of force. In the meantime, you’re authorized to get those tanks moving toward the site, but no more.
            JEFF: Can I bring Chao’s counsel onto the call? They will obviously care about the details of that order, and have agreed in the interest of time to accept you as an arbitrator.
            CINDY: Of course.
            END TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT

            Your move.

    • syrrim says:

      I’ve been thinking of late of the concept of topography of a society. That is, society can be thought of as a graph, where each individual is a node, and authority of one individual over another is represented by a directed edge, with a certain strength. If I am able to get you to do something I want, this represents authority. In this graph, we will find, the authority flowing into a node, and the authority flowing out, generally sum to the same value. This may not seem obvious, but when we consider rational individuals, we find that this is often the case. Let’s say someone directs you to perform some undesirable action. You do not wish to, and so you do not comply. This individual must now do something to force you to comply. He might:

      – Offer you money, or some other resource. If he can use this resource for barter, then so can you.

      – Threaten you with physical violence. In order to have a viable threat, he must have a weapon, of sorts, which out-mans yours. This superior weapon may come from greater wit, but it more likely comes from greater money, which he must have gotten from somewhere. If you are barred from purchasing a similar weapon, then whoever has so barred you is who he derives authority from.

      There are certain cases where we cannot make this assumption, such as natural power imbalances (someone who is naturally smarter, perhaps). However these are few enough, and hopefully irrelevant at a societal scale.

      Let us use this tool to analyze classical societies. The democracy in which we live may be analyzed quite readily as such: we have a system of police officers, who derive their authority from legislature, who derive their authority from us.

      What of the autocracy, which seems at first to consist of one person at the top, who bows before no one, and rules entire nations? Surely, even a marginally more intelligent person cannot create all that authority from thin air! Of course, they cannot. The majority of their power is in fact given to them by individuals. Their military obeys them because the military is paid well. Their money is primarily derived from taxes on the people. The people are kept in line by the military. The military recognizes that they are the source of profit, and so won’t obey the dictator unless he pays them well. The dictator doesn’t want the people to rebel, and so avoids taxing them overly heavily. They are also responsible for making sure that peace is kept in the society, lest unrest develops. They manages, perhaps, to set aside a healthy profit, perhaps due to their own ingenuity, but most of their money is spent on the various facets of “real politik”.

      Now let us turn our eyes to your proposed society. At first glance, this society involves all persons keeping an eye on all other persons. If even one steps out of line, then all shall descend on them. However, on closer examination, we find that this is not the case. My chosen arbiter has special power over me, being able to protect me from those who would wrong me, or leave me to the wolves. Where does this power come from? From me, of course, this is our assumption. The question is, what path does it take? In this case it seems to take the shortest path: I pay by arbiter well, and so I am arbitrated against. If I did not like my arbiters judgements (read: they are not in my favor), I would look elsewhere. This erodes from the impartiality of the arbiter.

      A similar thing happens in the US: individuals are allowed to vote on their judges. How then does this not lead to the same effect? Well, there may be hundreds of thousands engaged in one vote, and only a select few individuals have had a given judge rule against them unfavorably. While these few might vote against the judges who have wronged them, the rest have no such bias, and so will vote based on the merit of the judge. Since there are so many voters, the latter will vastly outweigh the former.

      The concept this leads to is that the topography of a society should involves rings which at once pass through as many individuals as possible, then as few individuals as possible.

      This is discussed in federalist paper #10, which can be read here: http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm

      It should be clear that while I speak of individual authority, the authority of a faction is just as important to consider. Whereas an individual may not be able to stop an arbiter from making rent, a faction may be able to.

      This problem seems to be incompatible with anarchy, as the anarchist is interested in giving no one great authority, and yet the resolution to this problem is to concentrate power in as few individuals as possible. Perhaps you have an alternative resolution.

      • actinide meta says:

        Your concern cashes out, I think, as a concern that in equilibrium arbitrators will not really be neutral, but highly biased toward their own “clients.”

        My guess as to the way that disputes are normally arbitrated (when neither party is flatly refusing to cooperate with the forms of arbitration) is that the two parties’ arbitrators agree on a third arbitrator who has no relationship with the parties, and either this third arbitrator hears the case or the panel of all three arbitrators does. Your arbitrator is not supposed to be your partisan, but even if they are, their ability to determine the outcome of your cases is limited.

        Does this just push back your concern to one that arbitrators will market their willingness to insist on extremely biased “third” arbitrators? I think not, for several reasons:

        * It’s not actually in one’s interest to have an arbitrator that can’t successfully resolve disputes with other people. Conflict is really expensive, and even if you don’t care your insurance company does. If you want to use an uncooperative, untrustworthy arbitrator, no one wants to insure you. So arbitrators have to pass a market test of being able to work together at reasonable cost.
        * The Pax calls for arbitrators to be “neutral” (i.e. economically disinterested). So an arbitrator that directly or indirectly “pays” a third party arbitrator to favor their clients is outright defecting and can expect to be sued for that
        * Any way that an arbitrator can effectively market their bias to their customers also effectively puts other people on notice that they are not trustworthy, and trustworthiness is their stock in trade.

        But I tend to agree, actually, that if there’s a way that the game theory of the Pax fails to work, it probably centers on arbitration. I’ll argue that at least this is a relatively good place to have a relative weakness: compared to other coercive institutions, it’s hard for courts to really oppress people, because they don’t get out much.

        Edit: I’m not sure I understand your “topological” model well enough to apply it. But I think you are oversimplifying the situation when you say that the arbitrator’s authority comes directly from their client. Their authority comes principally from the web of trust between them and other arbitrators, and from the willingness of the insurance market as a whole to insure their clients, and finally from their clients. That gives them a more robust incentive structure than I think you are assuming, though not necessarily a perfect one.

    • Skivverus says:

      OPTs sound similar to religions – and, arguably, religions tend to end up as a subset of OPTs, modulo waffling on premise (a), and which definition of “equality” it uses.

  28. bean says:

    I’ve been rather busy over at Naval Gazing, but I’ll consolidate everything here.
    1. New Post: Ballistics
    A sort of Part 3 of fire control, detailing forces on the projectile.
    2. Update: US Battleships in WWII
    Heavily revised, to the point of almost being a new post, but I wanted it out as background for other stuff.
    3. Request for Feedback: Topics you’d like to see
    I’ve been generating ideas a lot faster than I can write them over the past few weeks, so I’d like input on what you guys want me to do first. No promises, of course, but I’ll take it into consideration.
    I’m only going to mirror this to the third one, at least for now.

    • Eltargrim says:

      That’s a hell of a list. If I had to pick one that sounds the most interesting to me, it would probably be “So you want to build a battleship”.

      • bean says:

        That one may take a while. Those are the kind of things which take lots of research, which is kind of rate-limiting.

        • Eltargrim says:

          As you said, no promises. None of what you proposed looked like duds, that one just caught my eye. I have a definite bias towards the technical articles.

      • engleberg says:

        I’d like to see Bean’s take on Churchill’s old riff on how to build a Dreadnaught.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Amphibious warfare would be interesting.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Random question, how did they calculate the mussel velocity of guns during this era?

      • bean says:

        I can’t think of an appropriate joke for your misspelling, so moving on:
        The device in question was called a chronograph. Basically, you’d set up two points a known distance apart, and measure how quickly the shell went from one to another. By WW2, the detection was magnetic, picking up when the shell went past. The actual recording was done with a rapidly-spinning drum with a piece of paper around the edge. When each coil was passed, it fired a spark plug, marking the paper. Knowing the speed of the drum meant you had the time.
        I’m just going to give the link for the method they used before that.
        (Both are very similar to the methods used for small arms at the time. These days, it’s usually radar.)

      • John Schilling says:

        Depending on the size of the gun, either ballistic pendulum or electromechanical clock. Ballistic pendulums were, well, pendulums with a large, known swung mass incorporating a bullet trap and a ratchet to hold them at the maximum upward swing. Conservation of energy allows you to convert the height reached during the upswing to the velocity of the pendulum at nadir, and conservation of momentum gives you the velocity of the projectile alone from the velocity of the pendulum+captured projectile. This could be applied to the smaller cannons, and was because it is a simple, elegant, and pretty much foolproof, but I don’t think anyone ever built a ballistic pendulum for say a 12″ naval gun. If they did, I’d like to watch.

        But use of simple electric circuits for this sort of thing goes way back, to sometime in the mid-19th century. Set up a (fast) mechanical clock that can be started or stopped or at least timestamped with a simple electromagnet. Clock starts when electromagnet #1 turns off, and stops when electromagnet #2 turns off. The circuit for electromagnet #1 runs through a wire stretched across the gun’s muzzle, and #2 runs through a wire some known distance downrange. Connect batteries, set clock, fire gun, look at clock, do math. Works for guns of any size.

        Ed: Ninja’d by bean, of course. Not sure when they switched from wires to magnetic pickups, which requires a more sophisticated level of electrical technology.

        • bean says:

          They actually used falling rods instead of a clock. That’s the mechanism described in my link.
          But I’m with you on the pendulum for the 12″ gun.

    • Nornagest says:

      Typo in “US Battleships in WWII” — “Where the fast battleships really shown” should be “shone”, I think. And there’s a [check percentages] in there that looks like it slipped through editing.

  29. johan_larson says:

    I’m finding I rarely leave the house for entertainment any more. I used to go to the movies a lot, but between iTunes and Netflix I have access to a lot of good stuff at home and movie theatres have started showing a lot of ads before the show, which is really annoying, so I mostly stay home. Sometimes I go out for live entertainment, but with ticket prices close to three figures, it really has to be something special to be worth the trouble. Anyone else noticing the same?

    • James Miller says:

      Me too. Also, I like the option of multitasking when watching video (Internet or exercise) which I can’t do at movies. Seeing movies with other people risks my losing interest in the movie but getting stuck watching it to the boring end.

      • ShemTealeaf says:

        That’s exactly why I do like going to the movies on occasion. Social pressure forces me to actually watch the damn movie instead of screwing around with my phone.

    • zz says:

      I’m a classically-trained (but nonprofessional) cellist and I’ve never been able to stand attending live performances (except for Rite of Spring). Playing live, sure, but I normally can hit flow states pretty easily, but can’t just by listening to music, so the entire affair is pretty miserable. Contrast to spending hours that sort of disappear when I’m arranging a piece, a significant portion of which I’m spending listening to the same ~3 minutes and can’t help but be in flow during.

      And at this point, not only do I not go to see movies, but I usually just watch the Red Letter Media review of them, which seem to be invariably more interesting than the films themselves.

      Not sure if it counts as “live entertainment”, but I leave the house at every opportunity I have for pickup ultimate, weather and commute permitting.

    • Murphy says:

      I found a similar shift when we moved to a large city.

      When i visit where I grew up I can still get a pair of movie tickets for about 1/4 the price of tickets where I live now.

      I’m also more price sensitive now since there’s always a list of domestic things to spend money on at home. Fixing that radiator, replacing that carpet etc etc etc.

      1 pair of movie tickets with 1 drink costs enough to buy 3 months of netflix subscription and enough softdrinks to drown a man. Staying home also doesn’t involve a pack of teenagers in the row in front of us waving mobiles around talking loudly about how Carla is such a slut and totally blew Mike at the party.

      So we stay home a lot more.

    • Walter says:

      No, I still go to the movie theater. It is a social experience, good as an antidote to endless hours in front of the screen.

      Disclaimer: I have a computer programming job, though, so I am less interested in sitting in front of my CPU netflixing or whatever.

    • balrog says:

      So first question would be if you are old enough to go out regularly in pre-netflix (or other watching-on-computer ways)?

      Movies are becoming luxury items (their price has gone up faster than inflation would do on its own). That means that it’s demand should go down (ie. you should go less to cinema). Ads in the beginning (and in some countries in middle as well) are reducing the value down further, making it even worse bargain. On the other hand netflix is cheap and addictive, so it should rise in your mix. So if I have applied my awfully bad economical skills correctly, movies are a dying business, and what you are experiencing is normal optimization behavior.

      But for reference I would also check if you are maybe going out less. Beer prices have not increased as far as I know (in a way that you could always get drunk for little money). That would mean that your movie watching preferences haven’t shifted as much as your hanging-out preferences.

      Disclaimer: I have never been to cinema alone, for me it was always a social activity which I did approximately once a year.

    • Baeraad says:

      Yes, though I’ve been blaming it mostly on being older, busier and more tired than I used to be.

  30. Aapje says:

    I saw this comedy bit about different ways in which men and women supposedly communicate their preferences to their partner/others.

    The argument is that men prefer directness:
    – I would like my partner to make a hot cocoa
    – I ask for a hot cocoa
    – I get a hot cocoa or an explanation of why I can’t get a hot cocoa

    While women prefer indirectness:
    – I want a blanket
    – I send (increasingly obvious) signals that I am cold
    – I get a blanket or a cold shoulder that I then have to interpret

    So essentially, it’s ask culture vs guess culture. Both strategies have their upsides and downsides. Ask culture encourages making your desires explicit and thus make you less likely to misconstrued. However, it also makes it very explicit where the limits of the partner’s willingness to do something are. Mismatches between demands and willingness to cater to demands has to be talked about explicitly. People who cannot verbalize their needs well probably fail at this more often and can end up in an abusive or one-sided relationship, as they cannot fight to get their needs met, sufficiently.

    Guess culture encourages being perceptive of the needs of the other and many people enjoy (the illusion) of getting something without having to ask for it. It avoid confrontations and enables some pro-social dishonesty to hide unpleasant truths behind ambiguity. It probably works better for people who have strong emotional needs and for people who are bad at knowing what they need (and need their partner to figure that out for them). However, it’s going to fail if the partner is not sufficiently perceptive and because the partner has to guess, you may not get exactly what you want (a sweater instead of a blanket, for example). Figuring out the reason for a denial also requires guessing. So there is great potential for miscommunication. Less perceptive people and/or those who are bad at sending signals may end up in a passive-aggressive or one-sided relationship.

    So I see value (and negatives) in both strategies. In practice, surely pretty much everyone uses a (varying) mix of both.

    Now, is there a gender difference here? I haven’t seen any studies that examine this, so I don’t know to what extent this observation is a gender difference vs a personal preference independent of gender vs a cultural preference. The latter two almost certainly explain a substantial part of the differences between people.

    Some evidence that speaks in favor of the theory that women may prefer guess culture more often than men:
    – Men seem more autistic by nature and thus less capable of recognizing and sending subtle signals (also see Simon Baron-Cohen’s “extreme male brain” theory)
    – Men seem more systematizing and women more people-oriented. I expect that people-oriented individuals tend to place more value on pro-social dishonestly, having people do something for them without being asked, etc
    – Men seem a lot more willing to make explicit offers in dating and women seem to generally be pushing back against this. Gays seem extremely willing to be explicit, unlike lesbians.
    – Quite a few studies show that women are less likely to initiate negotiations (= demand). However, there are also studies that show that women are a bit less likely to get their demands met, so this may partially or fully be conditioned.
    – It’s the stereotype. Studies show that stereotype accuracy is generally quite high.

    So, the above is somewhat suggestive, but hardly solid evidence. AFAIK, academia have not adopted the conceptual framework of ‘ask culture vs guess culture,’ although I’m sure they have done more specific studies into behavior that is part of ask or guess culture. Would anyone be familiar with such research that checks for gender differences, to have some more hard evidence one way or the other?

    • liskantope says:

      Men seem a lot more willing to make explicit offers in dating and women seem to generally be pushing back against this. Gays seem extremely willing to be explicit, unlike lesbians.

      I’m not sure if men are actually more willing to be the aggressors, rather than men having been conditioned to take the initiative in this context (and probably other contexts as well, accounting for some of the other points you suggested). It’s a societally enforced role and I don’t know how many men particularly like it.

      As for women generally pushing back against this, well… I hate to open this can of worms again, but it looks to me like what women are pushing back against is harassment and predation, not the explicit initiating / implicit signal-sending gender roles which (to my view) have led to this widespread problem of harassment and predation.

      • Aapje says:

        Preferring ask culture doesn’t mean that you want to be the asker every time. A man who favors ask culture more can also prefer to have women approach him bluntly and be upset about a society where this rarely happens. He can also simply be upset about his success ratio.

        I’ve seen quite a few men complain about having to negotiate guess dating culture, although due to the asymmetry in dating, you can’t really know if women would complain just as much (and about the same things) if they would approach men more.

        but it looks to me like what women are pushing back against is harassment and predation, not the explicit initiating / implicit signal-sending gender roles

        Those concepts are fuzzy though. Men generally seem way less likely to view overt sexual behavior or crude signals as harassment or predation than women, which is consistent with men preferring more overtness. Of course, the male gender role also encourages men to have sex and to not see themselves as victims, which probably explains at least part of the difference.

        In general, I agree that the evidence I gave has alternative explanations, which is why I’m interested in research that more directly measures ask/guess culture behavior or preferences.

      • The Nybbler says:

        it looks to me like what women are pushing back against is harassment and predation, not the explicit initiating / implicit signal-sending gender roles which (to my view) have led to this widespread problem of harassment and predation.

        Motte/bailey. The motte is they’re pushing back against “harassment and predation”. The bailey is that any unwanted advance on a man’s part counts as “harassment and predation”. It’s to high-status people’s advantage to add a minefield to “guess” culture — guess wrong and you suffer severe consequences. For the women it adds a filter so they don’t have to deal with as many advances, for the men it eliminates lower-status competitors in other realms. That is, a guy who guesses wrong with a woman is not only no longer a romantic competitor for that particular woman, but also no longer a professional or social competitor of any sort at all, because he’s ruined, at least in that social group.

        • Matt M says:

          The bailey is that any unwanted advance on a man’s part counts as “harassment and predation”.

          And not just that, but also that a lack of advances from wanted men is due to cowardice or a lack of “real men” or whatever.

          I know plenty of women who simultaneously complain about all the harassment they have to put up with AND insist that “guys never flirt with me or ask me out.” They absolutely do not see this as contradictory in any way.

          • Baeraad says:

            True. “That sort of behaviour can’t POSSIBLY be anything but an intentional effort to make me feel uncomfortable!” goes the theory.

            To which I can only say, er… that’s giving a lot of men way too much credit. I mean, I hope that the high-brow crowd in this community are capable of slightly more subtlety, but for a lot of guys, metaphorically waving their dicks in a girl’s face and going “UGH! ME SO HORNY!” really does seem to be their idea of coming on to her.

        • Aapje says:

          @The Nybbler

          Ask culture can be abused too by high status people (see Weinstein, who was quite overt).

          I think that most people in this community prefer ask culture due to personality reasons, but I think that it’s important not to idealize it as it also has downsides and guess culture has upsides. Many people will want to keep those upsides of guess culture, especially if their personality doesn’t match ask culture. I think that it’s the same mistake that is the basis of a society-wide push to affirmative consent, where it is just assumed that people will naturally prefer that kind of ask culture over guess culture, but are conditioned into guess culture. I think that is the typical mind fallacy at play.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I think you’re ignoring the subtext here.

      If your girlfriend is upset that you didn’t get her a blanket and you tell her that it’s her fault for not using her words like an adult, what’s the first thing she’s going to say? “You should have just known that I was cold!”

      That’s what they want. Women have arms and legs after all; they’re more than capable of getting themselves blankets. What she wants isn’t to have a blanket, it’s to have a boyfriend who anticipates her wanting a blanket and proactively brings her one. Getting her the blanket is a sign of affection.

      (That’s not to say that you should get the blanket 100% of the time. It’s better to be a little unpredictable if you want to avoid complacency IMO.)

      • Aapje says:

        @Nabil

        I tried to touch on that in my post, but I may have been too subtle about it.

        In itself, it is quite valid to want a partner who has a good perception of your needs. I also think that pro-social rituals and dishonesty are necessary for many people. Better to get your partner to massage your emotions and/or pretend a bit and have a good relationship, than to ignore your emotional needs and build up resentment or other negative emotions.

        However, like all desires, people can desire too much and/or become too dependent on others for emotional validation. Furthermore, there has to be some level of quid-pro-quo. There is also a risk that if one partner doesn’t send very many subtle signals or when his or her overtness is resented as being demanding, that this person’s emotional and/or practical needs get neglected.

    • alwhite says:

      Guess culture effectively destroys marriages. In couples therapy the number one issue to work on is communication, because neither partner is actually verbalizing their wants or needs and then blaming the partner for failing to meet them. The example you gave of the blanket is actually very common and one of the first things that has to be dismantled because it is toxic to the relationship.

      Men actually do the same thing but in a different way. Men fail to ask for their needs because they’re conditioned to ignore their needs. Then they get mad at their partner for reasons they aren’t really aware of and are confused by. It often looks like anger management issues but it’s effectively the same thing, expecting the partner to guess their needs and meet them.

      A starting place for research then is family therapy models.

      • Aapje says:

        @alwhite

        I think that we need to be wary of merely blaming guess culture, because it probably matches some people’s personalities and/or is the best way to meet their needs. Ultimately, it’s important for people to gain awareness of what they are doing, to be able to fix the dysfunctional parts.

        Taking a model and declaring it the solution for everyone and everything is a classic mistake. So is ignoring the advantages of the model that people already use.

        I think that many people can be in perfectly functioning relationships even if they have strong mismatches in some way, as long as they are aware that the other person has different needs and both have a strategy to meet the other person’s needs, without hurting themselves. That can include having one partner learn to become better at guess culture for the benefit of the other and the other partner learning to become better at ask culture; in addition to understanding that mistakes don’t necessarily mean a lack of love/concern, but are caused by different personalities, which makes people express their love/concern differently.

        And in case where no such strategy can work, understanding can at least lead to a respectful, rather than incriminating separation.

        Men fail to ask for their needs because they’re conditioned to ignore their needs.

        Yes, but I would argue that this is mostly orthogonal to ask/guess culture and comes from stoicism and/or a self-hatred and/or putting the other person on a pedestal.

        There is a difference between not effectively asking for your needs vs a denial that you have needs or a belief that you don’t deserve to have your needs met (within reason).

        I would also argue that this is not exclusive to men, as women can also get into a ‘sacrifice everything for the other person’ or self-hatred mindset. Then they can also “get mad at their partner for reasons they aren’t really aware of and are confused by,” as you said.

    • Futhington says:

      My instinct would be to say it’s true purely based on one thing: gay men vs women flirting. In my experience with gay men who try to hit on men, you know you’ve been hit on with very little ambiguity. Women tend to be more indirect and worry that very non-obvious hints are “too obvious”.

    • Baeraad says:

      I think I actually prefer guess culture, while simultaneously sucking at it. I get those very stereotypical “girly” feelings of, “I shouldn’t have to tell you to think about my needs! If you care about me, you should be making a habit of having them in mind!” a lot. And it makes sense, because ask culture – “oi! Here I am! Care about me NOW!!!” – leaves it very uncertain whether someone genuinely wants the best for you or whether they’re just too timid to push back against your bossiness. But at the same time, well… I have no idea what people want from me most of the time, so it seems kind of unreasonable for me to expect them to read my mind.

      Is there such a thing as guess-when-to-ask culture? Because that’s really the best I’ve been able to come up with – asking “is there something you want me to do for you right now?” a lot. I fail as a man and a woman both.

      • Aapje says:

        You should keep in mind that guess culture and ask culture are abstract concepts at opposite extremes. In practice, pretty much everyone is somewhere in between and does both to some extent.

        Is there such a thing as guess-when-to-ask culture? Because that’s really the best I’ve been able to come up with – asking “is there something you want me to do for you right now?” a lot.

        That is what often happens when an person who is bad at guess culture recognizes that a guess culture person has a need, but doesn’t have the tools to properly ‘solve the riddle.’ So they fall back to ask culture. That doesn’t mean that they/you prefer ask culture.

        I think that we need to distinguish between ‘being’ and ‘acting,’ in the same way that a person in a homophobic society can ‘be gay’ and yet ‘act straight.’ Just because people prefer something, doesn’t mean they can get away with acting that way.

    • akc09 says:

      (disclaimer: I’m just one person, and probably one with some mild social anxiety, so take that into account)

      I started thinking about this, and one of the big reasons I take the “indirect” route with my spouse sometimes is I’m afraid that if I plainly put my requests out there, especially ones that have to do with cleaning/house maintenance, I’ll be fulfilling the stereotype of a “nagging wife,” and avoiding that is important to me for some reason.

      I guess I’m just fulfilling a different stereotype by not plainly putting requests out there though? 🙂

      I’ll admit it does sometimes lead me into silly games, e.g. where I’ll let dishes pile up just to see if he’ll eventually do them (answer: yes! Just after a longer period than I would have, and that’s okay), but I try to keep in mind that it’s just an experiment for myself and not a reason to actually get mad at anybody.

      Also, in the female-centric spaces I’ve hung out, I haven’t really encountered that attitude Nabil was talking about of, “You should have just known that I was cold!” That seems extreme, but maybe I hang out in a bubble—do you guys actually hear that from women in a non-joking way?

  31. abstractapplic says:

    I made an educational Bayesian turn-based open-source in-browser probably-some-other-hyphenated-adjectives-too game, and I thought this blog’s readership would want to know about it. I’m very interested in getting feedback, especially of the kind that tells me what you think I could do better.

    • Incurian says:

      First impression (played through tutorial and a round into campaign): very cool concept.
      I’d like to see the probabilities on the turrets so you don’t have to hover over them to remember. On the mines you show the probability they will hit, but why not also the probability they will be destroyed vs captured? Does that defeat the purpose? Maybe on higher levels you could start giving less information to test if the probabilities have been internalized. I would like to see some method for helping me determine the timing of falling mines vs the rate of fire of my turrets, since presumably the idea is to focus on probability and prioritization and not on my skill in guessing exactly how fast a mine is moving. Something like “will hit in X shots.” Lastly, if it was in the tutorial I missed the fact that you could change the order the turrets fire in skip over certain turrets in the planning phase, which is pretty important.

      • abstractapplic says:

        Your first suggestion is already implemented: you can enable display of destroy/capture probabilities under Options, but the text clutters the screen enough that I decided to leave it off as a default. I guess I could make this feature more obvious by having a reference to it be referenced when you hover over Options on the titlescreen.

        I actually asked one of my playtesters if I should indicate how many turns you have to stop the mines when you hover over them, and they said the constant flickering would be more annoying than the display would be useful. But now I think about it, there’s no harm – and potentially a lot of good – in having this as another off-by-default option. Thanks; I’ll implement that in the next build.

        Regarding your last point: you can’t change the order your turrets fire in, or at least you really shouldn’t be able to. (the third level is even based on playing with this fact in a weird way)

        . . . seriously, did you find a way to make the turrets fire in a different order? Because if so that’s a bug and I need to kill it with fire and/or pesticide.

        Oh, now that makes more sense. The purple text does mention offhand that you don’t need to target every turret every turn, but I could probably do with spelling it out more blatantly. Also: I just realised I never mention, anywhere, that people playing via the keyboard can press space to skip a turret; I should add that too while I’m tweaking things.

        Thanks for the feedback, I’ve been pretty short on playtesters during development so this is a lot more valuable to me than you probably think.

        • Incurian says:

          Nope, I was wrong about the re-ordering.

          Clutter distracts and occludes. In this game, the art is the clutter. You could draw directly on the turrets F:00%, D:00%, C:00% in rows. Maybe the turrets need to be bigger to accommodate the text, but surely it’s the text that’s important, and not the gray polygons? On the mines you can do the same, and the time to impact can just be a small number off to the side, don’t require a hover over.

          • abstractapplic says:

            I actually think the gray polygons are kind of important, because of the way they get re-purposed in the later levels. I suspect you might change your mind once you’ve played the whole game; if not, let me know!

            Yeah, with the turns-to-hit thing I’m thinking three options: one which displays it below the mine with the autocalc data, one which has it as a hover-over, and one which just leaves it up to the player’s memory.

    • pipsterate says:

      Interesting game. As for feedback, I think the main issue is that the graphics and music aren’t especially great.

      Would you be interested in having some help with the graphics? I am a nonprofessional but semi-competent pixel artist with a bit of free time, and I could try making some sprites if you’re interested. You can see some of my previous work in this imgur gallery.

    • dodrian says:

      After the tutorial and a few minutes of the campaign, it’s a fun little game, I would personally like a way to tell which mines are closer to hitting. If you don’t want to use text they could change color the closer they get (for example red- will hit next turn, orange – 1 turn away, yellow- 2 turns, blue- 3+).

      • abstractapplic says:

        Noted, and thanks; as per my replies to Incurian, I’ll add some options for this in the next build.

        • dodrian says:

          I’ve finished through the campaign, some more feedback:

          The animations are a bit slow – that’s fine in the tutorial or as new gameplay elements are introduced, but towards the end of levels it gets irritating. This is especially true on the level where the turrets are in reverse order, as sometimes I was only firing the last one, but it felt like it was still using time to cycle through and run a (nonexistant) animation on the first three. Related – it would be helpful to have the fire button grey out or change color when clicked, until it’s the player’s next turn.

          The instructions for intro-deduction were partially cut off, and I had to play through the level a few times before I really understood what was happening & what I was meant to be doing.
          It might actually be more helpful (esp for that level) to have the turret info appear in a sidebar / below the game, because once the ships are hidden you can’t see the probabilities of each. It matters less when the autocalc comes up again though, but it would still help you think through the probabilities of your ship taking damage.

          It was fun to think through the outcomes and put together a strategy, thanks for sharing!

          • I’m glad to report that the cutoff in the instructions is fixed in the new build, that there are multiple ways to explicitly see how many turns a mine is from hitting, and that I’ve added options for speeding up the game (which may cause performance issues if you overclock it on a less modern computer, so be warned).

      • secret_tunnel says:

        Agreed on the color thing–anywhere you can convey info through art rather than text, you should! Being that this is a really number-focused game, that might be hard. Try though!

        Early on, it’s not immediately clear if the probability of capturing mines will end up altering the way I play; does this have a big impact on players’ strategy? If not, I say axe it.

    • elRobbo says:

      Thanks for the link, it’s a fun game! One suggestion – I wanted to turn off the music, and I was on round 5 of the first campaign mission. When I went back in I had to start over from the beginning of the mission. It would be nice if there was a way to either get to the options without leaving the current level, or for it to remember your progress on a particular level.

      One other idea – it would be nice to somehow highlight which mines will hit your shield on the next turn.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Shouldn’t you be able to see what mines are coming later in a wave? Seeing as the idea is to be about the maths. Starting out I find myself having to go by vague intuitive feel of what might come up later.

      For example, in wave 1 of level 2, there are two mines at first, then one, then two, etc. If it was one then three, that would be a different balance of odds, but I can’t know which it is when I first make my decision. (also applies to how many subwaves waves there are, if that varies)

      _

      Sound toggle, in addition to the slider, would be good. If I leave the window open and return to it I could then pop the sound straight back on instead of messing about in the menu.

      I like the art.

      Wouldn’t mind a button to reset turrets.

      Seems like a bad idea to make spacebar a “yes that is my final answer” button as well as a “next turret” button. Maybe make that a toggle in options too?

      _

      edit: as I play on the, lack of knowledge of upcoming waves is putting me off. If the game isn’t going to focus on explicit probability/maths, why don’t I just play any of a number of professionally made card games? -which provide the same gameplay split between intuition and probability. (different leaning, more towards intuition, but still, it’s the same basic mix)

      I’ll probably come back to the game, but I’m leaving it for now because its too hard for me to focus on the basic maths/probability side when it there is another half of the game that depends on opposite skills. Should be a “twist” level imo, like the turrets in reverse order.

  32. Machine Interface says:

    Thought: life is a primitive paperclip optimiser, except its “paperclips” are polymers.

    • raj says:

      Except not really. To the extent that you can refer to life as a monolithic entity, ‘it’ would gladly dispense with polymers if ‘it’ happened on a better design.

    • Skivverus says:

      Through a similar lens, the universe is a primitive (the primitive?) vacuum-optimizer.

    • Rick Hull says:

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that polymers satisfy life-slash-human preferences in an economical way. We have terminal values like shelter for which polymers provide the answer in the most economically efficient way. Unlike paperclips, polymers themselves are not a terminal value.

  33. Vladimir Slepnev says:

    Hi! We (Paul Christiano, Zvi Mowshowitz and me) have just announced the AI Alignment Prize. Would love to get entries from folks here, as well as suggestions on how to make the prize have more impact.

    • Daniel says:

      Wow, cousin_it? Where on the net do you hang out nowadays, if you don’t mind me asking?

      • Vladimir Slepnev says:

        I didn’t go anywhere! I’m on Reddit as want_to_want, on HN and LW (both old and new) as cousin_it, and on IAFF and Facebook under my real name. Mostly preoccupied with work, family and various offline creative stuff, but also wrote some traditional LWish content in the last months, like this and this. And now got myself involved in this prize thing. Life goes on 🙂

    • ravenclawprefect says:

      As someone familiar with a moderate amount of the research on AI alignment (but far from an expert on it), my default assumption for any new idea I might have is that it’s already reasonably well-known in the literature, simply because more people have been thinking about these topics for longer than I have. Is there an efficient way to get a sense of which questions have already been asked and answered in the field? Would reading the abstract of every MIRI publication to date, for instance, suffice to gain a fairly good idea of what the current state of knowledge is?

      • Vladimir Slepnev says:

        I’d look at 5-10 writings each by Eliezer (on Arbital), Wei (on LW), Paul (on his blogs) and Stuart (on IAFF). That should give you an impression of what’s known or not. If you’re in doubt whether your idea is new, feel free to contact me!

  34. outis says:

    Catalonia is boring, let’s talk about Saudi Arabia. What do you guys think about Mohammad bin Salman? Are the events of the last few days a soft coup against the more integralist side? Is the regime’s attempt to modernize itself going to be successful?

    • Watchman says:

      It looks to me like a desire to remove obstacles to the current programme of rebasing the Saudi economy on skills (note the huge spending on upgrading universities, with a focus on downgrading theological studies vis-a-vis other subjects), but it also concentrates power in one branch of the royal family. I doubt there will be adverse effects on non-Saudi involvement in the country, because the entire philosophy of bin Salman is to create a more diverse and interconnected conomy.

    • Protagoras says:

      To the last question, no. Saudi power is based on oil money. They have no particular advantage in other economic areas, so their efforts to diversify will not be as profitable as their core business. As their core business declines, as it inevitably will in the long term (though only in the long term; I believe their short term position still may be reasonably good, as they still have a lot of oil that they can get at cheaply) their power will also decline.

    • johan_larson says:

      Everyone seems to be interpreting the arrests as an attempt to consolidate power. Why are people sure it isn’t what it is claimed to be: an anti-corruption effort?

      • Watchman says:

        Because (and here we go again with the postmodernism) the very effort to clamp down on corruption is an expression and exercise of power. It may not be that the power is being held or used illegitimately (indeed, corruption tends to be more illegitimate than most state responses) but by removing the ability to act (this is what power is) of the corrupt you are automatically centralising power in the hands of those who are not corrupt.

        So it is possible that this is both what it appears to be and an attempt to consolidate power at the same time.

      • Deiseach says:

        Why are people sure it isn’t what it is claimed to be: an anti-corruption effort?

        Because the royal family is soaked in corruption, nepotism, and tribalism. Putting Your Guy in charge of the National Guard is all about having someone in an important position personally loyal to you and placating the tribe:

        Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was detained and replaced as minister of the National Guard, a pivotal power base rooted in the kingdom’s tribes. That recalled a palace coup in June which ousted his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne and interior minister.

        The moves consolidate Prince Mohammed’s control of the internal security and military institutions, which had long been headed by separate powerful branches of the ruling family.

        Seizing the assets of those accused of corruption is also a way of putting money and power into your grasp, and offering the people an excuse for their dissatisfaction over economic slump/lower standard of living due to low oil prices by “it’s all down to corruption and greed and look, here are the scapegoats” is a lot easier and more popular than “okay, we screwed up by blowing the oil revenues on playboy lifestyles and investment fund piggybanks for the members of the royal family instead of properly investing it”.

        A populist “cracking down” programme is an easy sell, particularly since there seems to be a groundswell of opinion about “foreigners coming here taking our jobs“. True reform would be getting rid of an awful lot of the royal family, even if they wished to keep the monarchy, as was the case in Britain where a lot of the minor royals were rigorously pruned off the Civil List. Until we see that happening in Saudi Arabia, then all the modernisation and anti-corruption campaigns are only to prop up the status quo.

      • Brad says:

        Because I don’t even know what it means for a Saudi prince to be corrupt. The entire point of the enterprise since at least the days of Ibn Saud has been to benefit of the House of Saud.

        From the outside view it looks like the new King (only in power for two years) and his son are changing the rules of the game. We may be in favor of that or opposed to that for our own reasons, but it seems not quite accurate to call people playing by the old rules corrupt.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think it’s dressed up in the language of reform and modernisation, but it’s good old fashioned palace politics: instead of sending rival claimants to the headsman’s block, now they’re all being taken out by “house arrest on corruption charges” and stripped of their authority over very lucrative investment firms, etc.

      The new Crown Prince is establishing himself and getting rid of the competition; since, as far as cursory reading tells me, he wasn’t the favoured candidate as heir until relatively recently, but a cousin was, this is not surprising. The only question is will he remain as Crown Prince until the king does abdicate/die and ascend the throne, or will some other candidate from within the family oust him? Again, from cursory reading, not everyone in the family is thrilled with him being the designated heir, and some ruthless plotting is not out of the question (which is probably why he’s cracking down right now and weeding out any likely candidates to lead conspiracies to overthrow him).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        And if he plans to be as Westernized a Muslim ruler as Abdullah of Jordan, I wish him the best in his ruthless palace politics.

    • James Miller says:

      The long-term fall in the price of oil is cancerous to the Saudi government, and it’s seeking to mitigate the damage by confiscating the wealth of a few of its richest citizens.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I don’t know enough about the kingdom’s unwritten constitution to make predictions. Westernizing Muslim monarchs have been able to make sweeping changes, but outside of Jordan they eventually failed. He’s going to have to fight an ulema and imams more fundamentalist than modern Jordan ever had. If he wants to give women the right to drive, work and party without a male relative while going bareheaded in short sleeves and knee-length skirts, it’s feasible in the short term. Whether he can make his country look like Jordan in the long term depends on how effective he can be at replacing and silencing the Wahabi imams and speaking power to the ulema.

    • Vorkon says:

      Personally, I think they’ve just fallen under the influence of the seductive power of The Orb.

  35. Alkatyn says:

    Meta question: Didn’t there used to be a search option on the front page? That was very useful for when i wanted to find a specific article for someone

    • rlms says:

      Use Google: put “site:slatestarcodex.com” at the start of your query.

      • harland0 says:

        Nooooo…not Google, they’ve gone evil. Use duckduckgo.com instead.

        • The Nybbler says:

          <CharletonHestonInSoylentGreen>DuckDuckGo is Bing!</CharletonHestonInSoylentGreen>

          • harland0 says:

            I thought they aggregated from Yandex. Yahoo and so on. I’ve been using them for a few years and rarely fail to find what I need. Google is always there if I need it. Just get out of the habit of ‘googling’ things and deliberately remove that verb from your vocabulary.

  36. SJAnon says:

    Hi.

    I’m an occasional SSC poster and regular SSC reader, I live in the (California) South Bay, and I’m worried I may need psychiatric help. I remember that a long time ago here people were posting recommendations for psychiatrists but I can’t find it, and I’d like advice on finding someone good (or just “someone good”) in my area.

    I have, as I think of it, two problems: On the one hand, I suffer from fairly minor stress and depression. This is not a serious problem, it is not crippling my life, and I think of it as being ‘under control’, and online tests seem to agree with me on this – though I’d like to get an expert’s opinion, and would even kind of like it if it went away.

    On the other hand, I have some kind of ADD or ADHD problem, or something along those lines – I don’t know what the nature of it is – that is seriously messing with most of the things I want to do with my life. Instead of “decide what I want to do, do it,” I have extreme difficulty concentrating, getting easily distracted and stuck into things; not just the normal way people do with the internet and video games and such, I mean the “have probably never done eight hours of actual work in any day of my life,” sense; that after *having* to concentrate on something for only two hours (for a college test, say), my eyes are unfocusing and my willpower is wrecked for the rest of the day. I’d like to be able to spend at least eight hours a day on projects I want to do, instead of getting sucked into whatever happens to be easy, and I’m hoping a psychiatrist might be able to help with this.

    (The point at which I started seriously considering that I might actually have a problem was the point when I took adrafinil, decided what I wanted to do, and then did it – until the drug wore off – with no ill effects. It would be Helpful if the doctor in question knew that -afinils existed.)

    At any rate – does anyone have any recommendations? Thank you very much in advance.

    • Doesntliketocomment says:

      Best of luck to you, I’ve been trying to solve the same problem for myself for years, with not a lot of success. As far as finding a psychiatrist, there isn’t much to do but get some recommendations and try one out. Ideally what you are looking for is one that is pro-drug, but is more than a walking prescription pad. If you have an interest in a drug, they should be able to talk it over with you, but they should also be interested in what your goals are for that drug, and yourself in general.
      The problem with the -afinals, is that adrafinal is not really prescribed as far as I can tell, and modafinal is stupidly expensive (in the US), so if that’s what you need you might have to tussle with your insurance. If adrafinal has worked for you, be sure and bring that up.

  37. Alethenous says:

    Why is modern poetry so terrible?

    Yes, yes, it’s a matter of taste, butcome on. There’s a very real sense in which modern poetry seems at least very different from anything I know of that’s come before from anywhere, though I may well be missing something.

    • johan_larson says:

      Poets for whatever reason decided to discard time-tested techniques of meter and rhyme to focus on imagery, wordplay and inside-the-academy status games. (Roughly the same thing happened in visual art.) More conservative poets wandered off to become songwriters, and most of the audience drifted away to pop songs and novels and comic books and all the new artforms the 20th century offered. As a result poets today barely have an audience. They are therefore either amateurs or academics and either way are generally more concerned with impressing other practitioners than entertaining readers.

      • outis says:

        So it’s like architecture.

      • harland0 says:

        That’s such a dick move by poets. Now our whole culture has lost poetry, just so they can play status games. They’ve deliberately made it inaccessible to the common man. Such a great crime.

        • DrBeat says:

          This is what happens to literally every single thing.

          • Alethenous says:

            So why hasn’t it happened to, say, novels or video games?

          • Futhington says:

            Recent enough or have enough of an audience to still cater to someone other than “people who write novels/make video games”?

          • DrBeat says:

            You don’t think novels and video games are actively, at this exact moment in time, being devoured by Those Who Play Status Games so they can become nothing but a vessel for status games?

            Do you ever pay attention? Ever? To any event?

          • Aapje says:

            @DrBeat

            Don’t be unnecessarily unkind, please.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            So why hasn’t it happened to, say, novels or video games?

            Because it’s too easy to publish a novel, and too expensive to make a video game.

            Or, equivalently, it’s already well on it’s happened to literary fiction, but there are too many plebes who ungratefully insist on purchasing copies of novels that are pleasurable to read that are being written by people who make a living writing them, and the status-gamers havn’t figured out how to shame Jeff Bezos into closing down the Kindle division.

            And as for video games, it’s very hard and expensive to write video games. Large ones are larger productions than big movies, and you can’t motivate investors and publishers to pay large teams of developers to write a game that’s all head-in-ass-status-signalling, and you have a hard time motivating developers to write them, even with money.

            On the small game side, the video game equivalents to Kindle, such as Steam, do in fact have a collection of single-developer crappy-experience socjus and status-signalling “games”, but nobody wants to actually, you know, *play* them.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Can’t tell if this blatant sarcasm, or genuine feeling.

          If genuine, seems like just hating on the outgroup.

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s not a dick move. There is no conspiracy of poets sitting in a room somewhere full of clove cigarette smoke and discarded berets, plotting to impoverish culture. This is just what happens when an artform starts becoming disconnected from the broader culture while still retaining some vestiges of its original status.

          The good news is, you can fight it by going out and buying non-pretentious poetry. Or by writing it yourself. Or even by reblogging “I lik the bred” on Tumblr, if you’re into that.

      • JonathanD says:

        I think this mistakes the causality. I think poets lost their audience to radio and later TV, and then started writing for each other and the academics, who weren’t as interested in the time tested stuff. They therefore started experimenting and that’s how we got modern poetry.

    • pipsterate says:

      People still occasionally write old fashioned poems, like The Cold Behind The Curtain, which I found on reddit a only month ago. If someone had told me that was written in the early 20th century, I might have believed them, and thought it was good. But in the modern era something just feels false about writing traditional poetry, so it’s usually only done in a half joking way.

      I think some things just become outdated over time. Clinging to outdated artistic formats gives the impression that you’re refusing to grapple with the modern world. The Louisiana Castle comes to mind.

      In many ways the past was more beautiful than the present, which is probably part of the reason why medieval fantasy and steampunk are common in books and games. You get to indulge in the aesthetic pleasures of the past (even enjoying new poetry, architecture, et cetera in old styles), without fully removing yourself from the modern era. There needs to be some kind of way to detach yourself from tradition, even while enjoying it, to preserve your image as someone well integrated with the modern word.

      • Alethenous says:

        Outdated? Novels are thousands of years old and songs predate literacy. Why has poetry in particular changed so dramatically – I’d say virtually died – whereas other ancient art forms seem to be doing fine? It’s not as though it’s even a long-term trend: as far as I’m aware it’s a twentieth-century thing.

        • Protagoras says:

          Novels are thousands of years old? Which works are you thinking of as examples of more than one thousand year old novels?

          • Pseudodionysius says:

            Apuleius’ The Golden Ass is usually described as a novel. Though I guess it’s technically only about 1850 years old.

          • Protagoras says:

            OK, I guess including the Roman novels does take things back almost 2000 years, but they seem to be regarded as edge cases (people often call Tale of Genji the first novel, presumably on the basis that the Roman novels are a little too different from the modern genre).

          • DarkTigger says:

            I once read an claim that there were Egyptian literature, that looks a lot like the things we call novels, back before the bronze age collapse.

            But I can’t find any sources for that right now.

        • pipsterate says:

          Has poetry necessarily changed much more than music? If you compare a classical orchestra performance to a Ke$ha music video, it hardly seems like the same thing. Just because a medium is old doesn’t mean particular styles can’t become outdated fairly quickly.

          (To the extent that modern poetry is aesthetically worse than traditional poetry, I’m not sure if there’s a specific explanation for that. It seems to be part of the same general trend as painting and architecture. Probably Alex Sloat’s answer below is the best explanation of that general trend. I’ve noticed that the art forms which do still prize aesthetics highly are mostly younger art forms, relying on newer technology. For example, videogames, and their obsession with advanced graphics. Perhaps in a century the most highly regarded games will be abstract and aesthetically unappealing, but we haven’t had time to reach that point yet.)

          I also wouldn’t consider poetry as a whole to be dead, just certain styles (and even they’re not dead, just on life support.) I would consider most rap to be a form of poetry, and it’s quite popular.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Has poetry necessarily changed much more than music?

            Plenty of modern music scans to Greensleeves, and modern acoustic instruments are easily recognizably as descended from older ones, so I’d say yes. There are forms of modern music which would be equivalent, but they’re still considered experimental forms.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            There’s quite a bit of linkage between certain classical forms and wide swaths of modern pop.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Has poetry necessarily changed much more than music? If you compare a classical orchestra performance to a Ke$ha music video, it hardly seems like the same thing. Just because a medium is old doesn’t mean particular styles can’t become outdated fairly quickly.

            But there is more to modern music than lowest-common-denominator Ke$ha music videos and cacophonic noises that only the snobbiest elites seem to appreciate.

            If anything, the elites still appreciate classical music, while metal, the genre with the reputation for being the most noise-like, is more popular with the working class and social outcasts.

          • pipsterate says:

            I think the people pushing back on parts of my previous comment are probably right, actually. There have been big changes in music over the last few centuries, but I think those changes have been more superficial than the changes that happened to poetry. There probably are smaller differences between Pachelbel and Ke$ha than there are between Chaucer and most modern poets.

            I do think both have changed significantly, and I think that’s important to acknowledge, but it’s not fruitful to just say “well both have changed, so there’s no need to discuss the difference in the amount of changes or the reasons behind that.” I think it actually is valid to ask why changes in certain art forms (poetry, painting, architecture) have been more significant than changes in others (music and literature).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The comparison between Ke$ha and Chaucer is probably as relevant as comparing her to Pachelbel.

            Modern poets can’t write for a mass audience. Except slam poetry, some of which will probably survive (and then be compared favorably to then modern poetry inaccessible to the layman).

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            Perhaps in a century the most highly regarded games will be abstract and aesthetically unappealing, but we haven’t had time to reach that point yet.

            Dwarf Fortress remains the most engaging game I’ve ever played, to the point where I avoid it for the sake of having any time at all.

          • 天可汗 says:

            metal, the genre with the reputation for being the most noise-like,

            draws heavily and explicitly from classical music — especially black metal (and of course ‘orchestral’ or ‘symphonic’ metal), and that goes all the way back to Varg Vikernes listing Tchaikovsky as an influence.

            …as well as Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream — technically black metal is a subgenre of new age. This seems reasonable.

            (The deal with Liturgy is that HHH went “hey, you know, we’re Americans, we ought to be drawing on American classical music” and swapped out Tchaikovsky for Philip Glass.)

          • albatross11 says:

            I wonder if it’s just that poetry, art, music, etc., go through good and bad phases in a culture. We’re just not in a very poetic phase of our culture. Few people read poetry for pleasure, so few people write it, so few people know about it, etc.

      • Nornagest says:

        The Louisiana Castle comes to mind.

        Ugh. That thing’s the architectural equivalent of bad fanfiction.

    • alexsloat says:

      I blogged about this a while ago.

      tl;dr, artists spent centuries forced to make things that were good by normie standards by economic pressure, and then in the 19th century they finally had enough money to make whatever they wanted. By that point, they were bored to death of normie stuff, and decided to head off into unexplored hinterlands in search of novelty, without much regard for whether or not they were finding anything good in the process.

      Then the sort of people who liked that approach took over the art community, and started giving all the credibility and prominent awards to other folks like themselves, instead of the stuff that was popular among normies.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Traditional poetry’s niche was taken over by music, so the medium was taken over by people with weird preferences that sort of exist in a closed circle for and by them.

      See also, “modern art”.

      • 天可汗 says:

        I think the real question is why poetry split off from music in the first place, seeing as how 15th-century Scotland had things that are recognizable as modern-day rap battles

        • vV_Vv says:

          After mass-printing and widespread literacy, distributing text was much easier than distributing music, which created a market for text-only poetry.

          Since the mid 20th century, making and distributing music has become easier, and in fact music is more accessible than written text, since you can listen to it in background while doing other stuff, therefore poetry returned to its musical origin, and what was left of text-only poetry became a weird elitist niche.

      • harland0 says:

        Don’t forget the ideological subversion of the West by the Soviet Union. This isn’t a crazy conspiracy theory, it was for real. The uglification of art wasn’t something that just happened, it was deliberate enemy action.

        Communist Goals (1963)

        23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

        [In] this country there was a time when virtually all intellectual vitality was derived in one way or another from the Communist Party. If you were not somewhere within the party’s wide orbit, then you were likely to be in the opposition, which meant that much of your thought and energy had to be devoted to maintaining yourself in opposition. In either case, it was the Communist Party that ultimately determined what you were to think about and in what terms.

        This was written not in the Soviet Union or one of its satellites, but in New York in 1947 by Robert Warshow in Commentary magazine about the American culture of the previous decade.

        • BBA says:

          Two can play at that game, and did.

          • 天可汗 says:

            Yes, that’s right: while Moscow conspired to uglify American art, Washington conspired to… uglify American art.

          • BBA says:

            Not such a faceplant as you imply, both were trying to influence the worldwide art scenes. And, for that matter, I like Abstract Expressionism better than most of what came later, and many others agree – “the CIA and NEA should switch jobs” was somebody’s snarky reply to that story.

    • Anatoly says:

      1. Survivorship bias.

      2. Free verse took over in the early 20th century and it seems to be a vortex from which poetry cannot, so far, escape. “Free verse” means poetry that has no prior constraints on form, such as rhyme, meter (iambic pentameter etc.), syllabic counts (French or Japanese poetry), alliteration (Old English), long/short syllables (ancient Greek/Latin), etc. There are many different kinds of constraints on form, and free verse is the movement in poetry which rejects all of them as a matter of principle (though specific lines in a free verse poem might still have meter or rhyme or whatever, as a narrowly targeted device).

      2.1. This is culture-specific; there are languages and cultures in which this takeover by free verse hasn’t happened till now. But it does seem to be a phenomenon that once free verse takes over (as the default form for high cultured poetry), it doesn’t go away. Thus free verse may be seen as a culture virus (or meme) slowly taking over “poetries” over the world, with modern poetry in free verse sounding largely “the same” in those different languages and cultures.

      2.2. This description is not neutral – modern poets and fans of poetry would dispute it and say that free verse is as nuanced and varied as forms that were used before it, but you need to know it better and understand it deeper to see those distinctions and variations.

      2.3. At roughly the same time as free verse took over poetry, modern poetry became less important culturally (than it used to be in the 19th century), and its readership diminished. Again it’s highly disputed whether free verse was a direct cause of that, or it would have happened/did happen anyway because of other cultural reasons.

      The second class of explanations is more interesting to think and argue about, but I think survivorship bias is also very important to anyone’s judgement of “modern X is terrible”, and I don’t have a confident estimate on its contribution to that vs. that of the second class.

      • Qays says:

        One poetic tradition that hasn’t yet been taken over by free verse is Arabic poetry, which has almost unfathomable mass market appeal compared to poetry in most other languages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_of_Poets (sample episode here)

        The Arabic free verse movement was a stillbirth in the 40s and 50s

      • Alethenous says:

        [Disclaimer: the only poetry I know even a tiny bit about is Classical.]

        1. There’s definitely going to be some of this, but I’ve never seen any old-school poetry even in the same class of awfulness as modern poetry. Admittedly, I’m anything but an expert, but still, it would be awfully convenient if by sheer luck I’ve only ever been exposed to good old poetry and miraculously missed all the good modern poetry. The poetry of Cicero (brilliant orator, dodgy poet) is widely considered mediocre by modern classicists and was often mocked when it was written. But by comparison to even generally lauded “poetry” today…

        2. If we accept that it’s free verse that’s to blame… why is free verse working?! How has it survived this long, let alone been actively infectious? If nobody likes it – and if we’re accepting the general consensus of this thread, that in general people don’t, and certainly if the possibility you raise that it’s directly responsible for poetry waning as an influential art form is true, why is it still here and not kicked out of the meme pool? Where’s Cthulhu when you need Him?

        2.1. I am automatically suspicious of “Oh, if you really understood it you’d comprehend the deep meaning of [x]”, admittedly partly for the unvirtuous reason that I just don’t like intellectual elitism. And there are definitely deeper layers and meanings to older poems without which they’re perhaps harder to appreciate, but the difference is that those are generally at least somewhat explicable, whereas this argument seems to revolve around the deep nuances of the form only being visible to an adherent. Which… isn’t impossible I suppose, but feels distinctly like being Eulered. Except Euler just says “Maths definitely proves God exists. Absolutely.” and then runs away.

        • rlms says:

          You’ve only been exposed to good old poetry because no-one bothered to record the Roman equivalent of “Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
          Alas! I am very sorry to say
          That ninety lives have been taken away
          On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
          Which will be remember’d for a very long time.” (which itself is a counterexample to the claim that all pre-20th century poetry is good).

          • Alethenous says:

            I think I miscommunicated. We do have some surviving Roman poetry that was definitely considered bad in its day and is considered bad by modern scholars, and it’s still not even in the same league of dreadful as any modern poetry. Survivorship bias can’t explain that kind of difference unless I’m conveniently missing all the good modern poetry (even after looking at the stuff that wins you awards and positions like Poet Laureate?)

            (PS: It’s amusing you bring that one up, because one example I was considering was that if Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay appeared in a collection compared to modern poetry it would be unusually good.)

    • BillG says:

      I think it’s important to be careful with terms here– what do you mean by “modern poetry”?

      That is, are you referring to “modern” in the sense that a literary critic would (i.e., Eliot, Pound, roughly 1880s-1930s)? Or are you referring to it as “the poetry I see made today”?

      If you mean the former, then I would argue that some of the deepest and most meaningful poems in the English language fit within the period. If the latter– then we get into some of the answers below.

      • Alethenous says:

        Oh yeah, modern in the colloquial sense. The “modern” period you describe has produced some of my favourite poems. The rot only set in recently.

    • Urstoff says:

      That’s a good question. I read Tin House, and while the fiction and essays are generally pretty good, most of the poetry is downright embarrassing, particularly since Trump won the election.

      Speculative: music with lyrics replaced whatever mass market there was for rhyming poetry, so the only people who read poetry are poets, resulting in highly inaccessible forms.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I don’t think modern poetry is a universal phenomenon– my impression is that poetry is still a live art form in Spanish-speaking countries and Israel. Would people who are from other cultures care to say what the state of poetry is?

      For purposes of this discussion, I’ll call a poetry a live culture if it’s more orderly than ordinary language, not set to music, and read/listened on a substantial scale by non-poets. And especially if some poets can make a living from poetry without teaching or grants.

      For me, the interesting question isn’t so much why unsatisfying poetry gained status as why there isn’t still low-status conventional poetry that people like. Music took two paths instead of collapsing.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Probably the same reason why modern art and modern architecture are so terrible.

      I think it is an elitism spiral.

      Instead of trying to appeal general audiences, even educated ones, modern poets, artists and architects try to appeal a small circle of people consisting of themselves, professional critics, and a small number of big-pocket patrons who, unlike the patrons of past classical art and literature, seek to distance themselves from the masses rather than win their approval. This has created a spiral where creatives try to constantly outdo each other in going against established norms and tastes by being controversial, offensive, or outright incomprehensible just for the sake of it.

      And they were largely successful at it: they created a “high culture” that reliably signal a certain upper-class/elite subculture, but is repulsive to all us peons, who instead consume what is disparagingly designated as “pop culture”.

      • Urstoff says:

        Although there isn’t any money (and definitely no patrons) in the poetry scene. That may not be essential to the elitism spiral, though, as there still is prestige in getting published in the biggest literary journals or having your own collection published at a good press.

      • John Nerst says:

        I think it’s an elitism spiral.

        Probably. I think it’s the same as with art in general. I wrote this (here) a couple of months ago:

        Imagine artists and art critics/enthusiasts as two interacting communities where the artists create works and the critics validate the artists’ creations as good and successful. They depend on each other. Crucially, one’s position in one community is partly dependent on playing along with the other. Critics earn status by being skilled at interpreting art — the subtler and more difficult the better — while artists get critics’ attention and praise by making works that let them show how skilled they are.

        This sets up a feedback loop where critics cultivate increasingly sensitive mental faculties specialized in perceiving artistic messages, while artists make increasingly subtle and ambiguous works to match the audience’s increased sensitivity.

        To get good art there needs to be a mechanism that counteracts the push towards the two extremes of “lowest common denominator crap” and “unintelligible specialist circlejerk”. I’m not sure how to ensure that, but making the mass market and academia the two main arenas are probably not the best way. Something where artists are subjected to market forces but somewhat protected from its most brutal economic judgment might be needed.

        • vV_Vv says:

          I’d say that market forces are doing fine for most forms of artistic expression: music, films (*), tv shows, video games, novels, etc. In all of these you can find works for all kind of tastes, from lowest-common-denominator to specialized niches.

          (* yes, i know about Hollywood sequelitis. But this seems to be driven by the opening of the Chinese market, and there is more to the film industry than Hollywood)

          The elitism spiral mostly affected art forms that have become largely obsolete: text-only poetry is superseded by mass-distributed songs, canvas painting is superseded by photography and illustrations, theatre is superseded by films and so on.

          Architecture is doing worse because it is less subject to market forces due to the highly-regulated monopoly nature of large buildings. Brutalist concrete box abominations seem to be a thing of the past, but they are being replaced with slightly less horrible glass boxes. I blame city planners.

          • John Nerst says:

            I guess what I’m concerned about re: mass market crap is that the low brow stuff seem to be getting worse, stupider and more lowbrow (I guess what you call Hollywood sequelitis) and that this is a consequence of an extreme fixation on (and great skill in) market research and audience appeal optimization. It shrinks the space in which actual artistic purpose can exist. I.e it’s good when artists can create somewhat freely with audience feedback that isn’t too direct and detailed.

          • Futhington says:

            @John Nerst

            I’ve heard it put forward that part of the reason mass market film especially seems to be getting way dumber is again because of the foreign market, especially in China. Making things intricate and complicated causes not only issues with translation but also with cross-cultural comprehension.

          • John Nerst says:

            Yes, clearly a factor but I’m doubtful it’s the only one.

          • vV_Vv says:

            One of the issue with the Chinese market is that until 15 years or so ago, very few foreign films were allowed in the country. Today, while there are still quotas and censorship, the criteria are much more lax, therefore for many types of movies, the Chinese market is very profitable, nearly as much as the US one, but films that are sequels or remakes to Western audiences look original to the Chinese since they’ve never seen the first installments. This effect, associated with the increasing production costs, incentives Hollywood to play it safe and put their money on tried formulas.

            Add to this a certain amount of oligopoly: high production costs and political protectionism resulted in high barriers to entry, which turned Hollywood into an aristocracy rather than a meritocracy, and all aristocracies are conservative.

            Hollywood being an aristocracy is also the reason why widespread sexual misconduct was covered up for decades: in an environment where personal relationships are more important than talent, you really don’t want to get on the bad side of powerful players, who can therefore get away with pretty much anything.

            But there is reason to hope: as profits are falling and the aristocrats are getting #metooed, the film industry may soon undergo a realignment.

        • Urstoff says:

          TV has been the model for good middle-brow art over the last decade or two. What are the forces at work there that aren’t in poetry or, to choose another market-driven industry, film? Novels also seem to be producing pretty good middle-brow art. It poetry insufficiently commodified, whereas films, due to their huge costs, have become over-commodified?

          • John Nerst says:

            I think movies have been overcommodified, and I worry that TV risks going the same way. I can’t prove it or even put my finger on it, but a lot of stuff that comes out now, like the stuff you can find browsing Netflix, seem just a tad overengineered.

            Like you can smell the market research behind it, and there’s an air of boring competence, well done but devoid of vision, like it has little to say and the purpose is simply to appeal to the audience. Not everything is like this but it’s a feeling I get.

    • John Schilling says:

      Musical instruments and recordings became cheap enough that pretty much everybody who wanted to entertain their non-poet audience added at least some melodic or rhythmic accompaniment to the words. That leaves poets who only want to entertain other poets, and poets who face unusual format constraints that rule out musical accompaniment.

      Written publication used to be the format constraint that preferred poetry to music, but we’re long past the point where publishing a CD or MP3 is as cheap as publishing a book or ebook. But if you e.g. want to embed a poem in a novel, a la Tolkein, you may still have to do it the old-fashioned way and to do it well if you want it to sell.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I forgot to mention poetry slams.

        My impression is that some of them use structure by way of repeated phrases, but I don’t think I’ve run across any that use structure as tight as traditional poetry.

        On the other hand, I might not notice it. Some writers amuse themselves by slipping sonnets or whatever into prose novels, and readers don’t seem to mention noticing it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Some writers amuse themselves by slipping sonnets or whatever into prose novels, and readers don’t seem to mention noticing it.

          Some of us notice. It tends to be doggerel beneath mention, however; at least it’s bad in easily-understood ways.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Indeed, before print and mass literacy, poetry used to be associated with music.

        Text-only poetry may have become popular for some time just because distributing text was easier than distributing music, but now poetry has just returned to its musical origin, and text-only poetry is just a self-referential niche for the initiates.

      • Doesntliketocomment says:

        This is 100% the answer to “Where has the rhyming poetry gone?” In fact we have an entire genre of mass-market, culturally relevant rhyming poetry with minimal musical accompaniment, it’s called rap.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not sure about “minimal musical accompaniment” there. Rap and rock use vocals differently, but there’s some complicated stuff going on in the beat either way, and there are star producers and DJs in rap just like there are star MCs.

          But I think you’re basically right that the kind of language skills that used to drive literary poetry now go mainly into songwriting. Leonard Cohen was only a competent singer, but he was really good at playing with English.

          • Doesntliketocomment says:

            I’m kind of discounting beat, since beat has always been a component of poetry, what is iambic pentameter but a beat? I guess I’m thinking more of musical flourish, and while much of modern rap has incorporated a lot more in that regard, the essence is still structured around the lyrics.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, by “beat” here I mean “everything that isn’t the vocals”, which is consistent with how hip-hop uses the word but not how rock uses the word.

            At this point, I think your average hip-hop track has as much effort going into that as your average rock song does.

    • maldusiecle says:

      It’s easy to forget how bad poetry in general has always been. We only remember a minuscule portion of the poets active at a given time, with the number we remember being larger as the time approaches present. When you move off the beaten path, the quality drops off abruptly.

      There might be a lot of unreadable garbage in Tin House every month. There was just as much unreadable garbage every month of the 17th century, only it rhymed more and leaned even more heavily on stereotyped imagery. You can’t get a good idea of the medium’s health from the monthlies. We’ve had Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, Marianne Moore, Robert Creeley. It was a very rich century.

      • Urstoff says:

        The fiction and essays in the monthlies aren’t garbage, though, which is why the state of poetry is confusing.

        • maldusiecle says:

          Not if one grants that the bars for success in short fiction and essays are much lower than in poetry, which is what I’d argue. Nearly any decent poet can turn out a strong essay; the reverse is not true.

          • Urstoff says:

            Sounds more like you’re saying that poetry is harder, rather than the bar for prose being lower. I guess that could be true, although I don’t know how we’d determine that that’s the reason for most modern poetry being execrable.

    • Brad says:

      Poetry is dead as a commercial art form. That means there’s no market based discipline imposed to cater to mass taste. In situations like that where you have a sealed, self selected group of enthusiasts speaking only to each other, novelty ends up being prized above all. That process quickly leads to output that incomprehensible and alienating to the non-initiated.

      I don’t take the position that this is the product of some degenerate age. I myself respect the great poems of history but never much enjoyed them. I am among the vast majority of people that would almost certainly not buy a book of modern poetry no matter how good (Shel Silverstein for kids’ gifts aside.)

      • Randy M says:

        I myself respect the great poems of history but never much enjoyed them. I am among the vast majority of people that would almost certainly not buy a book of modern poetry no matter how good

        I agree, although I partially suspect it’s a deficiency in myself, perhaps due to lack of exposure or insufficient knowledge of cultural referents, etc. I feel the same about Shakespeare (although perhaps that is included in poetry). I tried to read through Hamlet not long ago after hearing someone gush about the profound themes and so on, but that project didn’t last, unfortunately.

        • Brad says:

          Take it for what it is worth, but in my opinion if you want to enjoy Shakespeare you need to watch it. There’s value in reading it, especially with some guidance from either a teacher or reference book, but that is like eating vegetables rather than eating a steak.

          Although I liked it best on the stage, the Branagh movie is quite good in my opinion. Although also very long, you may want to watch over two nights.

          • bean says:

            I’ll second this. I hated Shakespeare in early high school. Senior year, we did Hamlet, and it was not horrible. Then, I went to St. Louis’s public Shakespeare festival the following summer, and they were doing Hamlet. It was fantastic. Knowing the play probably helped, but they really do work best live.

          • Randy M says:

            I suspect part of that is that you can’t dwell on every stanza until you get what it is saying, so you don’t tire of it as quickly, and also you can see the action, expression, etc. so you aren’t lost if you “skim” or miss the meaning of some lines.

          • Urstoff says:

            Aside from seeing it on stage, drama is best read out loud while imagining how you would stage it. Reading drama doesn’t have to be a dry experience.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s true of non-narrative poetry as well, in my experience. Always enhanced when read aloud, with the possible exception of in the middle of 9th grade English class.

    • rahien.din says:

      Poetry also used to be terrible. Harken back to eras in which poesy was widespread and celebrated, and most of that verse is irredeemably maudlin.

    • Ketil says:

      What makes art (or, well, anything?) good? Earlier, Scott wrote about how we (maybe) receive “raw” sensory input, and it gets processed into more abstract representations at higher and higher levels of our minds. Simultaneously, the upper layers have a conception or model of how the world is, and propagates the expected inputs in the opposite direction.

      (Sorry if I totally misrepresent this)

      And when expectations don’t match with the inputs, it causes stress – and we suddenly have to respond to an unexpected situation, or learn something new.

      I think the point of art is to strike the correct balance here. Too predictable, and it is boring. It becomes easy listening, pop music. Muzak, if you will. Too unpredictable, and it makes no sense, it is just a confused jumble of noise – avant-garde jazz or abstract painting. For art to work, it needs to be predictable enough that the unpredictable elements still make sense. An aesthetic Overton window, maybe? Art should be provocative, but not by being obscene or offensive (as I feel this is often interpreted), but by challenging existing aesthetics by just the right amount – by putting known pieces in a new configuration, and one that is surprising but – in retrospect – makes sense.

      And of course, this depends on the consumer (listener, reader, spectator, audience) as much as it does on the artist. You need to understand the references, the plays on existing structures, to appreciate art.

      Which is not to say that there isn’t a whole lot of emperor’s clothes in contemporary art as well – in-the-know artists nodding appreciatively as the “get” each other’s obscure references, and looking down their noses at the mixed crowd of people either not getting it, or realizing it just isn’t very good.

    • Randy M says:

      This thread needs examples. Post the worst poetry you know of, along with the date/era it was written.

      • rlms says:

        This page has some good (bad?) ones. I was about to say that the worst/best is A Tragedy, from 1874, beginning:

        Death!
        Plop.
        The barges down in the river flop.
        Flop, plop.
        Above, beneath.
        From the slimy branches the grey drips drop,
        As they scraggle black on the thin grey sky,
        Where the black cloud rack-hackles drizzle and fly
        To the oozy waters, that lounge and flop
        On the black scrag piles, where the loose cords plop,
        As the raw wind whines in the thin tree-top.

        but on rereading I semi-unironically liked it.

        • bassicallyboss says:

          I like this one. I’m not going to try to remember it, and it’s never making any favorites lists, but it has good scansion and imagery.

    • bassicallyboss says:

      I think it’s a situation of “you can ignore the rules, but only if you know them”.

      Writing good poetry requires a certain kind of deep and narrow attention to compositional elements: The effect of line breaks on attention and rhythm, the conceptual bleed between neighboring verses, the careful selection of each individual word within a line. This is a skill, and every kind of poetry benefits from its application. However, writing even bad structured poetry (e.g., metered verse) encourages-bordering-on-requires this kind of attention, so writing it builds the skill automatically. But writing bad free verse requires no skill at all; you can literally just scribble some words on a page and call it poetry. Nearly all bad modern poetry is free verse.

      Good free verse poetry and good free verse poets do exist–Sylvia Plath and ee cummings are two good examples, no matter how much I dislike the latter’s unconventional formatting. But the good free verse tends to be concentrated at the beginning of the free verse era; cummings died in ’62, Plath in ’63. This is the time when the people writing free verse poetry would have been trained on structured poetry, so my hypothesis is that they learned to write good poems in the old style, and their skill transferred to the new style. On the other hand, later people learned by writing in the new style, and so never developed the skill to begin with. (cf. David Chapman’s take on postmodernism.)

      I note that the “elitism signalling spiral” hypothesis explains that evidence just as well, though. The reason I don’t think it’s the whole picture is that I have very often heard free verse poets express that they have tried and found themselves unable to write structured poetry. Even professional poets say this: I once went to a poetry reading where the poet (a professional writer of free verse) explained how she proud she was of a sestina she’d written, because she never had the knack for structure. (Sestinas have no meter, and are the closest structured poetic form I know of to free verse.) On the other hand, I’ve never heard a structured poet bemoan their inability to compose in free verse. The pattern seems so one-sided that I don’t believe it can be taste or fashion alone, even wacko elite-signalling taste.

      • powerfuller says:

        @bassicallyboss

        I think this is spot on. It’s helpful to read juvenilia to get a sense of how good poets learned how to write well. Like you said, the best free verse poets grew up on formal verse, and to follow your mention of Plath, take her poem Ennui, which IIRC she wrote while still an undergraduate. You can tell she has chops, well before her free verse poems. Today, poets may know about sestinas or sonnets, but they hardly know them. To add to what you said, I think part of the decline of poetry is that people don’t memorize poems anymore. Memorizing and reciting a poem is one of the best ways to assimilate and understand its structure or meaning. I think it’s unfortunate this is no longer a part of primary education.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Not that it is relevant to your point, but while “Ennui” may count as unpublished juvenilia, “Mad Girl’s Love Song,” a villanelle from her college days, may well be her most read poem, if only because it is included in The Bell Jar.

          • powerfuller says:

            Oh, I had forgotten about that poem! “Ennui” really isn’t a good example of juvenilia as it good enough to be considered a mature poem, but I didn’t think of any other examples off the top of my head.

    • Aapje says:

      Turing test for AI poetry. See if you can distinguish the modern poetry written by a human from AI-generated poetry.

      Another turing test for AI poetry.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        I got full marks at the first link, but only 6/10 at the second. I think that the second one has been more carefully selected for ‘humans writing in a slightly non-human looking manner’.

    • powerfuller says:

      Oooo this is a subject I love to complain about, but I’m pretty late to the party, so rather than reiterate what a lot of people have said, I’ll just add:

      1) I think the Master of Fine Arts in writing poetry has done a great disservice to the art, as it has turned (or accelerated the turning of) poetry into an obscure academic discipline, and fostered a culture of mediocre professionalism, where poets put out a slim volume every few years and spend the rest of the time writing fellowship applications or back-of-the-book blurbs for their friends. The only people who read poems are people who write poems, and what’s exciting to a practitioner is often anathema to the casual audience. And then academics talk about how Longfellow is not a real poet, since he wrote a lot pleasant stories in verse for the general public to enjoy.

      2) The dominance of free verse and the social/moral frameworks of the journals has become as constraining as poetry in the late Victorian poetry, where every poem seemed required to be rhymed quatrains about the virtues of domesticity. It seems like every poem today must be in free verse couplets about how the body is a good thing. I exaggerate, but it seems like all poetry that gets talked about is poetry that already conforms to the vanishingly small readership’s worldviews and moral sentiments. So, modern poetry is like greeting cards.

      3) Here is an excellent place to mourn the passing of Richard Wilbur, who died a few weeks ago, and was (IMHO) the best poet alive. He worked a lot in traditional forms, so if you dislike modern poetry, you would probably enjoy some of his poems.

      4) Read David Orr’s Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry. It covers a lot of what’s been said here in greater depth and is quite fun to read.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      Why is modern poetry so terrible?

      Are you familiar with the poet Les Barker? He’s still alive, still writing poetry that is clever and hilarious, and making a living selling poetry books and touring the world reading his poems to people. So it’s clearly possible to make a living writing good poetry that people like. Maybe the problem is that poetry awards don’t go to people who are good at that?

      Here’s Les reading