SELF-RECOMMENDING!

Open Thread 91.75

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

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

818 Responses to Open Thread 91.75

  1. Anonymous says:

    May the Clown Factor rise to new heights in this new Current Year!

  2. johan_larson says:

    I’ve kicked off a thread to discuss The Last Jedi (spoilers included) in the previous OT, so those who still haven’t seen the movie can avoid spoilers if they want.

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/24/open-thread-91-5/#comment-582971

  3. Mark says:

    Ethos, Logos, Pathos.

    I think the modern view is that if you get your pathos in line, by creating an honest emotional connection with the audience, the logos and ethos follow naturally.

    As evidence I would like to present “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” by Car Seat Headrest.

    It doesn’t have to be like this. Killer Whales.
    Killer Whales, man.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    Ethos derives from pathos, and the audience creates their own logos.

    • Deiseach says:

      Eh, my grumpier side says modern audiences let pathos determine ethos and over-ride logos. Everybody loves a happy ending, or if they’re being Modern, a grimdark one to show that they’re not one of the cornball saps. But it has to be the right kind of grimdark, one that follows out of the ethos arising from the logos isn’t wanted (the sympathetic villain or anti-hero should win or at least get away with it). People who like The Joker or think he’s the real hero of Gotham. Bah, humbug!

  4. Deiseach says:

    State papers here are being released under the thirty-year rule, and amongst them is one saying the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force, a loyalist paramilitary group officially classed as a terrorist organisation) claim they were asked by MI5 (the British domestic counter-intelligence and security organisation) to assassinate our then-Taoiseach, Charles Haughey (regarded as being strong on the National Question and indeed had had his political career blighted by the Arms Crisis; to quote Wikipedia “The Arms Crisis was a political scandal in the Republic of Ireland in 1970 in which Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney were dismissed as cabinet ministers for alleged involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle arms to the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland” – Haughey, Blaney, an Army officer and a businessman were put on trial but acquitted).

    So there were definitely reasons for the British establishment of the day – whether the official government or the mandarins – to want Haughey out of the way, but is this alleged plot actually true? Nobody can be sure because (a) the senders of the letter might not be the real UVF (b) if it was the UVF, they might have been lying (c) if they were not lying, the Brits can say this was down to a rogue agent/bad apple acting independently and they knew nothing about it (d) anyway, British state papers regarding official decisions at interesting moments have a habit of very conveniently whenever someone wants to investigate something* going missing, I just had it a minute ago, put it down somewhere and can’t remember where, lose my own head if it wasn’t screwed on, so nobody can know the real truth one way or another (a lot of the people involved have died by now) 🙂

    *The British government/civil service are very good at having terrible memories as to who said what, who was there, and indeed if anything was said at all, and being shockingly careless about the safekeeping of official documents when it’s most convenient that they should be. They cleverly mix this in with genuine incompetence and “what do you mean you left a file full of official secrets on the train” so it’s always hard to tell what is real stupidity and what is artifice. Imagine Hillary had won the election and become President, then when some fuss over an official decision kicked up and the records were ‘misplaced’, the administration could go “Hey, we’re the guys set up a private email server against all the rules, this is the kind of thing we do, silly old careless us!” to deflect accusations of deliberate hiding or destroying evidence 😀

    Well, that would be if the Democrats were as capable at being twisty as the Brits; in the hypothetical above I’m more inclined to think that it would be genuine “yeah we’re that dumb” than “oh dear how misfortunate this should happen now, who could possibly have foreseen this?”.

    • The Nybbler says:

      With 30 years to accomplish it, I’m sure those papers were involved in at least one move from a former archive location to a new archive location. Amazing how hard it is to move everything without at least a little bit being lost in the sewers, isn’t it?

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh, they lent them out to government departments that asked for them, and those silly paper-pushers then misplaced them! Tsk tsk, you just can’t get the help nowadays!

        Some of the stuff probably is genuinely “yeah no we have no idea who had it last” but some of it is probably “not for public consumption by the plebians and we don’t care if it’s due to be publicly available under the law”.

  5. johan_larson says:

    Canadians apparently spend almost as much on marijuana as they do on wine, and weed isn’t even legal yet.

    http://www.thecannabist.co/2017/12/18/canada-marijuana-consumption-rate/94831/

    Come on wine lovers, we can’t let the stoners beat us. In 2018 resolve to drink more, more often and more upmarket.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      When weed gets legal, the price drops. And it has a lot more room to fall.

      https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/legal-weed-isnt-the-boon-small-businesses-thought-it-would-be/

      From what little I know about each kind of agricultural product, there is a probably a lot more input into growing grapes and turning them into good wine at the grocery store, than there is in growing cannabis and turning it into enjoyably consumable THC infused candy and vape oil at the local potshop. The hard floor on the cost of THC may just be it’s regulatory paperwork overhead, instead of any energy, refining, transportation, or finance costs.

      There is a reason it has the nickname “weed”.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, it’s a cheap product.

        I remember an article in The Atlantic (or Harper’s?) back in the nineties where the author talked to a professional farmer who had decided to supplement his income by growing a patch of marijuana. The farmer said it was the easiest crop he ever grew.

        I suppose that makes sense for plants that have been bred to contain extremely high levels of a natural insecticide.

      • Controls Freak says:

        Open question – would anyone still like to defend the claim that usage won’t be higher post-legalization than pre-legalization?

        • Aapje says:

          Demand for weed seems fairly price inelastic and primarily defined by culture.

          So it’s quite possible that usage won’t be higher if cultural changes result in lower demand. The US has very high marijuana usage, so it’s plausible that this might happen.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Ok, so let’s ignore the massive cultural factor of “being il/legal”, and just look at the price elasticity. The paper that uses ONDCP data has some oddities going on, but let’s ignore youth. They’re pretty elastic. Let’s look at the 18+ subgroups, and ignore the +0.16 weirdness. Let’s take the lowest number that also makes a good test case – in decriminalized states, they estimate a price elasticity for 26+ year olds at 0.15. Looking at 538’s chart, let’s ignore the spike, and just take the high price at the beginning to just be $30/g.

            The price has thus dropped 75%. We’re almost certainly outside of the range of a linear assumption, but hell, we were really conservative in picking the most inelastic number that seemed to fit our situation at all. *Crunches numbers* …and we get just over an 11% increase in usage!

            So, uh, would anyone still like to defend the claim that usage won’t be higher post-legalization than pre-legalization?

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I know that anecdote is not the plural of data, but… my accumulated anecdotes from people I know in Seattle is that many people who are not users, or only smoked some in college, went and bought some at the legal potshops, tried it, and decided it was boring.

            My own standard answer when someone asks me if I have tried it is “I do not have time in my schedule to do something that will make me dumber for two days. I barely have enough time to drink all the wine that my doctor has recommended that I drink!”

        • Deiseach says:

          I read an interesting article the other day that basically said Big Agriculture is the winner from legalised weed; when it was legalised, a lot of small growers thought this was their opportunity, but prices dropped (so I guess there’s an argument for legalising harder drugs?) and it became hard for them to compete. Large concerns that could avail themselves of economies of scale for growing the crop (which as johan_larson comments seems to be easy to grow in the right conditions) could turn out high volumes, which meant cheap legal pot, which meant the small growers had to either go for fancy products and not basic weed or go under.

          EDIT: The same article Mark Atwood linked. That’ll teach me to read comments starting from the bottom up!

          I do wonder if the same effect would come into play if harder drugs were legalised; large concerns getting licences, being regulated, bringing prices down and so making it uneconomic for gangs to engage in the drugs trade. But as I’ve said before, if gangs are not making money off drugs, I can’t see them giving up on crime and going straight, I’m sure they’ll turn elsewhere for profits.

          • johan_larson says:

            I’m expecting the steady-state to look pretty much like the beer market: a few large producers hold 80% of the market, with okish product expertly marketed and distributed. The rest is fought over by a wide range of smaller producers selling premium and artisanal products to connoisseurs.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I’m sure they’ll turn elsewhere for profits.

            I’ve been told that the networks that used to grow pot in BC and then smuggle down the waterways from BC to Washington did not just dry up and blow away after legalization passed in Washington.

            Instead they’ve switched to meth, and are mostly selling it locally. >.<

  6. Levantine says:

    Some of the enjoyable books I’ve read this year :

    i) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Given that it’s about an Aspie-like scholarly person who has trouble with relationships, I was surprised to see that it has been mentioned zero times on SSC and SSC Reddit (until now). Perhaps it is so because the novel has been so wildly popular that everyone with an interest had an outlet to learn about it and talk about it somewhere else.
    By the way, interesting guy this Simsion, who is both data modeller and playwright. If my life circumstances would have been slightly different, I feel I could have been doing what he does.

    ii) Yanis Varoufakis’ Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment. A committed leftist, and Marxist, who is remarkably intelligent, mentally flexible and charming (!).
    His factual detailing of the goings-on in the European corridors of power is very helpful for anyone who wants to know how politics actually functions at this point in history.
    On the other hand, the very fact that his book is well-covered by the mainstream media makes me somewhat perplexed. Yanis, if MSM are tools of manipulation for the establishment, as you describe them, why do they promote you?

  7. johan_larson says:

    The New York Times has a report on why building a subway in New York costs seven times the worldwide average.

    Jalopnik has a summary, for those who want the short and sweet.

  8. johan_larson says:

    Anyone here know their way around internet infrastructure? I’m wondering how much it would cost to get your own personal broadband internet in a rural location.

    The reason I’m asking is that John Scalzi, the SF author, lives in rural Ohio, somewhere near the village of Bradford. He has access to the internet (through CenturyLink?) but the performance is pitiful and he just loves to bitch about it on Twitter.

    Scalzi has done well for himself. In 2015 he announced a lucrative multi-book deal with Tor, and Netflix is working on a show based on his novel Old Man’s War. How much of this newfound wealth would it take to upgrade to a fat pipe?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I know a guy who was looking to buy a house in a rural area. He called up the cable company and asked if they serve that address. They quoted him the same price as in town. So he bought the house, ordered installation, and was quoted a $10k installation fee to pay for the infrastructure. So he got satellite internet. That’s how all his neighbors get TV. They probably get internet only through their phones.

      Scalzi thinks that it would cost $100k to upgrade his road. Paying that is a real option. And he knows about satellite internet. I think it’s a lot more reliable than as described in that article, probably because of the intervening decade, but the high latency does rule out fps. Probably he should get two internet connections, satellite for speed, and DSL for reliability.

      • johan_larson says:

        The $100K figure is suspiciously round, but pretty believable. That’s only high-end car money.

      • Anonymous says:

        If 100k USD is too rich for Scalzi, can’t he just crowd-fund the thing? Unless he’s a total hermit or something.

      • MrApophenia says:

        My dad lives out in the boonies and needs to use satellite internet. It’s not bad for browsing websites, but there are monthly data caps which mean you can’t really use it for any proper broadband functionality like gaming or streaming. He has shopped around and there are no unlimited options, at least not in his area.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Yeah, I didn’t think this through. The only advantage of satellite internet is that it is 5x as fast as his current speeds, which isn’t that much of an improvement. It looks like about $100/hour of HD streaming video. If you really want to stream a lot of video, paying the cable company $10k to build out is a better option (if it’s a real option).

          • MrApophenia says:

            We’ve found that the fastest way for my folks in rural America to view videos over the internet is for me to download them on broadband, then mail them a thumb drive with the files on them. Assuming a 32GB drive, that’s 4 times my dad’s data cap.

            Assuming you fill the drive and it takes 3 days to get there, if I’m doing my math right, that’s about 123 kbps, which is also about 20 times faster than the DSL connection my mom had to use until about two months ago.

            (As noted, though, cable internet did get out to her very recently.)

    • John Schilling says:

      Might as well ask, “I like hanging out every night in trendy cosmopolitan nightclubs filled with cool members of the Global Elite; how much would it cost to set up one of those here in rural Ohio where I live?”

      There are some forms of entertainment that you have to accept are not going to be a part of your life if you live in rural Ohio and are not filthy rich, and maybe high-end twitch gaming belongs on that list along with trendy nightclubs and e.g. surfing. Take away the twitch games and maybe the livestreaming high-def video, and satellite internet is pretty clearly the right answer. If you’re not willing to give up the twitch gaming and you’re not willing to move to a city, hell, I won’t turn down another excuse to mock Scalzi.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Scalzi is, presumably, pretty rich. I am curious what the cost of laying real fiber that far would be….

        • John Schilling says:

          That’s an extremely weaksauce definition of rich, roughly equivalent to a $150k/year salary (coarse rule of thumb is that it takes two dollars of self-employment income to equal one dollar of nominal salary due to benefits/taxes/etc). Scalzi isn’t going to be opening any trendy nightclubs in Bradford, and he probably isn’t going to be laying a private T1 line.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            A few things:

            – I admit I don’t know that much about book deals, but by analogies from other industries, I expect a substantial fraction (if not all) of the cash to come up front (do you have counter-evidence? I’m quite honestly fascinated by the compensation details in different industries.) I’m sure there are clawbacks if the books don’t get written, but I don’t think this is quite comparable to a 10-year job contract (nor do I think this will require 10 years of work life, nigh-on 20,000 nominal hours, of Scalzi’s time.) Simply put, even if the total lifetime income of some low end white collar professional over 40 years is sometihng like $4M, I think I’d consider myself quite rich if I had $4M cash in my pocket today. (Not quite there yet.)

            – I’ve heard the same 2:1 contracting/W2 rule but that’s generally quoted as COGS for the purchasor, not equivalent purchasing power of the employee. Some of the costs are perceived the same (payroll taxes) but some are not. (The biggest question is the actual cost of equivalent health care coverage, which is basically unmeasurable. It’s the biggest thing keeping me from just quitting.)

            – I also don’t think that 2:1 rule holds linearly as you increase income. I make a good X times more than the cheapest fulltime Google engineer (I will withhold the value of X in public, but it is substantially over one.) Employer payroll taxes are 7.5%ish; other than that, is there a single overhead cost where Google pays more to support my $X*125K cash compensation than my new-grad neighbor’s 125K? I can’t think of one [1], and if not, the two of us can’t both be at 100% overhead costs.

            [1] This assumes we smear out all my coworker’s health insurance costs equally between us, in the usual risk pool sense: certainly some employees cost more and some less, but I don’t think it will correlate with our cash comp. (I’m at the high end of the cash, but being as I’m single and healthy I’m pretty cheap; I spend more money on physical therapy than anything else, most years.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            In a one-book deal a substantial amount comes up front, but a multiple book deal is just a succession of one book deals. The money for book 2 doesn’t come until book 1 is published, or at least final draft.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Douglas: so you think Scalzi has realized only 340K in cash so far (or something in that range, but not 1-2M?)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, annualizing is a good model. He has probably been on the new contract for 1-2 years, hence $340-680k.

          • Chalid says:

            But surely the $3.4M/13 year = $260k/year advance is a very loose lower bound on his earnings? His books are likely to earn more than the advance, and he has all his old books which get him royalties, and he’s got other projects going too.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That’s an extremely weaksauce definition of rich, roughly equivalent to a $150k/year salary (coarse rule of thumb is that it takes two dollars of self-employment income to equal one dollar of nominal salary due to benefits/taxes/etc). Scalzi isn’t going to be opening any trendy nightclubs in Bradford, and he probably isn’t going to be laying a private T1 line.

            I would say that $150,000 a year with no access costs actually is at least very close to rich. The issue is that most $150k jobs require high access costs, and those costs can easily run 50,000+ a year. When I played online poker professionally I make ~$60,000, but that was more like making $100,000 for most people as it didn’t come attached to student loans, commuting costs, being forced to live in a high COL city etc.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Scalzi said he wasn’t getting all the money up front.

            However, at least part of the reason that freelancers need a higher income than employees is that free lancers have to keep negotiating deals. This takes time, and there can be spells between deals when money isn’t coming in.

            Scalzi’s situation is intermediate between freelancer and employee because he has such a longterm contract.

          • John Schilling says:

            Scalzi’s situation is intermediate between freelancer and employee because he has such a longterm contract.

            Good point. It’s probably not so much the negotiations themselves that matter, but the associated risk premium. But if we put Scalzi in a hybrid category midway between employee and self-employed, that still gives him an equivalent salary of $225K/year. That’s less than half the threshold value(and one-fifth the mean) for being a one-percenter, and probably a bit on the low side for having people lay fiber for your private convenience.

            If someone wants to call Scalzi “rich”, they’re going to have to come up with a new term for the 1% who classically are considered rich, and I’m not a fan of that sort of thing.

          • johan_larson says:

            Let’s keep in mind that the Tor contract for upcoming books is only part of Scalzi’s income. He is in early middle age, and has a lot of books in print, not only in English but internationally too. He’s a big wheel in science-fiction literature, and it would only take a few film or TV adaptations of his books for him to be a big wheel in science fiction as a whole, since he has already done a bit of TV and video game work.

            It seems entirely possible that his current net worth is in seven figures, which would make him minor-league rich.

          • Anonymous says:

            @John Schilling

            If someone wants to call Scalzi “rich”, they’re going to have to come up with a new term for the 1% who classically are considered rich, and I’m not a fan of that sort of thing.

            Paraphrasing a friend of mine, the rich are those who don’t know and don’t care about the cost of their groceries.

          • rlms says:

            This website defines unqualified “tall” (for American men) as >= 6 ft 3. Personally, I’d put it slightly lower, but let’s use that definition. That height is 97.5th percentile. The 97th, 98th, and 99th individual income percentile thresholds for 2016 were respectively $187,222, $219,999, and $300,800. So I think it’s reasonable to say that an income of $225,000 qualifies one as rich, especially in a low CoL area.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If someone wants to call Scalzi “rich”, they’re going to have to come up with a new term for the 1% who classically are considered rich, and I’m not a fan of that sort of thing.

            “Very rich”?

          • John Schilling says:

            Paraphrasing a friend of mine, the rich are those who don’t know and don’t care about the cost of their groceries.

            That was true a hundred years ago, but I think now applies to a significant fraction of the US middle class by any standard. Up it to not knowing or caring about the cost of eating (and drinking) out, and you might be on to something.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Stores like Whole Paycheck and King’s Ransom are making the middle and even upper middle class care about grocery costs again.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Might as well ask, “I like hanging out every night in trendy cosmopolitan nightclubs filled with cool members of the Global Elite; how much would it cost to set up one of those here in rural Ohio where I live?”

        Well Alice Walton is trying something similar with the Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, and not succeeding too well, so the answer is “more than that”. However, I think broadband internet in rural Ohio is probably doable for someone slightly less filthy rich.

      • Deiseach says:

        If you’re not willing to give up the twitch gaming and you’re not willing to move to a city, hell, I won’t turn down another excuse to mock Scalzi.

        Whatever about reasons to mock Scalzi, I can understand any annoyance this much at least: it is Current Year in the 21st Century! We are supposed to have flying cars and moon bases and be colonising Mars by now, and instead we can’t get flippin’ good broadband out to part of the continental United States even with our vaunted ‘connect the world, it’s as easy to talk to someone in Australia over Skype as it is to call Aunt Marge in the next town’ high-tech society?

        In fact, if Elon Musk has his way, it looks like it will be easier to colonise Mars than get good broadband to “not a huge megapolis”, which really is a situation more worth mocking than any individuals involved.

    • Incurian says:

      I think point to point wireless is his best bet.

      • Incurian says:

        Also, if he gets 4G out there, it’s not too much trouble to get a hotspot or two from AT&T (since they are the only ones who do unlimited hotspot data, afaik) and plug it into a router. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s what I use since the cable companies hate my neighborhood and I think by the time I got everything worked out for a point to point setup SpaceX might have those LEO highspeed satellites ready to go.

    • The Nybbler says:

      People have done it by building their own wireless — buy or lease some land with internet access and LOS to the site, erect a small tower, set up solar panels, battery, and radio. Depends on the cost of the land whether this would be more or less than the $100K, but I expect if an appropriate site is available it would be less.

      (edit to reflect that Scalzi wasn’t the one quoted the 10K)

  9. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    From memory: In The Last Jedi, Rose says something like “Only weapon dealers to the Empire can afford to be in this casino”. I can easily believe she might believe that, but is it plausible?

    Also, she lets the pseudo-racehorses loose because she’s angry. Wasn’t there something about anger/hatred being a path to the dark side? Or is that only for Jedi?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      It’s not plausible at all. We already know that master code-breakers can afford to be there, after all.

      She’s angry on their behalf, and acts to help them, not seek vengeance directly on those who subjugated them. Luke’s initial anger in IV and V was about what the Empire had done to him (through killing his family).

    • Matt M says:

      That entire sequence struck me as the Disney-mandated progressive political brainwashing session.

      In about 30 minutes we get over the head with classics such as:

      All rich people achieved their wealth immorally and it is therefore justified to destroy their property
      Capitalism inevitably leads to child-slavery
      Domestication of animals is inherently wrong and it is morally justified to use force to “liberate” them

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        All rich people achieved their wealth immorally and it is therefore justified to destroy their property

        Rich people wasting their money through debauchery when the hard-working poor are right beside them deserve to have their property destroyed, freed, or repurposed.

        Capitalism inevitably leads to child-slavery

        Yes, it did. Historically we have seen this, or something pragmatically close to slavery. It took actual laws and regulations to push it into the black-market.

        (Child labor – when within a family, is obviously not the same)

        Edit to add: Wealth from trade isn’t the same as capitalism. The Empire strikes me as more mercantilistic than capitalistic.

        Domestication of animals is inherently wrong and it is morally justified to use force to “liberate” them

        Torture of animals is wrong, especially when that torture is to no purpose other than gambling. That was the point.

        This controversy obviously has a modern parallel: https://www.google.com/search?q=opposition+to+horse+races

        • lvlln says:

          It strikes me that all of these points might be 100% correct, as you argue, and Matt M is still 100% correct in his point that these were part of a “Disney-mandated progressive political brainwashing session.” Even if I would say that that’s an awfully uncharitable way of describing it.

        • Incurian says:

          Those hard working poor people would be doing what, if the rich people didn’t put a casino there?

          • John Schilling says:

            Not having it rubbed in their face that they are inferior by way of their poverty, which is a harm and may or may not be morally significant. Also practically significant, if for example there is a rebellion or resistance or whatnot in the area and looking for new recruits.

            Things to keep in mind when siting your dens of iniquity, depending on whether your motive is to be a decent person, safely enjoy said iniquity, or demonstrate your gratuitous evilness because you are the designated bad guy in a popular and populist entertainment.

          • The Nybbler says:

            My dens of iniquity would employ the local population. I would pay them somewhat above the minimum necessary in order to quell rebellion and encourage loyalty. As a result these employees would also let me know immediately any time anyone ordered a vodka martini, shaken not stirred. I would of course do the usual thing of sending my most attractive female hostess to get close to him and spy on him… but as soon as I confirmed it was in fact James Bond, I’d just skip the unpleasantries and execute the exit plan.

            Oh, wait, wrong universe.

          • MrApophenia says:

            This is why Dr. Doom practically never has to deal with rebellions. Latverians have a great standard of living and near-total safety and security, so they’re perfectly happy to work in the Doombot Factories for an absolute tyrant.

          • quanta413 says:

            @MrApophenia

            Just uh… asking for a friend, but can you immigrate to Latveria?

          • MrApophenia says:

            Huh, you know, as a big comic nerd, this is kind of an interesting question. I do know that immigration from Latveria is frowned upon, as Doom takes it as a… shall we say, personal insult on his hospitality.

            https://mobile.twitter.com/thespoonyone/status/657742252991737857

            On the other hand, this leads me to suspect he’d be quite favorable to people who voluntarily choose to live under his rule.

            At first I assumed there must be something limiting immigration, because when we see Latveria it is still appears relatively sparsely populated, and if they allowed in anyone who wanted absolute peace, security, and plenty, you’d have to assume a lot of people would opt in. But then I remembered the Folding City, where Doom has already constructed a residential area inside a tesseract, so I imagine living space isn’t an issue either.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            They should be engaged in lines of work which produce things that are useful for hard-working poor people. Or at least things that improve the infrastructure.

            Espistemic status: not sure whether I’m kidding or not.

          • quanta413 says:

            @MrApophenia

            I My friend looks forward to emigrating to Latveria.

        • toastengineer says:

          Yes, it did. Historically we have seen this, or something pragmatically close to slavery. It took actual laws and regulations to push it into the black-market.

          Didn’t child labor in the Gilded Age sense go away because the economy grew and it became unnecessary for families to send kids off to work and not worth it for employers to purchase child labor over adult labor, with the government then swooping in and taking credit via regulation?

          (Child labor – when within a family, is obviously not the same)

          Why not?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Didn’t child labor in the Gilded Age sense go away because the economy grew

            I don’t know enough about the era, unfortunately. I believe the laws severely restricting it came before minimum wage laws.

            it became unnecessary for families to send kids off to work

            Not all of the child laborers had families. And without some sort of welfare system (even a make-work welfare system) there will always be families poor enough that child labor makes sense.

            not worth it for employers to purchase child labor over adult labor

            Shrug. I don’t know.

            Why not?

            Because in general you’re theoretically learning skills that you’ll need to know as an adult. Genuine apprenticeships are good even now for pre-adults.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Why not?

            Parents are biologically hardwired to care about your well-being. Random employers are not.

    • johan_larson says:

      Doesn’t sound particularly believable. Defense contractors typically aren’t the wealthiest people around.

      I suppose the casino could be the hangout for the top dogs among the Empire’s defense contractors, and they are likely to be a well-heeled bunch, but I doubt they’re the wealthiest or most powerful people in the society.

      • Deiseach says:

        Haven’t seen the movie, no intention of doing so, but reading all the comments, isn’t the easiest explanation that code-breakers like to hang out at casinos because they think they have worked out A System that will get them rich? Because they can figure out any code and can beat the odds there, so they just need to put their smarts to work on the odds of the games and can work out how to beat them?

        There’s always going to be somebody who thinks they can work out how to get rich quick because they’re so smart.

        • Loquat says:

          I dunno how casinos operated long long ago, in a galaxy far far away, but IRL casinos tend to really dislike that sort of thing, which is why getting caught counting cards in a casino can get you a lifetime ban not only from the casino where you were caught but also from casinos you’ve never even heard of that share the same database of undesirable players.

          In fact, depending on how strong the rule of law is on the planet in question, getting caught successfully using A System could be a fairly dangerous proposition.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From memory: there are people who make a living giving advice on casino poker. They get paid by casinos and players. They sell information to the players, but not too much information.

          • Nornagest says:

            Casinos like it if you’re good at poker. Poker is a PvP game where casinos make their money as a fixed take from each hand; it’s not like e.g. blackjack where you’re playing against the dealer. As such, being better at poker is a net win for them; it means you’re more confident in your skills, which means you play more.

            Unless you mean video poker. They would care how good you are at that if it was statistically possible to win at it in the long run, which it generally isn’t.

    • gbdub says:

      The galaxy is huge (even though every planet has apparently only one city and biome) and space travel is fairly cheap, so it stands to reason that there are many high end casinos scattered among many systems. It’s certainly plausible that one would be a preferred hangout of arms dealers, who would likely want to socialize together to strike deals.

      What is less plausible is that independent / black market “arms dealers” would be selling to the New Order AND Resistance. These aren’t black marketeers selling AK-47s and RPGs that “fell off a truck” to petty warlords – these guys are apparently selling standardized star fighters to the two dominant military powers in the Galaxy. We’ve seen from other sources that starships are built in planet scale orbiting yards, and of course both sides are using largely standardized weaponry (particularly the Empire/New Order). The United States doesn’t buy nuclear attack subs in shady deals in smoky casino back rooms.

      The setup in Last Jedi makes it sound more like there’s a whole galaxy that doesn’t give a damn about the galactically insignificant squabble between the Empire and Rebellion except insofar as they can profiteer from it. Which would be an interesting universe, but not the one Star Wars source material has traditionally depicted.

      • Matt M says:

        The setup in Last Jedi makes it sound more like there’s a whole galaxy that doesn’t give a damn about the galactically insignificant squabble between the Empire and Rebellion except insofar as they can profiteer from it.

        I saw a recent Tweet about this that I loved, something to the effect of “Wouldn’t it be great if we zoomed out from this epic conflict between the First Order and the Resistance only to reveal that 99% of the rest of the galaxy doesn’t give a shit?”

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Isn’t this actually the case as seen in the prequels and IV – VI?

          The richer inner planets tend to be empire or rebellion, while those on the fringe are at best neutral to the occasional imperial or Jedi force stopping by. The rich inner planets probably have a lower GINI coefficient than, say, Tatooine which had regional powers such as Jabba, and Bespin with Cloud City’s Calrissian.

          Tatooine didn’t appear to have an imperial or rebellion presence, except when the empire briefly had troops on the ground bribing people to locate R2D2.

          • gbdub says:

            There is certainly a fringe (e.g. the Outer Rim) that gets limited attention from the Old Republic/Empire. In Episode I there’s the quote “The Republic doesn’t exist out here” implying that whatever galactic law exists, the Republic doesn’t quite have the resources to enforce it everywhere.

            But the Republic (and then Empire) is clearly THE superpower of the galaxy.

            So the war described in the original trilogy was like, say, Vietnam or the American Revolution. Yeah, one side was upstarts, and maybe you could see them being supplied by some black market means. But the other side was a superpower, and weren’t using “arms dealers” – they have (planet scale, in Star Wars) defense contractors.

            The “zoom out and no one cares” scenario is more like a war between random African warlords in Somalia or something.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            But the other side was a superpower, and weren’t using “arms dealers” – they have (planet scale, in Star Wars) defense contractors.

            You are right in that the superpowers or great powers today tend to sell arms to other nations, not purchase them.

            Though even today those superpowers bid out the manufacturing, and there are plenty of CEOs who are on the boards of other companies, and presumably plenty of sales people who get a commission from multiple companies.

            I don’t know. I think it’s important to remember that episode IV began with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. I speculate that we aren’t seeing what actually happened, merely the story as it’s told by story tellers.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Outer Rim planets don’t seem to be too affected by the war, but they don’t seem to be anything close to 99% of the Galaxy. The Republic/Empire seemed to be in control of most star systems, so who controls it would be of at least passing interest to the majority of the Galaxy’s inhabitants.

          • Matt M says:

            The “zoom out and no one cares” scenario is more like a war between random African warlords in Somalia or something.

            I mean, Vietnam might still be a decent example. To what extent did the average person from, say, Uruguay give a fuck about Vietnam? A whole lot of the global population didn’t fight in it, and never would have fought in it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think Vietnam is actually a good example, since the Viet Cong had neither the means nor the desire to take over control of the United States. The Rebellion, on the other hand, was founded with the explicit goal of overthrowing the Emperor, and managed to do so after Episode VI (before apparently losing control again somehow).

          • gbdub says:

            Gopolitically, no, ‘Nam isn’t the same. Just that the Viet Cong are often given as a possible inspiration for how the Rebellion was portrayed (which makes sense given when the movie was originally written).

            @Matt M – you miss my point. Certainly, your average Uruguayan didn’t give much of a damn about Vietnam, but neither were they in a position to profiteer off of it. And given that both superpowers were involved, certainly it had the potential to impact Uraguay in a way that a couple of local warlords during it out on another continent would not. Anyone with an interest in geopolitics would care about the outcome.

            Likewise, in Star Wars, anyone with any interest in galactic affairs would be interested/affected by the outcome of the Galactic Civil War, even if life on Tatooine or Tatooine Mk. II Jakku wouldn’t change much for the average Joe Skywalker.

            The impression given is that the Clone Wars were the SW equivalent of say WWI – any system that mattered was in some way involve.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Is there any decently fun space opera where the conflict is between polities of hundreds to tens of thousands of worlds, with associated scale and wealth, but with a background of the actual size of a large galaxy, where there can be millions of polities that large, and it requires a major library to just hold the equivalent of the “CIA World Fact Book”.

        That could be fun…

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’m currently watching seasons 1 and 2 of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda.

          • John Schilling says:

            You understand there were only two seasons of Gene Roddenberry’s(*) Andromeda, right?

            * Well, Gene Roddenberry and Robert Wolfe

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I do now. I was choosing to watch it through while trying to avoid spoilers.

            ??? Wikipedia says there are five seasons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Andromeda_episodes

          • John Schilling says:

            Seasons one and (most of) two are Robert Wolfe trying to make a successful TV series out of an old Gene Roddenberry concept. Everything afterwards is Kevin Sorbo trying to play James Kirk but mostly channeling Zapp Brannigan and in any event crowding out the rest of the cast, concept, and storyline but keeping the name.

            There’s an outline of what should have been, here, for when you get to the end of S2.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thanks.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, I kind of liked the conflict between the captain and number one in the first couple of seasons (vaguely reminiscent of Blake and Avon from Blake’s 7, though obviously not as good as that). But later on all of the potentially redeeming features disappear, while the flaws stubbornly remain. I have no idea how it made it to season 5.

          • John Schilling says:

            I hand’t thought of the similarity to Blake’s Seven, but now that you mention it, yes.

            Also, consider the opening narrations.

            S1: “The long night has come. The Systems Commonwealth, the greatest civilization in history, has fallen. But now, one ship, one crew have vowed to drive back the night and rekindle the light of civilization. On the starship Andromeda, hope lives again.”

            S2: “He is the last guardian of a fallen civilization, a hero from another time. Faced with a universe in chaos, Dylan Hunt recruits an unlikely crew and sets out to reunite the galaxies. On the starship Andromeda hope lives again.”

            S3-5: “The Universe is a dangerous place. But in our future my crew and I fight to make it safe. I am Dylan Hunt, Captain of the Andromeda Ascendant, and these are our adventures.”

            Where does Roddenberry+Wolfe end and Sorbo+$$$ begin? Where do you stop expecting more than generic Sci-Fi adventure stories?

        • MrApophenia says:

          That’s pretty much the premise of Banks’ Culture novels. Some books touch on that aspect more than others, but Matter in particular sounds like it might fit the tone you’re thinking of.

          • Rob K says:

            That or Surface Detail, where the war seems more consequential despite its unusual nature.

            It seems realistic to me that both books spend a significant amount of their world-building energy on describing the context of military conflict in that kind of world. I like how Surface Detail shows both a framework for how extremely powerful civilizations create rules to constrain themselves to a strictly limited kind of warfare, and then what happens when someone cares enough about the outcome to break the rules.

    • shakeddown says:

      The line was “There’s only one business in the galaxy that gets you this rich: selling weapons to the first order.” It wasn’t just the casino, it was the entire luxury resort town.

      In-universe, I think she already knew it was the resort town for arms dealers (There are probably other resort towns for bankers and such).

      • Matt M says:

        In-universe, I think she already knew it was the resort town for arms dealers (There are probably other resort towns for bankers and such).

        Why would that be the case? Nothing in real life approximates that. There are tons of ultra expensive fancy resorts, and all of them cater to a wide variety of rich people (note that the Forbes list of richest people includes few arms dealers).

  10. Matt M says:

    One more item in the “repeating the lie that hate speech doesn’t qualify as free speech” series. This time from a bunch of university presidents, of course.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Inappropriate messages, banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate, or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.

      So what they’re saying is it’s not OK to be white?

      That one was among them, but it looks a few besides that one were posted

      “Reclaim America. No more tolerance, no more diversity.”

      “A State Absent It’s Duty Is Illegitimate” with Communist and Islamic vultures circling what I guess is the American Eagle impaled(?) on a Star of David on the capital dome

      “Take Your Country Back” (American Vanguard), smal print begins “Look around, White man, Is this the country your ancestors died for”

      The people posting the posters were given criminal tresspass warnings. I’m going to go WAY out on a limb and say no one gets such warnings for posting SJ-friendly, black-power, or my-cat-is-missing-please-help posters, which gets you a First Amendment violation right there.

      • Matt M says:

        Of course my theory is that such people are fully aware that what they are saying is factually incorrect, but they say it anyway for propaganda purposes, because it’s easier to convince people to accept your ban on offensive speech if they believe it already totally violates the principles of free speech and isn’t protected by the first amendment than it is to convince someone that “we need to repeal the first amendment” or some such thing.

        In today’s political environment, I find it 100% non-credible that a university president could not have a least a basic-level understanding of how the judiciary views the first amendment. And even if they were, somehow, that shockingly ignorant, they could spend five seconds Googling “Is hate speech protected by the first amendment” and get 20 politifact articles, sympathetic to their general viewpoint, informing them pretty matter-of-factly that, like it or not, yes, it is.

        • rlms says:

          Where does the university officials’ statement mention the first amendment?

          • Controls Freak says:

            I mean, if someone spoke about, “Disguising murder as a woman’s private choice,” in a statement that didn’t use the words “Roe v. Wade”, do you think you’d be able to accurately discern which Constitutional doctrine they’re referring to? Or would you think that their statement is just totally and completely divorced from anything having to do with the Constitution?

          • rlms says:

            @Controls Freak
            If I personally heard that, I certainly wouldn’t assume they were referring to part of any constitution. Not everyone is American.

            But that’s not the point. Even in the US, freedom of speech isn’t just about the first amendment. For instance, the constitution is not relevant to e.g. Brendan Eich’s experience (of other people exercising their natural right to freedom of association in relation to his choices), but a lot of people here seem very certain that that was a free speech issue.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Not everyone is American.

            These people are presidents of public colleges in America. This is not the defense you were looking for.

            Even in the US, freedom of speech isn’t just about the first amendment. For instance, the constitution is not relevant to e.g. Brendan Eich’s experience

            These people are presidents of public colleges in America. This is not the defense you were looking for.

            EDIT: The former can be easily responded to by stipulating that it’s an American making the statement. The latter can be responded to including, “And it’s not Peter Singer, so they’re not talking about infanticide, which is outside of the domain of Constitutional protection.”

          • Deiseach says:

            other people exercising their natural right to freedom of association in relation to his choices

            Oh? So if a group of people say they wish to freely associate with one another but that they wish to exclude a certain person on grounds that they do not wish to associate with a person of that kind, it’s legit?

            Then the no gay cake baking is all about freedom of association – by asking to provide goods and services to people with whom the baker does not wish to be associated? Saying “our club wants to exclude women/blacks/Jews/gays” is okay? I can see this running right into a lot of “no that’s not what I meant” and festooning the freedom of association with exceptions.

            Anyway, is a group of employees under a boss the same kind of thing as freely chosen association?

          • Matt M says:

            Where does the university officials’ statement mention the first amendment?

            I see your point here. This particular letter isn’t the worst offender among this general type. It doesn’t specifically say “Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment,” but many others have, and other university officials have made that exact claim.

            That said, this letter pretty clearly seems to advocate that banning offensive speech is consistent with general norms, and the actual law of society and its founding documents (i.e. the constitution) seem like a pretty well established set of “norms” that should likely be considered. If the letter said “Offensive speech is protected by the constitution, but we think that needs to be changed for reasons x, y, and z” I would consider that a more honest approach. If it said “Offensive speech is protected by the constitution, but our right to freedom of association allows us to ban it, and that supersedes concerns about free speech” I would consider that a more honest approach. But they say neither of those things. They ignore the question entirely.

          • rlms says:

            @Controls Freak
            I was just saying that I wouldn’t give the answer you’d expect to your question. I agree that that isn’t relevant to the question at hand, which is why I began my next paragraph with “But that’s not the point.”.

            @Matt M
            I agree that there are a lot of silly people who think hate speech is legally distinct from constitutionally protected free speech in the US. But I don’t think the authors of this statement are examples of such. An analogy: suppose I say “radical Islam will not be welcomed or accepted here”. I don’t think that implies I have any intentions of curtailing religious freedom. The most plausible interpretation to me is that by “free speech”, they mean “valuable speech” that should be nurtured in contrast to “hate speech” which should be scorned.

            @Deiseach
            I was just being snarky. A lot of people here happily justify e.g. refusals to bake gay cakes purely on the grounds of the right to freedom of association (and I doubt there are many opponents of at-will (loss of) employment in general), but I never see anyone else saying “well, no-one coerced (in the libertarian sense) Brendan Eich into resigning, so there’s no reason to get upset about it”. Personally, I don’t have particularly strong feelings either way on either case.

          • Matt M says:

            An analogy: suppose I say “radical Islam will not be welcomed or accepted here”.

            Any business which posted a sign saying that would be sued for religious discrimination immediately.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @rlms

            Fair enough. My point was that, to anyone in the target audience, the idea that they’re simply referring to non-1A-related things doesn’t pass the eyeroll test. They explicitly point out who they’re talking to, starting from the first sentence:

            American colleges and universities have always embraced diverse points of view [emphasis added]

            And they very specifically are not talking about a Eich-ian situation:

            We further attest that hate speech has no place at our colleges and universities [emphasis added].

            I really don’t think this counts as a dogwhistle, either. It’s as explicit as can be without saying the actual words “first amendment”.

          • Then the no gay cake baking is all about freedom of association

            Correct.

            Saying “our club wants to exclude women/blacks/Jews/gays” is okay?

            It might lower my opinion of the members of the club but, that aside, yes.

            That is what those of us who put the argument in terms of freedom of association believe.

            My father resigned from the ACLU a very long time ago over their support for either “fair housing” (no discrimination in who you rent to) or “fair employment” legislation, on the grounds that they were now opposing liberty instead of supporting it.

          • Deiseach says:

            David Friedman, I think there could be grounds for the gay cake baking on freedom of association, as the rationale really is “asking me to do this is enlisting my support for a cause I don’t support or asking me to associate with people holding an ideology that I don’t hold and don’t wish to associate with the holders of such or be seen as a supporter of such people”.

            I don’t think the courts would buy it, though, given their tendency to rulings on “men only” golf clubs and the like.

  11. Orpheus says:

    So I see Black Mirror decided to return the ol’ “geeks are secretly psychos who would rape and torture you if they weren’t to afraid to try” trope. Haven’t seen this one in a while.

    Did any one watch the new season?

    • cassander says:

      I didn’t realize it had released yet. Last I heard it wasn’t going to make it this year. Will be eager to discuss in time for next thread, probably.

    • Mark says:

      I really hope they don’t make any more black mirror.

      The Star Trek episode wasn’t too bad, but the rest of the season seems to be poor. Black mirror is only great when it is about infidelity. It’s an infidelity show, wrapped up as satire/horror anthology.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I liked San Junipero.

        • Charles F says:

          That was an infidelity episode though.

        • James says:

          Yeah, San Junipero is anomalously lovely.

          Black Mirror on the whole is a maddening mixture of good and bad, smart and stupid. I feel like Charlie Brooker isn’t capable of having a good idea without somehow wrecking it by pushing it too far, into the realm of kitsch and corniness. Nonetheless I’ll dutifully watch the new series and bitch about every episode of it.

        • Deiseach says:

          Haven’t watched any of Black Mirror because frankly I think I’ve seen it all before, but from the oohing and ahhing over that episode, I get the strong impression this is one that was Made For Americans (love! tolerance! diversity! lesbians! happy ending eternal love driving off into the sunset!)

          Pointless sadistic cruelty is more the hallmark of the British early version 😉

          Going by Wikipedia:

          In developing the third series’ stories, Brooker had looked back to the first two series and the Christmas special, and recognised that all the stories were about characters becoming trapped in a situation that they could not escape from. Coupled with the anthology format that asked for viewers to get immersed within the stories to understand the nature of each, this created a sense of darkness and horror, which could make it difficult to watch successive episodes without becoming uncomfortable. With the third series, Brooker wanted to explore different formats, still having a few “trap” episodes but adding more conventional stories like a romance and police procedural, making the new series more digestible.

          That Christmas special was the pointless sadistic cruelty I mentioned, but not the only episode of such.

          First two made for Channel 4, the British commercial-turned public service TV station, third and subsequent series made for Netflix, its new American owners. Not surprised that they ‘decided’ to go for “different formats” after being bought by the Yanks; the conventional wisdom when remaking British shows in American versions seems to be that, as with The Office and others (such as House of Cards which went its own way from the British original), Americans don’t want or like losers or downer endings, they want at least one sympathetic (or vaguely so) character, they want the losers to overcome adversity, they like happy endings and don’t like the darker edge of British humour (they like their own version of dark’n’edgy, but it has to be a specifically American version).

          So yeah – “San Junipero” sounds like the Made For Americans episode and I’m not surprised the (American) commenters online that I see love it 🙂

          • Orpheus says:

            So this explains the NOT THE BEES episode. There is a series (also British) called Inside no. 9 which does a lot of the same things as Black Mirror but much better. It is also an anthology series, but the episodes are 20-30 mins. a pop, so even the not so good ones don’t drag on too much. Any fan of pointless sadistic cruelty would do well to check it out.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Which episodes are about infelidity other than The Entire History of You or is that your point?

        • Mark says:

          Fifteen Million Merits, The Christmas Special.

          The National Anthem, and I guess San Junipero, have infidelity-ish themes.

          Honestly, what I got from Black Mirror is that sexual impropriety is really bad.
          Bit of a breath of fresh air.

        • Nick says:

          That’s the only good episode of the show? I aggressively hated everyone in that episode. It was just so unpleasant to watch. I have nothing against prickly characters, per se, or interpersonal drama in my scifi, but my God….

    • Zorgon says:

      Halfway through the season atm.

      Most Black Mirror episodes can be boiled down to three specific reactions they provide in spades:
      – Bleakly devastated (White Bear, White Christmas, Fifty Million Merits)
      – Mildly terrified (The Complete History Of You, Hated In The Nation)
      – A powerful urge to avoid these circumstances by any means necessary (Nosedive, The Waldo Moment, Shut Up And Dance)
      With the others usually being a mix of the above or just forgettable. The only exception before S4 was San Junipero, which was kitschy and entirely not Black Mirror at all until the last few moments, which shoved it unceremoniously back into Cyberpunk Horror land.

      So far, the first three episodes have produced intense rage*, boredom, and a horrible feeling I was watching an episode of The League of Gentlemen without the laugh track respectively.

      Not a good start.

      * – The rage is mostly at Brooker for joining in the media-shitbag-crowd in their circle-kicking of nerdy techies (depicted here as unrepentant and irredeemable monsters who deserve any punishment, no matter how horrific), but also because literally nothing about that episode makes any sense whatsoever. It comes across like the ubiquitous “Internet Episode” of a 90’s crime drama.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Er, did you guys not pick up on the fact that everyone in that episode is a Silicon Valley type, not just the villain?

        Gur qbhpurl Grpu Fgneghc PRB rira trgf n ovt qenzngvp frys-fnpevsvpvat ureb zbzrag!

        • Wrong Species says:

          Sure, but there was only bad guy. To be fair to Brooker, I read the episode as more of a cautionary tale on treating nerds like how that guy was treated more than an indictment of all nerds.

        • Zorgon says:

          I did specify “nerdy”. This isn’t the “SV is evil because something something” circlejerk, it’s the “nerds are all evil entitled Nice Guys, bring back bullying!” circlejerk.

      • Lillian says:

        Why does everyone seem to find Fifteen Million Merits so soul-crushingly depressing? The main character wins. He’s like the random North Korean traffic officer who foiled an assassination plot on Dear Leader, only with less tears of joy that he deigned reward her. Sure they still live in a dystopian hellhole, but at least now they get to live in the least shitty part of it.

        What really upset me about the episode was the bad world building. The society as presented is just not believeable to me.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          The society as presented is just not believeable to me.

          I saw it as a make-work scheme for the hoi polloi in a post-scarcity (but highly populated) society. Everyone gets their UBI, they just get it in different social-status relevant ways. And hard work can still get you more credits or a better life.

          The main character wins.

          He wins within the context society allows him, but this wasn’t the context he wanted. The entire point of the show, to me, was how society distorts our internal reward scheme.

        • Zorgon says:

          Three specific things:

          1) The main character is an avatar for Brooker – he makes his name through acerbic commentary on the brutality and stupidity of the media-soaked world in which he lives, and sells out to that exact system.

          2) He doesn’t succeed in getting Abi out of the drugged-up porn-hell she’s ended up in.

          3) He’s still trapped inside the complex, looking at pictures of trees and pretending they’re real, just like he’s looking at his “victory” and pretending it’s real.

          It’s an absolutely horrifying ending to a completely bleak episode.

          • Lillian says:

            He was pretty much planning to kill himself on camera, he was given the option to instead lead a better life than he had before, he took it. That’s a clear victory; not a complete victory, but a victory nonetheless. Also he wasn’t going to get Abi out the situation she’s in short of a revolution, she chose to get into it, and she is evidently choosing to stay. Revealed preferences say she likes it better than the bike.

            Practical problems aside, the society as depicted is indeed utterly bleak. After all, i did compare it to Best Korea. But it makes no sense to discount a man’s success in improving his circumstances simply because he did not tear the whole horrid system down. When i saw the videos of that young woman crying as Dear Leader rewarded her for her service, i felt happy for her. Just the same, i felt happy seeing the main character at the of Fifteen Million Credits, with a fancy apartment and a nice view. He accomplished something and improved his life.

            Maybe i’m just a silver lining kind of gal. The friends i watched it with were in fact utterly devastated. Fortunately, i had the presence of mind to put on Lucky Number Slevin, and that picked them right back up.

          • Mark says:

            The thing that is bad (throughout the story) is that people are forced to live in a way that is not beautiful because of society.

            The work is pointless. You still have to do it. The things you consume are pointless. You still do it.

            And, you have that marvellous scene where he sort of says, “fuck society”. Maybe you can’t change the system, but at least you can say “fuck you”.

            Except, in this story, you can’t even do that. There is nothing to fight against.

            About world building – I think the point is that this *is* our world. If you don’t agree with that in any way, then you’ll probably enjoy it less.

          • Lillian says:

            Life is pointless in general, there is no purpose or meaning to anything beyond what we choose to give. The thing that makes that society bleak is not the pointlessness of it all, that’s an immutable aspect of life, but rather the highly restricted range of options to draw meaning from, and that the available options are vaguely unappealing to most people.

            Nonetheless, the main character did find a way to say fuck you to his whole society. He could have opened his jugular right there on the stage, but he was given another option and he took it. If being part of the system is more meaningful to him than giving it the finger, then that’s his choice, a choice that most people in that world don’t actually get to make that he earned for himself through his own actions. That looks like a victory to me.

          • Mark says:

            I guess it’s like a passive aggressive person.

            It’s judo, right. They turn your anger against you, so you end up killing yourself. They just shrug and move on.
            The Wraith-judge even says “kill yourself, man, I don’t care.”

            Suicide isn’t the fuck you – it’s a mechanism to get the opportunity to speak. He says, “I want to say my piece and then after that you can do what you want.”
            Telling the truth is the fuck you. A literal “fuck you” is the fuck you. Expressing himself, showing how he really feels.

            That’s what feels good about this scene.
            The beauty he appreciated earlier was someone simply singing a song. Which was corrupted by society, commodified.
            The beauty of his speech and emotion, is likewise corrupted, commodified.

            Maybe it’s an indictment of human weakness – you can’t be truthful and good as long as you are determined to be a part of society.

            I think if I understand you, you’re saying “he chooses to live, and therefore this is a happy ending.” Could you not say that about any story? Surely it’s the range of possibilities that are important, not the fact of a choice being made.
            How did you feel about the ending of 1984?

          • Lillian says:

            In Fifteen Million Merits, the main character had three choices: he could call bullshit on people’s disinterest about him dying and then kill himself, he could say that he’d said his piece and go back to the bike, or he could take the offer he was given.

            In 1984 Winston Smith had precisely one choice: Surrender himself and love Big Brother.

            What makes Fifteen Million Credits a positive ending for the main character is that before the events of the story he only had one choice: the bike. He successfully tripled his options, which is more than most other people in that society get to do.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lillian

            I think that the bleakness is having a system that prevents revolt by giving people small wins, so they won’t challenge the overall injustice.

          • Mark says:

            Winston Smith also had the choice to die horribly in the name of love, a choice unavailable to the majority of people.

            He successfully increased his available options, and therefore this is a happy ending.

          • Lillian says:

            Winston Smith didn’t want to die horribly, so he was never going to choose dying horribly. An option you will not take is not much of an option. Whereas i fully believe the main character in Fifteen Million Credits was capable of committing suicide to make a point, or going back to the bike, or taking the offer as he did. That’s what made the moment tense, he could have gone whichever way. With Smith it’s rather more depressing, you know he has already lost, the only thing left for him to do is surrender.

            Furthermore, the main character in Fifteen Million Merits ends the episode better off than he started it. Winstom Smith ends 1984 worse off than he started it. The two are obviously different and i don’t understand why you keep trying to hammer them into the same hole.

            Also in case someone missed it the first two times i said it, i consider the world in that episode to be a horrifying dystopia. It’s just that the story strikes me as one wherein a man manages to improve his circumstances despite the bleak situation he is stuck in. Yet everyone seems to be reacting as if it were a story about a man being destroyed by vast forces beyond his control (as is the case in 1984).

          • Mark says:

            Hmmm… ok. I’m still not convinced by your theory of happy endings, but, ok.

            Why people might disagree with you:
            I think, as you say, we give life its meaning. We also look at other people’s choice of meaning and have an opinion on whether they are good or bad.
            It’s not just the fact that people’s desires are being fulfilled, we have some sense of whether those desires are in themselves good.

            I guess the story is bad because the guy starts off in a bad situation, but with, perhaps, the right desires, and ends up being revealed to have bad desires.

            Having said that, I didn’t personally, find the ending to be really depressing or anything – I thought it was pretty funny work of self-satire.

          • Lillian says:

            It’s not what i would call a happy ending, i just didn’t find it as thoroughly depressing as most other people seem to. He made things better for himself, but he still lives in a dystopia. It’s a semi-happy ending? Partially dark ending? A twilight ending? There’s really no good terms for this, the closest is bittersweet ending, but it’s really not that either.

  12. sty_silver says:

    I just tried reporting a comment, and got a window pop up saying “Cheating huh?” with just one button to click on.

    I’m confused. I’ve never reported a comment before, but I have clicked on report by accident, and I think I remember a question whether I really want to report that comment that I could answer with no. What’s going on?

    • Aapje says:

      It has been broken for a long time. Supposedly the browser matters. I’m just ignoring the button.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I tried pressing “report” to see what would happen, and the button just got replaced with a red tick. (Scott, if that means the comment’s been reported, apologies for wasting your moderating time.)

  13. Ab Ba says:

    So, I’m not sure why I’m writing this, whether I expect advice or sympathy or what. But I had to tell the story to someone (even if anonymously), so here it goes. It all started less than a year ago.

    All my life I had fantasies about being a girl (when I say “fantasies” I mean both sexual and non-sexual stuff), but I never conceptualized this as “I am transgender”. To be honest, I had quite a bit internalized transphobia, and the notion of being “transgender” seemed bizarre at best, repulsive at worst. That started to change several years ago, due to my interactions with the online transgender community and in particular its intersection with the rationalsphere.

    Less than a year ago, I decided to try presenting myself as a woman online. Initially I justified it to myself as sort of “just for the lolz”. Very quickly, I discovered that it felt incredibly good. And, at some point, I was finally ready to admit to myself that I am trans (although it started out with a lot of imposter syndrome).

    In the Glorious Transhumanist Future, I want to have a body (or a digital avatar of a body) that can be made male or female whenever I want. The best self-description I have for myself is “genderfluid”. But if I am forced to choose between a male body and a female body, I think I would rather have a female body. I’m not 100% sure because, after all, I never actually *had* a female body. And still, if a magic fairy came to me and offered to make me a girl of average conventional attractiveness, instantaneously and irreversibly, I would say yes without thinking too long.

    Now, there is also the sexual orientation thing. This part is weird. When I think of myself as boy, I am only attracted to girls. But when I think of myself as a girl, I am attracted to both sexes. Indeed, in most of my sexual fantasies I am a woman having sex with men (but not in all of them: other combinations also appear). On the other hand, I am not sure I am capable of falling in love with a man? My best guess at this point is that I’m (sort of) bisexual and gynoromantic.

    At some point, I told all of that to my wife. I thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal, since she is bisexual and had relationship with women before (that was before our own relationship: we are monogamous). I could hardly be wrong more.

    Not only that she was shocked by those revelations and initially said some pretty hurtful things (that she was sorry for later), she quite clearly told me that if I decided to transition, chances are she will not stay with me.

    I love my wife. We are together for many beautiful years. We have children together. I don’t want to lose her, and I don’t want to have our kids grow in a broken home. I’m also terribly worried about her since she is somewhat depressive and explicitly taked about suicide several times during this crisis. I had this picture in my head of us as two cute lesbians, but apparently this is not to be. So, I told her that I have no intention to transition even though doubt kept gnawing me inside.

    Backing up a little, for many years I felt the lack of close friends. I drifted apart with my childhood friends, and I cut off my relationship with the one that remained because of a certain bitter betrayal and disappointment. As I said, I love my wife, but I felt like I need at least one close friend in addition. Soon after this story began, I made a few wonderful female friends online. I became especially close with one of them, telling her everything about my situation and the crisis with my wife, and having this extra support helped a lot to survive the crisis.

    The initial crisis winded down, and my wife and I even ended up having sex while fantasising that I’m a girl (actually we did a few times even before). But the possibility of transition remained entirely outside the overton window, so to speak. My new online friendships continued, and for a while, everything seemed fine. I was stuck in a male body, but at least with those girls I could pretend to be a girl myself and it felt great.

    My wife is very jealous. I knew this for a long time. Eventually she said to be in no unclear terms that she cannot tolerate me having female friends (even though she now knows I’m bisexual, she seems to be mostly in denial about it). Now, there was nothing sexual or romantic whatsoever in my relationship with those girls. In particular, my closest friend (with whom I truly felt closer than any other friend I had for many years) was married herself and wasn’t interested in additional partners. But there was no helping it. So I severed all contact with my friends. In particular, it required quitting the online spaces where I presented female.

    This is basically all. In a way, I’m back to square one. I have no close friends, I have have no place in which I can be a girl. I cannot transition (I’m not 100% sure I *want* to transition, because of all sorts of reasons, but it would be nice at least having that option open). But my marriage seems intact (although my wife is still feels angry with me for becoming so close with that girl in the first place). I don’t know where to go from now. Most probably, I just have to buckle up and persevere. It feels harder now that I experienced some alternative, but there is no choice.

    Well, maybe I’ll live to see the Singularity and maybe we won’t be all made into paperclips, and then who knows what is possible… Or maybe not. This is life, I guess.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is about as good an outcome as you can hope for. Endure. In enduring, grow strong.

      (I’m not 100% sure I *want* to transition, because of all sorts of reasons, but it would be nice at least having that option open).

      Don’t. Current body change tech is shit.

    • Mark says:

      Rationally speaking, male bodies are better than female bodies.

      Also, men tend to be cooler.

      My female version on face app was as hot as hell though, and sassy to boot, and it did make me wonder what it’d be like to be a woman. I would like to get made up as a woman to see what it looked like – I’m guessing I’d be less attractive as a woman than I am as a man, so I don’t think it’d be a good idea to make a permanent change.

      If we had magic, I think I’d give it a whirl, even though it’s worse being a woman. Like playing the game on hard mode.
      I suppose most women would transform into men.

      • Mark says:

        Also, I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about gender-swapping for pleasure after the magic singularity – whichever gender you are you’ll be able to reach maximum pleasure settings – the decision won’t be based on a need, or even an object-level desire, it’ll be based on aesthetics/morality.

      • Lillian says:

        Funny, my perspective on this is the complete opposite of yours. To me, being a woman feels like like easy mode, while being a man looks like hard mode. Yes it’s true that men are bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher than women, in terms of raw physicality male bodies are vastly superior to female ones on all criteria. But all that means is that men are expected to do the bulk of the fighting and grunt work, which suits me just fine because i have zero interest in those things. The fact that most men seem to actively like being meat machines, as evidenced by the doofy grin a guy gets after he’s successfully manhandled a heavy object into place, is just further evidence that there are some significant differences between men and women’s psyches.

        Sure if we had magic i’d probably give manhood a whirl, but i’d probably get tired of it once the novelty wore off. As much as i love my guy friends, being them just looks utterly exhausting. Not to mention that i frankly have no idea how to do male behaviour. Maybe it’s not as hard as it appears, but i’ve got a general notion that most of what people find cute and endearing about me would be very much not so if i were a guy.

        • Nornagest says:

          I wouldn’t mind the extra five years of lifespan. But I think I’d find being a woman harder — not because of the size and strength I’d lose (I wouldn’t like losing it, because having it makes me proud and using it is fun, but it’s not like I need it to hunt mammoth on a regular basis), but because I’d be expected to be all emotionally available and shit.

          I guess what I’m saying is I think you’ve got the right model here.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            because I’d be expected to be all emotionally available and shit.

            This is part of human nature, male or female.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I would agree with your model. Western society makes being a woman easy mode.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m glad to know you’d like to be a woman, Le Maistre Chat!

            So since you are now operating on easy mode, you will have no objections to me judging you on how fuckable I find you? Including such pearls as “I’d fuck her now, sure, but not back when I was young and ripped” and “[Held to be very attractive female celebs] yeah they’re only conventionally attractive, nothing special”.

            Which means, my dear La Maitresse, if you fail to be “Hollywood actress attractive” which is still only “conventionally attractive”, you are deemed not even worthy of being a disposable night’s entertainment by a guy who freely admits he’s not as good-looking and attractive as he used to be.

            I think it’s more accurate to say some women (if they’re young enough and attractive enough) have it easier in some ways, and some men have it easier in others. I think aging is still one of the ways men have it easier, in that generally they get judged less harshly over “letting themselves go” and at least a proportion of older men seem to think they are still capable of getting a (much) younger woman on the strength of their looks and personality (and not “in a good paying job and can provide a dependable reliable family life”).

            Re: Lillian, when I was eleven or twelve I wanted to be a boy, but only because it seemed boys had more fun (there was so much “you can’t do that” “why?” “because you’re a girl”). For curiosity’s sake, I might like to try “what is the male version of you” (I don’t expect it to be hugely different) but I think after a couple of hours I’d be “Okay, had enough, change back now”. I’m female, I have no strong objections to being female, I have no strong desire to be male, I came to acceptance of my gender back in my adolescence.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Daisy

            In your scenario, does he get to keep his current mind, or does that get flipped female as well?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: I guess you missed all the things I said previously about my gender and adolescence.

          • Jiro says:

            Which means, my dear La Maitresse, if you fail to be “Hollywood actress attractive” which is still only “conventionally attractive”

            Hasn’t it been shown that women tend to think that most men are below average in attractiveness, while men do not do the reverse to women?

            This means that while judging a female version of him based on attractiveness would be bad in this one case, in the long run it would benefit him.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Jiro & @Deiseach:
            Guys, I’m female and if I come across as masculine online it’s because I’ve been conscious of being a gender misfit since 14. I went through a “transgender” “phase” (remove quotes from one or the other as you please) and have long since decided I’m simply a woman.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think the “le” throws a lot of people off; it’s like the reverse of the anime girl avatar.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dndnrsn: I got called out on the bad grammar, that it should be La Maistre Chatte, but that this also sounds dirty.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So since you are now operating on easy mode, you will have no objections to me judging you on how fuckable I find you? Including such pearls as “I’d fuck her now, sure, but not back when I was young and ripped” and “[Held to be very attractive female celebs] yeah they’re only conventionally attractive, nothing special”.

            Go ahead. I’d rather be faced with a constant stream of propositions I can pick and choose from than have to approach people myself and get rejected nine times out of ten, which is what romance/sex/dating is like for most men.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            Men typically get less sexual attention than they desire and women more, which is one factor that leads to reduced empathy between men and women (where the lack of empathy with women gets regularly called out, but the opposite not so much).

            So the question: “how would it feel like to be in the shoes of the other gender” quite often results in a ‘grass is greener’ response: “I’d love to no longer have the downside of my gender*.”

            * Where people conveniently forget the upsides.

          • Mark says:

            Go ahead. I’d rather be faced with a constant stream of propositions I can pick and choose from than have to approach people myself and get rejected nine times out of ten, which is what romance/sex/dating is like for most men.

            Is it? I think most men get some kind of hint that she might be interested before they go full on in with the big approach. And, if you are just flying in cold, “you wanna fuck?” with random strangers, my goodness, that’s got to give you a thick skin really rapidly, surely?

            You should be thankful that society has forced you to gain that strength.

          • Zorgon says:

            Which means, my dear La Maitresse, if you fail to be “Hollywood actress attractive” which is still only “conventionally attractive”, you are deemed not even worthy of being a disposable night’s entertainment by a guy who freely admits he’s not as good-looking and attractive as he used to be.

            But to be very clear here – regardless of relative or absolute attractiveness levels, you would still expect him to take the lead in initiating contact with you?

            I ask this because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my adult sexual life, it’s that women who are willing to initiate are as a rule extremely sexually successful, regardless of their perceived attractiveness.

          • Lillian says:

            @Deiseach: You and me had very different upbringings. Neither my sister nor myself were ever told we couldn’t do something because we were girls. Growing up i preferred the company of boys, and to engage in boyish activities, and nobody gave me a hard time over it. Worst it got was people being all like, “Aw how cute, she’s trying to fit in with the boys, she’ll learn better eventually.” It’s likely that much of this is due to me being younger than you are, but i also think it’s relevant that there are no male members of my generation on either side of the family. Every single one of my cousins is female, as is my aforementioned sibling. It’s possible that in the absence of any boys to gift toy cars, guns, and rocket ships to, the family was much more willing to gift them to the girl who expressed the most interest in them (me).

            There was just never any pressure on me to be particularly feminine unless i wanted to be. Sure it was presented as the obvious path, but while i was never encouraged to deviate from it, neither was i punished for doing so. This means that to the extent that i am feminine, it’s because it feels natural or advantageous to me, and to the extent that i’m not, it’s because i liked that better and nobody ever seriously tried to dissuade me from it. This is in sharp contrast to my guy friends growing up, who did seem to be scared of deviating from masculinity.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Is it? I think most men get some kind of hint that she might be interested before they go full on in with the big approach. And, if you are just flying in cold, “you wanna fuck?” with random strangers, my goodness, that’s got to give you a thick skin really rapidly, surely?

            “Nine times out of ten” is hyperbole, but I don’t think anybody can look at the modern dating scene and claim that the risks and costs (both emotional and financial/effort-based) aren’t mainly borne by men, or that women have a much easier time garnering sexual attention than men do.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Mr. X: Yeah, but much of it is unwanted sexual attention crudely phrased.
            I try to be charitable about it, because they don’t have a consensus morality to obey, but some men don’t make it easy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Reducing crudely phrased unsolicited sexual attention is a collective action problem for women. If those women who reward it stopped rewarding it, men would do it a lot less.

            Instead, what we get, every time, is the bait and switch. Complaints about the obnoxious are used to punish the merely awkward or unattractive.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nybbler: And collective action by women is not going to happen in a multicultural society, even if the multiculture was only Blue and Red tribes of white people.

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Yep and only half of the issue is openly discussed, so it’s impossible to build (more of) a consensus.

        • Mark says:

          So being a woman is better if you are lazy.

          I don’t buy it – women end up doing most of the work anyway. I think, maybe the fantasy modern young clueless woman might appear to have it easier, but not really.
          Other than that, I’m really not seeing it.

          • Anonymous says:

            women end up doing most of the work anyway

            Really? From what I’ve heard and seen about female employment statistics, they tend to work less.

            On the days they worked, employed men worked 56 minutes more than employed women. This
            difference partly reflects women’s greater likelihood of working part time. However, even among
            full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than
            women—8.4 hours, compared with 7.8 hours. (See table 4.)

            And that’s before you factor in that only about eighty women are employed for every hundred men.

          • Mark says:

            They do more housework though, child care. Also, you’ve got to take into consideration the psychic cost of the labour – women’s work is often boring and bad compared to men’s work.
            Women are better able to handle boredom, so they end up with a lot of the scut work.

            Being killed in an explosion is definitely worse than spending a lifetime typing nonsense into a keyboard, but it doesn’t feel like that to a young man.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            I don’t think that child care is necessarily boring and bad.

          • Mark says:

            No comment.

            [Actually, I will:
            I think there are boring and interesting parts to most jobs – in my experience men tend towards the interesting parts – your crazy uncle will play board games with you and then head off down the pub for a few hours while your aunt cooks you dinner and puts you to bed.
            So, I would say that child care is necessarily boring and bad, just not always boring and bad.]

          • Nornagest says:

            I think you’re making too many assumptions about what constitutes bad and boring work. I haven’t put a lot of children to bed, but I’ve cooked a lot of dinners, and that’s interesting enough to me that I’ll often volunteer for it at family gatherings. On the other hand I might gnaw off my arm to escape a game of Monopoly.

            And I’m pretty masculine as these things go.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            People-oriented and thing-oriented people tend to have different interests. What is boring to one may be wonderful to the next.

            For example, you probably don’t like these, but many do: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gossip_magazine

          • Mark says:

            That’s true.

            I guess, in my experience, men tend to do the stuff they want to do more, and women tend to do the stuff that men don’t want to do.

            I mean, I suppose on one level that has to be because women want to do these things more than men.
            I’m not sure if that’s because boring things are less boring to women, or because they feel like they should be doing those boring things. Personal experience, but I’ve always found women to be better than men in actually doing stuff for you, and men to be better in being amusing people.
            Maybe women, in our society, tend towards being stoical ethical geniuses, rather than happy drudges.

          • Aapje says:

            Except that men report a greater disparity between the hours they want to work and how many they actually do, than women.

            Also, I think that what men ‘want’ has already been distorted so much by nurture and what society rewards, that it’s hard to claim that what men want is truly what they want. It’s more the best option given the constraints, which are quite unfair.

            The constraints on men mean that they have to set stronger goals than women, who have different constraints (which result in more passive behavior), but I think it is wrong to then conclude that men get more what they want. I think that it’s more correct to say that those who push men into that behavior get what they want. That is sometimes those men themselves, but also often their partner, their community, another social class, etc.

          • Zorgon says:

            The whole thing about “women doing all the work” is confounded very powerfully by a set of cultural mores and socialisation that causes women to see household tasks as status elements, and which is rarely if ever so present in men.

            At the risk of stereotyping my own gender, most men are quite happy living in a baseline level of untidiness and even dirtiness. There are plenty of exceptions (many of them current or former military for obvious reasons) but my experience is that the majority of men just do not think that dusting and cleaning are remotely important; perhaps if they had spent their entire upbringing being told that their worth as a person was intrinsically linked to keeping a clean household, the household labour statistics would be somewhat different.

          • Lillian says:

            So being a woman is better if you are lazy. I don’t buy it – women end up doing most of the work anyway. I think, maybe the fantasy modern young clueless woman might appear to have it easier, but not really. Other than that, I’m really not seeing it.

            Either gender can be incredibly lazy if they’re good at extracting and exploiting the affection and goodwill of others. There’s plenty of women who work a full time job, and clean the house, and help the kids with their homework, while their abusive boyfriend/husband stays home all day playing videogames. In fact, i believe this is more common than the reverse, and that you’re right that women usually wind up working more than men.

            But the point was not about quantity of work, it’s about quality of work. The kinds of labour that men are expected to put in are the kinds of labour that i most want to avoid doing myself. There’s mental costs to doing things you loathe, and having more free time isn’t worth much if you’re just going to spend it on anxiety attacks.

            Also, if you are going to be an abusive leech, being a woman is a massive advantage. Nobody has any respect for the men in the situation i described above, and many people will attempt to convince the women to leave. Meanwhile a woman doing the same can play the housewife and get a pass, with few people even recognizing that her man’s being taken advantage of. In fact in some circles she can flat out brag about how her husband does everything, and get a “You go girl!” in response.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lilian

            there’s plenty of women who work a full time job, and clean the house, and help the kids with their homework, while their abusive boyfriend/husband stays home all day playing videogames. In fact, i believe this is more common than the reverse

            It seems to me that men who play videogames all day are typically just delaying adulthood, and I’m not convinced that there are huge numbers of men who live like that and have a female partner subsidize them. Research shows that women put more value than men on having their partner earn a decent wage. So I expect most men who delay adulthood to be subsidized by their parents, not by their partner. In so far that the latter happens, I expect this to be temporary, where the woman typically keeps pushing the man to work and does not accept this arrangement to last forever.

            In contrast, a woman who is subsidized by a male partner without putting in fair amount of effort herself, seems to fairly often be able to keep that up for her entire life, so much that these women have a pretty well known designation (‘gold digger’).

            Perhaps more men go through a period where they refuse to accept adult responsibilities than women go through a period where they refuse to accept the adult responsibilities, but the women who do that, seem to do it for far longer.

            Then the average time being a lazy moocher can still be considerable higher for women. An example with made up numbers to illustrate:

            – Assume that 5% of women are moochers of their partner, but do that for their entire adult life (lets say 60 years).
            – Assume that 20% of men spend 5 years on average mooching of their partner.

            Then the average woman mooches for 3 years and the average man for 1 year. Of course, if the actual numbers are different the math changes + you can also have partial moochingness.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Lilian:

            Also, if you are going to be an abusive leech, being a woman is a massive advantage. Nobody has any respect for the men in the situation i described above, and many people will attempt to convince the women to leave. Meanwhile a woman doing the same can play the housewife and get a pass, with few people even recognizing that her man’s being taken advantage of. In fact in some circles she can flat out brag about how her husband does everything, and get a “You go girl!” in response.

            Plus, when a woman does stay home as a housewife, people often consider this a favour she’s doing to her husband, whilst completely taking the husband’s wage-earning for granted. Here in the UK, for example, divorce courts are quite likely to say “Since the wife stayed at home to look after the children, she’s given up her earning potential and career development, therefore we’re going to give her an extra-large slice of the family assets.” They’re highly unlikely to say “Since the husband spent years financially supporting his wife while she stayed at home and looked after the kids, we’re going to give most of the assets to the man, to reward him for all the years he spent working to pay his wife’s way.”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “I guess, in my experience, men tend to do the stuff they want to do more, and women tend to do the stuff that men don’t want to do.”

            My impression is that women tend to feel that the boring support work is more urgent than men do. This means that women don’t like doing the work more (though perhaps they tolerate it better), but they care more about it getting done.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Less than a year ago, I decided to try presenting myself as a woman online. Initially I justified it to myself as sort of “just for the lolz”. Very quickly, I discovered that it felt incredibly good.

      Probably part of the reason it felt good is that for the most part people are a lot more deferential towards women than men, particularly if those women are young and somewhat attractive. Feminists have done their best to obscure and downplay this fact but it’s reality. Here is a post about a libertarian blogger who started an online persona called “libertarian girl” using a picture of an attractive blond woman: http: libertariangirl.typepad.com my_weblog 2005 02 if_it_werent_fo.html

      One thing I learned from this blog is how easy attractive woman have it. When I had a blog as my real self, no one linked to me, no one left any comments, it was as if the blog existed in a vacuum. But things were different for Libertarian Girl. Every day I’d check Technorati and discover new unsolicited links. It was like I had warped into an alternate universe where all the rules had changed. At the rate things were happening, this would have been an A-list blog in a few more months. It’s funny how there have been some posts in the blogosphere saying that the political blogosphere was a boys club that discriminated against women, as evidenced by how few politics bloggers were women. Boy were they completely off the mark. It’s ten times easier for a woman’s blog to become popular.

      Probably the other reason you enjoy pretending to be a girl online is that you are overstimulated from consuming internet porn so you need to find weirder and weirder things to do in order to get sexual stimulation.

      Do a couple searches for internet porn addiction and you will see what I mean.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t know what you need. Perhaps it would help you to find some hobbies largely unconnected to gender and sexuality–board games, cooking, jogging, bird watching. I suspect that the image you have of being a woman is quite different from the actual experience of being one and also from what it would be like for you after a transition–more idealized and without a lot of the downsides. It seems likely that having online friends that are trans encouraging is going to make you focus more on your perceived insufficiency so your wife may be right for you to move away from those. You are probably right to look for some friends outside the marriage, though. Try to find some in fields unrelated to sexuality–those hobbies, or volunteering, etc. If your wife is insecure about you having any female contact, that probably needs some push back, or therapy together, as you see best.
      Finally, while your situation is not common, try not to see yourself as uniquely victimized (because that won’t be a helpful mindset). Lots of people, perhaps most, have temptations that could become destructive to other facets of their lives that they value, such as alcohol, gambling, spending on credit, etc.

    • maintain says:

      >So I severed all contact with my friends.

      Congratulations. You’re in an abusive relationship.

      • Aftagley says:

        Congratulations. You’re in an abusive relationship.

        Yeah, not to be snarky, but that was my first reaction as well. Not being on board with a major, life-altering event like the transitioning of a partner is one thing, demanding you cut all ties with all women is another.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Under normal circumstances, “I’m not comfortable with you having opposite sex friends” would be a warning sign.

        But Ab Ba has been pounding on a relationship self-destruct button for a while now. His wife would be nuts not to be nervous under the circumstances.

        • Anonymous says:

          “I’m not comfortable with you having opposite sex friends”

          Ionno. It sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

        • baconbits9 says:

          If this was a first instance you could chalk it up to a difficult situation causing a stress response but

          My wife is very jealous. I knew this for a long time.

          Backing up a little, for many years I felt the lack of close friends. I drifted apart with my childhood friends, and I cut off my relationship with the one that remained because of a certain bitter betrayal and disappointment.

          Would make me lean toward an unhealthy relationship.

    • Wrong Species says:

      People here are not very interested in promoting transgender lifestyles so a lot of responses are going to biased against that option. Just something to keep in mind.

      • Anonymous says:

        It does not strike me as biased to advise against invasive and irreversible surgery without sufficient grounds.

        • Wrong Species says:

          By assuming these circumstances aren’t “sufficient grounds” you’re proving my point.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not assuming anything. He described the situation in detail. You may disagree with my assessment, but I don’t see how I’m assuming anything other than what was plainly given, or is a matter of known fact.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        I think that when you use the word “bias,” you are suggesting that peoples’ reasoning is off the mark and that without knowing it, their flawed reasoning is infecting their advice.

        What you are really trying to say is that a lot of the people here are wrong and therefore you should not put much weight on what they say. Which may be the case, but if you think so, it’s kind of pointless to say “you’re wrong” without explaining why.

        My own lay opinion is that most trans guys are otherwise normal heterosexual men who are (1) overstimulated by pornography and looking for new experiences; and (2) envious of the attention and deference received by women, especially young women. It’s worth noting that your typical man today can easily get 100 or 1000 times the sexual stimulation he would have received in the ancestral environment.

        I think that in most cases, the best solution is to simply refrain from making use of pornography, erotica, and the like.

        If you think I’m wrong, fine, feel free to make an argument, show me evidence, ask me questions, etc. But it’s counterproductive to just say “fortaleza84 is biased” and nothing more.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I’m not saying anyone is wrong. I’m saying that people here are going to argue against transitioning because of their own personal views on transgendered individuals, not what they think would make Ab Ba happy. I would say the same thing if a nerdy white guy was asking for dating advice on a hyper feminist forum.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’m saying that people here are going to argue against transitioning because of their own personal views on transgendered individuals, not what they think would make Ab Ba happy.

            I’m not sure what the difference is. What will make this individual happiest in the long run is to quit making use of pornography/erotica.

          • toastengineer says:

            I’m saying that people here are going to argue against transitioning because of their own personal views on transgendered individuals

            What are SSCers views on that topic supposed to be? I was under the impression that this was a pretty pro-that sort of place.

            I mean christ, a lot of us are transhumanists, you expect the guy who wants to upload his brain into a fungal supercomputer covering the surface of Chiron to begrudge someone wanting to be a slightly different variety of human?

          • Mark says:

            Once you’ve accepted the possibility, transhumanism is really about how you intend to limit the Trans to maintain the human.

            As such, I would expect that a community that spends time seriously considering transhumanism would be more transphobic than one which was thoughtful in another direction.

          • Aapje says:

            I’d be very much in favor of transitioning if it would actually make people better off, but AFAIK studies don’t tend to show this.

          • quanta413 says:

            What are SSCers views on that topic supposed to be? I was under the impression that this was a pretty pro-that sort of place.

            Who knows? I don’t have any abiding interest in how adult strangers modify themselves; I think adults should be mostly free to do whatever here although for their own sake they may want take into account their friends and family and how that could change things. In some cases, it will be extremely damaging to your current relationships to transition; in others you may be socially worse off if you don’t transition (some people may be less comfortable if you “just” have erotic fantasies of yourself as the opposite sex/gender and are open about it). I don’t have strong opinions on whether or not insurance should pay for it, pronoun usage, etc.

            This issue is actually reasonably close to a lot of weird cleavage points here. Most libertarians aren’t going to argue you shouldn’t be allowed to transition although they may dispute someone’s right to determine their gender pronoun. I’d guess the population here on average is probably to the left of the average American on this subject, although that’s still to the right of the unofficial official position of the most of “the left” if you were going to try to classify things.

          • Wrong Species says:

            What are SSCers views on that topic supposed to be?

            SSC has been fairly conservative for quite a while, or at least the commenters are. It’s not exactly the hyper-libertarian, full-transhumanist, liberal free-for-all it might have been in its earlier days.

          • Nornagest says:

            That page says 6% of readers identify as conservative, 5% as novo-regressionary (and can we please unban that word now?). In the American political parties question, it gives a closely corresponding 9% affiliated with the GOP, which adjusts to about 11% once you factor out the non-American answer.

            That’s a point or two up from the last results I remember, but it is not “fairly conservative” by any reasonable definition.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s why I specified commenters vs general SSC readers.

            Can we measure reality? We know that SSC as a whole is very slightly liberal, but what about frequent commenters? Here are the numbers, again on a political spectrum where 1 is maximally liberal and 10 maximally conservative:

            1. Lurkers who never comment: 4.5
            2. People who comment less than once a month: 4.7
            3. People who comment at least once a month: 5.1
            4. People who comment at least once a week: 5.2
            5. People who comment many times a week: 6.3

          • @Wrong Species

            I think that’s a confused statement about what the libertarian position on transgenderism/humanism would be. The libertarian position would be “TransX should be completely legal” – it would not say anything about its relative merits.

            Personally, I’m in favor of legal morphological freedom, but since the technologies for achieving it aren’t very good right now, I would strongly advise that someone does not try to become either a girl or a cyborg. Transgenderism in particular is not going to become truly realized until we can grow organs reliably, and so grow a female or male reproductive system and not try to carve one organ into the other. Part of the reason for post-trans depression and suicide rates must be that they are being lied to and left with a poor facsimile of their desired reproductive organs that is either some kind of useless sausage, or a pseudo-vagina that must be dilated (often painfully) to prevent it from closing up.

            There’s nothing conservative about “adult citizens should legally have morphological freedom, but the tech sucks right now, so you’ll regret it”. Conservatism would be to claim that morphological freedom is some kind of spiritual impurity and so on, or any position that sees it as wrong in principle.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Wrong Species

            The midpoint of a 1 to 10 scale is 5.5 . 6.3 isn’t fairly conservative. It’s extremely close to the middle.

          • rlms says:

            Regardless of the general political balance (which I make to be 24% left-wing, 34% right-wing, 21% libertarian, 6% other, 14% unknown), I can’t think of *any* frequent commenters who are outspokenly transhumanist.

          • Aapje says:

            @Forward Synthesis

            There’s nothing conservative about “adult citizens should legally have morphological freedom, but the tech sucks right now, so you’ll regret it”. Conservatism would be to claim that morphological freedom is some kind of spiritual impurity and so on, or any position that sees it as wrong in principle.

            Indeed. There are those who see it as conservative when one does not disbelieve inconvenient truths, but disbelieving the truths doesn’t make them stop being true and usually doesn’t achieve the goals that one seeks to achieve.

          • quanta413 says:

            I can’t think of *any* frequent commenters who are outspokenly transhumanist.

            I think maybe that’s more of a LessWrong thing. We followers of the true and rightful caliph do not quite as easily spend time on subjects that are still mostly technologically out of reach.

          • Brad says:

            It’s funny that Scott is an outlier on his own blog in terms of his interest in futurism.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think he’s that much of an outlier; I reckon most of the people here are interested in futurism, whether or not they call themselves transhumanist. The survey results show half of all readers to be more than a little concerned about AI risk, for example, although it looks like that’s about the only futurism question on it. I just don’t think this is where the rationalist diaspora talks about futurism: that used to be Less Wrong, and now it’s some combination of Rationalist Facebook, Lesser Wrong or whatever it’s calling itself now, and other people’s blogs.

            I’m interested in transhumanism, but it doesn’t come up much.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t buy the porn argument. If that’s what’s going on, then we’d expect the people most likely to transition to be those with the most exposure to sexual stimulation — porn, but also e.g. strip clubs or just having a lot of girlfriends — and there’s no evidence of that that I’m aware of. If you know of some, then I’d be interested to see it.

          It certainly doesn’t fit some of the transwomen I actually know.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Also, the porn argument is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard in my life. There are trans people talking about how they wanted to be the opposite sex since they were kids. How much and what kind of porn do you think eight years old are watching? Do you have any evidence to support your proposition?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            There are trans people talking about how they wanted to be the opposite sex since they were kids

            Why do you assume people are honestly self-reporting?

          • Aapje says:

            @fortaleza84

            There are kids who claim to be trans while they are still prepubescent. Dishonest self-reporting can’t explain that.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            There are kids who claim to be trans while they are still prepubescent.

            How common is this phenomenon?

            Dishonest self-reporting can’t explain that.

            Why not?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Fortaleza

            Again, do you have any evidence that this is true? If you don’t, I’m going to give it the same epistemic status as world leaders being lizard people or Paul Mcartney being replaced with a body double.

          • Aapje says:

            @fortaleza84

            Common enough for puberty-blockers being a treatment.

            Dishonest self-reporting can’t really explain it, because interest in sexuality strongly intensifies during puberty and porn consumption with it. You’d need evidence of high porn consumption among trans prepubescents for your theory to be possible. I’m not aware of such evidence existing.

            Given the available evidence, the most likely explanation for your theory seems to me to be that you have antipathy against porn and thus are eager to jump to the conclusion that it causes problems, regardless of a lack of evidence. This is similar to how people who blame(d) corruption of the youth on jazz, Rock & Roll, Video Games, Radio, TV, etc.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I know based on general observation and common sense that overstimulation from pornography causes people to need weirder and weirder stimulation to get off.

            I also know from publicly available information and arguments that most trans (wannabe) men are doing it due to autogynophylia, i.e. because it excites them to be girls.

            For example, see Steve Sailer’s review of The Man who Would be Queen.

            The conclusion is just common sense.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Lizard people it is then!

            In all seriousness, you either need actual evidence(no, Steve Sailers review of something does not count) or you should drop it because it fails a basic sanity test.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Wrong Species: yellow lizard people!

          • fortaleza84 says:

            “Common enough for puberty-blockers being a treatment.”

            How many incidents per million?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            In all seriousness, you either need actual evidence(no, Steve Sailers review of something does not count)

            The book contains references. I’m not going to ask you to read the whole thing, just check out the review. Unless you are allergic to facts of course.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          for what it’s worth, most of the MtF transexuals I know transitioned relatively late in life. There was no reason to expect they’d be especially good-looking women.

          On the other hand, it’s possible that in some ways, even average looking women get better treatment than most men.

          The other thing is that they talked as though being male just felt wrong to them, and it seemed like a strongly emotional issue. Admittedly, I’m guessing about whether they’re telling the truth, but you’re just guessing, too.

          I don’t know how you feel about being male, but I feel contented about being female. I think I’d be miserable if that contentment were reversed.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            There was no reason to expect they’d be especially good-looking women.

            That’s why it’s all the more tragic, i.e. when there is a mismatch between the fantasy and reality.

            I think that in the future there will probably be effective technology which lets you push a button and be a hot babe, a handsome hunk, whatever you want. I predict that in such a world, 70-80% of the population will be female. Once the percentage of women rises above a certain point, it will start to lose some of its appeal.

            it’s possible that in some ways, even average looking women get better treatment than most men.

            Lol, there’s the understatement of the week. People have little idea how sucky it is to be a man who is mediocre in terms of status; they focus on the most accomplished men.

            Admittedly, I’m guessing about whether they’re telling the truth, but you’re just guessing, too.

            Actually I’m doing more than just guessing, since there are psychological tests to determine how honest people are. The book “Man Who Would be Queen” discusses this issue and argues pretty convincingly that a lot of MtF transexuals are lying when they say they have always felt that they were girls.

            I don’t know how you feel about being male, but I feel contented about being female.

            I’m okay with being a man, but I am a bit envious of the attention and deference women automatically receive. On the other hand, I have achieved a good deal of success in various pursuits and my sexual attractiveness hasn’t nosedived in middle age as it does for most women.

            On balance I prefer being a man but I could easily see a lot of men striking a different balance.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t know if there are any good psychiatric options available for you to beat this thing, but I wish you and your family the best of luck and sincerely hope that you all make it out of this together.

    • quanta413 says:

      I don’t think I have much useful advice, but I’ll try. My sympathies though.

      Suggestion one is try to find a hobby where you can make new (male) friends; I expect this might be tough to squeeze in with having kids. It probably won’t help with dysphoria, and you won’t make new friends quickly. In case it wasn’t obvious, don’t be too open right off the bat; stick with talking about the hobby and ordinary things. But it sounds like you are lacking any intellectual and emotional contact with other adults besides your wife. I think it’s easier to bear almost any suffering when you have more friends even if they aren’t close friends who know your secrets. On top of that, it may partly be that your dysphoria is worsened because it provides a sort of escape for you.

      If you are looking for support from a community for your dysphoria issues, but want to focus on ways besides transition, you may want to look into third way trans. Their forum is private in order to keep out assholes and trolls of all varieties. So I can’t tell you what the community itself there is like (because I don’t have gender dysphoria and don’t want ask for permission just to lurk on people’s private lives). But the author’s writing have really impressed me. He seems like a person with both a lot of understanding and compassion, and he’s clearly putting himself on the line since a lot of people from all sides are going to want to attack him.

    • baconbits9 says:

      @ Ab Ba

      What are the specific parts of your marriage that you would like to preserve and why?

    • I know of someone who has a male body, presents as male in realspace, presents as female online, appears to have no interest in sex change surgery or anything along those lines. That sounds like the best option for you, but from your description of your wife’s reactions so far she might not be willing to accept it.

      Would it work better if your online circle of friends included both men and women? How does she feel about your interacting with people online while presenting as male? If the problem is fear of competition for your affections I would think that would be worse than the same thing while presenting as female, not better.

  14. toastengineer says:

    Question for the folks who have better mathematical intuition than I:

    Let’s say that it’s in my best interest that everyone know the approximate number of times a certain thing has happened, but it’d be a very bad idea to even record the exact number of times it has happened.

    I was thinking of something along these lines: Say I want the recorded count to be +-100 of the actual count. I start with a recorded value of 0. Then, every time the event happens, there is a 1/100 chance that I add 100 to the count.

    Intuitively it feels like law of averages should keep the count roughly in range of the real value, but I’m also a little suspicious that accumulated error would render it meaningless over time. Which is it? Is there a better way to do this?

    • quanta413 says:

      Well, if the event has happened n times, the expected value of your average is n.

      After a given number of events, the full result of the process you are describing is a binomial distribution with p = .01. The expected value is n*p and the variance is np(1-p). So when you multiply by 100, you indeed can expect that on average your result will be accurate (~n) with a variance of .99n (so a standard deviation of about sqrt(n)) with a variance of about 99n (so a standard deviation of ~10*sqrt(n) ). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binomial_distribution

      I suppose you may want the reverse information (given an estimate from your process x what is the likelihood the truce count is n) but I’m too lazy to look it up or work it out right now (it will depend on your prior beliefs about the likely values of n).

      Why do you expect that concealing the exact number this way is an improvement? If it’s too sensitive to explain why (because it would give away the subject matter) that’s fine, but I’m interested to see if when I know why it needs to be hidden if maybe a better way to hide the sensitive information while preserving the signal you want may be found.

      EDIT: Mistake in original variance I think. Too lazy to get out paper. I think I have it right now. If someone else either does it by hand or is less rusty at mental math, that’s appreciated.

    • johan_larson says:

      The approximation process you are proposing will not stay within +/-100 of the real value. Consider the possibility that the event happens twice, but the process just happens to increment on both of those times, so it will show value 200.

      That said, the process you describe does have the same average as the true count, so the long-term average will converge to a very close approximation of the true count.

      There is no particular reason to use the number 100 in your process. At each count, you could draw a random number uniformly from the range [0.9, 1.1], and add that to your accumulated total. The number would then converge more rapidly to the true count, and you could give much tighter extreme-case error bars: whatever the accumulated value shows, it is at least 90% of the true count and at most 110% of the true count.

      • quanta413 says:

        Perhaps a certain amount of uncertainty is desired here though? After all, otherwise, we may as well just count correctly. Without more detail from OP, hard to tell how much uncertainty (deniability perhaps?) is needed.

        • toastengineer says:

          This is 100% a thought experiment; I was just reading Gwern’s article on darknet markets and saw mention of how displaying the exact number of transactions a seller has conducted is a security risk, and it set me to wondering… since obviously you want to publish how many successful transactions the seller has had on Totally Legal Things For Very Very Private People Dot Onion, and even recording that number is a security risk.

    • sty_silver says:

      I’ll add this: If you have this kind of experiment where you add to your number at “random,” then the absolute average difference to the expected value goes up, not down (in fact it goes up arbitrarily far over time). What goes down is the relative difference (as in the absolute difference divided by the number of trials). That converges to zero.

      So you cannot keep the mistake within an absolute range unless you do things fundamentally differently, whether it is +/- 100 or any other. What you can do (and what your proposed method will do) is to (probably or eventually) keep it within a 0,1% range (or any other relative range) around the real number of occurences.

  15. Well... says:

    Soundgarden has a song called “Limo Wreck”. (It’s one of the lesser songs off of Superunknown, which means it’s still a better song than 99.999% of all other rock songs.) (listen) (lyrics)

    Maybe it’s the imperial stout I drank instead of eating dinner, but I hadn’t considered it up until this very minute that the name “Limo Wreck” might be a play on “limerick”. The lyrics don’t read as a limerick, and although the song is in 3/4 (but with mostly 5-bar phrasing!) it’s a rather plodding 3/4 and nothing about it has even a trace of limerick-ish silliness. In fact it’s a downright not fun song.

    So now I’m stymied as to whether the play on words is intended, and if so what it means: I know it probably isn’t intentional, but it also seems too perfect not to be.

    SSC readers, I’ll take your crackpot theories on this now.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      1) It’s a broken limerick.

      2) They couldn’t make it sound good in song-terms as a limerick, so changed it accordingly before publication.

  16. Are there any political parties in the world with this approach(?):
    -Strong on borders, citizenship, and national sovereignty
    -Pro welfare state and basic income (and higher taxes on the top brackets if necessary)
    -First Amendment and Second Amendment style approach to arms and speech
    -Generally soft-libertarian approach to citizen’s rights
    -Pro market competition, wary of nationalization, and supports cutting red tape, lowering barriers to entry, reducing occupational licensing, loosening up zoning laws, and generally supporting small business, while getting stronger on breaking up unnatural monopolies with anti-monopoly laws, and putting in place stronger regulations of natural monopolies
    -Make freedom of property proportional to whether it is business property, the nature of the business, the number of employees etc, and aim to free up individual property as much as possible
    -Pro transhumanism/morphological freedom
    -AGI and automation optimist, but supports subsidizing friendliness research
    -Supports (ethical and gradual) population reduction with automation to pick up the slack

    …or am I stuffed?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      This is way outside my knowledge base, but would Switzerland in general meet most of these criteria? It seems likely that it would meet the first four, at least.

      A coalition of parties may be the only thing which can pull these principles off, as some of them seem nearly mutually exclusive.

      Some of these principles are really very new. I doubt any political party currently has them all as planks. Some of the principles seem like they don’t belong in politics at all.

    • @anonymousskimmer

      I’ve been thinking I like Switzerland for a while now.

      some of them seem nearly mutually exclusive.

      How so?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’m quite happy to have ancestry from canton Glarus (one of the last two Swiss cantons practicing direct democracy).

        Ideologically they aren’t exclusive, but practicably you’d need to use very strong force, possibly including conscription, for the borders, sovereignty, loosening of (local) zoning laws, and enforcement of anti-monopoly laws.

        It would be difficult to enforce the gradation of rights without being seen as anti-libertarian.

        And your last bullet point sounds draconian – how would it be possible to “support” population reduction, except in the most oblique of ways, without highly anti-democratic and anti-transhumanist actions?

      • @anonymousskimmer

        Ideologically they aren’t exclusive, but practicably you’d need to use very strong force, possibly including conscription, for the borders, sovereignty, loosening of (local) zoning laws, and enforcement of anti-monopoly laws.

        Well, if you go positively militaristic on borders sure, but more funding for whatever the local equivalent of ICE is and a visa regime that outright excludes certain troublesome countries would count as getting tough to me. Walls clearly work in the right context too when you are facing direct illegal inflows rather than visa overstays. Enforcement of anti-monopoly laws requires you to be no more militaristic than the enforcement of any other economic regulation, and zoning law relaxation isn’t really an extreme policy.

        It would be difficult to enforce the gradation of rights without being seen as anti-libertarian.

        If the majority, the poor and middle class are seeing greater rights in practice, then surely they’d understand. It’s only black or white thinkers that would have trouble.

        And your last bullet point sounds draconian – how would it be possible to “support” population reduction, except in the most oblique of ways, without highly anti-democratic and anti-transhumanist actions?

        Subtle things that nudge the issue should be enough, considering Western populations are already on a downward trend (another reason not to import loads of people and end up back where we started in terms of density). For example, you could adjust government benefits based on childlessness, or support tax cuts for the childless in a reverse of the traditional policy. Another thing would be subsidizing the message much like governments subsidize environmental PSAs today. You don’t need to go full China and write into law that people can only have one kid. It’s quite sufficient for it to be oblique given we’re headed in that direction anyway. Just need to give it a little extra push.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          For example, you could adjust government benefits based on childlessness, or support tax cuts for the childless in a reverse of the traditional policy.

          I think the most politically correct (feasible) policy would be to subsidize children up to the median family (with a reduced subsidy on a per child basis) and then cut the subsidy off entirely. – A couple would get subsidy X, a couple with child would get X + X/4, a couple with 2 children would get X + X/4 + X/8, as would a couple with any number of additional children.

          You might also increase the subsidy the older the parents are when the child is born (this could be as easy as linking the subsidy to current average parental age), as this effectively decreases real population size by spreading out generations.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          If the majority, the poor and middle class are seeing greater rights in practice, then surely they’d understand.

          It really depends on how they relatively value these rights.

          And don’t underestimate the number of people who are black-and-white thinkers.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        ForwardSynthesis, you might want to post your replies to comments as replies to the comment you’re replying to, rather than as sibling comments to them.

    • Mary says:

      -Make freedom of property proportional to whether it is business property, the nature of the business, the number of employees etc, and aim to free up individual property as much as possible

      Reads like: bureaucrats explicitly get to pick on you because of your business — or because they feign their reason is your business.

      • Bureaucrats already get to do this because we don’t live in an anarcho-capitalist society. The difference here is that instead, regulations are applied on a different basis than just looking at the problem they aim to solve, and instead firm size is included as an important factor in every piece of business legislation. This means that small businesses aren’t saddled with regulations meant for much larger businesses in the same industry, and so aren’t saddled with huge fixed costs that limit their ability to compete.

  17. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Personal update: today, Holy Innocents Day, is my last full day in Cancun. Nobody had enough time off work to visit through the Christmas season, which would mean flying out on Epiphany/Wizard Kings Day.
    It is easier to find an English Mass in a tourist port like this than a Latin Mass.
    There’s a unique Cirque de Soleil show here that I’m seeing tonight. 🙂

  18. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been watching the HBO series True Detective over the holidays, and enjoying it. It’s a noir cop drama, with the first season focusing on a series of killings with occult ties in Louisiana, and the second dealing with corruption, drugs, prostitution, and murder in LA.

    Unfortunately the third season isn’t available yet, so I’m looking around for something similar, on screen or in print. Any recommendations for modern noir drama?

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      >yet

      Seriously, though, have you seen The Killing?

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know how modern is modern, but “The Wire” ran from around 2000 to 2005. (I refuse to DDG that right now to get more precise dates.) Also I don’t know how noir is noir.

      “The Wire” has unfortunately been the subject of massive hype, but it really is basically the best thing ever filmed.

      If you’ve already seen “The Wire” and want More Like This, there’s a 6-part miniseries that preceded it called “The Corner” that should scratch your itch.

      • johan_larson says:

        “The Wire” is indeed very good. I don’t think I’d call it noir though, at least in the first season. The word that comes to mind is “street”. The good guys, meaning the cops, are sometimes a bit cynical, but they’re too clearly good guys. The worst of them are merely useless. For proper noir, I think they’d need to be part of the problem, really over the line.

        As I recall, things head noir-ward in later seasons, though.

        • Controls Freak says:

          I think what you’re looking for is “The Shield”. It ran at the same time as “The Wire”. It’s not as consistently good as “The Wire”, but it’s probably more noir in the sense that you seem to be looking for, and its high points are very high.

        • Well... says:

          Interesting. I think of noir as meaning something like “shadowy and cynical” both in the visual and figurative sense of the show.

  19. Aftagley says:

    I got injured back in October, and after a few overly-sedentary months of recovery I’m looking to pursue a weight-loss plan to get back in shape. Despite not having the best eating habits, I’ve normally had an active-enough lifestyle to never worry about dieting, so I’ve never before tried to figure out what the best kind of diet is. Looking at the topic now, there are a seemingly infinite number of occasionally contradicting strategies that all claim to be the weight loss plan possible.

    My understanding of weight loss currently starts and ends with the idea that as long as Calories In < Calories Out, you'll lose weight. The larger caloric deficit you run, the quicker you lose weight, although you expose yourself to unpleasantness if your deficit gets too big. The existence of all these diets, however, makes me think there must be something else going on. Are there any diets or plans that can increase the gains you get from running a caloric deficit?

    Basically, if 'Rate of Fat Lost' = ('Calories In' – 'Calories Out') * X, where X is some mystical factor you get from pursuing the best diet possible, how large can X get, and what diet leads to a particularly large X factor?

    • baconbits9 says:

      My understanding of weight loss currently starts and ends with the idea that as long as Calories In < Calories Out, you'll lose weight.

      Remember that these aren’t independent variables. Shifting your diet might shift your energy level, and shifting your exercise patterns can change your hunger level. IIRC there was a study on runners that found people who ran in the morning compensated by eating more calories and struggled to lose weight, where as people who ran in the evening didn’t increase their calorie load as much.

      In general I think that weight lifting has been shown to be the best at burning fat. I think it is a combination of a few things, the actual exercise, the muscle gains which help reshape your metabolism, and the underrated aspect of physically being able to do more leading to a healthier lifestyle (I’m not talking mr universe competitors here, just improved general strength).

    • lvlln says:

      The way I see it, Calories In < Calories Out is indeed what you fundamentally need to achieve in order to lose weight (not necessarily just fat), and all the diets and techniques people use & suggest are just to modulate those 2 variables.

      Because, fact is, those aren't just variables you can easily adjust to how you desire. They're incredibly difficult to change, and there are feedback effects where changing one thing makes further change or changing another thing much harder. E.g. eating less to lower Calories In also tends to make it harder to increase exercise to raise Calories Out.

      I used to be obese for most of my childhood and all of my adolescence before I decided to lose weight in my early 20s. What worked for me was to actually see it as simply as Calories In < Calories Out and adjusting those 2 variables intentionally. I counted Calories and limited myself to some number each day, planning out my meals and not straying no matter how hungry I got. I exercised a certain amount every day no matter how tired I felt or how bad the weather was. I was able to get into a healthy weight range fairly quickly – less than a year – and have stayed there since.

      But from what I hear, that's not a very reasonable strategy for most people. Some people call this a moral failing and just tell them to buckle up and try harder, but I don't think that's a good way of thinking of it. One doesn't control how much willpower one has, and while one can develop it, it's a very slow and difficult process. Rather, one should find a way that allows one to take similar control of their Calories In and Calories Out variables in a way that matches their willpower.

      I think that's where, say, diets high in fat and protein come in – gram per gram, fat is more caloric than protein or carbohydrates, but they also tend to be more sating, so it may be possible to find the magic point where by eating more fat and less carbs, one is taking in fewer calories despite being more sated.

      I'm skeptical that there's much of an X factor to consider or that it's particularly easy to change. Building muscle through weight lifting can help, I believe, because muscle burns (very slightly, almost negligibly so, but still slightly) more calories than fat pound-for-pound, but building muscle is a very slow process, and if your goal is weight loss, spending that time and effort just burning calories via cardio seems likely to be better. But if you hate cardio and can tolerate weight lifting, then obviously weight lifting is the way to go.

      I think the biggest single factor is probably just measuring and being mindful. When I was losing weight, I recorded my weight and my waist size every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. I found that just doing this provides input that nudged my behavior in ways that were more effective than if I had just pre-committed to some caloric limit or minimum exercise per day and had only taken measurements occasionally.

      • Viliam says:

        Indeed, food has properties other than mere calories. Sugar gives you calories, but after a short while it makes you hungry again. Fat gives you calories, but sates you for longer time. Unless you consume it immediately before exercise, fat is the better option.

        It’s actually even more complicated. Even the same food can have different properties when it is e.g. blended. The rule of thumb is that more “raw” food is usually better (gives you more long-term-energy per calorie). That means uncooked is better than cooked (except for stuff that needs to be cooked, such as legumes), whole-grain is better than refined, and chopped is better than blended.

        The simplest way to achieve quite good results is to make 50% of you food unprocessed vegetables and fruits, which can be achieved by making a habit of adding unprocessed vegetables to each meal, and eating some fruit between the meals. To achieve perfection, add some nuts, flax seeds, and spices.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Rate of Fat Lost = Calories In – Calories Out.

      Calories In is pretty simple. Unfortunately, figuring Calories Out requires solving a non-linear differential equation depending on Calories In, previous rates of fat lost, and a bunch of other variables that you can’t actually measure. Also some of the unknowns are unknown, as are most of the coefficients and exponents.

      Personally I prefer the feedback method (_The Hacker’s Diet_ has a complex implementation). You can measure both rate of fat lost and calories in. If you’re gaining weight, reduce calories in. This method is painful but effective.

    • actinide meta says:

      Different micronutrients are used for energy at different efficiencies; it’s up to you whether to account for this as reduced calories in or extra calories out (“thermogenesis”) but the former accounting is more useful to a calorie counting dieter. Basically, you can knock 20% off calories from protein. Nutritional labeling should do this for you but as far as I know doesn’t anywhere; labels and databases tell you how much energy a food would provide to a steam engine rather than a human. For some reason this isn’t well known.

      As other people have said, calories out and hunger are both subject to complex feedback effects. One approximation I’ve seen (but won’t endorse) is to assume that in the long term, equilibrium weight is a monotonic function of calories in.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Nutritional labeling should do this for you but as far as I know doesn’t anywhere; labels and databases tell you how much energy a food would provide to a steam engine rather than a human. For some reason this isn’t well known.

        The steam engine claim is a common claim, but not true; the labels are based on metabolizable energy, after correcting for energy lost via urine, feces, and gas. But your point is valid, thermogenesis isn’t included there. Which suggests the practical difference between fat and protein may differ depending on ambient temperature; if it’s cold, the obligatory thermogenesis will be compensated by a reduction in adaptive thermogenesis, thus eliminating the difference. But if it’s hot (or you’re working out), the obligatory thermogenesis will result in additional energy expenditure to cool, accentuating the difference.

        • actinide meta says:

          I stand corrected on the “steam engine” claim, thank you. Do you know the scale of those other energy losses for the “big three” macronutrients?

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s in the link; No change in fat and carbohydrate, about 25% drop in fermentable dietary fiber, 10% drop in alcohol. Separately, that document notes that monosachharides are about 5% lower in calories than equal weight of polysachharides. Though I still don’t see how Coca-Cola gets 140 calories from 39g of sugar (mostly monosachharides if HFCS-sweetened); my best guess would be the weight of the sugar is based on a mix containing the hydrate.

    • Charles F says:

      The existence of all these diets, however, makes me think there must be something else going on. Are there any diets or plans that can increase the gains you get from running a caloric deficit?

      As far as I know, you can’t increase the fat loss effects of a given deficit. It’s going to be about 1lb per 3500kcal. But the diets mostly exist because maintaining a deficit is hard, so they try to add psychological tricks to make it less unpleasant.

    • rahien.din says:

      The existence of all these diets, however, makes me think there must be something else going on.

      It could actually be evidence that everybody wishes there was something else going on, when in fact there is a single difficult answer.

      Change your lifestyle so that you eat more vegetables, eat more protein, eat/drink less junk food, and move around more.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Based on personal observations, regular consumption of cinnamon tea seems to help a bit.

      But anyway, besides Calories In and Calories Out, there is another factor — Perceived Calories In. One of the ways some diets work (or try to work) is by playing on the difference between Calories In and Perceived Calories In.

      Thus, a lot of people agree that one way to lose a modest amount of weight without trying very hard is to stop drinking sweetened drinks like soda and juice. Evidently, sweetened drinks allow you to consume a lot more calories than you realize. Similarly, highly processed “junk foods” seem to operate in a similar way.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        regular consumption of cinnamon tea seems to help a bit.

        For those who want to try this use Ceylon cinnamon. It has the lowest coumarin content (by orders of magnitude), and is thus the safest to imbibe.

  20. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    In a previous discussion, someone mentioned learning to enjoy exercise. I was wondering whether that actually happens, and if so, how?

    • Incurian says:

      After you get over the initial hump of “omg this sucks so bad,” it’s fun to track your progress. It gives you a sense of accomplishment (both for increasing weight lifted or decreasing run time, and for looking/feeling better), in addition to an endorphin rush.

      • Aapje says:

        @Incurian

        I don’t think that everyone enjoys this. I don’t, for example.

        I think that it’s impossible to give a general recipe for this anymore than it is possible to give a random person job advice without knowing more to be able to better determine what kind of things that person enjoys, which varies per individual.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m going to assume from the lack of replies that learning to enjoy exercise is rare.

      I’ve got a bit of a story on the subject. I’ve become able to enjoy walking.

      I didn’t used to– any pleasure associated with walking was about a pleasant environment, but walking was pretty much just instrumental for me.

      After ten years or so of work on coordination (tai chi and Alexander Technique mostly) I found that I was liking to walk. This wasn’t why I was doing work on coordination– it felt good in itself, and I felt a strong drive to get better connected to my sensory experience. Also, tai made the day better.

      I was surprised to find I was liking walking. More recently, sometimes I’ll feel like walking rather than riding a bicycle. This doesn’t mean I want to deliberately go for a walk. The desire only hits when I’m already out of the house.

      I don’t want to do a cardio challenge– I want to walk at a comfortable pace.

      I don’t have a complete answer to what changed, but when I was a kid, I’d fall down fairly often. No injury worse than skinned knees. No obvious cause.

      After those years of bodywork, I have an explanation. My muscles were so tight that I didn’t swing my thigh forward far enough, so I’d swing my lower leg around the outside to take a step. If I misjudged the amount of swing, I’d catch my toes on the ground and go down.

      I don’t remember what I spent on bodywork, but it wasn’t cheap. It could probably be viewed as being in the range of what a middle class person could afford if they didn’t have a lot of other luxuries.

      Recently, I tried out an Eric Franklin exercise. Stack your hands on top of each other in front of your diaphagm– (that’s at the breastbone. Move your hands down when you inhale and up when you exhale.

      I was having a hard time with this– my hands would move in the opposite direction.

      I figured out that I was so habitually tense that my lower torso didn’t expand when I breathe. Instead, my habit is to lean up and back to make some room for my lungs.

      This is a very plausible explanation for why I don’t like physical exercise. I’m working on changing my breathing pattern– this should improve my quality of life whether I end up liking exercise or not.

      • Aapje says:

        I’m going to assume from the lack of replies that learning to enjoy exercise is rare.

        I would say that it’s more of an impossible question to answer generically. It’s like the question: “I don’t enjoy my job, how do I start to enjoy it?”

        There are a thousand possible answers to that question, where the personal traits of the asker makes some of those useful and others useless.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Those of you who found that running is too hard on your joints might be interested in Running with the Whole Body.

        It’s a set of Feldenkrais exercises (gentle attentive movement) to improve running.

        I’ve only done a little of it, but the working on the connection between my ankles and my hips did unflatten my feet for a while.

        Do read the comments– they’re from people who improved their running.

    • lvlln says:

      I lived a mostly sedentary lifestyle in my childhood and adolescence, during which I absolutely hated exercise. In my early 20s, I actually started exercising and found myself starting to enjoy exercise, to the point that I was probably unhealthily addicted to it at some points. I’m not sure how this happened, though.

      One possible explanation is that I lucked into forms of exercise – running, cycling, parkour, ultimate Frisbee – which I was already predisposed to like. But that merely moves the question back a step. And it’s not like I hadn’t done those things (except parkour) before during my adolescence – I had tried and not enjoyed them. At least, not enjoyed them enough to prioritize doing them over sedentary things.

      It’s possible, as Incurian mentions, that the gamification aspect got me bootstrapped, creating a cycle by which I landed at a new place in terms of my preference for exercise. My starting of exercising was part of a weight-loss regime I had decided to take up for myself, which involved an almost obsessive amount of stat tracking. And my experience with video games tells me that I really like stat tracking. One factor here might be that entering adult life after college meant a lot more uncertainty in my life with a lot less predictable results from effort, and exercise – like (most) video games – was something that I could reliably count on to provide meaningful, measurable benefits commensurate to the time and effort I put in.

      One thing I notice every winter when I become more sedentary than most of the year is that I start feeling muscle pain, particularly in my legs, which I seem to be able to alleviate by going to the gym if I haven’t been in a week or 2, and which seems to go away until next winter once the winter is over and I start exercising much more regularly again. It’s possible that there’s some sort of addiction-like mechanism where once one’s body is used to regular exercise, the lack thereof causes pain, which obviously increases the relative attractiveness of continuing regular exercise, thus making one “enjoy” exercise like how an alcoholic “enjoys” drinking alcohol.

      I get the sense that there’s no one answer that would work for all or even most people, though.

      As an aside, recently, like you, I’ve started to enjoy walking despite never having enjoyed it before. Previously, walking even 5 minutes without having a podcast to listen to felt like a chore, and now I find myself choosing to walk 30 minutes or more without any artificial stimulus and enjoying it. For me, it has to do with getting into mindful meditation, and choosing to practice it while walking.

    • Nornagest says:

      You know how your assigned reading in school is an ungodly slog and then later you go back and read the same books as an adult, not because you’re being forced to but because you want to, and like magic they suddenly become enjoyable? It worked kinda like that for me.

      I was such an unathletic child that the powers that be actually stuck me in remedial gym classes for a couple of years. I don’t know if this actually represented delayed development of some kind or just unusual laziness and stubbornness, though I’m leaning towards the latter. In any case they were worse than useless, so obviously that in third grade I started attending regular classes on my own initiative — over the objections, but for some reason not the actual interference, of various authority figures. Those classes at least weren’t actively destructive, but not very helpful either: the level of activity they mandated (for a lazy and stubborn child, at least) was enough to be painful but not enough to actually improve my fitness. And that’s pretty much how it stood through the rest of my K-12 schooling.

      Now I’m probably in the top 5% of physical fitness for my age range. How did I get here from there? First, I found a type of physical activity — martial arts — that I actually enjoyed for its own sake. But that wouldn’t have been enough by itself. After a couple years I got to the point where I was being held back by my poor strength and endurance, so my instructor talked me into setting goals for bodyweight exercise out of class — push-ups, sit-ups, squats. And that’s when I found that pure exercise on my own initiative, with a clear goal in mind and clear progress towards it, is nowhere near as miserable as the same exercise forced on me as part of an open-ended physical education curriculum — or, worse, as punishment. After that I think becoming physically fit was almost a foregone conclusion, though it took a few years to get there.

      When I eventually got to levels that bodyweight training couldn’t help me with, I started running (which I eventually gave up because it was too hard on my joints) and lifting weights (which I still do).

    • rahien.din says:

      I think it’s all about finding the exercise you enjoy.

      I fucking hate riding a stationary bike. I like riding my bike but dislike the effort in setting up for a good bike ride. I feel great running until my busted feet and ankles hobble me. I really enjoy the lifting program I have recently embarked upon. There’s just about no downside for me. But it took a lot of doing to find that out.

      • Through elementary school and most of high school I didn’t enjoy gym and knew I was bad at such things. The first change was my doing judo outside of school. I wasn’t unusually good at it but I don’t think I was unusually bad, and on the whole I enjoyed it. Then, at some point late in high school, I discovered that I was not unusually bad at wrestling, possibly due to the Judo experience.

        Much later, when the SCA was very young and I was one of the original people doing it in the Midwest, I discovered that I not only enjoyed sword and shield fighting, I was good at it. I eventually concluded that I was probably somewhat stronger and faster than average, and the reason I was always bad at sports was that these were things the other kids were doing lots of for fun and I only did in gym class because I had to. Faced with a sport that was new to all of us that no longer applied.

  21. Aapje says:

    SSC Reddit pointed me to this paper on migration (reform) by Eric Weinstein which is truly a breath of fresh air. Instead of ignoring that migration has disparate negative and positive impacts on various groups and that changing the amount of migration will reorder the social contract (harming some and benefiting others), or declaring that the self-interest of certain groups is not legitimate, the paper actually recognizes these costs and benefits and seeks to find a model where all groups will profit from migration.

    Now, I’m not sure that I find his solution(s) that persuasive, as I see many problems with them, but merely the relative lack of sophistry and treating opponents to migration as rational agents is fairly exceptional for migration-proponents in my experience.

    • actinide meta says:

      I think this is exactly the moral equivalent of American antebellum proposals to end slavery by buying out slaveholders: an improvement over an incredibly destructive and appalling status quo, probably an improvement over an incredibly destructive and appalling civil war, very clearly not the first best solution, and not very likely to actually succeed.

      So sign me up, I guess? But “the self-interest of certain groups is not legitimate” is the plain fact of the matter. And personally, I have more hope that someone will find a scrap of land, somewhere, to build a free and open society.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Sometimes I feel like the best solution to slavery in the US would have been for the North to succeed from the south.

        • Aftagley says:

          Well, when it came time for the Civil War, the North did succeed. 🙂

        • Aftagley says:

          In all seriousness, are you claiming this would solve the issue of slavery in the territory we now consider to be the United States, or would it just have led to the end of slavery in the area that would now be calling itself the United States?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Let me preface by saying that I “sometimes think” is shorthand for “I wonder how strong a case could be made for it”

            The basic outline for the North leaving ending slavery in the South is.

            1. Create a free zone right on the border of the South where slaves could escape to. Without fugitive slave laws or a common government this would hopefully increase the number of runaways who made it to permanent freedom. My guess is that it would allow organizations committed to the abolishment of slavery the opportunity to set up posts near the border which would eventually lead to the founding of free towns that would give escapees a target to aim for.

            2. Elimination of any subsidies that were propping up slavery. My knowledge is to sketchy to guess at the magnitude (and maybe even direction) of this one, but I am fairly confident that there were some tariffs which in effect subsidized the practice.

            3. Isolation as the only major slave economy left. The European powers were, in general, against slavery by this point in history. Cutting off, or heavily restricting trade from the US would be much more difficult than just restricting trade from the south (practically, politically and economically).

          • John Schilling says:

            Regarding #1, do not underestimate the extent to which Northern society, in spite of not being cool with slavery, was still generally racist. Plans that involve a large number of black men and women, many with no skills beyond menial agricultural or domestic labor, hanging around unsupervised in “free towns” or whatnot, may wind up exceeding local tolerance for that sort of thing.

            And w/re #3, even when there was an actual civil war in progress, even when this war had been effectively recharacterized as a Crusade Against Slavery, the European Powers were still quite willing to trade with the Evil Slaveholding South. To sell guns to the evil slaveholding southerners who were fighting to perpetuate slavery. To sell fully-equipped warships to the slaveholders even when that was a (profitable) violation of generally recognized international law at the time.

            This was about a century early for “The evil meanies are doing badness; we should embargo them!” to be an effective or even legitimate strategy. Your private businessmen want to make money trading with the evil meanies; by what 19th-century legal right do you propose to stop them?

            That said, the expansion of Egypt as an alternative cotton supplier goes a long way towards crippling the plantation economy, with or without a civil war, with or without secession (in either direction).

          • Randy M says:

            That said, the expansion of Egypt as an alternative cotton supplier goes a long way towards crippling the plantation economy,

            Was that while it was under European rule?

          • John Schilling says:

            Ottoman rule, though with some French and English influence

          • baconbits9 says:

            Regarding #1, do not underestimate the extent to which Northern society, in spite of not being cool with slavery, was still generally racist. Plans that involve a large number of black men and women, many with no skills beyond menial agricultural or domestic labor, hanging around unsupervised in “free towns” or whatnot, may wind up exceeding local tolerance for that sort of thing.

            Regarding this, my history is fairly thin, but iirc post civil war there was some substantial migration to cities like Detroit which helped them boom during that period. Obviously Detroit is a pretty…. fraught? example with their long history of racial issues. The idea of the Free Town would not be as a final destination, but as a demarcation line. “Get here and you are free”, sort of an above ground stop on the underground railroad.

            And w/re #3, even when there was an actual civil war in progress, even when this war had been effectively recharacterized as a Crusade Against Slavery, the European Powers were still quite willing to trade with the Evil Slaveholding South. To sell guns to the evil slaveholding southerners who were fighting to perpetuate slavery.

            IIRC there was also a popular view in Europe that the North’s attempts at preserving the union were illegitimate as well, and that the EP was essentially mollifying for anti slavery Europeans (at least in terms of the manner and timing of implementation).

            In the long run I don’t believe that embargos are an effective method of breaking a ruling class (unless they are a part of a larger war), partially because of how isolating places like Iraq and North Korea worked out. The hope would be more along the lines that a different structure with southerners having more direct trade with Europe (rather than heavily moving goods through northern ports) might lead to a different, non slave holding class, claiming power.

        • I believe some abolitionists argued for secession.

      • Aapje says:

        But “the self-interest of certain groups is not legitimate” is the plain fact of the matter.

        I think that in a democracy, one should openly defend this if one believes it. Instead, what I see is that people tend to pretend that the self-interest of certain groups is not what it actually is. So they pretend not to harm the group, so they don’t have to actually defend the consequences of their choices. IMO, this is immoral.

        When the British ended slavery, they compensated slave owners. The US mostly chose not to. But I don’t think that either pretended that emancipating slaves would benefit slave owners.

        • actinide meta says:

          Well, if someone is claiming that literally every person in the first world would benefit from increased migration, obviously they are a liar or an idiot.

          It’s pretty obvious that migrants benefit enormously from migration. Crude estimates are that free migration would double world GDP, with most of the benefit going to the poorest and most oppressed people in the world. It’s relatively certain that first world countries’ citizens would benefit on the whole (and it is certain if recent migrants were denied government benefits). The effects on unskilled laborers in the first world are not obvious, because there are conflicting effects of substitution and complementarity (in particular native language skills tend to be complements), but econometric results seem to range from “small but negative” to “small but positive” at current levels of migration. I can certainly believe that vastly expanded migration could be bad for that group, though it’s not obvious. But almost certainly such harm is totally dwarfed by the benefit to migrants.

          So to defend migration restrictions morally, you more or less need to both weigh distributional concerns over efficiency ones among first world people and totally ignore the welfare of all other people. Or you need a deontological view in which states own their territories and may do whatever they please to foreigners as well as trampling on the freedoms of their own citizens, which boils down to the same thing. I think either of these views are, in and of themselves, as reprehensible as it’s possible for a moral theory to be, so I’m not really interested in whether opponents of migration are motivated by selfish economic concerns or racism or something else. If you’re willing to do unlimited harm to innocents to advance your interests, it doesn’t matter to me what your interests are.

          • rlms says:

            I think it’s pretty uncontroversial for governments to promote the interests of their citizens over those of foreigners; otherwise they’d give far more effective foreign aid.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Crude estimates are that free migration would double world GDP, with most of the benefit going to the poorest and most oppressed people in the world.

            Do these crude estimates take into account the danger of migrants turning the places they migrate to into places more like the places they migrated from? Take the US, drop in 400 million poor people, and the infrastructure (physical, cultural, political, you name it) simply is not going to survive.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Nybbler

            No, as I understand it they assume that the rule of law will survive, that factor prices will equibrilate, and I think pessimistically that there’s no increase in capital. And I think the estimates imply levels of migration that wouldn’t actually happen overnight even in a world without borders. Thus I call them crude estimates.

            I think it’s reasonable to be concerned about disequilibrium effects and violence and unknown unknowns when a radical change is proposed. So if you want to argue for “only” increasing migration by, say, 50% per year so that we can safely stop if the fabric of society can’t handle it, rather than opening all borders tomorrow, that’s a perfectly respectable position. Needless to say that’s not usually where people deploying your argument want to go.

            @rlms
            Even pure “citizenism”, which I think is awful, won’t get you to supporting a policy that also on net hurts citizens!

            Foreign aid, which in dollar terms hurts citizens on net *more* than it helps foreigners, is not really in the same category.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            So to defend migration restrictions morally, you more or less need to … totally ignore the welfare of all other people.

            Or you could be measuring welfare by something other than GDP. I think you need a really tight definition of what ‘welfare’ is, otherwise you end up having enough wiggle room to justify whatever arbitrary caprices you happen to have.

            Also, if you do attempt to provide a truly ‘tight’ definition of welfare, you might end up perceiving the utter futility of human existence, since no human ideal can sustain very much scrutiny.

          • On “foreign aid.” It’s not clear that transfers from the governments of rich countries to the governments of poor countries benefit the inhabitants of the poor countries. It’s arguable that such transfers hurt them, since they provide the government with resources that don’t depend on how well their population is doing, resources that can be used to maintain the power of the incumbents, and resources that increase the stakes in political conflicts.

            Or you could be measuring welfare by something other than GDP

            I can’t speak to the estimates in question, but the usual economic arguments don’t defined welfare by GDP. The define it by the summed effect on everyone affected, defined by what someone would pay to get or prevent a change. What total utility would be if you assumed that everyone had the same marginal utility of income.

          • Mary says:

            they provide the government with resources that don’t depend on how well their population is doing,

            That actively depend on how well their population is doing — except the correlation is negative. Actual improvement cuts off the spigot. (Conversely, cutting the spigot may bring improvement, since it requires local prosperity to tax.)

          • outis says:

            Crude estimates are that free migration would double world GDP, with most of the benefit going to the poorest and most oppressed people in the world. […] But almost certainly such harm is totally dwarfed by the benefit to migrants.

            These arguments have no purchase with anyone who has paid attention to recent history. We just saw how things went with globalization (mostly in the sense of sinicization). Yes, GDP went up, including American GDP. Just as planned!

            But many Americans are worse off than before, America has a lopsided economy where a large segment of the population has no useful role to play, China is going to become the world leading country, it is now proven that you don’t need democracy or liberalism to enjoy a market economy, the main global pole of attraction is switching to market authoritarianism, etc. etc.

            When it comes to immigration, which is supported by the same people for the same reasons, the prudent thing to do with those GDP projection is to take them and shove them. Where, I won’t say.

            On top of that, these projections come from spherical cow models that ignore most factors that affect the development and well-being of a nation, but I won’t bother getting into that.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I can’t speak to the estimates in question, but the usual economic arguments don’t defined welfare by GDP. The define it by the summed effect on everyone affected, defined by what someone would pay to get or prevent a change. What total utility would be if you assumed that everyone had the same marginal utility of income.

            Is that actually measurable? Or is this a bailey, where the actual models then fall back on the motte (GDP and such)?

            Also, I don’t actually see that definition used by the proponents in the public debate (in the media, politics, etc), or at least, not without being waved away.

            Opponents of migration are commonly quite crude, but I think that their crude objections do reflect actual costs that are too often ignored or casually dismissed by the proponents. In the latter case, I generally detect a strong lack of understanding that disparate impact exists, so some groups (generally not those that the proponents are a member of) suffer much more and benefit much less.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Luckily, we have Europe to look at as an example of the sorts of things that can happen if you have large-scale immigration. For example, the great proliferation in the number of armed police and anti-ramming concrete bollards in public places.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah… what Mr. X said. GDP going up because we opened the borders to Muslims has very little utility to me. I’m not in the ultra-wealthy group that nearly all the gains go to, and even if I was I would love Christendom more than my bank account.
            I actually find most immigrants to the U.S. likable, but open borders as an ideology means hurting all of Europe with Islam.

          • Mark says:

            I had a first time experience the other day – someone said (to my face) that my ancient alien theories were ‘haram’.

            It’s not that bad, it just feels like we’re going back a couple of hundred years or something.

          • actinide meta says:

            @DavidFriedman
            @Aapje

            I think in this case the predictions really are just of the effects on income, not welfare. Again, I think they should just be taken as a back of the envelope guide to the scope of benefits available rather than a crystal ball prediction of the effects of policy change taking into account all objections.

            However, a full utilitarian analysis is going to come out much better for migration, because extremely poor migrants are putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood, and the non financial welfare harms are things like small increases in crime and people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting. I know the sign of how I weigh these concerns.

          • actinide meta says:

            @outis

            But many Americans are worse off than before, America has a lopsided economy where a large segment of the population has no useful role to play, China is going to become the world leading country,

            And a billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty. So even if everything you say is true, sign me up.

            The thing is, though, from a nationalistic point of view migration has the opposite effect of the historical changes you are complaining about. Liberalizing the movement of goods and capital but not people or legal systems predictably moves as much economic activity to where the cheapest labor is (that doesn’t have *too* awful laws). China has far more than the US of the most valuable thing in the world: people. Letting people move as well instead moves all the activity to wherever the best laws (and existing knowledge and patterns of trade) are. America could easily remain a world hyperpower if it fully embraced migration.

          • Randy M says:

            Letting people move as well instead moves all the activity to wherever the best laws (and existing knowledge and patterns of trade) are.

            This is a democracy. You cannot assume the laws will stay constant.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I would love Christendom more than my bank account

            Are you aware that we… worship a Middle Eastern refugee?

            Familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan? It really ought to be translated as the Good Muslim for a modern audience.

            I’m sorry, but of all people Christians really don’t have a leg to stand on in opposing immigration.

            Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            However, a full utilitarian analysis is going to come out much better for migration, because extremely poor migrants are putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood,

            How many immigrants are actually “putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood”? How many would be if you just opened the floodgates and let everybody come in?

            and the non financial welfare harms are things like small increases in crime and people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting.

            “Small increases in crime” as in “thousands of schoolgirls being raped over a period of thirty years“.

            I know the sign of how I weigh these concerns.

            Yeah, I mean, those schoolgirls were just like slave-owners, so their self-interest isn’t legitimate.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Actinide:

            Funny how people only realised that Christianity absolutely demands open borders when the trendy liberal set decided to support them, isn’t it?

            Also, if we’re trading Biblical proof-texts, how about Deuteronomy 20.16-18, where God commands the Israelites to kill the Canaanites to stop their culture being contaminated by the Canaanites’:

            But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: but thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the Lord your God.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Oh, and:

            Are you aware that we… worship a Middle Eastern refugee?

            A Middle Eastern refugee who went back home after the danger was past. How many present-day immigrants do you expect will return to their homelands?

          • actinide meta says:

            @Randy

            Sure, it’s a concern. But frankly I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will continue to be run by the rich, special interests, bureaucrats, and the dead hand of some remarkably prescient mechanism designers from the 18th century. Americans have been doing their best to disassemble that system for centuries and I doubt that immigrants will be any more successful.

            This is also the problem with the original paper’s diagnosis of opposition to immigration. The “class interest” theory adequately explains why young minimum wage workers might oppose immigration. That would be interesting if any government anywhere gave a flying frankfurter for the opinions of young minimum wage workers. I think a much more plausible explanation is that comfortable people prefer to keep poverty and suffering far away from them where it doesn’t trouble their conscience.

          • Mark says:

            Familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan…
            I’m sorry, but of all people Christians really don’t have a leg to stand on in opposing immigration.

            The Jewish guy doesn’t stay with the Samaritans forever, though.

            I always thought that the lesson of the good samaritan is that people’s moral worth isn’t determined by their background or social standing, it’s more to do with their actions.
            That doesn’t sound like an argument for uncontrolled immigration to me – I mean what about the pharasees and all of those bad sorts, the bandits? It seems more to me that it would be in keeping with controlled immigration with some sort of measure of moral worth, perhaps combined with deportation if you turned out to be a levite.

          • Mark says:

            So, the argument for open borders is that however much worse life becomes for working class developed country people, the poor in the rest of the world will be better off.

            Couldn’t we use the same argument to confiscate the wealth of developed world wealthy and distribute it to the Afghans?

            No matter how much they love their 2nd house, I’m sure the Afghans would appreciate it more.

            Seems like a dishonest argument to me.

          • Randy M says:

            Sure, it’s a concern. But frankly I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will continue to be run by the rich, special interests, bureaucrats, and the dead hand of some remarkably prescient mechanism designers from the 18th century. Americans have been doing their best to disassemble that system for centuries and I doubt that immigrants will be any more successful.

            This is rather glib. First, there’s more to society than the legal apparatus, and there’s more to government than the highest level profiteers. The only thing keeping those mechanisms running (to the extent that they are) is people’s beliefs in them, and if you import people with other beliefs they will stop running. If the people come to have priorities other than low corruption, a light hand of government, open commerce, and equality before the law, like, say, reverence towards their religion, benefiting their kin, the ability to use minor beaurocratic positions for personal gain, enforcing tribal vendettas, easy access to young girls/boys for sex, and so on, because the people have been replaced and different cultures and genetic groups have different inclinations, then the society will change in a multitude of ways small and large.

          • rlms says:

            “Small increases in crime” as in “thousands of schoolgirls being raped over a period of thirty years“.

            What is the base rate of child sex abuse, and how has it changed in recent decades?

          • Aapje says:

            @actinide meta

            However, a full utilitarian analysis is going to come out much better for migration, because extremely poor migrants are putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood, and the non financial welfare harms are things like small increases in crime and people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting. I know the sign of how I weigh these concerns.

            If the concern is for saving lives, then migration to the West seems one of the least effective ways to do so. Just look at Syria. The vast majority of people at risk already migrated to Lebanon, Turkey and such, with some of the richest migrating on to Europe. Why would those who cannot migrate to these countries have an easier time migrating a greater distance, to EU or the US? If you look at Hispanics that migrate to the US, then there doesn’t seem to be a major risk to their children either, in their home countries.

            AFAIK, there are no significant number of people whose children are dying and would not if they could freely migrate to Europe or the US.

            The people at major risk of death are usually the people stuck in a certain place, which is why aid is sent to them. My perception is that the aid is generally quite effective at keeping people from dying, except when aid is hampered. The same thing that hampers aid typically hampers easy migration as well, so migration is then not a superior option.

            If highly capable people just keep fleeing their home countries for the West, then the West will at best end up extremely overcrowded and their home countries will stay shitty, because they won’t have enough quality people to improve them. Ultimately, I only think that truly significant numbers of non-Westerners can get better lives if the non-Western countries improve.

            people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting

            It’s not so much that multicultural society is just less cozy and trusting, but that a significant part of the Western elite no longer believe in assimilation or integration, but desire a fractured society.

            We actually had very a fractured situation in Europe for a long time. It was nationalism that provided a greater sense of unity that made people willing to sacrifice more personal well being for more people, so you could have more large-scale societies. This also enabled the United States of America to exist.

            So it’s not so much that a multicultural society is less cozy and trusting, but that it runs a high risk of imploding.

            I think that you lose yourself in concern over effects at the margin, while history has quite a few revolutions, which tend to really cause death and destruction. Favoring small (and debatable) benefits that substantially increase the risk of major damage seems unwise to me.

          • Randy M says:

            I think a much more plausible explanation is that comfortable people prefer to keep poverty and suffering far away from them where it doesn’t trouble their conscience.

            The comfortable people by and large are quite in favor of wide scale third world immigration, precisely because they will be able to build their own borders and employ their own border patrols in gated communities.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Mr. X

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration. The left fears that immigration is in tension with support for the welfare state, and I guess I don’t need to explain to you how the right feels about it. Sanders described open borders as “a Koch brothers proposal”. Which is not far wrong; the people who seriously support it are mostly radical libertarians. In short, there is absolutely no danger of anything changing.

            I don’t really want to trade “Biblical zingers;” neither of us will run out of decontextualized quotes any time soon and I’m not a fundamentalist anyway. If your interpretation of Christianity, taken as a whole, is that it sanctions violence against the helpless to maintain cultural purity, I don’t think we have enough common ground to have a useful conversation. It’s certainly a (sad) truth that people have managed to reconcile an extremely wide variety of political programs with nominal Christianity.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            So, the argument for open borders is that however much worse life becomes for working class developed country people, the poor in the rest of the world will be better off.

            Couldn’t we use the same argument to confiscate the wealth of developed world wealthy and distribute it to the Afghans?

            Or the proponents of this, who almost always are the ones who benefit from this arrangement, can voluntarily choose to give away all their money that they don’t strictly need to be able to work and to live at a third world level of welfare. Then it would seem a lot less like being generous to a homeless person, by giving the homeless person the things that you just stole from another poor person.

          • Mark says:

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration.

            Well, I could definitely introduce you to such people in Europe.

            The EU commissioner for immigration wrote an article recently where he basically said, “Immigration can’t be stopped, nothing can be done, you have to work harder to make the immigrants feel at home.”

            So, a suggestion. The US should let the EU test out open borders with Africa, see how it works out, and if it leads to a new golden age, they can relax immigration restrictions.

          • Sfoil says:

            @actinide

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration.

            Very few people use the term “open borders” in public. However, arguments that “immigration improves the economy” without claiming diminishing returns or countervailing negatives are extremely common. These two positions aren’t completely equivalent but the former follows very easily from the latter.

            Trump was elected (barely) largely on a platform of stopping illegal immigration, so obviously there is opposition to mass immigration. However, would you describe his efforts to reduce immigration to the United States as being universally popular? What about with “the left”? What about similar efforts by some governments in Eastern Europe? It’s true that in the past some organized labor groups saw mass immigration as a threat. If it was true 20 years ago, is it true today? I think the answer to all of these questions is “no”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Actinide:

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration. The left fears that immigration is in tension with support for the welfare state, and I guess I don’t need to explain to you how the right feels about it. Sanders described open borders as “a Koch brothers proposal”. Which is not far wrong; the people who seriously support it are mostly radical libertarians. In short, there is absolutely no danger of anything changing.

            There might not be many people who are explicitly in favour of open borders, but there is a large contingent who are against any effective enforcement of immigration policy.

            I don’t really want to trade “Biblical zingers;” neither of us will run out of decontextualized quotes any time soon and I’m not a fundamentalist anyway. If your interpretation of Christianity, taken as a whole, is that it sanctions violence against the helpless to maintain cultural purity, I don’t think we have enough common ground to have a useful conversation. It’s certainly a (sad) truth that people have managed to reconcile an extremely wide variety of political programs with nominal Christianity.

            Of course I don’t think that Christianity “sanctions violence against the helpless to maintain cultural purity”, any more than I think it requires us to adopt your own extreme immigration policies.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I think it’s pretty uncontroversial for governments to promote the interests of their citizens over those of foreigners;

            This is essentially right. I don’t think foreigners have zero rights but they sure as hell don’t have a right to live in the United States. Think about it like a family. If I have a kid, I’m obligated to care for that kid, even if I could do “more good” by giving malaria nets to ten kids. I may have enough disposable income to adopt some poor orphan but I’m not a reprehensible person because I don’t.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Aapje

            AFAIK, there are no significant number of people whose children are dying and would not if they could freely migrate to Europe or the US.

            In the US, we could start with the ten million people right next door in Haiti, who have a child mortality rate of 7% and 59% of whom are living on less than $2.41 per day. Haitian immigrant households in the US have a median income of $47K and while I’m sure average haitians would do worse than marginal haitians I am guessing they would do all right.

            There are worse hellholes in the world than Haiti.

            The same thing that hampers aid typically hampers easy migration as well, so migration is then not a superior option.

            This just isn’t true. It might be hard to get people out of some active war zones. But most places that just have incredibly shitty governments, that will prevent any economic improvement from persisting, don’t actually have barbed wire keeping people in them. In general it’s easy to move people to a place where they can increase their income 10x or more. It could be financed by just loaning them the money.

            If highly capable people just keep fleeing their home countries for the West, then the West will at best end up extremely overcrowded and their home countries will stay shitty, because they won’t have enough quality people to improve them. Ultimately, I only think that truly significant numbers of non-Westerners can get better lives if the non-Western countries improve.

            The best bet for improving screwed up places is Tiebout competition, where governments have to maintain some level of not sucking in order to keep their populations. As things are you can have a pretty good life as an oppressive ruling class, because the serfs have nowhere to go.

            So it’s not so much that a multicultural society is less cozy and trusting, but that it runs a high risk of imploding.

            I’m all for worrying about tail risks. But if the price of slightly more political stability in the first world is forcing billions of people to live in abject poverty, it’s too high a price to pay.

            How would you feel if you found yourself in Haiti, and no first world government would permit you to leave?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @actinide meta

            These “non-equilibrium” effects are pretty significant. It’s true they won’t happen (much) for increasing immigration X% (for some value of X which is a lot smaller than which would occur under open borders) with safeguards and restrictions. But that wasn’t the proposal; the proposal was “free migration”. Presumably opening up immigration X% would not only reduce the problems compared to free migration, but the benefits as well. You can’t use “doubling the world GDP under free migration” to argue for “opening up immigration X%”.

            I think it’s reasonable to assume extremely high levels of migration under a true open borders policy. Not only will you get refugees and economic migrants, you’ll have governments shipping you troublemakers and do-gooders shipping over the destitute by the boatload.

            Edit:
            No, I do not want to import 10 million Haitians. Where would you put them? Put them in Florida and they are 1/3rd of the population; that’s going to cause serious disequilibrium effects. They’re basically going to run the state (most likely into the ground).

          • actinide meta says:

            @Mark

            So, the argument for open borders is that however much worse life becomes for working class developed country people, the poor in the rest of the world will be better off.

            Couldn’t we use the same argument to confiscate the wealth of developed world wealthy and distribute it to the Afghans?

            To the extent that it stipulates that migration will be bad for the developed world working class, which is not a fact, the purely utilitarian argument for open borders has that form, because all utilitarian arguments for anything have that form. So let’s see what happens if we try to apply it to wealth redistribution. The answer is that you find that if you confiscate large fractions of wealth or income it causes massive deadweight losses, because people won’t work as hard to support strangers far away as they will to support themselves. This counterargument doesn’t apply to migration, which increases efficiency in dollar terms. A limitedamount of such redistribution looks pretty good in utilitarian terms, at least if you ignore the cost of the mechanisms required to impose it, and the serious problems with government foreign aid (see @DavidFriedman and @Mary’s posts). My own radical political proposals replace taxation with mandatory charitable giving as a mechanism for redistribution and public goods provision. One of the benefits is that charity can be directed beyond the borders of a polity.

            Almost all of my own charitable giving goes outside the US or to research that has global applicability. So I do think that generally speaking wealth is better off in the hands of the extremely poor. But no amount of giving will put any significant dent in third world poverty, because poor places are exactly those where capital accumulation is impossible. Migration, in contrast, could essentially eliminate poverty.

            I’m not actually a utilitarian, though I think consequences are important. Another argument for open borders is that it’s presumptively wrong to use violence to stop people from engaging in peaceful pursuits like migration and trade, and this argument applies equally well against redistribution.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Yeah… what Mr. X said. GDP going up because we opened the borders to Muslims has very little utility to me. I’m not in the ultra-wealthy group that nearly all the gains go to, and even if I was I would love Christendom more than my bank account.

            If you love christendom, then you should want more immigration, since most of it is from Latin American countries that are very Christian. Why do you think progressives suddenly became so christian friendly? Catholics are a growing voting bloc.

          • Chalid says:

            The comfortable people by and large are quite in favor of wide scale third world immigration, precisely because they will be able to build their own borders and employ their own border patrols in gated communities.

            Data? My instinct would be to say that pro-immigration sentiment is strongest in cities where contact with immigrants is routine. And anti-immigration sentiment is often strong in areas without many immigrants.

          • Randy M says:

            “Are city-dwellers open borders proponents” is not isomorphic to “are powerful people open borders proponents.”
            The sort of comfortable people actinide wants to afflict are able to insulate themselves from its downsides.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Do these crude estimates take into account the danger of migrants turning the places they migrate to into places more like the places they migrated from? Take the US, drop in 400 million poor people, and the infrastructure (physical, cultural, political, you name it) simply is not going to survive.

            400 million people have the means, motivation and opportunity to move to the US at the drop of a hat? This is only an argument against transferring resources to people conditional on them moving to a western country, not on open borders.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Data? My instinct would be to say that pro-immigration sentiment is strongest in cities where contact with immigrants is routine. And anti-immigration sentiment is often strong in areas without many immigrants.

            Yeah, but what sort of contacts? If you can afford to live in a nice upper-middle-class neighbourhood and the only immigrants you interact with are the owners of the local ethnic restaurant, the Polish nanny you hired for your children, and maybe the PhD holder from India who lives down the road, you’re still insulating yourself from most of the negative effects.

            ETA: Also, there’s the possibility that city-dwellers who don’t like immigration will move to areas without many immigrants.

          • Chalid says:

            So what I’m hearing is “I don’t have any data to support my generalization.”

            Edit: high skilled workers are subject to immigrant competition, too.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Entirely coincidentally, it looks like Germany’s made the news again:

            Organisers of Berlin’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are to set up a “safe zone” for women for the first time.

            The new security measures planned for the Brandenburg Gate party come amid concerns about sexual assaults.

            A large number of assaults and robberies targeting women at Cologne’s New Year’s Eve celebrations two years ago horrified Germany.

            Hundreds of women reported being attacked by gangs of men with migrant backgrounds.

            The events in Cologne heightened tensions in the country over the large influx of refugees and migrants – 1.1m people arrived in Germany in 2015, some, but by no means all, fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.

            Still, as long as the GDP’s up, right?

          • Randy M says:

            So what I’m hearing is “I don’t have any data to support my generalization.”

            *cough*

            Data? My instinct would be to say

          • Chalid says:

            *cough*

            Exactly. By saying “my instinct” I explicitly warn the reader that I’m not able to immediately back up my statement with much hard quantitative evidence.

            This is why I was inviting you to provide evidence for your assertion, since you provided no such disclaimer.

          • Randy M says:

            Examples of powerful pro-immigration proponents is easy to find. Speculation as to their motives is not going to be simply proven, but it is true that people who tend to benefit greatest from cheap labor have the resources to avoid any attendant problems with increased criminality, disease, corruption, etc. Claiming they are aware of this is an assumption but seems most charitable towards their faculties.

          • Chalid says:

            Examples of almost anything are easy to find.

            Anyway, I am now convinced that you are not going to present any evidence beyond your intuition, and as I’ve already noted my intuitions differ, and I don’t have the time for a research project, so there is little chance anyone will benefit from pursuing this any further.

          • rlms says:

            Have some data. I think it supports Chalid. Of course, one confounding factor in this question is the fact that immigrants are typically pro-immigrant. But eyeballing the graph in the second link, I don’t think that has much of an effect: even assuming that all immigrants vote Democrat, the trend would still remain if their votes were removed.

          • Mark says:

            @chaild
            There was a study of pro-immigration sentiment in the UK, as I remember, the conclusion was that pro-immigration sentiment is linked to transience rather than exposure to immigrants. Areas with high immigrant populations, but where native people have established communities, make use of the local services, etc. are the areas with the most anti-immigrant sentiment.

            Populations like young people, students, the rich, city dwellers, who either don’t make use of local services (can afford to buy their own communities), or who aren’t particularly interested in local community due to transience are normally pro-immigrant.

            @actinide meta

            I guess the counter-argument is that community matters for economic outcomes. You see pretty clearly that there are massive differences in outcome within a polity depending on the culture of the community in question.
            If migration changes community in negative ways, it’s going to be a really inefficient way to trade.

            I guess the left-wing response to that is that there aren’t really community differences and that the differences in outcome are largely the result of discrimination. Personally, I think there might be a bit of a vicious circle at times, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are some communities out there with messed up values, that cause immense problems and that I don’t want to have to deal with.

          • actinide meta says:

            A number of people have replied taking the position that open borders advocates are common on the left and/or among the powerful and/or in Europe, and are maybe hiding their level of support for the idea for strategic reasons. My picture of the situation, at least in the U.S., is that Republican politicians find it in their interests to say mean things about immigrants and/or things that can be construed that way by a sufficiently hostile audience, and that consequently Democratic politicians and supporters find it in their interests to try to shame them for that in order to get people sympathetic to immigrants out to vote for them, but that it’s all cheap talk and debate over symbolism and affect and that neither party seriously intends to make any changes in policy worth talking about. But I don’t really know, so I think I’ll just concede this point.

            @Nybbler

            No, I do not want to import 10 million Haitians. Where would you put them? Put them in Florida and they are 1/3rd of the population; that’s going to cause serious disequilibrium effects.

            Well, they’d go wherever the jobs are, since we have (thank God!) free migration within the United States. Bus tickets are cheap. But Florida’s economy would have to grow less than 1% to absorb Haiti’s GDP. In principle, everything after that is gravy! I think the practical difficulties mostly stem from government programs that try to instantly move immigrants to first world standards of living rather than just improve their lot (public education, minimum wages, etc), and these should be tweaked in an open borders world!

            I’m trying to argue that the present system of first world border controls is causing tens of trillions of dollars per year of net harm to the world, mostly concentrated on innocent and vulnerable people. It’s not really constructive to engage with this by arguing that if (a) you eliminated every immigration restriction simultaneously with the stroke of a pen, (b) magically airlifted tens or hundreds of millions of people simultaneously to places where no one is expecting or actively trying to hire them, and (c) don’t change anything else, there would be some problems. Yes, there would. So that’s probably not exactly the right policy proposal.

            I think that borders should be open. But if somehow I could wave a magic wand and set U.S. immigration policy, I would not try to get there overnight. If you really want a concrete transitional policy, you could try something like

            (a) Replace the complicated and dehumanizing immigration system with an outright auction of permissive, greencard-like visas to whoever wants to buy them.

            (b) Pay for refugee visas explicitly as a budget item (and of course charities can also do so). Otherwise trust the market to come up with financing mechanisms for the poor.

            (c) Set the quantity of visas sold initially to something around the current actual (not authorized) rate of immigration, which we know we can absorb

            (d) Increase the quantity of visas issued exponentially, regardless of what happens to the price, unless and until there are major failures of civil order. If there are big problems, solve them and move on.

            (e) When people cheat (while the visas are still expensive), don’t panic, just bill them for the visas they should have bought (plus penalties)

            The goal would be to drive the cost of the visas close to zero eventually, as the world approaches equilibrium, and then you can dismantle the whole ugly system forever.

            This approach mostly maximizes welfare, for a given rate of transition, in dollar rather than “utility” terms. So high skilled immigration may very well increase first, even though it’s not as exciting in poverty reduction terms. You could try to find a way to “fix” that, but I think you could just get to high skilled equilibrium pretty fast.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @actinide meta

            So high skilled immigration may very well increase first, even though it’s not as exciting in poverty reduction terms. You could try to find a way to “fix” that, but I think you could just get to high skilled equilibrium pretty fast.

            This is fine except when allowing immigration into a country with an internal high-cost to become high-skilled. Plenty of people from higher SES families can afford the cost and the competition, but you’re seriously negatively impacting the life-time earnings and savings potential of those natives who personally paid their way up.

            At least with uncredentialed blue-collar jobs everyone, native and immigrant alike, is taken down (or up) to the same low living standards. This pisses off the natives who expect higher living standards based on what their uncredentialed parents had, but it’s even worse for the credentialed who must face lower living standards than their immigrant peers, thanks to higher debt service requirements.

            You’re going to have to fix the credentialing or college affordability problems first.

          • Wrong Species says:

            (e) When people cheat (while the visas are still expensive), don’t panic, just bill them for the visas they should have bought (plus penalties)

            That’s not transitional open borders. That’s just open borders. You’re still not getting that having laws and not enforcing them is effectively the same as not having the laws.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            (d) Increase the quantity of visas issued exponentially, regardless of what happens to the price, unless and until there are major failures of civil order. If there are big problems, solve them and move on.

            What if these “big problems” can’t be solved without sending lots of the recent immigrants back home?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            What if these “big problems” can’t be solved without sending lots of the recent immigrants back home?

            That’s one of the ‘nice things’ about permanent residence versus visas.

            The kind way of handling it would be to send them back, refund most of their money, and then allow them priority when the gates open again.

          • @Aapje:

            The definition of improvement I described is what Marshall called (I think) economic improvement, current people in my field refer to as improvement in efficiency (or “wealth maximization” if the person is Richard Posner). Most economists, if pressed, would refer to it as Hicks-Kaldor improvement.

            It’s what an economist means if he says “free trade makes us better off” or something similar. The problems with statistical measures such as GDP or national income are routinely pointed out in elementary economics courses. As Marshall put it more than a century ago, when a man marries his housekeeper the national income goes down.

            The usual argument isn’t “we measured economic efficiency before and after a free trade agreement was passed and it went up.” It’s rather “here are the reason to expect that reducing trade barriers will increase economic efficiency.” We occasionally support the theoretical argument by pointing to evidence that free trade produces benefits, commonly the cases of 19th century England and 20th century Hong Kong, but those are cases where the improvement is arguably so large that we don’t need a precise definition to recognize it.

            The theoretical argument necessarily leaves out things that we don’t have a good enough theory to account for, such as cultural changes due to immigration. But most people who oppose free trade or immigration think they are bad things even aside from those, and most of the time they believe that due to accepting arguments that economists have known to be mistaken for about two hundred years now.

            Or in other words, we have more reason to believe that their arguments are wrong than that our conclusions are right.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            I don’t think severity of enforcement penalties matters a lot in this regime, because the flow of people sneaking over the border is pretty quickly going to be a small fraction of the whole. Demand to immigrate illegally may even decrease, because people may decide to “wait” for an easy and safe visa, because people who expect to eventually be legal residents or citizens will expect to eventually pay the penalties, and because illegal immigrants face increased competition from vastly expanded legal immigration. (Low-skilled non-native-language-speaking immigrants are much better substitutes for each other than for native labor!) It’s probably easier and cheaper to just account for the illegal immigration flows when setting the exponential schedule than to cut them off at great expense just to let the same people in legally in a few years.

            But in the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter very much. That’s basically my message in this thread: the harms from migration restrictions are so enormous that very little else is worth worrying about until that’s fixed.

          • Mark says:

            Is there any reason why open borders should be preferred to imperialism?

            If things are really bad in country A, there will probably be more people for whom it isn’t bad enough to make them leave, than there are people who would get a heavy util hit at the idea of foreign involvement in government.
            And all the people who would otherwise move to country B, would definitely be in favour.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s basically my message in this thread: the harms from migration restrictions are so enormous that very little else is worth worrying about until that’s fixed.

            Do you spend all of your disposable income on charity? If not, then you should do so. Whatever benefits you get from a bigger apartment pale in comparison to the threat of malaria. You should only be spending enough to keep yourself alive and working. Even spending on your own kids is out of the question, since it’s the one versus the money.

            The point is not that I think you should actually do that. The point is about obligations. The US government has a strong obligation towards its own citizens. That’s the point of its existence. It isn’t automatically obligated to help every person on the entire planet. There are some weaker obligations not to kill people arbitrarily or plunder but the USG should work towards the benefit of its citizens. Anything else is supererogatory and shouldn’t come at the expense of its own people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @actinide meta

            Well, they’d go wherever the jobs are, since we have (thank God!) free migration within the United States. Bus tickets are cheap. But Florida’s economy would have to grow less than 1% to absorb Haiti’s GDP. In principle, everything after that is gravy!

            Jobs, for unskilled French or Creole speaking workers? There aren’t any, or at least there aren’t anything like 10 million. No, they’d do what all the other immigrant groups have done, which is to cluster somewhere, where they could form immigrant communities. And since there’s no reason for them to cluster anywhere else, it would be the nearest part of the US. Florida doesn’t have to absorb their GDP; I’m not even sure what that means. It has to absorb the actual people. Who instantly form a huge voting bloc.

            I’m trying to argue that the present system of first world border controls is causing tens of trillions of dollars per year of net harm to the world, mostly concentrated on innocent and vulnerable people.

            And I’m trying to argue that you’re ignoring the enormous amount of harm prevented by those border controls. Haiti isn’t desperately poor because it’s poor in natural resources or colonialism or because of some evil leadership imposed from above. It’s desperately poor because that’s how the Haitians make it. Take those same Haitians, drop them wholesale into a first-world polity, and you risk turning it into a third-world polity. At which point the Haitians have gained only in the short term, and everyone else has lost. If you took those same Haitians and introduced them much more slowly, that’s another story entirely. But you can’t “exponentially increase” that value, unless you’re using a very very small exponent. You need a low enough rate that they can be assimilated, so by the time there’s enough of them to make a serious political effect, most of them are first-worlders in attitude and culture.

            (d) Increase the quantity of visas issued exponentially, regardless of what happens to the price, unless and until there are major failures of civil order. If there are big problems, solve them and move on.

            Uh, yeah, I don’t think deliberately testing the system to failure is a great idea.

          • outis says:

            @actinide meta:

            The thing is, though, from a nationalistic point of view migration has the opposite effect of the historical changes you are complaining about. Liberalizing the movement of goods and capital but not people or legal systems predictably moves as much economic activity to where the cheapest labor is (that doesn’t have *too* awful laws).

            No, mass immigration does not counteract of the negative effects of delocalization; it increases some, and adds some new ones. For instance: when the factories move abroad, lots of working class people lose their job. Many low-skill jobs remain, though, because not everything can be done abroad and shipped. But then you bring in masses of low-skill labor who completely undercut the local working class.

            Also, everything you have said makes me doubt that you are even capable of taking a nationalistic point of view. You’re using the word “nation”, but you’re thinking of a mass of land with some set of laws, with the people living in it being completely interchangeable with any other people. That is a complete denial (probably paired with a complete misunderstanding) of the concept of nation.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Actinide: no it should not be translated as “the good Muslim.” That would be deceiving people. Where do you get off thinking you’re entitled to translate the Bible? You’ve thought about the Bible for 25 minutes and think you’ve come to some interesting conclusions? Well let me tell you something: the Church stands with 2000 years of pain and bafflement and hunger behind her…

          • Anonymous says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            @actinide meta

            Given who society deems villains nowadays, a better translation would be “the Good Neo-Nazi”, or “the Good Racist”. “The Good Cisgendered White Male”!

          • Take those same Haitians, drop them wholesale into a first-world polity, and you risk turning it into a third-world polity.

            We did the experiment, over and over again, in the 19th and early 20th century. The fraction of immigrants in the population was higher in the late 19th and early 20th century than it is now, and they were coming in at a rate of about one percent of the population a year.

            Why didn’t that have the effect you describe?

          • Anonymous says:

            We did the experiment, over and over again, in the 19th and early 20th century. The fraction of immigrants in the population was higher in the late 19th and early 20th century than it is now, and they were coming in at a rate of about one percent of the population a year.

            Why didn’t that have the effect you describe?

            Because they were mostly “white persons of good character”, rather than Haitians?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            This thread is way too deep.

            @DavidFriedman

            The fraction of immigrants in the population was higher in the late 19th and early 20th century than it is now, and they were coming in at a rate of about one percent of the population a year.

            Why didn’t that have the effect you describe?

            What percentage of those homesteaded? Using family connections or savings from their homeland to start?

            They basically continued their same way of life in the new land, and were standard working class people as a result. This is no longer the case, and wouldn’t have been the case in the 19th and early 20th centuries for those who immigrated from hunter-gatherer tribes from, e.g., the Amazon.

          • Brad says:

            anonymousskimmer

            What percentage of those homesteaded? Using family connections or savings from their homeland to start?

            What percentage of immigrants today, authorized or otherwise, do you think don’t have family connections or any savings?

          • rlms says:

            I didn’t realise the US was being inundated by hunter-gathers. Mind you, I didn’t realise Europe had become an Islamist theocracy until I read it here, and I live there, so perhaps I’m just not very observant.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Brad
            We’re talking about Haitians. Not generic immigrants.

            The family connections back then, to the extent they existed, were often enough to people already living a middle-class lifestyle.

            When this wasn’t the case you had ghettos full of Irish, or the like.

            @rlms
            I’m making a comparison. An entire family immigrating from Europe could expect to maintain their fishing or farming lifestyle without change and still be middle class (with free land from the government on top of that to start). A dirt-poor Haitian family moving today doesn’t have an equivalent lifestyle in the US. Even the Haitians have homes, where economically speaking they’d be the equivalent of homeless people in the US.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @David Friedman

            They were more skilled and less poor, compared to the population of Americans at that time, than Haitians are now compared to the population of the US now.

            That rate of immigration is lower than would happen under open borders today. In particular, there weren’t so many do-gooder organizations who would move poor people wholesale to the US.

            There was no welfare state; if they failed they failed, and were not as much of a burden on those here.

            There were more low-skill jobs.

            Even so, immigrants did overwhelm certain places locally, resulting in ghettos.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            if they failed they failed, and were not as much of a burden on those here.

            One of my step-great-great-(great?)-grandfathers ended up in an asylum.

            In particular, there weren’t so many do-gooder organizations who would move poor people wholesale to the US.

            Ideally far more of these organizations would be helping the immigrants assimilate and develop job skills.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Ideally far more of these organizations would be helping the immigrants assimilate and develop job skills.

            Ideally, yes. Realistically, however…

          • Brad says:

            Because they were mostly “white persons of good character”, rather than Haitians?

            That magical whiteness is so awesome. Well, not all whites obviously. Hajnal line and all that. And I’m not sure about those swarthy Mediterraneans either. I think they might be half-breeds.

            If only we had a word for the good kind of white.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            Nothing magical about it.

            The right environment (one which strongly incentivizes saving for the winter), the right kind of institutions (illegal cousin marriages, for instance) and the right amount of criminal execution work wonders if applied somewhat consistently for the better part of two millennia. Drop the population of Haiti on a hypothetical temperate land, co-ruled by the Catholic Church and iron-fisted warlords, and I’ll bet they’d closely approximate the temperament and cooperativeness of intra-Hajnal whites. The reverse is probably also true; if you place the aforementioned whites in a winterless environment under barbaric institutions, they’d likely eventually start to approximate Haitians.

          • actinide meta says:

            Y’all seem to be ignoring the ~700,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S., with a median household income of $47,200 compared to $56,500 for native-born Americans. Despite the obvious reasons that number can’t be directly extrapolated to the median or the newly arrived Haitian, I think it’s pretty hard to reconcile with the view that there aren’t any jobs for Haitian immigrants to do.

            (Most of the Haitians that are not living in poverty are living in the United States! The remittances sent by Haitians living and working abroad to families in Haiti represent something like a third of Haiti’s GDP.)

            To be honest, I’m baffled by the same people (e.g. @The Nybbler) believing simultaneously that huge numbers of poor people will quickly immigrate if permitted and that there isn’t in fact a huge demand for their (cheap!) labor. Most immigrants are ineligible for most welfare programs in the US (I’m more than happy to stipulate that we should fix any loopholes as part of an asymptotic open borders program) and the cost of living here is obviously higher than in most poor places. Why do you think people want to come, exactly?

          • The Nybbler says:

            One of my step-great-great-(great?)-grandfathers ended up in an asylum.

            Asylums. Terrible places. Pretty much warehousing the mentally ill as cheaply as possible, with a side order of Mengele-class experiments for some of the bad ones. Mostly gone now. Now the mentally ill are collecting SSI disability, housing assistance, and other forms of welfare, and are out on the street making everyone else’s life worse. Better for them, certainly, but it’s another difference between the 19th and early 20th centuries and now.

            Most immigrants are ineligible for most welfare programs in the US (I’m more than happy to stipulate that we should fix any loopholes as part of an asymptotic open borders program)

            I do not believe today’s do-gooders would allow poor immigrants to starve on the streets once they were here.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            no it should not be translated as “the good Muslim.” That would be deceiving people. Where do you get off thinking you’re entitled to translate the Bible? You’ve thought about the Bible for 25 minutes and think you’ve come to some interesting conclusions? Well let me tell you something: the Church stands with 2000 years of pain and bafflement and hunger behind her…

            Uh, please stay calm. I haven’t spent even 25 minutes working on a cultural translation of the Bible, and the idea that to the original audience of the “Good Samaritan” story the “Samaritans” were a despised, shunned, heretical religious outgroup (and that casual modern Christian readers, who have only heard the word “Samaritan” in association with “Good” are pretty likely to miss this important dimension of the parable) is not remotely my idea (or, I think, particularly controversial). But if you’re saying that this information belongs in a sermon or commentary or whatever rather than literally in a translation, I agree.

            @Anonymous

            Given who society deems villains nowadays, a better translation would be “the Good Neo-Nazi”, or “the Good Racist”. “The Good Cisgendered White Male”!

            If that’s what it takes to shock your congregation, then yes.

          • Mark says:

            Hmmm… the original claim was that border controls were somehow anti-christian given the message of the parable of the good samaritan.

            If the good samaritan were to become the good muslim, I think it’d be pretty uncontroversial in most congregations – maybe I’m being too generous here but, I feel like “not all Muslims are absolutely evil” is something that most Christians have probably already taken on board.

            Probably depends on their proximity to Muslims. Might be a good one for Copts.

            Anyway, doesn’t really have anything to do with border controls.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Actinide:

            Uh, please stay calm.

            She was referencing this sketch.

            Anyway, it strikes me that we’ve fortunate enough to have a large surviving corpus of early Christian writers, who, coming from a culture more similar to Jesus’ own, would be more likely to understand the nuances of his teachings, and who wouldn’t be affected by modern secular fashions. So, Actinide (or anyone, really), if you can show that the patristic consensus was in favour of open borders, I’ll happily admit that you’re correct, and that Christianity does indeed require us to let anybody who wishes immigrate. If not, perhaps you could explain why, exactly, we should credit the notion that the true message of Christianity was completely hidden to those closest to Jesus, only to be discovered by someone living two thousand years after him.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Incidentally, immigration was quite the hot topic in the late Roman Empire, so if the Church thought that Christian teaching required them to let in any group of Goths (Vandals, Huns, Franks, Alamanni…) that came knocking, she had plenty of opportunity to say so.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Most economists, if pressed, would refer to it as Hicks-Kaldor improvement.

            Which is based on assumptions that seem untrue, so it seems doubtful that a Hicks-Kaldor improvement can be guaranteed, rather than hoped for.

            Also, the model you are using is presumably a model based on the assumption of stability, while the claim of many critics is that main downsides are destabilization. It’s like turning off the safety features in your browser to make it more efficient with CPU/memory/etc. That will work until your machine gets taken over by malware and you have a far less stable system than before. And if you run into one of these encrypting malwares, it may even be worse than that.

            The argument that turning off these safety features offers a marginal improvement in the short term is correct. Does it offer an overall improvement in the long term? Most experts say no…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            One way that the world is different is just that travel is a lot cheaper.

            Still, my impression is that if people are merely poor rather than living in a war/disaster zone, they don’t all emigrate. Instead, the people most likely to earn money leave and send remittances to their families.

            A general point for the anti-immigrationists: What do you think the right size for a freedom to travel, work, and settle zone should be?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Ideally far more of these organizations would be helping the immigrants assimilate and develop job skills.”

            There used to be organizations like that in the ’20s or so, ethnically based rather than help from people not related to the immigrants.

            I have no idea why there’s less of that these days. Or is there more than I’ve heard about?

        • Chalid says:

          When the British ended slavery, they compensated slave owners. The US mostly chose not to. But I don’t think that either pretended that emancipating slaves would benefit slave owners.

          Who are the groups that you think would be hurt? The studies I’ve seen suggest most groups benefit and a few groups (mainly unskilled) would see small effects of uncertain sign. You can talk about culture effects but they’re pretty speculative.

          Lots of people *think* they’re hurt by immigration, sure, but that’s not really evidence, especially on SSC.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Lots of people think they’re hurt when foreigners gang rape their children or blow them to smithereens.

            Thank God we have brave men like you to tell us that actually they’re all better off for it!

            Really, when you think about it isn’t being hacked apart with a machete a small price to pay if it means that the Koch brothers can afford another summer home in Monaco? One lost dollar is a tragedy but ten of thousand rapes are a statistic.

          • Chalid says:

            When BLM says that police are systematically racist and point at all the black children killed by police, do you listen and believe or do you look for data and studies that attempt to measure the effects?

          • Lots of people think they’re hurt when foreigners gang rape their children or blow them to smithereens.

            Is there evidence that immigrants are, on average, more inclined to commit crimes (other than violating immigration laws in the case of illegal immigrants) than other people? You seem to be assuming that, but I don’t think the evidence, in the U.S. case, supports it.

          • Mark says:

            It depends where the migrants come from.

            The US already has some high crime minorities, so migrants are on average probably better.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You can’t apply the US (let alone the Canadian) experience to Europe, or elsewhere, any more than you can apply those place’s experience to the US or Canada. Very different situations, primarily geographically.

  22. Baeraad says:

    Have some amateur evo-psych theories!

    Having spent more time than I actually wanted to in mostly-male, mostly-unrestrained-by-social-mores environments (because the more polite and female-dominated environments where I’m actually comfortable have become filled with feminists who hate me), I have developed the following theory: the fundamental male desire is to turn the whole world into you.

    It just feels like it fits everything. The complete disinterest in style, novelty and diversity (everything should have the same form: yours!). The determination to be as gross and biological about everything as possible (everything is better with your bodily fluids all over it! Maybe you can impregnate it, but even if not, it’ll at least smell like you!). The urge to plaster your name on everything and take credit for it (Donald Trump is really the perfect case study for unrestrained, incontinent masculinity…). The endless intellectual one-upmanship (you should have exactly the same opinions as me, and I will spew statistics over you until you fall in line!). Remember that Doctor Who episode, “The End of Time”? The one where every single person on Earth transforms into a clone of the villain? I think that, deep within his prostate, that’s what every man wants. In the undying words of Louis CK (who ended up proving his own point, actually), the male attitude boils down to: “More of me! More of meee!”

    What’s that, you say? I sound like a prissy, man-hating bitch? Well, duh! Why do you think I’d prefer to hang out with a bunch of chicks if the feminists would just let me?

    But of course feminists hate me for a reason, and a large part of that reason is that I’m equally unimpressed with the female attitude. As near as I can tell (and obviously here I’m hampered by not having first-hand experience, but being limited to observation), women don’t want everything to be like them. No, no. As near as I can tell, a woman wants a sprawling, diverse, colourful world filled with a multitude of interesting things – that always gives her exactly what she wants, exactly when she wants it, in exactly the right form and quantities. Because she deserves it!

    Really, I don’t know what depresses me more – the impossibly long list of things people in female-dominated environments expect me to do and not do (or else I am a bad person), or the way people in male-dominated environments want absolutely nothing from me except that I hold still so they can piss all over me (because there’s no such thing as a good person or a bad person, it’s all about who’s the pisser and who’s the pissee).

    The good news (and I have to remind myself constantly that it in fact exists) is that people aren’t quite as simple as that. Humans are complicated, they have layers upon layers covering the most fundamental instincts. In particular, the better sort of person, male or female, has the ability for restraint, for recognising that they don’t necessarily deserve something just because it feels natural to them. Good men will grant others their own little slices of the world to shape in their image, as long as they get theirs. Good women will forgive others their failure to be perfect as long as they at least seem to be trying (again, this is conjecture – but I have a number of female friends who I spend a lot of time talking to, and I swear I can just feel them silently noting my dysfunctions and then dutifully forgiving me for them at every turn. It’s a bit unnerving, but I guess it works). We are not slaves to our inherent unreasonableness.

    I do keep feeling that the world has less and less restraint and good people in it, and more and more Trumps and feminists, but that part might just be my winter depression talking…

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I have developed the following theory: the fundamental male desire is to turn the whole world into you.

      I don’t think that’s true. It’s more like, the fundamental male desire is to be top dog, and to have everyone else acknowledge their top-dog-ness. Hence things like putting your name and image on everything (to show how important you are), intellectual one-upmanship (to show everybody how much smarter you are), grossness (because being able to get away with violating norms of politeness is a mark of high status). Men are fine with other men being different, just as long as one of the ways in which they differ is by having lower status.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      > But of course feminists hate me for a reason, and a large part of that reason is that I’m equally unimpressed with the female attitude.

      I’ll be the bad guy and point out that you’re the common factor in both circles. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the bad guy/girl, but I’d be willing to bet at least a modest amount that there is a problem with the way you’re choosing your circles. In none of my men-only circles ever was there any interest in bodily fluids.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        In none of my men-only circles ever was there any interest in bodily fluids.

        Yeah, as far as I remember, most of the males I know/knew outgrew that particular obsession at around the age of fourteen.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Minor point: In most human societies, men dress up about as much as women. I believe the desire for variety in clothes got knocked out of men by some combination of the French Revolution and Puritanism.

      I’m pretty sure you can find better people, possibly among rationalists and possibly in relatively non-political hobby groups.

      Also, are mixed groups better behaved than single-gender groups?

      • Mary says:

        Depends. In ancient Greek society, a man who dressed up as much as a woman was presumed to be an adulterer. Obviously so womanly a man was interested in women.

    • Randy M says:

      I do not find your diagnosis convincing, but I nonetheless endorse your prescription. Neither male or female is innately good, and self restraint is an essential virtue for each that is largely denigrated of late.

    • skef says:

      An evo-psych theory has to be tied somehow to evolutionary fitness. Your view is more like a totalizing meta-narrative.

  23. johan_larson says:

    A few OTs back, we were discussing upcoming books, including Bryan Caplan’s “The Case Against Education.” An article based on the book is now available over at The Atlantic:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/?utm_source=atltw

    • johan_larson says:

      Let’s suppose Caplan is right, so most college degrees aren’t actually all that useful, but employers think they are very valuable in indicating quality employees. How can a savvy person take advantage of this situation?

      I can think of two things to do. First, don’t pay top dollar for a second-rate degree. Some small private colleges charge almost as much as top-tier colleges, without being nearly as prestigious. And since prestige is the point of a college education, not the actual knowledge, an expensive but unprestigious college education is a waste. If you have to get a college education, and the point isn’t the prestige but only the fact of having a college degree, get the cheapest one that counts. That’s probably a state school, or better yet a two-year community college degree followed by two years at a four-year college with an articulation agreement (so courses transfer cleanly.)

      Second, check whether the career you want to pursue actually requires a college degree. And if it doesn’t, don’t go to college. Spend those four years in an entry level job learning the business. Or do two years of college rather than four.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Indeed, in the average study, senior year of college brings more than twice the pay increase of freshman, sophomore, and junior years combined. Unless colleges delay job training until the very end, signaling is practically the only explanation.

      Pretty sure this has been brought up before, but there’s another possible explanation. Many of those who drop out are those who can’t hack it. We don’t get dropouts through random sampling. This explanation works whether the main value of college is signalling (in which case those who drop out are signalling they can’t hack it) or training (in which case those who drop out are those who aren’t being succesfully trained)

      • quanta413 says:

        I don’t think it makes sense to say this fact can be explained through the training model unless we add epicycles to the training model. IIRC the whole point of the sheepskin effect is that comparisons were made between people who dropped out after x semesters with a barely passing average and those who after graduated with a barely passing average in x + 1 semesters. If training was the explanation, it doesn’t make sense that the second group would have a huge wage premium over the first group. They both should have gained roughly equal amounts of training from barely passing the first 7 semesters of class.

        The only way it makes sense is to add additional details (which are plausible, but I feel like they are still epicycles compared to the obvious explanation: “a degree usually has no relationship to training you for a future job”) like “employers don’t want to spend the time evaluating your college courses in any way other than pass/fail because it’s not worth their time to make such an evaluation” (probably true).

        For what it’s worth, I think there are some degrees that train many students in them for their future jobs, and some degrees do train you for something. But I still think the idea that college is essentially an expensive signal of some mixture of intelligence, persistence (or “willingness to put up with bullshit”), and the right social indicators (or “class conformity”) makes a lot more sense. Required credentials are relevant as well for some jobs.

        • bean says:

          I think that dropping out after 7 semesters is a fairly serious red flag to employers. You’re almost done with your degree, and you know that employers put a high premium on you having a degree, right or wrong. If you aren’t willing to hold your nose and get that last semester done, it doesn’t make me think highly of your conscientiousness. I suppose you could classify that as signalling, but it’s signalling something indisputably important, not just “I’m of the right social class”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            https://blog.petersons.com/2015/11/11/top-11-reasons-why-college-students-dropout-dont-let-it-happen-to-you/

            I do wonder if so-called conscientiousness is as important as it’s made out to be, and how context-dependent it is. I also wonder how much conscientiousness is needed for varying people in varying circumstances to graduate. I can easily imagine someone with a very high degree of conscientiousness dropping out under the appropriate circumstances while someone with noticeably less completes.

            I can also imagine an aromantic having far less conscientiousness in a romantic relationship than a romantic, and an asocial having far less conscientiousness in a social milieu than a social, while both have more conscientiousness in another context than their counterparts.

          • Nick says:

            I have a friend who dropped out after seven semesters. It turned out he was seriously confused about his degree requirements and was taking the bare minimum of classes each semester, which in retrospect explains why he never had any work and was playing video games all the time. So he didn’t go the last semester because he simply couldn’t finish his degree in that time. I do feel bad for him; I counseled lots of folks on how to finish in time and what to take, including a biochem major whose freshman schedule was seriously f@$#ed, but my friend never asked for my help or said anything was wrong until it was too late!

            Following anonymousskimmer, I’d speculate there’s at least two kinds of conscientiousness. He had one kind, to be sure—he always did his work, but not to the best of his ability, and my impression was that he didn’t feel it was worth it. On the other hand, I don’t always do my work, but when I do, I’m an uncompromising perfectionist—I’ve chosen not to turn in things which I don’t feel are good enough, and at work now I delay projects I’m working on to fiddle with the code or even the documentation. About a third of the comments I write on SSC are never posted; I edit and edit and edit but never get them the way I want them, or I decide it’s better off not being posted. There’s the conscientiousness of getting things started, and there’s the conscientiousness of following through.

          • bean says:

            Of the things on that list, family emergency is the only one that makes sense with one semester left to go. (That should have been my framing, not just seven semesters.) it

            That said, college is a lot like work, to the point where being the sort of person who can get a college degree is a good indicator of work success. I think we probably underrate this because we are the sort of people who find college fairly easy.

          • quanta413 says:

            If you aren’t willing to hold your nose and get that last semester done, it doesn’t make me think highly of your conscientiousness. I suppose you could classify that as signalling, but it’s signalling something indisputably important, not just “I’m of the right social class”.

            From your post, I think we actually agree about this example. This sort of thing is exactly what is meant by signalling. The signalling hypothesis isn’t that the signal indicates nothing of value. It’s that finishing college is signalling a mixture of (mostly) valuable traits that most people who finish college would have whether or not they went to college i.e. college doesn’t affect the traits students are sending a signal about. Intelligence and persistence are valuable; it’s just that college doesn’t do much to increase either of those traits. Even the ability to fit in with a particular social class is of value since people work in groups- even if it’s kind of a dickish criteria. In this case what you call “conscientiousness” is what I called “persistence” or “willingness to put up with bullshit”. Whether or not you have the conscientiousness to put up with the last semester of college has little to do with training (at least training you received in college), but a lot to do with what sort of person you are. And it’s a costly signal to send. Signalling conscientiousness has nothing to do with building human capital that wasn’t there before college.

            From the economic point of view, college as signalling may be very wasteful if there are much cheaper ways people could send true signals about the traits of interest. We already have cheap (compared to college), good signals of intelligence that people usually have to take to apply for college like the SAT and ACT. It’s also not hard to tell if someone’s roughly of the desired social class or what have you just by talking to them, and this criteria is arguably ethically wrong anyways. That just leaves persistence or conscientiousness as being something people need to send a signal about. These are admittedly harder to test, since until people are adults you might worry that their parents are heavily influencing what you can observe about these. But I find it hard to believe that they can’t be accurately tested for less than ~50-200 thousand dollars and four to five years of time.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “I think we probably underrate this because we are the sort of people who find college fairly easy.”

            As I’ve said before here, I dropped out multiple times. It took me 12 years to earn an A.S. (with 123 semester credit equivalents which transferred), and an additional 5 years to earn a B.S (with just under 200 transferrable semester credit equivalents). I only finished because my wife wouldn’t let me drop out the last semester — 35 hours at work + nearly full-time at school + not enough money to take a required gen ed course at the school (fortunately I could take it online at a cheaper community college) + tons and tons of frustration and anger at the entire college process.

            None* of my managers have had a serious problem with my work, and have in fact thought it was generally very good (though I do better at the white collar stuff than the blue/pink collar stuff).

            The fundamental problem with college is that it’s broadly homogenous in the US (though the rest of the world does differ in important respects) – you need particular traits, even some which may be detrimental or constraining to real-life functioning, to make it through. We need more diversity in tertiary education.

            * – Okay, just the baker who was paranoid that we minimum wage flunkies were talking behind his back. This was when I was 19 or 20.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            I think that dropping out after 7 semesters is a fairly serious red flag to employers.

            I am pretty darn sure that difference between “dropping out after 7 semesters” and “dropping out after 1 semester” simply never shows up in the hiring process of most (90%++) all companies. These processes tend to treat the signal as binary, degree/no-degree.

            To gather some weak evidence, one could send out nigh-identical CVs and compare response rates – although response rates to cold CVs are low enough to make the experiment time-consuming anyway.

    • rahien.din says:

      Caplan doesn’t understand his own vocabulary.

      Caplan : I’m cynical about students. The vast majority are philistines.

      phil·is·tine
      ˈfiləˌstēn
      noun
      1. a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.

      Caplan : From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing? Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history? Trigonometry? Art? Music? Physics? Latin? The class clown who snarks “What does this have to do with real life?” is onto something.

      Caplan is the very definition of a philistine.

      Caplan is using numbers incorrectly.

      Fifty years ago, college was a full-time job. The typical student spent 40 hours a week in class or studying.

      Effort has since collapsed across the board. “Full time” college students now average 27 hours of academic work a week—including just 14 hours spent studying.

      According to his assertions and his sources, the numbers should probably be :
      – 50 years ago : 40 hours total, 24 hours studying, 16 hours in class
      – Today : 27 hours total, 14 hours studying, 13 hours in class

      These are different courseloads – a rather elementary error on his part. If we normalize :

      – 50 years ago, 13 hour courseload : 19.5 hours studying, 32.5 hours total
      – Today, 13 hour courseload : 14 hours studying, 27 hours total.

      – 50 years ago, 16 hour courseload : 24 hours studying, 40 hours total
      – Today, 16 hour courseload : 17.2 hours studying, 33.2 hours total

      So the average 2017 student’s effort level is about 83% of what it was 50 years ago, to the tune of 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week.

      Heavens to fuckin’ Betsy we’re all goddamn doomed.

      And what, pray tell, are these insouciant brats doing with those ill-gotten 5-7 hours per week?

      Having fun

      ‘What!’ said rahien.din at length, in a faint voice.

      Having fun

      How. Dare. They. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat.

      His two main criticisms directly oppose each other.

      – Caplan the philistine proclaims that the vast majority of college is irrelevant to modern life.
      – Caplan the master in his cook’s apron proclaims that 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week is a deplorable collapse of effort.

      But if most of a collegiate education is useless, then students should be spending as little time as necessary learning those useless things! Or, if it is an educational crime to spend 5-7 fewer hours per weeks studying, then it must mean that these subjects have great value! Make up your mind, professor!

      Here’s my interpretation of the facts he presents.

      If over the course of 50 years we didn’t get a good deal better at teaching college students, then something would be very, very wrong with our society. This is especially true given that 50 years ago we didn’t have computers. The digital revolution has given students and instructors access to a wide variety of instructional techniques and information sources. Caplan must account for these, so on some level his claim must be “Despite access to computers and despite natural progress in teaching methods, the process of collegiate learning is just as efficient in 2017 as it was in 1967.” I don’t think that’s remotely plausible.

      So while I don’t discount some amount of grade inflation, I think that 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week could be interpreted (at least in part) as a success.

      If students are fulfilling the requirements of the agreement they struck with their university, then no one may criticize their use of free time. Especially when 8 hours are spent working for pay, 6 hours are spent exercising, and 16 hours are spent using computers for fun or doing hobbies that are neither “other forms of entertainment,” “socializing,” or “watching TV.” That’s 30 hours a week spent on activities that, to me, would seem to develop a young person in healthy and productive ways.

      Which brings me to my last point. I am sure this has been done to death, but : it’s preposterous for an academic professor to compose an erudite essay at the Atlantic on their computer, distribute it by the internet, and therein to bemoan the irrelevance of such things as literature, advanced mathematics, and physics. Why do we need physics, trigonometry, and advanced mathematical proofs that few students can follow? So that someone can design Dr. Caplan’s laptop and the vast network of computers that will let us read it. Why do we need literature, poetry, and other written arts? So that someone can teach Dr. Caplan how to write a compelling, coherent essay. Why do we need history? So that Dr. Caplan can learn how to compare prior eras to our current situation. Such things as these suffer from the same problem as vaccinations : they are so integral to our societal health, and so very effective in their role, that their effect has become invisible.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        If over the course of 50 years we didn’t get a good deal better at teaching college students, then something would be very, very wrong with our society.

        Why? We’ve already been teaching people things for millennia now, so even if there was some sort of continuous improvement in our teaching methods (an extremely dubious assumption in the first place), an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.

        • Randy M says:

          If nothing else, it is simpler to find Journal articles and locate books in libraries. I expect the time in the library to write a paper was cut down a bit around the turn of the century. Evaluating sources might be harder now, though, and there’s more published about everything, so perhaps it’s evened out.

        • rahien.din says:

          I kind of went into why.

          We’ve already been teaching people things for millennia now … so an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.

          This is like saying “We’ve been doing agriculture / war / mathematics / physics / metallurgy / art / music for millenia, an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.” That’s obviously false.

          You’ve basically exempted education from the list of disciplines in which we endeavor to progressively improve our methods.

          It is rather dubious to assume that there is some sort of continuous improvement in our teaching methods

          I hadn’t really assumed so. But, if we don’t assume that, then we take as premise that there may be discontinuous improvements in our teaching methods. If that is so, then the late 20th century would seem to be a fertile ground for some leap forward.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I kind of went into why.

            You said a bit about computers, and nothing about “natural progress in teaching methods”, whatever that might be.

            This is like saying “We’ve been doing agriculture / war / mathematics / physics / metallurgy / art / music for millenia, an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.” That’s obviously false.

            “Much difference” in the sense of “much increase in quality”. Art, music, and to a lesser extent military leadership, are all different to fifty years ago, but it is (to say the least) not obvious that our artists, musicians, and generals are better than their predecessors in the sixties.

            You’ve basically exempted education from the list of disciplines in which we endeavor to progressively improve our methods.

            There are lots of areas where we don’t expect progressive improvements — parenting, for example, or maintaining friendships, or inspiring underlings, all of which strike me as far more analogous to education than working out mathematical formulae does.

            I hadn’t really assumed so. But, if we don’t assume that, then we take as premise that there may be discontinuous improvements in our teaching methods. If that is so, then the late 20th century would seem to be a fertile ground for some leap forward.

            Why?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Caplan is the very definition of a philistine.

        No. Caplan loves the arts, and seeks them out for his own enjoyment. What he is noting is that the majority of students don’t care about them and don’t seek them out on their own. Their exposure in school is a waste and the courses are mostly selected for ease of passing not for aesthetic enjoyment and certainly not for practical implementation.

        These are different courseloads – a rather elementary error on his part. If we normalize :

        Why would you “normalize”? Taking a lighter course load is less work. Either the students are taking longer to complete degrees or they are graduating with fewer extra credits, either way they are putting in less work per day than those of 50 years ago by a substantial amount. They are even putting in less work per credit hour despite the lower over all load, so they aren’t hyper focused either. Doing less and doing it less often is, well, LESS.

        • Randy M says:

          courses are mostly selected for ease of passing not for aesthetic enjoyment and certainly not for practical implementation.

          I don’t think this is a fair way to evaluate. Consider the risks of taking a course and not passing it, versus the risks in checking out a book on a topic or visiting a museum. I don’t know if students are doing those latter things, but not taking a course on the arts isn’t a fair way of judging them when it could have significant costs and is easily replicated off-line.
          For instance, in school I wanted to take a “Sci-fi and culture” class outside my biology major, but declined because it would put me over 16 credits, and taking more than 15 or 16 (don’t recall the cut off) credits in a semester incurred an additional per credit cost. Similarly a neuroscience course, despite having an interest in the topic, I didn’t have the time. I did later take a course on Kurt Vonnegut because it was interesting and filled in some elective requirement.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t think Caplan’s arguments against college are going to represent the commenting section of SSC.

            I think Caplan’s argument would be more along the lines of “if you take courses in X and then graduate and spend basically no leisure time pursuing X you probably took it for the easy A, not for an inherent interest”.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, but perusing the easy A is the rational choice where the cost of failing is repeating the course for about $1,000, Likewise, not taking interesting but nonessential courses is rational when the cost per marginal credit is hundreds of dollars and increased risk of failing required courses.
            And in highly competitive environments, the cost of lowering your GPA may be non-negligible. (GPA probably doesn’t matter for most students, but perhaps for those seeking a phd it is a consideration?)

          • baconbits9 says:

            Yes, but this all fits in with Caplan’s thesis, that college is a signalling, not learning, game for most and that it is a waste on the social level.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, I find that quite persuasive, but given the stakes of the game, I’m not going to condemn the players as philistines.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I would just say that in Caplan’s world/mind he isn’t condemning them to be philistines, he just thinks that is what they are and that there shouldn’t be a pretense that everyone loves or should love art.

        • rahien.din says:

          Why would you “normalize”?

          Because we have to make a rigorous comparison. It’s a very basic error. Students taking fewer credit-hours should be spending less time studying on their own. We have to adjust for that or our comparisons will be invalid.

          I agree that they are demonstrably spending less study time per credit hour, but this is not necessarily a bad thing or the wrong thing.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Because we have to make a rigorous comparison. It’s a very basic error. Students taking fewer credit-hours should be spending less time studying on their own. We have to adjust for that or our comparisons will be invalid.

            His argument isn’t on this level though, his argument is that the effort level of college students is way down. You are normalizing away an actual difference, you don’t just normalize everything, you normalize to the definition of what you are trying to measure.

          • rahien.din says:

            baconbits9,

            His argument isn’t on this level though

            His argument needs more rigor because there are two facets to the question of “How much effort are students expending now, when compared to 50 years ago?”

            If you just look at the raw numbers then yes, 27 is a little more than half of 40 – scary.

            If you actually examine what’s going on, it’s an extra 45-60 minutes of free time per day, for equivalent courseloads.

            Or, it’s effectively one fewer course per semester – which should please Caplan, who thinks that most of collegiate education is irrelevant to the modern labor market.

          • baconbits9 says:

            His argument needs more rigor because there are two facets to the question of “How much effort are students expending now, when compared to 50 years ago?”

            There are? I think virtually everyone would consider the amount of time doing something a primary factor of effort. You would normalize for hours if the number of hours available was lower for some reason.

            If you actually examine what’s going on, it’s an extra 45-60 minutes of free time per day, for equivalent courseloads.

            If your boss asked why you weren’t putting in the effort required at work, how smoothly would your explanation of “Well I am working just as hard when I am here, I am just showing up an hour later every day” would go over? How many people do you think would agree that working hard for 30 hours is the same amount of effort as working hard for 40 hours?

            Or, it’s effectively one fewer course per semester – which should please Caplan, who thinks that most of collegiate education is irrelevant to the modern labor market.

            You have it backwards, Caplan is citing this as evidence that the value of education to the modern labor market has declined. There is no reason for him to be happy about it.

          • rahien.din says:

            If your boss asked why you weren’t putting in the effort required at work

            But that isn’t what we are discussing. We are discussing students who are putting in less effort than they would have 50 years ago, but who are still putting in the effort required to get a degree. Caplan says “today’s college students are less willing than those of previous generations to do the bare minimum of showing up for class and temporarily learning whatever’s on the test,” but he never says that more kids are failing their classes and/or dropping out. He cites grade inflation as a reason why students are still passing.

            Less effort for the same result is not a bad thing. If Andy expends 100 units of effort to build 100 widgets per hour, and Bob expends 150 units of effort to build the same 100 widgets per hour, who is the better widget builder?

            If Andy expends 27 hours a week to attain a degree in four years, and Bob expends 40 hours a week to attain the same degree in the same time, who is the more effective student? You might contend “Bob would have learned the material better, though,” but Caplan does not permit this! He describes most subjects as a waste of effort. If Bob really endeavors to integrate meaningless knowledge into his self, he has poor judgment.

            Effort for effort’s sake is not a virtue.

            If you want to claim that this overall decrease in effort is a bad thing, you’d have to show that it has some bad consequence. But it doesn’t. Per Caplan, the course material has low inherent value, and employers do not attach value to it. If studying does not enrich the student personally, and does not improve their prospects, then any excess effort studying is evidence of poor judgment.

            You have it backwards, Caplan is citing this as evidence that the value of education to the modern labor market has declined.

            I think I agree with you here.

            But Caplan ought to be praising this behavior. As an economist he ought not be so shocked by it.

            Moreover, why is that a bad thing? Maybe this is evidence that the value of this sort of education is not simply in its applicability to the job market?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Less effort for the same result is not a bad thing. If Andy expends 100 units of effort to build 100 widgets per hour, and Bob expends 150 units of effort to build the same 100 widgets per hour, who is the better widget builder?

            If this was actually your argument then you would have normalized for the value of the degree along with the effort, but you didn’t. If anything you tried to do the opposite by deleting the difference in course work an average degree took. This would only make sense if the value of the degree was in signalling and not learning, which is the basis of Caplan’s broad, anti college thesis.

          • rlms says:

            @baconbits9
            “This would only make sense if the value of the degree was in signalling and not learning, which is the basis of Caplan’s broad, anti college thesis.”
            Yes, that’s exactly the point. Caplan’s point about student effort is inconsistent with his thesis about signalling.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rlms

            Yes, that’s exactly the point. Caplan’s point about student effort is inconsistent with his thesis about signalling.

            What? How? If student effort can drop and student learning and human capital output is low, but the value of a degree to the individual remains unchanged or grows, how is that not an argument in favor of the signalling explanation?

            @rahien.din

            But Caplan ought to be praising this behavior. As an economist he ought not be so shocked by it.

            He’s not shocked by it, and he explicitly endorses behaving in this way on an individual level in the article (he tells college ready students to go to college to collect their claim check for more money). But it’s still a huge societal waste. Libertarians have concerns about the greater good too (partly because this sort of behavior implies we can almost all come out ahead by changing the system; bonus points in that the change would make it less coercive).

            Maybe this is evidence that the value of this sort of education is not simply in its applicability to the job market?

            That’s why he cites all those studies showing that humans have terrible retention for all the things they are supposed to have learned during college. And also why he points out that students tend to be philistines so it’s not a classical liberal education or its benefits that they are trying to get (or receiving even if unwillingly). So college is (A) often not applicable to the job market and (B) most people retain very little of what colleges supposedly teach them and don’t seem to gain much of the classical liberal ideal either. That leaves the value to be in either signalling (there must be a cheaper way to send truthful signals here) or as a sort of class indoctrination system (which is good if you’re a sort of reactionary or aristocrat and bad if you’re most anything else).

            EDIT: I guess you could also make the Noah Smith argument that partying is important for “connections”, but I find this theory so terrible outside of the ivy league (where it’s still a morally bankrupt argument in favor of them even if true) that I’m not going to engage it unless someone reeeaaally wants to defend it.

          • rahien.din says:

            baconbits9,

            If this was actually your argument then you would have normalized for the value of the degree along with the effort

            Sheesh.

            Let’s assume that if a product declines in value, one should pay less for that product, if possible.

            – 50 years ago : more units of value per degree ; more overall effort and more effort per credit-hour to attain degree
            – Today : fewer units of value per degree; less overall effort and less effort per credit-hour to attain degree

            Again, this seems like a wise decision on the part of the students.

            If we were to normalize for the apparent value of a degree in the modern labor market (numbers which are not available in the sources we have been using so far), I would wager that students are expending a similar amount of effort per education-value-unit as they would have in the late 60’s.

            He’s not shocked by it, and he explicitly endorses behaving in this way on an individual level in the article

            Goalposts!

            The behavior I’m referring to is “expend as little effort as possible.” Caplan does want kids to go to college, in order that they can increase their earning potential. Attaining a degree is the behavior he explicitly endorses.

            I am (have been, and will be) responding to his criticism of how students spend their effort during college. Caplan decries the apparent “collapse of effort.” He seems to find it shocking that students are spending 27 hours a week now, whereas in the 1960’s they were spending 40 hours a week. He does not endorse the decrease in effort whatsoever.

            Neither do you! Both you and Caplan seem to believe that the decrease in effort is itself a bad thing.

          • quanta413 says:

            Neither do you! Both you and Caplan seem to believe that the decrease in effort is itself a bad thing.

            I have never said that and don’t think that so I don’t know why you think I think that. I don’t think Caplan does either. It’s bad because along with all the other lines of evidence it’s a sign that the value of the degree is not in what it adds to a student’s human capital! I don’t buy your claim that teaching has gotten better because it’s still done the same way and a lot of the professors have been teaching for decades! Maybe not many back to the 60s, but very many back to the 90s easily. I also have 50 year old textbooks and 5 year old textbooks and I can look and see that on average no meaningful change has occurred. Far too much of college boils down to charging the student or the government ~$100,000 and 5 years of time to send a signal about the student’s intelligence, perseverance, and social class. But we know there are much cheaper ways to send truthful signals about intelligence (because they are required for bloody college admissions) and the third thing is morally questionable to even use as a criteria! That just leaves the second, but I still don’t believe it should cost that much to figure out.

            The decline in effort would not be a problem if college education was cheap (and I mean including all the externalities, not just cheap to the student) or if there was no better way to accomplish at least a very large chunk of its functions. It would also not be a problem if the point of college was to serve as an extended adolescence with partying and people paid for that themselves, but even then there are a hell of lot cheaper ways to get beer and some drinking buddies.

            EDIT: Response no longer relevant.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression is that more college students have jobs these days. If so, that would explain part of why they’re putting less effort into college.

        • rahien.din says:

          What he is noting is that the majority of students don’t care about them and don’t seek them out on their own.

          To the extent that this is true, Caplan should approve of that decision!

          He derides art and music as “irrelevant to the modern labor market,” asks “When will the typical student use [these]?” and endorses the snarky comment “What [do art and music] have to do with real life?” and the implicit answer “Nothing.”

          So if a student doesn’t seek out the arts, good job student for focusing only on that which is relevant or required.

          Maybe this is the curse of parsimony, but : there’s nothing in the essay about Caplan’s love of the arts, or his desire to see them preserved and promulgated, or any shred of “I have found the arts to be valuable despite my students’ philistinic attitudes.” One would think that if the arts were truly something he found important, meaningful, and enriching, he would at least include that as a disclaimer.

          • baconbits9 says:

            To the extent that this is true, Caplan should approve of that decision!

            He does, he doesn’t approve of massive transfer of funds to schools to teach them when they aren’t wanted by most employers or employees in the name of “the arts”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Maybe this is the curse of parsimony, but : there’s nothing in the essay about Caplan’s love of the arts, or his desire to see them preserved and promulgated, or any shred of “I have found the arts to be valuable despite my students’ philistinic attitudes.” One would think that if the arts were truly something he found important, meaningful, and enriching, he would at least include that as a disclaimer.

            Why? To fit your preconceived notions of what an argument should look like? To hedge his bets? His argument is (supposed to be) an analysis of the costs and benefits of the current university system, not his subjective tastes.

          • rahien.din says:

            His argument is (supposed to be) an analysis of the costs and benefits of the current university system, not his subjective tastes.

            Can I connect some other things you’ve said here?

            In your replies to Deiseach, you describe how marketable skills provide the fundamental stability/solvency that allows a person to pursue their other interests. And this is what education should be for. I think this is fair, and largely true.

            But I would contend that some of the skills and faculties developed in these other classes (arts, math, etc.) are transferable – I have certainly found this to be true despite having a professional career that does not rely on, for instance, a working knowledge of history.

            Moreover, the student who is permitted to pick only the things they find to be relevant before having learned them will simply Dunning-Kruger themselves into a much poorer education, and their university into a set of courses that naive college students find to be a priori alluring-yet-unintimidating. I am a better epileptologist because someone forced me to take 1. circuits, and 2. digital signal processing, despite the fact that I hated them at the time and thought they would be totally useless for my (mistakenly-) intended career.

            And exposure does ignite interest. I think Caplan’s dead wrong about that. The only people who ever get interested in a thing (be it marketable or otherwise) are the ones who are exposed to it.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien

            Moreover, the student who is permitted to pick only the things they find to be relevant before having learned them will simply Dunning-Kruger themselves into a much poorer education, and their university into a set of courses that naive college students find to be a priori alluring-yet-unintimidating.

            I honestly can’t tell how much you are describing a possible alternative and how much you are describing how universities actually work outside some of the “harder” majors like engineering or physics (to be fair, my impression is that history was also a “harder” major, but I don’t know the field well enough to know if this is true in general). In the worst case where universities have an incentive to push the students into easier classes, you get this. In the more typical case, you see students take a bunch of easy classes in communications or whatever, spend 5 nights a week partying, and then get their degree. At tuition costs routinely around 100,000 for five years, this is a tremendous waste of time and money from a societal point of view even if it personally benefits the party-goers.

            I am a better epileptologist because someone forced me to take 1. circuits, and 2. digital signal processing, despite the fact that I hated them at the time and thought they would be totally useless for my (mistakenly-) intended career.

            Were those required for pre-med or did you originally plan to be an engineer or something related?

          • rahien.din says:

            quanta413,

            In the more typical case, you see students take a bunch of easy classes in communications or whatever, spend 5 nights a week partying, and then get their degree. At tuition costs routinely around 100,000 for five years, this is a tremendous waste of time and money from a societal point of view even if it personally benefits the party-goers.

            You may be right! I probably don’t have much to add there.

            Were those required for pre-med or did you originally plan to be an engineer or something related?

            I was a biomedical engineering major in undergrad.

          • quanta413 says:

            I was a biomedical engineering major in undergrad.

            Considering that you ended up an epileptologist but were forced to take digital circuits because you thought you would be an engineer, I don’t think this says much about the U.S. system of college requirements either way.

            Granted, engineering degrees are one of the few degrees that people (including Caplan) mostly agree you are likely to end up using a lot of your knowledge and skills from later. However, since you didn’t end up an engineer, the best we can say is that maybe it’s suggestive of forcing more non-engineer students to take the harder math and engineering classes. Although I wouldn’t personally endorse this. We already bleed too many students from those majors because a lot of people can’t even pass their intro sequences; I think it’d be best to see how much sorting and retention could improve first.

          • rahien.din says:

            quanta413,

            I didn’t think I was going to be an engineer. BME was pre-med on steroids.

            I didn’t even think I was going to ever use circuits or DSP ever again – they appeared to have no practical value. What’s more, those were hard, hard courses. I had to drop circuits the first time around, and retook it in a summer semester. If anything, these courses made it harder on me.

            I thought I was going to be an orthopedic surgeon. If anything, I thought I was going to use my mechanics, solids, and materials engineering.

            Turns out I was dead wrong!

            If I hadn’t been forced to take something that appeared to have no practical value, and which didn’t inherently enhance my med-school admission prospects, I would not be nearly as good at my current job.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien.din

            If you thought you were going to be an orthopedic surgeon, doesn’t that still leave it as coincidence? I still fail to see how it says anything about college or college requirements one way or the other that you can choose to take non required things for your intended goal (surgeon) and some of them may randomly turn out to be useful when you become something else (epileptologist). If anything, this just argues for unbundling more. There’s no reason that we should rely on people accidentally having taken something useful to something they decide to do later during a single 4 or 5 year pass long before they know what they are going to do for work or for hobbies. It should be reasonable to take one class at a time later in life.

            And how much of your solids, mechanics, and materials engineering knowledge did you end up using? A full accounting has to also account for all the things you took and didn’t end up using.

            Admittedly, I am sympathetic to the argument that specifically learning the “harder” sciences is useful for so many possible jobs and as a mode of thinking that if that was most of what college consisted of for most people (instead of what it consists of for a significant minority, I wouldn’t be so worried). But that’s also my own field, so I’m obviously very biased. Even then, I don’t believe the current system for producing degrees in physics etc. is very sensible.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            If I hadn’t been forced to take something that appeared to have no practical value, and which didn’t inherently enhance my med-school admission prospects, I would not be nearly as good at my current job.

            I’m at least partially angry at High School and college requirements in that I had to give up options which would have (in my then belief) made me better at my job in order to take the required course load.

            In High School this meant forgoing a second year of community college (and thus graduating high school with an A.S. as at least one of my friends did) so that I could take Calculus at the community college and second year Chemistry at high school while also fulfilling my Art, History and English requirements. Of course this meant missing out on college Biology and college or high school Physics. Knowing what I know now I’d just skip the high school diploma and take the A.S., but knowing what I know now so many things would be different.

            (I could take a total of 9 quarter classes at the community college per year or 12 semester classes at the high school. So even though each college class was worth 4/3rds of each high school class, I’d still need to take one or two of them to fulfill the high school gen eds which required one or two high school classes, respectively.)

            And that was high school. Things were worse in college, especially once you factored in the number of times I dropped out, the number of colleges I attended, and the varying degree requirements at those colleges.

      • baconbits9 says:

        How. Dare. They. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat.

        How. Dare. They. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t do into $100,000 worth of debt to do so.

        • rahien.din says:

          I won’t argue with this. College costs too much, and some people would be better-served by trade schools anyway. CMIIW, but I think that’s a different argument than is addressed by the article. It might be fleshed out in his book.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think you are badly misunderstanding Caplan’s criticism. He’s not writing the book to criticize students (although that may be incidental). He’s criticizing the existence of a system that adds little value (human capital) to its students compared to the cost of sending them through it. If it wasn’t for the negative distributional effects of the system and if the government wasn’t footing so much of the bill (on both the supply and demand sides), I don’t think he’d be so concerned.

          • rahien.din says:

            I think you are badly misunderstanding Caplan’s … book

            See, I thought I was responding to the online essay.

          • quanta413 says:

            Mea culpa for my poor wording. I have only read the essay and his other writings. I was still talking about the essay. When I said he’s not writing the book to criticize students, I don’t mean that you could have read the book, it’s not even out. I can’t have read it either. I am giving you my interpretation of why he’s writing it (and the essay), which I think is far more accurate than yours. Consider “writing the book” to be shorthand for “writing the book and essay”.

            You seem to think that his main point is that

            His two main criticisms directly oppose each other.

            – Caplan the philistine proclaims that the vast majority of college is irrelevant to modern life.
            – Caplan the master in his cook’s apron proclaims that 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week is a deplorable collapse of effort.

            But if most of a collegiate education is useless, then students should be spending as little time as necessary learning those useless things! Or, if it is an educational crime to spend 5-7 fewer hours per weeks studying, then it must mean that these subjects have great value! Make up your mind, professor!

            But neither of these things is his point. I’m not sure how you missed it, but his concern is about the societal waste of this system. It doesn’t succeed very well at its supposed goals, yet individuals who go through it are rewarded anyways.

            Anyways, he himself would still encourage any prepared student to in fact go waste their time in college given the current system. To quote him:

            Would I advise an academically well-prepared 18-year-old to skip college because she won’t learn much of value? Absolutely not. Studying irrelevancies for the next four years will impress future employers and raise her income potential. If she tried to leap straight into her first white-collar job, insisting, “I have the right stuff to graduate, I just choose not to,” employers wouldn’t believe her. To unilaterally curtail your education is to relegate yourself to a lower-quality pool of workers. For the individual, college pays.

            So he’s not writing to convince students not to go to college or to bash them as lazy. He’s bashing that students don’t learn enough to make the point that the system clearly does not do even vaguely well enough at the goal of getting students to learn things in the long term. And yet they are rewarded, so learning cannot explain why they go to college.

            His worry is about broader concerns than any individual maximizing their personal returns. It’s societal. Quoting him again

            This does not mean, however, that higher education paves the way to general prosperity or social justice. When we look at countries around the world, a year of education appears to raise an individual’s income by 8 to 11 percent. By contrast, increasing education across a country’s population by an average of one year per person raises the national income by only 1 to 3 percent. In other words, education enriches individuals much more than it enriches nations.

            Similarly, you claim that Caplan misuses the term philistine because he says students are philistine but also is willing to point out that most students won’t use what they learn at their jobs. But the essay is structured so that Caplan is knocking down multiple explanations for college in a row. First he attacks the possibility that it’s for job training by arguing that the way wage premiums arise from it does not match what we’d expect if that were true.

            Of course, many people will argue that college “helps you become a better citizen”, “it’s not all about money”, “it teaches you how to think and learn thoughout life” yada yada. So then he goes on to cite studies about how college largely fails at this goal.

            College has many unrelated and somewhat contradictory arguments people deploy in its favor as a system. So that’s why he has to switch gears and attack from multiple angles. He wants to convince as many people as possible, so he has to show college is inadequate at accomplishing many of its supposed societal purposes not just one.

            His overarching point is “this system is immensely socially wasteful and consumes a great deal of money and time while not attaining its stated goals”. It’s not that employment training is unimportant or that culture is unimportant. However, since those are some supposed goals of college, he has to spend a lot of time arguing that it doesn’t accomplish those things well. I guess this can come off as an attack against those things in and of themselves although that’s not his point.

          • rahien.din says:

            quanta413,

            You don’t seem to have understood what I’ve written.

          • quanta413 says:

            You don’t seem to have understood what I’ve written.

            Great. Would you like to explain how you think this is so the way I’ve explained how I think you misunderstand Caplan?

          • rahien.din says:

            Would you like to explain how you think this is so, the way I’ve explained how I think you misunderstand Caplan?

            Your impression of some of my beliefs is just incorrect. I can understand how you drew some of those conclusions, but I don’t understand how you drew some others. And I don’t absolve myself.

            I would like to continue, but I just don’t think we’re communicating effectively. If I don’t know where the breakdown is, how can either of us be confident that any explanation on my part is going to work? (You’re asking for a lot. And, er, effort for effort’s sake is not a virtue – nor is it a luxury I can afford in the next few days.) Which sucks. But, I don’t see a great way forward in this moment.

            If you do, I’d be interested. Here’s a ROT13’ed email address : pbagvahr.bhe.qvfphffvba@tznvy.pbz

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien.din

            Fair enough. I think you’re right. We’re missing each other’s mental models by too much. Thanks for the e-mail. I’ll e-mail you later after I step back and think some more about what I’m trying to communicate. Then we can continue at a more leisurely pace if you like.

            EDIT: I’ll probably also buy the book after it’s out, and maybe I’ll e-mail you then or make another topic then if it adds enough compared to the essay.

      • johan_larson says:

        If over the course of 50 years we didn’t get a good deal better at teaching college students, then something would be very, very wrong with our society. This is especially true given that 50 years ago we didn’t have computers. … I don’t think that’s remotely plausible.

        It seems quite plausible to me, since how we actually teach students is a great deal like it was a generation or two ago. My father received a college education in the 60s and I received one in the late 80s to early 90s. Both of us attended classes where instructors presented material orally and wrote stuff on a blackboard. Both of us read textbooks. Both of us completed problem sets in analytical courses and wrote papers for humanities courses. The experience was clearly very similar.

        To be sure, there were some differences. I had access to a scientific calculator which made some calculations easier, whereas dad had to calculate manually or approximate using a slide rule. And I had access to a PC with word processing software, which made it easier to write and edit papers, whereas dad used a manual typewriter. But these are differences of degree only, not of kind, rather like the difference between his first car (with a manual transmission) and mine (with an automatic.)

        Given my experience, I can easily believe that college instruction has improved only a little or not at all over the past generation or two.

        • quanta413 says:

          I went to college around 2010 and can confirm it’s still basically the same modulo maybe half of classes using powerpoint instead of old slide projectors and a blackboard. There has been a slight change at a lot of universities since I got to graduate school though. A number of classes now use iClickers in their larger lectures to force students to (A) attend lecture and (B) pay a little bit of attention during lecture. It’s not obvious to me that it makes a huge difference, but I think there may be some studies showing it’s marginally helpful.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s not a slight change, that’s destruction of the whole university undergraduate system. The whole point of lectures is to skip them.

          • quanta413 says:

            Touche.

            I admit that I skipped around half my lectures. I was a weird outlier though and mostly replaced skipping lectures with doing more work. Who needs a time-tuner if you can just skip unnecessary lectures? I don’t think I would do as well trying that today.

          • CatCube says:

            I got more out of my interactions with the faculty during class than I ever got out of my textbooks. Hell, there were whole classes where I only picked up the book for an hour or two outside of doing the problems given in class.

            I still keep the textbooks, since they’re good references, but it’s so much faster and easier to learn when somebody walks through a problem live and you can ask for clarification than when you just have somebody puke it onto a page and shove it in front of your face.

          • quanta413 says:

            @CatCube

            How good at explaining things to you was the median professor you took classes with? And how big were the classes? My experience was about half the time I preferred the book. I certainly felt most books had significantly more preparation put into them than most of my professors had put into lecture. I admit that what’s preferred is partly a matter of preference. I certainly have met a lot of people who prefer lecture, although I’ve also noticed that a significant chunk of them actually seem to have less recall of the lecture than I do.

            Maybe half the classes I took had ~100 people or more. The rest were much smaller. Usually 10-30.

            My experience was that maybe half the professors I took courses from had thought things through well enough (including presenting something not just using it) that they would even have comparably good exposition to say a 20th percentile from the bottom textbook I had. Although there was a lot less spread in textbook quality than professor quality. Clarification was more mixed bag. In a strict sense, a book always loses. But books do have indices; I also had google. For a big chunk of classes, I didn’t need any clarification of concepts, or I just needed to practice. For a significant chunk of the few where I did need it, the professors weren’t helpful (“you should think about it harder” was once the only thing someone told me in response to an extremely specific question about whether or not they wanted a very ugly exact answer or a series approximation to the nth degree). On the other hand for a significant chunk of classes where I did need clarification, there were some very good professors. Overall, I found that about half of my classes were best skipped. Of the half that weren’t best skipped, maybe half of those were trading at about even with the book for me and half were beating it handily. My actual skipping didn’t perfectly overlap with what should have been skipped due to a combination of being really sleepy in the morning and having to figure out whose classes were worth attending. I never noticed any correlation with the subject, it just depended on the professor’s personal qualities.

            The worst case I saw was a professor whose book was superb, but who gave some of the worst lectures I have ever seen. The first lecture was so bad that before the second class lecture I made a 5 x 5 bingo board of “things to never do when presenting” thinking as a joke that I’d take a drink whenever I got 5 in a row… unfortunately it dawned on me during the second lecture that I’d fill the bingo board so rapidly as to risk alcohol poisoning… I left halfway through the lecture and didn’t return for any lectures after that.

          • CatCube says:

            I’m sure that I had bad instructors, since simple probability says there must have been some, but none were bad enough that it stuck with me. Granted, I’m talking from 12 years on for my undergraduate. I do note that I entered and exited undergrad with very poor study habits, as I never really had to spend a lot of time studying and was able to rely mostly on the lectures. (I did get magna cum laude, so this wasn’t a “D for degree” type thing.)

            I’m only 5 years out from my master’s, though that was a little different. The US Army Engineer School had a thing with the Missouri University of Science and Technology where a bunch of the Engineer Captain’s Career Course counted towards credit, you took some night classes, and then took a semester “off” from the Army (with full pay) to go to the campus and finish your degree. So most of my instruction was from the civil engineering faculty, and was uniformly excellent. The lecture for cold-formed steel design deserves special mention, as it was by Roger LaBoube, one of the experts in the field and heavily involved in development of the applicable code.

          • bean says:

            The US Army Engineer School had a thing with the Missouri University of Science and Technology where a bunch of the Engineer Captain’s Career Course counted towards credit, you took some night classes, and then took a semester “off” from the Army (with full pay) to go to the campus and finish your degree.

            Interesting. I didn’t know about that program. Of course, I was in aerospace, so why would I?

            To add to what you said, I had about two genuinely bad professors there. One was in materials, and did enough research that he couldn’t be replaced. The other was a teaching professor, who I can only assume was hired by the electrical engineering department in a moment of pure insanity. Most of the rest ranged from slightly better than the book to much, much better. The better ones were mostly the in-department ones teaching upper level courses.

      • rlms says:

        A lot more people go to college nowadays than 50 years ago, which seems relevant to discussions of progress in teaching methods.

      • Deiseach says:

        Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing?

        Because the purpose of education is not “knock out a row of cogs to insert in the machinery of the economy”.

        Everything I ever read from Caplan just adds another pebble to the pile of “I want to drop-kick him into a volcano”.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Because the purpose of education is not “knock out a row of cogs to insert in the machinery of the economy”.

          You could take the opposite view. Teaching literature and poetry virtually exclusively sends your students out into the market place with few marketable skills that means they practically have to start out as a cog. Toss in the loans and no default on top of it and it is virtually certain that they will end up at the cog level for an extended period. Transferable skills make you valuable and mobile, personal aesthetic skills often means you have to ignore or subsume them and become a cog.

        • Randy M says:

          At the end of the day, some value systems may conclude that a life time of debt (exaggeration by a couple multiples, perhaps) is a small price to pay for the kind of deep-rooted individuality that comes from reading Dostyvsky, Joyce, et al, but we should at the least have the decency to sell University on these merits and to decouple it from the employment gatekeepers inasmuch as it is inessential for some particular careers to employ people with appreciation for the themes of Hamlet.

          And we should certainly not pretend that the people who were unable to develop into something other than cogs from the previous twelve years of exposure to history’s greatest wordsmiths will do so in the ensuing four to eight.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Why would you need a lifetime of debt to read books that are available for virtually nothing?

            I often think of my plumber who is a weird guy. In his 60s he was mostly indifferent to me until he found out (at the time) I worked at his favorite bakery. He went on to expound in great detail not only on the pastries that we had, but on the owner’s education, the developers of his favorite cakes and their history and his multiple trips to France to explore their bakeries. Having a quality, marketable skill had allowed him to express his individuality and explore his own peculiar (particular?) tastes in a broad way.

          • Randy M says:

            My reply is to Deiseach, who argues for a particular ideal of education and its ennobling effects. I am granting for the sake of argument that it is capable of doing so, for some portion of the population, but that under the current scheme that this is something of a fraud, to sell students on college on the basis of lifetime increase of earnings, and then justify the required courses on the basis of “it will make you a better person”, while charging thousands of dollars for each course.

            I support an expensive educational opportunity for the idle rich who can afford to debate nuances of Keats with the chaps on the green, and a cheaper, more utilitarian education for the masses, who also have access to classic literature, lectures, documentaries, etc. virtually for free through libraries and the internet if they have the drive to seek it out. This would be for a societal cost much less than universal education for two decades.

          • Everything I ever read from Caplan just adds another pebble to the pile of “I want to drop-kick him into a volcano”.

            Have you read his book on why people underestimate how many children they should have?

        • toastengineer says:

          You’re assuming that colleges are actually capable of imbuing an appreciation of the arts, and I’m not sure that’s not a very reasonable assumption. I didn’t end up taking many arts\literature classes in college but I distinctly remember the classes either detracting from my enjoyment of the work or presenting blatant garbage as high art.

          I enjoyed reading the Aeneid and the Iliad and the Odyssey, but I would’ve enjoyed those books a lot more if I didn’t have to put the actual stories down to pick up the Cliff’s Notes instead because we were being tested on trivia questions and recalling unimportant lines of dialogue.

          I also had a literature class where the text presented just plain didn’t make sense; I couldn’t even tell where scenes began and ended or where the characters were or what characters were even present. I was being asked to write 5-page papers analyzing what amounted to Time Cube except way less interesting.

          That first example illustrates one of the biggest problems I see with schooling in both higher and public education; everyone tries to “game the system” so to speak, so the system tunes itself based on the people who are gaming it, making it impossible to pass if you try to do things the way you’re supposed to.

          Like if I’d tried to pass that ancient literature class by actually engaging with the text, I never would have passed any of the tests – everyone else is just trying to get the easy A by reading the Cliff’s Notes instead of the book, so the test questions end up being based more on the Cliff’s Notes than the book. If you try to do what you’re supposed to do, you lose.

          If you try to pass math class by actually learning math instead of just memorizing enough tricks to get the right answers on the upcoming test, you fail.

          If you go through college picking classes based on what sounds interesting and where the gaps in your knowledge are, you won’t graduate; the schedule is set up based on the assumption that you’re just going to pick whatever classes bring you closer to your degree with the least effort. If you go through college trying to actually learn instead of directly optimizing for fastest graduation with least effort, you don’t graduate in 4 years.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you try to pass math class by actually learning math instead of just memorizing enough tricks to get the right answers on the upcoming test, you fail.

            I had a similar experience as you in literature, but I struggled with Calculus until the year I spent a few weeks trying to understand it on my own.

          • toastengineer says:

            Yeah, me too actually, calculus was the best I’d ever done in a math class specifically because I tried to learn a bit of it before the semester started.

            But that’s kinda my point; the class just isn’t set up to actually teach calculus, if you want to learn calculus you have to take time in addition to attending calculus class and doing calculus homework to… learn calculus.

          • Nick says:

            To what extent is this just a problem of methods not reinforcing knowledge? I found I got later material a lot better and faster when I was going back to practice previously covered material regularly (and I don’t just mean cramming for the test). This kind of reinforcement is often missing—I don’t know if professors just assume it shouldn’t be necessary or that students will know to do that on their own or what. I recall an interesting story from Ben Tilly where he deliberately designed two thirds of each week’s linear algebra homework to reinforce old material and it worked really well. I notice textbooks and stuff sometimes doing this, where some practice problems are obviously designed to make you practice your trig or something—but just because the textbook has them doesn’t mean the professor’s assigning them!

          • If you try to pass math class by actually learning math instead of just memorizing enough tricks to get the right answers on the upcoming test, you fail.

            Not my experience.

      • Deiseach says:

        When will the typical student use history?

        You all are well aware of the screaming fits I pitch over ignorance of history as shown by the latest “everyone knows that the moon landing was faked by the Jesuits in order to allow the lizard person ‘elected’ as president to distract attention from the fact that Columbus discovered the Fountain of Youth” posts that get put up and passed about on social media. You can imagine, therefore, my reaction to this.

        When will the typical student use history, Bryan? Well, how about right the fuck now, in knowing what Fascism really is, Nazism, Communism, authoritarian regimes, and the like? And so being able to discern if someone yelling “Fascist!” online really means “follower of a Fascist ideology” or “you don’t think the way I think you should think”.

        Well, never mind, Bryan. I’m sure you’re a hit every Fourth of July explaining that this is a celebration of the Summer Solstice instituted by George Washington after the Battle of Khe Sanh in honour of General Abraham “Old Blood’n’Guts” Lincoln who led the Liberation of Paris in the Third World War on “D for Doughnuts” Day, coincidentally the same day that the first doughnuts were ever baked by Betsy Ross and her Dairy Dunking bakery during the Roaring Twenties!

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You all are well aware of the screaming fits I pitch over ignorance of history as shown by the latest “everyone knows that the moon landing was faked by the Jesuits in order to allow the lizard person ‘elected’ as president to distract attention from the fact that Columbus discovered the Fountain of Youth” posts that get put up and passed about on social media. You can imagine, therefore, my reaction to this.

          That sort of paranoia shows a very high degree of historical awareness.

        • toastengineer says:

          But (at least in the U.S.) all of those people took history classes every school week for at least 12 years. Hell, a few of those misconceptions are taught in those very classes!

          • Deiseach says:

            Hell, a few of those misconceptions are taught in those very classes!

            Which is what drives me up the wall and is why I think good history is so very important. If people believe crap with the history lessons they’re already getting, imagine what they’d believe if they had no history!

            Would Bryan Caplan say “When does the average student ever need to use economics, so let’s do away with commerce/business studies in school”?

            There are two traps here:

            (1) Teaching to the test: I don’t know the situation in the US, but I see often enough complaints that in the UK history classes have boiled down to ‘learn about the Second World War because that’s what the exam will be about’. If you set the curriculum so that you have a ‘list of dates of important battles’ plus ‘the Nazis were bad’ course of history, the textbooks are written to that, and the teachers are discouraged from giving a good overview of history and told just ‘stick to teaching them the dates of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and that the Nazis were bad’, then you lose the benefits of introducing students to history. Or any other subject, and then you are only churning out cogs for employers – this year the businesses want everyone to learn to speak Mandarin, next year they want everyone to be able to code, the year after they want every school leaver to be an accountant, etc.

            (2) Letting kids study what they prefer/what the parents think will get them a good job – there’s been enough calls to drop subjects like art and music in Irish schools and ‘teach the kids German instead because they can use that to get a job’. Let pupils study only what they like or are interested in, and they won’t study the things that bore them. All you STEM types may now be quietly cheering at the thought of “great, I could have dropped all that useless English and done triple Maths instead!” but for instance I would have dropped Maths, because not everybody likes the same thing. (I now pause to let you all gasp in horror about how maths is great, is fun, is beautiful, is so useful, you need maths in so many everyday contexts, how can anyone not like maths?
            Well, extrapolate that out to history, art, geography, a second or third language, etc.)

            The point is to introduce students to a range of subjects and try to give them a basic grounding in a wide variety of topics. You might never know you love and are really good at geography until you take it in school.

            That would also lead to a two (or even three) tier level of education, where the ‘optional luxury extras’ subjects only get taught to particular children. You’re working-class and will (if lucky) get a job in the box factory, you don’t need (and therefore don’t deserve) the exposure to poetry, art or music. So what if you will never use it to Get A Job, but would have found pleasure, enrichment, and something to add joy and breadth to your life in Shakespeare? If you’re not the Right Socio-Economic Class, you don’t get this, because it’s not necessary for training you for work.

            To hell with that. What shall we do with all this useless beauty? Enjoy it because we are humans, not things. Give us bread, but give us roses too!

          • quanta413 says:

            Which is what drives me up the wall and is why I think good history is so very important. If people believe crap with the history lessons they’re already getting, imagine what they’d believe if they had no history!

            Why should we assume they gained anything from those classes when they can’t get even a small fraction of what they were taught right years later? There’s no good evidence that what they believe is meaningfully different from if they had never taken history at all! (EDIT: Well, there’s a little bit. The things that get repeated a lot at school over many years they remember in garbled form, but it’s not clear if this is useful). Most people don’t remember things they don’t use, don’t think about, and don’t care about. For a lot of people a large fraction of school is just pointless torture through boredom.

            Would Bryan Caplan say “When does the average student ever need to use economics, so let’s do away with commerce/business studies in school”?

            Probably, yes. He wouldn’t abolish studying history or business as an option for those who really want to. But he would abolish it being a bloody requirement for almost anyone who wants to make good money.

            (2) Letting kids study what they prefer/what the parents think will get them a good job – there’s been enough calls to drop subjects like art and music in Irish schools and ‘teach the kids German instead because they can use that to get a job’. Let pupils study only what they like or are interested in, and they won’t study the things that bore them. All you STEM types may now be quietly cheering at the thought of “great, I could have dropped all that useless English and done triple Maths instead!” but for instance I would have dropped Maths, because not everybody likes the same thing. (I now pause to let you all gasp in horror about how maths is great, is fun, is beautiful, is so useful, you need maths in so many everyday contexts, how can anyone not like maths?
            Well, extrapolate that out to history, art, geography, a second or third language, etc.)

            I don’t think anyone in STEM will be shocked, shocked that most people don’t like math. Not only do most people make it abundantly clear that they do not like math; a significant and vocal minority will look down upon anyone who does like math for almost the entirety of anyone’s school life.

            I actually think it would be highly ideal if children who don’t want to or can’t learn even typical high school subjects (and I would literally start this cutoff before Algebra I or reading Romeo and Juliet) aren’t forced to. I like lots of subjects and started reading Shakespeare when I was young (although high school really put a damper on that love), and I love math, but I see no reason to torture hundreds of other people to learn about conic sections or geometric proofs or read Hamlet because I like those things. I barely use those parts of math anymore and I spend a significant chunk of my job doing mathematical modeling! I still read a great deal, but frankly, the whole being forced to read specific books thing is mostly a crock. Up until I entered high school, I went to a school where you just had to read some amount of whatever from the school library each semester and it was bloody great. The children at that school seemed reasonably literate (probably a little better off than a demographically similar group at my high school), and no one was forced to sit through a whole month to read and analyze The Great Gatsby.

            Currently, as far as I can tell, many adults (maybe even a majority who finished college) can’t perform basic arithmetic quickly and consistently without a calculator despite having been drilled in it or things using it for a decade or more! I think a lot of people would benefit from a slower pace in math and more practical focus. I could just be turned loose with a book to do whatever, and I wished I had just been turned loose earlier. Everyone wins! And more people in the U.S. probably remember something about The Great Gatsby from the critically panned movie with DiCaprio than remember it from when they were forced to pretend to read it in high school but just skimmed the cliffnotes (or if they were a sad soul like me, actually read it).

    • johan_larson says:

      In my view all of this focus on college stems from our habit of using college for three related but different purposes:
      – general intellectual training
      – elite selection and preparation
      – job-specific training

      If we were to separate these functions, we would probably be better off.

      To begin with, I doubt there would be much of a demand for post-secondary schools focused on the first function (general intellectual training,) but perhaps some of the hardest-core intellectuals would be into it. Becoming smarter and more knowledgeable in general is a worthy thing, but it should be possible to do it on the cheap. I doubt we’d subsidize it much, if at all.

      The second function (elite selection and training) is why I think we focus so intently on colleges as they are now. We use them as gatekeepers to high position, the big jobs with high status and usually high pay. But does it really have to take four years, or even more, to sort out the capable from the nearly capable? The military doesn’t run Officer Candidate School for four years; it’s more like half a year. I can accept that selecting the people who are going to (or are likely to) run the show is worth doing carefully, and that there are some things worth teaching them. And of course since people are status-hungry, competition for position at whatever Social OCSes we run is going to be keen. But whatever else these institutions are, they are going to be small, because the elite pretty much by definition has to be small. Separated out, I would expect this function could be served in a year or so, and might enroll 10% of each cohort. Maybe 20% if we’re feeling exceptionally egalitarian and want to cast the net wide.

      And finally we arrive at the job-specific training. This is what most people actually need, but it’s also what we’re not doing a particularly good job of delivering. To begin with, there is no particular reason this function has to be combined with the other two. We don’t need to educate the folks who want to be writers and editors together with the folks who want to be data scientists and engineers. Their job functions have very little overlap, meaning their curricula should have very little overlap, so their education could easily be done in separate institutions. And job training programs can be diverse. Some jobs are simple and require no training at all. Others are very complicated, and can easily take close to a decade of training to master. And if we were to separate the three functions, only a few of the job training institutes would look and operate much like traditional colleges.

      But ultimately, we are so focused on college, and so willing to spend money on them, because we are confounding three quite different purposes that current colleges serve: general intellectual training, elite selection and preparation, and job-specific training. If we are to separate the functions, the first one would probably mostly wither, the second would be short and specific (and hence not too expensive), and the third would have its proper place as the destination for nearly everybody.

      • Incurian says:

        The military doesn’t run Officer Candidate School for four years; it’s more like half a year.

        This is a particularly bad example as the traditional method of training officers was at a military university (eg West Point) and it did take four years, and the new methods still require a degree. OCS candidates need to have a degree before they begin, and ROTC takes place as you earn a degree at a civilian university.

        ETA: My own opinion, as an ROTC guy who did seven years active in the army, is that requiring a degree is a good thing for the officer corps, even if nothing an officer learned in college is directly applicable to his job (which I don’t think is the case, a lot of stuff is applicable since the job is so freaking broad). A degree demonstrates a minimum of intellectual ability, and the ability to stick with something for four years. It might not be the best way, there are lots of false positives and negatives, but it’s better than nothing.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          More importantly a degree demonstrates an ability to continually function at adequate levels within a hierarchical system – something incredibly important to the military.

        • CatCube says:

          I think a good part of it is simply age; when you require four more years of schooling, you’re going to get lieutenants who are at minimum 21-22 years old. If you pay attention to the privates that joined at 22, they were a lot less stupid than their 18-year-old counterparts.

  24. Andrew Hunter says:

    So I’ve never watched The Office (just didn’t have the interest.) Cultural osmosis told me that the character people like is Jim, who is generally described as nice, likable, fairly low status but happy. I know he has a weird coworker and rival Dwight who is generally described as overbearing, weird, and in somewhat of a (unfairly) dominant position over Jim. I know Ribbonfarm sometimes uses The Office to explain his theories of social dynamics, but not having seen much, it’s hard to contextualize. Then I happened to watch this youtube video of how Jim treats Dwight.

    Now, I found most of those pranks somewhat funny. But overall, the video sickened me a little bit. The overwhelming impression I got of Jim is that he is a callous sociopath who enjoys tormenting Dwight (who is weak, low status, and too weird for anyone to care about.) Dwight may not be the nicest person, but he doesn’t begin to deserve being treated like this, nor does Jim gain anything from it–he’s just pulling the wings off flies. I mean, look at his demeanor when describing his actions–does this person have any empathy at all? And the rare times that other people show up (usually Pam, who I know is dating him…) they seem to sympathize with Jim. What the hell is going on? Am I

    * Overgeneralizing from a very small set of unrepresentative clips
    * That, but the rest of the show makes Dwight actually deserve this treatment
    * Reading way too much into this
    * accurately characterizing these people?

    If it’s the last, I’m pretty depressed at how whatever-the-polite-word-for-normies think. This is an admirable, likable person? It makes more sense that Ribbonfarm seems to consider the show an exercise in how sociopaths function, but damn, this is more depressing than I thought.

    • Loquat says:

      I have only watched the British version of The Office, not the American version, and I’ve heard the latter does make some changes to the characters. But Dwight’s British equivalent, Gareth, kind of earns that treatment, largely through his irritating combination of blatantly sucking up to the boss and trying to throw his weight around with everyone else because he’s Assistant Manager (which he’s actually not, he’s Assistant TO the Manager, a correction Jim’s British equivalent is constantly making whenever Gareth claims to be AM).

    • Incurian says:

      That’s out of context. Dwight is pretty insufferable. If you were to watch a compilation of all his scheming to get his coworkers fired or being an asshole about using his meager authority, Jim wouldn’t look so bad. If he were just awkward in social situations and people picked on him for it, then you’d have a point, but he totally deserves the pranking.

      ETA: And I like Dwight. At school we assigned everyone a character from the office and I was immediately identified as a Dwight. He’s not all bad, but he has done some bad stuff, enough that the pranking is justified.

    • rahien.din says:

      Dwight is not entirely unredeemed, but, he is an arrogant, vicious, bootlicking embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect. He genuinely harms Jim, such as when he steals Jim’s biggest client (and thereby, Jim’s annual bonus). He’s the personification of everything wrong with the modern work environment. So Dwight largely deserves it.

      And Jim doesn’t get let off the hook, either. Verisimilitude bites him in the ass at some very inopportune times.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think the real reason is a combination of the fact that you don’t see all the pranks in sequence on the show, and that they are treated as consequence free. The same way as your average viewer is fine with unlimited numbers of faceless henchmen getting shot in action movies, as long as the consequences aren’t real there is a disconnect.

      • Randy M says:

        There is an episode (late in season 2, I think) where Michael the boss is mediating between Jim and Dwight, and Michael reads a list of pranks Jim has done, with cuts to Jim’s responses, which start out amused at himself, and fade to embarrassment and remorse. In the same way that the quick cuts to intro don’t allow the audience to consider the sum of all the pranks Jim pulls, which is usually about 1 in every 3 episodes or so, it’s clear Jim hasn’t really seen it from an outside perspective before.

        When the pranks work, they work as comedy largely because of the visual effect. Also, they usually require as much or more work to set up than they would to recover from (like a stapler in Jello, or gift wrapping Dwight’s desk). The meta-joke is that this is, early on, the sole avenue of Jim’s ambition and effort, whereas he has a job he is embarrassed about that he doesn’t need to try at and doesn’t bother to advance in. Dwight, meanwhile, is a try-hard who excels at his job through devotion to his superior and completely disregarding his coworkers, peppering his interactions with insults and taking any chance to screw them over, in addition to taking himself way too seriously.

        Jim, like Michael Bluth from Arrested Development, is the straight man and viewpoint character but over time the show admits that he isn’t flawless and has some role to play in the office dramas.

        If you want to see Jim get comeuppance, see the episodes where Charles minor becomes regional manager. Jim wears a tux to work to mock Dwight’s office dress code memo and impress the easily impressible Michael, without realizing Charles is starting that day an is a little more down to earth than the made for comedy regular cast.

        There’s also plenty of episodes where Jim and Dwight cooperate, or Jim shows some care for Dwight, such as when Dwight gets a concussion or when they leave a favorable review for his agro-tourism side job.

    • Brad says:

      There was a guy in college who attached himself to my group of friends. In the years after college those of us that stayed in touch stopped telling stories of the things we did to this guy because they tended to provoke horrified reactions. The thing is though he wasn’t just annoying, he was seriously nasty whenever he thought he could get away with it. These incidents drained away whatever natural sympathy anyone might have had for an annoying guy who just wanted to have friends.

    • Bobby Shaftoe says:

      I’ve recently watched a lot of the office. I’ve seen “Jim is actually a psychopath” as a pretty common contrarian “hot take”, so you certainly aren’t the only one.

      I have a different perspective though. For one thing, I think the show has to be understood in a somewhat “magical realism” context. One the one hand, the characters, especially Dwight and Michael, are absurd. There is no way they could exist in the real world. But in the world of the Office, Dwight is one of the best salesmen, and the Scranton branch under Michaels leadership stays profitable against all odds. When Dwight and Michael interact with people outside of the office, they often pull out bits of self awareness that are not apparent during their in office shenanigans. Dwight knows that he is ridiculous, and he can modulate his behaviors as needed. On the other hand, he wants to be ridiculous. His rivalry with Jim is an outlet for this kind of behavior. Jim and Pam are the ones who always engage with him. For examples:

      Pam: Okay. So… you would be the Regional Manager, and the Assistant Regional Manager. Andy is your number two. I would be the Secret Assistant Regional Manager.
      Dwight: Mmmmmm, let’s call it Secret Assistant to the Regional Manager.
      Pam: Mm-hmm.
      Dwight: Do you accept?
      Pam: Absolutely, I do.

      Pam (to camera): I learned from Jim, if Dwight ever asks you to accept something secret… you reply, “Absolutely, I do.”

      Although on the surface Jim and Pam are laughing at, rather than with, Dwight, I think the situation is more nuanced than it might seem. What isn’t shown in these “compilation of pranks” videos are all the moments where, when things get serious for one reason or another, both Jim and Dwight show real kindness to each other, often in ways that are hidden from the other.

    • Nick says:

      14:15: “You know, these actually don’t sound that funny, one after another… but he does—deserve it, though.”

    • Aapje says:

      @Andrew Hunter

      The show alternates between a lot of sympathy for the characters and being very harsh on them. I think that you can make any character seem picked on or being a giant douche by cherry picking clips. Ultimately, there is a lot of nuance that shines through, but it is nuance that is not so much present at first, but built up over time. At first when watching the show, you see the extremes and then some nuance gets introduced later and this changes your view of the characters. Some of the characters are first portrayed as ugly and get revealed to have nice traits and some of the characters are first portrayed as nice, but get revealed to have nasty traits.

      You can’t really get that from individual clips though, you actually need to see the show to have a frame of reference, so you can see the shifts.

      Jim and Pam are the normie characters that get more sympathy and less harshness than other characters, but they are clearly criticized within the show as well. One of the main criticisms is that they are unambitious losers, with way more capability than necessary for their job, but they prefer to be the best in their office environment, rather than seek greater challenges where they may fail. It’s the kind of soft criticism that most people empathize with, of course (‘you are too good for what you do’). It’s softball criticism to keep viewers happy.

      Dwight is an authoritarian person who loves rules and rank, but has limited sensitivity to the emotional needs of others, so he has low natural leadership ability. So within the show, the other characters both feed Dwight’s needs by giving him ‘rank’ and rules to follow/police and undermine him to keep him from getting too ambitious and dangerous. The pranking is part of the latter. An example of the former is that Dwight has the title ‘assistant to the regional manager’ which provides no higher salary or actual rank above a salesperson, but which he sees as being 2nd in command. Dwight calls himself the ‘assistant regional manager.’ So people exploit Dwight’s eagerness for rank by giving him a title that he perceives as granting rank, but which is actually just a ruse.

      However, it is not really fair to see this as a case where Dwight merely gets exploited/abused by others, because he also exploits/abuses others. Dwight also pranks Jim in turn, sometimes to great excess. For example, in one (season 7) episode, Dwight keeps attacking Jim with snowballs and snowball traps and refuses Jim’s surrender when he is hurt and full of fear. It’s really quite abusive. That was at a point in the show where the writing got quite poor, though.

      Anyway, I think that the common view is that season 1 is where the show is still finding it’s voice, season 2 is very good, season 3 slightly worse. Season 4 is where the down-slide starts (although that season is still quite good). So if you want to watch it, I suggest merely watching season 1-3 and perhaps also 4.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Sociopath doesn’t mean “person does mean things sometimes”.

    • raj says:

      I think you’ve misread it.

      Dwight is an insufferable and undersocialized jerk -like someone with aspergers, and not in that kind of weird-but-harmless way. Also, he is a sort of fantastical character that can only exist in the world of the office, so there is no way someone could interact with him reasonably.

      But Jim has found a way to engage with him, creating a sort of “frenemy” dynamic. You might say that Jim is toying with Dwight, but the alternative is *ignoring* him, like everyone else does.

      In the end it amounts to Jim and Pam being Dwights’ only real friends in the office, though the nature of their friendship is subtle.

  25. jeqofire says:

    What does it mean to “accept” something? In the sense of accepting a seemingly unchangeable negative—death, disability, defeat, etc? It seems like this is a nebulous concept with enough different meanings and uses that applying it to a negative circumstance strikes me as dubious, but maybe I’m missing something?
    Does this form of acceptance differ from acknowledging or admitting to the circumstance in question? Are or aren’t we smuggling in “And this seemingly negative thing is OK, if not actually good“?
    Where does a psychologically healthy acceptance of something unpleasant end, and unhealthy learned helplessness or laziness begin?

    • Charles F says:

      When I’ve accepted something, I don’t have an overriding emotional reaction to thinking about it. I move from becoming so upset when I consider, say, an injury that it derails my train of thought to being able to consider it in the context of whatever situation. Like, being able to be frustrated that I can’t do something, or happy that I get a good parking spot, instead of being mad at whatever caused it whenever it comes up.

      It’s definitely different from acknowledging or admitting. Avoidance/denial are certainly ways one could react to something that they hadn’t accepted, but they’re not the only emotional baggage that could go along with something. I don’t think it requires thinking the thing is actually OK, though that would certainly help. I don’t think that my version does bleed into learned helplessness and laziness, not attaching emotions to the thing in question should allow you to work against or try to fix the thing based on other considerations than emotional baggage.

  26. bean says:

    Armor part 3 is up at Naval Gazing.
    Also, it’s the two month anniversary at obormot, and I’m doing another request for input on future topics.

    • cassander says:

      I’m always in favor of more contemporary topics.

    • Zorgon says:

      OK, so this is off the wheelhouse a little, but I’ve been meaning to ask for a while and since I already mentioned it in this OT:

      What would you, as the absolute foremost ship-nut I’ve ever encountered in my entire digital life, want out of a 4X space strategy game? (With especial reference to ships, ship design and the realities of crews in those circumstances.)

      • cassander says:

        Not bean, but the best game ever in this regard has to be Master of Orion II. The ship design possibilities in that game were enormous, with a large number of viable strategies and interesting tradeoffs most of the way through the tech tree.

        • Zorgon says:

          There’s been a LOT of development in that genre since MOO2, though. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an undisputed classic, but it’s not like 4X has been like turn-based unit tactics games (effectively abandoned in the west between the two XCOM eras); there are hundreds of 4X games out there.

          Most fall into two categories – “MOO2 only with some extra gimmick” and “variably successful attempt at new 4X”. The various Star Empires games fit nicely into 1, while Stellaris is the most recent attempt at 2. (Most have an unfortunate habit of falling into rock/paper/scissors mechanics.)

          • cassander says:

            There’s been a lot of attempted development since moo2, but I don’t think there’s been much real improvement. most of the imitators have been more complicated and less deep, particularly when it comes to ship combat.

            Stellaris has come closest, I think, though it remains hobbled by a few bad interface choices (the pop system scales atrociously, and sectors are a bad jerryrig to cover for it)

      • bean says:

        Aurora has about 90% of it covered. I’d like a slightly better mechanism for doing related designs, as it’s currently impossible to, say, replace a set of lasers with upgraded versions without retooling, even though this makes no sense. And there’s a serious gap in the crew system. No rotation, so you have the best crews in the oldest ships.
        Haven’t played Masters of Orion.

        • Zorgon says:

          Automatic rotation is a feature in more recent versions of Aurora, just to note. You set the standard tour of duty on the Officer screen. Helps a lot with the whole “half your officers retiring because it takes 5 years to build a ship” thing too.

  27. Odovacer says:

    So, anyone else see The Last Jedi?

    • lvlln says:

      I saw it last week. I’d rank it far above The Force Awakens, but well below A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back and slightly above Revenge of the Sith. That said, I thought it had both some of the best scenes and some of the worst scenes I’ve seen in any Star Wars movie.

      It’s a strange movie. One of my friends I expected to love the movie ended up absolutely hating it, while another one of my friends I expected to have a middling reaction to it ended up absolutely loving it and calling me “double Hitler” for ranking it slightly above Revenge of the Sith.

      So at a meta level, I’d say it’s an excellent movie just for the polarizing and unexpected reactions it created. But the movie itself… again, some really good parts – mainly the stuff with Luke, Rey, & Kylo Ren – and some really bad parts – mainly the parts with Finn and Rose and that entire middle act with the chase – with more of the latter.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Nope; you’re the only one. 😉

      I liked it overall. I thought it had significant flaws, but I thought that the Rey/Luke arc was satisfying and the overall themes of the movie were good.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Yes. I absolutely hated it, and so did all my family. The film just seemed to lack the fun of the other movies, so sitting through it was really quite a chore.

      (Also, a plot hole [?] which I haven’t seen picked up on, but which pretty much ruined the movie for me. In Episode VII the First Order was basically just clinging on in a corner of the Galaxy while the Republic ruled everything else, but by the time Episode VIII starts the FO had taken control and the Republic was reduced to four ships running away from an enemy battle fleet. Fair enough, but it seems that Episode VIII followed on directly from Episode VII, so where did the First Order get the time to actually take over the Galaxy? Even if we assume that most of the Rey/Luke scenes were flashbacks, it doesn’t look like Rey was on that island for more than a few weeks at most, so within about a fortnight this Galaxy-spanning Republic was completely destroyed. Either Snoke is actually the greatest military genius in Galactic history, or the Republic’s leadership were the biggest group of bumbling incompetents, neither of which really squares with what we see on screen.)

      (Oh, and another thing: Cbr’f cyna gb oernx bagb Fabxr’f qernqabhtug vf jung ranoyrf gur Svefg Beqre gb svaq bhg gur Erfvfgnapr cyna bs qvfgenpgvat gurz jvgu gur rzcgl pehvfre juvyfg gur eroryf farnx njnl bagb gung fnyg cynarg, zrnavat gung Cbr vf erfcbafvoyr sbe nobhg 99% bs gur Erfvfgnapr pnfhnygvrf naq sbe rffragvnyyl qrfgeblvat gurz nf n svtugvat sbepr. Jvyy ur rire unir gb ngbar sbe, be rira npxabjyrqtr, guvf fperj hc? V jbhyqa’g pbhag ba vg; va snpg, V’q jntre tbbq zbarl gung vg jvyy or pbzcyrgryl sbetbggra nobhg ol gur arkg zbivr.)

      • Chalid says:

        I was overall a fan, but the point that you rot13ed really bothered me, too.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          To be fair, gung checyr-unverq nqzveny ynql jnf cerggl boghfr. Jura Cbr nfxrq ure jung ure cyna jnf, jul qvqa’g fur whfg gryy uvz, vafgrnq bs jvggrevat ba nobhg ubj ubcr vf yvxr gur fha? Be, jura Cbr fnvq gung gelvat gb rfpncr va hanezbherq rfpncr pensgf jbhyq erfhyg va gurz nyy trggvat xvyyrq, jul abg gryy uvz “Ab, gurl’ir tbg pybnxvat qrivprf sbe gur Svefg Beqre jba’g frr gurz, cyhf gurer’f n uvqqra sbegerff ba gung arneol cynarg jurer jr pna eraqrmibhf naq jnvg sbe bhe nyyvrf gb fubj hc”? Vs fur jnf jbeevrq nobhg Cbr ehaavat bss naq qbvat fbzrguvat fghcvq, znxvat vg ybbx nf vs fur unq ab vqrn jung gb qb naq gurve bayl ubcr bs fheiviny ynl va fbzr zvyyvba-gb-bar tnzoyr jnf bar bs gur zbfg pbhagrecebqhpgvir guvatf fur pbhyq unir qbar.

          • toastengineer says:

            Personally I liked the part where ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

          • TheContinentalOp says:

            I haven’t seen any one else bring this up, so maybe I am remembering this wrong, but Sebz gur oevqtr Nqzveny Ynhen Qrea jngpurf gur genafcbegf fubcf urnq gbjneq gur cynarg. QW orgenlf gur erfvfgnapr naq gryyf gur Svefg Beqre nobhg gur pybnxrq genafcbegf naq gura bcra sver.

            Ubj vf Ynhen Qrea noyr gb frr pybnxrq fuvcf whfg ol fgnevat bhg n jvaqbj?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Gur pybnxvat qrivprf uvq gurz sebz gur rarzl fpnaaref, abg gur anxrq rlr. (Juvpu vgfrys envfrf n arj dhrfgvba, anzryl, tvira gung gur Svefg Beqre jnf pyrneyl pybfr rabhtu gb frr naq sver ba gur Erfvfgnapr rfpncr fuvcf, jul qvq checyr unve nqzveny ynql guvax gurl’q or noyr gb rfpncr va gur svefg cynpr?)

      • shakeddown says:

        “Chore” describes it pretty well. The Luke/Rey arc wasn’t bad (with some exceptions), but the rest of it was mainly just boring filler stuff that didn’t go anywhere.
        (Also, when you try to make every scene slowed-down and artsy/dramatic, it just makes every scene boring.)
        I’d rank it as slightly better than TFA, making the overall rank 3,5,1~2~4~6,3.5,,8,7.

      • Also hated it. It ruins Luke’s character.

        Yhxr xarj sebz Lbqn’f grnpuvatf naq uvf yrffba va Rzcver gung Sbepr Ivfvbaf pna or zvfyrnqvat, naq va Erghea bs gur Wrqv ur jnf jvyyvat gb evfx qrngu naq pbasebag gur qnexarff va uvf sngure. Abj va gur Ynfg Wrqv, ur pbzcyrgryl fcnmmrf bhg naq qenjf uvf fnore gb xvyy Xlyb orpnhfr ur frafrq qnexarff va uvz, vafgrnq bs jung gur erny Yhxr jbhyq qb, juvpu jbhyq or gb gel naq pbasebag uvz nobhg vg. Vafgrnq Yhxr pbasvezf gur irel qnexarff ur fnj naq pnhfrf vg gb znavsrfg shyyl.

        Gura ba gbc bs gung, ur oynzrf gur Wrqv grnpuvatf vafgrnq bs uvzfrys, naq ur pbagvahrf zbcvat nebhaq ba na vfynaq ershfvat gb gnxr erfcbafvovyvgl. Va gur raq uvf fnpevsvpr vf pyrneyl fhccbfrq gb erqrrz uvz, ohg vg’f abg yvxr ur tbrf naq qverpgyl pbasebagf Xlyb (yvxr ur fubhyq unir qbar ntrf ntb), ohg vafgrnq zreryl qrynlf uvz jvgu n sbepr cebwrpgvba grpuavdhr gung pbfgf uvz uvf yvsr. Ur qvrf fher, ohg ur trgf gb qb fb ybbxvat ng n ornhgvshy fhafrg naq vafgrnq bs penjyvat nobhg va unys ba n fnyg syng qlvat bs fnore oheaf.

        There’s a thread of cynical nihilism that runs through this entire movie that goes against the Star Wars ethos (SW can be dark and classically tragic, but not cynical), and makes it just like every other depressing morally grey movie. It’s not it’s own magical naive thing anymore. It’s just a (boring) action movie in space.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          There’s a thread of cynical nihilism that runs through this entire movie that goes against the Star Wars ethos (SW can be dark and classically tragic, but not cynical), and makes it just like every other depressing morally grey movie. It’s not it’s own magical naive thing anymore. It’s just a (boring) action movie in space.

          I keep trying to come up with something to add, but I don’t think I can, because you’re really put your finger on it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Those who exist now are more important than the dead past.

            Fight for what you love not against what you hate and you will be successful.

            Those are the dominant moral threads throughout the film.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Those are the dominant moral threads throughout the film.

            Those are things that people said in the films, although I’m scratching my head trying to think of any actual events or actions that would suggest these morals.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Kylo Ren still caught in the past.

            Rey freed from her attachment to the past, and able to do the right thing thanks to this.

            Vice-admiral Amilyn Holdo acting for the benefit of her people versus Commander Poe’s sacrificing his people left and right (purposefully and by accident) to hit at the First Order.

            Holdo and Leia effectively forgiving Poe because they see his skills (tempered by experience) as necessary to the rebellion (heck, I’m sure all of them made huge mistakes that cost lives during their careers in the rebellion).

            Rose Tico’s kindness to the oppressed living children and fathiers who reminded her of her past.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Rey freed from her attachment to the past, and able to do the right thing thanks to this.

            I didn’t see any evidence of this. About the only wrong thing Rey did as a result of her past was trying to go back to Jaku instead of staying and helping the Resistance, but it looked like she’d forgotten about this idea anyway, since it’s never mentioned in Episode VIII.

            Vice-admiral Amilyn Holdo acting for the benefit of her people versus Commander Poe’s sacrificing his people left and right (purposefully and by accident) to hit at the First Order.

            Given that her strange determination to talk in wishy-washy similes about the sun instead of actually communicating her plan to her subordinates ended up precipitating a mutiny, I’m not sure she can really be considered a good role model. Speaking of which…

            Holdo and Leia effectively forgiving Poe because they see his skills (tempered by experience) as necessary to the rebellion (heck, I’m sure all of them made huge mistakes that cost lives during their careers in the rebellion).

            Poe didn’t just make mistakes, he led a mutiny and pulled a gun on his superior officer. Letting that sort of behaviour go unpunished would be extremely bad for discipline. There’s a reason why real-life militaries all come down very hard on insubordination. (This is one of the reasons why I get the impression that whoever wrong TLJ doesn’t know anything about warfare or military history.)

            Rose Tico’s kindness to the oppressed living children and fathiers who reminded her of her past.

            She let the alien horses out to help her in her escape, but I don’t recall her doing much to help the children.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            1) You see this start in the dark-side cave, and end when Kylo tells her the truth and she doesn’t decide to go with him. She needed her parents to be people who loved her when she was younger, but was able to resist just jumping for the first person she’s attracted and connected to who said she was personally important.

            2) I don’t know that she had a full plan at the time, just the idea of one. And even if she had it’s better to keep people motivated to think of alternatives (which hopefully they’d tell her) than not.

            3) This isn’t a national military, it’s a rebel force. Learning experiences are more important than acting against internal rebellion.

            4) There wasn’t much she could do for the children (other than stop Finn from attacking them). One got her ring, despite the risk of giving that up and the opportunity that he’d show it to his superiors and they’d know she was with the rebellion.

          • Jiro says:

            Don’t forget:
            1) Social justice casting; the Empire is all white male while the Rebellion has few white males (especially if you exclude Luke, an existing character who couldn’t be changed).

            2) It seemed to me like the whole Rey’s parents plot was shoehorned in because fans were saying that Rey couldn’t have all her Mary Sue powers unless she was related to someone and the writer wanted to shoot that idea down. We never saw Rey act as if her parents were important before this subplot.

            3) What is Kylo Ren’s boss doing confessing in front of Kylo that he was just manipulating him? That’s got to get you a spot on the evil overlord list.

            4) If Jedi history books are worthless, why did anyone bother keeping them in the first place? Also, wouldn’t it be better to not put all your eggs in one basket and have *only* Rey be the way Jedi knowledge is passed on?

    • Mark says:

      It felt very inconsequential.

      Nothing that happened in the Force Awakens had any consequences (Star Killer destruction had no effect and was completely pointless – mystery of parents is no mystery – Luke left map to his location for no reason.) None of the plans they have in the Last Jedi have any actual effect on anything that happens – Rei’s training is a big nothing, the master hacker sub-plot turns out to be pointless, the main character death is not a death, the main character clever survival isn’t a survival…

      I really disliked Force Awakens, so I’m not too bothered about them nixxing the plot from that – I like Kylo Ren – other than that, this movie has a bad story. Hyperspace kamikaze is not possible given the plots of all of the other films. I mean, that plot point was really bad.

      I liked the stuff about them all being retards messing everything up, but I don’t think that’s enough to sustain a compelling franchise. The new characters aren’t developed, and I’d say the old characters have been anti-developed.
      So, it’s alright to watch for 2 hours or whatever, but in terms of being a franchise film, it’s just bad. Bad like marvel films.

      Hyperspace Kamikaze is worse than Jar Jar.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Marvel is maybe the most successful franchise in the history of film franchises (on at least a commercial level. And what is the definition of franchise if not commercial?), so I’m not sure that your indictment would be perceived as such by the audience.

        I think that as far as a franchise making operation goes, a clarion call of, “Hey, not every one-in-a-million shot can succeed, and characters can’t depend on trusting arbitrary scruffy strangers or making successes of arbitrary creaky overwrought plans” is salutory. Disney clearly hopes to make another 12+ of these movies. If they’re all just constant streams of “great shot kid, one in a million,” that sounds exhausting to me (and, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the original “great shot kid.”)

        Hyperspace kamikaze obviously can not be considered a coherent part of the shared setting — but the Star Wars setting is already very, very, very compromised. We’ve seen in Star Trek that you can have one-off tricks that would obviously be world-changing and then ignore them forever, and that while nerds like you and me will bitch about it (and I have! And did!), it doesn’t prevent the franchise from going forward.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’m not certain that the kamikaze hit itself happened in hyperspace, or if a hyperspace jump was just used to get the ship as close as possible to the imperial ships before dropping out of hyperspace to prevent the imperial ships from dodging or taking it out.

        The rebel cruiser and imperial flagship were still traveling at very high speed.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          If you can take out like a dozen star destroyers and some kind of dreadnought thing with one cruiser and one life, I promise I can break the setting with it, regardless of whether you’re in or out of hyperspace, moving fast or slow, or it has to only be done on alternate tuesdays.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Watching the movie I wasn’t entirely sure whether multiple star destroyers were hit or whether that was just foreground debris field from the lead ship.

          • CatCube says:

            My thing was “why didn’t they do that with any of the other ships that ran out of fuel?”

            I mean, I thought that right then. We saw the medical ship run out of fuel and the commander sending his last regards, and we saw the penultimate ship run out, so there were at least two other opportunities to do it on screen. Plus, there were implied to be many ships. I enjoyed the movie overall, but I was pissed at that scene.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            To be fair, the other ships were tiny compared to the cruiser, and thus much easier to take out regardless. And then the fact that you’d actually take that maneuver is telegraphed.

            What surprised me is why the imperial capital ships didn’t take a short hyperspace jump to put themselves in better range of the rebel ships.

          • Alphonse says:

            Seeing others who are equally irked by the hyperspace kamikaze is gratifying to me. The scene was well-done aesthetically, but I felt like the coherency of the setting jumped the shark in that moment.

            Just as others did, I also immediately wondered why the smaller accompanying ships weren’t similarly used to suicide kill the pursuing ships (and even if the medical ship couldn’t KO Snoke’s mega-ship, proportionally it should still be able to take out an ISD). At minimum, permitting hyperspace kamikaze attacks just BREAKS the setting.

            I realize Star Wars is fiction, and I get the “you’re arguing about realism in a series with space wizards” response, but I’ve played enough Star Wars games where the ship-to-ship combat felt about as realistic as in any game, that the implications of that scene still felt like some Hollywood entity was destroying some part of my childhood.

            Sadly, no one else in my extended family seems to care. At least I can go on with the knowledge that others thought hyperspace kamikaze was worse than Jar Jar.

      • lvlln says:

        None of the plans they have in the Last Jedi have any actual effect on anything that happens – Rei’s training is a big nothing, the master hacker sub-plot turns out to be pointless, the main character death is not a death, the main character clever survival isn’t a survival…

        This kinda gets at one major problem I had with the film, which was the overuse of twists. It was nice to see some surprises in this movie after the utterly predictable The Force Awakens – where the attack on Starkiller Base felt more like a party than like a last ditch effort by a desperate army like in A New Hope – but it just did it again and again, to the point of exhaustion. It’s good to keep us guessing, but when basically every event in the film is part of a twist, it loses its impact and just becomes boring.

        Off the top of my head,
        – In the opening battle, Rose’s sister manages to knock the remote to release the bombs, but WHATATWIST, it falls past her, but WHATATWIST, she actually managed to quickly snag it a la the sweat drop in Mission Impossible by reaching under the floor.
        – Kylo Ren has Leia dead to rights, but he can’t get himself to kill his mother, but WHATATWIST, his First Order buddies just do it for him by shooting from behind him, but WHATATWIST, turns out Leia survived and manages to use force powers to fly herself back to safety.
        – Poe’s a hothead who’s wrongly demanding answers from admiral Holdo, but WHATATWIST, turns out he was right to question her because she had no better plan than to just abandon ship, but WHATATWIST, turns out Holdo’s plan, made together with Leia, was actually pretty smart.
        – The codebreaker is just a mercenary with no love for the resistance and demands Rose’s sentimental necklace as downpayment, but WHATATWIST, he’s actually a nice guy with a heart who only wanted that necklace for its use in helping them break into the tracking room on the Star Destroyer and happily returned it to her, but WHATATWIST, he’s actually ACTUALLY just a mercenary with no love for the resistance and sold them out for $.
        – Luke finally arrives to sacrifice himself battling the First Order to delay them while everyone escapes, but WHATATWIST, he was actually projecting his image and not sacrificing himself, but WHATATWIST, putting all that effort into projection did end up killing him.

        I’m probably missing a few other examples. Again, keeping us guessing is fine, but overdoing it makes it tiresome. And perhaps worst of all, they didn’t do it with the one scene where such a misdirection would’ve been excellent! When Snoke is screeching “I cannot be betrayed!” followed by the light saber next to him fidgeting a little, they might as well have stopped the scene with a record scratch, had Kylo Ren turn to the camera, wink, and say “he thinks I’m going to kill Rey based on what he reads in my mind, but what he doesn’t know is that my true enemy isn’t her but actually him!” before continuing the scene. All they needed to fix it was not making the light saber fidget but to just show a glancing shot of it in frame – that would’ve been a hint but would’ve still kept us guessing.

        • Aftagley says:

          Your commend has finally solidified what was just kind of a gnawing negative feeling I had about the film and helped me figure out why I disliked it.

          You’ll notice, that these all are at least 3-point WHATATWISTS, or they have a plot, then a twist, then a twist on top of the twist. In all the points you mentioned above I really enjoyed the first twist, and was annoyed by the one that came next because every single time it just twisted the plot back to how it was before.

          You think Kylo’s going to show some humanity and maybe not kill his mom? Plot twist, Nope!

          You think Poe might step up and become a leader in the resistance by siezing command? Plot twist, nope!

          You think the codebreaker might secretly be a good character? Plot twist, nope!

          You think Luke is going to finally live up to his reputation as magic space wizard supreme? Plot twist, nope, he’s gone.

          It’s like for every thread, the writers looked at all the twists and turns the plot had made and purposefully added one more so that the movie would end up in as boring and uninteresting a place as possible.

        • Nick says:

          I think there’s two separate things going on here: overuse of the twist as a plot mechanism, and ruining one’s first twist with a second twist, which I think is a distinct phenomenon. I don’t mind a twist at all, and I think the ones you mention would have worked fine if they hadn’t gone for the second twist. Reason being that a good twist*, like any subversion generally, requires setup and laying of clues, so that it’s a good but fair surprise if you don’t pick up on it and a pleasing confirmation of expectations if you do. Adding a second twist in there might captivate the folks in the first category who weren’t paying attention, but all it does is annoy folks in the second category who were.

          I saw a similar situation in a short story I critiqued for a friend. It was a sequel to one where he had laid clues that his seemingly bright and outgoing character is actually desperately lonely. I’d picked it up on it, since I’d done a lengthy critique of that one too, but when he reveals this in the sequel, he immediately subverts that too, in a way we couldn’t possibly have picked up on, and the two are confusingly mixed together, so that you can’t even tell which was the “real” reveal in the first place. It’s supposed to show the deductive prowess of our main character to figure all this out, but all it does is frustrate the attentive reader.

          I think the fourth one you mention, the codebreaker’s betrayal, is a perfect example of this. We never get any indication our codebreaker would betray them—we’re led to believe he’s scummy and in it for the money, and then that he’s not so bad after all. That’s a fine twist. In fact, when they get on the ship, the evil BB-8 notices them, so there’s ample reason to think they’ve been found out and will be intercepted without the stupid betrayal. And why bother to give the necklace back to a girl you’re turning over to the bad guys? It just makes no sense on any level. The longer I spend looking at this, the more annoyed I get.

          The Poe–Holdo one is a bit better by contrast. We’re told from the start that Holdo is more competent than she looks. We know Leia wanted to get to an obscure planet with ample communication, and we could see that Holdo was hiding something. The middle “twist” is, properly speaking, just misdirection, with the rest of the signs pointing to the twist at the end. With the codebreaker, by contrast, all the signs point to him being a softer person than he appears, and it’s the second twist that comes out of nowhere. It would have been much, much worse if, say, the first Holdo twist were “actually we’re fueling the ships to go to that mining planet and broadcast for help” and the second twist were “actually actually I’m eeevil and a double agent and I’ve revealed your positions, muahahahah!!”

          *I’ll cop to pulling a No True Scotsman here, but whatever.

          • Mark says:

            The other weird thing about the codebreaker is that he isn’t the codebreaker – he’s just some guy who happens to be in the jail who is also a codebreaker.
            Is that another pointless twist?
            I don’t think he betrayed them to the first order – he betrayed the rebellion once he was captured by the first order, which kind of makes sense given the earlier scenes where he suggests that they are all as bad as each other. (Though, some people have noted the code breaker wouldn’t really have any way of knowing what Holdo’s secret plan was, so how would he be able to betray the ships?)
            Whichever way, the fact that all of these questions and queries keep coming up seems suggestive of the story-telling not being very good.

            Some right-wingers are getting a bee in their bonnet about the “SJ” undertones of the casino plot – personally I didn’t see that, and the criticism seems slightly deranged – I didn’t mind the plot itself, but the whole thing seemed weirdly shoe-horned in for no real reason (everything about it was weird, from the phone call to the little alien dude having a fire fight with the union, to the ending where is was all completely pointless, and then Rose fell in love with Finn…)

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            DJ (the codebreaker — del Toro’s character) hears about Holdo’s plan when Finn and Poe are talking on the comm.

            DJ only starts dealing with the First Order once their group is captured, he doesn’t betray Finn and Rose to the First Order in the first case (evil BB-88 figures them out on its own). But he does betray the Resistance’s plan to the First Order from there, leading directly to the deaths of like 90% of the remaining Resistance.

          • Aftagley says:

            The other weird thing about the codebreaker is that he isn’t the codebreaker – he’s just some guy who happens to be in the jail who is also a codebreaker.
            Is that another pointless twist?

            Right? Like, I thought this was a hyper-complex feat of hacking only possible by one person in the universe. How come the first random codebreaker they run into can also do it? I kept expecting some grand reveal of how he was the true ‘red flower’ hacker, but it just didn’t come.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            How come the first random codebreaker they run into can also do it?

            Because it isn’t random – they’re on the gambling planet. The one place code-breakers galore will migrate to.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            My fanwank is that he actually was the redflower hacker, but that he had gambled away all his jewelry, and they guy they saw wearing it was just some random rich schmuck who had won it on a dice roll.

          • Nick says:

            Thanks, Mark and sandor—how exactly the codebreaker came to betray them was something I must have missed in the film, and that does make more sense.

          • Aftagley says:

            My fanwank is that he actually was the redflower hacker, but that he had gambled away all his jewelry, and they guy they saw wearing it was just some random rich schmuck who had won it on a dice roll.

            I like this, and have therefore accepted it as cannon.

            Because it isn’t random – they’re on the gambling planet. The one place code-breakers galore will migrate to.

            Is this an established thing? Were audiences supposed to walk into this movie with the firm preconception that gambling planets attract the best code-breakers?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Were audiences supposed to walk into this movie with the firm preconception that gambling planets attract the best code-breakers?

            This was basically said when that old what’s-her-name from the first movie said that the master codebreaker spent all his time there.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            This was basically said when that old what’s-her-name from the first movie said that the master codebreaker spent all his time there.

            “This codebreaker guy hangs out at this planet” doesn’t imply (at least not to me) that “All the codebreakers hang out at this planet”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Of course not all.

            But if you’re a codebreaker you’ll usually being using your talent to get money. You have two options: 1) Use it to steal from the wealthy, 2) Get hired by the wealthy. A place where the less scrupulous wealthy congregate is the best place for both of these options.

          • Jiro says:

            I like this, and have therefore accepted it as cannon.

            I assumed that’s what it was. But they never did say it.

            It might be an editing problem. I can see them intending that and not realizing they cut out the scene establishing it.

    • Zorgon says:

      I saw it just before Xmas.

      It wasn’t all that bad; certainly not The Phantom Menace-level awful. Most of it didn’t make a great deal of sense and the people saying it threw away more-or-less everything from the previous movie for no reason at all are completely right; still, I don’t really watch Star Wars movies for their narrative coherence, given that Lucas was and is a hack. I watch them for the PEWPEWPEW and grand spectacles, and this provided those in spades. The frozen salt-plain with the red dust beneath the surface was visually magnificent.

    • johan_larson says:

      My views are mixed.

      – Another Death Star analogue? So tiresome. Couldn’t they at least have pitted one Death Star against another Death Star, rather than attacking it with fighters again?
      – Poor Snoke. What a thing to go through as a young man. For the first time in the saga we have a villain whose motivations make sense.
      – Rey’s training by the trio of Force ghosts was awesome. Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan, together again. Best part of the film.
      – Excellent writing and acting in Poe and Finn’s Rest&Recreation scenes. Did they or didn’t they? That will launch a thousand fanfics, minimum.
      – They paid Mark Hamill millions to show up for one scene, in which he uttered three sentences before mysteriously vanishing. Idiots. Idiots.
      – Rest is peace, Leia. Rest in peace.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        – Poor Snoke. What a thing to go through as a young man. For the first time in the saga we have a villain whose motivations make sense.

        Do you mean Kylo Ren here? I don’t think we learn anything about Snoke’s backstory, unless I’d nodded off for that part.

        (Although now that you bring it up, the idea of Yhxr cynaavat, rira sbe n frpbaq, gb zheqre uvf bja ncceragvpr naq pybfr snzvyl zrzore va uvf orq just struck me as wildly out of character, given how he’s portrayed in the Original Trilogy.)

      • Lillian says:

        Another Death Star analogue? So tiresome. Couldn’t they at least have pitted one Death Star against another Death Star, rather than attacking it with fighters again?

        You know, i mentioned Legend of the Galactic Heroes a few threads ago, and the plot of a few episodes is exactly that. They strap thrusters on their fleet killer battle station and then send it against the enemy’s fleet killer battle station, at which point the two proceed to trade doom laser shots while thousands of warships swarm around them. It was awesome.

        • johan_larson says:

          Anyone who’s a fan of giant space fleets going to battle should read the Lensman series, particularly the later books. Among other shenanigans, they turn an entire sun into a death-ray and crash whole planets into each other.

          That said, the stories were written in the 30s and 40s, and it shows. Judging by the surnames, all the human officers of the Galactic Patrol are white. And all but one of them are male.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Smith shows inclusiveness by having one of the characters be Dutch…. but not of high status.

            The material about women is tiresome. Not only is there only one Lensman who’s a woman, but she’s only there because she’s needed to negotiate with a planet where all sentients are women who hate men. (Non-sentient males? It’s been a while since I’ve read the books.)

            There *are* women who can use the Lens (I grant your distinction that they aren’t officers). Four out of the five Children of the Lens are women (approximately– they look adult but mature much more slowly than basic humans), but the fifth is a man, and by some coincidence, he’s the one with no extreme talent except leading his four sisters.

            All this being said, there’s a lot of hyperbolic fun in the books.

            Do you have an opinion about starting with Triplanetary (which starts with an explanation of the background, and a very nice explanation it is, too) or with Galactic Patrol, in which case the backstory is gradually revealed?

            I started with Triplanetary (it’s one of the weaker books in the series, with stories which were retconned into Lensman but still has some good bits), and only tried starting with Galactic Patrol later. The effect is very different.

            https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1616/reading-order-for-the-lensman-books

          • johan_larson says:

            @Nancy

            Do you have an opinion about starting with Triplanetary (which starts with an explanation of the background, and a very nice explanation it is, too) or with Galactic Patrol, in which case the backstory is gradually revealed?

            I think the best bet is to start with Galactic Patrol and read through to Children of the Lens. If you then decide you must have more, read the other two or three books as tie-ins, off the main sequence. They’re significantly weaker after all and not necessary for understanding the main plot line.

            Actually Galactic Patrol works just fine as a stand-alone novel too.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Spoilers

      The Last Jedi had some great ideas and themes that were a. executed badly b. probably more suited to a somber toned spinoff movie. I liked it in a contrarian sort of way – I was wearily expecting ESB/RotJ 2.0 and got something way different – but I don’t think I’d rewatch it all the way through.

      Spoilers

      • Lillian says:

        See i have the opposite opinion, the Last Jedi was full of terrible ideas that were executed very well. It was a fun film to watch, a spectacle that i enjoyed for as long as it lasted, but once it was over and i had time to dwell on it, that feeling of elation faded into vague sadness and disappointment. There’s just nothing at all underneath all those flashy set-pieces and jokes.

      • beleester says:

        Yeah, it seems to be very pointedly not trying to be The Empire Strikes Back 2.0, and on that front at least, it succeeds.

        I had some problems with it (which everyone is busy discussing in the thread above, so I won’t repeat them), but they weren’t deal breakers, and I like what it did with Kylo Ren, Rey, and Luke. And as usual, it looked very nice.

    • Incurian says:

      It was horrible, and anyone who disagrees is probably a pod person.

    • Nick says:

      I saw it on Tuesday. I’m still deeply ambivalent about it, still trying to make sense of the themes—is ending the Jedi still Luke’s goal at the end? Should Rey (and Kylo) be seeking balance rather than to become light side paladins? Is sacrificing yourself to save the galaxy the wrong thing to do? Does Rose think her sister shouldn’t have sacrificed herself? After a two and a half hour film, I’m still just… really not sure about all these things.

      • beleester says:

        is ending the Jedi still Luke’s goal at the end?

        I would say no. Luke tells Kylo “I am not the last Jedi,” which seems like a pretty clear statement that he expects Rey to carry on in his footsteps.

        Should Rey (and Kylo) be seeking balance rather than to become light side paladins?

        I don’t know. It makes a point of showing Rey and Kylo taking their own paths, but I would say that they’re still clearly light side/dark side. I think the movie is instead saying “You don’t need to be a carbon copy of your predecessor to follow in their footsteps.” Rey is not Luke, and Kylo isn’t Vader, but one is still a hero and the other a villain.

        Is sacrificing yourself to save the galaxy the wrong thing to do? Does Rose think her sister shouldn’t have sacrificed herself?

        The movie certainly seems to think that it’s wrong. And I can see a point of view where it’s rational to not take the immediate, self-sacrificing route and instead preserve your strength while you look for a better option.

        The Rebellion only has so many self-sacrificing heroes. And the First Order seems to have no shortage of giant battleships. The Rebellion can’t afford to lose so many people, even if they’re getting incredible mileage out of their sacrifices. But if they can survive, and gather strength, maybe they won’t need so many heroic sacrifices.

        (How the First Order has managed to shrug off the loss of two Death Stars, the Starkiller Base (bigger than a death star), two Dreadnoughts, and innumerable other war machines with no visible loss in military power is left as an exercise for the reader. Personally, I’m hoping that the Macguffin in the third movie will be some sort of giant war factory like the Star Forge.)

        • Odovacer says:

          The movie certainly seems to think that it’s wrong. And I can see a point of view where it’s rational to not take the immediate, self-sacrificing route and instead preserve your strength while you look for a better option.

          But Luke sacrifices himself to save the ~12 people left in the rebellion. Was that the wrong thing to do too?

          Also, what budget committee is approving these massive money-holes? I can imagine an Imperial bureaucrat protesting, “W..w..well, my Lord, we lost 900 Trillion Imperial Credits on the last two Death Stars each, so I must strongly…uh…just..mildly suggest, that we not spend 500 quintillion on a planet-sized Death Star that can be blown up by a single X-wing. Perhaps we could forgo building the giant weapon and instead invest on laser-proof armor for our stormtroopers? I believe a captain Phasma has paid for hers out of pocket. Mind you sir, this is merely a suggestion.”

          Does Palpatine/Snoke just completely dominate so much that whatever cockamamie scheme they propose is instantly approved? Someone could have a lot of fun writing fanfiction about Star Wars economics.

          Regardless, JJ Abrams is directing Episode IX, so I expect many mysteries to pop up, but have no satisfying conclusion, ala Lost, Alias, Episode VII, etc.

    • outis says:

      I went to see it because I heard that the critics and the audience were in vehement disagreement, and I wanted to see why. It turns out that the critics are idiots. Now I’m afraid I’m going to have to get a Netflix subscription, to find out if the audience are on to something or if they are like the famous broken clock.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The especially harsh critics are wrong about _Bright_ for the obvious culture war reasons (The two lines “Fairy lives don’t matter today” and “Elves are rich and run the world” would probably be sufficient, never mind all the Mexicans being gang members and Orcs being violent thugs. No points for guessing who Elves and Orcs are stand-ins for). But it’s interesting ideas poorly executed; the dialog is pretty bad and there’s plot holes you can drive a truck through. I’ll probably watch the sequel anyway.

        One showerthought: The in-universe reason people are prejudiced against Orcs is they supported the wrong side in a war against a Dark Lord some time ago. I have to wonder if that Dark Lord is perhaps gur fba bs n wrjvfu (or ryivfu) pnecragre sebz anmnergu.

        • Randy M says:

          Never heard of that one before. I assume its a Netflix exclusive/original? Interesting to see a star like Smith in a vehicle like that.

  28. cassander says:

    Putting aside quibbling over where people and groups belong, what I think you’re saying is that on the far right you have the civilization guys saying “the rules are X and “fair” outcomes are those that come from following the rules.” On the left you have “fair outcomes are X, and fair rules are those that produce those outcomes”.

    I think that might better be described as order vs equity.

    • onyomi says:

      This must be a response to my post above; I think that is a pretty good summary, though it’s also about simple priorities and trade-offs. I want people in the third world to be happy and prosperous, but I’m not willing to risk destruction of Western civilization to try to make it happen.

      But I don’t think everyone agrees with me. I think there are many people who, though they don’t necessarily desire the destruction of first world civilization and values, are nevertheless willing to allow those things to become casualties of the more important quest to uplift the most historically underprivileged.

      The individualist-communalist spectrum is similarly about trade-offs: almost no one denies that big group dynamics are real and important, but the individualist is unwilling to sacrifice the rights of the individual for the good of the collective and vice-versa.

  29. onyomi says:

    Not attempting to suggest anyone else adopt my scheme, but in attempting to categorize what really matters in contemporary political debates, created this tweak on the usual libertarian two-axis political compass.

    My thinking is that no one identifies as an “authoritarian,” but many have more communal/group-oriented sensibilities, which may tend to correlate highly with an authoritarian streak, though not necessarily so.

    And I put justice/equity/fairness or something on one end, with civilization on the other, as I’m fairly convinced of the importance to those two factors in defining what we now call “left” and “right” respectively.

    Any thoughts? Either on how to more usefully define the axes and/or where various thinkers/schools of thought belong? You may notice my upper-left quadrant is rather empty. Not sure if this is because it genuinely is an underexplored area or just because of the thinkers I’m exposed to. I guess so-called “left libertarians” would belong there as well.

    • cactus head says:

      Can you unpack the reasoning behind putting equity and civilization as opposites? I don’t think that’s obvious to most people.

      • onyomi says:

        My reasoning behind that was this:

        Almost everyone thinks fairness/justice/equity is a good thing (though opinions probably vary on whether equality of outcome is inherently desirable), and almost everyone (with a few radical Rousseau-ians and environmentalists excepted) thinks “civilization,” broadly defined (increased wealth, longer lifespans, new developments in art and technology, high social capital) is a good thing, but I think there’s very strong, real disagreement on the prioritization.

        For example, I don’t believe American Red Tribe “hates the poor,” but if helping the poor involves sacrificing values like respect, hard work, community, personal responsibility, etc. etc., they’ll come down on the side of personal responsibility, virtue ethics, etc. And I don’t think even Ayn Rand “hated” the poor, but you can tell that when it came down to siding with the great men who invented things or the “moochers” who simply took up space, she was going to side with the former. That is, it’s convenient for her philosophy that, in the process of creating a grand civilization some stupid people got to come along for the ride, but it’s not because it helps the stupid people that she values the civilization.

        On the other hand, Blue Tribe is nominally in favor of science, technology, etc. but when the question is “good for the economy or good for underprivileged groups?” they seem to consistently come down on the side of the latter. They aren’t anti-everybody getting richer but if the choice is between “everybody get richer, but the rich get richer faster” and “narrow the gap between rich and poor” or “protect those in the direst circumstances even if it creates some incentives that undermine personal responsibility and community values,” they seem usually to chose the latter.

        On the more communalist side, I think the contrast between Marx and Nietzche is relevant: they both believe that group dynamics are more important than individual dynamics, but Marx is ultimately siding with the people he sees as oppressed or unsuccessful in the current system, while Nietzche is on the side of fitness, beauty, success, etc. This manifests in the difference between e.g. communists and fascists or SJWs and the alt-right.

        • LewisT says:

          As Margaret Thatcher said, “[Liberals] would rather have the poor poorer provided the rich were less rich.” (Whatever you think of her, you have to admit she had a sense of humour.)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          For what it’s worth, I think Rand hated rich moochers (crony capitalists, bad politicians) more than she hated poor moochers.

        • blacktrance says:

          I don’t think lumping together justice/fairness and equality into one category works that well. The (statist) left’s conception of justice involves economic equality and the right’s doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean the right cares less about fairness, it means they have a different idea of what it is. Indeed, justice is conducive to civilizational progress – it’s not a coincidence that countries with unreliable/corrupt law enforcement systems and weak property rights are generally not nice places to live.

    • Anonymous says:

      I still like this plot better.

    • rahien.din says:

      And I put justice/equity/fairness or something on one end, with civilization on the other, as I’m fairly convinced of the importance to those two factors in defining what we now call “left” and “right” respectively.

      I completely bounced on this. Why would the opposite of equity be civilization? Most Blue Tribe interventions take the form of “Use civilization to create equity/justice/fairness.”

      Maybe I just don’t know what you mean by “civilization.”

      Edit : ninja’ed…

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I feel like for a proper reply I should explain my own scheme, but just replying to this in particular–

      To my mind the natural contrast with equity is “prosperity”. Do you think this is essentially the same as what you mean by “civilization”, or is that something else?

      Given your inclusion of an “individualist+equity” quadrant actually I’m a little uncertain what you mean by equity. Something I’ve noticed is that leftists (under which I am including SJers and similar even if they are not properly leftists) and liberals (in the roughly-classical sense) mean pretty different things by “equality”. I’ve begun to think that the liberal notion of “equality” would be better described as “orthogonality”; it’s something pretty different than what the leftists mean by it, which unfortunately seems to be what most people mean by it these days. :-/ (But also it’s just a more descriptive term; it really is about things being independent from one another, not about things being equal.) I’m wondering if your “equity” side is actually bundling equality and orthogonality together; to my mind this is a mistake. Although perhaps I’m misinterpreting. But if “equity” means “equality” in the leftist sense then I don’t see how it makes sense with individualism at all; whereas if it means “orthogonality”, or is mashing them together, then I’d expect some of the people you put under “individualist+civilization” to be more on the “equity” side (such as Rand, although I’ve never actually read Rand and am going based on secondhand knowledge of her writing, so that’s maybe just my own misinterpretation).

      • onyomi says:

        To further clarify what I mean by “civilization,” I think it’s a combination of material prosperity and social capital, or whatever it is that has caused us to become less violent on Steven Pinker’s account, and which may possibly have been undermined somewhat by e. g. welfare programs that make it less unpleasant to be a single mother.

        It probably also has a lot of overlap with Hanson’s “farmer” values, as opposed to “forager” values.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Oh interesting. That’s pretty different from what I was thinking. That’s kind of strange to me because I don’t really get how you separate that from communalism.

          • onyomi says:

            Well I think communalism and individualism manifest differently depending on whether you are more of a “farmer” or a “forager.”

            Example: traditional farmer communalism is hierarchical and usually patriarchal. Yet community can be very important, maybe even more important. It’s just a community in which everyone has clearly defined, different roles. On the other hand, forager communalism is more egalitarian.

            It may be that the egalitarian individualist is a bit of a rare bird; hence my relatively empty upper left quadrant. But I still think it’s quite possible. Part of what got me thinking about it was a debate between Chomsky and Foucault. It seemed to me that while they were both broadly left wing (committed more to egalitarian justice than preservation of traditional values, etc.), Chomsky was much more of a modernist individualist classical liberal, while Foucault was very postmodern and group-focused.

            I also considered naming the “individualist” and “communalist” axes “modern” and “postmodern,” respectively.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Example: traditional farmer communalism is hierarchical and usually patriarchal. Yet community can be very important, maybe even more important. It’s just a community in which everyone has clearly defined, different roles. On the other hand, forager communalism is more egalitarian.

            I think you’ve misunderstood my question here; my point is that I would, as you say, associate “farmer values” with communalism. I don’t understand how you separate the two to get “farmer individualism”. Like OK you have groups like the GOP that sort of try to combine the two but ultimately their individualism isn’t really so much individualism as family-ism. Like, of course hierarchy is communalistic. (Here I’m using “hierarchy” in the sense of “that thing liberals refer to as ‘hierarchy’ and don’t like”, not in the sense of “that thing that leftists refer to as ‘hierarhcy’ and don’t like”; the latter is (IMO) ridiculously broad, and is certainly entirely compatible with individualism.)

            It may be that the egalitarian individualist is a bit of a rare bird; hence my relatively empty upper left quadrant. But I still think it’s quite possible. Part of what got me thinking about it was a debate between Chomsky and Foucault. It seemed to me that while they were both broadly left wing (committed more to egalitarian justice than preservation of traditional values, etc.), Chomsky was much more of a modernist individualist classical liberal, while Foucault was very postmodern and group-focused.

            Dunno. This sort of thing is why I think poles rather than axes (or to put it another way, simplices, not cubes 🙂 ) is the right way to go…

    • Zorgon says:

      My thinking is that no one identifies as an “authoritarian,”

      This is true, and yet… how the fuck else do they think “anyone who disagrees with my declared moral judgement is an un-person who should be removed from the public discourse on pain of being ruined or even imprisoned” should be described?

      • toastengineer says:

        The same way everyone justifies their own bad behavior; they say “this case is special.” Those aren’t just “people who disagree,” they’re Nazis, especially the ones who for example want everything they want except open borders.

      • zoozoc says:

        The problem with “authoritarian” is that both Republicans and Democrats (on average) fall roughly within the same location on the “authoritarian” axis.

    • John Schilling says:

      Both “Equity” and “Civilization” are too ill-defined for this to be of any value, except as a straight tribal attack against all those people in the Bad Tribe who talk about “equality” and are therefore the enemies of the civilization-preserving Good Tribe. From your attempts to unpack “civilization” above, you’re using a fairly non-standard definition, and since nobody is going to change their definition (or add another inconsistent definition to their personal lexicon) just to use your chart, that limits your chart to basically a private tool. Find another name.

      At the other end, there are several common definitions of “equality” that are going to be folded into your “equity”, and most of them are incompatible with at least one of extreme communalism and extreme individualism. So I don’t see how that can anchor an axis that is supposed to be orthogonal to the communalism-individualism one.

    • imoimo says:

      I find your axes interesting, but the naming somewhat confusing.

      In particular, communal and civilizational sound too similar to me. What I think you’re getting at is “wants to use civilization-level action as a tool” and “considers civilization-level success as an end goal”, respectively. So maybe your vertical axis as a whole should be labeled “means” and your horizontal axis “ends”?

      Also, an unimportant quibble: why is Nietzche not in the upper right quadrant? I get that he wants a stronger civilization so rightward makes sense (especially compared to “equity”). But I read him as using the individual as the means (and, confusingly for your choice of axes, sort of the ends?). I’m really not getting how he uses civilization as means. He does talk a lot about Christianity which is civilization-level, but he doesn’t have much nice to say there. For the record my main exposure to Nietzsche has been Thus Spoke Zarathustra, so if I’ve missed some main points of his I’d be happy to be corrected.

    • rlms says:

      Looks like the regular one but upside down.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Did you by any chance read yet Jonathan Haidt and his moral foundations? “The Righteous Mind” would be the book. I find that after reading it everything is a lot less confusing, including the red/blue tribe issue. Main difference would be a lot more dimensions. Even if you pack things, you can’t really get away with less than 3 axes: care/protection, individualism, and “traditional values”.

    • commenter#1 says:

      Your approach is very similar to Arnold Kling’s:

      My hypothesis is that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians view politics along three different axes. For progressives, the main axis has oppressors at one end and the oppressed at the other. For conservatives, the main axis has civilization at one end and barbarism at the other. For libertarians, the main axis has coercion at one end and free choice at the other.

      He has a whole category on his blog unpacking this idea and applying it to modern debates. link text

    • cassander says:

      reposted in the correct place:

      Putting aside quibbling over where people and groups belong, what I think you’re saying is that on the far right you have the civilization guys saying “the rules are X and “fair” outcomes are those that come from following the rules.” On the left you have “fair outcomes are X, and fair rules are those that produce those outcomes”.

      I think that might better be described as order vs equity.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think a better left/right scheme would be expanding vs concentrating circle. The most right wing group would be someone who thought their tribe of 100 people is the only thing that matters. The most left wing person is someone who thinks that rocks should be worthy of moral concern. It works pretty well although there are some awkward situations. A nationalist who wants to seize the means of the production in their country would be to the right of an open borders neoliberal.

  30. Jaskologist says:

    Deiseach, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

    I read Crime and Punishment recently. Dostoevsky devotes Chapter V:1 there to a conversation with a polyamorous progressive. It’s amazing how little has changed in the intervening 150 years; the character even uses the label “progressive” (though not “polyamourous”)! Nothing new under the sun.

    Fair warning, the progressive does not come off very well, although he later turns out to be a better man than his interlocutor.

    The character’s introduction:

    [Petrovitch] had heard of Andrey Semyonovitch, who had once been his ward, as a leading young progressive who was taking an important part in certain interesting circles, the doings of which were a legend in the provinces. It had impressed Pyotr Petrovitch. These powerful omniscient circles who despised everyone and showed everyone up had long inspired in him a peculiar but quite vague alarm. He had not, of course, been able to form even an approximate notion of what they meant. He, like everyone, had heard that there were, especially in Petersburg, progressives of some sort, nihilists and so on, and, like many people, he exaggerated and distorted the significance of those words to an absurd degree. What for many years past he had feared more than anything was being shown up and this was the chief ground for his continual uneasiness

    On gender equality, and why he is right to hit a woman back:

    You don’t understand; I used to think, indeed, that if women are equal to men in all respects, even in strength (as is maintained now) there ought to be equality in that, too. Of course, I reflected afterwards that such a question ought not really to arise, for there ought not to be fighting and in the future society fighting is unthinkable… and that it would be a queer thing to seek for equality in fighting.

    On polyamory and marriage:

    “You know, Terebyeva (who is in the community now) was blamed because when she left her family and… devoted… herself, she wrote to her father and mother that she wouldn’t go on living conventionally and was entering on a free marriage and it was said that that was too harsh, that she might have spared them and have written more kindly. I think that’s all nonsense and there’s no need of softness; on the contrary, what’s wanted is protest. Varents had been married seven years, she abandoned her two children, she told her husband straight out in a letter: ‘I have realised that I cannot be happy with you. I can never forgive you that you have deceived me by concealing from me that there is another organisation of society by means of the communities. I have only lately learned it from a great-hearted man to whom I have given myself and with whom I am establishing a community. I speak plainly because I consider it dishonest to deceive you. Do as you think best. Do not hope to get me back, you are too late. I hope you will be happy.’ That’s how letters like that ought to be written!”

    “Is that Terebyeva the one you said had made a third free marriage?”

    “No, it’s only the second, really! But what if it were the fourth, what if it were the fifteenth, that’s all nonsense! And if ever I regretted the death of my father and mother, it is now, and I sometimes think if my parents were living what a protest I would have aimed at them! I would have done something on purpose… I would have shown them! I would have astonished them! I am really sorry there is no one!”

    “To surprise! He-he! Well, be that as you will,” Pyotr Petrovitch interrupted, “but tell me this; do you know the dead man’s daughter, the delicate-looking little thing? It’s true what they say about her, [that she is a prostitute,] isn’t it?”

    “What of it? I think, that is, it is my own personal conviction that this is the normal condition of women. Why not? I mean, distinguons. In our present society it is not altogether normal, because it is compulsory, but in the future society it will be perfectly normal, because it will be voluntary. Even as it is, she was quite right: she was suffering and that was her asset, so to speak, her capital which she had a perfect right to dispose of. Of course, in the future society there will be no need of assets, but her part will have another significance, rational and in harmony with her environment. As to Sofya Semyonovna personally, I regard her action as a vigorous protest against the organisation of society, and I respect her deeply for it; I rejoice indeed when I look at her!”

    On altruism and systemic change:

    “I cannot, I confess, in principle sympathise with private charity, for it not only fails to eradicate the evil but even promotes it, yet I must admit that I saw your [alms-giving] with pleasure.”

    On children and polyamory again:

    “Children? You referred to children,” Lebeziatnikov started off like a warhorse at the trumpet call. “Children are a social question and a question of first importance, I agree; but the question of children has another solution. Some refuse to have children altogether, because they suggest the institution of the family. We’ll speak of children later, but now as to the question of honour, I confess that’s my weak point. That horrid, military, Pushkin expression is unthinkable in the dictionary of the future. What does it mean indeed? It’s nonsense, there will be no deception in a free marriage! That is only the natural consequence of a legal marriage, so to say, its corrective, a protest. So that indeed it’s not humiliating… and if I ever, to suppose an absurdity, were to be legally married, I should be positively glad of it. I should say to my wife: ‘My dear, hitherto I have loved you, now I respect you, for you’ve shown you can protest!’ You laugh! That’s because you are incapable of getting away from prejudices. Confound it all! I understand now where the unpleasantness is of being deceived in a legal marriage, but it’s simply a despicable consequence of a despicable position in which both are humiliated. When the deception is open, as in a free marriage, then it does not exist, it’s unthinkable. Your wife will only prove how she respects you by considering you incapable of opposing her happiness and avenging yourself on her for her new husband. Damn it all! I sometimes dream if I were to be married, pfoo! I mean if I were to marry, legally or not, it’s just the same, I should present my wife with a lover if she had not found one for herself. ‘My dear,’ I should say, ‘I love you, but even more than that I desire you to respect me. See!’ Am I not right?”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Man, maybe this makes me a classless barbarian but those exerpts were exhausting to read. Russian literature isn’t exactly known for its brevity but would it have killed him to write more naturalistic dialogue?

      Having gotten that out of the way, the sentiments sounded eerily familiar. I especially liked the bit quoted from the ex-wife’s letter because it’s basically the pre-revolutionary Russian version of “I’m not haaappy.” This sort of philosophy is so tailor-made to justify indulging in one’s worst impulses it probably shouldn’t be surprising that it pops up in roughly the same form so often.

      • Deiseach says:

        Russian literature isn’t exactly known for its brevity but would it have killed him to write more naturalistic dialogue?

        Translation is hard, unless someone can read the original and knows if it sounds accurate or not, we don’t know if the translator is being literal (and long-winded) or of necessity expanding in English what is more pithy in Russian.

        But again, even “naturalistic” dialogue in novels and films is just as artificial, you have to put in the “um, ah, I think, like, y’know?” at places to break up what your characters are saying, and they still have to get across ‘Joe double-crossed Bob about the proceeds of the bank robbery and now Velma, Bob’s ex-girlfriend, is informing on him to the cops for the reward’. I think that’s what was so praised about the “cheeseburger” dialogue in Pulp Fiction, that it was the kind of unrelated to the plot, trivial conversation ordinary people have, but of course it was as highly scripted and artificial as any other dialogue and no more ‘natural’ than the rest of the lines the actors had to deliver.

        The larger point – yeah, the main points of progressivism versus conservatism don’t really change, down to saying sex work is a legitimate career choice, slut-shaming is bad, and jealousy only happens because of monogamy 🙂

        • The original Mr. X says:

          FWIW I’ve had the same reaction as Nabil to all the 19th-century Russian novels I’ve read, no matter who had translated them, so I suspect this is just the way in which 19th-century Russian novelists used to write.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m no expert in 19th century Russian literature, but this does seem to be the way Dostoevsky writes. Personally, I love it. Brothers Karamazov is a masterpiece, and Crime and Punishment was also very good.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s a mix of things.

            On one hand Slavic languages are difficult to translate into English. The use of prefixes/suffixes to delineate object and subject case coupled with more free-form sentence construction means that a lot of phrases that sound “punchy” in Russian end up sounding rather awkward in English. This is source of the old Russian reversal. In Russia you do not play the game, game play you. “Game play you” is perfectly valid translation but English lacks the appropriate suffixes that would designate “you” as the subject.

            Combine this with Dostoevsky’s reputation for being flowery and the result is what you see above.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      Dostoevsky was fond of portraying leftists (((THE OUTGROUP))) as either manipulative sociopaths or muddled pseudo-intellectuals inadvertently being used by said sociopaths. It’s a pattern that would reappear in Demons, his most politically charged book.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Its not like the long term outcomes of Russian politics proved him wrong. Its one thing to say the right in the US demonizes the left when they haven’t yet done anything worth demonizing, its another thing when within 30 years of his death the left in Russia was embarking on the early stages of some of the worst crimes in human history.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        Well, in Dostoevsky’s time things were still fairly peaceful. Radicalism was nascent, as the induction of Western ideas had only just begun, and had the World War not thrown things askew I don’t know if the radicals would have gotten a chance to test their ideas. Dostoevsky was simply a reactionary who viewed the induction of Western thought with dismay. Raskolnikov describes a dream he had near the end of Crime and Punishment, in which a disease sweeping from the east sows dissent in the hearts of the Russian people so that they are then on overcome with a hatred for each other and all things. Probably one of the reasons Dostoevsky was big on religion was that he saw it as a binding force that would bring society together and provide people with seemingly objective reasons for doing things.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Raskolnikov describes a dream he had near the end of Crime and Punishment, in which a disease sweeping from the east sows dissent in the hearts of the Russian people so that they are then on overcome with a hatred for each other and all things

          Sounds like a pretty accurate vision of what actually happened.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Well, in Dostoevsky’s time things were still fairly peaceful.

          The fact that Dostoevsky was perceptive enough to see where these “still fairly peaceful” things would end up is a point in his favour, not a point against him.

        • quanta413 says:

          Do you realize that Dostoevsky didn’t start out as a reactionary but as a someone sympathetic to progressive causes? He had a rather brutal run in with the Tsar’s secret police if you’ll read the article. I think it’s fair to say that Dostoevsky’s beliefs as a young man being repressed by the government probably influenced his later aversion to Western progressivisms (for lack of a better word).

          EDIT: Striked through “later” because upon further research, his set of beliefs over time maps very poorly to any big name philosophy. For example, it seems he was averse to atheism his whole life.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          I think his exile allowed him time to develop his views on the subject matters that would become the running themes of his later novels. I don’t think he was traumatized into adopting them. The exile may have exasperated certain tendencies, but they were in him all along.

        • quanta413 says:

          @Red Foliot

          That may be a fair interpretation. He was a deeply Orthodox Christian his entire life. However, he certainly seems to have been much more sympathetic to socialist ideas before he got shipped of to Siberia; I don’t think your original comment “Dostoevsky was simply a reactionary who viewed the induction of western thought with dismay” is accurate considering he was part of a reading circle about a lot of these ideas and got shipped off to prison (really, the predecessor to the gulags) for it…

          Unfortunately, he’s dead, and we can’t inspect his mind so we’ll never really know how much he changed.

      • Deiseach says:

        You could still fillet out the main points of those speeches, modernise the language a bit, and post them on Tumblr to acclaim for being in the vanguard of sexual politics and social change 😉

        • Jaskologist says:

          Which is worrisome. We know how that turned out for Russia, and I really don’t want to go down that path.

        • @Jaskologist

          Well, the part that caused so much suffering in Russia was the communism part, not the weird gender egalitarian polyamory, which was later crushed by Stalin anyway. I’d argue that as much as SJWs are annoying, intersectional ideology partly acts as a tamp on the economic agenda. The class essentialists really are right that it’s a distraction from class warfare. Economic radicalism is comparatively weak in our time compared to pre-revolutionary Russia.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not sure you can separate the two out so easily, given that both sprang/spring from the same “We know how to make utopia, we can do better than every previous generation, now let’s tear down some Chesterton’s fences!” attitude.

          • Mary says:

            Stalin crushed it because by that point it was obvious even to the most die-hard Communist that the country would go to hell in a handbasket if they kept it up.

  31. secret_tunnel says:

    Being home for Christmas and having to tolerate a house that’s colder than I’d prefer got me thinking: what if there was a democratic thermostat? Each person in the house has an app on their phone and gets to vote on what temperature the thermostat should be at. And then maybe you take an average of everyone’s votes, or maybe people who vote for a higher temperature have to pay a larger chunk of the heating bill at the end of the month.

    Thought experiment: what’s the best way to design this system to incentivize honesty as a good strategy rather than “He wants it 60 degrees and I want it 70, so I’ll vote for 80 degrees so that it averages out to 70”?

    • Anonymous says:

      Compartmentalize. If you want it cold in a room, just turn down the heater in that room. Common rooms are a problem, but you don’t have to stay in them all the time.

      Wear warmer clothing.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      80% of the time it takes the mean or median temperature. 20% of the time it takes one of the extreme temperatures. If you can’t live with your own temperature vote for at least 2 hours, it lets you override, but you lose your voting privileges for 48 hours.

    • mobile says:

      Lulz. My workplace already has this. The web site glosses over this, but if there are conflicts (people sitting next to each other sending conflicting instructions), it stops listening to those users for a few minutes and tries to satisfy some global average preferences.

    • actinide meta says:

      Mechanism Design: Thermostats

      If you split the cost evenly, and you (all) have single peaked preferences, using the median of the temperature votes is incentive compatible.

      Otherwise… start reading about the Clarke “pivotal mechanism”, but basically you are in for a world of hurt. In general you will have to decide between efficiency (making the best temperature decision) and balance (collecting just enough money to pay the bill). There are a few other special cases where everything works out, but in general it’s not pretty.

      (If you do manage to solve this problem in general, you will have Solved Politics. It could be the most important technological advance ever.)

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      For fricks sake people, just broaden the range of temperatures you find acceptable. I’m fine anywhere between about 68F and 85F (20 – 29.4 C) given a humidity of around 40 – 60 %, though I prefer being shirtless above ~82F (27.8 C).